Pick out your most comfortable chair. Sit down, loosen your skirt or trousers, slip out of your shoes, and close your eyes.
Now imagine your feet dangling in the cold, clear, blue waters or a mountain lake. Smell the aroma of nearby flowers. Hear the happy songs of carefree birds. Feel the stimulation of fresh mountain air. For a few minutes eliminate, as far as possible, remove all other thoughts, and with this peaceful scene in mind, meditate; focus your mind in silence.
Feel better? More relaxed?
WHO of us does not need to relax? According to one authority, 70 percent of the people sitting in doctors’ waiting rooms are sick simply because they no longer can cope with life’s pressure.
Also, new studies indicate how stress and other emotions that affect the body’s immune responses and vital functions are responsible for many human ailments. Medical science is finding that the mind-body link plays more of a role in human health than previously believed and, therefore, has given a new name to the branch of medical research that investigates this mechanism. It’s called psychoneuroimmunology.
Commenting on the brain’s physiological role, Dr. George F. Solomon of the University of California says: “Mind and body are inseparable. The brain influences all sorts of physiological processes that were once thought not to be centrally regulated.
A doctor who can help his patients to relax is serving their best interests. And he can make any number of suggestions on how to relax.
Some of these include TM (transcendental meditation) techniques and also Yoga or Zen. Autogenic training is another treatment recommended in some countries. But I caution you to get the facts before trying any of these techniques and understand how they differ from “normal” meditation.
Meditation: There Is More to It Than You Think
“Half an hour’s meditation each day is essential, except when you are busy. Then a full hour is needed.” –Saint Francis de Sales
What does “meditation” mean to you? If you follow the teachings of some Eastern religions, you may believe that it is something that brings greater clarity of thought or personal enlightenment. Meditation practiced in Buddhism encourages emptying the mind of all thought. Other forms of meditation are said to help fill your mind with “universal truths of wisdom.”
And some believe meditation is merely daydreaming.
According to one dictionary, to meditate is “to think in a thoughtful or leisurely manner. It requires a serious and extended undistracted period of concentration.”
The claims made for specific meditation techniques are quite attractive: to deepen our understanding of oneself, to replace negative tendencies and bad habits with more positive ones, to overcome anxieties and fears, and yes, even to improve health.
In this regard, notice what’s pointed out in a recent article on WebMd.com:
“The Top Five Benefits of Meditation: 5) does your body good, lowers blood pressure; 4) sharpens the mind; 3) increases serotonin known as the ‘happy drug’; 2) improves sleep, and 1) reduces stress.”
If you would like more information on what is purported to be health benefits, you will find many short, 1-minute videos of interest on WebMd.com. Go to: www.webmd.com/balance/video/truth-about-meditation
Also on this page, you will find an interesting article entitled: “Value of Meditation for Health Unproven.” Apparently, according to this article, studies were not high enough quality to prove or disprove the value of meditation as a treatment.”
But there is more to meditation—
I meditate for spiritual reasons; if I should experience less stress and feel more relaxed as a result of meditating, this is a side benefit. For me, meditating is not removing negative thoughts, but allows me to consider spiritual answers to my problems. Meditating also will enable me to express gratitude. This form of meditation helps me to deal successfully with anxieties of day-to-day life. I feel contented.
There are many reasons to engage in meditation, that is, deep, concentrated thinking about important things. For instance, it is vital to reflect on past experiences, ponder over current matters, and thoughtfully contemplate our future.
But above all, meditation will bring us the greatest enlightenment if our thoughts are on our Creator and the blessings we experience every day for which we are thankful.
Bottom line: meditation is good for you. It can make you feel more peaceful and relaxed. Through meditation, you have a sense of well-being and contentment. And if it also happens to improve your health, this is awesome!
“By turning your eyes to God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God.” – Saint Frances de Sales
“Money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.”—Helen Gurley Brown
As a Boomer woman, you are living longer—much longer.
In one study, 2 out of 5 older women surveyed said that they expect to live to age 90+. They are concerned about affording health care and long-term care services in later life, and money to support them day-to-day.
Joyce, a 58-year-old widow, expressed, “Living with my chronically ill husband for the last 5 years has been the hardest thing I have ever done! Now that my husband, the man I loved, passed away, I’m dealing with grief, physical problems, and financial pressures. I think I’m ready to have a nervous breakdown.”
Though Joyce had worked in a professional setting for many years and earned good money, when her husband became ill she had first to downsize her job to part-time, and months later resign altogether.
Joyce joined the 40 million caregivers in America, of which 60% are women and, end-of-life care and related expenses ate through their savings.
By leaving the workforce early, she figured she lost about $150,000 in wages, plus social security benefits.
Regrettably, when her husband was alive and healthy, Joyce was not involved in the family finances or in identifying common goals for the future.
When it came to investing in growth assets, she was clueless.
Joyce will undoubtedly begin to look for more employment, provided her health holds up. At age 58, she is a “young” Boomer. If she can’t find a new job, perhaps she will try entrepreneurship.
But consider the daily pressures she could experience in the meantime.
Don’t let this be your life story.
To help mitigate a similar situation in your life, why not begin taking the following 5 steps.
What You Can Do
- Act now! Fight procrastination and do nothing. Force yourself to get moving. Realize you’re the boss! You’re in charge of your financial future.
- Gain money knowledge. Gather information. Educate yourself. Focus on women’s issues, paying particular to the risks you face should you become single. Check out diverse sources and do not rely on any one source. Think critically about what you find; ask questions of yourself and others. Research.
- Consult a financial planner. Meet with someone who is skilled and knowledgeable in the concerns of women.
- Calculate income and expenses. One study revealed that only one in four women (25%) do the math on this. Most women have no clear picture of what they’ll face when it comes to health costs, let alone housing, food, clothing, transportation, and so forth. (A good financial planner will help you with this.)
- Stay on budget. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 87% of those in poverty in America are women. And 25% of widows are poor a mere two months after their husband’s death.
It’s not too late.
Perhaps you’ll come to agree with Lillian Day on the importance of securing your financial future: “Money isn’t everything, your health is the other ten percent.”
Begin right now, today to “Ensure a Financially Healthy Future”!
Report: The MetLife Study of Women, Retirement and Extra-Long Life: Implications for Planning (2011)
“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” –Plato
When my husband was in good health, he enjoyed listening to the 24/7 news cycle. He wanted to keep informed about world events.
After he became ill and was bedridden, I continued this practice for him and kept the TV on all day.
However, as his illness advanced to the point I had to place him in hospice at home, I began to notice that he would become agitated by what he heard on TV, and would mutter about war and violence and the dangers of world war.
I mentioned this to the hospice nurse, and she suggested I not play the news channel, but instead soft music.
My husband, himself a musician, responded wonderfully. The soft melodies relaxed him.
Music and the Brain
Music evokes spontaneous reactions from listeners because, as some suggest, language and logic are predominately functions of the left side of the brain, while music is on the right side of the brain, which deals mainly with feelings and emotions.
It all started in the womb, listening to our mother’s heartbeat. Just think of our heart rate.
So perhaps it’s no coincidence that most people appear to prefer musical tempo ranges between 70 and 100 beats per minute—the same range as the average heart rate of a healthy adult.
There’s great musical variety, a wide range of instruments, and the sounds and melodies they produce that evoke deep emotions and feelings. According to Clive E. Robbins of the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Center in New York, “music speaks to the entire human being.”
What Is Music Therapy?
According to the American Music Therapy Association, Music Therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” (American Music Therapy Association definition, 2005)
However, music therapy is as old as our written knowledge of music. Pythagoras (a Greek philosopher; born 570BC), is known as the Father of Mathematics, Geometry, and Music; he created the musical intervals and taught that one could heal using sound.
Pythagoras applied the principles of Harmonics to everything from music, to art, to architecture, to healing.
Healing Benefits of Music
But you don’t need a licensed therapist to benefit from listening to, discussing, and moving to music to help you feel better.
The use of music can be quite diverse. Music can elicit and maintain human health and well-being. Music can help patients during surgery. Some hospitals pipe music into intensive care units. Music is used to soothe premature babies.
Music reduces anxiety.
As I mentioned earlier, my husband, when well, was in the habit of watching the political news, but at a certain point became disturbed emotionally.
Even though he couldn’t communicate in words what he liked, I could tell by his facial expression, no frowns in his forehead, and so forth, that the music caused him to feel calm and less tense.
Music can also produce reductions in stress hormone levels and is thus one of the biggest stress relievers.
According to WebMD, music has many benefits for Alzheimer’s patients by:
- soothing an agitated person
- sparking memories
- engaging the mind even in the diseases later stages
- improving eating in some cases
Why Should You Use Music Therapy?
Consider this experience from a hospital in Port Townsend, Washington:
“The effects of music in the operating room on 25 different patients were studied by music therapist Helen Lindquist Bonny and nurse anesthetist Noreen McCarron. Music instead of sedation was used to quash the sounds within the operating room that often create anxiety before an operation. Melodious music reduced blood pressure and heart rates and also cut by half the sedatives needed to calm patients.”
Further, according to nurse McCarron, “The soothing effect of music is equivalent to 2.5 mg of Valium. Patients listening to music generally feel better after their operation and could go home sooner.”
A comparable study in the Federal Republic of Germany showed a similar reduction. “Classical music, as well as popular music from the 40’s and 50’s, with even tempos and rhythms were used. We shunned wild, raucous sounds.”
Based on these experiences and others, music therapy does work. Music can reduce muscle tension, help in promoting relaxation, promote the release of the all-important endorphins—a natural painkiller.
And as I have learned from personal experience, once I turned off the national news and turned on soothing music for my husband, the anxious frowns in his forehead turned to pleasant smiles on his face.
If you are interested in finding a music therapist, check with local schools or hospitals.
For my husband, hospice offered music therapy as part of his care. Or, as discussed in this article, you can play soothing music in your loved one’s room to significant effect.
Yes, music can be good medicine!
“It always seems to me as if the lavender was a little woman in a green dress with a lavender bonnet and a white handkerchief. She’s one of those strong, sweet, wholesome people, who always rest you, and her sweetness lingers long after she goes away.” –Myrtle Reed
A search on Wikipedia.org reveals the fantastic history of lavender (formal botanical name Lavandula), which dates back more than 2000 years. There are over 47 species of the lavender plant found in the cool French Alps as well as the dry heat of the Middle East. Lavandula is Latin for “to wash” and comes from the ancient Romans who perfumed their baths with lavender oil (solvents or steam distillation are used to extract the essential oils from the plant).
The color “lavender” derives its name for this plant.
For a history of this plant, follow this link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavandula
Not only is the plant beautiful and smells good, it also has countless health benefits. During my research, I discovered many medicinal uses for this unusual plant.
For instance, back in the 16th century, some herbalists claimed that lavender would cure paralysis of limbs and neuroses! Not only that, they believed that wearing a skullcap made of lavender would increase intelligence!
And the research also shows that as recently as World War 1, some governments wanted to use extracted oil from lavender to treat soldiers’ wounds.
Why am I writing this blog? For one, I believe in the natural healing powers of essential oils. Secondly, because of the six essential oils I’ve used personally (tea tree, orange, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon grass), because of its versatility, l prefer lavender.
Carrying a bottle of lavender essential oil around with you is like having a personal first aid kit.
Also, I’m always looking for ways to make caring for myself a bit easier, more pleasant, and offer comfort.
Consider this brief overview:
Medicinal Uses of the Essential Oil Lavender
- Calms and relaxes: one research paper found that new mothers using lavender oil in their bathwater reported lower discomfort scores several days after giving birth; further, lavender oil is also currently used in many delivery rooms for its general calming action. Try rubbing 2-3 drops of lavender oil in your cupped hand and inhaling for an immediate calming effect.
- Cures colds: put a few drops of lavender oil into a large bowl of steaming hot water, cover your head, close your eyes, and breathe in through your nose for one or two minutes.
- Relieves headaches: massaging just a few drops of lavender oil into your forehead, temples, and nape of the neck will result in a refreshing and soothing feeling.
- Treats bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics: studies show lavender to be lethal to bacteria that cause typhoid, TB, and diphtheria.
- Soothes aching muscles: add lavender oil to your bathwater after a day moving and lifting to ease aches and pains and relieve tension.
- Reduces stress and anxiety: caregivers worry a lot; research shows that lavender oil is just as effective for signs of anxiety as Valium or Xanax—and without the side effects.
- Heals cuts and bruises: lavender oil soothes pain, aids in scar-free healing, and prevents infection.
- Treats acne: lavender oil blocks the bacteria that causes skin infection and helps to rebalance the over-secretion of oily or waxy matter called sebum.
- Reduces wrinkles: suitable for all skin types; moisturizer and cleanser high in antioxidants that increase blood flow and protects skin from harmful free radicals as well as ultraviolet rays of the sun
- Improves allergies: fight a runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, or headaches naturally; use lavender oil mixed with lotion topically or diffuse lavender to reduce inflammation in bronchial tubes (do not ingest).
- Relieves eczema: apply infused lavender oil onto dry, itchy skin or add a few drops of lavender oil to calamine lotion, shake, and rub on for a comforting feel. Others have mixed the lavender oil with a nut or vegetable oil and used topically.
- Eases insomnia: put 3 or 4 drops of lavender oil on your pillow or use a diffuser to help you go to sleep and stay asleep; awake rested and more alert.
- Relieves motion sickness: lavender oil appears at #3 behind peppermint and ginger on most lists to treat motion sickness or nausea. If you’re traveling, use a car diffuser or inhaler, or just place one or two drops on tissue paper and inhale as needed.
- Reduces teeth grinding (bruxism): studies have shown that the scent of lavender can change brain wave patterns and calm nerves. Use a room diffuser or apply one or two drops to critical points on the body, such at temple, back of the neck, inside writs, chest, and shoulder.
- Relieves minor burn pain: run cold water on a burn and then apply lavender oil for almost immediate pain relief and without scarring.
- Eliminates dandruff: dry skin is the most common cause; use several drops of lavender into the scalp as a gentle moisturizer. It’s anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory that also smells great!
- Fights fatigue: add a few drops of lavender to a hot foot bath and soak for several minutes, so that it reaches your bloodstream more quickly. Lavender will stimulate and soothe your entire body.
These 17 ideas do not nearly cover the many medicinal purposes of the marvelous lavender plant. However, you can see from this list that lavender essential oil can ease the common problems that many face, such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia.
I feel as expressed by Karen Rose: “If you had to choose an oil, it would have to be lavender essential oil because it is antibacterial and antiviral. So, it’s great to have when the people around you are sick; it can also be used to relax.”
This quote pretty much summarizes how we can benefit from lavender essential oil—a fragrance that’s calming, relaxing both physically and emotionally. I agree with many who say we should carry a bottle of lavender around with us as our first aid kit!
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to prescribe, treat, prevent, or diagnose any disease or condition. Should you begin a regimen using essential oils, please consult with your physician, naturopath, or aromatherapist before doing so. The use of essential oils can be very empowering and beneficial. However, use your discretion.
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” –Peter Marshall
If you Google “Stress Management,” you’ll receive 54,100,000 or more results—a massive topic that shows how important this is to your wellbeing. And on a single site, such as WebMD, you’ll find more than 5,361 articles devoted to stress.
Why is this topic searched on, and talked and written about in such large numbers?
Because . . .
Many years ago, I worked in a high-pressure sales job. The money was great. We had company cars and expense accounts. But we also had seemingly unending and increasingly higher sales goals to meet.
Well one day, Sam, our highest achiever, dropped dead in the office. Just like that! To everyone’s horror, he fell flat on the floor, face down outside his cubicle.
What made his death so shocking was that Sam was an avid tennis player. So he got plenty of exercises. This tragedy baffled us.
We learned later that the doctor said he died from chronic stress, or what’s referred to as, “acute stress hormone.”
He was only 55 years old.
What is stress?
“A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances” –Oxford English Dictionary
Consider these U.S. Stress Statistics
- 77% percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress
- 73% periodically experience psychological symptoms caused by tension
- 33% feel they are living with extreme pressure
- 48% believe their stress has increased over the past five years
- 76% cited money and work as the leading cause of their emotional strain
- 48% reported lying awake at night due to stress.
(Source: 2016 Statistics Brain Research Institute)
Stress Causes Workplace Violence!
From a survey conducted January 12, 2018:
- 80% of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress
- 42% say their coworkers need help dealing with the daily job pressures.
- 14% say they had at one time felt like striking a coworker, but didn’t
- 25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress.
- 10% fear an individual at work could become violent.
- 9% are aware of an assault or violent act in the workplace.
- 18% have experienced some in-your-face threat or verbal intimidation in the past year.
(Source: The American Institute of Stress [AIS])
Add to the above statistics the fact that many feel less job security than ever before while working longer and harder. Many workers overcommit and stretch themselves too thin. Plus, some have awful bosses and hate their jobs.
Recipes for disaster!
Stress Makes Us Sick!
According to Jay Winner, MD, as reported by R. Morgan Griffin on WebMd.com, these are 10 of the most significant health problems due to stress:
- Heart disease (sudden emotional stress can be a trigger for heart problems).
- Asthma (stress can worsen asthma).
- Obesity (excess belly fat poses the more significant health risk).
- Diabetes (stress can worsen diabetes: increases lousy behavior and raises glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes directly).
- Headaches (stress is one of the most common triggers for tension headaches, including migraines).
- Depression and anxiety (chronic stress equates to higher rates of depression and anxiety, such as experienced by people with demanding work with few rewards; they have an 80% higher risk of developing depression within a few years).
- Gastrointestinal problems (stress doesn’t cause ulcers but makes them worse; also contributes to gastroesophageal reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome).
- Alzheimer’s disease (stress might worsen the condition; researchers speculate that reducing stress could slow down the progression of the disease).
- Accelerated aging (there’s evidence that stress can affect how you age; according to research, stress seemed to accelerate aging by 9 to 17 additional years).
- Premature death (a study looked at the health effects of stress by studying elderly caregivers looking after their spouses—people who are naturally under a great deal of stress and found that caregivers had a 63% higher rate of death than people their age who were not caregivers) **
What can you do?
How can you improve your health?
Dr. Winner shares” Four Ways to Fight Back Against Stress—and Improve Your Health”:
- Breathe deeply (Just a few minutes of deep breathing can calm you; you can do this anywhere. As you breathe out, you relax a specific muscle group. Start with them muscles in your jaw. On the next breath out, relax your shoulder. Move through the different areas of your body until you’re feeling calm.)
- Focus on the moment (Instead of worrying about the future, focus on what you’re doing right now. If you’re walking, feel the sensation of your legs moving, and so forth.)
- Reframe the situation (If you’re running late for an appointment and stuck in traffic, it won’t help to get all worked up. Look at that time as an opportunity to yourself.)
- Keep your problems in perspective (The next time you’re feeling stressed out, think about the things for which you are grateful. If you have family and friends, consider yourself fortunate. This can be a surprisingly effective method for stress relief.)
- Eat right.
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise every day.
- Listen to soothing music.
- Take in the beauty of creation.
- Read * (my favorite way to relax)
There you have it: Top 12 Coping with Stress Strategies. Many of us experience enormous pressures in our daily lives. Use these and other tips to keep stress from leading to burnout in your life.
I’m tired!!! As a full-time caregiver, I found myself saying this over and over again.
Typically, I’d have concluded that I was doing too much. But that didn’t fit situation because I just did what was necessary.
One thing that happened is that my husband stirred restlessly at night. This situation caused me to get up about every two hours to ensure he was okay. Thus I didn’t get much sleep. This sleep deficiency is itself was stress on my mind and body, and this made it less likely I could handle the other pressures going on at the time.
To quote Shakespeare: “Sleep that knits up the reveled sleave of care. The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast.” (Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 2)
Sleep here symbolizes innocence, purity, and peace of mind.
Since I wasn’t getting the sleep I needed to refresh my mind and relax my body, I felt tired. I often thought in a constant state of fatigue and exhaustion.
Imagine how this affected my health! Of course, the simple answer would have been to get more sleep; however, getting eight hours of sleep was out of the question for me at that time.
Researchers have found that lack of sleep causes learning and memory problems, motor-skill impairment, and a weakened immune system. It makes you cranky and causes depression. And I had discovered that when I was tired, I was prone to make errors, which could have been severe—even deadly.
So if I was unable to get the recommended amount of sleep, what else could I do? What was the answer to my fatigue?
Drink More Water!
It’s right there in the kitchen sink. Usually, it’s available to everyone. It costs little, but can bring better health. And it’s one of our body’s most essential nutrients. Yes, it’s cool, clear water. Even health-conscious people often neglect the simple advice to drink more water..
It’s true that 70 percent of our body is made up of water. And the food we eat supplies water because many foods are made up mainly of water. For example, an egg is about 74 percent water. Did you know that? And what about a piece of steak? Well, it’s about 73 percent water. Fruit also supplies a lot of water, such as a watermelon that has 92 percent water.
But plain old water does great things for the body.
Consider these facts as expressed by many experts, including Kaiser Permanente Nephrologist, Steven Guest, MD:
Fact: Water helps to relieve fatigue because fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. Less water causes the heart to work harder to pump oxygenated blood through the bloodstream; our other organs work less efficiently. Drinking more water helps your body function better and thus reduce fatigue.
Fact: Without sufficient fluid to flush out the by-products of cell metabolism, body cells can slowly become poisoned by their waste. The kidneys do a fantastic job of cleansing and ridding the body of toxins “as long as the intake of fluids is adequate,” according to Dr. Guest. Further, when your body is not getting enough fluids, “urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions.”
Fact: Water helps energize muscles and build muscle tone; without the fluids, muscles don’t work well, and this results in muscle fatigue.
Fact: Water helps keep skin looking good. Dr. Guest says, “Dehydration makes the skin look more dry and wrinkled.”
Fact: Water, along with fiber, is necessary for digestion and helps prevent constipation. According to Dr. Guest, “When you don’t get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration – the result is constipation.
With all of these health benefits, including less fatigue, I needed to drink more water!
Dr. Guest suggests these 5 tips:
- Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
- Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more fluids.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables high in water content.
- Keep bottled water with you at all times.
- Choose drinks that meet your individual needs (for me, this meant calorie-free beverages and caffeine-free, sugar-free tea).
If you are a caregiver, as I was, or performing any duties that require that you’re on the go constantly, and you want to boost your energy (and who doesn’t?) and improve your overall health, you must drink more cool and refreshing, God-given water!
“Drinking water is like washing out your insides. The water will cleanse the system, fill you up, decrease your caloric load and improve the function of all your tissues.” –Kevin R. Stone