A collection of self-care stories, tips and inspiration
“Mountain Women” Dawn McKetchnie
Crystal Bowl Vibrations
by Rhys Thomas
Of all the self-care practices I have used over the past 20 years, the beautiful tones of the crystal bowl have stood the test of time. It seems that almost everyone who comes into contact with crystal bowl vibrations accesses both increased energy and expanded heart and soul connection.
Music soothes the wild beast in all of us, as just listening to your favorite songs regularly can be a great form of self-care. Crystal bowls elevate music even further into the realm of healing the body, mind and soul. They not only provide a heavenly sound to listen to, but also to feel, as their vibration resonates throughout your entire body and energy field, allowing you access inner guidance. This is because our bodies themselves are like crystal tuning forks. When a crystal bowl is played it creates sound frequencies that match the higher frequencies of the human body and energy field. Through the law of resonance, we feel these higher vibrations increase in our energy field in the presence of the crystal bowl tones, and experience expanded perception and consciousness.
HOW TO MEDITATE WITH CRYSTAL BOWLS: Having your own crystal bowl tuned to your favorite chakra for meditation in your home is best. If you don’t have a bowl, crystal bowl recordings available online are the next best thing.
To prepare for a crystal bowl meditation, take some deep clearing breaths and open yourself to receive direct guidance from your own energy body and soul. Since they do not speak words, they will call you through subtle sensations, visions and emotions.
Guidance with bowls come in two ways. You may experience where you are blocking your highest potential in this moment or the ecstatic joy and full body feelings of living your highest potential right now. Blocks can be felt as pressure in any part of your body or as resistant emotions that may chronically keep you stuck. Ecstatic feelings happen when you open your heart and remember the divinity of who you really are and have always been, the most powerful healing energy within you.
In playing the bowls you always get exactly what you need in both essential guidance in how to heal, as well as how to embody your divinity even more. Even with just five minutes, the bowls can open you to ecstatic feelings of oneness and enlightenment that would normally take years of meditative practice to achieve. Each one of those powerful experiences builds your spiritual muscle memory, a deeper sense of who you really are, your real soul self.
To build this muscle memory at the cellular level takes repetition. Try meditating with a crystal bowl or playing a recording in the background of your daily activity for 30 days, and notice the joyful sensation. Practice holding that emotion for as long as you can, which places you in a primary loving and healing state. Once you have developed the muscle memory of these emotions through your crystal bowl meditations, you will also be able to use them like a restart button throughout your day, simply taking a few deep breaths to recall that healing force.
Master crystal bowl healer Rhys Thomas is the founder of the Rhys Thomas Institute of Energy Medicine and a visionary author, speaker and trainer in the field of energy medicine. Crystal bowl recordings are available at rhysthomasinstitute.com.
A Feet-First Approach To Self-Care
by Wendy Lewis, ARCB
Our feet carry us through life, yet rarely complain. Despite how easy it is to make them happy, consider how often these body parts are neglected. We only get one pair, so be sweet to your feet. Here’s how.
1. TRY AN AT-HOME SPA Pamper your feet with an at-home soak. Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a basin or partially filled tub of warm water and soak for a few minutes. Exfoliate feet and heels with a scrub of equal parts olive oil and white sugar massaged into skin. Cleanse with soap and warm water and follow with a rich moisturizer. Go without polish occasionally to let your nails “breathe.”
2. STRETCH YOUR LIMITS Outdoor running and hiking, while great for the body, can also cause flare-ups of plantar fasciitis and muscle soreness. Help prevent those conditions and keep tendons, muscles and ligaments flexible with regular stretching. Try calf stretches against a wall and rolling a tennis ball along the underside of the feet. Yoga, especially standing postures, is great for strengthening the foot, ankle and lower leg muscles as balance is challenged and developed.
3. TAKE YOUR FEET FOR AN AWARENESS WALK Wake up your feet — and your consciousness. The feet have thousands of nerve endings; after months of being cooped up in boots, spring and summer offer all kinds of sensory enjoyment. If it’s safe, enjoy the different sensations of walking on varied surfaces like grass, stone, dirt and sand. Beauty bonus: sand helps exfoliate dry summer feet!
4. CENTER YOUR FEET, CENTER YOURSELF Alleviate stress by stimulating the solar plexus reflex. To find this reflex, imagine a horizontal line just under the ball of the foot and a vertical line between the second and third toes. The solar plexus reflex is where these lines intersect. Press this point with the tip of the thumb for a few seconds or up to a minute. Repeat on the other foot. You can do this practically anywhere you can take your shoes off — on a plane, on the beach, or lying in bed.
5. PAMPER WITH A PARTNER Buddy up with your sweetheart or friend and give each other foot massages. Don’t have a pedi partner? Self-massage your feet or treat yourself to a pedicure. For the ultimate foot indulgence, book a reflexology session and you’ll increase circulation, de-stress your body and soul, and leave with a spring in your step.
Breema Harmony Principles In Action
by Elaine Pendergrast
As a holistic practitioner helping other people maintain their health, I’ve seen how important it is to maintain mine, and how often I forget about self-care. I make the usual efforts to eat healthfully, get enough sleep and exercise, but I often get wrapped up in the events of life and one or more self-care practices fall by the wayside. When I get caught up in a barrage of thoughts about what I need to do and start to feel overwhelmed, I become self-critical for feeling overwhelmed! My racing mind and turbulent feelings put my body in a state of dis-ease, stressing my immune system, which is a sure set-up for some type of physical illness to start manifesting. Having seen this many times, my goal is to nip it in the bud and restore the balance that will support my physical, mental, and emotional well being.
What helps me come back to balance when I become unbalanced are the Nine Principles of Harmony, which are the foundation of Breema bodywork. Remembering and applying any of these principles when I see that I’m “in the soup” helps me get out of my monkey mind and reactive feelings and come to a new perspective. When I can recognize, accept, and then let go of my preconceptions and expectations, I have more ability to see things as they are, and respond as needed. That not only conserves my energy but supports meaning in my life, which is an essential component of true self-care.
A few nights ago I was doing some research to support a friend who has been experiencing a number of life challenges. As I sat at the table investigating relevant websites, I saw that I was so preoccupied with supporting his health that I was not supporting mine! I was slumping forward, my shoulders and arms were tense, and I was using force as my fingers typed on the keyboard. I was so totally absorbed in the words and images on the screen that my mind was not with my body.
From experience, I knew that if I kept going like that, I’d trigger old repetitive stress injuries and drain my physical and psychological energy. Seeing that reminded me of the principle of Body Comfortable. I modified the way I was sitting, and relaxed my arms and shoulders. That was one step toward working with Body Comfortable.
But at a deeper level Body Comfortable also means that the mind and feelings are comfortable, and mine were still uneasy. I still felt pressured, just wanting to get the information I needed so I could pass it on. That’s why I was using force. In order to continue the research with No Force (another principle), I saw that two things were needed: I needed to come to acceptance of being in a hurry, and I needed to bring my body, mind, and feelings together, so I wasn’t just functioning on autopilot.
Bringing in the principle of No Judgment supported me in having acceptance of feeling rushed. I recognized that it was getting late and I was tired and needed to go to sleep soon, so I came to acceptance of the fact that although I wanted to support my friend, I also needed to support myself. There was no need to finish all the research that night; thinking I had to was just another facet of using force.
As I typed the final passages into the email I was composing, I remembered the principle of No Hurry/No Pause, and I registered the movement of my fingers as they pressed each key on the keyboard. No longer feeling under the pressure of time, the principle of Full Participation came alive for me. As I stayed with knowing my body was simply sitting and breathing while my fingers were moving, new energy became available, signaling that my feelings had joined my body and mind. I was present in what I was doing, which brought my activity to a deeper, more meaningful level. Now I was taking care of myself as I was taking care of my friend.
True health means being in balance within myself and in all of my relationships — with people, things, ideas, and the events of life. No matter what situation I find myself in, I turn to one or more of the Nine Principles of Harmony as a way to gain a broader perspective and discover what I truly need in the moment. They always lead me to greater vitality, clarity, and meaning, nurturing my ability to support others as I keep moving toward wellness
Elaine Pendergrast, CMT, has 27 years of experience doing Breema and is a staff instructor and practitioner at the Breema Center in Oakland, CA. She teaches Breema around the US and writes for many print and online publications. Next Boston training March 8-9. Visit www.breema.com.
The Greatest Self-Care Is Your Self-Love
by Jo Jayson
Self-care is an expression of self-love. It’s impossible to give yourself the care you need if you don’t have some inkling of your own value. Self-care can be as simple as saying “no” instead of always saying “yes,” speaking your truth instead of hiding how you feel, or simply deciding to give yourself a hot bubble bath instead of going out to the party you really don’t want to go to.
However self-care can only be applied consistently and meaningfully if you are practicing the endeavor of self-love. Both men and women spend an inordinate amount of time reaching outside of themselves to fill their hearts up. We go in search of approval and validation from others in our family, our workplace and in our personal relationships. Sometimes we use our success or perceived lack of it to measure our own worth. Yet, no amount of money, work success, material things, Instagram likes or relationships will give you the sense of love you seek.
In fact, you have nothing lacking in yourself. Your very essence is the divinity of unconditional love. The lack of love you feel for yourself has been taught to you, directly or indirectly, as you have grown up from a young age. When you shift your subconscious mind towards remembering your essence, you are then able to fill your own well with the love you have looked outside yourself for.
The quickest and easiest way to experience the vibration of self-love is to spend time practicing gratitude. In any given moment you can seek out that which is around you to feel appreciation for. We can feel appreciation for the comfy chair we are sitting on or the hot cup of coffee we are drinking and the satisfaction it gives us. We can feel gratitude for the person who smiled at us on the train that morning or the light rainfall we experienced that afternoon which fills the air with freshness. Gratitude fills your heart with love. When you take the time to notice things you are grateful for, you create a daily gratitude practice that feeds your heart with the self-love it needs, making it easier to accept and appreciate yourself. There is no greater self-care than to experience the joy, freedom and bliss of self-love that is your divine birthright.
Jo Jayson is a spiritual and intuitive artist, teacher and author, whose award-winning book Self-Love Through the Sacred Feminine has helped women all over the world find empowerment, healing, and inspiration. Visit www.jojayson.com.
Good Self-Care Is Good Self-Talk
by Carrie Rowan
Self care is not only about what we choose to do in the moment, it’s also about what we choose to say to ourselves. Good self-care is good self-talk. Louise Hay, the greatest teacher of learning how to love yourself says, “All of us can improve the quality of our lives if we practice the art of self-care and turn our minds to think thoughts that make us feel good.”
Here’s where we stumble. We’re not sure how to talk to ourselves kindly in order to feel better. Follow this rule of thumb to check in on your own self-talk that I often use with my children. Ask that voice in your head, “Would you talk to your best friend that way?” It usually allows them to get some perspective on how they are treating themselves.
Regard your inner dialogue as if you are speaking to a cherished friend whose opinion you value and respect. Try offering the same words of encouragement to yourself that you would give to them. Though it sounds too simple to be true, if you start to recognize when you are being less than kind to yourself, those moments will become fewer and fewer.
Another factor that determines the quality of the thoughts we are thinking is to look at the questions that we are asking ourselves. Human potential guru Tony Robbins says, “Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result they get better answers.” This is a key factor in good self-care. Better questions have the ability to change your mind set in the moment. Instead of asking yourself, “Why does this always happen to me?” try “What can I learn from this?” Instead of, “Why does this have to be so hard?” ask “What can I do to make this easier for myself?” Keep it simple and remember that recognizing what you are saying and asking is the first step to shifting it.
Becoming aware of what your inner mantras are and writing them down will give you a chance to look objectively at how they are serving you. How does a specific question you ask make you feel? If it’s a downer, then script a new and empowering question to ask yourself that makes you feel better. Post it on your mirror in the bathroom. Eventually you will gently train yourself to ask better questions as a habit because you will like the way it makes you feel.
Getting curious about what you say to yourself will also make you wonder where that comes from. It can lead to a story about the past that does not serve you or it can even uncover a limiting belief you have long held about yourself. Finding a negative story that you keep telling yourself or other people can be a huge breakthrough moment. When you recognize the story, you might uncover that you have been repeating it for a very long time without even being conscious about it. Without judgment, you can ask yourself if that story feels very loving to you, and if not start to script a new story. Practice telling yourself your new story of empowerment about how you took a lousy situation and turned it around for yourself.
Oftentimes we are so stuck in our story that we have blinders on to seeing how it may actually be a story of our strength. A great way to get a new perspective on your own story is to ask a trusted friend how they see this story of yours. Because everyone looks at life through their own lens, you may be surprised that they see you as strong in that same story that you have been unkind to yourself about. It’s a great way to shake off dusty stories that you have long held onto that no longer serve you. Old stories can take up space in your mental closet and weigh you down. The same holds true for your best outfits and best stories; choose the ones that make you feel good when you wear them and fill up your closet with new ones. It’s not a quick fix, but like a flower budding in nature, it’s soft and it’s sweet and it grows over time organically so you have more of yourself to share with the ones you love.
Carrie Rowan is an award winning singer/songwriter, author, coach and edutainer, who educates while entertaining children and adults through music. Her passion is combining positively charged music with energy medicine. Visit her at www.carrierowan.com.
Cultivating Hygge Within
by Jacyntha Kamor
While working regularly in Denmark some years ago, I observed how well the Danes coped with the many months of bone-chilling darkness. They had beautifully stylish, extra warm and protective clothing and boots. Their sauna practices were intense and frequent. Every home and restaurant scintillated with what they call hygge (pronounced hue-gah), a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality.
Not only did many of the physical practices I learned there help me through winters wherever I was, but I also became aware of how deep hygge can go. My experience in Tibetan Buddhism began a process of cultivating more internal states of pleasure, love and coziness inside, even through trying times.
If you’re not a fan of the dark and cold winters, or you’re experiencing major unexpected change, perhaps the loss of a loved one, are worrying about the environmental imbalances, political nightmares, and are feeling emotionally overwhelmed, please know that all that is happening in your life and in our world can become a signpost orienting you back towards the necessity of cultivating an unconditional sanctuary of hygge inside.
This isn’t about being blind to the world or avoiding a healthy emotional healing process. This is a way to find a respite and refuge within. It’s about cultivating a new way to be in and with your whole self and with the world.
Sometimes embarking on the adventure within can go against strong preservation instincts. So, we need to begin slowly. First, we welcome (with as much patience and compassion we can muster) our understandable but outdated reactions: the tensing muscles, shallow breathing, tightening jaw, mental pre-occupations, bitching, complaining and blaming, intense frustration, negative assessments, and attempts at control. We all do this because, while brilliant, we’re also human animals and these survival modes used to work really, really well.
Just as we occasionally need to upgrade our computer’s operating system, our bodies and brains also need help upgrading to new global conditions. We have the capacity, we just need to find access, learn new tools and then practice them.
Here are a few ways to start developing a more efficient and adaptable way through the maze of the modern world and the obstacle course of our personal circumstances.
VISIONING/IMAGINATION So often we think of imagination as a frivolous childhood diversion, a lesser function of an educated mind, or even a delusional trap. But even Albert Einstein, claimed that, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Conscious use of imagination is not only a resource for artistic creativity, it is a powerful way to tap into answers and discover solutions for dilemmas that dwarf our other mental capacities. To not get lost in flights of fancy, we can and must test our imaginative ways of knowing and experiment with its practicality. First, we can see how an image or dream makes us feel, and then ask how we can we integrate it into daily life. Without imagination, our world is limited and our solutions few.
THE POWER OF THE HEART Focusing on the heart isn’t just a nice, religious or romantic idea. Scientists have found that not only does the brain send signals to the heart, but that the heart sends even more signals to the brain having a significant impact on the brain’s cognitive functions. Heart coherence is a term to describe a smooth heart rate variability that brings the brain, emotions and entire physiology into a flow state for optimum performance and well-being. Place both hands over your heart, close your eyes, imagine a beautiful color or image in your chest, and gradually slow down your breathing. Stay here until you feel a shift in your energy.
ENERGY HEALING How our energy flows (or doesn’t) can make all the difference in how we feel emotionally, mentally and physically. We now know that we are not solid but are made of varying densities of vibration. Understanding this and learning simple tools and techniques to redirect our internal energy can change a mood, a mode of thinking and even redirect an illness.
WISDOM TEACHINGS AND TRANSMISSIONS While many Tibetan Lamas were/are horrified by the hostile invasion of Tibet, some also understood that one outcome is that the sequestered wisdom teachings, now needed in the world today, have been disseminated for the first time in history. There are many teachings, healing techniques, spiritual paths, practices, health and wellness resources from many cultures shared like never before. In nature, wherever there is a poisonous plant, its antidote usually grows nearby. And so it is in our human conditions. Many things are devastating, but there are now equally ample resources for spiritual, physical and emotional healing.
HEALTHY RELATING AND SUPPORT We are relational beings. Relationships can give us a feeling of security, support and congruence. But when they don’t or can’t, relationships can feel like a nightmare. Healthy relating happens in a spectrum. Ideally, we flow from self-love to divine love, to intimacy with a beloved, and to family and community. When one area breaks down it can influence the rest, and a beautiful relationship can light up a life. It’s important to clarify what we really need and desire with others. We all crave a unique balance of connection and freedom to be ourselves. As you get clearer on your needs and desires, consider when the time is right to risk seeking new relationships or new relational dynamics within existing ones.
NEW ACTIONS, INCLUDING NON-ACTION There is the spiritual saying: Don’t just do something, sit there! Sometimes the best action is simply presence and patience. Knowing when to move and when to stay quiet is a dance with the universe, not easy to learn, but always promising. As you cultivate more hygge within, you will find your support and inner resources to move back out into the world with new inspiration, approaches and capacities.
Jacyntha Kamor is a transformational life coach, spiritual counselor and core energy healer with over 30 years of experience in the healing arts. Visit www.jacynthakamor.com.
A Technique That Helps With Negative Thinking
by Shirley Riga
Self-care comes in all styles, from daily exercise routines to spa treatments and meditations. The one major area for self-care that is often overlooked is your inner chatterbox or monkey mind. You know, the part of you that is constantly giving you private commentary. Is that monkey mind helping you or digging a deep hole into your self-care success?
The home I grew up in was not a happy one. There were lots of problems, and as a result, my response was to work really hard to be perfect at everything I did so I would never get in trouble. I had tremendous fear of doing something wrong because there were consequences. I was told I wasn’t good enough — something I grew up believing. In elementary school I was known as the kid who threw up all the time, and I had to carry a paper bag around with me. Fear ruled my life.
I’ve since learned an acronym for fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. Approximately 90% of our worries never come true and yet we bend and compromise our choices based on our fears. What if my ex-husband is going to show up? What if my boss is at the party? What if I trip and fall? What if I can’t remember the words to a song I am singing in front of people? What if there’s a storm? What will others think if I do that? The list goes on and on. False evidence appearing real.
About 30 years ago, after my second daughter was born with chronic liver disease, I was desperate for help. I was facing critical decisions about her life and death. I was depressed and afraid to go out of the house. I was having panic attacks and experiencing agoraphobia. I lost all confidence in myself as a person. I was afraid I was a terrible parent. I was afraid I caused my daughter’s illness.
Then I found Susan Jeffers book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway and read it cover to cover. It was a revelation. This book literally changed my life and continued to help me through my life. I re-read the book after my partner was killed in a car accident 12 years ago.
The book gave me an anchor to learn and discover tools for survival and success. I learned that fear will always be part of our lives in one form or another. But fear doesn’t need to hold us back from living a rich and beautiful life.
We all walk around with this commentary going on in our heads. More often than not, the commentary is negative, fearful, judgmental, and filled with limiting beliefs. This chatterbox is our ego warning us and helping us to be safe as it tries to manage our lives. But the advice is often times based on childhood fears and painful lessons learned. I’ve seen it time and again with senior citizens who still believe they are not smart or safe or good. I’ve seen it in myself.
Words are very powerful. Just imagine someone you love harshly giving you feedback on your self-worth. As an adult, you would walk away from that person, maybe even write them off as a friend. So, we do have the ability to discern between positive and negative feedback. In Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Jeffers suggests a technique that helps with negative thinking: write down positive affirmations and post them where they can be subliminally seen. In this way, you start retraining your negative chatterbox.
If you came to my house, you’d see what Jeffers means. I sit at my computer and on it is a Post-it note that says, “I love myself for who I am. Wonderful things are happening in my life daily.”
Dr. Jeffers teaches, “Every day of your life, come from knowing that you count.” You will build the belief that it’s true. Using this technique has helped me control my chatterbox. I’ve learned to hold my fear in a place of power. I’ve learned to make win-win decisions and to practice tools to enhance my well-being.
We can learn to feed our minds like we feed our bodies and give ourselves messages that enhance our well-being, that support our dreams and bring happiness into our lives. There are no tricks or quick fixes to our egos. We have to want to change and adopt the ideas that have worked for millions of people. You deserve this!
Shirley Riga is a licensed trainer of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway workshops and classes, a spiritual director, and the author of “Tools for the Exceptional Parent of a Chronically-Ill Child,” and “Tools for the Caregiver: A Workbook for Finding Yourself Through Caregiving.” Visit www.conqueringyourfears.com.
The Power Of Daily Practice
by Becky Bronson
Over many years, I developed a daily home Yoga practice, which has evolved and changed, but the one unchanging thing about it is that I do it. It’s like brushing my teeth. I can change toothbrushes and change toothpaste, but I always brush my teeth in some way, no matter how tired I am or how much I don’t want to. Even when I am travelling and forget to pack a toothbrush, I find a way to brush my teeth!
I started this practice over thirty years ago, when I was recovering from mononucleosis. I was basically in bed for about two months, and when I started to feel better, I wanted to exercise, but found that I really couldn’t. I just didn’t have the strength. As luck would have it (or maybe it was the flow of grace at the time), I picked up a little book called Introduction to Yoga by Richard Hittleman, which changed my life. It had three Yoga routines, all of which were about 20 minutes long, and I began rotating through them each morning. About a year later, I suddenly realized that I had been doing Yoga every single morning for the past year. It had indeed become a daily practice. I never committed to it. I never decided to do it. It was like the Yoga found me and never let go.
Currently, my practice consists of about a half hour of meditation, some journaling, and a half hour of Yoga every morning, and also about 20 minutes of a breathing practice every evening just before bed. As I said, this has evolved over time, and I imagine it will keep changing.
Does this sound like a lot? It probably does to most people. But I have found that I don’t need nearly as much sleep as I used to. My daily practice is my transition time between sleeping and waking. I get up quite early in the morning, but I am not really awake until I have finished my practice. And once it’s done, I can get on with my day, knowing that I have already done something important for me! And in the evening as well, it is my transition time before going to bed. The investment in time is minor compared to the enormous payoff that I get in terms of my well-being.
It would be so easy for me to give this up right now. I often have that voice in my head that says, “You’re retired…You really don’t need to keep doing this….” But I know that is not true. Since I stopped teaching, I have found this practice to be even more important. It grounds me. It keeps me centered and on track. No matter how crazy my life gets (and it can get pretty crazy at times), my daily practice is my anchor.
Self-Care For Chronic Illness
by Rachel Ross
Scene: Doctor’s office. This is the patient’s first visit. Patient’s impression: Doctor doesn’t seem to understand the reason for the visit. Patient has been newly diagnosed with pre-diabetes and is now meeting with Endocrinology. Patient’s history: Patient was sent to the doctor because of a spat with the diabetic educator the day before over the issue of how many carbohydrates should be eaten with each meal. The educator argued for 45grams x3 meals per day. The patient stated that if she followed this advice she would need insulin. The educator was horrified to be contradicted by the patient and ended the visit with a referral to the doctor.
Doc: Hi there. How are you?
Doc: So, what brings you here today?
You: (Feeling like you have been sent to the principal’s office). I was just recently told by my primary care physician that I have pre-diabetes. I have an issue with how many carbohydrates I am supposed to consume in 1 day.
Doc: (Looks over paperwork.) Well, everything looks fine here. Just keep doing what you’re doing. (Smiles).
You: (Bewildered) You mean I don’t have to eat 45grams of carbohydrates with each meal?
Doc: No, no just keep doing what you’re doing. No follow-up needed. You’re PCP will retest your blood sugar in 1 year. But, in the meanwhile, if you want to start insulin you can give me a call anytime. Pleasure meeting you. Have a great day.
That was it?! No follow up? Nothing for 1 whole year? But it wasn’t over for me. I felt abandoned. For me, what followed one appointment with an incompetent diet educator and one doctor’s visit accompanied by a handshake, was intense isolation and a glucose meter. Now what? Am I to figure out how to deal with this disease for 365 days going forward on my own? The books, social media and support groups are out there, but with loads of conflicting advice. Plus they haven’t been personalized to fit my experience with diet, weight loss and exercise. What will work? What won’t? No one will argue that heading down a pathway toward type 2 diabetes is the gateway for heart disease, kidney disease and neuropathies to name just a few of the complications that have their origins with this condition. So, I left that office with a chronic illness (i.e. long-term for most people) asking myself — now what?
Whether it’s one year or one month between doctor visits, how do we cope with chronic disease from one day to the next? I’m new with my diagnosis. What is yours? Cancer, heart disease, neuromuscular pain, or a chronic viral infection such as Lyme? Self-care for anyone with a chronic disease is a 24/7 occupation of monitoring, nurturing and supporting the healing process.
Self-care Rule #1: Don’t beat up on yourself. I surely did my first year. For me, monitoring blood sugar is my sole pre-occupation when I wake up. I check it to see my number. Like the pinball machine, I watch the count down on the meter to see where it’s going to land. “Beep” 108. Uh, oh. “Beep” 98. Better. Knowing what it is guides me with what I can eat to keep my blood sugar as stable as possible. Whether it is a “bad” blood sugar value, or a set back of any kind, there is no healing in self-blaming. Take out the “bad person-good person” part. The numbers are guides, not omens that I am turning into a bad person. Acknowledge the positive actions, and praise those.
I keep a log with my numbers in it, now, and how I have responded to different foods. The little log over time has turned into a journal. Writing, instead of just recording numbers, has become a very helpful day-to-day means of coping. It is a way to connect with who I am now, and it is a means for giving careful attention to what’s happening with me. Even though I don’t spend much time at it, to my surprise, it has become an important way to express self-care. It feels good. Do something that feels good.
Self-care Rule #2: Nurture yourself. I find journaling daily as one pathway toward self-nurturing or caring. It doesn’t fit under the eat-this-not-that type of care. Nor does it fit under the exercise-or-else side of diabetic care. In my journal, I can swear off the lousy diet or whine about how tired I sometimes feel after a workout. I call this self-nurturing acceptance — caring about feelings and allowing myself to express them while working on the interventions and daily efforts toward healing. I find it de-stressing, more so than racing to a class in order to experience a moment of calm. Stress is the source of many chronic diseases. Do something that feels good. It doesn’t have to be every day. These experiences count toward your healing process.
Self-care Rule #3: Self-care means to make note of the things that have gone well with each day. Write it down. I admit that I am one to focus on what goes wrong rather than counting the good moments. They seem to get washed away in an instant with one countdown from my glucose meter flashing a bad blood sugar number. We must ask ourselves: “What went right today? Can I do this again?” Make note of the setbacks, but also know what worked to promote healing. Stay positive. It is healthy energy.
Healing is a complex interrelationship of multiple organs and systems in our bodies. With each day, there must be a nurturing system of self-care. My three little must-dos are a start: don’t beat yourself up on setbacks, journal to give nurturing attention (or any de-stressing activity will work), and focus on the done-goods to give yourself the chance of reversing your disease.
Rachel Ross has a Masters of Science in Nursing and practices clinical herbalism in Jefferson, MA, teaches plant medicine workshops and makes and sells her own line of Hillside Herbals products. She is currently studying Functional Medicine. Visit www.hillsideherbals.com.
From Selfless To Self-Care For The Empath
by Nikki Davis
Empaths are the highly sensitive, deeply attuned, nurturers and caretakers of the world. Scheduling a relaxation session for yourself is a feat. You hold gift cards for several years, before giving them to your children. You feed others and feel like you ate.
When you do make it to the massage table or the mat, angels cheer, though your phone is near for the needy elder, sick child or ailing cat that may beckon. You are acutely aware of the needs and suffering of others. You feel the world’s pain so strongly you have to withdraw at times, in disbelief that cruelty can even occur.
When it does, you see the perpetrator’s trauma, and would rather forgive than retaliate. You are part of a silent spring of kindness that operates under ground, behind the scenes, quietly, egoless, to make things better, or at least not as bad. A small bit of attention to yourself has large impact on yourself and those around you.
Your tendency toward self-sacrifice builds unconscious tension. You may squelch your own fire, with no infrastructure for expression. As that massage gift stays in a drawer, and to-do lists for others multiply, your energy diminishes and your adrenals wither. For the empath, self-care is a special challenge, involving a shift of awareness in mind and body. Here are five points to ponder in the process.
1) Identify Feelings. How do you care for a self you can’t find? Empaths are so mired in other people’s feelings, they have difficulty discerning their own. So the first step for hyper-attuned folks who feel for all, is to focus on the questions, “What am I feeling” and “What am I needing?” This may sound basic but for the caretaker, it is revolutionary.
2) Embody. Empaths would rather live in the ether, like angels, than in the harsh physical world. The body speaks a language of feelings and needs, so they’re challenged to inhabit it. When sensitive souls dare to embody, they have such access to their inner wisdom, that they become messengers of the body’s healing language.
3) Boundaries. How do you honor your feelings as much as you do those of everyone pulling at you? The empath needs sanctuary. Find space where you can relax, move, breathe — take in — with no phone, computer, people or hungry animals looking at you. Cultivate healthy withdrawal. You’re too sensitive for substances. While the world around you drinks wine, sip ginger-beet juice and see how you feel in the morning. Healthy choices don’t mean you can’t party. While my daughter’s college friends drink to escape the rigor of a New York conservatory, she hangs with them, ecstatically, and knits.
4) Permission. In a toxic world, empaths need to give themselves permission to be well. Since they are so other-oriented, this may mean mirroring sensitive souls they admire who are further down their alternate road to wellness and emulating their radiance, keeping their eyes on that prize.
5) Intend to Receive. As seasons change and life throws us all new challenges, we have to recalibrate whatever hard-won healthy routines we’ve established. We all fall off the self-care wagon, but that doesn’t negate our efforts. On the contrary, each setback makes us wiser. The journey toward self-care is a spiral, not a speedway. Small steps matter. Setting your intention to receive is powerful. Every action on your own behalf is a step toward creating a life of true service, your deepest guidance and innermost self.
Nikki Davis, MA, is an empathic holistic therapist and astrological counselor, who gives divinely relaxing aromatherapy facial sessions in Newton, MA. Visit www.HolisticOasis.com.
Mindful Manifestation With Crystals And Gemstones
by Margaret Ann Lembo
Are you ready to improve your ability to create your world as you want it to be? Ask yourself, “Am I fulfilled and happy?” If the answer isn’t a resounding, “YES!” then it’s time to awaken. Mindfulness is key to improving your spiritual and personal life. Start your self-awareness journey by becoming mindful of all the thoughts going through your mind and consciously choose which thoughts you will allow. You create your reality with every thought, word, action and outside influence you allow into your life, including your choices of entertainment, reading, music, and even conversations you participate in. Your mind and intention create the pattern of your life.
Crystals and gemstones are tools found all throughout the world that can assist you with the ability to maintain mindfulness with focused intention. Everything is energy, and all energy has a vibration. Each crystal’s unique energetic print is based on the stone’s color and the manner in which it formed in the earth. Every stone has a spiritual component, a use for mental focus, an emotional vibration to clear stuck feelings and physical manifestation properties that range from supporting the healing of your body to helping you fulfill monetary or career needs.
For the purpose of amplifying your highest intentions, choose the crystal from your collection of crystals and gemstone jewelry that best fits your most positive thoughts as you stay focused on your goal. Which stone or color does your eye naturally gravitate toward? Pick that gemstone and formalize your intention.
As an example, if your intention is to have more financial security, then try using a pyrite cube with a matching affirmation. Pyrite often forms in cubes and therefore has a geometrical connection to creating a strong foundation for anything you do. Use pyrite to help strengthen courage and self-confidence. Such strength is needed to allow yourself to manifest money in your life through your creative efforts. Repeat this statement often and visualize the outcome:
There are plenty of people with plenty of money who want the goods and/or services that I offer. I’m self-motivated and strong. I am determined to follow through on the next best thing. I am productive. My confidence is rock solid. I focus on my intentions and take positive action to manifest my goals.
Pyrite is a stone of financial abundance. Use this stone with intention when you are trying to improve your financial status. Draw on its gold energy while you take action to increase your monetary wealth. You build your own reality! Start by recognizing that you can increase your success through creativity and taking action in all endeavors including financial success, fertility, happy home, healthy body, and much more. Visualize your dreams as if they have already been realized and you will create a strong foundation through determination and confidence to take the necessary steps to build the life of your dreams.
Margaret Ann Lembo is an evolutionary aromatherapist and the owner of The Crystal Garden — the conscious living store of the Palm Beaches established 1988. She is the author of many books including her latest: Crystals Beyond Beginners: Awaken Your Consciousness with Precious Gifts of the Earth. Visit www.MargaretAnnLembo.com.
Five Steps To Freedom
by Alison David Bird
Releasing fear is necessary on the path to true health and wellness. The majority of us are still operating under deeply ingrained fear programs because the ego-mind was designed to play the devil’s advocate. If left unchecked it will sow the seeds of doubt in the lush and fertile garden of the mind that will flourish like weeds, sending down deep, choking roots that over time will throttle any hope of a peace. If observed, these five principles of spiritual mastery will bring you closer to sovereignty and the freedom to achieving your heart’s desires.
First Principle: Release Judgement, of everyone and everything, especially those situations that take you out of your comfort zone, or that seem to contradict socially accepted norms. Refrain from judging another’s actions; you don’t know their story or their soul agreements. Release judgment of yourself by avoiding damaging thoughts like, “I am too fat! Too thin! Not pretty enough! Not loved!” You are perfect just as you are. Also choose to release the judgement that you feel others may have of you.
Second Principle: Release Expectations. If you expected something of someone and then perceive that they let you down, you are often left feeling disappointed. Understand that everything is equal to everything else. To view things as better, more or less is merely your judgment, which you can choose to release.
Third Principle: Release Attachment to Outcome. You cannot control what happens in another’s life or in their reality. When you continue to stress over these circumstances, you expend energy wastefully in worry. Even in the case of a beloved family member, perhaps a child that you have brought into the world and guided lovingly through life, this person has come here with his or her own karma to address and roles to play out, and must be allowed to have his or her own chosen experiences. These experiences, however harsh they may sometimes seem, are often meant as learning lessons for others, not just for your loved one. A single event can impact the lives of many because we are all connected and all have choices we have come here to make.
Fourth Principle: Practice Detachment. You are not in a position to know the reasons for the events or the responses of others from all that is going on around you. Detachment allows you to show loving kindness in the understanding that however distressing, sad, or seemingly evil, nothing happens by accident, but by agreement between all concerned on levels of higher consciousness.
Fifth Principle: Practice Acceptance. That which you cannot change is in your highest interest at all times, even though you may not be able to see it yet. Accept another’s choices and decisions as their own and equally as valid as yours. Everything is all as it should be, perfectly tailored for each individual experience.
If you can gain mastery over these five frequencies you will experience true freedom and truth. Discernment is the way forward. Trust this vibration as it trills in your body.
Alison David Bird, C.Ht., is the originator of Marconics, an evolutionary energy healing system carrying the ascension frequency of higher dimensions. She is the author of Marconics: The Clarion Call and Angels of Atlantis. For more information visit www.marconics.com.
How I Stopped Playing The Strong Black Woman
by Shawn Ricks
I never saw my grandmother rest. From morning to night, she appeared to be in service: cooking and cleaning, helping, and caring for others.
She died of a heart attack at 69.
As I reflect today on the high rates of heart disease, stress, obesity and other physical, as well as mental, ailments among African American women, I wonder what would have been the impact had she said, “I ain’t cooking tonight, everybody is on their own,” or “I’m headed out for a walk,” or simply, “I’m tired and I need to rest.” What messages might I have inferred from watching her take 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning to “get centered.”
Instead, I observed what appeared to be a never-ending pace of busyness, problem solving, and making ends meet. As a result, I found myself behaving similarly. I didn’t dare go to her or the other Black women in my life with what I couldn’t do. I worked hard to figure things out — to trudge through my storms. I mimicked what I saw and became a professional at it.
I realized later that I, and therefore my grandmother, were not the only Black women who existed in this way. There were thousands of us — of all backgrounds and ages —silently suffering, while proudly praising our abilities to make a way out of no way. The more women I engaged with, the more I discovered that we had taken the chaos in our lives and normalized it.
Normalized chaos is a coping mechanism. It’s what Black women have passed on and collectively reinforced, generation after generation, perpetuating the strong Back woman stereotype. This received idea that Black women have an extraordinary strength beyond that of other women — that we feel no pain, we don’t cry, we don’t need help — has done us more harm than good.
Black women are taught to push through, keep going, and endure difficult times without protest. Asking for help — or even believing that we’re deserving of it, is a sign of weakness and vulnerability that we’ve been taught we cannot afford. More than 80 percent of Black women are the primary financial providers for their families, compared to 50 percent of White women. And more than 4 million family households — about 30 percent of Black families — in the United States are headed by Black women. Nearly one in three of those households live below the poverty level. Gendered racism, which cuts across all socioeconomic and educational levels, has been shown to be a key component in health disparities.
We are paying for this myth we’ve bought into with our lives.
Minimizing our mental health, masking depression, staying busy, overeating, or not eating at all, and normalizing all of it, is killing us slowly. Not only do Black women continue to have higher rates of physical illness with poorer quality of care, we experience higher rates of depression than their our White counterparts. And are more likely to receive lower rates of mental health treatment.
The upside is, as national attention shines a spotlight on mental health, Black women are slowly joining the discussions, and the efforts to heal. Some Black women are using social media and podcasts to share their stories and emphasize the importance of self-care. Others are sharing their stories with friends and family. This movement for Black women to embrace self-care is gradually spreading.
Kellee Monet Rice-Jalloh who works in pastoral care in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, helps women like me navigate the chaos in our lives. As one of the few Black women on her university campus, Rice-Jalloh’s office has become a space where Black women feel they can be vulnerable, and authentic — removing their mask and cape. She warns us that we have to stop pretending we’re not in trauma every day.
My wake-up call came in the form of burnout, exhaustion and depression. While studying for my Ph.D., I was working full-time, and raising three children. I didn’t want to go to work, but I pushed through, put on my mask daily, and pretended I was okay.
I was in the rabbit hole of my normalized chaos, and couldn’t find my way out until I admitted to the harm I was causing myself. I took a hard look at my life, and committed to practicing self-care. I stopped saying yes to everyone and every opportunity. I started paying attention to my nutrition and physical activity. I started to remember things that bring my joy, and made time to do them. I reminded myself that I am deserving of rest, with no guilt or shame. And I spend time alone.
None of these behaviors did I learn from watching my elders, but I am confident they are saving my life. I am doing the work daily, loving it, and loving me!
Dr. Shawn Arango Ricks is a counselor, life coach and intuitive healer in Winston-Salem, NC. Follow her on Twitter and IG @drshawnricks or visit www.drshawnricks.com. This article originally appeared in Fall 2018 YES! Magazine.
Simple, Sustainable Steps To Self-Care
by Marilyn Taylor, LMT
In the small bubble of our lives, we might forget how our individual choices affect the whole. We may become self absorbed, isolated or disengaged from our relationship to the greater good. The truth is that in order to optimize the health of our planet and all living things that inhabit it, we need to turn our focus inward towards ourselves and take responsibility for self-care as part of the larger picture of the wellbeing of the world.
Sorry to say, no one can do this for us. No one can force us to take responsibility for how we show up every day, how we love, care for, and nurture our bodies, our minds, and our exquisite spirit. It’s all on us. The good news is it’s all on us. Each of us has the unique opportunity many times every day to make small decisions that can change the course of our lives, while also creating a responsible and sustainable relationship to our planet and our people.
For years I have been inspired by a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh. “Walk as if you are kissing Earth with your feet.” Are we imprinting Earth with stress and anxiety or love and compassion as we walk through our day? Every step we take creates a vibration, one that resonates through our own bodies, hearts and minds. This vibration also reverberates out energetically around us. Ask yourself, how do I want to plant my foot on the ground as I move throughout the day — rushing from one place to another or more mindfully planting my foot with calm, clear steps? Do I give myself enough time to move from one part of my day to another so that my transitions are smooth?
It’s in these small moments of our lives where the ripple of self-care can be felt personally and shared with those around us. Think about the patterns, habits, and rituals you already have or would like to have that creatively uphold your vision for the day ahead and the world around you. These are at their core the simplest expressions of self-care — practical, easy tools that can energize you and help you keep a calm connection to the happenings around you on a daily basis:
- Notice how you can shift the outcome of a challenging situation by reframing the experience.
- Throughout the day, remind yourself to breathe deeply several times to encourage feelings of peace and ease.
- Smile more! Whether an outer or an inner smile, positive neurotransmitters flow through your body from this easy habit.
- Listen with more respect to someone who is speaking.
- Appreciate all the small things around you every day. Notice birds singing, children laughing, aromas of dinner cooking.
- Prioritize, delegate or let go of some of the items on your to-do list.
- Quite simply, be more playful. Tell a joke, stomp in a puddle, blow bubbles, and dance at least once a day. With this simple act you will feel more joy.
These small moment-to-moment choices feel like super powers to me. They are your vehicles for daily transformation. We can choose to be hijacked by the ups and downs of the day or we can downshift the mind and body into a steadier pace by choosing these simple, sustainable steps of self-care. Then we feel our minds become more clear, our choices less reactive, and our relationships more loving and fulfilling.
We all belong to one another in some way. We need one another to break down the walls that keep us from belonging in life. This is self-care, too.
Marilyn Taylor, owner of Confident Directions Life Coaching is the author of 10 Practices of Personal Sustainability: The Savvy Persons Guide to Conscious Living. Visit www.confident-directions.com.
Eggplant Apple Cider Vinegar Skin Cancer Remedy
by Carol Bedrosian
I started to notice a slight red patch appear on the tip of my nose where I had previously injured it with a careless jab from the nose pad of my glasses years before. Eventually the area grew around to the side of my nose and got scaly, so I researched skin cancer online along with natural remedies.
What I found cited by both Dr. Oz and Dr. Mercola was the apple cider vinegar eggplant skin cancer tonic, which apparently originated from Australia, where farmers use a poultice made from the devil’s apple flower to cure eye cancer in their cattle herds. Devil’s apple is in the family of nightshades, including eggplant, which contain glycoalkaloids in the plant pigments that have been shown to eliminate non-melanoma skin cancers, as well as treat actinic keratosis, the precursor to skin cancer. A pharmaceutical grade cream is available with the specific BEC5 extract from the eggplant, but you can also make the tincture just as easily — and much more cheaply — at home.
I decided to give it a try. Cut up a small organic eggplant into bite-size pieces, fit them into a jar and fill it with organic apple cider vinegar. An eight-ounce jar will do fine. Close the jar and refrigerate for three days, occasionally giving it a shake. Strain the vinegar into a fresh jar, discard the eggplant, and your cancer tincture is ready to use. My research described various lengths of treatment (from weeks to months), and times per day to apply the tincture, as well as ways to apply it, such as soaking a cotton ball, using a Band-Aid or dabbing, so I knew right away to just use my instinct for what would work best for me.
One source suggested that the tincture should sit for ten minutes at a time in the affected area on a cotton ball. Tape or Band-Aids is tough to do on a nose that’s already sensitive, and it’s also not very discreet. So I poured a small amount of the tincture into a vial, so as not to contaminate the whole jar by dipping into it multiple times per day, and found that I could just dab it with my finger as often as I thought about it during the day, keeping it right at my desk. Eventually I discovered a miniature glass perfume bottle with a glass stopper that’s even better than the vial because now my fingertips weren’t constantly touching the top of the vial. As an added bonus, because of the elegant perfume bottle, every application of the tonic was like giving myself a beauty treatment!
After several months of consistent use, the area faded back to the size of a lentil, about the same as the original injury marking. I notice that my nose is now shiny and taut. Vinegar is an excellent skin tonic. I’m trying the tonic with other age spots on my face, as it’s said to work for those as well.
Eventually I started alternating the vinegar tonic with dabbing a mixture of six drops of oil of oregano oil in one teaspoon of jojoba oil to ease dryness the vinegar sometimes caused, as well as to activate the additional skin repair benefits that oil of oregano provides. I alternate using both tonics now on my nose, moles, skin tags and age spots, and marvel when they fade into the background.
Carol Bedrosian is the publisher of Spirit of Change magazine and has enjoyed many decades of effective, affordable healthcare using alternative medicine. www.spiritofchange.org
Eliminate Schedule Congestion
by Kali Jennifer Patrick
My favorite self-care practice is ensuring I have enough time between appointments, tasks and get-togethers so I don't feel like I have to rush from thing to thing. I've found that schedule congestion negatively impacts many people's health and well-being so I try to practice what I preach and not over-schedule myself. A related part of that is taking a break from all screens once a month, usually on a Friday, which is a weekend day for me since I work Sundays. It really helps to center and rejuvenate me.
Your Personal Healing Space
by Bethany Gadbois
Earlier this year, I made a simple change to my daily routine that greatly shifted my perspective, relationship with life, and the world around me. I did this because after much self-exploration, therapy, and help from professionals, I was still struggling and feeling hopeless at times. So, I created a shelf of meaningful keepsakes. Some may call this an altar, my son calls it a shelter, which is quite fitting. Whatever you create and identify as your personal space is all that is needed. The items you place in this space have meaning and represent your personal goals. Maybe you consider the way you wish your relationship with yourself to be and how you connect with others. Maybe there are situations that challenge your patience and acceptance.
This is what helped me to show up at my shelf each morning. I placed Willow Tree statues that represented my family, my desire for harmony, and to be healthy enough to grow our family, which has been one of my biggest struggles. I placed journals and other books that helped me heal and grow. A nice soft Himalayan salt lamp and oil diffuser set to the side. A framed picture of my late father. Holding space for my aging, ill mother and my late brother and sister.
On days when I was struggling most, I would come to this space to connect to what I was grateful for and set intentions. It felt safe to face pain, observe my habitual thoughts, and reassure myself everything was okay. I would rub oils on my wrists and temples, breathing them in and out, connecting to how everything felt. Living is feeling. Once you bring your attention to this, you feel it deep in your cells. For just a few mindful minutes, I was aware of my inner dialogue and belief system being challenged by an intrinsic desire to create what I wanted. I acknowledged each small victory and rediscovered newfound hope in this space.
In the beginning of my self-healing journey two years ago, I was experiencing chronic body pain. Giving credit to the professionals whose support got me to this point, I also need to give myself credit. The inner work I began at my shelf, along with writing, yoga and meditation, and carving out a self-care routine, allowed me to connect with myself and the world in a way I never had before. A tangible shift has occurred.
About five months into this actionable practice and an increased frequency of movement through yoga, I noticed that my body pain was no longer present. Today, eight months later, I concede with some bewilderment that I have been pain -ree for four months. I have ease in my body. I never believed I would be able to say this. One year ago, I struggled with mobility because of the pain I experienced in my lower back and pelvis, which brought me to tears many mornings.
Once you begin to turn inward, perhaps through therapy, yoga, breathwork, meditation, visualization, or whatever it may be for you, it’s astonishing how quickly you begin to know your body. When first trying to connect to my lower back pain, I would try somatic exercises, visualizing the muscles to consciously contract and release them. Reading several books about how some pain can be linked to oxygen deprivation and adhesions, inspired me to attentively send oxygen and fresh blood to these areas. The mobile and stable movements I learned in yoga optimized this connection. After a little time, I would notice small subtleties — a warming sensation, a pulse in an area of a pain point, or relaxation and softness in a spot that once felt hard.
Pranayama is a breathing exercise practice that is directly connected to our autonomic nervous system. We take about 15,000 breaths a day and each breath gives us an opportunity to interact in the world the way we want. The moment you bring consciousness to your breathing, in particular your exhalation, transformation begins. Being strong through adversity taught me how to live again, and even though I am barely scratching the surface, I am starting to feel like myself, evolving towards my purpose.
Bethany Gadbois is a certified yoga instructor through Embodyoga®, which focuses on injury-free and whole movement asana, and teaches in Auburn, MA. She shares her realizations of the endless possibilities for deeper mind body connection during yoga class and at www.bethanyjewellyoga.com.
The Road To Wellness Through Gut Health
by Susan Kapatoes
The morning meals that I consume on a daily basis are vital to maintaining my gut health. Research shows that the health of your gut microbiome, which is made up of trillions of bacteria, fungi and other microbes, directly impacts your overall body health and state of mental wellness.
Most of your gut microbes are found in your large intestine and they are collectively referred to as the gut microbiome. These bacteria play a very important role in your health by helping to improve digestion and boost your immune system.
Your gut also has its own nervous system and contains more than a 100 million neurons. Your gut and your brain are constantly in communication with each other. They can influence the chemistry of your mood, emotions, immune system, and long-term health. Once I started to pay more attention to my stomach and my dietary lifestyle, I noticed substantial improvements in a few different areas of my health. We are all aware when our tummy does not feel good, but do you notice when it feels great?
There are three major changes that I have observed since tweaking my diet. I now consume more fruits and vegetables, eat very little added sugar, have decreased my meat and dairy consumption, and take gut boosting supplements on a daily basis. This combination of eating a healthy diet plus taking high quality gut microbiome supplements has made a big difference in my life; I simply feel better, my stomach is calm, my mind is clearer, and my body has been improved on a physical level. Here’s what I noticed:
First, there was an immediate change in the quality and frequency of my bowel movements (BM’s). I became more regular on a daily basis, and regularity is essential for health. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed a change in my body’s metabolism. It is not what it used to be. I realize now that I have to be very careful with my diet if I want to have a pleasant experience in the bathroom. When the majority of my calories are coming from whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts on any given day, then I am fine.
Second, my sugar cravings have decreased since I made the decision to consume very little sugar in my diet. When you crave sugar and start eating junk food instead of choosing a healthy alternative, this decision sets off a chain reaction in your body that has you wanting more and more junk food. You never truly feel satisfied because that unhealthy food is made of empty, non-nutrient calories.
Third, and perhaps most significantly, I now have a much cleaner tongue. I know that sounds like an odd thing to admit, but having a white tongue has always been a pet peeve of mine. I had tried countless remedies over the years and nothing worked. I had given up hope of ever having a truly clean tongue, but alas, this combination of modifying my diet plus taking the gut microbiome supplements has finally made the difference. Ironically, this was not the goal when I ventured onto the road of gut health, but having a clean tongue has been a surprising benefit. When you have a clean tongue on a consistent basis, you know you are doing something right!
Here are two morning recipes for a protein smoothie and a bowl of oatmeal that will boost your gut microbiome and taste good too. I have these nourishing foods every morning, which are a great way to start your day.
Morning Protein Shake
This delicious shake is gluten-free and dairy-free. The banana adds a nice consistency to the shake. The mango can be substituted with other fruit such as frozen mixed berries.
8 oz organic unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 Tbsp liquid chlorophyll
Handful frozen mango chunks
Handful fresh spinach
1 scoop vanilla protein shake
1. Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes.
2. As I drink the shake, I also take my probiotic, prebiotic and other supplements for the day.
I look forward to this nourishing bowl of warmth every morning. It tastes great and is packed with superb nutrition.
¼ cup organic quick cook steel cut oats
¼ cup water ¼ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Handful frozen wild blueberries
1 Tbsp almond butter
2 tsp fiber supplement
2 tsp phytonutrient supplement
1. Cook oatmeal according to instructions.
2. Add blueberries, almond butter, and supplement powders. The wild blueberries are small in size and are dethawed quickly from the heat of the oatmeal.
3. Add unsweetened almond milk for taste and consistency. Mix and enjoy!
Once you commit to a healthy eating routine, it will become easier and easier to follow. I have realized that eating healthy begins with having a healthy mindset. Once you have made up your mind that you want to feel better, you are more likely to continue to make smart food choices because you are literally rewiring your brain to make wiser decisions.
Susan Kapatoes, MHA, CPC, is a nutritionist, holistic health practitioner, and certified professional coach. She is the owner of Inspire Your Journey LLC and practices at the SheBreathes Balance & Wellness Studio in Walpole, MA. www.inspireyourjourney.com
Laughing For The Health Of It
by Bill Hamaker, CLYT and Linda Hamaker, CLYT
Stress is a major problem today both in our personal and professional lives. Part of the power of laughter is its ability to counteract stress. Sustained laughter causes the brain to release endorphins so we can relax. It also releases serotonin, the body’s natural painkiller. These hormones reduce the activity level of our sympathetic nervous system (our emergency fight or flight system) and increases the activity of our parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation, connection to others and general well being.
Laughter also functions as a social bonding mechanism. People think of laughter as a result of jokes or watching something funny, but if you study laughter in social situations you will find that much laughter occurs when nothing funny was said. It is simply one of ways that we humans relate to each other in a positive way. It has been proven that people who participate in social activities and have a support system are taking care of themselves. Laughter clubs also help to promote social relationships.
Laughter Yoga was created in 1995 by Dr. Madan Kataria, a medical doctor in Mumbai, India. He knew that laughter was the best medicine, so he gathered five friends in a park and started the first laughter club. Initially they tried taking turns telling jokes as a way to generate laughter but quickly ran out of good jokes. Then Dr. Kataria figured out that they could laugh for no reason just by using playful exercises and the contagiousness of laughter to their advantage. Thus Laughter Yoga was born and quickly spread to other parts in India, and eventually throughout the world. Today there are about 10,000 laughter clubs in 120 countries.
Laughter Yoga involves deep breathing and a few stretches, playful laughter exercises (no jokes or comedy), clapping and relaxation. There are no fancy poses. Any age and any level of physical ability can participate in this uplifting experience! When we laugh in our daily lives the amount of time we spend laughing is typically much shorter than in a Laughter Yoga session, which gives you maximum benefits of sustained laughter for twenty minutes with some breath work in-between. A very uplifting experience, the playfulness it creates helps to balance the rest of our lives, as we are usually occupied with left-brain activities most of the day.
People can practice this fun form of self-care by learning how to lighten up about different situations in life, such as laughing when someone cuts you off in traffic, the store is out of your flavor of ice cream, etc. We can all laugh at these situations and also learn how to laugh at ourselves. Try laughing to be happy instead of waiting to be happy to laugh. You can create your own happiness, the best self-care there is!
Three Daily Practices: Meditation, Astrology And Writing
by Elizabeth Rozan
My self-care strategy is a daily one incorporating the trio of mediation, astrology and writing. Meditation helps me get centered. It is trendy now to think about mindfulness, but being in the moment and having awareness is not easy, particularly in our fast-paced, frenetic world. There are many different styles and ways to meditate. The practice requires commitment and regularity, as there are no quick fixes. My daily meditation practice aims to clear the channel so that full, clear energy can come through. Images I use are physical — a clear drainpipe or hollow log through which movement and flow occurs.
Astrology is my road map. Philosophically, I believe that we each are meant to bring spirit to Earth to do our work. Because this flow of divine energy must come through the place where personality unfolds, it tends to get cluttered with thoughts and mental chatter, with emotional detritus from daily living, and with actions that may or may not be right. Astrology is system that shows resources, challenges and cycles that aid in understanding cosmic forces at work. The yearly planetary positions and direction cycles, the daily aspectarian, as well as the Moon phase and patterning are some of the things I look at each day to facilitate flow with the rhythms around me. In the silence of a meditative state, studying this correlation between what goes on in the sky and what is happening on Earth helps me contemplate dilemmas and desires, affirm values, and assess my resources and timing.
Writing, the third component of my self-care practice, is a way to manage potentially erosive stress by objectifying it. With all that arises in daily life, it is easy to become worried, anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, which gives a runaway ego an edge. Writing is a self-care tool that sorts, untangles, categorizes and organizes, allowing for a way to manage the paradoxes and questions that can increase anxiety or immobilize. Combined with the silence of meditation and the cyclical understanding of astrology, the process of expressing through writing reveals that there are invisible forces at work, which helps me to live with life’s ambiguities.
Find The Breathwork That’s Right For You
by Wendy Marks
The process of respiration — inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide — is essential to life. Every cell in your body needs oxygen to function. It is the fuel that allows your body to do anything.
When you become stressed or upset you may notice changes in your breathing, as it becomes shallow or rapid under tension in a difficult situation. You may feel as if you are almost panting. This is a natural response from your body in order to oxygenate and enable you to fight or flee, depending on what is necessary at the time. When you are relaxed or at peace, your breathing becomes deeper, slowing down all of the systems in your body, including your heart rate. Rest is very important; it allows regeneration and health. Deep breathing also expands your diaphragm, massaging your bowels, and calms your adrenal glands, allowing you to chill out.
Pranayama is an ancient system of breathwork and spiritual practice. Over the course of my spiritual journey I have probably experimented with 30 techniques for pranayama. Some of them are so complicated that I can’t even remember how to do them. I think any practice that requires too much effort to learn is much less likely to be integrated into your life on a daily basis. I encourage you to find a practice that you can do regularly.
Over the past several years people have pointed out to me that when I need a break from the conversation or situation, I close my eyes and take several deep breaths. I had no idea that I did this. I have so integrated breath work into my every day practices that when I feel even a little stress, I unconsciously slow things down so that I can get a handle on them. I control a potential bad reaction and give myself a moment to regroup.
There are many kinds of pranayama that help to create a meditative state and improve general health. My personal favorite is singing. I like to sing in a chorus. The feeling of individual voices combining to create something much larger is a lot like being a single cell in a larger organism — the sum becoming greater than the parts. Singing requires breath control and is therefore a very pleasant form of pranayama. In order to sing, you warm up with exercises that open your lungs and relax your muscles. Then, during the course of your singing, you control your breath with your phrasing and with the requirements of reaching notes and completing your song.
Strenuous exercise can also be a form of pranayama. Long-distance runners are amazing practitioners of pranayama. How could they not be? In order to run a long distance, you must carefully muster your strength and control your rate of breath to assure that you have adequate oxygen for the long run — literally.
I am a fan of the simple pranayama exercise of circular breathing. Anyone can do this; all it requires is counting. Inhale through your nose for four breaths, then exhale through your mouth for eight. If this is too much, start with two/four and so on. Eventually you can work yourself up to very large numbers. Some people can do as much as 24 in and 48 out. Start low and if you take a gasping breath at the end, then you know you have pushed it too far.
Find the breath work that is right for you. Once you establish a practice of regulating your breathing, it becomes second nature. It can be very useful in stressful meetings or any situation where you need to regulate your body’s functioning and your emotions. If you find yourself in such a situation and you feel stressed, find a private place and practice pranayama for a couple of minutes. You will be amazed that your mind will calm down, and your fight or flight reaction will lessen as well. This will allow you to make better decisions and move forward with your meeting or your day. It works great with children too — both to calm you and to teach them.
As breath is the foundation of life, controlling it to benefit your health is well worth a try. If you are already a practitioner, think about renewing your practice and trying to make it stronger, or a little more conscious.
Wendy Marks is a medical intuitive, integrative psychotherapist, spiritual counselor and energy healer, who partners in health with her clients to help them achieve a happy and healthy life. Call (781) 449-5468 or visit www.wendymarks.com
My Daily Ritual
by Tracy Hawes
It is extremely important that I practice self-care for myself. One important aspect is planning my week so I am better able to see my down time and there are fewer surprises. I have a number of daily rituals that keep me in alignment. Each morning I start with a 20-30 minute meditation at 6:00 AM. I try to have morning time after meditating each day to allow for a run, catching up on communications, reflecting on goals or sometimes simply watching the birds. That's very important to me. The idea of waking to an alarm, throwing my clothes on and rushing out the door simply depletes me. When I take the time to be sure these rituals are in place I am able to then create the necessary social connections that feed my soul and heart like nothing else.
I’m Worth It. And So Are You.
by Jennifer Safrey
We’ve been trained to picture self-care in a specific way, and it usually involves bubble baths, mani/pedis, hammocks, naps, reading, slow breathing, relaxing. My concept of self-care is very different: running, jumping, lifting, sweating, lunging, pushing, pulling, breathing hard.
This morning, my alarm went off at 4:30 AM. I’d committed to being at the gym to lift weights at 5:00 AM. I turned in bed and looked at the leggings, tank top, and sneakers I’d carefully laid out the night before, and I thought, smushing the side of my face deeper into my pillow, “What if I just do this later? Well, no, I don’t have time later, but I could just do this another day. Isn’t my sleep more important than this?” And just a couple of breaths later, I realized I was doing what so many people do: trying to convince myself I wasn’t worth the effort, I wasn’t worth the hard work, I wasn’t worth it.
I got up. I got dressed. I got in my car. At the gym, I did my circuit of lifting, burpees, box jumps, planks, and more. Then I did it again. I left feeling like a right boss, and as it was only 6:00 AM. I had the whole day to keep being boss, which would include yoga in the evening — and I was already looking forward to the dynamic flow of movement I’d planned.
I’m worth it. And so are you. To me, that’s what self care is about — remembering you are worth the time and effort doing the right things for yourself.
At 47, what better self-care is there than getting all my muscles moving, working, toning, defining? I do yoga, I lift weights, I do bodyweight exercises. This year, I discovered obstacle course racing and I am obsessed with it. My body is stronger than it was 20 years ago. My thoughts have room to develop in my cleaned-out mind. I smile more.
I like being able to easily swing myself unassisted over a 6-foot wall. I like doing lots and lots of pushups. I like doing sun salutations and arm balances and holding yoga poses for a long time. I like setting goals and moving steadily toward them. I like being able to carry my own groceries easily, and to run up a few flights of stairs without getting winded. I like defying my age.
And I don’t love every second I’m working out. I’ve been known to whine when I’ve pushed past the number of burpees I really want to do. Anyone who’s run a 5K with me knows I blurt out a litany of complaints right around the 2.2-mile mark. But it’s worth it. I’m worth it.
For the record, I don’t think bubble baths or mani/pedis or naps are a waste of time. They’re part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. But after a hard workout or a run or a challenging yoga practice, my face is glowing, my eyes are happy, and I know no other kind of relaxation would be better than the post-workout feeling of my heart rate slowing, and my muscles relaxing, and my breath lengthening.