Putting on the Ritz

         When I got to London, the weather was typical for late Autumn in Shepherds Bush, dry, overcast, and breezy. My sister’s flat was up on the second floor. She wasn’t home so I followed her directions to locate the key and let myself in. I struggled up the narrow stairway, dropped my bags in her bedroom, and opened the window in the living area. I struck my head out into a quick rush of wind, breathing in the freedom of a short business trip away without my husband and teenage sons. I loved my sister’s cozy flat and her neighborhood with tree lined avenues crouched between rows of Victorian, proudly standing, terraced homes. All around, small articulate front gardens popped with color and twirled with gusts of leaves scratching around fallen pink geranium petals. Mostly, the houses were three or four stories, and over the years, had been converted into flats.

I loved my job, and this was my first ‘all expenses paid’ adventure to the big city by my Edinburgh based interior lighting company. The Covent Garden area of London, loaded with architects and interior designers, had recently been added to my sales patch already covering Ireland and the West of Scotland. I was good at selling stuff, but in that world, you are only ever as good as last week’s sales figures. In my new found celebration of success I decided to show off a bit to my younger sister. The next morning, we would go out and have tea at the Ritz, utilizing my shiny new company credit card.

Sure enough, in the morning, the taxi picked us up and we shot off into town. The weather had turned wet and a bit colder forcing us to pull on coats over our best outfits, mine not that fashionable! However, the hackney cab pulled up outside the Ritz Hotel, in Piccadilly, and out we bounced laughing and carrying on like a couple of giddy girls. We pretended to get stuck in the revolving door joking and having a great time to ourselves. We went around a few times. When the door eventually threw us into the foyer, time froze. The four string quartet continued to play, but pinky-up women in chiffon hats and jewels looked at us with such disdain. Formal morning wear was the preferred attire! Oh dear! The Maitre d’ approached us with the same courtesy as he would royalty, however his acknowledgment of our lesser stature, in a room filled with duchesses and dukes, was rather palpable. He lead us to our table, pulled out or seats and when we sat, pushed then back in for us. He then reached out gesturing for our coats. We timidly gave them up and he walked off holing them at arm’s length, like we had just handed him a dog’s bed. We burst out laughing again drawing a few more harsh looks. It felt like breakfast at Downton Abbey and we were the scullery maids being waited on by Carson

The menu lay atop bone china and highly polished actual silverware, it felt heavy. Our waiter showed up and bid us good morning. He motioned to a waitress, dressed in a black long sleeved dress with white frilly apron and hat, to place fluted crystal, with orange juice and champagne on her silver tray, in front of each of us. His appearance resembled a window display at Harrods or Selfidges. He wore a black jacket with long tails and striped gray pants with white shirt and, get this, white gloves. He had one arm behind his back, the other bent across his chest with immaculate white linen napkins hung over it. He shook out the napkins one by one and placed them on our laps. We dared not move or respond in any way. He took our order, my sister chose white crab sandwiches with India tea, I chose salmon sandwiches with Earl Grey tea. In a flash, or so it seemed, our tea and sandwiches arrived and the waiter poured out tea from individual silver teapots. He bent forward asking, “Will there be anything else Madam?” We shook our heads and he walked off ending the ritual, for now.

Gracefully, we dipped our hands into the doily laden china and drank down the booze. Turning our heads as we ate, with pinky fingers up, we surveyed this genteel place as the classical music played on.

We started a rather intellectual conversation of our own and morphed ourselves into the aristocratic environment like chameleons. It seemed to be working. Paying no mind to previously learned impulses and behaviors, we proudly ate postage stamp sized sandwiches, slathered with watercress and cucumber, with expensive knives and forks afforded by this luxurious upper crust establishment.

That’s when it happened. My sister glared at my tea plate with an alarming look on her face! The waiter was coming to clear away the dishes. I glanced at my plate. Oh God! I ate the doily! The outer edges were still crisp, pretty, and lace, but the center was gone. I ate it! Oh no! How can I hide it. Quickly I threw my napkin up over the table, to cover my embarrassment. The waiter picked up each napkin by the tips of his lily white gloves and shook them. My face burned in total mortification as he omitted a punishing ‘Tut tut,’ under his breath.

When he returned with the bill, I gave him the credit card and a nice tip, by way of ‘hush money.’ He nodded a faint forgiveness in my direction. We left our seats under the same formality as we had taken them. With our coats returned to us, we took the stairs to the ladies’ room and immediately burst into fits of laughter. What a relief to be out of that stuffy stuck up world where one is judged by any departure from expected protocol. It felt as though we were in time out for bad behavior. Out through the revolving door we went, laughing and spilling fancy soaps and lotions from our pockets onto the wet sidewalk, while inside the music played on.

We hailed a cab and were gone. Over the years since, I have developed a fondness for Earl Grey tea, but never drink it without thinking about my sister, whom I love dearly, and our brush with aristocracy, while putting on the Ritz.

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White Peaks

Go Skiing they said! It will be fun they said!

Even though I am from Scotland, a land known for it’s breathtaking mountains and snowy white peaks in winter, I had never ventured onto white powder before. It was January in Nevada and the Heavenly slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains were calling. Not to me, but to my fiance an avid skier. The trip, hurriedly arranged, took us from Tampa airport to Las Vegas, to Reno, where we packed into our rental four-wheeler and headed south. There were four of us, my fiance and I, his son and his buddy, both in their mid-twenties. Part way, we stopped and the men got out to wrap chains around the wheels to keep the vehicle from sliding on snow packed and steep roadways as we wound our way through the foothills. This was a serious snow trip!

Lake Tahoe resides partly inside the great state of Nevada, but also edges the California state border. I had never been to either one before and got pretty excited. As we waited in town at the light, snow started falling. I glanced to my right where a sign read ‘Welcome to California!’ It was a magical moment and my inner child delighted at the sight of pretty snow flakes falling, not seen since my childhood in West Central Scotland. I was in California, the land of Hollywood, make believe, and the place where dreams come true! This was going to be epic.

We parked at the Lodge and got all checked in. People were running in the snow wearing only white robes and slippers. I remember looking on in awe as they dropped their robes and, wearing only bathing suits in frosty temperatures, slipped into an outdoor hot tub with steam rising. I thought, OK it’s California and people here are a bit different, right? You will never catch me doing anything like that – ever! Fools!

Our accommodations were cramped, for four people, but manageable. The boys slept on the couches in the living area while the ‘older couple’ luxuriated in the small bedroom with closet space and a tiny bathroom attached. Outside the swimming pool had been covered with a thick blue tarp, it’s winter coat I imagined. No-one was in the hot tub so we stuck our fingertips in! Boy, it felt good compared to the biting wind chill that evening.

All gussied up in our glad rags, we ventured out and down into the underground tunnels linking the Casinos to the town. We strutted through spectacular playgrounds of the rich and famous like we owned the place. Everything sparkled and exhilaration hung in the air. I felt like I was experiencing my fifteen minutes of fame, everyone is supposed to get it in their life, in a world I had only ever seen on television. Enthralled by the absolute luxury of the interior design palate, the visual explosion of perfection and ambiance exposed me to new levels of possibility. I was captivated. The others headed for the bar and gambling tables. We all had a go at both. Inside a dinner theater we saw the Pointer Sister perform. The live show was nothing short of sensational.

Over dinner, my fiance, a double black diamond skier, suggested I should attend the beginners class for a few days to get used to the moves etc, on real snow. I had taken lessons at a local sports shop in Florida before our trip, however, striking the poses with straight back and bent knees on a plush white carpet rolling toward you (while you are adorned in all the designer gear), does not in any way prepare you for the real thing. Terrified at the prospect of ever going up the mountain, I acknowledged my lack of skill and agreed. I found out, rather quickly, that the toes together move, to stop you, is in no way helpful when you are going backwards, at a good clip, downhill toward the other beginners who don’t yet have the skill to even get out of the way. Disaster!

Then the scariest part surfaced, having to grab onto a rope, conveyor belt of sorts, while in the standing position with poles under my arm, to be pulled back up the hill without falling! What had I done to deserve this! The beginner’s course had been set out like a Westminster Dog Show for adults in snow on the side of the hill. We were in small groups each with a personal instructor who took us in turn to ask safety questions and run us through the bends and twists. In conversation with the group instructor assigned to me I discovered he worked at a local hospital as a Nursing Assistant. In an attempt to bargain with the mountain I told him I was a Nurse, but not just a Nurse, a Charge Nurse and also working on a Baccalaureate Nursing Degree. It was no good though, I didn’t get extra credit for that. The mountain didn’t care that I saved lives for a living, it loomed cold and insensitive above us all the while threatening to take mine. After four days of class I was let loose to do or die!

Meanwhile, the guys were having the time of their lives on snow boards and skis up on the caps, hurtling down through moguls and telling outrageous tales of victory, dares and near disasters, over dinner. I had nothing to add. Soon after I joined the others and became one of the white robe/white slipper people hurrying to the hot tub at the end of a day on the slopes. Soaking in the hot water soothed many injuries and strains to my muscles and joints, but mostly to my pride. Funny thing was we didn’t feel the cold afterward.

The next morning it happened. Up on the mountain I confronted my deepest fears. The chairlift tipped us out onto a slippery mound and I just kept going. Let me tell you people, there is no feeling in this world worse than the ground moving under you feet and you have no control over it! In a standing position, my body moved forward and downward with the momentum of a snowball rolling down a hill, with two long sticks clicked onto heavy rental boots strapped to my legs. What was I thinking!

My soul fled up into the sky for protection. People were there chatting on a flatter surface between the mound and the ski-slope and I was headed straight for them! Oh! No! Higher up on the mountain, it seemed, was where the elite gathered to compete in conversation about personal bests and skill level. I heard my voice yelling “Nice place to stand people!” as I shot through the gathering without crashing. Oh!God! Bridget Jones, in the movie The Edge of Reason, in that ski scene, had nothing on me.

Thankfully, my fiance waited a bit further along and out of earshot of my cringing squeal. Scared witless, I started down the slope behind him. He had suggested I get my skis in behind his and hold onto his belt and he would take it slow. He yelled out left! Right! Left!, when we had to lean in and take a turn together. The air was thin and crisp. As we descended, I think there were birds singing, but all I heard was my heart banging in my chest, my ears under a thick hat and muffs. Somehow we made it down. Hoping to live long enough to keep all my promises to God for that, I headed back to the chair lift with him and repeated this endeavor a few times over. On the last run he continued to yell out to me, left! Right! Left!, as we made turns in unison, but somehow I didn’t have enough strength or something and my skis didn’t pull the same way they had before. Next thing I remember he yelled “Left! Left! Left!…” Then, crash!

My head hit the snow and his head hit mine. We were on our backs, inches from a deadly drop on the edge of the mountain! After a minute or two of stunned realization he pulled me up and we checked each other out for obvious damage. There was none. I truly loved this man and trusted my life to him. One time, on the edge of a mountain, we both did exactly that.

On another day we decided to have lunch in a restaurant up in the heady heights. Fear of the decent kept me from enjoying one bite or one sip. I didn’t want to leave the fireplace it felt so cozy and romantic inside, but leave we did. The views on the other hand took my breath. Quiet peaks adorned in white mantles rose up into this celestial place as far as the eye could see. A bright blue sky above us seemed to mark the entrance to heaven.  I will never forget the stunning beauty of it with Lake Tahoe far below us like a sapphire in the snow. But wait! What! My skis were gone, someone had taken the wrong ones! Oh God! Even my fiance looked concerned by this. Skis are personally fitted and determined by the height and weight of the renter. What now!

We contacted the Ski Resort by land line inside the restaurant and a guide was sent up to meet us and escort us safely down! The young man arrived and assured us it would be alright. He would help us scramble up onto the top of the chairlift mound, which is not designed for arrivals, only departures. Luckily we were all three of us able to position ourselves to get onto the next empty arriving chair and off we went. The guide told us he would motion to the lift controller at the bottom to slow it down so it would be easy for us to get off. I had no skis, just the heavy boots while the men both had skis on. This seemed to be a good idea, only the pretty young woman operating the lift was happily chatting, with her back to the window, to another guide inside the booth and didn’t see any of the hand signals sent her way. Oh God!

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Next thing I know, the two men scooped me up under my arms placing me in front of the chair on solid, but slippery ground. The chair caught up with us and hit me on the bottom, then again, and again, and again. Slipping and struggling to walk on the ice we continued this pantomime for several more feet until we were clear. In the hot tub that night, we laughed about it. Perhaps the Florida shop with the plush white rug should place a couple of bags of potatoes and unopened bags of flour underneath the carpet to simulate the real thing for first time skiers like me.

I have not been back on powder since that January trip, and doubt if I will ever do it again, but I cherish the memory of it dearly. It was scary, wild, strenuous, and very beautiful. Most of all it was fun. Some parts of it still scare me or make me shudder and other aspects make me laugh out loud, even to this day. Sometimes in winter when I close my eyes at night I can see those White Peaks piercing the bright blue ceiling above Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Love

 

LOVE tugs on your heart with a gravitational force that takes your breath and makes your eyes swell, but what is this strange enigmatic emotion and what does it mean in real life. Love can drive us to take action toward outcomes we never could have otherwise imagined. It can cause us to soar to heady heights and, with equal fervor, break us down and deliver us into an abysmal pit of grief.

Is love a single emotion or does it travel exclusively in the company of its cousins namely guilt, obligation, and expectation. Do we go willingly into love or are we ambushed by it and its posse of bandits; fear, dread and remorse, who come clad in thorns and strung on the veritable scented flower. Should we weigh the bad against the good or just go for it with hope, optimism, and joy! Invariably, for me, it has always been the latter and I have been stung by the thorns, but changed forever by the giddy perfume of the flower.

When I first studied nursing, and entered the humbling halls of learning, I journeyed through every aspect of care of the human body in the functional dimensions of daily care and beyond where I found a little snippet – a gem of and an ode to – love. In Human Anatomy and Physiology Lab, we were told that cardiac cells beat away at different rates in Petri dishes in the lab, but, when they are put together in the same Petri dish, they beat in unison. This little nugget caused me to wonder what if my family, and people I love, were in my Petri dish with me, figuratively speaking, and our hearts all beat at the same time! That thought gave me great comfort at a time when I was an ocean away and couldn’t be with them.

The Oxford English dictionary defines love as, “A strong feeling of affection.”

Merriam-Webster tells us, “Love is a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” So what happens if it is not constant. Does that mean it wasn’t love!!

What about when you feel love for someone else, but it isn’t reciprocated and what if you find yourself in the opposite situation where someone professes their undying love for you, but you don’t feel anything at all – awkward!

Perhaps we choose to believe we were conceived in a moment of pure love. Probably we were born into a loving home and grew up in an affectionate loving environment. Maybe not everyone, but most. Is that where our expectations of love are formulated. What if our love role-models are a bit remiss in their ability to express love and nurture us, or the outward environment we are born into is predominantly governed by the more negative traits of obligation and judgment. Is it likely then that our expectations of love become somewhat skewed or would that experience, overall, provide us with an extra ability to overlook shortcomings in our future. 

Love has been the catalyst of countless great written works of poetry and story telling throughout the ages. Many, compelled to express love in their own inimitable way, gave us everlasting jewels like Wm Shakespeare, the world renowned Bard of Avon, in his first published poem Venus and Adonis, when he wrote, “Love comefortheth like sunshine after rain.” 

With over fifty honorary doctorate degrees, Maya Angelou defined love this way, “In the flush of love we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are. Yet it is only love which sets us free.” 

Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright Novelist and Poet wrote, “It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its glory and still to love it.” 

The great Ernest Hemingway told us “We’re stronger in the places that we’ve been broken.” 

Best known for her radical critique of 18th century British gentry, Jayne Austen wrote, “You have pierced my soul, I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.” 

Edgar Allan Poe, known throughout the world for his poetry and short stories said, “The most natural, and, consequently, the truest and most intense of human affections are those which arise in the heart as if by electric sympathy.”

Roald Dahl, the Welsh born short story writer, poet, and screenwriter, simply stated in his children’s book The Witches, “Love is more meaningful than anything else.” This single statement speaks to the value of love in any life.

James Joyce, the legendary Dublin born novelist and poet, expressed love beautifully in his story, Araby, “...and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.” This has to be my most treasured expression of romantic love ever.

When you’ve lived in this world for any length of time, you come to see that love can potentially survive in most every situation, even where there is hate, fear, and dread. Often it’s a two sided coin. No-one can have it all and live in a Pollyanna type of situation except – maybe for a short period of euphoria in the early stages of a new romance. However, eventually the other stuff starts to show up and we have to decide at what point we accept, or, limit it.

Balance is not only the natural order of our human existence, as in homeostasis where the body is constantly enforcing a system of checks and balances, but it is also the natural order of the universe. A shiny dime will ultimately have a tarnished side too. If you want the whole dime then you have to take both sides. Life is a trade off, not always good, happy, and loving; not always ugly, hurtful, and uncomfortable, but perhaps the challenges we encounter in life are what make us stronger. 

Love is a gift, a gain, in every form it takes whether between parents and a child or among siblings, extended family members, or between friends. Love between two people can last a lifetime in a platonic or in a romantic relationship. Love can be a currency to be both received and given. It can be shared with those we hold most dear, but be aware that not everybody will reciprocate and share their love with you!

Love can also be a torment at a time of great loss when someone we love leaves us. At some point we all leave the ones we love. No-one can live forever and be around us, but we get to keep the love we have, or had, for and from them forever. Love transcends time and space.

The greatest form of love can be the one we foster for our own life – love for our self. This love is not dependent on anyone or anything external. It is our birthright, however some people might find this concept difficult to imagine and it may even take them an entire lifetime to reach understanding and realization of it.   

In the environment where I choose to work most everyday, I get to witness love a whole lot. Not everyone who comes in to the intensive care unit gets to leave the way they, or their loved ones, might want. My colleagues and I devote our time to evaluating, assessing, and delivering care to those stricken with illness. We also spend considerable time with their loved ones encouraging, supporting, and directing them as best we can.

Sometimes we have to tell people it’s not that you lost your loved one, but that you had them.  We all take love for granted, it’s a habit, we all do it. We seem to prefer to concentrate on what we don’t have or what we want. Sometimes it’s good to look around instead of forward or behind.

When your head hits the pillow at the end of your day, go deep inside your mind and find that place where the magic happens and your fountain of love lives. Allow it to flow out and wash you and the ones around you. Swim in it, bathe in it everyday. 

Love begins inside you. It’s yours, give it away freely so more will grow in its place.  

Sleep: A Beautiful Thing

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Sleep

A Beautiful Thing

     It’s that moment we crave; the moment when we are under the covers, safe, and comfortable. We have passed the cut off point in our day and our body winds down and relaxes. Our eyes close and muscle by muscle we feel ourselves letting go and falling into the void. Like an irresistible force in the universe sleep pulls us in, but what is sleep and why do we need it. Have you ever wondered how much more productive we could be if we didn’t need to sleep, or even, why we need to sleep at all.

These are my findings after hours of research into the value and indeed the need for sleep in our lives. First of all, the concept of sleep is much more complicated than we might first imagine and needs definitive terms to explain it. In the early 1920s scientists regarded sleep to be an inactive brain state when the brain switched off. The modern era of sleep research however and the invention of the electroencephalogram, or EEG, machine has allowed us a more accurate view of things. The EEG detects electrical activity in your brain and has unveiled surprising discoveries. The brain can be more active when we are asleep than when we are awake.

Most people conform to monophasic sleep patterns where we are awake all day and asleep at night. Infants and most animals in nature use polyphasic sleep patterns. An example of polyphasic would be a sleep schedule with an afternoon nap or multiple sleep/wake incidents throughout the day. There is some evidence which suggests that humans were originally suited to a polyphasic sleeping routine, rather than the monophasic one which we are commonly used to. Children are slowly weaned away from this sleep pattern to conform to the dominant 9-5 work schedule of their parents. That said, in tropical countries it is normal practice to close shops and businesses for an hour or two in the hottest part of the day. This allows people to take a nap in the afternoon sometimes after a heavy lunch. The body’s internal alerting signal, which increases throughout the day to offset the drive to sleep, wanes in the afternoon. Studies have shown that daytime napping helps to restore energy and alertness. Indeed, it has been reported that many of the world’s geniuses, Nikola Tesla, Leonardo Da Vinci, Salvador Dali, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, and Winston Churchill, slept less than seven hours per night and took multiple naps during the day favoring a polyphasic sleeping routine. 

So what actually happens inside our brain. Two interacting systems, the internal biological clock and the sleep-wake homeostat largely determine the timing of our transitions from wakefulness to sleep and vice versa. Sleep-cycles known as rapid-eye-movement-cycles (REM) and non-rapid-eye-movement-cycles (Non REM) combine with tiny electrical impulses, of varied frequencies, emitted by neurons inside our brains to send and receive messages. In short, sleep takes us through waves of complex restoration and repair. During REM sleep the brain is very active and dreams are at their most intense. But the voluntary muscles of the body are paralyzed by chemicals, recently discovered by scientists, glycine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This paralysis keeps people still even as their brains are acting out physical scenarios to keep them from injuring themselves.

Brain Waves

Thought of as the continuous spectrum of consciousness, brain waves are at the root of our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Beta waves dominate our normal waking state and can be measured at 13-60 pulses per second in the Hertz scale. Beta waves are produced when we feel consciously alert, engaged or involved in problem solving, decision-making and during focused mental activity. Beta is a fast rate.

Theta waves measuring only 4-7 pulses per second, a much slower rate, are emitted when we are in a state of reduced alertness. Our brain cells reset their sodium & potassium ratios when the brain is in Theta state, a reduced level of consciousness. The sodium & potassium levels are involved in osmosis which is the chemical process that transports chemicals into and out of your brain cells. After an extended period in the Beta state, alert or focused, the ratio between potassium and sodium is out of balance. This is the main cause of what is known as “mental fatigue.” A brief period in Theta, about 5–15min, can restore the ratio to normal resulting in mental refreshment. Naps are the key to direct Theta brainwave access. Theta brainwaves are the brainwaves of hyper consciousness. The more theta you have during your waking hours, the more creatively intelligent you are.

Length of Sleep Cycles

It has been well established that the sleeping patterns progress in alternating cycles throughout the night. For most people they go to bed, fall asleep, dream, wake up and forget all of it. However, according to science, when you sleep you go through a series of regular sleep cycles just like your washing machine. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep, whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months, have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine. So how long is a full sleep cycle? One sleep cycle lasts an average of 90 minutes: 65 minutes of normal, or non-REM sleep; 20 minutes of REM sleep (in which we dream); and a final 5 minutes of non-REM sleep.

Non-REM Sleep

Non-REM sleep happens first and is has three stages each of which lasts from 5 to 10 minutes. It is followed by  REM a shorter period of sleep. Then we go through the cycles again and again.

Stage 1: This stage of sleep is also called light sleep, somnolence or drowsy sleep which consists of about 5-15% of total sleep in adults. In this stage you go through a situation between sleep and wakefulness when you are neither sleeping nor awake. You can call this stage a relaxed wakefulness. You lie down, and your eyes are closed, but you can still perceive noise from your surroundings and it is easy to wake you up. You can still move your body when you are at this stage. This is also the stage where someone might be tossing, turning or rolling over in sleep.

Stage 2: This stage accounts for 45-55% of total sleep in adults. Here you go through light sleep stage. As you fall asleep, you cannot feel the surrounding anymore, and the function of your body gradually slows down. The body temperature, heart rhythm, respiration rate and energy consumption all decrease accordingly. In this phase, the body gets ready for deep sleep.

Stage 3: The third stage consists of 15-25% of total sleep in adults and is called deep sleep stage. When you go through stage three, you become less responsive to the surroundings, and it is harder to wake you up. If you are woken up in this phase, you would feel disoriented, and it would take a few minutes for you to adjust to the surroundings. This stage is of great importance for us. During this stage, the body repairs cell and tissue, builds bone and makes the immune system stronger.

REM Sleep

The REM sleep consists of 20-25% of total sleep in adults and usually occurs 45-90 minutes after you get asleep. It is characterized by the lack of muscle movements. The first stage usually lasts for about 10 minutes, and the subsequent stages get longer from the previous one. The final stage can last for about 1 hour. When you are in REM sleep stage, your brain becomes more active, and intense dreams can happen here. In this stage, it is harder for someone to arouse you than the other sleep stages.

Importance of Sleep Cycles

You cannot lead a healthy life without maintaining a sound sleep pattern. Yes! That goes for all of us. Lack of proper sleep can create a lot of complexities in your daily life. It may impair your ability to learn complex tasks. If you cannot complete all the sleep cycles, you may feel disoriented. You may experience some psychological disturbances, for example, anxiety, hallucination, difficulty in concentrating and so on. Certain types of depression are also associated with the deprivation of proper sleep.

Why Do We Need Sleep

A healthy sleep can boost your memory and facilitate you in learning intensive subject matters. A healthy sleep must contain the appropriate combination and proportion of non-REM and REM sleep stages. It is important in repairing heart and blood vessels and regaining the working energy for the next day. An ongoing deprivation of sleep is associated with the risk of heart disease, kidney disease as well as hypertension. A deficiency in sleep can have an effect on how well you feel, think and react to others. Sleep also plays a significant role in promoting growth and development of the body. When you sleep, the body releases different growth hormones that boost muscle mass. The immune system also relies on proper sleep. Lack of sleep has also been associated with a greater susceptibility to common infections. If you cannot sleep properly, your immune system changes the way in which it responds to harmful substances.

Final Word

Last of all, there is no alternative to a sound sleep to keep the body fit. To benefit from all the advantages of sleep, you must create a suitable environment where you can fulfill the sleep cycles. Who knows, maybe you will be rewarded with a sweet dream.

Managing Stress: Take Care of Yourself

Managing Stress: Take Care of Yourself

It is estimated that one million Americans miss work due to stress related complaints. Almost ninety percent of visits to all Healthcare providers are due to stress related problems. Stress is linked to all the leading causes of death such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, accidents, and suicide. Nearly one half of all adults suffer from adverse effects of stress.

Take Care of Yourself

When you get together with your family and friends and at the end of the evening when it’s time to leave, people will often say to one another, “take care of yourself!” We all do it. Have you ever wondered who that is, yourself? Who is yourself. Is it the clothes you wear, your bank balance, your home or car. Is it the role you play in your family as caretaker to aging parents, or young children. Who is yourself and is that part of you often overlooked or lost in the shuffle. Maybe you consider it to be your inner most being, your mind and quiet thoughts or hopes and dreams. Maybe you prefer to think of yourself as your spirit or soul. What ever yourself means to you all of the aspects of it rely on your well being. Yourself needs to be nurtured, respected, included, cared for, and loved by you.

Disease

Disease is defined as a body not at ease or in Dis-ease. Stress starts in the mind and ends in your immune-system and well being. It can cause disease, Disease can refer to a chronic (lasting a long time), or acute (sudden onset or new) condition or injury. Disease comes from physical or emotional pain or an imbalance between stress and relaxation. Inadequate rest, sleep or nutrition are contributory factors to disease. A sedentary lifestyle (not getting off the couch), poorly managed risk factors, or general lack of self awareness and care cause disease.

Risk Factors

Know your disease risk factors. Modifiable risk factors can be managed with healthy eating and exercise. If you have a condition that requires a physician to prescribe medications try to comply with the plan of care set out for you and adhere to you medication or exercise regimen. Modifiable risk factors might include stress, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor nutrition, alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, and sedentary lifestyle.

Tools For Your Tool Box

Close your eyes for a minute and try to imagine a tool box for yourself. It can be made of any material you want from heavy bronze metal to soft pink velvet. In your mind, open the lid. Put some of the items we are going to discuss inside your tool box and keep it in a safe place in your mind. Whenever you feel threats to your well-being, open it and take out the tool best suited to your situation. Choose from the following tools; Self Talk, Perception, Visualization, Imagination, Music, Pet Therapy, Mindfulness, Meditation, Relaxation, Prayer, and Nature,

Self Talk

“C’mon inner peace I don’t have all day!” Are you in your own way? Be mindful of your self talk. Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Do things for yourself ahead of time. Be loving. The conversation you have with yourself is the most important conversation you will ever have. I cannot stress this enough.

The Three Ps of Pain

Consider the three Ps of pain. There is Past pain, Present pain, and Perceived pain. The most difficult of these is perceived pain. If you cannot change the event of circumstance that is causing you pain then change your perception of it. Just tweak it a little bit. Re-script, in your head, how you tell it to yourself. Try staying in the positive. Rather than telling yourself this pain med is not working, try saying this pain med is working well and my knee, hip, head feels better. I can do this. You might have to say it out loud a few times, but it works!

Perception is Key

During the nineteen sixties, NASA did some experiments with athletes. They sat them in a dark room and hooked them up to EEG machines to measure brain activity. Then they asked them to imagine when they heard a bang that it was the starting pistol and they were to run their race in their minds. After it was over and the scientists examined the waveforms they found that the nerves that would have fired, had they been physically running the race, fired in all the right places when a race was merely imagined. It was concluded that the nervous system does not know the difference between imagined action and real action. It responds either way. Change your perception; change your life.

Visualization

Visualize a different situation or an alternative outcome to the one you are facing. Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest football coach of all time, only allowed players to watch replays of successful runs over and over. His positive visualization techniques turned the Green Bay Packers into the most dominating NFL team in the nineteen sixties. All champion athletes visualize. What you practice you become.

Imagination

Imagination is the greatest gift of all. We imagined ourselves to be doing what we now do with our lives and here we are doing it. Use it to imagine wonderful things for yourself and your loved ones for your future, Hold on to your dreams because as long as you have a dream you have hope. No one else needs to believe in it or even know about it. Keep it safe inside your tool box.

Music Therapy

There is not a single human culture on earth that has lived without music. Music can lower stress levels and enhance moods. Physicians report faster recovery time for patients listening to music in hospital rooms. Music can help draw on old memories and neurological patterns due to the fact that rhythm and sounds of music can stay in the core of the mind for a long time allowing people with some sort of brain damage to regain partial or full access to memories. Actors like Johnny Depp play music while filming to get into character.

Pet Therapy

The Mayo Clinic believes that pet therapy is helping people recover from a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders. Animal therapy has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people suffering from health problems. Many hospitals and nursing homes have regular pet therapy visits. Animals owners report good outcomes for patients, families and staff members. They claim to have seen lots of smiling faces. Studies have shown that closing you eyes for ten minutes with your hand over your heart and thinking about your pet can reduce heart rate and blood pressure.

Mindfulness

Recent research by the University of British Columbia provides strong evidence that practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness (aka Mindfulness), changes the brain. When you pay attention to your breathing, to sounds, to the present moment experience, it shuts cognition down. Your senses become enhanced. Gray matter in the frontal cortex, associated with working memory and decision making, is enhanced.

Meditation

Ancient meditation focused on transcending emotions to live in a calm present state. It is an umbrella term similar to the Western world’s version of yoga. It can involve a lot of techniques to reach a heightened level of consciousness. UCLA studies found that meditation may increase gray matter in the brain. It can cultivate positive emotions and increase focus and control. Consistent thought patterns can lead to changes and even develop new brain wiring pathways. Meditation is associated with decreased stress, depression and anxiety. It has been shown to decrease pain and insomnia and increase quality of life.

Relaxation

Relaxation comes in many forms and is mainly a matter of personal taste. For some the best form of relaxation comes from sitting back on the couch and watching a movie. For others it might be getting lost in a good novel. Swimming is an excellent means of stretching out the muscles and releasing tension. Board games and card games are a fun way of distracting a seriously overworked brain. Jumping on a bicycle or gong for a walk or run are alternative forms of relaxation also. Any kind of physical activity releases tension in an overworked mind.

Nature

Take a hike! Get out into nature. Walk or drive to a local park and sit under a tree for a while. Let the healing attributes of nature take your blues away. Trees are said to be the lungs of the earth. They soak up and absorb poor quality air and run it through the filters of their leaves and branches to replace it with clean, fresh air. Go to the beach and let the ocean’s healing powers hypnotize your thoughts rushing in and away. Let go of the tension.

Prayer

Many, many people turn to prayer and positive intentions for solace in times of need. Keeping an open dialogue with a higher power is of great comfort for many. For some there is history in that prayer dates back to childhood and strengthens feelings of family and belonging. It can be our best connection to the past or to the future. It connects us to those we love when we hold positive intentions in our mind and think of that person we love and cherish. Love is what makes everything OK. There is nothing wrong with showering your own self with some of that love. Love yourself.

Human Spirit

The enduring Human Spirit fascinates me. We are not bodies with a spirit attached somehow. We are spirits living with a body and yet our spirit is not found in anatomy. A surgeon cannot cut flesh open and point out the spirit beside any of the organs, yet we are spiritual beings. Our spirit is raw life source, indestructible, universal energy. Physicists will say that energy cannot ever be destroyed. Just think of that for a moment.

Take Care of Yourself

What ever yourself means to you all of the other aspects of your life rely on your personal well being. You need to be nurtured, respected, included, cared for, and loved by you. Take Care of Yourself.