A List of Things that May Have Eased My Anxiety This Week

A List of Things that May Have Eased My Anxiety This Week

It’s been a rough few months. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing that ripples past the inner circles of me and my little family, just a tough transition. From maternity leave to full-time work for me. From home to daycare for Little A. From private to public kindergarten for GG. From summer to a new year. From known to unknown. From comfortable to oh-my-god-what-have-I-done-I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this.

And somewhere in all this, my old friend anxiety raised her ugly head and came back for a surprise visit. The whole bit – panic attacks catching me unawares, largely imagined health scares, loops of negative thoughts plaguing me night and day.

But the last week or so, things have started to feel different. Lighter, more manageable. Possibly just because time passed, because all things come and go, and possibly because I so desperately needed to push this weight of anxiety off my chest that I tried everything I knew how.

And maybe one of those things worked.

So here they are, in no particular order:

1. Meditation 

You’d think I’d know this by now – meditation works for me. It clears space and grounds me. As usual I don’t manage to sit as much as I’d like to, but whenever I do, it helps.

2. Movement 

At the moment it’s walking and yoga. In the thick of anxiety getting sweaty makes me feel like I’m bringing it all to the surface. Whatever “it” may be.

3. Therapy

I’m blessed to have a supportive therapist that knows me well, who I can check in with when times get rough. Sometimes just talking helps, and other times we’re doing what feels like real work. Reaching down into the depths of the bullshit, making some order and releasing what I no longer need.

4. Rescue Remedy

Maybe it’s just a placebo, who knows. It seems to help at times.

5. Massage

Enough said.

6. Getting a check up

When my anxiety gets bad, I pretty much always decide something is wrong with me. I have some crazy physical symptoms and then the cycle of worrying gets started – and it gets ugly in my head. This time I decided there was something wrong with my brain – sparked by a spat of dizzy spells and weird sensations up and down my arm.

As it turns out, I have carpal tunnel syndrome. And probably not a brain tumor causing numbness in my forearm and fingers and electric tingles. I think, oddly, that diagnosis probably did more to lift my anxiety than everything else on this list combined.

And apparently I’m somewhat sleep deprived. Which brings us to.. .

7. Sleep

Not like we’re getting full nights or anything crazy like that, but I’m doing my best to prioritize rest.

8. Recognizing anxiety 

This is a big one for me. I think I was having panic attacks for a couple of weeks before I realized – hang on a minute, I’ve been here before. This is anxiety.

And it helps, calling a spade a spade. Knowing that it will pass, that it has passed before and it will pass again.

9. Eating well 


10. Eating pizza

Because balance, right?


Parenting as Kundalini Yoga

Parenting as Kundalini Yoga

I went through a brief Kundalini Yoga phase about 10 years ago. What I remember most about the practice was the surprising way that repetitive movements could foster a deep, meditative state. We’d be doing something seemingly mundane, like sitting cross-legged waving our arms up and down, up and down, up and down – for three minutes. The first minute was boring. The second the muscles would start to burn. And by the third… if I managed to push through… somehow I’d end up in this trance-like concentration state, tingling, totally engaged and yet using very little effort to continue with the movement. When the three minutes was up we’d sit in meditation, and I remember my mind being super-sharp, centered and perfectly in the moment.

This process came to mind during GG’s bathtime last night. He was splashing like a maniac so I held up a towel to protect myself from getting too wet. Naturally, he took this as an invitation to begin an innovative game of peekaboo… and so I obliged. “Again!” And so we did it again. “Again!”

So there I was, sitting cross-legged on the floor, arms waving up and down, up and down, up and down, and I was transported back to those Kundalini classes in Jerusalem. Up and down, up and down, up and down. This time with a toddler for a teacher. I decided to give it a go – to keep going until he told me to stop. To let go of whether or not my arms were hurting, whether we should be getting out of the bath and getting ready for bed. To just surrender to the moment with my son. And you know kids and repetition – rather than tiring of the game, he was enjoying it more and more, giggling with each “peekaboo!” I kept at it – for once letting him pick when the game (and my workout) would end. He tired of it eventually, totally energized by his little game – and I had fun, too. And while I didn’t have the luxury of closing my eyes and sinking into meditation afterwards, it did leave me contemplating a metaphor for really being present when playing with our kids.

Often, the games that entertain toddlers aren’t the most mentally stimulating for adults. Perhaps they’re even boring. And then when you have to do them over and over and over… yeh. And often as well as being boring, they’re exhausting. GG literally stands in our kitchen and yells “run! run!” and grins like a mad boot camp instructor as me and my husband run laps around the house. But there’s something beautiful about giving in to it. About surrendering to the boring and the exhausting, knowing that there’s something higher waiting at the other end. True connection. The enjoyment in your kid’s eyes. Collapsing in a giggling, panting heap together.

And just being there with them, for a few minutes. Even if you have to push through some boredom and some pain to get there.

The Opportunity Cost of Being a Mindful Mama

The Opportunity Cost of Being a Mindful Mama

Coming to terms with the new priorities in my life over the first year of parenting has been and continues to be a huge challenge for me. I’m finding it hard to accept that if I’m going to be the type of mother I want to be – mindful, present and intentional – other things need to give.

In practice, it’s all been pretty natural – my family is number one, health is up there – exercise, sleep, meditation and food alike – and though it’s at a slower pace than before my career is definitely still a factor.

So what does that look like in practice? Let’s start from the morning – though sometimes I still feel like there’s no real night and day, just the constant flow that I first met almost one year ago when Gadi was born. We wake around 6am and spend an hour or so together as a family. We eat, get ready, chat, cuddle, sometimes dance. This time is precious – crucial to anchor us all together in preparation for our days apart. We head off to daycare and our respective workplaces, where the baby has a ball and my husband and I do our best to do our little bit of good in the world (read: try not to fall asleep at our desks). On the three days a week that I pick Gadi up, we have about two hours together before bath and bed time.

That two hours feels like nothing. Not nearly enough time to properly reconnect, to ask and tell each other about our days – without words for now. To cuddle and play and eat and wind down. So I put my phone aside, I try to forget about work, and about all the things I want to get done once he goes to sleep. All the phone calls I want to return, blog posts I want to write, work calls I have scheduled for the evening. I want my attention on him 100%, and I want him to see that. Even if I’m just watching him play. I want to teach him about doing one thing at a time, about being where you are – and I think the best way to teach is by example.

Then we start the bedtime routine – which is sometimes easy and sometimes a bit more challenging and pretty much always exhausting. He’s asleep by 7pm. And to be honest, half the time I fantasize about snuggling up in his cot with him. I’ve been meaning to work out how much weight that thing can support for months now.

Evenings are important, too. Because when I say that family is a priority – I don’t just mean Gadi. The time that Uri and I spend together at the end of the day is a huge part of what keeps me sane and grounded. What keeps us together. What has made this past year the most amazing one of my life. Often all we manage is eating dinner and chatting on the couch before we both start to fade, but those moments are precious, too. Same goes for an episode of The Big Bang Theory or whatever we can manage to keep our eyes open long enough to watch. We collapse into bed together every night, exhausted but happy, and wake up – once if we’re lucky and three times if we’re not – through the wee hours to feed Gadi and help him get back to sleep.

One or two nights a week I might “make it” out of the house to meet a friend for dinner or a walk. I keep scheduling yoga classes in my diary for 8pm but I haven’t made it yet – once I’ve got the baby to bed it’s just so hard to get out of the house. I know my body would probably thank me for it but… I just don’t seem to manage it. Maybe once we’re sleeping through the night – if that ever happens. At this point I make it to one afternoon class and one weekend class – and that will have to be enough for now. My semi-regular meditation practice could do with some work too and ditto for running… but c’est la vie.

And weekends? My priorities don’t change. We love our time just the three of us. Sometimes at home, sometimes out and about, often eating. Most things in our household revolve around food and cuddles – and Gadi’s sleep. We enjoy time with friends and family, too – but nowhere near as much as I used to.

But my point was neither to share our routine nor to complain about it – I love every moment I just described. That is, unless I slip out of the moment and start thinking about the opportunity cost. About the phone calls I haven’t returned and the parties I don’t attend and the type of friend I used to be. Hour upon hour of phone calls helping my friends and family sort out their issues and mine. Minor and major alike. Bottles of wine. I loved those hours, and I miss them dearly – but I just don’t have them at the moment. Instead I’m choosing to spend them on real, present time with my family, on sleep, and on my own mental health.

It’s not my new priorities that I struggle with per say – it’s what I’ve had to let go of to put them into place. And I guess in some way I’m still coming to terms with the opportunity cost. I know that this is the way to be the type of mother and wife that I want to be – but at the same time, I miss the me of one or two short years ago.

When I do finally catch up with the dear people that I used to have so much more time for, I feel pressure to complain. To complain about being tired, and about how hard it is to be a mother, and about the laundry. But honestly, that’s not it for me. My challenge is learning to accept where I am right now, to respect it and embrace it.

Otherwise, how can I expect anyone else to understand?

An open letter to the Gordon Pool

An open letter to the Gordon Pool

Having issued formal complaints to both the Gordon Pool itself and the Tel Aviv Municipality to no avail, I figured making use of my blog might help solve the issue of smoking at the beach-side facility. For those who aren’t familiar with it, we’re talking about a beautiful, newly-renovated compound with a sea-water, Olympic-size pool and a state-of-the-art gym, enjoyed by tourists and locals alike especially during the city’s hotter months (so basically every month but January & February).

Feel free to pass this on if you share my sentiments.

Dear Gordon Pool, 

I’d like to draw your attention to the phenomenon of smoking around your pool, despite multiple non-smoking signs displayed prominently around the area. 

Over the past few months, both during the week and on weekends (a recent period of “funemployment” gave me the opportunity to enjoy your facilities to the max), I’ve visited the pool both to exercise, and to enjoy the pleasant summertime atmosphere. More than once, I’ve been forced to move chairs or even give up and leave the area altogether due to other patrons’ smoking. I’ve seen people smoking cigarettes, cigars and joints alike, even within meters of the lifeguard station. I’ve asked staff to sort out the issue and had them agree and then blatantly ignore me. Perhaps this behavior, along with the built-in ashtrays in the plastic tables around the pool, is giving patrons the wrong message? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be a party-pooper here. I smoked for years, I get that it’s fun. Unfortunately it’s also disgusting and bothers non-smokers, particularly annoying ex-smokers like me. I’m not going to make a fuss about people mixing cheap vodka with fake Red Bull around the pool, though that certainly doesn’t lend itself to the spirit of health either. I understand that this is a sport and leisure facility, but you guys put the signs up yourselves, so I’m sure you’ll agree that smoking is a different story. 

I strongly believe that there is no place for smoking at a facility which aims to promote healthy living, and that your staff are being negligent by failing to stamp out the phenomenon. I urge you – please sort out this issue once and for all so your loyal, paying customers can breathe freely as they enjoy the pool. 

Elana Kirsh

Update: One month after filing a complaint with the Tel Aviv Municipality I received a reply, stating that smoking is indeed against the law in the pool area, and that the responsibility for prevention lies with the management. The official also stated that staff would receive further training on the matter, and a copy of his letter was set to the manager of the Gordon Pool compound.
Let’s hope they can follow through!
Raving at the gym

Raving at the gym

I’ve recently been convinced to join a gym. There, I said it. I know, I know, who am I and what have I done with Elana, and what happened to “this place seems like what hell would look like,” etc. Well, things change, people change, priorities change, bad habits change, and when push comes to shove I’m pretty happy with my shiny blue key ring.

Barring two embarrassing pool episodes in the first week, my transition to becoming a gym-goer has been pretty smooth. I even have a gym bag now, and can almost remember all the things I’m meant to pack in order to maximize my visits. Showering with only a hand towel to dry myself today wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable of experiences, for example, but at least I had clean socks and deodorant to put on afterwards.

In any case, earlier this week I found myself in my first spin class, after a know-it-all Orthopaedic told me that running isn’t good for my knee. And I loved it. Yes, I was just as shocked.

It was only last week that I’d said I feel like I have one more rave left in me, despite the fact that I’m no longer into some of the *ahem* behaviours that used to help us stay up all night dancing. And indeed, it turns out I may have many raves left in me yet, all in the weird dark triangular room at the back of the Gordon Pool gym. The neon lights, pumping music, heart-racing, the endorphin rush – it’s totally raving for adults. Or healthy people, as the case may be. At various points during the class I was this close to throwing my hands triumphantly in the air, and when the DJ oops I mean teacher put on an Infected Mushroom track as the last track, I literally wanted to shout “woo!” Yes, “woo!” And since I’ve gone this far, I might as well admit that my new bright green work-out top glowing fluoro yellow was also part of the fun.

So, while I’m neither committing to a spin class a day nor ruling out a rave comeback just yet, I’ll definitely be going back for more. Does anyone know somewhere in Tel Aviv that sells glow-in-the-dark water bottles?

When you blame, you be lame

When you blame, you be lame

The Tel Aviv Marathon was scheduled for last Friday (March 15, 2013), but the main 42km event was postponed due to an unseasonable 35 degree Celcius heatwave which swept the country that day. Unfortunately the marathon itself has now been cancelled altogether due to a tragic death and dozens of injuries during the events which went ahead, including the 21km half marathon, and volleys of subsequent accusations levelled back and forth.

In response to the weather predictions, the Tel Aviv Municipality decided earlier in the week to postpone the main event, and to start the other races earlier than planned so as to miss the heat of the day. I started running in the 10km just after 7am and took the race pretty easy, and while it was hot I can honestly say that it wasn’t that bad. There were plenty of extra water stations, hoses literally watering down runners, and tips before the race on how to deal with the expected heat.

And yet despite all efforts, one person died (supposedly from heat stroke but the family decided against an autopsy) and some 80 people required medical attention.

It took no time at all for accusations started flying, from media and citizens alike. Against the Tel Aviv Municipality, the mayor, the Health Ministry – you  name it, someone blamed it. The question is – what does it help? It’s tragic that someone died, sure, but unfortunately – people die. They die in marathons, they die in car accidents, they die old and young, expected and suddenly. The death of a young father is a tragedy, no ifs or buts about it; in no way, shape or form do I wish to diminish that fact. I just question what purpose all of the blame surrounding this tragedy serves.

Growing up there was a well-known phrase about assumptions: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me” (ass+u+me = assume). Last week, as fingers were being pointed left, right and center before I’d even passed the finish line, a revision came to mind: When you blame, you be lame (b+lame = lame).

In Facebook posts and news articles, radio talk shows and countless personal conversations, people tried to find the authority to blame. Others turned the other direction entirely and pointed the finger at the casualties themselves, claiming they were obviously pushing themselves too hard or (as may well have been the case) didn’t know their own limits. Whichever way the accusations go, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, shit happens.

And, as it happens, deaths in marathon running are not as much of an anomaly as Israelis this past week would have you believe. A 30-year-old woman died running a London marathon earlier this year, a man collapsed and died on the finish line of the 2012 Mexico City marathon, and there were three deaths in as many Canadian marathons in 2011. Some likely didn’t train properly or pushed themselves too hard, others were found to have taken (legal) performance-enhancing stimulants. Though Israelis like to think they’re special, when it comes down to it we’re all the same.

But that’s not to say marathons are inherently dangerous; the benefits decidedly outweigh the risks. In the months leading up the events I saw hundreds of people training around the city. Fit people and overweight people alike, young and old, male and female – all taking the opportunity to challenge their minds and their bodies in a pretty damn healthy way. I have no statistics to quote but I’m willing to bet that many of them will keep running after the race (or the non-event, as the case may be). Again – it’s a terrible shame that one person had to die, but the societal gain seems worth it.

In fact, a retrospective analysis conducted in 2007 found that contrary to impressions given by the news media, marathons are not even responsible for an increase in deaths compared to those that would have occurred on the roads had they not been closed for such events. Rather, the risk of death was found to have decreased by 35%. Health gains aside, societies are benefiting merely by closing roads to hold these events.

No doubt, the authorities should conduct a proper investigation into whether or not anything could have been done to prevent the fatality and injuries. However, the bottom line is that tens of thousands of people made efforts towards their health in previous months, and will likely continue to do so. It is horrible that one person had to die, but the benefits far outweigh the risks, and people should keep that in mind before jumping to point fingers.

When you blame, you be lame.