It’s the rare person who doesn’t feel down every once in a while. But when a bad day turns into a bad week, month, year … What then?
Books, magazines, the Internet are full of perky tips: start exercising, join a new group, make a list and give yourself points for each thing you accomplish.
Yeah, but I’m talking about when it’s too hard to even get out of bed.
I recognized how down I was after my 102-year-old uncle died. Except for a few distant cousins who are at war with each other, my uncle was my last blood relative. I felt adrift with no stability and no support.
My first thought was, “OMG! I forgot to have children!” (Just kidding.) But I took a look back at my life and wondered what I’ve accomplished, really. And who will care about it? So why bother?
Once they get started, self-defeating thoughts can keep repeating in an endless loop. They drain our energy, until we feel so tired and heavy that even simple things seem too hard to do. And hardest of all is getting to feel good again.
Therapy and antidepressant drugs are certainly an option. But in my own journey, I didn’t want to talk to anyone and I didn’t want to take anything with dangerous side-effects. So I chose herbal medicine instead.
Herbal adaptogens are tonics that help us cope with stress while they are helping to support, strengthen and often restore the body’s immune system. Some adaptogens are also natural antidepressants; others support the work of antidepressant herbal remedies.
Here are some examples of herbal medicine that I am finding helpful. Let me start with the standard FDA Disclaimer:
“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”
And here’s a link with a Glossary of Herbal Actions, where you can find definitions of any unfamiliar terms: http://www.naturesalternatives.com/herbs/herb-actions.html.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) – adaptogen, antibacterial, antidepressant, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive, immunomodulator; use when adrenal deficiency reduces the brain chemical that prevents depression; also for people with a family history of dementia. Holy Basil has been a staple of Ayurvedic medicine for 3,000 years to maintain health and promote long life. It has been used for conditions from asthma and bronchitis to indigestion and vomiting, from stings and bites to colds and flu. Today it is used to help clear “mental fog” and “stagnant depression.” For long-term use.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) – adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitussive, antiviral, cardiotonic, hepato-protectant, immunomodulator, nervine; reduces anxiety, stress, fatigue, moodiness, poor memory, improves sleep quality, energy, immunity and endurance, good for “functional burnout.” Reishi has been used as a medicinal mushroom in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for more than 2,000 years. Today it is used as a complementary adjunct for patients undergoing chemotherapy, to protect and restore immune function. For long-term use.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) – adaptogen, antidepressant, antiviral, cardioprotective, immune tonic, nervine, neuro-protectant, restorative; provides more energy, normalizes the HPA axis, reduces cortisol levels. Rhodiola has been used for thousands of years in China and Tibet, to prevent illness and treat pneumonia, tuberculosis and cancer. The Vikings used it to boost stamina and endurance. It helps alleviate the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and can decrease the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. For long-term use.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) – adaptogen, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, astringent, expectorant, hepatoprotectant, immune tonic, immunomodulator, nervine, restorative; specific for severe fatigue, nervous exhaustion, insomnia, night sweats. In TCM it is called “five-flavor berry” because its berries are salty, sweet, sour, pungent (spicy), and bitter, and so it benefits the “yin” organs: kidneys, spleen/pancreas, liver, lungs and heart. Schisandra can both stimulate and calm the nervous system while relieving anxiety and stress. For long-term use.
Bacopa (Bacopa monniera) –antioxidant, antispasmodic, circulatory tonic, immune tonic, nervine, nootropic, restorative; specific for long-term (chronic) fatigue, for people with a family history of dementia, for mild hypothyroid. Bacopa has been used in traditional Ayurveda as a treatment for epilepsy, asthma, ulcers, tumors, enlarged spleen, inflammations, leprosy, anemia, and gastroenteritis. Renowned herbalist David Winston states, “Bacopa is used to promote memory and focus, relieve anxiety, and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.” For long-term use.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) – amphoteric, astringent, carminative, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypotensive, nervine; aids with anxiety, paranoia, memory loss, shock, calms ADD symptoms, alleviates chronic insomnia. In Celtic mythology, the hawthorn plant was said to heal the broken heart. And TCM uses it to “calm the Shen” (the Spirit that is housed in the Heart). Modern uses target cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure as well as ADHD. For long-term use. Caution when using in conjunction with cardioactive medications, as it can potentiate the drugs, but it can also reduce the toxicity of those same medications.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – antidepressant, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, carminative, diaphoretic, hepatic, nervine, mild sedative; for nervousness, hysteria, anxiety, insomnia, melancholy, depression, gas, cramps. Lemon balm can improve mood and cognitive function, relieve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It helps with digestion and quality of sleep, and eases stress headaches. For long-term use. Contraindicated for people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other hypothyroid conditions. Observe caution and consult first with your physician if using thyroid medications.
Mimosa (Albizzia julibrissin) –anti-anxiety, antidepressant, nervine, calming sedative, tonic; for grief after severe loss, insomnia, depression, anger, irritability, poor memory. Called “the happiness bark” in TCM, the flowers and bark are used to relieve anxiety, stress and depression. Mimosa has helped people recover from a broken heart, PTSD, long-term grief, unresolved issues, and fear. For long-term use. Contraindicated in pregnancy.
This is just a partial list of what I consider “herbal allies” — plants that help us heal ourselves. Let me know if you want to learn more.
Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about Code Lavender™, the “holistic care rapid response” process that hospitals such as the Cleveland Clinic have put in place for their doctors, nurses and staff. When these professional healers recognize that they are overwhelmed and need help, they call in a Code Lavender and a small army of holistic healthcare workers – Reiki practitioners, massage therapists, aromatherapists, healing touch nurses, counselors, and more – springs into action. They offer calm, soothing support for mind, body and spirit.
However, in revisiting this topic, I’ve discovered some interesting information. First, Code Lavender is a trademark for the institutional process these hospitals have developed; it’s not a term one can use lightly or out of context.
Also, Code Lavender is not considered a tool to prevent burnout – as the popular Huffington Post article claimed. It is designed specifically for crisis intervention: when things get so bad that the person feels they’re going to fall apart right there.
Code Lavender provides care, support and acknowledgement (“Hey, we’ve got your back”) to medical professionals who have felt unsupported in the past. Some find it a means of preventing future post-traumatic stress.
And one very important thing: the stressed-out caregiver must request his or her own Code Lavender. No one can do it for them.
In the more than six years since hospitals began adopting Code Lavender procedures, the stigma about asking for help still persists: “I’m not weak. I can tough this out on my own.”
It’s an ingrained cultural mindset not restricted to hospital professionals.
So let me ask you: How hard is it for YOU to ask for help?
What kind of toll is it taking on you just to persevere?
When (if) you do ask for help, what do you need most?
I look forward to your comments. Chances are, you’ll have some good advice for others reading this. Thank you.
How do you know when you’re in balance?
Most of us don’t respond like a kung fu champion, leaping out of bed each morning, raring to meet the day. More often we hesitate, testing those muscles and joints, probing for aches and pains. (If you are the kung fu exception, you may want to stop reading now. I encourage you to go on.)
So it’s easy to know when you’re out of balance. But how will you know it when you get back in?
One thing I’ve noticed when doing self-care Jin Shin Jyutsu (JSJ) is what I call the “click.” It’s that moment when the Safety Energy Locks that I’ve been holding release, and my breathing gets easier, my mind feels clear, and whatever pain I was experiencing is gone — or at least, has dimmed down a notch.
It’s an all-over feeling of calm assurance that all will be well.
Let me back up a bit here, in case you’re not familiar with the concept of Safety Energy Locks. In Jin Shin Jyutsu, there are twenty-six pairs of points on the body, similar to but not the same as acupuncture points, that act as gates for the energy (“Qi,” “Ki,” “Prana,” life-force, whatever you want to call it) that flows through and around our body.
The energy flows smoothly when the gate-points, the Safety Energy Locks, are open. But negative thoughts, “stuck” emotions, physical over- or under-exertion, poor nutrition, erratic sleep habits — anything that creates too much stress for our body, mind and spirit — disrupts the energy flow and can cause those Safety Energy Locks to close.
Holding the Safety Energy Locks (one pair at a time, or in a sequence called a flow) helps open them, restoring the normal flow of energy and bringing body, mind and spirit back into balance. For me, it feels like a “click.” What does it feel like for you? Try this simple experiment and see:
Sitting comfortably, with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor, hold your inside right knee, right at the side where there’s a bulge, with your left hand — use your fingertips, flat fingers, or whole hand, whatever feels best for you. At the same time, hold your left knee at the side, at the bulge, with your right hand.
You can hold each knee lightly; no need to press on it. While you’re holding your knees, pay attention to your breathing, in and out through the nose. Within two to five minutes you will probably exhale deeply as you feel something loosen up.
If you’re sensitive to your body’s energy you may feel something in your hands — they may start to tingle, or get colder or warmer. You may even feel a pulse moving between your hands. That’s a sign of the energy moving into balance. However, if you feel nothing, know that it’s still working.
After about five minutes, stop and take stock: how does your body feel? How do you feel emotionally? What thoughts are you noticing?
The points on each knee that you were holding are Safety Energy Lock 1, the “Prime Mover.” In JSJ, these points can be the first step to unlocking “stuck” energy and dis-ease everywhere within and around your body.
Want to know more? Send me an email or give me a call!
The pain was gone - just by holding my fingers!
Recently I saw once again how well and how easily Jin Shin Jyutsu works to relieve pain and bring the body back into balance.
I was at a friend’s house taking care of her cat when I was suddenly stung by a wasp - on my right middle finger. The pain was sharp, and my finger began to swell almost immediately. I didn’t know where her first aid kit was, so I held my finger under cold water for a minute or so.
Then I remembered the Jin Shin Jyutsu self-help mantra:
“Right for Red, Left for Lift.”
What this means is, if you have bleeding, hold your hands on the area, right hand first and left hand on top. Even without heavy pressure you’ll find the bleeding will soon abate.
If you have a puncture wound, such as a bee sting or a sliver, put your left hand down on the area first and your right hand on top. Many people have felt the foreign object disengage on its own by using this process.
Well, the sting was in my right hand, so I could certainly put my left hand on it. But it was a wasp sting, so there was no barbed needle to come out. And it would be difficult to put my right hand on top of my left, since that was where the sting was.
Nevertheless, as I held that finger I felt the pain ebb away, and when I took my left hand away, the swelling was gone. Later that evening you’d never know I’d been stung at all.
[NOTE: JSJ does NOT take the place of an epi-pen! If you are allergic to bees and wasps, always carry your epi-pen with you, and get medical help right away if you are stung.]
And one added bonus: the middle finger represents Anger in Jin Shin Jyutsu, so holding it helped me harmonize any ill feelings I had toward the wasp. (I saw it later, clinging to the back of a chair and seething - at least, that’s how it looked to me.) I decided to leave it alone (after warning my friend), hoping it will find a way outside.
Jin Shin Jyutsu has a wealth of self-help practices - as well as energy flows that a practitioner can use to help you get back into balance in body, mind and spirit. Want to know more? Send me an email or give me a call at 404-406-4204!
From now through Groundhog Day (February 2, 2016), I have a special introductory offer: Experience the gentle healing power of Jin Shin Jyutsu and save $20. A 1-hour session is just $45 (more than 30% off the regular rate).
And just what is Jin Shin Jyutsu?
It is a gentle healing art whose origins go back thousands of years. Rediscovered in Japan in the early 1900s, Jin Shin Jyutsu uses the innate healing energy of acupuncture meridians and balance points to help each person bring her- or himself into harmony, so the body can heal itself.
Jin Shin Jyutsu (pronounced “jit-soo”) is ideal for anyone who is dealing with pain, too much stress and / or a chronic condition that hasn’t responded to conventional medical treatment.
As a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner, I gently place my hands on specific balance points, called “Safety Energy Locks,” in a pattern called a “flow.” My client remains fully clothed and soon becomes very relaxed — many people fall asleep! There is no massage or manipulation — my hands serve as “jumper cables” to help open the energy flow.
This is the same energy that is called “Qi” (“chi”) in tai ch’i, “Ki” in reiki and “Prana” in yoga.
And you can do many of these same hands-on flows yourself! I teach my clients simple self-help moves to address their individual concerns and needs.
If you are currently undergoing medical treatment, Jin Shin Jyutsu can be a safe and helpful complement to the healing process.
Doing Jin Shin Jyutsu regularly brings cumulative benefits, and receiving regular sessions can help keep you healthy, pain-free and at ease.
To discover the therapeutic benefits of Jin Shin Jyutsu, please call or email me today for an appointment.
Recently, I got a chance to receive a reflexology session. And to experience what my clients feel.
First, a sense that I could let things go. That for the next hour, I was going to be cared for — my office partner and teacher, Ronda, has a very soothing presence and a skillful technique.
Next, that some long-held aches and pains in my feet were draining away …
Then, a gradual awareness that I was awake again, without remembering that I had been asleep. I was groggy for a minute or two, but then felt so much more relaxed and easy than I had felt in a long time. And my feet felt wonderful!
I tell my clients how important it is to get regular healing work done — whether it’s reflexology, massage, chiropractic or other energy medicine modalities such as reiki or jin shin jyutsu. It’s also helpful to keep your body limber and strong with yoga, qi gong or t’ai chi. Life today is so hectic and full of stressors, it’s very easy to stay way out of balance.
Maybe you’re noticing some digestive problems, or your complexion isn’t as clear as it used to be. Maybe you’re having more trouble falling asleep -- or staying asleep through the night. Maybe your joints feel too stiff or your muscles too tight. Maybe you’re just tired all the time.
Energy healing can address all these complaints — and without the side effects of so many pharmaceuticals. I encourage you to find a modality that you enjoy and get regular care -- whatever “regular” means to you: weekly, monthly, even quarterly. You’ll be clearing out a lot of potential dis-ease!
Nature shows its stress — sometimes people need help to bring it out in the open.
To help you get on a regular schedule of energy healing, I’m once again offering 5-session discount cards for a limited time. From now through December 31, buy 4 sessions of Reflexology, Reiki or both, and get 1 free!
Five 1-hour sessions of Reflexology or Reiki – regularly $325, now $260
Five 1-1/2 hour sessions of Reflexology + Reiki – regularly $475, now $380
Call or text me at 404-406-5204 to order your discount session cards today!
And don’t forget that from now through the end of May 2015, I’m offering introductory Jin Shin Jyutsu at no charge (donations gratefully accepted). After June 1, I will be fully certified as a JSJ practitioner and will be adding that to my regular practice. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn about this powerful tool for self-help and deep healing!
Before kava kava became a trendy herbal remedy, it was an essential part of a community ritual throughout Polynesia. The islanders believed that remaining angry for more than two days could cause illness — not just for oneself but for everyone near and dear. Holding a grudge could decimate a whole community!
So they developed the elaborate practice of pounding the plant roots for hours to produce a mash, mixing it with water, and drinking the kava kava according to a prescribed ritual. The ceremony did as much to foster amity as did the herb itself.
Kava kava is known for creating a feeling of calm and relaxation while maintaining mental alertness. It also numbs the lips and tongue. It’s hard to speak in anger when your mouth can’t form the words!
What Westerners often fail to comprehend is the Polynesian world view that underlies this and other ceremonial practices, a world view that encompasses the unity of all things. One way the community members would take responsibility for each others’ health was by ritually quelling their anger. Another was by confession. Because they believed social unrest could cause not only illness but crop failure or natural disasters, harmony could be restored only by way of a formal apology.
In Hawai’i this practice is called “Hoʻoponopono” and is loosely defined as “mental cleansing.” Families would hold “conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.”
This concept has of course been adapted for Westerners. One current Hoʻoponopono practitioner, Dr. Hew Len, advocates “taking 100% responsibility” for everyone’s actions, not only your own. Then everything you see, hear, taste, touch, or in any way experience would be your responsibility because it is part of your life.
Sounds like a tall order! To get to a state where your ego identity — that harsh, judgmental, striving, often conniving inner voice that is always pitting You against Them — would be silent, Dr. Len calls for “constantly repeating” this mantra:
"I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you."
Constantly repeating?? That seemed excessive.
Then I got in my car.
I found I couldn’t drive to the grocery store without repeating that mantra 5 or 6 times, as I caught myself passing (unflattering) judgments on the drivers around me. I would take a few moments each time to let the feeling of forgiveness sink in.
Imagine how much forgiveness could flow during a daily commute!
When I say “Please forgive me … I love you,” I’m talking to my Inner Critic. But I’m also appealing to what many would call my Higher Self. That Higher Self, in turn, is part of what some call a Universal Intelligence — following the chain up to where duality disappears and everything is connected as one.
So in a roundabout way I’m also talking to your Inner Critic. Please forgive me. I love you.
One of my regular reflexology clients said recently, “I wonder how this is going to help my allergies this year?”
She told me that when she began having weekly reflexology sessions last spring, it was the first year she didn’t suffer from itchy eyes and sniffling when all the pollen appeared. Was it a fluke, or was the reflexology helping?
I told her that reflexology addresses sinus areas through the reflex points in the toes and fingers. And by stimulating the movement of lymph, it could also be helping to strengthen her immune system.
But I was intrigued. Was there other research that showed a connection or a correlation between reflexology and reduced sinus problems?
Well, there was a very small study on rhinitis in China:
“Foot reflexology was applied daily to three cases of rhinitis for 30 minutes. After three sessions symptoms had subsided, even for a patient experiencing rhinitis for 20 years. A course of 10 sessions was applies to ‘consolidate the effect.’ Symptoms had not returned two years later for this patient.”
And a more recent (2002) University of Wisconsin School of Medicine study had 150 chronic sinusitis sufferers randomly split into three groups. One group used a bulb syringe with a saline solution for daily nasal irrigation. Another group did the same with a neti pot. “Group three (the control) performed reflexology massage daily for two weeks.”
The results: “After two weeks of daily treatment, more than 70 percent of those who practiced either form of nasal douching reported improved symptoms. But surprisingly, the group that practiced reflexology massage – where pressure is applied to the feet or hands but may produce changes elsewhere in the body – appeared to fare equally well.”
— “The Saline Solution?,” Andrew Weil’s Self Healing Newsletter, January 2002, p. 2.
Okay, maybe not conclusive results. But definitely a bonus benefit to the stress relief and deep relaxation that reflexology offers.
Do you know someone who suffers from severe allergic reactions during spring and fall pollen seasons? Let’s see if reflexology can help! Have them email me or give me a call at 404.406.5204.
This past week I spent several hours with my mother (who turns 98 in 2 weeks) in less than optimal circumstances: waiting, interminably, in a doctor’s office.
Even in a pleasant location, our visits can be trying. Mom sees only from the periphery of her eyes; straight on, everything is a black blur. And lately she hears nothing at all. Conversation quickly degenerates into futile shouting on my part, sulking and withdrawal on hers.
I often feel that we’re both just waiting for her to die.
I end up just holding her hand until she takes a nap, or cutting the visit short and waving in her face so she’ll know I’m leaving. She used to follow me to the door of her assisted living home, as if I’d take her away with me. These days it’s hard for her to get out of the chair without falling. Hence, the visit to the doctor.
But as we sat in the virtually empty waiting room for three hours, there was no escaping. I watched various staff members leave for lunch, and asked the desk if I could take her to get something to eat and come right back. “Oh, no,” I was told. “The doctor will be right with her.”
Mom, in her silent world, went through many moods, over and over. She slumped despondently in a chair. Then she’d get a determined look on her face and would climb upright using her cane. The first time she headed for the door, she happened to push the side that was locked. She gave a huge sigh and said, “So I’m trapped in here.”
She walked to various windows and looked out, touching the panes as if they would dissolve. She came back to different chairs to sit. Once she even turned the chair around to face the window.
I do Qigong when I have to wait for any length of time. It calms me down and helps me draw on reserves of patience. It also embarrasses my mother. Usually she makes some sarcastic remark. This time she was so lost and dispirited, she just ignored me.
I think that, more than anything, cracked my heart open and flooded it with compassion — where I had felt only resentment and anger and “duty” for so long. I began to feel what it must be like to be her: still somewhat cognitive, but unable to communicate. Still able to get around, but with no idea where she is or where she’s going. Still very, very angry, but unwilling to let go.
It was a very different feeling, looking at her as a lovable being rather than a burden.
I can’t say this feeling will last, but now I know how to reach down into myself and find it again.
One bit of good news: the doctor — when we finally saw him — noticed that her ears are impacted with wax. So we have an appointment with an ear doctor to clean them out. (I hope we don’t have to wait too long!) Maybe she’ll get some hearing back and can come back to the world.
For this moment I will shed my anger …
With all the demands of modern life and the tug between work and home life, it’s no wonder many of us get to the point where we feel like we can’t do it anymore. Burnout is not just psychologically debilitating; if it isn’t addressed, it can lead to serious physical complaints.
But what if — like most of us — you can’t just drop everything and take a vacation when the stress load gets too high?
Here’s what an increasing number of healthcare professionals are doing to keep themselves healthy. They call for a “Code Lavender.”
As related in the Huffington Post, Code Lavender is a “holistic care rapid response” for doctors, nurses and hospital staff. A team of Reiki practitioners, massage therapists and other holistic practitioners is dispatched to help soothe, support and restore them when they’ve been facing exhausting or daunting circumstances.
For doctors, that may be when they’ve had a particularly grueling stint in the ER. Your causes for stress burnout may seem less dramatic, but the impact on your body, mind and spirit is just as serious. Here’s just a partial list of burnout symptoms:
As one Code Lavender practitioner explained it, “You have to take care of your own physical and emotional needs so when you arrive at work, you have something to give. And when you come home, you have something left to give your loved ones.”
Left unaddressed, your stress level builds, and you risk serious physical complications. Your body will find a way to make you stop and pay attention.
Before you get to that point, initiate your own Code Lavender program. Make time for de-stressing, and make it a part of your regular schedule — daily, weekly, monthly, however it works best for you. Here are some tried-and-true holistic methods to relax deeply, lower your cortisol levels and restore your spirit:
I can help you with the first three methods, and refer you to highly recommended practitioners for the rest. Please get in touch with me at 404-406-5204 or by email to begin your own customized Code Lavender program.
Christin Whittington is a practitioner of energy medicine – helping people restore balance in their bodies, their health and their lives using a combination of Reiki, Reflexology, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Qi Gong and herbal medicine.