holiday stress relief Archives

Yoga Alters Your Gene Expression!

I'll bet that's a surprise, huh? I admit, when I first saw those headlines, I was skeptical. Even though I see firsthand every day how much Yoga helps our physical health, I didn’t understand the "why." Now that it makes so much sense, I wonder why someone hadn’t discovered this information long ago.

For years we‘ve known that practices like Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi make us feel better, breathe better, remove stress, and even sleep well. “New science” has shown us that these mind/body practices leave, what science calls, a “molecular signature” in our cells; they actually cause our body to either raise or lower the protein production of our genes. Cool!

One recent study examined the effects of mindfulness practices on the immune system, with a specific focus on five outcomes: (1) circulating and stimulated inflammatory proteins, (2) cellular transcription factors and gene expression, (3) immune cell count, (4) immune cell aging, (5) antibody response. Their conclusion is that there is enough evidence to support a link between these mindfulness practices and gene expression to warrant further studies. YES! Let’s get more scientific evidence on board so that more docs will recommend Yoga, meditation, etc.

Another review seemed to point to what most of us already know – the majority of improvements and health benefits that people enjoy from these mindfulness practices are related to stress hormones and inflammation. While previous studies have focused on how these practices affect our brains (losing less of our grey matter as we age), this study also looked specifically at how our genes are affected. Certain genes are either upregulated or downregulated in our body throughout our day, based on many different circumstances. All of the studies measured what they call “gene expression,” (the way that genes activate to produce proteins which influence the biological make-up of the body, the brain, and the immune system.) They used blood samples to identify this gene expression both before and after each different mindfulness practice. Some studies were all about Yoga, some Tai Chi, others studied different forms of meditation, etc. In all the studies, the gene expressions of genes that control inflammation and stress were changed after the session.

The results of 18 studies that used gene expression analysis in research on mindfulness practices have, overall, found a significant downregulation of NF-κB (a key transcription factor that controls the expression of inflammation-related genes), which can reverse the molecular effects of chronic stress. I’ll take that!

Even though the study designs, the population, and the types of mindfulness practices used in the studies included in this review vary, it indicates that some of the psychological and physical benefits result from biological changes in NF-κB genes. More studies are currently being done to understand better how Yoga and other mindfulness practices affect our genes.

Another study, which was a follow up to a previous study done at UCLA, found that the Yogic meditation practice called Kirtan Kriya, reversed the pattern of increased NF-κB-related transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased IRF1-related transcription of innate antiviral response genes previously observed in healthy individuals confronting a significant life stressor. Translation: This meditation practice reversed the inflammatory process in stressed out caregivers! This particular study was done on caregivers who live with the daily stress of caring for family members with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

When that first UCLA study came out, I wrote an article about it and offered training in this particular meditation practice. I am offering a special on Kirtan Kriya meditation training again today. You can find out more, and sign up HERE.

Dr. Helen Lavretsky, senior author of this study and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and her colleagues, found, in their work with 45 family dementia caregivers, that 68 of their genes responded differently after Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM), resulting in reduced inflammation. “The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression," said Lavretsky. "Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation. This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful tool."

Notice she used the word “brief”. This meditation takes only twelve minutes a day! Can you spare twelve minutes a day to alter your genes for reduced inflammation as well as increase your grey matter? Sign up now and learn this easy meditation practice!

Best of Health,

Kathi

I've been chatting with people and asking questions during the last few weeks about how one views the end of the year. I found that the majority of people look at December as a month of parties, shopping, children's holiday programs, and in the north, snow and cold. Most people I spoke with were not looking forward to December at all and felt tired just thinking about everything to be done before the end of the year.

Hmmm. What about acknowledging your accomplishments during 2016 and taking the time to reward and/or nurture yourself? Nobody that I spoke with had done that, nor was anyone planning to. In fact, most women I talked with said that their only reward after a long hard day of working, shopping, caretaking kids (or parents) was a glass of wine. Oh, dear... That's not really going to nurture you.

For me, taking action makes me feel empowered and chases that holiday stress right away. If I plan something nice for myself and I know it's on my schedule, I start to feel better already!

If you want to make this December a little bit less stressful and feel less overwhelmed and overwrought by the end of the month, try one or two of these suggestions:

Bring more gratitude into your daily activities. For instance, even when you have to endure a family member who goes on and on about all that's wrong with the world, find one tiny little thing to be grateful for in the moment. It could even be that you're grateful you do not share their negativity.

Set limits for yourself. Decide ahead of time that you will only listen once to Uncle Henry's complaint about when you were ten and you broke his grandmother's glass Christmas ornament. Gently remind him that it's an old story which everyone has heard and that he is making you uncomfortable. If he doesn't take the hint, then walk away. There are always dishes to be done in the kitchen...

Write down one thing that you did this year that you are proud of. Now schedule something that is nurturing for yourself as a reward for that accomplishment. Yes, I know that it's the holiday season and busy doesn't even begin to cover your life right now, but YOU are important. Nurturing can be as simple as locking yourself in the bathroom for 30 minutes in a hot, scented bubble bath. You deserve to have that 30 minutes to relax and nurture yourself.

My gift to you today is this meditation that takes only a few minutes yet reduces all the day's stress and worry. Be good to yourself - you deserve it!

Wishing you a holiday season filled with love, joy, and good health. Catch you next year!

Kathi

Enjoy Festive Food And Drink Without The Guilt!

The holidays are here! Are you ready for Italian cookies, fruit cake, egg nog, latkes, candied yams, or one of my favorite holiday traditions, my sister's, pecan tassies? Wow, that's a whole lot of extra calories!

I don't deny myself, and it's not necessary for you to, either; just use a bit of restraint. Instead of a piece of pumpkin pie AND a couple of cookies, try one or the other. Or maybe a smaller portion of each... But you already knew that, didn't you! If I am travelling from house to house on a holiday walk about, I'll have a small meal portion at each stop, but eat dessert only once. Truly this is the best way to enjoy the holidays without feeling as though you overindulged, or deprived yourself.

A popular item on most holiday menus that adds on the calories, without nutritional value, is alcohol. Holiday egg nog with rum is a big time weight gainer! I drink my "soynog" with a bit of coffee or chaga tea (no booze) and limit myself to one a week between Thanksgiving and New Years. There are many other non-alcoholic options as well. Try a pink grapefruit "margarita" made with pink lemonade, grapefruit juice, and a twist of lime. Add a bit of sugar to the rim of the glass instead of the salt and voila, festive without side effects, and far less calories! How about a cranberry, pomegranite "Bellini"? Mix both juices, add seltzer water, a twist of lime, and enjoy! In fact, many festive drinks can be made with a bit of your favorite fruit juice, seltzer and a twist of lime. Try to reduce your consumption of high sugar alcohols this year and see for yourself how much fun it can be!

If you make a few small adjustments here and there throughout the season, you'll still enjoy this time of year, yet have less to lose in January. When you pay attention to what you eat and drink, you won't worry as much about a few extra pounds. I usually add about three pounds during the season, and I have no problem taking them back off after the first of the year. Yes, Virginia, you CAN enjoy fun and festive food and drinks without guilt.

Gifting can also be a hassel for some, and let's face it, we have enough stress in our lives without the pressure of finding the right gift for Aunt Sally. I enjoy shopping for the perfect gift, but I know not everyone does.

If you are looking for that hard to figure out gift for a friend or family member who doesn't seem to need anything, then try donating to a charity in their name! It's a wonderful idea and most definitely a gift that they won't have to worry about exchanging for a different size! I have started doing this in recent years and hope it catches on as a new family tradition. There are so many people in need right now. The water protectors at Standing Rock, refugees fleeing their war torn homelands, wildlife that is endangered, veterans in need of meals and clothing. Pick your favorite and both you and your gift recipient will feel good about the gift.

Best of Health,

Kathi

Coloring Is Fun AND Good For You!

cover-jpegMy friend Dianna Mullane and I are excited to tell you about our enchanting, stress relieving, adult coloring book, "A Coloring Book For Women - 30 Divine Designs." Dianna and I have just completed this project of love and we're so excited to share it with you today! "A Coloring Book For Women - 30 Divine Designs," was written by, and for, women. This is different from any of the others that I have found in bookstores or on Amazon. We wanted to provide something more; something informative, something that would be a way to connect with our inner child again. According to this review on Amazon, we have been successful! "I tried adult coloring books before, but the designs were busy, geometric designs that I found difficult to color. Those types of coloring books actually ended up frustrating me more than anything! But, "A Coloring Book For Women, 30 Divine Designs," is very different; the designs that Kathi Casey and Dianna Mullane have chosen are lovely and FUN to color! After all, that's why we want to color again, right? To feel the joy we did as children when we sat down to color. I love this book and can't recommend it enough!" -- Jane The book is available on Amazon, (go take a sneak peek) and also HERE on my website, where, for the same price, we'll include a box of colored pencils to get you started. Each design in our book has a description that will inspire, empower, or simply bring a smile to your face. If you are starting your holiday shopping this week, please consider our simple, inexpensive stress relief, for all the women on your list (including you!). Here's what people are saying about our coloring book: "This book is GORGEOUS! I've seen plenty of adult coloring books, but this one tops them all! Calm and pleasant designs to color that don't make my head explode! I love it. No complicated geometric designs; instead, lovely designs that have meaning for women and are truly a meditative and soothing experience to engage with. This really is a coloring book for all women. I especially love the depiction of Pinga, an Inuit goddess of fertility, medicine, and the hunt. She is surrounded by two beautiful swans. I highly recommend this book!"Estra Roell "A Coloring Book for Women: 30 Divine Designs" is a dream come true. An adult coloring book created just for women! The pictures are incredibly creative and inspiring. There are descriptions with each design that help you think, and contemplate your own inner path. It is a fantastic addition to the adult coloring book world. I highly recommend "A Coloring Book For Women: 30 Divine Designs." A great gift for the holidays!!!" Elizabeth Helming Take a peek on AMAZON or our WEB PAGE today! Thanks. Best of Health, Kathi

How To STOP Beating Yourself Up!

Ever been in a place where all of life's standard issue strain has literally hit the fan and you sink into a place of believing that Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, your Yoga or meditation teacher, and countless others are so much more qualified, prepared, capable of getting through this life smoothly, and you wish you could too?

We all sink there sometimes. That quagmire pulls you farther down into the depths as each event happens. Your best friend's dog dies, you get the flu and writers block at the same time, and then your internet goes out for six days... Sometimes life is not easy.

But it's not easy for Oprah and Deepak either. It is easy, when we are suffering, to look at someone we admire and think that they never let themselves get down like this, but, in reality, we're all human. And being human means that sometimes, despite our best efforts, life gets very, very difficult, and we can feel weak, sad, or angry. 

That was me last week. Trying to run a business is near to impossible when you have no internet for six days!!!!! And that was just the tip of my iceberg, so to speak. Life on this planet is chock full of adventures and disasters at times.

When times like this hit, I force myself to meditate more - even though there are a thousand things my mind thinks I should be doing instead. Even if I only take a ten minute self Reiki break, I do it anyway; every little bit helps. And, since we are all human, what also helps, is remembering a story my brother shared with me several years ago. I'll share it with you now to make my point.

This brother has lived in New York City for many years. He, like most people in the city, rides the subway to get everywhere. It's crowded, people are often unfriendly, angry, in a hurry, late for an appointment, etc. On one particular day, my brother was attempting to share positive emotions with those around him, which is his habit, by making eye contact or saying hello, but it was really, really difficult. There was lots of angry energy around and he was getting down on himself for not being able to keep his own positivity up.

He thought he recognized a man standing on the platform near him, and was wracking his brain to remember who it was. This man also looked pretty angry, which, it occurred to him later was one of the reasons my brother, at first, didn't recognize him. When it hit him who it was, he felt much better about his own situation. It was Deepak Chopra.  

If Deepak, with his four hours of daily meditation, his Yoga practice, and everything that he does for himself and others can fall into that quagmire once in a while, then we needn't beat ourselves up about sometimes being in the same position!

So, smile, think of this story when you feel overwhelmed by life's ups and downs, and take care of you! 

Here's a little  video of a calming eye massage. It only takes a few minutes and can help you come back to your sane, centered self.

Best of Health,

Kathi

What Does World Peace Mean To You?

Thanksgiving is a November holiday that we know well, but are you aware that World Peace Day is the 17th? I know we don't get that day off, but let's take a moment now to contemplate the idea of peace. What does world peace look like to you? Do you feel you can make a difference in the bigger picture? Praying for peace is easy, but it isn't the only way we can help facilitate peace. "Being" peace is something that we, perhaps, don't give much thought to. When we are peaceful, however, when we FEEL peaceful, we share that vibration with everyone around us. 

The Dalai Lama has said "World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence; peace is the manifestation of human compassion." I believe he is correct. Many times I have seen examples of how a simple act of compassion for another human being changes others, thus making a larger difference than I expected.

What if we decide to make the rest of the month "World Peace Month"! We can choose to be more peaceful ourselves, and we can share more compassion with others and spread a little peace around. If we look for opportunities to share compassion, we will find them. No matter where you live or work, there are homeless people in need (many of whom are veterans...). The next time you see someone in need, buy them food at the nearest convenience store and give it to them with a smile and a kind word. Or perhaps it's cold where you live and you have a scarf with you that is easily replaceable; share your smile and scarf with someone in need. 

Best of Health,

Kathi

Prepare For The Holidays? NOT!

IMG_0347Now that Halloween is over, the rest of the holidays will come sliding in at a speed to rival a tornado in the midwest. Hold on to your hats! 

When people ask me if I am ready for the holidays, I cringe; I've never met anyone who is ready. We cannot be "prepared for" the process of fitting a year's worth of cooking, baking, and visiting into two months! Using that phrase is setting yourself up to feel continually behind the eight ball. Let's change our words, maybe say that we plan to enjoy the holidays!

Thanksgiving is the first of the holidays we'll see here in the US and with it comes an overabundance of food, and family members attempting to out do their last year's offering with yet another take on Gramma's turkey dressing. Here's an idea. Let's go back to the days when it was simply a meal for sharing with friends and family - a celebration of the fall harvest. Make simpler offerings this year. A turkey roasted with plain bread stuffing. Gravy made from the pan drippings and no chemical additives like "Gravy Master." How about steamed fresh string beans to replace the high fat green bean casserole which I'm pretty sure wasn't at that first Thanksgiving... Use the Garlic Mashed Potato recipe I previously posted, or roast your potatoes in with the turkey and add some fall squash, turnips, and carrots. Think how much easier that will be with all the vegetables in the same pot as the turkey!

After so many years of making complicated meals, it might be difficult to make these changes, but at least try one or two that will give you more time to enjoy your family and friends, and maybe even guide everyone in a walk around the neighborhood after dinner! Making this holiday less stressful is your choice. Choose well, grasshopper!

Best of Health,

Kathi

Cold Weather Fix With EFT

The Autumn Equinox has come and gone, the leaves on the trees are doing their brilliant redesign, and colder weather has arrived in the Berkshires. I have already started wearing my fleece lined jeans.

While I do love the colors and the brisk air in the fall, I do not like the idea of heading into winter. In my classes this week, that was a topic of conversation, and most of us are not looking forward to winter. Being the Pollyanna that I am, it made me think of things that we can do to help ourselves enjoy the colder weather more, and be less stressed by it. The result of that thinking is a new video I've added to my YouTube channel.

EFT - Tapping is something I not only recommend and teach, but use myself on a regular basis. So, I have created a tapping routine for enjoying the cold! I plan to use it this winter and hope you will, as well!

What Did I Come In Here For?

storm cloudsHow is your short term memory these days? Long term memories, like movies and songs from our childhood, seem to stay with us. But how often during the week do you walk into a room to get something and forget exactly what it was that you went in there for? I find myself doing that too. Often, it has more to do with stress than memory loss - especially since I know people in their 30's who do it too! And my own long term memory is filled with memories of going into a grocery store and forgetting what I was supposed to buy when I got there...

Here is a way to improve our short term memory. Do EVERYTHNG with mindfulness. Keep your focus totally centered on what you are doing from the moment you get out of bed.

Start by noticing the feel of your feet on the floor as you get out of bed. Take a moment to look at your bed and thank it for giving you a good night's sleep. Feel each step as you walk to the bathroom, listen to the sounds in the house, smell the scents from last night's dinner from the kitchen. Bring mindfulness into brushing your teeth. Take a good look at the toothpaste, smell it, pay attention to how much you put on your brush, the noise your brush makes, and how many minutes you brush. How often do you rinse while brushing and flossing? Keep your focus totally centered on what you are doing.

When you begin, you'll slip back into unconscious movement and tasks, but whenever you realize you've slipped, bring yourself back to total focus and involvement with the moment and task at hand.

Best of Health,

Kathi

Simple Holiday Weight Loss Tips

Thanksgiving pies

 

I know how difficult it is to keep the weight off this time of year, so here are a few simple tips for keeping the weight down at this time of year when Christmas cookies, pies, and holiday parties make it so difficult to maintain your self control!

 

  1. Eat an apple half an hour before your holiday party. It will help fill you up so you aren't famished - even if the food is served later than you normally eat dinner!
  1. Savor the flavor. The Italians know how to eat. They've been turning food into a sensual affair for years and it works! When you take the time to smell, see, feel and TASTE the food you are eating, eating less is guaranteed.
  1. Drink lots of water. Drinking a full glass of water before a meal and again after also can help fill you up so you won't be tempted to eat a second helping of pumpkin pie and then regret it the next day.

Most of all, don't stress about it. Too much of the stress hormone cortisol makes it difficult for your body to let go of the fat when you do work out, so do your best to avoid the extra cookies, and then try not to worry about a few extra pounds. IF you gain them, you know you can beef up your exercise routine after the holidays and lose them again. Just enjoy yourself!

Best of Health,

Kathi

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