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POLLUTANTS ARE DESTROYING OUR PLANET & OUR HEALTH…WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

POLLUTANTS ARE DESTROYING OUR PLANET & OUR HEALTH…WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

Unless you never listen to the news, pick up a magazine, or scroll though social media, you are likely to be aware of the many environmental issues faced by our society. From global warming and acid rain to climate change and plastic pollution…and sadly, the list seems to be growing all the time.

On a more positive note, awareness is growing too, and this is an absolute MUST in the world we live in.

 

A DOUBLE-EDGED ISSUE

The problem is surely twofold. On the one hand we are watching our planet’s decline as natural resources are increasingly depleted:

“Over the last few decades, the exploitation of our planet and degradation of our environment have gone up at an alarming rate…our actions have been not in favor of protecting this planet…”

On the other hand, these changes also have an immediate effect on our own health. “Stress” is a huge factor in modern living: whilst some of this is due to factors such as work ethics and the monumental influence of technology, environmental stressors also play an increasingly large role:

“Environmental stress refers to how people or animals respond to physical, chemical and biological features of their environment. These stressors may include exposure to natural disasters, electromagnetic radiation, pollution, climate change, or noise. They can be pathogens that invade the body, causing a stress response, or features of your workplace like an uncomfortable chair. Whether one-time or long-term, environmental stressors cause strain on the body and mind.”

So surely we should be tackling this as a double-edged issue, and should be doing absolutely all that we can to protect both the future of our planet AND ourselves?

 

 

WHAT EXACTLY ARE THESE STRESSORS?

Actually listing the environmental stressors that are regularly affecting us paints a glum picture:

  • climate stress
  • air pollution
  • chemical stressors
  • plastic pollution
  • energetic stress
  • ergonomic stress
  • biological stress

CLIMATE STRESS may refer to those changes that only last for a season, or to an overall shift such as global climate change.

AIR POLLUTION is caused chiefly by the burning of fossil fuels. Pollution emitted from vehicles produces vast problems in this area.

CHEMICAL STRESSORS affect us on many different levels: the remains of pesticides found on our foods, ingestion of antibiotics, and chemicals found in cosmetics, air fresheners and cleaning products all contribute to chemical overload within our (already stressed) bodies.

PLASTIC POLLUTION is frighteningly abundant. Plastic is affordable and remarkably strong: it is a hugely prevalent, ever constant image in our “disposable” society. It is estimated that 500 billion plastic bags are used globally every year…

“whenever they are disposed, [plastics] take hundreds of years to decompose and their continued stay in the environment does great harm. When burnt, [plastic] pollutes the air, when disposed in the landfills it causes land pollution, and when dumped into the water it pollutes the waters”.

ERGONOMIC STRESS increases as our weekly working hours continue to go up. Endless hours sitting at a desk in front of a computer, over-doing manual work, too little physical exercise and bad posture all contribute.

ENERGETIC STRESS is caused by the various different wavelengths we are subjected to, from exposure to mobile telephones to use of microwave ovens…

“invisible but very real, energetic stressors can cause disturbances to the body and mind. The earth contains many different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that travel through time and space…all of these invisible rays can have an impact on our health and well being. 

BIOLOGICAL STRESS refers to any illness or allergic reaction we may encounter. As the years go by, it seems these are increasing, from incidences of eczema to a vastly increasing list of autoimmune conditions. Could this be a result of our body trying to fight the many other environmental stressors it faces?

 

WHAT CAN WE DO?

In a generalised conversation about the welfare of our planet, it can seem incredibly daunting to try to do ANYTHING to better the situation. The facts are grim, and can seem insurmountable…

 

 

If however we break things down, and we realise that some of the above issues in fact overlap, then we can start to explore what simple changes we might make on a day to day level…

 

10 TIPS TO PROTECT BOTH YOUR PLANET AND YOURSELF:

1. Conserve energy: unplug electronic devices when you’re not using them; use warm (not hot) water for washing; use energy efficient light bulbs; consider replacing household appliances with more energy efficient models.

2. Reduce petrol pollution: walk or cycle to avoid using petrol consuming vehicles; at the very least use buses or trains to reduce petrol emissions from endless cars.

3. Avoid plastics: utilise reusable or recyclable packaging wherever possible; try (reusable) fabric bags for shopping; use paper straws; purchase a re-usable non-plastic water bottle; avoid plastic based wraps such as “Clingfilm” (which can leak toxins straight into our food). Click here for a great reusable, biodegradable, chemical-free food wrap.

4. Eat natural, organic foods as much as possible: this will reduce exposure to pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Some studies also suggest that organic foods have higher levels of omega 3 fats, antioxidants and minerals.

“Scientists theorize that when plants aren’t coated in chemicals to help fight off pests and insects, they develop stronger compounds to protect themselves”.

By ingesting these foods we too will benefit from these disease fighting compounds, and therefore be in a better position to stave off environmental stressors.

5. Check labelling for presence of (plastic) microbeads: these are typically found in shower gels, exfoliators, toothpaste, cleaning products. The tiny plastic particles:

“can have a damaging effect on marine life, the environment and human health…due to their composition, ability to absorb toxins and potential to transfer up the marine food chain”.

[It is reassuring to know that since recent revisions in the UK, legislation has banned the use of plastic microbeads in the manufacture of some cosmetic and personal care products. Click here for more]

6. Aim to use NATURAL cosmetics: always try for those which don’t include chemical “nasties”. Take a moment to consider how many cosmetics you and your family use daily to realise the true power of this one, and consider how everyone of these is absorbed into the body. Cosmetic labelling is nowhere near as well regulated as food labelling, so it can be very confusing. Click here to access a simple and reliable chart of recommended natural products.

 

7. Avoid chemically fragranced products: body sprays and air fresheners are often rich in chemicals. Aim instead for natural fragrances such as essential oils, which actually provide health benefits. Also be aware of scented candles, some of which:

“produce smoke laced with almost as many toxins as those produced by cigarettes”.

Click here to learn more about the potential health risks connected to candles.

8. Consciously reduce “screen time” for all the family: aside from the impact on our mental health, theories on “energetic stress” are increasingly worrying. Studies suggest that constant exposure to the radio-frequency waves emitted by mobile phone radiation may be hugely detrimental to our health. Click here for my Top Tips to Detox from Tech.

9. Think posture, posture, posture: aside from creating muscular aches and pains, postural mal-alignment can be detrimental to digestion and respiration, and can even enhance chances of cardiovascular disease.

10. Let nature be your doctor: taking care of both physical and mental health by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and putting in place those stress management techniques which are relevant to you will minimise the need for (often chemically laden) antibiotics and medicines as you allow your body to live as it is supposed to.

 

OUR HEALTH AND THAT OF THE PLANET…

In terms of our own health, this last one is perhaps the most important message. The closer we adhere to the sort of life we were designed to live, the more able we will be to deal with those toxins that do creep in. Our bodies are meant to be constantly “detox”–ing, but in today’s society – where the overload of chemical stressors is rising day by day – our organs often don’t operate as efficiently as they should, and so struggle to rid themselves of these toxic substances.

Meanwhile, in terms of the wider issue of our planet, isn’t it time to sit back and take a good look at ourselves and the world we live in – the world we are creating for our children and grandchildren? By selecting  just one of the above pollutants, we can see the sheer enormity of the problem. Plastic waste is choking our oceans and is releasing toxic chemicals into our soil and into our air. Wildlife on both sea and land are affected by this constant flow of pollution from a vast array of plastic materials that many of us use daily: by default, we – and our children –  are suffering too.

There are so, so many small ways in which we can help, and even if each of those makes just a tiny difference, we have to hang on to the hope that a small effort from each and every one of us on this beautiful planet will be the start point for saving both the planet and ourselves.

 

MY JOURNEY: FROM A PASSION FOR TEACHING TO A PASSION FOR HEALTH & WELLNESS…How??

MY JOURNEY: FROM A PASSION FOR TEACHING TO A PASSION FOR HEALTH & WELLNESS…How??

HOW IT ALL STARTED… 

I must have been about 7 years old when I first said, “Mummy, I want to be a dance teacher”. Little did I know back then that more than twenty years of my life would indeed be spent teaching dance!

My mum herself taught Ballroom & Latin American dance (long before the days of “Strictly”, in the days when it was decidedly NOT cool, so I kept fairly quiet about it!)  From the age of about 8, I spent my afternoons alternating between the school mum taught in and another school further down the road, where I did the more ‘classic’ little-girl-dance-classes: ballet, modern & tap. There is no doubt that this was a huge part of my life, but I can honestly say I have no idea where this burning desire to teach dance initially came from. What I do know is that I started actually teaching at the age of 11 (initially helping out with classes before graduating on to teaching my own classes as a teenager), & from day one I absolutely loved it.

Initially, the reality of “teaching” was dragging myself to the local (freezing cold) church hall early every Saturday morning to sweep up, do the dishes and make endless cups of (quite revolting) instant coffee for all the other teachers, just so that I could get that longed-for half hour of actually teaching just before lunch. As time went on my own teachers could see my absolute passion for this, and luckily for me they encouraged me and gave me more and more opportunities to ‘practice’ on my fellow students.

 

 

MY PASSION FOR TEACHING

To this day, I love the challenge of finding different ways to make a class full of (vastly different) students understand a concept, whatever that concept may be. Analysing needs, then creating the right “step-by-step” process to create desired results really makes me tick! In the early days it would have been simply “how to point your toes better”. As the years went by and I trained professionally, my challenges progressed to things like “how to stay on axis for a triple pirouette”, and nowadays it’s more likely to be how to help someone to truly achieve core stability, or to genuinely understand the Stress Response and all it encompasses.

Although at first glance these concepts may seem totally unconnected, believe it or not there is a common thread and a logical progression! My first passion with teaching was looking at the human body and the science of movement. From creating “on axis” balance in classical ballet, to teaching someone how to fall off balance in contemporary dance, it all came back to how the human anatomy works: how the physics of it all comes together to create balance, line and harmony. I was fascinated by this, thirsty to find ways to help others to understand it, and thrilled to see their joy when they started to achieve and get results: it gave me SUCH a buzz. This wasn’t really surprising: I was SO passionate about dance, so the opportunity to pass on this love I had felt like a logical next step.

It was when I opened my own Dance School in Greece in 2005 that I started to realise that my love of teaching didn’t stop at dance. I began offering Pilates based classes to local mums, and here began a new challenge: teaching non-trained bodies to achieve postural precision, balance and alignment was a totally different experience: to my surprise, I loved it!

 

 

Only years later did I realise what a turning point this was…

ALL CHANGE…

In 2012 when I returned to the UK my life changed massively in many ways. One of the changes was my turning away from dance teaching (which by nature demands constant after school hours as its timetable). As a single mum, had I done this I would never have seen my kids before bedtime, so it just wasn’t an option. Whilst I was pondering on “what on earth do I do now?” someone suggested becoming a Personal Trainer. To be perfectly honest, I hated the idea! As a dancer I NEVER went to the gym, choosing instead to supplement my training through home workouts or Pilates classes: I didn’t even know what half the machines in the gym were for!! The truth of the matter was though that I didn’t know WHAT to do next, and the more I looked into the idea of training as a PT, the more I realised it didn’t have to be gym-based, and it actually wasn’t a million miles away from what I knew and loved: TEACHING and improving understanding of the workings of the HUMAN BODY.

Once I started working as a PT and Nutritional Advisor, I (naturally) assumed my day-to-day would consist of talking to people about exercise and nutrition. In fact though, as I took on more and more clients I realised that a HUGE part of my time involved talking to people about stress management: sadly, such is the reality of the world we live in…

As it turned out, this was the missing piece of my jigsaw, and the inspiration for my shifting gears slightly and creating Shaw Lifestyle: helping people utilise exercise, nutrition AND stress management to create holistic lifestyle changes, and to balance physical and mental health.

 

 

TRULY COMPLETING THE PUZZLE

In retrospect, it was also the missing piece in terms of which part of “me” was still absent from my work: the “listening” part, the compassionate part, the part that added to the role of “teacher” and made things a little more “real life”…

Like many, I think I discovered the real “me” somewhere between high school and college. In the early days of high school in a sea of unfamiliar faces I struggled to make friends – or indeed to know HOW to make friends. As luck (or fate?) would have it, I did become friendly with one girl who had rather a lot of “stuff” going on in her home life, and seemed to find me easy to talk to. The more I sat and listened, the more I understood that she had a real need to “unload”, and this was the way in which a lovely friendship began. To cut a long story short, it was also the beginning of many other friendships, as more and more people seemed to realise I was quite a good listener, so would come and tell me their teenage woes. Eventually I became known as “Dear Liz”: everyone’s fave school Agony Aunt!

This started in school days, continued into my college days, and truly became a part of me. I DO like to listen, and for whatever reason, it seems that people find me easy to talk to. Put this together with my (sometimes obsessive!) love for analysing things, and you see how the other string to my bow has developed. My first passion was teaching, but I also love to listen, I love to analyse, and I love to help people. Essentially these are the factors which form the basis of Shaw Lifestyle, where I listen to people’s needs, analyse what strategies might best help them, create step-by-step programmes to guide them…then hold their hand to get them there!

 

 

One of the loveliest testimonials I have had over the years said, quite simply:

“I think the main difference between Liz and other personal trainers is that Liz listens”

To those who are simply looking to build a six-pack this may seem less important (though I would argue that communication is key at ANY level of coaching), but for those who are looking to make genuine lifestyle changes I absolutely believe that open ears and true communication are vital, to create trust, and to encourage accountability. My latest challenge has been to recreate these same qualities whilst teaching online – a whole new challenge, but one I am absolutely loving, and I can’t wait to share the results with you all very soon!

HOW TO RID YOURSELF OF SLEEP PROBLEMS…

HOW TO RID YOURSELF OF SLEEP PROBLEMS…

There are two distinct phases of my life that I remember as being ruled by sleep – or a lack of it! The first was with my first born: he didn’t actually sleep through the night until the age of 22 months, and there were plenty of nights when he woke 3 or 4 times through the night. By the end of it all I was run ragged & I felt permanently drunk on lack of sleep…but it surely taught me not to make the same mistakes when number two came along! So the second time around, a combination of far more sensible parenting (e.g. NOT running to check on him every time he moved or murmured) plus a little luck along the way meant I had a much easier journey (he slept through the night from 4 months!!).

The other time that the Sleep Curse hit me was shortly after I returned to live in the UK, and it was – very definitely – 100% stress related. For the first 6 months or so I would go to bed and simply toss & turn trying to get to sleep (& as anyone who has suffered from sleep issues will tell you, the more you “try” the more difficult – & utterly frustrating – it becomes). I would usually finally drop off at around 4 or 5 in the morning, only to be greeted by a bouncing 4 year old leaping on my bed at 6am. Weeks turned into months, and the exhaustion was becoming unbearable. Then something changed: for some reason, I suddenly found myself quite able to drop off…but then I would wake at around 3 or 4, and would be totally unable to get back to sleep again. I couldn’t believe that my original problem had totally disappeared – only to be replaced by another! I tried everything, from counting sheep to visualising relaxing golden beaches and warm sunshine, but I could never maintain my focus on those thoughts – my mind just kept getting dragged back to the same utter frustration of not being able to sleep. So there I would lie til 5 or 6, wide awake and “wired” – and good for nothing when the Bouncing Boy bounded in shortly afterwards.

 

WHY?

In my case, this was all about “mind chatter”. I would go to bed thinking of something – absolutely anything – & I simply would not be able to get it out of my head. I would lie there “spinning” on things: what I’d watched on TV, what I had to do the next day, even what football kit the kids would need next season! Nothing I could do seemed to make any difference, and every night felt like an endless battle.

I will NEVER forget what that utter exhaustion felt like, nor the sheer frustration of lying awake, trying to sleep, and feeling totally out of control of the whole situation. It was quite literally horrible – as was my level of patience with my boys as a result. I would spend my day times feeling I could literally fall asleep on my feet – and the whole thing felt pretty desperate.

 

 

There ARE ways out of this place: for me, the turning point was a meditation course which helped me with my mind chatter. I don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ solution, so I can’t promise that meditation will be your Golden Secret to sleep. Since my own issues, I have had endless clients asking me for help with sleep, so have researched (& tried out!) many different possibilities. My hope is that one – or maybe some – of those shown below will resonate with you. I honestly know the misery of sleepless nights, and I also know that it literally turned my life around the day I conquered the Sleep Curse…

 

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS…

 

The first, simple suggestion here is creating and maintaining an evening routine. As parents we surely know that developing regular bedtime habits helps our kids to sleep, (and we also know it is oh so wonderful to see them sleeping peacefully…)

 

 

So why shouldn’t a regular routine help us too? Once again, we are all different so we don’t need to be rigid: instead we need to experiment with what works best for us. There are however a few things that should be absolutes…

[You will see that several of the suggestions below are based in facts surrounding circadian rhythms, melatonin & serotonin. It is therefore worthwhile gaining a (very basic) understanding of these 3 concepts:

  1. Circadian rhythms are essentially our internal body clock, which runs 24/7 in the background of our brain (otherwise referred to as our sleep/wake cycle). These rhythms are basically the reason why at some times we feel drowsy, whereas at other times we are wide awake & raring to go. They are controlled by a part of the brain (the hypothalamus), but external factors such as lightness and darkness can also impact them.
  2. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland. The gland is automatically ‘switched on’ when darkness falls, and this causes the hormone to be released into the blood stream, which in turn makes us feel less alert and more inclined to sleep. Conversely, during the day melatonin levels are hardly noticeable.
  3. Serotonin is a “happy hormone”. High levels of serotonin are associated with wakefulness; lower levels with sleep. The key here is that this hormone is synthesised by the pineal gland to make melatonin – hence both hormones are directly connected to good sleep.]

 

THE “DONT’S”

  1. Don’t drink caffeine for at least 4-6 hours before bedtime (caffeine suppresses melatonin production). Don’t forget this doesn’t just mean tea & coffee: think fizzy drinks & chocolate too, and do check food labels for caffeine content.
  2. Avoid alcohol (which disrupts sleep patterns – especially during the second half of the night when you would usually be sleeping more deeply) & nicotine (smokers’ sleep will be disrupted throughout the night by their cravings for nicotine).
  3. Don’t eat too heavily before bed, and be mindful of what foods you do eat. Eating some carbohydrates may induce sleepiness, but eating too heavily may lead to poor sleep. Foods rich in magnesium will relax muscles, foods which boost serotonin and/or melatonin levels will help encourage sleep.
  4. Avoid “screen time” before bed. Electronics & /or TV contain so many graphics that they will over stimulate you at bedtime. Electronic devices also contain a blue light which “suppresses melatonin production for more than twice as long as other light wavelengths, and alters circadian rhythms by twice the degree”. It is hugely important to turn off all such devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime (and 2 hours would be better still!). DO NOT use mobile phones, tablets etc in bed.
  5. Aim for a regular bed time & wake up time.  Resist the temptation to change this, even at weekends.
  6. Think of keeping your bedroom fairly cool at bedtime. Your body naturally cools down before sleep to encourage sleep: by keeping your bedroom cooler you will enhance this (ideally between 18-22 degrees).
  7. Do keep your room dark, either with curtains or black out blinds, or alternatively with an eye mask. Again, this is all about enhancing melatonin production. If you enjoy reading in bed, do so with a soft light.
  8. Try to keep clutter OUT of the bedroom. This will enhance your sense of relaxation, whereas clutter will do the opposite…

 

 

 

THE “DO’S”

  1. DO exercise during the day. Getting active will lift your mood & relieve stress – both of which are likely connected to your sleep patterns. It is also believed that exercise improves circadian rhythms “promoting daytime alertness and helping bring on sleepiness at night”.
  2. Doing vigorous exercise close to bedtime may be too arousing, but yoga and/or deep breathing exercises are definitely sleep inducing. Gentle mobilisation exercises are also helpful, as they will encourage muscular relaxation to combat the tensions of the day.
  3. If mind chatter is an issue for you, try journaling, or at least writing a ‘To Do List’ before bed to get these things out of your mind & on to paper.
  4. Consider the bed you’re lying on. Is the mattress good? Is the pillow right for you or do you wake with a stiff neck? Even the fabrics & colours you use on your bed may either enhance or deter sleep.
  5. Try drinking herbal tea before bed (chamomile is especially good for inducing sleep). Some say that milky drinks can help too, though there are mixed views on this one… It’s always worth trying it out to see what works for you.
  6. Consider any products you are using directly before bedtime. Many cosmetic companies offer a range of products which will help encourage sleep using things such as lavender essential oil, which is a relaxant. There are increasing numbers of companies that produce natural face and body creams, shower & bath products & pillow mists, all of which can genuinely enhance sleep if carefully chosen. It is vitally important to do the research and always read labels carefully.
  7. A warm bath can be incredibly relaxing, or for some a shower may have the same effect (make sure you do it mindfully!) Again, be careful which products you use: the wrong (chemically laden) cosmetics can load you up with toxins and make sleep ever more elusive. Alternatively, using products containing appropriate essential oils can enhance the sense of relaxation much further.
  8. Diffusing essential oils can be extremely calming – & will enhance your health on so many levels too. Lavender, frankincense, geranium are examples of oils to induce relaxation during the evening before bed. Lavender or chamomile are perhaps the best choices to have actually in the bedroom. [For more about which essential oils may enhance the mood you wish to create, click here].
  9. Establishing a regular mindfulness or meditation practice can help to calm “mind chatter”.

 

 

This was definitely what did it for me! I was so lucky in that I had the fabulous Mita to teach me on my 6 week Meditation Course, where I learnt to quieten my mind chatter by focusing on my breath. My main “take away” from the course was that when your mind wanders from the focus of your breath this is entirely natural. When I had spent hours lying in bed trying to do my own relaxation techniques, I had become sooo frustrated because I never seemed to be able to maintain my focus on relaxing – my mind was always grasshopper-ing off to something else. To this day I can hear my teacher saying “if the mind wanders this is totally natural: the mind is made this way. When it happens, you simply gently draw your thoughts back to your breath, back to the sensation of your breath within your body.” This for me was key: it was the thing that turned me away from frustration, and towards a true solution for my spinning mind…and sleep. On those rare occasions when sleep escapes me these days, I still hear Mita’s voice, and I know that softly focusing on my breath is my secret weapon to return me to the land of dreams.

 

Whether it’s you that is having problems with sleep, or someone you know, the above techniques genuinely work – and they are actually pleasant things to do. So if your body is crying out for a little more sleep – or for a little less stress & anxiety, as the two often go hand in hand – then please do try out these suggestions. We cannot over estimate the importance of sleep to both our physical and our mental health, and yet sadly this is so often overlooked…

 

 

If you do intend to try out some of these methods, it is a good idea to keep a diary of how your sleep patterns alter / progress as time goes on, so that you can then check back & see what might have worked best. If you would like a little more support or guidance with any of the above, do check out my “Notes for a Shaw Lifestyle” and my “Shaw Lifestyle Video & Audio Tips”, accessible here. There are various tools which you may find helpful, such as a Sleep Diary, a video of Mobilisation Exercises and an audio aid for Relaxation Techniques…

MY LOVE FOR ESSENTIAL OILS…

MY LOVE FOR ESSENTIAL OILS…

Ok, so I need to come clean here. Three years ago I knew absolutely NOTHING about essential oils: I mean literally nothing! Even when I first started to get involved with Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic (NYRO), although I knew they used something called “essential oils” in their cosmetic products, to me that simply meant they were using natural fragrance instead of synthetic ones – I still didn’t really ‘get it’.

 

and.then.I.discovered.diffusers

 

…and then I got totally addicted to using essential oils! (Well, let’s face it, there are worse addictions out there).

It all really started when a friend bought me a diffuser as a birthday present. I have to confess it sat on my sideboard looking pretty but not doing a lot for quite some time: I don’t think I really understood what it COULD do to be honest. It was only once I’d been working with NYRO for some time that I thought I really ought to do some research into these oils: I realised you can put them in a diffuser (light bulb moment!!)  realised they have endless health benefits, & realised I absolutely love them!!

These little bottles of oils can improve both mental & physical health. They can help with relaxation and improve your sleep, but they can also help revitalise & restore energy. Amongst them you can find remedies for headaches, digestive issues, cold & flu symptoms, immune disorders…the list is endless!

 

 

 

SO WHAT ARE ESSENTIAL OILS?

“Aromatic essential oils are highly concentrated essences derived from plants”.

It might be from the dried seeds, from the petals, the roots or the bark, or even from the peel or the resin. In every case, the oils that are extracted can be used for #naturalhealing – & have been used in this way historically since the ancient Egyptians, Greeks & Romans.

It all sounds a bit random until you look into it a little more. These oils are actually the plant’s protection mechanism: they attract pollinators (therefore ensure the plant’s life cycle continues), & they fend off fungi & bacteria (therefore safeguarding against disease). So if they afford plants all these ‘health’ advantages by natural means, why shouldn’t they enhance our health too? Well here’s the thing: they actually do! According to aromatherapy, essential oils “harness a plant’s therapeutic properties to restore balance to the mind, body & spirit”. So these oils really are natural, holistic healers…& they smell fab as well!

 

 

HOW DO THEY WORK?

“Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any other of our senses, and recognition of smell is immediate. Other senses like touch and taste must travel through the body via neurons and the spinal cord before reaching the brain, whereas the olfactory response is immediate, extending directly to the brain.

“This is the only place where our central nervous system is directly exposed to the environment” (von Have, Serene Aromatherapy).

Our sense of smell can evoke powerful memories and emotions. When we smell something, signals are sent to the olfactory bulbs, and then on to the olfactory cortex of the brain. This is a part of the limbic system, which is involved in the forming of emotional responses (especially fear responses) and memories, organising and storing memories, and regulating emotional responses.

In very simple terms this is why two people may have such wildly different reaction to, for example, lavender. For you just a hint of lavender might evoke pure happiness as it takes you back to making cookies in your beloved grandma’s kitchen after a long walk through lavender fields. For others it may evoke memories of a nasty, grumpy old lady who lived next door & was always moaning at the neighbourhood kids (& had lavender in her garden)! The wonderful thing about essential oils is that many scents are interchangeable, as the qualities overlap from one oil to another. This means you can first see which oils might offer you the ‘remedy’ you are seeking, & then choose from amongst them which scent you prefer.

 

 

There are endless possibilities: if you research further into aromatherapy you will see that you can quite feasibly create a complete medicine cabinet of essential oils to use as remedies for a myriad of health conditions. A full discussion of these would take a month’s worth of blogging, and – if I’m honest – would probably lead to information overload & the sort of overwhelm I’m trying to help you to prevent!! So I am focusing instead on just one area: the use of oils to enhance your mood.

 

HOW CAN WE USE THEM?

There are many ways in which we can utilise essential oils:

  1. Inhalation (on a tissue, with steam inhalation, through a bath, through compresses, through a diffuser)
  2. Absorption into the skin (through massage oils, in ointments, balms & creams, through a bath or shower)

The simplest way to lift your mood with essential oils is through ‘tissue inhalation’: simply popping a few drops of your chosen oil on a tissue & then inhaling deeply. This is great as you can take the tissue ‘out & about’ and have a little mood enhancer in your pocket! At night you can use the same principle by sprinkling a few drops of your chosen relaxing oil on to your pillow (or by using a commercial ‘pillow mist’ containing essential oils, but please do always read the label to ensure all other ingredients are also natural). Using bath or shower products containing essential oils is another great option: the combination of the warm water, the steam & the oils can be incredibly powerful. You might like a citrusy smell to wake you up in your morning shower, or lavender or rose to relax you in the bath at night.

 

 

My own chosen preference is using a diffuser. I simply love the way that a diffuser can utterly transform the feeling in a room within moments of switching it on. Again, you can choose the mood you are after…

 

  • A zingy “wake up call” to get you going in the morning
  • Focus to help you work or to help the kids study
  • A relaxing atmosphere to settle everyone when the kids come in from school

 

If you get out there & start trying out some oils I defy you not to get hooked! [I do appreciate that it can seem overwhelming at first, so if you‘d like a little help getting started, do check out my brief guide to Essential Oils & Moods here]. Regardless of whether you actually believe in the benefits of aromatherapy, the very fact that the diffuser is ‘there’ and is gently emitting its vapours in to your space means that you will start to breathe more deeply as you become aware of the aromas. As you notice the fragrance you will breathe more deeply; as you breathe more deeply you will become more aware of your breath…hence you are breathing mindfully without even trying.

So, the long & short of it is that essential oils are one of the most natural (& also one of the safest) ways to enhance both physical & mental wellbeing. So what are you waiting for (& what have you got to lose)? Go on, give them a go…

 

You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy essential oils, & that’s pretty much the same thing!

 

 

ARE WE SUFFERING FROM A TECH OVERLOAD?

ARE WE SUFFERING FROM A TECH OVERLOAD?

Are you surgically attached to your phone? Or maybe it’s your kids that are? Does the sound of the Play Station or Xbox ring in your ears just a little too much? Are you physically able to ignore the “ping” or “whoosh” of a new email landing in your inbox?

We’ve all been there. Sitting in a meeting you sense your phone vibrate & feel the frustration of knowing you can’t look at it…yet. Standing in a queue, a little bored, you pull out your phone to fill those few spare moments (during which you could have actually switched OFF instead of logging ON…). Whether your “thing” is social media, Candy Crush or podcasts, the common thread is there: we simply can’t do without tech! Or can we?

 

TECH: GOOD OR BAD?

We all know that there are massive advantages to technological advances in so many areas of our lives, but we must also be aware that the new digital world holds threats as well as benefits. A couple of years ago many people would have brushed this conversation aside, but today we have become SO tech dependent that most of us are at least a little concerned…

We are so attached to our tech, and so permanently “wired” (which, let’s remember, wasn’t even in the dictionary a few decades ago) that it’s easy to forget how not to be wired. We have simply become massively tech dependent:

  • we use our mobile phones, ipods, laptops, tablets, pc’s daily
  • we rarely travel without our satnav
  • we rarely shop in a shop: it’s all online
  • we’ve forgotten how to look up something in an encyclopaedia: it’s just so much faster on Google
  • God forbid we’d write a letter!! Emails are so much quicker

 

 

Don’t get me wrong: technology has allowed us to move forwards in leaps and bounds in endless ways, and it can be absolutely fabulous on many levels. But we really do live in a “one-click-society”, and it is taking its toll on both our mental & our physical wellness…

  • When we used to read maps, we had to use our brain to decipher & analyse. We had to be creative, & we had to utilise spatial orientation
  • When we used to shop at the supermarket, we often walked long distances up and down aisles with a shopping trolley (a mini cardio workout), & then we would carry several heavy bags at least as far as the car, & sometimes much further (muscle strengthening)
  • When we used dictionaries & encylopaedias we actually had to know the alphabet!!!
  • When we used to write letters, we had to use spelling, punctuation and grammar – now “Word” does it all for us

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF “CONNECTION”

And through all of this we & our children are slowly losing our ability to understand the real, tangible world around us…

We are also losing our ability to understand each other. We evolved to be tribal creatures: we lived in large groups and were naturally social creatures. (It is interesting to note that being forced into social isolation actually invokes our fight or flight mode as the brain recognises loneliness as a threat). Research actually shows that stress hormone levels tend to be higher in lonely people, and yet our “social” side today is oh too often engrossed in “social” media…which is anything but sociable.

We need to embrace tech and all it can offer us, but if we are also to maintain true “wellness” then we have to find a way to temper & to balance our use of it. [If you would like to download my “10 Tips To De-Tox From Tech”  click here].To top it all off, it IS addictive: social media & emails create an anticipation loop whereby we are eagerly awaiting the next “ping”. Most of the time, the awaited email doesn’t live up to our expectations, which then causes a dopamine dip, hence the dopamine loop:

anticipation > dopamine release > reality > dopamine dips > anticipation……& so on

All of this leads to anxiety.

Incidentally, the ‘Gaming Loop’ when our kids are waiting for the next “skin” on Fortnite is very similar…

 

 

Enough doom & gloom! There has to be a way out, yes? Let’s hope so…

 

OUR “MODERN” WORLD: PROGRESSION OR REGRESSION?

One of the less discussed aspects of this tech revolution is that the sheer speed at which things have moved forwards in technology just cannot be matched by man’s natural, linear ability to change. The rate of progression in tech is simply off the scale (90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years) & we just can’t keep up with that.

This, I believe, holds some of the answers. As science & electronics race ahead of us they remind us how primitive we still are in many ways, which suggests to me that we should embrace this. I firmly believe that many of the ‘old school’ habits & rituals that are fast becoming popular are doing so in reaction to this technological surge forwards that we just can’t match.

  • Meditation & mindfulness are now “in”: some of the earliest written evidence of meditation was in 1500 BC
  • The Paleo Diet is now very “hip”: it harks back to our primitive habits as hunter gatherers (believed to have originated some 1.8 million years ago)
  • Essential oils inhabit the modern mum’s medicine cabinet as natural remedies: they were used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks & Romans

 

 

GOING BACKWARDS TO MOVE FORWARDS

So what’s the solution? I think we need to move backwards to counterbalance the surge forwards: to utilise time tested rituals as our antidote to this modern world we live in.

  • If we become MINDFUL of our phones, we can consciously stop & think “would it be so terrible if I don’t open that text straight away?”
  • If we embrace the HUNTER GATHERER philosophy and habits our bodies will be so much better able to cope with the stress that tech (& plenty of other 21st century habits) provoke
  • If we take our shopping experiences back INTO THE SHOPS we will enjoy a tangible experience not a virtual one, and are more likely to be awake to (or mindful of) what we actually buy
  • If we are genuinely SOCIABLE with each other (rather than totally socially isolated on social media) we will make a move back towards tribal times & those healthy habits that genuinely heal body & mind…

 

Bill Gates said:

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”

Personally, I prefer Isaac Asimov’s view:

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”

To me, the message remains the same: we NEED an antidote to tech, and at the risk of “over-quoting”…

 

 

If you feel it’s time to take action & do something about your own “tech habit” (or someone else’s), then do download my “10 Tips To De-Tox From Tech”: a highly actionable guide which provides a step-by-step process by which to get on top of digital dependence. 

THE NEED FOR “ME SPACE” – & HOW TO MAKE A SUMMER PROJECT OUT OF IT!

THE NEED FOR “ME SPACE” – & HOW TO MAKE A SUMMER PROJECT OUT OF IT!

What is “home” to you? How does the word make you feel…?

“There’s No Place Like Home”?

“Home Is Where The Heart Is”?

 

COMING HOME

Coming home should feel like returning to a place of warmth, a place of calm, a place where you can relax / offload / do nothing / do everything…

In my world I can genuinely say that home does feel like that a lot of the time, but if I’m honest I know that it’s much easier to sense all of the above when I’m feeling good about myself. If I’m stressed it’s oh so much harder…and yet surely that’s when we all need that warmth & calm the most?

Personally, I really enjoy “tweaking” my home: re-thinking what should go where, playing with colours & fabrics, picking up little bits & pieces that I think will enhance my home (including, of course, my beloved quotes!) BUT, I only do this when I am already in a relaxed place: when I’m feeling good about myself, when everything’s pretty much “hunkydory”. How about when stress levels are high? How about those days when you walk into the house and think:

“Jeeeze, what a mess! Why has no one bothered to tidy this up?? I can’t even see straight through all this mess… After the day I’ve had at work this is the last thing I need…ggrrrrrrrrrr!

It’s at those times that we could benefit so very much from a little chilled #mespace – yet at those times it seems like the last thing to prioritise…

 

 

How about if we turn those thoughts upside down? How about if we realise that actually we can make creation of that “Me Space” a part of our relaxation, an aspect of our stress management? And how about if we make it a Family Affair? A fun thing to do that actually brings us together…(as opposed to dreading the next time you have to row with the kids about pleeeeeeeeeze tidying up their rooms – or at least bothering to put their dirty laundry in the basket…)

 

PLACES OF CALM

Creating places of #calm within your home is so very important. Where you might choose to create such a space is personal to you.

  • If you love cooking you may want it to be a corner of your kitchen
  • If you feel strongly about the need for calm when working, your #zoneofcalm may be within your work space
  • If reading is your “chill zone”, you might like to create a little nook for reading a book

If you live in a busy household, it can be a lovely idea to do the same for all the residents! Whether you’re living with friends, relatives, your partner or your kids, we all need a little #mespace.

 

HOW TO DO IT…

 

Prep:

  1. Ask each member of the household to make a list of things that make them feel relaxed: is there a colour that relaxes them? A particular cushion or throw? A book or magazine that they love to flick through? A specific object or image that calms them? Is creativity important to them? And if so, what does that creativity mean: sketching, knitting, writing…
  2. Everyone should consider which part or parts of their lives bring them the warmest memories, and be sure to represent them within this special place. For the adults it might be photos of childhood summers? Music from Uni days? A chosen birthday pic of each of the kids? For the kids it might be a fave holiday moment? A photo cuddling with Santa? A pic of a beloved pet?
  3. If music calms you, be sure to have a way of listening to music in your space.
  4. If you feel calmer when outdoors you can always bring the outside in! Use green colours, bring in plants or vases of flowers – or alternatively paintings of outdoor landscapes. Think of outdoor scents too – lavender or herbs can be a great idea.
  5. If scents are emotive for you, use essential oils in a diffuser, or (for the adults) natural candles.
  6. If you love reading, you can collect together a few books or magazines or whatever you would most enjoy browsing to scatter about the place.

Taking Action:

  1. Ask everyone to decide in which part of the home they would like to create their own personal “me space”.
  2. It can be fun to ask each person to take a photo of the place they have chosen. Looking at something in a photo rather than in ‘real time’ enables you to take a step back from things a little: to see things from a different perspective.
  3. Now take a look at all those things you’ve listed in no 1: all the things you would choose to have within your space.

Here comes the fun part: taking on the role of Interior Designer & deciding what to put where!

There are NO rules here: no rights & wrongs. It is entirely about YOUR choice. Think of why you have chosen each item: is the throw simply because you like the look of it, or are you dying to dive under it & snuggle up with a fave book…or with the cat! If you have something that’s your favourite colour, then where do you want it placed? Is it better in the light of the window or is it a bright colour that might ‘shout out’ from a darker corner? Where should any snippets of nature be? Should plants & herbs be on the windowsill, closer to the ‘real’ outdoors?

If you need a little extra inspiration you might like to flick through some magazines or browse the net – or simply think of other places that make you feel calm…

 

 

 

You can choose if you want to work together to create everybody’s spaces as a group venture, or if everyone should first prepare their space and then do a grand ‘unveiling’! Either way, give yourselves plenty of time to play around with your ideas – try things here & then there, in this combination then in another.

Lastly, do try to remember: even when you have created your space, it is still a work in progress. This space will grow as you grow, bend in the wind as you do. Above all else this is a place in which you are comfortable: a sacred space where there is no judgement – where you can simply be you, and surely there is nothing more important than that…

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