My goal for writing this blog was to come up with 52 weeks of self care ideas.
I’ll admit, at first I wondered if I was going to be able to come up with that many ways but I’ve come to learn that by applying a little research, creativity and thought, the list is endless. Some of the topics I have written about are traditional, others less conventional. That’s because approaches to self care are highly subjective and based upon individual interests.
As I reflect back over those entries, I can’t help but be reminded that self care is a discipline that we need to make time for – not just now and then – but regularly.
When practised consistently, it isn’t just ourselves who benefit but our friends and loved ones as well.
If you are new to the blog, I invite you to peruse the archives for a plethora of self care strategies that involve the body, the mind and the spirit.
Hoping you are on your own road to resilience
and wishing you all the best in 2018!
As we draw close to the end of 52 weeks of self care, I am happy to be able to write about one of my top ten favourites – Myofascial Release (MFR). Not only does this approach address the body, but the mind and spirit as well.
What is it?
Myofascial Release is a hands on technique used by qualified practioners (usually a specially trained Physiotherapist or Massage Therapist) to treat the fascial system/ connective tissue of the body. The fascia or connective tissue is a densely woven structure that wraps around the body from head to toe, uninterrupted. Its appearance is similar to a spider’s web. Any kind of trauma or inflammation can cause a binding effect, which produces pressure on muscles and nerves, blood vessels and bones as well as organs. This pressure can result in pain, restrictions in movement as well as headaches. Since standard diagnostic tests like Xrays and CAT scans aren’t able to detect fascial restrictions, it often goes undiagnosed.
Fascia loses its flexibility when we experience trauma or inflammation. It becomes tight and can result in tension elsewhere in the body. The goal of Myofascial Release is to restore flexibility, and reduce pain. And yet the outcome of MFR can produce even more beneficial results.
Trained therapists apply gentle, sustained pressure to the fascial system. It feels very similar to a good stretch. As pressure on the surrounding body parts ease, pain is lessened and an increased range of motion is experienced. Founder John F. Barnes, Physiotherapist, claims this release also stimulates the flow of the body’s bioenergy, which in turn affects the mind/body complex, allowing for the release of holding patterns so that healing can occur.
Myofascial Release can help create a whole-body awareness that in turn will facilitate healing from not only physical injuries, but emotional as well. The treatments are relaxing but can stir up feelings or belief systems that need to be looked at in order to move forward to health and well being.
If you haven’t bought yourself a Christmas gift yet, I would highly recommend a few MFR treatments!
The act of being ‘mindful’ has garnered a lot of attention in the last several years. To practice mindfulness means setting your intentions and focus on the present moment. It involves paying close attention to both internal and external events. In other words, it is about being aware of all sensory input as well as your own thoughts and feelings in any given moment.
Most of us spend a good deal of our lives in ‘auto-pilot’. Our thoughts are often on past experiences or in planning or worrying about the future. The chaos of life fills our minds and distractions pull our attention away from the present moment. This has a negative effect on experiencing life to its fullest.
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a program developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn that aims at teaching people how to focus on the present moment. Purposefully paying attention to all that you are experiencing in any given moment, can facilitate a wide array of positive outcomes. Feeling calmer, less stressed and more open to experience joy, are among a few of the benefits. Studies have shown that MBSR has numerous physiological benefits such as improved blood sugars and blood pressure. The more aware we become, the more apt we are to experience life more vividly, make shifts in attitudes and behaviours that no longer serve us and help us feel more connected to others.
MBSR is an 8 week course, plus one full day. Daily home practice assignments reinforce information imparted during the classes. It is intended for anyone who wants to learn to handle stress more effectively. Courses are offered all over North America, and a quick search on Google will help you to locate a course being offered close to you.
There’s nothing quite like a good dose of debt to raise stress levels and diminish joy. And since this is the time of year that consumers are out there buying, it might be the perfect time to look at how much you are spending, as well as ways to keep the cost of Christmas down. You’ll be doing yourself a great favour by being on top of it all.
It’s always wise to set a budget during the holidays. Factor in as many variables as possible such as how much you plan to spend on each person on your list. Include entertaining expenses, groceries, beverages and the cost of a new outfit, if needed. The key is to pay off your Christmas bills before Spring has sprung!
Remember that the holidays should be about spending time with loved ones and creating memories to last a lifetime. Societal expectations for bigger and better gifts have most of us shaking our heads at how ‘out of hand’ Christmas has become. Maybe it’s time to rethink gift giving.
Instead of buying a gift for each member of the family, suggest picking a name out of a hat, and buying only for that person. Or maybe suggesting each person bring a gift, then play any one of the gift giving games that usually end up in lots of laughs. (for gift giving game ideas go to www.funattic.com) Repurposing or Re-Gifting themes can also be a lot of fun and cost very little.
Making gifts is another good way to keep costs down and yet still give meaningful presents. One of my favourite Christmas gifts ever, is a wooden reindeer my son carved for me. Homemade gifts can be truly special.
Hopefully this season will find you with a plan and a budget, both of which you stick to!
With Christmas around the corner, and Black Friday sales in full swing, it’s a great time to think about gift-giving with self care in mind. Whether you are buying for someone else, or feel the need to pick something up for yourself, I have listed some options along the theme of health and wellness.
Hopefully this list will get you thinking about an assortment of other gifts out there that have wellness in mind. Happy Holidays!
For many people, the holiday season is a stressful time. Even if you love everything about the holidays, it’s the time of year when calendars quickly fill up with social engagements and we have more things that need to get done. We scurry around town searching for the perfect gift for loved ones and do our best at balancing everyday commitments with all the extra things that need to get done. Add in elaborate meal prep and decorations and things can quickly become overwhelming.
All of this can leave you feeling stretched thin. And feeling that way does little in way of helping us cope.
Unlike the fortunate few who are so organized they have their gift buying complete before summer, most of us race around trying to get ready, vowing that next year will be different (and it never is). A great way to alleviate some of the stress of the season is by careful planning, even if it’s late in the year.
Fans of ‘To Do” lists understand how valuable making lists can be. It has a way of fooling the brain into believing you have things under control. Inexpensive spiral bound notebooks can be a lifesaver. Have sections for each person on your gift list and mark down ideas for them. Set up a timeline of when you want the decorations complete, the Christmas baking done, the Christmas cards sent. Make a section for recipes. There is nothing like scratching an item off a ‘to do’ list to give you a sense of accomplishment. In an ideal world, the holidays would simply be a time for family friends and fellowship. But in reality, unless well planned out, it’s chaos.
Here’s hoping you will be so organized this holiday season, you will have time to take in its beauty!
Well I am not sure about you, but where I live, winter has come with a vengeance
bringing along with it cold temperatures, gusty winds and snow. So if you haven’t
already started stock piling your pantry full of immune boosters, now would be a
good time to start. Below I have listed a few must have items to keep you cough-free
and sniffle-less through the upcoming months.
1. Cinnamon – One of the most popular spices in the world, this gem is packed full of
antioxidants, and is known for anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and immune
boosting properties. A great way to take is mixing ½ teaspoon in 1 tbsp of raw
honey. Or sprinkle the ½ tsp. on your morning cereal every day.
2. Garlic – Tried and true, garlic has been used since ancient times for its medicinal
properties. More recent studies show that garlic and onions, which contain
compound allylic sulphides stimulate enxymes that detoxify cancer-causing
chemicals in the body. A head of garlic drizzled with olive oil and roasted in a 300-
350 degree oven for an hour yields a tasty spread that can be spread on fresh bread.
Or if you are brave enough, crush up a large clove and take with raw honey.
3. Oil of Oregano – Probably one of my favourite cold and flu busting remedies, a few
drops under the tongue at the first sign of a scratchy throat or runny nose seems to
nip things in the butt.
And if all else fails and you find yourself battling the bug, here’s a few old wive’s tale remedies you may want to try:
work their magic.
Here’s hoping that this winter season finds you healthy and happy!
Today, the benefits of yoga are well understood. It has transcended the barrier of eastern vs. western medicine and is highly recommended by both schools for its reduction of stress and increase in overall health. But if you have ever set out to join a yoga class, you will quickly realize that there is a plethora of types to choose from. So how do you know what’s right for you? Understanding your own needs can help you choose.
According to yogic teachings, there are five koshas, or layers to the self:
By aligning what part of your whole requires the help, you can choose a yoga practice that will be most advantageous to you. Here are some examples of types of yoga practices associated with each of the koshas:
There are thousands of yoga practices available and each one can be particularly beneficial during different times in our lives. Finding a yoga guru can be profoundly helpul. Check out gaia.com for help finding a yoga teacher and style that suits you best.
Challenging yourself may seem like an odd suggestion for a blog about self care but
it may be just what you need. New challenges can shake things up: help us step outside our comfort zone, encourage us to try something new.
Learning a new skill or language or taking on a new project can serve as a much needed distraction to everyday stressors. Refocusing on something new does wonders for mood, perspective and motivation. Looking for a new challenge?
With November just around the corner, so begins NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s that time of year when experienced writers and wanna-be’s wipe their busy calendars clean in an attempt to crank out 50,000 words during the month of November. Gulp. That’s about 1,667 words per day. No easy feat.
Everyone has a story to tell. Unfortunately most people find the task too daunting. What NaNoWriMo does is eliminate the pressure of writing beautiful prose and focuses instead on just putting pen to paper and meeting the word count challenge.
What began as a somewhat crazy idea back in 1999, has taken on a life of its own. Today thousands of people sign up. The whole idea is quantity, not quality. (Edits and rewrites are done some other time.) Just get your thoughts on paper, strive to reach your word count goal, and watch the magic unfold. (For more info visit www.nanowrimo.org)
Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a memoir? Or have an idea for a book? NaNoWriMo is an excellent way to get the creative juices flowing. By the month’s end you may discover a lot about yourself. You may come to realize that writing is a long forgotten passion. You might believe you are the next Stephen King. Or you may decide once and for all, it’s not for you. One thing is for certain, if you can attain the 50,000 word count, you can take pleasure in knowing you achieved your goal. You are unstoppable!
In the words of Ray Bradbury, “Your intuition knows what it wants to write, so get out of the way.”
Aromatherapy is the art and science of using essential oils to enhance health and wellbeing. Evidence of it’s healing use has been found in Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures dating back to the period of 3000 B.C.
So how does it work? Various fragrances have the ability to alter the brain and body. When scents enter the nasal passage, the olfactory bulb is stimulated sending nerves impulses to the brain, which in turn creates a cascade effect through the limbic system.
As with any science, care and caution must be exercised. Commercial air fresheners and plug-ins may contain artificial scents that can contain toxins so it is best to use organic essential oils that you can mix yourself. The oils can be used in diffusers: a few drops of oil added to water that is inhaled. They can be mixed in carrier oils such as jojoba, almond or coconut oil and applied topically, or in the case of certain oils, can be ingested by taking a few drops under the tongue. Essential oils should never be applied to the skin without dilution, and certain oils should never be taken orally. (For more info go to www.drericz.com).
Many essential oils are known to produce specific effects. Oils such as lavender, chamomile, bergamot and vetiver have been effective in decreasing anxiety and improving quality of sleep. Peppermint can be stimulating and citrus oils such as orange, lemon and lime can improve mood.
But preference to scents can be highly individual so why not try concocting your own blend? Certain smells can evoke powerful memories and emotions. Experimenting with a variety of oils for use in relaxation, promotion of sleep and/or mental stimulation will help determine what works best for you. Choosing an alternative way, such as Aromatherapy to reduce stress is always a good thing!