Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Too much going on in the holiday season? The gift of “letting go”

Yesterday I realized that if I had chosen to take a break– before the roof at the climbing gym, or around Halloween in real life - I wouldn’t be so utterly fatigued now. If I had paced myself, even if it might look like I was wasting time, I would actually be done by now instead of hanging in the air, instead of feeling not quite right before Christmas. Aesop wasn’t lying – slow and steady does win the race.

Every year I take five weeks off. Because I am self-employed, it’s really hard to do. For all of us, getting away from work is not easy. Having a long history of vacationing the European way, I can assure you that it takes two weeks in a row just to recharge your batteries. I have a three-week break in the summer, and one or two weeks off for Christmas. When is the last time you allowed yourself a solid break, gave yourself time to relax, and felt rejuvenated? Yet I realized recently that I also need to pace myself in autumn.

So what happened this year? For me, when I over-stretch the “health elastic”, I lose my appetite. Oh no! Not so close to Christmas, when I’ll be home with those to-die-for French foods! 
Very unusually for me, I started to have heart burns this year. Every time I eat in a rush, or when I am running late (no kidding, those who hang around with me know it can happen), I have this burning feeling in my stomach. (Nutrition is key to health of course, so I’m going to cover this in future “e-sharing” notes.) My body’s message (warning) was clear: take an unplanned break from my usual way of life. I chose to truly stop and calm down to eat, and do fewer things in my average day. 

What if I chose to tough it out instead? I see the results of that every day: People fall – into poor health, getting unwell or quite sick. And then people find they have to take time off from work. And you know what? That’s totally OK! It is part of life to be sick every once in a while. It actually is quite unreasonable to tough it out. What’s more, it’s OK to fall from that climb because we have a rope. I’d say the best way to recover from a cold or stomach flu is not preventative injections or fix-it-all-quickly pills. We simply need our rest, planned and unplanned.  When I lived in Holland, I once visited my MD for a flu. His prescription was a week off work. “Come back after a week if you are not feeling better,” he said. 

This takes us to Lesson #2: When you tire out, have an unplanned break, don’t toughen it up. There’s a reason climbers use a safety rope. When you can’t go on, you have something to fall back on – literally.

Our safety rope in life is largely made of the benefits of being Canadian: universal healthcare, comfortable homes, food on our plates. If we stop for a few days, life continues, and it is unlikely that we lose our clients & customers, or even that we have to stop our smart phone plan for lack of funds. Do not forget that it takes a week of complete rest to really recover from a common cold, and two weeks from a flu.

I’ll tell you later what my safety rope is made of. I hope you take a moment to contemplate yours, and allow yourself to use it when your body tells you it needs a break.

Stay tuned, we’re over the roof of this story! And thank you for your positive feedback so far!

Sincèrement, bonne santé, et Joyeux Noël!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Rise and thrive at year end – it’s about break management

I had to take a break from writing last Friday. How can we speak about the climb of life after the shocking news? I've had a sore pressure in my throat since then, but it was not from a cold. And an “Obama-violencecare” is what I wish for our Southern friends in 2013. Yet the solidarity and courage in the Newtown community reminded me that what drives most people is compassionately caring for each other. Life must go on, and the beauty of life makes it worth the climb! So let’s take a deep breath and try.


To continue with my experiences from rock climbing, let’s have a look at what happened after that roof – remember I kept hanging on the rope, legs wobbling in the air, though I had passed the most challenging part of the climb? No hurt, except for my “amour-propre” (pride)…

Lesson #1: Pace yourself; plan your breaks.  I guess I should have known better.
On my next session at the climbing gym, I ask the gym manager for some guidance. “It’s impossible to climb that route in one stretch, you have to give yourself breaks along the way,” he says, and shows me where. “Right at the end of the crossing, and then again at the end of the ledge.” He can’t be serious, I think. Two breaks before the roof? Twice in that first piece of cake section?!

And here I am looking back in time, since the summer. After Labour Day, we think we can make it in one stretch till Christmastime. September is like the initial crossing of my climb. Lots to get onto after the summer but we have the stamina and we surf through the month with energy.
Halloween? Like the ledge, we need to concentrate because there is so much ahead of us with December holidays, so we keep on without a break. Ah, the holidays, who isn’t stressed out about all we have to plan and do in December? Intimidating, like that roof. But we manage, year after year. This year? Maybe not that well it seems for many. Usually it’s February that feels like that final vertical stretch with no biceps power left. But this year I see it already happening since early December.

So I am serious when I say I will take a planned break around Halloween in 2013. As a child, we had a one to two week break around that time of year: “les vacances de la Toussaint”. Very wise. Better having planned breaks than lingering exhausted, or being forced to take breaks because you push too hard and fall sick. Too many exciting things to do to fall sick! I’ll never climb a roof like this - - but I hope I am up to easy mountain climbs in the Alps next year! What dreams keep you reasonable?

And how about  Lesson #2, choosing to take unplanned breaks?

Stay tuned, I am almost through with my story!

Sincèrement, bonne santé, et paix sur la terre!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

In order to get to the top (i.e. to enjoy the holiday season) plan breaks, and rest

For the next short while, I’ll be sending you a few email notes about my rock climbing life lessons. It is unusual for me to send out such messages. My intention is to share my experiences and ideas for improving my own health, hoping that you will find it useful in caring for your own health. As I learn to make better use of “e-sharing technology”, I’ll be able to find better ways to share this with you. Suggestions are welcome! 

Yesterday I told you about my recent life lessons from rock climbing.

Lesson #1: Pace yourself. Plan your breaks much sooner than they seem necessary. In climbing, if you don’t rest along the way, you can’t make it to the top

It’s not even Christmas holidays yet, but for next year I’ve already promised myself that I will take a couple of days off around Halloween. Keep reading to find out why!

I have to say that I am more concerned than ever this year about the health and wellness of people around me: friends, patients, students, fellow practitioners, including myself, honestly. It’s as if the “elastic of our health” has already fully stretched to its limit – and this has happened earlier than in the typical year. There is no give left in the elastic and consequently we all experience repeated colds & flus, bouts of lingering symptoms, unusual pains etc. What’s even more of a concern? We don’t bounce back easily to our normal self. Mostly, we all seem pretty exhausted. Usually, I see more of that exhaustion in February, in the depth of the winter. But did you notice that we’ve barely even had a winter yet?

Back to climbing
A climbing gym in Hamilton.  A long climb that looks more advanced and intimidating and extreme than it is. Let me draw you a map of the route. First, a crossing, a kind of bridge to traverse. The handholds look too smooth, the footholds too small. Still, it doesn’t look like the most challenging part of the climb. Next is a small ledge - not a big deal, so I look onward to the roof. The roof is a horizontal section where you hang, and it looks extremely challenging. Once the roof is crossed, the rest of the route is a non-event vertical climb.

“I really want to do this”, I think. “It looks like so much fun! But am I really going to be able to do it?” The roof in particular looks pretty athletic, and I am notoriously bad at chin-ups. (The route is spectacular, but much easier than the one in this video
I know I can do it, because I’ve done such things before, and I know the route is designed to my level of climbing, so let’s try!

Hang in there!
I get my gear ready and start out. The crossing, the ledge, and the roof. I manage to go over that roof - so much fun! Two additional moves and I am 3/4 through the entire climb. I am tired, but it all feels good, and the remainder is just the unchallenging vertical section anyways. It turns out though, that the climb isn’t so vertical after all. Instead, there is a mild backward slope I had not noticed. I make three moves and bam! Here I am, hanging from the rope. It’s top rope climbing, so the fall is no big deal. I stabilize myself and try again. Oh, my left biceps! I need to hold that smooth left handhold firmly to reach out to the right. Wham! I am hanging again, legs wobbly in the air. Why isn’t there a better handle for my left hand? Thank goodness for the rope!

What happened? What should I do now? 

Stay tuned!

Sincèrement, et bonne santé!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tai-Chi and Fifteen Minutes to Health

Welcome to the blog from "Tai-Chi and Fifteen Minutes to Health"!

This program is based on Tai-Chi and Qigong, ancient exercises from China that are gentle and graceful. They are suited to people from all walks of life: easy if you are unfit, challenging if you seek athletic performance, always optimizing your body's capabilities. Their slow choreography of movements relaxes tensions, calms the mind, and tonifies the body.

A regular practice, as little as 15 minutes a day, will make you discover a new sustainable way to improve your stamina and reduce your stress.

With this blog I hope to share with you thoughts, ideas, and useful information. I am looking forward to read from you as well!

As we are moving into the holiday season. How about a "good for health" gift idea?

If you are interested in a present under $50, here is a gift that will make a difference for family and friends: 
a series of four Tai-Chi and Qigong classes in the new year. Mother and daughter, friends who rarely see each other and want an opportunity for a good time together? Join this series or offer it as a holiday gift certificate. This is a partnership with THEMUSEUM in Kitchener, during the Treasures of China exhibit, featuring ancient rock carving never brought to North America before. The classes run for four Saturdays (January 12, 19, 26, and February 2, 2013, at 11am at THEMUSEUM, 10 King Street West, Kitchener) and cost $40 + HST for the series. More info here.


It’s a long stretch towards Christmastime… lessons from rock climbing for making this time of year enjoyable

After Tai-Chi, my favourite hobby is rock climbing: I simply love it! Does your favourite pastime also bring you great life lessons? Here is what I recently learnt:

  • Lesson #1: Pace yourself. Plan your breaks much sooner than they seem necessary. In climbing, if you don’t rest along the way, you can’t make it to the top
  • Lesson #2: When you tire out, you have two choices: take a break, or tough it out and try to keep going. There’s a reason climbers use a safety rope. When you can’t go on, you have something to fall back on – literally. But the rope can’t finish the climb for you – that’s why choosing the break over toughing it out is critically important. 

Even with all the climbing skills I have, I recently realized – by falling a few times - I was not doing it quite right. I’d like to share these valuable lessons with you over the next few days. The solutions I’ve come up with are simple & do-able, and yes, they apply to the push to end of the year holidays! 

Stay tuned!

Sincèrement, et bonne santé!