Tag Archives: relaxation

How is 2015 treating you so far?

Most people I know went back to work on Monday.  Most people I know felt like they hadn’t been away by the back end of Tuesday.  For myself, because I don’t work in an office environment, I have spent the first week of 2015 attempting to get myself organised.  I am not sure if it has worked, but I do feel as if I have been chasing my tail all week.  In fact, I have that feeling that I might meet myself on the way back, if you know what I mean?

chasing tail

Don’t get me wrong, everything I have been doing has been important and necessary work.  But goodness me, there is so much of it.  As soon as I organise one bit… I need to rush off and organise another bit.  If this is the way the year is going to go… I can imagine myself being something of a stress bunny by the end of March, let alone December!

And add into the mix the chance that I might actually be heading back to the world of work (I have an interview next Friday!).  Hello stratospheric work stress levels.  I am going to need some herbal assistance methinks.  So, I headed off to my new herbal bible to see what Rosemary Gladstar has to say on the matter.

stress management

Ms Gladstar is very sensible actually.  She points out that a lot of people get depressed after going through long periods of stress, and that if you treat the symptoms of the depression, rather than the root cause of the stress, then you are not going to get to the bottom of the problem.  She points out that relaxation is the best way of getting rid of stress, so whatever your favourite method is, use it.  It could be hot soaky baths.  It could be praying to your deity of choice, or for us Catholics, spending time at Adoration.  It could be drinking a cup of herbal tea.  It could be knitting, sewing or crocheting something.  It could be reading a book.  It could be digging a border or bed in the garden.  It could be planting seeds.  Whatever that makes your shoulders come down from around your ears, do it.

There are some herbs which can help though, some of which are known as nerve tonics.  Really what they do is to help rebalance the nervous system, and of course stress is one of those things which makes the nervous system get all whacked out of line anyway.  That “fight or flight response” doncha know.   One of the recipes in this section is a Valerian tea blend.  I am all for a tea blend without chamomile in it.  Chamomile and I do not really mix – the last time I had it in a tea form I was ill for HOURS afterwards.  I would rather my relaxation herbal tea didn’t have that kind of violent emetic effect.

licquorice roots

So the recipe here contains a half part liquorice root, 2 parts lemon balm and 1 part valerian root.  All these things can be sourced online or at a good Herbal supplier.  Now, the liquorice root is kind of hard, so you first need to make a decoction of it.  So, place the root in a small saucepan and cover it with cold water.  Heat it slowly and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat, add the lemon balm and valerian root and infuse for 45 minutes.  Strain and then you can drink as much of it as you want, as often as you want.  I would be cautious though, the liquorice root can have a laxative effect.  You have been warned.

Have a relaxing weekend!  I am starting on the next house renovation project – painting the hallway.  Hopefully I will find that a relaxing activity!

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Gnashing my teeth…

I am feeling a little tense just at the moment.  As you might have picked up from my blog, I have a to do list with it’s own field of gravity on the best of days, but with a meeting with our social worker earlier this week, that list just developed its own asteroid field which is in grave danger of obliterating me if I stop to long to contemplate it.

stressed comic

Having extended that metaphor so tight it might snap, I know that one of the things I will do when I get stressed is that I grind my teeth.  This is called Bruxism, and I have done this at one time or another all my life.  Apparently stress is a common cause of it (sorry Hubby dear… you might need ear defenders on while you sleep!) but it can also be caused by a parasite!  Goodness!  I am pretty sure mine is stress though.

Is Bruxism dangerous though?  Well, only if your spouse decides to smother you with a pillow for the sound which is roughly equivalent to nails going down a blackboard.  But it can chip your tooth enamel.  Grinding can also wear down the jaw joint.  Bruxism can also cause headaches and pain in the face and jaw.

grinding teeth

So, according to my reference of choice this month, “Home Remedies from a Country Doctor”, there are several things you can do to help stop you from grinding your teeth.  Resting your neck is quite important apparently, and there are some contoured pillows which can help you to hold the bones between your shoulder and your chest, known as the cervical collar, in the right place.

You could also wear a mouth guard at night, which might not stop the grinding, but it will protect your teeth.  Although I am not sure about the fashion statement that would make.  Mind you, I am happy in fleecy pyjamas myself, so I am not exactly cutting edge on that score either!

water drop

Avoiding stimulants like coffee and chocolate makes a great deal of sense.  Not just because you will get a better quality of sleep, but you will also quite possibly be less on edge.  More relaxed equals less bruxism.    One surprising tip from the Country Doctors was to make sure you are keeping properly hydrated.  Apparently dehydration is one of the forms of stress which makes you grind your teeth.

A modern plague… and what you can do about it.

There is an idiomatic quirk of the locale where I live.  A lot of people, when discussing their ailments love to express that they “Suffer with Blood Pressure”.  It is at this point that my inner pedant rises up in protest.  You do not suffer with blood pressure; you absolutely and totally require blood pressure in order to survive.  It is what pumps the blood around the body.  What you actually suffer with is either high blood pressure, or low blood pressure.

high blood pressure

Either is equally nasty, to be honest.  In modern days however, it is high blood pressure which is something of a plague.  I have lost count of the people who have been diagnosed with it in my network of friends and family (including myself at one stage), so I think it is quite important to think about the causes of it and what we can do in our own home arsenal, before we take to the medical profession.

Doctors actually call high blood pressure the silent killer, because it rarely causes you any problems until something in the body gives out, like your heart or your kidneys.  Effectively, it is the result of your system getting overstressed due to something or other.  Shortness of breath and severe headaches can be a sign of high blood pressure, but the only sure way of telling if it is normal or elevated is by going to get it checked.  A good guide is to get it measured once a year.  You can go to the doctor for this, but equally you can purchase your own machine from the pharmacy, or you can use some publicly available machines if that is a service provided in your community. If you are a normal, healthy person should have a blood pressure of below 140 over 90.  The last time I was checked, for my adoption medical, I was 120 over 80.

hypertension

A few years before that, when I was 35 or so, I went to the doctor reporting symptoms of unexplained headaches, nausea, no energy whatsoever and inability to sleep.  She took my blood pressure, took it a second time because she didn’t believe the first reading and then told me that if I didn’t calm down I was going to have a stroke before I turned 40.  It’s a shame I can’t remember the reading from that occasion, but I know it was elevated.  I am rather proud that I never required drugs to keep it under control.

I did my research.  I knew which risk factors I had (overweight, stressed to the maximum, pretty crappy diet at the time, hardly any exercise because I was anchored to a desk all day at work) and I knew I needed to change things if I wanted to beat the beta blockers.  So if you are in this position yourself, here is what you do.

vegetables

First, overhaul your diet.  I will be honest, I am not the best at eating like an angel all the time.  If I was, then I would have lost this excess weight a long time ago.  But one thing I have done is cut out the excess salt in your diet.  You might recall a few years ago there was a big push from the medical profession to the food industry to stop putting extra salt in things?  That was because of this, and the link to heart disease.  So…  gradually cut out convenience foods out of my diet.

Consequently, I lost some weight, and that is also good for the blood pressure.  I could stand with losing some more, but that is for the sake of vanity rather than anything else.  I do not need to do so for my blood pressure to equalise.  Another good tip is to learn how to breathe properly.  A lot of people do not take as deep breaths as they should, due in part to appalling posture brought on by sitting for long periods in front of a computer screen.  Taking deep breaths, holding it and then releasing it slowly is actually a great technique for relaxation as well.  I actually know of one lady who was about to be put on beta blockers, but learning how to breathe properly meant that she was able to get her blood pressure down entirely without the aid of drugs.

walking

You also need to do some exercise.  Walking is one of the best exercises you can do, and a gentle walk for 30-45 minutes per day is perfect for getting the blood pressure down.  You need to do this at least 3 times per week and ideally walk steadily without a break.  The whole point is to exercise your heart for a sustained period.

Walking is also a great stress reliever and walking the family pet is also a great reason to walk places.  Having a pet and fussing it, and receiving love back from it, is a wonderful feeling.  I certainly noticed the difference on adopting two cats and a nutty dog!  Anything that relieves stress in a healthy way is fine – get out and see people, laughing at a funny movie, listening to music you enjoy, planting something in the garden  (well, I like that, anyway!).  Anything that can get your blood pressure down and lets you chill out.  After all, another phrase for high blood pressure is hypertensive.

List-itis

I am not sure if it is a recognised condition, but I definitely have a bad case of list-itis.  Let me explain the symptoms.

lists lists

You have at least one list which goes over more than two pages of looseleaf paper.  You start your day, every day, by writing a list of the things you want to do.  You sometimes look at your to do list and think that it is utterly impossible for you to get to the end of it, even if you lived until the age of 1000.  You look at this huge list and begin to feel guilt for not having done half of it already (regardless of how silly it might seem) or even guilt for having taken time to do something else rather than attack the list with gusto.  If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, then you too suffer from list-itis.

 

On Tuesday, I had one of those pottering sort of days.  I didn’t really have much on the day’s to do list, and frankly, after the rollercoaster week previously, I was feeling in much need of a day off.  One thing I did do was look at the big list of jobs we compiled prior to moving into the new house, and I refined it.  This list stretches over 3 pages, and it has everything on it.  From painting the study walls to renewing the conservatory and the windows.  Every last job we could do in the house.  But a list of that size scared me.  Me.  The doyenne of the to do list.  The Queen of the shopping list.

really long lists

I caught myself, late on in the afternoon, thinking “I should have done THIS” or “Why didn’t I do THAT”.  The reason is simple.  I needed some time off.  It wasn’t like I haven’t been productive, because I have.  I baked rolls for lunches for a couple of days, I baked some cookies which I have wanted to do for ages, I took my Mum on a show shopping trip and managed to find myself some much needed replacement foot wear.  I also compiled a list of recipes I want to try from my favourite website (see…. a list again!), chatted with my sister and a friend on various social media outlets, caught up with a forum I follow, cut some flowers for the Mother in Law and generally had fun.  But my internal negative voice was telling me that I hadn’t done anything toward that BAL (Big Ass List) and that was a bad thing.

 

Nope.  I can do it with a totally clear conscience.  You know why?  Because it is important that I let myself have time off I need it.  I need to cut myself some slack.  If I work myself into the ground and make myself ill, who is going to be there to look after my prospective child and my husband?  If I want to take care of things, then I have to allow myself to take care of me.  And if this means having a day or two out of a week to potter, or to just do my handicrafts, then so be it.

relaxation

This year has so far, been a monster… in a very, very good way!  But it has taken it out of us, it really has.  We need some recovery time to face all the challenges that are going to come our way really soon.

 

If patience is a virtue, why is it so HARD?

I often joke with friends and family that Patience is not a virtue I am gifted with.  To be honest, most people who meet me would agree with this within a couple of minutes of meeting me I suspect.  As I type this blog, I am sitting at the dining table with papers to do with the sale of our house littered EVERYWHERE and a vein popping suspiciously in my forehead.  I am feeling deeply impatient with the whole process and filling in lots and lots of forms.  I have to ask questions of my husband because I don’t know the answers and therefore we need to have some time to do this, and we don’t have that time today.   Argh.

impatient 2

So I thought, is it possible to cultivate patience?  And if so, how on earth do you go about it?  I don’t want to keep feeling like I am going to blow a gasket.    According to my Internet research, cultivating patience will result in relaxation, peace of mind and a marked increase in the quality of our life.  Okay.  I am up for that.

 

First step apparently is to try and figure out why you are in such a hurry.  It might be that you are stretching yourself too thin, or trying to do too many things at once, or taking too much on yourself.  Erm.  Yes.  All of the above.  And can we add in, setting myself very high standards and silly targets and expecting that everyone else will have the same ones?

 

Then you need to pinpoint the triggers that influence you to lose your patience.  It could be events, people, phrases, circumstances but all of them will cause anxiety, tension and frustration.  Apparently, most triggers are based in a reality which we find hard to accept, whatever that might be.  For me, the thing that gets me really annoyed (and hopping up and down) is when I have something I want to complete NOW and I am waiting on information from someone else.  Drives me absolutely crackers.   It is out of my control you see, and I am a founder member of “Control Freaks R Us”.

impatience

Then you need to look for patterns.  In the seeking for patterns, you will apparently become more aware of your impatience.  It might offer an opportunity to learn from it and perhaps uncover a relationship or a circumstance that is not healthy or constructive.  I think I might have established that my perfectionism and control freakery is the bit that is not healthy or constructive for me.  Apparently, it can help to keep a journal and observe the impatience objectively, but I think that might annoy me even more.  Besides, I don’t have time to write it all down.  I would be there all day!

 

When you are thinking that your patience is going to run dry, then apparently all you have to do is take some deep breaths.  Clear your mind.  Put a smile on your face.  Deep breathe again and feel yourself relaxing.  Then, according to my research, you should Let it go.  If you can do anything to resolve the source of the impatience, then we just move on.  Come back to the issues when the circumstances are different or better.    That is soooo hard though.  I tend to worry at the things which make me cross and impatient thereby driving myself in circles and ever so slightly crazy.

impatient quotes

Other hints and tips I picked up over my research was that it is good to remind yourself of the big picture, and that almost everything good takes time and dedication.  Focus on the things which actually matter in life (and paperwork is definitely not one of them) like kindness, generosity and forgiveness.  A positive outlook is also essential, along with a realisation that life is not a race but a journey to be savoured.  If you expect the unexpected, and cut yourself some slack it will work out in the end.

 

I still think I might have to practice this a lot more before I become good at it.

 

 

 

Knuts about Knitting…

My husband suggested a post about this topic, because he found an article on http://www.treehugger.com all about knitting and its health benefits.  He read it, and said that he sort of understands why I keep doing it and amassing crazy amounts of wool into the bargain.  According to the latest research, Knitting keeps you healthy.

knitting granny

Knitting is often used for therapy, mainly as a distractant.  This is especially useful in managing long term physical pain patients.  It has also been shown to help people with depression.  It builds confidence and can also mean that the knitter is engaged in conversation with interested onlookers without having to have constant eye contact.

knitting cables

Knitting is relaxing.  I would argue that attempting to do cable knitting is the exception to prove this rule (cable knitting is the work of Satan.  No.  It really is.) but apparently, all knitting is relaxing.  People have had measured decreases in heart rate, muscle tension and blood pressure.  I have certainly found that if I am tense, I have to force myself to relax in order to successfully knit my current project, whatever that may be.

Knitting connects people.  It may be the connection through what you are knitting and who it is for (Godson, friend) or indeed a link with who has knitted before you, but also there are lots of knitting groups popping up.  Knitting in a group is fantastic fun.  And great therapy in and of itself.

knitting 2

Knitting improves concentration, and that goes for all ages.   It has proved to be particularly useful for children with excessive energy.  In older people it has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia and for those of us between those two extremes, it offers a break from our busy schedules and provides a detox from the technology saturated world.

knitting 1

But best of all?  It makes people happy.  Both those knitting and those receiving the knitted items.  That has got to be a good thing!  So, this weekend, are you going to search out your knitting needles and have a go?  I probably won’t.  I will crochet instead.  But that has the same benefits.  I prefer crochet but that is just because you have half the implements and go twice the speed!

Enjoy your weekend, whatever you get up to.