Dry Skin Brushing

Skin is a very important and often overlooked part of our body. The skin is the largest organ of the human body, accounting for 15% of our body weight. Skin is very important for sensation, such as touch and it also protects our internal systems from bacteria and water loss. Skin also regulates temperature through the expansion and constriction of our blood vessels and also through the sweat glands. On top of all of that, the skin also excretes toxins, salt, water, sebum (reduces water loss), bacteria, and more. Your skin also sheds about 30,000 dead cells every minute!

So what can you do to help this process along? Dry skin brushing, of course!

Dry skin brushing can remove toxins and dead cells that have become trapped in the skin, stimulate the lymphatic system, reduce cellulite, and unclog pours. (Goodbye adolescent acne!) It’s so simple, yet few people know about it. Recently, I bought myself a dry skin brush and my goal is to use it every day before I have a shower.

How do you use a dry skin brush?

  1. Make sure you buy a natural skin brush, not a synthetic one. It’s best to get one with a long handle so that you can reach your entire body (like your back). I bought mine at a local natural food store that also has a beauty department.
  2. Strip down and brush away! I stand in my shower so that I can wash away the dead skin that falls off. (I know. Ew.) Make sure you start at your feet and brush towards your heart. Run over every area of skin a couple times.
  3. Be careful as you brush over sensitive areas. Dry skin brushes can feel quite harsh on the skin at first, but you’ll get used to it! If you brush your face, be really gentle.
  4. After you brush, have a nice, warm shower, but not too hot because your skin may be sensitive.
  5. After your shower, towel down and apply coconut oil to your body.
  6. Remember to wash your brush once a week with natural soap and water. Leave your brush out to dry so that mold doesn’t grow on it.

Go out and buy a dry skin brush today! It’s worth it. It takes very little time (2-5 mins per day), yet it’s so good for you. It also feels great!

♥ Michaela

Book Review: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg

One of my favourite things to do is peruse local thrift stores for books. I am a self-professed book junky. I consistently I have more books than my measly bookshelf can hold, which leads me to pile books on my desk, dresser, and floor. Yep, I have a problem. I was looking for books in one of my favourite thrift stores and I found this gem: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg.

What is “nonviolent communication”? Rosenberg defines nonviolent communication (or NVC) as “a way of communicating that allows us to give from the heart”. At first, I thought this was some airy, fairy idea. I mean, come on, it sounded more like a way of sappy communication. It didn’t seem like it was for me. However, as someone who is known for historically being a poor communicator, though I’ve made big strides in this area, I decided I should give it a shot.

I have to be honest: this is one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time! I never knew that it was possible to clearly get right down to the bottom of my feelings, why I truly felt that way, and to be able to authentically express it to another person without them feeling attacked, judged, blamed, or discouraged. I also never realized that that there was a way to interact with other humans without constantly casting judgement on them (even just in my mind) wherever I go. It sounds -duh- so obvious, but how many people actually live their lives without judging or blaming the people around them? Not very many (myself included).

NVC basically comes down to being able to observe a situation, discover how we feel in relation to that situation, the needs and desires that are creating those feelings, and concrete actions other people can take in order to enrich our lives. It sounds convoluted or maybe too difficult to apply in every day life, but Rosenberg does a great job at giving practical applications for NVC.

The other thing that I love about this book is that it doesn’t just focus on expressing our own individual feelings and needs to another. In reverse, it’s about truly understanding the feelings and needs of others and responding with empathy. It’s also about being able to express our feelings and needs to ourselves and being able to give ourselves understanding. Not only is it important to have empathy for others, but I think a lot of people lack empathy for themselves. I think this is a large part of why depression is so rampant in our society. We judge, and blame, and hurt ourselves thinking that this will motivate us to gain the life we’ve always wanted, but instead it leaves us feeling worthless and downtrodden.

I’ve also experienced NVC at work in my own life. I have more empathy for others, even if they are communicating to me in an unhealthy way. One person, in particular, is notorious for coming at me with judgement and blame, but I’ve now been able to look past it and see the needs behind her expression without excusing her behaviour, of course.

Also, this has helped me in my relationship with my boyfriend. As I’m sure he would say, I am an emotional, sensitive woman. None of these things are bad, per say, but I tend to get upset about things more easily. While he and I never have major conflict, we do have miscommunication here and there. Yesterday was one of those days and he said something that hurt me without meaning to. (He’s a very loving and kind man who would never say anything on purpose to hurt me.) I was feeling upset about it, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was bothering me, so I decided to use my NVC skills. I recognized what he said, clearly identified how it made me feel, and looked at my unmet needs that were creating those feelings. Boom. It all became clear. I was able to use all that information to clearly, and lovingly, express to my boyfriend what was going on. Our conflict has always ended well, but I felt especially good knowing that I was able to express myself without making the situation worse.

There’s so much more that Rosenberg talks about, too much for me to write down here, so I would highly encourage you to read this book. It has truly revolutionized how I see communication with others and with myself. Hopefully I can become an nonviolent communication expert, strengthen my relationships, and encourage myself and others.

♥ Michaela

My Story

Why am I interested in health? Why am I a care aid? Well, I would say that has to do with my personality and also my life experiences. If you’d like to know more, read below!

Growin’ Up Ain’t Easy

My life hasn’t been terrible. It definitely could have been worse, but it hasn’t been easy. I grew up in a broken home with an abusive father and an emotionally frayed mother. My parents divorced when I was quite young and my mother was solely responsible for my two older brothers and I. My family was quite dysfunctional and growing up around hostility and anger caused me to withdraw within myself. I became very quiet and I disliked socializing with people outside of my immediate family, including other children. I remember my mom forcing me to play with other kids so that I could learn some social skills. I hated it. I just wanted to be left alone in my bubble (i.e. my room) and play peacefully with my barbies or create art.

As a child, I was never taught how to properly handle emotions and pain. My family also didn’t take me seriously. Because of this, I internalized everything, not wanting the outside world to know what was going on inside of my world. As I grew up, my emotional and mental strife grew worse. My home was still hostile, I experienced more abuse, and I had very little friends. I became quite depressed. My depression grew worse in high school and I contemplated suicide many times. I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions and I had no support system to help me handle my pain. Occasionally teachers would reach out to me, but nothing really took my pain away.

A year after graduating from high school, my depression spiraled even further, to the point that I sought out help because I was afraid that I would take my own life. The support I received was short-term and I never really worked through my deeper issues. Nothing really changed in my life. My depression and anxiety, my toxic thinking, and poor life choices were building up and it was only a matter of time until I spiraled downwards again.

Giving Up

A couple of years ago, my depression got much, much worse. Even though I was taking antidepressants and sleeping pills for my insomnia, I still felt myself spiraling. Because I wasn’t in a healthy place, I sought out a romantic relationship with a man that was even more unhealthy than I was. Nothing really came of it, except for heartbreak on my end. Because I wasn’t doing well, that heartbreak pushed me over the edge. I got to the place where I couldn’t handle life anymore. I was so tired of feeling the heaviness of my pain. I wanted to kill myself. Unlike the other times that I was suicidal, this time I was serious. I wanted to die and end it all forever. Fortunately, I was clear-headed enough to ask for help before I could do anything detrimental. I called a friend in utter panic and desperation and she called my parents who took me to the hospital.

I was at my lowest point and there was no hiding it. My family, friends, and acquaintances were going to find out how bad things were for me. It was just inevitable. News would spread. I also couldn’t believe that things were so bad that I needed to be hospitalized. And when I got out, my roommate needed to hide the knives in our house so I wouldn’t hurt myself. She even asked me if she needed to hide my pills. I didn’t go to work for a week (and it wasn’t the first time my depression interfered with my responsibilities) and nurses came to my house every day for three weeks to make sure I was okay.

How did I get to this place?

No More

After that experience, I decided that I wanted to live. I didn’t want to die. I knew, somewhere deep inside of myself, that life was worth living, that my future could be bright and beautiful. I had no clue how I was going to revolutionize my life, but I had to do something. I was tired of conventional therapies (a psychiatrist said she couldn’t help me) and so I embarked on a new journey.

I knew I needed to work hard to get myself out of that place. I can tell you that it was very difficult. (It still is.) It took months of fighting, of pushing through the pain, of being honest with myself and with others, of forcing myself out of bed, and kicking myself in the ass. I had to face my demons, be real about my weaknesses, and truly, deeply love myself. It also required me to adopt healthier habits, say goodbye to unhealthy friends, and be true to myself and to my desires.

A New Life

I started researching healthier foods to eat, exercises to implement, and alternative health solutions. I’ve dabbled in mindfulness and yoga (I need to do more) and my diet has changed quite drastically. I try to stay on top of negative thinking and I don’t let myself spiral out of control anymore. Even though I’m not an expert at this, I try to jump on negative emotions right away and try to deal with them in a healthy way. I’m also extremely honest with my friends about what I’m going through. I no longer hide my pain, anxiety, stress, etc.

I am also dating a wonderful man who happens to be a holistic health nut. I’ve learned so much from him! He’s now my research buddy and accountability partner. It feels so good to finally be in a loving, supportive relationship. My boyfriend challenges me, pushes me to be better, and cuddles me when life is hard. He’s also an amazing listener, which is super great because I talk a lot! (I’m a verbal processor.)

I now surround myself with positive people who build me up and celebrate me. (And who also give me a swift dose of reality when I need one.) I am also pursuing my passion in life: caring for others. I am a full-time care aid and I love it! I love going to work knowing that I am providing someone with their essential needs. It feels so good to make a difference in the lives of those around you.

I’m also not that shy, scared kid that I used to be. I’m quite gregarious, actually. Though I would still consider myself an introvert, I am quite sociable, friendly, and I really enjoy being around others. I no longer fear making new friends and meeting new people. I feel insecure from time-to-time, but I am more confident in myself than I ever have been.

I am far from done my health journey. I have lots, and I mean lots, of room for growth. I need to join a gym so I can kick up my cardio and I’m sure I can cut back on a lot more sugar and processed foods. I still have wounds in my heart that need to be healed and my depression is still present, though much milder than before.

A few years ago, I would have never imagined that my life would be as fulfilling and wonderful as it is now. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s more of the life that I’ve wanted than ever before.

I was telling my best-friend today that I love myself. I really, truly love who I am. I never thought I would ever feel that way. Though it sounds cheesy, it feels so good to tell myself “I love you”.

And it’s all a process. It’s a journey. Care to join me?

♥ Michaela

P.S. I would love to hear your story. Post it here or email me at somaholistichealth@gmail.com!

Gratitude: the Unrecognized Healer

I’m a care aid and in my line of work I constantly come across people who are in difficult situations. I work with people who have disabilities, who are wheelchair-bound, ill, people who have suffered from strokes, and those who can no longer do the things that you or I probably take for granted on a daily basis. I come across people who struggle every day to have a “normal” life. I have clients who are unable to get out of bed until someone comes to help them or clients who can’t use the washroom, or dress themselves, or cook for themselves unless I am there.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that the people that waste away, the people that sink deeper into illness and immobility, are those that allow negativity and despair to permeate their lives. And the ones that thrive, the ones that hold on to their independence and vitality longer, are those that are grateful every single day. They are the people that can shake off the burdens of life. They are the people that can look past the pain, the mire, the tragedies, and remember the goodness.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are physical, emotional, and mental ailments that cannot be changed. I am in no way blaming my clients or others for having the conditions that they do. Alzheimer’s, for example, is a progressive disease that can only be held off for so long with medication. I know this, but I’ve also seen the difference that gratitude has on an individual’s life.

A week ago, I went to a care facility to pick up an elderly man and take him to the hospital for his appointment. This man had suffered a stroke and his whole left side was paralyzed. One day he was completely healthy, the next day he couldn’t move. One day he was independent and living on his own, the next day he was unable to take care of himself. He told me, with a tear running down his face, that it was a quite a difficult situation to live with, as I’m sure you can imagine.

The thing that truly struck me about this man was how grateful he was. He repeatedly thanked me for going to the hospital with him. He thanked our cab driver, he thanked the receptionist at the hospital, he thanked his doctor, and, on multiple occasions, he told me how grateful he was that he was living in such a nice care home. After his appointment, I bought him a cup of coffee from Starbucks and he was immensely grateful for the warm drink, just the way he liked it. (He is as obsessed with coffee as I am.) And when I dropped him off at his home, he wouldn’t stop thanking me for the time that I spent with him.

I was blown away. Here was this man who was in such a difficult situation, a situation that he explained to me with tears in his eyes, yet he was grateful for every good thing that came his way. He showed appreciation for every single person he came into contact with. He poured out gratitude and kindness to others. He was even thankful that he was paralyzed on his left side because if he was paralyzed on his right side he might not be able to talk! He treasured up every little blessing.

This is who I want to be like. Life is hard: illness is probable, aging is inevitable, and struggle is usually just around the corner. However, I want to be grateful for every little thing and every person that comes into my life. I want to cherish what I have and not be consumed by what I don’t have.

I think this is a major factor in vitality and healing. Those that are grateful and mindful of life’s goodness, despite the bad, tend to heal their physical, mental, and emotional wounds and keep illness from spiraling. They have energy, compassion, and the will to do the hard work of healing, like counseling, physiotherapy, or diet changes. They don’t give up because they know that life is still worth living. They can make it through tough days because they remember the good things of yesterday and believe that tomorrow has untold promise. They cherish little blessings, like a warm cup of coffee, even when there are major upsets in their life. These people are imperfect, like you or I, but they are optimistic.

I have another client who hasn’t lost her sense of humour despite the fact that she has also suffered a stroke. She revels in what independence she has while finding joy and appreciation in what I can do for her. For example, she needs help bathing. While most of us would cringe at the thought of a stranger giving us a bath, she enjoys that chance to relax in the hot water and have her body scrubbed clean. She also gets very excited about the chance to drink tea and play Scrabble with me twice a week. (I’ve only won once.)

And that’s what I’m talking about: even though life is not how we would want or imagined it to be, we can still find gratefulness in the good that comes our way. Instead of feeling despair because we are unable to do something, we find joy in what we can do or what others can do for us. I have a friend who suffers from an illness and he lives by the adage, “it could be a lot worse”. And it could be! Don’t ignore the difficulties in life, but try not to let them bring you down or eat you alive.

Join me as I work on being a more grateful and joyful person. Let’s heal ourselves and the world with our positivity!

♥ Michaela

Mold

It seems so obvious to say this, but mold is quite toxic for the human body. And even though it seems on-the-nose, most people don’t realize this. I didn’t know how bad mold really was until my boyfriend started pointing me towards the research.

Mold on or exposed to our food, mold in our walls, mold in our shower grout, mold anywhere, can be so harmful that repeated exposure can cause life-altering side effects.

Don’t believe me?

Watch Dave Asprey‘s documentary on mold. It’s less than an hour and it will blow your mind wide open to the toxic effects of mold. In addition, Dave lists resources for combating this sometimes invisible killer. 

I’m in a difficult spot right now because I’m not living in my own house. So, unfortunately, I’m faced with a plethora of dust (ugh), pet dander (double ugh), and mold (triple ugh). I noticed that my private bathroom was housing mold in the shower and I made it my mission to eradicate it. With a mask on my face and gloves on my hands,  I scrubbed, and scrubbed, and sprayed the entire shower down with white vinegar, a great natural disinfectant. I now consistently spray my shower down with vinegar to keep the mold at bay.

While I’m proud of this progress, I’m also aware that mold spores are invisible and they are probably clinging to the ceiling or they are deeper inside the walls and grout. Hopefully in a year I’ll be able to live in my own house again and be more in control of environment contaminants. Until then, I can only do the best I can!

Happy de-molding and feel free to let me know how your progress is going!

♥ Michaela

Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

I heard about this book from watching the movie trailer on youtube. It seemed interesting to me, but it slipped out of my mind quite easily. However, while I was perusing books in a thrift store, I found this gem. Recently I went on a camping trip on the Sunshine Coast, BC, with my boyfriend and I brought this book along. Little did I know how quickly I would fall in love with it.

Still Alice is about Alice, a Harvard professor in her fifties who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. This book chronicles the fictional tale of Alice’s progression into the illness and how she manages to cope with this tragic disease.

As a caregiver to the elderly and someone who has a passion specifically for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, my attention was completely captivated by Still Alice and it was very difficult to put it down. This novel is quite beautiful in the telling of Alice’s story and the accurate depiction of the progression of Alzheimer’s. It was simultaneously tragic and uplifting reading how Alzheimer’s affected every aspect of Alice’s life, from her career, to her family, to her every day life. I gasped aloud, teared up, and laughed along with the mountains and the inevitable valleys that Alzheimer’s brings.

If you’re looking for a moving book that is easy to read, but is quite deep, I would highly recommend Still Alice. (Side note: based on the trailer, I have a hunch that the book is much better than the movie.)

♥ Michaela

Baby Steps to Optimal Health

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we all want to be healthier. We know that eating a cheeseburger at McDonald’s is bad for us, that we should exercise more, drink less alcohol, & get more sleep at night. However, this is no easy task when burgers taste delicious, sitting on the couch is relaxing, getting drunk is fun, & our busy schedules keep getting in the way of better night time habits.

What can be done? Below are steps that I try to implement in my every day life. I have to keep reminding myself that optimal health is a process and that it takes time, which can be frustrating for those of us that prefer instant results (myself included). Hopefully the steps below empower you and motivate you in your journey.

1. Start caring.

Your health is important and your lifelong happiness hinges on it. Think about the quality of life you’d like to have now, 10 years from now, and 20+ years from now. Do you want to be active and able to do most, if not all, of the things that you enjoy currently? Would you like spend your days taking medications and waiting in doctors’ offices or would you like to be out enjoying the great things that life has to offer? Do you want to be wheelchair-bound, fully dependent on others, and restricted to your house or would you like to have control and independence in your own life? A lot of those options depend on the decisions you make now.

2. Start small.

Break it down. What would you like to change first? Maybe you’d like to eat healthier. Try cutting out fast food, then after that eat more vegetables, then cut out sugar, etc. Take it one step at a time. Would you like to exercise more? Start by going for a walk three times a week, then every day, then go for hikes, and then start lifting weights.  Don’t try to implement it all at once. If you go too hard too fast, you are more likely to get discouraged.

3. Write out your goals.

Do you want to lose weight? Write down the amount of pounds you’d like to lose and then research ways to make that possible. Give yourself a reasonable timeline (maybe 1 pound a week) & then go at it. Make a chart and put it on your wall. Visual aids and encouragements are very motivating.

4. Be patient.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is optimum health. Unfortunately, we will live in a toxic world and most of us have grown up being ignorant of truly helpful health practices. Don’t expect to transform your health in a day, week, or even a year. You can make great strides in that amount of time, but it takes awhile to right our wrongs. Good habits need time to become concrete, our bodies need time to rewire, and it takes time and energy to research and implement practices that work best for you.

5. Love yourself.

Love yourself every day. Don’t beat yourself up because you cheated on your diet. Don’t get discouraged because the number on the scale isn’t changing. Don’t let yourself get down because you didn’t work out today. This is all a process. You’re only human and all you can do is your best. Being hard on yourself will not motivate you to get off the couch. More than likely, it will motivate you to return to your bad habits as a source of comfort. Be proud of yourself for trying, kick yourself in the butt when you need to, and love yourself when you’re not where you’d like to be.

YOU CAN DO IT!

♥ Michaela