My 32nd wedding anniversary landed smack on Thanksgiving this year so our celebration was going to have to take place on a different day, crammed into an already crammed family weekend. So little time all the time. Wednesday before the big feast it was noses to the proverbial grindstone from early morning on. Around lunchtime the sky cleared and the sun (to borrow a few great Joni Mitchell lyrics), poured in like butterscotch and brought us to our senses. When this happens in the Pacific Northwest in late November you know you are being self-destructive or for that matter courting Vitamin D-deficiency to remain indoors. If you know what’s good for you, you drop what you’re doing and get out there. In any way, shape or form you can maneuver or will it to happen ….Otherwise you miss out on one of the all-time great stress reduction opportunities: the unabashed partaking of unstructured time. I repeat UNstructured time. The kind that allows you to spend some time in your life not being particularly busy or productive – just being. Say to yourself or aloud something like… I am going to do what comes naturally for a change, what feels good to me, relaxing, engaging, comforting and nurturing of my mind and spirit and I don’t care who knows it! ( btw: whether you are your own boss or not, rest assured that your stressed adrenals need this break as much as you do and that all you have to lose is your lethargy!)
Evidently, I know what’s good for me because on this day I said first to myself, and then out loud to my husband, let the anniversary begin! It goes without saying that I had a willing accomplice. The decision that we should stop what we were doing, jump in the car this minute, drive to a stellar spot, preferably a vista overlooking grapevines and peaking autumn hues, whilst sipping a heart healthy glass of red wine, was taken unanimously and without regret…. it felt a little like ice-skating on Lake Michigan at night as a kid in Chicago.
Speaking of the fermented grape, not to be sniffed at is the long-term scientific evidence that red wine has a protective effect against heart disease (Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 Jun;28(6):829-47). This is due in large part to it’s many plant compounds especially the celebrity antioxidant resveratrol, known to have powerful anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties. In recent studies resveratrol has been found to act upon specific genes to protect cells against aging, and also to slow the developmental stages of cancer. (Journal of Immunology 2000;164:6509-19; Journal of Biological Chem 2005;280:17038-45.)
Most promising when it comes to women, wine, and hormones, is the fact that red wine is medically classified as a phyto-(plant) estrogen thought to enhance natural hormone balance! Evidently, unlike other types of alcohol red wine also inhibits the action of aromatase (Ann NY Acad Sci. 2002 Jun;963:239-46), an enzyme that increases estrogen conversion in fat cells and can lead to estrogen dominance and thus, increased risks for breast cancer (www.theseventhwomanfoundation.org) But lest you conclude that the best way to balance your hormones naturally is to drink more red wine, keep in mind that we are talking about moderate consumption here, no more than one glass a day according to the experts. Of further note is that the reported health benefits of red wine in particular are significantly enhanced when consumed with meals, especially as part of a Mediterranean diet. This is news we can use to explore our options!
But I digress. Once the anniversary countdown began I never skipped a beat in moving myself towards balance. The feeling of lightness from within. Of not living in my head for a change. I felt calm and energized all at the same time and saw it for what it was: the absence of stress. And I knew that I would have to do this again sometime, maybe not on a working day, but some other time, again, SOON.
What is your personal balance plan? Jump in the conversation and please leave a comment right here (scroll down) on our blog so that we all can learn and share best practice for engaging in guilt-free, unstructured time. This is another of our essential truths: You are unique. What’s right for your friend, mother or sister is not necessarily right for you. But we can all explore the paths to balance together.