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Stress Overload

So, just when I thought the stress was easing up and that I’d turned a corner, I got hit with a big thing.  Not big as in someone died big, but big.

We had a beautiful weekend here in the Florida Keys.  I went to Tai Chi class on Saturday, ran some errands and then stopped in to see a friend at work to firm up plans for a boat outing on Sunday.  While there I mentioned that I was driving up to see the Jungle Book movie and invited her to come along.  That excursion was fun.  We enjoyed the movie and then picked up dinner for ourselves and some other friends who are knew parents.  All around a great day.

Sunday morning dawned sunny and gorgeous with perfect wind and weather conditions to go out on the boat.  My friend came over and we headed out for a favorite snorkel spot.  Along the way we saw wild dolphins three times!  We changed the snorkeling plans when not another boat was moored out there and I felt uncomfortable about us being there alone.  Instead we went to a popular sandbar and anchored up.  We snacked, chatted and relaxed in the sun.  It was nearly perfect.

Great ride home with me loving the speed and smoothness of my practically new boat engines.   We got home when the tide was too low for me to float my boat onto the boat lift, so we tied up at my sea wall.  I flushed the engines and hosed down the boat.  My friend and I chatted for a while more and then she left.  The plan was that I’d go back out in a couple of hours when the tide had risen enough for me to move the boat to the lift.

I puttered around the house, did some laundry, had dinner and actually wrote the blog post that I last posted.  Then i went outside to lift the boat and discovered that it was sinking.

Yes, sinking, as in it was listing to port and water was already filling up.  I immediately called friends on the phone in a near panic.  Seriously, coming out to find a sinking boat is not anything I’d ever previously experienced.  Bless my friends!  They rushed over and brought other people with them to help.  People I didn’t even know jumped in my boat and tried to bail water out.  It was amazing.  Unfortunately, it was also too late.  The tide continued to rise; water continued to fill and before we could believe it, my boat was on the bottom with its hull filled and the engines submerged.  (The water isn’t deep enough outside my house to cover the entire boat, but the parts that were covered with water were bad enough.)

More people came over so we could assess.  I was so stressed I could barely think straight.   It was awful but, again, having a boat sink was a new experience.

Thanks to knowledgeable people, I learned that once engines are submerged in salt water, you want them to remain submerged until you have experienced boat engine mechanics standing by to do something referred to as “pickling”.  So, everyone agreed that the boat was not going anywhere until the following day. At that point, one of the guys who happens to run the local boat towing service and salvage operation would come and raise her from the bottom… after, of course, the insurance company authorized him to do so.

About the most useful thing I did that night, other than thank everyone profusely, tip them some money in gratitude for trying to save my boat, and not pop a clot and pass out from stress, was to call my insurance company and open up a claim.  I went inside after everybody went home and sobbed myself into a massive headache.  Then I called my family and my close friend to warn them before I or anyone else posted the pictures on Facebook.  After a couple more hours of stress and hand wringing, I went to bed where I slept great for about three hours.  I woke up to use the bathroom and that was that.  Thoughts, what-ifs, what nexts and a myriad of other unproductive things ran through my brain like crazed hamsters and my ability to fall back asleep abandoned me.

I spent the next three hours veering between trying to lull myself with going through Tai Chi moves in my head and worrying about what would happen the next day.  In between I had intermittent lapses of confidence where I questioned whether I was competent to have and operate a boat and then more “Oh my God, what happened? Why did it sink?  What if it had happened when we were out to sea???” anxiety.  Around 6 a.m. I dozed again and got in a solid hour before my alarm went off.

After letting work know that I might be late, I sat down and tried to alleviate my stress by working out a detailed step-by-step plan of action.   I find it very calming if I have a plan.  It makes me feel powerful and, okay, more in control.  By the time 8 a.m. rolled around, I knew which boat yard I was calling and was ready to dial the claims rep for the insurance so that I could give him/her the name and number of the salvage guy.  By 8:30 I’d left a message for the claims rep and had spoken to the boat yard owner, with whom I’d previously served on a nonprofit board.  She assured me that she would have a qualified, skilled mechanic ready to pickle my engines as soon as we got the boat to them.

Isn’t the idea of pickling an engine counter-intuitive?  When you pickle a vegetable you put it in brine.  Here we were taking engines out of the briny ocean and then cleaning them of any and all salt water.  Having done all that I could, I went to the office, thinking that falling behind in my work would only heap on more tension and anxiety.  On my way to work, the claims rep called and was terrific.  After speaking to her, I contacted the salvage company and put the rescue of my boat into action.

A few hours later we commenced the operation.  By we I mean the salvage captain and his staff.  Whew, was that a big old undertaking with air bags, pumps, lines, more pumps.  I don’t know how they did it, but they did.  Within a couple of hours, despite a few minor hitches and setbacks, my boat was off the bottom being towed to the marina.

All that was Monday.  It’s now Wednesday night and feels like I’ve lived a week in a couple of days.  I’m exhausted but not as stressed any more.  My boat is in good hands.  The insurance adjuster should be down tomorrow.  The insurance company assured me multiple times that I am completely covered. Good thing on that because raising the boat alone cost between $2500 and $3000.  We still don’t know yet why it sank.  I also don’t know whether the insurance company will simply decide to total it.  However, I’m sleeping better, functioning well, getting things done and not giving in to the inefficient worrying.  I even went and rowed this morning and will do another class tomorrow.

I’m not being terrific with my food, which is a downer, but I’m not being a total disaster either.   I continue to do the best that I can do in the face of extraordinary circumstances.  I’ve decided that, rather than heap additional pressure on myself, I will be as good as possible and treat myself with love and understanding.   It’s the best that I can do right at this moment.

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Step by Step, Day by Day

Lots and lots of stress surrounding me right now.  I and my co-workers need to get through the next 10 days and then we should get a little relief.  It is a challenge to deal with this day after day, along with the extra work that comes with it.  I’ve had nights when I wake up around 2:30-3:00 a.m. to use the rest room and stress-motivated thinking intrudes.  This creates insomnia and I’m fortunate if I fall back asleep before 4:30 a.m.

The situation caused some strain between a co-worker and me in which we definitely did not communicate well and got into a pattern of escalating tension.  Thankfully, I thought to reach out to her on Friday with a verbal olive branch.  I said that we had not had the most shining week and that it definitely was not representative of how we usually work together.  I owned my part in it and asked her if we could take a couple of steps back and regroup.  I’m happy to say that she received the outreach in the spirit with which I intended.  She agreed with me and together we agreed that we’d meet again on Monday and resolve the rest of the situation.  I had the best two nights sleep that I’ve had since returning from my trip to Vegas.

Yikes.  I never posted here that I was going to Vegas, did I?  I went out to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention to hang out with friends, see Vegas for the first time in 47 years, and have some fun.  It was indeed fun, although somewhat exhausting.  I was happy to be there and also happy to get home.

Unfortunately, I was not good with my food plan while away.  This convention does not supply many meals and there wasn’t enough time during the day to sit down and have meals at the restaurants, not to mention the big expense since Vegas is not cheap.  I ended up consuming too many carbs, too much sugar, a few drinks.  Blech.

However, I am committed.  It’s been hard to get back on track, but I’m being kind and loving to myself and making the effort step by step, day by day.  From mid-week to now I’ve done much better with cutting out the junk carbs.  I’m still struggling a little to totally give up white sugar, but I’ve made some improvement there, too.  I’ve stopped bringing it into the house and am building up my resolve to say no to it when it crosses my path elsewhere.

I’m also getting back into my exercise routine.  I’ve recovered almost 100% from that injury.  We walked a lot while in Vegas and I did get up one morning and workout at the gym.  Last week, I returned to rowing classes and Tai Chi.  I paid attention to my body and found the balance between getting benefit from the rowing workout and overdoing it.  I felt the trouble spot start to twinge during one of the workouts so I backed off a little.  I also didn’t do three classes.  This week, I’ll try going back to three classes and see how it feels, but I won’t go crazy like I’m a hepped up wonder woman.  I’m also paying attention to the recommendations of my massage therapist — more hydration and stretching before the workout and making sure I stretch after the exercise sessions.  If I want to continue to improve my physical conditioning, I also have to proceed in an orderly, step by step fashion, instead of trying to jump over several steps and rush my body before it’s ready.

Class by class, workout by workout, walk by walk, Tai Chi routine by routine — it’s all positive progress.

Each time I don’t give in to cravings, whenever I say no to a compulsive urge to eat, when I turn away from a junk carb or sugary treat, I am taking the steps that I need to in order to continue to recover and live a healthy life.




Emotional Reactions

I think I’ve always been an emotionally-driven eater.  When I’d get upset, hurt, sad, I’d turn to food in an attempt to console myself.  Angry? I’d eat to suppress the “negative” emotion.

Emotionally, my early reactions were fostered by two different parents.  My Dad very openly expressed anger or upset – often loudly.  Mom did not express her anger or upset very well at all.  When I got angry, I often supressed it, sometimes to the point where it would bottle up, build and build and then explode.  I’m all in favor of appropriate expression of emotion – but a big time explosion never felt appropriate to me and really ripped me apart inside.  Then I’d eat over that too.

As an adult, I find that sometimes I still have a world of trouble with expressing anger in a more correct and effective way.  If I’m really pissed off, my tendency is more to turn it inward and have it leak out in tears.  I hate that.  It feels like I’m selling myself and my entire gender out by reinforcing the stereotype that women cry.

Remember the Tom Hanks character line in A League of Her Own?  There’s no crying in baseball!  Well, while crying is okay when sad or upset, it really isn’t okay with me when I’m angry about something.

Friday was a not-great day for me emotionally.  I have some challenges and issues professionally-related.  I believe that I have a right to be angry about some of the things that are going on.  Unfortunately, instead of being able to say something like, “I don’t think this is a fair course of action and I’m really angry about the way that this is being handled”, I started to talk and felt my throat start to close up.  Then the tears started to well up.  That reaction just got me upset with myself and made me react with even more emotion.

Big sigh.  It feels like a fail.

I really need to work on this.  At least I didn’t come home and eat over the situation and my less than ideal reaction and handling of it.

The situation is not yet resolved so more discussions are going to take place.  My strategy is to prepare and rehearse the potential conversations.  Then I can also focus on my breathing and staying calmer and less emotional.  I can make my valid points without going off the rails.  Like so many things, this too is a learning process with, hopefully, positive progress.

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Powering Through

This morning when the alarm went off at 6 a.m. so I could get to my rowing workout, I felt some stiffness and ache in my right leg from that weird pop that I experienced last week.  It didn’t really hurt, as in sharp or throbbing pain, so I figured it would work out and loosen up.

I found out within five strokes on the rowing machine that I was wrong.  It is the strangest sensation of discomfort but I knew I couldn’t and shouldn’t push it.  The trainer had asked me before we started how I was feeling and he then saw my face after I tried rowing and promptly told me to pay attention to my body.  Defeated, I stopped and unstrapped my feet, positive that my working out was over.  Then Chris (the trainer) told me he could write me up a routine of exercises to work my upper body, including core, but wouldn’t affect my legs.  Did I want to do that instead?

Oh hell yeah I did.  I could feel my energy light up inside.  I grabbed a set of 10 pound dumbbells and a 10 pound ball while he jotted down a list of exercises on the white board.  15 bicep curls into presses; 10 tricep dips on the suspended rings; 15 ball sling sit ups; 20 penguins.

He set the rings for my height and showed me how to do the dips on them and then I got started.  While simultaneously running the time, checking the form of the rest of the class and encouraging them as they were rowing and doing their floor exercises, he’d stop by to coach me on my form on the unfamiliar exercises or have me do an adjustment to get more out of the work.  Mid-way through he added a “row” that had me hold onto rings and lean back with my feet flat on the floor, then use my back and arms to lift myself back to standing straight up.

I worked with all the strength I could muster — no slacking off or going easy.  I only recently moved up to 10 pound dumbbells from 8s and I really feel the difference, particularly with my left arm on the pressing up, but I kept at it.

By the end of the workout, I’d done five sets or, when I do the math, 75 curls/presses, 50 dips, 75 sit ups, 100 penguins (great oblique/core work) and 45 rows.  Oh, I almost forgot.  He added I-Y-Ts with lighter dumbbells for the last two sets.

Although I didn’t achieve the same cardio level that  I do with rowing, I got into the high 70%-low 80%.  Moreover, I felt the endorphins kick in about half way through the workout.  I was so freaking happy to be exercising this morning, despite the leg injury.  I was also proud of myself that, when offered the option, I jumped at it.

This reinforces a lot of the positive mindset that I’ve developed and reaffirms my commitment to improving the strength of my body while replacing fat pounds with lean, powerful muscle.  It felt great!

I need to give a shout out to the trainer for giving me the option and designing the workout for me on the spot.  He also told me that if I come on Wednesday and am still not up for rowing, he’ll design another workout for me to do.  If he isn’t there, whatever trainer is there will do it for me.

Honestly, I have high hopes that my condition will continue to improve each day.  To be on the safe side, I’ve scheduled another acupuncture appointment for Thursday.  In the meantime, it’s only part of my body that’s affected.  There’s a lot more of me that I can still work on.  No matter what, I’m powering through!

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When life is tough and issues appear to pile on, I have found that it is helpful to treat myself with as much kindness as I can muster.  Being nice to ourselves is necessary, particularly when nobody or nothing else is leaning toward that course of action.

Emotional and mental stress can affect us physically – whether in general, chronically, or even acutely.  You know from my previous post that it was a high suckage week for me.  As if all that had already happened wasn’t enough, on Thursday morning when I was getting dressed, I felt a pop in my hip.  Okay, not actually my hip.  I’ll be honest it was high on my right butt cheek.  Immediately, I experienced greater discomfort in walking, including throbbing going down the back of my right leg and also horizontally around to the front like in the crease of my upper leg.

Oh, and all week, I’ve had increased, uncomfortable tightness in the back of my problem knee.   I can’t decide whether it was better for me to now have two painful conditions on the same side, or whether I should have wished for one on each side to balance things out.

Whatever the case, I was miserable all morning at work and extra grouchy.  Luckily, I already had an acupuncture appointment scheduled for the late afternoon.  I called the practitioner and asked if we could switch to a private session because of the new problems.  She was able to bring me in earlier.  I got a thorough treatment and, thankfully, was already feeling better by the next morning.

Good thing because I had determined that this was going to be a weekend of relaxation and fun for me.  I’d taken Friday off from work  to get some things done around the house in the morning.  Then, I had plans to be in Miami that evening to see a good friend of mine perform in a community theater group play.  (I was scheduled to do rowing class in the morning but decided to give my body more time to improve.)

I’ve spent two days doing things that I wanted to do and not worrying about work stresses or other issues.  I joined my friend’s family for dinner last night and then we sat together and thoroughly enjoyed the play.  I stayed up on the mainland overnight and this morning went to a continuing class of my Tai Chi.  Yes, I was feeling that much better physically.  Acupuncture is amazing!

After class, I got together with two dear friends whom I do not see nearly often as we all would like.  In fact, it’s been two years since I saw her and more than four years since I saw him.  (He was living in Texas for a couple of years.)  We had a great time over a leisurely lunch.  Then I did some shopping.  I bought a few clothes, visited Trader Joe’s, browsed Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought a few neat kitchen things that I don’t need but will enjoy, and, of course, hit a pet superstore for things that Natty will like.

Among the things that I bought were three small bunches of bright yellow daffodils.  I love daffodils – from their uplifting color to their sweet aroma.  They just delight me.  We had bulbs planted all around our house up in New Jersey and I always looked forward to seeing their green shoots break through the ground in spring.  I miss them here in Florida so it’s no surprise that I immediately smiled when I saw them available in the flower section of TJ’s.  They’re sitting in a vase on my table right now.  I see them every time I look up and smell them even when looking at the screen while I type.

I had one element of stress intrude on my weekend.  I discovered that it was more difficult than I expected to stick with my protein/fat/carb ratios while away from home.   Oddly enough, the toughest part was getting in enough full/healthy fat.  Last night I did fine with a warm kale salad – even pushing away the small white potatoes that were included.  (Odd choice in a salad, I thought.)  To up the fat ratio, I should have asked for some ranch or bleu cheese dressing.  This morning at the hotel’s free breakfast, I expected there to be eggs available, but there weren’t any for some reason.  I didn’t want to eat a waffle or cereal, so I grabbed two small yogurts.  Lunch featured a salad bar in which I passed by things like croutons, Chinese noodles and pasta salad.  I opted for a small bowl of chili to round out the meal by did not pick up any muffins or corn bread.  Again, I should have picked a fuller fat dressing, but overall I think I was closer in my ratios.

There were also a couple of instances when a cookie looked far too tasty to pass up and later I let myself get far too hungry past dinner time.  I needed something to eat asap, chose an egg and cheese sandwich from Starbuck’s for expediency.  I intended to not eat any of the bread but I caved and had half of the roll.  It’s the first white flour bread that I’ve eaten in five weeks.

I’m not beating myself up over my food choices.  I did the best that I could outside of my home and home-work environment where I can do a more thorough job of planning and preparing.  I had a couple of small indulgences, enjoyed them, and now they’re over.  I already know what I’m going to eat for breakfast and lunch tomorrow and will plan dinner as well as meals for the next few days once I’m up and moving.

Being gentle and kind to myself is so important.  My recovery is not served by me getting angry about a spare cookie or piece of bread here and there.  Instead of focusing and being negative about those indulgences, it is far better for me to look at the good things that I did on the fly.  I also am embracing the lesson. I have a conference coming up in the future, which means that I will face nearly a week of not being home where I can carefully plan and prepare my meals.  I know I’ll have a fridge in the hotel room, but don’t know about a microwave.  I plan to bring in some backup foods for snacks or to supplement meals if my ratios weren’t balanced.  My goal will be to not get so far out of whack that I can’t reel myself back in.  I have reasonable expectations for what I can and cannot do ahead of time.  I also resolve to be kind to myself as I go through the process.



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