6 Ways to Find Balance During The Holiday Season

One of the challenges we face in our society is that our holiday season schedules hardly ever mesh with the natural rhythm of the season. Winter should generally be a time for rest and restoration. Temperatures grow cooler and daylight hours lessen, suggesting that we sleep more and conserve energy. Trees lose their leaves and some animals enter hibernation. It is what we call a time of “yin” in Chinese Medicine – a quiet time.

However, for most of us, our winter schedules are not a time of yin. Instead, it is often the busiest season of the year. On top of our regular schedules, many of us have the added pressure of thoughtful (or last minute…) gift shopping, late night holiday parties, travel or families visiting, baking and cooking, and often indulging in sweets in lieu of more nourishing foods.

When you compare our winter agenda to what nature encourages, it’s easy to see how our bodies and spirits can get out of balance, particularly our adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are two small glands which play an essential role in the amount of energy we can access and utilize. As we push ourselves to get more done during the holidays, we place an increased demand on our adrenal glands and immune system, allowing fatigue, irritation, and depression to take over.

Here are a few simple ways to take care of your adrenal glands and whole being without sacrificing too much of the fun and excitement of the holiday season:

1. Maintain a healthy blood sugar – Try to include some protein and healthy fat with every meal. If you indulge in sugary treats, try to make sure you add some protein before, with, or shortly after your goodie. Blood sugar is important to adrenal health and restoration, as well as helping with mood regulation.

2. Balance a night out with a night in – Enjoy your holiday parties and evenings out on the town, but follow it up with a relaxing night in staying warm. Getting enough rest and sleep will help ensure a strong immune system.

3. Exercise moderately – Even though there are less light hours, try not to sacrifice your exercise routine entirely (some light yoga or an evening walk to admire the Christmas lights count!)

4. Meditate – Honor the time of yin with some self-reflection by working in some meditation and stillness into your life. A few minutes of slow deep breathing or a guided meditation can be very grounding and restorative.

5. Find time for yourself – With the expectations that come with the season, try to find at least a few minutes per day for yourself and indulge in an activity that you enjoy (reading, hiking, a good tv show, playing with your children etc.)

6. Remember the true meaning of this season! – The holidays are a time to enjoy and be with your loved ones. When we look back on our favorite moments, it’s not a “perfect gift” or finding the perfect outfit that we will remember or value most. By staying in the moment and focusing on the blessings instead of the stressors, you will likely create better memories for yourself and everyone!

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or a lack of energy feeling this season, consider coming in for acupuncture or picking up a customized herbal or nutrition protocol. All three can be an effective way to help rebalance and reset the body back to its natural state of health and good cheer.

Click here to contact us to schedule an appointment.

– Audrey Guss

Managing Our Expectations

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. When I was younger, it was always the same small gathering of three – my mom, my brother, and me; regardless, each year my mom would prepare enough food for 15 people.

The other 364 days of the year she was too overworked, tired or recovering from some stress-induced illness to go to the trouble of cooking. But on that one day in November, she would insist on exhausting herself to do all the cooking. Our home would smell so warm and comforting like my grandmother’s, and I remember feeling the fleeting sense of being a “normal family.”

At the time, I didn’t realize this was her way of living up to the high expectations she had for herself to create that sensation for me and my brother, since she was raising us alone. She was successful each time and the fact that she managed to pull it off, probably gave her a sense of huge satisfaction.

Now that I have kids of my own, I wonder what expectations are being set in motion. Am I setting myself up to not enjoy the day by getting too caught up in creating a memorable day for them? As I attempt to find a balanced perspective, I find myself torn between the bliss and nostalgia of Norman Rockwell and the fear and chaos of Home for the Holidays!

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“Home for the Holidays”

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“Freedom from Want” ~ Norman Rockwell

 

To manage my expectations and anxiety, I remind myself to MODIFY my expectations… Instead of putting pressure on myself to create a perfect holiday season, I guide myself to explore the overall goal of creating a happy family. I ask “Am I staying in the present moment enough to enjoy what is happening this year, or am I getting lost in what should be happening or what might not happen?” and “How can I make things better?”

At this time of the year in the office I do more counseling than other months, as more patients need to be “talked off the ledge” and guided to answer these same questions for themselves’ instead of getting bummed out that things are not “perfect”.

Whether the person is struggling with an old family dynamic, or the disappointment that they don’t yet have a family or partner of their own, they likely need to vent frustrations or be reminded that even though they may not have reached certain goals by this Thanksgiving, they still have much to be thankful for. This gratitude-based perspective can help calm our anxiety about what isn’t there yet, or ease the pain as we realize our dream may not be slated for us in this lifetime.

Where I used to view expectations as places where my life didn’t measure up to what I had always envisioned for myself, I now see that the term expectation means getting out of life what we EXPECT.

For example, if we expect holidays to be sad, they will be. If we expect to be happy, likely we will be.

Starting in the weeks that follow Halloween, it’s helpful to reframe expectations into the general mindset that it is possible to enjoy what happens. Remember, if after a long day of cooking you turn to see the dog eating the turkey, it’s only a problem if you can’t laugh it off.

-Danica

Oxytocin and Anna

Without a doubt, the smartest decision I ever made was to ask Anna Werderitsch (formerly Anna Loskutoff) if she would like to practice acupuncture in my office.

After two years of intensely building my practice, I had been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure at age 32. Luckily Anna joined me at that time and she refused to allow me to accept that diagnosis. We decided that during my “rest” days I wouldn’t see patients, but I would go into the office anyway… to see her for acupuncture treatments and nurturing conversation.

Danica & Anna '05

Danica and Anna   ~ 2003

Every time we met I left feeling more in control of my fertility. By talking things out, we came to understand what our teachers meant when they explained that “The uterus is the second heart.”

Those sessions with Anna, my trusted friend and acupuncturist, became centered on releasing my worries, fears and old hurts. Our intention was to repair my “second” heart and make it a safe place for a baby to grow someday.

Fairly soon, it became clear that my situation was improving and likely it was from our conversations, not just the acupuncture. It wasn’t until nearly 5 years later that I realized true healing had occurred — despite my diagnosis, my daughter was conceived on the first natural attempt!

Those vulnerable moments of sharing had worked!

Danica, Anna, & Emily '07

Danica, Anna, & Emily Bartlett   ~ 2006

Over the eight years that Anna worked in my office, we noticed regularly that something “magical” happens in the treatment rooms. In the midst of sharing personal stories and dreams, we were surprisingly able to feel optimistic about even the most challenging patient outcomes and life in general. At the time, we didn’t realize that our boundless optimism came from being under the influence of large doses of oxytocin.

While neither of us intended to create an office space that would store hormones in the walls such as estrogen, oxytocin, endorphins and serotonin, that’s exactly what happened. Over the years all this sharing, conversing, tear-wiping and laughing in the sessions has positively impacted thousands of women.  We were witnessing it most frequently in the form of “infertile” women carrying full-term babies, against the odds.

(from left to right) Virginia Prior, Danica, Anna and Carolin Bennett '07

(from left to right) Virginia Prior, Danica, Anna and Carolin Bennett  ~ 2008

Oxytocin, this understudied “bonding hormone,” has enormous healing potential. Women effortlessly release this magic when they laugh, cry, share… and when they do, from seemingly nowhere, miracles happen. Oxytocin can make even the most cynical person feel as if it is possible to turn things around.

Women with disappointment and despair from various ailments come to Well Women and begin working through life issues such as peri-menopause, infertility and relationship stress. In time they learn to reframe their situations, tap into their emotions and marvel as their situations change for the better.

It’s this phenomenon of the “bonding hormone” that I experienced firsthand several times with Anna, and is what has made the Well Women office such a success.

Well Women Acupuncture began with just Anna and me, talking and healing. It then grew to include several practitioners who have left the practice including Emily Bartlett, Virginia Prior, Carolin Bennett, and Janice Chen. Now there is Jennifer Block, Audrey Guss and Julie Grados. Together we have continued to nurture this oxytocin-rich environment where women tap into their own inner healing source, simply by connecting with each other.

– Danica

The current Well Women Team, ’13! (from top-left): Kaitlyn Connors, Julie Grados, Jennifer Block, Audrey Guss, Danica, Nyjah Westbrooks and Caitlin Phillips. See their full bios on the “About Us” section of the Well Women Website.

The current Well Women Team ~ 2013!
(from top-left): Kaitlyn Connors, Julie Grados, Jennifer Block, Audrey Guss, Danica, Nyjah Westbrooks and Caitlin Phillips.
See their full bios on the “About Us” section of the Well Women Website.

Our “Inner” Haunted House

I began this Monday morning (specifically, the Monday before Halloween) watching a YouTube video posted by “The Ellen Show.” In this video, Ellen Degeneres sends two of her staff members into a very elaborate haunted house. This apparently is a yearly tradition for Ellen, but what made this video particularly funny was that her female staff member had been made aware of this somewhat sadistic field trip, while her unassuming camera man was thrown into the horror at the last minute.

The result was three minutes of hilarious footage of a fully grown man shielding himself with his woman friend, while repeatedly telling the relentless, prosthetically enhanced zombies to “STOP IT, STOP IT NOW!”

At the end, as Ellen wiped her laughter tears and teased her champ of a camera man, I couldn’t help but ponder the haunted house as a phenomenon; wherein we actually agree to be scared by things that aren’t real.

In daily life we can become crippled by fears that don’t necessarily exist. These perceived “demons” (poverty, health, dying, etc.) can become just as exaggerated in our minds as evil witches and flesh-hungry zombies. In real life, we may want to try to manage or ignore our fears instead of facing them, but Halloween and haunted houses can serve a hidden purpose: to remind us that sometimes our most sinister and deepest fears may not be as fatal as they seem.

We can use this twisted holiday to indulge our very real and very “grown-up” fears. The next time you feel afraid imagining yourself at the door of your “inner haunted house,” consider having a sense of adventure or courage instead of crippling fear. Remember when walking into any haunted house (imagined or real), the only way out is through.

Proceed while shielding yourself with loved ones! Scream at your monsters until your throat is sore! Proceed boldly through the fear! Not only will you make it out alive, but also you may see just how conquerable your demons really are.

 

-Kaitlyn Connors

Pushing the Pause Button

Every day, we are confronted with countless decisions. Some of these decisions require immediate attention—should I have a salad for lunch, or a hamburger? Others loom over us, with questions of how and when to resolve these dilemmas further complicating the situation. Should I stay in this relationship? Is this treatment working for me, and if not, what should I do?

As women, we often have so many things competing for our attention; it can feel tremendously gratifying to cross a particular dilemma off our to-do list. Making a choice and taking decisive action can be one of the most effective ways of minimizing stress.

However, there is value in slowing down or accepting the situation as it is, sitting in the confusion or discomfort we feel before making the decision.

This state of non-action gives us an opportunity to ask:

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  • What am I feeling, and where are these feelings coming from?
  • What am I telling myself about this decision?
  • Am I concerned that if I don’t make a decision right away, I’ll miss out on an opportunity?
  • Am I worried that others will judge me if I allow the situation to linger?
  • Do I trust that I can handle the consequences of what I decide to do?

As you deepen your thinking about the situation, you may discover that the beliefs or worries you are holding create excess stress that clouds your judgment. Or, you may realize that the decision is quite clear and easy for you to make, but you need to increase your confidence as you prepare to deal with the changes ahead.

Especially now, as many of us feel extreme pressure building inside and around us, the best option might be to push the pause button and develop the capacity to sit in an agonizing situation until we identify a choice that feels right.

~ Joanna Siebert

“There’s Nothing Sexy About Trying!”

“There’s nothing sexy about trying!” announced one of my patients who feels ready to have a child.

Last year, at age 41, she opted to freeze her eggs—twice. After obtaining this “insurance,” she now finds herself in a relationship with an available man who wants to start a family!

“He offered to go in for testing because his dad had low sperm and he’s all freaked out that might happen to him!”

“Really?!” I replied, “They did sperm analysis 40 years ago???”

After enjoying a good laugh at the improbability of this, I watched as she withdrew inside her mind and became deep in thought. She started analyzing the number of times they would get to “try” in the coming week. I could see her getting stressed.

Then I interrupted. I reminded her that I had witnessed her make a higher than average number of eggs…two times! And noted that I had also seen her all made up for a night out, exuding sensuality and confidence. I reassured her that she didn’t need to overthink this situation and lose her feminine power.

She relaxed and smiled, which softened her face. As I inserted needles to support follicular development and improve ovarian function, I explained that women who embrace their feminine power can be quite creative. This ability to “create” often overflows into conceiving a child.

I frequently encourage patients to experiment with different ways of expressing their femininity and being creative. For instance, they may:

  • Wear colorful dresses/skirts, instead of constricting clothing in all black, white, and grey.
  • Use an engaging color scheme to redecorate at home
  • Write, draw, or make a collage
  • Cook an amazing meal
  • Speak and move with intention, allowing the pace to slow and soften
  • Take up belly dancing or another form of sensual dance
  • Meditate

All of these endeavors can help to direct the energy toward creation.

From an intuitive, open space, it is easier to let go of the judgment, worry, and shame that can cloud your mind, and instead trust in your own creative process.

 

Free Floating in Uncertainty

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Photo credit: Joanna Siebert

Uncertainty. Everyone’s feeling it. Everyone is fearing it. Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen next, how things are going to work out, when life will change in a way that brings more peace…more calm…a more “settled” feeling.

So much unknown is creating anxiety.

Will I attract a mate? When will I attract a mate? What if my eggs are bad? What if this fertility cycle doesn’t work, or what if it works too well and we conceive multiples? When will I have financial freedom? When will I break free of chronic pain? The undercurrent of potential catastrophe looms and threatens to destroy us all!

I’ve never treated more unrest, or seen as much physical discomfort in the form of palpitations, teeth clenching, headaches, stomachaches, and insomnia as I have over the past two years. No one seems to like free floating, not knowing what their fate will be. Everyone complains of being overwhelmed and in need of answers or guarantees, which may or may not have the power to calm worried minds.

The feeling of uncertainty can create a splintered state of being in which we are convinced that we have absolutely no control over our lives. It all stems from a lack of faith—faith that we are exactly where we are meant to be…faith that life is going to unfold in a way that makes us happier than we have ever been…

Through my work, I help so many people who are dealing with uncertainty; because of this, I remind myself to stay uber-calm. Regularly throughout the day, I recommit to holding an “as-grounded-as-possible” perspective. I speak calmly, as if my tone has the ability to talk directly to over-firing neurons. “We are all OK. Everything is OK already. Let’s take some deep breaths…” As I say this to my patients, I imagine a dark blue color, like a deep-sea blue I may have known while on vacation. Or I imagine a soft pale blue and tell myself it is safe and comforting somewhere up in the clouds.

Really, only one thing is certain now—that life does not offer any guarantees. I have come to rely on my ability to access the part of my consciousness that has the power to calm my own worries about uncertain outcomes, and this enables me to free float in uncertainty.

~ Danica

 

 

The Heart Wants What It Wants

This week I am helping my 44-year-old patient go through the process of trying to have a second child.

For the past two years, she and her husband have tried to conceive naturally, received acupuncture and herbs, used Clomid, and then graduated to IUI with ovarian stimulation. Last month was their first IVF; despite transferring two gorgeous embryos, her blood test was negative.

“I’m trying to stay focused on joy,” she said to me today.

Normally, I would think that is a fine idea. But as I considered the spectrum of thoughts and feelings known to flood women when they experience joy, I realized that she might spend too much energy thinking about what isn’t there to bring in joy.

“How about thinking about peace instead?” I asked. “Can you sit in a space that feels peaceful about what you already have? A healthy 5-year-old son, a husband who is sitting in this frustrating, powerless space with you…”

She exhaled. Her face relaxed. For the moment we were both able to appreciate that when things don’t feel right or we are dismayed or disappointed with where we are, it may be best to focus on feeling peaceful with what is.

~ Danica

Shedding the Past

I am working with a woman who recently survived another miscarriage.

A few weeks after the loss she began losing hair on her head, buy which she initially believed to be confirmation that she was officially falling apart.

In our sessions we immediately addressed the grief; the loss of the dream of giving birth at a certain due date.

The sessions validated her feelings of heartache. Soon she was able to trust me, and trust this process.

We began to talk about the ways in which herbs, certain foods, and acupuncture can be viewed as “deposits” back into her baby-making account. Through several conversations about what this particular loss represented for her (an awakening, a shift), she stopped losing hair and is now ovulating again.

Today she is able to reframe the way she views this journey to baby.

Her words now: “I never realized that my hair loss could be viewed as part of a shedding process I needed to do.”

My guess is that the space created from this shedding will be the space that makes room for baby.

~Danica

Moving Forward in Life

The moment we realize we are “sitting with our pain” is the precise moment when we begin moving through it.

Somewhere inside of us, there something shifts: at last, we give ourselves permission to move beyond that pain and those beliefs!

Wisdom has been gained along the journey. It propels us and gives us courage as we take steps forward.

We fix our gaze on the vision. New love, a baby, a happier relationship, a healthier body…

Whatever it is that we seek, wisdom and faith tell us we will eventually get there.

~Danica