Welcome to my December / Christmas/Holiday newsletter. I hope it finds you all doing well, but I imagine that many of you may be suffering from the extreme stress that can result from the Holidays. Because of this, my article this month is on stress, giving you some information, insight and maybe a few tips to help.
But first, something from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Winter Solstice, also known as Midwinter, occurs around December 21 or 22 each year in the Northern hemisphere, and June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. It occurs on the shortest day or longest night of the year, sometimes said to mark the beginning of a hemisphere's astronomical winter. The word solstice derives from Latin, Winter Solstice meaning Sun set still in winter.
Worldwide, interpretation of the event varies from culture to culture, but most hold a recognition of rebirth, involving festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations. Many cultures celebrate or celebrated a holiday near the winter solstice; examples of these include Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years, Pongal, Yalda and many other festivals of light It is marked by celebrations, festivals, spending time with loved ones, feasting, singing, dancing and fires in the hearth.
In most countries, the time of the winter solstice is traditionally considered as midwinter. This is evident in calendars as far back as Ancient Egypt, whose system of seasons was gauged according to the flooding of the Nile. For Celtic countries, such as Ireland, the winter season has traditionally begun November 1 on All Hallows or Samhain. Winter ends and spring begins on Imbolc or Candlemas, which is February 1st or 2nd. This calendar system of seasons may be based on the length of days exclusively.
The three-month period of the shortest days and weakest solar radiation occurs during November, December and January in the Northern Hemisphere (May-July in the Southern). Most East Asian cultures define the seasons by solar terms, with Dong zhi at the Winter solstice as the middle or "Extreme" of winter. This system is based on the sun's tilt. In Jewish culture, Teḳufat Tevet, the day of the winter solstice, is historically known as the first day of the "stripping time" or winter season.
The solstice itself may have remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archeological sites like Stonehenge and New Grange in the British Isles. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line framing the winter solstice sunrise (New Grange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not assured to live through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months.
In modern cultures the gatherings associated with Midwinter are still valued for emotional comfort, having something to look forward to at the darkest time of the year. This is especially the case for populations in the near Polar Regions of the hemisphere.
The depressive psychological effects of winter on individuals and societies for that matter, are for the most part tied to less sunlight, coldness, tiredness, malaise, and inactivity, plus being indoors causes negative ion deficiency which decreases serotonin levels resulting in depression and tiredness. Also, getting insufficient light in the short winter days increases the secretion of melatonin in the body, off balancing the circadian rhythm with longer sleep.
Studies have proven that exercise, light therapy, increased negative ion exposure (which can be attained from plants and well ventilated flames burning wood or beeswax) can reinvigorate the body from its seasonal lull and relieve winter blues by shortening the melatonin secretions, increasing serotonin and temporarily creating a more even sleeping pattern.
Midwinter festivals and celebrations occurring on the longest night of the year, often calling for evergreens, bright illumination, large ongoing fires, feasting, communion with close ones, and evening physical exertion by dancing and singing are examples of cultural winter therapies that have evolved as traditions since the beginnings of civilization. Such traditions can stir the wit, stave off malaise, reset the internal clock and rekindle the human spirit.
By Linda Simmon, C.Ht
What is stress?
Stress is the wear and tear our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has definite and specific physical and emotional effects on us that can create both positive and negative feelings.
As a positive influence, stress can help compel us into action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective on our situation, an existing relationship, even life.
As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejections, anger and depression which in turn can lead to health problems. With the death of a loved one, birth of a child, change in job, change in residence, end of a relationship, divorce, or even the start of a new relationship, we experience stress as we readjust our lives to the changing circumstances. In adjusting to these changing circumstances, stress will either help or hinder us depending on how we react to it, what we think about it and how we choose to use it.
Positive stress can add anticipation and excitement to life. Deadlines and competitions add depth and enrichment to our lives. Positive stress motivates us and can be the driving force behind positive changes. The goal is not to eliminate stress, but to learn how to perceive it, manage it, control it and use it to help ourselves.
I want you to remember that how we each perceive any given situation affects how we react to that situation. You will be reading a health tip from me a little later that deals with looking on the bright side. We read and hear about this all the time and I know that when things are rough and we are feeling down and stressed beyond belief, it can be so irritating to be told to “look on the bright side”. But the truth is that we do keep reading and hearing about this because it works! And not only does it work, but your life may actually be at risk if you do not. People who get swallowed up by negative emotions and moods really do have a higher risk of heart disease, cancer and clinical depression than those who do not; and as impossible as it may sometimes seem, you really can turn any mood around with a few simple steps.
As you change your thoughts you develop and build new and different neuro pathways. Unused neural interconnections actually shrink and die. Think about that a moment. All our thoughts, images and emotions travel through our neurologic system along these neuro pathways and interconnections. This allows you to take active control of your thoughts and change the way you think permanently by choosing which neuro interconnections you want to strengthen and which you want to atrophy and die.
Pay attention to what you are thinking. When there is negative thinking, reflect on the contrary. Reflect on the positive, 100 times more. Take responsibility for your thoughts. In this way you can “force” yourself to look on the bright side, see the positive and control and use the stress in your life rather than allowing the stress to use you.
Studies have long established links between the incidences of depression and stress with cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, stroke and Alzheimer's. "Depression almost certainly has multiple causes that produce similar symptoms," observes Dr. Bruce Cohen, president of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. People with such afflictions appear to run a higher risk of disability or premature death when they are clinically depressed.
As more and more people are dealing with the effects of depression (20+ million in the United States alone) and stress, many people are also realizing that much of their pain, whether it is physical or emotional, is originating on a deeper, subconscious level. If the pain is not dealt with at that subconscious level, it will continue to grow.
“Repeat a positive statement often enough and it will become ingrained in your subconscious” says Adrian Calabrese, Ph.D., Woman’s World, October 18, 2005.
An exercise to help you practice taking control of your thoughts is this, get a picture or image in your mind of what you want and how you want to feel and make it as detailed as you can. Now find a word or a very short phrase that when spoken instantly brings this image to mind.
Here’s an example of one of mine.
I want my own ranch or enough space and land where I can have all the animals that I want and love to have around me and I am in love, happy and having fun.
Here's my snapshot.
I'm standing outside on my ranch next to my horses, there’s a couple of dogs running around in the background and a couple of cats sitting on a fence post. I'm laughing and I can see a sparkle in my eyes. Everything simply glows with joy and pleasure.
The word that will instantly bring this picture to my mind is “Ranch”.
Whenever I find my thoughts drifting to that negative self talk that we all occasionally have or when I get to feeling a bit depressed and stressed about all that has to be done to ever get that little ranch, I say to myself RANCH. I keep saying ranch until that image, that picture fills my mind and those other images fade away.
At first it sometimes took a while for the negative images to completely fade but with just a little bit of persistence and practice, I found that the image came faster and easier, and you will too. You will also find that those old nasty images appear less and less until they pretty much disappear.
So, with the holiday coming, give yourself the gift of taking control of your thoughts and your life. Keep your focus on what you want and how you want to feel and move towards those images rather than those things that you would rather run from!
Linda Simmon, C.Ht.
The Mineral That's Good for Blood Sugar
There's a certain mineral that may help reduce your diabetes risk. Here's a clue: You might already be getting plenty of it if you eat lots of whole grains, beans, nuts, and leafy greens. It's magnesium -- found naturally in many plant-based foods. Along with watching your weight and being more active, certain dietary choices may help reduce your risk of diabetes -- a blood sugar disorder that can spell trouble for your heart, eyes, kidneys, and more.
According to a recent study, you may be able to cut your diabetes risk by 15 percent just by bumping up your daily magnesium intake another 100 milligrams (mg). Why? Magnesium helps your body metabolize blood sugar. Although more research is needed before recommending daily magnesium supplementation, making magnesium-rich foods part and parcel of your eating plan is a great idea.
How can you bump up your intake by 100 mg? Easy. Check off one of the combos on this list today and you're there:
An ounce of peanuts, a half cup of raisins, and an ounce of sunflower seeds
Three-quarters cup of cooked spinach sprinkled with toasted pine nuts
One and a half cups of oatmeal with a quarter cup of chopped dates
A half cup of lima beans and a half cup of navy beans
A turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread
Ten ounces of yogurt with a cup of fresh blueberries and a cup of OJ (Try this smoothie recipe.)
A cup of brown rice with two chopped figs
A cup of Cheerios with a cup of low-fat milk and a banana
- Top 5 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk
Here's a list you'll want to check twice: Five ways to slash your risk of cancer. Doing just one of the anticancer steps is better than nothing. But do all of them and you're cancer risk could drop by as much as 30 percent.
- Don't smoke (a no-brainer).
- Limit red meat, alcohol, fat, and salt.
- Eat fruit, veggies, and whole grains -- lots of them!
- Exercise regularly.
- Watch your weight.
Although there is no surefire way to prevent cancer, making healthy choices in your daily life may reduce your risk. If you don't feel capable of following all the anticancer guidelines, at least choose to do the ones you know you have a good shot of sticking to. You can add a few more later, once you've made some progress. Baby steps are fine. And they're waaaay better than doing nothing.
In addition, here’s a food that might surprise you with it’s benefits . . .
- Accolades for Olive Oil
Starting an olive oil habit could be as healthful as kicking a smoking habit. And the proof is in your urine. Microscopic substances in your urine reveal how well your body is defending against everyday cancer-causing cell damage. Think of the substances as shrapnel -- too much means your body is taking some serious hits. Enter olive oil. In a study, men who upped their intake had less of the damage-signaling shrapnel in their urine samples. How much less? The drop was similar to what smokers experience when they quit. Now that's some potent oil.
- Moods That Age the Heart
When your emotions get the best of you, your body may suffer the consequences. Researchers have discovered that depression could nudge heart attack or stroke risk higher. Which means there's no good reason to nurse a hurting heart on your own. Here's how to spot mood problems -- and plant a foot toward healthier days. In a study, people who reported mild-to-moderate depression symptoms -- specifically the physical symptoms of depression like loss of sleep and lack of appetite -- showed more signs of artery thickness compared to their more emotionally balanced peers.
If your depression is mild, an increase in physical activity helps, as do other healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating right, avoiding alcohol, and reducing stress (and planned for hypnosis). There's no quick fix or surefire way to get serious depression under control. But there are lots of good treatment options you can explore with your doctor. If you're feeling down for 2 weeks or longer, make an appointment.
- All About WOMEN: Vitamin D for Your Nerves
Could the right supplement help you minimize your risk of a body-numbing disease that affects twice as many women as men? Early research says yes. In a study, women who took supplements with vitamin D slashed their risk of multiple sclerosis (MS) by 40 percent. Women who daily got at least 400 IU of vitamin D from supplements had a 40 percent lower risk of developing MS compared with the women who didn't take supplemental D. Researchers speculate that D may have some sort of anti-inflammatory effect that helps protect the nervous system, but more research is needed to confirm if the benefit truly exists.
- The Health Benefits of Cute
Those TV shows featuring people's home videos of their pets' antics? They may actually be good for more than just a laugh. Watching videos of animal life may help you beat stress. In a study, people who watched 10 minutes of scaly, feathered, or furry footage experienced dips in both heart rate and blood pressure.
Got a stressful event coming up, like an unpleasant dental procedure or a tough meeting at work? Watch a few minutes of a wildlife show before heading out of the house. After 10 minutes, you'll not only have reduced your heart rate and blood pressure, but you'll also have created a buffer against the physical effects of your upcoming nail-biter. The sound doesn't even have to be on in order for you to reap the calming benefits of the video. If images of four-legged friends don't do the trick, here are some other relaxation strategies to try:
- Deep breathing;
- Positive mental imaging, and
- Progressive muscle relaxation.
(Linda's Note: Hypnosis helps with all of these and more).
- Getting Healthier: It's Partly in Your Head
This has got to be the easiest way to boost the benefits of your workout: Just think about them. Sounds crazy, right? But it was true in a study of hotel workers. Just 4 weeks after the room cleaners were educated on how their duties counted toward their exercise needs, they saw a drop in weight and blood pressure — despite no changes in overall activity levels. Changing bed linens, vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing the bathroom floor — it's not spin class, but it is physical activity. And if you do physically active things with the right mind-set (namely, think "This is good for me."), it could translate into greater health gains. Just chalk it up to that mind-body connection to which so many other health benefits (like the placebo effect) have been traced. You need only about 30 minutes of exercise daily to meet the surgeon general's physical activity recommendations. And keep in mind that things like pulling weeds, painting the garage door, and folding laundry count toward that total. And we mean literally keep it in mind. Couldn't hurt, right?
- A Good Reason to Look on the Bright Side
Anxious, angry, depressed? We all feel bad sometimes. But there's one very vocal objector: your heart. People who often get swallowed up by these and other negative moods may have a higher risk of heart disease — even if they're otherwise healthy. But you can turn any mood around with a few simple steps. Social anxiety may have the greatest impact on heart health. In a study of healthy older men, those who scored highest on a negative-emotion scale — especially on social anxiety measures — had the greatest incidence of heart disease 3 years later. If stress and anxiety have taken hold of you and won't let go, something really structured like cognitive-behavioral therapy — alone or coupled with medication — may help improve your sense of control and boost your confidence.
(Linda’s Note: And the easiest way to reach optimum relaxation is through hypnosis).
If you have found this newsletter to be helpful to you and you know someone who you feel could benefit from these thoughts and messages please pass it on.