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.

emotional health, health, massage, mental health

Five reasons why you should learn to massage for fun

  1. Everyone loves a massage.
  2. Massage has lots of health benefits:
      • Pain relief – For musculoskeletal injuries, tension headaches and back pain.
      • Detoxification – Massage stimulates the immune system by increasing blood flow and lymph drainage.
      • Muscle recovery – Massage helps clear muscles of lactic and uric acid that build up during exercise.
      • Muscle tone – Improving muscle tone and delaying muscle atrophy resulting from inactivity.
      • Prevent injury – Deep massage can separate fascial fibres, prevent adhesions and reduce inflammation and oedema.
      • Healing – Massage increases circulation and therefore improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.
  3. Massage promotes a sense of wellbeing:
      • Mental alertness – After massage, EEG patterns indicate enhanced performance and alertness on mathematical computations.
      • Reduced anxiety and depression – Massage has been shown to reduce subclinical depression.
      • Relaxation – The release of endorphins and serotonin inducing a relaxed, ‘feel good’ state can improve sleep, reduce blood pressure and heart rate.
  4. Helping someone else to relax and feel good, also makes the giver of the massage feel good too.
  5. There’s a good chance if you give a massage, you might get one on return, which is always nice. ( To increase your odds of this, make sure to encourage your partner/friend/family member to learn to massage with you).

Fancy learning to massage just for fun?  I’ll be teaching a “Massage for Beginners” course through the lovely people at Bright Learning on Saturday, 19th November, 2011.  We’ll also be touching on some useful acupressure skills too.

For more details or to book – click here.

 

aromatherapy, health

I want my bath…and the essential oils!

I love baths.  There’s nothing like a long soak in a warm bath for your health and happiness.  And in Winter, I think baths are even nicer.

There are endless reasons to justify having a luxurious bath.  It could be because you:

  • Had a bad day
  • Had a good day
  • Had a hard workout
  • Have body aches
  • Picked up a cold or flu
  • Need a good sleep
  • Feel cold
  • Are feeling grumpy
  • Think everyone else is being grumpy
  • Deserve to be spoiled
  • Have some new bath oils
  • Are preparing for a night out
  • Are preparing for a night in
  • Are feeling like romance
  • Just like baths!

Here’s some simple steps to create your perfect mind-relaxing, muscle-soothing and health-promoting bath.  Be careful, like anything that creates a sense of euphoria, baths like these can be addictive!

  1. Remove all unpleasant noises from earshot of your bath (eg. phones, children).
  2. Replace those sounds with your chosen selection of chill out music (perhaps some jazz or classical?)
  3. Run the bath with the perfect temperature water for you.
  4. Add 1-2 cups of epsom salts to soothe your muscular aches away.
  5. Assemble fluffy towels in easy reach of your bath.
  6. Light some candles.
  7. Will you be in the need of a beverage?  A nice cup of herbal tea goes down well, but sometimes a glass of wine fits the mood.
  8. Choose the right essential oils to set the mood for your bath.  Just before you hop in, add 4-6 drops of pure essential oil (that’s the plant-based ones not the artificial oils known as fragrant oils) to the bath and agitate the water to disperse them (or you can add the essential oils to a tablespoon of oil or teaspoon of vodka first).  Here’s some essential oil suggestions:
    • relaxation blend: lavender (3 drops), orange (1 drop), chamomile – often sold as a 3% dilution – this is ok (2 drops)
    • balance blend: geranium (2 drops), rosewood (2 drops), lavender (2 drops)
    • uplifting blend: bergamot (2 drops), lemon (2 drops), geranium (2 drops)
    • romantic blend: ylang ylang (1 drop), geranium (2 drops), orange (1 drop)
    • muscle-relax blend: lavender (3 drops), rosemary (1 drop), marjoram (1 drop)
  9. Sink into the bath, relax and 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.

Diet, exercise, health, motivational

Being healthy when you’re busy

It’s easy to live a healthy life if you have plenty of time.  Taking your time to cook wholesome food, get enough exercise, practice some meditation and have enough sleep all take time.  Precious time.  Something that many of us seem to have a lot less of than we’d like.

If being time-poor is your reality, then we need to work with the time we have more smartly.  My answer is to make a routine.  It’s just as important to prioritise your ‘you time’ as it to schedule work and family commitments.  You need to book in time to nurture yourself when it suits you or you’ll end up being ill when it isn’t convenient, and that may really throw a spanner in the works at a later time.

‘You time’, as part of a healthy lifestyle, might include any combination of the following: home-cooked healthy food, at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week, daily short meditations, a daily stretching routine, weekly relaxation activities such as a bath, massage or facial.  These activities are not just for people with lots of spare time, they should be an essential part of anyone’s lifestyle who wants to feel energetic and healthy (and I’m hoping that’s everyone who’s reading this!)

There are several ways to do this.  The way I have personally found helpful is as follows:

  1. Make a list or timetable of all of the activities you do in a week.  Include work, family, housework, sporting commitments and other activities.  Work out when you have any spare time.  We need to know this so that we can use it wisely rather than flitting it away without valuing it.  You may be surprised when you look at your week on paper.  Perhaps there are some activities you are overdoing and are able to cut back on.
  2. Think of the areas of your health that suffer when you are busy.  Often making home cooked meals gets neglected, as does exercise and relaxation.  Make a note of these.
  3. Find gaps in your current schedule where you can add some of these healthful activities and write them in.  It may be that you can cook a meal on one night/day to provide several lunches and dinners (avoiding the need for unhealthy  takeaway meals).  Perhaps you can find a gap that can allow you to get some incidental exercise, a run or even an exercise class that fits around your current activities.  If relaxation always gets left behind, schedule yourself some time for a DIY facial, bath, meditation, massage or other treatment of your choice.  Remember these activities are important!  Make sure not to fill in all of your spare time.
  4. Write down your new schedule.  Put it somewhere that you can always refer to it.  It doesn’t have to be set in stone but rather something to aim for.  Whether it’s on paper, in your diary, a spreadsheet or your iPhone/iPad do what will work for you.  Some people find that daily lists work, for others a weekly timetable is preferred.

What you have created should help you to know what you have to do each day and what the consequence will be if you don’t get to it  (eg. if I miss cooking a meal to last for a few lunches, I won’t have time to do it later and I’ll have to get takeaway).  This is motivating but also allows for informed choice from week to week as the unforseen will always happen from time-to-time.  So, even though you have a ‘perfect health-promoting schedule’, remain flexible.  Things just don’t go to plan all the time and we don’t want to turn down wonderful opportunities that come our way or get more stressed if we don’t tick everything off our list.   It’s also not locked in for life.  It can come and go as you need it, and be changed as often as required.

This solution won’t work for everyone, but if you are feeling overwhelmed by commitments and they are eating into your ‘you time’, then putting your time on paper is a good place to start.  The important message here is, however you put it into action, when you are busy, looking after yourself is just as important as when you are not.

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.