exercise, health, martial arts, mental health, motivational

How to fit exercise into a busy life

Sarah Dad cycling 2013
My Dad and I after finishing the Brisbane to Ipswich charity ride this year.

I was asked to prepare a guest blog for the Endeavour College of Natural Health regarding how I fit exercise into my life around my many commitments. (Aren’t we all busy these days?)

We know that exercise (in its many forms) has a multitude of benefits for our bodies including improving cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight, easing some types of pain, balancing blood sugar and enhancing our mental health. We simply cannot afford to miss a daily dose.

If you struggle finding ways to get some daily exercise in that:

  1. fits into your schedule and around your commitments
  2. is low cost
  3. is enjoyable

then click on this link which will take you to my Wellspring guest post (Workouts the experts swear by: fitness secrets from an acupuncturist) to get some ideas on how you can get exercise into your life… and feel so much better for it!

I am currently overcoming an injury (with herbs, acupuncture, massage, shockwave therapy and rehab exercises aplenty) but will be right back to my schedule as soon as possible – I miss it!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, emotional health, exercise, mental health, motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

The case of the stuck Liver

You wake up, slowly, you’ve already pressed snooze twelve times and still aren’t ready to face the day despite getting a good eight hours sleep. But the day cannot be delayed any further and so after a coffee and a hot shower you’re beginning to lose the grumbles and may actually be able to hold a civil conversation with another human being.

At work, you can’t believe how everyone else is wrong and can’t see how right you are. And on top of that technology is failing and it’s all just so damn FRUSTRATING, you could cry or maybe tear someone’s head off, or maybe both at the same time.

You’ve partially lost your appetite, except for chocolate, coffee and chips which temporarily provide comfort after skipping meals. Trouble is, when you do eat you either get nausea, bloating or some sort of bowel irregularity. You’re also feeling stiff and tight (your neck and shoulders have become a solid block), there’s the feeling of a lump in your throat and you can’t remember the last time you took a decent deep breath although you have done a helluva lot of sighing lately. And this is all made worse the more frustrated and irritated you get (and if you are a lady of reproductive age, just prior to your monthlies). At least you know there’ s a glass of wine/scotch/beer waiting for you at home. You wonder how you got stuck in this mess anyway: the job, the house, the relationship, the debt. Yep, stuck. And tired. And down. That sums it up.

Perhaps it looks a bit like this classic example of frustration:

Welcome to a classical (and slightly over-the-top) presentation of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pattern of Liver Qi Stagnation.  It is a remarkably common syndrome in the modern world and I see a range of these symptoms presenting in patients. You can have one, some or all of these symptoms to be given this TCM diagnosis.

So, what can be done to return you back to your old easy-going self? You can choose one or more of the suggestions below. Addressing the emotional cause is essential to a longer term fix, however the other suggestions can support you through this and make you feel better.

  1. Address the cause of your ‘stuckness’.  If something or someone is bothering you, work it out.  Whether this is through discussion, a new plan or seeing a counselor – find a way to move past or remove your obstacle mentally. The idea is to express yourself and not to bottle everything up. Your aim is to be a ‘free and easy wanderer’ or like a gently bubbling stream meandering through the path of least resistance.
  2. Move your body. Exercise is an excellent way to physically move your stuckness (or stagnant Qi/energy). It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you are physically moving and feeling better for it. A mix of cardiovascular exercise (think runner’s high) and stretching (enhance flexibility of body and mind) might be most useful.
  3. Breath deeply. When we are frustrated or angry our breathing becomes fast and shallow. In an effort to get a decent breath out, we often sigh. Take the time to assess your own breathing and if necessary slow the rate down and fill your chest with air right down to your diaphragm. There is research to support that 15 minutes of deep breathing exercises at a rate of <10 breaths per minute with slower exhalations may even have an effect on lowering blood pressure (if it’s high).
  4. Laugh. Laughter, like exercise, physically moves your body. It also promotes a happy feeling and while you are laughing it’s hard to obsess over your frustrations. So go and support your local stand up comedy venue or put on your favourite laugh-out-loud comedy series. Or better still, spend some time with someone you know who makes you giggle – some people just have that knack.
  5. Be creative. Get those creative juices flowing – and the key word here is flowing. Express yourself. Even learn a new creative skill. Whether this is through visual art or writing, starting a crafty project, picking up your guitar or singing your heart out, it will help to coerce that stuck Qi along.
  6. Spice up your life. Okay, this doesn’t come back to the singing point again, what I mean here is to liven up your meals with some light, fragrant and pungent foods – in moderation. Think garlic, onions, ginger, chilli and fresh herbs to boost your circulation.  Of course, eating a diet based on whole foods which are tasty and nutritious will add to your sense of wellbeing.
  7. Take a break. Get away and have a change of scenery and routine for a fresh perspective. Here’s more ways a break can help.
  8. Release the pressure gauge with a treatment. Acupuncture is an excellent way to help you through stuck times. This treatment is excellent for an almost instant feeling of relaxation. Often when you know what have to do but lack the motivation to do them an acupuncture treatment and a few herbs can give you the kick you need to ‘get the ball rolling’.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

emotional health, health, mental health, motivational

There’s nothing like a break

GBR anemone fishHello!  It’s been a little while, but I’m back to you bursting with good health and wellbeing tips after a lovely little break.

Last year was a huge year filled with so many wonderful things including big days at the clinic with my lovely patients, teaching my eager beaver students about acupuncture at the Endeavour GBR clamCollege of Natural Health and recommencing my own studies with the Master of Health Science (Traditional Chinese Medicine) at the University of Western Sydney.  I spent the break between Christmas and New Year having an incredibly super time at the Woodford Folk Festival spreading the word on Traditional Chinese GBR sunsetMedicine dietary health at the Blue Lotus stage.  Add this all together, and well, I was feeling the need for some slow down time in the shape of a break come February.

So, off I took, to tropical North Queensland where the air is warm and the vibe is slow and relaxed.  I jumped onto a dive boat and spent the best part of three days underwater scuba diving with the fishes.  And those three days, well they felt longer.  They felt good and were just what I needed to unwind and relax.  Why is scuba diving so relaxing?

So, my message to you is this.  A holiday doesn’t need to be long or expensive or take you to far away places to have that refreshing effect. Short bursts in different surroundings (that do it for you), regularly, may be just what you need. Got one planned?  Pull out your diary/iphone calender now and block yourself out a short break or two to get you through to mid year.  A long weekend here and there can work wonders.

I’ve included a few photos of the underwater adventure land that we are so lucky to have only two hours flight from Brisbane.  The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest living structure and needs to be explored to be really appreciated.  Do it!

And if you need another somewhat weather appropriate message of how a good break can pick you up, then this gem is it.  Enjoy!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

2013: what can The Wellness Ninja do for you?

Wowzers!  While seeing patients today I’ve realised we are well on the way towards the end of January and I’ve been so busy in the clinic that I have been neglecting The Wellness Ninja updates. Apologies!

The Capricorn in me is trying to manage the situation with a level of careful thought and organisation right now starting with some reflection and planning for the future – which has involved a carefully written list that may be further developed into a very nerdy excel spreadsheet!

Many of us are also taking this approach to optimising various aspects of our lives with the new year (eg. health, finance, relationships, fun and relaxation).  I’ve seen many patients this month wanting to start detox and weight loss programs, and others who are motivated to tackle old injuries and chronic health problems. However,  if you feel as though you have missed the new year bandwagon, never fear, there’s always  the Chinese New Year in just a few weeks – another new beginning and fresh start!

So, on reflection, I thought I’d share a few of the posts that have been most popular since I started this little blog a few years ago:

  1. Bruise remedies for martial artists, athletes and the accident prone
  2. The acupuncturist and the broken heart
  3. Summer skin treat – the DIY salt scrub
  4. Scuba diving: extreme relaxation
  5. The natural medicine guide to surviving the Kokoda Challenge ( or other 100km hike)
  6. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): can natural medicine help?
  7. Karate: unlock the free flow of Ki
  8. Darkside decadence: the gluten-free biscuit
  9. A treat to settle a sick tummy
  10. How to have breakfast like an emperor (or empress) everyday

I have had a few requests for some blogs on topics such as:

  • What would be the top three herbs a Jedi Knight would take?
  • How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view different types of alcohol beverages? (After all, medicinal wines are a TCM treatment method.)

Have you got a burning health question you think The Wellness Ninja needs to tackle?  Let me know!

This year will be jam packed with some excellent seminars and of course further Traditional Chinese Medicine masters study at UWS. Fertility, digestion and paediatrics are all on the schedule, and yes, you’ll be reading all about it.  So stay tuned for a wealth of interesting bits and bobs on health, natural beauty, fitness and martial arts.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

 

acupuncture, emotional health, exercise, food, health, herbal medicine, massage, mental health, motivational, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Make next year the start of your healthy ageing program, no matter how old you are.

tai chiLike it or not, we’re all ageing.  But what is most important is how we age.  We want quality of life as we grow older so that we can keep up with our hobbies, sporting interests, working commitments, social life and family. The reality is however, we are living longer but our older years are spent in poor health.  It is up to us as individuals to be the exception to the rule.

In practice, patients often seek help when the symptoms they have begin to negatively impact on the things they like to do. Most of us can tolerate pain or slight inconvenience but having the things we love out of our reach, well no one wants to let that happen.  And so it is then that we are most motivated (by desperation) to make the changes needed to return to good health.

My advice: don’t wait for your health to get that bad!  Seek help as soon as things feel ‘out of balance’.

The Harvard School of Public Health has just reported on a study highlighting the “need for greater attention to non-fatal consequences that limit people’s physical and mental function, including mental health conditions and musculoskeletal disorders.”

So, if you are looking for a new year’s resolution, why not use next year as the beginning of your lifetime of good health. It doesn’t matter whether you are 15 or 95 years old, it’s never too early, or late, to start your health-promoting lifestyle:

  • Reduce your chronic disease risk factors (E.g. stress, obesity, substance abuse, processed/fatty/sugary foods and exposure to environmental toxins).
  • Increase what makes you feel well (E.g. laughter, meditation, exercise,  7-8 hours sleep, wholesome home-cooked meals, learning new skills, spending time in nature and nurturing connections with positive, like-minded people).  Here are some ideas.
  • See a practitioner early in the year (as early as you can while this thought is at the forefront of your mind) to get you on track, set goals and make a plan you can stick to. Perhaps some acupuncture, massage and herbs can kick-start your new year of good living (and help you tackle any of the tricky stumbling blocks that you’ve had in the past)?

This isn’t a new idea at all.  The concept of healthy ageing and longevity has been ingrained in Traditional Chinese Medicine for around 2000 years – and here’s how they did it.

Let’s make 2013 our most radiant year yet which will set us on a path of healthful ageing for our lifetime to come.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, emotional health, herbal medicine, mental health, motivational, Traditional Chinese Medicine

How to stress-less: create happy habits

Stress is something that we all encounter on a daily basis.  There is good stress (eustress) that promotes us to grow and change and bad stress (distress) which is counterproductive and wears us down in the long-term.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is not so concerned with ‘stress’ as such, but more about exactly how it affects you.  Does it involve:

  • Busy, anxious mind (maybe panic attacks) with disrupted sleep?
  • Dwelling on thoughts, obsessing and then loss of appetite or change in bowel function?  Often accompanied by bingeing on sweet foods.
  • Sadness and grief.  Perhaps a decline in your immune function as you pick up every bug going around.
  • Fearful of the future.  Often this type of stress is centered around job loss, financial concerns or fertility problems.  This stress can trigger intense fatigue, premature ageing and reproductive disorders.
  • Frustration and feeling stuck in a situation.  Your stress goes straight to your neck and shoulders, with the tension resulting in headaches and grumpiness.

Your exact type of stress helps us to discern an appropriate treatment for you, and each of these types of stress will have considerably different treatment plans.

So what can you do to manage stress – here’s a general stress buster plan:

  • Get good sleep – if you don’t already sleep well, get help to make this happen
  • Eat a healthy diet – no processed or high sugar foods, focus on whole foods (colourful vegies, good quality protein, good fats and whole grains)
  • Exercise – it’s an excellent stress buster – do a form of exercise that you like.  Where possible do it in a green space (outside in nature) – studies show it will make you happier.  By just adding exercise to your routine, you’ll find you’ll automatically improve other factors in your life, so it’s a nice place to start.
  • Lose bad habits – quit smoking and recreational drugs, quit or at least reduce alcohol consumption (if you don’t know what the healthy range is click here).
  • Find pleasure daily – do something that you really enjoy every day.  This can be a creative pursuit (e.g. dancing, dreaming, painting, writing, baking, playing or appreciating music) or other nice things (e.g. massage, acupuncture, take a bath, give yourself a facial, inhale your favourite essential oil, give someone a hug, laugh, cook for someone).
  • Enhance your relationships – a support network is your safety net and your source of giving and receiving which has shown to add to your happiness.  Actively develop your relationships with family, friends and/or people within your community.
  • Meditation – People who meditate as little as twice per week have been shown to have a better state of mental health than the general population.  Find a teacher, read a book, find a site on the net like this  or this, get a CD or download an app – but whatever you do, get started on reducing your mind chatter now.  In fact why not meditate in one moment like this:

A study on acupuncture side effects discovered that major side effects were extremely uncommon from the therapy but one of the most common ‘minor’ side effects was relaxation!

Herbal medicine also has a lot to offer people who are stressed.  It’s best to see a herbalist who can make up an individualised formula for you that can help to shift the way you deal with stress.  Some herbal medicines interact with medications so getting professional advice is recommended.

If you are really not coping and need help immediately then please contact Lifeline.

So, if you need some additional stress management help, you know what to do, pick one of the above mentioned tips and start now – seize the moment and release that pressure valve!

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

acupuncture, emotional health, mental health, motivational

The happiness web: how to get in it.

As many of you know, I have an interest in the area of positive psychology which focuses on promoting everyday happiness and resilience to survive and grow from the challenging times that life may throw at us.   That is, how you or I manage our journey through this life for the better – changing attitudes, beliefs and values to maximise on our strengths and treasures (whether they be material, mental and spiritual).

Acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition and exercise all play a role in enhancing the enjoyment of life. They can be the kick-start when you feel as though life is tough and can’t muster the strength to turn the ship around yourself.  Check out these excellent natural tips from my wonderful naturopath colleague, Kathleen Murphy.

I have used these therapies to excellent effect in many patients (improving sleep and getting moderate exercise also forms part of treatment).  But this is not the whole answer (and that also goes for medications or forms of self-treatment including drugs, alcohol, food and sex too).  A shift in the way you see, feel and think about your everyday life is essential for a significant shift in your emotional health.  Counseling and psychotherapy are most useful for a one on one mental/emotional health analysis and to develop a program to make necessary change.

There are also many excellent online resources (not to replace counseling when needed, but rather to enhance it) to which I often refer my patients for inspiration and motivation in conjunction with their acupuncture, herbs and lifestyle modifications.  Here are my happiness web picks:

  • This is a War: This site has a collection of inspirational resources for people of all ages and spiritual beliefs for mental and emotional self-help.  In particular, this site focuses on lighting the way in tough times including grief, suicide and depression, however, there is something for everyone here (including some Monty Python scenes for a good laugh).
  • The Happiness Institute: I was lucky enough to see Dr Timothy Sharp (aka Dr Happy), who specialises in positive psychology, speak at the Woodford Folk Festival one new year’s eve.  He outlines simple, easy to follow strategies to make changes to the way we perceive events and situations in our lives.  He has an excellent free resource page on his website and a free newsletter which is emailed out on (manic) Mondays.
  • The Chopra Center: Deepak Chopra has an excellent meditation resource component to The Chopra Center website.  Here you will find information about meditation, books, cds and they run a free 21-day meditation challenge several times per year.  You can subscribe to their free newsletter.
  • Ordinary Courage: Brene Brown is a social work researcher.  She specialises in exploring and teaching shame resilience strategies, a key component to improving self esteem.  Her blog has a steady stream of inspirational and positive ideas to use in daily life.  You may have seen her TED video – ‘you are enough’ (but if you haven’t – click here.

If you are not coping and need mental health support immediately please contact Lifeline.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.