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.

emotional health, exercise, health, mental health, nature, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Scuba diving: extreme relaxation

Great Barrier Reef Anemone Fish, otherwise known as Nemo

Last week I took advantage of a 5-day gap in my schedule (between speaking at a midwives seminar and supervising the College Acupuncture Clinic) and headed off for a well-earned break to the warm, tropical waters of North Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.

Yes, the mini-holiday was relaxing, but it was my activity of choice that had far more to offer in tranquility than your average beach holiday.  I wanted to really slow down.  And this pastime had plenty to offer  for busy, city people who rush around, burn the candle at both ends and see the world in a blur.

I went scuba diving: three days living on a boat, ten dives, plenty of food and a few naps.  Bliss.  Not at all an extreme sport, well not the way I do it anyway.

But why was it so deeply relaxing?

  1. Go slow.  Scuba diving makes you slow down.  You can’t swim fast, and if you try to move about in a flurry, you disturb your buoyancy and end up floating towards the surface and/or stirring up the sand on the bottom.  A definite no-no.  In fast-paced modern life there aren’t many activities that are encouraged to be done slowly, diving is one of the rare few.
  2. Breathe.  Remember how to breathe slowly and deeply? As soon as most of us are stressed our breathing rate increases and becomes shallow.  When scuba diving, it’s advantageous to slow your breathing rate down to conserve air, that way you can enjoy the tranquil underwater world for longer.  Breathing slowly also encourages our blood vessels to dilate and our blood pressure to lower, which is relaxing for both the mind and the body.
  3. Enjoy the moment.  This is perhaps the most important point and one that is easily missed in normal life.  The practice of ‘mindfulness meditation’ is built on this concept.  Rather than clearing your mind of thoughts, we focus on really experiencing exactly what is around us, right at this second.  When scuba diving, as we slowly move through the water, the whole idea is to do just that, explore the surroundings – take in the big picture; the beautiful coral gardens and abundant fish life or focus in on the minute detail of a section of rock and its little ecosystem of shrimp, nudibranchs and tiny fish – the things you would ordinarily be too busy to notice (such as the anemone fish pictured above).  Time may almost stand still. (And the added bonus of that is your holiday will also seem longer!)

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, diving offers us real ‘yin’ time.  It’s not only slow and peaceful, but also involves being immersed in cool water.  You can’t get much more yin that that.

This is just one way I like to unwind.  How do you choose to spend your ‘yin’ time?

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.

Diet, exercise, food, health, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Lessons in longevity from ancient China

Last weekend I took a break from my usual routine of hiking training to attend a seminar discussion with Chinese Medicine historian, Marta Hanson PhD. Marta took us on a Traditional Chinese Medicine journey beginning with ancient spiritual healing practices up until modern-day medicine in which Chinese herbal medicine was used in SARS prevention and treatment.  Some ideas have lasted the ages, some were dropped and some have evolved into new ideas to bring us the medicine we now know.

At times in Chinese history, immortality (and longevity) were greatly sought after.  And due to this, medicine placed great importance on preservation of health.  In fact, a line from a poem from the 3rd century attributed to Lao Tzu in the Taoist classic, the Tao te ching, states:

 “The best physicians always treat disease when it is not [yet] a disease

And so [their patients] are not ill.”

Many classical medical texts from around this time describe the role of the medical practitioner in a similar way.  So what was required to maintain this ideal state of glowing vitality?  A good physician/acupuncturist/herbalist would guide their patient with individualised advice on the following (and we still do this today):

  • Balance.  The concept of Yin & Yang represent a type of balance that we see in nature.  Yin and Yang are two polar forces and yet are part of each other and evolve to become one another. They are relative terms.  The Yin Yang diagram (which appeared in the current form we know now much later in time) demonstrates Yin and Yang.  Yin is dark, quiet, cold, substantial and feminine.  Yang is light, loud, hot, energetic and masculine.  Yin and Yang can be applied to anything in life to understand balance.  For instance, a bright office room full of activity is yang in comparison to a bedroom, that is dark and quiet, yin qualities.  People and diseases can be described as more yin or yang.  Even your lifestyle or career can be described as yin or yang.  Running a marathon (yang)  versus lying on the couch (yin).  What is important here, is that we need to work towards balance of yin and yang to preserve good health.  So, if you are a busy career woman, perhaps it’s ok to incorporate a yoga class or even some couch time.  And if you have a desk bound job maybe getting outside for a walk at lunchtime would benefit you well.
  • Exercise – these were described as gymnastics but resemble something more like what we know as tai chi or yoga.  These exercises, when done regularly, were designed to encourage good circulation, movement of the body, strength, flexibility and breathing well to improve the function of the organs and body.
  • Meditation – the Taoists incorporated meditation techniques specifically involving  thoughts of improving the way their bodies functioned.  This is something that some of my patients employ during their acupuncture treatment but can be used at anytime.
  • Diet – given that the second most important medical position within the imperial court was the Dietician (the first being the Master Physician who oversaw the entire medical official team), we can surmise the great significance of good food to maintain good health.  The Dietician was responsible for providing menus that were well-balanced and reflected the seasons.  Most of us now, manage what we put into our own mouths (sometimes not as well as we’d like).   As a general rule, choose produce grown locally, in season (eating with the seasons is still relevant) and combine good quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats.  Also consider warming up your diet in colder weather in both temperature and spice.  A good acupuncturist can help you put together a diet to suit you if you struggle in this area.

There are many ancient medical ideas from China that we do not currently employ.  One in particular that I liked was ‘The Master of Crickets’.  This official was in charge of removing anything that makes a ‘disagreeable sound’.  Back then, they were thinking of crickets and cicadas, but we could now apply this position to noisy neighbours and leaf blowers.

So, who’s up for giving the quest for immortality (or at the very least preserving good health) a go?

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.