My dear friend Nicole lost her battle with cancer last week. This marks my third major loss in less than 18 months. My 12-year old son Max was killed in a car accident on August 27, 2018. My 80 year old father passed away the following March.
You would think that by now I would be old hat at grief and loss but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Each loss is so different and painful in new and unique ways. A friend shared that losing a parent is like losing the past, losing a child is like losing the future and losing a sibling is like losing both the past and the future.
Nicole was a sister, a cheerleader, a trusted advisor and a hilarious confident. One of my first memories is actively choosing her as a friend at age three. She was by far the most creative and dynamic preschool classmate and she proved her loyalty out of the gate. When the preschool teachers decided to make birdseed feeders out of pine cones, peanut butter and birdseed on the day when I was getting allergy tested and couldn’t eat the peanut butter, Nicole stood by me in solidarity and announced, “That’s ok, we’ll just eat the birdseed.” She stood by me for every major life event for the remaining four decades.
She was a constant in my life through elementary, middle and high school, visited me at college and even settled in the same major cities after graduation. We traveled together, laughed together, raised our babies together and never let a birthday pass without a clever and well selected card. She braved the hail and snow to cheer me on in my first marathon and was the first to jump on a plane when Max died. She held my hand as I viewed his lifeless body before the funeral and literally carried me through the weekend.
As hard as it was to lose a child and a parent, it is almost harder to lose a life-long friend. Someone who has walked beside you as a witness through every age and stage. Someone who remembers where you came from and applauds your progress. Someone you can trust with your life who you can call at any hour of the day.
The Transformation of Loss
Any kind of deep loss or intense pain brings the gift of growth. It is far too intense and way too painful to stay stuck in the pain so you have to find a way to move through it. To process, to release and ultimately to recover from the intensity of the loss. Once you realize that the only way out is through, you allow the journey to begin. Everyone’s journey is different and every loss is different, but as this is my third intense grief voyage in the last 18 months, I have had ample opportunity to road test several different grief strategies and would like to share what seems to work best for me.
Best Advice: Eat, Sleep, Move
The day Max died, a dear friend advised that I only needed to eat, sleep and move. So simple, and at the same time, so profound.
Just like a yoga pose where there are infinite deeper levels to each stance, eating, sleeping and moving can correlate to deeper states of recovery, allowing your body to release and reboot.
While there is no one size fits all and everyone’s pain and suffering is different, it is my hope that these 3 principals might guide you, empowering you with the tools – the map, the flashlight and the compass – to help you navigate your own personal path through suffering to healing. It begins with those 3 simple and easily achievable strategies and some simple options to get you started. Just like any journey you get to travel at your own speed, and try things at your own pace in your own time.
I have explored vast healing terrain both in my own personal health journey and as a practitioner for others. Time and again, I have found that the three strategies are the most powerful needle movers toward improving health. Like every journey, there is a hard way and an easy way to travel. I have personally found essential oils to be the easiest way to help your body eat in the parasympathetic state, sleep through the night and move to support circulation and lymph flow.
3 Grief Essentials
As you may know, essential oils are the natural, highly concentrated essences extracted from plants. Oils are “essential” components of the plants’ immune systems, helping them grow, thrive, evolve, and adapt to their surroundings. Essential oils are also super small and fat soluble which allows them to cross your blood brain barrier and help your brain recover, reboot and release. By putting your body in a state of balance, essential oils enhance the benefit of all other healing practices. In other words, they make all other supplements, exercise and healing strategies work even better.
EAT in the Parasympathetic State
Your body needs food and water as raw materials for all processes in your body. This means that you not only need to consume nutrients, but you need to digest, absorb and assimilate them. This can only happen in the Parasympathetic state.
That’s right. How you eat may be more important than what you eat. You need to invest not only in a pristine diet, but also in taking the time to eat in a calm, relaxed atmosphere to get the most nutrients from food and ensure that nutrients are properly delivered to your cells. If you eat under stress, the nutrients in your food will not be properly digested, absorbed, or assimilated. Think of an ambulance that is stuck in traffic and can’t make it to the person in need. That is what is happening in our bodies when we eat under stress –nutrients aren’t making it into the cells to help us heal.
When you eat in the parasympathetic state, the brain activates all of your digestive functions, including the production of saliva and the release of stomach acid, enzymes, and bile. The parasympathetic state supports nutrient assimilation and motility. Peristalsis, the muscle contractions required to move food and waste through your system, also relies on a parasympathetic state. The inability to drop into the parasympathetic state is a primary cause of constipation. What’s more, the parasympathetic state allows the gut to signal the brain about hunger and satiety, helping you recognize when you are truly hungry and full.
Finally, if your stomach doesn’t release acid and enzymes to break down proteins, they can trigger an immune response. Essential oils to stimulate your Parasympathetic response before meals helps to drop your body absorb nutrients more which helps heal digestive disorders including:
- SIBO – The parasympathetic state triggers peristalsis, a wavelike motion in the gut that moves food, mucous, bacteria, and fungi along the digestive tract. The “housekeeping wave” normalizes mobility to resolves small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
- IBS – Poor communication between the gut and the brain may contribute to the abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea that are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. The parasympathetic state turns on optimal bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain.
- Constipation – Peristalsis, the muscle contractions of the intestines that move the stool, is triggered by the parasympathetic state.
- Acid indigestion or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – The parasympathetic state signals the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus to close, preventing acid reflux from stomach to esophagus.
- Bloating – Bloating is an indication of a stomach acid or enzyme deficiency. The parasympathetic state supports the body’s production of adequate acid and enzymes for digestion.
- Bile stasis – The parasympathetic state triggers bile production and signals the gallbladder to release bile into the intestines to digest dietary fats.
- Dry mouth – The parasympathetic state initiates the production of saliva, which is critical to good periodontal health and digestion.
- Anorexia/Bulimia – The parasympathetic state allows the gut to send to the brain signals of hunger and satiety.
Your vagus nerve serves as the on/off switch for the parasympathetic state. Anything you do to stimulate your vagus nerve helps to turn on your parasympathetic state. Here’s how:
Shock factor: Splash your face with freezing water. Acute cold conditions increase stimulation of your vagus nerve. What’s more, receptors that are sensitive to cold stimulate the vagus nerve dampening sympathetic activity and increasing parasympathetic activity.
Face it: Gargle, Gag, Laugh, Hum or Sing loudly – Your vagus nerve activates the muscles in your face, vocal cords and the back of the throat that allow you to gargle, gag, laugh and sing. Gargling, stimulating your gag reflex, laughing and singing contract these muscles, which connect to the vagus nerve and activate the parasympathetic state. Gargling forcefully enough to have tears forming in your eyes seems to be most effective.
Indirect Stimulation- Deep breathing and Coffee Enemas: Because the vagus nerve is connected to many parts of your body, stimulating certain areas of your body reroutes this stimulation back to the vagus nerve. For example, your vagus nerve innerves your lungs, so taking deep, deliberate breaths from your diaphragm stimulates your vagus nerve. Optimal vagus nerve stimulation occurs when the breath is slowed from our typical 10-14 breaths per minute to 5-7 breaths per minute. You can achieve this by counting the inhalation to 5, hold briefly, and exhale to a count of 10. Similarly, stimulating your intestines with a coffee enema activates your vagus nerve. The caffeine found in coffee stimulates the cholinergic receptors in your intestines and activate motility as well as stimulate your vagus nerve.
Essential Oils: One of the easiest and most powerful ways to turn on your ability to heal is to stimulate your vagus nerve by topically applying a synergistic blend of Clove and Lime essential oils where the vagus nerve is most accessible through the skin – behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone.
The Parasympathetic™ combination of clove and lime helps you activate and detoxify your vagus nerve. Apply just a tiny dab to the vagus nerve (behind the earlobe on the mastoid bone) on one or both ears, depending on how stressed you feel. All you need is a tiny drop behind each ear. Topical application also helps detoxify any congestion and inflammation in the nerve that compromises the flow of nutrients into the brain and toxins out of the brain.
Clove oil can be used to dull both physical and emotional pain. Clove oil reduces your body’s response to stress and promotes optimal digestion. Research shows that eugenol, the chief component of Clove essential oil, acts on stress-responsive regions of the brain, promoting balanced levels of stress-response hormones that are released throughout the body. When applied to your vagus nerve, clove may help increase energy, relieve fatigue, stimulate circulation, ease feelings of stress, and lower blood pressure associated with stress.
Lime, along with other citrus oils, is known for relieving stress, anxiety, depression, and nervousness. Recent research found that citrus oils have been clinically proven to normalize neuroendocrine hormone levels and immune function and were found to be more effective than antidepressants. Research also shows that the limonene found in citrus peels and, citrus essential oils derived from those peels, is known to stimulate the production of glutathione, an antioxidant known to protect you against inflammation and reduce your chances of developing autoimmunity. Unfortunately, most nutritional supplements of glutathione are not absorbed well and do not raise glutathione levels within the cells, so Lime oil’s ability to help stimulate the production of glutathione inside the cells contributes to this essential oil blend’s ability to prevent or reduce systemic inflammation in the gut and the brain.
SLEEP: Restore your energy and your health
It takes a lot of energy to heal. During sleep, your body and brain rest and replenish your energy. If sleep evades you, no matter what you do, drink, or swallow, you will not have the energy to think, feel or move.
Welcome our friend melatonin. You know her, you may not know her well, but you should. Because she’s pretty fantastic and she gets no credit. Melatonin is your body’s natural sleep hormone—it puts your body in a state to get ready to sleep. Melatonin is released by your pineal gland, in the center of your brain, in response to darkness, peaking in the evening when the sun goes down, telling you that it is time to sleep.
A lack of melatonin almost always correlates with chronic disease, because without melatonin, you’re not just staring at the ceiling praying for sleep, but your brain cannot detoxify, regenerate, and heal. Decreased production of melatonin is frequently found in patients with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
If you can help melatonin do her job, you’d both sleep better. Here’s how to get the deep and restorative sleep you’ve always dreamt about or start sleeping better tonight:
- Go dark: Shut down devices, blue light, darken the room – Artificial light from computers, phones, and other electronic devices disrupts the body’s natural ability to determine light from dark, which disturbs the circadian rhythm and throws off your sleep. The blue light emitted from alarm clocks and other digital devices also suppresses melatonin production.
- Make the bedroom as dark as possible. Use blackout shades to make your bedroom pitch black and cover or turn off all devices that glow or give off any light (including digital alarm clocks).
- Don’t be too full – or too hungry. Some people sleep better after eating a light dinner. This is especially true for those with digestive issues. Others—like those with a tendency toward hypoglycemia—do better with a snack before bed (and possibly even during the night).
- Go to bed earlier. You’ve heard the saying “an hour before midnight is worth two hours after.” It turns out there is some truth to that.
- Oil: Essential oils, like Circadian Rhythm™ can be used to trigger the natural release of melatonin, which helps you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling rejuvenated without any morning drowsiness. Essential oils can help you detoxify and heal your pineal gland so it can release your melatonin naturally, allowing you to sleep into deep and restorative sleep. Essential oils can stabilize your circadian cycle and works with the body’s natural biological processes to relax the muscles and calm an overactive mind.
RELEASE: Free up Your Energy by Letting Go of Cellular Waste and Debris
Cellular waste and debris needs to be removed and eliminated from your body. This means that your lymphatic system needs to be working in a healthy way. Your lymphatic system permeates every part of the body, serving as a complementary system to our circulatory system. It draws fluid from the cells and carries it through a series of lymphatic ducts and nodes back to the circulatory system, establishing the link between the smallest blood vessels – the capillaries – and the cells. As such, it helps remove toxins and infections and other waste from every cell in your body. It works as the body’s septic system, removing the by-products and wastes created from metabolizing our nutrients. Just like the drains in your home, the lymphatic system can get congested and stagnant and toxins can build up.
If there is congestion in the lymphatic system in the neck or downstream in the body, it will impair drainage from the brain. If you think of the body like a hydraulics system where congested tissue downstream prevents optimal flow upstream, congested lymphatic vessels in the neck will impede drainage of toxins from the brain. Just like a tree in a river, blocking up and damming up the flow.
Unlike your circulatory system, your lymph system cannot move itself. There is no pump. This matters because lymph is responsible for taking out the trash in your body. And if you don’t help it, guess what happens. The trash piles up.
Your lymphatic fluid can accumulate and stagnate. This stagnation can be due to an overload of acidity, animal protein, gluten, infection, toxins or adhesions of the connective tissue, such as scars. Your lymph system is also immune supporting. If you don’t clean this up, it locks germs in without downtime to clean them out. The more toxins build up and don’t leave, the more your immune system has to use its limited energy to combat these toxins.
To help support your body’s natural biological release process:
- Dry brush your skin: Dry skin brushing promotes lymphatic drainage. Your lymphatic system is close to the surface of the skin and it only takes a light pressure to release congestion.
- Move: The lymphatic system depends largely on large muscle activity in the body for its circulation. One of the best ways to activate lymphatic flow is to take a brisk walk. Walking is a weight-bearing activity that creates gravitational pulls on the lymphatic system each time you take a step.
- Yoga: Holding yoga poses and stretches combined with conscious deep breathing can help move lymph and direct lymph through the deep channels of the chest.
- Jump on a rebounder: A “rebounder”, or small trampoline, is one of the most efficient ways to stimulate lymph flow and reduce lymphatic congestion. The gravitational pull caused by gentle up and down bouncing helps lymphatic valves to open and close, moving the lymph.
- Alternate hot and cold in your shower: Lymphatic vessels contract when exposed to cold, and dilate in response to heat. A hot and cold shower is a type of hydrotherapy that uses the properties of water temperature and pressure to move stagnant lymphatic fluid, increase circulation, boost immune function and metabolism.
- Oils: Essential oils help keep plants healthy by moving vital fluids and energy. They perform similar functions in your body, helping to improve flow and move energy which shifts or calms stagnation. Topically applying Lymph™ to the following specific points on your skin can help lymph flow:
- Around the sides of your neck
- Under your left clavicle (collarbone)
- On the armpits
- Around the bikini line (think where your leg creases when you lift it)
Approximately seventy-five percent of lymphatic fluid drains down the left side of your body, so apply essential oils more aggressively on the left side of the neck and the left clavicle.
You obviously cannot control anything that happens in your external environment, including who lives or dies. The only thing you can control is how you react and remembering to Eat, Sleep and Move are all within your realm of control, especially with the help of essential oils.
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