Courage, Dear Heart (Wellness Wednesday)

We were getting ready to drive to a music gig near Keuka Lake, filling water bottles, ironing clothes, and packing snacks when I spotted the mail basket. I rifled through the pile and came across a letter addressed to me from the U.S. District Court. Oh no!!! (Oh, yes.) It was a jury summons–but this was worse than usual: for a period of at least a year, several times per month, an hour and a half drive each way.

At the moment I felt like freaking out, but we had a three-hour performance that afternoon, so I read it over once and set my freak-out aside until after our show. By the evening, my chest felt tight, by the end of the next day, I had a sore throat and my shoulders and neck were sore with tension.

I filled in the online questionnaire and gave a valid excuse why I couldn’t serve (my business can’t survive without me), but I have to wait three weeks to find out if I still have to go.

So, now I have a choice to make: I can live each moment until then in fear, worry, upset, dread, and panic, or I can find ways to act and think differently–with positivity, joy, and courage.

Gretchen Rubin’s Third Commandment from her Happiness Project is “Act the way you want to feel”. Does that seem too much like “Fake it till you make it”? But think about it: Where will those good feelings come from if we don’t take the energy we have and transform it into something better?

If you don’t happen to wake up happy and positive each day, do you just let that dark cloud of gloom hanging over you ruin your whole day? I’ve absolutely been guilty of this. I’ve also had days where I wake up super negative but do the things I know will propel me out of my funk.

The first scenario is a passive one: I just go with whatever happens, just feel whatever feelings I feel and act however I feel. The second scenario is active: I take what I have and make something better out of it. Do you know these are both decisions?

You and I can either decide that we will let our feelings run us OR we can decide that we will run our feelings. You are more powerful that you realize! You have the power to make or break your day!

But what about if you’re already an anxious person (like I am) and you happen to be in an extremely anxious season? The Fall seems to heighten anxiety for me and I know I’m not alone. We don’t have to take it! (Does this remind you of a certain Twisted Sister song?)

I wanted to share a list of things that help me calm down. Some of these I am learning in Ayurveda School, some of them I’ve learned in the HSP class I’ve been taking, some I’ve learned as an aromatherapist, and some I’ve discovered on my own. They all help, but there’s just one catch: We have to actually do the things!

Get up before the sunrise.

Practice meditation/pray.

Journal and write your manifestations. (Listen to Rachel Hollis in this podcast episode on why.)

Visualize how you want your day to go, walk through any known difficulties and decide how you will handle them. (Thanks, Brendon Burchard, for your awesome High Performance Planner!)

Develop a daily yoga practice. It could be 5 minutes or 90 minutes, but practice. There is nothing else like it for calming the mind, connecting the mind and body, and grounding you.

Drink herbal tea/coffee substitute. You know what? I don’t love most herbal teas, but I drink it because it calms me down. Lemon balm has been daily go-to. However, I just found a new caffeine free gluten free herbal tea that satisfies my coffee craving without the jitters. If you’re a coffee nut like I wish I could still be, you gotta try it: Teeccino Dandelion Coconut Roasted Herbal Tea.

Go for a walk outside. I always feel refreshed and my nervous system feels soothed when I do.

Eat lots of plants.

Have a gratitude practice. This could be in your journal in the morning or at night.

Keep a positives journal. This is new to me, but the teacher of the HSP class said sensitive people focus on the negative too much and need positive things to keep them grounded. Make notes of what good things happen in a day, things you love, moments of happiness, and then read through these when you’re feeling anxious.

Read poetry. YES!!! If you think you don’t like poetry, start with children’s poems and approachable poets like Mary Oliver and David Whyte. Poetry speaks to and nourishes the soul, the emotions I would say that if you’re a sensitive person, like I am, you may not be able to read some poetry that tends to be chaotic, angry, and violent. I tend to gravitate toward poems that express reverence for nature and that speak to the inner life of a person. These are a good place to begin:

Devotions by Mary Oliver

The House of Belonging by David Whyte

Favorite Poems Old and New by various

Get enough sleep.

Get a massage whenever you can and do self-massage daily. Even if you don’t get to a full body self-massage every day, which I highly recommend, at least do a foot massage right before bed. Some warm sesame oil and a drop or two of Lavender essential oil massaged into your feet will send you into blissful slumber.

Practice positivity. Focus your thoughts and speech on “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” This is found in Philippians 4:8.

Spend time processing your day: thinking about and journaling about it. According to my HSP teacher, sensitive people need about two hours of alone time each day.

Take one day off per week. Does this sound impossible? I know, it’s pretty difficult for me as well. When I do it, my life is better. We all need adequate rest and time for recreational pursuits. Work on this one and I will too!

Use an aromatherapy diffuser near your desk while you work and in your bedroom at night. Turning it on for an hour or two at a time is a wonderful way to calm down your mind, emotions, and your whole body. Calming essential oils like Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Black Spruce, Cypress, and Mandarin are a few to try, either individually or blend a few together.

That’s my list. I hope you find some useful tools to help you handle bouts of anxiety. I would love to hear about what things help you when you are feeling anxious.

And, finally, here is an aromatherapy blend to use in your aromatherapy diffuser.

Calming Blend For Anxiety

1 drop Vetiver

2 drops Black Spruce

2 drops Red Mandarin

3 drops Lavender

PS: Today’s title was taken from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: “But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

What I’m Doing About Anxiety

For the past few weeks, I’ve had higher-than-usual anxiety levels. Lots of activity and a full house are definitely part of it, plus the changing weather, and my ongoing post-divorce inner work/healing. Yes, I know, we’ve all got stuff to deal with and we have to do the best we can every day. So, here is a list of some of the tools that are helping me get my anxiety under control each day.

Calming Aromatherapy Blend:

(4 drops Cypress, 3 drops Lavender, 5 drops Sweet Orange essential oil.) When my anxiety seems to be peaking, this blend helps me almost instantly. I put it in my diffuser, sit down to work at my desk, and within 10-15 minutes I feel that tightness in my chest ease, the inexplicable sadness and worry lifts, and I come back to myself.

Calmsense:

I’ve said it before and will say it again: This blend of B vitamins and herbs really works to calm me down, boost my mood, and relieve stress. Whether for everyday anxiety issues or for situational anxiety, (before a performance, for example), it works for me within twenty minutes. You should have this in your natural first aid kit.

Walking outside for at least twenty minutes each day.

Just get out there! Your mood will lift, your ability to focus improve, your stress levels will drop, and your overall sense of well-being will rise. Feel the sun or rain or wind on your face, connect with your surroundings, and remind yourself that you are part of the planet, and the planet is part of you.

Meditation/Yoga/Prayer/Pranayama:

Pick one or do all of them, but whether you are praying, practicing yoga, meditating or doing breathing exercises like Pranayama, you will benefit with lowered stress levels and a calmer, more positive outlook. I enjoy meditating and practicing yoga with the YogaGlo app on my phone.

Watching something that makes you laugh.

I can get so serious and stuck in my head, trying to solve problems and get work done, that I forget to take a break and just laugh. Whether it’s I Love Lucy episodes, a movie like Beauty Shop with Queen Latifah or a TV show like The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, a good laugh session will do wonders for your mood and you’ll stress less.

Reading books on contemplative prayer and mindfulness:

Peace of Mind by Thich Nhat Hanh

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton

Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr

Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

I would love to hear about what tools you use to help yourself when you are feeling anxious.

Poised for Spring (Wellness Wednesday)

Happy First Day of Spring! We have sunny, cloudless skies and slightly milder weather today, so I’m soaking up the cheer and enjoying birdsong.

Interestingly, in the middle of all this sun and hope and good vibes, I am dealing with anxiety. If you struggle with depression and anxiety, do you find that anxiety heightens during months of fluctuating weather, such as Spring and Fall? Mine does. And as a result, I am always looking for tools that I can use to settle my mind and emotions. I do yoga, drink herbal teas, take an herbal supplement and use essential oils in various ways to alleviate anxiety.

Today I have two aromatherapy blends to share with you that combine some of my favorite oils that will help with grounding, calming, centering, steadying, etc., along with plenty of other benefits.

First, is a massage blend. I chose four essential oils for this blend:

Vetiver: Vetiveria zizanioides; Part of plant used: Roots of grass; Botanical family: Poaceae; Vetiver is strengthening to the immune system, eases muscular aches and pains, helpful for anxiety and depression, nourishing and healing to the skin, is grounding, centering, gathers your thoughts together when you feel scattered in your thinking, is balancing and stabilizing.

Black Spruce:Picea Mariana; Part of plant used: Needles; Botanical family: Pinaceae: Black Spruce is a decongestant, eases minor pain and inflammation, is antimicrobial, antispasmodic, builds confidence, is revitalizing to the mind.

Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia; Part of plant used: Flowering tops; Botanical family: Lamiaceae: Lavender is anti-inflammatory, is good for wound healing, eases muscular aches and pains, is calming and soothing, eases and helps with nervous exhaustion, anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

Green Mandarin: Citrus reticulata: Part of plant used: Peel/zest of fruit; Botanical family: Rutaceae: Green Mandarin is useful for easing nervous tension, anxiety, depression, headaches, stress, is nurturing, warming, calming.

Steady Spring Massage Blend

In a 2 oz. PET plastic bottle or glass bottle, combine the following:

5 drops Vetiver

8 drops Green Mandarin

13 drops Black Spruce

18 drops Lavender

After you add the essential oils to the bottle, fill the rest of it up with refined sesame oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba. Screw cap on tightly, shake well, and store in a cool, dark place.

To use: Massage into back, shoulders, chest, arms, legs, feet.

The second is a diffuser blend. Here are the essential oils I chose:

Frankincense: Boswellia carteri; Part of plant used: Resin; Botanical family: Burseraceae Frankincense relieves anxiety, tension, supports reflection, contemplation, and prayer, alleviates feelings of despair, is anti-inflammatory, a wound healer, good for respiratory system.

Cypress: Cupressus sempervirens; Part of plant used: Leaves, twigs, cones; Botanical family: Cupressaceae; Cypress is a decongestant, supports healthy lung and airway function, is calming, helpful for alleviating feelings of sadness and during times of transition and bereavement.

Black Spruce: see above

Lavender: see above

Steady Spring Diffuser Blend

2 drops Frankincense

2 drops Cypress

4 drops Black Spruce

5 drops Lavender

Drop into diffuser, fill with water, and diffuse for an hour at a time.

The information I’ve shared with you today comes from my Level 1 Aromatherapy Course from New York Institute of Aromatic Studies.

I’d love to know what you think of either of these blends if you make them. Also, let me know in comments what essential oils you want to learn about or what kinds of recipes you are looking for.

Five Reasons I Use Magnesium Oil Every Day (And How To Make Your Own)

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(Happy Halloween, everyone!!!) For this edition of Wellness Wednesday, I’m talking about a mineral that has been extremely helpful to me; one that is a daily part of my wellness regimen. I honestly can’t live without this stuff!

Have you heard of Magnesium Oil ? Have you ever used it? I didn’t hear about it until two years ago when I was searching for ways to relieve the Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms I experience most nights. I bought a bottle of lotion containing Magnesium Oil on Amazon and began using it every night. When I did a bit more research about Magnesium Oil, however, I discovered it was super easy to make myself, and I’ve been doing that for a while now.

So what is Magnesium Oil? It is Magnesium Chloride in water, which has the ability to absorb efficiently through the skin. Here are five reasons I use Magnesium Oil.

  1. It relieves my symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome. Do you experience that achy, creepy, I-want-to-crawl-out-of-my-skin feeling whenever you settle down to sleep at night? Magnesium oil is like magic for this problem. Just rub in a magnesium oil lotion or spray it directly on your legs and massage it in. You should feel a difference within a few minutes.
  2. It can keep headaches away or to relieve a headache if I have one.
  3. Magnesium Oil reduces soreness and stiffness in muscles.
  4. I use it to relieve PMS symptoms.
  5. I use it to reduce anxiety. When I am feeling extra panicky, I reach for my spray bottle of Magnesium Oil.

My favorite store-bought Magnesium Oil Lotion is Life-Flo Magnesium Lotion — 8 fl oz. It has a subtle vanilla fragrance from natural vanilla oil. So if DIY is not your thing, you can get it online and in health food stores.

If you do want to make it yourself, you only need two ingredients and a Spray Bottle to store it in. (Oh, and in case you wondered, Epsom salts are NOT the same as Magnesium Chloride Flakes, so don’t use them to make Magnesium Oil. Epsom salts are Magnesium Sulphate. You need Magnesium Chloride flakes. What’s the difference? Here’s one explanation.)

Magnesium Oil Recipe

Magnesium Chloride Flakes

Distilled Water

You will need equal parts Magnesium Chloride Flakes and Distilled Water. I usually make mine using 1/2 cup flakes and 1/2 cup water and make up a new batch every three or four weeks.

Directions: Boil water in a saucepan. Turn off heat and add Flakes. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat, cool, and pour into a clean spray bottle. Store any remaining Magnesium Oil in a glass jar the refrigerator. Make sure to label it with something like “MAGNESIUM OIL FOR SKINCARE: NOT FOR DRINKING” and keep out of reach of children.

Note: It may sting your skin, especially if you just shaved your legs, for example. If that happens, simply take a little body lotion or cream, or whatever moisturizer you have on hand, and rub it into your skin. If spraying the oil is just too strong for you, simply make your own lotion by adding some Magnesium Oil to a bottle of lotion or cream, shake to blend, and then use as needed.

Suggestions for Use: I usually apply it in the morning before working out at the gym, after a shower, and at bedtime when my legs are restless. I use a spray bottle for the most intense application and relief, and a lotion bottle with added Magnesium oil which works well too, especially if I just shaved my legs.

If you use Magnesium Oil or if you try it, let me know!

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* This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

What I’m Reading Lately

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Hello from the Finger Lakes! This cool and sunny sweater weather we’re enjoying these past few days is my favorite. The sun going down earlier means more time for books, which I always welcome! Right now, I have a great stack of books that I’m either reading through or about to start and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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Tom Asacker was interviewed in this episode of Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast last year when he talked about the stories we tell ourselves, how they can limit us, and what we can do about it. His book is I am Keats: Escape Your Mind and Free Your Self*. You know that voice in your head that says things like, “Who do you think you are to …” you fill in the blank. Well, that’s you telling yourself a story, a limiting story. Tom Asacker addresses this voice in your head.

Speaking of that voice in your head, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott talks about that voice, the things that distract and how to focus on your writing, in addition to many hilarious, poignant, and very real stories from her own life with words. If you write at all, it’s good to read books that describe other writers’ experiences, paths that led to writing, and how they deal with distraction, loneliness, failure, and success. I picked up a copy at my local used bookstore and am nearly finished reading it. I recommend this if you take an interest in writing!

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko  has been on my TBR list for such a long time! I finally placed a hold at the library and am looking forward to diving in. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover!?

I included poetry because I always have at least one collection going. David Whyte’s The Bell and the Blackbird was published earlier this year and I am slowly working my way through it. His way with words brings me to tears, in a good way. He writes with such depth and tenderness, clarity and boldness, delving into the difficult, the painful, as well as the joyful seasons of life. My particular favorites so far have been his poems to the late Irish poet John O’ Donahue as well as his poem to beloved poet Mary Oliver. If you haven’t read David Whyte’s poetry or essays yet, what are you waiting for?

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl was a random book purchase, simply because I was intrigued by the title. My life has been anything but leisurely, especially since I’ve started a business, but I still want to know how to waste a day right when I get a spare one!

Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life has also been on my TBR for several years. After going through so many transitions and finding my way forward, I need to hear the wisdom of someone older and wiser that myself. Maybe the truths within the pages will assist me as I seek to connect the pieces and make sense of the journey. Look for more about this when I finish reading it.

Lastly, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time is a book I placed on hold at the library after a recent bout with depression and extreme anxiety. This book sounded, well, up! And hopeful and like maybe there are actions that I can take, habits that I can form, ideas I haven’t thought of, that will help me reduce these symptoms and live with more positivity and calm. I’m about a third of the way through already; the writing is clear, the material easy-to-understand, and best of all, there are practical helps I can implement. I’m looking forward to reading the rest!

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Alright, that’s it for now! What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!