Light’s Out. Where are the Zzz’s?

17 Apr

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Sleep deprivation. Most of us can attest having a night of tossing and turning, hoping for some rest to get through the next day. So how do we manage it and what are the long-term effects of not being able to sleep through the night?

TCM Perspective:In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), night is the most yin part of our 24 hours. It’s time for deep sleep and rejuvenation. There is an organ clock system that corresponds to the function of each organ (see below). During our most restful moments some of our most vital organs such as our Gallbladder, Liver and Lungs are busy. Reference to each organ is energetic and not literal in function description. To keep within the realm of mind, body, and spirit. I’ve included some of the Taoist beliefs regarding the soul aspects associated with the organs, as well as clinical manifestations and importance of each organ.

http://structuralevolution.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/chinese-clock.jpg

organ clock

The Gallbladder is paired with the Liver organ. In TCM, its associated with decision-making. For effective function in this area we need to rest at that time, which is 11pm-1am.

The Liver which stores the blood, houses the Hun or Ethereal soul, manifests in the eyes and nails and is in charge of the smooth flow of qi throughout the body. The Ethereal soul, in Taoist belief, leaves after the body passes. The Hun focuses on long-range goals and evolution. In a clinical setting, disruption in this flow can lead to a “qi stagnation” or a counterflow, which may impede digestion, lead to irritability and can cause menstrual problems (PMS symptoms and blood clots). The time of the Liver is from 1-3am.

The Lungs house the Po which is part of our conscious life and dies with us. It’s focused on shorter term desires of the lifetime. It’s said that as the Po deepens in consciousness and supports the long-range goals of the Hun. The Lungs help descend qi through the body, take in clean air, it’s also associated with taking in new thoughts, supports our protective qi (immune system) and shows it’s luster (or lack of) in our skin and hair.

When we wake at these times in the evening, your licensed acupuncturist will look at the organ imbalance and address that in their treatments, restoring homeostasis. The treatment can be very relaxing; many people fall asleep during their treatments.

Some Tips for R&R

In the TCM classics, it’s recommended that we rise and rest with the sun. Now, that’s not completely realistic especially in the winter months when the days are shorter. But studies have shown that having less than six hours of sleep, or lack of restful sleep can open up a can of worms in terms of your health.

1. Weight gain – NewYorkTimes just post an article that illustrated the improvement of BMI for teens that had one more hour of sleep. reference below
2. Brain fog and impaired memorization
3. Irritability and moodiness

4. Poor cardiovascular health, high blood pressure and increased stress hormones
5. Poor immune healthHow to Manage Your Sleep?

1. Any lights in your room? Cover them or turn them off. Cell phones, computers, and alarm clocks. It can disturb your circadian rhythm, which is influenced by environmental factors like like. When there’s lack of light, there’s an increase in melatonin production.

2. Acupuncture and herbs are a great way to get your body in balance by reducing stress hormones, relaxing the body, and increasing blood flow.

3. Foods and drinks that benefit a health nights rest: Incorporate mushrooms, like reishi have calming and nourishing effects on the body. Chamomile tea is very calming. Oats and brown rice, oyster shell, lemons, dill and basil also have a therapeutic effect.

4. Foods and drinks that may hinder rest: alcohol, spicy foods, rich and greasy foods, caffeine, sugar and heavy meals – these things can lead to an imbalance that we call Stomach fire – which can be linked to teeth grinding at night or TMJ.

5. Exercise for rest: In TCM, the Yin Qiao and Yang Qiao channels are the medial and lateral channels that control the opening and closing of the eyes; they start at the feet and go up to the eyes. Insomnia can be caused by an excess yang. By rubbing the crown of your head, known as DU20 100 times, UB2 (medial end of your eyebrow) and then the ball of your foot, until warm, will help balance your channels and help with sleep. The book excerpt from Blue Poppy has a deeper description and great illustrations.

6. Too much on your mind? Write it down. Put a pen and paper by your bed to jot down thoughts. There’s a wonderful Chinese proverb that my mentor taught me, “A dull pencil is better than the sharpest mind.” You can’t store everything in your brain; write it down.

7. Don’t eat 3 hours before bed. Going back the organ clock. Your stomach is at its lowest energetic point from 7-9 pm. It’s time to give it and you a rest. See tip #4.

8. Warm baths (not hot baths that make you sweat) can increase blood flow, bring down the heart rate and make you nice and calm for a night’s rest.

The list could go on and on, but we have to stop somewhere.

Do you have any nightly rituals? What are your recommendations for a good nights rest? Please share in the comments below.

References:

Harvard Study

NewYork Times Article

Time: Friend or Foe?

21 Mar

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Time can be either a friend or foe.

I’ve had moments where I wanted to send a note, make a crafty gift or call a long lost friend, but life gets in the way. It’s as if life, which can translate to time lost, becomes this character that takes away those moments of opportunity.

The thoughtful gift or note you wanted to send someone special.

The intended “I love you” lost by the buzz of a cell phone.

The sunrise overshadowed by the blare of the morning news. Undulating moments are like the tide; they come and go and you have to choose to wade in them or spritely dodge them and go onto the next moment.

I’ve had many moments when I was going to wait for the “right time” to do something and then the urgency and intention was lost. I vividly remember as a little girl thinking to myself that I’ll teach myself how to be healthy and not eat “junk” food. I had my whole life ahead of me to learn how to eat my veggies. Let me tell myself something, “bad habits are hard to break.”

Time ticks on and the intentions to “get it right” trickle away. And then there’s not enough time to take care of yourself. It’s usually when we’re a bit too far gone that we seek out healtful living.

Three is a Magic Number: Mind.Body.Spirit. 

Now, give me a moment longer , let’s tie time, health and wellness, and actually doing something about it together. Health and wellness are multi-faceted,complex,interchanging and synonomous with the yin and yang symbol in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ultimately our desire to be “balanced” in life is all based on our perspective and definition we place on that word. The MBS connection is powerful when every area is synergistic. Life feels satisfying, warm and fuzzy* – insert any feel good word here.

Wrapped Up Just for You:

I read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. As a person that had to coach new reps in the insurance industry one thing was evident. Having measurable and attainable goals and backing it up with activity didn’t complete the puzzle. 

Theimportant thing I learned as a coach was digging up the deep rooted WHY for the motivation to do what we do – or not do what we wanted to do.  It has to be great enough for us to launch us to the next thing and push us to focus on the things that are important to us.

This little ditty of a book help me jot down my dreams, goals, needs and more importantly my values. I then mapped it out.

My husband, reconnecting with family, writing, my business, my finances, my mind (books, education), body (working out, physical triumphs – headstand here we come!), soul (Bible reading, journaling and writing – yep, even a little motivational reading/listening) all of these things don’t happen every day, but they’re noted and accounted for to get me to where I want and need to be. I used the MBS components to help me define those important pieces.

I’m dork enough to even get a Weekly Rhythm register – yep that’s included in the book, too. I’ve been doing it for the past 3 weeks. It’s been incredibly clarifying to discern where I’m putting my time, what’s distracting me (thank you,Facebook) and where my intentions and truth are not lining up. If you’re interested in learning more:

Defining those things – where I want and need to be, gives me the power of using my time wisely. Everything else can be released, peacefully and gracefully without guilt, but gratitude.

Gratitude to have the insight to know what I need for myself and my family. And use the God given insight and passion to share it – that’s important stuff!

So using your time wisely and placing those important bits at the top of the list – makes you feel whole. If you have pieces that encompass the mind, the body,and the spirit – you’re doing pretty darn good.

Some homework for you:

Define where you want to be now.

What are the most important things you can do for yourself and your visions for your life: Mind. Body. Spirit.

There are alot of things that can fall under each of those topics.

Once you’re done being so “inward,” extend it to others.

Darren Hardy says that he wakes in the  morning and before getting out of bed he says a prayer of gratitude, a list of ramblings and then he sends love and light to one person that crosses his mind. That was so cool to me that I’ve adopted that morning ritual. Some of you may have already received a love gram from me.

What a beautiful way to start it off right in your words and take a moment to really appreciate the life as it is now.

So I ask, what do you do with your time to make it count? How can you appreciate the small things in your day to get your perspective right? How does it make you feel in mind, body, spirit? How are you taking care of yourself?

For you Peter Pan lovers, this one’s for you. Captain Hook has Tic Tock at his heels. Don’t let time pass you by or sneak up and bite you in the butt.

Take Care!

Kari-Ann

Heart to Heart

14 Feb

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yeah, I know it’s a commercial holiday filled with frou-frou, chocolates and expensive cards, but there are some great aspects to this day. One in particular is HEART HEALTH and it has the whole month of February to take center stage.

So let’s give a little tender lovin’ to our rhythm in the band, our pretty little kick drum, the Heart.

Mind You: According to the CDC, 935,000 Americans have a heart attack (more than half of those are men). Which leads to the following things to think about…

Risk Factors (no particular order here)
1. Hereditary
2. Smoking
3. Obesity
4. Diabetes
5. Physical Inactivity
6. Excessive drinking
7. Poor diet
8. High LDL and Blood pressure

Signs of a Heart Attack – Do You Know Them?
1. Chest pain/angina
2. Shoulder, arm, jaw, neck, stomach pain
3. Nausea and vomiting
4. Shortness of breath, dizziness

*In a 2005 study, only 27% of respondents knew the major signs of a heart attack and to call 9-1-1.

Whole Foods are Healing
Put great food in to make your greatness prosper.

1. Leafy greens are rich in magnesium and help calcium function in the heart tissues and nerves properly. It is also linked to regulating complex amino acids in the brain that contribute to anxiety.
2. Lower the saturated fats found in animal products.
3. Sodium intake under 2300mg/day (<1500mg for those with diabetes, high blood pressure, African american, Kidney disease or +51yrs in age) and intake atleast 4300 mg of Potassium per day.
4. Calcium absorption is important in heart function. Foods that impede this process are caffein, salt, sugar, alcohol, refined flours.

Chinese Medicine and the Heart
Disharmonies of the energetic properties of the heart in diagnosis for TCM can be seen in several ways. This does not imply that the organ has a problem.
1. Excess laughter
2. Speech problems: stuttering, confused speech
3. weak spirit
4. Loss of memory
5. Mental illness
6. Depression

These Calm the Mind:
1. Oyster shell
2. Whole wheat grain
3. Mushrooms/ Reishi/ Ling Zhi
4. Lemons
5. Chamomile
6. Valerian
7. Suan Zao Ren
8. Wu Wei Zi

Spirit
Straight the Heart: Acupressure/Acupuncture Point

Here’s a great little YouTube video on Heart 7, which is great for sleep and anxiety.

http://youtu.be/zPoHVS0y0Z8

Lift Your Spirt with This:
Calm your mind.
Have clarity in one thought process.
Do not be scattered and hyperactively distracted.

Prayer or grace before a meal put your mind in a peaceful place of gratitude and focused inward on the spirit.

And remember, it might be another holiday, but be grateful and love the one you’re with.

That’s sure to make your heart skip a beat.

Take Care!

Kari-Ann

January is Cervical Cancer Month

14 Jan

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In 2012, The American Cancer Society expects 12,170 cases of invasive cervical cancer to be diagnosed. About 4,220 women will die from cervical cancer. (Society, 2012)  Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN) is the proliferation of abnormal squamous cervical cells and when untreated in progressive stages can lead to cervical cancer. The cervical lesions  are considered precancerous and are classified in 3 stages. Several factors that may contribute lifestyle, health, access to gynecological screenings, and exposure to specific strands of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

Why am I writing about this? One, it’s Cervical Cancer Month! Two, plenty of people are diagnosed with HPV (a possible precursor to Cervical Cancer). There are some additional insights to treatment and taking action in health and wellness to prevent viral recurrence. Three, let’s get rid of the stigma attached to it.

Bear with me, there’s a lot of info packed in here with links to additional info. This info is only related to HPV as a precursor to cervical cancer and does not cover treatment for cervical cancer itself.

HPV

An old friend told me many years ago that having HPV was like catching a cold. It was incredibly common, easy to treat, and then you were done with it. Although that may be true for some, HPV strands 16 and 18 cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

CIN is also associated with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).Women that carry the HPV strand 16 or 18 are 3x’s more likely to have CIN3 or Cancer in Situ. (National Cancer Institute, 2005) It is projected that 80% of women will carry the virus by the age of 50 years old (The American Social Health Association, 2012). In addition to it all, it’s asymptomatic – zero signs and symptoms. The virus is transmitted through skin to skin contact (sexual or not). Condoms will provide protection, but they do not guarantee that transmission can be avoided.

Men aren’t immune to HPV either. Doctors are currently seeing a rise in esophageal and anal cancers in men.

Here’s a great link from Huffpost about some common HPV facts.

PAP tests are important. The American Cancer Society control suggests screening to start at 21 years or 3 years after onset of sexual activity, whichever is first.  They’re also great for detection of other cancers.

Can’t afford a cervical exam? Please check out the CDC’s website to see if your eligible for a free screening: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp/

Stigmas

Some people are ashamed or fearful of the HPV diagnosis. There also is a stigma that may be attached to being diagnosed with a STD.  It’s not easily traceable when you were infected with the virus, so knowing how you got it is an unanswered question. Knowledge is power. Self-education and learning lifestyle methods to prevent viral recurrence can help manage those concerns.

A great book to read: “Damaged Goods?: Women Living With Incurable Sexually Transmitted Diseases” by Nadina Nack 

The book is packed with interviews addressing the pyschology and social questions that women face with sexually transmitted diseases.  

Treatment Options

Of a more proactive nature: There are vaccinations that are offered for those that are interested: Cervarix and Gardasil. If interested, please check with your doctor for more information.

After Diagnosis:

The truth is that it’s good to know there are options in your treatment and management of the virus. When diagnosed with different stages, there are two forms of treatment in western medicine: ablation or excision.

The most successful forms are cryocauterization (99%) success rate and cervical conization (98%) success rate.  Cryocauterization entails using a very cold instrument to destroy the abnormal cell tissue.

Conization has a small cone shaped sample of abnormal tissue removed from the cervix.  Laser therapy utilizes a laser to remove the abnormal tissues and has a 90% success rate.

And finally the Loop electrosurgical excision (LEEP) requires a thin loop wire that excise visible patches of abnormal cervical tissue. This method has a 90% clearance rate.  With the exception of the cryocauthization, all of the procedures require local anesthesia.  Side effects of the treatments may have abdominal cramping and vaginal bleeding.

While these procedures can clear CIN, it does not address the underlying cause or ensure complete regression of the virus.  It’s shown that immuno-compromised people can have recurrence of HPV and that 90% of immuno-competent patients will not have cervical cancer.

Other Concerns Women May Have

Some  women have concerns about fertility, cervical stenosis, preterm delivery and low birthrate. Depending on the CIN diagnoses, they may choose complementary methods in healing, in conjunction with their Western medical screenings and care to take action in their healing process.

Can Chinese Medicine Help?

Yes, Chinese medicine can be great adjuvant therapy in the treatment of HPV. Acupuncture  and Chinese herbal formulas will be tailored to the patient’s constitution. Depending on diagnosis, treatment courses (5-10 week sessions of treatments) may vary and last up to several months. Acupuncture and herbal formulas will boost the qi and immune system, move blood (increase circulation) and reduce inflammation of the area.  Formulas vary on patient presentation. Please see a trained herbalist for assistance with appropriate herbal formulas.

A few herbs that are effective: Tao Ren (peach seed), LIng Zhi (Reishi mushroom), Huang Qi (Astragalus root).  There are many more herbs that can help in this healing process.

Tips:

1. Quit smoking.   This impairs the function of your immune system.

2. Get and stay in the produce isle.  Eating a colorful diet in yummy produce will help you with the vitamins and minerals your body needs to keep that boost in place.  Foods that are great for cleansing: garlic, papaya, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

3. Remove the following from your diet can help:  sugar, alcohol, fried foods, dairy. Putting these in your body can impair immune function and make your body work that much harder – when it should be focusing on healing.

4. Managing your stress levels: Prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise and writing -whatever!  Exercise to get the blood moving and the endorphins pumping to feel great and optimistic.

6. Get your check-ups!

I know this was lengthy and not as in depth as I’d love it to be.  Please share this with others and give me some feedback on the topic – questions, etc!

Take Care,

Kari-Ann

2013!

3 Jan

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January 3rd, 2013.

I’m three days late on this New Year post, but I guess it’s fitting as this post is all about the number 3 and how we manage (or don’t) address important aspects of our health and wellness: Mind, Body & Spirit. I’ll post more on that trio later.

It’s the premise for the Three Needles logo and melds so sweetly into our cycle at the beginning of a new year to make a resolution, in some fashion for a better part of ourselves. Our resolutions or goals will fall into any one or combo of these pillars.
Lose weight?
Stop smoking?
Eat more veggies?
Sweat through a 90 day Bikram yoga challenge?
Learn a new language?
Maybe it’s to kick the green-eyed monster out the door and just practice gratitude more often?
Or practice the golden rule and treat others the way you want to be treated?
Or maybe your resolution is to have NO resolution. But isn’t that a resolution?

Whatever it may be, they’re all promising and optimistic; they represent a clean slate for us. But that slate can get downright dirty when habits start to creep in.

I don’t completely remember my resolution last year, do you? I was committed to nothing other than focusing on Traditional Chinese Medicine and making things happen for myself in that realm. Kuddos to my awesome husband for being so patient with me.

And that’s the challenging part. Getting to the point of implementing it into our hectic lives and keeping our eye on the prize is HARD.

As my elementary school music teacher would often tell me in slow drawl, “You’re a hard-headed child.” So true.
Breaking bad (or making better) takes patience, awareness, practice, and not being so hard-headed. Your way might need to be tweaked, and that’s okay.

Remember the Tortoise and the Hare story? Our society is all rabbit – fast, adrenaline, distracted go-go-go types, we burn out in every aspect of our lifestyle (the big 3) and then we’re done. Possibly forgetting what we had in mind to start running the race. The old turtle makes his way patiently, consistently and slowly to the finish line, with his own set of limitations and WINS. Mind you, this was when the rabbit was catching zzz’s.

On the Checklist for the New Resolution:

1. Ask WHY. Why is it that you want to get where you want to get? My resolution a few years back to run a 1/2 marathon was more than a distance race. It was to prove to myself I was strong enough to face any obstacle and I was disciplined enough to complete the training to get there. It was a complete emotional attachment to my definition of Strength.
If you’re not really feeling your why , there’s a good chance it’s not going to work.

2. Slow and Steady wins the race. Focus on the one resolution (not 20 checklist/To Do items). I’m incredibly guilty of this. I want to do it all!

3. Have your goal written somewhere you’ll see it every day. (Mirror, fridge, in your planner, taped to your desktop) Share it with someone close so they can follow up with you and you’re more apt to feel accountable.

4. It’s not going to be perfect. Give yourself the time to make mistakes. 90 Day rule. You can find out more about that here.

5. Give yourself an end date. You don’t want to eat food that doesn’t expire, right? It’s got a lot of junk and nasty preservatives in it. Your goal needs to expire. There needs to be an end in sight. Or it’s going to sit on the shelf like an unexpired Twinkie. If you have a specific goal to lose weight, put a date or timeline a gradual process to get there.

I’m sharing my resolutions with you.

1. Recommend what I would or have used myself.

2. Pray when I wake up.

3. Do something that scares me at least twice a week. Don’t want to get too comfortable.

I’d love to hear your resolutions, advice, stories – whatever you have to share, share it.

Cheers to 2013.

Take Care,

Kari-Ann

All the Small Things

9 Dec

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Balance & Perfection.

All the small things in life are never-ending and always surmounting to something completely overwhelming. I have a list of things 1 8.5×11 page long and it’s overwhelming. I’m deadlocked and not sure what to do. In addition to this, I have scraps of paper on my desk to jot down new “to-dos.” And it might be unquestionably easy to write it out and follow it. But TODAY, well beyond everyone’s jazzed up smart phone, technologically stimulated life, where does all the time go to get these things done? There are so many distractions. And when do you say “No”, if you can, to any of it?

I believe part of it is habit. The habit of prioritizing those special areas of your life and seeing if those to do’s fall within those boundaries. It’s also a matter of knowing what’s an emergency and an immediate MUST DO, compared to some distraction that can either idle the time away, or can be done by someone else.

So my suggestions to kill the stress of to-dos:

1. Prioritize – what areas of your life are important and do you need to dedicate time to? For example, it could be your family, work, and your health. Even within those categories are subcategories (family fun night, getting certification for work, doing yoga 5 times a week). You can’t say yes to every children’s birthday party or business event you’re invited to, and that is where the power of saying NO comes into play. Selfishly saying NO to those things will give you time to prioritize your Family, Work and Health for your “Balance.”

Now let me get something straight. I LOVE the idea of balance. But balance is just like Yin and Yang. It’s always changing, interdependent of Chaos and cannot exist without its opposite. It’s never going to be perfect and being peaceful with that idea can be freeing.

2. Write it Out – the To Do list is a Catch-22. Well, let me clarify, the MENTAL To-Do list. Write it out. Get it on paper. I often tell patients that are always worrying about a mental list to keep a pad and pen by your bed and write out the small things that are on your mind. You won’t forget it and it will be there to cross off when you have a chance to get to it.

3. Focus on the greater good, whatever that may be for you. Maybe its specific goals or areas in your life that you’re working on (health and wellness, spiritual) anything to create positive habits. Make time for those things and make sure it’s blocked out. Do you have your ideal day? Hour for hour, tell your time where to go.

4. Let others know what you’re up to – My husband and I have a list of personal/professional goals and things we want to work on together. We talk about it so we can support each other through our transitions. Find a friend or someone who is going to be supportive for your goals.

5. Goals – write them out for the immediate, near and far off future. This list may change, but it defines your objectives. If something else comes along and it’s good, but not great AND it doesn’t fall in line with your ideal, then you can peacefully pass it by.

What’s this all about? All the small things – they stress us out. They add up. And when we put them in their place and really see how (in)significant they are, we can then decide their importance in our life.

If these small things have you doe-eyed and deadlocked ready to get run over by a semi, just remember…

One thing at a time.

I would love to hear what you do to manage your life.

Take Care!

The Attitude of Gratitude

19 Nov

It’s the start of Thanksgiving week and as we’re winding down, it’s a wonderful time to think about all of the right things in our life. Small and large, gratitude helps keep our lives unique, stable, and worth living. It’s a great way to keep the positive at the forefront to better handle the rest. To really get this point across to myself, at the start of the month, I set a glass jar in our dining room next to a cigar box full of blank construction paper. The gist is to write a thing or two down for which we are grateful, fold it up, and watch our gratitude grow. It’s colorful and simple and it’s a wonderful display that quickly adds up!

Gratitude is free and it’s powerful. For all of the annoyances or stresses, it helps us keep a fresh and optimistic perspective.  It’s easy to do the opposite. PLUS there are wonderful health benefits.

By consistently practicing gratitude, it has shown to:

  • boost your immune system
  • deal with stress more effectively
  • handle loss more effectively
  • more apt to take proactive measures for your health and wellness (goes along with increase your immunity)

An interesting book with research regarding the effects of gratitude is called “Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude can make You Happier” by Robert Emmons.  It suggests that after just 3 weeks of keeping a gratitude journal, participants saw a 25% increase in their happiness, better sleep and increased energy. Negativity can have a lasting effect and is sometimes seems easier to do. Constantly focusing on frustrations can overpower even the most important and simplistically beautiful things in our lives.

So I ask, what are some ways that you practice gratitude?

Take Care!

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