Setting the self-care example for our patients

I’ve been pushing myself really hard this month – big projects, full calendar, no time off. When I drive myself too hard, it always catches up with me. I start to feel tired, a little down, and I lose my creative flow. I am not an efficient practitioner or a very attentive mom.

This month was no different, and it was not something that could be fixed by another cup of green tea, another piece of dark chocolate, or another glass of red wine. It was time for some serious rejuvenation. [In Wednesday’s upcoming post, I’ll tell you how I did it.]

But it got me thinking: How many people do you know who suppress their need to rejuvenate, who pick themselves up in the morning with their Starbucks grande and numb themselves in the evening with wine, beer, or whiskey? Or worse, at this time of year, by gorging on Halloween candy that’s left on every desk and every break room table?

How many nurses and doctors do you know who are hooked on coffee, junk food, and Diet Coke to get through their long shifts? As a patient, how does it make you feel when you meet your doctor/nurse/practitioner for the first time, and they’re 50 pounds overweight, with big, dark circles under their eyes, and they’re too tired to greet you with a smile?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to lose a little confidence. I want my health care providers to look and act healthy, not as if they are sliding into their own abyss of chronic disease.

Why did you go into healthcare? For the money? I doubt it! You did it because you wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, the way someone made a difference in yours. In nursing school, we talked frequently about the concept of self-care and how important it is for our patients. Often, however, we get so carried away in caring for others that we forget about ourselves. (This is doubly true for those of us who are also parents and/or caring for aging family members.)

There are too many of us suppressing our own needs for self-care. You must take that time for yourself to rejuvenate. (Yes, you have the time, I promise.) Set the example for your patients before falling into the abyss yourself. Advocate for yourself, just as we nurses are taught – and ethically obligated – to advocate for our patients.

Healer, you can heal thyself. You don’t need anti-depressants, anxiolytics, benzos, weed, pain meds, booze, sugar, or caffeine.

You need to treat yourself as your highest self. Feel your toes in the sand, your hands in the earth, the sun on your cheeks. Connect with your source.

Healer, heal thyself. Doing so will ripple outwards, exponentially. When you take care of yourself, you automatically set your patients on their own joyful journey towards healing, which has its own ripple effect in their lives.

Set the self-care example for your patients, and they will follow you.

beach

Stay tuned for Part 2: Taking Care of Numero Uno using Earth-based medicine

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Nature kicks some serious virus ass (Why I’m not afraid of Ebola part 2)

Last week you learned why I’m not afraid of Ebola, and how the CDC should be including earth-based medicines in their trials of Ebola treatments. This lack of fear on my part multiplied exponentially on Friday, when I had the good fortune of attending the Bioneers conference in San Rafael, CA. One of the speakers there, Paul Stamets, is THE expert on the healing properties of mushrooms.

To quote my 14-year old daughter: OMG.

Mushrooms became an integral part of my earth-based medicine toolbox, right then and there.

I knew that certain species of mushrooms have been used for millennia to help strengthen the immune system, and a good portion of the 20th and 21st century research focuses on their ability to shrink tumors. (A PubMed search using the keywords “mushrooms” and “tumor” came up with 829 results.) However, the brand new research Stamets presented at the conference concentrated on the anti-viral properties of fungi for bees. Conducted at Washington State University, the study, found that the mycelium on which the worker bees fed stimulated their immune systems, reduced their viral load, and lengthened their lives.

Yup. Ingesting honey made from mushrooms lengthened their lives.

I won’t go into what this means with regards to the collapse of bee colonies on a global perspective, which is huge all on its own.

For now, let’s just imagine how it might impact patient outcomes, not only with annoying viruses like Herpes simplex but also diseases like measles, AIDS, and yes, Ebola. Imagine, instead of taking an expensive anti-viral medication toxic to your liver, your kidneys, your digestive system and your skin, you got to lick a spoonful of “mycohoney” made from polypore mushrooms,with no side effects, and you healed.

We owe it to patients and health care workers to dive into this research. These products exist now as food supplements – no need for complex drug development, expensive or lengthy trials, or FDA lobbying for approval. Stamets has developed his own standardized product line that has already been used in research. I’ve started to incorporate a product with organic Agaricus for my clients. (It’s important to go organic, since non-organic mushrooms and mushrooms grown in industrials areas can have high concentrations of heavy metals and pollutants.) Holistic practitioners around the world are nourishing their patients with fungi.

There is no reason why we should live in fear of viruses like Ebola. Nature has her own medicines, and they kick some serious virus ass.

 

Remember, no medicine – whether earth-based or pharmaceutical – is a good fit for everyone, and not all products are created equally, so be sure to see your holistic health provider before starting something new.

 

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Why I’m not afraid of Ebola (but you might be)

The Ebolavirus is all over the news. People are talking, and people are scared. A nurse in Dallas has become infected, not because she didn’t follow personal protection protocol, but for some other unknown. Health care clinics are screening patients who have flu symptoms. No one really knows what to do, the media is playing up the story, and so the natural response is fear.

Along with the surge in the number of people who are reportedly falling ill with Ebola, there has also been a surge in the stocks of companies developing drugs, vaccines, and personal protective gear. I can’t help but raise my skeptical eyebrow. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely need to protect our healthcare workers and communities. I take issue, however, with our western medical approach to treating Ebola.

According to the WHO, there are no “licensed” treatments available for Ebola, i.e., there is no magic pill that miraculously stops replication of the virus and the accompanying symptoms while also causing miraculous replication in some drug company’s Swiss bank account. Most of the care provided is palliative, meaning it basically tries to keep people comfortable, hydrated, and alive so that their bodies can overcome the horrific effects of the virus. This is all well and good, but the problem is, so long as western medicine continues to look at Ebola through its infinitesimally narrow lens of drugs and vaccines, a lot of people could potentially get sick. Or worse.

I recently read a blog stating it would unethical to conduct a study on Ebola treatments using a placebo (fake treatment). I take that a step further. It is unethical to conduct a study using ONLY drugs. If Ebola is such a menace, why are we not using every possible means to heal people and to prevent illness? After all these years, why is the western toolbox so dang small and short-sighted?

My toolbox of earth-based medicines is overflowing: whole food forms of vitamins A, C, and K; bone broth rich in bioavailable calcium, magnesium, and marrow; cod liver oil; Echinacea purpurea and angustfolia for long-term prevention, herbs such as Andrographis and Holy basil for acute care; Pure Body zeolite (clinoptilolite), which has been shown in vitro to stop viral replication; colloidal silver; garlic; homeopathy; and many other time-proven remedies. While just one might not be effective on its own, if you throw the whole kit and caboodle at Ebola, both to prevent and heal, you’d see some amazing results, AND you wouldn’t be over-burdening compromised patients with pharmaceutical drugs and heroic interventions that often do more harm than good. (Just look at the damage that aspirin caused during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.)

I’m not afraid of Ebola because I know how to support the body naturally; my toolbox doth runneth over with earth-based medicines. Unfortunately, so long as governments and the conventional health care system continue to chase the money and the magic pharmaceutical cure, people will have very good reasons to fear the unknown.

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Finding my oxygen

Last Tuesday morning started off as what many might call, “a bad day.”

I won’t go into the gory details, but by lunch, I was home from the office and running myself a hot bath full of essential oils to lift my spirits.

Within 30 seconds of getting in the tub, the day completely turned around.

How did that happen, you ask? What magical essential oils did I put into the tub? Did I chow down on a bar of dark chocolate or chug a bottle of bubbly while soaking?

Alas, no. It happened because I listened. It happened because in a moment of complete bogged-down overwhelm, I stopped, took a deep breath, and asked myself what I needed. And as ridiculous as it sounded to myself at first, the answer was, a hot bath.

At first I made fun of myself for such a silly idea. A hot bath in the middle of the work day, during the summer? I resisted the concept, eyes glazed, staring at my laptop, willing myself to come up with the perfect, Google-friendly SEO terms for my website.

As they say, it wasn’t gonna happen. Because I knew what I needed to do, and it wasn’t to force myself past the stress of the moment. I needed to listen. So I got up, went home, and got in the tub.

I kid you not, within 30 seconds of soaking and deep breathing, a new day dawned. I received a strong sense of accomplishment for the things I had already achieved. I discovered my Genius Zone and realized that if a task didn’t involve teaching, healing, advocating, nourishing, or creating, it could be outsourced.

You might cynically chalk all this up to delirium from the heat of the bath. Or maybe you think I’m bipolar. What was really happening, though, is that I was enjoying the biochemical shift in my body from deep breathing.

The truth is, we can give ourselves no greater gift than to stop and listen. We are asked to juggle 1000 different tasks a day, and we’re simply not wired like that. We’re not superhuman. We’re human.

In her heartfelt and insightful TEDx talk, Dr. Libby Weaver sums it up beautifully by saying that we need to put on our own oxygen mask first before helping others. She’s so right. Even if you’re busy at work, shuttling the kids, breastfeeding the baby in the carrier while making dinner, or writing code, I promise you, you can afford to stop for just 30 seconds and find your oxygen mask. Take a deep breath (or two or ten), wiggle your toes, stretch, do whatever you need to reset your system.

Take the time to listen to what YOU need — and then honor it. Find your oxygen mask. It can shift a bad day into an amazing one, create peace in the midst of chaos, and most importantly, be the first step towards changing your health for the better.

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In honor of the approaching Valentine’s Day: This is one of the most beautiful blog posts I’ve ever read. Don’t forget to read the comments, too! I think it just goes to show you the power of love, and how sometimes, receiving is 1000 times more difficult than giving.

Inspiration Location

People sometimes break down in yoga class. They fall apart. They shatter.

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens regularly enough so that I have to be prepared for it.

When people shatter, it’s usually because their “container” isn’t strong enough to hold whatever emotion detonated within them. They don’t see it coming. They get blindsided.

They come to class perfectly happy, perfectly okay, all, “Let’s do some s-t-r-e-c-h-i-n-g and get this old body moving, shall we?” And then BAM, out of nowhere, they are in a fetal position on the floor, a quivering mass, not knowing what hit them.

This is certainly not what I want to happen. I want to get the dosage right. I don’t want to lead a person in a practice that is going to break their container, but it’s really hard to know sometimes.

They might be physically strong in their body, but…

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Confessions (the bad news and the good)

Forgive me, computer, for I have sinned. It has been 5 (4? 6?) days since my last blog.

My goodness, where did the week go? Is it really already Saturday afternoon? What happened to Wednesday and Thursday? With the kids home on spring break, they simply slipped through my fingers.

Well, do you want the bad news or the good news first? Seeing that I consider myself an optimist, someone who tries to see the positive blessings in everything, I’ll start with the less than positive.

The bad news is that I totally dropped the ball with yoga this week. I have been hard pressed to create the time to do yoga the last few days, and when I do, I don’t get very far before that inner voice starts begging me to meditate. My energy has been lagging as I flow with the moon (no pun intended, lol), and it seemed like a good idea to meditate.

The problem with me, though, is that meditation does not equal meditation as it does for some people. At this point in the game of life, “meditation” is a big fat excuse to sit my lazy ass on the floor and let my thoughts and feelings drive me absolutely crazy.

Not exactly the point of meditating, right? Haha.

And in my inability to carve out my yoga time, my spirit has suffered. I didn’t have a bad week, per se, but I could feel my inner strength waning. I have not liked how it feels at all. It just feels yucky. Gray. It makes me mopey.

The good news is, there is lots of good news. The heat finally arrived this week, so Mark-Daniel and I took the kids to the beach yesterday and now have the sunburns to match, haha. (I still cannot fathom the surreality of discussing the cons of match.com with two of my best girlfriends as well as my soon-to-be former spouse; it would definitely make a fascinating blog topic all on its own!) Then last night I saw Lisa Loeb perform at Yoshi’s in Oakland. I really liked her a lot. She was 7 months pregnant, and it brought me right back to when I performed a concert of arias with Mark-Daniel in Wellsboro when I was 7-1/2 months pregnant with Nadia. Lisa is really personable and funny, and she makes me miss performing, so now I am manifesting a keyboard or piano so that I can let that part of my soul out on a more regular basis.

Today, I went to a local conference for the American Holistic Nurses Association at the Osher Center at UCSF. Can I tell you how great it was to go to a conference of nurses and do yoga not once, but twice?!?! We started off the conference doing laughing yoga (which, as you would expect, was really funny, especially thanks to the facilitator), then heard the keynote presentation (which I’ll touch on in a sec), then had an organic lunch, and then got to participate in another yoga class taught by another nurse. Awesomeness. And then two more presentations, one on aromatherapy, and one on healing touch. It felt good to be with my tribe of nurses. I even got a new mentor in the process.

The keynote presentation was the best part of the conference. They discussed some of ways stress can affect aging at the cellular level, and how we can also prevent some of that aging. (And guess what can play a huge roll in this? Yoga, of course, from both a meditative standpoint as well as a movement perspective.) I felt so inspired! It got my brain going about all of the different ways we can show “scientifically” that complementary and alternative therapies really work, since that is usually the brick wall that we face.  So much of this research is happening right in my backyard, and I am hungry to be part of it. I have always fantasized about working at UCSF and the Osher Center, even part-time. Are you listening, Universe?

What I most enjoyed about the conference was that it empowered me and took away what was left of that gray and mopey feeling I’ve been dealing with this week. I know all the pranayama we did in the yoga class helped with that, but there is also something powerful about being in a room of 40+ nurses who believe with all their passion that holistic, integrative care is the way of the future, and we are just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ll confess, I plan on leading the way. 🙂

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Home, sweet home

Finally, some warm weather. No, scratch that. Perfect weather.

I just about froze my tootsies off this morning in SF… the fog was still rolling in at 10am, and that wind! It goes right through me, right to my bones, no matter what I am wearing (and admittedly, I wasn’t wearing very many layers today, and I didn’t even have socks on, because I’m ready for spring!).

It’s amazing how many different climates there are in the Bay Area, let alone SF. I stopped at a friend’s house on the way back home this afternoon, and it was already ten degrees warmer there on the SE side of the City, not too many miles away as the crow flies. By the time I made it home, it was 70 degrees. Finally.

For those of you following Yogamama’s Virtual Yogarians blog, you know that I’ve been writing over there this month as part of her annual April Challenge. I can really feel it in my arms today! I guess I spent a little too much time in downward dog yesterday.

Instead, the warm weather called me outside this afternoon, and I headed over to hike the Stanford Dish around 4:30pm.

OMG.

It was so beautiful. The hills are finally green from the late spring rains, and the views today? To die for. To the north, even though the fog was creeping over the hills, I could see all the way to the silhouettes of the skyscrapers in downtown SF and everything in between. To the east, I could see Mt. Diablo, all the bridges, and even, in the distance, the outline of the windmills on Altamont Pass. To the south, the buildings on top of Mt. Hamilton and Mt. Umunhum reflected in the sunlight, with no smog to speak of, and to the west, as I said, the fog extended over the tree-filled hills like little ghostly fingertips. Hard to believe that Mt. Hamilton was covered in snow not too many days ago.

I was overwhelmed with the feeling of being home. This is my home. This has always been my home.

Days like today make me so grateful to be back in northern California, in all its glory. I know, I know, I complain about sitting for hours at red lights that are out of sync, or the ridiculously inflated housing prices thanks to the inexperienced 20-something homebuyers from Facebook and Google who are cashing in on their stock options, or the fact that I do have to wear a scarf and a parka in the middle of June when the fog comes rolling in like a tsunami. But there is something magical about “hiking the Dish” (as we call it) on a day like today, when a thousand different worlds come dancing together.

You look down in all directions and see the huge Stanford campus… I feel a pride when I look at the hospital, thinking about my work as a student there… not to mention Hoover Tower, the most phallic building on the West Coast! You see the buildings of companies like VMWare, biotech firms with huge solar panels on top, the VA Hospital, NASA, etc., and in the other direction, this huge satellite dish looming over you, with Interstate 280 not too far beyond it. [Incidentally, I have no idea what the Dish does… a friend told me that they use it to search for contact from alien life forms. (I think she’s pulling the old, “Did you know that the word ‘gullible’ isn’t in the dictionary?” trick on me.)] You have the bridges and the skyscrapers, so tiny in the distance, but still so powerful. And then you have the nature… the green hills with the grazing cows, the already thigh-high prickly milk thistle and mustard growing off the path, the orange poppies and calendula dotting the hillside, those fat little squirrels scampering around, and the deer keeping their distance.

If home is where the heart is, then mine is scattered in various places across the world. Today my heart grew a thousand-fold, as I tapped into the roots that had been planted years ago, when I wasn’t paying attention.

In my gratitude, I am paying attention.

*****

By the way, fellow bloggers, WordPress isn’t allowing me to link any websites to my posts. (The link button is deactivated.) Any suggestions?

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