Categories > Mindfulness

Top 3 Books For Menstrual Health

Four years ago, I was sitting in my Traditional Chinese Medicine gynaecology class completely blown away by the criteria for a healthy period.

Details were shared about the consistency of the flow, the amount, the colour of the blood… the absence of pain. To me it seemed so strange.

Intense period cramps and low back ache aren’t…normal?

I grew up with five sisters, a decent sample size for one family, and it seemed fairly normal to have PMS and to be taking at least a few Advil during each cycle. 

I distinctly remember this moment. It opened my eyes to pieces of knowledge about menstrual health that I was missing and was surprised to be learning as a young woman. There wasn’t a huge conversation around these things for me growing up. Periods were something you dealt with and didn’t talk about. 

This was the beginning of what truly inspired my interest in menstrual health and all the ways that acupuncture and Chinese medicine could benefit menstruators.

I began to seek out all of the information I could, which has led me to these resources I frequently recommend to my patients, friends, and family now.

There is so much information about our total health that can be examined through the different phases of the menstrual cycle and I think it is important to share not only if you are trying to conceive, but for general health as well. 

These are my top three books that I routinely recommend to patients who are interested in learning a bit more about hormone health and menstrual cycles:

1.The Fifth Vital Sign: Master Your Cycles & Optimize Your Fertility by Lisa Hendrickson-Jack 

This book will help anyone understand how the menstrual cycle works and how to utilize that information to better understand the signs that your own body may exhibit throughout the phases of the cycle.

It is a well researched reference that can be used not only for those trying to conceive, but also for anyone who is looking for more information on understanding the menstrual cycle in the context of health. It is definitely something I have recommended my patients read, and something I wish I would have found sooner in regards to my own general health as well.

2. Period Power: Harness Your Hormones and Get Your Cycle Working for You by Maisie Hill

The author was able to lay out the cyclical nature of the menstrual cycle and how to recognize the different strengths of each of the different phases. Or as described in the book: the ‘seasons’ of the menstrual cycle.

There is definitely some colourful language in this book, and I found it read as if I was learning from a friend. A great educational read that doesn’t feel heavy or like a burden to get through.

3. Beyond the Pill by Dr. Jolene Brighten 

This was a book that really opened my eyes and was something I really would have benefitted from when I was younger.

It made me ask questions and helped me become a better advocate for myself. To be able to share information that can help other people have a better understanding of what affects the birth control pill can have on all aspects of your being is part of my passion for education and empowerment of my patients. 

Lately for me, there is nothing better than a nice solid book, but these resources do come in a variety of forms from audiobook to kindle. I highly encourage you to check these books out, and let me know your thoughts!

Erectile Dysfunction: A Functional Approach

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) affects a startling amount of people, and has been for hundreds of years.

10% of people under the age of 40 experience ED, and by the time they are 70 years old, 60% will experience ED. This is incredibly common, and not an easy situation to deal with.

Yet there are so many aspects of health that can be impacting this vital function. It is possible to view the body as a whole and get to the root of the issue before resorting to the little blue pill to achieve the end result. 

ED Can Be A Precursor to Cardiovascular Issues

It is  important to get to the root of the imbalance, as the disharmony that causes ED is not always isolated to sexual function.

One of the main pathomechanisms is vascular endothelial dysfunction – meaning that the lining of the arteries are hardening, making dilation difficult. This reduces blood flow.

The kicker is that if it is affecting sexual function, it could in the future, affect the rest of the body’s arterial health. Over the long term, vascular endothelial dysfunction can become much more rampant than ED, causing cardiovascular issues such as heart illness, neurological issues and dementia. 

There Are Multiple Reasons Why

Both functional and Chinese medicine view the body as a whole, meaning that there could be seemingly unrelated issues that lead to ED. It might be surprising to know that what we eat and how we process our food could be affecting sexual function like this.

Insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, obesity and hypertension are all connected to vascular endothelial dysfunction – which can cause ED. Again, this could be impacting the blood flow to all of the organs, not just the reproductive organs.

What You Can Do:

Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation and toxins can also damage the blood vessels and lead to ED. For example, chronic alcohol use can impact the health of the blood vessels.

Here’s how:

  • Limit processed foods
  • Limit sugar and simple carbohydrates
  • Choose an anti-inflammatory diet plan

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Chronic alcohol use can cause short term endothelial dysfunction, which can also lead to a psychological cascade of performance anxiety.

Here’s how:

  • Reduce alcohol consumption or choose to stay sober

Reduce Stress

Stress is another huge factor when it comes to arterial health. Stress causes systemic inflammation as well as issues with blood vessel dilation due to excess cortisol levels. 

Here’s how:

  • Engage in mindfulness practice
  • Try Acupuncture and counselling to help process stress

Balance Testosterone Levels

Another aspect of the picture is the complex hormonal orchestra that is involved with sexual function – particularly testosterone. Testosterone can have an impact on ED as it impacts the enzyme PDE5 and Nitric Oxide, which are both responsible for allowing the blood vessels to dilate.

As people age, there is a natural decline in testosterone. However, some people can have low testosterone earlier, also known as andropause.

Some things which impact the body’s ability to produce testosterone include sleep apnea, alcohol, diabetes, stress and obesity.

Here’s how:

  • Mindfulness practice and stress reduction
  • Exercise – particularly aerobic activity, HIIT and weight lifting
  • Eat healthy fats, they are the precursor molecules that help the body to maintain testosterone levels

As you can see, all of the pillars of health can be a part of the picture when healing ED. This common issue is a complex imbalance with an avenue of healing that will radiate to all aspects of health.

If you would like to find out how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image IG @krisarchielee

Happy Lunar New Year: The Year of the Ox

Legend of the Year of the Ox

The ox, a kind, strong & dependable creature is the second animal in the 12-year Lunar Zodiac cycle.

Legend has it that all of the animals were invited to race one another to the palace, & the first 12 to arrive would determine the order of the Zodiac signs.

The ox was in the lead when the clever rat asked to hitch a ride on its back & the kind-hearted, helpful ox agreed.

As the racing animals approached the palace, the ox was still in the lead. Just as they converged toward the finish line, the crafty rat leaped from the ox’s nose & finished first.

To this day, the rat is the first creature in the Zodiac cycle, & the ox is the second.

The gracious ox is known to have taken the event in stride. Level, grounded & unruffled, the ox stays its course as a reliable creature, generous & steadfast with its work.

The year ahead…

This year harkens the metal ox energies, metal being one of the strongest elements, the metal ox thinks sharply & moves forward with dedication & perseverance. It plans carefully before acting, so this year is believed to be supportive of our goals & aspirations – particularly if we stay the course at a steady & balanced pace, like the ox.

As we move forward from the last pivotal year, may we continue to practice taking good care of ourselves & others. Living & moving with steadiness & balance through this transformative time.

Here are some traditional ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year:

Catch up with family & friends!

Celebrate with red! Wear red or use red décor to invite ripeness & good luck.

Share your abundance with others. As a practice of generosity & gratitude, traditional red envelope with ‘lucky money’ inside or gifts of fruit & sweets are offered to friends & family.

Celebrate with noise! Fireworks are set to ward off bad luck.

Start the year with freshness. Clean & de-clutter your home & wear a new outfit to ring in the year fresh.

Eat lucky foods. Dumplings traditionally bring families together, requiring community effort to make & clear broth symbolizes a fresh, clear start.

What are some traditions you’ve practiced to ring in the new year?

Image: Rosa Bonheur IG @agotoronto (Art Gallery of Ontario)

Starting The Year of the Ox Fresh: A Beginner’s Mind

Guestpost by Dr. Alda Ngo for Olive Fertility Centre

Starting Fresh

The Lunar New Year is fast approaching and February 12th is the first day of the Year of the Metal Ox.

Growing up, my family’s lunar new year rituals were all about taking the opportunity to begin anew & we would take extra care to clear out the old cobwebs & clean the house together. The intention being to start the new year with freshness.

Now, the lunar new year is a reminder for me to take the opportunity to practice inviting freshness both outside & within.

One of the foundational life affirming attitudes in Mindfulness practice is to adopt a Beginner’s Mind.

What is a Beginner’s Mind

Most of the time, we are on autopilot, our experiences filtered & shaped by past experiences, beliefs, biases & values.

Cultivating a Beginner’s Mind is about remembering to be with experience with freshness, no matter how familiar, repetitive or mundane it might be. With a beginner’s mind, each moment is a new moment, worthy of our full attention & curiosity.

Having a beginner’s mind means being open, investigative & seeing things as though for the first time. When we widen the aperture of our perspective beyond our usual perceptions, we are more receptive to new possibilities where we might otherwise be stuck in a rut.

Stepping out of our ‘expertise’ can open doors to so much discovery & the ordinary can be extraordinary. A beginner’s mind allows us to really see the richness of the present moment.

As an experiment, try practising Beginner’s Mind in your daily life & see what you notice.

Here’s how:

The next time you’re with someone familiar to you, ask yourself if you’re seeing them with fresh eyes, as they really are. Or are you seeing a reflection of your own thoughts about this person. You could try this with a friend, colleague, partner, family member or even pet.

What happens when you look at the sky or ocean, a cloud, tree, or rock with the same wonder & curiosity that you would had you never seen anything like it before?

You could also try it with a problem. Are you seeing things as they really are, or through a veil of habitual thoughts & opinions? What else is actually available to be seen?

Click here for more info on our upcoming Mindfulness Programs

13 Ways To Prepare Your Body & Mind For Childbirth

When a pregnant person finally reaches the last months of pregnancy and birth is imminent, so many emotions can rush to the forefront.

Fear, anxiety and dread to name a few. Especially with a first baby, labour can seem like an insurmountable and terrifying task. One of my thoughts in my last month was, “Well, there’s no way to turn back and no other way out of this!”

So, how can the mind and body be prepared for something that is inevitable yet seems impossible?

Perspective

Perspective is everything when approaching this sacred and selfless act.

At first glance, childbirth can seem like a violent apex to the process of pregnancy. However, the fury of nature itself can be perceived as violent at first glance too, and yet nature and childbirth are the very seat of life.

“Why does it have to be so painful?”

When I approached birth, I found myself asking, why does it have to be so painful? But then I remembered that pain has been used by countless cultures as a tool to reach altered states of consciousness. What if I used my birth experience as a tool to shift paradigms and heal my body, mind and soul?

Indeed, what I found is that as my body literally opened, as it shifted and blossomed – not just a baby was born but a parent was born too. I realized that it is one of the most powerful acts that my human body could make.

13 Ways to Prepare Your Body and Mind for Childbirth:

1. Acupuncture

Incorporate regular acupuncture treatments into your pre-birth routine to help prepare for childbirth or to help with any issues or discomfort that might be arising as you approach labour. 

Pre-birth acupuncture helps to prepare the cervix and the pelvis for labour and can also address any underlying issues such as heartburn, rib, back or pelvic pain, insomnia, breech presentation and stress.

Acupuncture also stimulates endorphins to release, which can help bring a sense of ease to the last few weeks of pregnancy. 

2. Therapeutic Touch

Have lots of cuddles and tender touch from your partner and go for a prenatal massage. Touch increases oxytocin and endorphins, which can help increase the body’s threshold for pain and discomfort.

These neurotransmitters can help encourage a person to follow their instincts and is the body’s natural mechanism that helps to protect the mind from the intensity of labour.

3. Birth Stories

Reach out to the people in your life and ask them to share their birth stories.

Take in helpful birth stories and feel free to filter out any stories that are overwhelming for you to hear. Keep in mind that some people have difficult or even traumatic birth stories, and know that it is ok to kindly ask them to save those stories for another time if you are uncomfortable hearing them.

Hearing birth stories can help open your mind and perspective to what is possible. It is helpful to engage with the people in your community to feel a sense of support. 

4. Prenatal Class

Take a prenatal class so that you know what to expect from the stages of labour. Adopt some coping mechanisms that resonate with you and practice them in the weeks leading up to birth. It can also be helpful to have a mindfulness practice at this time.

5. Therapy

Have a visit with a registered psychologist who specializes in birth preparation to work with any unresolved fears. This can make a huge difference and can help to unwind any social conditioning or deconstruct any preconceived notions you may have about childbirth (for example that labour has to be as traumatic as we see in the movies).

6. Diet & Nutrition

Try to be mindful of your meals as you get closer to labour. No-one wants to go into labour with nothing but a big bag of salt and vinegar chips in their belly!

Also consider avoiding pungent, spicy and greasy foods in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  In Chinese Medicine, we recognize that there can often be issues with excessive mucus production during the end of pregnancy. So staying away from ‘damp forming’ foods can help.  For example, avoid dairy products, rich meats, bananas and concentrated juices.

7. Rest

Get as much rest as possible while engaging in gentle physical activity such as walking, TaiChi or prenatal yoga. Make sure to rest to avoid becoming exhausted. Take lots of naps and take lots of moments just to rest. You don’t want to be tired going into labour!

8. Pelvic Floor Care

Visit a pelvic floor physiotherapist to get in touch with your pelvic floor and cultivate a relationship with these crucial muscles. 

9. Beauty

Surround yourself with beauty. Create a pleasant little bubble for yourself and make sure to take extra care in pampering yourself.

Surround yourself with flowers, wear jewelry, or do whatever helps you to feel beautiful. You are a beautiful and powerful person who is about to cross the threshold into parenthood.

Prepare yourself to dine with divinity and become a birth warrior! Spend time in nature. Let go of your inhibitions and feel yourself go with the flow. Take in the beauty that is all around you. Allow yourself to be moved by the expressions of life on this incredible planet.

10. Set An Intention

Take some time to set an intention for your birth. While your body is open and in the thralls of birthing, it is possible to heal and cultivate a new constitution. Birth can often somehow heal lifelong issues such as dysmenorrhea (period cramps) and vulvodynia (vaginal pain)!

Keep in mind that an intention does not mean having an attachment to any particular outcome, but rather an open-ended idea. For example, it could simply be to heal and cultivate self love.

This intention for healing is something that you can hold onto throughout the process. Entering birth as a ceremony and a rite of passage can bring so much meaning to this experience.

Try visualizing placing your intention into a stone that resonates with you. Then carry that stone into your birth as a focal point and reminder throughout the birthing process.

11. Invite Patience

Remember that babies have their own timeline.

Unless you are being induced or have a planned Cesarian birth, when past your estimated ‘due date’ (it’s really more of a guess date!), try to practice patience.  Remember that when ready, the baby will send the signal that begins the cascade of hormones that will precipitate labour.

Spend any extra time cultivating trust for your body, your baby and your outcome.  You and your baby are going to go through such a journey to be with one another. It can be a lovely practice to talk to your baby and communicate your intention. I remember saying to my baby, “Let’s be gentle with each other!”

12. Feel The Support Of Those Before You

Know that you are backed and held by the love of all of the mothers and parents who came before you. You wouldn’t exist without the love of every parent in your lineage. Everyone arrives on this planet through birth.

I love the description that in your most primal moment, your body becomes a Stargate – a portal between the ‘other side’ and this planet. Knowing that all of the mothers and grandmothers and parents and grandparents before you have brought you to this sacred moment.

13. Other Resources

Some of my favourite resources for preparing for birth are:

Some Final Words

While we have made tremendous and miraculous strides towards helping people and babies survive this primal act, often a birthing person can be perceived as a condition that needs to be fixed. However, it is important to remember that birth is a natural physiological process – to be supported and nurtured, not to be fixed.

Having someone with you, such as your partner or a doula, who can advocate for you during birth can be very helpful.

Depending on which turn birth takes, decisions can be thrust upon you very quickly. It is helpful to have a birth team that you trust and a clear birth plan that can also go with the flow with the situation presented. Once this is all sorted out, you can relax into your last moments before baby arrives and take it one day at a time.

Good luck and stay tuned for a future blog post on my own birth story experience!

Contact us if you would like to find out how the experienced practitioners at Whole Family Health can be a part of your pre-birth, birth and postpartum team.

photo: IG @katie_duarte

How to Remedy the Brain’s Negative Bias

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Do you struggle with fear of unwanted outcomes on your fertility journey, yet you can’t stop the fearful thoughts?

Are you caught between not wanting to be negative or pessimistic & being too hopeful, because you want to protect yourself from disappointment?

Consider changing your relationship to the negative thoughts rather than trying to stop them.

Our brains are like velcro for negative experiences & teflon for positive ones

The brain has a negative bias, it actually preferentially scans for & hangs onto unpleasant experiences. Evolutionarily, it has been more critical for survival to become aware of danger to protect against it. So our neural pathways for the undesirable tend to be stronger.

Negative memories grow faster than positive ones & according to neurologists, our brains are like velcro for negative experiences & teflon for positive ones.

It’s easier to become fearful & pessimistic, especially when constantly faced with intense disappointment – like unsuccessful natural or medicated cycles, or pregnancy loss.

Stop & Savour Your Experiences

So be kind to yourself, your mind is designed to want to protect from disappointment. It takes conscious effort to integrate positive experiences & to heal negative ones.

The remedy is not to suppress unwanted events & associated thoughts, as we simply can’t control everything life hands to us.

It’s about cultivating space to be with the unpleasant & notice the pleasant at the same time.

Know that it’s important to stop & savour positive experiences, which stimulates more neurons to fire & wire together, creating stronger neural pathways for positive implicit memories that can define our habits & behaviours.

Here’s how:

  1. Consciously notice a pleasant event. It doesn’t have to be special, it can be ordinary like a sip of your favourite drink, curling up into bed, or snuggling with a loved one.
  2. Stop & stay with the experience for at least 5-20 seconds.
  3. Notice what sensations (smells, sights, tastes, touch), thoughts & emotions are present.

    This creates stronger healthy somatic experiences, memories & neural pathways.

For more info on Mindfulness & upcoming Mindfulness for Fertility & Pregnancy after Infertility & Loss programs go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Mindful Breath Awareness

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Are you feeling anxious or stressed?

According to Mental Health Research Canada, anxiety & depression levels have increased significantly since the pandemic. On top of the usual fertility stress, finding effective tools to support yourself is more needed than ever.

Try Mindful Breathing

The breath is like an anchor, often our mind & body are in 2 different places. We’re often doing one thing while thinking about something else. Bringing our attention to our breath unites the body & mind, actually re-wiring the brain. It’s like a brain workout: enlarging the frontal lobes to increase emotional regulation, while shrinking the amygdala, decreasing stress hormones.

Mindfulness helps you increase your capacity to concentrate & manage strong emotions, so that you can respond to stressful situations with more flexibility when you’re overwhelmed. It helps you to recover more effectively & sustainably from stress.

Here’s how:

  1. Find a comfortable upright posture, where you’re alert & at ease.
  2. Gently close your eyes.
  3. Try to adopt an attitude of open, gentle & kind curiosity.
  4. Now bring your attention to your breathing, wherever it’s easiest to feel. Usually at the belly, chest or nostrils.
  5. Focus your full attention on the sensations of breathing, with each inhalation & exhalation. There is no need to change your breathing, just notice it coming & going as it is.
  6. When you notice your mind has been pulled into thought, don’t’ worry – this is normal! As best as you can, notice that your attention has moved & simply notice the thought as a thought. Then kindly escort your attention back to your breathing.
  7. Continue focusing on breathing sensations & gently guiding your attention back to the breath whenever you notice it has been pulled elsewhere.

It’s all about noticing when your mind gets distracted & starting over & over again. Each time you do this, it’s like a bicep curl for the brain – strengthening healthy neural pathways!

For more information on Mindfulness & upcoming Mindfulness for Fertility and Mindfulness for Pregnancy after Infertility & Loss programs go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Image: IG @worldwide.art.sharing

How To Navigate Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss

OLIVE GUEST BLOG

I have the honour of guest blogging for Olive Fertility Centre this month.

Here’s this week’s blog:

Pregnancy Is Not A Cure For Infertility or Miscarriage Stress

I had expected to feel nothing but joy and exhilaration when I finally got that positive pregnancy test after a difficult 7+ year fertility journey.

But what I found was that the effects from the grief, loss and shock of infertility and pregnancy loss were not simply cured by the positive pregnancy test. After all the worst-case scenarios that I had experienced, I was wired to expect and wait for the other shoe to drop.

PTSD In Pregnancy

In fact, some researchers argue that infertility and pregnancy loss can be a form of complex trauma that replays even once pregnancy has been achieved. (1,2) For some women, the anxiety and worry they experienced during their fertility journey persists throughout the pregnancy. In addition, once they “graduate” from their fertility clinic they may feel cut adrift from sources of support they had relied on.

If you are continuing to experience anxiety during your pregnancy, it is important to seek out support like counselling or a support group.

Mindfulness Reduces Stress and Increases Resilience

Another resource is a Mindfulness-Based program. Mindfulness has been shown to help decrease stress and anxiety, while increasing resilience and well being. Research shows that when practised throughout pregnancy, not only can Mindfulness help to promote mental health, it can also make childbirth easier, improve partner relationships and enhance parenting sensitivity as well as child well-being. (3)

When I finally became pregnant with my son, a home pregnancy test revealed that I was pregnant during a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I was trapped there, with all of the thoughts and feelings, excited, elated and terrified. Yet I was forced to sit and be with it all, without uttering a word about it to anyone. I anchored myself in the steadiness of my breath, as I practiced watching the storm of thoughts and emotions bubble through my mind, trying not to judge them, or let them take over me.

Mindfulness allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

My mindfulness practice gave me the inner space and calm to recognize and take good care of what I did have control over, while cultivating openness and deep acceptance of whatever outcome I did not have control over. It allowed me to make peace with the unknown of the future, by helping me to accept and find ease in the present moment.

Mindfulness for Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss Program

To learn more Mindfulness tools, join us for a Mindfulness program dedicated to those who are currently Pregnant after Infertility and/or Pregnancy loss.

This program follows the famous 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn and associates at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. It is the most well-established mindfulness program to date and has become a standard in scientific research.

It will give you the tools you need to support you through your pregnancy, so that you may feel more at ease and enjoy this very special time.

Program details:

Online Mindfulness For Pregnancy After Infertility & Pregnancy Loss
Apr 26 – Jun 21, 2021
By donation at the end of the program

For more program information and to register, go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

References:

  1. Farren J, Jalmbrant M, Falconieri N, et al. Posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression following miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy: a multicenter, prospective, cohort study. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2020;222:367.e1-22
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2019.10.102
  2. Kami L. Schwerdtfeger & Karina M. Shreffler (2009) Trauma of Pregnancy Loss and Infertility Among Mothers and Involuntarily Childless Women in the United States, Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14:3, 211-227
    DOI: 10.1080/15325020802537468
  3. Duncan LG, Shaddix C. Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP): Innovation in Birth Preparation to Support Healthy, Happy Families. International Journal of Birth and Parent Education. 2015 Jan;2(2):30-33.
    PMID: 29051821

The Sanctity of the Winter Solstice: Darkness Gives Birth to Light

Today, December 21st is the winter solstice; this is the darkest day of the year that occurs just prior to the Sun beginning a new solar cycle and the light of the days slowly starts to get longer.

Some might see the darkness as sad and unyielding, but historically this has been seen as a special and important time for acceptance, renewal and self-reflection. It’s a time for letting go of the things that no longer serve us, or in other words, for coming out of the darkness and into the light.

Winter Solstice & Yin Yang Theory

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, we see the moon and darkness as a yin energy, they’re about drawing inward and being calm.

Similarly, the sun and sunlight are seen as a yang energy, and they’re about growth and renewal.

Therefore, this time of year is a transitional phase and part of the beautiful elements that are the very basis of TCM yin turning into yang, or darkness turning into light.

This date has always held a special place in my heart, because I was born only a few days after the darkest day of the year.  So I wanted to explore how some other cultures have honoured this time and provide suggestions for ways to celebrate and honour the winter solstice yourself. 

Winter Solstice Mythologies 

  • This time of year is known as Yule time to some pagans, and it entails a celebration of the Moon Goddess energy. It is believed that on the solstice, the moon gives birth to the sun.
  • In Egyptian lore, it’s believed the Great Mother Goddess Isis gave birth to her son Horus, the Sun God on the Winter Solstice. 
  • In Greek mythology, the Goddess Leta gave birth to the bright, shining Apollo.
  • Mithra, the Persian God of Light and guardian against dark evil was born on the solstice.

Winter Solstice Rituals

Solstice Cleansing Bath Ceremony 

  • Fill up a bath with warm water (it should be comfortable and not too hot) and light some candles around the bath.
  • Add dried or fresh cleansing herbs to the bath or use essentials oils instead.
  • Herbs that cleanse include: sage, chamomile, basil, cinnamon, sandalwood, lavender or rosemary. 
  • As you sink into the warm water, visualize yourself being purified and cleansed from your feet all the way up to your head. Allow yourself to relax into the water. Think of old, unnecessary thoughts and feelings being washed away.
  • Afterwards, drain the tub water and watch the water drain, while visualizing all the things that no longer serve you going down the drain with the water. 

Solstice Meditation Ceremony: Darkness into Light 

  • Gather 5-10 candles and place them around the house/room.
  • Turn off all the lights and other technology in the house or room (close the door if you are unable to utilize the entire house). 
  • Light only one candle and sit in a comfortable position in front of it.
  • Focus on the light, taking in the shape of the flame and the candle. Notice the light emanating from the flame and notice if there are any sounds around.
  • Remember to breathe deeply in and out while you are doing this.
  • Next, take some time to think deeply about yourself, your past, what no longer serves you and what you want for your future.
    Note this is not a time to be judgemental about yourself or your decisions. This is a time to really let things go.
  • Once you feel like you have had enough time for reflection, start to light the rest of the candles around the house/room that you have set out. 
  • As you light each candle, you can either say a positive phrase/affirmation or visualize that this is where you come from the darkness and into the light. 

Solstice Fire Releasing Ceremony 

  • This one takes place outside, so please dress for the conditions.
  • Light a fire outside, either in a fire pit or in a safe way that will be contained.
  • Grab a piece of paper and write down the things you want to let go of.
  • Toss the paper into the fire, as a gesture of release.
  • Watch the paper burn and the smoke dissipate into the air.
  • Visualize the things you wrote down dissipating and being released with the smoke.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Whether you are spiritual or not, this past year has been a tough one, so I do think some cleansing will do the body, mind and spirit some good. Pick one of the above rituals or do all three! 

Wishing everyone a safe and happy winter solstice and holiday season. 

For more advice on how to support your wellbeing, book a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image

Spencer Welling
IG @spencerwelling

COVID Holiday Stress: What You Can Do About It

I’ve had several patients open up about their anxiety being magnified with COVID worries, as well as how they will approach the holidays. 

To help get more insight, I had the pleasure of speaking with Registered Psychologist Cherise Gardipee, out of Daring Greatly Psychological Services.

She offered some great advice and understanding into several common concerns I hear about from patients. I’m sure we can all relate with the challenges she speaks to.

Here’s what she shared:

How do you suggest we manage our anxiety as the holidays approach?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, and the ongoing uncertainty of COVID, there continues to be an increase in worries and anxiety.

Normally, we have ongoing outlets to help relieve our anxiety and tension, or connect with friends and family to vent and distance ourselves from our distress even for a little while. With our current limitations, it is important not to become overwhelmed with the things that may not be the same this holiday season.

Create new traditions

Instead, let’s focus on what is the same, and what new traditions can be created. We may not be able to have all of our family together this year in person, but we can create new ways of connecting with video calls, or retriction-permitting winter activities that allow for safe distancing.

We can also remember to always give ourselves permission to be sad, or angry or frustrated with the world not allowing for our old ways. 

Focus on small obtainable tasks

When focusing on anxiety specifically, it can present itself in a multitude of ways. Some individuals experience an increase of irrational thoughts or fears, a sense of panic, a need for control, striving for perfectionism, and an increase of worries.

These feelings can increase due to the holidays, lack of connection due to COVID and current uncertainty within our economy and health sector. 

During these times it is important to take pause, and reflect inwards to find a sense of stability and calm. We can often resort to black and white thinking, or become over-saturated in emotion, which can be unhelpful at times. Ultimately, we would like a balance of both, connecting both logic and emotion together without becoming overwhelmed, and allowing for a decrease in distress and tension.

When feeling overwhelmed or anxious it’s important to focus on small obtainable tasks, such as taking a shower, eating well, and staying hydrated. Find one task to complete throughout the day, that can include cleaning one area or space in your home. Often focusing on cleaning a space or decluttering an area can help with creating a sense of accomplishment and provide feelings of being in control. 

Connect with others

Respecting the new restrictions, reach out to others outside of your home through phone calls, video calls, or a meet-up with others in the community. This will help you feel connected. 

Say hello to your neighbour, even if you’ve never spoken before. We are all currently in the same isolated new normal, and those that may look like they are doing well with the adjustment may be struggling internally.

Exercise and humour boost endorphins

Exercise to get your heart rate up, flooding your body and mind with endorphins is a great mood booster. 

Find ways to do things you want to do, that bring you joy.

Last but not least have a good laugh, and find humour where you can. 

How do you recommend we stay safely connected, despite COVID restrictions?

With our new normal, we have limited access to friends, family and external supports or self care rituals that we may have enjoyed in the past. Thankfully there are still ways for us to interact with those who are a source of support to us.

Online platforms

It is easier than ever to utilize a virtual format to connect with those we love. There are many different virtual options such as FaceTime, Google Meet, Zoom and even party platforms such as hangouts where one can play games while video chatting with friends or family. 

Connect with nature

We are still able to get outside and enjoy the weather. We can go for a drive, get out for a walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski. These are wonderful options that allow for us to connect with nature, and increase our dopamine and serotonin levels leading to feelings of happiness. 

What are some tools or resources for when we feel overwhelmed with anxiety?

Music and dance

Try to be more mindfully present, listen to music that you connect with, it can be music that fuels your energy, or calms you. It’s never too late to break out in dance, even if it’s a dance party for one!

Practice mindfulness and focus on direct sensations

Focus on your surroundings: what do you see, what do you feel, what do you hear?

Lastly connect with something that brings you a sense of grounding and purpose, this can be a spiritual belief, or connecting with nature.

Other community resources

If your feelings are leading to a sense of hopelessness, or lack of motivation there are community resources that are easy to engage with that can provide mental health support:

The Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health Copilots

Gratitude to Cherise Gardipee, Registered Psychologist for her invaluable insight and advice on how we can all support ourselves with the anxiety and stress of the holidays, amplified by COVID this year. We hope these tips and resources are helpful to you!

For more information on how we can support you with the stress, please book in for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: www.giselledekel.com IG @giselle_dekel

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