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Christmas 2012 in Balance: The Essential Gift List

Xmas ME

Christmas is one of those GOOD stress times I like to think of as  the  spice of life!

The holiday rush is upon us and I like everyone else I know find myself in a constant rush to fit in the shopping, the parties, and the round of Christmas craft fairs, concerts, and happy hours with friends. Actually I’m having far too much fun this season, but on top of work and chores, aging parents, aging dogs (who have lately forgotten they’re house trained), aging knees, and an empty nest (which is about to fill back up to overflowing just as we were getting used to it)….well it takes it’s toll. But far from complaining, oh no, ho, ho, I am simply stating a fact: Christmas time can be a stressful time!! Mostly GOOD stress, one hopes, but stress none-the-less.

So my challenge this season is to stay cool in the midst of all the holiday chatter and cheer, to keep Jingle Bell Rock from getting stuck inside my head, and to find gifts for my favorite people that  rather than cluttering their closets may help to unclutter their lives. In mulling this over, I keep arriving back at one of  Menopausibilities’ essential truths: It’s about BALANCE.  That’s it.  That’s all that stands between me and overeating, overworking, overspending, and overdoing the Yuletide. So with mantra in mind I hereby resolve that the only gifts I will give a moments consideration to this Christmas are those that speak to me of balance. Gifts meant to calm, soothe, enlighten, and rebalance the health, hormones, and lives of those I love best in all the world. Mature woman holding gift, portrait

Thus follows my very own Speak to Me of Balance Christmas Gift List for 2012. Hopefully my growing hodgepodge of favorites will speak to YOU of balance or help spark your own ideas:

MASSAGE: A gift certificate for a one hour massage, or even a 15 minute chair massage 2x a week studies tell us, can calm the sympathetic nervous system and lower stress levels significantly.

FLOAT: this is the act of suspending oneself voluntarily in a tank filled with warm water and Epsom salts for about 90 minutes in a darkened room! Hmmm… the idea being to block all sensory input so that sans the constant pressure of analyzing the world around you, your body lowers its levels of stress hormones while the neurotransmitters of happiness rise and the mind comes out to play. Fans of FLOAT say the 90 minutes go by fast when you’re in a state of “otherworldly relaxing.” (www.floathq.com for Portlanders – floatation.com for everyone else!)

Man examining his physique in the mirror

Dave and the after-effects of a “hot” yoga session: more strength and stamina, less spare tire!

YOGA: the essentials of stretching and deep breathing release tension, lower stress hormones, and among other things boost lung function.  More oxygen translates to relaxed muscles with fewer aches and pains, better mood and memory. The Bikram version performed in 100+degrees is a form of ‘hot’ yoga that has its’ followers, my own husband among them!

Gift certificate to Aveda Hair Salons  among the very few I have found that use natural plant-based hair dyes and products. Its about time….we need to give ourselves a break from the toxins in most chemical hair dyes that turn into bad estrogens and throw hormones out of whack.

Grayce Root Revive – this is a real lifesaver between colorings: a fragrance-free, naturally pigmented hair powder that can be brushed in as a temporary touch up for gray grow out. And I can tell you, it does the trick. Not only that, by reducing my visits to the hair stylist I’m reducing my exposure to the bad chemicals in hair dyes. www.graycerootrevive.com

Arbonne’s Instant Lift Gel (my secret weapon for looking the best I can for my age) and any of the RE9 line of anti-aging, plant-based, toxin-free, cosmetic and skin care products from this visionary Swiss company. www.arbonne.com to find a consultant in your town.

A year’s membership to the Sierra Club is available right now for 15 bucks at www.sierraclub.org. Check out their awesome range of outings: day hikes, peak scrambles, bicycling, cross-country skiing, bird-watching, conservation-walks, or forays into the remaining natural areas of our major cities. What better way to stop living in your head and start living in your body!!

A moment of balance , halfway up Saddle Mountain in the Oregon Coastal Range

Kyle in a moment of balance, halfway up Saddle Mountain in the Oregon Coastal Range

By the way, walking may be the single best and easiest exercise you can do to get healthy, or even healthier in 2013. In a recent Wake Forest Medical Center study, women who walked one to two miles 3 times a week shrank abdominal fat cells by a whopping 18 percent in four months. By the way, researchers did not find the same effects  in those who dieted but did not walk.

Woman  jogging

Walking or belly fat? Its a no-brainer.

Walking gear: warm hat with ear flaps and a must-have brim (for those of us who wear glasses), waterproof pants and anorak so there is no excuse not to exercise in the great outdoors no matter the weather. A growing disconnect with the natural environment has been linked in a host of studies to obesity and related “diseases of indoor living”.

Pedometer – taking 5000 steps or fewer daily is considered sedentary. Track your steps wearing a pedometer and work your way up to 10,000 steps, which is considered active.

Dance classes – Speaking of making it to 10,000 steps a day, I wonder how many you can accumulate in a dance class? My daughter Jess just told me that she and her boyfriend recently signed up for lessons after realizing how out of step they were on the dance floor at a friends wedding  …from the waltz to the rumba they are now learning to move in synchrony. Just like hormones in balance!  www.arthurmurray.com

Soul balancing:  Beading, needlepoint, glass making, painting or cooking classes. Whatever speaks to you of creativity! This I know for sure: you can’t worry or distract yourself with internal chatter while stringing beads one at a time. And what better gifts than those made by hand for the particular person in mind.

Last but not least, let’s not forget the balancing presence of all presents: Red wine, Green tea and Dark chocolate – all in moderation but loaded with adaptogenic herbs, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties that keep hormones in balance and our immune systems humming along.

An example of a delicious rich organic dark chocolate

A square or two of organic dark chocolate speaks to me of balance! Not to mention that it raises serotonin, the pleasure hormone!

So did I get everything? What about tickets to the theater, an upcoming concert, or art exhibit for a friend who needs the gift of time. If money is no object a week away at a spa where nothing but fresh, organic, hormone-free foods go into your body, and nothing but peace and quiet into your mind. And on that thought I shall wind down my own thoughts ….still on a roll but not in a rush.

African American couple leaving concert hall

The gift of time to enjoy the best life has to offer, especially at Christmas!

Next post I’ll share our Menopausibilities best picks for books to help balance body, mind and spirit just in time for Christmas. In the meantime please LIKE us or comment on the blog to share any great ideas you come up with for gifting balance to the people you love best in all the world.

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The GOOD stress: Doing what comes naturally, deliberately.

Contemplating the colors in Oregon wine country (www.davidburchphotography.com)

...not being particularly busy or productive... just being

My 32nd wedding anniversary landed smack on Thanksgiving this year so our celebration was going to have to take place on a different day, crammed into an already crammed family weekend.  So little time all the time. Wednesday before the big feast it was noses to the proverbial grindstone from early morning on. Around lunchtime the sky cleared and the sun (to borrow a few great Joni Mitchell  lyrics), poured in like butterscotch and brought us to our senses. When this happens in the Pacific Northwest in late November you know you are being self-destructive or for that matter courting Vitamin D-deficiency to remain indoors. If you know what’s good for you,  you drop what you’re doing  and get out there. In any way, shape or form you can maneuver or will it to happen ….Otherwise you miss out on one of the all-time great stress reduction opportunities: the unabashed partaking of unstructured time. I repeat UNstructured time. The kind that allows you to spend some time in your life not being particularly busy or productive – just being. Say to yourself or aloud something like… I am going to do what comes naturally for a change, what feels good to me, relaxing, engaging, comforting and nurturing of my mind and spirit and I don’t care who knows it! ( btw: whether you are your own boss or not, rest assured that your stressed adrenals need this break as much as you do and that all you have to lose is your lethargy!)

Evidently, I know what’s good for me because on this day I said first to myself, and then out loud to my husband, let the anniversary begin! It goes without saying that I had a willing accomplice. The decision that we should stop what we were doing, jump in the car this minute, drive to a stellar spot, preferably a vista overlooking grapevines and peaking autumn hues, whilst sipping a heart healthy glass of red wine, was taken unanimously and without regret….  it felt a little like ice-skating on Lake Michigan at night as a kid in Chicago.

Speaking of the fermented grape, not to be sniffed at is the long-term scientific evidence that red wine has a protective effect against heart disease (Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004 Jun;28(6):829-47). This is due in large part to it’s many plant compounds especially the celebrity antioxidant resveratrol, known to have powerful anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties. In recent studies resveratrol has been found to act upon specific genes to protect cells against aging, and also to slow the developmental stages of cancer. (Journal of Immunology 2000;164:6509-19; Journal of Biological Chem 2005;280:17038-45.)

Red wine, pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin and seeds of the grape (which is why the reds have more of it) that protects healthy cells against aging. It is also known to have hormone balancing benefits, YAY!

Most promising when it comes to women, wine, and hormones, is the fact that red wine is medically classified as a phyto-(plant) estrogen thought to enhance natural hormone balance! Evidently, unlike other types of alcohol red wine also  inhibits the action of aromatase (Ann NY Acad Sci. 2002 Jun;963:239-46), an enzyme that increases estrogen conversion in fat cells and can lead to estrogen dominance and thus, increased risks for breast cancer (www.theseventhwomanfoundation.org) But lest you conclude that the best way to balance your hormones naturally is to drink more red wine, keep in mind that we are talking about moderate consumption here, no more than one glass a day according to the experts. Of further note is that the reported health benefits of red wine in particular are significantly enhanced when consumed with meals, especially as part of a Mediterranean diet. This is news we can use to explore our options!

But I digress. Once the anniversary countdown began I never skipped a beat in moving myself towards balance.  The feeling of lightness from within. Of not living in my head for a change. I felt calm and energized all at the same time and saw it for what it was: the absence of stress. And I knew that I would have to do this again sometime, maybe not on a working day, but some other time, again, SOON.

What is your personal balance plan?  Jump in the conversation and please leave a comment right here (scroll down) on our blog so that we all can learn and share best practice for engaging in guilt-free, unstructured time. This is another of our essential truths:  You are unique. What’s right for your friend, mother or sister is not necessarily right for you. But we can all explore the paths to balance together.

Doing what comes naturally (www.davidburchphotography)

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Filed under Bioidentical Hormones, Candace Burch