If you’ve ever had the pleasure of “helping” a two year old put their coat on, you’ve likely observed how strong their natural drive for independence is. “Mama! I DO IT!” is a common refrain. Even if it means that their coat is on backwards and their boots are on the wrong feet, there comes a point in a child’s life when they desperately want to be doing things for themselves. We see this drive for independence throughout our lives, especially in Western culture where being self-sufficient is highly regarded. I suspect we have all seen that 90 year old neighbour who insists on using a ladder to clean their upstairs windows or who perhaps is raking the lawn with one arm while holding their cane in the other hand. I know it’s important to keep active to maintain functionality, but there comes a time when it would be wise to ask for help or to accept help when it is offered.
Like many people, I finally caught COVID this past December. Being the second to fall ill in our household, I was already a bit tired from doing extra chores to pick up the slack. I ended up having to tell more people about my getting sick than I usually do in order to let people know if they’d been exposed. I was very touched that several kind friends and family asked if they could help us out. I was tempted to say that I was fine and everything was under control. Then I thought about my answer more carefully. Sure we could manage without help by getting things delivered, but even that seemed to involve too much thinking! Plus, I realized that people wanted to take care of us. I remembered that I like to help others when they are having a rough time. It feels good to help and it gives you something constructive to do instead of simply worrying. Most importantly you really hope it makes them feel cared for. So I decided to start saying “yes” when people offered to help us. It was lovely! Not only did I learn that my friend picks out the best oranges ever, but I felt cared for and that goes a long way to help promote healing from any illness. Independence can be great, but also lonely, risky and just a little boring.
So have you reached out to anyone lately to lend a hand? Who can you say “yes” to next time they offer assistance? And if you are curious about whether Reflexology can assist you, Time for Healing is ready to welcome you!
Some of you may notice that this post/letter is getting out a bit late this year. Yes, I’ve been very busy like everybody else, but the truth is that I've had writer’s block. Perhaps it’s not cool to be honest about this, but I think we can all relate. Not knowing what to say is a phenomenon that can happen when we come face to face with a friend who is experiencing loss. Not knowing what to say can happen when we look around and wonder when there is going to be peace. Not knowing what to say can happen for some of us who want to say the right thing, but end up not saying anything because we can’t think of the perfect thing!
So bear with me as I figure out what to say! I am so glad it is the holiday season again, but at the same time, just like my writer’s block, everything feels a bit sluggish. For example, most of the decoration lights that we wanted to put up were burnt out. So we spent about six hours (I’m not exaggerating), testing and replacing the bulbs. Likewise, it’s time to bake special treats, but the cost of basic ingredients, like everything else has gone up. I purchased some scented hand soap with hopes of being transported to a Christmas tree forest, but it ended up smelling quite unpleasant. Also, it seems like we are in yet another wave of COVID. And of course, our cat is trying to eat the tree, the ribbons and the light strands!
I know these are frivolous and silly concerns compared to what many people are living. But sometimes it can feel like we are just going through the motions, checking off our to do lists, instead of really being in touch with the mystery and wonder of the season. Often you hear the advice to “simplify” which for some of us, if we are honest with ourselves is not simple at all! I think it is worthwhile to reexamine our traditions and consider mixing it up a bit. We might let some things go and try some new things that are perhaps more meaningful or less self-centred. Or dare I suggest that we could simply take a few moments to stop doing and develop awareness; to listen and be open to moments of simple blessings that are around us everywhere.
Wishing you health, peace, love, joy and simplicity,
Even though it is only the beginning of November, you’ve probably noticed that many stores, both brick-and-mortar and online, have been set up for holiday shopping for quite some time. This year, in particular, I’ve been amazed by the variety of advent calendars that are available for purchase. From cheese and alcohol to fragrance and nail polish, and of course toys and chocolate, there seems to be something for everyone. I’ve even seen advent calendars for dogs and cats! Despite the abundance of calendars that are available, I wonder if the real meaning of advent has been lost? Traditionally, advent refers to the four weeks before Christmas. It is a time of spiritual preparation and it tends to focus on four themes such as hope, peace, joy and love. It is a time of waiting. These calendars certainly focus on joy and perhaps love of family if you buy them for loved ones, but what about hope and peace? And what about the waiting? Are there benefits to learning how to wait for something in life?
As some of you know, I am currently taking a course on spiritual formation. It is not what I expected, to be honest. A recurrent theme, I am learning, is that true spiritual development seems to be a process which requires patience. We are not really in control of the process which is hard for people like me who like to be in control. Also, the process does not actually involve learning “magic bullet” techniques that will bring a quick spiritual maturity, a kind of instant gratification that is so commonplace in our culture. Like many things in life, often, the path of spiritual development involves waiting and listening.
So I invite you to consider, what you are waiting for this November? Will it bring hope, peace, joy or love for yourself, for your family, for the community? What does waiting mean to you? How will you wait? And naturally if you want to engage in some self care while you are waiting, of course, you could try a calendar full of bubble bath or even some Reflexology! 😉
Healthy blessings to you!
Will you forgive me? Chances are you’ve said this or at least heard it before. After all we are all only human and prone to make mistakes! Recently, I had the chance to participate in a group study on the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is interesting that all faith traditions seem to include some form of forgiveness. Forgiveness is necessary for people to get along in any community. It is pretty amazing how many nuances there are; for example, does repentance have to precede forgiveness, can you forgive when the person to be forgiven is not around anymore, can you forgive or seek forgiveness on behalf of someone else, do you forgive to help release the other person or to heal yourself or both, are there some things that are unforgivable, what about forgiving repeatedly, is forgiveness a sign of weakness, are some people unable to forgive, is there any such thing as unconditional forgiveness, do we need to forgive and forget?
No matter where you stand on the subject, it is quite complex. Sometimes we even need to learn to forgive ourselves. I invite you to consider whether there’s something that you need to let go of that could benefit from engaging in a process of forgiveness. Ultimately forgiveness (or lack of it) can have far reaching consequences that affect many different aspects of people’s lives. Even from a physical health perspective, studies have shown that the act of forgiveness can lower the risk of heart attack, improve cholesterol levels and sleep, decrease pain, blood pressure, anxiety, depression and stress. “Please forgive me” is an important part of the Ho’oponopono healing technique, for example.
Easier said than done, right? Fortunately many of us can learn to forgive even if we’re not so good at doing it now. It is no small matter to offer forgiveness. There are many different types of resources that you can find to support you in this, as well as meeting with a trusted friend or counsellor. And my goodness, the world sure could use a bit of forgiveness these days!
What are you doing this summer other than practicing forgiveness? I will be taking some days off in July and then again in August so book your Reflexology appointments now to best suit your schedule.
Have a wonderful summer!
This past month I had the honour of providing sessions at the Crieff Retreat and Conference Centre during a retreat for healthcare workers that focussed on burnout. The staffing shortages in the healthcare system, which were already a major problem prior to the pandemic, have gotten even more complex and serious. Becoming burned out seems to be a natural response to the situation. We hear a lot about burnout these days, but healthcare workers, in particular, are at an increased risk because they tend to be highly responsible, caring and sensitive people. They often put others’ needs before their own too. That’s why they went into the field to begin with, of course! As someone who has experienced her own sense of burnout in the nursing profession, I know that it is especially difficult on your soul when you start to feel like you cannot help others who are suffering so much in the system. It is easy to lose your sense of perspective in your work and even in life. This leads to further burnout.
Now obviously it is not reasonable to expect that people can heal themselves from burnout on a three day retreat, however ICU Nurse and Coach, Vicky Boateng was able to present lots of very specific strategies to help retreatants to take some first steps. Useful ideas that can work for anyone experiencing burnout include: set boundaries, turn off technology and in particular social media, nourish your creativity even in small ways, schedule relaxation time, eat regular healthy meals, try to get plenty of sleep, try to do rhythmic or cardiovascular exercise regularly such as walking, swimming, cycling or dancing. Some of these ideas are more complex than others and may require getting support from a counsellor or coach or an accountability partner.
In addition to caring for ourselves physically, many burnout care strategies attempt to make some space in our lives for moments of beauty and awe. These moments can give us a small change in perspective and we may be reminded that we are not alone or that we are not at fault. For example, in taking time to notice the rhythms and patterns in nature, we realize that we ourselves also need to have rhythms of work AND play AND sleep in our own lives! Yes, the sun still rises even if everything doesn’t get done. There is beauty all around us, in nature, in others and even in difficult times. I hope that you can find the courage to steal a few moments to seek out what is beautiful to you. What first steps can you take to look after yourself?
What is Burnout?"Burnout" is a term that we hear often these days, but what does it actually mean? It refers to a state of emotional, physical, mental (and I would add spiritual) exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress in the workplace. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to meet constant demands. Signs can include: lack of interest and the ability to concentrate, being overly cynical, performing poorly at work, feeling isolated, irritable or stressed, loss of appetite, chronic fatigue, trouble sleeping, frequent headaches, respiratory problems, digestive issues or illness. Signs can also include anxiety and depression. The official diagnosis is even included in the International Classification of Diseases, or ICD-11.
I really do like winter. I even like snow! However, it is around this time of the year as we head into March that I really start to crave more colour outside. In particular, I find myself longing for something green. This year has been particularly challenging in that we've all been restricting our outings and travel. Many of the local greenhouses have been closed to the public as well. This week, however, I decided to take matters into my own hands and visit a local nursery to see if they had something green to gaze upon. I was not disappointed. I was delighted to find many different varieties of green tropical plants, orchids, succulents, cacti and even some citrus trees in bloom!
What is it about seeing lush green plants that we enjoy so much? The sheer abundance factor has to be part of it, for nature is abundant. But did you know that our eyes have evolved to be able to see more shades of green than any other colour? Apparently the cone cells in the human eye are more sensitive to green frequencies. Human beings have an evolutionary advantage that allows
us to scan for varying degrees of ripeness of potential plant food and where there are plants, water and shelter are likely nearby. The colour green falls into the mid-spectrum of colour waves that we can see. As a result, researchers believe that compared to other colours, it is easier for us to perceive the colour green and thus less stressful on the nervous system. Indeed studies show that spending time in natural green environments or even looking at pictures of green scenery in nature can lead to relaxed muscles, and even affect the release of hormones in our bodies which can result in relief from symptoms of stress, better impulse control and improved focus!
With all that’s going on in the world these days, remember to be intentional about doing those things that bring you joy. Even if it's just taking a moment to enjoy some green plants at the grocery store! Make time for yourself and take time for healing.
Here’s to greener times ahead!
At the moment, it seems like spring will never come in southern Ontario and yet I saw these bright and cheerful blooms braving the snow just the other day. These tiny, yellow flowers are called Winter Aconite, one of the very first flowers to come up in spring. And how we are all longing for spring at this point! What a long winter this has been in so many ways. I think many people are feeling a bit discombobulated at this point with the weather flipping back and forth and the uncertainty of what is going to happen with COVID. To mask or not? To gather or not? Some people are even feeling burned out with the whole thing...
"Healing from burnout" is the theme of a special Healthcare Worker Retreat that I am excited to be providing Reflexology sessions for. Retreatants will have the chance to attend a workshop led by Vicky Boateng, a Coach and RN who has been caring for patients in the ICU during the pandemic. This retreat will also feature amazing food prepared by a real chef, yoga, meditation, a labyrinth walk and lots of chances to spend time in nature on the beautiful grounds of Crieff in Puslinch. See below for the details of this May retreat. Registration closes May 2nd. Please forward this information to others who may be interested.
And even if you don't manage to attend a retreat, do look after yourself and take some time for healing!
Have you ever felt rejected? I am pretty sure that every one has at least one experience of being spurned by a romantic partner or a close friend. I recently had the lovely experience of being rejected by a friend (hint of sarcasm here) and was surprised by how painful it was. Though I do have other friends and rationally I can understand that it probably wasn’t a bad idea for the friendship to end, it is still difficult. As a result, my thoughts, physical wellbeing, sleep and of course, my mood, have been affected for the entire week.
As you may know, human beings have evolved over time to form strong social connections since the only way they could survive (in the past) was by living in a group. So being rejected on a social level had serious consequences and to avoid this we became very good at fitting in while constantly assessing threats to our acceptance and belonging. The interesting part is that the areas of the brain that are involved in assessing these threats are also associated with physical pain. So a break-up and a broken arm are somewhat similar for the brain. In addition, when we are feeling rejected, our bodies release cortisol which revs up our muscles to get us ready for fight or flight and this causes our muscles to ache. And as if that isn’t enough, each time we deal with a new loss, inevitably we remember past losses which compound the issue! In addition to pain, studies show that rejection can actually cause nausea, loss of appetite, brain fog, irritability, and changes to sleep. Rejection truly is painful for body and soul!
Experts suggest that exercise, fresh air and having fun with other friends are important ways to help us through rejection. In addition to this, I’ve been trying not to “brush off” my feelings too quickly. It can be easy to simply try to distract myself out of negative feelings, but it doesn’t seem to work in the long run. So I’m making time to look after my own heart by journalling, tapping, meditating, praying and talking things through with a true friend. See below for how to do Reflexology on the heart reflex. I would love to know what you do to care for your heart in these situations.
From my heart to yours, Happy Valentine’s!
“Hold a true friend with both hands.” Nigerian Proverb
Wellness tip: There are several studies showing that Reflexology can help lower heart rate and blood pressure which is a great way to take care of you hard-working heart muscle! A common reflex for the heart is found on the bottom of both feet, under the big toe, sometimes called “the ball of the foot”. Try using your thumb to make three circles in both directions over this area. A light to medium touch will work best.
Bundled against the cold, but happy to be in the sunlight after an endless procession of grey days, I made my way along the sidewalk. When I spied this snow-covered vine, I had to stop, remove my mittens and quickly snap this photo. If you look closely you will see that there are plenty of tiny buds waiting to open, a clear promise of spring. Of course, spring is not nearly here yet, but the discovery of buds was a sign of hope for me on what was the coldest day of the year so far.
To be honest there are moments when hope seems a little hard to come by these days. As we navigate another COVID wave, (I don’t even know which one at this point!) I am searching for any glimmers of strength, light, joy, that I can find. I suppose we are all experts at navigating the pandemic at this point, but are we really? Is it that helpful to “doomscroll” (reading article after article about the direness of the situation)? The news and social media, of course, are designed to get us to click on sensational and fear based stories. And while I’m not denying we are in a pandemic, we also have to be careful with how much we let ourselves be influenced by the media’s rather negatively biased view of the world.
And while the world (Ontario for sure) seems to be stuck in some kind of repeating loop and there is definitely uncertainty, I think it is helpful to get back to basic self-care practices: making sure we are sleeping, eating healthy, exercising, reading or studying or creating something uplifting, getting fresh air every day, meditating or a yoga movement practice, maintaining some kind of routine and safe socializing. I am not making any resolutions this year, but I am hoping to keep myself grounded and try to avoid excess anxiety about the pandemic by continuing to stay present in the moment and grateful for it. I would be curious to know how you are keeping hope alive this January.
Oh there's no place like home for the holidays,
'Cause no matter how far away you roam,
If you want to be happy in a million ways,
For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home. Lyrics by Al Stillman
I’m sure you recognize this song as “Home for the Holidays” which was made famous in 1954 by Perry Como. I've had the tune stuck in my head all week long! Like so many songs that we hear at this time of the year, this song can fill us with nostalgia for happy times in the past. Of course, not everyone can actually go “home” for the holidays physically (and some might not even want to). Nevertheless, I invite you to join me in reflecting on what “home” means to you, especially at this time of the year. Is it family or special friends, or the cottage? Or perhaps “home” is simply a place that you carry in your heart. What do you need to do to get “home” and does it depend on others or having certain things? Whatever “home” is for you, I hope that you get to spend some
time rejuvenating in that special place over the holidays.
I want to sincerely thank you for all of your support during this past, unique pandemic year! And in case you are wondering, there are still a few openings for appointments at Time for Healing in December. Just be sure to book in advance!
Blessings of the season to you and yours!
Donna-Michelle Rancoeur is a Registered Reflexologist (RRPR), a Reiki Master and an Indian Head Massage Practitioner.