Stay Strong

This was a difficult week for many women in America. Painful memories have been awakened in many of us. Memories of junior high, high school, or college that we have worked hard to deal with through counseling, self-help books, faith, and a positive outlook on our present lives. I write this post not as a political commentary, but to hopefully reach out to other women, and men who are hurting and finding it difficult to navigate each day.

I won’t go too much into my experience. I will say I was very young and in my first year of junior high. Too young to really understand what was happening. I was at an age when all of us want to be liked, especially by the ‘popular kids’. Boys go through this, but it is even more difficult on girls. My family moved around a lot. I often changed schools every year, sometimes in the middle of a year. Needless to say, that didn’t make me one of the popular kids, especially since many of the towns we moved to were small towns where everyone knew each other. I already had a mixed up view of what relationships were supposed to be like. When one of the popular boys started to pay attention to me, my insecurities and desire to be accepted led me to believe that he really liked me. I didn’t want IT to happen. I didn’t even know what “it” was. I was even naive enough to think that we were now boyfriend/girlfriend. I found out I was wrong when I returned to school on Monday to notice kids looking at me and whispering. It wasn’t long before I heard the word, “slut” murmured in the hallways as I walked past. I never told my parents what happened. I was afraid. I thought it was all my fault. My dad had a short temper and I didn’t want to trigger that.

Long story short, that word “slut” stuck with me. I started to believe that’s what I really was. It led me down a dark path through my early teenage years. It got to be too much and I tried to end my life at 14. My parents responded by taking me to counseling at a local church. Ironically, the kids who were calling me names and making my life hell were all “good Christian kids” and members of the church. I got my first real look at the ugly face of hypocrisy. Something did change that day though. My pain, depression, despair…it all turned to anger.

I spent the rest of my teenage years, and my early adult life expressing my frustrations and depression through anger. I didn’t lash out. I didn’t go to school with a gun. I turned it all inward. I shut off my emotions except for anger. I listened to the loudest, most anti-establishment music I could find. I did other things to try to escape. I would’ve been the kid voted most likely to punch someone in the face, but again my anger was turned inward not outward. I hated people in general, but I just stayed away from them. Family members who still didn’t know what happened would tell me I needed to “smile and be happy”.

I ended up getting married two months after I turned 18. I thought I could escape my life that way. It didn’t help. I just had someone to turn my anger towards. It was a rough couple of years until we moved far away from my family and the part of the country where so much of my pain had been rooted. I was 20 years old and 1,500 miles away from my family when I found out I was pregnant. I wanted a new life. I wanted a life different for my child than what I had. I tried so hard to have that new life, but the pain from my past was still there. I tried counseling. I tried church. I tried to put all of my energy into my daughter. I still couldn’t escape it. I didn’t trust anyone. I couldn’t make friends because I didn’t trust them around my husband or my daughter. Inside, I was living through hell. My marriage ended partly because I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like.

Fast forward to today. Most people would never imagine me as the person I was for so many years. I tend to be optimistic. I’m outgoing on a professional level, but still an introvert. I care about people. I work to make lives better. I have a wonderful husband who believes in me and supports me in everything I do. We’ve both been through a lot in our lives, but that’s a bond that holds us together.

I’m so thankful that I have him in my life because this past week has been absolute hell for me. Memories that I had dealt with came flooding back. What has hurt the most are the people who I thought I knew saying the most insensitive things about victims. I will be honest, the past two years have been hell. I’ll save the details but it isn’t about politics. It is about human nature. I’ve lost contact with people because I’ve seen who they really are and I don’t care to be part of their hate. I recently realized through a health tracker that I have gained 10 pounds just since 2016. I have done what I tell my clients not to do, feed emotions with food.

This week I started to feel that anger again. I felt myself wanting to withdraw from people. That is hard to do in my job. I reached out on social media with a list of resources for victims. Facebook denied my post boost because they don’t boost “political posts”. I challenged their decision since there was nothing political in my post, but they still denied it. I’m going back and forth between wanting to reach out, and wanting to withdraw. When I read posts from friends and acquaintances, especially the #WhyIDidntReport posts, I can’t withdraw. I know that I am not alone in these feelings. I know there are people out there who have been through even worse than what I went through. These stories haunt me, whether they happened last night or 40 years ago. I know the pain, but I don’t know all of the pain. I know there are others who have gained weight by eating or drinking their emotions away. I know there are those who don’t sleep at night. I know there are people who can’t exercise because it is all they can do to get out of bed in the morning and go to work or take care of their families. I know they are hearing and reading the same insensitive comments. “Why didn’t you tell anyone then?”. “Why were you alone with him?”. “Why did you drink too much?”. “Why did you wear that outfit?”. “Boys will be boys, that is just how it is.”. “That’s in the past. Don’t destroy someone’s life now.”. It is like hearing the word “slut” again, and again, and again.

What I hope those insensitive people understand is that the pain never leaves us. It shapes who we are. It affects our relationships. It affects our trust of people. I feared for my daughter when she was growing up. Now I fear for my two granddaughters. I can say there are positives that came out of my pain and experiences. I will always advocate for those who do not have a voice. I will always be aware of the struggles of others. I will always root for the underdog. I will continue to use my platform to help those who need help. I don’t care if it affects my business or puts a political label on me. I will always speak out for what is right. My business name is ReNu Your Life because we do have the opportunity to change our lives. We may have huge obstacles to overcome, but empowering others to use those obstacles to make ourselves stronger is the key. Don’t let the negative voices win, whether they are inside your head or coming from people around you. Log out of Facebook and Twitter if you need to. Unfollow or “Unfriend” if you have to. You may find out the hard way who your true friends (and even family) really are. Take a break from the news. Find people who will support you and listen, not shut you down with insensitive accusations and victim blaming. Don’t compromise. Our mental health and our physical health is taking a beating. We must stay strong.

 

Do What You Love

At the end of each year, I take time to reflect on what I did this year and how my business did. I will admit, 2017 was full of distractions and derailments. I became very passionate about injustices that were all around me. I always have been passionate, but this was the year when I started to take action. As important as that was to me, it did distract me from business matters and sometimes even from family matters. I had to take a step back and refocus on my business and my well-being.

Recently, I started to lament the fact that I wasn’t making as much money as I needed to be making. I love helping people. I love helping people live healthier, more functional lives. I’m definitely not looking at putting all of my “extra money” in off shore accounts! I’m more concerned about my account around the corner at the local bank. I’m a problem solver, so when I don’t like the way something is going I feel like I need to fix it. There lies the problem. In fixing the fact that I’m not making the money I need to be making, my brain automatically starts going into what I call “failure mode”. This is the mode that many of us who were not encouraged or told we would succeed in life reset to. I’m not parent blaming, but it takes work to overcome negative messages we were given growing up. The “failure mode” in my brain started to send message of, “you’re not successful”, “quit what you’re doing and find a ‘real’ job”, etc, etc.

I can proudly say that I don’t stay in that failure mode for very long. I’ve practiced for many years shutting that system off. Instead, I started thinking of more ways that I could help the people I’m helping now and others like them who I am not currently reaching. You see, I’m not in this career to get rich. I’m here to help others. I love the quote by Mark Twain,

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I love and enjoy what I do. Some days it seems like hard work, but other days it doesn’t seem like work at all. I’m a caregiver all around…for my clients, for my elderly mom, for my rescue dogs, even sometimes for my husband! I’m not rolling in money, I can’t take lavish vacations, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

As the holidays approach, I’ve been wishing my clients and class participants Happy Holidays. I may not see some of them for a week or two during break. Some are snow birds and I won’t see them until April. To hear them thank me for helping them this year and making a difference in their lives just confirms the Mark Twain quote, and what I am doing. All of the money and success in the world means nothing. Knowing that you have made a difference in someone’s life….that is priceless.

How To Start 2016 Out Right

Here we are, another January and another chance to set goals for the new year.  As much as I and others talk about skipping resolutions because they just don’t work, I see so many posts on social media from friends and even former clients about their resolutions to eat healthy, exercise more, stress less, etc.  It seems we can’t get out of the mindset or the habit of making resolutions in January.

What if this year, we change that mindset or habit along with the idea that we have to achieve some level of perfection when it comes to eating right and exercising?  What if we start 2016 by throwing out the idea that we have to join a gym, or commit to some brutal exercise class or program that we don’t really like and we know we won’t be doing a year from now in 2017?

This year, let’s resolve to have balance in our life.  Let’s think of exercise in terms of movement.  Let’s think of “diet” in terms of fueling our body instead of depriving ourselves or giving in to emotional eating.  Let’s think of HEALTH.

Many of us have sedentary jobs, families at home, older parents to take care of, financial stresses, or a number of other commitments that will take priority over the $60 a month gym membership.  Instead of stressing ourselves over the fact that we are “donating” $60 a month because we can’t get to the gym every day, how about we take a walk every day?  It may be on our lunch break, it may be in the morning before everyone is awake and the day has started, it may be at the end of the day to relieve stress.  Is the weather bad where you live?  Find an indoor track, or create a walking path in your house.  Yes, walk in your house.  Put on headphones with your favorite music and walk for 10 minutes.  So what if the dog or the kids are making faces at you!  You’re moving and improving your health.

Do you spend at least 5 minutes before you go to bed checking your phone, email, or Facebook?  Shut off the electronics, and spend that 5 minutes stretching or doing yoga instead.  It will reduce stress, relax your mind and body, and help you to sleep better.  You’re moving and improving your health.

Are you an all day coffee or soda drinker?  Follow each cup of coffee or can of soda with a glass of water.  You may find that you start drinking just the water and cutting back on the soda.  You’re improving your health.

Will you be perfect at these changes?  Of course not, but you will start thinking differently.  Instead of not being aware of how much you haven’t moved, you will begin to think, “I haven’t gone for my walk today”.  That awareness is improvement.  Will something such as illness or work deadlines get you off track? You can count on it!  However, you will start your routine again as soon as you can and not feel defeated or give up. Will you have too much dessert or too much wine?  Probably, but it isn’t the end of the world or the end of your health goals.  Just get back on track.

A healthy lifestyle isn’t about perfection.  It is about making small changes, awareness, and letting go of ideals that never really worked. Start today by looking for opportunities to move.  Walk to your co-worker’s desk instead of emailing her.  March in place tonight while you are watching the news.  Drink one more glass of water than you did yesterday.  Start 2016 out right, but in a way that you don’t have to start all over again in 2017.

Caring For Yourself As A Caregiver

November is National Caregivers Month. In honor of all of the caregivers who unselfishly give your time, care, and energy, I want to encourage you to take time for yourselves.

I know from experience that this idea of “self-time” may seem to be only a dream. You may arise early in the morning, go to bed late at night, and wake up throughout the night to care for your loved one. Where is the time for yourself?

However, when you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or patience to care for others. Lack of exercise, lack of sleep, stress, and poor diet will only leave you feeling run down. So how can you find that precious time without adding more hours to your day?

First of all, don’t think you have to get to the gym or commit a large amount of time. This may leave you feeling more stressed, especially when circumstances don’t allow it. Instead, start small and change your thinking. Can you find 10 minutes to take a walk around the block? Can you do exercises in your living room while watching TV?

Here are six ideas to find time to take care of yourself throughout the day:

1. Take a 5-10 minute walk around the block. Do this once, twice, or three times a day. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar, but be flexible with the time. If circumstances prevent you from getting out at 8:00, don’t skip it. Move it to a different time.

2. Print a list of simple exercises that you can do and place it on your coffee table. Do exercises while watching TV or while your loved one is sleeping. Leave a pair of dumbbells or a resistance band next to the sofa to get a quick workout. March in place during commercials, perform 10 sit to stands or squats and 10 wall or sofa push-ups every 15 minutes during the program you are watching.

3. Take 5-10 minutes to do stretches, deep breathing, meditation, or yoga before you go to bed at night. Just a short amount of time will help to reduce tension in the muscles and relax the mind and body.

4. Sign up for sites such as Caring Bridge or Meal Train. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Whether it’s an encouraging word or a meal a few nights a week, these sites will allow others to take some of the burden off of you. Learn more at http://www.caringbridge.org and www.mealtrain.com

5. Plan your meals for the week on the weekend. Make a grocery list with needed ingredients for each meal, shop, and cook the foods that can be prepared ahead of time. Meals do not have to be complicated. For example, cook brown rice on Sunday and refrigerate. Tuesday night, heat the rice, add a can of drained black beans, salsa, and a little shredded cheese. Serve with warmed tortillas for a quick, easy, and healthy meal.

6. Join a local support group or an online support group. Being with others who are going through a similar situation can create a supportive network of friends. If a local support group
isn’t available, check out http://www.caregiveraction.org for online support.

There is help and encouragement available. You give unselfishly of your time and energy. Reach out and allow others to help you.

Morning Energizers

Do you ever find yourself waking up with tightness in your back, legs or shoulders? If you struggle some mornings just to get your body out of bed, try these six stretches to wake up the muscles and get the blood flowing.

The simplest stretch is to lie on your back on the bed or on the floor, point the toes and reach the arms above the head. This is a good stretch to lengthen the spine and stretch the muscles from head to toe.

Next, pull the knees in toward the chest with the hands and hold for 10 to 15 seconds to stretch the lower back.

Release the stretch and lie with the knees bent, feet flat. Tuck the belly in, slightly lifting the pelvis. Then lift the lower back slightly, pressing the pelvis into the bed for pelvic tilts. Perform five sets.

In the same position, lift the hips off the bed or floor, keeping the abdominals contracted for a glute bridge. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds.

Next, extend the legs and lift the legs and shoulders off the floor or bed, keeping the abdominals contracted for a modified Pilates 100 stretch. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and repeat.

Finally, perform the Cobra stretch lying on your stomach. Place the hands next to the shoulders and lift the upper body, allowing the hips to remain on the floor or bed. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.

These stretches will energize your body and get you moving a little easier in the morning!Image

Exercise, Parkinson’s Disease and Hope

We all know the benefits of exercise. Exercise can help a person lose or maintain weight, gain lean muscle, lower blood pressure, control blood glucose, lower cholesterol, strengthen bones and joints, give a person the functional strength needed for daily activities, improve mood, reduce depression….I could go on and on.

I have been a certified personal trainer for 15 years. Before I began a career in fitness, I worked in healthcare in Orthopedics, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. I have seen what exercise can do for a person and what the lack of exercise results in. As a personal trainer, I specialize in working with individuals with chronic conditions and older adults. My clients range from post-physical rehabilitation, to post-stroke, cardiac rehab, diabetes, MS, and Parkinson’s disease. A few years ago I began to read studies about the benefits of exercise for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Since my dad died from complications due to PD, I was very interested in pursuing more information. I became certified as a Delay the Disease Exercise for Parkinson’s instructor, started a local class, then later took over another area class after the instructor moved out of state.

Now, it seems as if you line up ten physicians, including neurologists, and ask them if exercise is beneficial for Parkinson’s Disease, you will likely get ten different answers. Many have done their own research and while they may say they do not have scientific evidence on exercise and PD, I haven’t heard anyone recommend NOT to exercise. The debate seems to be over if exercise can change the brain which would make an impact on Parkinson’s Disease symptoms.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, neurons – the brain cells that produce the chemical transmitter dopamine are damaged and lost in Parkinson’s. There is a lag between the time when the loss of neurons begins and the time when Parkinson’s motor symptoms, such as tremors or slowness of movement begin to show. It is estimated that by the time most people are diagnosed, nearly 80 percent of their dopamine neurons are gone.

The good news is that the brain is actually changing, compensating for the loss of dopamine neurons. Scientists call this ability to change and compensate “exercise-dependent neuroplasticity”. The belief is that exercise may contribute to neuroplasticity by helping the brain to maintain old connections, form new ones, and restore lost ones. Research done by Giselle M. Petzinger, M.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology, Movement Disorders Division at USC, along with other research shows intense, specific and complex exercise improves walking and other motor skills in people with Parkinson’s.

I am not a neurologist or a physician, nor do I claim to have the knowledge they have. I have not spent hours doing research on the brain. However, I do know what many of my participants and clients with Parkinson’s disease have experienced from exercise. Many have seen their balance improved, their gait has improved, their range of motion and flexibility has improved, and their ability to get up out of chair has improved. Just as important, I see improvements in their mood, confidence, anxiety levels, and their outlook on life.

You see, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. Some, like my dad, hear that and they sit in a chair and wait to die. However, many, many more want to fight as long as they possibly can. They want to stay active and be able to complete their activities of daily living. I recently heard someone say, “Parkinson’s is not a death sentence, it’s a life sentence”. I don’t expect exercise to cure PD, but it does help just as it helps many other diseases. I once had a neurologist, who was not keen on my presentation of the Parkinson’s exercise program (his research showed no results with exercise on Parkinson’s disease) tell me, you don’t want to give people false hope. I don’t see it as false hope, I see hope. I see helping people to find a bright spot in their day and celebrate improvements regardless of how small. I see caregivers who come to class and help their loved ones with the exercises and even do the exercises themselves.  I see people who had never met, getting to know each other and sharing their experiences.  If something as simple as exercise can give hope and help you walk through life a bit better, why wouldn’t you do it?

 

Kris Cameron, B.S.

American Council on Exercise Certified Personal Trainer

Delay the Disease Certified Instructor

Arthritis Foundation Certified Instructor

YMCA Active Older Adults Certified Instructor