The Art of Attentiveness (Wellness Wednesday)

This week, for Wellness Wednesday, I’m focusing on attentiveness. Charlotte Mason, my homeschooling mentor, called it “The Habit of Attention”. Many call it mindfulness. If you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with wellness?”, that’s a great question because it means you are paying attention and letting curiosity get the better of you!

What started me thinking about paying attention is this online class for HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) that I’ve been taking. I’m learning lots about how to thrive rather than simply survive as a person who processes life differently than most. I’m discovering what my strengths and weaknesses are as a person with this trait and how I can navigate the high levels of emotion that come with it, how I can conserve and replenish my energy, and how to ask for what I need. 

It’s kind of crazy that it’s taken me this long in my life journey to begin learning these things, but as the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” And one thing that stands out from this class is that in order to implement my newly acquired tools and techniques, I need to learn to pay more attention.

It Starts With Me

First, I need to pay attention to myself. This is a bit of a challenge for me because I lived most of my life in a culture that was all about service to others. I still absolutely believe in service to others, just not in a way that leaves me completely out of the equation. Even Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which implies self-love. 

I need to ask myself, “What do I need?” when I’m starting to get tired, upset, overwhelmed, etc., rather than to just keep going until I get to meltdown mode. And “Do I have this to give?” when someone asks something of me. If I’m already in a depleted state, I’ll be giving from a negative, resentful place. If I can live from a place of love and compassion toward myself, I’ll be much more loving and compassionate toward others.

Focusing on the Good in Others

Second, I need to pay attention to others. And by this I mean to focus on the positive qualities that each person has. HSPs can nitpick, obsess, and tend to focus on negative things, especially when tired and emotionally overwhelmed, which is a lot of the time if we aren’t paying attention to our needs. I need to make lists of the good things about those I love and know and repeat those things to myself and say them out loud to them. 

By sharing the things I admire and appreciate about others with them, it will encourage them and reinforce the truths about who they are in my own brain. When I’m with my husband, my kids, or my friends, I need to focus on their words, on their faces and gestures, and savor the moments we have together.

Nature

Third, I need to pay attention and connect with nature. Put on my shoes, step out the door, look, listen, breathe, feel, and notice. What do I see? What sounds can I hear? Does the sun feel hot on my back or the wind feel like it’s pushing me while I walk? What kind of bird is singing in the apple tree? Where is that tang in the air coming from?

Slow Down

And this is the kicker for me: In order to cultivate the art of attentiveness to myself, others, and to the world, I NEED TO SLOW DOWN!!! My smart husband is always telling me this and until I started this class, I inwardly resisted. “But I have so much to do! I’ll never get things done if I move around like a snail.”

During week one, the teacher said, “HSPs need slow mornings”. She said if you start the day off at a clip, your emotional brain revs up, is on high alert, and you quickly lose “energy points”. That explains why I’ve been tired within a few hours of waking up for most of my adult life.

At my teacher’s suggestion, I’ve begun a daily meditation and mindfulness practice. Waking up and meditating first thing in the morning has been a huge help to me this past month. I used to jump out of bed and start on my to-do list, but now I take a few minutes to pay attention to my breath and that sets the tone for the rest of my day. It’s training me to notice my needs so that I don’t overextend myself emotionally and physically. I can give to my family, work better, and still have energy left to enjoy life. And this is living well.

Books

Want to read more about slowing down and paying attention? Here are two non-fiction books on the subject plus a book of poetry that you might be interested in.

The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker

Lost In Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal

Thirst by Mary Oliver

Blend

And here’s an aromatherapy blend that will help you focus and cultivate attentiveness. Place drops in diffuser, fill with distilled water, and diffuse for 1-2 hours at a time. Best during the daytime hours.

1 drop Cardamom

2 drops Cedarwood

3 drops Lemon

If you would like to tell us how you’re learning to be more attentive, please share in the comments!

Moving Toward Morning

We just finished the first week of September and I feel all the things: a little melancholy that summer is waning, excitement for the start of a new season, and the sense that I am myself as this is my birthday month. Transitions–endings and beginnings blurring together–are always difficult, even when you are looking forward to the new.

I don’t know how the weather is where you live, but here in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, we are experiencing pleasant weather in the high 60s to mid- 70s (Fahrenheit). Although it still is warm, there is a tinge of a chill, and the nights fall a little earlier with each passing day. My daughter began eleventh grade this week, my stepson twelfth grade, and I am in my second month of Ayurveda school.

How I start my day determines how successful the rest of it will be, so I wanted to talk about morning routines. What does yours look like? Mine varies quite a lot. On Sunday, my wake-up time depends on whether my husband and I have a music gig or not, but most of the time I can sleep in.

Monday through Wednesday during the school year, I get up to drive my daughter to school. My choice is to either get up at 7 and launch directly into making breakfast/coffee/tea, and then drive her to school, or I can get up early at 5:30ish and meditate, journal, practice visualization and affirmations, exercise or do yoga, shower, and then start making breakfast, etc. The latter is my ideal.

Even the rest of the week–Thursday through Saturday–if I get up early and get all of those important soul-nourishing pieces of the morning done before the rest of the house wakes up, I feel amazing! I have a positive outlook, feel confident, and am ready to face the day. This way I can begin work, meet the needs of my family ,etc., without resentment or trying to figure out how to squeeze in a workout.

It might seem crazy to contemplate getting up an hour or two before everyone else. That obviously means going to bed earlier. As a certified lifelong night owl, it is challenging for me to stick to this. And I am not religious about it. If I don’t have a good night’s sleep, am not feeling well, or if I go to bed late because of work or a special occasion, I don’t get up super early and I don’t beat myself up about it. But as soon as I can realistically get back into my morning routine, I will.

So my hat is off to you if you’re already an early bird and rise before the sun to do what you need to in order to make your day a success. But if you’re like me and are still moving toward your ideal morning, that’s great too! The best thing is to ask yourself why would you want to do this and then write down a good long list of reasons why. The more reasons you have, the more likely you will continue working toward your goal. If you can display your list of reasons somewhere visible to motivate you, all the better!

Design the morning that works for you, at this stage in your life. And like I said in my Facebook and Instagram Lives on this topic, please, if you’re a young mom with a baby or toddler, or you’ve got an elderly parent or sick family member you are caring for, or anything else that is super demanding, this is not the time to begin a new routine, to get up early, etc. Be extra gentle and kind to yourself and take time for yourself when you can.

This particular advice comes from this episode of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happier Podcast: In order to get your family on board when you are starting new habits, be consistent! They will get used to it sooner if you stick to your routine.

And since I am always looking for ways to share what I learn about aromatherapy with you, here are two diffuser blends that are great for mornings. They are motivating, positive, promote confidence, perseverance, and a bright outlook.

Morning Blend 1:

1 drop Basil

2 drops Cedarwood

3 drops Lemon

Morning Blend 2:

1 drop Tulsi

2 drops Cedarwood

3 drops Orange

Alright, I’d love to hear about your morning routines: what works, what doesn’t, and what new habits you’re incorporating into your life this September.

(Not Sad) Cypress (Wellness Wednesday)

When I turned seven, a couple of family friends gave me Nancy Drew mysteries for my birthday. I gobbled them up and was soon devouring the whole collection from our little public library in Brooklyn. By the time I was twelve, I was devouring Agatha Christie mysteries. Since the essential oil I’m sharing about today is Cypress, that made me think of the Christie mystery, Sad Cypress.

Actually, Cypress isn’t sad at all–it has quite the opposite effect. It is gentle and uplifting to the emotions. Happy Wellness Wednesday, friends! It’s time for another edition of “What Should I Do With My Oils?”.

Latin name: Cupressus sempervirens L.; Family: Cupressaceae; Part of plant used: Leaves, twigs, cones.

Therapeutic Actions: Antispasmodic, Antiseptic, Decongestant, Restorative to the Nervous System.

How to use: Helpful for varicose veins, edema, preventative for sore throats, relieve lymph congestion, respiratory infections in the early phase, influenza, asthma, sore throats, dry spasmodic coughs, bronchitis, rosacea, wound healing, calming, helpful for transitions or times of grief, soothes anxiety.

Soothing Cypress Diffuser Blend for Anxiety, Immune Support, Allergy Relief

6 drops Cypress

3 drops Lemon

3 drops Black Spruce

Allergy Diffuser Blend

5 drops Cypress

3 drops Naiouli

4 drops Scots Pines

Nightime Leg Blend for Varicose Veins, Swollen Legs and Feet

2 oz. fragrance free lotion

16 drops Cypress

12 drops Lavender

8 drops Red Mandarin

Needing Niaouli (Wellness Wednesday)

Every Tuesday, I go Live on Facebook and Instagram with my series “What Should I Do With My Oils?” and talk about one essential oil, its uses and benefits, and share a few recipes/blends as well. This week I shared about Niaouli, an EO that is super beneficial this time of year.

Niaouli: Latin binomial: Melaleuca quinquenervia ct 1,8 cineole; Family: Myrtaceae; Parts used: Leaves; Aroma: Camphoraceous, fruity, warm, earthy, 

Safety concerns: Don’t put near the nose or face of infants and children under 5 years old; can cause breathing problems in infants and young children.

Therapeutic Applications: weak immune system, allergies, bronchitis, respiratory infections, chest infections, fungal infections, mental fatigue.

Three blends/recipes:

Sore throat recipe: 1 drop Frankincense, 1 drop Niaouli, 1/2 teaspoon Jojoba oil. Rub on front of throat and back of neck.

Breathe Clear Blend: 6 drops Niaouli, 3 drops Cypress, 3 drops Spike Lavender. Diffuse for 1-2 hours at a time.

Allergy Lotion Blend: 15 drops Niaouli, 9 drops Lavender, 5 drops Eucalyptus Radiata, 8 drops Lemon, 8 drops Scots Pine in a 1 oz bottle of lotion. Apply lotion to neck, chest, and upper back.

I also wanted to recommend an aromatherapy book that I refer to often that you might want to consider for your home library. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit contains plenty of history and lore connected with plants, as well as information on essential oils to use for emotional and mental well-being.

Two Blends for Back Pain Relief (Wellness Wednesday)

I just had the most painful back pain episode of my life! I was at the gym this past Sunday morning, walking on the treadmill, when I felt a tightness and pain in my upper left back/shoulder area. Attempting to ease it out, I stretched a bit and thought I’d just keep going. About ten minutes later a pain like nothing I’ve ever experienced started stabbing me in that same spot. I couldn’t breathe without extreme pain and nothing would stop it. Somehow I managed to get myself out of the gym and drive home, crying all the way.

Alan massaged my back, got me some ibuprofen, and had to help me shower and dress–it was that debilitating! I laid flat for most of the day, and could only take shallow breaths. At dinner time, I went downstairs determined to help myself, made a list of analgesic, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory essential oils, and made myself Daytime and Nighttime Roll-on Blends.

Alan applied the Nighttime Blend after dinner. I didn’t feel any better and took ibuprofen around 9:30pm. I was crying in pain by 11, so he applied the Nighttime Blend and massaged my back again. At 5AM I woke up and felt quite a bit better, fell back asleep and woke at 9:15AM to way less pain and much more mobility without pain. No ibuprofen all Monday, just a massage and the Daytime Blend!

Although I’m going to take it easy for the rest of the week, I am thrilled that the pain and stiffness have been reduced this much. I will have the doctor take a look at my back and hopefully I can get some physical therapy soon.

So here are the blends in case you want to re-create them for yourself to have on hand for extreme pain situations.

Daytime Pain Relief Blend: In a 10ml roller bottle, 10 drops Clary Sage, 7 drops Rosemary, 7 drops Laurel, 10 drops Sweet Marjoram, and 11 drops Spike Lavender, and fill the bottle with Calendula oil or a carrier oil of your choice

Nighttime Pain Relief Blend: In a 10 ml roller bottle, 11 drops Clary Sage, 7 drops German Chamomile, 5 drops Frankincense, 7 drops Black Spruce, 15 drops Lavender

(Disclaimer: The information contained in this post does not take the place of medical advice and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or ailment. If you are in pain, see your healthcare provider.)

Lively Lemon (Wellness Wednesday)

I’ve started a new series with my Facebook and Instagram Live videos on Tuesdays and I’m calling it “What Should I Do With My Oils?” Plenty of people I know have quite a collection of essential oils, but some don’t actually know what to do with them. (Hint: You DON’T DRINK/INGEST THEM!!!) I thought it would be helpful if I share the information I talk about in my Live videos in written form, especially so you can find all the blends and recipes in one place. Click here to watch yesterday’s Facebook Live video on Lemon.

Let’s Dive into Lemon:

Latin binomial: Citrus limon; Family: Rutaceae; Part of plant used: peel or zest of fruit.

Storage: Because it’s high in limonene (one of the chemical components) you need to store lemon in a dark container in the fridge or a cold room away from sunlight and heat. It can become oxidized and cause dermal sensitization. Average shelf life is 1-3 years. Err on the side of a shorter shelf life.

Safety concerns: It depends whether your lemon was expressed or distilled. Expressed lemon is preferred for aromatherapy; distilled tends to be used in food flavoring.

Expressed lemon presents a low risk for phototoxicity. If you’re using it topically, and your skin will be exposed to sunlight, applications should be lower than 2%. Or you shouldn’t expose your skin to sunlight/tanning beds for at least 12 hours.

Distilled lemon can be a dermal sensitizer when oxidized. (can cause skin irritation when the essential oil is old)

Drinking Lemon Essential Oil (Don’t Do It!!!): 

Two reasons why you shouldn’t put essential oils in water and drink them: 

  1. Essential oils don’t dissolve in water, so it’s hard for your body to absorb or assimilate essential oils because it’s not dispersed evenly.
  2. Because it isn’t evenly dispersed, the droplets of oil are floating around in your stomach and can irritate the mucus membranes of your stomach.

Benefits/Core Therapeutic Actions: antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, diuretic, astringent, immune enhancer, sedative.

Indicated for: It’s an air purifier, immune-boosting, preventative measure against contagious illnesses, detoxifying, good for circulation, varicose veins, digestion, lymphatic congestion, muscular/joint aches and pains, headaches, general fatigue and weakness, prevents prematurely aging skin, good for acne, oily skin, helpful for anxiety and depression, anger/irritability, calming and stabilizing, refreshing, and cooling.

Blends well with: evergreens like Black Spruce, Scots Pine, Cypress, Juniper, Cedarwood, Lavender, Clary Sage, other citrus oils like Grapefruit, Lime, Mandarin, Niaouli, Eucalyptus, Spike Lavender, Helichrysum gymnocephalum.

Blends/Recipes:

Pick-Me-Up Diffuser Blend

5 drops Lemon

3 drops Lime

2 drops Grapefruit

Anti-Anxiety Diffuser blend

3 drops Lemon

3 drops Lavender

2 drops Basil 

Anti-Inflammatory Muscle/Joint Blend (adapted from Aromatics International Recipe)

5 drops Black Spruce

5 drops Helichrysum Italicum

5 drops Roman Chamomile

5 drops Juniper Berry

4 drops Lemon

1 oz olive or sesame oil or Calendula Herbal oil/Trauma Oil

Blend together in small jar or bottle and apply to sore muscles or joints as needed.

Sore Leg Relief Blend (great for varicose veins, swelling, pain, etc.) This recipe is one I use every single day and at night too! You don’t have to have all of these oils–Lemon on its own is great for circulation, swelling, and leg pain, but if you have any of the others, they go great together!

7 oz fragrance free lotion 

1 oz Magnesium Oil

10 drops Lemon

10 drops Bay Laurel 

10 drops Cypress

10 drops Lavender

10 drops Juniper

Clearing Room Spray

4 oz spray bottle

30-40 drops essential oils

2/3 to 3/4 distilled water or Hydrosol

1/3 to 1/4 rubbing alcohol

15 drops Lemon

10 drops Clary Sage

10 drops Lavender

I highly recommend taking the free introduction to aromatherapy course at the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies! It’s about 20 hours long and will give you a good introduction to the world of aromatherapy, including essential oil safety, blends and recipes, and much more!

https://www.aromaweb.com/recipes/rafresh.asp

https://roberttisserand.com/2015/08/robert-tisserand-interviewed-on-ingestion-dilution-and-other-safety-issues/

www. Aromaticstudies.com




Black Spruce (Wellness Wednesday)

The lovely women in my aromatherapy class last weekend.

Yesterday on Facebook/Instagram Live I began a new series, “What Should I Do With My Oils?”. I know a lot of people who own plenty of essential oils: I meet them in doctors’ offices, at the hair salon, at the library, and in my home! But once they get these beautiful oils, they don’t always know what to do with them. So I thought I would highlight one oil per week, talk about its benefits or “core therapeutic actions” as my aromatherapy school says. Also, I’ll share any safety concerns, how to use it and include a few recipes so you can make your own blends at home.

Black Spruce is this week’s essential oil. Latin name is Picea mariana, and it is part of the Pine/Conifer family (Latin: Pinaceae). The part of the plant distilled is the needles. Storage: Always store your essential oils in a cool, dark, place. A little fridge for your oils is a good idea!

Core therapeutic actions or benefits: Anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, immune system stimulating, eases muscular aches and pains, joint stiffness, tension, is a decongestant, can help with colds, spasmodic coughs, bronchitis, moist coughs.

So, how can Black Spruce help you? Well, this time of year, colds are flying around. I narrowly avoided one this weekend because several friends and family members were sick. The good news is, I did not get a full-blown cold–I was able to use herbs and essential oils, including Black Spruce, to fight it. As a performing singer, I do my utmost to keep myself healthy because getting a cold means it takes me about four to six weeks before I get my voice back.

If you’re concerned about getting a cold and want to keep yourself strong and the air in your home clear, Black Spruce can assist you. You can use Black Spruce in a diffuser or in a personal inhaler to keep yourself well and to fight off cold viruses that are flying around.

I made this inhaler blend for myself this weekend, to fight off the cold.

Kim’s Inhaler Blend: 5 drops Black Spruce, 6 drops Tulsi, 7 drops Lemon, 3 drops Cypress, 5 drops Helichrysum gymnocephalum

I put a similar blend in my diffuser to keep the air clear, boost my immune system, and help with congestion.

Kim’s Diffuser Blend: 2 drops Black Spruce, 3, drops Lemon, 4 drops Tulsi, 3 drops Helichrysum gymnocephalum

Sandy and I were choosing the oils for her inhaler. (Thank you, Susan G. for the photo!)

And here is a personal inhaler blend I made for my friend Sandy, who was recovering from bronchitis this past weekend.

Sandy’s Inhaler Blend: 5 drops Black Spruce, 4 drops Helichrysum gymnocephalum, 3 drops Frankincense, 6 drops Lemon, 6 drops Clary Sage.

You can also make a salt scrub to boost your immune system. Here is a simple, but effective recipe:

Immune Boost Salt Scrub: 1 cup sea salt, 1/2 cup sesame oil, 16 drops Black Spruce, 6 drops Niaouli, 10 drops Lemon. Mix together and place in 8 oz PET plastic or glass jar.

If you already are down with a cold and congested and/or coughing, you can try this:

Decongestant Diffuser Blend: 5 drops Black Spruce, 5 drops Niaouli or Helichrysum gymnocephalum, 2 drops Frankincense.

You can also use Black Spruce to ease muscular aches and pains. One way is with a massage oil or lotion blend.

Sore Muscle Relief Blend: In a 2 oz bottle, combine 12 drops Black Spruce, 6 drops Roman Chamomile, 6 drops Frankincense, and 12 drops Helichrysum italicum (very different from the Helichrysum above!). Fill with sesame or jojoba oil or fragrance free lotion, screw cap on and shake well. (This is a 2% dilution.)

And if you like roll-on bottles as a way to bring the goodness of essential oils wherever you go, here is a roll-on blend. Some of us made this in the aromatherapy class I taught this past weekend.

Jenny had a lot of fun experimenting for her roll-on blend. (Thank you, Susan G., for the photo!)

Spring Wellness Roll-on Blend: 1 drop Black Spruce, 1 drop Frankincense, 2 drops Cypress, 3 drops Lavender, 2 drops Orange, place drops in 10ml bottle, fill with sesame oil, put roller and cap on, and shake well.

I hope this gives you some fun things to try with your Black Spruce this week! Let me know what blends you enjoy making. Also, please follow my Delicata HouseInstagram and personal Instagram and Delicata House Facebook pages for info about Live streaming, future classes, and new products in my shops on Etsy and Shopify. Thanks!

To read more on Black Spruce, here is a blog post from my aromatherapy school.