Essential Oils for Your Life – Part I

Over the years I’ve had a passing interest in essential oils but had never really studied the subject.  The ones I have used have typically been those that are familiar to most of us – tea tree oil (melaleuca), eucalyptus, lavender, lemon.  I didn’t really know about the vast number of oils available, the number of ways they could be used, and whether there was any evidence to support their effectiveness.  It’s only been recently that I have delved more deeply into learning about them, how best to use them, and for what purposes. Today I’m sharing a simple overview of what essential oils are and how they might be used to support health and wellbeing.

Essential oils have been used therapeutically for thousands of years, as early as ancient Egypt. Essential oils are extracted in a concentrated from natural sources of plant life – flowers, leaves, bark, roots – depending on the type of plant.  These oils have been developed by the plant itself as a protection against pathogens in the environment.  The most common method of extraction is through steam distillation and, once extracted, each batch of oil is tested to assure quality and purity.

In the last century, researchers began a more formal and extensive exploration of essential oils’  applications and benefits, which continues today in universities and research laboratories.  As a result, there is more information documenting their usage and value.  Many essential oils have been shown to contain strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. As interest in natural and alternative health care grows, so has interest in the therapeutic use of oils.

Here are a few of some of the more well-known oils that I use and like:

Lemon – is fresh and citrusy, which I love. It’s said to ease mental fatigue, and provide immune support when diffused, and also to fight airborne germs.  I love using it in a diffuser in the kitchen – it makes everything smell clean and fresh.  It can also be used (diluted in water) to clean up sticky surfaces, polish wood and disinfect, again leaving that lovely scent behind.

Eucalyptus – has an energetic, somewhat green fragrance.  I didn’t always care for it but have grown over time to like it a lot and appreciate its benefits. It’s perfect to diffuse in the winter months during cold and flu season.  Its properties provide excellent respiratory support, assist with clear breathing, and purify and cleanse the air.  It’s also used to soothe body aches and sore muscles. Now it’s one of my favorites – who knew?

Lavender – most everyone loves this one, I think. It’s both floral and herbal, and is often used to promote a soothing and tranquil environment, which is my favorite use.  I love the fragrance of a lavender-infused home or office. The fact that it’s also effective in supporting a feeling of calm well-being makes it one of my go-to’s.

Wintergreen – is minty and sweet, and is diffusing in my kitchen as I write this. I happen to love the fragrance – energetic and happy without being overpowering.  It’s used to support healthy respiratory function, and also to freshen the air in the environment.  It can also be used as an analgesic when diluted and applied to the affected area for joint and muscle aches.

Melaleuca (also known as tea tree oil): is most commonly known for its purifying properties. It has a distinctively “green,” rather pungent fragrance and might take some getting used to for some.  It delivers, however, and is often recommended to treat and heal skin conditions, such as acne and other irritations.  Diluted with water and used in a spray bottle, it’s effectively used on surfaces to deodorize and protect against environmental threats.

Patchouli:  This sweet and spicy oil is often used in the perfume industry, and in other scented products. To some, it’s reminiscent of the l960’s hippie generation. It’s said to provide emotional support, and is frequently used for this in aromatherapy. It is also frequently used as an antiseptic and to soothe inflammation.  I like to diffuse it for the sweet and calming fragrance.

A word about safety – Not all oils are created equal, and it’s important to look for the highest quality oil you can afford.  Be sure to purchase from a company that guarantees high quality oils, which results from optimum means of growing, harvesting and extraction.

How an oil is used is also extremely important.  Some oils must always be diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut, when applying topically.  Others are most effective diluted with water. Care should also be taken with babies, children, pregnancy, and individuals with sensitive skin or other conditions.  When in doubt, it’s important to consult with a qualified aromatherapy professional or practitioner as to the safest and most effective means of use.

I’m going to talk more about these natural wonders next time, and include some lesser known but equally valuable oils.  In the meantime, if you have any questions, or want to know more about the use of essential oils for yourself or your family, just send me an email at Suzanne@evergreenlifeandwellness.com.

Elevation

Work. Family. Balance. Really?

If ever there’s a hot topic among women these days, it’s this one.   How do you manage a family, a career or business, and make it all work so that both run smoothly and neither suffers.  Most women I know have either done it or are doing it.  Almost all have at one time or another felt the pull of trying to juggle their various hats along with feelings of just not quite getting it done.   It’s strategic life planning for the modern woman.

There’s no shortage of articles and advice on how to best manage your day with a career and family (trust me, I just Googled them) so I’m not going to add to the list.  What I will do, though, is offer some of the ideas that have worked for me over the years, and that I have culled from others who seem to have achieved a semblance of sanity in the midst of it all.

I didn’t work at all the first few years of my son’s life and then part-time after that.  During those especially important younger years, I made it my business to arrange my schedule around him.  I was fortunate to have work that enabled me to work both virtually and in-office, and still be there to attend school events, and pick him up after school.   Of course, once he hit middle school, I also had to be prepared to drive him around to whatever else was going on!  As children grow, how and when we need to be there changes.  And how much help and support we have at home makes a difference, too.

The bottom line for me has been family as my priority, and I think that knowledge helped me craft the rest of my life.  Even with Matthew off to college now, he’s still my priority, just in a different way.

So, from my own experience and the wisdom of others, here are my best ideas on how to do that (imperfect!) balancing act:

  • Decide for yourself what your priorities need to be based on where you are in your life, and your family’s needs. Priorities will change as your family grows, so what is reasonable for you to take on will also change.
  • Know that wherever you currently are in parenting is a stage that will pass. There will be a time when you can actually take your eyes off of her for more than 30 seconds.  And just when you think you cannot possibly watch one more episode of “Dora, the Explorer,” your child will announce she’s over it.  Most likely, you will never, ever watch it again.
  • If you want to resume your current profession or business sooner than later, you’ll need to ask yourself the hard questions. What is most important at this time in your family’s life?  What is realistic to expect based on your family vs. work needs?   What can you reasonably manage?   What kind of support will you need?   What is the cost vs. benefit?  The answers to these questions will provide your direction.
  • Don’t under-estimate the importance of role models – those women who have come before you, as well as your peers.  Raising a family and maintaining a career or business can be extremely challenging. Who are the women you admire for creating a healthy familyI and work life?  This could be someone in the public eye, or someone in your community.  What is it about them that inspires you? What characteristics do they share?  How do they structure their time?    Most importantly, what can you learn from them to integrate into your own life to create something that works for you and your household?
  • Self-care. I’m a firm believer in taking care of yourself.  It’s hard to be at your best if you’re not getting enough sleep, exercise, or your nutrition is poor.  Your mood and performance will suffer and your effectiveness will decrease.  Taking care of yourself is basic, it’s part of having a strong personal foundation.  If you find yourself constantly tired, low on energy or irritable, pay attention.  Your body and mind may be trying to tell you something.  Something as simple as a half-hour with a good book can be just what you need to recharge when you find yourself running on empty.  Taking care of yourself pays off for you, your family and your business.
  • Organization is key.  I can’t emphasize the importance of this enough.  Having a written plan for each day, knowing what must be done and what can wait, keeping deadlines and events up-to-date on your calendar, keeping your work area organized, having – and using! – systems.  All of these are indispensable if you want to carry on your business and home life with a sense of order.  Being organized is a preventative strategy that will serve you to no end.
  • Learn to say no. I know of few working moms, myself included, who haven’t struggled with this

worklifebalance

If you are continually withdrawing funds from your bank account, you will eventually have nothing left.  You have to make deposits.  Taking care of yourself is the same.  If you are continually depleting your resources  they will eventually be exhausted.  Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessary fact of life that will enable you to be your best self for the people and life you love.

Have a beautiful Valentine’s Day!

Suzanne xo

SPECIAL OFFER – TWO BONUS HEALTHY CHEF COOKING CLASSES!

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I am excited to announce that my friend and colleague, Darlene Trandel, PhD, RN/NP, CCP, PCC, is offering two Special Bonus Classes to the Evergreen Life workshop beginning February 15th! Darlene is a Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Health-Wellness Coach, Consultant, Trainer and Educator in Healthy Lifestyle Management. She will be teaching two virtual cooking classes to inspire us to make healthier food choices through innovative culinary education. Darlene was one of 6 practitioners to have been chosen to participate in the first Chef Coaching Certification through the Institute of Lifestyle Medline (ILM) at Harvard Medical School. In the bonus classes, you’ll be inspired and empowered to make delicious and healthy homemade food in less time with an introduction to these Healthy Chef Coaching Classes. These skills are designed to help you manage your weight — be that weight loss or sustaining your current weight. She is very excited to offer an introductory 2 week bonus class program to be used in the study. You’ll be inspired and empowered to make delicious and healthy homemade food in less time with these Healthy Chef Coaching Classes.

The completely online Evergreen Life Workshop starts Monday February 15th, with 3 live coaching calls! This class presents a completely new and dynamic plan for healthy living focused on sleep, food, mood and exercise. If you’re ready to commit to a wellness lifestyle but don’t know where to begin, I am confident this program is the answer. For all information and to register for the entire Workshop: http://evergreenlifeandwellness.com/wellness-workshop/

Is This Ok?

Have you ever stopped to think about the things in your life that you are tolerating?  You know, those people, places, things or situations that you feel like you just have to “put up with,” or “make the best out of.”  I know I have.  These can be something outside ourselves but just as often they can come from within.  For sure there are times when life is going to hand us something that we need to adjust to or accept.  Lots of what goes on, though, may be draining us without our even realizing it.

One day I was working in my home office and had had a particularly hectic day.  I had multiple projects to work on and, feeling rushed, kept piling papers, notes and files on top of my desk.  When I sat down to try to concentrate and looked at the mound on my desk, I felt immediately uncomfortable both physically and emotionally.  I normally try to keep some semblance of outward order and this was anything but orderly.  It was a mess, and I didn’t know where to start.  The first thing I had to do was sort through everything I had accumulated and put things into some kind of intelligible order.  Then I could function.  I’ve know people who seem to thrive on having “stuff” everywhere in their workspace, but I’m not one of them.  Being disorganized, feeling disorganized, is a big energy drain for me.  So is a cluttered space.

Don't let this be you!

Don’t let this be you!

Tolerations in our daily life are mentally and emotionally draining. It can be something as simple as a faucet drip that you keep “meaning to get fixed.”  Every time you have that thought you expend mental energy and focus that builds over time.  Multiply that by the many seemingly small things that go on throughout the course of a day – the phone call you keep meaning to make, your overfull inbox, or a conversation you’re avoiding – and you have an accumulation of drains on your energy.   Eliminating those things we are tolerating can restore much needed clarity and help us to move forward with renewed focus.  And the good news is that most of these tolerations can be addressed by:  first, becoming aware of them, and second, deciding to take action to eliminate them.

Here are a few more examples of tolerations that take up time and energy:

  • A messy car or workspace;
  • Clothes that need mending or a new button;
  • Clutter anywhere;
  • Clothes that we hold onto that we haven’t worn in years;
  • Home repairs that we keep putting off;
  • Doctor or dental appointments that we need to make;
  • Loose papers or records that need to be filed away;
  • Not paying bills on time;
  • A difficult conversation we’re avoiding;
  • A consistently problematic relationship;
  • An errand we keep postponing.

I’m sure you can think of your own examples.  The point is to eliminate those small irritations that take up our mental and emotional space, those “to-do’s” that sometimes hang over our heads for weeks or even months.

The antidote is action.   You can begin with identifying what you keep either keep putting off, or are flat-out avoiding.  Just put them on paper.  Writing things down is in itself a step towards clarity and constructive action.  Next, look at your list and decide what action needs to be taken on each one.   Decide which one you are going to tackle first and then go for it.  You may want to start with the one that feels the most difficult and just get it out of the way.  You can tackle something that feels relatively simple and build momentum from there.  Either way, once you get into action, keep going until you have gone through and eliminated everything you have been procrastinating on.  It doesn’t matter how long it takes you.  Clearing out clutter from a spare bedroom will take longer than making an appointment to have the carpet cleaned.  The point is to take action. It may be helpful to enlist a friend or a mentor’s help, someone to be accountable to.  (By next Friday, I will organize my (fill in the blank.)

Your payoff?  More energy to focus on what’s really important to you, more satisfaction and order, and less frustration.  It all adds up to more time for your life!

Here We Go…

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah (or both, like we do) Happy Holidays!  I hope you are enjoying being in the moment and experiencing the best of this time of year.  Whatever your plans, most of us find this a time to remember and connect with people we love.  As enjoyable as that can be, it can also start to feel overwhelming when there’s so much more on our plate than usual.  Here’s where taking good care of you is super-important.

With the holiday season in full swing, I’d like to share a few ideas for those times when things start to get hectic.  I’ve used them all at one time or another – they are part of my toolkit for when life is feeling a bit too busy.

  • Really, remember to breathe.  This sounds simple but it isn’t always.  One of the first things that happen when we are tense is that our breath becomes shallower, and more rapid.  Our muscles tense up.  Deep breathing is a serious antidote to stress.  Taking time for a few deep breaths can slow down your heart rate, help your muscles relax and help you feel more calm and centered.
  • Take time out. Bundle up and go for a walk around the neighborhood, watch a movie with your kids or your spouse, or curl up with a good book for a while.  This may seem counter-intuitive when we feel we have so much to do, but taking a break will reduce your sense of overwhelm and help you return feeling fresh for the task at hand.
  • Let go of perfect. A favorite mentor taught me this:  Done is better than perfect.  (Let that sink in.)  It’s one of my mantras.  It can be yours, too.
  • Ask for help.  And don’t be shy!  If you’re having people over, ask guests to bring a dessert or appetizer.  Have your house cleaned.   Delegate last-minute trips to the store to your spouse or teenager.  Buy last minute gifts that come pre-wrapped for the holidays, or at shops that offer complimentary gift wrap.
  • Give the gift of experiences. Research in positive psychology shows that gifts of experiences, rather than things, have more power to influence happiness.  This is because experiences tend to carry more meaning over time – we can look forward to them, enjoy the actual time spent, and enjoy them again through our memories.  Tickets to a special game, a concert, or the gift of a spa or dinner experience are examples and can be more enriching for both recipient and
  • Now is not the time to let go of your healthy habits! You do get to splurge so enjoy the festivities, and do your best to keep the basics in place – a healthy eating plan, regular exercise, adequate sleep.  Your body and mind will thank you for it and you will go through the holidays feeling strong and energized.
  • Look for the meaning.  I saved this for last but I think it may be the most important.  The reason is that finding the meaning in our lives and what we do helps us to keep things in perspective.  The holiday season may mean different things, depending on who we are and where we are in our life.  When I was in my twenties, I loved dressing up and attending holiday occasions.   When my son was small, there was nothing better than watching “A Christmas Story,” and the fun of Santa’s visit and Christmas morning.  (He eventually figured out that there was something fishy about Santa and Mommy using the same wrapping paper……)  These days, it’s totally about family, dear friends and colleagues, special persons I encounter in my daily rounds throughout the year – those people I cherish.  It’s a time to reflect on what’s most important, and those things I might sometimes take for granted.  That’s what helps me keep the season in perspective.  When I do that, some of the stress seems to automatically fall away.  Details are less important.

Whatever the holiday season is for you, I hope you take some time to pause and reflect on what’s most important to you.  Knowing that, you’re bound to have your priorities in the right place.

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Indispensable to Aging Well

I’ve always had a firm belief that, while getting older is inevitable, how we age is very much within our control.  Research into aging and the body backs me up – science shows that much of what we previously have considered aging is actually decay from inactivity and lack of use.  The antidote is obvious.

Yes, there are mаnу сhаngеѕ in our body аѕ wе gеt older.  Our mеtаbоlіѕm typically ѕlоws down.  Changes in muscles and joints can affect strength or slow our movement.  Another significant change is a decrease in bone density, especially for women after menopause.  The good news is that еxеrсіѕе can help slow dоwn, or even prevent, many issues associated with the аgіng process.

Much of what we call disease and aging is actually a matter of the lifestyle choices we make.  This means the key to great health is in our own hands.

Aging does not have to mean losing all the flexibility and ѕtrеngth that уоu hаd when уоu wеrе уоunger.  Nor does it have to mean giving up the outdoor activities you’ve come to enjoy such as hiking, biking and skiing.  No matter what age you are, you can start – today – to establish good habits that can serve to help you live longer and better, and to remain independent.

I tend to get a bit impassioned on this subject so bear with me.  Studies estimate that up to 70% – 70%! – of premature death and what we call “normal” aging is lifestyle related.  

Getting older isn’t a good reason to let go of those activities that keep our bodies fіt.  Quite the contrary.  If you’ve established good fitness habits during your lifetime, good for you! Keep going.  If you haven’t, it’s a great time to get started.

Need inspiration?  Check out Ernestine Shepherd, female bodybuilder, DOB: June 16, 1936!

Need inspiration? Check out Ernestine Shepherd, female bodybuilder, DOB: June 16, 1936 – Began training at age 56!

Staying active as we age doesn’t only benefit physical health.  Research shows that physical activity improves mооd, and rеduсеs ѕtrеѕѕ аnd dерrеѕѕіоn. This can be increasingly important аѕ we age.  An added benefit is fitness activities that are done in groups, in classes or gyms thereby contributing to our sense of community, another important factor in aging well.  Exercise benefits our brains, too.  It helps  keep our brains strong and sharp, and some research suggests it may even help prevent or delay dementia in our later years.

What’s most important over 50 is emphasizing the four basics of fitness: endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.  (Note:  Although moderate physical activity is safe for most people, please be sure to speak to your physician before starting an exercise program, particularly if you have health concerns or have been sedentary for any length of time.)

A main gоаl оf any fіtnеѕѕ program is cardiovascular health – keeping the heart and blood vessels in good condition.  Brіѕk wаlkіng, jogging, swіmmіng or dаnсіng аrе all grеаt саrdіоvаѕсulаr wоrkоutѕ that can be done at most any age.  Exercising outdoors has been shown to be a mood booster and to increase feelings of wellbeing.

Including strength training in the mix is essential.  Muscular strength is vital for performing functional activities such as laundry, gardening, carrying groceries, as well as for enjoying recreational pursuits – hiking, biking and the like.  Maintaining muscle strength is also vital in preventing gait and balance problems, and the risk of osteoporosis.

Muscular strength and power decline with the decades but can be maintained through regular strength traning. The American College of Sports Medicine’s current recommendation is 2 to 3 sessions of resistance training per week in order to maintain basic muscular strength.  According to the ACSM, a typical session should include a minimum of 8-10 exercises with 10-12 repetitions involving major muscle groups.  A certified fitness trainer at a local gym or rec center can be a great resource in designing a strength program specific to your needs.

Gentle ѕtаtіс аnd dynamic stretching exercises are uѕеful іn keeping  muѕсlеѕ flexible аnd jоіntѕ lubricated. Stretching also enhances blооd flоw and еnеrgу, іmрrоvеs coordination and balance аnd maximizes rаngе оf mоvеmеnt. Flexibility helps prevent soreness and injury to muscles and jоіntѕ durіng exercise аnd daily асtіvіtіеѕ.  Incorporate a daily stretching routine or try hatha yoga.

An often overlooked, yet equally important, component of fitness is balance.  Balance becomes more significant to older adults who need to maintain stability and prevent falls.  Movements incorporated into such disciplines as Tai Chi and yoga are especially useful in preserving stability and balance.   Even simple habits such as alternately balancing on each foot a few minutes a day can help to increase stability.

The bottom line?  Move.  And keep moving.  Exеrсіѕе is еѕѕеntіаl to аgіng well. It kеерѕ your bоdу and mind healthy.  It can help reduce the risk of chronic health issues so that you live not only longer, but live well into advanced age.  You’ll retain your vitality and enjoyment of life, as well as your physical and mental independence longer.  I’d say it’s time to get moving.

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