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How My Dog Helped Me Focus My Energy on What Matters

How My Dog Helped Me Focus My Energy on What Matters

Kaida, our new dog, taught me a lot about focus in our first week together. Like all of our past dog companions, she is a rescue. In her case, it was from the illegal dog meat trade in South East Asia.

First, a little background. When we adopted her, we knew there would be rewards and challenges along the way.

Kaida had never been in a house and we didn’t know if we needed to house train her. There was something about her that let us know we would be a great fit.

She’s a Ken-Kai/Shiba Inu mix. Thirty-four pounds of pure muscle with the eyes of a Sighthound and the nose of a blood-hound. She’s very fearful of men and people she doesn’t know, but she’s getting better.

Since I work from home, I’m able to spend the most time with her. We started a daily routine of walking to a nearby park and spending at least 45 minutes exploring. We give her a longer after-dinner walk in the evening. One night, during her first week with us, we needed to give her a shorter walk because of an appointment.

After our walk the next morning, we sat outside while I drank a cup of coffee and she cooled down and mellowed out from her walk. Only this time, she didn’t mellow out. Kaida turned into the Tasmanian Devil.  She ran circles around me and the yard at warp speed.

She picked up a “critters” scent in the yard and the digging began. The kind of digging where dirt flies everywhere. Seconds later, her head was deep in the hole. She didn’t respond, her eyes were wild, she was in a frenetic energy state of mind. I’d been down this road before. Part of it was her anxiety, and the rest was excess energy she needed to burn off. This is Kaida in action…

After the digging stopped, I called her over and helped her calm down. Distracting her at this stage is impossible and creates more chaos. The short walk the night before along with being in an unfamiliar place triggered “Frap” – Frenetic Random Activity Periods.  Some people also call them the “Zoomies”.  Most dogs have them less often as they get older, but an irregular schedule that doesn’t meet their physical or mental needs will create behavior issues.

That morning stuck with me, because we humans, get the “zoomies” too. The proper amount of exercise is a great natural anxiety and stress reliever.
Do you ever have those days when you’re feeling cranky AF and your focus is non-existent? Yeah, me too.

When Kaida came into our lives, she changed my daily routine – in a good way. Her need for exercise is high. Rain or shine we’re outside on the go before breakfast.

By the time I get home, I’ve had my first win – a dose of exercise-induced dopamine and Vitamin D.  I go into the rest of my day feeling focused and energized. I’m able to prioritize my day better since I have more energy to check things off my list.  Even though I also practice Yoga and take Tai chi that morning burst of energy fuels me the most.

That moment when I saw Kaida digging like a maniac and getting nowhere, reminded me of the days I’ve had when I’m not pushing myself physically.  It was an eye-opener and my routine is now an engrained habit.

What can you add to your routine to crank your life up a notch?

Don’t Let your Body Wreak Havoc on Your Mind

Don’t Let your Body Wreak Havoc on Your Mind

An Asthma and Allergy specialist introduced me to the Mind/Body connection when I was six years old.

After a series of tests, he told me it was hard for me to breathe because I had Asthma and allergies. He explained what Asthma was and showed me pictures of what happened in my lungs while I was having an attack.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I can show you ways to train your brain to help you and your lungs relax when you’re having an attack.”

I got nervous when I couldn’t breathe and it made my asthma worse.  He told me there was something called “belly breathing” which I thought was hilarious. I went into a laughing fit, followed by a coughing fit – which triggered my asthma. It was the perfect opportunity to teach me how to slow down my breathing and relax.

It took a while to get the hang of belly breathing, but I loved the idea of training my brain to help my body.

As I got into my teen years, our family dynamic became more and more chaotic. I stopped using belly breathing. The stress got worse and my Asthma flare-up’s were getting harder to control. I realized that instead of belly breathing, I constantly held my breath.

Debilitating migraines that made me throw up became a norm. Asthma squeezed my lungs while migraines kept my head in a vice grip. I let myself get stuck in a vicious cycle.

My Body was Wreaking Havoc On My Mind

At sixteen, an asthma attack kept me in the hospital for a week – something that hadn’t happened in years. Once again, my doctor reminded me to not let my symptoms get out of hand and to stay calm and relaxed.  I was too embarrassed to tell him about my home life.  I didn’t see the point, there wasn’t anything I felt I could do to change it.

The hospital stay was the first time in years I had felt good. While I was there, I didn’t have a migraine and my Asthma was under control again.

After a few weeks at home, I was back to asthma flare-ups and migraines. I was better about using my inhaler and calming my way through the attacks, but I wasn’t able to escape the migraines. They brought me to tears.

The body-mind chaos came back with a vengeance when a migraine hit at the same time as an asthma attack.

I fell into a trap of hating my body for being sick. I couldn’t imagine feeling like that for the rest of my life. The more negative feedback I gave myself, the worse I felt. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop.

Instead of decreasing my meds at the follow-up appointment, I had to increase them. If I didn’t get myself under control, I would end up in the hospital again. The sad part, is that I wouldn’t have minded it.

After another lengthy conversation with my doctor, I went back to belly breathing. He added one more technique. When my lungs felt tight, he suggested I close my eyes and imagine that my airways were opening.

This helped me when I used an inhaler. I’d never gotten used to the jittery feeling it gave me. This technique gave me something else to think about while the medication got into my system.

Fast-forward to the present.

I haven’t been hospitalized for asthma in twenty-three years.

In what once felt impossible, I started running even though I had exercise-induced asthma. A few months later, my lungs felt amazing. My lung capacity was at an all-time high and with the consent of my doctor, I stopped taking asthma medication.

The greatest gift my doctor gave me was a positive coping mechanism that helped me understand that I did have control over my body. It gave me the confidence to run 5k’s and half-marathons, back-pack through Yosemite and live a healthy, happy life.

*Please consult your physician before making any changes to your health regimen!

How have you stopped your body from wreaking havoc on your mind? Let me know in the comments.