It’s Really All Just Stuff

I love beautiful things like nice watches, nice cars, luxurious bed linens, designer clothing, museum grade wall art, diamonds, etc. But I also struggle with the strong belief that it’s all just STUFF, and that monetary value can plummet to nothing as a result of natural disaster, fire, theft or loss. For this reason, I tend to shy away from purchasing anything that is nice enough to spark up anxiety over how I would feel if something happened to that item. In addition, I lack the financial resources to make big ticket purchases anyway.

After seeing the news coverage on the devastation which Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma wrought over parts of our country, I thought even harder about personal belongings and how everything can be destroyed so quickly. My heart goes out to every single resident in Houston, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina who has been affected by Mother Nature’s fury. Natural disasters become equalizers, pitching people from all socioeconomic strata into the same situation, homeless, without power, and in some cases, without a means to make a living.

When the La Tuna Wildfire hit the Tujunga/Sunland/Burbank area on September 1st, I was definitely concerned for my safety. The fire burned over 2,000 acres that first day, then by September 3rd, had destroyed over 7,000 acres and reached the community in which I live. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very much that weekend and was ready to pack some essentials (food, water, clothing for a couple of days) and my cats and evacuate if the fires encroached on structures. That fire certainly put things into perspective for me, and I found myself thinking about what is truly important to me.

I am always grateful for having a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in at night, food and water, plumbing, electricity, and transportation. We can’t take these things for granted.

Why Fifty Is Great

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So far, I have really enjoyed being fifty years old. It isn’t nearly as alarming or horrific as I had made it out to be. In keeping with the slogan which was on my most recent birthday cake, I truly feel like “50 IS THE NEW 20” and am thrilled that my physical appearance has also kept up with my spirit, mind, and intentions.

After spending a half-century on the planet, I no longer have the patience to deal with people who can’t honor their word. My tolerance has completely dissolved, and I think nothing of tossing flaky people to the curb. I guess the old adage, “with age comes wisdom” has a lot of truth to it. My gut instinct has proven consistently to be a foolproof guardian, so I no longer try to fight it. I trust it completely.

I cannot and will not wait for things to happen. I need to generate my own momentum and know that I can only truly depend on myself. Challenges will continue to hit me, but I feel stronger than ever about my ability to handle anything that comes my way. I also know that situations will always find their own resolution eventually. I also trust the process by which situations must unfold, and I also put tremendous faith in the universe. I maintain a connection with the universe by meditating daily and by keeping energy flowing through me.

How Social Media Has Messed Us Up

The majority of us can’t even imagine being without our cell phones. The relatively tiny devices we carry around with us now function as GPS devices, marvelous computers which connect us to every part of the world, tie us into a massive information network which we have become entirely reliant on, and also happen to function as the basic communication aids which were originally invented by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci in 1849 (Alexander Graham Bell won the credit in 1876 as a result of winning the first U.S. patent).

Cell phones have become a necessity in modern society, but they have also caused us to develop compulsive behaviors which feed into the irresistible distraction which they present. Though you may deny it, I am willing to bet that you experience a certain level of anxiety if your cell phone battery power winds down, if you lose reception, if you lose a Wifi signal, or are somehow locked out of a website you need to access immediately. We have become so reliant on the immediate gratification which comes with doing a Google search on our Smartphones or iPhones that we have turned into petulant children when glitches occur. We are so dependent on our cellular devices that they have become security blankets.

Whether we like it or not, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to ordinary daily tasks. We could be sitting at work, cooking a meal, walking our dogs, or driving to work, while still concerned about what supposedly vital information we are missing by not staring at our phones. God forbid we miss our friends’ Facebook updates or allow our email inboxes to pile up as we try to navigate through a typical day! We are accustomed to having our phones close by at all times, and every time it makes a notification sound, we stop what we are doing to attend to our phones, which draws attention away from what we should really be focused on. Time ticks by, and suddenly, we are distracted from viewing a beautiful sunset. Even if we view that beautiful sunset, we tend to feel a compulsion to record the sunset by taking a picture of it with those confounded phones.

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

It’s no wonder that the incidence of anxiety in our society has increased dramatically.

There should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. Be sure to set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media, then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. Trust me, your brain needs a break from the constant influx of technology.

Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!

The Five Keys To Optimal Brain Health

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By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

Even if your genetics put you at risk for developing dementia, there are numerous lifestyle and behavior adjustments which you can make in order to protect brain function and fight dementia. The five keys listed below are proven to improve brain health and keep your mind vital and sharp for decades.

1. MOVE YOUR BODY

Scientific research has proven that overall physical health is closely linked to brain health. Regular exercise aids in the maintenance of a healthy weight range, normal cholesterol levels, while also optimizing blood flow throughout the body and the brain and supporting the growth of new brain cells.

The benefits of physical health stem not only from regular exercise, but also from other good health practices. Support your brain’s health by doing the following:

• Exercise at least 30 minutes daily to relieve stress.
• Make sure to get between seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
• Refrain from using tobacco.
• See your doctor regularly.
• Maintain a healthy weight.

2. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Research studies indicate that diets which are low in saturated fats and cholesterol, and rich in polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients like lutein and vitamin E, may have a protective effect on brain cells and overall brain health.

Brain-healthy dietary changes:

• Opt for healthy fats which are found in olive oil and fatty fish like salmon. Avoid saturated and trans fats.
• Consume a diet which incorporates milk, eggs, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, and dark leafy greens like spinach, all of which are rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E is an important nutrient which supports brain health. If you can’t get vitamin E from foods, you can take it in supplement form.
• Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, aiming for nine fist-sized servings each day. Select colorful fruits like cranberries, blueberries and tomatoes which are packed with powerful anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenols. Keep the skin on fruits and vegetables to maximize their nutritional benefits.
• Add lutein. Lutein is a potent antioxidant which is critical for eye and brain health. Foods which are rich in lutein include spinach, kale, turnip greens, collard greens, egg yolks, corn, and peas. You can also take lutein in supplement form.

3. EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN

Extensive research has proven that the brain continues to learn new skills and information throughout life, and benefits from frequent intellectual stimulation. Make sure to pursue new activities, education and games to challenge your mind. Read books to elevate your knowledge base.

How to stimulate your brain:

• Engage in regular sessions of a mental activity you enjoy, such as reading, word games such as crossword puzzles, or learning a foreign language.
• Get into a daily habit of learning a new word or fact.
• Master a new skill or subject each year.
• Manage stress and balance your energy by meditating. Meditation may help to reduce stress and body inflammation by soothing the vagus nerve, an important nerve which controls the body’s immune response.

4. NURTURE RELATIONSHIPS

Though we know that relationships with family and friends are key factors in a person’s happiness, regular social interaction promotes the formation of new brain cells and aids in brain repair. One study revealed that men and women who had the most social interaction had less than half the rate of memory loss as those who were the least socially involved. By visiting friends and family and being involved in community activities, you will protect brain health.

Social brain boosters:

• Spend time with your family and friends regularly, and make them a priority.
• Volunteer for an organization which surrounds a cause which you are passionate about.
• Work for as long as you can, and for as long as you feel motivated to do so.
• Join clubs and become involved in religious or spiritual activities which resonate with you.

5. BALANCE YOUR NEUROTRANSMITTERS

Brain function relies on important molecules known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitter levels affect mood, behavior, cognitive function, social function, digestion, sleep, weight regulation, and many other processes.

The problem with current society is that the vast majority of people have overly stimulated sympathetic nervous systems, which over time can drain the body of serotonin. The excitatory part of the nervous system dominates once the inhibitory neurotransmitters are depleted, resulting in anxiety and an inability to “wind down”. Eventually, even the excitatory neurotransmitters such as serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine and GABA are also depleted, and severe depression or chronic fatigue usually develop.

Conventional drugs cannot replenish these neurotransmitters, and in fact, tend to cause depletion of the neurotransmitters. This is the reason why some depression medications do not work on some individuals. The good news is that supplementation with amino acids can help to replenish deficient neurotransmitters.
How To Nourish Neurotransmitters:
• Eat a healthy diet. Neurotransmitter imbalance is aggravated by poor diet. Diets high in protein supply the brain with the amino acids it needs to replenish neurotransmitter levels.
• Consume branched chain amino acids to ensure a rich supply of neurotransmitter precursors.

REFERENCES
Neurotransmitter Assessment Brings Light to Management of Psychiatric Problems
Monday, 15 August 2005 00:59By Erik L. Goldman | Editor in Chief – Vol. 6, No. 3. Fall, 2005

“Do You Still Compete?”

First Place Masters Bikini 35+ B Class, Team Universe, July 2013

First Place Masters Bikini 35+ B Class, Team Universe, July 2013

Whenever I hear that question now, I have mixed feelings, which range from a sense of longing for the stage, to complete relief that I have not stepped onto a bodybuilding stage for close to two years now. My short answer to the question, “Do you still compete?” is “Probably not.”

Though I competed in four Pro Bikini events, I was struggling so much with metabolic damage and perimenopause that I often think it wasn’t the best idea to jump onto the Pro stage only 4 months after I won my IFBB Pro Card. That sort of strategy might work for a twenty-something competitor who is at the top of the heap, but it didn’t work for my 47-year old body which had been beaten down physically, emotionally, and mentally. I honestly needed a break, but I pushed through, and as a result had ho-hum placings.

It has taken over three years for my body to return to a level of leanness which I feel comfortable with. I know you might assume that I was in a massive spiral with my weight and body fat, but it wasn’t THAT bad, at least not compared with many other competitors who spiral. Nevertheless, I spent over two years with excess fluff that I was not accustomed to at all, and I couldn’t stand how I looked or felt.

Here’s the breakdown of my stats throughout the years:

From age 21 through 43: Between 104-109 lbs., 11-13% body fat
2010 – Age 44: 112-113 lbs., 12% body fat
2011 – Age 45: 114 lbs., 12% body fat
2012 – Age 46: 115 lbs., 12% body fat
2013 – Age 47: FIRST HALF OF YEAR: 117 lbs., 11% body fat SECOND HALF OF YEAR: 119-126 lbs., 13-18% body fat
2014 – Age 48: 121-125 lbs., 14-18% body fat
2015 – Age 49: 119-123 lbs., 12-15% body fat
2016 – (soon to be 50): 115-119 lbs., 11-13% body fat

It has been a veritable see-saw for me over the years. I also firmly believe that I would not have gone through menopause as early as I have if it had not been for all the metabolic insults I made to my poor body as a result of competing. Since 2013, I have investigated every possible cause for the water retention issues which rather suddenly hit me. This year I have FINALLY been able to rid myself of the excess fluid around my midsection, but somehow that was at the cost of the fullness in my glutes which I had worked so tirelessly to achieve during the years in which I competed.

If you ask me what my plans are for competing, don’t be surprised if I evade the question. I realize with each passing day that competing is no longer something which I rely on to define who I am. I have paid my dues and proven my worth, and though I completely understand why people have a drive to compete, I am no longer chomping at the bit to throw on a ridiculously expensive, blingy bikini and stripper heels and put myself at the mercy of a panel of judges.

Give Your Brain A Vacation!

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Please check out my original post at:

http://xactmind.com/xc/articles/give-your-brain-a-vacation/

By: Dr. Stacey Naito, Physician and IFBB Pro

Leaving Work Behind

Americans have a bad habit of skipping much needed vacations, either because they cannot catch up with their workloads, or because they can’t afford the travel expenses. However, everyone needs to press the reset button and allow their bodies, spirits and minds to relax. The brain in particular needs a break from all the factoids and sensory input which assault it on a daily basis. Yet we often feel the urge to check emails and social media while on vacation in an effort to keep up with the hectic and exhausting to-do list which seems to always hang over our heads. Guilt sets in over being away from work, even though we truly deserve to a have a little time off. The problem with tending to emails and other work-related items is that the break is eradicated, with the only distinction being that we have taken our work with us.

Information Overload

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

So when we go on vacation, there should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. The best tactic while on vacation is to completely avoid electronic devices, but if you aren’t able to do that, set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media.

Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. This way, your brain will enjoy the fruits of the vacation as well.

Pushing Through – Dealing With Troubling Times

Life is not about how hard you can hit, but how much you can get hit & still keep moving forward. -Rocky Balboa
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It is commonplace these days to hear people say that times are tough, and indeed they are. Truth is, there will ALWAYS be something we will be forced to contend with. At times those challenges can be so trying that they threaten to break our spirit and obscure the light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is imperative to push through those trials and tribulations while remembering what our goals are.

Your goals may be long term and centered around a career aspiration or the pursuit of an avocation for which you have great passion. Perhaps you have a weight loss goal or want to improve your general health. Or maybe you compete and are chasing after that elusive Pro Card or Olympia qualification. Chances are that any challenges which hit unexpectedly have no direct correlation to these goals, so why allow them to push you off course? You may get knocked around a bit, but the important thing is to get back in line with that prize you have set before you.

It always amazes me to hear patients and clients describe how they abandoned their meal plans and exercise regimens, and thus their fitness and health goals, when they were forced to deal with stressful life events such as divorce, legal issues, job loss, or family illness. What goes through my mind when I hear such things is that these people are doing themselves a disservice by dropping a regular regimen which has immense long term payoffs. A thread of stability is established when there is consistency with food intake and exercise which can actually lessen the impact of life stressors. Energy levels are boosted, depression is minimized, and an individual can assert his or her own personal needs in the face of adversity.

So if tough times are getting you down, remember to put the oxygen mask on your own face and take care of your own needs. Those who persevere will be rewarded after the storm passes. Hang in there!