Tag Archives: sleep

A NEW HEALTHY LIFE-STYLE – EXERCISE

Our bodies are designed to move…a lot. Everything in the body is in constant movement, inside we are like a beautifully designed machine where everything fits together. But the machine needs to work (move) to function. When we move circulation is enhanced; oxygen in, toxins out. There is no other way to do this. When we don’t move the opposite occurs; bad circulation, accumulation of toxins in our system, weak muscles that can’t keep the posture, the skeletal system goes out of whack because there is no muscle support and we end up with a whole array of aches and pains. The way our society is built today does not leave much space for movement. We sit at work, sit in our transportation, sit at home. We take the elevator or the escalator, even if it means waiting. We are constantly stressed and in some kind of pain because the body is not getting what it needs. And when the body doesn’t get what it needs, nor does the mind. When exercising, the brain secretes all kind of yummy, feel-good hormones that make us high and happy.

The benefits of exercise are huge: Less risk for osteoporosis, better circulation, healthy hunger and healthy demands from the body, clarity of mind, improvement of mood, more energy, better sleep-patterns, reduces stress, the list is long. Look at children; they move all the time and their bodies are strong and fit. They don’t have problems with posture, aches and dislocated vertebrae…

If you are not used to exercising, start slow: Take the stairs, take a walk, park your car further away from the mall. Walk those 2 bus-stops (it’ll probably be faster than waiting for the bus), dance. Little by little you add on; walk further, start doing other exercises, run, skip, jump, climb a tree. When you are at the playground with your child, play! Climb, swing and use the playground equipment to exercise. Check out videos on YouTube “playground exercises”.

  • Aches and pains: If you have problems with your body, chances are that they will heal or get better with movement. Just be careful not to overdo it. If you have problems with your knees walk the stairs up and take the elevator down. Going downstairs or downhill creates a much bigger impact on your joints. Walk, don’t run or jump. Climbing is good. Push-ups is a brilliant exercise for the whole body and can be done by anybody. If you can’t do full push-ups, start on your knees or against a wall or an elevated surface. Menstrual pain always lessens with movement. Head-aches often clear.
  • Time: You can get a really heavy-duty work-out in only 15-20 min. Cardio by running, skipping rope, dancing, step-ups or using the stairs. Strength by using interval-training. This can be fit in any time during the day; lunch break, morning, evening. Instead of sitting through stupid programs on the TV or hanging out with your best buddy – the computer, move! You can even fit in more than one session in a day.
  • Expenses: There are none unless you want to. For weights you can use cans, water-bottles, rocks…whatever. You can use an ordinary rope for skipping, your body-weight is already something to work with. You can do everything in your living-room, garden, play-ground, park, forest…use your imagination. If you want to invest, buy some dumb-bells, they are not too costly. I invested in a timer for interval-training, it’s called Gymboss and you can purchase it either in a sports-shop or here. It costs about 20 US dollars. Interval training is hard to do on your own without a timer.
  • Body-weight & Balance: When you do body-weight exercises, you use all the muscles in your body because while you are moving, the body constantly has to stabilize and balance itself. I prefer this to working on machines because the machine targets only one area. By using your whole body you get balance, coordination and strength. There is no end to the movements and combinations you can create, so you don’t have to get bored. Besides, you can do it anywhere. I LOVE interval-training (or Tabata); it’s fun, fast, easy and efficient. I do it in my living-room in winter, in my garden in the summer and sometimes in the forest where I can use nature’s equipment.
  • Warm-up & Stretching: Always warm up before training and stretch after. This will keep stiffness and soreness to a minimum, keeping you muscles long and supple. Some stiffness is to be expected when you start, or step up, your work-out. The best way to get past this is by exercising. Over time your program will get too easy, then you need to add more movements or weight.

Here is a great video to show how interval training is done:

You will love the look and feel of your new body; toned muscle, good posture, looking radiant and strong. You will find yourself taking every chance to move; walk, take the stairs, turn the house-cleaning into a work-out 🙂 Health is all about loving and respecting yourself.

SENIORS & STRESS

Seniors are a growing but invisible group in society. More often than not do they come to the point of moving into a home where they can be properly looked after. This is an intensely stressful event. Some people choose to move into a home of their choice at the time of their choice, but they are few. Most seniors slide into a solitary life in their own homes until they can’t manage it anymore and then are moved to a senior home. At this point they often become confused, scared, depressed and angry.

From these negative feelings arise many problems; circulatory, emotional, sleep-disorders, appetite and digestion. Sometimes seniors deteriorate very quickly in a home; the older we get, the more loath we become to leave our familiar – and therefor safe – surroundings and when this safety is taken away the world falls apart. When there is also mental confusion, a move at this time in life can become a huge trauma.

AROMATHERAPY:

I have done some work in retirement homes using essential oils and the results are amazing! By using carefully blended oils in proper dosages a lot can be done. Together with massage they work wonders on stressed individuals. Massage can be as simple as stroking somebody’s hand, bringing peace to the person. There is no need for massage-training, all that is needed is care. Scents in diffusers also help with emotional balance and a stress-free environment.  Anxiety, fear, stress, confusion, depression, anger….all schoolbook examples on areas where essential oils are helpful.

  • Emotional disorders: Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Orange (Citrus sinensis), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora), Petit grain (Citrus aurantium), Bergamott (Citrus bergamia), Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata). When severe: Neroli (Citrus aurantium ssp. amara var pumilla), Rose (Rosa damascena), Melissa (Melissa officinalis).  Massage, diffusion.
  • Sleeping disorders: Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Bitter orange (Citrus aurantium), Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata). Massage, diffusion.
  • Stimulating appetite: Lemon (Citrus limon), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Diffusion 20 min. before mealtimes.
  • Mental stimulation: Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia), Lemon (Citrus limon), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

Seniors are frail in many ways, not least physically. Always contact a professional aromatherapist before using essential oils.

Massage therapy & stress and anxiety in children

Massage therapy and  stress and anxiety in children

A study conducted at University of Miami Medical School, Florida, USA, revealed that massage may offer considerable help for children suffering from stress-related disorders. A 30-minute back massage was given daily for a 5-day period to 52 children who were hospitalized as suffering from depression and adjustment disorders. Subjective assessments were made by the children themselves and by the nurses based upon perceived anxiety levels, sleep patterns and the willingness of the child to be co-operative. Objective analyses were also made by analysing stress hormone levels in the both the urine and saliva. The results were then compared to a control group who were shown relaxing videotapes for 30 minutes instead of massage therapy.

The results of the study revealed that the children receiving a 30 minute massage were less depressed or anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after the massage. In addition, nurses rated the massage group as being more co-operative on the last day of the study, and noted that the children were sleeping better than the children in the control group and that their night-time sleep had increased over the 5 day period. Massage therapy also had the effect of reducing urinary cortisol and norepinephrine levels in the children suffering from depression which was not observed in any of the children in the control group.

The researchers were left in no doubt that massage therapy offers real benefits for children suffering from stress and anxiety.

Field T; Morrow C; Valdeon C; Larson S; Kuhn C; Schanberg S. Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients. Journal of the American Acadamy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry (UNITED STATES) Jan 1992, 31 (1) p125-31

Personal rhythm

Every person has their own rhythm; sleep, energy, hormonal cycles, digestion, that greatly influences performance.  Most writers I know write in the wee hours of morning or late at night when all is quiet and there are no interruptions, many athletes prefer to train in the morning. Some people are full of energy in the evenings and some in the mornings. Daily life schedule is usually fixed, no matter how our rhythms look, and this can sometimes become an enormous stressor.

Many people experience sleeping-problems; they can’t fall asleep in the evening, wake up at strange times, are tired upon waking in the morning… Often it is related to their specific sleep-patterns or rhythms. The same goes for our “daily cycles”; our energy moves in waves and at certain times during the day we have “dips” when we feel tired or un-focused. Over time this can lead to tension and stress.

Most people aren’t even aware of their own patterns, they fight a loosing battle trying to fit into a schedule of work, over time getting depleted and stressed. By learning our patterns or rhythms, we can enhance our performance by time-management and scheduling. So how do we learn our patterns?

Keep a diary for 1-4 weeks where you note your findings:

  • Sleep: When do you get tired in the evening? When do you feel comfortable getting up? How many hours do you need to sleep?
  • “Dips”: Pay attention to when this happens during the day and how often. Note the time.
  • Digestion: How do you feel comfortable with eating? What time? How many times? How much? How long does it take you to digest?
  • Hormones (more obvious for women): Menstrual cycles; how do they affect your performance?

After a certain amount of time, you will notice a pattern in your diary; this would be your basic energy-rhythm. By knowing your pattern you can also fit it with the life you are living. You need to teach yourself to function optimally.

Balance your sleep:

  • Energetic in the evenings, tired in the morning? Do something; take a walk or exercise, prepare for the next day so morning flows easy (get your clothes out, clean the kitchen, pack your bag). Then go to bed. Keep your room dark and cool. Maybe a calming tea or a bath will help.
  • Tired in the evenings, energetic in the morning? Get to bed earlier and get up earlier. Do your exercise in the morning, your daily preparation as well.
  • Waking up in the night at the same hour? When this is caused by stress it is usually very negative; worry, angst, a sense of doom and extremely black thoughts. Then stress-management is a must. If it is “only” waking up it could be that you have left your deep sleep and moved into dream time. Stay relaxed, breath deeply and stay with your dream. Research shows that to remember a dream, we need to wake up after it and stay awake 1-3 minutes, whis means that we wake up many times during the night without being aware of it, usually we just fall asleep again.
  • When you constantly feel exhausted after a nights sleep there is usually stress involved; your brain is not resting and you probably have problems accessing your deep sleep state. Stress-management is needed.
  • Heavy or large meals, alcohol, sugars and black/green tea/ coffee in the evening will influence your sleep negatively.

“Dips”: When you have found the rhythm, use the “dip-time” for de-stress by taking a break, a few minutes is usually enough: Drink water (not coffee), move around a bit, do some deep breathing. A friend of mine goes running or walking in the stairs… whatever suits you. Just move!

Digestion:

  • When do you need your main meal? Morning, noon, afternoon? This is different for everybody.
  • How do you react on what you eat? Maybe you need to change your eating habits? The body needs more time to digest a heavy meal such as steak, pasta, greasy food. If you feel heavy and tired after eating, chances are that you are eating the wrong stuff. Always move after meals; take a walk.
  • How often do you need sustenance such as a fruit? (NOT sugary stuff)

Hormones:

Ladies, we are NOT slaves under our hormones!!!

  • PMS: irritation, anger? Get fish-oil capsules. Use breathing techniques, balancing essential oils, exercise.

We are made for physical movement; to optimize our performance we need to move many times during the day. This will balance hormones, sleep, digestion, mental clarity and moods. MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!

MAY CHANG

Time for a profile again; this is a wonderful, versatile oil with a lovely scent. It’s attractive to most people and one of those scents that is always appreciated when it comes to scenting spaces.

May Chang, Litsea (Litsea cubeba). Synonyms: tropical verbena, yunnan verveine. These names are a bit misleading, since it is not at all related to Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla). It belongs to the same family as the rosewood and cinnamon tree. Litsea is a small tropical tree with lemony-scented leaves and flowers. It produces little fruits shaped like peppers which gives the name cubeba. The tree is native to Asia, especially China where it is often planted as a wind breaker. China is the main producer, but it is also cultivated  in Taiwan and Japan. The oil was introduced to the West as late as in the mid-fifties.

The oil is steam-distilled from the fruits, the yield is high – the fruits contain 3-5% essential oil. On Java, Indonesia, small quantities of oil is distilled from the leaves, though it is considered inferior since there is less citral in it. (I would love to get my hands on some of that oil, since, in aromatherapy, we are not looking at isolation but rather wholeness, it would have different therapeutic properties ) The main component of the fruit-oil is citral, up to 85%. The scent of Litsea is sweet-lemony, fresh and fruity. It is reminiscent of lemongrass but lighter and sweeter without the sharpness and tenacity of lemongrass.

The major use of the oil is for the isolation of citral which is used for flavor and fragrance. The chemical industry uses it as a raw material for the synthesis of vitamin A and also converts it into a violet-like scent. International standards set the minimum citral-content at 74% for Litsea, the same as for Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and both these oils are described in trade terms as “75 percent”.

Traditional uses in China are: indigestion, lower back pain, chills, headaches and travel sickness.

Essential oil of Litsea cubeba is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, carminative, sedative and calming. It is also used as an insect-repellent, though I find Citronella (Cymbogogon nardus) to be more efficient.

USES:

  • SKIN: Its antimicrobial properties make it excellent for oily skin and acne. It is astringent and gently cooling on the skin and makes a good tonic.
  • RESPIRATORY: Tonic. Has been used as a broncho-dilator and may be helpful with bronchitis and asthma. (In the case of asthma, I believe part of its usefulness is the calming and relaxing effect of the oil.)
  • HEART: Tonic to the heart; much research is being done in China on disease-prevention and cure of heart-problems. Recent research has shown Litsea’s ability to reduce arrhythmias in comparison with propranolol, a beta-blocker, antihypertensive and anti-angina drug. (Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. 1991 Aug;11(8):509-12.) Personal note: This ability might be of great help in stress-relief, especially when stress causes irregular heart-beat.
  • DIGESTIVE: Flatulence, indigestion and poor appetite.
  • NERVOUS SYSTEM: Calming and antidepressant. Useful for nervousness and depression as the oil is softly uplifting and strengthening (tonic). Use it together with Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) and/or Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) for sleeping disorders. This blend is deeply relaxing.

More: As a sanitary air-freshener when there is disease. Brilliant to use during those months of the year when colds and flu’s set in.

Personal experience: I have found Litsea to be one of the few oils that most everybody likes. I have used it successfully on clients with racing heart-problems from stress and for people suffering from anorexia.

Litsea can cause sensitisation in some individuals. Do not use neat on skin.

 

SKIN-HEALTH

A very beautiful old lady

(picture by: pedrosimoes7)

Skin-health is just that; healthy skin. The skin is our largest organ and it does a lot for us; it protects, communicates, informs and keeps the right temperature. It also secretes toxins and other stuff from our body. Lack of skin health can simply be imbalances such as spots, dryness, excessive sebum and/or blotches. But problems that shows up on the skin can also be symptoms of something else:

  • Sensitivities to foods, medication or products
  • Imbalances in different organs; liver, kidneys, intestine, lungs
  • Warning of disease (cancer can sometimes make itself known by random spots on the skin)
  • Dehydration
  • Toxicity
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Stress

It amazes me how we tend to see the skin as something apart from the rest of our bodies, as if the only thing that counts is to look good rather than to feel good. Often when there is a problem with the skin we attack it with everything possible, even aggressively, forgetting that it might be a symptom of something else.

While researching substances that are used in skin-care and looking at how people treat their skin I am horrified. The only thing that seems to matter is the whole anti-aging business; you have got to stay young-looking! This is not possible, every system in our body ages; the moment you are born you start aging. True beauty is health – that is what gives that radiant look, not the absence of wrinkles.

The first step to that “radiant glow” is food, sleep and exercise:

  • Nutrition: Take 1 month and follow an elimination diet. (a free E.D can be downloaded here) This will cleanse your system and you can determine if you suffer from any sensitivities. You might be sensitive to milk-products or wheat without having an allergy.
  • Exercise: Get out there every day and move! It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you get the circulation going and breathe fresh air.
  • Sleep: Try to get to bed a bit earlier in the evening so you get enough sleep. Use relaxation techniques to calm down and de-stress.
  • Water: The best beauty regime in the world. Dehydrated skin is life-less and dry. Drinking plenty of water helps your system to detox and leaves your skin plump and nice – no matter what your age is. Test: Squeeze your skin between 2 fingers and let go, it should return to normal rather quickly (even if you are older) if not, you suffer from dehydration.
  • Oils, fats and waxes: From natural sources. This is by far the most important thing for the skin. It is better to use only a high-quality cold-pressed oil on your skin (both for cleansing and protection) than a lot of products. Remember that a cream consists of 50-70% water… The older you get, the dryer your skin gets and water is not the solution – except when drinking it!

You can not live an unhealthy lifestyle and expect to look good. Alcohol, tobacco, coffee, sugars, aspirin, sleeping-pills… It deteriorates your system and will age you faster than anything else, no matter what you put on your skin.

Avoid too many different skin-care products and try keeping it as simple as possible. As I have stated earlier; it takes about 3-4 weeks for the new skin-cells to reach the top layer and show results from your skin-care regime. For a definite change you need to count 3 months. During this time you should stick to the same regime, to allow for the change. Very often there is a period of problems such as spots for example, this is the skin detoxifying and re-balancing itself from the inside out. Many products give an instant “good look” which can be deceiving since it is not even skin-deep, only superficial – like make-up. Over time this will deteriorate and stress the skin, creating more lines and dryness. (see my last post on mineral oils)

A lot of the stuff that is in a cream does not actually penetrate the skin, since the molecules are too large or the substances are not recognizable by our bodies. Sometimes they will even be harmful, just because products are expensive does NOT necessarily mean that they are any good. Remember: Less is more!

 

SWINE FLU & AROMATHERAPY

So now I am finally going to address this latest hysteria. I have been watching the development and the debates with raised eyebrows, wondering what all the drama was about. I also watched two of my children having the swine flu, and I must say I don’t get the fuss. It is an influenza, that’s all. There are other flues that hit a lot harder and kill a lot more people. I am now suspected of having it – the swine-flu; I have an insistent cough, sore throat,  muscle-ache and tiredness. I am told that I must not see people and that I am for the coming days a pariah to society – a walking killing-machine! I have seldom felt this healthy when I was sick. I had the bird-flu some years ago – now that’s what I call sick! That was the last time I was sick, so maybe I just pick up animal-diseases? I do not believe in vaccines, and I outright refuse the N1H1 vaccine. I believe that if you live according to health, you can handle disease such as flues. Besides which, I read a report that one of the side-effects (very small % mind you, but I wouldn’t want to be that %) is irreversible respiratory muscle collapse. On top of which, the company that has created this vaccine (and markets it after a less than minimum trial period) has been granted relief from all responsibility if there are negative side-effects – no law-suits for them! Now why would this be done? I leave it to you to figure it out. Please comment if you wish.

Today I would like to share with you my aromatherapy usage during this illness. It all started with a slight tickling discomfort in my throat that I recognized as that of an infection in the brewing. I quickly started my gargle-routine with 2 dr. of Tea Tree (melaleuca alternifolia) in luke-warm water. I did this morning and night for the first day, a bit more often for the second day and realized on the third day that I had been lazy and nonchalant in my self-treatment (being busy enjoying myself instead). So the third day I increased the gurgling to every 2nd hour. I also massaged a blend of oils on my throat: Red thyme (thymus vulgaris), Benzoin (styrax benzoin), Lemon (citrus limon) and Niaouli (melaleuca viridiflora) = 6 dr of each in 20ml vegetable oil. This blend is very soothing to an infected respiratory system. During the night I would wake up from coughing (3 times during the night); then I took 1 dr of Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) straight; I put the drop on the back of my hand and lick it, washing it down with some water. This gave me wonderful, instant relief during my 12 hour sleep.

I have an aroma-fan in which I diffuse oils of; Eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus), Cloves (eugenia aromatica) and Lavender (lavandula augustifolia). These oils are calming, anti-bacterial and cleansing in nature. The scent of cloves reminds me of Christmas so it does double duty as season-enhancer.

For my achy muscles I use a blend of Marjoram (origanum majorana), Black-pepper (piper nigrum) and Roman Chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) = 10 dr of each in 30ml vegetable oil. I use it in the morning and before bed at night.

As an all-round “pick-me-up” I use Orange (citrus sinensis) for the warm, light and happy feeling it induces.

I eat plenty of garlic, vegetables and fruit. I drink masses of water and herbal teas such as mint, fennel, chamomile, rose-hip and green tea. I rest a lot, read a lot, study texts I didn’t have the peace to study earlier and I use this time to focus myself on how I want to live my life. Except for this really irritating cough, I can’t say I am suffering.