Passive v’s Active Relaxation

Inspirational15

I have a dirty little secret which I’m feeling strong enough to tell you about… I love, and I mean LOVE, trashy reality TV. The more dramatic, immoral and outlandish the better. I consider a night in front of the Kardashians, ‘The Real Housewives’ and if I’m lucky, an episode or two of ‘Geordie Shore’ to be pure heaven.

Trash tv

For years I used to think that watching TV was considered to be a way of relaxing and have only recently admitted to myself that after I gorge on TV I never feel in anyway relaxed.  Then I came across this lovely piece on ‘Self Care’ by Kris Carr and I started to realise that there’s a difference between Passive and Active relaxation and it all started to make sense…

The Science Bit

Taking it back for a moment to why we need to relax – basically throughout the day our bodies react to stressful situations by releasing the ‘fight or flight’ stress hormone Cortisol.

It’s called this as back in the day this would give us that extra rush of energy and clarity needed to allow us to, say, leg it from a hungry looking Sabre Tooth Tiger. However, today stressful situations come in so many shapes and sizes- traffic, queues, deadlines, presentations, technology crashing at inopportune times, cold calling… (Gaaah, I’m stressing myself out even thinking about it all!) which our body treats like Mr Sabre Tooth and sends constant shots of Cortisol around our system.

saber-tooth-cat

While small, well timed shots of Cortisol can be lifesaving, it isn’t good to have it sloshing around our system 24/7 as over time it adds pressure to our adrenals, hinders our immune system, negatively effects our digestion and messes with our delicate hormones.

It turns out that some people’s systems are better at reacting to the release of Cortisol then others, these magic people can counteract a stressful day by engaging in passive relaxation methods (e.g. TV watching) and feel great afterwards, while others (me!) need ‘active relaxation’ to counteract the effects and stabilise their system.

Active Relaxation

I know ‘active relaxation’ sounds a bit like an oxymoron but it’s referring to relaxation which you actually have to be engaged in, like a yoga class, taking 30 minutes to unwind in a hot bath, meditating, concentrating on deep breathing, going for a walk- whatever it is that makes you feel zen afterwards. For me it doesn’t involve sticking on the box, slumping on the couch and watching trash TV while checking my iphone/ ipad every 60 seconds, I end up feeling more hyped up after that then beforehand!

Therefore when I’ve had a stressful day I’m now trying (trying being the operative word here!) to set aside some ‘active relaxation’ time by getting on my yoga mat, going for a walk or doing a Chakra Cleans (Ha! How ‘woo woo’ does that sound?! I’ll tell you more about it another time!) and stabilise my system… before I get stuck into that bottle of wine and Kardashian reruns!!  😉

08f7047dd363fb6fc0ac0026ce5817241

My Social Media Blackout

social-media-profiles

Before I go any further I just want to give you a little taster to what my Social Media addiction looked like — warning: this ain’t going to be pretty. I was the person who checked either Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram (or all 3 on a really bad day) the minute I woke up, I was the person who would check Facebook if I had to wait for even a moment, be it in a line, waiting on someone to arrive, in traffic (totally illegal I know!), while I ate, while I watched TV, while I was supposed to be working, while I was supposed to be working out, and then again, ‘just in case’ before going asleep. There just did not seem to be any designated ‘Facebook time’, it was a flippen free for all!

So, before I graduated and became one of those people who need to check their Facebook account while in meetings or while practicing Yoga I decided to quit, to press the ‘reset button’ on my addiction and remind myself how ludicrous it is to crave seeing that little red digit

social media The Year of Doing: June’s Verdict

I expected this would be a painful and lonely month, however the funny thing was that once I deactivated my Facebook account, deleted my Twitter and Instagram Apps from my phone and ipad I felt a sudden surge of calm and release rush over me. I felt relieved to have ‘opted out’ of the constant contact and stimulation.

I found myself using life’s pauses, whether it was in traffic, waiting on a lunch order, waiting on the kettle to boil to actually take stock of my surroundings, check in with myself and generally just let my brain have free reign and just be (deep or what?!).

vintage-social-networking

A surprising aside of this experiment was that meditation was a lot easier than it used to be. My brain just seemed to be more accepting of alone time, not quieter (never quieter), but calmer.

However I definitely missed the human interaction that comes from Facebook and found myself sending pointless texts and emails to people just to have some kind of contact with friends I don’t physically see too often, you know, just to make sure they are still alive and that something momentous hadn’t happened to them which I didn’t know about!

In conclusion, as of this afternoon I’ve reactivated my Social Media accounts, but I’ve deleted all ‘notifications’ and aim to use it sparingly and (hopefully) not get sucked back in… fingers crossed!

Meditation: A Work In Progress

meditation

This is a review of how the 4th month of my ‘The Year of Doing’ went…

Take Up- Meditation

I’ve attempted meditation in the past, I’ve been on a couple of meditation courses where I mainly spent the meditation time thinking of what insightful yet humorous thing I was going to say when the facilitator asked the group for feedback. My brain just does not want to stop and if it does it goes, ‘Oh look at that, I just stopped there for a mil second!’.

So, it’s safe to say I was dreading this month’s challenge and I’m sorry to say I failed, I failed sooo badly.

Look, I know all the benefits that supposedly come from regular meditation:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves sleep
  • Makes your brain stronger and helps you concentrate better
  • Reduces stress and tension
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Increased energy

But it’s so bloody boring!!!

When I sit down to meditate this is what happens:

Eimear: OK now Brain we are going to sit here for 20 minutes, just me and you and think of nothing. You hear me? Nothing.

Brain: Ha, yeah right.

Eimear: Don’t be cheeky. Right let’s get started. OK, right, I’m relaxing my body, from my toes right up to my scalp. Mmmmmmm I’m all relaxed and tingly. Now I’m concentrating on my breathing- in and out, in and out.

Brain: Silence

Eimear: In and out, in and out.

Brain: This is going pretty well.

Eimear: In and out, in and out.

Brain: Maybe I’m actually a meditation genius and I can hold classes and write books about meditation and travel the word teaching people how to meditate. Oh and then I’ll probably be invited on Oprah’s Soul Sundays and talk about how great and easy meditation is. Oh crap… What would I wear?

Eimear: Shhhhhhhhhhhhh. Breath in and out. Concentrating on the breath

Brain: Oh ‘Revenge’ is on tonight, yusssss.

Brain: Hummmm, what’s in the fridge? Eggs, mushrooms, spinach- maybe an omelette for dinner?

Brain: My back’s a bit sore from all this ‘sitting up straight’ malarkey-  I’ve such bad posture.

Brain: I need to book that hair appointment

Brain: Silence

Brain:  I wonder which member of One Direction will turn out to be gay?

Eimear: Excuse me?! We. are. trying. to. meditate!! My GOD. OK, concentrating on the breath.

Brain: Silence

Eimear: Silence

Brain: Probably that Zane fella.

Eimear: For fucks sake, right that’s it. This is over, you are USLESS.

Brain: Yippee, let’s go have that omelette.

See?! I end up exhausted and warn out.

But- I will not be beat! I’ve decided from now on, instead of trying to tear myself away from some activity to go and meditate, I’ll just slot meditation into an activity I’m already doing, like when I drink my morning cup of hot water and lemon I try to concentrate on the moment or each time I finish a Yogaglo class I’ll take 10/15 at the end to try and meditate. As they say practice makes perfect and I feel I need this.

Change takes time

A (lunch) break from the norm

Dalkey

I tore myself away from my desk this lunchtime and went out to Dalkey to pick up some dandelion tea and a fun filled pitta (falafel and spinach) from Select Stores. Jeeze, the outside world is so much better then eating a limp sambo at my desk any day! 🙂

2013 The Year of Doing, March

2013

2013 has been christened the ‘The Year of Doing’ by myself and my friends. It’s the year to stop talking about doing things and actually do them. To get the ball rolling I’ve broken the things I want to try ‘give up’ and things I’ve always wanted to ‘take up’ into different monthly challanges! Each one will last for the month before I report back on how it went. This is my review of how my 3rd month went…

Give Up: Meat + Fish

In my early teenage years I ‘went veggie’ for a few years for humanitarian reasons, that was until one cold Irish morning I woke up to the smell of my Dad cooking the family a fry up- rashers, sausages, pudding, eggs and mushrooms.

smiley face fryThat is one tantalising smell… Something inside me broke, I forgot about the poor pink piggies and I legged it downstairs ordering him to divvy me up ‘2 rashers, sausages and an egg- STAT!’ I haven’t looked back since, and eat meat/ fish with most meals, until this month…

I decided I wanted to try this no meat/ fish challenge for the following reasons:

  • Through my Wellness research I was totally grossed out to learn how commercial farming routinely administers low-dose antibiotics to their livestock to prevent disease spreading in the unsanitary conditions they keep the animals and also to promote rapid growth. The effects these antibiotics have on humans is disputable, but it’s safe to say that every time we eat a piece of factory farmed chicken/ beef, or dairy for that matter, we’re eating antibiotics, pesticides, steroids and hormones. Mmmmm, nom nom…

Shocker alert- half of all the antibiotics made in the US are administered each year to animals!

  • According to The Blood Type Diet (which I blogged here) my digestion system would better suit a veggie diet. As I’ve always had a very dodgy digestion this sounded pretty good to me.
  • I’ve been faily freaked out by the Horse Meat Scandal which rocked Europe over the last few months and worry that this story maybe the tip of a food fraud iceberg…

So how did the month go? This was a weird one, a game of two half’s if you will…

The first two weeks were great.

  • I loved cooking all the different veggies and trying out the veggie options when eating out. Actually I think I’ll do a blog post or two on all the yummy stuff I ate 🙂
  • My veggie intake soared and I was easily eating my 5 a day, everyday
  • My digestion system was the best it has ever been, with a massive reduction in bloating, gas, too little or too much pooping!
  • I also managed to get other people on board by cooking a delish 3 course veggie Mother’s Day meal for the rentals. I also got my carnivore boyfriend to eat more vegetables- he knowingly ate kale for the first time and loved it!

In the 2nd two weeks everything came crashing down. I found I was hungry ALL THE TIME. I would wake in the morning with hunger pangs which were actually painful and never felt truly full after a meal. I also realised my energy and motivation had reduced greatly. And to make matters worse, I was putting on weight (4 pounds over the month!).

Verdict: I am not a vegetarian. I would love to be able to be one and think it’s a very healthy decision to make but I don’t think it’s a diet that suits me. However I’ve decided I’m defiantly not going to be as reliant on meat and fish as I once was.  This month has made me realise I had a massive over reliance on meat- a meal wasn’t considered to be an actual meal in my mind unless there was a portion on meat somewhere on the plate.

So, instead of being a meat eater who also eats vegetables on the side, I’m going to be a veggie eater who sometimes eats meat/ fish on the side (all of which I will try and ensure are organic/ sustainable).

Take Up: Reading

Reading

Something happened about 5 years ago that stopped my good habit of reading each night before going asleep… the introduction of my iphone. Since then my iphone (and subsequent ipad) has monopolised my spare time and my books sit unread, like neglected children, on my bookshelf.

I miss reading. I miss the feeling you have when you have a good book waiting for you. I also think my English and vocabulary is getting bader (!) without reading regularly.

Therefore I embraced this ‘challenge’ like an old friend.

I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon pottering though 2nd hand book shops in The Blackrock Market where I choose the below books and read, to varying degrees of success:

Books

I’m afraid after this month is over and the motivation to read wanes I will revert back to my ipad. Therefore I’ve set up a Book Club with some friends. It’s a great mix of people, who are all interested in different areas and topics so I think we’ll get to read some great books! I’ve chosen our first book, a thriller (my favourite type!), by Gillian Flynn called ‘Gone Girl’- fingers crossed it goes down well 🙂

Verdict: I found this ‘challange’ to be extremely hard. Each night before I drift off to sleep the last thing I want to be is ‘disciplined’ and pick up a book over a quick Facebook stalk on my ipad. However, when I did actually read I loved it. I really hope the Book Club is successful as I definitely need some motivation to keep that damn ipad away from me!

Dirt Cheap Epsom Salts

epsom salts1

In keeping with the last post about relaxation let me introduce you to the magic that is Epsom Salts. They are a brilliant detoxifier and a great way to turn your bath-time into a bonafide spa treatment!

All you need to do is pour 2 cups of the salts into your bath and soak for just 20 minutes to get the following benefits:

  1. Ease stress by replenishing magnesium in the body. Magnesium helps produce serotonin, a mood elevating chemical.
  2. Ease PMS
  3. Flush out toxins and heavy metals from the system- great when doing a detox
  4. Relieve cold symptoms
  5. Relax and ease muscles
  6. Reduce inflammation
  7. Relieve pain and headaches
  8. Relieve asthma
  9. Treat bruises

Here’s Epsom Salts secret sauce… it’s sooo bleedin’ cheap! I bought a massive tub from The Health Store for about 2 yoyos!

Epsom saltsP.S. I wouldn’t bother wasting money on the ‘Dead Sea Spa Magik’ brand which is sold in most pharmacies around Ireland, as it’s double the cost and seems to do the same job as the less fancy looking Mr Epsom.

P.P.S When I’m having a bath I tend to leave out the harsh and drying Bubble Bath and replace it with a few drops of yummy lavender essential oil instead.

My Issues With ‘Deserving’ Relaxation

‘We’re all so busy, with our jobs, social lives, families etc. we deserve some ‘down time’ once in a while, we have earned time to look after our exhausted body and mind…’

multitasking

That’s the generic opening line a ‘relaxing’ blog post is supposed to take. What I can’t understand is why we have to ‘justify’ relaxation, at some point very recently society changed and now we suddenly need to ‘deserve’ quiet, down time, we need to have ‘earned’ that early night in bed or long bath.

Why is this?! How did we get so conditioned that only when we have worn ourselves out, run our bodies and minds into the ground will we then ‘warrant’ a massage and some chilling out time? Why do we feel guilty telling someone that we are going to get a pedicure or spend the evening chilling in front of re-runs of Modern Family on TV?!

Are we not precious enough to put self-care time at the top of our priorities?

Here’s an idea, how about tonight you priorities yourself for a change, not because you ‘deserve’ it or have ‘earned’ it but because you  darn well want it?! Go on, fill a bath, get a good book and just enjoy soaking, or go for a long walk with a friend, or watch a fun movie on the couch in your PJ’s with a hot cup of something?! Sounds good doesn’t it? The key is not to feel guilty about it, just enjoy how your body feels relaxing and switching off and then start scheduling this time in for yourself on a regular basis.

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