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Nourishing The Body Nurturing The Soul; A Balancing Act For Dealing With Stress

Nadine_Kelly_YogaBy Maureen McDonnell, RN
While going through a divorce in the early 1990’s, I instinctively felt moved to surround myself with inspiring women in order to receive the guidance and support I needed to get through that painful passage.  As my own strength grew, it “dawned” on me (literally one morning as dawn was breaking) that I should gather some great female authors, doctors and therapists together for a women’s wellness seminar so that other women could benefit from the type of wisdom and care that had encircled me and kept me buoyant during one of the most stressful times in my life.    I entitled the women’s conference: Nourishing the Body, Nurturing the Soul.
  
I had never organized a conference before, but somehow I knew I would be guided through the challenges of putting on this event, and thankfully I was. To my surprise and delight, every speaker who I invited to present graciously accepted the invitation to share their knowledge and expertise.  After a few months of planning, 200 women gathered to learn about the importance of whole foods, herbs and supplements, why and how to use bio-identical hormones, natural treatments for common female health issues such as PMS, hypothyroidism, candida overgrowth and menopausal symptoms.  Just as significant, various tools for nurturing our spirit and managing stress, including the use of positive affirmations, journaling, mediation and exercise were discussed.
    
As I sat in the audience listening to the speakers I was struck by the fact that not only had a dream of mine actually manifested, but I also realized the essence of an overarching theme or take home message was crystalizing before my eyes and in my heart:  Being born in a female body is truly a gift, and if we take the time to nourish our bodies,  pay close attention to our instincts and nurture our souls by connecting with the divine within, we can not only live a healthy, joy-filled life, but we can radiate that joy to others as we pursue and fulfill our purpose.     
Lofty realizations I know, but that’s truly what transpired that day.  What I learned from those incredible women who came together to teach, inspire and support, helped me create a framework in my own life for managing stress, staying healthy and making a career out of helping others do the same.  
Here are a few of the tips for Nourishing the Body and Nurturing the Soul 
 
Nourishing the Body:
 
When the body delivers a message in the form of a symptom; listen:   Whether it is fatigue, a headache, PMS, constipation, pain, stiffness or an upset stomach, honor these messages. Take a step back and try & identify what the body is trying to tell you.  You may need to rest more, change your diet, change your job, drink more water, end a relationship or exercise more. Before masking the symptoms with substances, tune into the wisdom inherent in the signals from your body.
   
Stabilize Blood Sugar Level: Keeping the blood sugar level stable by eating a whole food, organic diet that includes healthy fats, a healthy form of protein every 4-5 hours and minimizing or eliminating sugar, processed grains & chemically-laden foods is key to stabilizing our moods, minimizing anxiety and panic attacks, decreasing inflammation and lessening our risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and Dementia. 
 
Minimize caffeine and alcohol as both substances taken in excess can cause the excretion of specific nutrients (such as the calming B vitamins & Magnesium & immune supporting Zinc).  
 
Include Appropriate Supplements:  such as those found in a comprehensive, high potency well absorbed Multi Vitamin with an additional source of Omega 3’s as those found in mercury-free fish oil. Along with Vit D, these can be wonderful additions to a whole food diet providing added support needed for optimal functioning of the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems.  
 
Hormone Balancing: An all too common hormone imbalance disorder is referred to as “estrogen dominance” and it develops as a result of our exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals (such as pesticides and BPA, stress, as well as a lack of the balancing hormone: progesterone.)  Seek the  guidance of a health professional well versed in hormone regulating herbs as well as bio-identical hormones  
 
o Probiotics:  can help in the process of breaking down excess estrogen to prevent Estrogen Dominance.  Besides taking these in pill form, some fermented foods can help rebuild the population of good friendly bacteria which also help keep nasty organisms from overpopulating the gut.  They include miso, Kefir, Tempeh, plain organic yogurt, Kimchee & Natto
 
Herbs are Mother Nature’s Healers:  Valerian and Passionflower for instance help calm nervousness. Echinacea and Goldenseal provide immune fighting properties.  Kava has been shown to reduce symptoms in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorders
 
Avoid Toxic Chemicals: Use instead natural cleaning & personal care products, natural makeup and find a “green” dry cleaner.
 
Exercise changes the level of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that when properly balanced helps us sleep soundly and maintain a good mood.   Exercise also increases the body’s production of endorphins which are our “feel good” chemicals.   
 
Nurturing the Soul: 
 
Train your mind toward positive self-talk.  Left unchecked, the mind can wander into negative territory regarding whatever subject you are contemplating.  Reign it in, you are in control.  So when you are not using your mind to analyze a problem or situation, keep it focused in the positive realm.  You have control of your thoughts and it is said “your thoughts create your reality!”  So taking the time to train your brain is well worth the effort!
 
Meditation, Yoga and Breath Work:  help calm the mind and relax the body. 
 
Surround yourself with people who make you feel good: It took me awhile to get this one, but I eventually realized when I was around certain people who I actually called “friends”, I didn’t feel good.  So, I’ve released those fine folks and now I’m only friends with individuals who foster a feeling of wellbeing within me.
   
Doing what you love:   Consider finding work or making a career out of something that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.   I remember walking into the hospital each day when I first started my nursing career and feeling empty, afraid and depressed.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I eventually came to understand, hospital nursing was not for me.  I found focusing on nutrition and prevention of health problems to be a career option that lifted my spirits.
  
For Stress Reduction try: Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT: works by balancing the meridians in a way similar to acupuncture but instead of using needles, the meridians are stimulated by tapping your fingertips on the specific acupuncture points.   EFT can be learned by anyone and can be self applied.   
 
The same innate wisdom that has us cycling every month, is capable of transforming an egg into a new human being, produces the perfect milk for a child to thrive, transitions us from a younger woman to a post-menopausal wise woman, is the same inner guidance system that gives us symptoms like fatigue, a headache or joint stiffness when we are out of balance.   We live in a very crazy, polluted world, but women are being called  to lead the shift to a saner world.   To do that, we have to be balanced and healthy ourselves! 
 
maureens_new_pic-1-21-14_croppedMaureen McDonnell has been a holistic, nutritionally-oriented RN for 37 years.  She is the health editor of WNC Woman Magazine and the co-founder of Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet (SOKHOP.com).  Currently she is coaching women on the 30 Day Simply Fit program which emphasizes organic whole food,  healthy weight loss, provides GI support, decreases inflammation and focuses on liver detoxification.  Maureen lectures widely on the role the environment and nutrition play in women and children’s health.  She is an Executive Area Manager with Arbonne International and she can be reached at MauraHealth@aol.com    
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