Mindfullness – how can it support your health?

by April 30, 2021

Mindfulness is loving all the details of our lives, and awareness is the natural thing that happens: life begins to open up, and you realize that you’re always standing at the center of the world.


Pema Chodron

Well it’s been over a year since we shifted from our normal every day to day life to a state of upheaval and change and at times I still struggle with feeling ungrounded and unsteady.  Like so many others, life is made up daily reminders that don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy such as – oh ya gotta grab your mask as soon as you leave your house, keep social distanced, avoid visiting others (let alone hugging others), can’t travel right now and wash your hands a billion times a day all in an effort to stay healthy and avoid passing this crazy virus on to others.  My business has reduced and shifted (like so many others), but this shift has forced me to find different ways to connect and work with people, which I am very grateful for. 

This year I will be exploring another aspect of my own self care – delving into the subject of mindfulness. For years I have been talking about mindful intentions when it came to eating and moving, but I personally haven’t spent the time to explore the spiritual, emotional and mental side of it, until now. Let’s start a conversation about what mindfulness is and how we may be able to tap into the expansive power it can add to our daily lives.

I believe an aspect of Mindfulness lives within our own spirituality, culture or religion, however some of what I will explore in this post will come from Buddhist teachings that have resonated with me over many years. I won’t be talking about this subject based upon my own scholastic knowledge, as I too am on a journey into how mindfulness can support my own mental health, so to help I will be referring to a few of the amazing teachers who tackle mindfulness with grace, compassion and humaness (which I know is not really a word, but you get the gist). 

Buddha
I took this picture on my travels to Hong Kong to see the Big Buddha – 268 steps to get to the top!
First of all, Mindfulness…what does that term even mean?

I don’t know if I can really isolate a specific definition for MINDFULNESS as the term means many things for many people, but it is definitely a mental state of being, a focus of awareness, a presence of what is around us and a cultivated practice that is often followed daily or throughout ones life.

A mindful practice may be cerebral for some and ethereal for others and it may be influenced by someones background and spiritual beliefs. I have listened to buddhist monks, therapists, doctors, scholars and yoga teachers talk about “mindfulness” from slightly differently perspectives, but all share a common ground which is to support the body, mind and spirit, connecting to a deeper level of being.

With mindfulness, you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment.


Thich Nhat Hanh

Why is mindfulness so important for our health?

There have been so many articles written about the health benefits of mindfulness on our body, mind and spiritual health, that include improved sleep, better ability to deal with stressful situations, better focus etc., but I think the most important benefit is its ability to reduce stress, and we all could use that! Positive psychology describes 23 benefits of having a mindfulness practice and best thing of all is we can tap into it at any time, any where and it’s free to do.

Although mindfulness is a state of being, it takes time to cultivate this practice and doesn’t come easy for everyone. Mindfulness can exist within many aspects of our daily life – how we exercise, eat, breathe, walk and for some pray. If you have never tried creating a mindful practice start simple, begin with one element that resonates with you or tap into many of the resources available on line, within your community, within your church or religion or via a webinar or podcast. Explore what mindfulness can offer you.

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.


Psychology Today

Mindfulness in your toolbox

Now I think more than ever we have all been thrown into a position of discomfort or unsteadiness and that presents an opportunity to take the time to work on our own health and wellness. Use this idea of mindfulness as a tool or an exploration to help support your whole body’s health.

So on my journey into mindfulness, I came across a podcast on Spotify called Practicing Human with Cory Muscara and he has helped me to stop and think every day, even if it’s just for a moment, about how I can cultivate my own practice.  He offers ideas and thoughts (see some of the them below) that stem from his experience living with monks as well as being an instructor of positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Cory talks about feeling the sensations of our breath rather than thinking about our breath (which is what I talk about in my mindful breathing video below) and he talks about the importance of acknowledging what comes up with our thoughts and trying to go back to feeling the breath again. So if a thought or emotion comes up repetitively, stay with your thought for a while then get back to feeling (not thinking about) the breath.  I think this is the essence of the practice of mindfulness.

Here are a few hints from Cory Muscara, Practicing Human to help support your mindfulness practice:
Take 5

Trace your pointer finger up and down each of your five fingers in the other hand. As you slide up the finger, inhale slowly through the nose, and as you slide down, exhale slowly through the mouth. This takes less than 30 seconds and can help ground and calm you in the present.

RAIN

RAIN is a another acronym: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture. You can use with difficult experiences as they arise. Notice the experience, allow it to be there, explore what it feels like and what the mind is doing in relationship to it (e.g. fighting, resisting, pouting, etc.) and then show yourself compassion, perhaps with a phrase like: “I’m here for you. We got this.”

Presence in Daily Activities

Mindfulness is not just about focusing on your breath. In fact, one could argue that the only reason we would meditate would be to bring more mindfulness in our daily lives. See if you can bring mindfulness to your daily activities — eating, showering, driving, brushing your teeth, etc. These are all opportunities for mindfulness.

To connect to CORY check out his podcast on Spotify PRACTICING HUMAN. (Thanks Cory!)

Mindful breathing – how is this important to our health?

So let’s talk a little about mindfulness and our breath – because in my mind we can’t really connect to one without the other. When we bring mindfulness to our breath we bring intentionality and focus that will help to deepen it. Take a second and close your eyes and slowly, focusing only on your breath, inhale and exhale a few times…take note of what’s going on.

  • Is your mind trailing away to your to do list for the day?
  • Is it harder to breathe in than out?
  • Does your breath get stuck somewhere in your torso?
  • Are your shoulders elevating and your neck feeling tension?
  • How does mindful breathing make you feel?

These are some the questions that may come up as you explore your breath mindfully…here’s the key, stay with those questions and explore the answers as difficult as that may be. In the end you will come out feeling better than you did and if you can’t answer the difficult questions that arise seek the help from a practitioner like a psychotherapist to help you navigate your way to better health.

Here is a video to help you connect to your mindful breath
  • WISHING YOU ALL THE BEST IN YOUR DAY

About the author

Cindy is the owner and creator of My Fit Over 50 and Pilates with Cindy. Much of the information above has come from years of research and her own personal journey towards living a more mindful life.

Arthritis relief, what can you do?

by March 19, 2021

My Fit Over 50 was so excited to host a talk recently with Dr. Shawna Dingman about arthritis, how it can affect women as we age and arthritis relief. Dr. Shawna, chiropractor and owner of Elevate Women’s Health clinic, offered us some great information  and ways to support your health, especially if you have been diagnosed with arthritis. Thank you to everyone who attended our evening presentation with all of the funds being donated to Arthritis Research Canada, if you missed our guest speaker presentation see the video below.

In my professional acupuncture/pilates practice I have worked with many women who were told that they were suffering from Arthritis and there was not much they could do (except maybe taking anti inflammatory drugs) as it was just an inevitable process of aging. After years of training and experience I can tell you there is always something that can be done! As Dr. Shawna noted in her conversation with us, if we take care of ourselves and seek help from practitioners, we can often reduce and sometimes eliminate arthritic joint pain for good.

What is arthritis and how can it affect women as we age?

Arthritis is defined as an acute or chronic inflammation in the joint, according to the Mayo Clinic, and can include swelling or tenderness in one or many joints of the body.  The main symptoms that you may experience are pain, swelling, stiffness, redness and a reduced ability to move the joint well. Yes it is often a diagnosis for the elderly or aging, but arthritis in different forms can affect all ages and genders.


Nutrition and acupuncture can provide arthritis relief. Need help?

There are a number of factors that can lead to the diagnosis of arthritis including genetics, age, weight, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle or poor lifestyle choices. Just because you are diagnosed with it doesn’t mean you can’t do some things to help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with it.

Arthritis doesn’t have a cure, but there are many approaches to treating it depending on which type you might have. Sometimes it affects one area of the body or joint, which is often the case of osteoarthritis or it may affect multiple joints, like the condition of rheumatoid arthritis.

This is an xray picture Dr. Shawna provided us to show us how arthritis can affect our bones/joints – notice the changes in the bones and the lack of gaps between them.

What can you do for arthritis relief?

It’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to a diagnosis of arthritis and pain can be a great motivator to getting help. Here is an article to help if you have hip joint pain.

Most people need some help, so talk to your health care provider (traditional or western therapist) and ask them for support. If significant damage has been done to your joints there may be very little that can be done to repair them, but that doesn’t mean you should do nothing. Even if you don’t have any joint pain right now, it is vitally important that you do the work to keep your body strong and balanced while you can. There’s not one simple list that is perfect for every body, this is where getting support from a practitioner, such as myself, will help.  Following the list below can be helpful to anyone at any age.

Here are a few easy ways that you can support the health of your joints everyday

**What does clean whole foods mean? KEEP IT SIMPLE/KEEP IT REAL

  1. Your food should come out of the ground and not be processed or packaged in an indistinguishable form.
  2. Try to eat as organic as possible, not only to reduce your exposure to pesticides but to also gain valuable nutrients that are often lost within the soil of conventional crops.
  3. If you eat animal products, reduce the amount you eat (half a palmful at most) and get it from a locally sourced reputable farmer or butcher.
  4. If you eat fish, aim for the oily ones (wild salmon, sardines), again a little can go a long way!


Join our growing community MY FIT OVER 50 – supporting women over 50

The many faces of Arthritis…

According to Arthritis Research Canada, over 6 million Canadians suffer from a form of Arthritis, which can be serious and in some cases even lead to life threatening complications like a heart attack or hip fracture.

There are over 200 conditions associated with Arthritis, but I will only touch upon some of the more common ones many people face daily.

  • Osteoarthritis – a breakdown over time of joint cartilage that protects the bones causing pain, swelling or stiffness.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – an autoimmune disease where the body attacks healthy joint tissue leading to swelling, pain and joint deformities.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis – a chronic inflammatory joint disease associated with psoriasis
  • Gout -is an accumulation of urate crystals inside your joints creating redness, swelling and intense pain.
  • Lupus erythematosus – is an autoimmune disease that can affect your joints and many types of connective tissue creating pain and swelling of the joints.

If you missed it, here is the recording from our chat with Dr. Shawna Dingman.

Arthritis according to Traditional Chinese Medicine

In western medicine, Arthritis is considered a degenerative condition, affecting the joints and damaging cartilage, but because no two people are the same, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners will diagnose a patient’s joint pain based upon what symptoms are occurring within the body as well as around the pain site. Sometimes herbal medicine is used in conjunction with acupuncture to treat not just the arthritis, but the whole body.

Often arthritis is seen as a blockage in the joint (of qi, blood or body fluids) by an external pathogen such as wind, cold and damp. Called bi-syndrome, this blockage can lead to swelling, redness, pain, ache, stiffness, heaviness, limitation of movement or discomfort within the joint. I know it sounds a bit strange and you don’t have to understand what it means, that’s what your TCM practitioner will do, but it’s important to get of sense of your condition so that you can support your own health.

Arthritis relief from a TCM perspective
  • If you have swelling around a joint, reduce/avoid damp inducing foods such dairy, fried/processed meals and excess meat
  • Avoiding spicy food, alcohol and stimulants will reduce the swelling and redness of joints
  • Keep the joints moving! Try doing some Tai Qi or Qi Gong
  • DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU ARE DIAGNOSED! Take care of your body today
  • Book an appointment with your acupuncturist or health practitioner to address your joint pain or discomfort


Book an acupuncture appointment with Cindy

Here is a simple video to work on strengthening the arms and legs, while working on balance. All you need is a band!


About the author and video presenter


Contact Cindy

Cindy Willems is a registered acupuncturist, Pilates instructor specializing on the aging body, holistic nutritionist and professional health educator. She is the owner of Pilates with Cindy and recently created My Fit Over 50 – the virtual health and wellness website dedicated to supporting women’s health over 50!

Follow us on instagram !



Contact Dr. Shawna

Dr. Shawna Dingman is the owner of Elevate Women’s Health Centre in Port Perry, Ontario. It is a chiropractic clinic focused on the care of women and children. She offers gentle, low force chiropractic care as well as advanced genetic testing and hormone testing. She and her husband Craig are raising 3 wonderful children: Jackson, Jenna and Cole. In her spare time, she loves to cottage, work toward her black belt in karate, enjoy coffee with friends, read or catch a good show on Netflix.

Check out her YouTube channel!

Menopause and Hormones…what can you do to help?

by February 26, 2021

Our hormones are impacted by our age, diet, environment and our lifestyle choices.  They support all of our physiological processes, and are produced by highly specialized glands, especially the pituitary gland, found within our endocrine system.  This gland alone is responsible for sending messages to other glands that take care of our reproductive organs, our growth and metabolism.

I am not a western medicine professional, but a health researcher, educator and professional acupuncturist, so the information I present in this blog post is meant to be informative not diagnostic in nature.  Some of what I may talk about is also born from my own personal experience into this next journey of life.

Become a member of My Fit Over 50 today – get info here!

So we know that a change in hormone production can cause unpleasant side affects to our everyday life such as sweaty hot flashes and poor memory, but it also can lead to weight gain, affect the health of our bones and our ability to sleep well.

Let’s talk about our hormones

Estrogen (which is the primary female hormone) is responsible for our growth, reproduction, bone health and maintaining vaginal moisture. For most women estrogen declines as we head into our menopause years, but often irregularly, leaving behind dryness, fatigue, sudden hotflashes and insomnia – the not so fun part of menopause.

Another affect of low estrogen levels is its influence on our normal bone turnover cycle. Our bones are a complex collection of tissue that consist of a matrix of proteins and minerals that give it the flexibility and strength and research has shown that Estrogen is one of the major hormones needed to keep this matrix strong and regenerating. The weakening of our bones (due to the reduction of estrogen) can lead to the condition called Osteoporosis (porous bone).

The decrease in estrogen and progesterone (another reproductive hormone) can lead to what many women call “brain fog” or forgetfulness.  Our brain actually picks up on the fact that these hormones are no longer being made in the same capacity and this can disrupt our body’s ability to then produce the mood regulating chemicals (seratonin & dopamine) that keep us calm and happy.  Ever wonder why you might feel a bit more moody, emotional or depressed as your period starts to disappear? (Traditional Chinese medicine would say that we are blood deficient and blood is not nourishing our brain and our spirit – more to come about that later).

How does sleep get affected by our change in hormones and what can you do to help?

A few months ago I wrote an article about insomnia and its connection to menopause…if you didn’t get a chance to read it check it out here!

bioidentical hormones, what the heck is it?

For those of you who have not gone down this road with your doctor, bioidentical hormones are one answer for many women who struggle with their menopausal symptoms due to a change in hormone production.  Dr. Christiane Northrup talks about bioidentical hormones here.

MENOPAUSE & BEYOND – let’s keep the conversation going!

What hormones are often connected to weight gain as we get older?

Two predominant hormones created by the endocrine system is Cortisol and Insulin and these two hormones are often seen as the bad guys when it comes to weight gain, especially around the waistline.

  • Cortisol is called the “stress”hormone, so it ramps up when we are under stress and is often a contributor to us overeating food that isn’t all that good for us.

According to a Harvard study, Dr. Alice Domar found that reducing our stress levels can help reduce some of these more emotional moments that might come up as we go through menopause and offers some great suggestions that can help to reduce stress during menopause!

  • Insulin deals with sugar in our body, providing us with valuable energy, repairing, healing and supporting our muscles.  Too much of this hormone can lead to sweating, poor concentration, fatigue, anxiety and fogginess. High sugar foods and alcohol can peak our insulin levels. When levels are too high for a long time other glands stop responding to it as it did before.
Julie is doing a great exercise to strengthen her arms and legs using some resistance to keep her body strong!
What steps can you take to help improve your health and wellness and maybe reduce those nagging symptoms?
  • Add resistance exercises to your workouts – aim for 4-5xs/week
  • Work on reducing your exposure to undue stress – try some meditation to help
  • Make sure your meals are well balanced, especially with green leafy vegetables that are chocked full of vitamins and minerals
  • Keep your bedroom cool and wear light clothing to bed (or go without any)
  • Avoid or reduce drinking alcohol, too much coffee and eating spicy food – these all can create heat in the body and exacerbate hot flashes
  • Talk to your doctor or health practitioner about ways to support your body
  • Find the time for your own self care!


Need some help? Let’s chat!

About the author

Cindy is a registered acupuncturist, Pilates instructor and holistic nutritionist. She takes a holistic approach to achieving whole body health, educating others about the importance of self care and seeking help from professional practitioners when needed.

Cindy is not only the creator of My Fit Over 50, but a member of the Menopause and Beyond alumni group.  Taking care of her body, mind and spirit is her top priority!

Hip Joint pain – don’t live with it!

by January 12, 2021

As we get older we all start to become aware of little aches and pains in our body; mostly around our joints and sometimes within our muscles. There is no doubt that over time and yes with age there is wear and tear on a joint, especially if you played high intensity sports as a younger person, but we don’t have to live with the pain just because we are told it’s “part of the aging process”.

Now, there are a number of reasons why we might feel pain, discomfort or stiffness – much of it we may be able to alleviate through our diet, daily exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, professional treatments (such as Acupuncture) and some positive thinking. Perhaps we experienced an injury falling down a step or slipping on some ice, in which case the pain you feel will be acute and probably very specific to the injury site.  This is the time that you should see your health practitioner for treatment if needed and rest.

Hip pain is different for many of us…

Joint pain, especially the hips, can be experienced differently for many people; based up the location of the pain, what makes it worse or better and what the intensity is.

Pain on the outside of the hip may be tendonitis, according to a Harvard article posted recently. Pain around the hip joint that travels into the buttocks and sometimes down the leg is often diagnosed as Sciatica or Piriformis Syndrome according to Dr. Biggers and can often be treated with stretches and exercises and especially Acupuncture treatments. Sometimes if you feel pain in your knee or low back this affects the action of your hip joint! So it may not actually be a hip joint issue but a compensation situation. Again your health practitioner can quickly assess and treat this type of pain fairly well.

I personally have experienced hip pain when sitting crossed legs for too long. For a few years I thought it was my hip joint that was the issue, but after strengthening the muscles around my hips I have reduced and often eliminated that searing pain I used to feel when getting up from a cross legged position to walk.

Let’s talk about the variety of discomfort many people feel from an eastern & western medicine perspective…

DULL HIP PAIN

A dull, achy, chronic pain, felt deeper in the hip socket, is often called arthritis or Osteoarthritis by many western doctors. Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of your bones wears down over time. There are a number of recommended medical approaches, so speak to your doctor if you are having this pain.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) often associates this dull ache with a deficiency condition – maybe there is not enough blood, nutrients or fluids keeping the joint lubricated and moving well or the muscles around the area are weak.

How can you treat this holistically?

Seek acupuncture treatments from your health practitioner if possible. Include some lifestyle changes or improvements (get more exercise, reduce stress) and eat well to support your digestion, muscles and bones.

As an Acupuncturist I treat dull hip pain quite alot with very good success, however, treatment works best when it is combined with exercise and lifestyle improvements. I highly recommend strengthening the muscles around the hip to support healthy movement of the joint. I included a simple video below for some hip exercises you can do at home- it only takes 3 minutes!

Need some help with your pain? Let’s chat!

SHARP HIP PAIN

If you are feeling the type of pain that is biting or stabbing, usually upon movement, that can mean there is an issue within the joint capsule itself.  The cartilage may be worn down and sometimes bone spurs can develop in the hip joint.  This type of pain should not be ignored, so seek medical attention to determine what is going on.  This may require imaging of the hip joint.

TCM often treats stabbing, boring pain in the body as a  blood stagnation or stasis condition.  It may also be a condition known as cold bi syndrome – where cold has settled into the joint causing strong pain.

How can you treat this holistically?

Acupuncture treatments, cupping and herbs can definitely assist in reducing and eliminating this pain, but often some rest and a warm bath or applied heat pad can be very helpful. You should not keep working through this pain as it can be something more serious happening.

Your therapist may recommend you see a medical doctor to get some imaging of the hip to determine if there is a more serious issue going on.

A 3 minute Hip Strengthening video – appropriate for anyone
STRONG HIP PAIN

Inflammation within the hip joint that causes pain when lying on it or walking up the stairs is often associated with the inflammation of a bursa.

There are a number of conventional treatment options offered for this type of hip pain, so talk it over with your health practitioner to see what is best. Often rest for a bit then strength exercises are recommended.

Inflammation affecting a joint may be diagnosed in TCM as a damp bi syndrome – where dampness has settled within causing a strong pain.  Some people feel stiffness when they’ve been sitting along time and get up to move or experience or feel pain when it’s damp outside.

How can you treat this holistically?

We often treat this type of pain at the clinic with acupuncture, moxa and cupping.  We recommend lifestyle changes and dietary improvements, especially avoiding foods that can exacerbate dampness (fried, greasy, processed, dairy and overeating).

Strengthening the muscles around the hip to support healthy movement of the joint is super important too, but listen to your body…if the pain continues while exercising stop.  Seek the help from a trainer or therapist to know what exercises are the best and most appropriate for you to do.

The CLAM (exercise below) is great for anyone to do to strengthen the muscles around the hip. Careful not to move your pelvis and only work on the action of the top leg!

STIFF/TIGHT HIPS

Stiff hip movements may be the result of tight muscles around the area, especially the hamstrings and hip flexors. Your therapist can determine which muscles are tight and in need of stretching or strengthening.

Sometimes you may get up from your chair and feel stiffness as you start walking, but then the stiffness eases as you continue walking. The stiffness may come and go, depending on your stress levels or emotional/mental challenges.  In TCM we may consider this type of hip discomfort a qi stagnation – qi is stuck and not moving well around the joint causing pain, but with enough movement it often subsides or reduces.

How can you treat this holistically?

Work with your health practitioner or trainer to learn some exercises that will target the areas that need attention.  This will require commitment on your part, to continue with these exercises regularly.  Next don’t forget to get up from your desk or chair frequently and make movement a priority, whether it’s going out for a walk or doing a workout at your gym daily.

Weak muscles often lead to tight muscles, so it is important to maintain strength within the muscles surrounding the hips. Stretching is also going to be key to loosening the pull on the pelvis.

Often a warm bath, a small walk or a gentle swim can help reduce or eliminate stiffness around the hips.

This hip stretch is great for most people to do but IS NOT APPROPRIATE for those who have had a hip replacement.

What can you do to help keep your hip joints in good shape?
  • If you are feeling acute/new pain around your hip, make sure to get it checked out and seek treatment if needed…don’t wait for it to become a chronic condition.
  • Strengthen the muscles around the hip joint. Work with a trainer if needed. (see the video for some help)
  • Apply some heat using a heat pad or warm bath if your hips are feeling stiff
  • Keep moving, especially if you are sitting for a long time, get up and walk around to get your qi flowing again.
  • Maintain good bone health through exercise and proper diet

TAKE CARE OF YOUR JOINTS TODAY!

About the author

Cindy is a registered acupuncturist, Pilates instructor and holistic nutritionist. She takes a holistic approach to achieving whole body health, educating others about the importance of self care and seeking help from professional practitioners when needed.

Healthy Tips for the Holiday Season

by December 9, 2020

‘Tis the season to be merry and glee, but it’s also a time when we may gain a few unwanted pounds; eating more dessert than normal, not exercising like we used to and drinking a few alcoholic or sugary drinks.  It’s a different holiday this year, living within the restriction of a health pandemic and many people have talked about the challenges they have faced maintaining good eating habits while staying at home without the usual social events to attend or classes to sweat in.

My personal challenge this year has been moving part of my practice within the confines of my living room and with that comes a big adjustment to working and existing in a small space.

Keeping up with my own good eating habits hasn’t always been easy, I have seen some amazing feats of cooking and baking on social media platforms lately, but I have not been inspired to add a lot of that into the mix of the chaos I live in.  Now on the other side of things our eating habits have taken into account the local restaurants in our neighbourhood that we have been trying to support a few times a week with take out…more than our usual, but worth it if we can do our part to keep them open.

Let’s talk about ways you can still celebrate and have a great end of this year.

angel

I have been thinking about my own personal goals for this holiday season and although I can’t see friends and family in person to share good food and laughter, I hope I can offer some simple ways you can still enjoy the best of the holiday season, nourishing your body, mind and soul. So as many of you know I like to take a holistic approach to health and wellness…that means I am going to look at many aspects of life that nourish and feed us, not just food.

Taking a detour away from food, let’s start with something really important for many people right now, setting up a space that nurtures and supports you (this has been one that we’ve been working on and there is nothing better than a space that is comfortable and clear of clutter).

Set up a nurturing space:
  • Take a look at the space you live and/or work in – simplify and organize your papers, pictures, books, clothes and kitchen workspace
  • Create a wall of pictures of family and friends, make a nice collection that reminds you of good times
  • Clean out your pantry and stock it with whole grains, low sodium canned soups, organic stock, dried legumes and dried herbs so you can bump up your nutrition of any meal
  • Clean out your fridge – give the shelves a good clean, then restock it full of fresh foods that will nourish you this holiday
  • Create a cool, comfortable bedroom that is free from technology and work to be done
  • Put up some decorations if you celebrate any holidays around this time of year – a little sparkle can help to boost your spirits

rocks

Let’s talk about setting you up for success with your meals this holiday season. Whether you are cooking traditional foods or trying something new, making good food choices can be the difference between feeling nourished and energized or feeling tired, bloated and ready for a nap. Feeling bloated? Here are a couple of tips to help!

Don’t make things complicated, but try to add some variety to the meals you make. Improve upon recipes you know how to make or try a new recipe such as a Warm Winter Kale Salad!. Include colour in your dishes – red/orange (beets, carrots, yams, pomegranate, cherries, pumpkin, sweet potato, oranges, raspberries, kidney beans, lentils), green (broccoli, peas, beans, asparagus, kale, brussel sprouts, lentils), white (cauliflower, turnip, lima beans, rutabaga, white sesame seeds), blue/purple-black (black beans, figs, blueberries, blackberries, plums, eggplant, black sesame seeds).

**The BONUS of eating a lot of the foods I listed above is they are all packed with tons of nutrients and lots of fibre!

Create a simple meal plan to follow this holiday:
  • Keep things simple – since you can’t join festive parties this holiday, plan to make a couple of special meals at home for yourself or your immediate family to celebrate a new year to begin
  • Remember to use leftovers when possible – leftover bones from meat dishes can make a great soup, just add veggies and water (or extra stock) and simmer to draw all the nourishment out
  • Keep snacking and baked treats to a minimal – don’t bake a large amount of dessert unless you are doing a drop off for other people to enjoy
  • If you bring it home you will eat it – limit the amount of sugary foods/snacks you might buy at the grocery shop, because you will eat it if it’s there
  • Did you see the recipe above for a WARM WINTER KALE SALAD?

slider

So you set up a comfortable and supportive space, you have been eating well and following good sleeping habits, but what about your mental health?  Let’s take some time to tap into a deeper part of you, the part that is artistic or creative (yes we all have a little creative bug in us). Exploring our imagination or creativity can help take our mind off of some of the challenges we all face, especially right now. Art therapy is one of the ways to help relax the mind and nourish the soul.

Here are some more ways to support your mental health

Create a calm state of being:
  • Play some calming music to sit and listen to or something you like to dance to
  • Keep up with gentle exercise and stretching, moving the body can be helpful to move our vital qi and circulation throughout the body
  • Take some time to be creative, do an activity that makes you calm and happy such as painting, writing, reading, singing or dancing
  • Go for a winter hike or snow shoe – dress warmly and pack some water and venture off into the woods (make sure to follow well marked trails and local snow advisory)
  • Deep breaths or meditation help to relax and calm the mind, leaving you more refreshed and ready to go

About the author

Cindy supports and inspires others to be their best self and enjoys sharing the love of the holiday season with others.  She wishes you all a happy holiday and all the best for a new year to come!

Insomnia and Menopause – what’s the connection?

by November 11, 2020
Sleep is often stolen from us as we age…
Why is it hard to sleep as we get older?

Yes, it is true that we may not need as much sleep as we get older, but many women report that the amount of sleep they get is often disturbed during menopause and beyond.  Disruption in our sleep patterns can affect our daily living, so getting enough shut eye is important for us all, especially as we get older.  It can be annoying to be stuck in a cycle of poor sleeping patterns, but there are some things you can do to help you achieve a good nights sleep. The transition into our later years should be an enjoyable one and poor sleep ain’t no fun…it is a time when our collective life experiences culminate into some great wisdom just waiting to be shared with others, so I hope this article can help you get back on track.

According to a study, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
17% of perimenopausal women after menopause report trouble with falling asleep
36% of women after menopause have trouble sleeping through the night
56% of perimenopausal women report getting less than 7 hours of restful sleep a night
40% of post menopausal women report getting less than 7 hours of restful sleep a night
Sleep and menopause – what’s going on?

I treat a lot of women who are going through menopause and even those many years after who have a lot of challenges with their sleep. Whether it’s night sweats, bathroom breaks that get you up in the night, just waking up for no reason or waking really early, insomnia during and after menopause is a real health issue for women all over the world.

When we get older our body’s physiology changes and our ovaries no longer make the same amount of hormones (especially estrogen) as before and that decrease may be part of the reason why we experience all of these uncomfortable symptoms, including anxiety, mood disorders and sleep disruption.  Like I said above, it’s not just those going through menopause who suffer from lack of good sleep, I have spoken to many women in their late 60’s and late 70’s that still continue to feel the brunt of poor sleep each day. 

How can you improve your sleep quality?
Here are some tips…
  • Set up a good sleep habit at night – go to bed at the same time at night
  • Try using some essential oils to relax and calm your mind – lavender and chamomile have been known to have relaxing properties
  • Turn off or put away technology earlier at night to reduce your exposure to blue light and read a book…I even took up knitting at night to help get me out of my head by focusing on my hands
  • Try sleeping with a sleep mask – I added this for myself about a year ago
  • Don’t drink too much water late at night to avoid getting up in the night to use the washroom
  • Try listening to some guided meditation – there are many like headspace that may help you relax at night
  • Book an appointment with your acupuncture therapist for some treatment – we can treat insomnia and symptoms of menopause very well
Sleep from an eastern perspective

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), we may experience disturbed sleep at any age and for many different reasons.  Insomnia during menopause and beyond is, unfortunately, a common occurrence for a lot of women. Menopause symptoms, such as sweating and hot flashes, often wake us from sleep or prevents us from falling back to sleep easily. Western doctors concluded that there is a connection to lack of sleep and the loss of estrogen, while eastern doctors look at insomnia during menopause as a slowing down and decline of our Kidney energy, essence, a decline of blood, our qi and yin.

How can you support your body as you get older with good dietary choices? More on that to come!

TCM treats symptoms that disturb our sleep using acupuncture, dietary therapy and herbal medicine.  Each person is treated and diagnosed individually, as everyone experiences poor sleep due to a differentiating number of imbalances. If you are yin deficient you may experience insomnia, hair loss, dryness, tinnitus, hot flashes, night sweats and weakness in the low back and knees.  If you are blood deficient, you may also be feeling dizziness and memory loss as well as some of the other common symptoms listed above. When things get stagnated, you will feel irritable, nervous or emotional which can lead to insomnia.  A yang deficient person will feel cold in their hands and feet, have loose stool, a pale complexion and weak or sore low back and knees. Once our essence declines, our bone density decreases which is directly related to osteoporosis. Symptoms are often compounded from overwork, unmanaged stress, smoking, eat poorly or choosing a poor lifestyle.

What strategies can you use to get a better sleep?

Dr. Marcin shares some simple sleep tips from her article on Healthline…

  • Eat well and exercise – avoid eating late, sugary or processed foods and exercise regularly
  • Wear loose clothes to bed and use cotton sheets – natural fibres help the body to breathe
  • Keep a cool room – this might help you feel more comfortable when you begin to feel hot
  • Avoid eating spicy food – this can make you feel hotter and sweat more
  • Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine
  • MANAGE STRESS!
So take the time to work on things in your life that will help you get the sleep that you need – seek help if you need it.

HAPPY SLEEPING!

About the author

Cindy is a registered acupuncturist, Pilates instructor and holistic nutritionist. She takes a holistic approach to achieving whole body health, educating others about the importance of self care and seeking help from professional practitioners when needed. 

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