Connecting Health and Nature - by Cheryl Conlee

Connecting Health and Nature - by Cheryl Conlee

Cheryl is a friend of mine who has found her own, effective way to deal with a long-term heart condition. Something that could have killed another person appears to have become her call to live more closely in-tune with herself, nature, and the people she loves. How many of us can reset a bad mood with a walk outside? How many of us can change our life direction by spending serious time in nature? The physical and mental aspects of nature and health are interconnected in astounding ways. Let's take a walk.

Shame and Sex: Why Talking to Your Kids About Sex is So Important

"By relegating sex and vaginas to compartmentalized regions of medicine and culture, we remove them from the whole context of wellness." We leave a strange vacuum in awareness, knowledge, and honest conversation about female health because we are too embarrassed to talk about it.

How Young People Can Change the World

I met with the Access program at Mississippi State University over the last two weeks to teach a "telling your story" writing workshop. In the first class we talked about why telling your story is so important:

  • It gets you out of your head - telling your story, or writing it down, gives you some distance from it, and allows you to process events more clearly.
  • Memory - if we don't share our oral stories or record them on paper, this part of our history will eventually die out. Sharing our family stories lets us know who we are and who we want to become.
  • Helping others - telling our story helps other people know they are not alone. Letting people know we have been through similar circumstances is incredibly helpful.
  • Changing the world - telling stories is one of the ways we change things for the better. Part of the institutional story of the univeristy where we were holding the class has, as one part of its story, exclusion of women, African-Americans, and people with disabilities. Telling these stories helps us change them.

The Access students proved how much the story is changing for students with disabilities. After learning how to use details to make stories more unique and interesting, we read "The Healing Touch."

Then, these amazing young people shared with me how they are using their Healing Touch to change things for the better. Here is what they had to say:

My name is Joseph Conner Bruce Silvera.  I attend a universality where cowbells clang. I use my '"healing touch" by helping with luncheons at the Kappa Delta house. We do this by washing dishes.

My name is Machaela Tolleson. I attend a university where cowbells clang. I use my "helaing touch" by helping build houses through Habitat for Humanity. My sorority paints houses for people in need. 

My name is Allan Burtt. I use my "healing touch" to inspire other people through unified sports with special needs kids. We are hosting a unified egg bowl in November.

 My name is Rebecca. I use my "healing touch" to help raise money for St. Judes with a softball tournament. We hold an annual fundraiser called "Swinging for St. Judes."

We donated $10 to each of the students' projects! Let us know how your young person, child, or class is using their "Healing Touch" to make the world better and we will donate $10 to the nonprofit of their choice!

Learning to Breathe Again - Care for the Caregiver

Learning to Breathe Again

Women are caregivers. We care for our families, our communities, our jobs, and our organizations, but for some reason we have a hard time caring for ourselves. We don't seem to see the connection between the effort we spend on the caregiver and the level of care we are able to offer. I love it when mamas decide that taking care of themselves might be a wise investment of time and energy. Michelle is a perfect example of a committed professional and mom who has decided it is time to care for the caregiver. This is her story.

I still remember when it first hit. Sitting upright in bed gasping for air in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough to get a drink of water but water didn’t help.  All I could do was wait for it to pass.  That was about ten years ago.  I have fits like these several times a day now.  Thankfully they don’t happen in the middle of the night anymore.  I start every day with a coughing fit.  The first thing I do when I get out of bed is cough...and cough...and cough.

Many doctors don’t believe me when I tell them I have half a dozen coughing fits in a day and that this has been going on for over 10 years.  Sometimes the fits go away as quickly as they came but other times they last ten to fifteen minutes.  It makes it difficult to read a story with my sons.  Sometimes when I’m tucking them into bed at night and singing them a song I start to cough and they cover their ears.  It breaks my heart!

A therapist I was seeing suggested I just had to choose not to cough and it would go away.  Believe me, I try that every day and I only wish it were that easy.  According to modern medicine’s standards I’m in perfect health.  My definition of perfect health doesn’t involve coughing to the point of vomiting every other week!

Not long after the coughing fits started, I was diagnosed with a goiter, also referred to as an enlarged thyroid.  That was in 2007 and it was small enough at the time that it wasn’t a concern and my doctor didn’t believe it was the cause of my cough.  I had a couple chest x-rays and two different lung function tests.  The results from one of the lung function tests showed I had minor asthma but prescription inhalers made the coughing worse.

I was tired of fighting this cough and being told I was perfectly healthy so I started seeing a naturopath who recommended I cut gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and sugar out of my diet.  It was extremely difficult but I did it and I felt amazing but still no change in the cough.  Next I tried various tinctures and pellets recommended by the naturopath.  All resulted in no change.

After my second son was born in 2012, I noticed some changes in my voice.  Sometimes it just wasn’t there when I went to use it and although I’m not a superstar singer, I couldn’t hit the high notes anymore.  It turned out the goiter had grown.  As odd as it sounds, I was hopeful that the goiter had been the cause of the cough all along.  An ultrasound showed the goiter was multi-nodular and concerning enough for me to have a biopsy which came back normal.

By January 2016, the goiter was still growing and making it more difficult to swallow so I opted to have a partial thyroidectomy in the hopes that this would also finally rid me of the cough.  After the surgery I didn’t take proper care of myself.  I’m a self-employed accountant and being the only person in the office, I felt like I had to work the week after my surgery.  I believe it’s because of this that I ended up with a four month cold which actually made the cough worse.  

This was the final straw.  I realized it was time to take care of myself.  For months I had been trying to sell my accounting practice knowing that it was the source of a lot of stress.  I was also feeling pulled to spend more time with my two young boys.  After seeing numerous medical practitioners that couldn’t tell me what was causing my coughing fits I had a realization that maybe it was stress.  My job as an accountant is very stressful and I had been doing this job all the while the coughing fits had been going on.

I decided that even though my accounting practice wasn’t selling as quickly as I would like, I could still take steps to reduce the stress in my life.  I started studying yoga.  One of the books I was reading confirmed that stress can cause unusual health imbalances.  Part of studying yoga is learning how to breathe properly.  Some days it’s difficult and the deep breathing sends me into a coughing fit but I’m determined to keep practicing.  Until my accounting practice sells, I have cut my hours to part time and I’m telling myself it’s ok not to take on new work.  I’m practicing taking care of myself and my family.

I’m also seeing a functional medicine doctor to help me balance my hormones, keep my gut healthy, and control stress.  I believe that a less stressful, or maybe even stress-free life is the key to this mysterious cough and I owe it to myself to learn about proper breathing and meditation.  Once my mind is at ease, I believe my body will heal itself as well.

Michelle Cornish is a CPA turned Lifestyle Transformation Coach who’s trading in her pant suits for yoga pants and wants to help other working moms do the same.  Life on your terms is possible.
You can find out more about Michelle here.

Women, what do you do to care for yourselves? We would love to hear your story! 

Faith, Fear & Courage to Change My Life's Direction

Jake Keiser is the last person I would have expected to sell me a goat. She is beautiful, smart, and refined and she is a farm girl. I met her through a friend when she first made her dramatic move from urban Florida to rural Mississippi. Many of us dream of giving it all up and exiting our successful lives for something with more substance, but few people are brave enough to take that leap into the unknown for the slim chance that there might be something more beautiful on the other side. Jake leapt into that dark hole in her life, and came out the other side shining. This is her story.

This year marks my fourth year living as a farm girl in north Mississippi after nearly twenty years in Tampa, Florida. Until I came here, I was every bit the city girl. Moving to Mississippi was a huge change in lifestyle and culture. So many people ask me what made me leave the city for a rural life. There were several reasons, and it took a perfect storm to lead me to my current life which is more authentic and fulfilling than I ever imagined.

At the time I started seriously thinking about this major life change, the economy was really depressed. Every day I watched the news and heard stories of parents who were having a difficult time feeding their families after job losses. The media was featuring desperate parents playing with their kids in yards talking about their fears about food. I noticed that these yards weren’t being utilized in any way to assist them – they didn’t even have a small garden. Their helpless mindset scared me deeply. I was living in a condo with a view of a freeway thirty feet from my back door, and I realized that my home would never sustain me if I found myself in the kind of emergency so many were experiencing. My lifestyle made me totally dependent on others. I found myself dreaming of a scenario where I could one day retire to a house with land and have a garden and a few chickens. 

Then the epiphany happened. As I sat in my condo watching a celebrity TV show, playing a game on my phone with an US Weekly magazine in my lap, it dawned on me…I had a busy life, but I was unfulfilled. Despite my professional success, I had no real life skills. I was a decent cook and had been self employed for years, but in any real emergency I would be in trouble. I saw for the first time that I had filled my time with irrelevant things, and none of them made me happy. I realized that although I had a great social life, my life felt small. 

Even now I would say that I’m certainly not someone others would consider a hippie or environmentalist. Just like in those days, I love girls nights, the next party, and luxury brands. But at that moment, I found my drive for self-sufficiency and happiness getting in the way of what looked like a fabulous life. I craved independence from stress and exhaustion and meaninglessness. The evolution of this understanding started to wreak havoc in my life as my old thought processes crumbled and relationships changed. Many people left my life at this time. Everything I knew about myself was changing, and all that seemed to be left was fear and uncertainty.

One day I asked myself the simple question, "What makes me happy?” That should have been easy to answer, right? But at first, I couldn’t think of a single thing. I sank deeper into depression and fear. Anxiety felt like a boulder on my chest. This went on for a while. One day, while making my morning tea I recognized how much I enjoyed the ritual of making tea every day. I looked forward to that warm mug and first sip of fragrant liquid. This was one small happy thing that I held on to, and this was the catalyst for the big change in my life. I finally had one little daily thing I could count on to bring me joy. At first this concept felt silly, but it was an important first step towards recognizing my blessings and finding happiness. I found myself dreaming of an “unbusy” life where I would actually enjoy my days and not dread Mondays.

Within months the opportunity to move away from the city into a rural life presented itself. It happened well before I thought I was ready, and it seemed like a crazy decision to leave all I’d known for an uncertain future in a lifestyle I’d never experienced. Doing it on my own made the decision all the more daunting. I decided that instead of being fearful, I was going to be curious. I was going to lead my life by my heart and have the courage to follow it even if it meant leaving everything I’d known far behind and at the risk of people thinking I’d lost my mind.

Leaving the comfort of the city, relationships, and other worldly addictions wasn’t easy. In the midst of moving I experienced significant anxiety, wondering if I was doing the right thing and waiting for major regret and panic to kick in. It never did. Instead I found serenity, creativity, excitement and a constant stream of things to learn and get lost in. Since moving I haven’t had to maintain a gym membership because the farm life is so active. My skin and overall health has improved, and I’m rarely bored. I’ve witnessed my own complete and continual transformation and have relished learning new skills and being closer to nature. Authenticity and faith have become the hallmarks of my new life. 

I’ve discovered that people who live rurally are resourceful, creative and generous. It’s difficult to be distracted here when you’re surrounded by the natural world. Distance from easily accessible stores forces you to be imaginative and use what you have available. Living rurally makes artists out its inhabitants. 

My lifestyle has given me the peace and happiness I never knew was possible. But it would have never happened if I hadn’t had the courage – even in some really dark times - to say yes when the opportunity presented itself. Throughout the process of learning how to live this way, I learned that the more I trusted myself and had faith in the process, the easier it got to move forward. This is when my life became fun again.

I’m Jake Keiser, former city girl seeking a fabulous farm life in Oxford, Mississippi . You can follow me on Facebook by searching Gucci to Goats or Instagram @Gucci_to_Goats.

What would fill the hole in your life? What would it take for you to make a change? We would love to share in your journey.

When Health Changes Your Life Plans, Make New Ones - by Cheryl Conlee

When I was younger, I looked forward to “retiring” and doing the things I love to do.  Now that the time is here, sooner than I thought, I’m afraid I won’t be able to do the things I love.  Even though I was born with a congenital heart defect and health care professionals have ALWAYS been a part of my life, I never once considered that I might have to stop working because of my health – not once.  Until now.

How being Diagnosed with a Panic Disorder Became a Gift

It has been almost six months since my diagnosis and the beginning of my treatments, and I am happier than I ever was before. I am thankful that through my struggle with mental illness I made the decision to be a real person with real feelings instead of an empty shell with a smile permanently plastered on my face. I would rather learn to love myself for the mess I am than hate myself for not being perfect.

Vestibulectomy for Overcoming Vulvodynia - by Sarah

Sarah is on of the thousands of brave women who found her own solutions to overcoming vulvodynia, a female health disorder that affects as many as 1 on 12 women. One of the reasons I wrote Rethinking Women's Health was because of the sheer numbers of women like Samantha who shared their brave stories on Facebook Support Groups. These women go through countless doctors and years of pain before they find answers. The good news is that there are answers if you are persistent in advocating for your health. This is Sarah's story:

How Anxiety Hit Me Out of Nowhere - by Becky

How Anxiety Hit Me Out of Nowhere - by Becky

Becky is a cheerful Lifestyle Blogger from the UK who contacted me about writing this post on her unexpected bout with anxiety. I think it is important to note that someone as chipper as this go-getter can experience periods in life when mental health is a challenge. Anxiety and depression don't discriminate, and it is up to us to find the tools and get the help needed to come through the other side.

How Tea Helped me Heal - by Jason McDonald

One of my favorite quotes in a particular organization that I belong to is, "We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others." It embodies my life today—a life that at one time was drifting and sinking into a very deep abyss. 

Enough - by Jessica Spraggins El Aboudi

Enough - by Jessica Spraggins El Aboudi

Jessica is one of those calm, competent women you meet and think, "Now that lady has it all together." She is smart, accomplished, and unflappable. As a person who is easily "flapped," I admired her instantly. My respect for her deepened when I learned that her capabilities endure in spite of, not because of, her life story. Jessica has been through the proverbial ringer with her family of origin and her marriage. This woman is a dandelion and will bloom in the most inhospitable environments. She has set out to change the course. Steadily, lovingly, and daringly, Jessica does not accept that a past must determine a future. Here is her story:

Healing on the Way - by Landon Roussel

So many families have been scraped raw by addiction. I love hearing recovery stories, but I am also aware of the fact that addiction is a family disease. Landon's story helps us share in the despair and hope of someone who loves an addict. This is his story:

Why I Changed my Goal from Looking Good Naked- by Andrea Rodgers

Learning to love our bodies is a life-long process, that ironically, gets easier as we get older and look worse! Why couldn't we have appreciated out teenaged bodies? Andrea Rodgers is one of those women that looks like a workout commercial, and still, she struggled with self-image for years. Apparently, none of us are immune. I like the her honesty over her obsession. I also like how her goal changed over time. This is her story:

Finding Light in the Dark- by Lindsay Wilson

Finding Light in the Dark- by Lindsay Wilson

As a person who dealt with depression for the majority of my life, I was always skeptical when I met people who had "healed" from mental illness. Lindsay Wilson was no exception. When I heard that she dealt with her health naturally, I thought, "Well, she couldn't have been as bad as me." Turns out she was simply very courageous. She offers all of us hope, a new perspective on mental breakdowns, and practical solutions. This is her story: 

40 and Fabulous, I Mean Tired- by Ivey Ivy

So, I turned 40 this year. And I’m tired. I’m so tired. And I’m sick of hearing myself respond to people when they ask how I am that I’m freaking tired. So, I set out to NOT say how tired I am. Instead, I’m writing about it. Nobody cares. We’re all tired.

How Getting Out of Debt Changed Our Family - by Amy Whatley

My husband, Dan, and I started out our married life the way so many young people do…in debt!  We had both graduated with bachelors’ degrees and both had great jobs lined up after graduation.  The large student loan debts that got us to those great jobs seemed like a “normal” part of young adult life. And so, we made plans to carry around this baggage for years and just pay it off as we went along.  It was what so many others just like us were doing and seemed like a very mature way to handle things.