Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category

So How Did Pregnancy Prep Stack Up to First Trimester?   Leave a comment

(Side benefit to getting my energy back – I have time to blog again!) For the last few years I’ve been preparing for pregnancy, preparing to be a good host. My goals included diet improvement, strength training, meditation, and posture improvement. Well, now that it has happened, how did I do for the start of the “race”? Better than I think and feel I did, but unfortunately what I think and feel matters regardless of whether it’s true or not. Psychologically I felt lost. Like I was alone in the middle of a lake, just floating in my in my life preserver, to tired to swim or cry or do anything but hope a current pushed me to safety. To be completely honest I’m just incredibly grateful to the universe that my blah never turned into depression, although there were days when I was very afraid. Thankfully pregnancy brings hope and excitement along with blah.

Over the last couple years improving my diet has been a huge focus. My sugar intake was already below the 5 tsp (20 grams) recommended intake, except for special occasions like birthday celebrations. How did I do in my first trimester? Just fine, thank you. I think my sugar craving has actually decreased and my chocolate cravings are fluctuating between non-existing to mild. There were a handful of splurges in the first couple of weeks as I was just desperate to get food in me and stop the hunger and nausea; and I did give in and buy the requisite saltines as emergency gut fill. Another goal was to avoid regular junk food. How’s that going? Completely derailed. Even with a nice sour cherry-pecan trail mix at my desk, a free bag of salty potato chips wins when hungry (even well knowing that the chips won’t make a dent in my stomach). This is totally a willpower check, and I’ve absolutely failed over and over again. As I feel better, though, I’m failing less often/badly.

The last big diet-related goal was the most important to me, and that was increasing my intake of fruits and vegetables. I really did get into the habit of making sure that I was eating at least one serving with every meal, and even snacks had a component. Unfortunately in my first day of nausea I made the mistake of forcing myself to eat my leftovers for lunch, and was almost unable to think about eating a non-avocado vegetable for a couple weeks. I can honestly say I felt crushed, and found it downright depressing to be consuming almost 100% carbs, fat, and protein. Isn’t that stuff supposed to be comfort food? It just left me feeling more blah then exhaustion already made me feel. It’s been a rough haul, but I’m back to vegetables (although bitter greens may have been an extremely unfortunate casualty of war). I’m not even trying to hit every meal yet, since the number of daily meals has just about doubled, but it feels good. The temporary catastrophic failure of this habit is probably the biggest contributor in my overall psychological struggles.

The attempt at restarting a regular strength training routine had already failed before I got pregnant. So being so tired that I didn’t run or do strength training for a couple months is kinda moot. Except for the fact that I love running, and when feeling blah not being able to run just contributes to more blah.

The next major thing that I did as part of my preparation was to commit to daily meditation. It was awesome, felt great, and may have been one of the best decisions that I ever made in my life. With the exception of one evening per week at my prayer group, I haven’t meditated since April. Blame the exhaustion, every evening I go from up to crash in about 5 minutes. Sometimes it’s at 9, sometimes it’s at 11, but when I start thinking about brushing my teeth and meditating my body decides it’s time to sleep NOW, and not in ten more minutes. For my own psychological state I’d really like to get my act together again. Daily meditation just felt so incredibly awesome! Luckily the calming, centering, and grounding effects have lingered so far.

My efforts at improving posture is one of the current goals, specifically focusing on lower body posture. I can proudly say that I managed to not cross my legs even as my mood dropped. Feels especially good since at my last massage my therapist found that my pelvis is significantly more level than it was a few months ago. This goal is still on track (keeping a better stance – feet shoulder width apart), and growing (keeping my back and neck straight).

Posted June 27, 2012 by mayakey in centering, goals, health, pregnancy, psychology

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Simplicity is Harder than Complexity   Leave a comment

Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.

Steve Jobs

Posted February 10, 2012 by mayakey in psychology, quotes, simple living

Starting The New Year With Less Dead Weight   Leave a comment

The run up to the start of a new year is, in my opinion, a great time to declutter and start the new year without a little of the “dead weight” that we accumulate over time. Some of this decluttering is easy, at least if done regularly. Sorting through clothes, getting rid of more cookware with non-stick finishes, passing on unused decorative items, or sending old books out to find new readers are all relatively easy steps. In my annual purge I’ve so far managed to get through the entire house except for the side yard and the office, and the clock is ticking down with one day remaining before winter solstice.

But in addition to the physical purging, some mental purging may help usher in a better new year as well. Anyone like me have a crazy backlog of “projects” waiting to be done? They do weigh me down, I have to confess. So in the last day of the purge as I tackle the office, where the physical manifestations of many of these projects reside, I’ll try to let go of some of those projects. This is especially important this year since we’re at 15 months of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. A child is a life change, and what if  the piles of little “projects” in my office are making my life too full and not leaving “space” for a child? I’ve been saying that it’s not a problem, but that could be denial. Isn’t there some kind of saying about keeping open space in your life so that there’s room for new things?

Posted December 20, 2011 by mayakey in pre-pregnancy, psychology, simple living

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Okay Okay, I Get The Message, Visualization Is Important   2 comments

For last month or so I have literally been getting the same message repeatedly and from many different sources. The message is that if you can’t visualize something happening, it won’t; or conversely that the best way to make things happen is to visualize it. I know why I’m getting these messages, but it has taken me an unusually long time to actually GET the message.

The issue is basically the complete and utter lack of visualization that I have been able to do about getting pregnant. Before we started trying I had managed to “create” the conception story and pregnancy story as my naturopath instructed me as homework. But it wasn’t very strong visualization, and collapsed as soon as we started actually trying to get pregnant. In fact, I ended up following the tactic of not thinking about it at all in an attempt to shield myself from the potential heartbreak of trying to get pregnant. Apparently the universe disagrees with that tactic. When I first started receiving these messages my response was along the lines of: “women get pregnant without visualization all the time, it would be arrogant to think I could make it happen by wishing.” And I kept getting the messages. Eventually I realized that while it may be true that visualization doesn’t matter for someone who hasn’t used it regularly as a tool, the story might be different for someone who has used visualization regularly in the past. Then I started actually paying attention to my energy flows and realized that by deliberately not thinking about trying to get pregnant I was essentially directing my person energy flows AROUND my second chakra. Again, that might not matter for someone who doesn’t care a whit about personal energy flows, but I normally care very much and have a very minor ability to sense the flow of personal energy. In a weird way it makes sense that visualization might not make any difference for a person to whom it doesn’t matter, but might make a world of difference to someone like me for whom the act of visualizing is generally important. Or as I just explained it to my husband, for someone who uses visualization regularly, deliberately NOT visualizing something is akin to willing it to NOT happen.

In my experience, visualization is an incredibly powerful tool, but it is also very hard to do. I think most people figure it is just about making a picture in your head of what you want to happen. But for it to be really effective, the image has to be fully sensory. Whatever you are visualizing needs to feel real; you need to be in the image. Visualizing giving a presentation? Feel the muscles of your legs holding you up, feel your feet pressed against the floor, feel the coolness of the table against your hands, hear the whir of the projector’s fan, see the dust flecks in the beam of light, feel yourself get nervous with tight stomach and sweaty underarms, and then feel yourself take a deep breath and feel the tension go away, imagine looking at the audience as you talk and seeing their reactions, and imagine yourself presenting and doing a darn good job at it. It’s like a mental rehearsal. The challenge for me was how do you visualize the unknown? That’s where my visualization broke down. I could barely visualize being pregnant, but didn’t have enough knowledge of fertility to visualize getting pregnant.

Wikipedia to the rescue! It took me a while to find it but their prenatal development page has an awesomely detailed explanation of fertilization and embryonic development. Just what the doctor ordered (which is actually in this case just what the doctor ordered).

Posted February 25, 2011 by mayakey in centering, pre-pregnancy, psychology

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Personal Mantras   Leave a comment

Everyone should have a personal mantra or two. Or more if that’s your style. This week’s Mark and Angel Hack Life post is a mantra for each week of the year. I don’t think I could handle one for each week, but I have found that having a few mantras embedded in my being serves as a very good touchpoint and certainly helps keep me going.

My long-term mantras include:

  • Nothing bad every happens. It may hurt like hell, but that doesn’t make it bad.
  • I am a competent person, and I can do it. (whatever it is)
  • Everything in moderation, even moderation.

The list of my short term mantras is longer, and I can’t remember every mantra I’ve ever used, so I’m not going to try. Sometimes you just need a mantra to repeat for a few days, weeks, or months, and then you are ready to move on.

According to the dictionary, “mantra” comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “instrument of thought”. In practical terms a mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated in order to get some benefit like centering, motivation, or comfort. Mantras, and their use, are also very personal.

In my experience, the definition of mantra could be stretched a bit to include an emotional repetition as well, even if it doesn’t have the same phrase attached. An example in my life would be from back in my teen/early twenty years when (like most teens) I used to think I was really ugly. In order to overcome that I changed my mentality to be positive instead of critical when I saw myself in the mirror, and in short order I was able to recognize my beauty. There wasn’t really a set phrase, but rather an emotional action. The constant repetition forced to me change the way I was thinking overall and had a profound long-term impact.

Posted January 17, 2011 by mayakey in centering, psychology, spiritual practices

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Mind Over Immune System   Leave a comment

I just got over a minor cold, again. I had a cold before Christmas, was fine for the holidays, and then got another cold on New Year’s Eve. Ordinarily I’ve got a really good immune system and only get a couple of colds during an entire winter. I can’t think of any time when I’ve gotten two colds within a 4 week period. The thing with both of these colds is that they were both psychosomatic and utterly preventable. I’m a big believer that most of our illnesses are psychosomatic, either directly or indirectly. In this case, they were both directly psychosomatic, caused by a psychologically depressed immune system.

The first cold has a bit of back story: When we moved into our new house we knew that the kitchen faucet had a leak, but before we could find/fix the leak it stopped. We weren’t paying attention, so in mid-December when I realized that the leak had restarted it had already pretty well soaked the cabinet under the sink, and needed to be addressed pronto. Using our (limited) plumbing knowledge we found the source of the leak, made the appropriate obvious attempt to fix it (replacing the supply line), and made it worse instead. The next day I thought of something else to try, which didn’t work and exhausted all of our knowledge and ideas. Since we were days from our holiday party, and soon to leave for a long vacation, trying to find and schedule a plumber on a short time frame seem like a sketchy idea. That evening I spent about an hour and half feeling like a complete failure as a responsible homeowner. By the time I went to bed, I had a cold despite the fact that when I had gotten home from work I had felt perfectly healthy. Isn’t immediate feedback great! 😦

This latest cold is more of a mystery. On New Year’s Eve day I felt healthy, active, and glad to be home. It was a really good day up to the point in the afternoon when I decided to go for a walk. As soon as I stepped out of the house my mind started on a very negative thought spiral. It came out of nowhere, but for some reason I was not able to shake it. After the 2-mile self-pity party and a cry in the shower, we went out to celebrate the holiday. By the time we got to our friend’s house I had the sniffles, and before midnight I knew I had a full blown head cold.

The mind can also prevent colds, not just cause them. But the stories about how I caught these colds make much better stories than the ones where I catch myself in time and manage to avert impending illness by changing my mindset and using all my immune-boosting tricks.

Now that I’m reminding myself, nearly all of my colds are psychosomatic. Personally, I suspect that is true of most people. Did you know that scientists do studies in which they plant live cold viruses in people’s noses, and many of them never get sick? That’s a good thing since most of us are probably exposed to hundreds of potentially harmful viruses and bacteria each day. It seems to me like it is not so much the exposure, but the power of the immune system that determines whether or not someone gets sick. The same immune system that is affected by diet, exercise, sleep, stress, psychological state, and environmental factors. In grad school my colds were like calender-work. During/after every major exam or project, I got a major cold with fever. Needless to say, I was a little bit stressed in grad school and my immune system couldn’t handle any increases in that stress level.

Let this serve a warning to all: avoid high psychological stress situations and negative thinking spirals during cold season.

Posted January 8, 2011 by mayakey in health, psychology

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The Opposite Of A Christmas and Easter Catholic   Leave a comment

So if the term “Christmas and Easter Catholic” is used to refer to Catholics who attend Mass one or two times a year, what is the term for someone who attends Mass every week but is NOT going to Christmas Mass?

I personally believe that everyone, of any religious tradition, needs to take time off every once in a while. I don’t just mean skipping a service when traveling or otherwise unable to attend, I mean just taking a week or two off. I took a couple of years off back when I was in high school, and found that my faith was absolutely strengthened by that experience and the joy of coming back “into the fold”. I remember how happy and excited I was when I was on my own in college and could go back to Mass. Ever since I have made sure to just skip Mass for no reason a couple of times a year because then it doesn’t just fade into the background of life, and it doesn’t become something I “have” to do. Take a break in order to keep it special.

One of my many mantras is: “Everything in moderation, even moderation.” In an odd way, I think that applies to the issue of religious traditions. Sometimes you have to do something extreme for reinvigoration, and sometimes you have to take a break for the same reason. Once a tradition looses its meaning, the tradition has lost its soul. I have no time or energy for soul-less traditions. So I come to my decision this Christmas. I’m not sure, but I think I may have missed one Christmas Mass in the last 10 years. But this year since I’m not in the choir and can’t attend at my home parish, and would have to sacrifice family time for church attendance, I decided that it is time for a break. After all, now that I sing in the choir, I can’t just wake up on a Sunday morning and decide that I don’t want to go. My ability to skip Mass for no reason has been severely compromised, so I’ll skip a Mass that I don’t HAVE to attend, and that would be Christmas. Easter, however is a whole different matter.

Posted December 24, 2010 by mayakey in musings, psychology, spiritual practices

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Purge To a Simple Life?   2 comments

During this year’s winter purge/Advent season I have also been thinking about discernment of my calling. I feel very strongly drawn to simplifying my life, and in the last few years have been working towards that overarching goal. I thought maybe this year I’d look at purging not just my physical stuff, but also my routines and commitments. Unfortunately I have a really hard time with this kind of purging.

A couple of years ago I started shedding myself of commitments, and at the time all of my commitments were shed-worthy. They were organizations that just weren’t justifying my level of activity, so I dropped them or significantly curtailed my activity. Now, however, I have picked up new commitments (nature abhors a vacuum?) that I love, and so I am torn between conflicting desires. For years I have wished every week at Mass that I could sing in a choir again, so when the opportunity arose I jumped at it. It’s most certainly not an ideal situation since I end up cantoring much of the time and I am not happy/comfortable with that, however, since the alternative is to give up something that gives me great joy and go back to wishing that I were doing what I am doing right now… I think putting up with a non-ideal situation is best because at least then I do get the times of pure unadulterated joy when I get to sing my heart out. Similarly, I have wished for a setting for group prayer since college and finally last year I realized that I need to step up and organize it instead of wishing. So now I am nominally in charge of a weekly prayer (intentions, contemplation, and meditation) group. Unfortunately, these things pull me away from home, and I am a homebody at heart. Being away from home is stressful and one of the hallmarks of a simpler life is to not be always rushing around to outside commitments. I don’t know how to balance these competing desires.

And then there’s simplifying life in the home. I know that I should theoretically be able to do this. I am notorious for making life difficult on myself, and that is the root of the problem. This is a very long process and I’m barely in the middle of it. As much as requesting help would be a good idea, I also know from experience that I’ll get defensive and resistant to any help that might come my way. I guess that’s part of the challenge of life: the things we most need help with are the very things that we are least willing and able to accept help with.

Posted December 21, 2010 by mayakey in musings, psychology, simple living

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Real Holiday Cards   4 comments

I know that many environmentalists are proud to announce that they do not send holiday cards but that they send virtual greetings instead. I’m not one of them. I’m proud to announce that I do send actual Christmas cards. Yes, they use paper and fuel, but the pros outweigh the cons in my opinion.

For one thing, I love receiving cards. I love looking at pretty cards, reading the notes, and looking at any photos. It just feels good, and that’s what life is all about, right? I have gotten virtual greetings before (and I’ve used them, but mostly for birthdays), but there isn’t as much thrill. Since I love receiving the physical cards, I prefer to send out physical cards as well. That’s the same reason that I (occasionally) send handwritten cards to family and friends during the year.

Secondly, “it’s good for the economy”, as much as I am sick and tired of hearing that phrase. Someone got paid to make the card, someone will be paid to transport the card, and someone will be paid to deliver the card. Someone got paid to make the paper, someone got paid to design the card, … you get the point. Some card purchases also benefit a non-profit organization, too.

To modulate the environmental impact of sending cards buy some recycled paper or non-tree fiber paper cards printed with soy-based inks. Buy cards from a small printing company, small shop, fair trade store, non-profit organization, or make your own. Skip the glitter, foil, plastic inserts, and anything else that renders the card non-recycleable. Insert a photo if you want, but don’t weigh the card down too much (I think that rules out those singing cards, too; does anyone actually like receiving a singing card?). A heavier card means more fuel required during transportation. Yes, I know the plane is carrying thousands of cards but imagine if each of them weighed an extra half ounce; it adds up.


Posted December 5, 2010 by mayakey in environment, psychology, resource use, shopping

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A Smile Is Contagious   Leave a comment

When I was in college I used to play a game as I walked around campus. I would smile. I smiled and looked people in the eye, and I counted the number of people who would look me in the eye and smile right back. It felt good to smile. It felt even better to have a complete stranger smile back at me. It’s an experience beyond words. And there was an extra thrill when someone smiled back at me who had not previously been smiling, because I knew that I had brightened their day even if just for a second. Yes, there were many more people whose eyes were trained on the ground, or studiously avoiding looking at anyone else, and whose faces were intently serious; but it’s about quality, not quantity.

Smiling feels good. A smile is friendly, encouraging, loving, kind, peaceful, and relaxing. Even when the day isn’t exactly smile-icious, putting on a genuine smile can make everything brighter (probably because in order to make it genuine, you have to be conscious of the good things all around you).

Admittedly I don’t play the game as often now. It’s entirely different in an office of people I know and who know me, and it seems I’m always concentrating on something else when I’m in a public place. But every once in a while it is good to have a reminder that smiling feels good, and that it is contagious. When someone smiles at you, even if you don’t know them, smile back. You’ll make yourself happier and improve someone else’s day as well.

Posted November 12, 2010 by mayakey in musings, psychology

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