Alternative Therapies, Healthy living, Mindfulness, reflection, Well-being

Three Months to 50!

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

In exactly 3 months time I will be turning 50.  I understand now what people mean when they say that life slips by in the blink of an eye.  On the whole, I am very happy with where I find myself on the approach to my 50th birthday.  I’ve experienced all kinds of things during those 50 years, travelled to more places than I’d imagined given my dislike of flying, ticked several things off my bucket list and achieved far more than I’d ever imagined I would.  That’s the great thing about not being a goal setter – any achievement is a bonus!  There is just one thing during those 50 years that hasn’t quite been as tip top as I’d have liked and that has been my health, but I’ve tried really hard not to let it stop me.  As I go beyond this milestone, though, I would quite like to see the end of the niggles and embrace life with vigour and verve.  I quite intend to grow old as disgracefully as I can.

I am a big believer in using alternative remedies and diet to manage health conditions.  Obviously, not in place of allopathic medicine, especially in the case of severe ill-health, but for the every day, not so great niggles I do believe they have their place.  This time last year I was in a position where I struggled to walk for any great period and was in pain for most of the time.  Having had every test known to man the medical profession was none the wiser and popped me off with some painkillers.  During one of the consultations with my GP he asked me what was I doing to manage the situation myself.  I love it when I GP asks this question.  So I reeled off all the things I was doing:  yoga, meditation, walking and he recommended that I keep on doing those things.

Fast forward a year and I have maintained a daily yoga practice.  It is only 10-15 minutes per day, but it is daily.  I have reached the point where I can walk 3-4 miles a few times a week and not be in agony and be able to walk the following day.  I have also maintained a daily meditation practice.  But there is still that last bit of pain.  What I have found interesting is that during periods of lockdown the pain levels have been significantly lower than when I was out of lockdown – when I put my party hat back on and let it all go.  Don’t get me wrong I am significantly better, to the point that I have been able to come off the painkillers and it is a minor inconvenience, but for once, I would just like to know what it feels like to be pain free.  For a whole day.  And if that could be for multiple days then that would be even more amazing.  

So.  I have three months to achieve my goal of pain free living!  Apparently if you believe things hard enough they can happen – thoughts become things.  I have a bit of an outline.  I’m not great with plans, so no point making one of those as I won’t be sticking to it!  But I am going to try my very best to:

  • Not drink alcohol (again).  I’m not very good at this!  I tend to get swept along in the moment, but I am really going to try not to.  I just want to see what happens if I don’t drink for 3 months.  Obviously, this is helped in part by being in lockdown and so socialising at bars isn’t happening at the moment. Will it make any difference to my pain levels?  It may, it may not, but if I don’t try I will never know.
  • Cut out sweet treats.  This is a real killer for me, but added sugar is really quite bad and it is an inflammatory food.  It may be that I treat myself to one cake per week, just to keep me sane, but again, if I don’t cut it out, how do I know if it does or doesn’t impact the pain that I feel.  I have a strategy for this.  Each time I feel the desire to eat something sweet I will get a piece of fruit to eat instead.  I’m not a fan of fruit, so suspect that the majority of times I’ll have nothing!
  • Try to increase my activity levels.  During March I am going to attempt 500 sun salutations and am going to try one or two full length exercise classes per week.  And I will continue with my daily walks.  At the end of the day, it’s not like I am short on time and in general, the more I move, the less I hurt.  It seems to be sitting still that causes the most discomfort.

But I guess the key thing is that I believe it can work.  Husband isn’t really onboard with all the voodoo joo joo to quite the same degree I am, but he understands that I think it works and with many things, that is half of the battle won.  I’m going to try using affirmations.  I’m going to try turning negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  I’m going to try living with an attitude of gratitude.  I’m going to try going into each and every situation with an attitude of love rather than fear.  We’ll see how this all pans out, I may well be mad as a box of frogs, but at the end of the day, I’m willing to give it a try and embrace the idea of pain-free living.  Wouldn’t it be exciting if by my 50th birthday it had actually worked and I could dance the night away with no fear of how I’m going to feel the next day.  

Alternative Therapies, Complementary Health, Menopause, Well-being

My menopause and I!

Oh it’s back – well it never really went away – but my menopausal symptoms seem to be back with a bang.  This time I am more determined to do something about it.  If procrastination was a degree course I would have sailed through years ago.  Sadly, it’s not – but what it has done has stopped me making any progress.  Apparently, procrastination is, in fact, an emotion regulation problem.  According to this article from the New York Times, procrastination has just as much to do with self-doubt as lazyitis!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve read too many books on the subject of self help, by too many people and at the end of the day they all say the same thing – at some point in time you’ve got to get off your arse and help yourself.  Like many lazy people, I like to hope that there is a magic wand, or a quick fix just around the corner that will instantly turn me into a svelte, toned, tanned goddess, but sadly not.  I just have to get on with it.

I’ve carried out very extensive research on HRT (I asked my two mates at the pub) and have concluded it’s not for me.  They had both tried, for very different, specific reasons and neither of them found it was right for them an in both cases it didn’t fix the thing they had most wanted it to.  Both also said they had put on a lot of weight very quickly, which they have struggled to shift since stopping taking the tablets.  I have experienced that myself, in 2005, when I was given some drugs to control bleeding.  The bleeding was controlled, but I also put on 2 stone in weight in the space of a month – a good stone of that has never shifted and I am loathe to experience that again.

I did also go to the library and found a fascinating book, ‘Your menopause Bible‘ by Dr Robin N. Phillips – husband has been thrilled to learn some menopause facts he never felt he needed to know!  One thing that I have learned is that HRT and Endometriosis don’t go well together.  Although I have had a hysterectomy, any endometriosis deposits still wallowing around on my bowel or bladder will respond to the hormones in the HRT as they would have were they still inside the womb.  Basically taking HRT risks firing up the Endometriosis again – and I really don’t want that to happen.

What I have found fascinating is the heap of symptoms that can be attributed to menopause.  I knew all the obvious ones like hot flushes, sore boobs, weight gain, menopause brain – but have been quite shocked at others!  Dry eyes, for example – what’s that about!  It would appear that pretty much anything that goes wrong with a lady of a certain age can be attributed to menopause.  I can only be thankful that post hysterectomy I don’t have to deal with some of the more painful physical symptoms alongside the emotional fiasco that I have become!  Insomnia is still the worst – some days I do just feel like I’m wading through treacle!

So – I have thrown the kitchen sink at it!  As a consequence I won’t really know what it is that has worked the best and why, but there we are. I have:

  • Started taking Menopace night time multi-vitamins to help with sleep.
  • Started using magnesium body lotion before bed every night – apparently magnesium aids good sleep and there is method in your granny’s madness in having epsom salts in your bath every day.
  • Started using an essential oils mix of ylang ylang, clary sage and thyme in fractionated coconut oil which I massage into my stomach, thighs and ankles four times a day.  I got this remedy from FemFusionFitness.  Dr Bri is a qualified women’s health physiotherapist who is herself investigating a natural approach to menopause and has all sorts of nuggets of advice and information
  • 2019-05-29 18.05.25Diet – not as in diet to lose weight – but as in making choices to support my body and avoiding those foods that I know upset me.  I find this really difficult as I don’t want to be that awkward person that everyone rolls their eyes at in a restaurant when they say ‘I can’t eat that’.  As I said before – I’ve been waiting for a magic fix – it doesn’t exist, so I’ve just got to crack on!  I have to say the big struggle for me is giving up my Soya lattes!
  • Made up a Bach Flower remedy containing mimulus (for known fears), aspen (for unknown fears), walnut (for change) and hornbeam (for can’t be arsed).
  • Set myself the target of walking 10,000 steps a day as a form of gentle exercise alongside yoga – I do generally enjoy exercise so this is giving me a focus and hopefully is something I can still manage in Bristol and Portugal.
  • Entered the Midnight Walk for St Peter’s Hospice as a focus for my walking and to give me a commitment to keep to.  I’ve entered with a friend – which always makes a difference for me and we’ve entered the 10mile version – so I need to be fit and able for it!
  • Started taking Pukka clean Chlorella – not a clue what that does – but it’s high in vitamin B12 and D – which apparently is good for menopause!

So there we are – off on the menopause roller coaster – I’ll get back to you on how I’m progressing.

 

 

Alternative Therapies, Aromatherapy, Complementary Health

Essential Oil essentials

I’ve recently begun investigating Essential Oils.  As you know, I do like a bit of voodoo joojoo and this is right up my street.  I also love learning and have been doing an online Aromatherapy course.  So all in all, what’s not to love?

white and purple flower plant on brown wooden surface

It has been a bit of a learning curve – I didn’t jump straight in with using the oils but took some time to understand more about aromatherapy.  Besides the online course, I have also borrowed a couple of books from the local library to help me understand more about what they are and how they can be used.  When I did take the plunge I bought a small introductory kit from DoTerra.  I was first introduced to the brand by my kinesiologist who prescribed the peace blend to help with poor sleep and anxiety.  DoTerra are everywhere, pretty much every google search you use for Essential Oils brings them out at the top.  Their products are beautifully packaged and very well marketed.  DoTerra products seem to do wonders, so many people swear by them and I have to say I was hooked.  I could see the potential for addressing my sleeping problem and digestion issues.  On top of that, as they operate as an Multi-Level Marketing company (MLM) I could see earning potential and was starting to get really excited.  Eventually, my very English and very cautious brain kicked in.

selective focus photo of bottle with cork lid

My first question.  Are DoTerra products organic?  I make a big fuss of making sure that facial and body products that I use are free from everything known to man and as far as possible, organic.  And here I was willy nilly using products that I couldn’t be certain were organic.  They themselves state that they cannot guarantee that their products are organic.  Part of this is because every country has their own rules regarding organic certification, it would be impossible for them to achieve organic status across the world.  I understand that, but unfortunately, knowing the oils I buy and use are organic is important to me. 

The second thing that had me wondering was the use of DoTerra oils internally.  Every other brand of essential oils that I could find were labelled ‘for external use only’.  So why could I take DoTerra internally.  I have to admit, whilst I was drinking a glass of water with a drop of Lemon in I did question my sanity.  Surely, if I wanted lemon flavoured water then I could just squeeze some fresh lemon into to glass.  When given instructions to use the oils internally DoTerra recommend that you use a glass or steel container, as plastic ones disintegrate over time.  Which did also have me questioning how safe they were for internal consumption.  It would appear that I am not the only person with this question.  I found this article from Empowered Sustenance which explained the current situation well.  They aren’t totally scathing of DoTerra and the products that they produce, but do point out that as yet there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claims that you can safely use essential oils internally.  Whilst I might well love the voodoo joojoo, if what science does exist, isn’t backing it up 100% then it’s not really for me.  I do appreciate that I am a little fastidious in this and am sure I am being over-cautious!

photography of purple flowers

The third thing that caused some concern was regulation.  I do like a bit of regulation.  Much as I like to try complementary therapies I do always ensure that those companies and products that I use belong to some kind of organisation to ensure quality, high standards and, I suppose, are as safe as they can possibly be.  Aromatherapy, like many complementary therapies doesn’t have an official ruling body, so you do have to be careful. In the UK, however, there is an organisation, the Aromatherapy Trade Council which does monitor the industry and the standard of the essential oils that are sold here.  It isn’t compulsory, companies that produce essential oils don’t have to be members of the ATC, but it seemed to me that any company that was prepared to meet the standards laid down by the ATC, would be more interested in providing a good quality product that was safe to use.  

Here in the UK we also have the Soil Association, who are the standard for all things organic.  Many organic suppliers and producers aspire to achieve the soil association standard, and it is a good indicator of the quality of a product if it displays the soil association logo.  So I had two ways to enable me to find good quality organic essential oils.  I double checked this by visiting our local health food shop and sure enough, they only stocked brands that appeared in list of those products with both ATC membership and certified by the Soil Association.  Even if some of the oils weren’t organic, the companies are able to guarantee the sources of the essential oils and are able to state that they are ethically harvested.  

The final thing which concerned me about DoTerra was setting myself up as a salesperson for aromatherapy oils.  I don’t have a qualification on this, I’m doing a bit of an online course, for my own interest.  This doesn’t qualify me for handing out advice to other people, or making recommendations for how people can treat themselves.  I appreciate that as an advocate for the company I wouldn’t be making people buy the products, that is their choice, and consumption or use of essential oils does come with a certain degree of risk, but it just felt like a can of worms I really don’t want to be opening.  I don’t know that I want to take that risk myself.

 

So the list of companies I have identified for my use, those that are members of both the ATC and the Soil Association:

aromatherapy beautiful blooming blurNeals Yard

The Aromatherapy Company

Absolute Aromas

Materia Aromatica

Aromantic

Not the longest list ever known to man, but certainly enough to keep me interested in learning about how I can include essential oils as part of my own health and wellbeing routines and certainly easily accessible to me here in Bristol.  I also know that by using products from these organisations that I am also supporting British companies.  So for the time being, DoTerra isn’t the brand for me, it’s not a no, just a not for now.

Alternative Therapies, Complementary Health, Menopause, Mindfulness, Well-being

Dreaming of sleep

I tend to go at everything like a bull at a gate.  I have to do it now, I have very little patience and can’t really wait for the reward.  If I have a parcel through the door, I have to open it straight away, I struggle with learning golf because there is no discernible progress from one week to the next.  I like to be successful now!  How I ever managed to learn musical instruments or how to swim is quite beyond me!  

The same is happening with my year to fixing myself.  I want to do it all now.  I want to take all the supplements change my diet habits and to make myself better now.  Unfortunately, this will fly completely in the face of what I set out to do and to find out slowly what it is that might make me feel better.  

I have reached the end of my second month.  So far I have learned:

  • Alcohol does make my hot flushes at night worse.  It also gives me restless legs.  Now, if it weren’t 10,000 degrees in the UK at the moment, I might not be suffering from this quite so much!  I researched restless legs and the heat – the heat doesn’t make the restless legs worse – but more than likely does reduce the capacity to cope with them.  Either way, this alone is enough to stop me having a tipple!
  • I don’t drink enough caffeine as to make a difference.  I probably have two or three cups of coffee a week and otherwise drink green tea and a wide selection of herbal teas.
  • I love exercise and am grumpy on the days I don’t do it.  In addition it does improve my chances of sleeping.  I have managed to maintain my commitment to exercise and including walking have exercised a minimum of 5 days per week.  My mileage for the year is currently 922 miles, so I’m hoping to achieve my target of 1000 miles during August.  I’ve also really enjoying trying a range of different exercise classes at my gym.
  • I haven’t given up anything that would cause me any inconvenience, nor have I tried introducing something that I might struggle to commit to on a daily basis – I’ve gone for the easy option!
  • Gradually I am starting to change.  When I go to the fridge to get a snack I am tending to reach for healthier options as I increasingly feel awful if I eat junk.  I’ve also started to spurn cakes, as shop bought cakes just tend to be too big and too sickly.  I’m not sure if this change is due to being more mindful in my choices, or because I am writing a daily food diary and so am more aware of how foods are making me feel, but generally I would say I am starting to make better food choices.
  • Daily meditation does make a difference.  I feel calmer and more in control of situations as they arise.  I haven’t yet worked out how to manage the situations, but at least I am more aware of them as they happen!

I have done some research this month about being a lady of a certain age and the effects it can have on your body.  I’ve also read about the different supplements you could introduce.  However, I have decided that approach for the next few months is to tackle those things that I believe affect me the most. Exercise is a must, but besides that, the things that currently annoy me most are:

  • Sleepless nights – bit chicken and egg, not sure which comes first, the hot flush or the sleepless night, but the combination of both with the added bonus of restless legs drives me to distraction
  • Slugglish bowel habits – a bit too much information there!
  • Brain fog – it’s like I’m in a permanent daze – a prime example is putting my mobile phone on to charge and then five minutes later searching high and low, even ringing my mobile from the landline because I can’t for the life of me think where I might have put it.  If I’ve forgotten to take it off silent, the problem is compounded.

alarm clock analogue bed bedroom

As a consequence, I have decided that I would like to tackle sleepless nights next – to my mind having a decent nights sleep will improve the brain fog situation, if nothing else.  And so, I have researched what I need to do to improve my chances of getting a good nights sleep.  I referred to a book ‘New Natural Alternatives to HRT’ by Marilyn Glenville who recommends:

  • A good quality multivitamin for women of a certain age
  • Magnesium supplement – I was given this many years ago by a nutritionist who tested my magnesium levels, so it didn’t surprise me in the least that this could be a contributory factor
  • Valerian – to be taken alongside the magnesium one hour before bed time.
  • A camomile based hot drink prior to bed.
  • A hot bath with a lavender based bath oil – I might have mentioned that it’s currently 10,000 degrees in Bristol, so this isn’t currently an option!
  • Placing an essential oil on your pillow!  Lavender is a popular choice, but I do already have DoTerra Peace blend which was recommended to me by my kinesiologist.

aroma aromatherapy aromatic basket

This does also fly in the face of only trying one thing per month.  If I do all of the above, how will I ever know which was the one that helped me sleep.  I have to admit, I don’t really care!  I am so desperate to have a good nights sleep that I’m quite willing to throw the kitchen sink at it and see where it takes me.  By my thinking, if I sleep better I will be better able to cope with the brain fog, I might not even get it, and it is also a contributory factor to a healthy digestive system – so a winner all round!  I also so keen to get in to a regular sleeping habit that I have reached the point where I am quite prepared to take the supplements on a regular basis, I am quite determined to see the month out and am quite positive about the results.  I know there will be many doubters who think it’s all a load of nonsense, but at the end of the day, if I believe it will help me and I believe it will improve my life, then that’s all that matters.  It would be interesting to learn other people’s hints and tips for achieving a good nights sleep.  

Alternative Therapies, Mindfulness, Well-being

Overcoming Resistance

It’s been a while since my last blog post.  Primarily that has been due to my own resistance to writing it.  In the last 6 months or so my life has taken me in a direction I’ve been unsure of myself, into a big unknown and one that I’m quite certain was laying me open to ridicule.  Ridicule that I have been keen to avoid.

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So yes, I go to an amazing Mindfulness class every Monday evening.  And yes, I meditate for at least 20 minutes every day.  And yes, if I don’t go to yoga three or four times a week I start to get anxious.  I’m only a very short way in to my journey but already I am fascinated by it and keen to learn more.

One aspect of this journey is that it is so very alien to my childhood.  I was brought up a ‘christian’.  I put it in inverted commas because essentially it meant we went to church every Sunday.  Even as a child there were aspects of it that I questioned, but I think I knew that I would not be satisfied with the answers I was given.  When I left home for university it was put on the back burner and I rarely visited church.  There are two instances where I tried it again, one I must admit has been quite recently, but on both occasions it has again raised more questions than answers.  I sat and looked at the people around me and wished that I could be so certain in my faith, but then it began to feel like I was forcing it, because I should, not necessarily because it was right for me.  Bizarrely, one thing that really did resonate with me was the history of the American West.  I taught it at GCSE (even at that level I suspect I know more than the average American) and one aspect that always stood out for me was the way that the Native Americans approach death.  They believe that life goes full circle and they return to the earth upon death and so when they became too elderly or ill to continue with the tribe they would be left behind.  It was a decision they made when the time was right.  It often caused great discussion with the class because it is so alien to the way we would judge what is appropriate in death.

pexels-photo-289586.jpegI’ve always been interested in alternative therapies.  I often felt that the medical options provided to me at various points in my life didn’t quite do the job I needed them to do.  Taking a drug that I was told ‘seems to work for this condition’ didn’t really work for me.  I have used Homeopathy, investigated Bach Flower Remedies, use Aromatherapy, go to Reflexology and also visit a Kinesiologist.  Yes, I know I have opened the door to yet more ridicule, but I might as well get it out there all at once!  At different times in my life different therapists have crossed my path and I would say in all confidence that they were there for a purpose that needed to be fulfilled at that time.

But now I have arrived at meditation and mindfulness.  From my initial reading I have discovered the following:

  1. As I have mentioned before, it does have a scientific basis and I do like that about it.  Now, you could argue that given I embrace alternative therapies so enthusiastically, why does that matter?  It matters because for once I have science to back my madness up.  For once I am not spouting nonsense.  Google neuroplasticity if you don’t believe me!
  2. Multi-tasking doesn’t work (see Cleveland Clinic for a simple explanation).  The same science has figured this out.  All that multi-tasking does for you is make the stress you are putting yourself under even worse.  You end up doing several jobs inefficiently, rather than doing one job well.  It’s not a skill that is good for you.  I’ve spent many days running around in circles getting nothing done despite a to do list as long as my arm.  It’s not boring to do one job at a time, it’s efficient!  Don’t get me wrong I really struggle with this.  My mind darts from one thing to another, I struggle to make a cup of tea without getting side-tracked to something else instead.  I am trying, to focus on one thing at a time, to just put my face cream on and focus on the textures and the smells and not to try to do a million other things at the same time.
  3. Happiness is now.  It’s not when you get your new car, or your new job, or a new pair of shoes.  Even when / if you do get those things you cannot guarantee that it will make you happier.  That isn’t to say that you still shouldn’t strive for those things – just don’t depend on them to make you happy, because once that initial rush of dopamine has died, you will be the same you in a new car.
  4. It’s much harder than I imagined it would be.  I like a quick fix.  This is not going to be quick!
  5. Trying to approach situations without agenda is really difficult.  My brain is wired to expect things – how people will react to me, how I will react in a given situation.  Just noticing the situation and not being drawn in is a bit of a challenge.

I am at the very beginnings of this journey and there is so much more to investigate, but as with other things I have tried in the past at this time there are several aspects of meditation that resonate with me and I can already see small positive changes.