Challenging Yourself: NaNoWriMo
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.”
Experimenting with Essential Oils
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!
Early Bird or Night Owl?
In general, when it comes to sleep cycles, people fall into two categories: early birds or night owls. Researchers now believe that there is more than just two categories, and these categories or chronotypes reveal much more about a person’s natural sleep cycle than their disposition to sleep and wakefulness.
Dr. Michael Breus, PhD, author of The Power of When claims everyone’s body has been programmed to function best at certain times of the day, depending on your chronotype. He classifies four types: Lion (early morning), Wolf (evening) Bear (somewhere in between lion and wolf) and Dolphin (poor sleepers). Dr. Breus offers an online quiz to help you determine your chronotype at https:// thepowerofwhenquiz.com
Dr. Breus claims these classifications not only help determine an individual’s circadian cycle (sleep/wakefulness cycle), but can shed light on your own biological clock and when your body has been programmed to function at optimal levels for productivity, creativity, energy level, metabolic rate and even sexuality. In fact, trying to be ‘an early bird’ when you are really a ‘night owl’, will only make you feel like you are permanently jet lagged. His book ‘The Power of When” sheds light on all of the above and provides tips to understanding optimal sleep patterns.
Working with your own biological clock, rather than against it can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health, your energy level and your motivation.
Knowing when your body is programmed to function optimally can help you time various activities in your day to maximize everything from metabolizing food to choosing the right time to do your work outs. For more info, check out Dr. Breus’ book.
Qigong To Balance Inside and Out.
Qigong is a Chinese word meaning “life energy cultivation”. It is a coordinated set of body movements, breathing, posture and meditation that has been around for over 3,000 years and is based on the philosophy of Taoism.
Worries and stress drain and block the flow of life force. Negativity gets trapped in our bodies. The spine often serves as a major pathway for energy flow and if restricted can result in dis- ease.
The gentle exercises of Qigong increases the flow of blood, lymph and synovial fluids, all of which contribute to improved health and wellness. Qigong is used to not only maximize eternal flexibility, but interior as well. By this I mean that Qigong isn’t just a set series of coordinated movements to help limber you up – it is meant to encourage you to look within and discover the power of your own life force energy.
The combination of external and internal movements is what makes qigong a powerful health practice.
It is a practice that can be used by young and old alike. There is no need to ascribe to a set of beliefs/religious practices, and can be practiced alone or within a group.
Taking Qigong can be a wonderful step towards lifelong health and vibrancy.
Music To Alter Your Mood
Music is a part of most people’s lives. Even if we can’t belt out a song or strum a guitar, music can have a direct impact on how we feel. It doesn’t matter if you listen to classical, pop or hip hop, there’s a place for all types of music.
In Chinese medicine, it is believed that the organs and meridians in the body each have corresponding musical notes that can encourage healing. Music therapy has been found helpful in treating autistic children. It can reduce agitation in people with dementia. It has even been found to increase responsiveness to anti-depressants. Soothing music can help settle anyone from newborns to the elderly.
Classical music can aid in improving focus. Music with a tempo of 60 beats/minute can increase mental processing of information. There is a positive correlation between music and creativity. It can help with motivation especially for activities such as exercising.
But like most things, there are restrictions. Listening to music that is too loud can eventually impair hearing. Songs can trigger memories, which can be problematic if those memories are painful or traumatic.
Choosing what music you listen to is a choice only you can make. Listen to songs that make you feel uplifted and happy and feel stress fade away. Sometimes the simplest things can be a powerful self care tool.