A Closed Mind and its Pride

The older I get, the more I realize how wrong I am about many things I thought to be true. I like that. I like knowing that I don’t know much of anything. Perhaps that might scare some but I find it humbling.

The more I learn, the less I know… what a strange phenomenon.

I find many individuals with high statures to belittle others because of the knowledge they’ve acquired which is downright silly when you realize you can learn something new from the smallest child to the wisest elder.

I find extreme danger in close-mindedness. We can hurt so much from believing we have it all figured out including ourselves and those who surround us. We become so vile when our arrogance wins the best of us even when we do not intend it.

An episode of “Friends” comes to mind. Ross is upset because he cannot believe that Phoebe doesn’t believe in evolution. He storms into the apartment one day, ready to show Phoebe the hard facts about why evolution is the only way to explain human existence. She stops him and says, “Ok, Ross, could you just open your mind like this much, ok? Wasn’t there a time when the brightest minds in the world believed that the world was flat? And, up until like what, 50 years ago, you all thought the atom was the smallest thing, until you split it open, and this like, whole mess of crap came out. Now, are you telling me that you are so unbelievably arrogant that you can’t admit that there’s a teeny tiny possibility that you could be wrong about this?”

I always try to keep an open mind. I may be wrong. I may be right. Being right or wrong is not the point of life. Winning is not the key to happiness and prosperity even though Donald Trump may think it is.

I carry this philosophy to my health journey. I do not believe in a single, purest diet that fits all humans. I believe we are all different — we hold different genetics, different activity levels, different personalities. I take heed when I hear someone say they have the answer to all health problems.

Don’t trust someone who is filled with arrogance. Don’t trust someone who fills you with fear and guilt.

Whether we are speaking of health, environment, or life…May we be open to listening to all sides of a story. Being open does not mean you have to accept everything, it just means that you are acknowledging there are others way to see life. It makes you a well-rounded person that appeals to a wider audience and, perhaps, you can expose your viewpoint and become an influence.

In Sickness and In Stress

I’ve typically taken no more than 3 courses each semester since I began my journey in “higher education.” My family lives paycheck to paycheck and owning my own car brings its own responsibilities so I’ve wanted to work in order to be less of a burden on my parents.

Fall 2016 was not a regular semester for me though; I transitioned to a 4-year university, already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Before the semester rolled upon us, my family and I decided I would focus all of my energy on my school work for this period of time.

Taking on 5 courses at a time has poked and prodded at my time management skills and my ability to deal with stress. Larger institutions love basing entire course outcomes on 2 massive exams and a single, absurdly lengthy research report — had a bad day on exam one? Hah, too bad. Try to get a perfect score on the next exam or else no A for the course. Thanks, great way of measuring my capability of rendering the information. Then again, I’m quite an overachiever in academia so that also plays a role.

Like many humans, I am keen to the idea of having control.

Control makes me feel safe.

Of course, that makes me a great planner but that also causes my stress levels to skyrocket because stress = you’re losing control, Alejandra.

Close your eyes — inhala, exhala, inhala, exhala.

Now let go…

I choose my battles.

Each day comes with new decisions, each morning I decide how I want my tasks to move forward.

What will I accomplish today? What are my priorities?

These last couple of weeks have been overwhelming both mentally and physically which is why I decided that in order to do the best work possible, I would surrender control over areas that typically require extra effort on my part and I would let my body know we were in for a tough ride, so I chose to be gentle to it.

My go-to exercises are heavily based on high intensity interval training and crossfit style workouts which are known to cause high levels of stress when performed during an already high state of stress. For the longest time I thought that if I wasn’t sweating and kicking my own butt in the gym, I wasn’t doing enough but this week, I chose to take a break from the gym altogether and focused on moving my body at home in between study sessions, classes, etc. (Secret: My lectures are usually 3 hours long so I take a “bathroom break” after an hour of lecture and do squats in the stall! I know, I’m a total nerd). I also try to “sit actively” which just means I take advantage of the fact that I’m sitting and I try to stretch out my hip flexors by sitting “criss cross applesauce” during class and changing up my seating when I’m working at home. I take the stairs whenever possible and fit in some jump squats while my food is heating up. Keep it simple.

In regards to food, I chose to worry less about my choices and understood it would not be a perfect week. This whole time, I was letting my body know I was on its side. You do your best, buddy. Do your thang.

I indulged in foods that I really enjoyed, which for me is fruit! I did not limit myself to the amount of mangos with lemon and apples I consumed because you know what, I already have too much to stress about — let me pamper myself. Now, this could be seen as a double-edged sword because you could say I shouldn’t use food as a means to reward myself for something but I assure you this isn’t the case.

In a non-stress state, I have goals I want to achieve for my body — leaner, stronger, which calls for more attentive tracking but I’ve come to understand that there is a time and a place for tracking.

There are moments in life when you just have to listen to your body and get things done. It’s the reality of life.

Wouldn’t we all love to live in a world where we could cook all of our meals peacefully, eat a perfectly clean diet and have an ample amount of time to exercise?

*Bubble burst* That ain’t the real world.

We do our best with that we know when we know it. We learn as we go and improve as our storage of knowledge expands, slowly learning how to manage times of stress in a way that will lead us closer to our goals.

Don’t sweat it.

Move intelligently, eat nourishing foods and grind on.

Perhaps it sounds too simple, even quite cliché but the truth of the matter is that we all struggle with simplicity.

There are moments in life that we must allow our bodies to push through the tough times while knowing we understand that it’s struggling. Many times when we are burnt out we just crank up the coffee and we punish our bodies beyond their breaking points, as if their biological limitations is their fault! 

Let your body breathe, let your body rest in times of stress.

They are on our sides, so please be gentle, please be loving to yourself.

Fighting Against a Drug Dependent Health Care System

I’m having a really rough night.

I feel an empty pit in my stomach and I can’t help the tears from running down my cheeks. The frustration is beating me up and I feel very alone in this battle.

I was sitting in my health care class tonight and all I could do is sit there and stare in disappointment. Billions of dollars are spent in treating the sickest nation in the world, a nation that spends $2.7 trillion a year in their healthcare system. It is the world’s 8th largest “economy,” second only to France and larger than total economy of Italy. You would think that a nation that spends 17% of its total economy on “health” would be the one with the best outcomes… but it is quite the opposite of that.

The United States of America has felt the need to regard sick care as “health” care, which is strange because the World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” but all we are seeing is a decline in physical, mental and social well-being in our society.

The way our healthcare system has decided to treat this is by shoving billions of dollars of drugs down people’s throats day in and day out. They’re making a fortune out of our vulnerability as human beings and the sad part is that people aren’t noticing it.

Medical doctors are regarded as gods in our society, the cure to all of our ailments. Don’t get me wrong, medicine is an essential component of our overall wellbeing because it saves many lives — may God bless those amazing doctors out in the field who are literally bringing people back from near death conditions.

My problem is that we turn to medicine now even for our emotional distress and chronic conditions that pester our daily lives — conditions that cannot be cured by medications, only a suppression of symptoms. Chemicals that we become dependent on and later cause us to depend on others as a byproduct of the latter. Yet we still place our faith in it and hope it will save the world.

“Treatment of chronic diseases–diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, dementia, and many others–is responsible for 78% of total health care costs in the United States, yet we’re managing the symptoms of these illnesses with pills and temporary remedies instead of identifying, preventing, and addressing their underlying causes.” (The Disease Delusion by Dr. Jeffery S. Bland)

I’m sorry to break it to all of you out there: if medicine is the answer to all of our health dilemmas, we would much better off than we are currently.

The 12 Leading Health Indicators of what our nation is facing is shown to us by Healthy People 2020:

Nutrition/Physical Activity/Obesity , Clinical Prevention , Maternal/Infant & Child Health, Substance Abuse, Reproductive & Sexual Health, Mental Health, Injury & Violence, Environmental Quality, Access to Health Care, Immunizations, Tobacco, Oral Health and Social Determinants.

The answer to our health care problems is not in training more medical doctors and nurses… our problem is much bigger than that. We need to shift our mentality: we don’t want any more of our people crawling into the hospital and doctor’s office every month. We can’t let this continue to happen — where we start to pay attention to someone’s health only after they have gotten ill because that’s when we can get money out of them.

As someone who believes our lifestyle and environment play the biggest role in our health (and is scientifically proven as such) why is it that we aren’t talking about prevention?

Is it because it doesn’t generate as much revenue? Because the pharmaceutical industry would take a hit? Because our people will not have to give up their life savings to buy the medications they need to function?

I feel very much alone in this.
I feel like I am yelling into blank space.

Please tell me there is somebody out there that is dedicating their life, just as I am, to show people that they do not have to continue to live in constant pain and frustration. Someone who has no self interest other than to bring freedom to people’s lives, to offer them an answer to the questions they have yet to find in a doctor’s office…

Someone who is fighting to let people know they do not have to be controlled by their health but rather empower them to take control of their health.

There must be more of these people out there…

– Alejandra Murillo