Think of the Immune system as Mission Control, organizing the delivery and removal of everything healing needs. This might be an airborne bacteria trying to settle in our respiratory system, a skin bacteria trying to infect us through a wound, a microscopic tear in a blood vessel caused by high pressure pounding on it, or fatigued eye muscles that have stared too long at all the screens. No matter the issue, the Immune system is there to put us back together.
This is the system that notices injury and damage, and notifies all the relevant repair contributors. It’s in charge of sending crews to sites all over the body, internally and on the surface, to do their thing, including clotting blood, fighting invading pathogens, and signaling for more fluid to wash away debris and deliver more new structures. (This, btw, is inflammation. That’s an integral part of the healing process)
The Immune system uses the resources you give it to create the members of these crews and their supplies- white blood cells, clotting factor chemicals, debris removing cells, the rebuilding bits like protein and collagen and fats, all the physical and chemical components it takes to heal something.
This system also uses the rest you give your body to get work done. There’s a reason that road crews try to do major repairs on weekends and overnight- with less demands on the road, it’s quicker all around to get it done. Giving yourself enough rest means your body can catch up on its healing work.
So all these work crews are alerted, organized, and dispatched by the Immune system (and they travel through the Lymph system; we’ll get to that in a minute.) Can you guess what this process of healing is called in our popular culture?
Right?! We hear that word and immediately look for a turmeric supplement to cool us down! But here’s the thing:
Inflammation is JUST THE PROCESS. It HAS to happen, or nothing will ever heal! The fear we have been trained to feel is because of 2 steps:
Now, I’m not at all saying that our inflammation is fine and we should learn to love it. The fact is that we are much more predisposed to having excess inflammation because, like I said just now in #s 1 and 2, we’re experiencing more injury and less stop orders than humankind ever has.
In terms of "exercising" your immune system, it's this inflammation process that needs attention. An under-active process that never gets challenged, or an over-active one that never gets a break, aren't healthy. We're looking for a reflexive system, one that adapts both to turning on and off as needed. Since so much of the imbalancing comes from our environment, let's help out as much as we can!
How do we help? There’s some obvious, and not so obvious answers, but I have to warn you many of these answers are NOT the fun ones.
Exercise Your Immune System Tip #1
For one thing, the biggest supplement to help the “stop work orders” are omega 3s. Now, don’t get freaked out by the technicalities here. Basically, what happens is that when a cell tears open from an injury, both omega 3s and 6s leak out. The 6s sound the alarm- these are pro-inflammation markers, that signal the Immune system to respond and start work. The 3s are the job foremen who see when the work is done and send everybody home.
Here’s the issue: We as a society tend to be low Omega 3s in them because of 2 simultaneous issues
The balance is like a homemade salad dressing- you want a nice balance between good olive oil and the balsamic vinegar, but not only did you not know you only have a tiny bit of vinegar left in the bottle, you also dropped the oil and swamped your greens. One or the other would have ruined the salad, but both happened and it’s a mess.
This balance matters because we HAVE to eat them. Omega 3s and 6s are essential, meaning we cannot make them ourselves. I don’t give nutritional advice, but it is worth looking into a good quality omega supplement at your local health food store. Shop small, shop local! If you don’t have a local store, my local store, Holly Hill Health Foods, has a good selection and helpful staff if you can overcome your fear of the phone and call them! They’re online, look em up- Holly Hill Vitamins.com
Exercise Your Immune System Tip #2
Here’s another biggie for supporting your Immune system, and I apologize in advance. Sugar depresses the immune system. It’s dose dependent, so the more you have the longer the immune system is shut down. You know what this means.
I’m sorry. I commiserate.
Let’s have a moment of silence for our desserts.
Exercise Your Immune System Tip #3
Ok, here’s my third and biggest factor that influences the Immune response.
(But let me just say that these 3 are by no means the ONLY factors here- they’re the ones that I see most often, that my clients have the most ability to influence and that have the biggest impact on a healthy inflammation aka immune response.)
My third factor to consider is: Stress. It’s such a tiny little word, with such big and far-ranging implications! Stress is a big deal, because like sugar it also shuts down the immune system.
Essentially, our brain doesn’t distinguish between a phone ding, a cough, a huge to-do list, and a saber toothed squirrel. All are equally deserving of shifting to fight or flight mode, because why not? If your brain took a few seconds to decide, and it was wrong, that was the end of you. So we evolved to err on the side of fight or flight activation, which makes sense.
What doesn’t make sense is the sheer amount to stressful inputs we experience almost every minute of our lives now. Stress, and the fight or flight response compared to the rest and digest functions of our bodies, are topics for another day.
Let me say that, in terms of the Immune system and the inflammation response, actively, deliberately, and consistently reducing the stress in your life will BOTH
There’s more discussion of stress coming soon- so for now, suffice to say that these three factors (omegas, sugar, and stress) are all external influences you can work to improve, that will support how well your internal Immune system functions.
Obviously this is not a comprehensive examination of the immune system. It doesn’t address myriad factors that affect, for example, immune compromised or autoimmune issues, and is only looking at our Immune systems in terms of injury and healing. This is a public blog post, people! Personalized, individualized, specific discussions belong in personalized, individual, private settings. Book a chat with me here.
In the meantime, move on from Injury and Healing Parts 1 and 2 to Part 3: Lymph, coming soon.
I wrote a blog series over the winter of 2019- 2020, about my perspective on herbalism as an herbalist, which was really a catalyst to me embracing my whole-body wellness beliefs and doing a deep dive into the pelvic floor work I shared throughout 2020.
I want to share some of what I wrote back then with you- especially part 2, and that ending in part 3.
Now, it’s time I updated my position. I’m not just an herbalist, I’m a whole-body wellness teacher. It took me a long time to really blend my 2 things- call them passions, call them skill sets, whatever. My whole life I’ve been interested in herbalism, plant medicine, and taking care of your own self. 15 years ago I took a job as a pilates teacher because I needed a change, and it sure changed everything!
Movement- like pilates, pelvic floor support, foot mobility, and the myriad other physical-related conversations we've had online- is a major part of how I see and practice health. Our bodies are designed to move, a lot, and we're not taught how to do that. This is important to me.
Herbal medicine- whether practitioner-grade with consultations and protocols and upkeep, or food-grade by seriously increasing the quantity, quality, and variety of the fresh foods and spices you eat daily- is another fundamental component to my vision of whole-body wellbeing. Your body is only as good as the resources you give it to build itself, and choosing those resources on purpose is at the core of how I understand herbal medicine to operate.
From the outside, working with both movement practices and herbal medicine is a modern wellness “hybrid” approach. From the inside, though, they’re both exactly the same! Plant medicine helps move things in your body at micro levels, and movement acts like medicine at macro levels.
I understand that this hybrid style is a new experience for most people. It’s this blending that you’ll hear me discussing and elaborating more in the coming months.
I’d love your feedback and questions- what do you want to know about, in regards to a more truly holistic approach to wellness? What do you want to understand, learn, or ask questions about?
It's time for me to introduce myself again, and I've been thinking about what to say. There’s lots of things to know about me. I’m passionate about integrating your wellness, inside and out. Movement and plant medicine. Logic and proprioception. I like to read- fantasy, mystery, history. I knit, garden, ferment, and drink tea by the quart-sized mason jar. I love baths and naps.
There’s also lots of NOTs to know about me. For example, I don't like waistbands or shoes, faffing around with my hair, or having wool right next to my skin.
Also: I don’t do guilt or bullying. Don’t try it on others in my presence, and don’t try it on me. That will be a short-lived relationship. I don’t often like the stories we usually tell ourselves, because they’re usually born from fear or shame or some other trauma. Get ready to be asked to examine them, and to try on alternatives for size.
When it comes to working with me, there’s another big NOT to understand right away:
I'm No Guru!
My first herbal teacher used to say “Don’t put me on a pedestal- we’ll both get hurt when I fall off.” At the time, I hadn’t yet had the experience of either admiring or being admired like this, and my too-logical brain imagined a human-sized statue falling off a Greek column and squashing someone below. I knew that wasn’t what she meant, but I just didn’t get it.
Now, it makes more sense. And here’s what I say to people who want to look to me as some sort of authority over themselves- Everybody knows something that someone else doesn’t.
Yes, I know some cool stuff about the body that you might not, about how it works and how to fix some things. It’s amazing, and I want to teach you what I know. But that doesn’t make me any higher up the human food chain than you. You know lots of things I don’t know, first and foremost about yourself. Everything I teach you has to be filtered through your experiences, and I’ll learn just as much from you and about you, as you will from what I can teach you.
Moral of the story is- when you work with me, it’s truly a “with” situation. If this is the type of exchange that you prefer, let’s get going!
My 2021 Word(s) of the Year
Every year I choose a word of the year (WotY) to guide me through, and I’ve realized there’s 2 indicators of success in keeping my WotY inspiring me well into the year: 1. Pick a good word- one that is broadly meaningful, not just to my current circumstances but to my bigger dreams and vision 2. Keep the WotY displayed prominently, so it remains part of my weekly ‘groove’ past February or Marc
Now that I’ve done my New Year’s planning, I also spent some time considering 2021’s WotY. This is a practice I’ve done for almost a decade, and for the first time I have to try something new- TWO WotYs. Yikes!
My first WotY is CONNECTION. I’m naturally an introvert, and for years and years I maxed out my ‘people time’ by teaching my pilates classes. They’re fun, rewarding, and a lovely group of people, but I didn’t have much bandwidth leftover for anything else.
Over the last few years I’ve been scaling back, and the pandemic prompted me to return to the studio this summer with a positively tiny class schedule. While this gave me plenty of time to minimize any potential spread at pilates (we’ve not had any, thank all the things), it also gave me time to REST, for the first time in my adult life. That’s not an exaggeration.
So now, as we step into both the great unknown of a pandemic winter and our new, ongoing normal, I’m ready and eager to explore connections. It’s a big word, with big implications, and I’m excited to see where it leads.
When I was thinking through the potential of a connection, I considered that it doesn’t have to be a two-way thing, or even an external thing. Years ago I read a blog post that taught me a new word and I haven’t been able to shake the memory of this, especially when I was thinking through my WotY.
It’s a French word, Flâner, and it means “to wander aimlessly, randomly, for the pleasure of watching.” I’m familiar with this idea, because as a child I could either wander or read. I lived far from anything, including people, and I spent a lot of time just looking at my little slice of the world. (I wrote about this in a blog post once.)
I want to re-learn this skill, in nature as well as among people. FLÂNER is my second WotY for 2021.
This pair of WotYs is setting me up for a BIG year. But 2021 is also a “big” year, culturally, for birthdays and I’m ready to leave what’s typically considered the first half of my life with this kind of energy- Connections and the ability to Flâner. These are the parts of me I’d like to nourish in my second half.
Meet Your Self- Your Stacked Spine
Life is like a… no. That’s not right.
Your spine is like a stack of teacups. There, that’s the one!
Think I’m just being silly? Well, that's entirely possible but look at it this way: Your vertebrae (that’s the name of your spine bones) have flat surfaces, so they stack together. And they have padding between them, so the edges don’t chip. And they have handles, for attaching things to so they make it safely to where they’re going. Just like teacups.
Now imagine carrying a stack of 33 teacups. That would be quite the feat, wouldn’t it?? All wobbly and unbalanced and shifting… it’s a terrifying thought for someone as not-graceful as me!
You know those sets of cables that anchor telephone poles into the ground? (As an aside, now that they don’t carry telephone wires, what do we call them?) There’s usually two cables, coming off in a V-shape, held in the ground by the biggest metal tent peg you’ve ever seen.
Maybe these cables have something to do with electrical grounding, I don’t know. But they definitely help with stability of those poles- and now apply that to your spine. Each vertebra has one or two bits of bone that look like wings, and they’re there for muscles to attach! Go figure.
So all along your spine, right up against the spine bones themselves, are bits of muscles connecting the vertebrae with little V-shaped buttressing. They act like little fingers, holding the vertebrae together and allowing them to bend a bit, and also helping bring them back upright too.
Ohhhhhhh, your back muscles say. We don’t have any of them! ::ouch::
But really, you do. Yours might just be tired and tiny and overtaxed, from constantly fighting poor posture and gravity and “tech neck” and scoop-shaped car seats and everything else we do to ourselves.
And here’s the key- it takes tiny movements to work tiny muscles. A big move, like a forward bend or a deadlift or a burpee, really hammers the big muscles in your torso and limbs.
But the little adjustments you make in yoga, the incremental relaxation you get in a float tank, the itty bitty shifts you unconsciously make when you walk on texture instead of smooth, even, flat surfaces- that’s where you start getting movement and love into those tiny spine muscles.
So do your inner teacups a favor and slow down, change things up, rest a bit more, and see how that feels in your spine.
Exercise Your Systems: Herbs and Pain
So you’ve got pain, and you want to try “natural” stuff instead of a pill. Let’s talk about this!
I’m your friendly online herbalist, here to share my perspective- and that’s the first important part. Both plants and people are complicated, so the sooner you shift from the idea that you can “use” plants to the idea that you “work with” them, the easier this will go for everyone.
The idea that we can "use" herbal medicine in place of OTC (over the counter) stuff isn't exactly a mistake people make, though. We've gotten the expectation of "use" in an exploitative sense ingrained in our culture from generations of being told that someone or something else will fix it for us. Please don't get me wrong- there are definitely times when someone or something else can and should! I was an EMT and believe me, I don't dismiss Western medicine out of hand.
What I do believe is that there's still lots and lots of health and healing that we as individuals simply ARE in charge of, and responsible for. This is a radical idea if you think it through, because most of the messaging we get is that we're absolutely not, and it's why I say it's not a "mistake" to think it. It's a challenge to shift your thinking, especially when you can't quite see the whole new picture simply because of its newness.
So I'm asking you to practice this tiny step, and see where it leads you. When you start considering an herbal remedy, actively substitute "work with" every time your brain automatically says "use". That's all! Now, on to the main event- pain and herbs.
When you take an OTC pain reliever, it does its thing by (this is the EZ Bake oven simplified version!) binding to pain receptors and blocking their messages. This feels better, but can have some unfortunate side effects- for example, if you can’t feel the pain, you might not realize that you’re causing more damage. Or, in the case of NSAIDS, even though they do decrease inflammation, they’re simultaneously causing microperforations in the gut lining which increases your inflammation and can cause that upset stomach feeling many people get.
The first thing I want to say is that OTC is not evil. It is perfectly fine to reach for them when you need or want, just be aware of what else is going on! And some plants work the same way, binding with pain receptors, so the OTC actions aren’t inherently ‘wrong’ either, and working with plants isn’t inherently ‘right’. Let’s talk options.
I’ve got a few specific suggestions for you below, and I want to ask you to keep a question in mind- what’s the common denominator between working with the following plants?
OK, let’s say you’ve got the pain, and you know the only thing that will shake it is the NSAID- this is a familiar pattern in your life, and you just put up with the digestive discomfort. But we can help that! The herb Meadowsweet can help heal the microperforations even as the NSAIDS are causing them, relieving the stomach upset. So keep a bottle of Meadowsweet tincture next to the OTC bottle, and you’ve got this.
I get my Meadowsweet from Avena Botanicals, and there are many other fine herbal makers out there as well. One dropper (a squeeze to the bulb on top fills the dropper about half way, this is what we want) by mouth when you take the NSAIDS.
As a bonus, Meadowsweet has its own pain relieving parts like salicylic acid, so it’ll add to the pain relief you feel.
Next, let’s say you know you’ve got pain from some inflammation. Maybe it’s arthritis, maybe it’s a recent injury that’s swollen up, maybe you’ve eaten something that your body is reacting to, maybe it’s even allergies. Regardless, you recognize there’s inflammation from some source, and now you want to calm the source down so you don’t have the inflammation in the first place.
Great! Treating the root causes is a favorite theme in herbalism. First, and I can’t stress this enough, you’ve got to look at your long-term inputs. Taking care with what you choose to put into your body will reduce the inflammation load your body has to deal with. This way, when something else comes up that causes inflammation, you’ve got more resources at your disposal to help it.
A diet and a lifestyle that actively reduces inflammation is paramount. It’s simply not fair to expect a plant to take more responsibility for your life than you do! Nutrient density, phytocompounds from all the brightly colored fruits and veg, fermented foods, quality macro and micronutrients, adequate hydration- they’re all important.
It helps to take a hot second and understand that inflammation is not only a normal process in the body, but a helpful one. Your body is essentially mounting an immune response to overcome a perceived threat, and sometimes that response is out of proportion and/or won’t shut off like it’s supposed to. This is when inflammation becomes a “problem”, and when the rest of your choices can support a more appropriate response.
This is also a good time to bring up the concept of a ‘health team’. If you’re not equipped to do all this on your own, working with a good nutritionist, dietician, and/or a food based therapist might be perfect for you.
Now, in the short term, you’ve got a headache or arthritis or a twisted ankle- what can you do?
Turmeric is classic with aches and pains, and indeed it’s very helpful. It acts similarly to a steroid, bringing down inflammation systemically, and can be ingested easily as a regular food for regular support- IF you take a tiny bit of care when cooking with it. Here’s a study showing that Turmeric’s solubility in water increased 12x when it was heated, and another that its bioavailbility (how well we humans can absorb and use it) increased by 2,000% when mixed with black pepper. Historically it’s also always been cooked with a fat and is considered fat soluble. Moral of the story- cook Turmeric with black pepper and a bit of fat (including milk) for the best effects, and do it daily!
I sneak Turmeric into anything long-cooking like tomato sauces and stews, which I make frequently. The recently-popular Golden Milk recipes you can find all over the internet are tasty too, and check all the boxes for increasing efficacy.
Ginger is also helpful with pain, though this might be surprising if you think of Ginger as hot and fiery, like the inflammation is. However, spices like Ginger and Peppers increase circulation with their heat, and this can bring inflammation down by either speeding up the healing process the inflammation is trying to accomplish, or by moving more fluid through a site and washing away the pro-inflammation signals and delivering the end-inflammation ones that were stuck in the traffic jam caused by swelling.
You can work with Ginger internally (it’s yummy in a lot of the same places Turmeric is, and also on its own), and you can work with it topically too. For example, you grate it onto a cloth so the juice soaks in, and place this poultice (simply a wet, topical application of plants) right on an area of the skin that needs more circulation. You can do the same with Turmeric but be aware the skin will stain yellow, and the oils in Peppers are typically too strong for topical use.
Another problem I want to bring up is topical nerve pain. St. John’s Wort infused in oil, like this one from Barefoot Botanicals, is a good choice. SJW will help heal the nerves that are on and near the surface of your skin- mostly, in my experience, this happens with back injuries either at the site or down a nerve pathway along a leg.
So here’s the not-a-quick-fix-or-magic-pill part. Look back at the Meadowsweet, Turmeric, Ginger, and SJW descriptions. They all address the general symptom of “pain” from their own specific directions. Meadowsweet counteracts NSAID side effects, Turmeric blocks inflammation systemically, Ginger increases circulation, SJW calms and repairs nerve endings. This is important.
There’s never a “best herb for [fill in your complaint]”. There’s only how the plant interacts with us, and whether we can work with both the plant actions and our responses to them to impact what we’re trying to do.
Look at it this way- pharmaceuticals get in the driver’s seat and steer the bus for us- and sometimes that’s great, that’s perfect, that’s exactly what we need. On the other hand, plants are like good friends or therapists, nudging and guiding and helping us get where we want to be but without forcing us. The beauty is that, as humans, we’re responsible for choosing among these methods, separately or combined.
First, the background is that many of my new Pelvic Floor (PF) clients are new to the issues they’re now dealing with, but when we take a slightly closer look it’s clear that they’re really not “NEW”. Lots of us have been pretty borderline with regards to PF problems, and have been managing to get by until this year.
This is what ‘borderline’ PF problems might have looked like pre-pandemic:
And now we've been sitting exponentially more this year, plus many people have done this without much planning and finding that the home office setups aren’t as ergonomic as the in-office ones.
This is what I’m seeing more and more lately:
Yes, I teach a pelvic health program. But I’m not just talking about this phenomenon because I’m taking new clients. I’m talking about this so that you realize-
YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE WITH THESE ISSUES
And I might not be the right person for you- I get that. You might be better served by a different pelvic floor coach, or an acupuncturist, or a pelvic floor physical therapist, or medication, or different combos of these. There is no single answer for everyone and you’re not only allowed to assemble your own wellness team, you’re actually responsible for doing that.
Whether or not you specifically work with me is not as important to me as you getting the help you need. Yes, I’m running a business and would like more clients. But I’m running this business because I can’t not help people feel better, this is what I have to do.
So let me know if you’re experiencing any of the issues I’m seeing, and let’s talk about how to reverse them. I can help refer you to other practitioners, or talk about my private and small group programs if you like how I teach. But let’s stop your living with these issues, OK?
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Planning the New Year: 2021
Let's start 2021 already, shall we? I won't rehash why- we know 2020 has been a dumpster fire. You were there. I was there. It wasn't fun.
And January 1, 2021 isn't going to be some magic date when suddenly everything that made 2020 such a nightmare ends! So I decided to end my 2020 right now, and move ahead with planning my next year as if it's 13 months long.
I know, these might be fighting words for some people. But I have a history of doing my "new year's review and planning" work at various times of the year, so it works for me!
This is a process, and it takes me several days to go through it all so I don't wear myself out. I want to share my tools with you so if you decide to follow my lead and move into your next "you", you've got somewhere to start.
Step 1- Wrap Up 2020
First- I pull cards.
You don't have to do this. I don't always do this when I plan, even. But this year I did, and I think it really helped me.
I used this deck and asked 4 questions:
Next, I look back over 2020. Years ago I saved worksheets from Jamie Ridler Studio, about "Celebrating the Season that Was" and "Imagining the Season Ahead". Since then, she's expanded and refined her work into a "yearbook", but her original sheets still serve me well.
I also use an out-of-print New Year's Workbook by Maia Toll, I think from an early iteration of her Witch Camp. I've written more about the journey she took us on in previous New Year's posts, like this one.
Other tools you can use are Susannah Conway, Martha Beck, Hannah Bullivant, Tara Mohr, and more. This year I also plan to do Maia Toll's Winter: Journey of Inanna course again- it's an intense dive into shedding what you think you are and what you want to be, and laying your actual soul bare. I haven't gone through it in a few years, but I'm absolutely feeling it this year.
Step 2- Look Ahead
Much of the work I do to look over 2020, that I described in step 1, has looking ahead work built into it. Especially the New Year's Workbook- that's when I choose my WotY (Word of the Year)! This is one of my favorite exercises. The years when I've hung onto my WotY have been the most impactful for me. In full disclosure, I don't remember what my WotY was for this year, and only have a vague idea about where to even look for it...
Anyway, once I've wrapped up these structured practices, I start a writing journey. Many people call it a "painted picture"- simply, you imagine every detail of your life in one day of the future.
My step 3 will be detailed planning for the coming year, so I'm going to explore a painted picture of my life three years from now, in 2023. Three years seems do-able to me- five years is too big a leap, and I'm already planning out one year, and I like the number 3. None of this is an exact science!
I'll also go through Racheal Cook's Plan Your Best Year Ever challenge. It's a 5 day event, but I've done it a number of times now so I can skip over some redundant or extraneous (to me) bits.
The point is, by reviewing the details of 2020 and dreaming ahead to 2023, when I start to work on 2021 in the next step I'll have really grounded myself in the reality of where I've been, as well as oriented myself towards where I'm trying to go. I've spent a lot of time, as my business coach describes it, like an octopus in roller skates- going nowhere furiously. This is how I put myself on rails and pre-set my direction going forward.
This might be the best time for me to highlight one of the quotes I live by:
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
It is IMPORTANT that you not be too precious about all this! If you don't make a plan, you won't get anywhere. But making a plan is really about just starting your journey- don't get attached to the steps of the plan, because I can guarantee you that they will diverge from your expectations almost immediately.
This isn't cause for cognitive dissonance. We contain multitudes, including the ability to both make beautiful plans and allow them to be composted at any time. We have to make the plans and allow for change. We're not machines- we are nature.
Step 3: Get Specific About Next Year
Having said all that about planning, it's about to seem like I'm contradicting myself. Remember, we contain multitudes. Let's wade in.
Now that I've looked back and into the farther-off future, I'm ready to dig into what's immediately in front of me. I'm doing this with Racheal Cook, my business coach and mentor. In preparation for her Q1 CEO Retreat coming up, she's given us a bunch of steps to break it all down. Essentially, the steps are:
At the end of the retreat, I have a pre-planned quarter in front of me! I usually end up changing my mind or switching things around- remember, don't be too precious. The important thing is that now I'm not randomly or spontaneously making it up as I go along, and I can be confident that these are the right steps for me to take. I planned them with an eye to my bigger picture, even if week-to-week I'm not zooming back out to re-examine that picture.
This process will take me a few days, so I have time to rest and clear my head before diving back in for the next bit.
It's not the same every year, and sometimes I do it more than once a year. But In some capacity, at least every winter, I cast my memory back and my imagination ahead, then I stare down the upcoming calendar.
I know we're not going to talk about, you know, the dumpster fire. But I will say that adding in that last step, where I drill down into the immediate future and reverse engineer my goals into weekly tasks for my next quarter, saved my game this year.
I did her Best Year Ever challenge by myself in late January 2020, then joined her Collective and her virtual retreat in March. That means the Q1 retreat coming up will be my 5th run through for these steps, and all I can say is I can't believe this guidance and information has been there for years and I didn't know!
I usually don't regret not learning or experiencing something earlier than I actually do because I recognize that I wouldn't have been ready or accepting earlier- but not this. If you need to get your business in order, start with her Best Year Ever work today. This isn't an ad, I'm just that inspired by it!
So this is my New Year's Plan for 2020-2021, starting now. By December 1 2020, I'll be living in 2021 already. Wonder if that means I'll learn to write the correct year faster? But '2020' is so easy to type! If you have your own routine, or if you try mine and like it, I'd love to hear from you.
Note: some of the links in this article are affiliate links, though most are not. Thanks for supporting me.
Your Stiff Foot Joints
Pop quiz- how many joints do you think you have in each foot? Five? Ten or twelve?
Thirty-three. There are more joints in each of your feet than there are days in a month! Isn't that wild?!
Now, the total number of joints in the human body depends on some variables, including things like whether your call the plates in your skull joints, or when you're counting- babies have more bones than adults, which fuse together as we grow. In general, we have between 250 and 350 joints.
If we assume 250 joints, in an adult, counting only the places bones both meet and move, 66 foot joints is 26.4% of your body's total. That's over a quarter of ALL your body's joints that you're standing and walking around on every day.
Here's why I care- we don't use most of those joints. And just like when you take a cast off an arm and it's weak and thin, both the muscle and the bone wasted away, when you put casts on your feet they waste away too. This leaves you with weak joints, and a tendency to injury. And feet injuries quickly impact the rest of your body in not-good ways. When your feet have problems, the ankles, knees, hips, spine, and even shoulders can take on the work of moving you in inappropriate ways, and cause further injuries quickly.
But, wait, back up a few sentences, you say. Casts? On your feet?
Sure! A cast is something hard and immobile, that prevents movement. In the case of a broken arm, a cast goes over the elbow joint (or wrist or shoulder) so the joint can't move because that would pull on the break, preventing healing. In the case of feet, a cast goes over the feet so they don't have to feel things in the environment that are hard, sharp, cold, hot, wet, etc.
We call them shoes.
I get it- shoes are helpful, and they can look awesome, and there's lots of people that can't handle the thought of going barefoot in their own house, let alone outside. But we have to take off the casts to be truly strong in our whole bodies!
Yes, I'm saying don't wear shoes- but not all the time! I'm also saying, wear less shoe-y shoes, as much as you can. Here's what I mean:
In order to strengthen a newly-healed broken arm, you'll start doing "normal" things again but find that the weak arm needs to build strength back up. OK, you'll move that cast iron pan with the other hand. You'll carry that grocery bag with both arms. Maybe you'll ice it or rub it or elevate it at the end of the day.
But your feet, all the way down there, as far away from your brain as they can get? If you just start living your normal life in bare feet or minimal shoes, after a lifetime of wearing the stiff, structured ones, you'll be injured before you notice it. So we have to do this gently:
1. Wear thinner, flatter shoes more often. Get used to feeling more of the world underneath you
2. Stretch your toes, feet, and ankles
3. Wear yoga socks to start separating your toes
4. Practice lifting your big toes, scrunching and spreading your toes, pointing and flexing your feet, when you're barefoot
Don't just ditch your shoes and go full Hobbit- for starters, you'll never be allowed in a public space! But start paying attention to how stiff your feet are, how many ways you can move and stretch them, and how much work you can get them to do in your day. They'll thank you for years and years to come.
Work With Me to learn more
Is healing a system? Can you exercise it? Sure, I say!
I think we often understand healing, vaguely, as a process: there’s an injury, then thru some processes it’s fixed, and there’s no injury anymore. Broadly speaking, this is a perfectly OK understanding.
But have you ever had a road crew fixing pot holes on a road you travel frequently, and they just didn’t quite finish up? Sure, the pothole is filled, but now it’s a bump on the road, there’s loose gravel or something all over, water pools when it rains… but then you turn into a fancy neighborhood or cross into another township, and the roads are purrrrrfect. Smooth, even blacktop; crisp, bright lines; wide, even shoulders bicycles can fit on. It’s like a dream.
So what’s the difference between the town that has bumpy pot hole repairs and the one with perfect roads?
Resources. The time, budget, raw materials, and skilled workers to get the job done right, completely, and in good time.
I’m not here to bash local politics. Organizing things like road construction is well beyond my purview. But I can help you influence YOUR local resources, and encourage you to look to yourself- what resources are you providing to your own healing construction and repair crews?
Yes, healing is a process, and it’s one that the body often can’t do a complete job of because it’s so busy putting out fires (literally and metaphorically) all over. So providing enough resources to the systems that establish and direct the healing processes can help them do a better job, as can reducing the overall demand on the systems in the first place.
You Need Rest
A huge factor is successful fitness training (aka body construction) is understanding and appreciating the sheer value of rest. Things need to rest, settle down, and slot into place in order for them to become what they are supposed to be.
This includes you, too.
You need DEEP rest- darken your room, remove your electronics, and give yourself as much sleep as you can. Honestly, so what if you can go to bed by 8:30, or even earlier? The hours before midnight seem to count more than the total hours anyway, and who's actually judging you for taking care of yourself?
You need PHYSICAL rest- have a lazy morning. Put your feet up and read of an afternoon. Take cat naps. Indulge in a float tank or a salt room session. Get a massage. Watch a movie. Take a bath. Get in a swimming pool.
You need MENTAL rest- time when you don't think or plan or push. Schedule a day just to do the little tasks, like deleting emails, filing papers, organizing your books, sorting out of season clothes to donate or discard. Take a walk with an audio book or just listen to the birds. Garden. Journal for 15 minutes, no spelling or grammar or even spaces between the words, just whatever comes out of your head, then discard the paper. Wipe the light switches, the trim work, the door handles.
Your NERVOUS SYSTEM needs rest- put on some piano music, or whale sounds, or a rainy day youtube video. Get out a coloring book. Make something, however inexpertly. Stretch. Do yoga or tai chi. Chat with friends over ice cream or a beer. SHUT THE NEWS OFF.
You can’t fix a pothole without blocking the road. You can’t heal without interrupting our ceaseless pressure to GoGoGoGoGo.
You Need Resources
RESUPPLY YOUR CONSTRUCTION CREWS
When there’s physical injury, you need physical molecules to repair it- proteins, fats, fluid, etc.
So eat clean proteins, and collagen- we simply don’t make enough to overcome the damage this life does to us. Eat healthy fats. Drink more water. Get nutrient dense foods so your micronutrients are lavishly supplied as well- Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Sulfur, all the vitamins, all of it.
Drink more water! Your body needs water to deliver nutrients and wash away waste from your cells. Your body needs water to create the waste you eliminate- solid, liquid, and gas. Your body needs water to keep your membranes healthy- and your WHOLE digestive system is a mucous membrane.
Eat good fats! Every single cell in your body, your entire nervous system including your whole brain, and all your mucous membranes are made of fats. They're not the enemy, they're essential. My rule of thumb is if they're from something I recognize I eat 'em- like olives, avocados, coconuts, eggs, and yes, animals.
Here's a common question: Should you take supplements? A concrete answer to this isn't within my wheelhouse. But I will tell you, hardly anyone is harmed by a quality multivitamin, Magnesium, Omega 3s, and Vitamin D.
You Need Waste Management
IMPROVE THE DELIVERY AND ELIMINATION ROUTES
Have you ever considered just exactly HOW your body actually accomplishes healing? It takes two major, underappreciated systems: the Immune system and the Lymph system.
Think of the Immune system as Mission Control, and the Lymph as both an Instant Delivery and Waste Management system.
Read more about your waste and repair crews next week in Part 2
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.