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A friend linked me to this video and I thought it was lovely.  Hope you enjoy:

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One of the things that I am working on right now is trying to adjust my sleep schedule for grad school.  I am going to be going to school all day on Mondays and Tuesdays which wouldn’t be an issue requiring sleep adjustment on it’s own.  However, I am also going to work full time at VoA’s Children’s Residential Treatment Center which requires working rotating shifts.  I may work from 7AM-5PM or 1PM-11PM depending on the day.  In order to accommodate that work schedule and time to do my homework, I am setting up a sleep schedule for myself where I go to sleep around 11PM and wake around 6AM.  Seven hours of sleep is not an unreasonable amount of sleep.  However, I love sleeping.  Sometimes if I am feeling particularly indulgent, I will go to sleep at 8PM and sleep until I wake up.  That is often around 9AM.  In spite of my affinity for sleep, I am finding it to be a bit easier now to get my sleep schedule together.  Waking up at 6AM is no longer difficult with an alarm.

My experiments with sleep has got me thinking about the purpose of sleep.  A multitude of different ideas are out there, most of them beginning and ending with brain function.  The general idea is that the nervous system needs a “shut-down” time to function appropriately when totally awake.  However, if that is the case, shutting down would be unwise from an evolutionary standpoint.  However, mammals are uniquely evolved in that although they (we) are unconscious when sleeping, they and we wake instantly in response to certain sensory stimuli.  Parents will sleep through storms and sirens but awake instantly at the sound of their child’s whimper in the next room.  Additionally, even living things without nervous systems like plants experience a cyclic “dormant” period.  Sleep appears to make our brains more prepared to use and respond to unique data.  Prolonged sleep or dormacy deprivation can kill rats, gnats, humans, and plants.  It’s essential even if its purpose remains to be discovered.

Public Library of Science (2008, August 27). Exploring The Function Of Sleep. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/08/080825203918.htm

University of California – Los Angeles (2009, August 23). Why Sleep? Snoozing May Be Strategy To Increase Efficiency, Minimize Risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/08/090820161333.htm

There are few things as fantastic as pure, old fashioned escapism to mitigate stress.  One of my favorite activities on weekends is to sit around all day watching TV shows or reading.  For those of you who live in the Twin Cities area, here are some good resources for cheap entertainment.

Book Stores:

  • Half Price Books: 2041 Ford Pkwy, St Paul, MN‎ – (651) 699-1391‎. Cheap books in the Highland Park neighborhood of Saint Paul.
  • Half Price Books, Roseville: 2481 Fairview Ave N, Roseville, MN‎ – (651) 631-2626‎.  Great Selection of books, DVDs, and CDs in Rosevilles, MN
  • Sixth Chamber Used Books: 1332 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN‎ – (651) 690-9463‎.  Independently owned bookstore on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul.  Great selection and ambiance.
  • Midway Books: 1579 University Ave W, St Paul, MN‎ – (651) 644-7605‎.  Another independently owned bookstore on University.  I’ve never actually been here, but a few friends have and recommend it.

Cheap Movie Tickets

  • AMC Theatre-Roseville: 2100 North Snelling Ave, Roseville, MN‎ – (651) 636-2664‎.  Thursday nights, $5 tickets!
  • Riverview Theatre: 3800 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN‎ – (612) 729-7369‎.  Awesome retro theatre.  Adult evening tickets $3 all of the time!
  • Maplewood Plaza Theatre: 1847 Larpenteur Ave E, Maplewood, MN‎ – (651) 770-7969‎.  $2 tickets!
  • Hopkins Mann Theatre: 1118 Mainstreet, Hopkins, MN‎ – (952) 931-7992‎.  $2.50 tickets!

This week, I would like to issue a challenge.  Take one day, or one half day out of your weekend, and make a list of the things that you want to do.  Make them things you want to do, not things you have to do.  Work it out so that you can do them.  For me, that list looks like:

  1. Take a bath
  2. Run outside
  3. Make a cake
  4. Go to sleep early.

Today the things that I have to do are as follows:

  1. Run 5 miles
  2. Pay bills
  3. Send in tax information.

I think I am going to luck out and get to do all of the things I need to do, plus the things I want to do!  Leave me a comment with how this goes for you!

The past two weeks have been really stressful.  I have had two grad school interviews and came home to find out that one of my favorite uncles had passed away.  I spent parts of every night last week at my aunt’s house with the entire family.  We cried together, laughed together, ate and drank together.  The communion I experienced last week was one that I have very rarely encountered.  I am thankful for my family, for community, for the community shared pain can bring.

When feeling stressed in general, spending time with others can help distract, comfort and normalize feelings.  Spending time with people you can vent with seems to help me release tension.  Not to mention, maintaining positive relationships with people has been correlated with fewer health issues and lower stress levels in general.  Call someone you love today.  Reconnect with someone you miss.  Turn your cell phone off, shut down your computer and talk to your partner, a friend, your parents.  Connect with others.

One method of self care I find to be especially effective is meditation.  For me, meditiaton is the experience of cherishing experience – not naming it, trying to change it, or judging it.  Meditiaton for me is the experience of letting go and simply being.  The best explanation I’ve ever heard for the experience of meditation was one I got from a Bodhisattva* I met on an Amtrak train a few years ago.  He described meditation as looking out the window of the train, seeing a tree and experiencing everything about the experience of tree – besides naming it.  One the most significant benefits of meditating I experience is an increase in the experience of my body.  When I am stressed, my awareness of my body deceases; I get sick more often, I might forget to eat, and sometimes I even walk into doorjambs.  Meditation brings me back into my body and puts me back in touch with my skin.

In an effort to help you be able to experience the benefits of meditation, I encourage you to do one thing today intentionally.  For instance, take a raisin.  Look at your raisin, identify the wrinkles, dents, colors, shades in the skin of your raisin.  When you feel like you have memorized your raisin, put it into your mouth.  Run your tongue over the skin of your raisin.  How does your raisin feel?  When you have experienced the feel of your raisin, bite into it.  Imagine you have never tasted a raisin before.  What is its’ texture?  Taste?  Put your focus on the raisin.  Experience the raisin.

Another method I use more regularly is guided meditation.  Here a video of a guided meditation.  I encourage you to give it a try.

Exercise

Exercise is one of my favorite ways to self care.  I run almost everyday.  Spending time alone, heart pounding, sweating, smelly, and thoughtless is absolutely blissful to me.  As it turns out there is a biochemical backing for my happy feeling.  Exercise releases endorphins, the brain’s natural morphine.  It may also release dopamine, serotonine and norepinephrine.  Those chemicals are also related to relaxing and feeling good.

Here are some resources if you are starting to think about an exercise program:

  • Runner’s World: Contains an excellent set of articles, training and nutrition guides, and inspiration for runners. I especially recommend the Smart Coach program on the “Training” page.
  • Yoga Journal: Resources for people hoping to get into yoga. Under the “Poses” page you can build a sequence of different yoga poses, or look up poses for specific anatomical or therapeutic focuses.
  • One Hundred Push-ups: A plan to train for completing 100 push ups.  Disclaimer: I have tried this multiple times and I have never been able to complete all 100 push ups.  However, I have gained a lot of upper body strength and increased the number of push-ups that I can do.  Overall, I would say that it is worth it.
  • Two Hundred Sit-Ups: 100 push-ups with twice as many sit-ups.  I’ve never actually tried this plan, but I may give it a whirl.
  • Your City’s Homepage: Check this out for various rec leagues of team sports.  To find your city’s homepage, just search for your city using the “Yourcity, YourState” format in Google or another search engine you prefer.

Good luck with your fitness and self care journey!

When humanity as a species was very young, survival was the number one priority.  When encountered with a challenging situation, like possibly being eaten, humans kicked into their “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.  Fight mode is a when people would try to fight off whatever predator was attacking them.  Flight was running from the predator.  Freeze was when people just froze and tried to avoid the predator’s attention.

Although the threat of being eaten has decreased dramatically since the dawn of humanity, our bodies continue to respond to acute stress as if it is a survival need.  When stressed our bodies may display some of the following signals:

  • Increase in heart rate
  • Change in bowel movements
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in sleep
  • Tense muscles
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Flushed skin
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of sex drive

The way our minds work also change during times of acute stress.  We may experience:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Angry Outbursts
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Increased desire to use alcohol or drugs

Stress is not by its’ existence a bad thing.  In fact, it is necessary for survival.  Some people even report thriving under stressful situations.  However, when stress occurs continuously or without an adequate time to decompress after a stressful situation, our bodies can experience long term negative effects like heart attack, stroke, mental health issues and digestive issues.

A normal stress response occurs like this:

A normal stress response consists of a period alarm in which adreneline production increases and the body begins to show the signs of an acute stress response, a time of resistance or escalation in which the body in fight, flight, or freeze.  Finally, the body enters the exhaustion phase in which the body crashes from the increased adreneline production.

A normal stress response consists of a period alarm in which adrenaline production increases and the body begins to show the signs of an acute stress response, a time of resistance or escalation in which the body in fight, flight, or freeze. Finally, the body enters the exhaustion phase in which the body crashes from the increased adrenaline production.

During times of persistent and enduring stress however, the body doesn’t have adequate time to crash.  When it does finally have time to relax, it crashes deeper than it would have before.  This reality is one the reasons that self care is so important.

From my poll last week, one of most common ways that you self care is exercise which tied with spending time alone.  Following that was spending time with others and entertainment.  Over the next few Sundays I will be giving some tips on those methods of self care.  I will also chat about some of the methods of self care that I have found to be effective for me.

One of the most vital parts of my professional life as a Residential Counselor is the time I spend outside of work.  It may sound counterintuitive, but in order to be able to work as a helper, I need to be sure the my glass is at least 75% full.  In the interest of helping other practitioners and helpers get the most out of their self care time, I am going to be starting Self Care Sunday.  Each Sunday, I will write a post about a different way to self care and some resources to help you out.  In the interest of finding out where my readership is at, I have a poll designed to help get things started:

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