Posts Tagged ‘health’
With the year winding down, the holiday season has us doing anything but. We’re programmed to spend the next few weeks running around, shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, meeting end of year deadlines at work, planning and attending gatherings – leaving our carefully planned routines behind to celebrate the season with friends and family.
In December it’s already easy to feel sapped of energy and moody from the cold and lack of sunshine, but add to that a long list of to-do’s, dizzying demands, and the personal and social expectation of exuding happiness constantly and it’s easy to see why some of us can crumble under the stress of the holiday season. For many, it is also a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness and anxiety – making a stressful time even more daunting.
This stress, anxiety and depression can cause a disruption in the flow of vital energy, or qi, throughout the body. These energetic imbalances mess with all of your body’s systems, causing symptoms of muscle pain, headaches, upset digestion, sleep disturbances and fatigue, and over time more serious illnesses can develop. Chinese medicine treatment can correct these imbalances and directly affect the way your body manages both your stress and your mental health.
Acupuncture treatments can serve to nurture and replenish energy reserves, enhancing the body’s immune system to thrive in times of stress, aid in healing, prevent illness and increase vitality. When enhanced with the use of Chinese herbs, meditation – along with a healthy diet and exercise – a regimen of Chinese Medicine can be extremely effective in helping to provide overall stress relief and well being this holiday season.
Winter is the season where all living things start to slow down, and if we do our best to do the same, we can find the time to reflect on health, replenish energy and conserve the strength needed to make it through the craziness of the coming weeks and the cold months ahead.
Maintaining a routine of health and wellness at this time of year is key to preserving your sanity, well-being – and won’t leave you crying on Santa’s lap.
At what point did the holidays’ stop being magical and start being a nerve wracking, demanding, and a hectic collection of weeks of the year? With decorations creeping into stores in October, it seems impossible to escape the end of the year without a being physically, emotionally and spiritually drained.
Why do we do it?
It’s easy to get caught up in the extra activities, expectations and demands that the holiday season brings. There is little or no time to relax and regroup before you’re whisked off to accomplish the next thing on your list. Thinking that you’ll be able to do it all without leaving any time to just be makes the holiday season ripe for stress, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help balance both the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety and help to create the harmony and spaciousness we need to keep calm and to feel stable in a sea of frenzy. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine helps keep the body, mind and spirit supple, flexible and buoyant. This generally manifests in the body as a sense of ease. If the season has already wreaked havoc on your personal integrity, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can release the physical knots and constriction as well as create a healing, safe and tranquil environment for you to settle in, decompress and recalibrate. This creates a potent foundation to build a healthier and more resourceful self (and sounds like a great New Year’s resolution!).
Incorporating a mindfulness meditation practice into your routine, especially during the holidays, is a very powerful tool to living informed and fully. Being mindful is the purposeful practice of making choices based on being in the moment, checking in and making decisions by being fully present rather than responding in a habituated way to events, people and situations. We can summon and reflect circumstances, feelings and choices rather than being enslaved to our automated and predictable reactions.
Even a few quiet, deep breaths practiced throughout the day will help you slow down the inertia of the holiday season and allow you to proactively and intentionally take your holidays back. It will give you a chance to remember what’s really important and what holiday celebrations are for.
Acupuncture, Chinese medicine and mindful meditation can definitely help to lead you to a more tranquil and meaningful holiday season – but don’t forget to acknowledge and feel gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness for blessings or benefits we have received. As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we are more likely to be happy and resilient.
While controlling how our bodies react to stress is difficult, choosing healthy strategies and approaches can be a much more attainable and kind way to embrace “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Look around. You may have noticed that our lives are faster and more hectic than ever before. The pace of everyday life has accelerated and we want quick results. This is true in our professional lives (how many emails did you have to answer today?), our personal lives (instant status updates on Facebook, anyone?) and even when it comes to our health. While chronic conditions like pain, arthritis, inflammation and even obesity can take years for our body to develop and affect us, we often want to fix them instantly with a pill or even a surgery.
Chinese Medicine is built upon a wholly different approach and philosophy. Your health is a long-term investment, one that you make in yourself and are personally responsible for every day. It is achievable when you invest in it, open yourself up to it and make it a priority in your life. Healing your body and maintaining your health is a result of putting long-term effort into balancing your body, your mind and your energy. Exercise. Healthy eating, relaxation techniques to calm your nerves. It’s all about self-cultivation and pursuing activities that engender your spirit and pique your passions.
So, it all starts with the individual. Simply put, maintaining your health is a matter of self-responsibility.
I’ve recently read some great articles and blog posts that talk about this and how it ties in to some of today’s hot topics – the health care debate, the economics of health care treatments, Americans’ increasingly sedentary lifestyle. I think it’s very telling that more Americans change their car’s oil on a regular basis than go in for regular medical or dental check ups and that it’s become entirely normal for someone to spend 4 hours a night watching TV but to get less than 15 minutes of physical activity a day.
The good news is that if your health has not been optimal, YOU can make changes and empower yourself towards better health. Like many other things, health is achieved by working at it, one day and one small effort at a time. Also like many other things, being healthy (or unhealthy, for that matter) isn’t something that happens instantly – it takes time. For this reason, it’s very important to be patient and to be strongly committed to your goal.
Chinese Medicine approaches the cause of disease more broadly than traditional Western medicine, outlining five root causes:
- Emotional factors
- Dietary factors
- Environmental causes – exposure to excessive coldness, heat, wind, damp, dryness, and environmental toxicities
- Lack of movement, or exercise
- Our inherited genetics
In Chinese medicine, these five factors are seen as the cause of interruptions to the body’s normal physiology. The body will work to quell and block damaging habits and activities, but if it’s trying to do so on a daily basis, it often will compensate – this can result in symptoms like heartburn, chronic constipation or diarrhea. Your body is trying to tell you that it is stressed and working hard to compensate for another illness or problem. Today, many people will take an over-the-counter medication to counter these symptoms, but that is only a temporary fix. Chinese medicine asserts that you should “listen” to what your body is telling you and work to fix the root cause, not just the uncomfortable or undesirable symptom.
To do that, we look for stagnations or obstructions in the flow of humors or vital energy – these obstructions can create blockages and over time will manifest as disease. And it’s not just a physical phenomenon. Emotional issues like stress, if unresolved at the source, can also affect your body and its systems. If dealing with them is pushed to the bottom of your “to do” list, your body will work to compensate in some other way and these type of issues can take a negative toll on your health.
So, what do you do? How should we practice self-responsibility and take ownership of our health?
I am suggesting that we all work to create mindfulness toward better health. Take a moment to see – really see – the everyday factors that could be affecting your health. Factors like stress, anger, frustration or junk foods and a sedentary lifestyle. What is negative in your life and how might it be affecting your health? What can you do to change it?
You can change it.
In fact, even small changes like a 10 minute walk or an apple instead of chips can be hugely beneficial for your body. Also, an overall healthier outlook or attitude can have an impact. You can reach your health goals if you take tiny steps forward…and keep taking them.
All this being said, I do want to be clear that there are health conditions that can strike anyone and are devastating in their anonymity. What it does mean is that there is a whole spectrum of entirely preventable conditions that by staying in tune with your body, treating it with respect and care, YOU can combat. You are your own best champion for health and balance.
And, in the end, don’t you (and your body) deserve that?
How to find peace and well-being during this festive (and hectic!) time of year
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…it’s also the season of heartburn, headaches and hangovers. So, as you enjoy the season, be sure to keep your health in mind. Here are 10 healthy holiday tips that can help keep you feeling your best.
# 1. Get your sleep – the best case scenario is to get a full eight hours of sleep a night. Sometimes, especially during a hectic holiday season, that’s just not possible. So, to ensure that the sleep you do get is as high quality as possible, try to refrain from watching TV right before turning in and don’t eat a heavy meal in the two hours leading up to going to bed.
#2. Drink your water – dehydration can cause fatigue and poor concentration, which can slow you down anytime, but definitely during the holidays. Doctors recommend that you drink eight glasses of water a day. It helps keep you hydrated, flush toxins from your vital organs and keeps your body’s systems running smoothly.
#3. Get some sunshine – while we’ve come a long way in sun block protection and reducing sunburn (and its harmful and even cancerous effects), humans now are exposed to less sunshine than any other time in history. Because vitamin D is such a critical vitamin and sunshine is the primary source, there are now unprecedented levels of vitamin D deficiency. So, be smart about your sun protection, but get outside and get some vitamin D.
#4. Eat Healthy – One of the best ways to feel (and be!) healthy is to eat healthy. Instead of trying to cut out a whole class of foods (eating no fats, for example), it’s best to eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. A good rule of thumb is also to eat a variety of foods with different rich colors (think dark green spinach, purple eggplant and orange carrots).
#5. Don’t overindulge when it comes to food – this tip builds on #4. For many families, the holidays mean food…a lot of food. Many doctors recommend that you eat until you feel 70-80% full, not “stuffed.” By not-overdoing it, you will be far more likely to avoid heartburn, indigestion and the five holiday pounds that often sneak in!
#6. Toast to the season, but don’t take too many sips – many doctors agree that there are health benefits associated with alcohol – especially red wine – in moderation. But, if the holidays have taught us anything, it’s that there can be too much of a good thing. So, if you are sipping red wine, egg nog or your favorite holiday cocktail, pace yourself.
#7. Don’t forget to move – everyone knows that getting your exercise can reduce your stress, keep your heart healthy and keep your weight in check. It’s also a great way to enjoy the holidays. Walk around your neighborhood. See the lights. Say hi to your neighbors. Maybe even give your dog some holiday exercise. Everyone will be happier.
#8. Acupuncture – I see a lot of harried patients around the holidays that find relief after acupuncture. If the season gets to be too much, a licensed acupuncture expert can help customize a treatment regimen that eases pain, decreases stress or even helps you sleep better.
#9. Relax, slow down and enjoy – Remember that one of the best ways to keep your body healthy is to keep it relaxed and de-stressed. Breathe. Take a moment for yourself. Clear you mind. This will undoubtedly help you enjoy the holidays a bit more.
# 10. Spend time with family and friends – the holidays are about a lot of things, but one of the most important is your family and friends. Make sure to spend time with them and enjoy the season!
With All Hallows’ Eve right around the corner, it’s a good time to look at frightening things…you know, ghouls, goblins, ghosts…and your health and wellness routines.
There really is nothing more important than your health, so here are some tips to keep you feeling BOO-tiful and SPOOK-tacular:
1. You are what you eat – so put down that KitKat!
Sure, Halloween candy may satisfy our sweet tooth cravings, but for long-term health and fitness, it’s best to make smart choices about the food you eat every day. A balanced diet consisting of lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grain and lean protein can provide the nourishment and energy you need to feel your best. Here are some great resources and tips from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that can help.
2. We all need to move around and walk more – so DO go Trick-or-Treating!
We all know it’s true – if you don’t move it, you lose it. This is definitely the case in today’s society when sedentary lifestyles are more prevalent than ever. (Are you sitting down at a desk or on a sofa while reading this?!?) It’s estimated that the average American now spends 15-16 hours each day NOT being active and that sedentary individuals can actually be increasing their chances of dying by 50% when compared to active people. So, get up and get moving – even if it’s walking around your neighborhood for free candy.
3. No pain, no gain – NOT really!
While physical exercise and exertion can be a good thing for your health (see the info above about sedentary lifestyles), chronic pain is not. I see several patients each week for whom chronic pain is, well, a pain. It affects every aspect of their lives, their health and their overall well-being. Today, Oriental Medicine, including acupuncture, is playing an increasingly important role in helping to treat and prevent chronic pain. So, for everything from lower back pain to arthritis, talk to a licensed acupuncture or Oriental Medicine specialist – he or she may be able to help.
4. Sleep is a must – we’re not vampires!
I know that Twilight is all the rage these days, but believe me, no sleep is not good for us mortals. Skimping on even an hour or two of sleep can have a dramatic negative impact on your energy, stress levels, attention span and, importantly, your immune system. So, to stay healthy and energized, be sure to get a full eight hours a night. Here are some guidelines that might help.
5. Balance is essential – so have high standards, but go easy on yourself too!
As a final tip, I encourage you to be your own best health advocate. To do this, it’s good to have high standards and be tough on yourself – are you eating right, getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself as you should? Remember, though, that it’s also good to give yourself some balance, down time and serenity – this can come from meditation, yoga or just slowing down and taking a few minutes for yourself. In today’s modern, hectic world we are set up for imbalance and that can wreak havoc on your body and your health. Symptoms of fatigue, pain or illness can be the first signs that you are off-balance. Take a moment and remember that your health is one of the most important things…but feel free to have one KitKat every once in a while.
I have the best job in the world. As an acupuncturist, I have a parade of lovely, interesting people who come through my clinic looking for help and healing. As an acupuncturist, I get to use the tools of an ancient healing tradition called Chinese medicine. These tools include acupuncture, Chinese herbs, body work, food therapy, and healthy lifestyle traditions.
One of the best parts of what I do is that I learn a little something from each and every patient who comes in through my door. Some of those lessons are uneventful, but some are profound. Here is a short list of some of the incredible things I have learned from my patients:
-Aging is a state of mind. I have had people in my clinic in their 60’s who seemed very old. I have also had a number of 80 and 90-year olds who have appeared to be much younger and more vital than their age would indicate. The difference? Those people who are aging so well have a love for life. They get out of their house, they’re active, they have places to go and things to do. This is not to say they don’t have health problems; they do. However, they are somehow able to stay active, engaged, and upbeat despite their health issues.
-Your emotions are the key to your health. The Chinese have a saying that the emotions are the root of 100 illnesses. I have found this to be true in the clinic. Chinese medicine is all about treating the root of an illness, and in the majority of my patients, that root is emotional in nature. Strong emotions, such as anger, depression, fear, anxiety, grief, and intense longing have the ability to affect your health, causing symptoms as diverse as insomnia to digestive problems.
-Never make assumptions. That ass of u and me thing is so right! Whether it’s a patient’s ability to heal, their willingness to change unhealthy habits, or their ability to pay me for my services, more often than not when I have made an assumption, I have been wrong.
-Unless you change the behaviors that are making you sick, you will never heal completely. This may include a funky diet, an overwhelming lifestyle, working too hard, and stressful relationships, to name a few. Remember, Chinese medicine is effective because it gets at what’s really making you sick. If you’re unwilling to change, you’re going to stay…uh, sick.
-Shut up and listen. This has been a hard lesson for me. However, over time I have learned that if I just close my mouth and really hear what my patients are saying, they will tell me exactly what I and my patient need for them to heal. Part B of this lesson is that most people already know what’s making them sick. From the man who was “trying to fight his way out of a wet paper bag” (damp heat) to the woman who just needed a dark, quiet place (Yin deficiency), if I just open my ears, they will tell me what’s going on.
-There is no magic bullet to better health. Many years ago, a woman came to me for help with weight loss. She had tried every diet under the sun, but couldn’t lose the weight. I treated her and began talking about dietary therapy and some lifestyle tweaks. She came back for her second appointment and told me that she hadn’t lost any weight, and that she would not be coming back to me. People, Chinese medicine is an incredibly effective system of health and healing, however, you have to give it time and help it along. Geez…
-The best thing you can do to improve your health is to exercise regularly. Simple. Exercise improves your mood, reduces stress, improves the health of your heart, brings your blood pressure down, and keeps you young. I have seen patients completely turn their health around simply by adding exercise to their routine (plus the acupuncture, of course!)
-Learning is never complete. I will never know everything. Every patient that I see teaches me something, and I thank each and every one for their insight, lessons, and confidence in my ability to help them
This posting was graciously offered to me to by acupuncturist Lynn Jaffe. I am a fan of her blog. I hope you will be too!
Lynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist practicing in Minneapolis, MN. She is also the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health. You can check out her blog Acupuncture Health Insights or order her book here.