Definitely Out of my comfort zone
"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." Brian Tracy
I have learned, trying something new almost always means getting out of my comfort zone.
I continued to ponder the risky challenge of volunteering to be a participant in the ‘healthy aging’ study that I wrote about last week. If I want to live a whole human life, and I want to continue to take on new challenges and I want to grow and motivate others to do the same …. Well then, I need to get out of my comfort zone. Right? So, I volunteered to be a lab rate.
As I drove to the University psychology lab, I felt pretty vulnerable and uncertain. I knew they were going to be doing an EEG on my brain, but what they were going to be measuring and learning about me and my thinking…. I just was not sure. These people were strangers to me…and I feel like my brain information is kind of private. It reminded me of what Lana Turner said about speaking in public; “It’s like standing naked in front of people and turning around very slowly so they can see every one of your flaws.” And I’m here to tell you; my brain does have flaws.
I was greeted at the lab by Amelia. She asked me to fill out a survey and rate how I was feeling on a scale of 1-5. It included emotions like uneasy, terrified, uncertain, excited, proud, ashamed, self-confident, pathetic, happy, bored, exhausted.
Then they took me to what looked like a doctor's examining room. There they read me my rights…” You can ask us to stop at any time. You can leave at any time. You can refuse to answer any questions at any time. You can withdraw from the study at any time.” Hmmm, I was feeling awkward and uncomfortable. I wondered... do people ever just bolt out of here?
Before we begin with the procedure, Amelia said, I need to let you know that once we connect the wires to your head; it is rather time consuming to unhook them. So, if you think you might need to use the bathroom in the next three hours…I suggest you go now.”
Was she kidding????
I had already noticed a gurgling in my stomach, like that one time when I was on an airplane with 200 people, and they told us halfway through the four-hour flight that only one of the five restrooms was working. Yep…to the restroom.
Back in my examining room a psychology professor named Austin had joined Amelia and I. Austin was busy getting all the equipment lined up. He reached over and picked up a long syringe and held it up to the light while Amelia pulled out something that resembled an extra small swimming cap with a strap, and lots of holes in it. After pushing the cap over my skull, they both began squirting out a cold icky gel into each of the holes, and around parts of my face. This evidently helped them to attach the special wires and be able to monitor my brain.
If lighting would have struck right, then; there would have been nothing left of me. And at that moment I was feeling like that might not be such a bad thing.
After about 23 minutes of poking and prodding, Amelia said to Austin. “We only have 7 more minutes to finish this prep work.” I asked what happened if they weren’t finished in 7 minutes. Austin stopped what he was doing, looked me straight in the eyes and spoke very seriously, “After that Karen, your hair will catch on fire and your head will explode.” (Nothing like a professor in a lab jacket, who thinks he’s a comedian to help one feel relaxed)
Once they completed the brain hook-up, they turned me around in my chair so I could see the computer screen behind me, which had already begun measuring my brain waves. Amelia asked me to clinch my jaws (I was already doing that), blink my eyes, and lick my lips. It was interesting to see how just those slight movements interfered with measuring my brain waves. "So, you can see," said Austin making last minutes adjustments, “It’s important for you to remain as still as possible for the duration of the 2 1/2 hours of testing.”
I couldn't help but think that maybe my enthusiasm for taking on new challenges in order to live a whole human life was taking me just a bit too far out of my comfort zone!
Finally, the testing was over. I was warned not to talk to anyone about the specifics of the testing questions…so I’m sorry to say I just can’t tell you much more about the top-secret, high-level questions they asked me, or they will have to kill you.
After disconnecting me and unplugging my wires and leaving me with an enormous gob of gel in my hair; they handed me yet another ‘emotional feeling’ survey to fill out. Need I go into detail on my responses!
Afterwards I was reminded that for the following two weeks I would be attending five – 3-hour sessions with other volunteer participants. Then, we would individually return to the lab for another three-hour marathon brain testing session in which they would do a comparison.
On my way home I had to remind myself that this healthy aging research study I had volunteered for was something I wanted to learn more about So I needed to stay open and positive and learn all I could.
As I walked in the door, my husband stood anxiously waiting to hear all about my experience. He openly stared at my appearance. “Karen, why does your hair look like that? Did you know that it is all globed up with sticky stuff?”
I responded dryly, “It’s brain gel.”
“Oh...brain gel...hmmm. So, tell me, “He spoke cautiously. "How was it? Did you pass?” I told him that I had not been given my results.
He seemed concerned.” Did they screw up your brain? If they did, then you need to go back and tell them to fix it!”
“Right,” I said, trying to put a smile on my face as I headed upstairs to wash my hair.
Now what was the question?
"A sudden, bold, and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open."
I’ve been researching the 'healthy aging' thing for some time now, so when I saw the announcement in the paper searching for people to become participants in a healthy aging study…how could I say no? I mean, who would pass up the chance to be a lab rat, as my husband now refers to me.
When I called the contact number to find out more about this opportunity of a lifetime, a nice gentleman named Jared explained that it was a university study being done by the psychology department to learn about stress and memory in people over the age of 65.
I told him I was interested in getting more information. He asked me if I would be willing to answer a 20-minute questionnaire on the phone; after which he could tell me if I qualified for the study. I said, "Sure, why not?"
Jared then informed me that I could not use a paper or pencil, or any other outside resource, to answer the questions.
Suddenly I felt my heart beating faster as I realized this questionnaire was going to be kind of like a quiz…one I had not studied for. I knew I was screwed when Jared asked me this sudden, bold and unexpected question: “Karen, can you tell me what the date is today?”
There is nothing like this kind of brainless question to surprise a man or woman and lay him open as Francis Bacon wrote. Doesn’t Jared know that retired folks don’t know what the date today is? Oh, wait a minute…. I do know what the date is; I wrote it in my journal this morning. This quiz was going to be a piece of cake…bring it on!
Next question: “Karen, can you tell me who the President and the Vice President of the United States are? Now that question felt like a wind tunnel sucking me back to my 8th grade history class with Mr. Gay. Mr. G would call out a student’s name in class and tell us to stand up so the other students could see how smart we were when we correctly answered his history question for the day. He would then ask us questions like: Who is the Secretary of State? What country is the Nile River in? What is the capital of New York? Can you name one of the amendments to the constitution? Every time Mr. Gay called my name, I felt my blood rush through my body and leak out my pores before it got to my brain. I never could get a breath out, much less an answer to his question.
One day I heard Mr. Gay calling my name out. I already felt humiliation knocking at my door. I suspected that Mr. Gay was trying to give me a break because I had been such an idiot all the other times, he asked me questions.” Miss Steves,” he reminded me, “please stand up.” I stood up slowly. “Can you tell the class who the president of the United States is?” I just stared at my 31 classmates…mouth agape, shaking from head to toe. After what must have been 20 minutes (maybe more like 30 seconds) Mr. G cut sharply through the silence with disgust in his tone. “Miss. Steves, sit down and close your mouth; you are attracting flies!”
…Jared’s voice was calling me back to the present. "What was the question again?" I asked. I reminded myself I was no longer in 8th grade. So, I wiped the sweat away and boldly and proudly answered: "Donald Trump and Mike Pence." (If only my 8th grade class could see me now!)
The questions became progressively harder. Like this one…What’s the season? What’s the opposite of greedy? How about the opposite of forgetfulness, frantic… (maybe that wasn’t one of the words…maybe that’s just how I was feeling)?
Jared was unrelenting. “Now I am going to say 10 words, one after another and when I’m done; repeat back to me as many of the words as you can remember.” Holy Cow! At that moment, I could barely remember my children’s names. I was sure I could hear Jared grinning on the other end of the line. “Now some math questions, Karen, and once again, don’t use a pencil or paper. What is 100 minus 13? What is 96 minus 9, 45 minus 8?” and on and on.
What the heck had I gotten myself into?
“Karen”, Jared said, after I completed the questions on his ‘cute little quiz; “I am happy to inform you, that you have qualified for our healthy aging study.”
But to be honest, I am not sure if I qualified as a participant because I passed his quiz, or because I flunked it.
“Now for the next step,” Jared continued, “You will need to set up a time to come to the campus for a three-hour interview at the University psychology lab.”
Do you know what Jared then told me? He said those people were intending to attach wires to my skull so they could measure my brain waves… (or lack thereof!)
I told Jared that I might need to rethink the time commitment to participate in his study. I said I needed to look at my travel calendar and get back with him…or not.
January 15th, 2022
How is your health?
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. ~World Health Organization, 1948
I recently attended an informational meeting at our local hospital. The objective of the seminar was to find out if there was enough interest to support the creation of a 'Multiple Sclerosis Support Group' in our community. A good friend of mine, who was recently diagnosed with M.S., was the organizer of the event and since my mother suffered from the disease for many years before her death, I thought I should go and find out more about it.
A local neurologist gave a detailed and very interesting presentation on Multiple Sclerosis. His opinion was that most of the research done on this disease had focused on medicines to treat the disease, and to help alleviate the patient's pain and discomfort. He explained that scant research has been done to determine what could actually keep people from getting it. And, although he confessed, he had no problem with prescribing medication, he felt his passion and calling was to practice health care through the use of integrated and alternative health care choices. He said he wanted to enlighten his patients and convince and motivate them to take more responsibility for their own health care. He actually began his presentation with a power point slide that reminded his audience, 'Our body needs nourishment to stay healthy: "Eating is not the same as nourishment".
The Doctor stressed that the adoption of an integrated health care plan is not just important for his patients with M.S, or other diseases, but for all of us. He showed specific statistics about improved health with good nutrition, plenty of rest, exercise, vitamins, and mental health care. "
Positive results hold true for all of us," he declared, "not just Multiple Sclerosis patients. We don't have to find out we are sick before we try and feel better."
We often think about health as if it were a true or false question, don't we?
"Are you sick?"...."No". "Then you must be well, right?"
If we could visualize the state of our health, many of us would see it on a continuum that might look something like this.
Sick_______________________ Not sick
But shouldn’t it look more like this:
Sick_____________________ Not sick ________________Optimal health
It's interesting to me that most of our physicians in our country work on the left side of this continuum (treatment paradigm) with their goal being that we become 'not sick' anymore, or that they can get us to the neutral point.
The neurologist at our meeting that day expressed his concern about the lack of education and training for most medical staff concerning nutrition, and other alternative forms of health. He gave us an example of a recent diet called the 'Swank Diet'. It has been shown to dramatically improve the symptoms of M.S patients, as well as other autoimmune diseases. "But no one in medical school told me about it," he chuckled, "It was after listening to one my patients tell me about the success she had had on the diet, that led me to do my own research on it." He shook his head in disappointment, "Why didn't they teach us more about the power of nutrition and lifestyle back in medical school?"
As the meeting ended, I felt glad that I came to support my friend. I hugged her and said goodbye and felt a tug at my heart as I watched her slowly ease along in her walker. I could tell the event had taken a toll on her. I left thinking to myself, 'There but for the grace of God go I'. I said a prayer of thanksgiving that for today, I am 'absent of disease or infirmity' .... No doubt there may be many awful health circumstances whose shadows lurk around the corner and out of my control.... but then again...maybe they are not out of my control.
The Doctor's words reminded me that it is the daily choices I make that play the biggest role in determining my level of health.
We can't get away from it, can we...... We are responsible.
Monday, November 14, 2011
“Success comes from taking the initiative and following up... persisting...What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life” Tony Robbins
It’s week 16, about four months since I started my experiment, and it seems like I should take some initiative to follow up. I’ll do an overview and semi assessment of how it’s going; What’s working well, what’s not working so well and what I have learned to date about determining if small steps can bring big results.
Let’s begin with the positive:
What’s working well?
#1. I realize the most important thing this blog does for me is keep me accountable. “Don’t write it down and share it with others if you’re not going to do it. Don’t say you’re going to do it, if you don’t plan to actually do it.” There’s just something about thinking others is readying, watching and wondering that helps to keep me focused.
#2. The second thing that’s working well is that I’m actually doing it! I have stuck with my small steps to date. I think giving myself some realistic failure space (like allowing for one day of chips or sodas, or not having to do weights every day) has been a great thing for me….and allowed me to still feel positive, when I would normally be kicking myself for falling off the path.
#3. I realize that small steps are easier than big ones. Seems like a ‘no brainer’ right? But seriously, I am finding it quite refreshing to have goals that are easily attainable for me yet are a positive addition and improvement to my life.
#4. Quantifiable improvements: I am eating better, getting more exercise; I am losing some weight, losing some inches, my sister says my fingernails are prettier, I’m walking more steps each day, and I'm driving more miles to the gallon.
#5. Non-quantifiable improvements. I just plain feel better. I have more energy. I’m more upbeat and cheerful. I have a more positive attitude about each day, am more enthusiastic about waking up each morning and frankly more excited about life and my future goals.
Just this week I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen for months (she doesn’t know about my small steps experiment). She hugged me and spoke. “Karen, you look so good…you just look so healthy.” I wanted to give her a big kiss, leap up in the air and shout Yippee, it’s working!
#6 What’s not working so well.
I appreciate the positive feedback I’m receiving from many of you. However, I had originally hoped that this would be a group learning experience. But sadly, I’ve yet to talk to any of you that have felt motivated enough to jump on the band wagon of small steps with me. It’s a bit of a disappointment because things are usually more fun when you do them with friends… It’s making me feel very ‘me centered’. I just wished I could get you guys psyched as well.
As far as a general overview of what I have learned so far. I see that Tony Robbins words are true for me; having small goals and taking small steps has certainly produced more momentum. The idea of going up the stairs at work with a bit of pizzazz in my step, or parking across the parking lot and walking with pep in my step, or a quick 4-minute weightlifting break are all things that are easy to do and make me feel good immediately. The healthier I eat, the more I appreciate eating healthy. So instead of feeling like a martyr on this strict ‘self-improvement’ regime, I am actually enjoying myself.
So, I will keep on keeping on.... with a smile
Stepping it up
“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose”. Charles Dickens
Up until now I’ve had all of my small steps focusing on the health area of my life and specifically with things having to do with what goes in my mouth or doesn’t. I’ve talked about taking a multi-vitamin, drinking more water, and including lemon juice each day. I’ve also written about increasing the amount of my ‘top 20 healthy foods’ and about decreasing or cutting out some junk; soda, chips and gum. Although I’m not quite done with my small steps in my health category, I do want to switch to another essential part of having a healthy body and that is exercise.
Not the gym!!!!!!!!! And don’t make me sign up for a class in rumba, zumba or jumba (oh I guess that the juice place). No, I’m not going to take that step. I do want to do something that involves more exercise, but I want it to be simple, positive, and purposeful. I think sometimes we put all of our focus on that one hour of exercise each day and don’t worry enough about the other 23 hours.
As you know my goal is to take small steps for big results…well it strikes me that it makes perfect sense to focus on taking more steps. I find that I do as most people do, other than my big walk several times a day, I try and minimize the number of steps I take. I find the closest parking space at the grocery store, or the shopping mall, and attempt to drive right up close to the restaurant where I’m meeting my friend for lunch. I even get to work early so I can park right in front of my office. Then once I get there, I try to save up any errands that involve walking across my campus at school for one time of day. Any of this sound familiar?
So, what if I just decided to walk more, every chance I get? I could park across the campus and walk to my office, then walk back across campus at the end of the day. I can get up from my computer more often and just walk around the building a few times each day. I won’t save my errands for one convenient walk, but I’ll take care of them as they arise, thereby stepping it up. And when I take my long walk at home, I can add a few more steps then as well. I can also park further away at the stores when I’m out shopping, or having lunch, and just consciously choose to walk more steps, more often.
During my initial assessment, at the beginning of my experiment, I decided to get a baseline on my average mileage that I walk each day. I wore a pedometer for one week and took an average per day of my normal amount of walking. So, I should be able to easily see what kind of improvement I make. Rather than trying to tally what I walk each day (I want to keep it simple) I’ll instead just focus on taking more steps…later I’ll come back and check in to see how much I have increased my daily average.
I’ll also walk steadily and with a purpose. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with a relaxing stroll now and then, but I’m thinking that I’ll do brisk walking whenever I get a chance, putting a smile on my face and projecting my attitude of gratitude.
Small step: Take more steps more often to be ‘more’ happy and healthier!