How You Stay Healthy in a Life Crisis

sad face2A longtime GSG reader came to my 12 Steps to Whole Foods class recently. (Which I’m teaching again on June 6. In Orem, Utah.) She’s just been hit with a double whammy—literally the two biggest life stressors there are, all at once. An unfaithful spouse and consequent divorce…and loss of a full-term baby.

She’s depressed, devastated—and those around her have no idea what to say. Or how to support. Her children are reeling, too.

My background as a therapist (my advanced degree is in social work) merges with my nutrition background, which merge with my own similar challenges in life. That explains my next comments…..

She asked me how I survived my own crisis related to losses much like hers. I told her, “The main thing is, I never let go of my nutrition, and some basic self-care. Sure, take care of the kids, but put the oxygen mask on yourself first! Yoga is non-negotiable. Ditto running. So is a daily quart of green smoothie, and no free-fall into junk food hell. Show up at social events. Even if you’re not feeling it…just go anyway. You’ll get through it, and be happy again—and those things will help. Depression lies to you and tells you it’s permanent. There IS happiness on the other side of this, and I found it, and so will you. It’s just hard to visualize it right now.”

self careI checked out with her if she’s doing X, Y, and Z, to make sure she’s functional instead of spiraling downward, and I learned she’s let go of some important self-care that will get her through. I asked her if, before she went to bed that night, would she just text me that she made a list of the things she’d LIKE to be doing, if she weren’t so depressed.

She did so, that night. It’s a starter step.

I’ve been through those biggest life stressors—divorce, and loss of a child. (Though mine were just several miscarriages—not loss of a full term baby. It’s also important to note I wasn’t married to a cheater, and my divorce was my choice. Thus, both of her losses dwarf my own, not that anyone wants to compare. Hard to imagine hers as worse, since both were devastating for me. My heart is hurting, for this GreenSmoothieGirl friend.)

I hope you’ll take note of this, if you’re suffering, too. I’ve climbed out of some of the hardest things people go through, things I’ve talked about on this blog, and things I haven’t. The mighty little green smoothie has everything to do with HOW.

love yourselfI hope when life hits you hard—as it does, now and then—that you tend to these important things:

  1. Your self-care is more important now than ever.
  2. Always get your endorphins—break a sweat every day, however that looks for you.
  3. Do yoga. Period. I mean it. You’re literally wringing toxins out of your nervous system.
  4. Pray, or meditate, or both.
  5. Drink a quart of green smoothie a day—more greens, less fruit.
  6. Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and other things that exacerbate depression.
  7. Find things to be grateful for, and turn your thoughts to those, every day.

If you’re in a really tough place, right now, please make a list of this kind of coping, rebuilding, and self-love stuff you know you need to be doing. Tape it to your mirror and don’t take it down until you’re doing all of it.

LOVE to you. I’m praying for you.

Goodbye to Heinz. And the mannequin named Bob

Heinz and Coach Amanda at Paracelsus al Ronc

I’ve been processing, since the death of my amazing friend, Heinz Valenta, on May 29, before I could really write anything cogent. I’ve rarely been so impacted by someone in a short year. My attraction to him was a rare soul connection.

His story, and our story, is all tied up with my world-wide cancer research. We came together in a most spectacular, unexpected way due to the power of the Internet.

Beautiful Boulder Colorado

In Heinz’ last days, although he is adored by a big community of friends in Boulder where he lives, he had no family present. His brother was in Singapore, his college-student son was in Vermont, and his mother was in a care facility in Canada. His housemate and dear friend Ann was maxed, unable to go to work, and not sleeping at night, because of Heinz’ increasing need for care.

Talking to Ann on the phone, I decided to throw a few things in a bag, jump in my car and buy a ticket at the airport–and look for a rental car when I got to Denver. A few hours later I was at Heinz’ bedside, learning how to care for him, administer morphine and the anti-psychotic that morphine necessitates.

I told Ann to go to bed, shut the door, and sleep deeply. She is a saint, and she needed it.

I then proceeded to have possibly the most stressful night of my life, on a mattress on the floor in Heinz’ bedroom. It wasn’t Heinz, so much, although he was agitated and needed to get up about once an hour. Really, part of the stress of that night relates to Bob. Some of Heinz’ friends told me they secretly were weirded out by Bob, a mannequin who stood at the head of Heinz’ bed. They’d asked if they could ditch him, but Heinz had earlier been emphatic: Bob stays!

death1Somehow, there was no rail on Heinz’ hospital bed installed in his bedroom. So I didn’t sleep, terrified that he would try to get up, and in his weakened state, fall and injure himself. I imagined him crumbling–which seemed a distinct possibility, as Heinz’ bones were now full of cancer.

If I started to doze off, I’d wake in a panic because I’d see Bob standing at the top of Heinz’ bed, and for a split second, I thought it was Heinz trying to stand. I’d gotten only a few hours of sleep the night before I came, so I was nearly delirious for lack of sleep when Heinz was restless, in pain, and often trying to sit up or stand throughout the night.

It didn’t matter how many times I reminded myself, “IT’S JUST A DUMMY!” I’d still be startled, heart pounding, every time I opened my eyes and saw Bob in the night, stock still.

On the evening of Memorial Day, unplanned, about 15 of Heinz’ friends gathered in his bedroom. Heinz was no longer saying much that was coherent. He mostly seemed to be somewhere else, in his hallucinations, or in the next world, the one he was transitioning to. Maybe both.

His friend Beth came, and played her guitar and sang some of the music Heinz was so crazy about. He loved music, talked about it constantly, loved beautiful things, women, friends and community, fast sports cars, words and good books, and life—even as it dwindled due to disease. He makes me remember to live life fully present. Being happy  now—not waiting for X or Y to happen before choosing to be joyful.

Into the LightAt one point in our vigil, I told Heinz, not knowing if he could hear me, that there was nothing more to do. He had lived a life he could be proud of. That he was surrounded by a room bursting with adoration for him, by so many. That we were all graced forever by our relationship with him, which is eternal. I told him that where he was going, there was no more suffering there. That there was nothing to fight or resist. That we all wished him Godspeed on his journey and would love him forever and never forget him.

He visibly quieted and was never agitated again in his remaining 2 ½ days. The next morning, he spoke his last words. I woke up and walked over to him and said, “Good morning!” He said, “Good morning!” back and I was stunned. Heinz was heavily sedated, and blood vessels were bursting in his extremities, causing extreme mottling, as his body protected only core functions, neglecting extremities. He was in an advanced stage of multiple organ failure, and lucidity was rare.

Tears welled up in my eyes to hear him respond. He reached out and held my hand. “Hi, baby. Last night…..” he said, looking into my eyes and shaking his head slowly, acknowledging the wonder of a most magical impromptu evening honoring his transition. Then morphine took him away.

death not end“I know,” I said. “It was so magical.” It meant everything to me, to know that while we couldn’t tell whether he was cognizant–he knew. He enjoyed the music, candles, words, and love that we wanted to offer as balm for the journey.

Cancer is a bitch. You suffered mightily. It wasn’t pretty. I heard you say some strong words when pain detonated fireworks in your brain. Who can blame you?

Rest in peace, Heinz. I will never forget you and your love for me, for life, for people. I pray you fly with angels.

15 Ways I Optimize Health and Energy Every Day—Besides Good Food! (part 4 of 4)

gratitude11. CULTIVATE GRATITUDE.

Feeling resentful and picked-on is easy. It takes just a bit of effort, discipline, and purpose to spend a few minutes daily shifting into a pose of gratitude. But choosing gratitude quickly transforms a bleak mood. Every day I try to marvel at the cool things in my life. Usually it happens organically, but occasionally I just push my mind there…..fake it till you make it! Do gratitude exercises even when you’re not in the mood, and suddenly you find you ARE in the mood.

I list the amazing stuff in my life. I sit in wonder. Try to apply words to the amazing catalog of blessings that have been laid at your feet—in counterpoint to some significant challenges, too. Sometimes, most days, I say  out loud to myself, spontaneously,

“I love my life!”

Not often enough, I send texts to people to thank them for small things that mean something to me, or better yet, tell them to their face. (I’ve decided that while I’m great at expressing gratitude via email and text, an in-person compliment, or thank-you, is worth twice as much.)

I try to make compliments and thank-you’s as specific and authentic as possible.

Be like a child for five minutes a day—as if everything amazing around you is BRAND NEW!

breathe12. TAKE 30 DEEP BREATHS A DAY.

Do it outside, in clean air, if possible. Heart attack survivors who learned how to breathe deeply, using the diaphragm, had fewer subsequent cardiac events. You can’t help it from calming you. Moods lifting and calming down are natural products of oxygenation. I love to enhance this exercise with a drop of essential oil rubbed into my hands, cupped around my mouth and nose as I inhale. My energy changes radically and I feel calm and peaceful.

take-rest-and-sleep13. SLEEP: AN HOUR BEFORE MIDNIGHT IS WORTH TWO AFTER!

Did you know that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after midnight? Getting enough sleep doesn’t mean getting 8 hours—not for everyone, and not every night. The most important thing may be to complete sleep cycles.

The body sleeps in 90-minute cycles. If you wake up naturally, after 4.5 hours, having completed three full cycles, you may be more rested than if you slept 8 hours and were awakened by your alarm clock while you’re in one of the deep, restorative stages of sleep! I think alarm clocks are terrible for our health.

So, go to bed early. Then you’ll wake up naturally, rather than to the alarm. If you wake up at 4 a.m., no big deal, if you went to bed at 10 p.m. You might be surprised at how rested you are all day.

And, try to go to bed at the same time every night. You’re training your brain and body when to shut down. Take valerian root or melatonin as a sleep aid, if you want, but only occasionally. Otherwise your body may stop producing important hormones, since you’re providing it in pill form. It’s always best to let the body do its job!

How about a nice warm cup of delicious and nutritious Coco Mojo?
How about a nice warm cup of delicious and nutritious Coco Mojo?

14. ALWAYS HAVE THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO.

I don’t know if this one is important to everyone. But it keeps me happy with working long hours; to think that I have something to look forward to.

I like to have a short-term reinforcer, as a reward for getting everything done in my day (like a treat, or Zumba at 9 pm). And a mid-term reinforcer (every Saturday night doing something fun with my girlfriends—I start planning it with them mid-week).

And don’t forget the long-term reinforcer. (When is that next vacation? It always has to be on my calendar!) Depressed people often say, “I have nothing to live for.” We can create things to live for, and put them on the calendar or vision board.

My once-a-day, short-term reinforcer, the past several years, is a cup of Cocoa Mojo with Coconut Milk, in one of the pretty mugs that I bought in Switzerland.  Tennyson and I enjoy this together after I pick him up after school. It’s the together-time with him, and the cup of something hot in my hands, that I look forward to. And it doesn’t make me feel unwell like processed treats do. It contains non-dutched (alkalized) cocoa, and coconut sugar, and powerful medicinal mushrooms, plus the medium-chain fatty acids and deliciousness of coconut.

curious15. FIND OUT “WHY”—ALWAYS BE LEARNING AND GROWING.

I read instead of watching TV. Did you know TV requires only your very lowest brain waves?  Reading helps to keep your mind nimble and healthy.

Knowledge is always ahead of habit. Plenty of us know more than we actually put into practice. So we need our knowledge to be WAY out in front—and then our messy human foibles, that get in the way of good self-discipline, can keep scrambling to keep up with our information databank.

Always ask “why?” And then when you find what looks like answers, remain open, and ask yourself, “But what else?”

These 15 practices may seem like a long list that takes lots of time. It’s not actually true, though, because these habits increase my vitality and make me more productive, happier, and in tune. And, many of them I can do simultaneously.  For instance, I practice gratitude, and deep breathing while I’m getting my endorphin fix running outside. I am also getting my Vitamin D, the “natural Prozac” in the sunshine, too! That’s four tasks in one—and I feel great, rather than stressed out, when I’m done!

If you have other daily practices that make you super-crazy-healthy, write me!

 

My Gratitude Blog, part 2 of 2

P.S.-Its-PerfectMy best friend, Kristin, and I had a year, going through divorce and various single-working-mom struggles, where we decided to look at the world differently. Instead of griping about how this-or-that didn’t go our way, we’d find the ways that  any series of events was actually PERFECT, just the way it was. Even though we wouldn’t have planned it that way. We’d look at a situation, in the rear-view mirror, and make this pronouncement:

“It’s perfect.”

We said it a lot. And it was shocking how often it was true! The thing we were trying to avoid? When it happened, it turned out to be so instructive that it literally felt necessary to our growth–or our kids’, or a relationship’s.

I’ve often said to the people closest to me that divorce, and also raising teenaged and adult children, is an exercise in Letting Go.

Let goI can’t believe how many things I used to cling to, 10 years ago, that I’ve let go of. It’s freeing, and it’s abundant, and it’s made me a more tolerant, patient, fun person. I like this Me better than the more-rigid Me of 10 years ago. I don’t even want to think about the girl I was 20 years ago–except as a necessary developmental phase. (You can’t get Through It except…through it.)

I’m sure many of you in mid-life, moving into new phases, can relate.

I still have standards, and routines,  and beliefs. But fewer of them. And the ones I have are more flexible, less dogmatic. And I talk about them and impose them on others much less. The more I let go, the happier I am.

I’m grateful for learning and growth. I’m grateful for letting go, and for learning to love better. I’m beyond grateful for those who have loved me, in all my weaknesses.

The day I was writing this blog, I got the sweetest hand-written letter from a GSG reader named Shellie V. She said she’s doing 30 days of gratitude notes in November and I made the cut. She told me all the ways that GSG has changed her life and expressed her thanks. Not only did she make my day, but her heart rate went down.

HappyThanksgivingThere’s not one bad thing about feeling and expressing gratitude. Thank you for reading my words on this blog, the past 6 years. I love you and think of you, and the stories you’ve shared with me, every day. GSG readers are an integral part of my life that I adore. Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

Life is complicated and hard sometimes, but so beautiful. Although I’m in Switzerland with the GSG retreat / detox at Paracelsus through the American holiday, I’m thinking of home, and of you, and hoping you and your loved ones have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

My Gratitude Blog, Part 1 of 2

blending hot pinkHave you ever been in a trance? If you’re a parent, you’ve seen your child in one. He can’t hear or see anything–so lost is he, in thinking about something very intensely. I had one of these a few days ago. I’m going to try to describe it.

I was actually blending a Hot Pink Smoothie. (My favorite breakfast. One of my most well-known recipes.) I was watching my Blendtec completely liquefy a 12 oz bag of frozen strawberries, and a giant carrot, and two frozen chunks of a raw beet from my late-summer garden.

I was completely mesmerized by it. Like I’d never seen it before. My trance involved getting lost in imagining myself transported back to 1788; in seeing this amazing gadget, plugged into a constant electrical supply, with bright lighting overhead that does not have to be fueled by whale oil. I’m amazed and overwhelmed. And I don’t have to chew every bit of food up, after growing it myself, risking losing it all because of weather or drought. I get it out of this cold box, and this other freezing box, and I make this amazing, delicious meal in just seconds.

I suddenly Could. Not. Believe. my great good fortune to be staring into this amazing gadget that no one in thousands of years of world history has had–to prepare food SO EASILY–until now! I spend two minutes making it, and 10 delicious minutes drinking it as I drive my car to my son’s school, raising my vibration the whole way with a  fabulous mixture of foods nobody in 1788 would have BELIEVED!

I did finally snap out of my reverie. The real world intervened as Tennyson came into my kitchen and said, “Mom! We gotta hit the road!”

zen mind I tried to retain that sense of newness, and wonder. Amazement. This quote comes to mind:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

–Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

I think it’s fun to create gratitude, by thinking like a child would, or a person 300 years ago, would. To remember to be amazed, blown away! Giddy! Grateful! We all love adults who retain a sense of childlike wonder.

Wherever you live, you can get in your CAR and automatically drive it, without having to hitch up horses regardless of  in-climate weather, to any one of FIVE grocery stores within just a few minutes–to inexpensively buy any of 100 different nutrient-dense plant foods of all colors, from all over the globe, that you DIDN’T HAVE TO GROW!

WOW! We have the best life ever!

Have you ever seen the little comedy by Louis CK on Conan O’Brien several years ago? It’s called, “Everything is Amazing, and Nobody’s Happy!” Check it out here:

In the longer version you can find on YouTube HERE,

life is amazing2Louis CK calls us the “crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.” The comedy routine isn’t just funny—it’s a great reminder that EVERYTHING IS AMAZING, so don’t take all the good stuff for granted! What if we went throughout an entire day, totally astonished at all the awesome miracles all around us!

I have this Tony Robbins Gratitude CD that Matthew gave me years ago. If I listen to it in my car, or on my iPod while I run—10 minutes later, I’m soaring! In just a few minutes of IMMERSING MYSELF IN GRATITUDE, I realize that I have the BEST LIFE EVER!

(A gratitude meditation is a great exercise when a dark cloud floats in and sets up camp for a few hours, due to circumstances beyond my control.)

Every day should be a day of thanksgiving. Did you know that if you hook someone up to a biofeedback machine, their heart rate goes down 20 points if they are directed to think about things they are deeply grateful for? (And their heart rate goes UP 20 points just thinking about something that makes them angry!) Just today on the radio, I heard a woman who was part of the medical biofeedback experiment that documented this behavior, talking about her numbers. So what do we learn from this?

grateful listI personally want to spend more time thinking about the things I am grateful for. Doing so lets me express gratitude for people who help and love me–and it improves my emotional and physical health in the meantime.

I got to spend three days, a couple of weeks ago, with 40 GreenSmoothieGirl coaches and apprentices. I told them that my theory is that a major differentiator between happy and successful people–and unhappy, unsuccessful people–is what they do with their idle time. Smartass GSG Coach Jeanette yelled out, “What IS that, Robyn?” (Jeanette, like me, works too much!)

I said, “Even you, Jeanette, drive in your car, and take a shower, and go for a run!” (Even the busiest women in the world do the first two of those things, at least!)

That’s when all my best stuff comes to me. That’s where I unravel the solutions to my thorniest problems. With my business, my relationships, and the daily conundrums. I try to spend “idle time” (read: car, shower, workout time that my brain isn’t otherwise occupied) solving problems and brainstorming ideas.

veggie thank youIn the past four months, I sold my house, I built another one, which my children wouldn’t move to, so I now must sell it. So I bought a townhouse and moved into it, a massive downsize. In those same four months, I hired 4 people, had 3 of my children move out, wrote 2 books, and lectured in 18 cities.

It’s been a period of epic change, and digging deep to do hard things. I’m deeply thankful for the many people in my life who help me do what I do. For my beautiful Kid and Baby Boy, Beamer and Libs—my two sons and two daughters.

I’m grateful for the best job in the world. I’m thankful I get to learn from my mistakes, and a few successes mixed in. Thank you for joining me here on this blog all year!

a tribute to Kristin and Amanda

Happy Easter!

Thank you to 250 people who spent your Friday evening with us in Logan, and for the 300 who squeezed into an alternative space in Lehi the next morning. (Southtowne told us we HAD to use their caterer—and I am NOT trusting a caterer with stuff like chia pudding, or Rejuvelac!) Saturday was our first-ever VIP event and we enjoyed putting it on. I hope you got new ideas and inspiration, if you were there.

I want to tell you that if you’ve ever been to a GSG lecture and come away with something that makes your life better……

There are two people without whom I absolutely could not put on our 50-cities-a-year lecture circuit.

I love doing it, and I’m not burning out. Even though we have full-time work at home and I’m trying to raise 4 kids by myself.

And there are two reasons for that. Their names are AMANDA, and KRISTIN.

Amanda is a GSG reader in Boise who volunteered to put on lectures in Boise, Twin Falls, and Idaho Falls. She did such an amazing job, we were astonished. Offered her a job.

She spends 20 hours a week or more finding event locations, sponsors, reader-volunteers to help at the events. She makes it so I barely have to think about it and can just show up and do what I do best. She is a young mom of 3 kids and inspires and motivates countless people. She is not afraid to open her mouth and talk about the dramatic changes in her life. Because like you and me, she came from the soda-drinking, junk food-addicted Standard American Diet.

She’s a crusader for the mission we are on. I have come to love her. She is real and genuine, patient and kind, detail oriented and thorough. I want to thank Amanda, in all humility, for her service to GSG and me personally, and tell her how crazy I am about her. She came in from Boise for the VIP event yesterday and is one reason that, in trying circumstances and the first time we tried to pull off a pretty epic event….it actually went well.

And KRISTIN….she is much of–no, most of—the brains and organization and heart of GreenSmoothieGirl.com. She literally keeps track of 1,000 details. She is very possibly the most wide-ranging talented human being I have ever known. Good at details, but also management, events, math, a great writer, treats people exactly as I would and want her to (with humanity ALWAYS even if they are impatient with us first), an AMAZING singer, a marketing brain, intuitive, funny, and just loyal and good to her core. Every week I discover new talents I didn’t know she had. It’s a riot to travel with her. She is also my best friend, and there isn’t anything I would not do for her.

The planet does not deliver up human beings like Amanda and Kristin often. I am so humbled that I get to have TWO of them on my team. I want to thank them for the ways they bless my life and help us take individuals and families back from that #$&! Standard American Diet and all its horrific consequences.

I can’t stop thinking of how the VIP event happened yesterday because of contributions of others—as much or more than me. I am SO excited that we got to break down mental barriers to so many things yesterday for 300 people: fermented foods, plant-based main dishes, using Omega 3-rich foods, getting hydrated and alkaline and mineral replete first thing in the morning, changing your digestion with high-fiber sprouted breakfast, and more. Kristin and Amanda, thank you for the many things I see you do, and so many more that I don’t even see. You are QUALITY.

I’m running out of space, and wanted to just write a tribute to those two. But  I am also deeply thankful to Jenni and Jackie, who make GSG.com run too….Jenni’s been with me longer than anyone and a MAJOR contributor to the last 3.5 years of this site’s growth. And Shari, who helps at tons of my events and is sunshiny and an amazing worker and my longtime travel buddy. Marianne is new to us but the best webmaster we’ve ever had, a GSG reader too. We love Brynn and Melinda and Desiree and Debbie and Deb and Hedgehog—nd our many volunteers and sponsors who help put on event. Bless you all, for your help in what we’re trying to accomplish. Thank you.