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Chinese Medicine

7 ways to deal with periods that are painful AF

Painful periods used to be the bane of my life. As in, I’d have to lie down on pavements because I couldn’t make it home, and I burnt myself with a hot water bottle to the point of causing blisters three months in a row because I felt so much internal pain that I had no idea that I was burning myself.

Thankfully, I haven’t suffered from period pain for the last six years and it’s made a huge difference to my experience of my cycle and quality of life. I no longer live in fear of coming on and no longer wonder if my uterus has got something wrong with it. I also know that even extreme period pain can be improved or resolved entirely (yes, really) and I want to share my favourite tips and tricks for dealing with it with you because a lot of you have been asking for advice on how to reduce the pain you’re experiencing, and it’s no wonder that so many of you have been asking, because it affects up to 84% of us¹.

And it’s important to know that painful periods are not normal and are a sign that something needs to change. We are conditioned to believe that it’s our lot in life to put up with them. It isn’t.

So why the hell does it happen?

Just before your period starts, the lining of your uterus – your endometrium – begins to break down and will be shed during your period. When this happens your body wants to minimise blood loss, and to this end, it produces hormone-like substances called prostaglandins which make your uterus contract and limit blood loss.

Prostaglandins are a good thing, but they also prime the nervous system for pain and heighten the pain response, causing painful contractions and an increase in pain signaling to the brain. And if you experience period poos or nausea around the time of your period starting, then you can thank your prostaglandins for that treat.

Some menstruators can secrete high levels of prostaglandins, resulting in an increase in pain, and some have stronger or abnormal uterine contractions which result in an increase in pressure inside your uterus and a decreased ability to get oxygen to the contracting muscles which results in more pain. The contractions of a menstruating uterus can even be as strong as those that occur towards the end of labour, and as someone who’s experienced both, I’d take giving birth over painful periods any day of the week!

Speak to your GP

With any kind of pelvic pain it’s important to speak to your GP so that they can assess you and refer you for further investigations where appropriate.

The birth control pill is often prescribed as a first line treatment for period pain, but although it can reduce period pain, it does not and cannot treat it, because it acts as a band-aid by stopping you from having periods altogether. The so-called ‘periods’ that you have on the pill are actually withdrawal bleeds and are entirely different from periods, which require a full cycle of hormonal activity in order to happen, the most significant of which is ovulation, which always precedes menstruation (your period) by fourteen days or so.

In my personal and professional experience, painful periods can be helped massively by dietary and lifestyle changes, especially with the help of a qualified practitioner.

Here are my top seven tips for improving them (there are 19 in my book):

1. Orgasms

This is hands-down my favourite approach (pun intended). Masturbation releases feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin and lowers levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, all of which can reduce physical pain. In Chinese medicine, pain is often a result of stagnant energy, and practitioners will use needles and other techniques to encourage blood to flow smoothly, but another way of doing this is by masturbating and/or having sex throughout your menstrual cycle in order to get the energy in your pelvis moving more freely. Traditional Chinese medicine recommends avoiding penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex when you’re on your period, but there are plenty of other forms of sex, and as most of us require clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, isn’t that what our pleasure should be focused on anyway?

2. Cut out dairy.

Ok, so this one isn’t so much fun because let’s face it, butter and cheese are delicious, but it’s an important one, so bear with me. Dairy can cause or contribute towards period pain be because it triggers inflammation in some people, likely because of a protein present in the majority of cow’s milk called A1 casein, and my clients often find that cutting out dairy improves their period pain.

I recommend cutting dairy out entirely for three menstrual cycles and assessing what changes take place, and then reintroducing dairy which has A2 casein in it, such as that which comes from Jersey cows as well as dairy from sheep and goats, because it tends to be better tolerated and may not result in period pain and other hormonal and reproductive issues.

The good news is that feta, halloumi, manchego, pecorino, ricotta, Roquefort and goat’s cheese (which comes in cheddar form too) are all A2.

3. Start using supplements.

Ok, before we get stuck into this, let me first state that you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. Taking supplements without addressing your diet as a whole is not the route to go down, got it?

But, supplementing your diet can be beneficial, especially if you’ve taken the birth control pill, which is well known to cause vitamin and mineral depletion², such as folic acid, vitamin B2, B6 and B12, vitamin C and E, magnesium, selenium, and zinc (this is why I always recommend waiting before trying to conceive after coming off the pill, you need time to restore your body’s nutrient status before getting preggers).

Supplements to consider for period pain include Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish oil, magnesium, curcumin, zinc, and B vitamins. But don’t just run off to your local health store and load your basket up with all of the above, it’s important that you have a nutritional plan which considers all of your health and current requirements, and that will vary from person to person. So your best bet is to see a qualified nutritional therapist or naturopath.

4. Get moving and grooving.

Remember what I said about pain being caused by stagnant energy in Chinese medicine? Well, we need to get that stuck energy flowing a heck of a lot better and the best way to achieve that is by moving. It doesn’t matter what you want to do – swimming, yoga, CrossFit, pilates, running, or dancing around your kitchen to Madonna – they all count and will help to shift the energy in your pelvis. Research shows that doing aerobic exercise three times a week (30 mins each time) for 8 weeks is associated with an improvement in period pain³.

5. Try castor oil packs.

Heat therapy (aka hot water bottles and hot baths) have been shown to be as effective as NSAIDs such as ibuprofen in relieving period pain⁴, but you can level up by using abdominal castor oil packs. To make your own DIY castor oil pack, you will need:

  • A 250ml bottle of high-quality cold-pressed castor oil (preferably organic).
  • A piece of cotton or wool flannel that’s large enough to cover your lower abdomen when folded in half (muslin baby squares work well).
  • A hot water bottle or heating pad.
  • Another muslin square, small old towel, or cling film to cover the pack with while you’re using it.
  • Old clothes to wear and an old towel to place underneath you as castor oil does stain.
  • A glass container with a lid to soak the flannel in the castor oil, and to store it between uses (glass Tupperware or a jar are perfect).

Your first castor oil pack could be a slightly messy affair, so don’t do it on your favourite sheets. Once you get the knack, it gets easier and there won’t be any mess. Here’s what you do:

  • Fold your piece of cotton or wool cloth so that it is a size that will cover your lower abdomen.
  • Place the folded fabric into your glass container (you can fold it up further so that it fits in there), then saturate the cloth with your castor oil. It doesn’t need to be dripping wet, castor oil is very thick so once you use it the increase in temperature from your body heat and the heating pad will make it runnier.
  • Stick some relaxing music on or enjoy some silence.
  • Lie down somewhere comfortable, with an old towel underneath you, and your hot water bottle/heating pad and your glass container with castor oil-soaked cloth in it all next to you.
  • Turn your phone off.
  • Carefully remove the cloth, unfold it, and place it across your lower abdomen.
  • Then, cover the saturated cloth with another folded muslin or an old towel. You can use clingfilm (saranwrap) but this isn’t ideal because it’s plastic.
  • Place the heating pad or hot water bottle on top of the cloth.
  • Take some deep breaths, meditate, read a book, watch Queer Eye, or if you’re anything like me, fall asleep.
  • Keep the pack on for 30–60 minutes.
  • When you’re done, store the saturated cloth in the glass container. It can be reused around 30 times, though you may need to top it up with extra oil occasionally.
  • Wipe off any excess oil, and if you prefer to wash your skin afterward, a diluted solution of baking soda and water will remove it easily (1 tsp to a pint of water).

My recommendation is to do the pack for three consecutive days a week (it’s lovely to do before bedtime), for 1–3 months and assess if you feel they’re helping you. One word of warning: oil gets hot easily and can burn you, so don’t use a just-boiled hot water bottle.

6. Reduce inflammation.

It’s not just dairy that can trigger inflammation and result in painful periods; not getting sufficient sleep, processed foods, sugar, alcohol, gluten, simple carbs (pasta, bread, pastries), and nightshades (aubergine, peppers, and white potatoes) can all create inflammation, so it’s really worth making sure that you get enough good-quality sleep and avoiding or restricting likely causes of inflammation in your diet.

Again, there’s no point spending money on supplements if you’re surviving on beige food and sugar, and sinking half a bottle of wine every evening.

7. Try acupuncture and/or the Arvigo Techniques of Mayan Abdominal Therapy

It goes without saying that I’m biased towards these therapies because they’re the main therapies that I use with my clients (as well as reflexology and aromatherapy), but I’m biased towards them for good reason – they work!

They both help by moving the stagnant energy that can cause painful periods and are great ways of supporting your fertility and digestive health too.

So there you have it, my favourite tips for dealing with painful periods, give them a go for a few months and let me know how you get on!

Want to know more about your cycle, how to attune daily life to suit the phases of your cycle and get a boatload of self-care tips?

There are some spaces available for my Womb Tang Clan three month programme which starts Feb 25th and is entirely online. Plus, you’ll save £250 and only pay £147 if you decide to do it now. You can get the full details and book your spot here. My books are closed to new clients until July/August so this is currently the only way of working with me.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22792003
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23852908
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5791467/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15493566

Will you conceive in 2018?

I’m no Mystic Meg and this post isn’t about me predicting if you’ll conceive or not in 2018. But, if you’re planning on trying to conceive at some point this year, or even if you’ve been trying for a while, and you want to improve your fertility, then this post is for you.

Recently I’ve been hearing from a lot of women who are preparing to conceive, and that gets me feeling excited because not only do I love doing this work but I’m also impressed by their forward planning. For me, it’s always amazing to start working with a woman at least 3 months before she and her loved one start trying to conceive, but ideally before then. Not necessarily by treating her on a weekly basis, but definitely with the idea of making a plan and suggesting things that she and her partner can do on their own in the year that they’ll start trying to conceive.

The trouble is that my diary is pretty loaded at the moment, so because I’m not able to see all the women that I’d like to right now, I’ve put together some information to get you started. (more…)

What that wet patch in your knickers is all about

You’ve probably noticed that once in a while a wet patch appears in your knickers, in fact, there can be a hell of a lot of fluid down there, enough to make you question if you have something weird going on. But what you’re feeling and seeing is cervical fluid and it’s a sign of good health. Thank flip for that.

In fact, it’s massively important when it comes to your fertility.

Ferning CFProduced in the lead up to ovulation, it works in several wondrous ways by:

  • Letting you know you’re getting ready for the big O (ovulation). Cheaper, and in my opinion, more effective than ovulation sticks.
  • Making sex more comfortable due its lubricating nature (though it is different to the love juice you produce when you’re turned on).
  • Creating a route for sperm to get from your vagina and into your womb via your cervix.
  • Literally speeds sperm up on their epic journey to your egg.
  • Produces a ferning pattern to guide sperm on their merry way. Non-fertile fluid during the rest of your cycle stops them in their tracks (one of the ways the birth control pill works is by preventing you from producing fertile fluid).
  • Nourishing sperm to keep them alive and in tip-top shape.
  • Providing an alkaline environment which protects them from the acidic nature of your vagina (it’s acidic to help prevent infections).

(more…)

Detoxing this month?

img_3455So this is the time of year where lots of  “my year in review” blog posts have appeared, and although I’m sure you’re all desperate to hear about how 2013 was the year I realised I actually like egg mayo sandwiches, I’m not going to harp on about it.

It’s also the time of year where people start telling me about what they’re going to give up for their new years resolution. Maybe you’re determined to stop smoking come Jan 1st, or maybe you’re planning on detoxing somehow (unless of course you end up on a *really* fun night out, in which case, hello tequila).

Want to know my top tip for detoxing in January?

Don’t bother. Seriously.

This is a naff time of year to undertake massive change, we’re just trying to get through winter. Your body is trying to stay warm and nourished, so don’t go all hardcore on yourself, particularly you ladies who are trying to get knocked up. That means no juice detoxes. Yup, you heard me. Our bodies are in hibernation mode and juicing is too extreme for this time of year, save it for the energy of spring. Right now we want to be focussed on staying nourished.

Think of it like this.

My friends have just bought a house and it needs a bit of work done to it. They’re desperate to get cracking, gut the kitchen and rip down an external wall to build a larger room. Are they gonna do all that in January? Hell no. Doing that in the middle of the winter would mean exposing their lovely home to wind, cold and damp. Their home is just like your body, in other words, doing that kind of work would be a disaster which would cause long-term damage to their home, and your body. Instead, they’ve opted to install some loft insulation so that they keep their home nice and warm. They’re saving the bigger work for a more appropriate time of year.

Your body is your home, protect it.

  • Warming and strengthening foods are going to be more helpful than juices, which tend to cool our internal world down. Think root vegetables, whole grains, soups and broths, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, a bit of red meat.
  • Invest in a Haramaki, it’ll keep your core warm and you’ll never suffer from a builder’s bum.
  • Do not, I repeat, do not go outside in ballerina slippers, or in my case, converse. Cold readily enters the body through the feet, so go buy some thermal socks from M&S (I’ll be going into more detail about this next week).

Shameless plug:

Caught between wanting to go out and drink tequila, and making your own chicken stock? I’ve got another option for January: My Arvigo therapy offer will run till the end of Jan and I have 20 12 10 8 spots left. It’s great for reproductive health, fertility, digestion and emotional stuff (perfect after the holiday season). You can read more about it here.

One treatment: £90 (£35 off)

Three treatment bonus offer: £250 (£125 off)

This offer is short-term, the price will increase to £125 per session as of Feb 1st 2014, you’ll need to book and receive your treatment by the end of January. For the smart cookies wanting to book a course of three treatments, your first session must be before Feb 1st 2014, the other two treatments can roll over. If you’re ready to jump in, holla at me and let me know a few options with regards to times you can do in the coming weeks. Once we figure out a time, I’ll email you a pre-treatment form for you to fill in and return to me by email.

Part of the Ice Festival in Harbin, China, where I spent three months studying acupuncture in a large hospital. It was -32 degrees celsius.
Part of the Ice Festival in Harbin, China, where I spent three months studying acupuncture in a large hospital. It was -32 degrees celsius.

 

Ear infections; what you need to know.

Childhood ear infections are common. Chances are that if you’re a parent, you’ve had to deal with them at some point, and if you haven’t, you probably will.

Otitis media (the posh term) can be nothing more than a mild ache, but often it can develop into an excruciating pain or even a burst ear drum. Early signs of infection include irritability and restlessness, but you may not spot anything until he/she complains of earache or perhaps develops a fever. Babies will often raise their hand to their ear as they cry. Attacks are routed in either bacterial or viral infection which causes inflammation, and may be triggered by exposure to the wind or water (swimming/bathing), or if the child’s lymph glands are already swollen and causing constriction to the local area.

So what do you need to know?

First off, if you take your kid to see your GP or any other healthcare professional who wants to examine their ears, make sure they clean the flippin’ otoscope (the tool they use to look inside ears)!! One shocking study demonstrated that 86% of the otoscopes (also known as aurioscopes) sampled were covered in micro-organisms such as Staphylococci (64%) and in rarer cases, MRSA (9%). So before your child is examined, request that the otoscope head being used is disinfected. You can also ask for the good ear to be examined first, that way the risk of cross-infection from the bad ear to the good ear will be limited.

Do they need antibiotics?

Antibiotics are only effective when treating ear infections caused by bacteria, so they won’t help if your child’s infection is caused by a virus. One study examined 79 children and found that in 92% of cases, bacteria was present, and in 70% viruses were found. Both bacteria and viruses were found in 66% of cases. Medical practitioners have expressed concern about the overuse of antibiotics in the treatment of ear infections, particularly as children are more prone to negative side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and developing a skin rash. It is also worth considering that every time antibiotics are used to treat a non-serious infection, it increases the likelihood of developing resistance to antibiotics, which can mean more threatening infections could become untreatable.

Watchful waiting:

The British Medical Journal reported that contrary to popular belief, 80% of infections will clear up in 2-3 days without antibiotics, though as a concerned parent, you may find this hard!

Is there anything that you CAN do to help?

Gently massaging along the San Jiao meridian, which runs up the outer edge of the arm, before looping its way around the ear, can help during an acute attack. To do so, first calm yourself. If you’re anxious and concerned about your child (let’s face it, it’s reasonable that you would be), they will probably pick up on it which may exacerbate things. So, take a moment and do some calm relaxed breathing, meditate, or visualise the positive energy you’re going to use to help your child. When you feel relaxed, gently hold their forearm in yours and using your thumb, massage down the channel, from the tip of the elbow to the back of their hand. The channel lies in the centre of the forearm, between the two long bones, so is pretty easy to find. Repeat this downward massage 30-50 times. This is a lovely way for parents to help their children as they benefit from such loving care. Don’t we all?

Essential oils of Lavender or Chamomile can be helpful; put 2-3 drops on a teaspoon of warm olive oil and gently pour into the ear (1 drop for babies).

Niu Huang Jie Du Pien is a patent herbal remedy which can be used during an acute attack, and often acts quickly to reduce pain.

Acupuncture treatment can be swift and effective, and its holistic framework allows time to explore the reasons why it’s become a problem in a first place. Don’t worry, only a few points are used (mainly nowhere near the ear), and the needles only go in for a moment.

If your child is cold and pale, a small slither of garlic can be inserted into the ear and held in place with a small piece of cotton wool, but only needs to be left in for an hour or two.

So that’s the basics, if you have experience of other remedies, I’d love to hear about them!

Beat the Blues

Hello folks,

I’m sat at La Bouche, drinking a cup of chai and looking out at the grey clouds and drizzle. This typically British weather used to really get me down, and I’m wondering how you’re feeling about the next couple of months. Are you someone who tends to feel low during the winter?

If you do, please take a breath and give yourself a break. Let’s face it, winter in England can be hard, and most of my clients are affected by the winter months to some degree. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s normal to feel different, now that’s not to say you should put up with things, it’s simply that it’s normal for us to experience variations in our physical and emotional bodies as the seasons change (you can read more about what happens during winter here). What’s ok and what’s not? That really depends on how you experience these changes and whether you feel it’s an issue for you. If it is something you struggle with…

Can you imagine how different your life would be if you didn’t suffer with the winter blues?

Your mind would feel clear and focused, your body light. You would wake up in the morning feeling energised after a restful night’s sleep. You’d feel grounded and calm in your body. The pressure would lift, and instead of all that negative mental chatter, you’d treat yourself kindly and with respect. Ultimately, you’d shine on the inside even when it’s gloomy outside.

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Maybe right now that all feels impossible because this is what’s going on for you:

  1. Your mind feels a bit fuzzy. It’s as if there’s a fog which stops you from thinking clearly.
  2. Sometimes your body feels heavy and empty, and at other times you feel overwhelmed by the amount of emotion your body is trying to contain.
  3. You feel like nothing is going right. Maybe you’ve lost your sense of purpose and feel disconnected from the world.
  4. When you get into bed at night, your mind races and it takes you a long time to fall asleep.
  5. Even if you sleep well at night, you feel sluggish in the morning and it takes you a few hours and several cups of coffee to get going.
  6. You’ve lost your appetite, or you’ve noticed that you’re comfort eating a lot.
  7. There’s a heaviness in your chest, or maybe you experience palpitations.
  8. You feel alone, even when you’re around other people.
  9. There are times when you feel deep levels of sadness/anxiety/fear.
  10. The simplest of things seem to require a tremendous amount of effort.[/notice]

You’ve probably tried talking with loved ones, taking supplements or antidepressants, or doing some form of exercise. You may have sought comfort in self-destructive ways, or perhaps your way of coping is to seek out some sunshine by taking a holiday every winter. Hell, there ain’t nothing wrong with taking a trip like that, but wouldn’t it be nice to resolve what’s going on so that that became an option as oppose to a necessity?

I get it. 

I’ve been there, in that slump, you know the one I mean, the one where you feel so lost and down that you can’t see a way out. The one where you know you need to reach out and ask for help, but at the same time, you just can’t. I know how frustrating that can be.

That’s why I’ve created Beat the Blues: My intention with this six-week treatment programme is to help you shift from feeling clouded and low, to feeling clear and uplifted.

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What’s included?

  1. An in-depth consultation. That doesn’t mean I need to know the inner workings of your mind, in fact, we hardly need to touch on what’s going on mentally for you (unless you want to), as your physical signs and symptoms will give me a clear idea of what’s going on for you.
  2. Six 45 minute acupuncture sessions. It’s your time, you’ll have space to be you, no judgement, no pressure. You might want to drift off and doze, you might want to talk about what’s going on for you, you might want to peacefully let go of what you’ve been holding on to. It truly is all ok.
  3. One hour of reflexology or massage. If you’re anything like me, just the thought of this creates space and lightness in your body. Lots of my patients have commented that having soothing bodywork alongside the series of acupuncture sessions really helps them to let go of tension that they may have been storing for years, and that’s why I love to include reflexology and massage in my acupuncture packages.

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You’ll also learn:

  1. A few basic principles of Chinese Medicine which will help to explain why you’re feeling the way you are. Most patients feel a great sense of relief when what they’re experiencing is framed in this way, suddenly what they feel is “weird”, becomes common sense.
  2. What dietary and lifestyle changes will aid your treatment the most, but don’t worry, I’m not a hard-ass **cough, cough**, I’d rather help you to make changes which feel appropriate for where you’re at, and which will be also be long-lasting.

What can you expect?

  1. Permission to unplug and take some time out to be kind to yourself.
  2. Acknowledgement of what’s going on for you at the moment. I’m not going to be leaning over you as you try to relax and enjoy your treatment, telling you exactly what you need to do to “fix your life”. No, no, no, you’re the driver, I’m just the attendant at the petrol station helping you on your journey.
  3. Sensitivity and compassion. Oh boy, we could all do with a big dose of this! Simply put, I’m not going to be another well-meaning person telling you to “look on the bright side and be grateful for what you have in your life”.

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Beat the Blues will fit you perfectly if:

  1. The list in the first yellow box pretty much described your current situation.
  2. You want to address the root of why you feel the way you do without but a talking therapy doesn’t appeal to you at the moment.
  3. You’re feel like you’re at your breaking point and want some help.
  4. You’re considering starting to take antidepressants or interested in coming off them.

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Another approach might be more suitable if: 

  1. You’re mainly interested in talking to someone.
  2. You want to explore issues from your past (acupuncture can support you in this, but a qualified and reputable psychotherapist is likely to be your best form of primary treatment).

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Beat the Blues is £350 (£40 less than what it all adds up to).

To recap, that includes your consultation, six 45 minute acupuncture sessions, and one hour of massage or reflexology.

If you’d like to get the money side of things out of the way, you can pay all at once by bank transfer/cheque. Or if paying week by week suits you better, that’s also fine.

My request is that you book all of your appointments at the end of your first session, that way you know you have something positive and helpful to look forward to every week, and it prioritises taking care of yourself at a time when you need it most.

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What else could you spend £350 on?

  1. 35 burgers.
  2. A one way ticket to Bangkok (actually this comes in at £400, still it’s tempting…)
  3. A weekend yoga retreat (Naomi has one coming up in April if you’re interested).
  4. A pricey pair of new shoes!

All hugely tempting I’m sure, but my guess is that you’re ready for long-lasting change, right now.

➥ If you’d like to schedule an appointment or have a 15 minute phone consultation, please email me to arrange this.

Some recent testimonials:

“I’ve battled with depression on and off for years and last year I hit rock bottom. Thankfully a friend recommended Maisie. I spent a large part of my first treatment crying, and she didn’t try to cheer me up or find a way to get me to stop…it was such a relief to let go of my mask and tell someone how sad and angry I was. When she explained my treatment plan to me, it all made sense, she asked me if it felt like I had a heavy wet blanket on top of me all the time, which was exactly how I felt! Within three treatments I felt like a new woman.” 

“Issues with stress, anxiety, emotions were treated to make me a more relaxed and content individual- it certainly didn’t go unnoticed by my friends. Maisie’s ears must constantly be burning because as soon as anyone tells me they suffer from anxiety, the first person I mention to go to is her- I couldn’t recommend Maisie highly enough.” 

“I feel my health improving with each session and the physical experience during treatment remarkable. I feel more calm and energised than ever before. Maisie really knows and loves what she practices and her passion really comes across, she is a constant inspiration to me. Thank you Maisie for helping me put a spring back in my step.”

“At the beginning of the treatment she asked me how I wanted to feel, “grounded” was my answer. One hour later I was so utterly connected to the earth I felt I had become almost part of it! It was the most energised, connected and stable I had felt all week.”

 

Going inward

Winter is the season when roots hide underground in preparation for Spring, because mother nature knows that to do anything other than rest would be foolish. So if the thought of getting up off your couch for another Christmas party really doesn’t appeal, don’t worry, this is normal!

During Winter you should store and conserve your energy, don’t be wasteful with it. This is a time to rest, replenish, and reflect. To turn inward.

Winter is about warming and nourishing your body, so:

  • Include lots of ‘warming’ foods in your diet such as root vegetables, whole grains, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne, soups, and broths. A small amount of red meat is also beneficial.
  • Stay away from ‘cooling’ foods such as salads, especially cucumbers, raw tomatoes, and watermelons.
  • Rest more.
  • Exercise to keep your body warm and your energy moving.

Chinese medicine associates Winter with the water phase of the 5 element cycle, and the Kidneys and Bladder are the ‘Water’ organs. Unhelpfully, the organs we know in Chinese medicine, were translated into the names of Western medical organs (Liver, Spleen, Heart etc), so it’s important to remember that although they may share similar functions, they are different, and have a broader range of functions.

The Kidneys, as well as regulating water in the body (as they do in Western medicine), are also responsible for reproduction, growth, and development, as well as storing our ‘essence’ or ‘vital life force’. They do not like the cold, so it’s vital that we protect them. This can be done easily by keeping your lower back warm and protected from the elements, and by not wearing ballerina slippers!! The Kidney meridian starts on the sole of the foot, so do yourself a favour and keep your feet nice and toasty to prevent cold from invading.

Water has a rhythm and a flow that is governed by the gravitational pull of the moon, and as the planet’s oceans expand and contract, so do our internal oceans. The water in our bodies can flow freely or stagnate, flood or cause a drought, and this is reflected in our emotions.

A new season brings stress and change, and as the emotion linked to the Kidneys is fear, when Winter arrives, we can find ourselves lacking in courage and willpower. It’s a hard time of year to start a new project, so try to save your new projects for the Spring, when nature’s new shoots burst through the earth full of energy to propel them forward.

Illness imposes stillness, so if you do find yourself feeling poorly and retreating to your bed, use the opportunity to feel the inner changes that are occurring deep within, face your fears, and create a more reflective existence.

“The kidney is the ocean of the human body. Since oceans are situated on a lower level than the earth’s streams and rivers, they draw every one of them to form one large body of water. Oceans may appear vast and inexhaustible, yet they still drain off some of their seemingly unlimited supply. One way of drainage is called ‘going to ruins,’ meaning the water drains down into the earth from where it will not return. The other way of drainage is called ‘dwelling with the stars,’ meaning the water steams toward the sky and later rains down to earth again, where it dissipates into rivers and streams and eventually returns to the ocean. This is the water that circulates between heaven and earth, always striving to keep an equilibrium between the extreme states of drought and flooding.” -From Zhuang Yuanchen, Shujuzi: Inner Chapters (Shujuzi Neipian), Ming Dynasty.

Hurry up and tie things up.

Over the past month or so I’ve realised that with most of my projects, I tend to get to 80% finished, feel a sense of achievement and then, yep, you guessed it, move on to something else. Do you do the same?

Think about it, what things are hanging over your head? What do you keep putting off?

My list:

  • File my tax return (thankfully Rosie from One Man Band Accounting is on hand to help with this).
  • Study for (and pass) my paediatric acupuncture exam.
  • Go through my emails and make sure I’m up to date before the holidays.
  • Buy some picture frames (one of my acupuncture patients gave me some of her amazing prints as a gift this year).
  • Order business cards.
  • Figure out how to schedule appointments and receive payments online.
  • Get some hinges from Ikea (they sent me a wardrobe but didn’t include any hinges, the door has been leaning against my wall for months now).
  • Mail all the lovely cards I bought this year for the special folk who have touched my life. I have a terrible habit in that I go out and find the perfect card, write it and then promptly forget to mail it. See? 80%

So what’s the hurry?

In the lead up to Christmas, our focus tends to be on socialising and buying presents, but over the next fortnight I’m urging you to get s**t done. You heard me, get it done. January is the most depressing month of the year, and when it rolls around you do not want a load of unfinished stuff niggling away at you. Is this sounding familiar? I’ve certainly been there.

With the arrival of Winter on the 21st of December, our bodies and minds will undertake the natural process of turning inward; our version of hibernating. Our bodies will seek to preserve and protect by holding on to our internal energy and warmth. This is the reason that we should take care to nourish ourselves and not put ourselves under physical or mental strain. Winter is not the season to detox or start a new project that requires a lot of input, save that for the energy of Spring. Instead, tie up any loose ends and give yourself some space.

Space for what?

How about some space to be gentle and kind to yourself, space to reflect on 2012, to consider what you’ve learned and achieved, space to daydream about whatever it is that makes your soul sing, perhaps plan how you can do more of that in 2013. How about some space for stillness? If you’ve never tried meditation, this is a great time of year to give it a go as it can decrease your stress levels whilst boosting your immunity and energy levels. Get Some Headspace is a great place to start, particularly as they have a free ten-day trial. Find the idea of meditation a bit scary? So did I. In fact it seemed impossible, but just doing ten mins a day made it accessible, and now I love my Headspace app. If you’re feeling daunted, just remember that it’s not about clearing your mind of thoughts (which is why it felt impossible to me), it’s about allowing thoughts and feelings to come up, but instead of being attached to them, you’re able to view them with clarity, and bit by bit, let go of things. If you’d like to know more, check out Headspace’s super cool animations below.

So what are you putting off, and how much time are you spending thinking about these things? How much time and energy could you save if instead of spending hours procrastinating, you just did them?

Imagine how it will feel to breathe that sweet sigh of relief when you finally finish things off.

Now go and take care of business.

 

The first issue of Coven is out!

There aren’t many magazines on the shelves that I feel are for me, so I was really happy to hear about Coven, a new women’s magazine that’s all about action, art, and adventure.

Issue one features Roisin Dunne (talented artist), Lisa Rands (professional climber), Rose Choules (shoe designer and maker), Jenny Jones (snowboarder), Shanice Silvia Cruz (BMXer), and Christina Panteliodisa (fixed gear freestyle rider).

Oh yeah, and I’m their health columnist.

It’s available in print, and online here.