You Spin Me Right ‘Round, Baby Right ‘Round

I guess I jumped the gun a bit in my last post when I casually mentioned my vertigo and that it wasn’t going too badly. Since then it has progressively gotten worse to the point that having to get into work was nerve-wracking to say the least (running for a bus, being on said bus while unsteady, walking to my office, etc). On top of that, it was starting to affect my ability to do my actual job because apparently it can be quite difficult to concentrate when your head suddenly starts to spin. Go figure. On top of that, I sometimes get extremely nauseated very quickly when the spinning is especially brutal, so you can imagine how challenging customer service could be under all those conditions.

I have seen a regular doctor, an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat specialist) twice, and an audiologist in recent weeks. The regular doctor wasn’t really able to offer much help beyond prescribing me with medication which helps some of the time, but not all of the time. However, he was also able to refer me to the ENT which was great. The ENT had me come in to see the audiologist who confirmed that I do show some hearing loss in my left ear. That makes sense as the left ear is the one that regularly experiences tinnitus – both the high pitched ringing kind and the “whooshing” kind. It’s also the one that often feels like it’s blocked even though it’s not.

The good news is that the hearing loss may not be permanent, but we won’t know for awhile. I’m scheduled to go back in five months to do another hearing test to see if there’s any change for better or for worse. Also, luckily I can still hear fairly well, it’s just sounds on the high pitch side of things that I don’t hear quite as well.

I saw the ENT for a second time on Monday and he is hopeful that this vertigo will not be a chronic condition that I will have to live with for the rest of my life. He feels that it’s caused by a build-up of fluid in my inner ear though he couldn’t say what caused it. All I care about is whether he’s correct about it going away in due time. I have so much empathy and compassion for people who have been living with this for years. I think about the things that I love to do that are not possible right now (especially running, something that I was planning on starting back up again in the next couple of weeks to start training for the Bluenose Half Marathon but I can’t of course run when I sometimes find walking a challenge!) and it terrifies me to think this could be permanent.

So I’m being as positive as I can be and believing that yes, it will fade away and I’ll be fine very soon!

In the meantime I have taken my ENT’s advice and filed a claim for short term disability leave from work. Thank God for insurance! I’m still waiting to see if my claim will be approved or if I will need to find a way to drag myself back into work again somehow, but I am hopeful. The doctor said it would be a very good idea to take the time to rest and let myself heal so I am keeping my fingers crossed. I’ve been off since Wednesday and I am hoping to hear a decision by the beginning of the week.

I’ve been told to cut way back on salt so I am avoiding my beloved chips like the plague and I have become a neurotic label-reader to see how much sodium is in anything that I may ingest. Although I was always a salt addict, it’s worth it to me to cut it out as much as possible if that is the key to getting rid of this vertigo. One reassuring thing was that he confirmed that eating salty snacks was not the cause of the vertigo (they don’t know what causes this kind) so at least I feel better knowing that I didn’t do this to myself. He also said to take care in not drinking too much in the way of fluids because the idea is to reduce the inner ear fluid, so although it’s difficult sometimes to not drink my usual amount of water, I am drinking much less water than usual. I must confess that one took me by surprise because every instinct in me says to drink MORE water, not less, but I’m not a medical professional so I will follow his advice and see how it goes.

I’m also still taking the medication (betahistine) even though it’s hit or miss. I figure it isn’t hurting me to take it (I have almost no side effects to it, other than the occasional tiny headache) and I can only imagine it would be even that much worse if I stopped taking it.

The ENT told me that vertigo caused by an inner ear fluid build-up is stubborn but that “if you show it you’re serious by taking away salt, excess fluids, taking the medication, and resting as much as possible, it will eventually go away.”

The sooner the better, thanks!

A slow, gradual slide downhill

So. It’s been awhile. And you could take that to mean my blog and you’d be absolutely correct. I know a lot of things happened between the first day of school for my kids and today, but none of it was recorded here. I was overwhelmed at work and dealing with one bout of illness after another and I couldn’t muster up the motivation to blog about anything. Facebook made it so easy to post quick snippets and Instagram let me share photos, and the blog collected dust.

But I’m not just referring to my blog. I’m referring to my once-fairly-active life. My life used to hold near-daily yoga sessions, running (especially during peak training periods for the Bluenose), and other physical efforts like HIIT workouts and Pilates.

My new FitBit Flex is my new fitness buddy.

My new FitBit Flex is my new fitness buddy.

I think it was caused by the same inertia that led to my lack of blog updates. Being overwhelmed at work drained me. By the time I came home, my brain really just wanted my body to curl up on the couch. The times that I pushed myself to exercise made me remember that it feels better to move, but that couch and my brain conspired against me and too often I gave in. While my illnesses were never anything huge, they were just constant and annoying enough to make it that much harder to convince myself that I felt like working out.

Now 2014 is drawing to a close. My work life is changing and is leading me back to a steadier, more familiar, less stressful position. My hope is that I will find myself back in the world of wanting to exercise just from that alone. Also, I have declared 2015 to be The Year I Take Back My Health.

How do you take back your health? Everyone’s journey will be different, but here’s what I did/am doing:

  • After suffering from vertigo and passing out one early morning mid-December, I got bloodwork done. I was tested for a variety of things but the big ones included iron deficiency anemia, B12 deficiency anemia, diabetes, thryoid issues, and kidney functionality. All the tests came back totally clear (which surprised me because I was sure the iron would be a key player).
  • When the vertigo didn’t go away I went back to see my doctor and he checked my ears. It is his strong belief that I had a viral infection affecting my inner ear fluid and that it will go away as the virus fades away. Based on my progress I think he’s right. In the meantime though, he has prescribed anti-vertigo medication which is rocking my socks, and has referred me to an ENT. He’s an awesome doctor.
  • I got some Vitamin D and am looking at a couple of Probiotic options to be added to my daily roster as well.
  • Although I’m not doing so well during the busy holiday season, overall I am getting much more sleep. I went from being the person who was up until midnight during the week to being the person who is reading in bed by 9:30 or 10 pm and then turning out the lights half an hour later.
  • I got myself a FitBit Flex with a gift card that I had sitting in my wallet. I am in love with it. I find it helps to nudge me to walk more anyway but the best part is the group challenges you can do with friends and friends of friends. Every time I open the app it tells me if someone is catching up to me or if I’ve just blown past someone else and it motivates me to move, move, move!

Once I get back into a regular groove (I’m still dizzy somewhat regularly, although the medication I’m taking really does make a difference!) I will start ramping it up again, breaking out my yoga mat, my Pilates videos, and my workout routines. Also, we’re almost in January which means it’s just about time for me to start lacing up my Nike running shoes so that I can start getting into shape for Bluenose weekend. Right now I don’t know if I want to go back to the 10K or try the half marathon again, but I won’t be running either race if I don’t get my feet out there, pounding the pavement.

The other thing that has been sliding more recently is my meditation practice. I used to meditate every morning on the bus with a guided mediation app (I use Insight Timer, free app!). Awhile back I also started doing silent meditation for 5-10 minutes before bed, after reading the very excellent book 10% Happier. Over the holiday period though, I’ve been getting lifts into work which negates the need to meditate on my commute, and then at night it’s been busy with family and friends. It’s all wonderful of course, I have no complaints over not having to take the bus or spending time with people I care about, but I’m not getting my meditation in. A lack of yoga AND meditation is a bad idea for me.

So I’m slowly but surely working my way back to who I used to be. Fundamentally, I am a lazy person who would love to lie about as much as possible but it’s a vicious cycle. The less I move the less energy I have, and the less energy I have, the more I want to continue on this path of not moving. Getting back in the game isn’t always easy, especially if you’re not feeling 100% (or in my case, not feeling 100% because my head is spinning!), but it’s worth it and I know it will improve things for me dramatically.

What health goals do you have for 2015?

Back to School for another busy year!

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking when it comes to this blog. At first I decided to veer away from personal blogging so I could focus more on other things. Then I realized that I’ve been sitting in radio silence because personal blogging is what I’ve always done since back in the days when blogging was new.

After some thought I’ve realized that my blog focus and my personal blogging actually go hand in hand. If my goal is to show you how to fit in health/fitness/family/fun no matter how busy you are, then what better way than to share my personal blogging which often is a perfect demonstration of how busy life can really get? So I’m going back to my roots!

And honestly, I couldn’t have better timing with that revelation because not much gets as busy as back to school season!

The kids started back today and at first I was going to come for the drop off and head to work, finishing later. However, I had a vacation day that I needed to cancel anyway (it was booked for a day that I can’t take off anymore) so I decided to just take the entire day off so that I could be home to hear right away all about the first day of – brace yourself – grade three and grade seven!

Grade three and Grade seven (jr high!) - where did the time go?

Grade three and Grade seven (jr high!) – where did the time go?

Yes, somehow my tiniest baby is a third grader and my firstborn is in her first year of junior high. It is CRAZY.

The drop off was fairly uneventful. I went with Hayley to the junior high and shortly after arriving they called all the grade seven (!) kids in to the gym to be assigned to their homerooms. I didn’t go in with her of course, so I said goodbye, told her where I’d meet her later, and then decided to run over to Breanna’s school. She and George were still outside and she was very happy to see me and to report that she had gotten the teacher she wanted, although her best friend wasn’t in her class for the second year in a row.

Hayley was so excited when she found a Daryl Dixon shirt to wear. (She was tired of me taking pictures though!)

Hayley was so excited when she found a Daryl Dixon shirt to wear. (She was tired of me taking pictures though!)

Breanna waiting for her new teacher to take her inside to the grade three classroom

Breanna waiting for her new teacher to take her inside to the grade three classroom

I spent the day almost wishing I’d gone to work because I wasn’t sure how to pass the time. I mean, obviously there are all kinds of things I can do at home but I was full of nervous energy. I don’t think kids realize their parents are nervous about the first day of school too – at least not until they grow up and become parents themselves!

Breanna was mildly nervous in an excited way but it was Hayley who was most nervous. That’s pretty understandable what with it being a whole new school, not to mention going from the oldest grade to the youngest all over again. She was pretty convinced that she wouldn’t enjoy it at all and that it was going to completely suck. I texted her during lunch and she was having a very good time – whew!

After they got home she confirmed that it wasn’t as bad as she had thought it would be and she seemed to have enjoyed herself. Even one of her best friends passed me after school and told me that Hayley had a great day. She was disappointed that two of her BFFs are in a different group and thus don’t share any classes with her, but her other BFF does, so that’s a relief. She even ended up being the go-to person to teach all her friends how to open their combination locks on their lockers!

This is where life gets busy again. During the summer we get pretty laid-back about a lot of things. Bedtime is really relaxed and much later than it is during the school year and although we eat supper together most days, other meals and snacks are often on a “when-you-get-hungry” cycle. Now we have more structure again and that means a little more clock-watching than I’d like but we’ll get back into our routine. Last night they were in bed by 9, their usual school-year bedtime but neither slept as well as they’d like. Tonight should be better after the excitement of a full day.

Now it’s back to making school lunches – with more healthy choices than not – and fitting in suppers, baths, showers, and getting ready for work too. Breakfasts need to be eaten at a certain time and we have to be out the door on time.

It’s crazier than the summer, that’s for sure, but we always make it work. So as I get back to my blogging roots while still sharing ideas on how to maintain your sanity during super-busy days (and nights!) I’ll be preparing some blog posts that will hopefully help you with all of these back to school challenges. We all need to share those tips considering we’ve got months and months (yikes) of the school year ahead of us.

If you want to make sure you don’t miss my next post, take a moment to subscribe to my email newsletter! I will be posting to the Facebook page when there’s a new post but Facebook is a bit of a callous douche sometimes so the best way to stay up to date is the newsletter – I will let you know when there’s something new and you never know when I’ll send out other fun stuff too, especially now that I have a better focus here.

I can’t lie – I love the back to school season. It’s not because I don’t want my kids around but I always loved going back to school myself. I was pretty excited to hear about their day, and I’m glad they had as great a time as I hoped they would.

Did you enjoy back to school time as a kid? How about as a parent?

How to breathe during an anxiety or panic attack

It almost sounds funny, to think that there might be a need for instruction on how to breathe. Breathing is something that we do naturally and automatically every single moment of every single day. In each moment, we are either inhaling or we are exhaling (and maybe we’re occasionally holding our breath if we’re watching a thriller of a movie or ducking underwater!). Breathing is what we do without thinking and it helps us stay alive; after all we don’t have to think about making our hearts beat.

However, much of the time we don’t breathe in the most efficient way. Yes, we breathe enough to keep from dropping over dead from suffocation. But how often do we stop and regulate our breathing, doing it slowly and deeply so that we’re not only getting oxygen into our lungs but also calming our nerves and slowing our heartbeats?

This is especially true when an anxiety attack or panic attack shows up. This can cause a shallow and rapid type of breathing. The problem there is that it causes hyperventilating, a lightheaded feeling, and an increased heart rate. All that does is increase the feelings of anxiety and fear, and it just feeds itself in a circle of crazed panic.

How to breathe during an anxiety attack

How to breathe during an anxiety attack

So when you feel the speed of your breath picking up when you’re nervous – whatever the reason might be – resist the urge to try to rapidly gasp in air. It’s not going to help. Proper breathing is.

How to breathe during an anxiety attack or panic attack:

1. Inhale for a count of 4 or 5.
2. Hold the breath for a count of 4 or 5.
3. Exhale for a count of 7 or 8.
4. Hold for a count of about 3. *
5. Repeat at least 5 times but keep doing it for as long as you feel that you need to.

* Holding your breath after the exhale can feel scary if you’re not used to it. You’ve just breathed out all the oxygen in your lungs and it’s natural to feel like you need to inhale right away. If this is true for you, start slowly and try holding just for a count of 1 before inhaling, then work your way up.

I like to combine this with a visualization style of meditation (picturing a hand over my heart to slow it down) or with a mantra (I often think “I am” on the inhale and a long, drawn-out “relaxed” on the exhale). It’s not necessary though. Your brain and body will respond to the slowed-down breathing even without meditating or using mantras.

It’s very effective and it works surprisingly quickly. You might still feel some of the other residual effects of anxiety but they’re much more manageable once you get your breathing under control. Doing that slows your heart rate down which automatically makes your brain think you’re more relaxed, and it takes away that woozy head that can feel so terrifying.

If you enjoy how this breathing works for your anxiety and panic attacks, you can also try Alternate Nostril Breathing which is a total anxiety-blocker.

Have you tried controlled breathing for your anxiety attacks? Let me know if this works for you!

Ready for zen soon!

Hey there! You probably know me from justsherry.com which has been my primary blog for quite some time. However, it’s time for something new, and so here we are!

I’m hoping to get everything transferred over this weekend, but in the meantime, please feel free to sign up for my mailing list while you wait! Not only will I be sending out an email once everything is set to go, you’ll also get my FREE recipe cards, FREE tip sheet, and a FREE guided yoga video. Sign up right here!