3 Simple Things That Help Your Immune System Deal with Stress
Ah…these times we live in! We’re all feeling the stress in multiple ways. Many are stuck at home, trying to work a full day while taking care of children, homeschooling them, preparing meals, keeping up with household tasks…all while worrying about the pandemic and racism and police brutality and the state of politics and on and on.
I happen to be one of the more fortunate ones. I don’t have to leave the house very often. Our children are all grown and on their own. My immune system seems to be fairly resilient. Even so, I feel the stress from concerns about Covid-19, all the aforementioned issues, plus the welfare of our kids and grandkids and, well, the world in general.
The media has largely focused on external measures to slow or minimize the spread of this virus. You know them well by now. Wear masks! Stay physically distanced from anyone outside your own household. Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Wipe down surfaces with sanitizing spray. Did I say, “Wear masks”?
While there mostly seems to be consensus about the effectiveness of physical distancing measures, I believe there needs to be more attention paid to strengthening our own immune system’s defenses. We do that by giving the immune system what it needs nutritionally and by dealing well with stress.
And stress can come in all kinds of ways you may not even be aware of. Sure, there’s the nervous system stress of mental and emotional challenges – worry, difficult relationships, anger, loneliness, fear, helplessness, and financial pressures.
There are also physical, chemical, and nutritional stresses we deal with – lack of sleep, lack of sunlight, insufficient or excessive exercise, alcohol, toxins from the environment or personal care products, and eating crap!
Ok, take a deep, slow breath…!
In fact, deep, slow breathing is one of the best ways to counteract stress. It helps put your nervous system in rest-and-digest mode, so it takes a load off the immune system. Try 4-7-8 breathing throughout the day, that is, inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7, and exhale for 8. Simple and effective.
Another really, really important thing to pay attention to is sleep. I don’t know about you, but when I feel particularly stressed, I have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. That’s not a good thing immune-wise.
During sleep, the body lowers stress hormones and clears the nervous system of toxins. The sleep chemical melatonin has antioxidant properties that can lessen the tissue damage that occurs with viral infections. All to say, sleep has a huge impact on the effectiveness of your immune system. Do not skimp on sleep!!
There are many things to consider for enhancing sleep, such as early morning light exposure, limiting screen time at night, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and paying attention to the environment in the bedroom.
Finally, drinking lemon water upon rising is a great detoxifier and alkalizer. It helps digestive strength, rehydrates the cells, and sends your body the message that you care. Lemons have the ability to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and help us feel calm.
These are just a few of the ways that help your immune system deal with stress. Staying as relaxed as possible and supporting all our body systems in the best manner we can helps us be better prepared for whatever challenges we face.
We’ll reap the long-term benefits of better health overall plus we’ll help everyone around us stay healthier too. Do all the things – external and internal – and we help the world.
A Healthy Body Is the Sexiest Thing You Can Wear
That quote was shared by my client RoseAnn after she found real solutions for the nagging health problems that had been plaguing her for years before we worked together.
A healthy body, especially as you get older, is not just a result of winning the genetic lottery. It’s a celebration of your body’s intelligence and capabilities. It’s an honoring of its continual ability to heal itself and to deal with toxins, oxidation, and inflammation.
The media glamorizes celebrities who have access to the best physical trainers, nutritionists, and plastic surgeons. But looking good – or “sexy” – is not the same as thriving n a truly healthy body.
If you want clear, glowing skin, better sleep, and the strength and energy to happily go about your day, it is possible for you. Even if you have chronic health complaints now, creating new habits will bring amazing transformation in the way you look and feel.
There’s nothing sexier than being in a body that delights in all the ways it means to be well.
How I Resist the Power of Junk Food in the Throes of COVID-19
Most of us are social-distancing and staying home, myself included. Yet I find myself mildly amused – and quite concerned actually – by all the memes and social media comments alluding to the fact that lots of folks are taking this as an excuse to load up on junk food.
I’ll admit that at times when the Nibble Monster arrives, I will succumb to some gluten-free crackers dipped in hummus or spread with almond butter. And because they are a packaged food – engineered to tickle the tastebuds and encourage gorging – I will eat a few too many of them.
What about you? Do you have trouble resisting the Cheetos or the chips? The ice cream or the Oreos? You might be someone who believes you deserve to treat yourself to those temptations because they’re somehow comforting. But you know deep down that those types of foods or beverages will ultimately tear your body down.
You’ve likely heard it said, “We are what we eat.” Accepting the truth of what that French philosopher, Brillat Savarin, once said, you realize it’s very important to pay attention to what you choose to put into your mouth. What you eat becomes the cells that make up your body!
How do you set yourself up for success, though, when the walls are closing in and your tummy seems to be rumbling?
First of all, you must decide on some guidelines – a framework – and decide to follow it. Quality food is essential to a healthy body.
Educate yourself about healthy alternatives to your favorite snack foods, and stock your pantry and fridge with whole, fresh foods. These include proteins, fats, and fiber-rich carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Know what your trigger foods are, and don’t buy them in the first place and/or remove them from your environment.
Get excited about preparing your own meals and snacks. Research recipes online and block out some time in your day or week to put them together so that they’re available when the Nibble Monster bites.
A short break of physical activity such as walking or doing a few yoga poses can also interrupt a food craving. Physical effort helps your body metabolize stress hormones like cortisol and convinces your system that you’re safe.
The best solution I know of to not have cravings in the first place? Eat enough high-quality food at regular mealtimes. Know what foods work for your body to keep your blood sugar stable. Drink plenty of water and herb tea in between meals. And if you still find yourself searching for a snack, make sure it includes some healthy fat, fiber, and protein.
Here’s a recipe I made recently that fills that bill nicely….
Crunchy, Spicy Chickpeas
- 3 15-oz. cans organic chickpeas (or 4 ½ cups cooked chickpeas)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons good quality salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic granules
Preheat oven to 400º. Drain and rinse chickpeas and dry thoroughly on paper towels.
Spread chickpeas on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them for 10-15 minutes to dry then out even further and make them crisper once they’re seasoned. Remove from oven.
In a separate bowl, mix all of the spices into the oil and mix well. Add the chickpeas and make sure they are all coated.
Spread them back out on the prepared baking sheet and roast for another 30-40 minutes or until crunchy. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
The First Thing to Think About When You Have a Headache
Have you ever had a headache seemingly out of nowhere?
You haven’t had any extra stress in your life. You haven’t been doing any heavy lifting. You haven’t even wanted to punch anybody’s lights out recently. Where is it coming from? Well, being as it’s summer here and temperatures are warmer than they’ve been, it’s a good idea to listen to your body and to see, perhaps, if it’s a call for more water.
Now, you may not like water (I hear that a lot), but there are ways that you can make it appealing – even tasty. For instance, if you just add a pinch or two of really good salt – Himalayan or Celtic salt – to your water, that can make it taste better (and add important electrolytes!). And if you keep a pitcher of water in the fridge, you can add all kinds of fruit to it. You can add sliced strawberries, other berries, kiwi, pears, or slices of lemon, orange, or lime, leaves of fresh mint, even cucumbers and herbs like rosemary or basil. Of course, you are filtering your water, aren’t you?
Experiment and make your water taste good to you, so you drink plenty of it. The general recommendation is that you drink half your body weight in ounces every day. That means for every 60 pounds of body weight you drink a liter of water.
Adequate hydration is one of the pillars of functional lifestyle medicine. Do think of water first the next time you have a headache coming on, and see if you don’t feel just a bit better right away. And remember, prevention is always the best strategy!
Is Your Energy Up to Your Mission?
“People who are open, empathetic, optimistic, flexible, generous, warm, connected, creative and interesting seem to have a much easier time. They’re more able to accomplish their goals, influence others and most of all, hang out with the people they’d like to be with.” ~Seth Godin
“High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy.” ~ The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller
If you want to have an amazing life, you simply can’t be chronically tired or feeling less than your best. It’s bad enough when fatigue hits only occasionally, as in when you’re coming down with a bug or doing a detox. It puts quite the damper on your empathy, optimism, generosity, and creativity when energy is consistently below par.
While lots of people are tempted to keep throwing back cups of coffee or energy drinks to stay powered up through the day, perhaps they don’t realize the damage that does to the delicate systems that keep everything in balance in the body.
Like other symptoms or conditions, lack of energy has root causes. It’s not just something that happens to you because you’re getting older. And it likely doesn’t exist by itself. It probably has friends in the form of digestive difficulties, skin issues, or weight challenges.
You don’t have time for this!
You are up to big things. You’re committed to your mission. You want to make a difference. You know you need all the energy you can have to do all the work you’re here to do, to contribute in the way you want to.
What’s really frustrating is when you’ve tried to change your diet to make more healthy choices. You’re getting regular check-ups and your doc says you’re fine. You do what you can to exercise and take care of yourself, but – you have a lot of other responsibilities you have to care for too, you know?
Never give up hope!
Virginia, like many driven women entrepreneurs, is juggling two businesses and a household. And while she thought she was doing most things right, she struggled with her energy and her weight. That affected her confidence level and held her back from seeking the visibility she knew she needed in order to grow the business she loved. Although she was quite successful in one business, she lacked the energy and focus to work on the mission-driven one.
She really was already doing a lot of the right things. She was careful about avoiding GMOs and chose organic and local foods whenever possible. She got regular massage and performed physical therapy exercises and used a recumbent bicycle. And she was diligent about following her doctors’ advice.
She had tried working with another nutrition coach, but found the program too restrictive, and her inner “Irish girl” rebelled. When we started working together, we focused on making small changes that would move her toward better health overall.
I customized my food recommendations to take into account her preferences and sensitivities. Gradually we incorporated other lifestyle changes that influence things like self-esteem, self-image, sleep patterns, even time management.
And it’s working. Better than anything she has tried in the past! In her words, “I never feel pushed. I feel supported and encouraged. And I feel better, both physically and mentally, now that I’m accomplishing my health goals.”
“Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity.” ~ The ONE Thing
Caution: Boundaries Needed
This is another thing that puts a damper on your energy, empathy, optimism, generosity, and creativity – lack of proper boundaries. While that’s an entire blog post (or two) in itself, what I’ll say is that having firm boundaries about the requests of others, how you apportion your time, what you choose to eat, drink, and put on your body, and who you allow into your mental/emotional space WILL have a huge impact on your energy level and personal power.
Discovering your personal boundaries and the effects that stress, use of time, and mixed-up priorities – such as always putting business or other people’s needs first – will give you new insight and motivation to make the lifestyle changes you need to create the moxie you want.
“Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.” ~The ONE Thing
One Size Does Not Fit All
Here’s the thing. Really successful people and high-earners among entrepreneurs have a radiant vibrancy that’s compellingly different from the average person. That energy is part of their success. It’s the most important thing, in fact.
If you have a big mission in the world, you need your body as a vehicle and a vessel to get that vision out there. You have to have energy. You have to have your health, your focus, and your self-confidence.
Unfortunately, there’s no cookie-cutter plan that will address all of the moving pieces that could be messing with your pizzazz. The best plan is one that teaches you to listen to the wisdom of your body so that you come to trust it, one that will look at the whole of you and find the holes in your self-care routines. Or if you have some stubborn symptoms that haven’t responded even though you’ve put forth lots of effort, it often takes an expert eye to find what may have been overlooked.
Once Virginia was able to truly see herself as successful and to strengthen her personal boundaries, coupled with an eating/exercise/lifestyle plan customized just for her, she started shedding weight consistently. And now that she’s feeling more energized and confident, she’s moving ahead with her most important project – the business she loves.
If you’re interested in getting these kinds of results, let’s talk. Email me at [email protected] and we’ll book a time to chat. Let’s make sure your body is up to your next big project!
My Discomfort Zone
I don’t love to write. I said it! I know I need to write. I’m told I do a fair job of it. But I don’t love it like some people do. I’d rather get my hands on a client’s body and commune with Higher Consciousness in the ethereal realms. Higher Consciousness doesn’t seem to have a wi-fi connection I can hook into for the writing thing.
So, of course, knowing that I need to write and want to write, so I can help all of you with the health challenges you have or are going to have as the years roll by, I decided to take up a challenge that came across my inbox a few weeks ago.
The challenge was proposed by none other than the renowned copywriting expert Stella Orange herself and—here’s the best part—it was free!! I was all over that. I love the way Stella writes. So true to her own voice. Full of stories and spit and vinegar. But I digress.
She was offering to post a daily prompt and a video to get us started. There was a Facebook group if we needed support on a personal level. We could show up or not. The rules were that beating up on yourself was not allowed. You could skip a day or two. You could skip the whole damn thing if all you wanted to do was soak in some Stella.
Why was that appealing again–?
Oh yeah. No pressure. No perfectionism. Just friendly prompts and a time limit of your own choosing. I chose ten minutes. Just ten minutes a day–I could commit to that.
And I did the work. I even posted a few things in the Facebook group. But then, you know. Life happens. I went out of town for several days and had to catch up with the assignments when I got back home. Right there was more than my ten-minute commitment. And then I fell behind again. More life happening.
But I was determined to get it done! I did a marathon catch-up this weekend. And it felt good to actually complete it. Here’s what I learned:
- I tend to freeze up when I put my fingers to a keyboard. I think it’s actually easier to write with a pen in hand and a piece of paper. Free-writing for a specific period of time makes it almost painless. It’s like a force other than you (hello, Higher Consciousness!) is sitting on your shoulder whispering things to your fingers and you look down and notice that you wrote something you hadn’t actually thought of before.
- I identified what some of my biggest distractions are when it comes to writing. And the solution is to just SHUT UP AND WRITE. Just do it. The routine is the important thing. Not your mood. Not the conversation in your head about how hard it is or how it’s not good enough. And very definitely not the thought that someone else’s opinion or demands on my time are more important than the thing I’ve committed to doing.
- I’ve identified how I want my writing to feel to my reader. Mostly I want it to feel authentic. That means I have to show up as myself and not be afraid to say things the way I say them. I don’t have to sound like a professional copywriter or Barbara Kingsolver.
- I’ve learned that the thing I’m most passionate about isn’t even mentioned on my website, and I’d like to find a way to bring that subject matter into the world in my own voice.
- I learned that my unhealthy relationship with failure has been a huge sticking point. When you’ve been raised to believe that failure in school (getting less than an A!), in your church, and in your childhood home was shameful and—in some cases—could cost you your life, you tend to shy away from anything that might set you up for that.But as I’ve learned in SUAW and from just about every other personal development writer or coach I’ve listened to recently, we need to consider failure a gift! That’s right—a gift! We need to thank each and every one of our failures because they’re bringing us an experience, a lesson, a maturing that we wouldn’t otherwise have had. If you can learn to love failure, you’ll be unstoppable!
- In the words of Seth Godin, “Most of us need an external stimulus to do our best work.” It helps a whole lot to have a structure, a commitment, and a measure of accountability to get out of our comfort zone and do the work.
Like any habit we want to create, it does take a bit of all six of these mindsets and/or structures to make it happen.
- Find a way to make the behavior painless.
- Ignore your discomfort and just do what you committed to do.
- Be true to who you are and know what you need to get the desired result.
- Identify something you’re so passionate about that you’d be willing to get a little uncomfortable to have it.
- Make friends with failure and even learn to celebrate it!
- Get some kind of accountability and structure.
It often takes a skillful coach to get you these, and all I can say is, I’m grateful to Stella Orange for these insights. And the thing I most needed to learn? Every time you show up to do the thing you committed to doing, you win BIG TIME!
Is Your pH Out of Balance?
You work at a stressful job and hardly ever take a break. Getting out of the house in the morning, you barely have time to grab some cold cereal and coffee, let alone pack a healthy lunch. You grab a mocha latte on the way to work to help fuel your morning. You order fast food takeout so you can eat lunch at your desk. Maybe some charitable workmate brought some goodies for the break room that’ll help quell your afternoon hunger. You get a good whiff of exhaust fumes on the way home. And when you do get home, there are all the other stresses to face: kids, relationships, chores, bills. And what to do about dinner?
Unfortunately, many of us can identify all too well with this picture. And all of it–poor food choices, toxic exposure, and stress–contributes to acid buildup in our bodies.
As with most things related to health, there are varying opinions about the nature or relevance of excess acidity in the body. Some researchers point out that our blood pH is tightly controlled by mechanisms in the kidneys and the lungs, so that it’s always kept at its slightly-alkaline measure of 7.36 to 7.0. (http://authoritynutrition.com/the-alkaline-diet-myth/)
Others, many of whom are well-known doctors, point out the association between excess acidity and everything that can go wrong with the body, from hormonal imbalances to cancer.
Dr. Lynda Fassetto, a researcher at University of California, has found that excess acid wastes are being stored as solids in the form of cholesterol and crystalized uric acid in the body tissues. This stored acid is highly inflammatory and corrosive—just like rust.
Stored acids are uncomfortable, contributing to aches and pains, obesity, low energy, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and most of the chronic diseases. They interfere with your hormones and your body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from food. They clog up the works so that cells can’t function properly. They even contribute to skin wrinkling and mess with your moods!
While our bodies are designed to process acids and alkalis routinely, most of the foods we choose to eat in our modern diets have a very acidifying effect on our system. Many of us rely heavily on sugar, meat, dairy products, and refined grains as our staples, with only an occasional nod to fresh, raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits.
To turn that around….
- Eat 8-10 servings a day of fruits and especially vegetables.
- Have a mug of warm fresh-squeezed lemon water first thing in the morning.
- Have at least a cup of greens every day, such as spinach, broccoli, kale, collards, mustard greens, or bok choy.
- Make green smoothies for breakfast. Powdered green food supplements can be helpful for this.
- Certain vitamin and mineral supplements are helpful, such as buffered vitamin C and magnesium.
- Olive oil is less acid-forming that other oils.
Ah, the benefits!
Just to be clear, your body needs a balance of both acid and alkaline foods, along with proper exercise, deep breathing, restful sleep, avoiding toxins as much as possible, and adopting good stress management strategies. Adopting a more alkaline diet—one that emphasizes lots of vegetables and unprocessed foods—is a really healthy move that will make your body very happy.
And that means you look great, feel great, and have plenty of energy to play!
Do You Need Blood Pressure Meds? Natural Rx For High Blood Pressure (Part 2)
In Part 1, I talked about the causes of high blood pressure and the tendency many have to run to the doctor for medication to bring it down.
Drugs, unfortunately, are designed to deal only with the particular symptom – in this case, high blood pressure. But drugs do nothing to address the cause or to improve your health.
In fact, very often they have other effects that actually make the situation worse.
According to Al Sears, MD (alsearsmd.com), if you start taking a beta-blocker, for instance (a commonly prescribed drug for high blood pressure), it will artificially bring your blood pressure down. But it will also negatively affect the conditioning of your heart and its ability to beat strongly. That means it will be really hard to get benefit from any exercise you do.
As Ageless Beauties, what we’re aiming for here are things that will keep us in top condition – youthful and strong – that enhance our body’s natural healing capability.
Keep in mind the thing about diet, supplement and lifestyle “prescriptions” is that they may not immediately wipe out symptoms like meds do. But our symptoms are there as a wake-up call that it is indeed time to start paying closer attention to our needs.
Here are some great natural healing prescriptions to consider:
- To counter the fight-or-flight nervous system response, incorporate relaxed breathing exercises, meditation and/or yoga daily.
- Speak your truth. That means taking responsibility for yourself. It also means checking in with your body and really listening to its messages and asking for what you need.
- Incorporate lots more vegetables into your diet. Beets and members of the cruciferous family help relax blood vessels. Become veggie conscious!
- Supplement with magnesium (citrate, aspartate, or glycinate). Researchers have found that most of us are deficient, and this one mineral really makes a difference in so many body functions. It’s naturally found in nuts, seeds, pasture-raised dairy products, and dark green vegetables.
- Decrease systemic inflammation by avoiding sugar and anything that spikes insulin production in the body. It’s not just the white stuff that gets you!
- Avoid eating processed and/or fried foods prepared with soy or other vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids. These disturb the balance of omega-3 and trigger more of that nasty inflammation.
- Instead of vegetable oils, look for and use extra virgin olive oil, pasture-raised butter, sesame or coconut oil.
- Supplementing with CoQ10 (the ubiquinol form) is good for all things cardiovascular.
- You’ll like this one – according to Dr. Sears, you can enjoy an occasional glass of champagne! Yes, champagne specifically. Because it’s fermented twice, it relaxes the blood vessels and helps keep blood pressure low.
- And – I saved the best for last – GET REGULAR MASSAGE! Craniosacral therapy is especially stress-reducing and has been likened to having someone else meditate you.
Despite the fact that both of my parents suffered with high blood pressure, my own BP was 110/63 the last time it was checked. Besides that, my husband was taking BP meds when we met and after following the above suggestions (mostly), he now has normal blood pressure. So, I know these prescriptions really work!
Do You Need Blood Pressure Meds? (Part 1)
My client is a surgeon who’s frequently under a lot of pressure. When he checked his blood pressure recently, he saw an alarming number register on the device.
Although it returned to normal with a few relaxing breaths, he thought to himself, “If this is really how I am all day when I’m at work, maybe I need to be on medication.”
The look on my face let him know exactly what I thought of that idea!
Now, I’m NOT a big fan of medication. I know there are times when it can be absolutely lifesaving.
But for most of the chronic conditions that affect more and more of the population, meds are a bandaid at best. They often create even more problems due to side effects.
Worse still, they can be an invitation to ignore what caused the problem in the first place.
So, let’s get to a few causes….
Fight-or-flight. We all deal with it to one degree or another whenever we’re not feeling safe. When the adrenals react to chronic stress by repeatedly pumping out more cortisol, the system gets rather stuck in that mode. That leads to many health problems, high blood pressure being one of them.
The other major contributor to blood pressure problems is inflammation in the body.
In massage school we learned that classic inflammation has four signs: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. It serves a useful function in the body’s repair process when we have an injury or an infection.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not so helpful. Healthy cells are damaged. The inner environment of the entire body is affected.
You may not even know you have it as it silently contributes to the development of degenerative diseases and robs you of youthful function.
The type of diet that we select on a regular basis has a lot to do with this.
More and more folks are figuring out that the old advice to “eat low fat” is just plain dangerous, because it’s the sugars in our diet that mess with insulin production and create inflammation throughout the body.
Processed foods and deep fried foods are also loaded with an overabundance of Omega-6 fats because the oils used are generally soy, corn, safflower or other polyunsaturated vegetable oils. These oils imbalance the Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio and also contribute to inflammation.
My client is already choosing at least one great self-care strategy for managing his blood pressure by coming in (to see me!!) for craniosacral and massage therapy on a regular basis. I gave him a few more tips to consider in addition, and I’ll share those with you in the next post.
In the meantime if you want to stay at your ageless best, I encourage you to always search for the cause of your physical symptoms before running to the doctor for a pharmaceutical solution. And if you want my help figuring out what that might be, fill out the contact form here.