Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Year Of Grief: From Tears to Gratitude

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." - Khalil Gibran

This Thanksgiving will be unlike any before, Dr Beasley, my mentor will not be here asking when the pies will be ready, Peaches his beloved dog will not be barking telling me the turkey is done, my precious dog Hope will not be here to jump on top of the table to try to steal the turkey and our son, David will not be visiting talking about the latest book he read. As those of you that follow me on this blog or social media already know all these beloved members of our family have died this last year. This is why I refer to it as, "My Year Of Grief".

While each death might have been different in its grieving process, each one had one thing in common, they all triggered my emotional eating. Dr Beasley's death sent me to find comfort in Double Chocolate Milano Cookies, Hope's death drove me to boxes of Devil Dogs, Peaches' death lead me to making & eating muffins, and my son's David's death found me climbing in bed with Ben & Jerry's not wanting to ever get out of bed again.

What does a health coach do to help heal the grieving health coach? She treats herself like she would a client, with compassion & kindness while making a commitment to self care and accountability. I acknowledged each craving without self judgment while dissecting the craving, I made a commitment to 90/10 eating and home cook meals even when I didn't feel like it as I knew that it was important to my health as well as the health of my family. I required myself to get out of bed when at times all I wanted was to stay under the covers and snuggle with the cat. I made time to pray, meditate, and take long walks as I knew that not only was it important to my one surviving dog but also it was part of my self care regime. And most of all I made a commitment to continue on with school as I knew it was important to not only my future clients but myself as at IIN, I had found "my tribe".

You see, finding my tribe at IIN, helped me to go from tears to gratitude and as I healed my cravings subsided. The more I focused on my modules at school, watching the lectures, reading the texts, participating in the Facebook classroom, reaching out to fellow health coaches in my class and lastly but most important attending coaching circle provided the support I needed to put one foot in front of the other and go on.

What I know now is the death of a loved one is not something you ever "get over" but you do learn to live with it and find the courage to go on. I know that there will still be tears but now the grief is mixed with gratitude for the fact that those I lost were once a part of my life.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks for all those that have left footprints on our hearts but can no longer be at our tables in person. Be mindful that for some of us, we will be missing those that we have lost and be there for them so they too can find their tribe.

May Your Thanksgiving Be One Of Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney

Health Coach

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Election 2016 and Your Health: The Good, The Bad, and The Nasty

     Unless you have been "living under a rock" as the kids would say, you are already aware that this election has been unlike any other in our lifetime. Not only has Election 2016 been more stressful then years past but it was also longer. And if you consider the 24 hour cable news cycle along with social media its a 24/7 596 day affair that we can consume on our phones, tablets, laptops, satellite radio and yes, television anytime we wish.

 Gone are the days of our childhood where the election news was watched in the evening on our televisions or listened to on our radios and then discussed at the water coolers allowing us a respite from politics for the majority of our day. Don't get me wrong I have no desire to go back to those days and in full disclosure, I am a politics geek & history buff who thinks a romantic getaway is a trip to Historic Williamsburg or Washington D.C. to look at the monuments. So what do I suggest to survive the constant barrage of Election 2016 which can be a stressor for many of us? Balance.

Five Tips For Reducing Stress During Election 2016

1. Take A Break From The Media (yes, including social media): I am not saying to throw away your phone but to know your limits as there is a difference between being informed about Election 2016 and being stressed by it. Some suggestions are: 
  • Limit your news, try reading the news instead of watching, don't drive while listening to the news during your commute to/from work and turn off devices when you eat or at least put them in another room.
  •  Schedule breaks from social media. For example, put down your twitter feed for a few minutes several times a day, take a mini vacation from Facebook several times a day, and turn off the notification on your phone so you don't hear the alerts . You can also choose not to debate with others on Facebook or twitter, or as I like to say- Don't Dance.
  • Try not to sleep with the television on as it will disrupt your melatonin and effect the quality of your sleep. If you can't fall asleep without the t.v. use the sleep timer so it turns itself off after a few minutes.

2. Take a Walk: Or even better unplug and take a walk. Take your dog for a walk if you have one. Take a quick walk during lunch with a friend from work. Walk after dinner with your spouse, friend or neighbor. Enjoy the crisp autumn air and the beauty of the season. And don't think or talk about the election.

3. Just Breathe: Breathing Exercises can be a simple and quick way to relieve stress. If you are unfamiliar with breathing exercises you can start with this one: Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale slowly out through your mouth. Feel better? If you want to try more breathing exercises several of my favorites are some of the ones suggested by Dr Weil: "The Stimulating Breath", "The 4-7-8 Exercise", and "Breath Counting" (my personal favorite). Instructions and videos for each of these can be found on his website

4. Are you drinking enough? Stop laughing, I am talking about water. Hydration is essential for good health. Stress can cause dehydration & dehydration can cause stress. It's a vicious cycle so break this cycle by taking a water break. Carry water with you and keep it next to you as a visual reminder but make sure it's filtered & the container is BPA free.

5. Eat Comfort Food: I mean real food or as I like to refer to it as "foods that our great grandmothers ate". Choose real whole foods instead of junk food, fast foods or highly processed food. Looking for ideas? The following foods are said to reduce stress: oatmeal, blueberries, bananas, whole grains, greek yogurt, almonds, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cantaloupe, green tea,  oranges, raw cashews, peppers, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and my personal favorite dark chocolate (in moderation). Remember as always to eat with your individual health in mind avoiding foods you can't tolerate or are allergic to. Avoid alcohol, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, high fructose corn syrup, excessive salt & sugar, and trans fats as these items are not only detrimental to our health but are said to exacerbate stress symptoms.

Remember whatever happens on Nov. 8th, life will go on and the sun will still rise on November 9th and yes, our country will have a new President-elect. Whether it is the person you voted for or not, remember our political system and our three branches of government will assure that there are checks and balances in place. Most of all avoid catastrophizing and try to maintain a balanced perspective while maintaining a balanced lifestyle. And remember no matter who becomes our next President, feel free to use these tips Post Election too.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.
Health Coach

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Blessing and The Curse

"Death ends a life, not a relationship." - Robert Benchley

As Dr. Beasley's illness progressed and our conversations went from "if  I die" to "when I die", he presented me with a folder. As I opened the folder to find a stack of legal papers, he asked if I would promise to carry on his work and keep his legacy alive.

As I teared up he said in a southern drawl, "Darling this is not the time to cry, this is the time to listen" and he then gave me a list of things to do when he was gone. As I read the list and realized it would take me at least three lifetimes to accomplish it, I noticed that the last two things on the list were "Make it yours" and "Don't change anything" which caused me to burst out laughing and crying at the same time.You see those two things summed up our relationship, I was always trying to "change things" and he was always trying to "keep things the same". 

For example, when twitter came along, I wanted to get him a twitter account which he promptly refused saying, "Darling, birds tweet, people don't" and when I wanted to set up a blog for him, he said, "Why blog darling, when you can write the book?".

It was during this dinner that he warned me for the first time that carrying on your mentor's work and legacy can be both a blessing and a curse. While I understood the blessing part, I asked him about the "curse" which caused him to say with tears in his eyes, "you will see".

A year after his death, with Peaches his beloved dog dying in my arms, I was able to see it clearly for the first time. While I knew he wanted Peaches cremated, I wanted her buried with her canine sister, Hope who passed a few months earlier. When I told Peaches it was ok to go to heaven and be with her Daddy she opened her eyes and wagged her tail and that is when it became clear. I would have her cremated to honor Dr. Beasley's wishes and then bury her later with Hope.While the blessing of carrying on your mentor's legacy was easy to see, the "curse" was harder, it was that unconscious feeling, "Am I carrying out his wishes?". 

Since Dr. Beasley's passing, I have learnt to do both, "Make it mine" and "Don't change anything", as I discovered it was about merging Dr. Beasley's dream and wishes with mine. For example, I have returned to school to finish the master's degree which I put on hold when Dr. Beasley became ill but this time it was in health coaching not a MPH. I am blogging about our book, "Food For Recovery" as I update the book version. And yes Dr. Beasley, in your honor 11,666 tweets later- I am "tweeting like a bird" on twitter.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.