Saturday, December 29, 2018

Blog #82 Taking Good Care of Ourselves During the Holiday Season and Beyond

Sometimes, overwhelmed with visiting friends and relatives, shopping for presents, and overstimulated by the commercial messages all around us to buy, buy, buy, we forget to take care of ourselves during the holidays.  This leaves us with problems like a few extra pounds (possibly from over-indulging in rich, sugar laden foods), abdominal cramping (possibly from an over-burdened gall bladder or food sensitivities), headaches, anxiety and depression (possibly from interpersonal stress and inner turmoil), and low back pain (possibly from sitting long hours in a car or plane or bus on our trips to vacation and visit family and friends). 

I have a few things to share in this blog.  The equinoxes and the solstices are particularly special and powerful times, heralding major seasonal changes as well as marking the Sun’s relationship to the Earth. The Winter Solstice, which occurs on December 21st coincides with many major holidays, including Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza and New Year’s.  It is a time that puts a little extra stress on the body and mind.  This extra stress makes the toxins and challenges we encounter over the winter holidays a little more powerful and problematic for our physical and  mental health and stability. 

In the Northern hemisphere, people acknowledge the returning sun/lights with decorations or candles or celebratory fires around the Winter Solstice, when there is more darkness than at any other time.  Knowing that the sun’s influence starts to increase after the solstice may help us tolerate cold weather a little better than we would otherwise.  Gathering with loved ones may sometimes also be helpful, if it allows us to feel more supported at this potentially hazardous time of year. 

During the winter holidays, it is important to take care of ourselves while traveling, by stretching and preferably standing up and walking around at least once per hour, if possible.  It is also important to eat as healthfully and to get sufficient sleep.  Taking time for mental clarity and inspiration, through such activities as reading, meditation, walking in nature, or listening to upbeat or uplifting music, can support and strengthen us.  Celebration is great, but overindulging in alcohol or in rich, greasy foods may make us feel ill later on. 

According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) when the body receives an insult or stress, the resultant damage will show up during the following season, in this case, the spring.  Usually, springtime is considered the best time to detoxify.  To jumpstart your health, you might want to begin thinking of a spring cleaning, starting in late winter to early spring.  Even just eating strictly vegan, organic, and sugar and gluten-free for a week or so can be helpful.  Make sure to consume many dark leafy green vegetables and drink lots of water.  A short water or vegetable juice fast may also be helpful, depending on your age, state of health, lifestyle, and degree of commitment to the fast.  Another option is the fasting mimicking diet, developed by Dr. Valter Longo, from the University of Southern California.  This five- day program provides pre-selected and prepared meals designed to affect the body in a way that mimics water fasting.  It is appropriate for those who are unable to or choose not to do a more stringent fast or detoxification.  Check out the Valter Longo Foundation to learn more. 

This blog’s offer:  I will be trying out Dr. Longo’s fasting mimicking five day program in mid-January 2019, and would be glad to share my experiences and suggestions.  Feel free to contact me with questions about this and about detoxification in general.  And have a happy, healthy New Year. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

               Blog #81 Thankfulness as a Healing State of Mind

Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays, reminds us to be thankful for the many things that we may sometimes take for granted.  Especially around Thanksgiving, I make an effort to look for all the ways in which I am fortunate: I am reasonably healthy and of sound mind, live in a country that is reasonably prosperous, have a lot of freedom to pursue experiences, make choices, live with integrity and much more. 

Gratitude can benefit us in many ways. For one thing, a thankful attitude can improve our physical health. According to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than less grateful people.  They are also more likely to take care of their health by exercising regularly and having regular check ups with their chosen health care provider.  Also, according to a study in the journal, Applied Psychology: Health and Well-being, grateful people tend to sleep better. Making a list of ten or more things for which you are thankful right before falling asleep may result in sounder and longer sleep.  
When we feel appreciative, we tend to be more relaxed, and this helps our internal organs function more efficiently.  It also helps improve blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, digestion, absorption, elimination, and much more.  A grateful attitude can affect blood pressure.  If you dare, think of something in a complaining, resentful way and take your blood pressure.  Then, wait a few minutes and think of the same thing from a perspective of gratitude.  Take your blood pressure again.  Often, you will note that your blood pressure elevates with the resentful attitude and goes down with a grateful attitude.  It is important, however, to not just think thankful words – the thanks must also be felt from the heart, on an emotional level. 

Consider feeling/expressing more gratitude all through the holiday season and into the New Year.  You might make one of your resolutions to view every event and situation from a grateful perspective.  Being more calm and centered because of a more grateful attitude can be helpful in improving difficult situations. Just because we see something positive in a situation doesn’t mean that we should put our heads in the sand and not work to address an unfortunate event or change a situation for the better.

This blog’s offer:  feel free to contact me with further questions about this material.  You also might consider hypnosis or self-hypnosis as tools to support the cultivation of a more grateful perspective on life.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

           Blog# 80 Sleep Apnea: Some Holistic Answers

Sleep apnea, a common problem, occurs when the sleeper stops breathing.  Often, people experiencing sleep apnea snore.  They may wake up due to low oxygen when they stop breathing.  Sleep apnea often leaves people feeling tired upon awakening, and fatigued or drowsy throughout the day.  Efficiency, focus and safety can be compromised, as well as physical health.  
Some possible causes of this problem include experiencing overwhelming stress during the day or at night, being overweight or obese, consuming foods to which one is allergic or sensitive, over-eating or eating too late at night, smoking tobacco, and drinking alcohol, especially at night.  Often the air passages are blocked by the tongue, inflamed throat tissue or enlarged tonsils.  Sometimes, the cause originates from the central nervous system, for example, due to a prolonged period of excessive stress, the brain may become conditioned to stop a person’s breathing after they fall asleep.  Nightmares or emotionally charged dreams may also cause the sleeper to stop breathing. 
Some well-known, conventional solutions to sleep apnea are sleeping on either side or face down rather than on the back, using a C-Pap machine, and losing weight.  Other, less known strategies include eliminating allergens from the diet and environment and improving stress management.  I personally learned to control my sleep apnea by doing two things: avoiding foods to which I was allergic or sensitive and using self-hypnosis suggestions for breathing and relaxation.
Some foods that often can disturb sleep by causing inflammation in the body or making the mind overly active contain gluten (wheat, barley and rye).  Other problem foods include processed sugars, such as white and brown sugar, evaporated cane juice, beet sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup, pasteurized honey, and agave nectar, to name a few.  Caffeine, alcohol, highly spicy foods, dairy foods, such as milk, whipped cream and cheese, fried foods, such as deep-fried chicken and fish, and French fries, and cold foods, such as ice cream or ice water can also disturb sleep.   
Testing for food allergies or intolerances by checking for antibodies to particular substances, such as casein or whey in dairy can help pinpoint problems.  There are several different antibodies to test for, including IgA, IgG and IgE.  If you ask your physician to test for these and possibly other antibodies, he or she will often comply, especially if your physician has a holistic perspective.  Observing a strict elimination diet is another way of determining food allergies and sensitivities.  Elimination diets often work best with the support of a safe detoxification program.   People using these diets cut out possible food allergens and then, after a few weeks, phase them back in one by one,  watching for any reactions.
Listening to relaxing music, reading calming or inspirational literature, using high quality organic essential oils in a diffuser, or giving thanks for things in one’s life each night before bedtime all may set the scene for less sleep disturbance. 
I am particularly impressed with what self-hypnosis can do for people with sleep apnea. I have observed the results in my patients and also in myself. Many years ago, I developed a sentence that I then connected with a smooth breathing pattern (hypnotists refer to this connection as grounding).  Upon awakening at night, I would repeat that sentence with the chosen breathing pattern for a few minutes and would then easily fall asleep again.  Doing this several times a night for a few nights in a row would allow me to sleep much more soundly for several weeks to several months before I would need to repeat these suggestions and patterns. 
This month’s offer:  contact me about self-hypnosis for sleep apnea.  I will assess your situation and let you know if I think this approach will be helpful. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

      Blog #79 Move Well to Age Well – An Exercise Ball Can Help

Because of life habits of slouching, leaning over laptops and cell phones, reading in bed, sitting in soft, poorly supportive chairs, hyperextending our knees, and more, many people have asymmetrical, uneven posture.  Most of the time, people are not even aware of their flawed posture, even if it involves holding one shoulder several inches higher than the other, holding the head and neck significantly forward of the torso, or bending slightly forward at the waist when standing and walking.  In each of these cases, the weight of part of the body is not being managed optimally and therefore, is exerting more strain on other parts of the body, eventually likely resulting in problems like rapid and/or uneven joint wear and tear, early muscle fatigue, and a greater likelihood of falls.  

In addition to standing on one leg (The Stork) see Blog #75, using an exercise ball is an effective, inexpensive, and low-tech tool to help us learn where their body really is as opposed to where we think it is.  Balance is essential when using an exercise ball.  Without balance, we fall down.  When we start to fall off the ball, this gives us feedback about our faulty balance, which we must correct in order to remain on the ball and off the floor. 

Anti-burst or slow deflate balls are best.  You should be able to sit on the exercise ball so that the thighs are level while sitting on the front half of the ball.  Even just sitting on the ball for several minutes can teach a lot about posture and balance.  Strong posture involves sitting with feet flat on the floor, knees over ankles, shoulders over hips, and head over shoulders.  Retract the shoulders slightly to lift the chest, then pull the shoulders back and down.  To keep shoulders over hips, avoid leaning forward or back.  The neck should also be retracted slightly, in order to pull the head over the shoulders. Ideally, hands should be palms up and out to the sides, not touching the ball or body, unless you need to change this initially for balance.  Breathing should be deep, diaphragmatic, and even. When core muscles are engaged in deep abdominal breathing, the body is more balanced and stable than it would be with more shallow chest breathing. 

A proper ball sit precedes moving on the ball with good balance.  It is best to first simply move forward and back on the ball, then side-to-side, all the while maintaining strong posture and keeping the knees evenly spaced.  If necessary, hold a pillow or cushion between your knees to make sure they stay locked and stable.  When you move, be sure to activate your core, including the gluteals, pelvic and the abdominal muscles.  

This blog’s offer: currently, I am teaching a seven-part strong posture course free of charge to my patients.  Starting next year, there will be a charge for this course. Also, feel free to contact me with questions about ball sit and beginning motion.