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Put Yourself First

It has been more than a year since Covid19 hit South African shores.  And here we are, wearing masks, sanitising and keeping our distance from others.  Add to this all the usual stresses you may experience like work or financial stress, relationships, kids and school obligations… you may be starting to feel like you’re at your rope’s end.  How are you coping?  Are you remembering to take good care of yourself so that you will be able to take care of your loved ones?

To understand exactly what selfcare is, it is important to understand what it is not.  It is not selfish and it is not about indulgence.  Selfcare is all about adopting healthy habits in order to take care of your body, mind and soul.  It’s about spending time with yourself, doing what you love.  

Who even has time for this, you ask.  It’s crucial that you understand that you need to be a priority in your life.  Not third, or second, but your very first.  This doesn’t mean that your partner or your children or your job will suffer.  It simply means that you need to fill your tank with fuel so that you are able to fill all the other roles you may have.  Balance, as is so often the case, is at play here.  Spending 90% of  your day on your own needs every day will only leave you with 10% of your time available for other obligations.  This will obviously throw the balance off, important things will not get done and you will most likely be perceived as selfish and/or a lazy bum.  

When I think of selfcare, I’m reminded of the cabin crew on an airplane, instructing parents to secure their own oxygen masks before that of their children, in case of cabin depressurisation.  In the same way, we need to take care of our personal needs first.

Let’s look at a few examples of healthy selfcare habits.

Hobbies and exploring personal interests are always a good start.  If you love doing something, make time for it.  Set aside an hour or two per week to work on a craft project, to garden, golf or learn a skill you are curious about.  Take a class, watch a DIY video and get cracking.  Just put it in your diary and do it.  It can even be reading a book you’ve had on your nightstand for a while.

Exercise does not have to be a burden.  If you’re not into cardio or going to the gym, simply go for a walk.  Move your body the way it was designed to.  And if you love music or listening to podcasts or audio books, you can even combine the two.  Exercise has so many benefits, we’re sure you’ve heard it all.  Again, schedule the best time for you to take 30 minutes or so to be active and just do it.

Reflecting and journaling is something not many people talk about.  It is probably the best habit to aid mental health and wellbeing.  To reflect and journal means that you become quiet and calm and allow your thoughts to spill out on paper.  You don’t have to analyse or judge anything.  Think about your actions, reactions and thoughts and how you would prefer to do better next time.  You can also praise yourself for wins, motivate yourself for tasks ahead or simply visualise yourself as the best version of you.  You can even write about a conflict you are experiencing and try to make sense of it by writing out both sides.  We recommend keeping a journal.  This can be a little notebook for you to jot down your daily thoughts, aspirations, wishes, accomplishments and things you are grateful for.  Journaling has long been prescribed by counselors and psychologists.  It can help you overcome challenges, cope with overwhelming emotions, stay focussed, keep on track with goals and generally, we find that it helps quiet the mind and form tangible thoughts – almost like making proper sentences from all the disjointed words and phrases running through the mind.

If you’re interested in taking up journaling, get your free copy of the journal that helped Kareema overcome stress and trauma and essentially, take back her life.

More selfcare options for you to explore

  • More sleep, less screen time
  • Spend more quality, recreational time with loved ones
  • Eat nutritious food
  • Look for opportunities to laugh regularly
  • Go ahead, pamper yourself now and then

Like any new habit, it takes time to settle into it and make it a way of life.  Give yourself a lot of time and don’t be too hard on yourself.  The one most valuable tip I can give you is to start doing the things the person you want to be would do.  Before you know it, you will look back over time and notice that you have become that person.

Healthy Gut, Healthy Mind

Did you know scientists estimate that there are as many bacterial cells in the human body as there are human cells?  While that doesn’t mean we are half germ, it does give us an idea as to how important a role bacteria might play in our health and wellbeing.

Bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms appear throughout the body, making up the microbiome.  It is the bacteria that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, called gut bacteria or gut flora, that we have become most concerned with in recent years.  

Healthy individuals have between 300 to 500 different kinds of bacteria living in their gut.  Some bacteria fight inflammation and others promote inflammation. While they are in balance all is good as they keep one another in check.   When the balance is disturbed, the inflammatory bacteria could take over and create metabolites that pass through the lining of the gut into the bloodstream and cause inflammation in other parts of the body.   

Some types of bacteria in the gut can lead to other health conditions.  Studies have shown a link between certain types of bacteria and immune function, asthma and allergies, some chronic diseases and even cancer.  

The gut and the brain are connected by nerves, the biggest of which is called the Vagus Nerve.  It delivers signals both to and from the brain and the gut.  This communication system is called the gut-brain axis and it is why anxiety can cause digestive problems.  It could also explain why we can physically feel a knot or butterflies in our stomach.  Since the gut reports to the brain about its wellbeing it is not surprising then that gut health has been linked to anxiety, depression and some neurological conditions.  

Every microbiome is unique and it is the diversity of bacteria and an optimal balance that are key to a healthy body and mind.  

You can incorporate a few good habits to stay on top of your gut health.  Here is a list of our top healthy habits for good gut health.

  • Drink bone broth

One of the many benefits of bone broth is its gut-healing properties. Gelatine in bone broth helps to repair the intestinal lining and reduces inflammation.

  • Eat prebiotics

Prebiotics are foods containing insoluble fibre that feeds gut bacteria.  Good sources of prebiotics are onions, legumes and garlic.

  • Get quality sleep

Sleep deprivation is poison to the brain and what is good for the brain is good for the body.

  • Stress less

The microbiome is negatively affected by stress.  Try to limit stress and anxiety by doing yoga, meditation or journaling and getting regular exercise.

  • Limit alcohol and caffeine

Alcohol and caffeine are both digestive stimulants and are known to disrupt the digestive process.  Overdoing either can cause major bacterial imbalance in the gut.

In good health – body and mind – balance is always a factor.  Restoring balance in any aspect of your life can be challenging.  It also takes time.  Sustaining good gut health is an ongoing practice.  Don’t expect to see results overnight, as it can take up to 6 months to fully restore the balance between good and bad bacteria in your gut.  Focus on incorporating new health practices over time and keep them up.  Your gut health will improve and by then your new habits will be established.  

What you’ll need:

  • The carcass of a roasted chicken
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Apple cider vinegar

Method: 

Place the bones in a big stock pot and cover generously with water (about 3 liters).  Add a little salt, you can always add more later.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  This helps to draw the gelatine from the bones.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook for at least 10 to 12 hours.  It should be reduced to about 6 to 8 cups.  Strain the broth and use it in cooking or enjoy it as is. Warm, comforting and super nourishing.

You can also make bone broth from beef bones. It is advisable to roast the bones first as this really enriches the flavor.  We love that you can repurpose a roast chicken after enjoying a lovely meal.  Experiment with this basic recipe and add herbs and spices to your liking.  Enjoy!

Healthy Relationships – Five Tips To Cultivate Connection

Healthy Relationships – Five Tips To Cultivate Connection

Around the world February is known as the Month of Love.  It offers us an opportunity to be a little romantic, do something special with our partners or just express appreciation.  Of course, this behaviour should not be limited to one day or month of the year!  

Healthy romantic relationships require continuous work, commitment and a willingness to adapt and change with your partner.  The most important aspects of a healthy relationship that need our attention are open and honest communication, keeping outside relationships and interests alive, respectful disagreement, and maintaining a meaningful emotional connection.  

While these are all worth a closer look, in this article we’d like the focus on the latter; maintaining connection.  

Spending quality time with each other, face to face, is a sure-fire way to keep the flame alive.  Remember when your relationship was just starting out?  You probably have many fond memories of when you first started dating.  It was all new and exciting.  You likely spent many hours just chatting and doing new, fun things together.  As time goes by and the demands of life, work and family increase we often find it harder and harder to make time for our partners.  

Consider that we fall in love while looking at and listening to each other.  It makes perfect sense that when we continue this behaviour we should be able to sustain the falling in love experience over the long term.  While texting and voice notes have a purpose, when it comes to healthy romantic relationships, we need face-to-face communication.  Digital communication just does not positively impact the brain and nervous system in the same way face-to-face communication does. 

Here are FIVE things you can do to make sure the time you spend with your loved one matters.

 

Commit to regularly spending quality time together. No matter how busy you are, take a few minutes each day to put aside your job, your to-do list and all your electronic devices. Clear your thoughts and focus on and connect with your partner.  This could be your daily check-in with each other, a quick connection, or a reminder that you care for each other and play on the same team.  

 

 

Find something that you enjoy doing together.  This could be a shared hobby, a dance class, a daily walk, or just sitting over a cup of coffee.  Sharing enjoyable activities enhances intimacy and cultivates connections.

 

 

Try something new together.  Exploring new activities or places can be a fun way to connect and keep things interesting. It can be something as simple as trying a new restaurant or going on a short trip or excursion to a place you’ve never been to before.

 

 

Focus on having fun together. In the early stages of a relationship couples are often more fun and playful. It is this playful attitude that is sometimes forgotten as life starts to throw challenges our way and it may get in the way.  Playfulness and humor can help you get through testing time, reduce stress and resolve issues more easily. Try to come up with playful ways to surprise your partner, like an unexpected gift or booking a table at their favorite restaurant out of the blue. You can also reconnect with your playful side by playing games, with your kids and with pets.

 

 

Do things together that benefit others.  A very powerful way of cultivating your connection as a couple is to do something together that you both value but is outside of the relationship. Giving back to your community by joining a cause you both believe in, spending time on it, volunteering together can do wonders for your relationship. The benefits include meeting new people and being exposed to new ideas, creating an opportunity for you and your partner to work on a challenge together as a team. As well as helping to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, Doing things to benefit others not only helps to relieve stress, anxiety and depression, it also gives great pleasure.  Our human need to help others is part of our genetic make up and the more we help, the happier we feel, both as an individual and as a couple.

A healthy romantic relationship adds to both partners’ overall well-being.  It is supported by communication, respect, and boundaries. A healthy relationship requires more than just shared interests and feelings for each other. It requires two people who understand each other, care for each other while also caring for themselves.

“When two people respect each other, the ability to be vulnerable and to reveal their feelings can create a powerful emotional connection that is the source of real intimacy and friendship.”  – David D Burns

Renovating, Upgrading, Shifting

…this has been the theme of my life for the last 3 months.

Having purchased a property towards realizing our dream of a wellness Centre some 10months ago – little did my husband and I realize that in renovating the property, we ourselves would be breaking down and rebuilding aspects of our relationship and ourselves.

Its as though, each wall that was smashed down at the Centre, revealed a piece of me that was nicely bricked up inside. And once that piece was dislodged there was no way I could squeeze it back, it wouldn’t fit no matter which cement I used. I had to look at it, declare it ‘useless’ right now, acknowledge that it served a significant purpose previously but now needed to be replaced – upgraded! And find the correct dimension, colour, material to replace it.

Wow! Processing and shifting all the way….

So while ‘Wellness on Alon’ has been in the birthing process – I feel an intense 3 months later (with the finish line in sight) – I too have been rebirthing!

I lie here in my bed mentally fatigued, emotionally exhausted and physically damaged!

It was just two days ago that I twisted an ankle at the building site – that brought me to a dead stop and forced me to look at my battered and bruised foot, my unkempt hair, my sunburnt skin and more importantly the woman in the mirror whom I just don’t recognize well enough anymore. I was forced to truly ‘see’ her and take the time to familiarize myself with her new and improved ‘spaces’ and also patiently mourn away the too-familiar aspects of her (whether they were needed or not), that were comforting, and now refurbished.

Change my friends, is the order of the day. It seems like the last quarter of 2018 is all about software upgrades coming quick and fast and then trying to get the hardware that seems a bit outdated to adjust to the software upgrades.

So right now, I’m thanking my weak ankle- and for me its about pausing… pausing to integrate the new aspects of myself, getting myself familiarized with all my changes and appreciating the smell of the new leather. I choose to do this and be patient and gentle with myself – surrounding myself with loved ones and nature- all who feel privileged to support me.

‘The Universe conspires with you’

Stay Blessed

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