Natural Medicine for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Current statistics indicate that a growing proportion of couples, around one in six, find it difficult to conceive. The reasons for this are complex and varied, but a major factor includes chronic stress and tiredness, from people working harder and longer hours, and other stresses associated with modern living. Nutritional factors also play an important role. To fall pregnant and then sustain the pregnancy, you need to be relaxed!

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One client who suffered debilitating anxiety, as she failed to fall pregnant one cycle after the next, was told by her GP “stop trying for three months while we run some tests”. Relieved, she fell pregnant that week.

Physiologically, the hypothalamus in the brain not only plays a role in regulating the endocrine (hormonal) system, it also forms part of our emotional response system. Natural medicine interventions can greatly assist couples to fall pregnant, and then safely support the pregnancy through its stages, from fruition to childbirth.

Areas where natural medicine can assist the fertility/ pregnancy/ childbirth cycle include, but are not limited to:

Infertility (= not yet pregnant ) – addressing causative factors and obstacles, whether:

Physical – for example insomnia, low sperm count, poly-cystic ovarian syndrome or other reproductive issues that interfere with fertility; or

Emotional, Mental – for example stress, anxiety, depression, tension, negative self-beliefs, poor body image.

Miscarriage – especially where there is a pattern of miscarriage and/or a history of miscarriage in the family;

Morning sickness – there a number of safe, effective herbal and homeopathic medicines that can assist when chosen according to the woman’s specific symptoms;

Health maintenance during pregnancy & preparation for labour – there are a number of herbs in particular (e.g. Raspberry Leaf) that can be safely used to enhance the health of the mother and foetus, and optimally prepare both mother and child for labour. Different herbs are indicated at different stages of the pregnancy.

A Story to Share with you

To help illustrate how natural medicine can help I wanted to share a case with you.

A woman who had recently conceived then miscarried fell into an intense, debilitating grief. Those around her did not understand, as it was their perception that it was “just a miscarriage”. To her, it felt like nothing less than the death of a child. She felt she could not conceive again until she resolved her grief, anxiety and depression.

A homeopathic medicine indicated in this particular scenario acted quickly and deeply, to help her to resolve her grief and move on. She fell pregnant within three months without further trouble.

She is now a mother of four young children (and that’s another story …).

Take Care.

Gerry 

 

Emotional Mental Health A Key to Fertility

Emotional and mental health can be a very real barrier to fertility. So often, we focus on our physical health and whether we are 'fertile in our body'. You and your partner may have had every blood test and scan under the sun.  You may have had some answers such as a genetic pattern issue, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries or low sperm count. Maybe you've found no answers, or have been given a fertility percentage.

Yet, what about emotional and mental health? Especially when there is a struggle with trying to conceive.

I often find women coming to me because

  • they're at a loss as to why they are yet to fall pregnant
  • they have stress in their lives they need to clear as they have a feeling that this is affecting their fertility, or
  • they have negative experiences related to reproductive health that they need to let go of.

Kinesiology is a fascinating and powerful tool for it has the ability to speak to the body, the conscious and the subconscious mind, and takes the guess work out of questioning 'why?' The very challenge to conceive can cause stress which in turn becomes the enemy to your fertility.

Healing From Miscarriage or Termination

A common example of the importance of emotional and mental health for fertility is healing from a miscarriage or termination; this is something that can take time. From the well recognised statistics, we know that this is a shared experience for many women, however we are all unique in the way that we hold onto or process grief, loss and change. Personal history and circumstance are also unique and it's for these reasons that each personal experience and response to this stress is valid. 

Once you begin to heal and feel ready to try again to conceive, it's good to check in and prepare on all levels to ensure that your body is not holding onto past hurt. Sometimes our fear of falling pregnant again or worry over the ability to carry a baby full term can be part of the picture that is preventing conception. Kinesiology can help you to understand and free your emotions and thoughts and to clear the body of trauma and pain.

The Energy Connection Between Emotions and Your Reproductive System

To further reiterate the message, from an energetic perspective the Sacral Chakra – which penetrates through the ovaries and gonads is the chakra most known for it's connection to emotions. When your emotions are in balance, meaning that you're understanding and expressing your emotional self, you have a balanced Sacral chakra and thus a balance within the energy system of your reproductive system and related hormones and structures. Your emotional state directly relates to your fertility and vise versa!

As I mentioned above, you can store your emotions and thought patterns in your body. They can be both recent and old experiences. By releasing these experiences and the effect they have on you, you are able to then make room for new experiences, have the ability to respond rather than react, and to create the family you desire.

A Fun Fertility Tip

Making a baby is the essence of creativity. Both the Traditional Chinese Medicine Kidney meridian and the yogic Sacral Chakra involved in the making of a baby are also the sources for creativity. These systems thrive on creative nourishment. Think beyond just physical conception to creative outlets such as cooking, gardening, art and craft, and problem solving – get those creative juices flowing!

For more information, check out an article I previously wrote called A Fertile Life: Why Mind-Body Medicine is Essential for Fertility 

Kate Pamphilon

 

The Journey of Fertility

Ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive.

Having a period is not much fun at the best of times, and while you are trying to conceive it can be downright heartbreaking.  I have had many clients explain to me how with each menstrual period they feel a sense of loss, hopelessness or despair.  These feelings are often further compounded with unpleasant symptoms such as emotional volatility, pain and fatigue, none of which help during this sometimes difficult time.

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Instead of seeing each menstrual period as a setback on your path to parenthood, consider it as a time to take special care of yourself and prepare for the next chance at conception.  Ancient Chinese physicians called menstruation Tian Gui or ‘Heavenly water’ because they believed that menstrual blood was different from the blood that circulates through and nourishes the body.  During the menstrual period there is a loss of blood or ‘Heavenly Water’, but this loss is not simply a monthly discharge of discarded material from the uterus, it is Qi, the vital energy that is required for life.

It is for this very reason that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views the menstrual period as a time when women need to take particular care of themselves.  As blood is discharged from the uterus during Heavenly Water, the body is in a state of qi and blood deficiency - as blood is lost so is qi. During this stage of the menstrual cycle, the body is more vulnerable to be influenced by external factors, such as cold.  In TCM theory, cold has the ability to obstruct qi and suppress healthy reproductive function.  This can result in cramping pain, irritability, bloating and cravings for sweet foods. Ingesting cold foods and drinks (this can mean food and drinks that are physically cold such as ice cream or chilled water, as well as salads, juices and raw foods) can allow cold to enter the body, as can standing on cold floors with bare feet, being under dressed for the weather and swimming during your period.

I wanted to share with you this egg soup recipe as it helps to increase circulation, nourish the body and keep it warm - enabling the smooth and free flow of qi and blood.  You can make this during your period to ease menstrual pain and to ensure your body is in optimal condition for trying to conceive. 

Egg Soup - Makes 1 serve                                                

1 cup water                                                                                                                                              

1 tablespoon raw sugar      

2 eggs                                                                                                                                                    

3 tablespoons rice wine (available from Asian grocers)

In a medium saucepan, add 1 cup of water and dissolve raw cane sugar. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Crack 2 eggs into the boiling water and stir as it returns to the boil.  Add rice wine and remove from heat. Serve hot.

Remember to like and care for yourself.

Sally

 

Breathing Techniques to help You with Anxiety

Hi Everyone!

I hope you've been enjoying the tips and strategies on natural ways to manage anxiety this month.  Even as someone who works in the health and wellness field, I've loved the opportunity to learn new ways from my incredibly talented colleagues here at Live Well to Manage the Madness that so often seems to get the better of me in daily life. We’re a pretty close family here and we regularly take advantage of each other’s talents and services to help us, walk our talk and look after ourselves, so that we can continue to give our best to you! So when you’re getting a referral to another practitioner you can be sure that we have experienced their healing skills ourselves!

If we haven’t met yet, I'm Ramone and I'm currently Live Well’s resident expert on all things Yoga! I teach yoga, meditation, pre and post natal yoga and also offer Thai Yoga Massage for all ages and during pregnancy. Today I'm here to offer some options for how breathing can change your body chemistry and therefore your relationship to feelings of anxiety.

Are you breathing or thinking about breathing?

You can try this exercise to experience how reflexive breathing works.

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If you take a deep breath in…. then exhale completely and hold your breath out for as long as possible…. you’ll eventually feel a build up of energy that will force you to take your next breath in – this is our reflex to breathe – and live!

There are many ways in which we can consciously regulate our breathing patterns and in yoga we call these techniques and practices Pranayma. In Sanskrit, the ancient language of Yoga, Prana is both the word for breath and for our essential life force. As you experienced in the exercise above, these are quite closely related! If you don’t breathe you die, fairly logical whether you’re a Yogi or not!

Through generations of experimentation the Yogis developed many different Pranayama techniques, and observed their impacts on the body and mind. In modern times scientists have developed instruments that can now measure these changes on our brain function and body physiology that back up what the Yogis had come to find through their experimentation. What spiritual seekers and scientists can both now proudly claim is that the way you breathe can change your body, your mind and therefore your life!

How breathing works and why what you think matters!

Automatic breathing is governed by complex interactions of neural and chemical mechanisms in your body, without you having to think about a thing! But sometimes, what you think can change the way you breathe! When you have thoughts, you usually attach a particular feeling or emotion to each thought through habit or conditioning. Each of these thought/feelings creates a physical response in your body.

For example

Situation:      I'm not going to meet my deadline again today…

Thoughts: 1) I'm not good enough to do this job

       2) I feel bad for letting my boss down

       3) I'm terrified people will find out I'm a fraud and I’ll lose my job

Emotions: 1) Self doubt  2) Guilt/remorse  3) Fear

Response:  Fight or Flight – Particularly when fear is an emotional response or trigger, adrenaline kicks in to set your body up to either fight the threat of not meeting the deadline, or run away and hide yourself in the nearest cave to avoid the threat and humiliation of being fired! Unfortunately when it comes to fear, as intelligent as you are your brain still thinks like the cavemen did! When adrenaline fires you up to fight or flee a perceived danger, it sets off a whole chain of responses in your body including:

-          Increased breath rate (generally this means shallower and shorter breaths)

-          Blood moves to our muscles and away from our digestion 

-          Awareness sharpens

These are all great things when we actually need to defend ourselves or make a hasty retreat but in modern day society there are a whole range of reasons fight or flight isn't the socially appropriate response to a situation, or even possible! This leaves our bodies and minds pumped up for action which, in certain situations is fantastic for getting things done (like meeting that deadline!), but over time exhausts our system of vital energy and essential elements needed for healthy function.

Often quite unconsciously, we create habits of running negative thought loops in our minds. Without realising we are telling ourselves stories over and over again, our bodies respond by getting stuck in a holding pattern of pumping out hormones creating a cascading effect that you’re showing all of the physical responses you need to help you respond to a threat  - that’s not actually there - it’s just something we’re holding in our minds!

How can breath stop the anxiety train?

Well if the fight or flight response triggers short shallow breathing, maybe we could try consciously choosing to lengthen and deepen our breaths to try and trick our body out of it? We already tricked it into thinking there was a threat in the first place so it can’t be that hard right?! The beauty of conscious control of our breathing is that we have an avenue of returning the pace and depth of our breath back into to our personal power of choice. We can choose how long and how often we breathe and therefore begin to change our body chemistry out of fight or flight mode.

The first steps begin with learning to observe our anxiety signs and signals. Once you can identify some of the physical indicators of your fight or flight response, you can start using breath regulation like a circuit breaker. A tool to put in your anxiety management toolbox and use when needed!

From Fight Club to Rest Fest

The body has an inbuilt counter balance to fight or flight known as our relaxation response. Sometimes called our rest and digest system, our relaxation response is a biochemically-controlled response to the feeling of safety and security. It’s what switches on when our body needs to recover and heal; our blood pressure and pulse rate reduces, our breathing rate decreases and our brain activity changes to a frequency associated with feelings of relaxation.

One of the best Yogic breathing or Pranayama exercises for accessing this state of rest and digest is called Viloma Pranayama. In English you might have heard it called deep belly breathing, three part breath or diaphragmatic breathing.  In Sanskrit Viloma means interrupted or against the natural flow. The technique involves taking partial sips of air separated by small breaks in between each one.

It’s one of my favourite breathing techniques to teach because it has such a quick positive impact on people who try it; they are instantly calmer. It’s a simple technique that can be practised by anyone, any time, any place! Viloma breath gets you into a longer, deeper and slower breathing pattern that breaks the fight or flight cycle and sends your body and mind back toward balance with rest and digest.

Here are five simple steps to Viloma breath that you can try anywhere; from your bed when your head won’t stop working and you need to get some sleep, to the car when traffic is making you impatient, to inconspicuously in your office chair when the going gets tough and you need to stay sane and fight off the internal gremlins of self doubt and negative thought patterns!

1)     Find a place where you can sit or lie comfortably with a long, neutral spine. Place both hands on your low belly and close your eyes (if you can – not if you’re driving please!).

2)     Relax your core and inhale into your low belly until you feel it rise and expand under your hands (like a balloon inflating). Exhale and gently squeeze your core to expel all the air from your lungs. To encourage yourself to breathe slowly and deeply, you can count equal numbers for your inhale and exhale. 4:4 is a comfortable count for most people to begin with. Try at least three of these deep belly breaths first.

3)     Begin Viloma breath. On your next inhale, breathe deep into your core and feel your hands rise as your abdomen expands, stop for a moment and hold the first part of that breath in. Then continue to fill your ribcage with breath, feeling your chest expand (you may like to move your hands to the side of your chest to feel the ribs moving upward with breath), pause again. Finally fill the top of the chest with breath until you reach the base of the throat and pause for the final time (again you can move the hands to the front of the chest to feel this if it helps!).

4)     Release your breath as one long slow and controlled exhale. Take a normal breath before trying again if you need to. Repeat steps 3 & 4 at least three times but up to ten, as long as you’re not getting dizzy.

5)     Make sure you keep your breath relaxed and soft, you’ll lose the benefits of the practice if you try to force it. Go easy on yourself! The idea isn't to strive for perfection but to be deeply involved as an investigator of your experience; notice the speed, quality even the temperature of your breath and where and how it moves inside you as you slow down and shift your focus on the different parts of your torso.

Hopefully after a few rounds of Viloma Pranayama you’ll feel much more connected to your body, rather than stuck in the single gear of your mind-chatter! Our bodies are a deep well of wisdom just waiting for us to tap into and listen!

Once you've cultivated the practice of listening to the signals your body gives, you can learn to respond to those messages in healthy, healing ways and take back the power and wealth of wellness in your life! It’s a process and takes practice so remember to be patient and keep on trying even if it doesn't feel like it worked on the first go.

Good luck and please be in touch if you have any questions! 

Ramone

 

Little Things You Can Do To Unplug

21 Ways you can Reduce Anxiety in Your Life

When anxiety has taken a hold, grasping onto something simple to help you out of that space and to recalibrate, can be immensely helpful.

Whether it's in the form of a ritual that supports your balance on a daily basis, or an emergency exit strategy, the key really,  is in having a few tricks to keep up your sleeve that are both super-easy and totally (fail-safe) doable. 

What are some small, key things you could do to throw yourself a lifeline next time you're heading out to sea in the rip of an anxiety tide?

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Putting together a little list for yourself of the kind of things that you feel could work for you, can be useful. Because when anxiety has taken charge it can be incredibly difficult to access that clear, wise, creative part of our brain that would otherwise be really helpful in that situation.

 In the list below, you'll find 21 simple ways you can reduce anxiety in your life. I encourage you to pick and choose whatever personally feels good and resonates with you. And perhaps even to have a think and see what other kinds of things might help you re-set next time you're feeling anxious and strung-out.

1. B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Just breathe... Bringing your awareness to the breath, drawing your inhalation in through your nose, into your chest, and down into your navel (imagine filling up a balloon in your belly) interrupts the stress response, and sends ripples of instant calm throughout your nervous system! 

 2.  Practice Acceptance, and just.. Letting go. Of whatever you can, whenever you can... Even if it just means letting go of a particular stressful thought, for even only a minute... It still counts!

Resisting what IS in our lives creates a physiological stress response in our bodies. It's like when the river (that is, life) is flowing one way, and we are busy busting our chops, trying to swim upstream against the tide, or clinging to the riverbank; but if we can learn to just let go a little, find acceptance in what is (our feelings, the situation...), there's an almost-instant relief to be found in just that shift, alone. We can then stop struggling, and deal with what's on our plate from a different, calmer space.

3. Nourish your nervous system and adrenal's with wholesome food choices. Top up on your dark leafy greens, healthy fats, quality protein sources (a steak of oily fish or bowl of dahl, for example), and root veggies, which have a grounding effect. Also, take care to chew your food well.

4. Prioritise. When things seem overwhelming, take a minute to (re)consider what is most important and at the very top of your agenda, and focus on just doing that...

 5. Be in Nature. Even if just for 5 minutes. Get outside, be in the elements, and bring awareness to all of your senses. Feel the sunshine or the fresh, crisp air on your skin; notice the colour of the sky or the shapes in the clouds; listen to the sound of birds singing or acorns crunching underneath your feet. Let your eyes soak up all the green they possibly can.

 6. Nip it in the bud. If there's something worrying you, and you can’t put your finger on it, pop your creative and strategic hats on, identify the issue, and do whatever is in your power right now to send it packing.

7. Ground yourself. Go and be in the garden; pull out a few weeds, plant something new; or simply take off your shoes and sit on the grass for a while. It's hard to stay too anxious in this space.

8. Tune in. Take your awareness past all the frenzy, and feel the sensations in your heart, throat and solar plexus regions... Can you feel tightness, knots, churning, butterflies, sinking, pulling...? What sensations do you get in these physical centres, when you're feeling anxious? Just bringing awareness to it can be enough to help the energy to dissipate and clear.

9. Listen up. Play some feel-good tunes or listen to a guided meditation, and let them help you to feel better.

10. Get physical. Discharge anxiety physically and get your feel-good endorphins flowing. Try walking, riding, jogging, rowing, swimming, lifting weights, dancing, stretching, yoga, pilates, kick-boxing, however  you like to get your body moving.

11. Tea time. Have a cup of herbal tea. Chamomile, Passionflower, Valerian and Hops are all great for calming and relaxing the nervous system. 

12. Burn or vaporise some soothing, uplifting essential oils such as Lavender and Peppermint, Sandalwood or Bergamot. They have the power to benefit your emotions by directly stimulating the limbic system.

13. Bring your creativity into play. Whether it's in a colouring book, painting, playing with kinetic sand, crochet, losing time on Pinterest, cooking up a storm… What gets your creative juices flowing? Being in the "flow" + engaging your creativity are two major anxiety busters!

14. Take time out. Book a holiday, a weekend away, or even just go on a day trip. Make an opportunity to get out of your usual surrounds, head to the beach, the mountains, the snow, the country or another city; maybe even abroad!

15. Light candles and have a bath (even just a foot bath!). Add a bunch of Epsom salts, and a few drops of your favourite essential oil/s. Tea, book, and music all optional.

16. Choose your thoughts. Take note of the quality of your thoughts/self-talk. Are they helpful? Supportive? Insightful? Critical and judgemental? Irrational? 

17. Detach from expectations and outcomes. When we can bring our attention to the present, and relax our minds from particular expectations and outcomes, we can also take a detour from the anxiety and pressure we might have been inadvertently placing on ourselves. 

18. Have an early night. Give yourself one of the best gifts of all: An Early Night... Giving your body adequate time to rest and restore at night is a vital part of re-setting the nervous system and encouraging greater resilience (ability to tuck & roll, bend with the wind and bounce back easily). And sometimes just “sleeping on it” really does help.

19. Blow it all off. When it all gets too much and life feels like it's getting on top of you, take a more radical approach to the whole situation; if you need to, take the day off or give yourself an early mark, but take some time out to abandon responsibility and do something that sweetens the deal for you and helps you take your mind of things for a while... 

20. Hugs and laughs whether it's a dog, a cat, a human, a gift or your favourite funny movie/TV series. Hugs and laughs are real, good medicine. 

21. See your Naturopath to have a chat and get some much-deserved wellness support.

I encourage you to pick and choose whatever personally feels good and resonates with you. And perhaps even to have a think and see what other kinds of things might help you re-set next time you're feeling anxious and strung-out.

 Shanna

Hormones and Anxiety: Understanding the Connection

Anxiety is one of the most common struggles within our community today, it is a syndrome that can affect anyone no matter their age, gender or upbringing. Anxiety can be triggered by past events and for some, it feels like we are made this way – stressed, anxious, panicked or depressed. 

How to disconnect the triggers 

So what can we do when our body sends us into a state of anxiety when triggers arise? How can we disconnect the wires in the brain and the central nervous system from activating flight/fight when it's not necessary? Essentially your mind and body have learnt from past experiences that it needs to respond in this way as a protective mechanism. Any time your mind and body experience something that is similar to past hurts, be it physical, emotional or mental, it turns on your survival mode – the physiological response to stress and anxiety.

Through kinesiology, I talk to your body to find out what your triggers are, when they occurred and where they are sitting in the body and energy systems. I look at your entire energy system through Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians and yogic-Chakras to explore emotions, thoughts, physical sensations and blocks that prevent you from being at your best. One of the key ways to balance your mind, body and spirit from anxiety is through the yogic-Chakra system. The energy of chakras penetrate through your endocrine system – the very hormones that are released when you're stressed! Understanding physiology and clearing the wired response of the brain then allows you to then understand the source and break the pattern of anxiety. 

Stay with me while I simplify the connection between hormones and the endocrine glands behind anxiety 

Once a stressful event occurs, a chain of hormonal messages start within your brain travelling through the hypothalamus to your pituitary gland and finishing up in your adrenal glands (which lie on top of your kidneys). It's your adrenal glands that release stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine as they help you to deal with stress. 

The HPA Axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) is a brain and hormonal feedback system within your body that regulates your response to stress. Unfortunately in a fast-paced world, or through long-term stress our adrenals can become locked on and continue to pump stress hormones even through times of attempted rest, sleep and normal daily events. It's often during this phase that you can become agitated, anxious or experience panic attacks. Your levels of stress hormones flowing through your body become too high. Eventually your body cannot sustain this level of survival mode and you can experience adrenal exhaustion where you're unable to release stress hormones. If you experience anxiety, can you think back to times of high level stress? Or are you highly stressed presently? So you can see the spectrum of why hormone imbalances occur these can be from stress anxiety panic exhaustion.

By working with the energy model of the Yogic-Chakras, kinesiology can restore your endocrine system to balance. Once back in balance your experience of daily life is different. Your old seemingly 'hard wired' response to stressful triggers is no longer dominant. Typically you will have insights about the source of old patterns and the awareness to create new more helpful responses to stressful events. 

3 Chakras & 3 Tips to calming anxiety

As I mentioned before, the seven major chakras each penetrate through glands of your hormonal system. By working to balance a chakra, you are in turn, balancing your body, mind and spirit. This connection is the foundation of kinesiology. Here are three tips you can try now to heal your anxiety naturally. 

Your Crown Chakra influences your hypothalamus gland – the first gland in your brain that responds to stress. Frankincense essential oil slows and deepens your breathing, treats fears and anxiety, nervous tension and stress. Place a few drops in a bath, on your pillow or mix 1 drop with 5mls of almond oil and place a drop on the top of your head directly on the Crown Chakra. 

Your Brow/Third Eye Chakra influences your pituitary gland – the second gland in your brain that responds to stress. Brain foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, and avocado nourish your Brow Chakra. Blueberries and strawberries can support our memory and ability to concentrate. The powerful antioxidants within berries help improve our cognitive thinking and reasoning which we can lose when anxious. 

Your Base/Root Chakra influences your adrenals – the glands above your kidneys that respond to stress. My favourite way to balance the Base Chakra and adrenals is connecting to Mother Earth energy by finding each person's 'off switch'. What brings you a sense of calm, peace and connection? Ideas include walking or sitting in nature (especially with your shoes off), gardening, music, baths, art, reading, yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and massage. 

You can read about my personal experience with childhood anxiety through to post-natal anxiety in a book I co-authored called Heart to Heart, The Path to Wellness which you can pick up at Live Well Spa and Wellness Centre and I have provided you with some of my previously written articles on anxiety that you may like to read.

Remember you don't have to do it alone. Don't let anxiety define you! 

Kate

 

HOw Natural Therapies Help Anxiety

What is Anxiety? Anxiety can be defined as a sense of unease, worry, fearfulness and/or nervousness. 

Anxiety may arise from a multitude of factors. It may result from ongoing work or home stress, grief, change in life direction, dietary or lifestyle factors. Some people have a natural genetic tendency to experience anxiety, it may run in the family.  In other cases it may be triggered by worrying about something or be part of other conditions such as insomnia, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's important to remember that people’s individual experience of anxiety can be quite varied and may coexists with other issues or symptoms.

Anxiety can be greatly helped with homeopathic and herbal medicine, as the approach taken is to understand how you personally experience anxiety, what else it is associated with and what factors predisposed you to it.

I'd like to share two stories with you to show how homeopathic and herbal medicine helped with Anxiety.

Worry was the trigger to her Anxiety 

I worked with a lady in her mid forties who had just been diagnosed, with cancerous changes to tissue in her left breast, after experiencing menopausal changes over the previous year. 

From this diagnosis she began to experience intense panic attacks from her fear of the surgery.  She was prescribed an anxiolytic antidepressant to subdue her anxiety which did not prove effective. On my first consultation she described to me that her anxiety would turn to panic very suddenly. Her heart would race and she would be overcome by a real and overwhelming feeling that she was going to die at that very moment, that her life was over. I prescribed her the homeopathic medicine Aconite, which significantly subdued her acute and intense feelings of fear and panic.

On her follow up visit she was able to provide me with a more complete understanding of her state. She had actually been of a nervous disposition her whole life and had always had anxious dreams. She was quite fastidious by nature and was sensitive to cleanliness and a sense of order in her environment and could become quite irritable. She was also very sensitive to cold and had a history of digestive upsets. I prescribed her homeopathic Arsenicum album to be taken daily and she reported that her nervousness began to improve. She was also able to go through her medical tests and procedures coping much better than she could have expected. She was still anxious about her medical condition however she was no longer having panic attacks and her racing heart symptoms had stopped. She was feeling much better and able to cope after only a relatively short period of time. Looking to continue working to understand the Anxiety in her history and to gently further disables the controlling effect anxiety has had over her life. Homeopathy can work harmoniously alongside orthodox medical interventions to improve people’s overall health outcomes and support them through life's unexpected challenges and health issues.

Alice's mother explained she had always had anxiety and mood swings

According to her mother 8 year old Alice had always been an anxious and moody child. As she had aged her toddler tantrums gradually turned into intense episodes of screaming abuse and tears. She needed constant attention and the intensity of her behaviour had taken a toll on the family and there was a constant underlying sadness about Alice. Occasionally the happy, bright Alice that her parents knew would emerge, only again to be overtaken by this intense state. Underlying her emotional outbursts and sadness was a constant, background anxiety.

Alice’s mother experienced unusual anger during the pregnancy and intense fear during her labour. From a young age Alice had recurring scary dreams of fire, witches and/or of being neglected and abandoned. Clearly, her state was inherited. Other ongoing or recurring symptoms included difficulty getting to sleep, sore tummies, darkness under her eyes, itchy bottom, fear of spiders and storms. 

This was a complex case but a successful homeopathic medicine (Crotalus cascavella) was found. From the first dose a noticeable change came over Alice. She became brighter and happier, as if a dark cloud had been lifted. Whenever she slipped back, the medicine would be repeated which progressed her improvement. Over time Alice emerged from this anxious, dark state that had engulfed her for so long and wreaked havoc on her family. The homeopathic medicine works with the body-mind as an integrated unit. Hence the whole person benefits at all levels at once, both physically and psychologically.

One of the joys of working with children is that when given the right stimulus, they usually have the innate vitality to move on quickly, freed up to grow and develop normally. 

Gerry

Gerry Dendrinos is Live Well's Herbalist and Homeopath 

 Read more about Gerry.

Understanding Anxiety

You’re not just stressed

Anxiety is different to just feeling stressed. It’s the frequent or sustained experience of discomfort in the form of hot and cold flushes, a racing heart, nausea, dizziness, the shakes, panic, spiralling negative thoughts or compulsive behaviour. 

Anxiety is a symptom

Anxiety can take many different forms and have many different triggers, however regardless of the symptoms or the pattern of your anxiety one thing is true: anxiety like any other symptom is a clear sign that your mind-body system is out of balance. 

Your nervous system is the problem

What leaves you vulnerable to developing anxiety is a nervous system that is overwhelmed and exhausted. The path that leads to that state of nervous system exhaustion is different for everyone, sometimes it’s a particular traumatic event, sometimes is the incremental build up of stress that builds to become overwhelm and then becomes anxiety. 

Restoring balance is the key

Natural therapies help with anxiety, not by masking the symptoms but by addressing the imbalance that is causing the symptoms. Remarkably, sometimes very simple changes, such as making sure you're accessing the right nutrients in your diet, or learning to breathe correctly can go a long way towards resolving symptoms of anxiety. Some people will need intensive support to feel better at least initially, however it’s important to know that if you have anxiety you’re not broken, you’re just out of balance and that imbalance can be addressed.

The good news is, if given the right support and the right tools, your body is exceptionally good at finding its balance again and once that happens, symptoms of anxiety drop away.  

We’d love to help

So if you’d like help overcoming anxiety and you’d like an approach that doesn’t just mask the symptoms but can help you truly restore your ease and enjoyment of life then we wold love to help. 

How’s your “New Year Zen”?

How will you be “Managing the Madness” in 2015?

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Like many people, my 2015 resolutions largely revolved around reducing stress, resetting boundaries for better work/life balance and making time for things that energise, nurture and sustain me. 

It’s only February, but I’d be fibbing if I didn’t admit to some regressions here and there; falling back into habits of doing too much, compromising on my wellbeing plans a little too quickly, feeling stretched and wondering “Uh-oh…how is this happening?...here I go again!”. 

You too?

It’s times like this, when we catch ourselves wobbling off track, we should take a moment and congratulate ourselves. That’s right. In fact, give yourself a big pat on the back and say “Well done!” or even a big woop and “High five, way to go!”

What for…? 

For being aware and noticing the start of familiar patterns returning. Because by observing ourselves falling back to old ways, we are no longer on “automatic pilot” believing we don’t have the time, energy or opportunity to be different. Instead, we are at conscious crossroads. We are awake to ourselves – our habits, thoughts, behaviours, feelings and choices. We can taste the sweet, positive flow that comes from creating change for ourselves yet we feel ourselves being drawn back into our “same old same old”. Congratulations! High Five! 

At this point, engaging in mindfulness can help us to consciously reflect, reset and reconnect with our motivations and desire for change and with our knowledge and beliefs of what’s possible when given our full focus and attention.

If you’ve started to juggle new intentions with old comfy ways, the Three C’s of Mindfulness are good to keep in mind - Concentration, Curiosity and Compassion.

Concentrate: Reflect again on the reasons you set yourself a new goal and bring it back into full focus when you are planning your activities and week, or making decisions throughout your day. Are you keeping your resolution and goals front of mind? Choose how you wish to concentrate your time, energy, thoughts and behaviours. Break down large, long term goals into smaller, achievable actions so you can concentrate on each one individually – one at a time. 

Curiosity – what’s been working well for you? And what’s getting in the way? Do you need to reassess how you’re approaching things and put more/less support or structure into play? Are you unconsciously sabotaging your own success to avoid vulnerability or the uncertainty of secondary opportunities that may flow? Consider a wider perspective of your situation with child-like curiosity and apply your creative problem solving ability to map your path forward.

Compassion – a wise mentor once told me, “you catch more bees with honey, Kat” and it’s true! Rather than giving yourself a hard time for “falling off the wagon”, be supportive and encouraging to yourself just as you’d be to a friend, young child or puppy learning something new. We know change is uncomfortable and can be challenging at first. It requires us to step out of our comfort zones and draw on our reserves of patience, persistence and grit. So reframe any negative self talk creeping in and be kind to yourself. “You’re making progress and doing well. Keep going, believe in yourself and you’ll do it”. 

Change is a process, not an event. So enjoy the journey and remember the Three C’s along the way.

If you’d like to learn about more mindfulness and how to integrate it into your daily life, Live Well’s next intake of “Managing the Madness” will be commencing on Wednesday 3rd March, 2015. 

It’s a 6 week group program, facilitated by Katrina Howard, qualified counsellor, coach and mindfulness teacher, and is for anyone wanting to learn mindfulness and meditation practices to manage anxiety and stress, build resilience and enjoy life with a greater sense of clarity and calm.

More information on the course, fees and dates, click here.

Understanding Homeopathy

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a specialised branch of complementary medicine with roots that go back over two hundred years (to Germany, also the birthplace of naturopathy). Few may realise that homeopathy is currently the second-most used system of medicine in the world, used by over 500 million people in primary healthcare (according to World Health Organisation estimates). In modern times it has been integrated into the healthcare systems of many developed and developing world countries, where it is practised both by doctors and complementary healthcare practitioners. A strong and growing evidence base underpins its clinical effectiveness. It is applied to a wide array of physical as well as mental and emotional conditions.

How does it work?

Homeopathy, like most complementary medicine systems, works with the body’s innate self-healing potential. To do this, homeopathy employs diluted and “potentised” medicines that are made from a wide variety of natural substances. Whatever a person’s suffering (physiological and/or psychological), there is something in the natural world that matches it – this wisdom is a very ancient one, first documented by Hippocrates. 

The way in which people suffer is as varied as people themselves, hence homeopaths do not define people by their medical diagnosis. A homeopath gives utmost attention to a person’s unique pattern of symptoms and on this basis devises a highly individualised treatment.
People are often amazed at the wide range of conditions and situations that homeopathy can help with. How it works is best demonstrated by its real-life use, and the following case is a typical example of how it is applied in practice.

Case example

Sarah (name changed), in her teens, was going through a turbulent time at a new school and was experiencing “bladder problems”. She was wetting the bed each night, as well as waking to urinate most nights after midnight. A blood test revealed a low grade infection, yet which several courses of antibiotics had failed to clear up. Her mother said that overall, there were “many little things that aren’t right”, such as tiredness, dizzy spells, headaches, tendency to colds and coughs, recurring fearful dreams as well as general confidence issues (with constant apologising and a feeling she was “always doing something wrong”). She was very sensitive by nature, “too easily influenced by others peoples’ energies”.  Despite all this, academically she was a top student and very conscientious. Sarah had a history of not sleeping well, recurring nightmares and had suffered a severe bladder/ kidney infection shortly after birth (ie. there was a pre-exisiting weakness). 

In all cases, a homeopath views physiological and psychological symptoms as facets of a single underlying imbalance. For example, if your liver is underfunctioning, you will also feel tired upon waking in the morning and generally feel more irritable than you’d like. In Sarah’s case, the gestalt of her physical and psychological symptoms indicated she needed a particular plant medicine from the Asteracea family. She took this medicine daily for several weeks with good all-round improvement. The potency of the medicine was then increased as further improvement had plateaued. Within several months her urinary symptoms had cleared up for good and she was sleeping through the night without having to get up to urinate. Her mother also reported that she had found a new level of confidence, her energy had lifted and those ‘other little things’ had also receded. She was growing into a normal, resilient teenager “just doing what teenagers do”. 

What Sarah’s case illustrates is that when you are out of balance your body will give you little distress signals, these are the “many little things that aren’t right’. A homeopath is trained to see the pattern in your symptoms, which to the untrained eye may look completely unconnected and prescribe the remedy that will restore your body and mind back into balance. 

If you know your body is telling you something is out of balance you don’t have to keep putting up with it, homeopathy can help.

Gerry Dendrinos is an experienced Classical Homeopath and Western Herbalist. 

Gerry helps clients of all ages deal with a wide variety of chronic and acute health problems, including challenging chronic health problems that fall outside orthodox medicine's ability to be effective. His motivation is in achieving measurable clinical results. His approach is collaborative and holistic. Read more about Gerry.

Post-natal Anxiety and Depression: How to Shift Your Suffering

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“Enough!” she cried as she fell to her knees exhausted with the effort it took to persist with the act. Each day on the outside she smiled, tightly. On the inside she screamed, painfully.

Those around her thought she was managing well. She usually did; that’s what they expected from her. When asked, she parroted words she thought were those you should say in these situations. It seemed to make everyone happy to hear “I’m great. It’s amazing”. But it wasn’t. She was a failure. Most of all, she was ashamed about how she felt and the thoughts that muddled and darkened her experience of what everyone called ‘new motherhood’.

Now, four years later, I can confidently tell you that to say “I’m not OK” or “I’m not coping” or “I don’t think I can do this” is not shameful. You’re simply saying “I am human”. I decided that it was more painful to keep battling internally than it was to speak up and say “I’m not coping”.

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One day I would like to try and paint the internal landscape of post-natal anxiety and depression as perhaps others would truly connect with imagery rather than attempted vocabulary.

It was easy to be ashamed; women have been mothering since, well, the beginning of time! It’s a natural physiological process, including the release of hormones to help with nurturance and attachment. Women across cultures have long, traumatic labours – it’s nothing new. I could go on as it’s easy for me to tap into the justification for why I ‘should’ be ashamed.

Apart from actually managing to make it through that first year of parenting, the best thing I ever did was to speak up and essentially admit that I was human. I did not have super powers of perfection and total adaptability in each and every moment. This is what I was expecting of myself. This is what I saw in every other mother. Yes, they were sleep deprived and sometimes confused as to why their child was crying, but I applied the double standard approach – it was OK for them, but not for me. But it was more than that. I was in pain.

Once I spoke up something happened within me and consequently, around me.

I accepted my experience and therefore accepted myself. I gave myself permission to grieve. I allowed myself an immense amount of room for mistakes which I now consider as lessons. And I let those around me in. Imagine if every time you made a mistake someone whispered in your ear “It’s OK”. Imagine if every time you tripped and fell, someone helped you up and said “It’s OK”. Imagine if every time you felt despair, someone told you “It’s OK”. This is what happens when you speak up and let people in. Eventually, the person to whisper in your ear becomes yourself. This can be applied not only to post-natal anxiety and depression, but to any experience in life where you feel defeated, battling or alone.

Alone. Isolated. Internal or external isolation – either way it can be painful. It’s easy to feel that you’re just a small fraction of the Universe and therefore devalue your own importance. Yet, within you is the Universe exploring consciousness and life. The human experience is multi-dimensional. We’re made up of interconnecting layers of complex vibration from the physical plane of the body and structure to the etheric layers of the aura and the higher vibration of spiritual dimensions. You are spinning particles of light which cross and connect to all around you. You are literally never alone. Your pain is my pain. My joy is your joy. It’s the magnificence of connection.

The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.
— Carl Saga, Cosmos

Know that when you despair within the confusion of motherhood, there are many despairing with you. When you meet another parent and they smile at you, give them the gift of understanding and appreciate that they are also multi-dimensional and experience much within their internal landscape too. Be lifted by the knowledge that those who share joy, happiness and laughter will touch you in your time of need.

So, go ahead – be a life change artist. Start by being honest with yourself. Be open. Have compassion for yourself and your valued, unique experience. This in turn intensifies your compassion for others and expands compassion in our Universe. It is the greatest of gifts you can give.

Whether it’s a vibration, a wave or a ripple; admit that you’re human. It will change your life.


Simple and natural techniques to help relieve anxiety and depression

  • Lime essential oil is a beautiful oil which brings about a sense of calm. It’s excellent for agitation and is often used to help children sleep. Put a few drops in an oil burner or in the bath. If you use it on the skin, be sure to mix a drop with about five mls of carrier oil such as almond or coconut oil.
  • Massaging the palms of your hands is a technique used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the centre of your palm is an acupoint which treats anxiety and calms the mind. Again, you can also give your children a lovely hand massage.
  • Remember that a gentle walk or swim can help clear your mind, get you outside and relieve feelings of depression, frustration or constriction. There has been a lot of research into the benefits of exercise for depression. Vitamin D from the sun is a great way to lift your spirits!

Resources for post-natal anxiety and depression    

If you need support or information about any mental health challenge, contact a counsellor, psychologist, complementary medicine practitioner or general practitioner

  • Find your local post natal anxiety and depression support group – ask for help if you have trouble finding your nearest organisation
  • Visit PANDA, the Australian organisation for information and resources
  • Read

Author: Kate Pamphilon is Live Well's resident Kinesiology practitioner, and the creator of Holistic by Nature.

This blog first appeared at Reflections From a Redhead

Under Pressure

What is the most common reason Canberrans visit the doctor? If you guessed high blood pressure you are right! Remarkably one in three adults have high blood pressure and up to one in ten are on high blood pressure medication.

High blood pressure or hypertension describes a condition where there is extra strain on your circulatory system including the heart, blood vessels and kidneys which can lead to calamitous health crises like stroke, heart disease and kidney failure. 

What causes hypertension?

If you are overweight, have high cholesterol, are a smoker or have a family history of hypertension then you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure, however 95% of people are said to have ‘essential’ hypertension meaning there is no known cause or the cause is vaguely described as lifestyle factors. 

Thankfully, if you’d prefer to treat hypertension without resorting to medication, it typically responds very well to natural medicine. Whilst there are many factors that cause high blood pressure, the overwhelming theme of clients who we see with high blood pressure have a lifestyle with high levels of stress and an inability to unwind and switch off which means their nervous systems, just like their circulatory systems are always under the pump.

 

How to heal hypertension

Herbal medicine is remarkably effective at treating hypertension. Herbs are selected to improve liver function, balance the nervous system and support the heart and blood vessel to build resilience. 

Acupuncture is exceptionally good at tackling stress and restoring optimal organ function and with stress under control hypertension is history. 

Naturopathy tackles hypertension from a number of angles via nutrition, lifestyle changes as well as herbs.

Kinesiology helps you break through old patterns of thinking and responding to life so you can treat the causes of your stress. 

Meditation restores your ability to switch off and unwind and is deeply restorative to your nervous system.  

If you suffer from hypertension and would like some support we are always here to explain how natural therapies can help and guide you through the process of treating hypertension naturally.

Are the foods you’re eating making you sick?

Have you ever noticed you feel bloated, heavy, tired or irritable after eating? If you have then there is a very good chance your body is reacting badly to some of the foods you are eating. 

Whilst it might seem obvious that if you suffer from digestive complaints like irritable bowel syndrome, re-flux, constipation or diarrhoea that food allergy or intolerance may be involved, these symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg.

Food intolerances are also often responsible for:
•    headaches;
•    tiredness;
•    skin rashes;
•    aches and pains;
•    stiff joints;
•    insomnia;
•    poor memory and concentration;
•    anxiety; and
•    depression, just to name a few.

If you have suspicions that food intolerance is contributing to less than optimal health then it’s a good idea to get them checked out. 

To help solve the mystery of whether you have food intolerances and which foods are the culprits, our kinesiology practitioner is offering 15 minute food intolerance consultations for just $30. Kinesiology works by getting feedback direct from the source: your body and it is the fastest, most accurate way I know to test for food intolerance.

 

Allergy or intolerance?

Allergies are typically more sudden and severe, think of the anaphylactic response many children have to peanuts. Intolerances on the other hand are slower to appear and can be more difficult to pin point.

Allergies and intolerances are caused by the immune system flagging something you ingest as threatening to the body’s equilibrium. It’s important to understand that the immune system has to make thousands of decisions a day and it is not always at the top of it’s game, with stress being the main reason it will falter.  

Of course it’s not always the immune system’s fault. Too often the foods we eat are highly processed which means the immune system is being asked more complex questions compared to if we were to eat food in its more unrefined and natural state. So much of the benefit of eating whole food based diet is that your body and in particular your immune system and digestion find so much easier to process real food.

The most common allergies we come across at Live Well are to wheat (and other sources of gluten) and to dairy products. The way to treat allergies is to remove the offending foods for a period of 1 to 3 months and at the same time tackle the underlying drivers of intolerance, usually stress. 

Given time, digestive organs that have been irritated and inflamed by the continual presence of a food that you have been intolerant to can recover and regain their resilience. 

After a period of abstinence there many be some foods that you can reintroduce without any side effects and there may be others that even a small amount of will trigger symptoms. You body will soon tell you just as long as you’re listening.

So don’t suffer any longer, book a 15 minute food intolerance consultations for just $30. These session will fill up fast so don’t miss out!

The Magic Of Balance

When I write about natural therapies it’s impossible to avoid talking about balance and that is because it is at the heart of what natural therapies do and why they work.

 

How do you stay in balance?

In theory, staying in balance is easy. You follow an active busy day with a restful nights sleep, you follow strenuous physical exercise or mental concentration with times of relaxation and fun, you counter hot spicy foods with a cooing drink, after experiencing anger you need to let go and relax.   

The reality is that staying in balance can be challenging. When you find yourself out of balanced for a sustained period you can expect to develop unwanted symptoms. Too many stressful days without rest and you might develop tension headaches or insomnia or anxiety, it’s your body’s way of letting you know you've slipped out of balance.

 

How Natural Therapies work

If you accept that symptoms are the body’s way of letting you know that something is out of balance then the next step is to uncover where the problem lies. The art of natural therapies is in reading the body to uncover its truth. For example, a symptom like tension headaches may tell us that your nervous system and liver function are under stress. If however, you support these body systems to return to balance using herbs or acupuncture for example, your unwanted symptoms will cease. 

 

Don’t ignore the warnings

If a warning light comes on in your car you don’t ignore it because you know it’s telling you something needs to be fixed and if you don’t pay attention to it you’d expect your car to eventually break down. What can start as an easily fixed and inexpensive issue can quickly become a big problem but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Fortunately, your body has an amazing ability to heal itself, especially when given the right support to get you back in balance and your health back on track.

Resolution Revolution

Why do we make New Years resolutions? It boils down to an acknowledgement that we want to feel different. For example ‘I’m going to give up eating junk food’ or ‘I’m going to start running/walking 3 times a week’, probably translates as ‘I don’t want to feel tired, overweight and slightly depressed anymore’.

 

Be Positive

Take a closer look at what you want to change. Instead of focusing on how you don’t want to feel, shift your focus on to the feelings you really want in your life. So if you were contemplating giving up junk food or starting regular exercise it’s quite possible you want to feel more energised and happier.

 

Boost Your Motivation

Positive feeling goals like wanting to feel more energised and happier are much more motivating than giving up something that you like such as junk food or lying on the couch! The thought of not being able to do the thing you like sets up an association of pain with your new goal and is likely to make you stop. On the other hand when your goal is focused on the positive feeling it sets up an association of pleasure and gives you much more chance of staying on track.

 

Get Creative

The other great thing about positive, feeling based goals is that you can unleash your creativity. If you focus is on being energised and happier you can probably think of lots of ways you can support your goal other than the original junk food/exercise intention. What else makes you feel energised? What places, books, art, people make you come alive?  Also consider what saps your energy and joy? What creative ways can you lessen these activities or build resilience? If you stay focused on the feelings you want and find lots of ways to support them you are much more likely to succeed.

So take some time to reflect on how you’d like to feel this year, make these feelings your ‘theme of the year’ and watch them sprout, grow and blossom as you nurture them with your loving intention for change.

Rest Up!

To my regular clients I must sound like a broken record, banging on about the need to access quality rest and relaxation, but there’s a good reason. So many people I see are tired and just managing to drag themselves through the day by sheer force of will. Whilst this stoicism is admirable in one sense it’s also a path of diminishing returns. Let me explain. 

 

The Tiredness Myth

If you’re tired all the time then your body is simply telling you that you’re not getting enough quality rest. Hello, Captain Obvious speaking! However you’d be surprised at how often this basic message from the body gets misinterpreted or overlooked. In our culture we laud those that push through and keep going, not those that are good at taking a well-judged nap!

 

Are You Wired but Tired?

The more tired you are, the more you have to wind yourself up through will power and stimulants such as caffeinated drinks or sugary snacks. When you’ve spent the whole day over-riding your body’s signal to rest, it’s no wonder that when your head hits the pillow that night you’re not going to instantly fall into a deep and peaceful sleep. Instead, you’ll take a long time to wind down or when you do finally get to sleep you toss and turn. Either way, when you alarm goes off you wake up tired. Then the cycle starts again, you override your body’s pleading for more rest and you start to wind your nervous system up again. Meanwhile you are digging yourself a bigger hole of weariness from which it gets harder to climb out. Sound familiar?

 

Stop! I Want to Get Off!

What’s the solution? Well let me first say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a dynamic and hectic life that is full of stimulation and busyness, just as long as you become very skilled at switching off and relaxing and you put time aside each day to unwind. If you’re chronically tired, I guarantee that you are really good at winding up and terrible at winding down. The solution is to learn how to relax again.

Free gift – Guided Relaxation Practice Click here to download – Just like training wheels on a bike a guided relaxation practice re-trains your mind and body to relax. Do it every day for one month and you’ll feel noticeably different.

Top 3 Merry Stress Busters to get you Centred and Acting Authentically this Silly Season

December is my favourite month of the year but getting caught up in the silly season can be a fast track to crazy-making if you let your monkey-mind take over and forget what's at the essence, not only of the celebrations at this time of year, but within yourself.  So to give you a little Yogic helping hand to staying merrily stress-free here’s my top 3 stress busters to help you stay centred and acting authentically this silly season:

 

1. Remember to BREATHE! 

Three (3) deep breaths can change your life! They definitely change your ability to stay present, rather than reactive in the face of stress or pressure. Deep, controlled, steady breathing actually changes your body and brain chemistry. This gets you out of the 'fight or flight' response and back into 'Yes and Bless' (also known as 'rest and digest'! Fight or flight can be thought of as the Blame and Shame system when it comes to our emotions!). The physical chain reaction that 3 deep breaths give you acts like a circuit breaker - rather than react primarily to a trigger, you gain a little space and can then CHOOSE your actions mindfully.

So when you're driving around on Xmas eve looking for last minute gifts because work has been mental and someone cuts you off in the car park, instead of flipping the bird, STOP, breathe in to your belly and fill your lungs as deeply as you can. Exhale for at least the count of six, ten is even better. Do this three times, then smile, say YES, you're welcome to have the right of way, send them your blessings for a safe and happy Xmas and go merrily and less stressfully along your way. 

Same applies if your Aunt tells you that 'you're looking bigger this year darling' or if you accidentally burn the Xmas tofurkey (yep, it's an actual thing, not a typo) -Breathe, smile, send your blessings and let it go... Often a little circuit breaker like 3 deep breaths lets you let go of the drama, or your 'story' about how things 'should' be and gives you the chance to see the humour in the situation or find some compassion for the other person.

 

2.Remember the answer is always LOVE

It might sound corny but asking yourself the question "What would love do?" when someone or something is pushing your buttons can help you gain a little perspective, and again a little space, before you react to a trigger. It works REALLY well when coupled with #1! 

This applies equally to your interactions with others as to your relationship with yourself. Often we find ourselves the hardest person to love, accept and treat with respect and this sees us making decisions that don't honour our best selves. This includes our actions such as food choices, the company we keep, and the way we interact with others and our thoughts such as negative self talk, guilt and shame. The perfect seasonal example is drinking too much at the work Xmas Party, taking actions you wouldn't be proud of if you were sober and then guilting on yourself about it all afterwards - sound familiar? 

The trick to preventing this chain of avoidable events is taking the time to consider your options (remember that 3 breath thing above at #1?!) and then asking "What would love do?" and listening in for the answer. If you really, truly loved yourself, what would your honest answer be? There's a trick to listening for the answer to this question too - it won't come from your head, so if you're thinking about it, you won't get an honest answer. 

The real answer will come from your heart, as a feeling, or a sense of knowing and it probably won't be easy to recognise at first, but intuition is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Another hot tip is: it probably won't be the easy/popular/people pleasing choice. It might involve saying no in the face of peer pressure, or missing out on something. Yup, FOMO usually keeps you stuck in your same-old behaviour patterns, where it's safe and easy but probably not really what serves your highest good.

 

3. Remember to practice Yoga DAILY

Yoga is not always about physical asana or learning how to control your breath. Yoga is a myriad of personal and interpersonal practices that you can use to learn to love and manage yourself, and to harmonise your interactions with others. 

Your daily yoga practice may take many forms; physical movement, meditative stillness, intentional breath, devoting time to truly listen to another person or a random act of kindness. It may look like something else entirely. That's the beauty of Yoga - it is personal to you. 

You can practice Yoga anytime you want, wherever you happen to be. Like on the golden sand of your favourite beach or in the seat of your car as you drive cross-country. You could practice in your place in the queue for photos with Santa. Where ever it is, the point is that you have the opportunity to give yourself the gift of presence - being mindful of where you are, who you're with and how you choose to direct your thoughts and energy (remember #2: What would love do?) towards them and yourself. 

Each time you practice it's like a deposit in your spiritual bank account, your energy grows and enables you to invest a little more each time you come back to practice again.

So when you're cruising the shopping centre car park after your yoga class on Xmas eve and cut off that person you could clearly see was waiting before you, maybe if you just took 3 deep breaths and asked yourself 'What would love do?', you might find it within yourself to practice a bit of Yoga right now too? Like the butterfly effect, you'd be surprised how far reaching your simple practice of breath, mindfulness and love  - your yoga in action - can be. 

The Wellbeing Capital

Canberra is in danger of loosing its best-kept secret status after the OECD scored it as the top ranking region world wide for wellbeing based on criteria such as security, environment, health and education. This follows hot on the heels of being talked up by the New York Times who lauded Canberra’s big-sky beauty, breezy civic pride and…decidedly hipster underbelly.” Canberra you are so hot right now!

I like to think I know a bit about wellbeing myself, I find the idea of living in the #1 region for wellbeing rather charming. It got me thinking about what constitutes the wellbeing of a city. I work with enough Canberrans to know that despite our #1 status we’re not all in a state of perpetual blissed out conviviality.

What makes us well? To me, it is the luxury of pursuing elements of life that create joy, purpose and contentment. 

What the OECD report points out is that us Canberrans have our basic needs for safety and security are being pretty well met. Compared to other places on the planet, we are able to put a meal on the table and a roof over our heads. If we get sick we can be attended to, if we want to learn we can access quality resources.

Just as health is more than the absence of disease, wellbeing is more than having our basic needs met, although that is a pretty good foundation on which to build.

If we accept that (compared to many others) we have it pretty good we then have the luxury and challenge asking ourselves a bigger question. What does it take for you to be really content, what brings you joy? Do you feel like you are connected to and living your life’s purpose? For me having just recently become a dad, contentment, joy and purpose just got all rolled into one thing: being able to spend time with my family. I also love my work and being able to help others feel healthier and happier gives me a kick.

What about you? To quote Mary Oliver, “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Men's Health: Helping to Save & Improve the Lives of Men

This year I’ve joined the ranks of the bros with the mos and have been doing my bit to support the wonderful work that Movember does in helping to save and improve the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems.

We know mental health issues in this country are significant, close to one in eight Australian men will suffer from depression, one in five anxiety and sadly suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 15 to 44.

Whilst there is some great work being done in breaking down the stigma that has too long been associated with mental health issues we can and need to do better.

I think boys still grow up with the idea that to be a man is to be tough and stoic but perhaps we can create more room for men to also be real and honest about their emotions. It’s up to all of us to check in with our brothers, fathers, husbands and boyfriends and mates.

Not everyone is a talker, although some people may surprise you when you make the effort and show a heartfelt interest. Many years ago I consciously made an effort to build a better connection with my Dad. To my delight it was much easier than I thought, it turns out he’s actually quite chatty, and both our lives are the richer for it.

Some bros just need your hugs. Some men don’t want to talk or be hugged but will still delight in your presence, silently sharing a task, a hobby or an adventure.

Bros and sistas also have the task of encouraging your men to see their doctor and allied health professionals when there’s something wrong. Some men will need to be nagged into regular health checks. Stoicism can mean attempting to put up with lingering pain, persistent cough, or a strange lump or bump for too long with sometimes devastating consequences.

Perhaps someone will pop into your mind as you read this today, someone that might need your support - it’s time to give them a call.

The Secret to To Giving Your Face a Fresh and Luminous Glow

Ok I’ll come right out with it- cleansing! You know cleansing your face is an important task and that makeup and dirt left on your skin can clog your pores and dull your skin’s natural radiance. Yet despite your best intentions sometimes you let you daily cleansing routine slide.

Never fear you are not alone and I’m here to help get your daily cleansing routine back on track and restore your skin’s natural glow.

 

Not sure what you should actually be doing?

Well read on for a run down on general cleansing info, useful tips and product recommendations that you can easily put into your daily skin routine.

 

Your Cleanser Could be the problem

Before we begin, what type of cleanser are you using at the moment? Do you look for that squeaky clean feel from your cleanser?? This feeling is typically achieved through use of foaming style cleansers. Foaming cleansers require a type of surfactant for the ‘foaming’ effect. These strip away your precious skin preserving oils. Removing these oils, will trigger your skin to produce an unhealthy production of oils.

Essentially the moisture is evaporated from your skin. Lack of water in the skin can cause an increased accumulation of dead and dying skin cells. When the over production of oil occurs the skin will try and expel it to the surface through the opening of the skins pore. However, the added skin cell build up will obstruct this oil flow, resulting in blockages and congestion.

Regular soap and shower gel should also be avoided on the face. Such products are too strong and will destroy the skin’s protective hydrolipic barrier, causing excessive dryness.

Makeup removal: Eye Makeup removal can be done separately to the whole face as it is a fragile area and can be prone to damage and requires special care. For a conditioning Eye make-up remover I use Skin Juice’s SMUDGE BUDGE. Unlike other eye make-up removers no solvents are used in this product. It is created with organic plant butters to melt and erase even the most stubborn makeup without irritating, stressing or drying the skin. To use this product I warm in fingertips before massaging around the around the eyes and gently remove.
Cleansing: Cleansing your face removes excess build-up that can occur throughout the day like environmental pollutants, oils, makeup and debris. Stuck on how to cleanse your face?

Here are some tips and tricks:

  • If you have a habit of forgetting to cleanse, pop your cleansing products somewhere in your bathroom that catches your eye i.e. right next to your toothbrush.
  • Use lukewarm water to open pores, water that is too hot or too cold may irritate the skin.
  • Use a separate towel for your face from your everyday bath towel/hand towel. You don’t want to risk transferring bacteria onto your fresh clean face.
  • Try dedicating the proper time to your morning or night cleanse, taking the time to massage the cleanser in well, using circular motions. Don’t forget the hairline and to bring the cleanser down the neck where make up is also blended to.
  • Make sure to rinse the cleanser completely from your skin. Giving one extra rinse will help to further remove any remaining debris. After cleansing pat, don’t rub your skin dry. Patting is gentler to your delicate facial skin.

If you find face washers too abrasive or just need a helping hand in the cleansing process let me introduce you to the legendary SPUD SPONGE! Spudy is a beautiful soft gelatinous cleansing sponge made out of 100% Konjac fibre, yes he is part of the potato family! The Sponge is naturally alkaline in nature which assists in the removal of make-up and skin debris.

It can be used on its own but works amazingly alongside a cleanser!

Skin Juice have a beautiful nourishing cleanser called DRENCH Dermal Repair Cleansing Oil. This is for any skin type. Now I know that all you people with oily skin are probably throwing your hands up in despair, but Drench actually helps balance the skins natural oil flow. The pure plant oils deeply cleanse, adhering to impurities and makeup without drying or stripping precious moisture. This is a hard working cleanser when it comes to makeup removal I definitely recommend it!

Exfoliate: Your body is producing new skins cells all day, every day. And while your body naturally sheds dead skin cells, some of them do not shed as completely as they should, which can lead to skin irritation and clogged pores. Generally speaking, exfoliating once or twice per week should leave your skin feeling softer and healthier. However, if you find that your skin is irritated by exfoliation, consider decreasing frequency. I would recommend Skin Juice’s REVIVAL Face Scrub. It gives a boost to rough dull skin. It contains a combo of fruit acids, jojoba, vanilla and bamboo beads which gently exfoliate and help renew your skin’s natural radiance.

Happy cleansing everybody!
Tegan Napoli

Tegan is Live Well's resident beauty and skin care expert. She is available by appointment on Saturday's for consultations to help with your skin care concerns. Or pop into Live Well for further advice or skin care recommendations.

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