Nowadays "deficit spending" - spending money which one doesn't actually own but loan - is a widespread phenomenon, and the media suggest that it's a good idea. Many people's credit card balance is constantly near the limit. What happens is that people end up paying a lot more for the stuff they buy, because they have to pay a lot of interest.
Now what does that have to do with your personal energy?
Our patterns and habits in how we deal with things and other people and ourselves are fairly consistent throughout. That means that our money handling habits are very probably the same as our energy handling habits.
So take a moment to think about how you're spending your energy: Are you saving some for when things get rough, or are you constantly spending all you have?
It is possible that the treatment really isn't helping:
The diagnosis could be wrong, and thus the treatment tries to fix something that "ain't broke", or the diagnosis is right, but the treatment is wrong. Kinda obvious this won't work...
The more common reasons why a given treatment doesn't seem to work:
The treatment is right, but you're undoing the effect because you are unaware of your own contribution to the problem.
If you keep hitting your thumb with a hammer, it'll hurt -- again and again -- until you stop hitting it. Many health problems are a direct result of our doing something wrong. Pain is one way of telling us to stop, and we'd better heed that warning. In my opinion, a good healthcare provider should try to find out how your problem arose, so they can advise you how to avoid it in the future.
It's working, but your body simply needs more time to heal.
Most health problems that have persisted for a long time don't just go away overnight. Be patient with yourself. Do mention it to your healthcare provider if you think you're not progressing. I expect a good healthcare provider to have enough documentation of your diagnosis, your symptoms and their severity that they can evaluate your progress.
Also, check whether you're resting enough. Unless you're with a certified miracle worker -- please forward me his or her details, I still need one in my network -- your body needs time and energy to heal. It does that best when you're resting.
Resting, by the way, means just that: resting. Doing nothing. Sleeping. Possibly meditating. Resting is NOT exercising, it's NOT watching TV, and it's NOT doing housework either. It's RESTING. Sorry to be so persistent, but that's how it is.
The treatment is working, but you forgot how bad your former problems were.
This is normal and happens very often. Most people (including us healthcare providers) forget their symptoms and how much they bothered them as soon as they are gone, and thus it can seem as if a given therapy is not working, even if it is. This is the other reason why good documentation is so important...
What to do if your treatment doesn't seem to help:
First, second, and third: speak with your treatment provider. Nothing substitutes for communication. Most of us are in a helping profession because we want to help people. We can do that best when we know what's happening. Speaking is a brilliant way of relaying information -- both ways!
Take your electric hair dryer, turn it on and use the hot air to warm that area of your shoulders and upper back. The easiest way to do that is to stick it under your shirt or jersey, at the back, pointing upwards. Be careful not to burn yourself with the hot air, and don't let the hairdryer's air inlet be obstructed by your shirt. But this is not rocket science - you'll get the hang in half a minute.
It is important to keep blowing the hot air until you feel your back and shoulders relax with the warmth, which takes 1-3 minutes.
Now comes the explanation why that works:
The first signs of a typical cold (what the Chinese call "wind-cold") are: Aversion to drafts, feeling chilly, sneezing or a runny nose and tightness around the upper back and shoulders.
When you notice these, it is not too late to get it out of the system before it gets lodged there.
Located in the nape of the neck and the upper back are the "Gate of Wind" and "Grasping the Wind" acupoints. What happens when this area gets cold is that the shoulder and back muscles tighten and breathing gets shallow. Warming the area allows the muscles to relax again, circulation of breath and Qi is re-established, and everything is of the very nice. "Sweet as", like we say here in New Zealand.
Andrew Weil has three neat and succinct articles on his website regarding breathing:
Breathing: An introduction
How the breath connects the body, mind and spirit
Breathing: Basic How-To's
How not to hyperventilate
A very relaxing breathing exercise.
Try it! What have you got to lose?
A stroke is what happens when of one of the brain's blood vessels gets clogged. The part of the brain that is usually nourished by this blood vessel is not getting enough oxygen to do its job and may get irrevocably damaged, paralysing parts of the body. So, time is of the essence, because every minute counts when it comes to brain damage!
Luckily, it's fairly easy to recognise a stroke by asking the person to "Smile, raise both arms, speak a simple sentence".
Call 111 immediately if a person fails these:
Now you don't have to run around and ask everyone these questions all the time.
-- after someone has stumbled or fallen for no apparent reason
-- if someone is suddenly disoriented or finds it difficult to speak
-- if a family member finds it suddenly physically difficult go get out of bed in the morning. (Not when they're just tired or hung over, silly!)
It's a really good idea to share this knowledge with your friends and family members. It could save their lives - or yours!
More information about strokes, stroke prevention, and what to do after you or a family member has suffered a stroke can be found on the homepage of The Stroke Foundation of New Zealand.
One piece of information is missing on the Stroke Foundation homepage, though:
Japanese acupuncture can be used both for stroke prevention (some reflex points become reactive about 1-2 years prior to an impending stroke) and for helping with recovery after a stroke.
I'm back from the summer break, and new blog entries should now appear here pretty much every Friday. Do send me your questions! I like answering real questions, as they make sure that at least one person is interested in what I write...
But to this week's wisdom:
Less is more, or Sometimes nothing is better than less:
Fasting - voluntarily abstaining from all solid foods - is a great way to "reset" one's system.
No, I don't recommend it as a diet, although yes, you do lose some weight in the process.
What happens when you don't eat solid food for a couple of days is this: The body turns to its reserves (AKA "love-handles") and switches from "intake" (of food and nutrients) to "output" (of toxins and stuff it doesn't need).
Digestion requires about 1/3 of our total energy household, and as soon as that's out of the picture, the body starts to repair itself. Clever as it is, first the old and damaged cells are burnt up for "food", which results in the healing of damaged tissues and a feeling of rejuvenation.
Common "side" effects are - especially during the first two to three days: Low blood pressure and tiredness, and during the whole fasting time and 2-3 days afterwards an increased body odour and bad breath, signs of the increased detoxing.
The two most important things for fasting are regular emptying of the bowels (the least invasive help being an enema every second day) and breaking fast slowly and sensibly. After several days of fasting, the digestive juices have been absorbed by the body, and it has to start producing them again. As a good rule of thumb, after fasting you should eat very light and vegetarian fare for about 1/3 of the number of days you fasted.
Many people report feeling very fit and light after the third day of fasting. Some (me included) don't feel so dapper during their first fast - but from all I've heard from friends, fasting gets easier and better with each subsequent time you do it.
The "don't use it as a diet" disclaimer:
Fasting and then going back to bad eating habits is simply a bad idea and doesn't do much for your health or well-being.
The nice thing about fasting is that it refines your senses, and that it resets the sensations of "now I've had enough food to be satisfied", "now I'm full" and "man, I've overdone it". Thus, it's a lot easier to introduce new, healthier eating habits into your life afterwards.
And why would nothing be better than less?
Because - if you've purged or emptied your bowels on the first day of your fast - you're usually not hungry during fasting.
Amazing as it may seem to anyone who hasn't experienced it for themselves, it's true.
This is where it's different to diets (which I don't recommend either), where you deprive yourself of either a substantial amount of your food or of a substantial variety.
Or in a nutshell: Fasting doesn't hurt, and it gives you a wonderful sense of accomplishment. The experience of sustaining oneself without solid foods and independence is pretty cool already, but the knowledge that all that is possible simply because one has decided to do it, that's truly amazing.
If this has made you curious, I recommend getting a good book on fasting. It will give you more of an idea what to expect, what to do and what to avoid.
However, the assumption that drugs by themselves are a useful way of treating depression is questioned only very gingerly.
Basically, there are several basic ideas about depression going around:
First there's the assumption that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a fact that different states of mind and emotion occur simultaneously with different chemical processes in different areas of the brain. But, it's not clear which comes first, the brain chemistry or out thought processes - and that's a very comforting thought in my opinion, because we can direct our thoughts ourselves. Changing the chemistry of the brain is probably much trickier.
Another approach on depression is voiced by many from the huge field of so-called alternative medicine: That people with bad coping mechanisms and thinking habits are much more likely to develop depression than those who are not. And - thinking patterns and your outlook on life are things you can and should choose consciously. Just think about how the assumption "I am a victim of depression, I can't do anything about it" will make you react to feeling down, blue, lethargic or simply "urgh", and then think how an outlook of "How can I get through this? What and who can help me to get through this?" would make you react.
Thought patterns or thinking habits can be un-learned. The first step to that is recognising them. One good way to un-learn is meditation (see: my former post Meditation increases happiness and helps with pain and depression). As in mediation, all thoughts are simply recognised as thoughts ("Here's another thought") without paying attention to their content, the recurring patterns of one's thinking start to emerge quite rapidly. Also, the perceived "reality" of our thoughts becomes a lot more relative, as we find that "that's just a thought" instead of the assumption "this is how it really is".
Antioxidants like vitamin C and E assist the body in tackling these free radicals and regenerating tissues.
For optimal results, take about two and a half times as much vitamin C as vitamin E until your wound has healed.
To assist wound healing externally, you can also cut open a vitamin E gel capsule and put the oily substance directly onto the cleansed wound, scab, or sunburn. On burns, use it after cooling properly, and do use common sense: For large or serious burns, go straight to the hospital without delay.
But that isn't what this post is about...
A Chinese household remedy for a restless mind that keeps you from falling asleep is a quick hot foot bath.
It works very well too, and has less calories And it makes your feet warm, even if they've been ice cold before – another thing that can keep you from falling asleep, and often occurs together with a racing mind.
How it works:
Put your feet and hands in a bowl of water that feels hot to you. (I like to sit on the bathtub rim for this. That way I don't have to worry about spilling water either.) If your feet are very cold, that might be just over 30 degrees, if they're fairly warm, you can go up to over 40 degrees. The water should reach to or just above your ankles. If you want to, you can increase the water temperature after a minute – a little tingling or stinging from the heat is OK.
Keep your hands and feet in the hot water until the skin starts turning pink ( 2-5 minutes), which is a sign of increased circulation. Then, dry them off, put on your favourite woollen socks and tuck yourself in. When you're back in bed, it initially might feel as if your feet are not holding the warmth, but don't worry: The circulation is kick-started, and they'll get warm from the inside in a short time.
I find it works better and quicker against cold feet than a hot water bottle: By the time the water for a hot water bottle would be warm, you're already back in bed and your feet are warm on all sides.
Why it works:
According to Chinese medicine the Shen (approximately: Spirit, mind) needs to rest in the Heart at night, like a little bird in its nest. When the Heart is agitated, the Shen can find no place to settle down. The body's Qi (energy) is concentrated in the head and the chest, which is why this state of mind is so often combined with cold extremities.
Warmth draws energy to the area where it's applied. Thus, bringing warmth to the hands and feet draws enough Qi away from the Heart that the Shen can settle for a good night's sleep. At the same time, the Qi improved circulation of hands and feet makes them warm again.
It works as follows: Lie down on your back and let your arms and legs stick up into the air. Shaking them lightly, hold them up for about a minute. This peps up your circulation, because it facilitates the blood flow from the extremities to the body, thus strengthening your heart and improving capillary function.
The most common culprits are:
Drink water. Although alcoholic beverages, coffee and black tea are liquid, too, they have dehydrating effects. You notice that because the urination frequency increases after drinking them.
Stick with water. It's good for the complexion, too.
"I can't wake up without my coffee" is the surest sign for a coffee addiction. The tiredness in the morning is actually a withdrawal symptom. The good news: Coffee addiction takes only about three days to overcome.
Soft drinks, lollies and other sweets that contain refined sugar briefly boost your blood sugar levels up and then make them plummet down, creating (sweet) food cravings, headaches and crankiness.
By the way, artificial sweeteners cause low blood sugar levels, too, because the body reacts to the sweet taste, not the calories.
Working too hard
Not taking breaks to eat a little and sitting at a computer for long periods of time without moving about is a perfect combination to build up headaches. Stop it. Get up and move around, and start scheduling proper lunch breaks right now!
Lack of oxygen
Kind of obvious: Think of the wonderful feeling you get when you open a window or step outside and take a deep breath. So do it right now and enjoy the free oxygen buzz.
Lack of Vitamin B
Vitamin B, especially Vitamin B12 is enormously important for proper nerve and brain function, and lack of Vitamin B can lead to frequent headaches.
One of the most common side effects of pain medication is headaches, especially if you use them a lot. Basically, it's a form of medication poisoning. In order to let your body reset and start responding normally to any form of medication, you need to get off them completely for a while.
Stress and muscle tension
High levels of stress cause tense muscles which in turn can lead to headaches. Stress can be reduced through exercise and rest, and by planning time and work and sticking to the plans.
The last two points on the list admittedly are harder to tackle than the ones before. Acupuncture can help with all of these, because it addresses the underlying energetic imbalances and can help overcome addictions.