Bottom’s Up! How Much Water You Actually Need To Be Drinking

Dr. Stephanie Duffey • Jun 15, 2020

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With summer upon us and the outside temp heating up, I thought I’d pop in with this blog post all about drinking water! Do keep in mind that it’s important to stay hydrated all year long (not just during the warmer summer months). Here, I’ll break down everything you need to know—from the important role water plays in keeping you healthy, to tips for meeting your daily intake needs.
 
What’s the deal with water anyways?
 
As crazy as it sounds, did you know that up to 60% of the adult human body is made up of water!? Check out this break down of the water percentages in your body:
  • Brain and heart = 73% water
  • Lungs = 83% water
  • Skin = 64% water
  • Muscles and kidneys = 79% water
  • Bones = 31% water
 
So why does all this matter? 
 
Water not only helps your body stay hydrated, but it also keeps your muscles and joints lubricated for maximum efficiency. Water is beneficial to other systems too because it:
  • Regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration
  • Helps transport oxygen all over the body for a healthy heart
  • Assists in flushing waste and preventing constipation
  • Acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord
  • Forms saliva and aids in digestion
 
How much water should I actually be drinking?
 
Now, to answer the question you’ve all been waiting for! How much water should you be consuming on a daily basis? The amount varies per person but the easiest way to think about it is to aim for half your weight in ounces of water.
 
So let’s say you weigh 150lbs. Your water intake should be right around 75oz. Another factor to pay attention to is activity level. If you exercise often and sweat a lot, you’ll want to consume even more water to replenish yourself. You can perform a sweat test before and after exercise to see how much you’ve lost through perspiration. For every pound you lose, that’s an extra pint of water you need to drink.
 
Tips for getting your H20:
  • Sip your water throughout the day rather than chugging it all at once and always keep a bottle with you (Hint: If you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated).
  • Use water as your main source of hydration (Drinks that are high in sugar or caffeine can actually dehydrate you).
  • Check the color of your urine (It should be pale and clear rather than dark and odorous).
  • Try infusing fruit into your water for a fun and refreshing flavor.
  • Incorporate liquid-based fruits like grapes and watermelon into your diet (these provide hydration too!)
 
​I hope you found this post to be helpful. Questions or comments? I’d love to chat with you!

8 Tips For Tight Hamstrings

Stephanie Duffey • Jul 06, 2020

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As a physical therapist, I hear complaints all the time related to tight hamstrings. In fact, the hamstrings get a bad rap for always being the problem muscle, but if we take a closer look, you’ll find that your hamstring tightness may just be a symptom of another issue. Here, I’ll break down my top 8 tips for relieving tight hamstrings and preventing future pain in this muscle group.
 
1. Don’t be a sloucher. 
Poor posture can be a huge contributing factor for hamstring tightness. When you arch your back, you’re actually putting more strain on your hamstrings to help hold you in that position. Instead, focus on stacking your ribs over your pelvis. Your hamstrings will thank you!
 
2. Be a belly breather.
Being a belly breather goes hand in hand with keeping good posture. When you stand properly, your diaphragm works more effectively, enabling you to breathe better while creating stability and activation through the core. 
 
3. Keep your core strong.
When you stay mindful of your posture and breathe through your belly, you’re activating your core. In addition to following tips 1 and 2, it’s also important to specifically target the core as a muscle group. Tight hamstrings could be compensating for a weak core, so make core part of your weekly training routine. Here are some of my favorite exercises to work those abs (Plus bonus side effect: You’ll look great in your swimsuit!)
 
4. Keep your glutes strong.
Remember in tip 3 when I said that your hamstrings could be compensating for a weak core? The same is true with your glutes. The more you train the glutes and core, the better off your hamstrings will be. So share the love with other muscles groups. Download my Runner’s Prehab Guide for some of my favorite moves for strong glutes. (These are great exercises even if you don’t run!)
 
5. Don’t be a “sitter.”
This one’s for all my peeps with desk jobs. When you sit all day, you put your hamstrings in a shorter, tightened position. Take advantage of this quarantine and break up your day by going for short walks so you don’t get stiff. It’s also a great way to take a mental break!
 
6. Remember the hammies in your strength routine.
Fun fact, tight muscles do NOT always equal strong muscles. If your hamstrings are tight, it could actually be a sign that you need to strengthen them. Try some of these moves for strong hamstrings.
 
7. Practice dynamic stretching before a workout
You’ve probably heard this before but it’s incredibly important to move while you stretch to prevent cramping and better protect your muscles. Try walking hips swings or some of these exercises to set yourself up for success before your workout.
 
8. Foam roll after a workout.
One of the best ways to release knots and trigger points is foam rolling. It’s an awesome recovery for your muscles after a run or workout and provides a deep release while preventing muscle tension and pain. Do your muscles a favor and show them some love after you make them work! Here’s my favorite foam roller.
 
Need help treating your tight hamstrings? Let’s chat!

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE *

Paul Linden, PhD

Aikido of Columbus

www.being-in-movement.com

I have been practicing Aikido since 1969 and Parkinson’s Disease since 2004. Aikido is a non-violent Japanese martial art and a study of peacemaking. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease of the brain. The two have a lot in common.

Many years ago, while visiting Los Angeles, I met a friend of a friend. As we were sitting together eating lunch, he casually said, “You know, I could kill you as you sit there.” I smiled and said, “Yes, of course you could” and kept eating. I knew he wasn’t being hostile but was merely expressing a fact. Astonished that I understood, he explained that he was a Viet Nam veteran, and that was his way of testing me.

He had killed many people, and he knew how thin the line is between life and death. He knew that anyone could die at any moment. Combat soldiers learned to live on the edge of life and death, and when they came home, they were unable to fit back into normal society, which pretends that death won’t happen. He was stunned that a non-veteran knew that edge. I told him about my martial arts training and how it was possible to know the edge without killing anyone.

Two concepts underlie Aikido as I practice and teach it: First, emotions and attitudes are physiological events in the body, and to receive an attacker in a peaceful way, the body must be trained to do so. And second, the body moves with better balance and strength in a state of inner stillness, kindness, and gratitude. (My website has a free downloadable handout titled EMBODIED PEACEMAKING which details the basic exercises that I use to teach this.)


• Copyright Columbus Dispatch 2013. The newspaper published this essay, and they were generous enough to allow me to use it in my teaching.


Practicing calmness when attacked and compassion for the attacker caries over to stresses and problems that aren’t attacks. Such as Parkinson’s, for instance. When I was diagnosed, my initial reaction was shock! And my practice for the next six months was to say to myself many times a day “Parkinson’s” and train my body to go into calmness instead of fear. Gradually stillness and compassion took the unease out of the disease.

The real function of martial arts, I think, is to help us accept our fundamental weakness. I can block a punch, I can parry a kick, and I can escape an arm lock. But I can’t control the weather, a presidential election, or whether I have Parkinson’s. Once we build up enough personal power, we can accept somewhat calmly the unacceptable.

Having Parkinson’s is inconvenient, but if I get frustrated or irritated at it, the tremors increase and the disease feels worse. The more I meet Parkinson’s with an attitude of compassionate engagement and relaxed strength, the better my body functions. This is not philosophy. It’s physiology.

The questions are: What do I choose to become as Parkinson’s eats away at my brain? Do I cultivate habits of fear or anger about my condition or habits of power and compassion? So in the end, practicing Parkinson’s is very similar to practicing Aikido.

Parkinson’s will never be popular as a path of self-improvement. The same approach, though, can be applied to everyday difficulties — whether personal, interpersonal or international. The world would be very different if people didn’t respond to difficulties in a rush of fear and anger. Think of all the killing and aggression that would not take place if we each took responsibility for our body and our hurtful reflexes. Peace would be possible.

—————————–

PAUL LINDEN, Ph.D. is a specialist in body awareness education, and his work focuses on the interplay between self-exploration and more efficient and effective action. He has extensive experience teaching people such as musicians, athletes, pregnant women, children with attention disorders, and computer users. Two of his focus areas are abuse recovery and peacemaking.

He is the developer of Being In Movement® mindbody education, and founder of the Columbus Center for Movement Studies. He holds a Ph.D. in Physical Education, a sixth degree black belt in Aikido and a first degree black belt in Karate, and he is an instructor of the Feldenkrais Method® of somatic education.

He is the author of a number of e-books, and videos, among which are:

• Winning is Healing: Body Awareness and Empowerment for Abuse Survivors

• Embodied Peacemaking: Body Awareness, Self-Regulation and Conflict Resolution

• Feeling Aikido: Body Awareness Training as a Foundation for Aikido Practice

• Comfort at Your Computer: Body Awareness Training for Pain-Free Computer Use (a paper book)

* Embodying Power And Love: Body Awareness & Self-Regulation 10 hour video.

Grief

There is a lot to be in denial about. A lot to be angry about. Depression. Bargaining with our healthcare system, government, creditors, families and futures. These are the phases of grief, and we are all in process together. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. And lastly, somehow, we will begin finding acceptance.

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(Click here for a soundtrack to your reading)

Most often grieving is something we do alone, in relative seclusion. We feel others cannot understand our loss and the depth of our anxiety, anger or depression. Grief is usually lonely. Even with the best support of others.

But what we have been given here is the mandate to grieve collectively in quarantine. Six feet away from hugs. Socially distanced. Closed off from the jobs, activities and places we would otherwise have busied ourselves within. Even though we are isolated, confined to our homes, we all know deeply that we are not in this alone. Globally, we know others are in the same place. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Acceptance.

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Within the walls of our homes we are faced with ourselves. Whether you are home alone, self-sufficient or dependent on others. Happily in relationship. Horribly in relationship. Little kids. Teenagers. Adult family. Addictions. Mental illness. Physical illness. Chronic pain. Chronic stress. Binging on NetFlix or on yoga classes. Cooking. Cleaning. Creating. Trying. Grieving. Doing the best we can. Collectively this is the world stage.

Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Acceptance.

These stages were first outlined by Elisabeth Kubler Ross in 1969 to explain what people go through during loss, specifically around terminal illness. But grief is all around us. We suffer loss all the time. It would be healthy if we all let ourselves fully experience it. But we deny. We get angry. We become depressed. Anxious. We medicate. We blame. We barter. We almost get there, but fall back into the loop before we accept, integrate and move on.

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Even though they are synonyms, I don’t think ‘acceptance’ means that we have to agree with what has happened. There doesn’t have to be approval or consent. Just acquiescence, submission, compliance. For whatever reason this all happened, we all wish it hadn’t. We wish we still had a source of income. We wish we were not entertaining and ’homeschooling’ our kids all day. We wish we could go do the things that made us feel ‘normal.’

We can deny it all and try to escape in a variety of forms. We can get mad and pissy with one another. We can cry. Be apathetic. Be empathetic. We can do all of these things in a given hour. And we are. All over the world.

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This is not the lonely grief that separates us. This is the combined, communal, mutual grief that bonds us. Nobody can play the martyr and stall progression. The vigor that drives survival slacks when it all becomes chronic. An over-worked, burned-out survival instinct has landed humanity at a fork in the road where people will have to choose how they settle into coping.

Amidst the bargaining, we must try to negotiate the pieces back together. We have to reach out to others. We have to share our stories. Many who have never accepted help from others will have to. Many who have never worn the heart of a ‘helper’ will have to become one. New options will have to be explored. A new plan. All of this must happen, in whatever order it does, before we can move on. Denial. Anger. Depression. Bargaining. Acceptance.

Be it a global pandemic, it is an individual choice. All of those individual choices will add up to something brand new. Acceptance. Equanimity. Hope. Certainty that it will all be ok, even if we can’t possibly begin to know exactly how.

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What is ‘Integrative Medicine?’

Integrative Medicine? Functional Medicine? Complementary? Alternative? The buzzwords have changed a lot over the past many decades and public interest has forced academic and western medical attention to the field.

 

For me, it has been lovely timing that I was starting my graduate academic life in the late 1990’s – right around the time that the that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the original framework to address the growing conversation and implement a funding paradigm for research into this growing field.

 

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NIH started with 4 primary domains of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) placed around a central health system of allopathy, or western medicine. (Energy. Mind-Body. Mechanics. Biology)

I most passionately believe that a strong support network is the foundation of well-rounded, grounded, good healthy living. It keeps you in check and gives you something to fall back into. We all long for inspiring confidants, creative professionals, and trusted support beside us on our journey. The current culture of our health care system though often leaves us taking what we can get instead of healing within the creative, comprehensive support we all deserve.

Over twenty years of private practice and 3 integrative health centers later – I now work with an expanded model. This 6-Domain model draws attention to the importance of knowledge and awareness. I have never seen anyone overcome a terminal illness or shed a chronic condition if they did not both deeply understand the disease process at hand and deeply know what they believed about where life comes from, why life is worth living and where we go when we die.

In my professional definition and use of the language – Integrative Medicine, most simply, is a conscious effort toward distributing wellness efforts/resource in a balanced way across these six domains: Knowledge, Beliefs, Biology, Mechanics, Mind-Body and Energy.

It is often true that we tend to ‘cluster’ our care into a few select domains while nearly or completely neglecting others. Working within this 6-domain model allows for the balancing of resources (time, finances, energy, etc.) while still providing comprehensive support and an honest framework for addressing concerns and goals in a balanced, sustainable way.

Knowledge

How much do you know about your health?

Do you get regular physicals, eye exams and dental exams? Do you understand any diagnoses you may have? Do you understand the medications and supplements you take – why are you taking them? and generally what are they doing in your body? Do you have easy access to your medical records and images and understand what’s in them?

This domain is about taking the central position in your health care and assuming responsibility for your wellbeing. If you cannot directly assume responsibility, then it means finding a patient advocate and creating a flawless support network around you.

Actions related to this domain can include getting regular health screenings, asking questions of health care providers, reading, learning, seeking support and using effective methods for organizing your health records.

Beliefs

What do you believe in?

What are your beliefs around where life comes from? What are your core beliefs and how do these translate into your health, spirituality, finances, emotions and relationships? What we believe and our connection to our beliefs has a tremendous impact on our health and treatment outcomes.

First you have to know what you believe in. Then you can find tools you resonate with to sit in an ever-growing space with their beliefs, faith and paradigms. Spirituality is one aspect of beliefs.

There are various health systems around the world – Allopathy (Western Medicine), Osteopathy, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, etc. They all have very different core beliefs about the origins of health and disease.

Western medicine is the primary medical system we operate within and our insurance payment systems are organized around it. Western medicine is a health philosophy based upon a symptom-response method for assessment, treatment (and payment).

Biology

What are you doing that directly impacts your biological functioning?

This domain includes our diet choices, supplementation, pharmaceuticals, environmental factors, sleep and exercise.

Mechanics

Is your human form mechanically sound, adaptable and of structural integrity?

This domain includes therapies that work directly with structural body mechanics to influence change. Posture, neuromuscular activation, musculoskeletal balance, fascial integrity and structure-function efficiency are the primary focus of these therapies. This domain is working tangibly with bones, muscles, fasciae and neuromuscular relationships.

Mind / Body

How can you bridge the space between your mental and physical experiences?

These somatic techniques train the body to inspire the mind and teach the mind to positively shape the body. The term ‘somatic’ means ‘experiencing the body from within.’ Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. Our bodies can become tools for working with our mental state and our mental patterns can become vehicles of change for our physical bodies.

Energy

Are you aware of and attending to the energy fields in and around your body (biofields)?

These modalities encompasses the use of external energy sources – electromagnetic fields, vibration, sound, frequency, thermography, etc. – to influence health and healing. Therapies in this domain work with energetic fields using aspects of vibration, electromagnetism, light, heat, auras, chakras, meridians, intuition and discernment.

Applying the Integrative Model to Your Life

So … how can you apply this to yourself? Which domains do you tend to most naturally? Are you over-attending to some domains and avoiding others? Do you need help putting your team together?

These are all conversations and resources I am happy to have with anyone! Regardless of what community you live in, the framework still applies. If you are in central Ohio, then we can help even more specifically by plugging reputable providers into the gaps in your network.

Health is a community endeavor. It was meant to take a village. There is a village to support you no matter where you are or what you are going through.

Lymphatics & Circulation – The Applied Anatomy

The functional anatomy and structural integrity of the lymphatic system is, unfortunately, a greatly under appreciated dynamic in the quality of our everyday lives. Frequently the importance of the lymphatic system is nested in conversation of the circulatory system as a whole or in immunity at a cellular level. There are key principles that guide a conversation of the lymphatic system.

  1. Maintenance: The lymphatics absorb excess fluid, proteins, electrolytes, toxins and foreign debris from the tissues. This cleanses the tissues and thereby maintains functional integrity of the connective tissues.
  2. Transport: The lymphatics transport substances between the tissue compartment and the blood. Through this function the lymphatics help to localize infections in the body.
  3. Defense: Immunocompetent cells are generated and distributed by the lymphatic system.

FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION OF THE SYSTEMS

It is important to note that many authors combine the lymphatic system into the cardiovascular system; the systems are so intricately interwoven that it is certainly fair practice to treat the systems as a single larger system. When thinking of the circulatory system it is absolutely appropriate to view it as a huge circle that starts and ends at the heart.

The lymphatic system is profoundly unique in its unidirectional nature. All other systems in the body are circular from a functional standpoint. This is not the case with lymphatics. This microscopic, blind-ended vasculature begins in the tissue space (interstitial space) and then converges upon itself forming larger and larger vessels. These vessels will specialize into nodes throughout the body.

Lymph nodes can be found in most of the areas of the body where there are ‘pockets’ to provide safety and room for nodes to rest. These areas are referred to as nodal beds. Nodes, for instance, are found under the medial and lateral malleoli under the ankles (malleolar nodes), behind the knees (popliteal nodes), in the hip crease (inguinal nodes), in the connective tissues of the abdomen (mesenteric nodes), under the armpits (axillary nodes), deep to the muscles of the neck and under our jaw bone (cervical chain nodes). There are between 400 and 1000 nodes in the body; over half of the nodes are located in the abdomen. Lymphatics are pervasive throughout the entire body, with one exception. The central nervous system has no lymphatics.

As fluid passes from lymphatic capillaries to vessels to nodes and onto larger vessels into lymphatic trunks, the fluid moves closer to the heart and will eventually converge on the subclavian veins. At the junction of the subclavian vein and the internal jugular vein the lymphatic fluid is returned to the systemic circulation.

EMBRYOLOGY

The lymphatic system begins functioning around the 5th week of fetal life. Its developmental path closely mimics that of the circulatory system. It is most widely believed that lymphatics develop as outpocketings of the veins in the developing fetus. As such they follow the route of the veins traveling from the periphery toward the heart. The 2 central ‘sacs’ form during the 5th week and allow for the drainage of the head, neck and upper limb. During the 6th week, 4 additional reservoirs form to drain the lower limb and abdomen. When the mature lymphatic system has formed, there is one thoracic duct that drains the entire body, except for the right side of the head and neck, right upper limb right thoracic region. The right lymphatic duct is also part of the final anatomy of the lymphatic system and it serves to drain only this right upper quadrant region of the body.

THE FLOW

Blood is ejected from the left ventricle of the heart and travels via a system of arteries and arterioles to vast networks of microscopic capillaries. There are only 2 tissues in the body that do not have blood supply (cartilage and epithelia). The dense mesh of capillaries nutritionally supports all other tissues. Capillaries are the place of exchange. Cellular wastes are exchanged for nutrients in the arterial blood. Carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen.

The capillary is literally just one cell thick. Many substances can pass through the cell membrane, while others require transport proteins to carry them across specialized membrane ‘tunnels’ to the other side. The membrane is selectively permeable, meaning that the size and shape of its ‘tunnels’ will only allow certain molecules across.

Importantly the large red blood cells are retained inside the capillary. They are simply too big to cross over into the tissue space. Only a clear filtrate of the blood is permitted to pass into the tissue space. When this fluid was part of whole blood it would have been termed blood plasma. Now that this fluid has filtered out of the capillary and into the tissue space, it will be called tissue fluid, or interstitial fluid. In the space between all of the tissues in the body there is this fluid. It acts as part of the interface for the transfer of nutrients and wastes between cells.

Interstitial fluid can be considered the ‘clear phase’ of the circulatory system. ‘Clear’ refers to the relative color of the fluid itself. When erythrocytes, or red blood cells, are added to the fluid it takes on a dark red appearance that we usually think of as blood. When the red blood cells are sieved out of the fluid, a clear(ish) colored fluid is left behind. This fluid bathes the cells and acts as a medium for the exchange. This fluid will come to contain a relative sampling of the state of the tissue space. For example, if there were bacteria present the tissue fluid would contain indicators of a potential infection.

Each circulatory cycle, the tissue fluid is filtered out of the capillary, acts as a medium for exchange in the tissue space and then the tissue fluid re-enters the capillaries, becomes part of the blood plasma again and returns to the heart. Fluid returning in the veins will travel through a system of venules and veins before entering a vena cavae and returning to the heart and closing the loop of the circulatory system. In the systemic circulation:

heart > arteries > capillaries > veins > heart

But … not all of the tissue fluid returns to the circulation in this manner, some fluid will take a different route through the structures of the lymphatic system. About 10% to 20% of the tissue fluid is taken up from the tissue space not by the venous side of the capillary, but by a blind-ended lymphatic capillary. Once the tissue fluid enters the lymphatic capillary it is appropriately termed lymphatic fluid, or lymph. This ‘sampling’ of tissue fluid could be thought of similar to quality control in a factory setting. If a factory makes shoes they do not carefully inspect each shoe that comes off the line, rather they take a sample (maybe 10 to 20%) of the shoes and inspect them as representative of all the shoes. Our lymphatic system exists for this function, to act as ‘surveillance’ for the body. The proportion of tissue fluid that enters the lymphatics will take a different journey, through immunological checkpoints, called lymph nodes, before reentering the blood plasma of the veins.

capillaries > vessels > nodes > trunks > right lymphatic duct/thoracic duct > veins

Most of the body will drain ultimately its lymphatics through the thoracic duct. The upper right quadrant of the body has its own unique drainage pattern. We will see later that the right side of the thorax, right head/neck and right upper limb all have unique circulation compared with the left. Bilaterally, lymph is dumped from the main trunks into the subclavian veins that run under the clavicle [sub, under; clavian, clavicle). These veins join the superior vena cava and thereby return to the fluid as a component of whole blood to the heart.

THE LYMPH NODE

Lymph travels through the lymphatic vessels to nodes where a sort of ‘percolation’ takes place. Think of a coffeepot. It has a hole in the top to dump a good deal of fluid into. For our conversation here this is analogous to the lymph coming in the afferent ducts of the lymph node from the periphery. The coffeepot has a chamber wherein the fluid is slowed down and altered. This represents the node. Inside the node the fluid will be surveyed for potential situations that will require an immune response. Fluid leaves through a very small opening and continues in the same direction onto its next fate. The fluid may pass through multiple nodes before reentering the blood plasma at the subclavian veins. Lymph nodes function specifically to:

  • Filter and purify the lymph
  • Capture and destroy toxins
  • Concentrate lymph
  • Produce lymphocytes (which increases as flow through the node increases)

FUNCTIONAL INTEGRATION OF THE SYSTEMS

So, the circulatory cycle begins with a nutrient and oxygen rich phase that brings these elements to the tissues (the ‘red’ phase). At the smallest level of the single celled vessel, the capillary allows for exchange (the ‘clear phase’). Most of the waste and carbon dioxide is carried back to the heart through the venous system (the ‘blue’ phase). A small amount of tissue fluid (‘clear phase’) is carried into the lymphatic system where it acts as a biological sample for surveillance of the status and needs of the body before returning to the veins just before they enter the heart.

Victimhood

Angry victims. Empowered Victims. Defeated Victims. Passive Victims. We have too many victims in the world today. When my husband was in cardiac rehab last year, he sent me this text. A man on the treadmill next to him dropped some wisdom …

“There is a growing phenomenon of people posing as victims which is a consequence of a culture which portrays victimhood as a form of moral superiority.”

How is it that some people go through the trenches and back and just simply never become a victim of it all? No matter what life throws, they aren’t victimized by it. They find courage, persevere and blaze ahead. And then there are others, apparently enduring victims of a past or daily victims of the present. Chronic victimhood worn as a badge, worn like a quiet secret, worn like an excuse and heart-string for the world. Some create false bravado to overcompensate their pain, others act like sages sanctified in their empowered victim status. How did we become a culture of so many victims?

Has the world really given us more to be victimized by? Or, have we just become more inclined to identify, embody and claim the title and role of ‘victim.’ Like the guy on the treadmill said, ‘a form of moral superiority.’ Anyone who experiences injury, loss or misfortune has been a momentary victim of events, circumstance or another person. But then there are those that choose to carry their victimhood as a steady undercurrent, a backdrop, a medal of something earned. It turns into an invisible ‘award’ allowing them to be treated and regarded differently, apparently forever, because of what they’ve endured.

But, trauma and loss are not enough to make somebody a victim. Anne Frank, Jackie Onassis, The Dalai Lama, John McCain (insert the names that come to you here …) Tremendous loss, grief, suffering and pain and not an ounce of victimhood.

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A victim and a hero are very different things.

Psychologically, the underpinnings of victimhood are the feelings that:

  1. There was harm,
  2. I didn’t cause it,
  3. I couldn’t have prevented it,
  4. It was unjust, and
  5. I deserve empathy …

The desire for empathy – maybe that’s the element we have more of in our culture these days. Perhaps people are just craving empathy, sympathy, compassion and understanding.

The perpetual victim avoids responsibility and criticism, while receiving attention and kindness. While they might play the empowered victim, the humbled victim, the angry victim, the grieving victim, the healed victim… But, they are still so very wounded. Wounded teachers. Wounded prophets. Wounded healers. Their sense of worth all wrapped up in what happened to them with the hope that the world love them differently because of what they’ve been through. In the short term, it draws some people near. In the long term, the fallout can be seen trickling through their relationships and interactions like an acid. Unfortunate. Reactive. Eroding.

You want to love them, support them, see the strength and survivor in them. So, you overlook behaviors that are really pretty self-serving, narcissistic and manipulative. These people can come off as the heroine in the corner, having overcome so much with wisdom and heart now to face the world more bravely because of the sadness and misfortune they met in the past. The undercurrent there though is victimhood layered in coping. It’s sad. It’s misguided.

If victimhood becomes a permanent mentality, it becomes a tool of abusive power, grooming others, gaining special treatment and regard, soliciting sympathy and evoking compassion. It buys cooperation and opportunity and becomes something of a talent, drawing people and bringing out their altruistic motives. It also draws more victims into their company.

It becomes a pattern to blame for undesired situations and feelings. It becomes a pattern to deny personal responsibility for their own life, circumstances and emotions, even if it looks like they are taking it all by the reins. In this blueprint, there will always be more suffering, more casualties, more wounds, more loss.

A forever-victim, even if wrapped in the trappings of a Guru, is duped, tricked, scared of being a target and ultimately playing the fool. And, they end up duping others, making them a target and making them look the fool. For somebody who has overcome so much, it seems so sad to sabotage themselves and those around them again and again and again.

Victimhood, regardless of form, is an imbalance. It requests permanent special status. It asks others to support you differently. It becomes a distorted way to draw people toward you and attempt to claim power. And really, it fuels the whole victim story.

The opposite then would be balance, self-confidence, equanimity. A victor. A leader. A champion for themself and for others.

In the end it becomes a, perhaps totally denied, belief that their suffering is their only access to power. Their heart is not full of love because it is that way, it is full of love because they have been a victim of so much loss. Their spirit is not strong because it is that way, but because they have been a victim and had to fight. They don’t have to admit that they are angry, because they can instead act hurt. They don’t have to face life, because they are a victim of what life has given them.

Victimhood, denied or realized, inhibits us from recognizing and consciously wielding power we already possess.

Having suffered loss, a crime or betrayal at the hands of another, is a temporary condition. Everyone will experience wrongdoing, disloyalty, devastation or defeat at some point. But, it does not take on a special status for everyone. There is no moral, spiritual or metaphorical superiority to having lost in life. Life is loss. Life is suffering. Life is change. Coddling the angry victim just feeds their need for the anger. Putting the empowered victim on a pedestal just fortifies the mistaken coupling of their worth with their pain.

There needs to be a growing phenomenon of people posing as victors. No apologies. No cover stories. Value in vulnerability and in strength, not because it follows misfortune but simply because it exists in all of us.

Enthusiasm (‘En-‘ + ‘Theos’)

Breaking down the word … ’enthusiasm’ comes from the prefix en- (‘within you’) and Theos (‘God’). So, to be enthusiastic is to have the spark of God within you. To speak with enthusiasm means you are speaking divine words that light up from within you (and likely light you up). We can’t necessarily pick (or shake) the things that ignite light and action.

Enthusiasm for a cause is a divine gift. Let’s start there. But the question, “why does it matter?” is a very fair one. One worth revisiting as the years roll on for sure. I’ve been asked this a lot over the past year and I’ve had to really listen to my answers. I’ve sat with myself and played with a related question, “could I just let it go and drop it?” Could I just go to work, take care of folks one person at a time, and drop this vision for cooperative, integrative community-centered heath care? I have been a volunteer for the cause since the late 1990s. Maybe I have had and done enough?

Apparently, no. I can’t drop it.

I suppose it is the ‘fortunate’ that have this sense of purpose about something in their lives. So, to be able to ponder the notion of living on that purpose and how much of our life we want to give to that purpose is a consideration of privilege and a rich blessing. To feel so compelled, so passionate, so unwaveringly pulled to create and co-create is a very hallowed double-edged sword. These internal missions drive our use of time, our priorities, our finances, our relationships and our direction. It is necessary to sit with ‘it’ from time to time and be sure that we are still willing, enthusiastic stewards of the cause.

If it is your ‘Life’s Work’ then it will not be shake-able until it has fulfilled its potential. So here we are. Here I am.

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Almost every single person I see in my private practice has been struggling for far too long. If they are lucky enough to have found a good team of practitioners, it is solely up to them to keep that team in communication and their information sorted out. Amidst their suffering, they are forced to be their own ringleader. More often and sadly, people arrive with huge gaps in their support network. These people can’t get well with such holes in the foundation of their healthcare.

I see all ends of it. There are basic needs, like a primary care doctor and standard preventative strategies. There are more creative needs, like integrative teams of experts putting their heads together. We should be able to do better to serve the public and help people in need. I know many of us have ideas about what that could look, feel and operate like. And apparently, I have an undying enthusiasm for bringing it all to fruition.

Resources are finite. It is a truth no matter who you are or what you are dealing with. Energy. Time. Money. Emotional wherewithal. We ultimately only have so much reserve to cope, adapt and heal with. And, when somebody has been living with a chronic condition, those stores are already tapped. It is unrealistic and relatively unkind to expect that a general person would or should be able to navigate the healthcare landscape, much less when they are already low on resources across the board.

It shouldn’t be that hard to provide a simplified framework, create efficient paths for approach and bring together teams of providers. It just requires an infrastructure, community effort and community support. The notion of community has to be front and center in the healthcare/wellness care conversation. I can’t believe we can create healthy people in the absence of healthy (or at least authentically striving to be), engaged community.

One part of the framework is the ‘6-Domains of Integrative Medicine’ educational tool along with the personal support to implement it into a sustainable and thoughtful wellness strategy. Another part requires thoughtful virtual engagement of a broad, diverse and reputable community of wellness providers. And the final, perhaps most important part, is a relationship with the public that offers various, comfortable, engaging points of entry and contact.

This way, when a person is in need they know where to find resources immediately. They don’t waste months and years floundering trying to put together their own piecemeal team and educate themselves through Dr. Google. They don’t waste a ton of money, time and energy on disparate services, questionable providers and incomplete treatment plans. They know right away, ‘I have this great infrastructure in my community that brings me reputable integrative health and wellness resources I can trust and access easily.’

We all know and have felt the big, confusing abyss between inpatient care and outpatient wellness. We all know there is an infrastructure needed to fill this void. These can’t just be words that sound good and feel good to speak. There needs to be action. There needs to be engagement. There needs to be vulnerability and transparency. There needs to be evolution and impact.

Obviously, I’ve been sparked. Community-driven integrative healthcare delivery really matters to me. It matters a lot. It is clearly my ‘Life’s Work’ and I won’t be able to drop it until its potential, or my role in it, has been fulfilled. Enthusiasm. It is quite a thing …

(And of course – please consider supporting IntegrateColumbus by donating financially, volunteering, putting your voice in the conversation or just staying in the loop!)

SCOBY Symbolism

When we moved last year, something struck me differently about our recycling. My family drinks a lot of Kombucha! It’s the painfully expensive, but healthy, drink of choice for my preschool/elementary tribe. The number of bottles were a travesty for Mother Earth and my bank account. Quick, easy choice – it was time to start making my own Kombucha again.

Last time I tried, I aborted mission early when I found myself pregnant and throwing up everywhere, for 39 weeks. The Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) sitting in the corner of my kitchen fermenting with some sweet tea was literally too much to look at. So, she sat. And sat. And sat. Some 16 months or so later, she was rescued from her glass vessel.

I’d, rather stupidly, started it all in a huge glass jug with a narrow top. Like placenta previa. Trapped. Two ladies I knew lovingly broke the jar to try to rescue something in there. They saved some of the long-overdue Kombucha for us all to taste (after straining out all the glass). It was the most delicious I’d ever had.

The 1st symbol in the SCOBY emerged: Sometimes your culture can block you from fulfilling your purpose. Choose your vessel and tend to it regularly. Things get funkier and worth savoring over time.

So these years later now, I have a really stable Kombucha operation going on in my kitchen. I now use honey and white tea, instead of the traditional black tea and cane sugar. I’ve learned this is actually its own different beverage called ‘Jun,’ a close cousin to Kombucha. I make a weekly batch for my family, friends, neighbors and people I work with.

My SCOBY makes a lot of babies. So, I put it out over Facebook, ‘who wants a SCOBY?’ … And the 2nd symbol in the SCOBY began expressing itself. I ended up getting to see a student from over a decade ago, she came to my home to get her SCOBY. I got to reconnect with an old colleague. I got to meet a few friends for coffee and lunch. I made a new friend. And I finally met somebody in person I’d only known virtually before.

This simple, slimy pancake of bacteria and yeast is a metaphor of symbiosis at its best and the kind of community culture I’d like to believe in.

Symbiotic relationships, in the biological sense, are interactions between different organisms that live physically close to one another. In the sociological sense, it is organisms, people, or things existing together in a way that benefits them all. For our little yeasts and bacteria, it is apparently both.

When I was talking about wanting to start making Kombucha again last year, a lovely woman I work with offered me a start from her SCOBY. Isn’t that how it is all supposed to begin? With kindness. With simple offerings of exchange and communal goodwill. With simple things that offer the promise of nourishment, refreshment, joy and tradition.

Well, she overheated her SCOBY (my SCOBY’s mom) last winter. It died. I was able to give her a grandbaby SCOBY back to start over with. Isn’t that how it is supposed to be? Full completed circles. Abundance. Lineage. Friendship.

It just takes a little clean, honest attention. It requires making the space. Things need to be generally stable. Boundaries (like temperatures and cheesecloth) decide if the culture will ultimately survive, or not. If it’s healthy and doing its thing, it is all self-perpetuating and the good will just keep coming. You’ll have to start sharing your baby SCOBYs. You will have to share these precious little slimy gifts in order for them to survive.

They make the notion of a ‘healthy culture’ and ‘symbiosis’ look easy. If the environment isn’t right, growth won’t occur. Simple. When a sustainable colony is cultivated, it can go on generation after generation after generation. It can go on forever if you keep it clean, hold the space, share with others and just give it a little sweet tea every so often …

 

Community…

I couldn’t say when it started seeming important to me to feel ‘in community,’ but as time rolls it feels more pressing. It has all become so very muddy and broken. We are all, whether we care, know or will admit it, in need of community. Human beings are supposed to live in community. And if you believe in spiritual Oneness, then we already are one-in-the-same, whether we are acting like it or not.

Part of my soul deeply remembers ‘having my tribe.’ We all knew we depended on one another. Unashamed. Grateful. Plentiful. All for one and one for all. Not because it sounded good and had opportunistic value but because it was the only thing that had promise of working. That has stayed the same. It is the only thing that has promise of working. But we have hugely forgotten and tainted these basic sparks of reliance. Interdependence is universal truth, a birthright, a joy and a deep comfort. Sold to us as religion, charity, us v. them. We feel inadequate and don’t admit it when we can’t pull it all together and make it go on our own. We are told our psyches, neighborhoods and institutions need analysis, fixing, better leaders and more control.

We live in a culture where margarine has been sold and ingested for decades as a safe alternative to good old butter. Stranger danger. Play dates. Social media. Photoshop. Everywhere we exist, we can manufacture ourselves into a version we let the world see. Cookies that literally never lose their shelf life. All the confident selfies out there from ‘friends’ wanting validation. It’s a mess. We’re not being honest or transparent or kind. We are not ultimately moving ourselves forward. We live in a time where every wanted comfort can be met, and yet we live with more disease, anxiety and depression then ever before in humankind.

Another possibility has to be possible. Somebody having your back. Potential for strangers to become friends. Belonging. Engagement. Respect. Joy. Accountability. Cooperation. Reverence. Some ancient part of me clearly remembers. All of this. Hugely missing in our social circles, professional lives, neighborhoods, governments, politics and religions.

There are great groups and communities out there. But one doing their good thing while another does their good work in parallel does not create community. You doing you and me doing me, even if we are supporting each other in self evolution and betterment, will not cut it. If that’s the best we’ve got, each organization and individual is ultimately still in ‘it’ for themselves. With the right triggers in place, they fear/flee/fight in self-preservation mode. We see evidence of this every day.

So, while I don’t know when my longing for community exactly started, I do know when it became glaringly clear. I had spent 5 years co-creating the All Life Center, a cooperative nonprofit organization. We had an incredible community center, that over 180 individuals and businesses collectively sustained. With a revelation of ‘new’ intent for the property, it could-have-been/should-have-been that the community ran toward one another and continued on. But that wasn’t what happened. With a handful of exceptions, it became a scatter, every man for himself. Human nature at its worst. Hidden agendas. Fear mongering. Storytelling. The ‘community’ had 2 basic choices. Stay together or fall apart. It fell apart.

Tragically curious.

We hadn’t created community at all. My formal unpacking of what ‘community’ was and wasn’t began. Author Peter Block quickly gave me that key clarification above. It is worth restating. Me supporting you and you supporting me while we both theoretically strive to become our best person, professional, organization, neighborhood, healthcare system, city, (whatever …) is nice. But it is not community. It is still you being interested in you and opportunistically accepting me on your sideline and in your toolbox. It is me either doing the exact same or being taken advantage of and manipulated by you.

Not community. I had greatly mistaken the difference. Noted.

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If it weren’t for my professional life, I might just throw in the towel there. Work with who and what I’ve got, count my losses and forget about it. But I seemingly can’t. I deeply know that I can’t hope to serve people on their physical/medical journey if I have no hope in the broader community they are healing within and returning to. Healthy people need healthy communities to stay well. Healthy communities need healthy people to sustain them and move them forward. I don’t believe you can have one without the other.

And so, I founded a new nonprofit in pursuit of cooperative community wellness.
While our outreach is geared specifically to help the public sort through integrative community-based health and wellness options, we know this must be done with a foundation, undercurrent and backdrop of community engagement and meaningful, felt impact. We started an ongoing and recurring book club around the Peter Block book, ‘Community,’ and host other events/groups/reasons to gather in central Ohio. Seeds of possibility are intentionally being planted and thrown to the wind …

If you’ve read this far, all of this sparks something in you too. That is the conversation we need to have more of. What gifts do you bring? What other organizations and groups we should be connecting with? Visit integratecolumbus.org to be part.

(and thanks for reading …)