Enlivening Ourselves

Dear Dr. Norquist:
My energy level has been low lately, and I’m sure I’m feeling the results of aging. I went through menopause two years ago, and decided not to take estrogen (my mom had breast cancer). I didn’t think I would age so quickly after menopause – my skin, my energy level, my libido, general activeness, etc. I did have a stressful time last year, due to my father’s ill-health. I stopped my usual exercise routine for six months or so because I didn’t have enough time for it – with work, raising teenagers, taking care of my Dad’s needs. Things are calmer now, but I feel a lot less youthful. What can I do to regain my health?

Dr. Norquist responds:
Self-care is a vital life skill and one that is easily neglected when faced with the competing needs of our children, family, and work lives. The effect of neglecting our own self-care is more apparent as we age. What we care for blossoms, whereas what we neglect tends to wither. The important first step to take is to commit time and energy to your overall well being. This has to become one of the priorities in your life if you’d like to enhance your vitality and overall well being. How you treat yourself shows. Self-care includes treating yourself with kindness, patience, attention, love, and occasional indulgences. The attitude you take towards yourself has a powerful effect. A little humor, playfulness, and light-heartedness goes a long way. In addition, notice how you view yourself. If you see yourself as becoming old, that is the message you are sending your body. Practice seeing yourself as invigorated and brimming with inner vitality. Embrace this image of yourself. Make it your habitual way of seeing yourself.
If you have not had a physical recently, I’d suggest that this is a good time to do so. This will help you in gathering important information regarding your overall health, and establishing a baseline. See what suggestions your physician has to offer, and follow through with other recommended visits and advice from specialists, such as your gynecologist. If you do not have Christina Northrup’s book on menopause (The Wisdom of Menopause), I’d highly recommend it as an extremely positive, informative, and empowering book on the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of this phase of life. A nutritionist can provide you with a mineral analysis of your hair, and make suggestions regarding diet and the appropriate supplements to further enhance your health.
Remembering that where you put your time, energy, and attention determines what you create, make a commitment to a daily diet and exercise habit that is convenient as well as enjoyable. It’s best to alternate your exercise routine to address varied aspects of fitness: aerobic, strength, flexibility, and overall vitality. For example, you might do light weight-lifting for strength, jogging or power-walking for aerobic exercise, yoga for flexibility and Tai-chi or Qigong for energy and vitality. If you’d like, you could consult a good fitness trainer for ideas in developing a person routine for yourself. Incorporating a daily short meditation or visualization practice can bring an additional level of inner peace and relaxation to your life.
I know this sounds like a lot. Try adding it bit by bit. For example, stretch before getting into bed. Try getting up 15 minutes earlier and doing some Qigong or meditation. Find a friend who’d like to commit to power-walking together after work or on the weekend. Slowly but surely, you will see the positive effects that these routines have on your overall health, and this will encourage you to continue. Most of all, try to make it enjoyable, easy, and something you look forward to as a nourishing part of your day.

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanya.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2010 Chaitanya Counseling Services

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