The Link Between Dehydration and Insomnia

Image courtesy of Cottonbro from Pexels

Sleeping, the kind that produces dreams, provides full refreshment and mental clarity in your waking life. Western culture is one that applauds non-stop productivity, so we often hear our family, friends, or co-workers explain that they have only slept in 8 hours in three days without much backlash. Black Americans are the second highest-rated group concerning sleep deprivation, and while we deserve applause for our strength and efficacy, we also should be going to sleep.

Still, because sleep is affected by our circadian rhythms and helps to reduce inflammation in the body, a lack of sleep correlates with more painful menstrual cycles and more difficult deliveries when pregnant. But here is one of the main blockers we often face when trying to get enough sleep: we’re dehydrated. 

Getting more water

According to the Sleep Foundation, being just somewhat dehydrated is enough to make it tough to go to sleep. Consuming water-rich foods and drinking plenty of water and low sugar beverages is a simple way to get enough water into your system and help your body get enough sleep and experience menses less painfully.

For those of us that are perimenopausal or in menopause, lower levels of estrogen can lead to dehydration. Higher water consumption assists with cooling night sweats and hot flashes if you get them, which can mean calmer days and better sleep.  

Working on getting better sleep

Another reason to improve your sleep consumption is to have a better awareness of when something is wrong. Conditions like fibroids cause exhaustion, but if you are already sleep-deprived, you may not notice them until they cause heavy bleeding or abdominal distention.

Herbs that promote sleepiness are:

Valerian

Chamomile

Ashwagandha

You can make a tea out of these herbs and consume near bedtime.

Some of us may wonder: who has time to go to sleep? How can I feel relaxed enough to go to sleep? These questions, and more, are why it is so important to go to sleep — so many of us think that drinking water and resting well are luxuries, but our bodies may be saying something different. Your habits will not change overnight, but every little bit helps.

Boundaries: An Important Complement to Healing

As part of our ongoing discussion of healing our own ailments, it’s time to consider the ways we invest in our well-being. As the old adage say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I believe it. Whether it’s PTSD, a physical injury or an emotional trigger point, the more an element of pain is activated in our bodies, minds or psyches, the more we are primed for recurring illness. That’s the law of the land. In a sense, our pain receptors, physical nerves, emotional buttons and hyper vigilance to trauma get atrophied in the “on” position.

In the same way that we cannot heal a sprained ankle by running on it, we cannot cure ourselves if we continually reactivate our pain receptors. Unfortunately, by design, our pain receptors are more easily activated than our joy and happiness and positivity receptors owing to our wiring that enables our auto-responsive defense mechanisms. In other words, we are built to feel pain quickly and easily so we can get out of the fire fast, with the least amount of damage. This generally works great most of the time. But, many of us unconsciously keep the fire burning when we don’t need it, and constantly insert a hand in it to see if it’s still hot. You may laugh even if you’ve done it yourself.

Maintaining a strong physical, mental or emotional boundary is akin to dousing the fire that threatens to consume everything in your path. So why are so many of conditioned to believe we have no right to personal boundaries? This is a rather important question to explore with a mental health practitioner if possible. And, even if counseling is not possible for you in this moment, I give you full permission to put up health barriers that protect and insulate your emotional, physical and mental health from any and all forms of disease, harm and dangers, including all of the following.

Learn to create, protect and enforce Your Personal Boundaries in all these areas:

  • Toxic people: relatives, family, friends, coworkers and strangers
  • Physical threats: aggression, micro aggression, trauma, violence, sexual assault and abuse from people or animals or other entities
  • Predation: energy vampires, financial drains, sabotage, time waste and unreciprocated/one-way investments that deplete your resources and ability to thrive
  • Personal harm: activities, foods, sounds, media, relationships or areas that trigger negative sensations, fatigue or the release of stress hormones
  • Learn to understand what are Healthy Boundaries with this worksheet

Of course, there are many ways to enforce our personal space to protect our loved ones from injury. Mindfulness, awareness and contemplation are important tools for discerning where the fires are, so that we can give them our loving attention. Just as you wouldn’t allow a child to run in front of a car, you get to erect a beautiful boundary around yourself that reduces any future harm and pain, so you can concentrate on healing past situations. Once you you are able to protect your boundaries as part of your routine self-care, you can look to remedies like tea, medication, therapy or Reiki to bring your equilibrium into a normal range.

Reiki Master Edissa is working to heal from 49 years of life as a Black Woman.

Photo by Ashton Huntsman for Living Artist Project

Taking Steps to Prevent Sexual Assault

In recent months, reports regarding sexual assault allegations involving Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and others have surfaced. While all of the names mentioned are relatively high-profile, the tactics these individuals used to corner their targets are deployable by anyone. It is critical to not live in a state of fear but in a state of awareness. As we delve further into the topic of sexual assault, let’s look at some strategies to avoid being a mark.

Follow your intuition

“Practice listening to your intuition, your inner voice…These intuitive powers were given to your soul at birth.” 

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

We are often erroneously encouraged to put ourselves in danger to prove that we are capable of handling crises. This approach is often akin to drinking cyanide to prove that it can kill you. You already have the information that the circumstances are dangerous; there is no need to prove anything else. Trust that you are smart enough to know the answers.

Survey your circles

Maybe you have friends that promise a dream life in exchange for a job or a favor. Some of us have acquaintances that request help, insisting that you are the only person that can help them. Then, there is the family member that withdraws financial and other support unless they have your compliance. These contacts are often grooming you for something much direr down the line. If an assault happened before, a targeted individual is more likely to experience something similar in the future: 47.9% of sexual assault victims have repeated assaults by the offender or by multiple offenders. 

Create a lifestyle and culture of prevention

Hold spaces for yourself and your loved ones to share their thoughts and experiences. Talk to trusted friends about what almost happened to you. Go for a walk or exercise — then indulge on chocolate later. Hug yourself. Get your feelings out through your chosen medium. Listen to music that you love. Go for a massage to unwind. Take a nap. All of these activities will help you remain centered by balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. 

Do not fight fire with fire

Lastly, while it is tempting to tell a would-be attacker to get lost, sometimes that is not feasible. Sometimes it is better to deflect. Realize your safety by flanking yourself with others you trust or in a crowd. Try to remain calm and understand that your get-away may not look perfect. Getting to safety is all that matters.

I’ve Lost the Plot (On the Challenges of Hearing)

I’ve lost the plot, five months into the pandemic. I’m hard of hearing and rely heavily on lip-reading to understand conversations. I’m tired of people telling me that they can’t or won’t accommodate my hearing loss. In this time of social-distancing and mask-wearing it is even more devastating when I cannot lip-read, which accounts for 70-90% of how I’m able to understand anyone speaking to me. 

The casual (+/-callous) dismissal of my inability to access content or communication is painful. The inconvenience of providing captioning in a live video meeting has spotlighted the carelessness of those who can’t be bothered. These people cannot understand the impact on my inability to participate. I’ve been resigned to this for most of my life, but lately, an accumulation of incidents have taken on the tenor of stinging, hornet-like microaggressions. It feels personal in a way that I always ignored or excused before; perhaps in reaction to the ratcheted stress of this mishandled pandemic and the layers of imposed limitations and stressors, singular hornet stings have suddenly coalesced into a swarming nest.

A couple of years ago, I saw the Guggenheim biennial, and the standout work of one artist, Christine Sun Kim, made an immediate, visceral impact. Kim displayed a series of stark, smudged charcoal drawings of acute, obtuse, and right angles titled, Degrees of My Deaf Rage… . The drawings are captioned with the aspects of rage encountered while Deaf. The Obtuse Rage of a video with no closed captions. The Right Rage encountered while working for a graduate degree. The Acute Rage when someone calls instead of texting or emailing. The Cute Rage of accessibility options that don’t coincide with your actual disability.

Le corps humain, structure et fonctions
Edition : Paris : J.-B. Baililère, 1879

It immediately clicked with me. Had I not requested that an agent respond to my email in writing? Was she deficient in reading comprehension? It must be, because she ignored my request, and repeatedly asked me to call her, ignoring my attempts to communicate by email. I was forced to go to LinkedIn and ask the CEO why his representative was unable to accommodate my need to complete a transaction through email instead of a phone call. He conveniently blamed it on the pandemic. Christine Sun Kim did her graduate work at Bard, where I had graduated decades earlier as an undergrad; this tenuous connection served to multiply my appreciation for her work, which precisely pinpointed the welter of emotions seething beneath every. Irritating. Transaction.

But it would be remiss not to discuss the kindnesses I have encountered. When asking for accommodation, I sometimes received it, without further ado, even when it created an extraordinary amount of work and effort, like the podcaster Laura Joyce Davis of Shelter in Place who transcribed hours of interviews she made with writers of a book that I edited. She was willing to help create a connection with unerring grace; she lived up to her commitment to communicate with others. 

A post office clerk was compassionate and kind to me when I told him I was hard of hearing and could not hear him through his mask. He waved a friendly greeting; he wrote me a note to convey information. It was the tiniest of gestures, but it made me feel understood in a way that I haven’t felt understood for a long time. It was the opposite of microaggression. It was microkindness, or microcompassion–the impact of which is not to be dismissed for its apparent smallness.

In many situations, it is not an intentional slight when someone can’t or won’t accommodate my request, and I try to extend the benefit of the doubt when appropriate. I have many privileges in my life: I’m white, educated, and economically stable; these privileges have caused me to reflect on whether I must call out situations related to my partial deafness. And I think I must, to make people aware, so they can extend kindness rather than disregard to those whom they consider other—whatever the situation may be that would require understanding and awareness—whether it is systemic racism and sexism, gender identity awareness, ableism, ageism … the Karmic Compass turns like the wheel of fate; although it may seem self-serving, awareness of others may help shift the balance in your favor. As you put kindness into the world, goodly intent both uplifts others and reflects back upon you.

~Karyn Kloumann, Founder of Nauset Press

Detail “Still Life with Bevier Pots” by Adrienne Cacitti for Living Artist Project

Supporting Survivors in the Black Community

So this horrible event happened to you, and your world has been flipped upside down. You don’t know who to turn to, and in some cases, if you were to speak up, the person “supporting” you would just make you interact with your perpetrator or dismiss you altogether.

Reporting sexual assault requires a strength that many survivors don’t have. This is usually due to the experience and the stigmas that are applied to the survivor. These stigmas make it that much harder to speak up, and those that speak up carry a considerable burden. For many, this expectation is a deterrent, and for every Black woman that reports what happened to her, 15 Black women do not.

Here are some facts concerning sexual assault as it manifests in the Black community:

For those that live in low-income communities, the correlation between assaults — particularly assaults with a weapon — increases. These attacks have historically been a way to silence and suppress Black women, and by extension, Black men. While Hollywood tends to portray these transgressions in a sensational manner, such as the stranger who breaks into your home, the truth is a bit more mundane. Often, assailants are people that the victim knows, such as a parent, sibling, or a romantic partner. 

Sometimes, drugs and alcohol are introduced as a way to relax the target’s boundaries. Assailants are often adept at assessing whether the mark exhibits traits of anxiety or people-pleasing, and will often use gaps in power as a way to gain control of the interaction. This includes promises of food, money, popularity, protection, preferential treatment, or some other perceived need.   

A small toolkit for survivors and supporters

Listen. If you are a supporter, center the survivor, and if the event happened to you, listen to your feelings. Our justice system is ill-equipped to handle these cases. Please keep that in mind as you ask the survivor why they didn’t report. Reach out to programs that assist survivors in their healing. Understand that healing is not a straight line, but cyclical — be gentle and don’t push. Exercise, counseling, art and crying are all very helpful.

Soup from the Pantry: Yummy at Home

Start by dicing two medium-sized potatoes. Boil them in enough water to cover them for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Add a carrot toward the end with a cup or vegetable or chicken broth. Add any veggies you may have around. (We added some roasted sweet potato.) Finally, add a can or two of Chicken with Wild Rice soup and heat. Serve hot for a quick and easy meal any day of the week.

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Stay safe, Friends.

What the Body Remembers: Healing Somatic Muscle Memory

It’s important to learn where the pain started. My foot pain started rather suddenly five years ago, and progressed quickly into an acutely debilitating ailment. Not only was the pain sharp, it had no precipitating event that I could discern. That began a long journey into medical care, acupuncture and loss of mobility. Later I learned that part of my pain was psychic, and triggered by profound imminent loss.  After the loss, the gradual return of functionality has been punctuated with frequent pain similar to the early onset. Could it be that my body remembers this pain?

Looking at diagrams of human feet requires lengthy focused sessions, wherein I read the descriptions and try to match what I see in the textbook to my own unique female body. We are not all the same. We must allow for individual genetics, physicality and gender to inform what and how we see. I invite intuition to guide my educated guesses–willing to cross an option off the list. “Don’t get attached to the results,” I tell myself.

The foot has numerous bones, 26 altogether. Ligaments, tendons and muscles bind bone and nerve. The two hold up our entire body. Finally after hours of sifting through information, a story begins to emerge. I see clearly the pathway of the inferior and superior peroneal retinaculum that sheaths the peroneus brevis muscle that pulses red hot like embers during and after a walk. The tibiocalcaneal ligament evokes my sympathy when I see it on the page. I make a note of that. I’m not sure, yet, but this is important. I’m beginning to understand where the pain resides. Understanding will allow me to focus healing attention to the areas in need.

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In between, I’m determined to move, run and walk mindfully as I heal. I know that in the mornings, my pain is the memory of something: When my sister died and was torn from me in a particularly savage way? Is it the familiar signal the body sends like a cue from the bladder? Is my pain a signal broken on the “on” position? For now, I’m holding firm to my intention to heal myself, knowing that part of this experience is somatic, another physical. I pray to release any spent energies from my emotional, physical and spirituals bodies–to let go of whatever I can. I touch the area gently with Reiki and salve, creating new memories for these places within. There is no fix. There is only the journey inward toward wholeness.

 

Yummy at Home: Farfalle with Chicken Apple Sausages and Veggies

 

We still need to stay home as much as possible. We do not yet have a cure for COVID-19. Cooking gets my mind off all the many things that make me sad and mad as we witness our own pandemic. You’re invited to try this staple recipe from our table.

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This dish takes 30-40 minutes total time to prepare. Boil and salt water and follow cooking instructions for Farfalle or whatever pasta you have in the pantry. Slice precooked chicken apple sausages or other flavor. (For fresh, raw sausage, add about 20 more minutes cooking time.) For vegan pasta, skip the sausage. Heat the sausage in olive with onions, garlic, basil and herbs on high. Add sliced fresh veggies or add frozen/canned veggies, including but limited to green beans, peas, asparagus, broccoli and or carrots. Just make it pretty! Once the veggies are tender, add balsamic vinegar, red-pepper flakes, sun-dried or fresh tomatoes. Drain pasta and put in a large serving bowl. Add a little salt and pepper along with sausage, vegetables and pot liquor on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve hot!

Arroz con Pollo is Yummy at Home! Dominican Fusion #2

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If you haven’t tried one of these Yummy at Home recipes yet, it’s not too late. We’ll be here for a while. In truth, many of us will not return to our “normal lives” for a very long time, even after COVID-19 is done with us. It’s an opportunity to make changes or start a new habit, like cooking! All of my recipes take about an hour or less and can be modified any which way from Tuesday. Try it while you’re at home.

My Arroz con Pollo is made with marinated cubed chicken breast. You may use boned chicken which will need more time to cook and will even more tender than mine. No matter what I make, I always start with side vegetables to go with any food I serve. Broccoli is my favorite for obvious reasons! (Tee Hee) But whatever is fresh will do!

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Start with your spices: salt, pepper, garlic, onion (which I didn’t use), oregano, basil, cilantro and bay leaf. Get the oil nice and hot in a large pot where you will brown the chicken (2-4oz. per person). Once the meat is brown on all sides, about 5 minutes, keep the heat up and add rice (2 cups for 2 people add one cup for each additional adult). Add orzo for a pilaf style, which I didn’t have so I put in stars, of course. Stir that around a bit, and add water as you would for cooking the rice. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste. Bring it to a boil, cover it and turn it down to simmer for 2-40 minutes.  Add turmeric powder or annatto for yellow rice with anti-inflammatory properties. You may also add peas, corn, olives and some sliced tomato.

Serve hot with wedges of ripe avocado or maduros. Enjoy!

 

Healing Begins with Paying Attention: Start by Identifying What You Want to Heal

Where is your pain? What is the shape of it? How long does it last? By interrogating our bodies, we can map out the areas that need attention. This requires quiet time, Quiet time can come in the form of prayer, meditation, even bath time. Once we know where it is and what it does, When we can study the body’s systems using resources developed by professionals, those resources provide a roadmap of what we already know and don’t need to invent. it gives us more power to discern the root of the disease and heal it.

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For my primary focus in this post, I’ll look to provide context for my ear to understand chronic ear infection and now a new sensitivity to cold and precipitation. I’ve had ear infections, throat and tonsil problems from the earliest I can remember until about the time that moved away from NYC. This lifetime, recurring illness seemed to leave me until some recent trips during the winter season and new colder evening weather in the mountainous region in which I live.

Two things are at play: The physicality of my ear and external, environmental factors. My physical ear canal is short and wide, allowing water, air and other airborne particles to enter easily into the inner ear. That’s obvious. This means, I probably get more direct exposure to in my ear region than people whose tragus covers the opening to the ear canal, and also, who may have a longer ear canal. Folks who have bent or long canals may have an advantage. Environmentally, I grew up poor in public housing, which comes with it’s own socioeconomic predispositions. I’ll examine this more for the historical context of my chronic ear condition.

After a lifetime of ear problems, two courses of action become apparent. First, I need to protect my inner and middle ear during winter, travel and bathing. Secondly, I need to investigate and understand what factors impact my susceptibility to ear infection. Healing for me is no more ear infections, because the cure is always harder.  In other words, we must define, identify and name our healing. I want to restore the ailing member to optimum functioning. In this situation, I have to ask myself, What is healing?

 

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Healing Practice:

You will need to choose an area of focus for your attention, healing and study. This requires love and compassion, not judgment. Handle yourself with tenderness. You may need to do these activities regularly to allow the spirit to speak to you. Ask for guidance through prayer.

  • Meditate on your body. This can be in the bath, seated or lying down and during applied Reiki. See what emerges. Document any insights in your journal for this practice.
  • Write about your healing and see what comes up. Explore questions that open as you write.
  • Focus on an area where you already have difficulty, injury or other disease. Use a quiet time to touch the area with your hands, mind or vision. You may also examine medical records and note important points with the area. Make notes of any patterns that arise.

As ever, I’m open for questions, comments and suggestions.