Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hitting The Problem From All Angles--Using Multiple Modalites

Photo Credit: Stock.xchng

For the past four months, I have been in pain. An old back injury got aggravated, then aggravated some more. As an acupuncturist, this situation has hurt my pride. I treat back pain all the time, and one of the reasons I got into acupuncture is because of the pain relief it gave me. I've tried lots of different things--acupuncture, of course, but also stretching, acupressure, massage, and chiropractic. Each one seemed to help, but after a day or two the pain returned. And I was discouraged.

In the past two weeks, I decided to play "what would I do for a patient in the same situation?" The answer was easy--I would suggest a slew of treatments all at once--throw everything we had at the problem in hopes of subduing it.

So that's what I did. This week, I've had two acupuncture treatments, two chiropractic adjustments, and one massage. I have also had better improvement than I have in months. I believed I couldn't spare the time to make these treatments a reality. But now I see that the time I wasted feeling bad led to reduced productivity, reduced creativity, and certainly did not help me be an example of the benefits of natural living.

Natural remedies, while often quite effective, are also often quite gentle. They guide your body back into balance instead of dragging it, kicking and screaming, to a level of forced functioning. Building health sometimes takes many layers of effort--a little adjustment to diet, some slight changes to exercise, and maybe a few forms of treatment to address all areas that affected by a health problem. So if you're dealing with depression, therapy or herbs or diet changes or exercise alone may not be enough to solve the problem--they may need to be used together. If allergies are your issue, you may need to avoid known allergens, build your system with health food and supplements, and deal with stress, which compromises your immune system.

Going the natural path sometimes requires more effort than filling a prescription and popping a pill. (And, of course, there are some things in our modern age that require doing that in addition to healthy life changes.) Layering therapies is a way to get more out of your natural living strategy.

I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but I am hopeful that slow and creaky is not my new normal. Sometimes when you have a problem, you have to attack it head-on and throw all your resources at it. Have you had a similar health experience? Tell me about it in the comments!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So, There's a "Picky Eater" Coming to Thanksgiving. . .

Creamy Carrot Soup

I had a friend who was asked on a date by a man who wanted to make her a home-cooked meal. Very romantic. That is, until he found out she was a vegetarian. Suddenly the date was off--he said he "had no idea what to cook for her." For some reason, the idea of cooking for vegetarians makes people afraid--very afraid. Other special diets--dairy-free, vegan, paleo, etc., also seem mysterious to those who do not follow them. Thanksgiving is especially trying--perhaps because there are traditional food expectations, extended family, and more people, which means more food preferences to indulge or risk offending someone.

I'm not a vegetarian, but I spend a lot of my practice time encouraging people to eat more vegetables. I was also a (mostly) vegan for two years before I realized it was not the best diet choice for me. I know a lot of people who choose to eat vegetarian meals for one reason or the other, and I'm used to screening restaurants to be sure there are good veggie options when I meet anyone for a meal. And since I have a lot of food sensitivities myself, I've been the one at a table full of food and nothing I can eat without getting sick. Sometimes less-understanding friends and associates call those with special diet needs or preferences "picky." But most people who follow a restrictive diet have a reason for doing so. Many of the "picky eaters" I see in my clinic must eat carefully to avoid being seriously ill, or even have allergies so severe a slight exposure to the wrong food can cause anaphylactic shock and death. Making a meal for people used to feeling excluded for their health or diet needs is a wonderful way to show love to a friend or family member.

Here are a few tips for successfully feeding your "picky eater" at Thanksgiving.
  • Communicate. When I invite someone over to dinner, or set up a time to meet at a restaurant, I ask them if they have any food restrictions. It doesn't do to find out after you've slaved over a beefy lasagna that your guest doesn't eat meat, is allergic to wheat, or hates tomatoes. Ideally, your guest will be able to politely warn you if they have a different diet. I often offer to bring my own food--I don't eat processed food because I'm sensitive to the chemicals. If the cook is willing to accommodate me, I keep an idea for something simple (plain baked chicken and frozen veggies with a little butter, for instance). If not, having a few extra vegetable dishes with no butter, eggs, or other animal ingredients available will insure even the vegan in your group will have something other than carrot sticks to eat.
  • Be confident and respectful. This suggestion is for both the host and the invitee. Thanksgiving is not the time to argue your different eating choices. While planning this post, I realize I have been guilty of looking down my nose slightly at those around me who don't care whether their food is organic or not. Shame on me! If someone invites you to her house and is willing to cook, appreciate it--even if you cannot eat the food she offers, acknowledge that another person wants to share a meal with you. For the host/hostesses, don't make fun of the person who doesn't eat as you do. But don't leave out dishes that are important for your traditions, either. If Grandma's special dressing calls for turkey drippings, and just isn't the same without it, make some rice with mushrooms and parsley for the vegetarians and make Grandma's dressing. Have fun carving your turkey, and trust your vegetarian guest to be respectful and not hand out PETA bumper stickers at the table. (Really, I've never had a problem with anyone with a different diet being pushy about their viewpoint except in family settings. Most people just want to eat what they eat and not be stared at for it. But since sit-com plots revolve around the food philosophy fights this time of year, I figure my experience may not be typical.)
  • Cook what you cook well, with minor adjustments. It's really not that difficult to tailor food for a special diet. I make gluten-free dressing using cornbread and a loaf of (ridiculously expensive) gluten free bread. Because my husband doesn't eat chicken, but I love it, I often make a vegetable dish, and then augment it with beef for him and chicken for me. Some firm tofu with lemon juice and lots of garlic (made the night before so the tofu absorbs the flavors) does a decent imitation of cheese cooked into casseroles. Mushroom broth makes a hearty base for gravy. And most dishes that have vegetable in them (stir fries, pasta dishes, etc.) are easily turned vegan by simply upping the veggies, and maybe adding some mushrooms for extra texture. Check out Pinterest or do an internet search for versions of your favorite food that follow your guest's diet. Many of my recipes on What's Teresa Cookin'? have vegan, low starch, or other variations included in the recipe.
Feeding friends and family with special diet needs does not need to be stressful. With open hearts all-around and little sense of adventure, helping the "picky eater" enjoy your cooking will be fun and educational.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Goldilocks and The Five Taxations: Balance in Chinese Medicine (Part 1)

Photo from stock.xchng
One of the reasons I love Chinese medicine is its attention to moderation, or what I call Goldilocks Medicine: nothing should be too much or too little, everything should be "just right." One example of this philosophy is the idea of the Five Taxations.

The Five Taxations have nothing to do with the IRS. Rather, they include various ways you can be out of balance by your activities. Too much activity, whether mental or physical, will wear your mind and body out in specific ways. Too little activity, or too much staying still in one position, will harm you as well.

Like food, where the more variety you have of wholesome, natural food, the better your health, your activity level should include time for vigorous movement, deep thinking, rest, and gentle work. If you spend all your time on one activity, whether it's watching TV or doing yoga, your systems will become unbalanced.

Here they are:

  • Excessive use of the eyes, which damages blood.
  • Excessive lying down, which damages qi;
  • Excessive sitting, which injures flesh;
  • Excessive standing, which injures bones;
  • Excessive walking, which injures sinews.
I'll be covering one of these taxations with a blog entry for a few weeks. If you have any questions about a specific taxation, please feel free to comment or contact me.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Warm Food for Cold Weather

Photo Credit: Stock Xchang

I am an acupuncturist. My training is in Chinese medicine, which emphasizes giving your body what it needs to live in harmony with your environment. It's surprising to me how often I'll ask a new patient about their diet, and she will say "Oh, I eat very healthfully. I eat a bunch of salad, almost no fat, and only drink diet sodas." I'll tackle the low-fat and diet drinks another time, but today I'd like to focus on the salad.

In Chinese medicine, we teach that your lower torso area holds your "pilot light"--the dan tian in front and the ming men in back. While they are different areas, their function is similar. They provide the foundation for both yin (the body's cooling, calming, sleeping, peaceful energy) and yang (the body's warming, active, moving energy). Our day-to-day energy comes from a combination of Congenital Qi (the energy we inherit from our parents, which acts as our reserve energy in times of excessive stress or work, and Acquired Qi (the energy we get from food, the air, and the functions of our various organs). Two major sources of Acquired Qi are the energy we get from food, and the energy from the Spleen/Stomach system that digests the food. 

In order to maximize the benefit of our food, we must digest it properly. If it is hard to digest, we will use too much energy trying to break it down. So we will either tire easily, or we will do a halfway job of digestion. When you don't digest food completely, you make extra phlegm, which can show up as cholesterol build-up in your arteries or as simple congestion in your nose and throat.  Poor digestion can also cause problems up-and-down your digestive system--everything from acid reflux to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or food intolerances. 

So how do you digest your food well? By eating good, wholesome, natural food--that is cooked and warm. It is true that if you take a raw carrot and a cooked carrot and analyze them in a laboratory, you may find more nutrients in the raw carrot. However, there is more to consider in choosing how to eat your food. Raw food is hard to break down into its composite nutrients. It does not add warmth to the body. Cold food--whether a salad or a milkshake--is hard to digest. So if your body is already struggling with making enough energy to thrive each day, trying to digest cold or raw food limits the energy you get from food. You will also actually have to dip into your reserves--your Congenital Qi. Anything that dips into your reserve energy is a serious health concern, because that energy is hard to regain once lost.

So raw food is never a good idea. But in cold weather--the nice crisp weather of fall and winter--it is even more of a problem. Your body needs extra energy to warm itself in cold weather. When it gets too cold, qi, or energy, cannot move well. Muscles tighten and hurt, digestion slows down, energy retreats deeper into your body, numbing your extremities. The cold also "tightens" emotions--when qi cannot flow, the body systems that process emotions do not work well. Many people find themselves becoming depressed, apathetic, or easily frustrated.

The simple act of eating warm food--all year long, but especially in the cold months--will make a huge difference to health. A belly full of a healthy warm meal feels content. Contentment leads to a peaceful feeling, which reduces stress. Cooked food is less work to break down, so your body gets the benefit of it immediately.  The warmth relaxes your torso, improving back and neck pain.  Warm food also assists digestion, diminishing the chances of gas, bloating, constipation, or pain in digestion. 

If you are not used to eating mostly cooked food, I suggest choosing two weeks and trying it religiously. Have nothing cold--no iced drinks, no salad, no ice cream. Drink plenty of hot liquid--tea, hot water with lemon, brothy soups--and have wholesome meals that are warm. At the end of two weeks, most people feel  improvement in their overall health--fewer pains, better digestion, a more peaceful mind. Give it a try and let me know what happens!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Walking the Talk

Photo by Alex Bruda
I am a natural health practitioner. When I see new people, my advice includes instructions to eat natural, well-made food, to rest when they are tired or hurt, and to put self-care high on their list of priorities. I am surprised by the number of patients who won't take time off when they lose an entire night's sleep, or have an injury, or just need a break from relentless stress. When they say they have money issues or other reasons that keep them from missing work or other commitments, I wisely say "If you don't take time for your health, it will make you take time for it later."

I followed my advice and took a vacation/religious retreat for two weeks. On my second day off, we were in a minor car accident. I have an old back injury, and the tiny bump we had aggravated it. Really, really aggravated it. I spent the rest of our break having difficulty sitting, more difficulty bending over, and lifting was not really an option.

Throughout the vacation, I thought about my first day back at work. I had a busy day scheduled, immediately after two long days of driving home. I wanted to take that day off. But as anyone in business for herself knows, time off means you don't get paid. No money had been coming into the coffers for two weeks, and a busy day cancelled meant a big negative on the income. I also had people who

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Renew, Rebuild, Rejoice!

Photo from stock.xchang

At some time in life, most people find themselves at a crisis. They lose a job, get sick, or have something happen to a loved one. They often get through the crisis, but then suffer for months or even years trying to get back to normal functioning. Why does it take so long?

For some, it's because they want to go back to "normal" as soon as possible, and push too hard to get there. For others, it's because they won't accept that "normal" has changed. The crisis changed their lives, and what was once dependable--income, energy, or family interactions--has changed forever. 

So how do you adjust to changed circumstances and reclaim a fulfilling life?

I call the process of creating a new normal Renew, Rebuild, and Rejoice

Renew. Renew means to make new again, and for our purposes has a couple of applications. First, after a crisis, you must look at your life as if it is new. Challenge the old normal. If you've lost your job, maybe you should look at new fields, or new ways to use your skills--maybe work for yourself, or for a different industry than your previous employment. If your changed life revolves around a health problem, rethink what you "must do" every day if your condition saps your energy or ability to function as you once did.

Renew also means to restore to new level. Restoring things takes time. Even if you can have your old normal back, and want it, accept that you will need time to do that. You may need to rearrange your schedule to allow time to rebuild. Taking the time to build yourself up rather than jumping into your regular schedule as soon as possible makes it less likely you will collapse or otherwise suffer from doing too much too soon.

Renew your life by re-assessing normal, and giving yourself time to. .

Rebuild. Rebuilding is the actual process of getting back to 'fighting trim.' Rebuilding can mean anything from doing physical therapy to seeking counseling to following a special diet to give yourself what you need to recover from your crisis. It can also mean literally rebuilding--whether it's doing weight work to get your muscles back after an accident or repairing your house after a natural disaster. Rebuilding is a conscious choice, and you can make the tools you use in rebuilding a permanent part of your life it appropriate.

Rejoice! The point of overcoming a crisis is to be able to live a full life again. Too often, a crisis steals something from you, and then you never recover from the sense of loss. Rejoicing means embracing the new normal, and finding fulfillment within the boundaries of your life. It means being thankful to still have a life, however different it may be. Rejoicing also implies a hope for the future. Things may be challenging now, but by making time to do the work and take the rest to recover from whatever knocks you down, you hasten the day when you can wake up smiling, and enjoy your life.

Monday, August 19, 2013

One Quick Tip to Release Stress

Photo From stock.xchang

Recently I got some unwelcome news that will add to my workload. Stressful news. The kind of news that makes me want to revert to college-coping strategies, which involve sweat pants, a t-shirt, a half gallon of ice cream and someone to listen to the drama in my life. 

I can't do that, though. I'm a grown-up, and I've decided to act like one. Thankfully, I am also an acupuncturist who can use what I know of natural medicine to deal with stress. I bet you get "half-gallon-ice-cream-sweat-pant-drama" kinds of news, too, from time to time. One of the easiest ways to turn stress around is with visualizations.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Do You Want What You Have?

Photo by trubluboy

This post was originally done on my Life Facilitator Blog, now retired. I stumbled on it today, and decided to bring it over to Teresa Y Green.

I am a recovering longer. Many people who know me will find this amusing, since I am shorter than most people. But by "longer," I mean I habitually long for things I don't have. In no particular order, right now I'm longing for cooler weather, health for my patients, a to-do list that gets checked off each day, more disposable income, a new car, to feel comfortable and close with all my talented friends, to finish my book, organize my home and office, and to buy new clothes. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Many of those things are worthy, or at least not bad goals. But reaching for them has not left me fulfilled and happy. Instead, this continual list of wants, needs, and "should-do's" leaves me ill at ease, and feeling I can never just let down and enjoy myself.

Somewhere deep in the ole noggin' I once decided that being comfortable with your here-and-now equates to not taking life seriously. So when I try to have fun, it must also serve some "useful" purpose. Meaning even my fun was a burden.

There is a song, Knee Deep in a River, and Dying of Thirst, about only appreciating what you have when it's gone. I didn't want to look back and see I was living that song.

So I decided to go radical. If cornered, I will readily admit that my life is pretty sweet. I work for myself, set my own hours, and have more control over my time than most people, even if I don't use that control as much as I'd like. I have a fine husband who understands me, appreciates my sense of humor, and likes having me around. He cooks for me! I live in a convenient place that is attractive to pull into at night, and have a short commute. What if instead of constantly trying to improve where I am in life, I start wanting what I have?

So I've been at it for about a week. Surprisingly, (or not, if you are wiser than me), I have:
  • slept better;
  • felt more equilibrium;
  • gotten several "to-do" projects I've been putting off done;
  • made more money; and
  • enjoyed my days more.
 I recommend gratitude all the time, to patients, my husband, friends, and anyone who will listen. I did not realized until this week, though, that I saw gratitude as a duty. "Better be thankful for food, or maybe you won't have any" is not really wanting what you have. It's trying to appease some angry god who in no way resembles the God I believe in.

Wanting what you have is real gratitude. It is also a choice. I was surprised to find I look at everything from the lens of how I can improve it. My poor husband has a checklist by his face in my mind, as does my cat, my office, my writing, my time management, any good deeds I perform--and raising the bar on my accomplishment is always a goal.

Last week I started the process of letting that go. This week, I am simply enjoying what is there. My husband is a blessing just as he is. My cat loves me more than anything else on earth. . .except fresh chicken, but I can live with that. My work is aimed at helping others, and I love doing it. And while I suppose doing good deeds because you feel they are expected is better than none at all, I am focusing on enjoying the ability to serve others rather than looking for the "goodest good deed" I can find to do.

It's a little scary to let so much pressure off myself. But it's also exhilarating! When I feel the need to beat myself up for something that isn't done, or done the way I want it, I simply pull back and remind myself, "This week we're trying out wanting what we have. This situation/interaction/experience is something we have. What can I do, or how can I think about, so that I want it?"

It's all part of my growing in aggressive positivity. Optimism creates zeal and joy, and zeal and joy are what I've sometimes been missing in my relentless pursuit of improvement. What I have in my life is positive, and focusing on those positives will allow them to grow. Please let me know in the comments what strategies you use to stay grateful and want what you have.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Emergency Attitude Adjustment

I have been tearful. A few projects have not been going as planned, and so today, frustrated one time too many by an annoying bump in the road, I cried--runny nose, crinkled up face, whiny voice, smeared makeup--the whole package of female-dom that has had it.

There was a time when I spent much of my life in this state. The feeling that life had shortchanged me in some way dominated my thoughts. A pretty day or happy surprise might buoy me up for a day, or a week, but my overriding thought was that I needed to have, do, or be more than I was.

Years of life, of therapy, of reading, of praying, and of emulating those who seemed to have more keys to happiness  has helped me see there is no virtue in constant criticism--of myself or others. I try to consciously fill my mind with uplifting thoughts, words, and images to minimize the influence of old thought patterns bent on tearing me down.

Yet sometimes, I'm snot-nosed in the bathroom, crying that it just isn't fair.

So I have developed The Emergency Attitude Adjustment. As soon as I realize I have let hopelessness, discouragement, or doubt overtake me, I turn to these steps to return to the road to positivity. Since we all have moments like these, I offer these points to pull yourself out of a well of unhappiness or self-pity:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Three Tips to Get Back Up When Life Knocks You Down

Things don't always "come up roses."
Today has been a rough day Chez Green. Something happened that took the wind clean out of my sails. Nothing earth-shattering, just an unexpected hassle that I thought I had taken steps to avoid. In the past few days, I've had other frustrations that I managed well. But this one popped the balloon, broke the camel's back, crushed my spirit for the day. It made all the other problems zoom back into focus, and now I find myself literally stooped, finding it hard to lift my head.

My dear husband tried to help.
"This problem isn't a big deal."
"It's going to be ok.."
"You can't let something minor like this tear you up."

But for whatever reason, being caught off guard has me smacked down today. I've moped and groused and cried and fumed, and now I'm ready to learn. Just how do you fight a disappointment--whether severe or severely minor?

  1. Accept where you are. This one is hard for me. I don't like to admit I'm in "a wee bit o' a snit," even more so if my problems are for something I could have prevented. And I'm often afraid of seeing how bad a problem is, so I try to ignore it and hope it goes away. But, as this article on acceptance points out, you can't deal with something you can't accept. Most problems are not as bad as you imagine them to be.
  2. Look for inspiration. I went to, and searched "disappointment," which led me to "inspirational adversity quotes."  There I found lots of good advice, everything from "birds sing after a storm; why shouldn't people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?" (Rose Kennedy) to "If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes."  (The Houghton Line, November 1965). After reading the page, I sat up a little straighter and felt a bit more resilient. You can also call a friend or mentor, or go over your successes in your mind.
  3. Look to your beliefs. Do you believe you'll be rewarded in some way for doing the right thing? Do you believe you have a mission to complete? Do you believe your attitude affects your reality? Then live like you believe. If you know negativity is an issue for you, and want to change, then the best time to start is in a negative state. Find an uplifting sentence to repeat, or a verse of poetry to write out. I sat down to write this blog, knowing I don't really believe the day/week/month is wasted because of one disappointment. 
I hope these points help you in your own fight against disappointment. If so, please share or comment!

Photo credit: Teresa Y Green

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Life's About Flow

Photo by Teresa Y Green
Flow. Some people call it the Zone, finding your groove, or moving forward. That wonderful, timeless feeling when you are in the middle of something and it's going well. In Chinese medicine, we call it the free movement of Qi.

When you are in a state of Flow, you are content. You are not worried about tomorrow, you're excited about today. You are in the moment, enjoying the immediacy of life because you are doing what you were meant to do.

There is plenty to read about reaching a state of flow, but the masters of flow are the creators of Chinese medicine. With qigong, acupuncture, herbal medicine and lifestyle tips, Chinese medicine has specialized in cultivating the feel of flow for thousands of years.

To have better FLOW, here are a few simple tips:
  • Move around. You don't have to run marathons or have six-pack abs to get the benefits of exercise. Movement facilitates qi movement, whether it's dancing to the radio or taking a long walk. Qi movement helps stress, lessens pain, and balances your entire body. Take the stairs, park a little farther away, and wiggle in the car while you sing to your favorite song.
  • Don't squash emotions. In Chinese medicine, emotional upheaval is one of the causes of most illnesses. Having strong emotions you don't process in some way will wreck your hormones, hurt your immune system, and rob you of sleep--which can contribute to anything from heart disease to obesity. If you find yourself often feeling sad, angry, or numb, you probably have something going on emotionally. Talk to a minister or therapist, write about it in a journal, or call your least crazy friend. Dealing with emotions as they come up will make your life calmer, and give you room to better enjoy the pleasant emotions of happiness, anticipation, and love.
  • Go outside. Nature is a. . .well. . .naturally healing place. Hearing birds sing, feeling the breeze on your face, and the ground under your feet reminds you that the world around you goes on whether your boss is mad at you or not. Looking at the stars can remind you that most of your problems are small. And looking at clouds connects you to your childhood sense of wonder.
Flow is my thing, and is a continual lifestyle challenge and goal. I can help you find more flow in your life. By looking at the whole picture--a holistic view--we can put the pieces of family, work, health, fun, home and hearth and everything in between together. If you feel like your life is out of balance or if you feel stuck, I can help. When you need other expertise, I have talented friends and colleagues for you to work with and learn from. If you have changes you'd like to make, give me a call or drop an email. I am eager to help.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Living in Balance: A Chinese Medicine Primer

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Balance is Key
Chinese Medicine is based on the principle of living in harmony with the world around you. Adjusting your life so it is in balance with your health, the outside world, and your values will lead to a happier, more satisfying life.

  • The basic principle of Chinese Medicine is balance.  You should not be too hot or too cold, but “just right.”  You should not be restless and jumpy, or exhausted, but calmly energetic.  You should balance activity and rest so your muscles are exercised but you are not exhausted.
  • Living in harmony with your personal constitution can also enhance your well-being.  If you have a chronic illness, catch cold easily, or tire easily, you need to be more careful of your health.  Build more rest into your schedule and minimize stress.
  • Decide to live life according to your beliefs.  Few things are more stressful than ignoring your dreams every day. Decide what you want your life to be about, and focus on building that future for yourself.

Living Harmoniously with the Weather
It sounds like common sense, but it can really help your health and comfort.  Here are some tips, along with some of the problems associated with different kinds of seasonal changes.

  • Temperature: If it’s hot, wear lightweight comfortable clothes, and if it’s cold wear warmer clothes.  Try to stay dry in wet weather, and avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures.   
  • Wear a scarf on windy days:  wind is associated with increased headaches and other pains in Chinese Medicine, as well as with catching cold more easily.
  • A hot environment (whether an overheated room or a hot summer day) aggravates anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia.  Those with acid reflux or migraines may find them worse in hot temperatures as well.  
  • Cold tends to increase stiffness, pain and digestive problems.
  • Damp weather aggravates lethargy, edema, allergies, and foggy thinking.

Eating for Health AND Enjoyment
Chinese Medicine strongly emphasizes proper food choices to maintain health.  

  • Have all food or drink room temperature or warmer.  Your stomach acts like a soup pot.  It should constantly and slowly “cook” food so all your body systems can “come and eat” and use that energy to live your life.  Eating cold food forces your body to use more energy to digest food, and often digestion is incomplete, leading to excess mucus, stomach or abdominal pain, and bloating. 
  • Eat in peaceful surroundings. Scientists now know that stressful situations cause your body to make hormones that affect your digestion.  While managing stress throughout your day is important, try especially to have peaceful meals and peaceful rest.
  • Eat according to your situation.  If you are in frail health, you should eat very well cooked, easy to digest foods.  If you feel cold, emphasize warming foods, such as cinnamon or ginger, as part of an overall balanced diet.  If you are hot, emphasize cooling foods (that are served room temperature or warmer) such as green tea, mint, and green leafy vegetables. 
  • Eat food that is as unprocessed as possible.  Try to avoid artificial ingredients, such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavorings.  Opt instead for natural sweeteners (if you cannot have sugar you can use stevia or agave nectar ), and foods that are freshly prepared.  Emphasizing vegetables, simply cooked meat, and water or fresh-brewed tea over processed chips, soda, and frozen meals helps you digest your food more easily.

How an Acupuncturist can Help
As you can see, Chinese Medicine focuses on living in harmony with the environment.  But if you have a chronic illness, you may be “out of balance” in several areas.  An acupuncturist trained in Chinese Medicine can help you improve your health using gentle techniques such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas.  

Acupuncture is the use of tiny, sterile, disposable needles on points along meridians to improve health.  A regular course of acupuncture visits can help most chronic illnesses, especially those involving depression, anxiety, digestive problems, fatigue, or any illness aggravated by stress--and what illness is not helped by reducing stress?  Chinese herbal medicine can be of great help in this process by gently giving your body the raw materials it needs for health.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Want to be Alone

Photo Credit: trubluboy

I am cranky today. I admit it. My husband is trying to be sociable, asking me questions to show he is interested in me and my day. I do not want to answer these questions. I want quiet. I want to read by myself, and write by myself. I want, in short, to be alone.

Christine Lavin wrote a funny song about this desire, and in the end decides being alone eventually becomes being lonely, so she thinks better of it. I will, too. But right now, a world without another person or animal craving my attention, affection, help, or action seems wonderfully attractive.

Why should this be so? The world, it seems, is made of introverts and extroverts. I've known this ever since I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Profile  in college. My results showed me right on the introvert/extrovert line, leaning slightly toward introversion. I usually don't notice how this affects my personality until I have a lot of time either alone or with others. This week, I've had to be "on" a lot in business. Seeing lots of people, many of them new faces, trying to remember all the relevant facts you need in business interactions--names, details, running your words through a filter to be as congenial as possible. 

It left me drained, even though I usually find working with people rewarding and energizing. So this week, I come home, craving the quiet I expect with my also-introverted husband. . .and he's been alone too much. He wants to talk. He wants to connect. He wants interaction. He tries to be funny. I struggle not to snap at him.

Is there a lesson, or an encouragement, to be pulled from this limited time of tension in the Green household? Here's what I've gleaned:
  • People need what they need. Trying to be happy and cheerful in the face of demanding (or even not-so-demanding) patients and spouses and friends will only have limited rewards. If it's downtime you need, make some downtime. If you can't take a day and a book and head to your bedroom, then take 15 minutes in the middle of the day and run away, or go for a walk. Take five minutes and hide in the bathroom, if that's the best you can do. Take some time to be alone. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Recharge. Repeat as necessary.
  • Realize it could just be you. When I was younger and people got on my nerves, I immediately assumed that the people were irritating, or intentionally pestering me. Now I realize that the attention I want to flee today is the same attention I usually crave. It is not fair to my husband, or the patients who have the right to expect a friendly demeanor, to blame them for my state. Situations like these are exactly the reason that self-care is so important. If you don't give yourself what you need, you aren't the only one who is miserable. Anyone within earshot--or in this day and age, within Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail contact--will be affected by your bad mood.
  • No one is perfect, and you can only expect so much. My crankiness reminds me that other people will not always be predictable and friendly, either. Whether illness leaves a friend feeling less than one hundred percent, or a serious stress distracts a server at a restaurant, we live among humans. Cutting each other some slack is part of our job as fellow beings. So smile and give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
Thankfully, Jim has found a book to read, and I am (almost) happily typing away, immersed in my own writing world. Tomorrow I will probably want to grouse about not going out, and not being around people for an outing. For tonight, I will get ready for bed, and curl up and sleep, or sit and stare at the ceiling and think, or find a book and read--any activity that only needs me. Being alone, or being allowed to not interact with the wonderful person who shares my life, will allow me to recharge my body and soul and be ready to embrace the world and my husband again very soon.

How can you tell that it's time for you to regroup and get centered? Please share in the comments!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Chinese Medicine and Stress

From stock.xchang
Stress, stress, stress--everyone has stress! We spend our days hunched over computers, worrying about money, and time, and work, and whether we remembered to turn off the stove. The dilated pupils and raised pulse that are reactions to stress are designed to protect us from danger, giving us the option of fight or flight. However, modern stresses are rarely solved by running or hiding. Instead, our bodies' natural defense system confuses our endocrine system, puts pressure on our heart, and upsets our digestive systems.

Chinese medicine has been around long before cell phones, computers, and triple-shot espressos, and it has a lot to offer our stressed-out world. We see stress symptoms as a combination of blocked energy and a wearing down of our reserves. Chinese medicine treats these symptoms using a combination of herb and food therapies, acupuncture and bodywork, and lifestyle suggestions. Here are a few of the ideas we use to treat stress:

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Dirty Little Secret. . .

photo credit SheCat
Life is messy. It rarely works right, and most things you try will go wrong the first time. Learning something new is frustrating, and skills take time to develop. People will disappoint you--repeatedly. Sadness is a part of existence, and happy times will not last forever.

Ok, go out and enjoy life!

No? Ok, then let's say a little more. I am a self-help junkie. I have been about self-improvement since I was little. Somehow, I missed the memo that says people don't start out perfect at anything. I got discouraged and quit when I did not show instant talent for music, sports, and the world of fashion. I avoided things that I didn't immediately master, and missed out on a lot of fun and useful skills and experiences. 

The books I read were very linear. Their format: 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Typical Acupuncture Treatment

Here is a quick description of a typical acupuncture treatment in my office. Each acupuncturist has their own style and way of doing a treatment, but for those who are curious, this post will give you some thoughts on how a treatment goes.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Defeat Depression

Photo Credit: Neadeau

I spent most of my childhood and young adulthood depressed. Some of that time, seriously depressed. I didn't know it; depression runs in my family. I thought it was normal to have a few weeks or months every year that I just toiled through, barely functioning. I didn't realize that apathy, hopelessness, tears, aches, pains, and difficulty making decisions should not be constants in life.  I was not suicidal; I just wished--often and without telling anyone--that I could go to sleep and never wake up. I was so tired of fighting.

I'm not depressed now. I get down, and there are tendencies I may always fight, but I want to live. I have goals, things to do--and people I want to help. I'm not on any medication, and have used a multi-faceted approach to deal with depression at the first sign of trouble.

If you are depressed, do whatever it takes to get out of it. If your road to mental health involves medication, do it.  For some people it will be a temporary choice, for others a permanent one. Do whatever will let you share your gifts with the world.

Here are the things I have done and continue to do to fight depression:

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's All About Integrity

Thanks to Krappweis for the photo.

Twice a year, I do an inventory of my life. I look at what's been working, what isn't working, and what steps I can take to fix things. Reading that sentence, I am impressed at how proactive I am. The reality is not quite as nice.

Until now, my inventories have been pretty informal. I'm a big-picture sort of gal, and coming up with all the specifics of how to track goals, and how to break down goals are not my strong points. So often, I know the general things that are better, or that need work, but the steps toward improvement are harder to make stick.

I've let myself off the hook for years. "Play to my strengths," I tell myself. "You're doing your best," I say encouragingly. I defined myself as organizationally challenged, so not meeting goals or having unrealistic timelines for accomplishments was just "me being me," and therefore ok.

This permitted mediocrity has become a little tiresome. Life is about living what I believe. I can do anything I put my mind to--maybe with some creative skirting around obstacles, and maybe with some unexpected side trips on the way--but my attitude and willingness to hold myself to high expectations are the keys to my success. Right now, true, I am not an organizational genius. I have no need to become someone who has every second pinned down, and a house so perfectly ordered I can do a magazine shoot with no warning. But I can streamline my life so that it works for me. And then I can better work for others.

Living a life of integrity means you do what you believe. No compromise. If I've been given life as a blessing, I'm supposed to do something with it. I have to be striving for something. I have to move in the direction of my beliefs. Right now, issues in my life make it hard to be of service to my friends, family, and the world.  I've had enough.

So starting now, I'm making new baselines. New levels that I have to meet to be ok with myself. I may change the standards as I tweak the system, but I won't let the standards go. I won't break appointments with myself for goal setting and evaluating without a true emergency. I will keep an up-to-date chart showing progress toward different goals. I will tackle laundry, bills, and other obnoxious parts of life at regular intervals because I hate falling behind. I will rest when I need to, and not feel guilty. There will be set exercise in my life, and there will be things I will not eat--starting now.

I don't like these new resolutions. But I hate seeing the person I want to be languishing. Years have passed. I'm not as young as I used to be. Time will run out someday. I've got things to do.

How about you? Do you have goals you've let slide? Are they really important to you? If they aren't important, throw them out. If they are, do whatever it takes to get to them. Life is too short to ignore your dreams.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Smiling Really Can Make You Happy!

Photo Credit: Anissat
One of my favorite new books is Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (affiliate link). It describes the many ways that our brains process information unconsciously, and how we make decisions based on those processes. One of the sources of this subconscious information is the arsenal of microexpressions we translate from other's faces. In the book, Malcolm Gladwell highlights the work of Paul Eckman and Wallace Friesen, two researchers who have mapped out The Facial Action Coding System, a system to codify microexpressions by describing the muscle movements that accompany each emotional expression. To create these "maps," they practiced making the faces for joy, exhilaration  anger, sadness, etc., in front of mirrors and in front of each other. To their surprise, they found their emotional state was affected by what faces they spent the day making. On days they worked on anger or other less pleasant emotions, they felt angry, depressed, or other unpleasant feelings. On happier expression days, they felt uplifted.