The Four Pillar Plan

Following my brother’s suicide in April 2017 I discovered the Calm app and meditation, it helped me immensely with anxiety at the time, learning to focus on my breathing rather than that which had happened. In recent times the app has introduced Masterclasses, a wonderful addition whereby experts talk on relevant topics such as depression, anxiety, and one I happened to listed to on the weekend by UK doctor Dr Rangan Chatterjee entitled “The Four Pillar Plan”.

Dr Chatterjee’s Masterclass was quite interesting and inspired me to head to to purchase his book for a more in-depth understanding. In his Masterclass he identified the four pillars as being: relax, food, move and sleep. He mentioned having been a traditional doctor, treating the symptoms rather than the causes, but then reaching a point in his practice he felt things just weren’t working.

He had a mother bring in her son one day, he’d cut his wrists and the psychologist had sent them for a script to treat depression. His initial thoughts were to prescribe an anti-depressant drug, but then he stopped, after having listened to the boy’s story that included bullying and taunts of his looks he switched to enquiring how long he spent on social media each night. “Four hours or so” the reply. He prescribed not medication but rather limited exposure to social media for the week before returning. His mood had improved and continued to improve week after week.

The Four Pillar Plan involves looking at four key areas of your life and lifestyle. Relax, the first pillar involves taking time for self and switching off from the world. Here Dr Chatterjee suggests making use of the airplane mode on our phones and considering turning off of notifications that constantly beckon our attention.

The second pillar, food, involves minimising the processed foods in your diet and increasing the ‘rainbow’, having at least 5 different coloured vegetables in your diet each day as well as good fats like avocado and nuts. He mentions research showed eating within a 12-hour window had positive effects on blood sugars and sleep.

The third pillar, movement, involves getting off arse and working towards those 10,000 steps we all hear about in national health programs. Also, include strength training within your exercise regime as he mentions loss of muscle mass independently affects mortality, improves resilience and executive brain function, and our ability to resolve conflicts. He suggests even doing as little as the 5-minute kitchen workout eat day can give benefits, this involving lunges, squats, tricep dips, floor press-ups etc. Also suggested were regular, throughout the day, 2-minute movement “snacks” whereby we get the heart working through mini-workouts.

The final pillar, but by no means the least, is sleep. Dr Chatterjee mentions we are currently experiencing a sleep depression epidemic that is leading to increases in stress and anxiety, and poor food choices. Another side-effect of long-term sleep problems is Type-2 diabetes; increased build-up of beta amyloid protein within the brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease; memory decline; and chronic disease. His prescription to improve things? We need to embrace morning light as increasingly we’re staying indoors more and more and not getting enough natural light; a dark room when we go do sleep at night, and switching the tech off 90 minutes before you go to sleep; keep your caffeine intake before noon; and avoid drinking in the evenings.

I’m only part-way through the kindle book thus far, it’s a really good, easy read. I’d encourage your having a read, it’s inexpensive at only a few dollars on Amazon Kindle:

51x9y71vt9lThe 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life
by Dr Rangan Chatterjee


Heart Meditation

At work our Wellness Coordinator’s face lit up at finally having me turn up to something, for years she has been trying to having me participate in something yet my lazy self just never quite made the effort. I’ve been battling with stress and anxiety quite a bit lately, thus I was ‘finally’ interested to make the effort to partake in Fiona’s heart meditation during Tuesday lunchtime.

The session involves first placing your hands such that your fingers meet at your heart, this being used later during the session. We are then encouraged to close our eyes and begin taking a few deep breaths and to smile, first with our lips pressed, and then apart and to notice how the experience differs.

As the breathing continued I started to get a touch light headed, a little too much deep breathing I think. Thankfully, after returning to regular breathing I managed to feel a bit better within a few minutes. By end of the session I noticed myself feeling refreshed, something I hadn’t expected. The others who had joined me needed to return, however I stayed on for a further ten minutes to undergo a form of reiki before we both headed back to the office.

One of the other attendees said he’d been coming to the meditation sessions for the past year, he found it had lead to increased productivity which is certainly a real benefit.

A few days in, and already benefits

I’m just a few days into the Michelle Bridges 12WBT and I won’t kid you, my t-shirt has been soaked in sweat. When walking previously for an hour within my suburb I’d sweat, but not to the same level for less time.

Day one and I was up at 5am for my first workout, I was truly peeling myself out of bed, my eyelids remained on the pillow for a good 5 minutes more I’m sure. Workout gear on, we kicked off with warm up exercises one-by-one. I’ve never done this before, it was always bang, go walking, come home hit bed and surf the web for a bit with the fan on.

It was  little difficult doing the exercises, not because of the exercise, but because I kept having to authenticate into my iPhone X and look at what I was to do for the next exercise. My workout Monday ended up being around 11 minutes longer than they suggested it should take, but I got there in the end.

Tuesday’s workout was one with Michelle Bridges and following what she was doing in the video. I’ve never participated in any class-based exercises before, even at school I’d wag sport so don’t know if they ever did it there. I am perhaps the must unco person south of the equator, I struggled with following Michelle’s constant changes to routine so just did the best I could to keep up; I was just grateful for the fact I was at home and not in a class situation. Again shirt was dripping with sweat, even more so than the day before.

Today was weigh-in day. After work, and stupidly after I’d eaten for crying out loud, I got on the scales, and was already down 1.1kg. Holy Shit Batman! Of course the difference is not the same scales, its Doctors scales on Saturday and my scales on Wednesday, and mine tend to report lower than do hers, so I’m not actually sure the real difference tbh. But at least I know from today the weight on my own scales to go from.

Today was a break day for some reason in the program, but we’re back into it for the next three days. Another benefit from the past few days has been my sleep, whilst not sleeping any longer the quality of the sleep has been far better making the $199 fee well worth it already.

Signed up for a new me

I started my morning with a monthly visit to my GP, the joys of being a diabetic. I’d just had my HBa1c test to check my blood sugars over the past 3 months, and thankfully after a result that went strangely awry last time all is back on track again.

Carrying more than a few pounds discussion eventually shifts to how to shed them; finally I agreed to consider the 5:2 diet where you fast 2 days (non-consecutive) each week. That lasted about 3 hours before I committed myself to something entirely different.

One thing that had always concerned me about the 5:2 diet was how I might commit to it as peeps in my office regularly chew on the chockies, coffees and other goodies. Temptation and reminders would be everywhere. But what also concerned me was that it only examined half of the equation, the diet ignored exercise and it never teaches you anything. Further, dieting like that I’ve seen reports people often end up regaining the lost weight.

I’d seen some time ago a program developed by Michelle Bridges called the 12 week body transformation (12WBT), this focusses upon exercise, meal plans, lessons, learning & participation in forums with those in your 12 week block. There are multiple programs structured to meet various people’s needs and abilities. I paid up front for a 2 week saving at $199.

I’m excited to give this a go, though also a little nervous as I know it’s no walk in the park, it does get more intense as weeks progress. Week 1 begins Monday!

Burning candles at both ends

As we neared end of the work year I grew more anxious for it to end and holidays to begin. It has been a year marked with losing another three family members, after losing three in 2016; the final loss in 2017, that of my little brother to suicide was certainly the most difficult to deal with.

I think also working full-time and then providing out-of-hours support to one of the schools has led to my burning the candle at both ends. Come November I was really starting to feel exhausted, plus this month was also my brother’s birthday – it was hitting home the fact I couldn’t text, call or email to celebrate his birthday, nor would we have a get together.

Physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted my end-of-year annual leave had finally arrived, three glorious weeks that would commence with our office Christmas party. It was great to have a nice sit down buffet meal at the nearby resort, we had a great time. Before leaving our Director handed out the staff awards, two joint awards nominated by Schools and then the award nominated by our staff, I was so surprised when my own name was called out.

Ironically this would be the only Christmas celebrations I’d get to partake in this year. The following afternoon I would get ill and not recover enough to attend our family’s early Christmas celebrations at Burswood’s Atrium restaurant. By mid-week I was starting to feel somewhat better and headed out to wrap up present buying.

I had been invited by my other brother to his place for Christmas and had purchased a few items to take on the day. One week after I’d gotten sick “WHAM!” I was struck with

stomach flu and Norovirus; I had never experienced diarrhoea as I did over this weekend, over 30 bouts causing me to get a little dehydrated despite trying to keep fluids up.

Sadly, I was again nowhere near well enough come Christmas Day to join, instead was sleeping or laying on the couch. I honestly wonder what part my being exhausted contributed to being ill and missing family events, or was it just bad luck? At least in 2018 the level of out-of-hours I’ll work will be reduced, so hopefully I will not find myself in the same boat. I look forward to a better 2018, preferably death free as I’ve had my fill of that frankly. Good riddance 2017!

Blow me over with a feather: PTSD

I had my first visit with the psychologist today to discuss issues surrounding my brother’s death, as well as everything else that has happened since day dot. It’s probably as well she had a new looking pen, there was plenty for her to write down. She was much better than other psychologists than I have seen previously, so much more engaged, not the usual ‘mmm, right’ that leaves you wondering where to go next.

As I discussed events recent and past I mentioned how I often relived events over and over, often vividly, especially when I felt I’d made mistakes, constantly judging myself for having done so. It was the bullying from my childhood that often replayed though, constantly reminding me of what had occurred. Based upon what I’d discussed she suggested it was highly likely I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was a little shocked to say the least, I honestly thought this was limited to people in the military, or those who were raped or similar highly traumatic incidents.

There’s an eye-based therapy they can use which will assist with transferring the memory from short-term to long-term, thereby removing the memory from likely being relived over and over. My little sister, currently working towards becoming a psychiatrist, says the therapy is very effective in practice, so I am encouraged to hopefully move forward and get past these long-lived memories, finally.

Cancer claims another in my family

The past six months I have lost a number of my family. It all started in September when my godmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, then just two weeks later she was gone. The following month my Dad’s sister passed, thankfully not from illness.

In December, Aunt Bev passed following a several year battle with ovarian cancer. Her long battle was a painful one, it was such a cruel way for her to die. Whilst she was battling her own cancer, her husband, my dad’s brother was diagnosed with a tumour. Despite several operations his outcome was terminal, and sadly today he too passed just two months after losing his wife. 

Cancer is such a dreadful way to pass. I am grateful my godmother Margaret’s suffering was brief, barely knowing she had it before she was gone. Unfortunately Bev and John endured prolonged periods, but thankfully had good support networks to ensure they were cared for. 

All are missed, hopefully one day cancer diagnoses will be a thing of the past or easily cured.