My Brain on Internet.

One of my goals this year is to spend less time on the Internet (oh, the irony, as I write this blog) reading vacuous material and more time in the real word reading real books of substance.

My brother told me about this book over a year ago.  I avoided reading it because I think I already knew what it would tell me.

I spent the last month hardly tied to my phone which was incredibly liberating.  Of course, with the holidays and the illness rampant in my house as well as my dad’s hospitalization, there wasn’t enough time in my day to waste on surfing photos on Instagram.  Now that life has returned to some semblance of normal – the kids are back in school, my dad is home and recuperating and I am back to work – I find myself wanting to go back to old habits.  My brain wants its drug back. I really hope reading this book sets me straight.

Unplugged.

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It has been a week since I took myself off social media, well except for Facebook, let’s be honest, I’m not that strong. I have to admit it was easier than I expected it to be.  Whenever I felt the need to pick up my phone and open an App, I found myself instead picking up a magazine at the office or reviewing an interesting medical topic on UpToDate.

The one thing I do miss about not being on Instagram is posting photos of my progress on my cross-stitching projects.  It was nice to see that other cross-stitchers enjoyed my work and “liked” my photos.  I was also apparently missed by a few followers and received messages from them asking why I left.

I left for a number of reasons, many of which I won’t discuss here but suffice it to say it served mainly to rid myself of a desire to watch others at a distance. It was unhealthy and really served no other purpose than to torture me.  I created my own prison and couldn’t find a way out, or rather, knew exactly how to get out but didn’t have the courage to do so until last week.  The year is coming to an end and a new one is just around the corner.  It’s time to move on.

I have decided that I want 2016 to be a year of less Internet voyeurism and instead more real-life interaction.  I want to read more books and enjoy life for myself. I want to stop using my phone to take a photo and immediately think, “Oh, that would make a great Instagram post.”  I want to live in the present through my own eyes rather than a camera lens.  I don’t need anyone to approve my life or “like” what I’m doing, least of all strangers.  I also don’t need to provide an open window for my past to watch me through.

Which leads to me this blog. It is the one thing left (other than Facebook but thanks to good privacy controls, I may still keep my accoount) that I still allow my past to witness. I could make this blog private and I might still do so in the new year, I haven’t decided yet.  I know there are those who visit my blog whom I no longer see in real life.   It used to really bother me that they were visiting my blog and it caused me a lot of frustration and stress.  It became an obsession to check the tracking log every day to see if they were back.  I am happy to report that that obsession is now over. The website tracking is gone and I kicked another addiction.

And damn if I don’t feel like I’ve freed myself.

I have unplugged.

I suggest you do the same.

 

 

 

Another 5K Baby!

Day 25 – January Daily Blog Posting Month.

As we got a small reprieve from the deep freeze, I decided to take advantage of the reasonably “warm” day (it was -3°C, -10°C with windchill) and go out for a run.  I had my route in mind and hoped it would be enough to reach 5km.
Yes, yes it was.
And I did it 3 minutes faster!
That is all.
(I am making oatmeal cookies for the kids.  I swear, for the kids.)
5k

C8H10N4O2

Day 7.

Anyone?

According to the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, it is the world’s most popular drug and most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. It is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world.  In its purest form, it is a white, bitter-tasting powder. It is found in varying quantities in the seeds, leaves, and fruit of some plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants, as well as enhancing the reward memory of pollinators. [References: Wikipedia]

It is very likely that most, if not all, of you reading this are consuming it right now.

Yes, I’m talking about caffeine.  The elixir of Gods.  My elixir.

I usually consume one to two cups (about 8oz) a day, but lately, that number is more like 3-4 cups.  I can’t help it, it’s keeping me awake.  Or so I think.  So I decided to do a bit of research to see if it really does help keep us awake and more alert. A study released last month suggests that caffeine’s interaction with the hormone cortisol is key in its effects on the body.  Apparently the best time to drink one’s cup of coffee is between 9:30-11:30am when our cortisol levels start to drop off.  Cortisol is the body’s “awake” hormone, it helps to regulate the body’s own internal clock and promotes alertness.  It peaks between 6-9am, right around the time we are waking up.  According to neuroscientists, if we drink our coffee first thing in the morning when our cortisol levels are at their highest, it can cause you to develop a tolerance to the caffeine it contains, meaning you often need an extra shot in your morning cup to get the same effect.

“One of the key principles of pharmacology is use a drug when it is needed. Otherwise, we can develop tolerance to a drug administered at the same dose.” – http://neurosciencedc.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/the-best-time-for-your-coffee.html

Fascinating stuff!

I’m not suggesting that caffeine is good for you.  Like with any psychoactive substance, too much can, and often is bad for you.  So just how much is too much? And what’s so bad about it anyway?  According to Health Canada, caffeine’s negative effects include:

  • general toxicity (e.g., muscle tremors, nausea, irritability)
  • cardiovascular effects (e.g., heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure)
  • effects on calcium balance and bone health (e.g., bone density, risk of fractures)
  • behavioural effects in both adults and children (e.g., anxiety, mood changes, attentiveness)
  • potential links to cancer
  • effects on reproduction (e.g., male and female fertility, birth weight)

Health Canada recommends no more that 400 mg of caffeine daily for most healthy adults.  This number is lower for women who are trying to conceive. Motherisk’s statement on caffeine and pregnancy reports that daily consumption of no more than 300 mg of caffeine daily appears to be safe. Higher levels of caffeine consumption during the first trimester of pregnancy may be related to an increased risk of miscarriage.

So what does that mean?  How much coffee = 400 mg?  How much tea?  From the Center for Addiction and Mental Health:

The following are typical amounts of caffeine in products you may use regularly. (A cup refers to a small take-out cup size of 237 mL [8 oz]. Keep in mind that coffee and tea are often served in much larger cups.)

  • cup of brewed coffee: 135 mg
  • cup of instant coffee: 76–106 mg
  • cup of decaffeinated coffee: about 3 mg
  • cup of tea: 43 mg
  • can of regular cola soft drink containing caffeine (355 ml): 36–50 mg
  • can of energy drink (250 ml): 80 mg
  • dark chocolate (28 g): 19 mg
  • milk chocolate (28 g): 7 mg
  • packet of hot chocolate mix: 7 mg
  • stay-awake pills: 100 mg

What’s good about caffeine?  You mean besides the taste?  (Oh, I highly recommend a shot of Baileys in your morning coffee…. what?) Caffeine consumption is associated with an overall lower the risk of cancer, particularly liver and endometrial cancers; it may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes; it may increase the effectiveness or certain medications, especially those used to treat headaches; it is the primary treatment for apnea of prematurity; and lets not forget that caffeine can increase alertness and overall, make you feel good. (Okay, I added that last bit.)

Of course, too much caffeine is bad for you. Caffeine intoxication is actually listed in the DSM 5!  Caffeine toxicity, although rare, is quite harmful. Symptoms include restlessness, fidgeting, anxiety, excitement, insomnia, flushing of the face, increased urination, gastrointestinal disturbance, muscle twitching, a rambling flow of thought and speech, irritability, irregular or rapid heart beat, and psychomotor agitation.  In cases of much larger overdoses, mania, depression, lapses in judgment, disorientation, disinhibition, delusions, hallucinations, or psychosis may occur, and rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue) can be provoked.  Overdose can lead to death. The median lethal dose of caffeine in humans is estimated to be about 150-200 mg/kg body weight, which is equivalent to about 80-100 cups of coffee.  Seriously? Who could drink that much coffee?  

The bottom line is, like any other recreational drug (within reason, of course) moderation is the key.

So, enjoy that 1-3 cups of coffee a day.  I certainly do!

Addiction.

Addiction – the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit forming, as narcotics,to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

Try not to get too excited – this isn’t a post about bad addictions.  This is a post about good addictions.  I think I may have discussed one of my addictions early on in my blogging history, cross stitching.  I have been cross stitching for almost 10 years now and started in medical school.  When I go several days (or weeks) without stitching, I get ever so slightly anxious, like something is missing in my life.  Once I do a few stitches, the anxiety goes away.  I know its ridiculous, but aren’t most addictions?

I am almost embarrassed to admit this, mostly because I secretly hated those who seem to love doing it (well, not really), but I am starting to like running.

Okay, that’s not really true.

I am getting addicted to running.

There, I said it.  It’s the first step in acknowledging the addiction, right?

Since my last blog post, I have done  5 runs.  The pain is subsiding, the endorphin rush is increasing, and while I haven’t gotten on a scale to look at my weight, I am noticing very subtle changes in the way my clothes are fitting.  I’m getting my tone back.  I’m getting my energy back.  My sleep has been rock solid on the days I run. I am counting the hours to my next run.   I haven’t cracked the 5 km mark yet, but I am thinking it is only a matter of time.

I probably shouldn’t even talk about it, lest I jinx myself, but so far I have had no injuries.  For a newbie runner who has never run before, I don’t even know if I’m running the right way.  It’s been mostly pavement running, but for the first time 2 days ago, I ran on the boardwalk by the lake.  I noticed at about the 3 km mark, that my left foot was going numb, specifically across the plantar surface of my foot (in laymen terms, the “balls of my foot”).  I had to stop to walk the rest of the way.  My girlfriend who was running with me suggested it might be due to the boardwalk as it was a new surface for me.  I also noted my calf muscles were particularly  tight during the run as well.  Interestingly enough, I had no issues the next morning or the day after (today), so I wonder if it really was just the surface we were running on.  I suppose it might be a good idea to go to a running clinic to make sure I’m doing this all correctly.  Tonight’s run is going to be on pavement again, so it’ll be interesting to see if I get the same symptoms.

So there you have it, I have a new addiction.

Could this be in my future?