Mind and Body
Hi! I drank caffeinated soda this morning. Can you tell I’m on caffeine, cause I can totally tell I’m on caffeine. I can tell because the clouded and lethargic thoughts of yesterday have turned into the sharp, focused, and highly distractable thoughts of today. I chose caffeine this morning because Howard leaves for GenCon in just five hours and yesterday I accomplished none of the preparatory tasks I was supposed to complete. Some of that was because of pre-convention stress and denial, but the larger part was something physiological. There is a bug which has mowed down Kiki, Link, and I. Link fell asleep while playing a video game and stayed asleep for the next sixteen hours. Kiki and I did not fall asleep, we just felt like going to sleep, or like crying about everything. We’re sick. It will pass. Unfortunately I have to fulfill my role as talent wrangler and business manager before I can collapse into sleep for sixteen hours like Link did. So I am medicating myself with caffeine in the hope that I can consolidate my limited energy for the day into a small enough time span to get the necessary work done. After that, I’ll collapse into a heap and watch movies for the next day or two. This is the theory, thus far my brain on caffeine has scampered like a squirrel across the necessary tasks, but has also darted all over the place composing parts of blog entries (such as this one), done math to figure out how old my kids will be in 2020 when WorldCon may take place in New Zealand, contemplated a major clothing sort, planned how to repaint my bedroom, and made a list of things to do today. At least I’m moving, which is an improvement over yesterday, but it does highlight the connection between mind and body wellness.
This time last year I experienced a major physiological and psychological event. I had a panic attack during the Hugo ceremony. The experience threw me out of balance, or rather, it demonstrated in a not-to-be-ignored way how out of balance I had been for a long time. I’ve spent much of the last year trying to find the hundreds of small ways that I’d pulled myself out of kilter and to set myself to rights. The process has been slow and has required me to rearrange my physical spaces in order to figure out my emotional spaces. I’ve had to isolate stresses and determine why they are stressful. I’ve deliberately shaken up my usual patterns of behavior and thought, making a River Song journal, maintaining a Pinterest board, eating new foods, going new places. Then I watch my reactions to these new stimuli to see if they will lead me to hidden pockets of grief which have been driving my behaviors. I’ve learned that my body will tell me when I am stressed even if my mind is too busy to notice. When my teeth ache, it is because I’m pressing them together subconsciously while sleeping or doing other things. I do that when I’m carrying suppressed stress. This means that aching teeth is a sign that I should stop and dig around in the back of my brain to see what else is going on. There are other physical signs, I’m actually kind of amazed how accurately various kinds of stress manifest as different aches or strains in my body. Paying attention to my body teaches me things about myself.
The life benefits of good diet and exercise are commonly known. There is, naturally, much argument about the definitions of “good diet and exercise.” This is because bodies are different and the perfect diet for one person is not ideal for another. Some of my experimentation in the past year has been figuring out what forms of nutrition to which my body best responds. I’m also observing how stress changes my food cravings, or perhaps eating poorly alters my stress levels. I’m still not certain of the causality. I just know that times of high stress correspond with high chocolate and ice cream consumption. When I am stressed my nutrition deteriorates because I’m less able to spend extra energy planning healthy food. Stress shuts down the food planning circuits in my brain. This means I need to create some optimally healthy for me default meals and turn them into brainless habits during times of lower stress. I think my ideal diet is lactose free, lower carb, and reduced sugar intake. When I’m on this diet I think more clearly. When I’m exercising regularly, this is the diet I crave. Mind and body feed back into each other so that everything either falls apart or works smoothly. I fall into bad patterns and haul myself out of them over and over again. Though, hopefully, my pattern cycles are actually a spiral where I am gradually bringing myself to a healthier place for both mind and body.
I’ve often wished I could separate body chemistry from my ability to think. I usually lament this when I’m dealing with an excess of emotion due to thyroid imbalance or hormonal fluctuations. I can’t separate them. Everything is entwined, which makes change difficult and complex. All I can do is pay attention to the things my body tells me about my mind and vice versa. I can make sure that I don’t try to use a short-term emergency fix, like caffeine, as a long-term solution. And with that thought, I need to take my distractible squirrel brain and apply it to the problem of putting the appropriate clothing and supplies into Howard’s suitcase.
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