Saturday, September 26, 2015

Qigong For Autumn: Strengthening Lung Energy

Happy Autumn!
I've been wanting to do a simple series on seasonal qigong exercises for awhile and now seems like a good time.

Qigong (pronounced "chee-kung"), like Tai Chi, is a meditative movement and breathing practice that circulates energy through the meridians of the body. It loosely translates to "energy skill." Medical Qigong is a form that focuses on strengthening and balancing the energy of specific organs. You don't have to be flexible or strong to practice it. You don't need a mat or special clothing. In fact, many movements can even be done sitting in a chair if you're feeling especially weak or fatigued. It's something that nearly everyone can do safely and it's a very healing modality for people with chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue. Ideally, you want to establish a consistent practice, even if it's only for a few minutes a day. Consistency is important.

Since it's Autumn, we'll start with the lungs. This is the perfect time of year to work on strengthening and balancing our lung qi, as well as to release negative emotions that are associated with the lungs which often tend to arise during Autumn.

As the weather gets cooler and the humidity of summer leaves, the seasonal energy shifts to the element of metal, which corresponds to the energy of the lungs. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the lungs are impacted by the negative emotions of sadness and grief. They are the bellows which move qi throughout the body and they govern the energy of our protective energy field called the Wei Qi field, which corresponds to our innate immune system, and works to keep pathogens at bay. Each organ has both positive and negative traits and emotions associated with it and the positive traits of the lungs are courage and integrity. Qigong can help us to develop those positive traits over time. Each organ is also represented by a color and an animal. In the case of the lungs, the color is white and the animal is a white tiger. I like to imaging that the white tiger is the part of my immune system that prowls about, protecting me from pathogens. Good kitty.

Symptoms of lung energy imbalances include obvious lung issues like asthma, coughs, bronchial issues, sinus problems, and allergies, but also constipation (the lungs are partners with the large intestines), and skin problems like dry skin and eczema, since the lungs influence our skin's protective mechanisms.

Taking a few minutes every day to do a simple qigong exercise that strengthens and balances lung energy can help us to prepare for the immune challenges of winter, as well as to release sadness, grief, and any excessive pensiveness that may arise with the seasonal shift. If you'd like to focus on releasing emotions, you can add a "Sssssssss" sound on the exhale while you imagine grief and sadness exiting your body with your breath. This vibrates the lungs to help release the stuck energy of sadness and grief. This article explains more about how the lungs are impacted by grief and it contains helpful tips, including dietary tips, to cultivate healthy, balanced lung energy.

Below is a video with a simple exercise to balance and strengthen lung energy. Remember to keep your breathing relaxed and breathe into your belly, rather than into your chest and shoulders. I like to imagine my breath as if it's dropping down through one of those narrow-necked squashes and expanding once it reaches my belly. This video is great for learning qigong breathing. Another tip that increases the effectiveness of qigong breathing is to keep your perineum gently contracted to "seal" in all the energy that accumulates in your lower abdomen. This is a technique that is often not taught to qigong beginners, but it makes a difference.

If you'd like to incorporate some healing color imagery, you can imagine that you are inhaling white energy or white light, the color of the lung/metal element. I like to do a few repetitions of "channel dredging" before I begin any qigong movements. Channel dredging opens up the channels/meridians for better energy flow. It's also energizing and can feel great to do when you want to release the feeling of having negative or blocked energy or just need to blow off some steam.

If you are interested in learning a complete qigong routine that includes all of the organs, I highly recommend the dvd Chi Kung- The Healing Workout. It includes an extra section on proper form, which is helpful and makes a difference in how effective your practice is. This is the same routine I learned in Medical Qigong school.

Here's to happy, healthy lung energy and a wonderful Autumn!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Going Deeper On The Healing Path

I've been thinking a lot lately about the parts of healing that have nothing to do with diet, supplements, or even exercise. Things that connect us to the power of nature. Things that feed our souls. Things that heal our hearts. When we are disconnected from these things, wholeness and healing don't happen to their fullest capacity.

I mentioned in my last post that I was about to start participating in a small, online live chat group based around mind-body-emotional healing- specifically around using Love as a healing agent. I'm now two sessions into the group and it's been opening up a lot of insight for me. The other participants and I had a laugh relating over how we've all reached a level of burnout regarding reading health blogs/books, and attending online summits (doesn't it seem like there's one every week now?). Basically, information overload. It's being made clear to me that your brain will only get you so far when it comes to real healing. I'm finding some of the most powerful healing tools for me lately have me looking for and finding answers in my heart and soul.

This is kind of personal, but I'll share because I always appreciate when bloggers are willing to get personal and real. A few months ago, I had a session with a medical intuitive. I wanted an overview of how my body was doing, and I wanted to know what would help my insomnia and hormones. Like I talked about in my last blog, the answer to that bout of insomnia was getting better connected to the seasonal and circadian light cycles. Connected to nature.

The answer to the hormone question was an interesting one. The intuitive saw that I was a creative person, but was very disconnected from my creative energy, while my analytical side had become very dominant. Ultimately, what does the reproductive/hormonal system deal with? Creation. I had a huge ah-ha moment when I realized this! The creativity thing came up again in the online group. The facilitator, who is very intuitive, felt guided to ask me why I had shut down my creative side, which had very much flourished until sometime in my teens. At the time, I couldn't answer. She told me that creativity was my path to healing.

Since then, I've done a lot of soul/heart-searching and had some huge insights about issues relating to some stressful periods in my childhood and adolescence where I didn't have a sense of security in my life. It's hard to feel free to create when you don't feel secure. Dealing with these traumas, though they didn't feel like dramatic traumas at the time, has been important.

I also realized that I had become very ungenerous with myself, living from a perspective of lack and restraint, rather than from one of abundance and opportunity. It's amazing how it manifested in so many areas of my life, and all the little things I was denying myself because of it. Realizing how suppressed my creative energy had become and how ungenerous I was toward myself gave me the sense that my soul was starving for nourishment. When I explored why I had become so ungenerous with myself, I became aware of feeling guilty for being unwell, for not working full time like "normal" people, and for the burden it has placed on my husband (even though he's made it clear that I'm not a burden). So, basically, it was a way of punishing myself or paying a sort of penance. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case for a lot of people with chronic illness.

All of this has led me to do some serious re-evaluating about where I should be placing my focus and spending my energy. I started by making a big list of the traits of my "real" self- the self I knew myself to be as a child, and the self that lurks underneath all the baggage. It was really freeing to write all of that out and reconnect to the idea of that version of myself. I highly recommend it! Next, I wrote a list of things I could do to nourish and heal that "real" self. What kind of activities make her happy? What sort of things feed her soul? What gives her energy? That list was so much fun to make and made me feel hopeful.

So, here are some of the things so far that I'm finding healing and transformative. A lot of them happen in the morning because I find it helpful to start my day with a lot of intention and it keeps me more centered, focused, and energetic later in the day. That's a big deal for a non-morning person like me: no more stumbling out of bed and straight onto the internet!

-Spending time in the morning sun

I wake up in the morning, drink a big glass of chlorophyll water, make my tea, and head outside, first thing, to sit in the grass and sunshine for a little while. I find that grounding myself to the earth electrically and energetically, makes a big difference in my physical energy levels, as does getting morning sunshine. It syncs me up with the daily circadian rhythm. I've also learned that morning sunlight is a source of infrared light, which helps our cells to function properly. We also absorb units of light from the sun called biophotons. Chlorophyll happens to be fab for aiding biophoton absorption and increasing mitochondrial function.

-Reading, journaling, and setting intentions for the day
I love to read an excerpt from Wayne Dyer's book of daily essays on living the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. I find it incredibly grounding and it reminds me of the person I want to become. I check my "real self" lists to remind myself of where my focus should be.

-Morning Qigong
The form of qigong I practice is similar to tai chi, but with more of an emphasis on directing energy flow through specific organs. Standing barefoot in the grass, breathing deeply, connecting to the earth, quieting my mind, and feeling energy in my hands is magical. I've had a consistent practice since January, but I've found that doing it in the morning is so much more beneficial and powerful.

-Purging belongings that don't suit or serve me

A few weeks ago, I listened to an audio download of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I LOVED it! It just really clicked with me and made so much sense. I've been purging categories of stuff and it feels very liberating and energizing to keep only that which either "sparks joy" or is necessary. Our stuff tells the story of who we are and who we've been. It's good to let go of that which no longer tells the story you want to be living.

-Being more generous to myself

Once I realized how I needed to be more generous with myself, the first thing I did was I bought a new (well, used, but new for me) purse to replace the old, tired one I'd had for years. My new purse is stylish, golden yellow, and cheerful, and I feel good every time I pick it up. It serves as a reminder to keep being generous and kind to myself. I bought myself some new makeup, instead of just making do with the old makeup that I wasn't really liking that much. I'm about to order some adult coloring books so I can indulge my creative side in a fun way. These are all little things, but they feel huge to me!

-Giving my brain time-outs
Sometimes I just sit outside and stare at the sky and trees. Or I lay on my bed and listen to soothing music. It feels wonderful when I force my always-going mind to settle down for a bit and stop analyzing. It's so easy to get stuck in constant information mode when you've been trying to heal and figure out an illness. But too much mental work is NOT healing (otherwise, I'd be the healthiest person ever!).

I'm still working on recovering my creative mojo, but I'm enjoying the reconnection that's happening. It brings me a deep sense of satisfaction- the kind you experience when you're being true to yourself, when your soul feels nourished. I feel hopeful about my future and I'm excited about the possibilities it holds.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Summer Catch-Up + News

Image from Still Blog

It's been such a long time. I haven't abandoned the blog, though. I'm still here. Summer is crawling by here in the South. We've had more rain than usual, so everything stayed greener for longer than it usually does. It's been nice to have slightly cooler spells after the rain to get lots of walking in. Now that the heat is back, it's hard for me to get a walk in unless I'm up super early or wait until sundown. I really do think there's something magical about walking that helps improve health on many levels.

I have to admit that I'm not a fan of heat and humidity, and my insomnia loves to kick into high gear every summer and I wake up with the sun, despite going to bed usually around midnight. I had great luck for awhile resolving it through addressing circadian issues. Making sure to get morning sun first thing, and making sure to wear my blue blockers from 9 pm on as well as turning off my computer and not watching TV past 10 made a huge difference. I now at least fall asleep much more quickly and I was able to stay asleep. For awhile... Now I'm waking up early again, but it's different this time. I seem to not be able to sleep through the night without waking up to pee. And lots of peeing all day (am I even absorbing any of the water I'm drinking?)! Super annoying.

You know I like to figure things out using Traditional Chinese Medicine, so judging by my symptom profile and the look of my tongue, I could use some Kidney Yang boosting. So, I ordered some Rehmannia Eight formula. This formula is also known to be good for hypothyroidism, the adrenals, and hormone balance. However, many Chinese herbal blends are specific to defined patterns of imbalance, so, unless you know what your pattern of energetic imbalance is, don't go taking a formula willy-nilly. The good folks at Eagle Herbs (in the link) do email consults and can help you to choose an appropriate formula.

Now on to some fun news~

I just finished testing a new interactive online brain health course! I'm really excited about it. I think it's going to be an amazing tool for people who want to take greater control of their brain health and correct issues they're having now, as well as prevent future neurodegeneration. It takes you through steps to determine your level of brain function/dysfunction, which areas you're having problems with, a self-neurological exam, and what steps to take to correct things. I can't emphasize how important this stuff is! Neurodegeneration starts decades before it's every diagnosed and early identification and treatment can make a world of difference down the road AND in the short term.

Another thing I'm excited about is that in the near future I'm going to be participating in a small, online group based around the mind-body/emotional aspects of healing autoimmunity and chronic illness. I really look forward to delving deeper into this area and sharing my journey.

I'm gearing up for my annual summer vacation to northern Michigan, which is very late this year due to being timed around a friend's wedding. I'm so looking forward to being at the beach, hiking through the woods, and taking advantage of all the lovely farm-to-table restaurants. It's such a rejuvenating and healing place for me.

I have more neat things to share in the near future and look forward to writing again.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Quick Apple Cinnamon Porridge (Autoimmune Paleo)

For breakfast I generally eat protein, fat, and veggies, with a little bit of fruit or maybe a bit of something starchy like fried plantain. Most mornings I like eating this sort of breakfast because it makes me feel good, but sometimes I miss hot cereal. I grew up eating a lot of hot cereal (Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, Ralston) and sometimes I miss the texture and comfort of it. In the olden days (pre-paleo, pre-AIP), I ate oatmeal for breakfast on a regular basis.

I'm really pleased with this AIP porridge because it has the look and texture of porridge, it's tasty and comforting, and, best of all, it only takes a few minutes to make and involves ingredients you probably have on hand. You don't have to have any squash or sweet potato already cooked for this. This recipe makes only one serving, mainly because my husband isn't into hot cereal, so I'm always making a single serving, but it can easily be multiplied.

Apple-Cinnamon Porridge

One serving

3/4 C. water
1/4 C. coconut milk
1/2 grated apple (I prefer Granny Smith)
2 TB coconut flour
2 TB arrowroot
2 TB gelatin or collagen hydrolysate
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
generous pinch of salt

Whisk dry ingredients into the water, stir in apple and coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes until mixture thickens and apple softens. Add sweetener of your choice.

Happy breakfast!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

March Update + Handling Spring Allergies

Just thought I'd rattle off a little update while I'm being a lazybones on this gray Saturday. Last time I checked in, Nashville was in the midst of the (hopefully) last gasp of winter. It has warmed considerably since then and some trees are sprouting buds. I'm happy for the warmer weather and spring in Nashville is my absolutely favorite season- it's so beautiful once all the flowering trees burst into bloom. But, for me, there's a dark side to spring: allergies. Nashville is an allergy hotspot and they say that if you don't have allergies before you move here, you eventually will get them. I didn't believe it when I moved here in '97 but, true to the warning, I did develop them after a few years of living here. They've waxed and waned over the years depending on my state of health and whether I've done any acupuncture for them. I've even managed to give them the slip a few years.

When my spring tree pollen allergies hit, they usually hit me like a ton of bricks. I get somewhat atypical symptoms. Instead of sneezing, itchy, watery eyes, or sinus infections, I end up with whole body fatigue which feels akin to being drugged, often a scratchy throat, headaches that extend way beyond my sinuses into my neck glands, and a vaguely wheezy in my lungs. Basically, I always think I must be coming down with something and then realize that it's just allergies.

Having had worked in supplement retail for 10+ years, I've had the opportunity to try many natural allergy remedies, but only one kind has worked well for me: Biollers homeopathic formulas. The formulas contain traces of the allergens that they're targeted toward and you can switch out formulas seasonally if you're unlucky enough to suffer from multiple types of allergies. The Tree Pollen formula is for spring, summer is Grass Pollen, late summer and autumn are weed pollen (Pollen/Hayfever formula is for this), and Mold can be any time. I've found that the best way to use it is once per hour until I feel relief when my symptoms first come on, and then first thing in the morning, before I have a chance to go outside and breathe any pollen. I usually only have to take one or maybe two more doses throughout the day if I dose first thing in the morning. A couple of helpful anti-inflammatory supplements to reduce sinus pressure are CurcuminRich and Serrapeptase.

Flare Update:

On to the update. In the post about my recent flare, I had detailed my blood work results. I had my D and CRP-hs retested recently and they were both back in good ranges, thank goodness. I've been quite fatigued lately, though- in fact, I mostly haven't been getting my usual second wind in the evening but feeling quite tired instead, so I suspected I might have some adrenal fatigue going on. I took the adrenal quiz in The Adrenal Reset Diet and scored "crashed." The book has some interesting recommendations for dealing with different stages of adrenal dysfunction, such as when to use light box exposure, how to reset sleep rhythms, herbs for each specific stage of adrenal dysfunction, etc. Because I'm still doing AIP, I'm not going to be eating according to the diet, but I have adopted the macronutrient timing outlined in it (basically, less carbs in the morning, a bit more at lunch, and the most with dinner). Incidentally, this is what I seem to do best with. Adrenal fatigue can definitely cause allergies to worsen, and I think that's the case with me right now, since I hardly had any last year (I think AIP helped a lot).

Why are my adrenals tanked right now? I suspect it has to do with sleep quality- i.e. excess dreaming and lack of slow wave deep sleep, and sometimes just waking up too early and not being able to fall back to sleep. I go through seasonal cycles of sleep issues; my spring sleep issues being liver energy related. I'm working on these with some herbs recommended to me by an L.Ac. who deals with Hashimoto's. I also have this weird thing where two of my bottom molars (same one on each side) have a sharp twinging pain when I chew, which comes and goes. I've had this symptom before from having some sort of pathogen hanging out in my parotid lymph nodes and causing inflammation in the tooth nerves. The twinges lessen or disappear when I do lymphatic drainage massage along my jaw and down my neck. So, maybe whatever it is is also putting a strain on my adrenals...

I had been taking melatonin for a few months because it was so helpful in aiding my night-owl self in falling asleep quickly, but I was recently informed that it can act as a TH1 immune stimulant, which is exactly what I don't need. So, it may have also been contributing to my flare.

In the midst of all of this, although I have my moments of resentment, I have to say that my mood has overall been really good. Usually low energy = low moods for me, but my neurotransmitters seem to be hanging in there (I credit TMG for that). Practicing mindfulness and gratitude also really help. I'm still in the midst of my 100-day qigong challenge and I find that if I'm feeling not so good, a qigong session usually helps me to feel at least a little better. Epsom salt baths with essential oils (geranium and vetiver are my favorite restorative EO's) also work wonders when I'm feeling really depleted.

So, that's how I'm doing right now. Hopefully I'll be able to report better news soon. In the meantime, I welcome Spring, even if it brings me allergies.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie (Autoimmune Paleo)

I don't know about where you live, but here in Nashville, it's still winter. STILL. WINTER. I don't remember ever having snow this late in the season. We have a few inches of snow at the moment, which is really quite pretty because we don't get much snow here (and often get no snow during the winter), but I'm feeling ready for more sun and warmer temps.

In the meantime, comfort food is just the thing to get me through the end of winter. When being on a restricted diet, I think the importance of "soul food"- foods that taste and feel comforting and satisfying as well as nourishing (to both body and soul)- is hugely helpful for maintaining an attitude of positivity toward food. I try to consciously cultivate good feelings toward my food, rather than focusing on what I don't tolerate or can't eat at the moment. How we frame things is not to be underestimated in the scheme of health, healing, and happiness.

I'm excited to share this recipe for chicken pot pie. It's not complicated and everyone I've served it to loved it and asked for the recipe, so I feel I can safely say it's a winner. The crust is yummy and flaky. I always joke that I'm a sucker for anything involving a pie crust and it's true. So, this recipe makes me very happy. The hubby and I often make it on Sunday evenings before we curl up and watch all our PBS shows and it's become a cozy weekly ritual. The crust is an adaptation of this fabulous AIP crust from The Paleo Partridge.

Chicken Pot Pie
(makes 6 servings)

1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced onions
1-1/2 cup diced mushrooms (I prefer cremini/baby bellas)
3/4 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. garlic granules
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 cup coconut milk
2 TB arrowroot
2-1/2 cups cooked, diced chicken
Cooking fat for sauteing (I prefer olive oil or organic palm shortening)

Add carrots, celery, onions, and mushrooms to a large pan with the cooking fat of your choice and saute on low-medium heat until starting to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients, whisking the arrowroot into the coconut before adding to the pan and continue cooking over low until the sauce thickens up. Add to a 9 inch round or 11 inch oval casserole dish.

1/2 cup coconut flour
2 TB arrowroot
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic granules
1/2 cup melted organic palm shortening (this gives a flakier crust than other oils)
3 TB water

Combine the dry ingredients well and whisk in the melted shortening. It will have a liquid consistency at this point. Add the water and mix well (it will magically thicken and form a soft, but crumbly dough). Press out small pieces of dough in your hands and piece them together on top of the filling. It will be messy and rustic looking which works nicely for pot pie.

Bake at 330ยบ for 28-30 min. or until the crust is golden brown.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

New Year, New Flare

Hello 2015. How is the New Year finding you? It's finding me on the mend, after a slow and insidious autoimmune flare-up. The thing about autoimmunity and flare-ups is that you can be sailing along feeling fine and then suddenly, you're dashed against the rocks and everything falls to pieces. Or, alternately, you don't realize that your ship is sinking until it becomes very obvious. The second type of scenario is the one that has been more frequently my experience and that was my recent experience.

Sometime last fall, my hair started shedding. It wasn't a big deal and I waited a bit to see if it was merely seasonal shedding. But, it wasn't. It kept shedding and shedding (I counted 90 hairs after a shower one day!). And around Thanksgiving, some insomnia started happening- the kind where you wake up after 5 hours and can't fall back to sleep. My skin wasn't quite as clear as it had been. Even my cellulite seemed to make a slight comeback, despite not having gained any appreciable weight (why does THAT have to be on of my inflammatory symptoms? Not fair.) My typing deteriorated and my word recall was a little off.

Other than these symptoms, I didn't have the sort of intense fatigue I often get during flares. I had days here and there, but no large blocks of major fatigue. Or any very acute inflammation, save for a few days that my neck and shoulders were inexplicably sore. When I become noticeably inflamed, my shoulders seem to be the main target and sometimes my hips/thighs.

I finally had some blood work done right around Christmas and it came back showing functional anemia- my iron wasn't super low, but certainly low enough to affect my health. My red blood cells were enlarged (megaloblastic anemia, caused by low B12, folate, or both). The anemias are most likely due to inflammation affecting absorption, or gut damage, OR gastric autoimmunity flaring up (I make parietal cell antibodies, which produce hydrochloric acid and intrinsic factor). By the way, if you have any sort of anemia, it's a pretty big deal-breaker for healing, since you need healthy and abundant red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body.

My C-reactive protein was very high, and my HDL was at the top of the range (yes, you can have too much "good" cholesterol). My doctor informed me that these two together indicated inflammation and an active autoimmune situation (as opposed to inflammation from an acute infection). My D levels had also climbed too high, but I'm positive that that was due to some mega-dosing I'd done in Nov. and Dec. fighting off some colds. Oops. Time to back off on the D3...

My thyroid numbers weren't too remarkable- I had hoped they might show something obvious, but they didn't. However, inflammation can cause thyroid hormone resistance at the cellular level, so that could certainly be at play. Finally, my kidneys weren't quite doing their job right, which was kind of alarming. My doctor assured me that it wasn't at the level of actual pathology, but that we still needed to do something about it, so she recommended I do a 5 day kidney detox, which she informed me had worked well for many of her patients.


As you can imagine, I wasn't too thrilled with these results, and they were a good nudge to get back on full Autoimmune Paleo again, which I did on New Year's Day. What do I think caused this frustrating flare? Honestly, I don't know for sure. My main guess is that something I re-introduced wasn't something I should've been eating. Potato is the main suspect, as I had tested positive for IgG antibodies to it last spring, but I hoped enough time and gut healing had passed to be able to tolerate it. Or maybe I encountered some gluten cross-contamination on vacation last Aug. but the symptoms took awhile to show up. I don't really get GI symptoms, so it can be hard to tell. I wish I knew the exact cause.

So, I immediately put myself back on methylcobalamin B12 lozenges (which I hadn't been taking), and added methylfolate to the mix to be on the safe side. My doc had me add a DHA fish oil supplement, as she was concerned that phospholipid antibodies, which can cause hair loss, could be acting up. Because they attack the cell membrane, DHA, which is found in the cell membrane is important and has a protective effect. Plus, it's also anti-inflammatory and important for the brain. I didn't want to supplement with iron, but I did start using a bit of organic blackstrap molasses, which so many people swear by for correcting anemia. I think it works so well due to all the other minerals/cofactors it contains. I also ramped up my gut health support.

My hair is still shedding somewhat, though not as severely, but I've actually been feeling pretty good this past week. My energy levels have been much more consistent and downright good, as opposed to just ok or off. My skin has cleared up a lot since being back on AIP. The best part is that my hubby decided to do it with me (he's THE. BEST.). He's even getting into some of the cooking! I've also lost the couple of pounds I gained from having Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas all in a row. Two pounds were no big deal, but it's still nice to have them gone. My sleep is still spotty, but I am having more good nights with 8 hour stretches of uninterrupted sleep.

I've used this flare as an opportunity to step up my self care and commit to a 100 day "gong." A gong is a discipline that you commit to for 100 days and if you miss a day, you have to start over from the beginning. I chose qigong as my daily discipline, because I know that the more I do it, the more the health benefits will accumulate, especially in areas like energy, hormone balance, and sleep quality. I'm annoyed with myself that I wasn't doing it consistently before, but I'm also proud of myself that I'm making it happen. I'm now over a third of the way through my challenge and it's become a true part of my routine.

To keep myself on track, I made a list of all the things I'm doing right- I think it helps to remind yourself that you ARE doing a lot right- and also a list of things I could stand to do more of because I know I benefit from them. I look at this list daily, and it really helps. So, I'm on the upswing. I hope I keep improving. I'm going to be watching my symptoms like a hawk.

I will keep you posted.