Saturday, 30 October 2010

Beating the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is estimated to affect 7% of the UK's population severely, and a further 17% having a milder form of the condition every winter. And this year, the poor summer means that up to 10 million people will experience 'winter blues' and are likely to be feeling gloomy and down during the winter months.

So how can you help yourself feel better and beat the winter blues? Alexandra Bacon, Emotional Health specialist has years of experience with treating clients with SAD, gives her top tips for managing the condition.

1. Try some light therapy

This is the recommended treatment option suggested by experts. They believe that SAD is caused by a lack of light that cuts serotonin in the brain - the chemical in the body that makes you feel happy.

You can buy a small lightbox and spend 30 minutes a day in front of it if you suffer regularly.
 Alternatively, make sure you get outside more often so you get a daily dose of sunlight. Avoid staying cooped up in dark, poorly ventilated houses or offices.  Even getting out in cloudy weather for a few minutes a day can give you a much needed boost of sunlight.

1. Try Bach Flower therapy

Bach Flower Remedies work naturally to help resolve emotional factors like depression and anxiety that can block physical healing and change how we feel.  Harnessing the power of nature to boost your mood and energy levels, increasing wellbeing without the side effects of prescribed drugs, the remedies can also be used safely in conjunction with medication.
Alexandra Bacon commented "more recently there has been a reawakening of the knowledge that natural plant based remedies can help calm the nerves and heal the body.  This has been typified in the Channel 4 television programme, ‘The Kitchen Pharmacy’ and BBC 2’s ‘Grow your own Drugs. We are natural beings by nature and so it seems perfectly right to use what mother-nature provides to balance the conditions that modern life upsets so readily."

It is important to consult a Practitioner if you find your symptoms are severe or ongoing as they can make an assessment of your individual needs and prescribe the right mixture of remedies for you.  For short term relief however, Alexandra recommends using remedies such as Gorse and Mustard to counteract the associated symptoms of depression; and to boost energy levels, trying a remedy like Olive.  

2. Eat a healthy diet

During the Winter months, your diet often suffers because your craves sugary comfort foods.

Experts suggest ditching the sugary snacks because they make your blood sugar levels go up and down which seems to have an effect on SAD. Instead, opt for low GI (glycaemic Index) options such as fruit and nuts which stabilse your blood sugar and keep you fuller for longer.

Increasing the amounts of oily fish, you eat can also help as they are high in omega 3 oils and studies have shown that it can help improve symptoms of SAD. 

5. Increase your Exercise

Exercise has been shown to help depression and SAD; it improves circulation and releases feelgood endorphins.  Aim to do something at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes.

Too cold to go out for a walk or run? Try doing exercise indoors such as using a rebounder, doing some yoga or just dancing round the house to your favourite music!  Short, regular bursts of exercise have been proven to be more beneficial to our health than long periods. 

4. Talk to a Counsellor or Psychotherapist

Sharing how you feel with a professional counsellor or therapist can often help you to cope better with the symptoms of SAD. They can also help you to find new ways of dealing with how you feel- talk therapy has been proven to help sufferers of SAD.

Alternatively, reach out to a friend or family member and talk to them about your feelings and symptoms. A word of support or advice from a friend or loved one can help to lighten your symptoms and improve your mood.

5. Try some Tapping Therapy

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a gentle tapping therapy based on acupuncture that can also help overcome some of the associated low feelings you get when you suffer from SAD.  It is something you can use yourself on a daily basis (see diagram below) to boost both your mood and energy levels quickly and effectively.  

Alexandra comments: “I have used EFT for years both to help myself and my clients overcome a range of issues including chronic fatigue and depression.  It works within minutes and is safe and non invasive. Clients have described it as the ‘tapping cure’ it is so effective and works when nothing else does.”

To summarise, although it is essential to treat the physical causes of SAD with diet and exercise, and increasing exposure to sunlight, it is also important to address the emotional aspects of the illness too.  Seeking professional help can often enable us to gain a different perspective on ways of coping with SAD long term and help improve your quality of life all year round.

Alexandra Bacon is a certified Advanced EFT Practitioner, Counsellor, Bach Flower Remedy Practitioner, Wellbeing consultant and Trainer. To book your personalised treatment session please call Alexandra on 01629 825968/ 07950 568635.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Bridging the Satisfaction Gap

"To be or not to be...that is the question."

Ever since I came back from the Mindfulness retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in August I have been asking myself, How, when we all have so much in our society, we continue to feel unhappy and dissatisfied with our lot in life?  Of course, most of us have an ideal life plan in mind; mine was to have an art career and be a successful designer in London and by the time I was 25...needless to say, it never happened, though looking back, it was all for the best in the end! 

Going on the retreat with Thay (teacher as he is called), he taught that there is 'no coming and no going'- nothing that needs to be achieved or strived for.  This was quite an alien concept for me, being brought up like most people believing that if I worked hard enough and persevered in life, then I could achieve my dreams and then be happy.  The philosophy of The Community of Interbeing  is based on TNH's teachings which accepts that there are enough conditions for happiness so why create more?  In fact, what we may think is essential to our wellbeing and happiness, in reality is what blocks us from achieving a deep sense of joy and peace; namely, attachments to outcomes, people, desires which create what we might call in the west 'The Satisfaction Gap'- a term now coined by psychologists who describe it as an increasing issue amongst women in particular who feel this sense of lack or unfulfilment in their lives. Sound familiar?

I admit myself feeling a sense of unhappiness and staleness in my life prior to going on the retreat, despite the fact that I was near enough living 'my dreams' and doing what I loved.  Don't get me wrong, there had been difficulties as well, though I felt I needed to end the sense of struggle and regain my balance again.  I had also seen client's with similar dilemmas of feeling unhappy with their lives and relationships and I wanted to explore a new perspective to offer them also.

Through Thay's Dharma talks (the teachings of the Buddha) I learned a lot about the tools of Mindfulness, and was forced to confront some of these difficult feelings head on, without my usual distractions at home. To begin with, my natural inclination was to fight or analyse these feelings. With nowhere to run, I just sat, breathed, and allowed any feelings and thoughts to come up and just watched them. After the first day of doing this (which was frankly like doing a boxing match, me vs my mind!) , I began to experience more peace and ease in myself. By the fourth day I felt some of what Thay described as being "..deeply in touch with the present moment,...and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love." By the fifth, I felt completely blissed out and felt like I had discovered the answer to life, the universe and everything, or near enough...

I also learned that emotions such as Fear and Anger are 'Mental Formations' that are like seeds in the garden of our conciousness that we water each time we choose to be in these states of mind. We have a choice which thoughts we choose to nurture and grow more of; this includes thoughts of desire or dissatisfaction about our lives, our relationships or ourselves. " If you suffer and make your loved ones suffer, there is nothing that can justify your desire."  Alternatively, we can choose to water the good seeds in our conciousness such as love and joy.  Each time we smile or practice being mindful, we are strengthening these positive states within ourselves and protecting ourselves against more negative states of mind.  Living with acceptance with what we have in our lives is something like smiling- it needs to be practiced each day in order for our joy to bloom and grow like a beautiful flower.

Since going on the retreat, I have experienced this for myself.  I wouldn't say I live with mindfulness and joy at all times though I do feel my perceptions have shifted and I now step back when I start to feel angry or fearful, rather than going straight into reacting to situations.  I also feel more peaceful and content with my life, having gained a deeper understanding of myself and others. The greatest lesson I have learned however, is quite simply that to accept life and what happens, is to be free.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Flower Power- Not Just a Fashion Statement

When people think of herbal or homeopathic medicine they are often uncertain of its value.  There is a common thought that everything that can be taken from herbal medicine has been turned into ‘real medicine’ and that everything left is either Pot Pouri or Soup! That is far from the case.

The healing power of plants has been recognised for thousands of years.  Herbal remedies have been recorded as being extensively used by the Pharaohs of ancient Egyptian times.  More recently there has been a reawakening of the knowledge that natural plant based remedies can help calm the nerves and heal the body.  This has been typified in the Channel 4 television programme, ‘The Kitchen Pharmacy’ and BBC 2’s ‘Grow your own drugs’.
There is, however, a very effective subset of plant based medicine that has been in use since its inception in the 1920s.  It was a Harley street doctor and homeopath, Dr Edward Bach, who discovered that specific flower essences could change the way we feel.  From humble beginnings in the early 20th century, Dr Bach developed and revolutionised medicine by creating a complete system of remedies based upon the essences and extracts of a number of flowers.
Dr Bach became disillusioned with the side effects of drug therapies and turned his research to the healing power of nature. The flower remedies work by treating the individual, not the disease. They help by supporting the patient's fight against illness through resolving emotional factors like depression, anxiety and trauma that are thought to block physical healing.
Most people know about Bach Flower Remedies through their more generic names such as Rescue Remedy (a mixture of essences to promote relaxation).  Bach Flower remedies work on a subtle level to help transform unhelpful attitudes and emotional issues into positive ones, stimulating the potential for self healing and freeing the physical system to help fight disease and stress.
Bach’s remedies can also be used at times of anxiety and stress, and are particularly helpful for the many people who feel generally tired and unwell without a specific medical diagnosis. These essences are non-addictive, have no undesirable side effects and can be used in conjunction with and to supplement other medications.  In some cases, patients have been known to gradually reduce their contemporary medication use or abstain completely following a course of Bach remedies.
From my own experience, I can relate a case where a client who had suffered from long term depression and a poor body image turned to Bach as a last resort.  She was treated with a mixture of remedies including Pine to combat for feelings of inferiority, Crab apple to improve self image, Mimulus to overcome the fear of not getting better and Gorse to help boost her positivity and bring some sunshine into her life.  Within two days she reported feeling much brighter both physically and emotionally as well as having more control over her usually strong hormonal mood swings and PMT.  She also had a profound sense of wellbeing and a much more positive outlook. 
The typical treatment session is a short consultation session where we establish the scope and scale of any condition.  After this assessment a blend of essences, tailored to the individual client’s needs, is crafted and prescribed with the benefits normally felt within a few days.
We are natural beings by nature and so it seems perfectly right to use what mother-nature provides to balance the conditions that modern life upsets so readily.

If you feel that Bach’s approach to creating a feeling of wellbeing and natural balance would suit you then I would be delighted to help you realise those feelings.  I am currently offering new clients 20 % off their first consultation.  With nothing to lose but your but your bad feelings, isn’t a session of natural healing worth considering.

To book your personalised treatment session please contact me at, phone 01629 825968/ 07950 568635