Exercise and the Brain – and Dancing to Enrique Iglesias

taylor swift

Greg went to arrange his annual colonoscopy.  Because he was having a chronic cough, his gastroenterologist (GI specialist) was wise enough to schedule him the “double dip” colonoscopy and endoscopy.  Greg was not pleased.  He was less pleased when Dr. GI found gastritis (inflammation) in his colon, an ulcer (inflammation) in his stomach, and esophogitis (location of inflammation intrinsic to word, esophogitis.)

I got the scoop on Greg’s inflammation story when he came in to see me, (yours truly, psychiatrist, brain doctor.)  And why?  Because of his colon and stomach?  Well perhaps.

True.  Greg was not happy.  He had not been happy for a very long time in fact.  Greg was suffering.  And no, he could not exercise.  He just could not.  Fill in the blanks of why he could not.  We have all given those reasons.

Discussing Greg’s story with him, we agreed that ignoring the inflammation story of his GI would be ignoring something that just might relate to the, “Why?” of why he was in to see me.  The same inflammatory process affecting his gut was affecting his brain, the same brain where his emotions and behaviors came from.

Inflammation.  We think about pus-filled blisters, puffy painful knees, spitting back spasms.  But do we think about frothing road rage?  Do we think about forgetting car keys in the supermarket where we bought five things we did not want and nothing of what we planned?  Do we think about divorce?  About losing our job, or not wanting to get out of bed?  When we hear about inflammation, do we think about brain disease?  I think not, Count Powerball.

The other day, we were in the Kaia, “Juicy JAM” class.  (Seriously. That is what it is called.) Coach Becca does these Juicy JAM classes about once every three to five months with us, just for fun.  It combines dance with athletics in a way that is designed to burn calories, yet effectively reduces grown women, responsible women of our community, parents, book-keepers, encyclopedia saleswomen, psychiatrists, (I am just guessing at least one of us moves like a psychiatrist) and such…, into giggling, hopping, human bumper cars.  And it is hard!  It is not easy to squat, pop, and then pull your fisted arm down super latino-drama-style over your just so angled body to Enrique Iglesias… I think it was, “Tonight I’m Loving You.”

By the time we had survived our first number, all I knew was that Becca looked really good.  Me, eh, not so much.  It is too bad we can not collect disability for this, not being able to dance.

When we dance, we do not usually notice how everyone else is dancing around us, as much as we think about how we are, ourselves.  Like any other behavior or emotion, we are trapped by our own design.  Look who is telling us that after all!  Our own brain.

Then Becca’s tattoo pokes out and we all think, she is such a bad ass!  (It’s right there just above the line of her pants.)

Where do these emotions, and behaviors come from?  Do they come from the good merit we have earned by hard work?  Maybe a really sweaty muscle bending Juicy JAM work-out?  No they do not.  You are right.  The emotions and behaviors come from our brain.  They come from that bit of us that is, after all, connected to the rest of our body.  Our body, where our muscles pump, where our pancreas balances our insulin levels, where our bowels, which flaunt the highest number of serotonin receptors of our whole selves, move and flow.  Our bodies, where nerves stop or start sending pain signals to our brain, where our heart and lungs pump all the blood that touches every part of us like a master control room – this is what matters to our brain health.  It is a relationship, like Garth will always go with Brooks.  Body goes with brain.  An inflamed body, an inflamed mind.

Now we know you are all thinking about bowels and what exercise does to bowels, and you are uncomfortable.  As you should be.  At least standing at a respectful distance.

I’ll never forget some months ago, and probably most of my Kaia-peers won’t either, when Coach Alyssa was taking us through Kaia-flow, a series of twisting yoga poses slash killer exercises.

Good job women!  This is also great for your stomach and bowels.

I thought, there-after only about stomach and bowels!  It was like a beacon.  No matter what I did, I was thinking about my gut.  And then like the answering horn of a trucker to a kid’s arm signal, “please honk,” there I went.  A slow twist, quiet music in the background, the soothing voice of Alyssa urging us on, and, honk.

There was no way to hide it.  No way to pass it off on my dog or kids or farmland creatures.  I was in the middle of the room and suddenly, like Taylor Swift on a center stage, everyone heard and looked.  Just one more bit of savory evidence that exercise decreases inflammation.

With this understanding, we can perhaps consider exercise like a pill.  Like a prescription.  Do exercise because we do what is friendly to ourselves.  Do exercise because we like being friendly to others.  We know that we cannot give what we do not have – to ourselves or to others.  We exercise because if we do not, we will be the barking mom we do not like, dad, sister, child or whomever.

We will not be nice to our partners when we have ill brains.  We will not feel pleasure as deeply.  If we are kindly toward ourselves, such as exercising, we will protect the soft underbellies of them others we love.  We will treat ourselves better.  We will.

One hour later, after dancing or twisting our inflammation, shame, and inhibitions into the ground, after passing a little gas, we are reduced to inspiration, humbly thinking, “Yes. I am that good.”  And that is the Magic there. We are bad arss.  Body meets brain meets community meets Magic.

And for you scholarly folk who don’t believe me when I say, exercise decreases inflammation decreases brain illness, here are a few articles:

Question:  How have you noticed your body speaking on behalf of your brain?  Or vice versa?  Please tell us some of your story.

Cultivate Fantasy To Improve Reality

I am the proud finisher of the SF Half Marathon.  It was the most beautiful run I’ve been on and  my miles ran one minute faster (twelves) than I had planned (thirteens.)  My husband coached and joined me as my birthday present, (yes, I’m rounding my fourth decade,) and I was listening to another sumptuous novel.  Oh my.  Thank goodness my emotions caught up with the undeniable blessings.  Too often, we dutifully list off our gratitudes detached, like reading a latin prayer-book.  And not often enough do our fantasies connect with our realities.  Delightful! when they do though.

Best T-shirt ever was on the road.

 

The runner told me that the quote comes from the Rocky Horror Show.  I could barely stop giggling.  Just awesome.

That was a random bit of joy I wanted to share!

Pairing our duties with our pleasures brings bank.  But today’s self-care tip is something a little to the left – cultivate fantasy and see what it brings to our reality.  (This is a brief post but I hope to write more another time too :).)

Question:  Where does fantasy fit in to your friendship with yourself?  Please tell us your story.

 

 

Pairing, to improve pleasure and friendly behavior toward yourself

Paired up

Paired up (Photo credit: Jay@MorphoLA)

Turning forty in a couple weeks here folks.  Grateful.  Have been pressing into the pleasures to be had from listening to a nearly constant stream of audible fantasy, sci-fi and fiction novels while jogging the new trail stretch from Rancho California Road to Winchester Road, between Diaz Road and the creek.  Or other places.

I’m jogging more, thanks to both reducing to basics and the pairing of symbiotic pleasures.  The novels are really just not enough to capture my time and energies of my current psyche’s journey.  Nor is jogging! Snore!  But pair those babies up and bam!  Pleasure.

Question:  What are you doing lately to be a friend to yourself?

Self-Care Tip:  Pare, to improve pleasure and friendly behavior toward yourself.

Related Posts:

Run Away Before You Self-Destruct – Keep Yourself Safe

Run Away Before You Self-Destruct – Keep Yourself Safe

This is a slight remake from 7/25/10. Hugs to all.

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When you feel the pull to do something that isn’t good for you, turn away from it. Do something that you can stand doing at the moment that won’t make you hate yourself now or later.

In the evenings, when the kids are just in bed, the backlash of the day seems to have a few last flicks. Despite the anticipated quiet, my shoulders are tight. Dusk, when the land meets the sky, is when I feel like eating …chocolate specifically.

I purposefully don’t bring it home, except the darkest chocolate sold with over 75% cacao for this very reason. It’s so dark, it’s practically bark.

Home is my safe place and I need to know that it is as safe as possible, even from me. I used to bring treats home that were to be eaten in moderation, but I found that when the monster in me crept out. I’d board myself up in the pantry and polish it off. That would turn me to self-loathing. It was a cycle. I got tired of being my enemy and knowing what was coming next.

Now, I choose to simply go out for my chocolate. I eat what I want when I’m out, when I’m less likely to eat myself into despair. Now, when I’m home, I can pick a different fight rather than fighting the urge to closet eat. Home is a little more safe for me.

Tonight, the kids went to bed ok, but I still took my turn around the fridge and pantry, even though I knew there was nothing, absolutely nothing, I’d want to eat in my house. I am in danger now of developing something of a ritual in this rummage around the kitchen. The good thing is that when I do make the turn, it leads me to the thought of just going to my bike and riding. Tonight, after a 30 minute spin, while watching the last 1/2 of the première to Glee, I am good again. I’m thinking about the muscles in my legs and the way my body doesn’t walk as heavy as it used to and I feel good about myself. Just like that, I feel a little less self-loathing. I feel more safe.

Self Care tip #1 – Run away before you self destruct. Be a friend to yourself.

Questions: Have you found a safe place? What is keeping your home safe for you? Please tell us your story.

Gathering Friend to Yourself Blog-Post References:
Choosing Safety:
  • basics on Weight Management 2011/06/25
  • Trusting our Clinician, or Not 2011/05/17
  • Self-Care Works You, Pushes You, Tires You Out Until You Are Happily Spent On Your Friend – You 2011/04/25
  • Participate – Work as Part of A Team With Your Medical Providers 2011/04/12
  • Choosing Connections – Take The Good and Take Care of Yourself 2011/04/04
  • Check Your Read. Even When You Feel Shame, Bullied and Herded, You Are Free. 2011/03/26
  • Living Where We Feel Safe is Part of Self-Care 2011/03/20
  • Afraid of Meds 2010/09/19
  • Get in Someone’s Space 2010/09/08
  • Run Away Before You Self-Destruct – Keep Yourself Safe 2010/07/25
Self-Loathing:
  • Number One Reason For Relapse In Mental Illness 2011/04/07
  • So Many Choices, So Little Time …For Self-Care 2011/03/05
  • Say, “I Can’t Control This” When You Can’t 2011/01/31
  • Emotions: The Physical Gift We Can Name 2011/01/06
  • Escape Self-Loathing 2010/10/29
Breaking Negative Cycles:
  • Loving Me without ambivalence – Perfectionism v. Passive Surrender 2011/05/28
  • You Can’t Barter With It. Sleep. 2010/12/03
  • Regardless The Reasons Not To, Go Get Your Sleep 2010/11/22
  • Choose, Gladly, Using Resources 2010/10/13
  • Sleep Hygiene – my version 2010/08/29
  • Pay a dollar 2010/07/29

Are You Empowered to Start Everything and End Everything With Me?

Yesterdays blog-post brought a few neighborly questions for us to follow-up with.

One is regarding emotions from bluebee.  Is jealousy medical?  Followed by, What part of emotion is under our control?  Indeed.

Second, Sarah quietly slipped the question under our door of how to respond to emotions and behaviors that come from brain illness.  How?  Indeed.

Third, Carl banged a little louder when asking, what keeps him in a relationship with someone who is maltreating him verses leaving?  Indeed.

There is a nice flow to these.  They are leading into the next and circle back.  Emotions and behaviors come from the brain, much which is out of our control and some of which is.  The choice to engage in the life of the ill is like any other choice.  Our own.  If it matters to us if the way the brain is working in the “other” is in their control or not, we can spend more time trying to sus that out.  I’m not sure myself when I get it good from someone mean, but it has become easier to take care of my junk rather than there’s.  For that, I will say a million thanks.  If I’m getting yelled at, I do the checks on myself – anxiety? fear? anger? fatigue? shaking? dizzy? tone of my voice? do I know what this person is yelling about? (most often it has nothing to do with Me), empathy? empowerment? You’ve told me that you are growing in similar refreshing ways.

Face Down w/Laundry and Gwen Stefani

Image by NCM3 via Flickr

I’ve seen this play out a little in my children.  My daughters and son are supposed to do the laundry every morning before they play.  I don’t know how many years now, but their arguments haven’t changed.

I’m doing this all by myself.  No one is helping me!

Mom!  He’s just laying on top of the clothes!  

Mom!  …

These questions above…;

  • where emotions and behaviors come from,
  • control over biological symptoms,
  • do I respond to others with brain illness
  • or do I walk away

These questions don’t mean much if we don’t find where our empowerment comes from.  Me.  Everything starts and ends with Me.

I’m ill for reasons I have nothing to do with, yet I will be accountable for myself and how I affect others.

I feel emotions I didn’t ask for, behaving ways that I am a spectator to rather than a whole person, yet I will do what I can to gain health.  In that, I have control.

I surrender what I don’t control to my Higher Power.  I take medication.  I exercise, guard my sleep hygiene and get regular sleep, eat responsibly, gather and engage community, attend therapy groups and/or individual, I try while at the same time I let go, I love my flaws as I love my perfections, I try to develop my natural genius, try as often as I can to pour any energies I have in that direction as I know I will heal faster, enjoy life more and be more successful at all my efforts when I do.

It reminds me of that saying, that if I have success, it is from standing on the shoulders of giant midgets.  We are all flawed.  We are all wonderful.  We are supported by others who also are full of flawed perfections.

Do I have control?  You bet.  …And no way.  Always, there are both.

Do I talk when someone is mistreating me? or mistreating themselves by neglecting their own self-care? by letting their illnesses shape their lives?  Do I walk away as that may be what my self-care demands.

Everything starts and ends with me.  There are a lot of stops along the way with other forces, but empowerment is mine.  Indeed.  That’s what I hope my kids will learn when doing the laundry.

We Try Knowing We Will Fail. The Wonderful Journey Of Flawed People.

The t-shirt

Image by plαdys via Flickr

It’s 9:23 PM and our little kids are still awake!  They’ve cried.  They’ve laughed.  We’ve cuddled.  We’ve spanked.  They’ve taken two showers and brushed their teeth twice.  We ate several times.

I was riding my bike, watching a movie, (I love that!), and my daughters were taking turns coming in to complain, wet me with their tears, snuggle, hold me; you get it.  My exercise and my movie were peppered with refreshing breaks.  Sitting on the couch chair nearby with my five-year old during one of these intermissions, holding her, I was able to say,

It’s okay.  

I was able to do this because I was the one in the casita getting pumped up and my husband was the one in the house herding children to bed.  He had the tough job that turns me into a turnip and I had this.

You can do it.  You can try again.  You can try again, even if you are trying for the one-hundredth time.  You try and you try and you try again because that’s what makes our lives beautiful.  The trying part mostly.  Not the arrival.  

And that’s when I grabbed her and held on.  I suddenly felt so blessed.  From this off-night, I was given the reminder that the trying part of life is where it is at.

It’s 9:33 PM and I think they’re asleep.  Sigh.  Tonight was awesome.

We are flawed people.  We try, knowing we will fail.  Who does that?!  Why would anyone do that to themselves!?  Smile.  Ah.  Sounds wonderful.

Questions:  How is your journey?  Have you been enjoying your failures lately?  Please tell me your story.

Self-Care Tip #273  – Enjoy your failures.

Me! Where Emotions and Behaviors Come From

steps 15

Image by Erik - parked in Cairo these days via Flickr

We are doing a narrative series on understanding where emotions and behaviors come from:

  1. Emotions Are Contagious – Emotions shared
  2. Our own Emotional Junk – Emotions hidden
  3. Positive Emotions and Behaviors are Contagious Too 
  4. Our Conscious Self is Our Board and Paddle at Sea – Small conscious self and BIG unconscious self
  5. Biopsychosocial Model – Biological, Psychological, Social selves
  6. Me!  (Today’s Post)

What we have covered so far in our series is that we know emotions are contagious.  We know that if we take care of our own first, we might not be as “susceptible” to negative “contagion” in turn and perhaps, be more available to giving and receiving positive “emotion-contagion.”  Further, we hope that if we do this, we might be able to choose to be with people we love even if they don’t do their own self-care.  We can have that connection without personalizing what isn’t about us.  Sigh.  That is nice, isn’t it?  Then …out at sea (away from our narrative for a day,) we talked about the pleasure in engaging with what bits of biology are directly available to us and the relationship we maintain with the big expanse of our unconscious biology.  Yesterday we reviewed our biopsychosocial model as a tool for further understanding where our emotions and behaviors come from.

Self-Care Tip #272 – If you are ever unsure about where your emotions and behaviors are coming from, it is always safe and true enough to say, “Me.”

Where do emotions and behaviors come from?

Me.

For example:  Me <–> Emotions Shared <–> Me <–> Emotions Hidden <–> Me <–> small conscious self and BIG unconscious self <–> Me <–> Biological, Psychological, Social selves <–> Me… round and round, starting and ending and starting with Me.

Rob and Yesenia were both breathing hard.  Rob was pale and Yesenia flushed.  Where to start?  With Me.  This is what I shared with them both.

Put your spouse down and take three steps back!  Own your own self.  Take care of your own self.  In the process, you will be able to pick each other up again and share love.

Questions:  What are you holding, carrying, using to explain where your emotions and behaviors come from?  How have you been able to put those down and hold yourself?  Please tell me your story.