Peace and tranquility – such hard things to find these days. And I have witnessed so much crazy behavior recently, it has got me thinking about the culprits and how I can develop better coping methods.

Have we reached  fever pitch with the stressful and continual news we listen to and read every day? I do find the coverage of just about every news worthy, and not so news worthy item, over sensationalized. Not that such awful occurrences like the Boston bombing and the NewTown shootings are not news worthy or important. They are terrible tragedies that need our attention.

But many stories we end up watching are used to simply fill air time, are shown repeatedly and are of no great significance. Look at the way every political move is a crisis – nothing gets solved, if at all, until the very last minute and I think this approach tends to bleed out into our own lives. Or it can if we don’t pay attention to how we react and handle our everyday activities.

And as much as I love my computer and i-Phone, I do think we are over stimulated by all the information that is continually being pinged, messaged and streamed at us. Our attention is continuously being pulled in a million different directions.

Even information about diet, exercise and vitamins can be confusing. I often read conflicting reports about all these topics. It is easy to get sucked in but really more important than ever to take a step back from it all.

I have spoken in previous blogs about developing great habits to sustain a level of happiness and wellbeing in our lives and have just encountered a really good article with some great tips on how to do this. 25 of them actually. Some you have heard before, from me and many other sources, but they all bear reading and hearing again. The article appeared on a wonderful website called www.MindBodyGreen.com and was written by Kristy Rao.

Read on. Maybe there are some extra steps you can take to stay grounded and content in this wonderful but often crazy world. The title of the article is: “25 Habits of people who are Happy, Healthy and Successful.”

1. They don’t hold grudges.
2. They think outside of the box.
3. They go by a routine and make exercise a part of it. It takes practice to develop healthy habits and stick with them. Once you do, your internal foundation will be strong.
4. They have a supportive tribe, thereby not wasting time with negative or toxic people.
5. They don’t care about what other people think. Does a tiger lose sleep over the opinion of sheep?
6. They don’t people please.
7. They see difficult and challenging situations as opportunities for personal growth.
8. They consider handling rejection a skill and are resilient.
9. They make time for themselves. Whether it’s getting eight hours of sleep every night, finding 15 minutes to read the newspaper in peace or an hour to go to the gym, they make it a priority — just like everything else. When you take care of yourself, you have a bigger impact on others.
10. They are spiritual. This doesn’t necessarily mean religious. It could mean setting aside time for reflection through yoga or meditation.
11. They practice deep breathing.
12. They know there isn’t such a thing as “having it all,” and they’re happy about that. Wouldn’t the world be a boring place for them otherwise?
13. Fear doesn’t hold them back. They’re ready to take risks.
14. They know how to say “NO,” and don’t hold back. These people have learned to set boundaries. Plenty of them.
15. They learned a great deal from other people whom they admire. Either they had a great mentor, or they took note of how those they aspired to be like handled various situations.
16. They follow their inner guidance. Not only do they have a vision, but they follow it.
17. They give without expecting anything in return.
18. They aren’t pretentious or conceited.
19. Passion is what drives them. They authentically believe in what they’re doing.
20. They don’t complain.
21. They live by their core values in both their professional and personal lives.
22. They’re happy to swim against the tide.
23. They finish what they start.
24. They don’t compare themselves to other people.
25. They want you to succeed, too.

It’s a lot to aspire to but worth the effort.

When we go to the doctor and are told  that whatever ails us is triggered by stress, it is always a frustrating diagnosis. Too vague somehow. We want something more concrete.

I recently asked a client who is a gastroenterologist what, in her opinion, is the main cause of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and her answer was stress. In fact she told me that most of the medications prescribed for IBS are for anxiety.

With all that is going on in our world right now, how can we keep our stress levels under control to avoid developing chronic illness and without devoting hours to meditation or moving to some remote island without electricity.

Maybe one way to stay calm would be to take our hobbies to a new level. I know many of you already have interests outside of work because they come up a lot in conversation during spa visits. And I also know many of you will react with the question “Who has the time?” But gardening, games, puzzles (not all online and using an electronic device), photography, reading, and cooking are all hobbies that can provide endless pleasure and get us to relax and concentrate on lighter pursuits.

Take gardening for example. Many people now grow some if not many of their own vegetables. A study in the Netherlands compared reduced cortisol levels after one random group read for 30 minutes and another gardened for the same amount of time. The gardeners’ cortisol levels were the lowest. Not that I am against reading. I read a lot and belong to a book club that I find really interesting, but being in touch with nature connects us to the earth and that has a very comforting effect on us all.

Cooking is another great way to relax, especially if you have some favourite background music playing while you prepare your food. Maybe take a cooking class before the Holidays and surprise your family and friends with some new recipes or exchange recipes with friends?

Several of my clients are also making their own Holiday cards this year. We have a newly opened Paper Source in our neighbourhood that offers evening classes in all kinds of crafts. Sending cards that are hand-made adds a very personal touch, allows you to be creative and saves money. Many of us underestimate our creative talents both in the garden and arts arena.

Photography is another hobby that can bring endless pleasure. Our phones now take great pictures as we go about our daily lives, but take it one step further and carry a camera on you every day to capture images you may want to re-produce for that gallery at home.

Finally, get together with friends and family as much as possible and laugh. It really is the best medicine and exercises all those facial muscles in the best possible way!!

These are just a few ideas that may help you unwind and keep those stress levels under control. If you would like to share some other ways that you enjoy, please e-mail me at msimms {at} skinsensewellness.com. I would love to hear from you.

Over the many years I have traveled back and forth to London I have tried many things to keep my skin looking fresh when I arrive. So here are a few ideas you might like to try on your next journey.

Taking a flying trip this summer? Fun, but oh, those plane rides and what they can do to the skin! Stale, recycled air, 10% humidity, poor lighting and extra exposure to UV rays with no atmospheric protection, not to mention very little or no sleep!!

Here are a few tips to help your skin glow on arrival.

Get a really deep cleansing, hydrating facial 3-5 days before you leave. At SkinSense we offer the Hydradermie, Guinot’s signature galvanic treatment that does it all.

The night before the flight, treat your skin to a hydrating mask. Slather on body lotion and condition your hair. Do the same thing the night of your arrival and if the skin has become cranky during the flight, apply a clay mask that has a corrective, rebalancing formula.

Before boarding, make sure your skin is super hydrated – eye creme, serum, moisturizer and sunscreen and if you use mineral cosmetics, a light dusting will add extra protection.

If you have oilier skin, just use a serum after cleansing and toning, and add topicals before sunscreen and mineral powder.

TIP: Spraying water on the skin during a flight may feel refreshing but it dehydrates the skin surface. We recommend 302 Calming Mist which contains botanicals that hydrate and tone continuously.

DON’T FORGET: drink plenty of water. Hydrate from the inside out as well as the outside in. Avoid alcohol, tea and coffee during the flight and pack a few healthy snacks – fruit, nuts, energy bars – edibles that are light and easy to digest. Sitting for a length of time can cramp the system so remember to walk around from time to time and stretch your body.

Happy Trails!!

The Not So Sweet Side of Sugar

That sweet tooth! Who knew it could get us into so much trouble? When we consume sugar in all its forms – especially the refined type – it attaches itself very quickly to proteins and fats in our bodies. This is called GLYCATION. The really bad news is that sugar has a particular affinity for dermal proteins, the deeper layers of the skin. The by-product of glycation is known as advanced glycation end products (or AGEs) and age us it does, causing stiffening of the connective tissue, inflammation, wrinkles and sagging.

Cross linking in proteins is part of the natural aging process, but if you add poor lifestyle to the mix – smoking, UV exposure, drug use, lack of exercise and poor diet – then you have the perfect storm.

ELIMINATE REFINED SUGARS:

Eliminating all sugars from our diet is not advisable either. Complex carbohydrates supply much needed glucose to fuel cellular activity throughout the body. BUT we can eliminate certain foods to help the skin retain some of its natural youthfulness and tone. These would include refined sugars, white bread and all simple carbohydrates, and the worst culprit of all, high-fructose corn syrup.

READ LABELS:

Fruit flavored drinks and even crackers often contain very high levels of sugar and so do most processed foods, so scrutinize any pre-packaged products before you put them in your shopping basket.

TAKE SUPPLEMENTS:

We can further counteract the damaging effects of glycation by adding the amino acid, CARNOSINE, to our supplement list, GREEN TEA to our fluid intake and other anti-oxidants to our diet, such as vitamins A, B1 and B6, C and E. These are all potent AGE inhibitors.

CHECK GLYCEMIC LEVELS:

Checking the glycemic levels of the fruits and vegetables we consume can make a big difference. This information can be found easily on the internet. For example, carrots, corn and potatoes contain a lot of sugar but spinach, Swiss chard, broccoli and cucumbers contain very little. Plus, they are alkaline in nature and help to maintain the pH balance in the gut (refer to my previous post Healthy Skin and the Value of pH Balancing).

So, next time you have a hankering for something sweet, reach for a handful of cherries, berries, an apple, peach or a plum. And if you want to follow the example of our French beauty experts, a piece of dark chocolate.

How we feel about ourselves and the way we look has a huge influence on our ability to succeed in life, connect with others and experience joy and happiness. All this is reflected in the skin. Over the years I have been a facialist, I have realized that it is the inner layers of a person I am working on as much as the outer layers. Self acceptance is admittedly a life-long quest and at different times, we feel good about the way we look or very unhappy about our appearance.

Everything from aging to illness is clearly expressed on our faces. It takes work and daily commitment to keep our skin looking fresh and youthful. However, a clear, healthy and radiant complexion is not only extremely attractive but sends a message to the world that we are confident, successful individuals that are worth knowing. These positive feelings can in turn boost our immune system, overcome inferiority complexes and lift depression.

We live in a fiercely competitive society where people are quickly dismissed at a glance if all does not present well. Like it or not, looks matter especially when living under the super critical lens of Los Angeles.

Just applying cosmetics to disguise skin imperfections can make an enormous difference to how a person feels. Look Good, Feel Good (www.lookgoodfeelgood.org) – a support organization that helps patients going through chemotherapy and radiation, promotes the importance of applying make-up every day. Their experience has taught them that looking better helps patients feel better and recover more quickly. For many of my clients, simply coming for a facial without make-up is a big step, one that makes them feel uncomfortable and vulnerable at first. Teenagers who are struggling with acne rarely make eye contact on their first visit with me because they are ashamed about how their skin looks. As their skin improves, so does their demeanor. They smile and look at me directly and obviously feel more confident about themselves.

Confucius once said: “True quality of life comes from a lasting harmony between the body and the mind.” More than that, it affects how we exist in the eyes of others. This is not vanity; it is survival and over the years, has made me realize I am doing something important for my clients. That is good for my self esteem!

Balance – finding it in everyday simple activities.

I have been reading many articles recently about the importance of having a purposeful, balanced life. Maybe because there has been a lot of instability and uncertainty over the last few years, but the quest for balance is everywhere. Balanced nutrition, budgets, lifestyles, relationships and energy. Maybe this is because more people at the moment don’t have a job or career and have been forced to consider how they are spending their lives. Maybe they do have a job and very busy work schedule and feel unbalanced or tilted in that direction. Whatever the reason – balance seems to be popping into many conversations these days.

When we are out of balance, life can seem less comfortable, overwhelming, less safe.

Every day we wake up, get out of bed and begin routines that have become automatic to us. They actually mold our lives and provide anchors as we navigate our entry into our daily activities.

These could be walking the dog, reading the newspaper, gardening, going to the gym, calling loved ones, getting the kids ready for school, preparing breakfast, grabbing a coffee.

Sometimes these things get disrupted for other activities like travel, heavier workloads or even emergencies but it is always comforting to get back to these routines.

Maybe this is where the balance begins and even provides us with a momentary sense of control, in a world that seems to be going wildly out of control at the moment.

We are all different. My idea of a balanced life might seem unbalanced to others but I spend a lot of time talking to clients about their lifestyles and have noticed a re-calibration of values being adopted among many. A concern for sustainability in the environment, recycling, more moderate living styles, home cooking and home grown vegetables, reconnecting with old friends, mending family rifts, and in some areas more of a community spirit. The internet has certainly helped here in the guise of Facebook and other social media formats. If we are lucky enough, we have certain people in our lives that are our anchors, ports in the storm. They are always accessible, reachable and present. They make us laugh, can be wise when we need guidance or just listen when we need to blow off steam. They can restore a sense of balance and some level of control.

So what or who are YOUR anchors? If you are currently unemployed or over employed , what activities do you choose or have changed to shape your day and make you feel more productive? Have you adopted new habits and interests in more recent times?

How do you maintain balance in YOUR life?

Dr. Edward Bach, a British physician and homeopath, began developing a series of essences prepared from non-poisonous flowers, plants, trees and bushes in the 1930’s. They are completely safe, have no side effects and are not addictive. You really can not overdose on these remedies and because there are 38 in total, the choice of blends that can be mixed together for treatment is endless! They are also very affordable ($10-50 a bottle) and easy to use.

The principle behind these essences is to re-balance the physical manifestations of emotional upset and discomfort. For example, Rescue Remedy, which is a pre-blended formula of five flower essences – Rock Rose, Impatiens, Clematis, Star of Bethlehem and Cherry Plum – is great to treat nervousness and stress caused by shock, travel, visits to the vet, separation anxiety and sudden change. There are blends and essences for a dog or cat that soils at home, (Cherry Plum), or suddenly becomes aggressive or fearful (Vine). Trauma and abuse can be treated with Star of Bethlehem. A dog or cat getting used to a new home can be treated with Walnut and when training a puppy or kitten, Chestnut Bud is useful. Mimulus is used for everyday fears, Aspen for fear of the unknown and Rock Rose for terror and panic. (A good one for July 4th fireworks). Wild Rose is great for apathy, Holly can tame a bully, Vervain can calm a highly strung animal, Chicory can break dependency and Olive can energize a tired dog.

Of course, all these remedies apply to human behavior so pet and owner can be treated at the same time. Even grief, depression and obsessive cleaning can be addressed. The time taken for each essence or blend to work can vary. Sometimes the benefits are immediate and in other cases it can take a number of weeks. The essences can be dropped into water, wet food or any liquid, or it can be applied to paws or ears. (2-4 drops for a small animal and 5-6 drops for a larger animal.) Atomizers can also be used.

Call for more information or ask for a questionnaire to be sent to you. You will see for yourself how effective Bach Flower Remedies can be.

Life in this fine country of ours has been difficult for many people over the last few years. Even if you have not been affected by the Great Recession, or do not have a loved one fighting overseas, these events take their toll on our psyche and general sense of well-being. And just trying to keep up with the fast pace of life these days can be overwhelming. So it is very important to find time every day – even if it is just for a few minutes – to regroup and re-focus your energy. Meditation is a wonderful tool for doing this…

…Meditation, however, can be hard. Trying to sit comfortably while concentrating only on your breath can be a little challenging. Those chattering monkeys tend to take over. So, try adjusting your focus. Imagine the air around you and therefore the breath you are inhaling to be a certain hue or color. This is called Chromotherapy and dates back to Egyptian times when solariums were used with different colored glass to achieve and maintain good health and well-being. The art of color breathing, which is what we are talking about here, can be done anywhere – at home, lying on the floor, in the car driving to and from work, sitting in the garden or while waiting in the doctor’s office. Start off with a few deep breaths to get calm and then continue breathing deeply through your nose while imagining your selected color saturating your body and mind. Some people find it easier to do with the eyes closed but it isn’t necessary and certainly not advisable behind the wheel of a car. Here is a color chart to guide you…

BLUE – to treat insomnia, gain confidence, improve high blood pressure and lessen tension.

YELLOW – to imbue a sense of freedom, gratitude, joy and optimism.

RED – to increase energy and love life.

GREEN – to treat depression, eating disorders, respiratory problems and infertility.

ORANGE – to overcome procrastination.

TURQUOISE – to strengthen the immune system.

PURPLE – to boost self-worth and gain wisdom and finally,

PINK – to let go of negativity and anger.

Essential oils can be a great accessory to focusing the mind on the moment – Sandalwood, Bergamot, Cedarwood and Patchouli are especially effective for this purpose. Use them in a diffuser or simply sprinkle a few drops on a Kleenex and inhale. Finally, there is a set of wonderful CD’s which you may want to invest in that can also help your meditation practice. The four CD set is called Guided Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn and can be ordered from www.mindfulnesstapes.com.

As well as helping to cure what ails you, color breathing combined with meditation can make a big difference to how each and every day unfolds for you. Om…

It is a new year and time to Feng Shui your home and business. The energies shift on a solar calendar beginning February 5th. Annual changes should be in place no sooner than February 1st.

Using the five elements of water, wood, fire, earth and metal, this ancient practice of encouraging a healthy energy flow in your working and living environments really makes a difference to your life. Bring harmony, peace, prosperity and success to every area of your life with a few easy adjustments and the right guidance.

We have been using Kartar Diamond for many years. To receive her e-newsletter Time & Space, register at kartar@FengShuiSolutions.net.

Wishing you a very healthy, abundant 2010.

In the skin care business, it is not unusual to talk about the pH of a product. The letters pH stand for potential hydrogen, as hydrogen is the element that controls the levels of either alkalinity or acidity in a formulation. Acidic products range from 0 – 6.9 and are often used to exfoliate or peel the skin; alkaline products range from 7.1 – 14 and can be used in cleansers or to neutralize acidity. Very often moisturizers are formulated to be neutral (a pH of 7) to bring the skin back into balance. Too much acid or alkalinity is irritating for the skin, so the pH is always carefully calibrated.

More recently, the principle of pH balancing has been applied to our bodies. This holistic approach believes that the foundation of healthy digestion is built on a simple eating system that maintains an ideal acid/alkaline (pH) balance in the body. Seventy per cent of the immune system is based in the abdomen and 90% of the tryptophan needed to make serotonin for the brain – essential to ensure we feel good – is made here. So in order to live a long and happy life it obviously pays to keep our abdomens happy!

How do we do that? The suggested pH ratio would be a diet of two-thirds alkaline and one-third acid-forming foods. This takes some adjustment. So, to take a step in the right direction, let’s outline a few alkaline foods that we can incorporate in greater quantities and some acidic foods we can eliminate.

Raw, green leafy vegetables like chard, kale and spinach are all excellent alkaline-rich foods. So are avocados, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, coconut, cherries, grapefruit, lemons and watermelon. A healthy way to start and end each day with an alkaline system for example, would be with a cup of warm water flavored with half a lemon.

Things to avoid would be white flour, coffee, red meat, too much alcohol and artificial sugar.

And how does all this reflect in the skin? Well, too much acidity triggers eczema, acne, boils, rosacea and wrinkles – so all of these conditions could be greatly improved by maintaining a more alkaline system. Obviously, exercise and relaxation are essential and drinking the right amount of water. Men need more water than women on a daily basis, but if you eat plenty of the above listed vegetables and two or three fresh fruits a day, you can fill half your required fluid quota easily.

There are several books that discuss this subject at great length. For recommended reading material and a list of nutritionists who recommend pH balancing contact us.