Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Cleaning! Clear your Mind Edition

Just about everyone feels really stressed out from time to time, and for many people stress, anxiety and tension are a constant burden to overcome.  Wouldn't it be nice to release some of that tension and do more than just reduce stress, but actually help make your mind and body stress-proof?  Here are some simple ways that you can help clear your mind and find more balance in your daily life.

Cleansing Breathing

Breath is life.  The way that you breathe holds more impact on your health than you might think.  Take a moment to notice how you are breathing right now.  Are you hunched over your desk or device, taking shallow and short breaths?  Or are you relaxed, drawing each breath in and allowing it to flow out naturally and evenly?  Breathing into your diaphragm slowly and deeply brings the most vital nutrient that your body needs into all your systems and organs.  Oxygen is one of only 6 elements that comprise about 99% of your body, and breathing could be considered the most important function your body can perform to sustain life.  Why then, is so little ever mentioned about the correlation between our breathing and our health? 

Focusing more on our breath, what some might call breath awareness, is one great way to release stress and clear the mind. 

This practice is so simple, there is only 1 step: Breathe. 

If you wanted to take it a step further, you could focus on keeping your breath deep and even, feeling the inhalation fill your diaphragm and then feeling the cool breeze of the exhalation as it leaves your nostrils.  By being more present with your breath, your body is revitalizing itself and actually counteracting the effects of stress on your body.  If you take 5 minutes to simply breath every evening before you go to bed and/or first thing when you wake up, you create a new pattern of awareness and balance in your life and can see results almost instantly when you are able to truly relax. 

Crocodile Pose

What if you are having trouble relaxing, or worse yet, are in the midst of a full on panic attack or emotional overflow?  You can induce diaphragmatic breathing simply by lying on your stomach in this soothing hatha yoga pose that is often referred to as the crocodile pose.

This link will show you how to do the pose:

Crocodile Pose is one of the simplest poses, and for me it is one that has the most potent impact on the way I am feeling.  No matter which direction my emotions and moods are swinging, this pose will chill me out within minutes. 

Simply lie on your stomach and put your arms out in front of you with your fingers gently resting along the other elbow so that your arms are forming a triangle shape.  Rest your forehead on top of your arms comfortably so that you are able to relax and breath deeply in the pose.  Focus on your breathing for at least 5 minutes in this pose, and you will feel deeply calm and more balanced.

Essential Oils for Clearing the Mind

Vetiver - Vetiver essential oil is known as the Oil of Tranquility in India and has been used all over the world for healing since the 12th century.  It is particularly soothing in the bath, and is used in Ayurveda to heal and balance the body and mind.

Frankincense and Myrrh - These oils are among the most commonly referred to as "meditative" but in addition to quieting your mind and relieving your stress, these oils also kill germs and other microbes and are excellent for your skin. 
To experience the amazing relaxation power of this superhero duo, check out the newest product from Dantian Essential Oils - Chocolate Bath Salts!

Rosemary and Basil - These herbs aren't just for making your food taste delicious!  Rosemary essential oil is known to release stress symptoms in the mind and body.  It is cooling and refreshing and can help make your skin look and feel amazing as well.  Basil Linalool essential oil has been used extensively for it's pain relieving and calming properties. 
Check out our Tension Release Roll On to reduce muscular tension and relieve tension headaches and migraines.

Lemon - Lemon essential oil is one of the most versatile oils in my collection.  Amazing for cleaning your home and body, lemon oil has also been shown to clear the mind, uplift mood and increase concentration.  And who doesn't love the smell of lemon?!

Hope you've enjoyed this week's Spring Cleaning series post!  If you missed last week, check it out by clicking HERE and stay tuned for more great tips from our Spring Cleaning series throughout the month of April! 

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Cleaning! Home Edition

Thankfully I did most of the spring cleaning in my home last weekend when the weather was a balmy 60 degrees in the Twin Cities.  Now we may be getting snow again.  But no matter what your climate, the change in seasons is the perfect time to do some deep cleaning!  Not just your gutters and window blinds, but in your body, mind and spirit as well! 

One Wellness' Spring Cleaning blog series will bring you new ideas each week for holistic and sustainable ways to get rid of the dirt, dust, toxins, parasites and habits that build up over the long winter months and can interfere with your health and wellbeing.  Your body is programmed to naturally detoxify itself in the spring, and these tips will get you jumpstarted to wellness even faster!

We will start with the obvious way to clean house in the spring.  By cleaning your house!  First, we will take a look at what we have under the sink.  As a mother you might think that I keep my cleaning products locked away, but nothing could be farther from the truth!  Since I don't use any toxic products to clean my home, I leave everything out where my son could easily access it, and maybe even help me with the chores!  He loves spraying the counters and wiping the table, even if I can't seem to get him to pick up the toys in his room.

What's in my cleaning arsenal?

1.  Vinegar - I use this for literally everything!  I keep at least 2 spray bottles of vinegar and water, one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen.  The ratio is best used at 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar.  You can also add a teaspoon of lemon juice and/or 5 drops of lemon essential oil to cut the vinegar smell and increase the cleaning power.  Use this to disinfect counters, sink, bathroom surfaces, glass, mirrors and just about anything else that needs to be clean!  I also clean my hardwood floors with just vinegar and water (sometimes a few drops of lemon essential oil when they really are dirty) and they come out looking great with no harm to the wood or finish!

2. Baking Soda - Fantastic for cleaning the toilet bowl (sprinkle 1/4 cup of baking soda in the bowl, then pour in a cup of vinegar, wait a few minutes before scrubbing the bowl clean and fresh) and perfect for scouring out pots and pans and freshening up the laundry, carpets, pet areas and fridge!  To use as a deodorizer, sprinkle onto carpets and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before vacuuming (this will also help with any strange smells that come from your vacuum cleaner) or sprinkle into laundry hampers, diaper pails, the cat box or anywhere else that odors linger.  To get soap scum and grime off your shower walls and out of the tub, spray with vinegar and then rub with a generous amount of baking soda until the gunk is gone, then rinse.

3. Lemon Essential Oil - Lemon essential oil makes your home smell fantastic of course, but it is also a powerful cleaner.  Dirt and grease seems to just lift easier when this is added to a vinegar/water solution or a mop bucket. Only a few drops are needed for most applications.  Lemon essential oil is also used in aromatherapy to brighten the mood and focus the mind.  Feel free to add it to your homemade cleaning products anytime you want to lift the grime and your spirits!

4.  Lemon Juice - Lemon juice helps lift dirt and is also a deodorizer and disinfectant.  Add a teaspoon to your vinegar cleaning solutions to cut the vinegar smell and add additional cleaning power.  Lemon juice is also really awesome for getting rid of the lingering smell of garlic and onions on your hands and cutting boards.  Just rub some pure lemon juice on your hands or over the cutting board, and poof!  No more smelly garlic.  To deep clean your cutting boards, rub with lemon juice, then sprinkle a generous amount of salt onto the board and scour out the grooves where nasty germs can linger.  To polish your furniture, you can mix 2 tsp lemon juice with 1 tsp olive oil and wipe the mixture lightly and evenly over the surface of the wood.  Check the recommendations for your specific type of wood finish before attempting to use a homemade furniture polish, although I will tell you that in my home I don't have anything that I don't clean with homemade products.

That's it. 

I only need four ingredients to do all of my spring cleaning at home, and they are all way more affordable than the various bottles of toxic waste that are sold in stores to "clean" your home.  With the exception of the essential oils (it is recommended to keep all essential oils out of the reach of children and pets because they are so highly concentrated and can be toxic in large doses) none of these cleaners are harmful or toxic to children or pets, so you can use them generously and store them anywhere that's convenient. 

Here's a few more suggestions for a more sustainable cleaning experience this spring. You will definitely feel good about making changes to your cleaning routine for a healthier family, cleaner home and sustainable environment!

  • Use cloth washcloths and towels instead of paper towels or prepackaged wipes.  You can buy an affordable pack of towels at a discount store (or make your own), and mark them as cleaning towels or better yet, coordinate a certain color or design for a certain type of cleaning. 
  • Up-cycle old t-shirts, socks and linens into cleaning towels!  Plain white tees that have underarm stains or holes make the most awesome cleaning towels for just about any job because they are soft and absorbent.
  • If you are making the transition to natural cleaners for the first time, don't throw away that old Windex bottle!  Rinse it out and refill it with vinegar/water solution for multipurpose cleaning.  Otherwise you will need at least one PET plastic spray bottle for your homemade cleaners.  These can be found affordably at big box stores in the cleaning and gardening aisles.
  • Use a mop instead of those disposable wiping pads for cleaning your floors.  It's really not that much more difficult to run some water in a bucket and pour in a little vinegar, right!?  Even more points if you use a mop head that you can wash and reuse! 
  • Recycle plastic shopping bags into garbage bags or pet waste disposal bags.  I don't remember the last time I paid money for any type of garbage bag.  I just hoard all the plastic bags I get from shopping, and they fit perfectly in the small size kitchen and bathroom trash cans.  If you run low in between shopping trips, ask your neighbors!  Some people have so many bags around that they are happy to unload some on you.
Alright, now it's your turn!  Tell me your homemade cleaning hacks and tips for a green and clean home in the comments! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Learn to Listen

With all the noise and stimulation surrounding us every day, it's no wonder we have a hard time listening to the subtle language of our bodies.  There seems to always be something to do, somewhere to go, whether it is carting the kids to an afterschool activity, working late to finish that big report, sending that email or text that just can't wait or watching the game on your smart TV.  How often do you just listen?  No, not listen to other people talk, or listen to music, but simply listen... to yourself, to your body, your intuition and inner wisdom? 

One thing I have learned to value more than any other is the power of intuition.  It can guide you through your life almost like a road map for your soul.  On the physical level we have a deep connection to our intuition as well.  Our bodies know exactly what they need at all times, and are communicating with us about those needs constantly.  The body isn't just a tool that we use to carry out our daily lives, it is intertwined into our mind and spirit in a way that can't exactly be described, but is undeniably recognizable in the way that our thoughts and feelings can express themselves in our physical bodies.  For example, when we smile and are happy, we feel healthy.  When we are stressed or upset, our bodies often react with headaches, muscle pain, stomach upset or fatigue.  It stands to reason that if the body is affected by our thoughts and feelings, then why wouldn't our thoughts and feelings be affected by our bodies?  The body can most certainly guide us to better health... if we listen and allow ourselves to hear!

If you've ever had a "gut feeling" about something, that was your intuition speaking to you.  If you've ever thought "Gee, I'm really tired, I should probably go to bed, but..." or "I really don't NEED that refill on my soda, but..." those thoughts were your body trying desperately to tell you how to nourish yourself.  Our bodies speak to us through our thoughts and feelings all the time.  You might "feel" like the stress at work is making you get headaches, or you might "think" that you should probably get more exercise, but have you ever stopped to consider that those thoughts and feelings could be coming from a deeper need?

We often don't listen to these cues until it is too late.  If the body doesn't succeed in communicating with us through the subtleties of our thoughts and feelings, it will resort to more drastic measures to be heard, such as symptoms of disease and distress.  Depression, fatigue, allergies, migraines and skin problems like acne and eczema are examples of some of the major warning signs that our bodies will send us to let us know that they need something more and different than what we are currently doing.  Even coming down with a particularly nasty cold or infection could be a sign from your body that your immune system needs a boost.  Western medicine tends to treat symptoms as though they were the problem, when in reality symptoms are the clues to what the problem really is!  If you have a headache, the headache isn't what your body is trying to tell you, and it's not what is really wrong.  The headache is a symptom of another problem that isn't as obvious, such as dehydration, excess tension and stress or lack of Magnesium and/or B vitamins.  If you haven't listened to your intuition when you felt like you should drink more water instead of coffee or pop, then your body will send you a headache to help you figure it out!  Or at least that is what it is trying to tell you, but you may not be listening.

Food cravings are another huge way that our body communicates with us.  If you are craving sweets, chances are what you actually need are healthy fats like nuts, coconut oil, butter or avocado.  Craving salty snacks is often a sign of mineral deficiency, such as a need for more Magnesium.  Do you crave food at a certain time of day, or in a particular situation?  Maybe you have an emotional need that you are "feeding" with food at those times but could be better met through companionship or self care.  Ask yourself, "What am I really craving?  What do I truly need?"  And be sure to take the time to listen!

I know what you are thinking - How?!  How do I learn to listen to my body, when I'm not sure what I'm listening for?  There are ways to increase your awareness of intuition, such as regular meditation, reflection, journal writing or breath awareness practices.  But really you don't need any of those things to begin to listen to your body.  The first step is to become aware of your thoughts and feelings.  Some people just move through life so quickly that they don't even really notice the way that they feel or the thoughts that come and go.  Be more present in the moment, quiet down the whirlwind in your mind and focus on becoming aware of everything around you.  Notice the way the sun shines on the grass or the way that your fingers feel on the steering wheel as you drive.  If a thought comes up, notice it!  That's not to say get caught up in thinking and forget to be present, but notice your thoughts and feelings and allow them to serve their purpose.  If you feel like taking a hot bath, take one!  If you are so upset you could cry, maybe you need to.  When you think that you should get out and enjoy some fresh air, it is most certain that is exactly what you need!

Take the time to listen to your body, and you will find that it feels much better when you do! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Like a Box of Chocolates

Well friends, I can certainly say that the last two and a half years have been quite a journey!  I accepted a promotion at work which led me to the hip urban setting of the Twin Cities and also some of the most challenging career stress that I have experienced.  Working 10-12 hour days under intense pressure and often not eating, drinking or doing enough self care put me in a state of physical distress to say the least.  I developed unusual symptoms, including daily pain, intermittent debilitating migraines, stomach upset, lethargy and occasionally I would stumble back into the depths of depression.  I was nowhere that I wanted to be, although seemingly on the surface all was well for me in my new job, new city and new direction. 

I bounced between a few useless doctors before having a long discussion with an OB GYN who seemed to understand that I wasn't into popping pills or invasive tests, and she gave me some practical advice as well as a likely cause of the pain I was having- Interstitial Cystitis, a chronic inflammation of the lining of the bladder.  I started doing a daily practice of Hatha Yoga- yoga postures designed to promote wellness and encourage detoxification and began working with meditation more regularly to combat stress.  I cut back drastically on caffeine and stopped using the junk food I was surrounded with all day at work as a coping mechanism.  

Those small changes worked wonders to relieve my pain, but the migraines were still plaguing me like clockwork every month with my cycle.  I visited an amazing chiropractor who told me more about my body and the causes of my symptoms in the first 10 minutes of my appointment than all of the medical professionals I've encountered in my life combined.  He explained that Magnesium deficiency is prevalent in our modern lives because the soil has been depleted of this nutrient to a point of extinction.  He recommended Epsom salt baths rather than oral supplements due to the better absorption and retention of the mineral through the skin and also recommended a B-Vitamin supplement to combat the high level of stress I was experiencing.  Chiropractic adjustments were also part of his recommendations of course, along with drinking more clean water (apparently Minnesota has a high level of estrogen in the water - enough to make the boy frogs start turning to girls!) and avoiding soy and excess amounts of dairy and wheat. 

Today I am happy to say that I haven't had a migraine in over 4 months!  Although my workload is continually increasing, I have found many ways to cope with and reduce the stress, including using essential oils daily and adding a weekly Tai Chi class to my established practice of yoga and mediation. I've found creative ways to manage my team and my schedule so that I am being more productive and I've actually been able to work less hours while getting more done! 

There's still a long road ahead.  My symptoms still rear up occasionally as a nagging pain, mild nausea or depressed afternoon, but I now have tools I can use to help me stay more balanced and feel better on a daily basis.  I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences in more detail in my blogs again, now that I have a reliable PC at home and a little extra time here and there to write. 

Thanks for listening, and feel free to reach out to share your stories of the journey.