Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

by Kathy Kerber, RN, MSN, MA, AHNC-BC, CHTP, Integrative Health Nurse Clinician

With the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you be of good cheer! 

But what if we are not of good cheer? Many of us are exhausted this time of year, and we may have reason to be. We’re busy with the daily routines of life, which may include work, kids and household chores. Add to that a list of holiday tasks ― shopping for presents, going to social events, entertaining, creating lists, and scheduling. For some, stress may come with seeing family or feeling financially strapped. No matter how hard we might try to make this the most wonderful time of the year, so often, we just want to sit and relax. Yet that can feel impossible if we have limited time.

When we think of relaxing, we think of things that take 15, 30 or 60 minutes ― like a hot bath, quiet time with our feet up, exercising, or reading. Often, we can’t see a way to find that kind of time. Instead, we just keep going like the energizer bunny until we get sick.

But there is a way to relax, whatever our situation, and it only takes a minute or two.  The key areas to focus on are nutrition, quiet time and sleep.  Pick any one of the tips below, try it for a week, and then focus on another.  Trying all of these things at once may feel exhausting, so keep it simple.

Nutrition: Be mindful of what you eat before and at social events. I’m not suggesting you not eat holiday goodies, but you can balance the event food with healthier choices during the day. Try your best to eat in moderation and don’t feel guilty about the enjoyment.  If you would like some healthy nutrition suggestions, go to Kelly McBride’s Holiday recipes, which has some great options.

Quiet time:  Here I’m going to focus on your breath.  All you need is a minute.  Close your eyes and just inhale and exhale.  You don’t need to do deep breaths ― just breathe in a way that feels normal for you.  All you have to think about is your breathe.  Of course, other thoughts are going to pop up, such as the list of things you have to do today, the phone calls you have to make, or the shopping you need to do. If you start thinking about these things, just let those thoughts leave your mind with your next exhale.  Remember that all you have to do at this moment is to inhale and exhale. Are you thinking you have no time for this?  You do have to go to the bathroom, don’t you? Perfect time! Remember, you only need a minute.

Sleep:  With all the stress the holidays may bring, the time of going to bed may get later every day.  Yet a good night’s sleep is the best thing for you.  So set a specific time to go to bed.  An hour before you go to bed, sit with your feet up and do nothing.  Often we keep going until we are ready to go to bed.  Take time to slow down your thoughts and unwind.

These are just a few simple suggestions. Try just one and see how it goes. Then check back for the next blog. Pat will be going over stress release.  Just remember it can be “the hap-happiest season of all” when you are taking care of you.

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Rub your ears to reduce stress

By Kristianne Seelye, LAc, Dipl OM

We have all been at a place at one time or another when stress has been prevalent in our lives. Whether it was due to a lack of sleep, an ill parent or the death of a loved one, the degrees of stress can vary and so can the way that we manage it. Maybe you cope by taking a nap, or maybe you seek out talk therapy. There are many ways to cope with stress.

As an acupuncturist, I firmly believe in the theory that acupuncture can help calm and bring the body back to balance. Acupuncture has provided thousands of years of relief from stress and pain to billionsear, but how many of you can find an acupuncturist at 1 a.m. when you are tossing and turning from overwhelming thoughts or ideas?

During stressful times, people tend to rub their ears, face, hands and head. Have you ever watched the insanely brave riders at Valleyfair’s Power Tower? As they await their drop, many brave souls manage their stress by moving their feet back and forth before they free fall 250 feet to the ground. “Rub your ears!” I shout, as if they can hear me. This is an example of the riders’ own innate way of trying to calm their body. Whether it is your face, hands, feet or…yes, even your ears, rubbing or moving these body parts is the body’s way to cope in stressful situations.

Auricular acupuncture technique is similar to reflexology. It works by stimulating cells that contain information from the whole organism. These cells are “organization centers” that represent different parts of the body.1 Simply put, your ear represents your whole body. Therefore, stimulating a point in your ear can relieve symptoms that your body is experiencing, whether it comes in the form of pain, stress, lack of sleep, etc.

You can treat yourself by stimulating these points by simply taking the time to massage your ears. Give it a try using these simple instructions:

  • Start with your inner ear and your index finger. Place a clean index finger on the inside of your outer ear.
  • Move from the inside of your ear to your outer ear cartilage.
  • Be generous in the amount of time you spend (about three to five minutes for each ear).
  • Use your thumb and index finger as you get towards the top of your ear, holding the cartilage between your two fingers.
  • Pay attention to the sore areas of your ears and slowly move your fingers around these areas, spending more time in on the tender parts.
  • Repeat this as often as you need.

When I cannot quiet my mind, I lie down and massage my ears. Do your body and mind a favor and give your ears the attention they need during this holiday season. Your ears and others will thank you.

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Holiday recipes

by Kelly McBride, LAc

As our days grow shorter and we move into the holidays, we have two strong pulls on our mind, body and spirit.  One pull is to gather friends and family together, eat great food and celebrate being together. The other is to move our attention inward, rest, seek quiet spaces and watch the landscape change and snow fall.  Although these pulls may feel like opposites, they don’t have to be, and it is important to honor both.  One way to embrace both is to make recipes that reflect both the celebration and the quiet.

For the pull toward celebration with friends and family, I think about desserts.  When cooking for family at this time of year, everyone’s dietary restrictions come to mind.  After a long search, I have found a rich, moist brownie recipe that meets those needs. Even “the people who can eat whatever they want” love this recipe.  This is an all-natural, grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free and, potentially, egg-free recipe (depending on how you like your brownies).  Are you asking what ingredients could possibly be left after you take all those things out?  The answer: the best ones!  Skeptical?  Give this recipe for Great Zucchini Brownies a try and you will be convinced!

Because this dessert has lots of protein, you won’t feel weighed down after eating it.

Now for the recipe that nourishes us when we yearn for quiet reflection and rest:  Balsamic Root Vegetables. Root vegetables are very grounding – both by their energetic nature, as well as the fact that they are full of carbohydrates.  After eating this, just think to yourself “Nap time – here I come!”  This recipe is sweet, rather than savory.

Whether you are craving some quiet time to rest and recover, or you are ready to get out and celebrate with friends and family, honor yourself, the season and the activity you have planned with foods that support you and what you need.  A simple way to remember this is to add protein to your diet when you need energy for the celebration, and add carbohydrates to your diet when you need to settle down and feel quiet.

Wishing you a wonderful winter season filled with friends and family balanced with quiet and rest!