Entries in health (62)


When the Body and Mind Disagree on What We Love Most

My friend Sarah wants to chase storms someday. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes—the gamut. She interviews storm chasers on her blog, watches storm-chasing programs, and participates in storm-chasing forums. When she hasn’t had a storm come through her area in a while, she gets antsy.

But storms make Sarah sick.

The changes in barometric pressure that precede dramatic weather events give Sarah headaches. Sometimes they throw her stomach off-kilter.

Similarly, I love boxing. Sparring beats the heavy bag, double-end bag, and mitt work when it comes to training for the sport. After all, none of the other options quite compare to calculating another person’s movements and actions, playing defense and offense at the same time, and learning how to take a hit.

Knowing I’ll spar on a given day gets my adrenaline going well before I get in the ring. Gearing up wakes my body from conscious slumber: I can feel joints and muscles, blood pumping in veins, air moving through windpipe and lungs.

Yet while I look forward to sparring, I dread the aftermath.

Thanks to the adrenaline, I don’t feel pain in the moment. Hours later, I notice the scrapes on my arms from my opponent’s gloves and the bruises on my shoulders, face, and body from her punches. By evening, my neck and back feel a little stiff. The following day, I can sense every muscle I worked and my body revisits every wrong move I made. (And yes, many times wrong moves took me straight into a punch—or many.)

I don’t get it.

I can find articles about people hurting the ones they love. Likewise, I can find information about people who get sexual pleasure from pain.

Yet I can’t find research on the reasons some people enjoy hobbies that cause pain and discomfort—other than interviews with extreme athletes about the thrill of human will triumphing over human body. The mind-over-matter rationale, while valid during an intense activity, doesn’t quite address how a person's body and mind often don’t agree in general—at any given time before and after an event—on what she loves the most.

My mind says, “Boxing! Yes!” My body says, “Boxing? Ouch!” For Sarah, the intellectual thrill of a massive storm system can’t overcome the physical effects of haywire atmospheric changes.

But why? And so I ask you, dear readers:

Why do you think we sometimes love what causes us pain?


Communal Living

The New York Times article about shared living arrangements arrived at my gate at a time when I’d had the topic of quality time versus quantity time top of mind.

The article, “Looking for a Housemate, Not a Mate, in Later Life,” covers adult women who find roommates to share a house or large living space. Economics plays a role—sharing living expenses provides breathing room for people on fixed incomes, which can help older adults stay in their communities—as does the pull of companionship and the sense of increased safety.

I love it. How “Golden Girls.”

Why should the twenties set alone have roommates to share the costs and chores of keeping house? Why not find partnership, community, and even “family”—and all the support and nurturing they provide—without going the routine routes of marriage or romantic cohabitation?

One problem:

I never found having a roommate appealing, even in my younger days. I’ve contemplated sharing the extra space in my house with one in recent years, but my memory of past shared living experiences shuts down the possibility when it crops up anew. I’ve always enjoyed living alone. I like my space. As an introvert, I find interaction draining—even when close to the person with whom I spend time.

Oh, I like people. I just prefer quality over quantity. I’d rather focus intently on a person over feeling obligated to chat casually with someone who has entered the room, lest she perceive me rude. I don’t find hanging around another person relaxing. The sense that someone lingers nearby and may intrude at any moment causes me a modicum of low-grade, on-going stress.

Living in a close-knit, dense urban neighborhood gives me a strong sense of community and safety, though by no means does it help me with the expenses and hassles of keeping house. I’ll call it a good compromise (though if any of you would like to donate to my living expenses, drop me a line).

In contrast to me, my brother has always had a large set of friends. Often, he has a group in tow. His friends all know each other, mainly because he combines them so often. Though he has a beautiful family and doesn’t need platonic shared living arrangements, he might like them otherwise. At the very least, he’d take the life-of-the-party role in the retirement community.

I most certainly wouldn’t.

Would you go in for communal living?


Scheduling Spontaneity

Can you call it “spontaneity” if you schedule it?

During our conversation about work-life balance, a colleague asked if my life had room for spontaneity—for doing something completely unplanned or jettisoning a scheduled activity in favor of something else.

Most definitely it does. Priorities shift sometimes, requiring me to forego something I’d scheduled in favor of something else. I’d call that spontaneous—although not always in the “fun” sense of the term. Further, I actively ensure I have completely unfettered time on my calendar at least once a week.

Yes, that means I schedule spontaneity. I schedule relaxing.

Because if I don’t, it won’t happen.

Worse, when it did happen, I’d feel a slight anxiety that I’d foregone critical things—chores, errands, work, even playing with my dog or checking in with a friend or family member—for frivolity or disorganization. The time would feel purposeless. Wasted.

Yet spontaneity has deep purpose. Play keeps us vital. Downtime decreases stress. Without it, we wither. “Free time” has as much importance as all the other critical must-do life requirements, from buying groceries to washing the car to paying the bills. Even brushing your teeth.

Each week, I plan spontaneous time—blocking at least five hours on my calendar to do nothing scheduled other than the nothing I’ve scheduled. When something comes up that could interfere with the scheduled nothing, I remember the reasons I’ve blocked the time and the importance of maintaining it. Spontaneity ties to my goals. It keeps me healthy.

Do you plan for spontaneity? Do you practice spontaneity?


Things I Love: July 2014

I started this monthly “things I love” blog thread in July 2013—one year ago. Each month, looking back on the things that make my life more enjoyable has proved an exercise in mindfulness and appreciation.

Yet this series hasn’t covered many of the services I love, though I appreciate services more than goods. (Of course, I value people most of all, but that would make for an odd post series. I’ve considered doing interviews, though. Thoughts?)

This post rectifies the services gap.

Note: Though the services covered here happen in Houston-area locales, I have little doubt that readers elsewhere on the planet can find local corollaries.

Midtown Reflexology

I’ve had friends rave about Midtown Reflexology and I’ve always wanted to give it a try. Even if it didn’t relax me as fully as a traditional massage, a one-hour rub-down for $40 sounded pretty darn fantastic. I figure that just as you rarely encounter truly inedible pizza, you rarely encounter a truly awful foot rub.

An appreciation gift certificate from a friend got me in the door. The receptionist led me to a line of reclining chairs behind the entrance-desk screen and guided my feet into warm water. The clean, neat space features dimmed lights and smells fresh and lemongrass-y. All good.

Next: Heaven.

I didn’t expect to zone out, but I did. That space I find only in a massage, where I don’t quite sleep but I lose myself completely? Found it.

Bliss Day Spa Manicures and Pedicures

I used to get occasional manicures and pedicures as treats at any convenient nail spot in town. Bliss Day Spa changed that.

Bliss has a calming atmosphere with lots of light from multiple windows, spacing and walls that keep down noise, no televisions, and soothing music. Further, the technicians—who do high-quality work—focus on their clients during each appointment, rather than on chatting with each other. And when you walk in, the manager welcomes and greets you and offers a variety of drinks.

How easy to get spoiled and want to return regularly—and to never want to go anywhere else.

The Wax Spot

Sure, we can all pluck and shave and tweeze, but visiting The Wax Spot far more easily and pleasantly cleans up unwanted strays and tidies hairlines.

Centrally located in a Heights bungalow, the salon has a relaxed, low-key feel that equally welcomes men and women. Each room has a set that plays comedy-show DVDs and the staff keeps the entire experience—let’s face it, no one considers getting waxed fun—as light as possible.

Even better, because the team truly focuses on waxing, rather than offering it as a side service to something else, The Wax Spot knows its stuff. Not only do their techniques minimize the “ouch” factor, the technicians use multiple different types of wax tailored to different types of skin.

What do you love this month?


Male-Female Friendship

Shockingly, research into the age-old question about the possibility for male-female friendship only started in 2000 with a study on the benefits and risks of opposite-sex friendships between college students.

Research has continued from there, but the question remains: Can men and women share intimate, profound friendship?

Of course they can.

With qualifications.

If possible mistaken impressions, discomfort, or optics—on your part or on the parts of significant others—would make you think twice about inviting someone to dinner or calling them to chat on the phone at any hour, can you consider your relationship truly unfettered?

Not that friendship needs no fetters to exist. I have a number of male friends. You can still call someone a friend if you wouldn’t reach out to them to join you for just-the-two-of-us theater attendance, for a long heart-to-heart phone call, or for a relaxed dinner on a Saturday night.

And I have a couple male friends I’d contact without qualification or hesitation—even for two-some vacation time. Yet I’ve called them friends for decades. We made contact and built our relationship in our youth, before careers, serious partnerships, and children. Making new friends without qualifications grows more difficult as we get older. How could I spend the time needed to cultivate a deep friendship with someone without awkwardness between us and raised eyebrows from others?

I’d venture that I almost can’t. The time has passed.

Research and analysis has guided psychologists to argue that men and women can share friendship—and that they should, as opposite-sex friendships provide unique benefits, including insight into how the opposite sex thinks and in-depth conversations. However, each of the psychologists providing guidance to women and women developing friendship give caveats around clear communication about expectations and intentions and explain that men and women should limit the amount and type of time they spend together as friends.

Yet if you have to ensure the purpose of the relationship stays clear with everyone—including and especially each other—and must constrain how and when you spend time together or even connect via phone or text, how close can you consider your friendship?

What do you think?

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