Be still, be present, just breathe.

Recently I was watching one of my favourite reality shows, and was dismayed to see one of the young (28) male’s come closing to having a heart attack. He hardly ever took enough time to eat, to sleep, to slow down, to stop, to listen to his body, and just breathe. Being hooked up to numerous wires was a wake-up call for him. He realised he wasn’t present in his life. For a person who loved life with a passion, he was close to losing it. He sat down, closed his eyes for a minute, and just breathed. There he was, in the stillness, in the here and now.

I’ve been guilty of not being still within myself for an extended period. I thought to be still was to be wasting time, because I wanted to do everything, and do it now. I didn’t realise that not taking that time out would lead to prolonged illness for me. Humans have a capacity to push themselves past their self-imposed limits and sometimes that’s okay, because they surprise themselves by achieving more than they ever thought possible, and they realise it was their mind that was holding them back. But there’s a difference between pushing yourself beyond what you thought you could do, and ignoring the warning signs that you’ve done too much.

Some people think inaction is a bad thing. But without inaction, your action may suffer. The stillness allows you to become more self-aware of what is going on around you, your thoughts, to catch your breath, to allow calmness that can then permeate through your body, and your day. Find comfort in stillness, and become good at it. Go inward at least once a day, to radiate calm outwards, even within the midst of chaos!

Try it now – stop what you are doing, sit down for a minute, close your eyes, breathe into your belly, focus on your breath, be aware of it, open your eyes, smile and remember to breathe as you go about your day. Practise, practise. The more you practise the easier it will be to experience calm, to cope with the madness. Take the de-stress pill called stillness.

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Food as Medicine part 2 (and a bowl of soup on the side)

I’m sure most of us have at some point cut down/cut out foods that aren’t good for us (for health reasons or to try and lose weight), but do we put as much thought into eating certain foods that have specific health benefits, and aid in illness prevention?It’s the season for warm foods to keep us toasty roasty, and to nourish our body with healthy goodness while it competes with cold weather and being exposed to more viruses.

While I enjoy eating soups year round, in winter it is beneficial to add ingredients that help keep the bugs at bay, and also work on metabolism, that are cancer-preventative, and anti-inflammatory. You can pretty much add any vegetable to a soup without having to follow a recipe, – go crazy, chop chop, add some spices, some stock, and 10 minutes later it’s simmering away.

Last week I made a nurturing soup of broccoli, zucchini, celery, asparagus, and baby spinach. These green ingredients are chock full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and are great for immune, bone, and heart health. I don’t use onion and garlic as I avoid FODMAP foods due to food intolerances, but if you are fine to eat them, they are very beneficial. Instead I add some ginger for calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and it’s also great for nausea. Lentils were added for some iron and folate and a generous sprinkling of turmeric, cumin and rosemary aid digestion and metabolism, help with pain, and get some more iron, magnesium, and calcium into me. Once it was ready, I added some toasted slivered almonds for crunch, omega 6, and good fats.

If you have any health concerns, it’s worth looking up what foods will benefit you the most to help manage them. Viola! – tasty medicine in a bowl, with no side-effects!

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Food as Medicine (introduction)

Recently I cut my vitamin supplements right back; I was taking so many vitamin powders and tablets that I rarely felt like eating. And did I feel like they were making a massive difference? Not really. Perhaps to my dwindling money tree, but not to my energy or pain levels. So with perfect timing I started a nutrition course that discusses in-depth vitamins, minerals, and what foods to find them in. Using a symptoms chart, I worked out what vitamins and minerals I am deficient in, and wrote down all the foods that I should be eating the most. And no, refined sugar is definitely not one of them! I also have noted down the fibre, protein, and carbohydrate, and fat counts in those foods to make sure I get a good balance of each.

But no surprise, being a coeliac and having a compromised immune system, even with big doses of supplements, I appear to still be deficient in many nutrients. That’s why making food my medicine is so important. The main benefits from eating these foods is cleansing my body, fighting free radicals, boosting my immune system, and lowering inflammation. When I gave up gluten 8 years ago, my pain from numerous injuries substantially decreased. Until then I would be curled up on a ball on the floor crying in pain for years, and using my TENS machine daily.

Eating good, clean foods is giving my body the best chance to heal. We only have one body, so love it, nourish it, and hopefully it will reward you for many wonderful years to come!

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Stress part 2 (my 5 top tips for serenity)

1. Self care (relaaaaaax).

So important! You need to keep yourself healthy first and foremost to make it easier to look after others (like children), and for sanity!. If you don’t have a lot of time to yourself, then make your home your sanctuary. I have set up a little nook off the lounge expressly for de-stressing purposes. Find a space that you can call yours, no matter how small and when you use it, you are not allowed to think of anything but relaxing:) Focus on the present. If you like baths, make it special – add candles, music, and relaxing potions. Find a space outdoors, in nature, read the paper with a cup of tea, or just close your eyes, enjoy the feeling of the sun on your skin, or rug up and enjoy the warmth and feel of a soft, cosy throw. For those that have the time, and money, enjoy a body therapy, such as a facial or massage. Or you can give yourself a facial, and ask someone at home to give you a foot massage. Ah, bliss!

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2. Emotional awareness

Our thoughts can contribute massively to our stress levels. Listen to your self talk, for internal negative messages. Be kind to yourself!  Work on any old belief patterns that may be holding you back from a new job, new hobby, new life, and causing undue worry.

3. Exercise

Lack of exercise, or being sedentary, is linked to many health problems, so get moving! And exercise totally burns off stress as well as calories! Work out what parts of your body you want to improve, and what kind of exercise you like doing. Obviously something like tai chi or yoga is not going to give you the muscles that weight resistance would, but yoga will still tone and lengthen. Swimming and walking are two great ways to keep fit for those of those who can’t do anything too strenuous.

4. Get creative

Who likes being creative? I’ve set up an art and music studio in my garage with a new sewing machine and affirmation pictures on the wall. Painting is so therapeutic, and I get to splash paint everywhere. Adult colouring books are very popular at the moment and all you have to do is colour between the lines, no drawing talent needed:). Sitting around the keyboard with a friend having a singalong is great for stress. Music! Music makes everything better! Have a dance, work off that tension.  Or just yell the words of the song out, and scare the neighbours. Particularly good for those of us who are unwell, the singing, not the dancing. Or just dance in your chair. I do.

5. Online supermarket shopping

This has been great for me. I’ve been ordering groceries online for 10 years. No driving, no looking for a parking spot, no wheeling around a trolley, trying to get past people, waiting in line, and carrying heavy bags. It’s worth the $6-11 delivery free (and free Wednesdays) just for that! And I usually get free samples included ( my last shop I got about $30 worth of free groceries).

So today, and every day, dance, sing, pamper yourself, laugh, and be joyous xx