simple de-stress tips Archives

OK – So, Who Pissed Off Mother Nature?!

I'm not sure what Mother Nature is attempting to tell us with all these recent events, but...

In light of these natural disasters occurring all over the globe right now, I have decided to push back what I had planned for today and simply talk about where and how we can all be of help at this time.

If you are able to volunteer for any of a number of things like bringing in supplies, helping to staff shelters, nursing care at shelters, hospitals and senior living centers, and much more, check out the FEMA web site for links to these. Please don’t attempt to go without contacting one for the organizations listed, so that you can be fully aware of where and what is needed most, and how to get there with all the downed trees, power lines and flooding of roads.  Thanks!

And don’t forget that you can donate blood to your local Red Cross and designate it to go to a hard hit area.

If you have the means to donate funds, that is what’s needed most and here are some links:

American Red Cross – which has deployed disaster responders and delivered donated blood to hard hit areas. I know there are people who won’t donate to the Red Cross due to whatever bad experience they had in years past, however, when hurricane Izzy hit my neighborhood on the Chesapeake, Red Cross came as far down the road as they could get with their truck every morning and evening with hot meals for us all, and blankets if we needed them.

Americares provides emergency medicines and medical supplies to disaster areas.

For St. John, in the US Virgin Islands, which was completely destroyed by Irma, click HERE. There are still many people trying to get off these islands at this point, but airports are closed. Ferry transportation is only just starting and is slow.

GlobalGiving’s Irma Relief Fund is accepting donations. It vets the local organizations it helps fund and is well-regarded by charity watchdogs. (GlobalGiving prioritizes local organizations over the long term, but often steers money toward larger entities like Save the Children or the International Medical Corps during the early days of disaster response.)

For the terrifying wildfires out west, use this link.

There are many ways to help. Both now and as the months go on. Remember that it will take weeks, months and in some cases years for some of the hard hit areas to recover and perhaps some never will. These people will need MUCH in the months ahead, so even if you cannot do anything right now, you can make a plan to send some of your tax refund to one of the organizations helping to rebuild.

The earthquake in Mexico and severe flooding in India will also tax major relief funds, so please keep in mind that we can donate to some funds in the future. And there is always the option of offering a prayer for those in need. All of us can do that, anytime, anywhere.

Below is a relaxation technique that we can do for ourselves to keep our spirits healthy and strong, and keep our minds free from worry.

Best of Health,

Kathi

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

Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet!

With the start of each new year, many of us take an inventory of what we've accomplished in the past year, contemplate where we'd like to go this year, and then set some goals for ourselves. It's a tradition that has been around for at least as long as I've been alive...

The problem is that, often, we start the year out really great, but by March we've gotten off track, and from then on we don't even look at our goals again until December. But, is there a better way? Yes, I believe there is.

This year, set your goals, but make at least some of them into what Jack Canfield has labeled "Daily Disciplines." Daily disciplines sounds serious, it's a way to make new habits that will help us to stay on track. For instance, if one of your goals is to work out more, and maybe another goal is to keep the dishes from piling up in the sink, then make a new daily habit of getting up ten minutes earlier. Ten minutes is not that much - you can do that! Then, every day, you will have that ten treasured minutes to either wash the dishes in the sink, or choose a ten minute yoga routine, or do some push-ups, or... Just think of the possibilities! Ten minutes doesn't seem like much, but it can make a big difference! I can tell you from personal experience that you'll feel better when you see the dishes done or when you know that you've done at least ten minutes of exercise. Every new habit must start with small steps and these ten minutes are a great start.

Another good daily discipline is to save 3-5 minutes at the end of the day, right before bed, to check in with how your day went. Keep a notebook and pen by your bed stand and just before you go to bed write down something you did that was a genuine act of kindness, another accomplishment that you are proud of, something good that you did which helps you meet the goals you set for yourself, and two more items (5 total) that you are proud of, or that make you feel good about yourself. This will also put you in the right state of mind to get a better night's sleep!

I also find that setting up a reward for yourself for having done your daily disciplines helps to keep the momentum going through the year. Some rewards that I have used include taking a long epsom salts bath at the end of a week where I kept my daily disciplines every day. Another is getting a massage or reflexology treatment, or something else I consider special, if I've kept my daily disciplines going for 60 days. Use your imagination and choose some rewards for yourself that will be enticing enough to keep you going!

In the meantime, here is a five minute series of exercises that gets the heart pumping and works muscles you didn't know you had! Repeat twice for a ten minute routine!

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

Mid Year Goal Recap

Well, it's mid June - that means 2016 is more than half over. How are you doing on your goals for this year? Have you completed some of them?

What I have noticed lately is that it's just about impossible to meet new goals when life is buzzing along with more responsibilities than one can handle. I have my garden, which takes up a lot of time in spring and summer. The lawn (what little is left) needs mowing often. I have my work, graduations, summer parties, and I live on a lake so it's nice to get down there for a swim or to watch the sunset over the water...

Here's an idea I started about six weeks ago, and so far it's working for me. You may want to give this a try.

I have a checklist of five habits that I want to make a part of my daily routine. Things that I find myself letting slip sometimes, like taking my morning AND evening vitamins, getting more aerobic exercise, filling the tea kettle at night before bed, etc. I started with five items and each day checked them off when they were done. I also have an accountability partner that checks in with me to help keep me on track. After about five weeks, three of my habits had become ingrained and I now do them regularly - even when travelling!

Now, you may not think that filling the tea kettle before bed, so that I only need to turn it on in the morning on my way to the bathroom, is a big deal. But I knew that it would make me feel better to be more prepared for my day and I also knew that a couple of the items had to be simple so I could get them down pat in a month. It worked. Now I've added three more items to replace the three that are routine and I'll keep going with these five for several weeks until they also become routine.

Science shows that it takes about 30 days to form a new habit, so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Best of Health,

Kathi

Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategy!

 

A while back I wrote about a study that showed aerobic exercise increased the brain's hippocampal volume in older women, which increased memory performance.

Now, another study has confirmed that meditation is good for your brain. This Harvard study used MRI scans to document, for the very first time in medical history, how meditation produced massive changes inside the brain's gray matter. Senior author Sara Lazar, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School instructor in psychology states, "This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing."

Wow! I have felt that for years, and certainly Eastern traditions have known that for centuries, but now even Western science has proven it to be true. Color me happy!

The participants of this study spent an average of 27 minutes each day practicing mindfulness exercises, and that is all it took for a major increase in gray matter density in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection. MRI's were done before they started this eight week course and again after. In previous studies this group also found that experienced meditators have a thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas associated with attention and emotional integration.

"It is fascinating to see the brain's plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life," says Britta Hölzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany. I agree!

Imagine - 8 weeks to better brain health!

If you would like to take a more active role in improving your brain health by learning meditation techniques, let me know! You can get a few friends together and I'll come to your home to teach the group, or you can click HERE to learn about an individual program!

Mindfulness exercises do not mean that you have to sit in an uncomfortable position for an hour and "clear your mind."There are many techniques to help you meditate. For instance, prayer is often a meditation. There are mantra meditations, visualizing yourself in your "place of calm", e.g., a beach or the woods.
Contact me today and we'll discover what works for you!

Take Care Of YOU!

With all the excitement this month of Irish festivities, preparing for Easter and spring hiking/biking starting earlier this year, please remember to take care of you. The more I teach, and the more clients I see, the more important I realize self-care is. So many people - especially women, forget how important their own health and well being is. For many of us, self care feels more like a fringe benefit than an essential daily practice. This was driven home to me, once again last week, when a friend who took care of everyone in town at one time or another, and who was a truly generous soul with all but herself, had a sudden heart attack and died. She leaves a big hole in her family's and extended family's lives. Please take care of yourself so that you'll be around for a long time for your family and friends!

Exercise, eat healthy foods (not too much...), and do some type of meditation.

And so to start you off, here is a link to one of the breathing practices that I teach every week. It focuses on healing the spine. Just about everything in the body is connected to the spine, so a healthier spine means a healthier body. Relax and BREATHE!

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