I needed the group. I needed a sponsor, and I needed friends. Much of my recovery has come from being willing to talk about the sex abuse in my childhood, from grieving the loss that came with not being able to have children, and from breaking my denial about how men have chronically abused me. I have worked to transition from sex abuse victim to survivor. I read numerous articles, but one in particular, called The Courage to Heal, spoke to me, and I spent the next year working the exercises. I felt such shame the day I purchased it. I wanted to hide it and pretend I was buying it for someone else. Then I told my parents about the sexual abuse my brother performed on me. I have no real memory of the time frame other than knowing about when it started and about when it ended, somewhere about five years. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system during the alarm phase or period of acute stress can set up a cycle of high adrenaline, leading to higher levels of cortisol. When left unchecked, these elevated levels can cause multiple symptoms of stress and lead to chronic illness. However, most forms of yoga recharge us and lower cortisol surges. One study looked at female breast cancer survivors who had breast cancers staged between levels II and IV. Researchers found that regular yoga practice of 90 minutes done twice weekly for eight weeks resulted in lower levels of both morning cortisol and evening cortisol levels and better overall well-being and fatigue scores. There are also studies showing that relaxation responses, such as yoga, meditation, and breathing, can enhance mitochondria, the energy powerhouse of cells, by impacting the genes that regulate the energy-producing reactions of our body. Relaxation response has been shown to increase ATP and, therefore, increase mitochondrial energy production. This makes us more effective at utilizing our supply of ATP and balancing demand. At the same time, these practices have been shown to decrease inflammation causing decreasing production of proteins (such as NF-KB) that turn on inflammation cascades in the body. Lower levels of NF-KB in immune cells have also been correlated with lower oxidative stress. As life becomes more organized, it becomes easier to manage--and now, it has become a life of self-discipline.

Studying these characteristics and making attempts to mimic the behaviors and thinking patterns is one sure way to reach your goal of mental toughness faster. Use it as a blueprint that can be used and reused at will. Over time, the process will become like second-nature. You will instantly know when you are falling back into old habits or behaviors and can correct the course. Ability to Make Non-Emotional Choices Allowing an emotional state to dictate your decision-making process will skew your outcome in directions that are non-productive or harmful. No matter how much your small child wants to cross a busy street by themselves and offer a tantrum to try and force a decision in their favor, better sense usually prevails, and the child waits until a responsible person can help them navigate heavy traffic safely. Letting emotions drive the decision can have terrible consequences, depending on the situation. Learn to separate emotion from sensible, rational thoughts. I do have some specific memories, and through my recovery I have discovered I have a very strong case of post-traumatic stress disorder related to the abuse. I also used the incredible therapy tool of Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) to lessen my anxiety and reframe loving beliefs about myself as well as allowing myself to be heard, allowing myself a voice, allowing myself to grieve, and then to be held safely by wonderfully caring women. I learned to do recovery, to have a plan as to what my recovery could look like. I was looking at me and not living in reactivity to my husband. I would go to meetings and share. I found the courage and support to start my own twelve-step group for partners since I lived in an area where there were no groups. I learned that I am a part of the whole, that my part is just as important as any other woman in the group. I feel whole and believe in myself. I quit feeling less than, and I stopped comparing myself to others: I stopped competing. I have begun to use the other half of my brain, to allow my artistic side to rise to the surface, to let what was there flow in the way it was intended. These data suggest that yoga can positively affect energy, inflammation, and oxidative stress pathways, which are all implicated in chronic disease and aging.

One recent study linked loneliness in older adults to inflammation and showed that a mindfulness program reduces both inflammatory markers in the blood and feelings of loneliness. Caregivers who have the burden of providing care to the chronically ill also experience high levels of stress. Recall that stress triggers inflammation. They found that those caregivers who meditated 12 minutes daily for eight weeks were able to decrease the inflammatory markers in their bodies. As people are living longer, there are many families providing care to the elderly. This finding reminds us that meditation is a great tool for calming stress and reducing inflammation in this caregiver population. Consider that here is another tool to decrease the inflammation in our blood! Yoga and Hormone Balance One of the most frustrating aspects of aging for both patients and physicians is hormone imbalance. See the reality of the situation Raw emotions can paint colors onto a canvas, which are not truly a part of the landscape. Irrational fears, negative thoughts, and a generalized As difficult as it may seem, take time to calmly look at the situation with an eye for realism. Goal-Driven Keeping your eye on the goal is an important part of the development of mental toughness and a standard characteristic of anyone that always seems to achieve everything they set out to do or attain. It is an admirable quality worth replicating as often as possible. Recognizing a dead-end road Taking the wrong path or making incorrect decisions is a waste of valuable time, resources, and energy. The skills it takes to recognize a dead-end road before you take the plunge is priceless. I listen and accept feedback.

I discern what will and will not work for me. I've stopped defending myself, stopped giving my power away, and stopped giving myself away. I hold myself as precious. I experience the power of women, the power of tradition and ceremony. I have had to get therapy to help me get to a place of healthy anger. I have ripped up my share of Kleenex. I have beaten the bed. I also kick things, and I walk hard, and I air box. I have a great time with my anger and it's empowering. Yoga has the ability to affect our hormone balance and directly address that stress response. More on this in a minute. First, let's talk about a few basics. Hormones are proteins in the body that communicate between different organs and tissues. They regulate most functions in the body, such as (but not limited to) digestion, metabolism, sleep, reproduction, and mood. Hormone imbalance and decline in most hormones are key factors in aging. For example, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and growth hormone are naturally occurring hormones that decline as we age. DHEA has been linked to muscle mass, vitality, and cognitive health. Growth hormone, which is secreted from the pituitary gland of the brain, is linked to our ability to grow and heal. One study looked at the effects of regular yoga training for 12 weeks. Is it a road filled with potholes or other unsavory obstacles?

Is there a smoother, more direct route available? Not every path in life need be a struggle. At times, the struggles experienced are due to poor decision-making. Step back and look at the big picture. Even a difficult hedge-maze is solvable by looking at it from above. Untethering from details Details can keep you bogged down, much like the tethers that hold back a hot air balloon from its flight. It is important to address all the details but do not get hung up in the process. Keep pushing forward for positive results. But having been a major peacekeeper in my life, I can still go there when I get scared. And my husband's anger can scare me. So I always work at boundaries, knowing whose stuff is whose. I don't take on his blaming. I am not willing to be abused. Today I recognize it early on and I have learned to stick up for myself verbally and remove myself from the situation if that is necessary. My best boundary is in knowing I cannot do his recovery. Today in his work he still travels some so I talk about any fears I have. I no longer bury my head in the sand. If he chooses not to follow his recovery plan, then I really believe it will be a short amount of time and I will know. Researchers observed that subjects who practiced yoga (using postures, breathing, and meditation) had higher levels of DHEA and growth hormone.