Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thank you body!

I just came home from Zumba. You can imagine, those that know me, that I would probably love Zumba. Well you would be CORRECT! I adore Zumba. I get to dance around and shake my hips! It is good exercise and I have a blast. While I was walking home, I was thinking about how much my body can do.
(Did you know that your hair moved so much during Zumba? I guess that is how you know you are doing right! ;) 

This, I would argue, is the most important facet of self-esteem development. Most of the time we talk to people about how bodies look, "you look so nice today. Your hair is pretty. You look like you have lost weight." We talk about our bodies like they are pieces of art work to display. We give compliments that drive this home by give praise when the body is specially decorated or dolled up, giving the impression that the body is of more value when it is pretty.  Your body is not a piece of art, it is an instrument that you use to do the things you love. 

I love my body because I love to dance. I love to shake my hips. I don't care about anyone else when the music is blasting and I am just moving to the rhythm.  I love my body because I like to swing on the swings (it takes a lot of effort to pump those legs!). I love my body because I love to swim. I love to feel sleek and smooth as I slide through the water. I love to laugh and make silly faces. I love that my body can move the muscles that allow me to accomplish both those tasks. I love my body because it can do so many things.

Stop looking in the mirror and criticizing your body about what it looks like, praise it for the manner in which it functions. Start thinking about why you love your body. Do you love to run (seriously bless you runners), bike, hike, skateboard, skip, dance, or whatever?

Have you ever thought about your cardiac muscle? These are the things that I think about in my spare time. Your heart muscle, unlike all other muscles in your body, can not stop. We take time to stretch and relax our skeletal muscles. When our arms are tired, we stop using them as much. The heart, however does not have that luxury. Your heart never stops, never takes a little rest, never gets to relax, and most of the time we don't even take great care of the heart. But that heart keeps on pumping. Even at night when the rest of your body can refresh and replenish your heart is still pumping away. It can not afford to stop because your heart loves you and doesn't want you to die. Your heart pumps about 25 liters minutes per minute! 25 LITERS!!!! At rest a normal heart rate is 120 beats per minute. That is about 120,000 beats per day. So if you live until you are 70, your heart beats about 3 billion times. Can we talk about 3 billion?!? That is crazy!

(I couldn't resist showing what the human heart looks like. Isn't it beautiful? For those that are concerned this is not a living heart. It is a human heart and has been injected with plastic to keep the structure intact.)

Your heart pumps blood to every organ in your body and when you exercise it sends the blood to the correct places to allow you to continue at that same workload for longer. It automatically knows that you will need less blood flow to the stomach and intestines and more to the skeletal muscles. This allows you to keep walking, running, skating, or shaking! Your body is AMAZING! Your body uses different fuel sources for different exercises. It doesn't just make energy in one manner it has many ways to make more energy so that you can function the way you want to. It has back up plans and back ups to the back up. Your body is built to last! Your body moves everyday with efficiency.
Most Americans take about 5,000 steps a day. That isn't anything special and I would suggest  aiming for about 7,000, but over the span of a life time your feet walk about 150 million steps. Depending on your stride you could be walking almost 90,000 miles. That is incredible! It is suggested that you get new shoes every 500 miles, but you don't get new feet. Those little guys just keep walking away.

Your body does so much! Thank your body for all that is does for. Don't tell your body that it isn't good enough, that is rude and ungrateful. Your body has been working hard for you for years and that is how you show your gratitude. No sir!

Stop feeling embarrassed by your body. Your body has only tried to help this whole time.

Everyday you are not dead in the ground...your body has performed a miracle for you.

Each day this week, I want you too look in the mirror and thank your body for one thing that it can do. Don't hate your fat, pimples, dimples, lumps, or bumps. Don't hate your body, because your body loves you! Return the favor and LOVE your body!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I like you.

Ladies and gentlemen, listen right now, I would like to introduce our second guest post. Rachel Newton Parker was born on a sunny day in Oklahoma (I have no idea if this is true, but I choose to believe that it was sunny). She is the oldest of 6 children which explains why she is excellent at giving advice, guilt tripping, and driving a stick shift. She is my therapist. I am not kidding, if she charged me for the number of times she has helped me calm down or work through a problem, she would be a rich lady! Rachel is the one that gets the calls when I have no idea what I am thinking. I'll explain the situation and she will tell me exactly what is going on in my CRAZY brain. And you know what, she is always right! I don't know if it is because she is so observant, has learned how people think, or because I am predictable. Let's just say she gives really good advice, which is why I instantly thought she would be great for a guest post. Here she is, the magnificent Rachel Parker!!!

Why do we all like Elaine so much?  There are tons and tons of reasons, I know.  One of them, I think, is that she likes us.  She knows me – not the “my hair is done, my makeup is on, I am wearing one of the few outfits I own that looks decent on me, I’m in public so I am not yelling at my kids, calm, collected, I have it together” self – but my real self.  And she likes me.  For real.  Whenever I talk to her on the phone, she says things like, “You are awesome.” or “That is fabulous.”

(Sorry for embarrassing you, Elaine!)


It feels really good to know that people like us.  We want to be loved, and we need to feel loved.  But I think that we also need to feel liked.  Way back when I started dating my husband, I didn’t love him yet.  But I really liked him.  The things about him that were different than the other guys I knew.  And the reason that I was so happy dating him was because I knew that he liked me.  


I have a friend that I met the first year of Freshman Orientation.  We aren’t very good at keeping in touch.  In fact, we’ve been lousy at it.  But we keep trying, because we want to stay friends.  I want to be friends with her, because I like her.  I know that if I got to spend time with her tomorrow, we would have fun, because I really like HER.  


My dad was really good at telling us things he liked about us.  He didn’t often say the kind of sappy things that belong in Hallmark cards, but he often told us that he liked certain things about who we were, who were becoming, things he was glad that we did.  It made us like us.  


So, how can we help people be happier?  We can tell them that we like them – specific things about them that we like.  We can be more like Elaine that way.  “I really like the quirky movie quotes you use, the funny way you raise your eyebrows at me, your style, etc.”  


We like people.  Let’s tell them we like them.  


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

C's get degrees!

I was talking today with a person that I consider to be absolutely fabulous. She told me that her day had been awful...just plain awful. We continued discussing and then she said something AMAZING! Totally worth quoting and then stealing! She said that she needed to remember that the bad days are memorable because they are rare. I absolutely loved this!

Take a minute to let this sink in...okay now that it is sunk, let me tell you my thoughts. Some days are not so good. Sometimes you randomly snap at your roommate and then run away because you cannot contain the tears that have instantly flooded (No, I didn't do that this week. Why would you think that?). But these kinds of days are not normal. If they were normal they wouldn't upset you that much. If I randomly started crying at tiny things that shouldn't matter, then I wouldn't have been so angry and embarrassed (pretending that this hypothetical situation actually happened to me). This may not seem to be particularly comforting, but it really should be. One nasty day is just one day, don't let it get you down! Be happy that you only had 1 or 2 awful day this week! That means that you had 5 or 6 good days! Statistically speaking you haven't failed at all! You are coming up with a solid C+ or B-!

You may ask, what did hypothetical Elaine do at this point in the story? Good question...she may have called her little brother, talked incessantly about everything except the situation, and calmed right down. She may have gone to bed early and awoke to a bright beautiful day!

Don't let the bad days get you down! Write it off and begin again tomorrow.

I was about to take my weekly selfie when I caught myself mid yawn...too perfect to pass by. You are welcome!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Don't die!

There are moments in life that I am just tired. For no apparent reason I am just exhausted. This was the case last night, I was just wiped so...I went to bed. But after the evening routine, I couldn't sleep. My eyes could barely stay open, but I still couldn't fall asleep. It was ridiculous! I ran through the normal routine: counted sheep, lay really really still for ages, and tried to dream about dreaming. It just wasn't working. So I went back to something that I learned in a Stress Management class I took a few years back. Meditation.  
Now if you ever get an opportunity to take a class like this..DO IT!!!! It has been a wonderful tool that I have used many times, and honestly I should focus on stress management daily. It would help me with the daily random problems of life.  
There are tons of things that I learned about that I will eventually talk about, but today I want to talk about meditation.
During my class, we would talk about the function of meditation on the neural pathways, which is fascinating. However, pretty much every time I geek out about these things my roommates just look at me with “the face”. It means that no normal human would find this interesting, so I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say...science, science, better! Here is a brief summary of the science. Stress hormones are very important for our ability to react in dangerous situations. We need to be able to run away if a alligator is in pursuit, but if these hormones are floating around all the time they do damage to cells. So chronic stress is not good for our bodies. It can increase relative risk for many diseases as well as death. So if you want to live keep reading. It is very important to prepare yourself for daily stresses, so that you can be in control of the stress response.

I have tried to meditate before with little success, because I was doing it all wrong. I am sure when you read the word meditate this came to mind. 
(By the way, the finger thing...here is the real deal. You close your eyes and try to get your thumb and middle finger as close a possible without touching. Try it, it is HARD. But you totally forget your stresses!)

Weird chanting and poses...yep nope. That is not what mediation is really about.
Most of us do not know how to properly mediate. I would try so hard think of nothing, but that NEVER worked. I am pretty sure it is impossible. Meditation is not the lack of thought, it is an active process to choose something on which to focus on. There are many different types of meditation, some that focus on breathing or muscle relaxation. Try out a few and see what you like! I would suggest to start with a recording to get the feel for it and then you can learn how to do it on your own. BYU has a whole page (click here...do it!)devoted to different recordings, which means that it is important. I really enjoy the progressive muscle relaxation, which prompts you to tense your muscles. You hold the tension for a few seconds, then release. After you release the muscle you can really feel the tension leave. Each time you do this, you feel more and more calm. It is MARVELOUS!

I also love the body scan, which helps you relax by focusing on muscle groups. Just consciously thinking about the muscle. It is amazing to realize how much we have going on in the body that we don’t think about! Aren't we so cool?!?
I suggest that once a day or even twice a day you take some time to meditate. Make it a priority to shut the door and be by yourself. This allows your body to restore and prepare for the daily stresses that you will encounter. Practice the techniques, so that when you find yourself overwhelmed you can use these tools to relax. Focus on your breath to calm down. Just actively breath, count the breaths gradually slowing them.
Now if you feel stupid doing this, just don’t! I know that at first it feels weird, trust me. When I learned this stuff I was on the floor in a class...with people...and boys! However, with time it will become more normal.

Don't die, meditate! In the comments below tell me what you tried and what you thought! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Don't tell my Mom I wrote this blog...

I cannot talk about my development of my self-esteem without talking about my Mom. She is not a perfect person, but she is wonderful. She impacted myself in many ways.

What my Mom did that changed my life:

Ignored Me
She always made time to exercise and do things that she loved to do. I remember a group of women getting together in my living room and exercising to Jane Fonda (really great outfits in those videos). She also would go to the gym to exercise and would leave me in the day care. I didn't always want to go, but she just let me whine and did it anyway. After a while I made friends and I still have friends from that day care.

Showed her love
Sometimes we feel silly when we constantly express our love to people. Let me give you an example of a conversation I had with Trevor yesterday.

Now it is true, it was totally random. But that is okay! My Mother always told me that she loved me. This is the single most defining thing in my life. I don't want to shock anyone, but I am over weight...hopefully you are all still conscious.  I have been for most of my life and sometimes kids are just plan mean. I got teased and picked on in school. I knew that the world equated thinness with beauty. I struggled to understand where I fit into this world of ours, but I always knew that my Mother loved me. I knew that she would love me even if the world didn't love me. I knew she would love me even if I didn't love myself. She helped me to see my own value as well as the value of those around me. She pointed out the good in others, which eventually helped me see how hard we are to ourselves.

Pushed Me
I remember one time I came down stairs and asked my Mother for a list of my weaknesses. Hahahahahahahahaha hahahahaha
I wanted to improve myself, but I couldn't think of anything. hahahahahaha
My Mom made a list! She did! She was honest, not harsh. She was forthright and told me the things that I could improve. After she gave me the list she told me a few things that I was doing well. She encouraged me, but she didn't baby me.

Believed in Me
To this day, my Mom is my #1 fan. She always encourages me to reach for the stars. Seriously, if I called her today and said I wanted to go to space she would find a way to help me do it. She always thought that I could do anything that I wanted to do. So I have done alot of things that I wouldn't have believed I could do. She supported me in my desires and really cared about things happening in my life.

Taught Me to be Strong
My Mom comes from a line of strong women and she was determined to continue the tradition. She told me fabulous stories about the strong women in our family. She taught me not to be easily offended. She taught me to work hard and to play hard. She taught me to find something to smile about even when everything goes wrong. She taught me to walk out my anger or punch a pillow (still used to this day). She taught me that love and kindness are strengths. She taught me to accept criticism.

Now I don't like to put people on pedestals, because I know it is uncomfortable up there. I am not perfect ( I could tell you stories...oh wait I already have), my parents aren't perfect, nor is anyone perfect. My Mom did her best to love me and encourage me to love myself and others. She had no way of knowing that I would become obsessed with self-esteem. She only did her finest to teach me how to navigate this crazy world.

Think back. Who ignored you, loved you, pushed you, and believed in you? Tell those people that made you strong, thank you.

Do you take time for yourself, love yourself, push yourself, and believe in yourself?
-This week do something for yourself: take a bath, paint your nails, go for a walk, or be creative.
-Push yourself to get out of your comfort zone: smile at a random stranger, apply for a job you don't think you will get, or make a new friend.

Thank you to all those who loved me, pushed me, ignored me, and believed in me. Thank you to all the strong women who have been examples to me. Thank you Mom!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Challenge 1: Optimism

Today began the 10 day Recapturing Beauty Challenge. This is an annual event put on by the BYU Women's Service and Resource Center. Each day has a challenge, today is optimism.  I find this rather ironic since yesterday was not a great Elaine Day. I didn't get enough stuff done and so this morning I got up super early to study. That went pretty well, but there still is so much for me to know before I have to take this exam. Plus I have a research paper, to more exams, and a silly project that must be done this week. I was feeling stupid and overwhelmed this morning, but then I opened my email and got the first challenge. Optimism.

I started this blog to discuss my experiences in the development of self-esteem, but I am no expert. I am just curious and willing to embarrass myself over the interwebs. Those of you who read this blog may be under the assumption that everyone else has got it together. You may think that you alone are drowning in struggles. You may be reading along and think, "why can't I get this? Why is it so hard to actually make progress? I am trying really hard to be the best me, but it doesn't seem to be working. I am trying and I do well for a while, but then I falter. I succumb to the pressures of the world and I cave to the sadness. I didn't even know that I should be sad, but something happens and I am suddenly overwhelmed. Sad and embarrassed. I should not care abut all of this...life is good and I am happy, dang it! But I don't feel happy in this moment, I just feel hopeless. I will never be popular, pretty, or whatever. Not only will I never be any of these things, I can't even stop caring about being these things!"

If this sounds like your inner mind, let me ease your worries. Obviously, this is not a new concept to me. As you read above I also feel hopeless some days. If you could listen to my phone calls with my siblings you would know that I am just like everybody else. I am riding the roller coaster of life and there are good days and bad days. I feel gloom and doom about once a week (you may think I am exaggerating, but I am not). I wake up and just feel like I am walking through grey jello. I am moving, but I never get anywhere. I spend 50% of my waking time thinking about how we can do better. How I can help young people develop healthy self-esteem. Yet about once a week I wake up and feel the terror. Thoughts whirl about my brain, "I am never going to get married! I have no clue what I am going to do with my life! I am not losing weight quickly! I am not really that smart!" Blah blah blah...on and on! Then I pull out the ice cream and the problem is compounded. I spiral down ward, because now that I am spooning thousands of calories into my mouth of course I am not going to lose weight. If I can't lose weight I will never be taken seriously as a wellness coach. If I am don't get a job as a wellness coach I will have to do something that I hate. If I can't do these simple things then why would anyone want to date me anyway. A few hours later, the flip side comes out...I start to get defensive. I think "I don't need to get married. I can be happy without that ball and chain. I don't need to lose weight, I am beautiful the way that I am. Who cares if I eat ice cream, everybody else gets to eat ice cream!" 

Then eventually I call someone and explain it all. After 30 minutes of whining and complaining the therapy session begins. Last time this happened, which was last week, my sister told me to stop thinking. I worry and worry about all these things that don't really make a difference. I can't change the world, but I can continue to change my world. I can go exercise each day, do my best in my classes, look for job opportunities for the future, and just go day by day. 

After these conversations, I am motivated to continue. I reevaluate how I could do better and make small changes that will help me to avoid problem behaviors. This is a very important facet of behavior change, if something isn't working then you have to change the method. Add more reward, change environment, or enlist others to help you succeed. I find the latter a very helpful hint and I did that last week. I asked a friend if she would help me to remember to participate in a specific behavior daily. I asked her to check up on me throughout the week. I haven't been perfect, but it is helpful to know that someone is looking out for me. 

You may wonder what all of this has to do with optimism, well in my crazy brain it works. Optimism doesn't mean that I expect perfection. It doesn't mean that I have to do everything right to be happy. It pretty much means that perfect is unreal and yet I find joy in the small successes. Yesterday was not a great for me, but I did get my partner his flippers in swim class, smile as some random girl that looked the same way I felt, and supported my roommate at her activity. I didn't make all the right choices, but I didn't make all the wrong ones either. 

(Perhaps not the best explanation, but I just thought this was super funny!) 

I just looked up optimism and according to google it means: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. I am hopeful that today will be better than yesterday. I am hopeful that when I let pressures get me down that it won't last too long. I am confident that I can bounce back with more determination. I am hopeful that I will succeed, one day at a time. I have confidence that I can make a difference in my own life. I have confidence in confidence alone. I have confidence in me. I have confidence in you!    

If you would like to join the 10 day challenge you can email wsr@byu.edu with your name and email address. Do it! It is really fun and rewarding! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reborn From the Ashes

How many thoughts do we have in a day? Have you ever wondered about this? According to the Laboratory of Neruo Imaging from USC, humans on average have 70,000 thoughts per day. I would love to know how many of my thoughts each day have to do with the "pressures" or expectations I feel the world pushes on me. I would guess...a lot of them! We all feel the need to be accepted and we seek to belong. We look at others and sort them. We find correlations and we make summations from this. All the popular kids wear blue shoes, I will wear blue shoes, thus I will be popular. Due to this we do certain things that we believe will influence others to accept us. Some things that are pretty ridiculous...I could tell you some stories about middle school. Yikes! ;) 
Sometimes no matter what we do we feel that the world has turned its back on us. We are left alone and yet everyone's eyes are on us. Hostile gossip and side ways glances.  Some have crumbled under the pressure of life, but others have risen. Very simliarly to Fawkes the Phoenix, they rise from their own bitter ashes a stronger being. 

“Fawkes is a phoenix, Harry. Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes.”
― J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This is my friend Sauda. She is one of the many people I worked with in Uganda this summer. She was faced with a struggle that could have crippled. Instead she has risen from the ashes! 

I would like to take you back several months ago. The setting is Mbale, Uganda on the east side of Middle Africa. Mbale is large and yet has the small town feel. Everyone knows everyone. You walk down the street, vendors are yelling and gossiping at the same time. Those that do not have jobs, just walk around town. Our hero, Sauda, is in a long term relationship. She is happy and healthy! Then she determines that she is pregnant. She tells her boyfriend the happy news and unfortunately he is not thrilled. He demands that she abort the baby, she refuses, and he quickly removes himself from the situation. He left...left her alone to deal with this pregnancy. Sauda found herself alone in a sea of people. I am sure that she felt the side ways glances and the gossip swirling around her. I never asked her how her confidence was affected by this, but I would imagine that she felt about 2 inches tall. The world did its best to push her down and yet she rose. She rose from the ashes of her old self and into a new beautiful being. Sauda made a decision. She wanted this baby. She also wanted to do more in life. She started a group to support women who have a fistula. I have come to find that no one in America knows what this is, unless they have taken Women's Health. A fistula is a rip that develops between organs. There are a few different types, but the most common occurs during an obstructed labor. It can occur between the vagina and the anus and is caused by complication during child birth. If the child is not positioned properly and the labor becomes constricted without proper medical attention, the women can develop a tear as the child is birthed. This is very rare in America, since most people have access health care professionals. However, in Uganda, this is not the case. Most people do not give birth with a doctor, they just give birth at home. If the labor becomes obstructed they may not be able to get to a medical professional in time. The child has a very high risk of death during an obstructed labor. 

Not only is this extremely painful, but it also carries societal repercussions. Many villagers still believe that fistulas are punishments from God or due to witch craft. The woman is shunned from the community. She is left to live alone with her condition. Some create communities in the jungle with others who suffer from fistulas. 
(This is a meeting of the fistula team...me, Katie, Sauda, Cristina holding Zam's new born, and Zam.)

Sauda helps to find these women and he them to raise money for the surgery that they need. It is a pretty easy surgery and fairly cheap due to the funding the government has provided. There is a hospital in Kampala that specifically treats fistulas. The woman has to pay for travel to Kampala, food while you are there, and the bed sheet for surgery. Sauda helps them to raise money for these fees. She also works to educate people about the true causes of fistulas. She explains the common misconceptions and how to prevent fistulas. All this while, she is pregnant and probably hoping that everything will go alright when she delivers.  She has chosen to help others even while she is dealing with her own struggles. 

I wish that I could guarantee smooth sailing in life, but unfortunately I can't. In fact I can pretty much guarantee that rough times will come, but you have the ability to rise. Rise from the ashes!