Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Staying Healthy Au Natural: Creating an Alternative Health Care Kit

By Amy Phillips-Gary

What do you usually reach for when you've got a splitting headache or your stomach keeps churning?

If you're like many folks in the U.S., you probably treat everyday ills and chills with over-the-counter medicines from your local pharmacy.

A lot of people keep first aid kits on hand to treat those non-emergencies that happen from time to time.

You may already know that there are a wealth of alternative options also available to treat those very same health crises and mini-crises.

I choose to keep an alternative health care kit for the medical needs of myself and my family.

[Note: I am NOT a health care professional but I have used various natural and alternative remedies to treat the maladies of myself and family members for over 15 years.]

Of course, please consult with your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns before trying these suggestions...

Why make the switch to Alternative Health products?
Every once in a while, I get a really intense cold. You've probably been there too. Sometimes, in desperation, I turn to a cough suppressant like Nyquil or Vicks in order to just get some sleep.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with using a cough suppressant. But, in my case, I found that the cough suppressant stopped the cough, but didn't address the post-nasal drip. So there I lay in my bed, tossing and turning and still unable to sleep!

This is one negative side effect of a more mainstream, allopathic medicine-- they tend to suppress the symptoms but leave the imbalance or illness to rage on.

[Allopathy is a general term used to describe Western medical practices-- especially those in the U.S. Many of the usual products in a traditional first aid kit or medicine cabinet could be described as allopathic.]

When you use allopathic medicines, you may end up feeling worse in the long-run. In my situation, to suppress my cough wasn't enough. My immune system needed boosting so that my body could return to a healthy, balanced state.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the more mainstream medicines on the market just don't offer whole body support-- such as bolstering the immune system.

Another downside to many allopathic medicines is that they have unwanted side effects. Ibuprofen, for example, can cause stomach upset. Prolonged use of acetaminophen has been linked to liver and kidney damage.

One look at the sometimes lengthy warning labels on the bottles of products like these and you may wonder if the temporary relief you might receive is worth the long-term (or even more immediate) health costs?!

What's in my Alternative Health Care Kit....
Ever since a dismal and damaging experience I had in my 20s with a dermatologist followed by an amazing experience with a homeopath, I have heavily relied on alternative health care-- at home and from professionals.

If you open the medicine cabinet at my house, you will primarily find herbs, tinctures and homeopathic remedies which my family and I use regularly.

Yes, we do have some Pepto-Bismol and even a bottle of ibuprofen. But these are used rarely, if at all.

Even if you are not ready to clear your cabinets of Tylenol and Nyquil, consider adding a few alternative health care products to your own medicine cabinet or kit.

These more natural products do not usually act in the same ways as their more mainstream allopathic counterparts. Your symptoms might not abate as quickly, for example.

But you probably won't encounter negative side effects in your quest for relief.

It's also likely that you'll find your return to health is more complete and possibly even longer-lasting when you use alternative health care methods and remedies.

Here is a short list of alternative remedies for common ailments and injuries:

Headaches: Peppermint, ginger and chamomile herbal teas can be soothing. Acupressure massage is useful and you don't have to be formally trained to benefit from it. (I keep a credit card-sized acupressure guide handy on my dresser.)

Stomaches: Homeopathic remedies such as nux vomica work well when due to overeating. Aloe vera juice helps keep the digestive system functioning optimally and is also an anti-inflammatory agent.

Colds/Flu: Infuse your body with vitamin C with fizzy and flavorful Emergen-C packets. A friend of mine swears by the homeopathic remedy Oscillococcinum for flus-- my family concurs.

Another all-around anti-microbial and anti-infective product is colloidal silver. This can be used as a preventive for flus and viruses and is also beneficial for cuts.

Staying healthy is all about prevention. Click on this link for a great recipe for natural hand sanitizer from Pepper Paints.

Bumps and Bruises: When a fall or other injury occurs, use the Bach flower remedy, Rescue Remedy. This helps with the emotional impact of a trauma. I even carry Rescue Remedy in my purse!

Arnica is a homeopathic remedy that can be used topically or internally that works wonders on bruises and stiff or sore places.

These are just a few items in my Alternative Health Kit. There is a wealth of information online and at your local health food store to learn more about these and other products.

Here are some sites to check out...

Homeopathy information:

Herbal remedies information:

Bach Flower information:

Colloidal Silver information:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When Dieting, Don't Forget the Emotion

By Amy Phillips-Gary

Are you a dieter?

You might be on, or have tried, the Atkins or South Beach diets or perhaps The Zone, Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig programs. There seem to be a plethora of choices when it comes to diet plans.

Not everyone is on a weight-loss diet, though many of us are.

According to a CBS news story, around 45 million Americans diet each year. About $1-$2 billion is spent on weight-loss programs annually in the U.S.

Those numbers indicate that a lot of people are dissatisfied with their bodies!

I'm not here to sell you on yet another weight-loss plan or product. I do intend, however, to encourage you to go deeper than the amount of calories or fat you are consuming.

I want more of us-- including myself-- to look beneath the surface of our body size loathing and begin to cultivate more self-appreciation and love.

And I believe that we can also all move closer to having the bodies we're wanting in the process.

I know a bit about dieting and body-dissatisfaction. Like many women (and men as well), I've practiced both since my teen years.

I've tried more extreme methods of weight loss such as self-starving and also more moderate attempts like reasonable amounts of exercise and certain food restrictions. My body size has ranged from thinner to heavier-- fitter to less toned.

Along the way, I've discovered that my body size and overall health directly relate to how I'm feeling and what I'm doing with my emotions.

Feelings matter.
Regardless of how many times I make it to the gym each week or how many salads I eat instead of chips and cookies, my emotional state of being has a huge impact on my weight and body perceptions.

Food is just not such a huge deal when I'm feeling worthy and positively about who I am.

This is an amazing observation to try to remember when I am not feeling too great about myself and the habit of battling my body and food return-- sometimes with a vengeance.

Spiritual teacher Abraham goes so far as to declare that “it's not what you eat that matters, it's how you feel.”

For many of us, these words can seem naïve and even foolhardy. Of course, our reasoned minds tell us, if I primarily eat pizza and ice cream, my body is going to get larger. There's no way around it!

Is there something to this though? Can it be that the secret to weight-loss is really rooted in how we feel? And what if feeling good, or even feeling improvement, is actually more important than losing pounds after all?

Expand your choices.
When you direct most of your attention to your emotions, you are freer to make choices.

As you shift your focus away from what you're eating, how much you're eating and how many calories you are burning off exercising and, instead, direct it toward how you are feeling, you can know your power.

You, me-- all of us-- have the power to make choices about how we want to live in these bodies we walk around in.

As you learn to tune in to how you are feeling and deal with your emotions, you can make clearer choices about food and exercise as well as other life decisions.

Pausing is one way to access your power and expand your choices. A pause means that you take even a few seconds to check in and ask yourself if you want to continue in the direction you are going.

Try the inside out diet.

If you want to alter your body size or shape, consider going on an inside out diet. Learn how to pause when you encounter difficulties or triggers.

You might still choose to eat that cookie, but the beauty is you are choosing to do so and possibly after releasing some of your inner bottled up emotions.

Set aside the judgments you might habitually make. Consider the many messages we're told, and then tell ourselves, that particular foods are “bad” and certain behaviors are “unhealthy” while others are “good” and “healthy.”

These dichotomies are not always accurate and they simply don't help us to move into the feeling space that encourages choice and empowerment.

Instead, get curious about your feelings and your experiences.

Make it your priority to feel healthy, vital and beautiful from the inside out rather than the other way around.

As you know your power and take care of your emotions, anything is truly possible-- when it comes to food, your body, exercise or your life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Honor Yourself Day!

By Amy Phillips-Gary

This past Sunday I luxuriated in the pampering I received from my sons and husband as we celebrated Mother's Day. Here in the U.S., families honor their mothers on this May day. We commend and uplift these women for all of their labor, nurturing and support.

As I enjoyed a special breakfast, homemade cards and flowers on Mother's Day, I began to wonder why we tend to wait until a special occasion to honor ourselves.

What does it mean to honor yourself? How can honoring the self help strengthen self-esteem?

As I consider these questions, I recognize a certain amount of hesitation and inner resistance to the idea of bestowing upon myself distinction and appreciation as a regular habit.

After all, I don't want to be self-absorbed or egotistical!

Blocks to Improving Self-Esteem
It is this belief that serves as an obstacle for many who would like to strengthen their sense of self-esteem. We don't regularly honor ourselves, in part, because it seems somehow self-centered and even narcissistic.

People who are openly proud of themselves frequently get labeled as vain or self-absorbed. One website lists their picks for the Top 10 Egotistical Celebrities with the subtitle “They just love themselves.”

Loving yourself is egotistical? Really?!

If you've ever tried to be in a love relationship with another person without loving yourself, you probably know that it's almost always a sheer disaster. As the saying goes, if you don't love yourself, nobody else will either.

With a low self-esteem, it is also nearly impossible to get hired for the job you really want or receive the promotion you've been eyeing.

To regale your own self as a stellar human being who contributes wonderfully to the world is a pretty powerful thing to assert. And the positive ramifications of such an assertion might just shock you!

Your weak sense of self-worth might be rooted in childhood messages you received. Perhaps you were given the message that you are nothing special or that you always fall short of the mark.

Even if you have primarily heard loving, esteem-boosting words from others, it is essential that you feel it from within.

As much as your friends and family want to support you and help you to feel better about yourself, if you don't buy into the truth that you are worthy and valuable, their words will not be received.

Revel in your strengths.
Even after you've given yourself permission to honor you, improving your self-esteem might still seem challenging. If so, make it your job to notice your own strengths.

Try to take on the viewpoint of the observer. And I'm not talking about an observer who is critical! Think of a benevolent observer who loves you completely and with no strings or conditions attached.

Each and every day, notice at least 1 thing about yourself that you consider to be worthwhile and valuable. It might be the kindness you showed to a stranger by holding open a door. It could be the way that you love and care for your pet.

It's ok if some of the strengths that you are noticing about yourself pertain to your job or some other activity. But be sure to dig deep in your observing. See if you can discover aspects about you that have nothing to do with what you do.

It is also self-esteem boosting to give yourself credit for improvements and movements you make toward your goals.

Embrace yourself for the wonderful being you are.
As you get into the habit of noticing your strengths, allow yourself to really feel into that noticing.

When you start out, it's kind of like dipping your toe in the water of a beautiful hot spring. Dipping in your toe is a great start. This is the observing you've been practicing.

You can then start to ease more fully into the feelings evoked by this noticing and soak into them. Immerse yourself in loving and appreciating you for who you are.

As you begin to honor and embrace yourself, you might only be able to extend those self-valuing feelings to parts of who you are. Allow yourself to expand from where you are.

Boosting your self-esteem can happen in a series of self-honoring steps. As you choose to take each step, let yourself really feel into the aftereffects.

You'll probably find that this honoring thing feels pretty good!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fear-ful Times

By Amy Phillips-Gary

There seems to me to be an overabundance of fear lately. Anxiety and even panic appear in the words, faces and demeanors of those around me, in the news and are even present in my own bearing.

It's as if the United States has become the land of the worriers and the home of the fearful.

And it's making us sick.

I'm no scientist, but I can't help but wonder if there is a link between all of this fear and worry about the economy and the recent outbreak of the “swine flu.”

You can follow the spread of swine flu on interactive maps updated on media websites. Even my favorite comic strip characters are struggling and distressed as they lose their life savings and try to make do with less.

If, like me, you don't often watch or read the news, you might still be caught up in the worrying and fear going on. You may not have to look too far to see that there are plenty of displeasing and unsettling things going on in the world-- perhaps in your own life.

This can certainly trigger a clenching of the gut and a tightening of the shoulders.

Fear-ful Effects
When I feel fear or worry, I know that I can't thrive the way I want to. Scientific studies have shown that stress causes chemical changes in the brain that, in turn, directly influence the state of a person's health. High blood pressure, heart attacks, immune diseases and other very physical effects of stress are well known.

Stress has been described as a “mild form of fear” which means it is even more important to address your worries and tension before they grow.

Even without a single scientific study, you may already know that fear and stress feel bad and can make you sick!

Notice and Pause in the Face of Fear
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” I've heard this popular saying used to try to bolster another person's courage. While I appreciate the intention behind the phrase, I disagree with it.

Instead, I suggest that when you feel fear, notice it, pause and take the time to explore your feelings before you proceed.

Spiritual teacher Abraham explains that our feelings are indicators of how split off we are from who, what and where we really want to be. Our fears indicate that it's time to look within and possibly chart a different course.

Don't be frozen into inaction by fear; but, at the same time, don't blindly push ahead ignoring your wiser self's attempted communications.

The secret with fear is to open up to it when you feel it. Buddhist teachers advise students to “sit with” uncomfortable feelings. As you welcome how you feel-- even the scary stuff-- you can learn from the indicator and also take steps toward relief.

Try to stay focused on the feelings more than the story as you acknowledge your emotions. Experiment with different soothing strategies and figure out what works for you.

When I notice that I am feeling fearful, I re-direct my attention to my body. I inhale and exhale, feeling my feet on the ground or tuning in to my body being supported by the bed or chair upon which I'm resting.

What's Your New Story?
We've all got stories-- those “truths” we tell ourselves that may or may not be as solid and irrevocable as they seem to be in an intense moment. These stories that we tell ourselves are often the fuel for the fears that can dis-able us. In turn, it is our fears that can make us sick and hold us back from the lives we desire.

Setting aside your story and focusing in on your feelings is so powerful because that seemingly solid “truth,” can be limiting and stand in the way of your ability to find and receive relief.

At the same time, if you keep returning to the same story over and over again, you'll probably also continue to re-experience the stress, fear and worry.

When you are feeling relatively calm, take a look at your story. Perhaps your usual story is one you read about in a newspaper or heard from a friend. Don't make it your goal to “find out the real truth.”

Instead, create a new story for yourself.

If you take a wider view of reality, you'll see that there are many truths out there. There are people who are going through bankruptcy and there are others living abundantly in a “struggling” economy. Some are feeling sick much of the time while plenty of other people are walking around in healthy bodies living vibrantly.

The possibilities are truly endless-- but only if you believe them to be. Ask yourself what you want your new story to be and offer that your attention.

As you line up your attitude and emotions with your new story, you will probably feel less fear and more ease and eagerness for what's ahead-- and even for what's going on right now in your life. Be on the lookout for signs in “real life” that you are moving closer to your new story.