Keep Calm and Soothe Your Immune System

Christmas is only days away but due to the restrictions it won’t be the merry one we know and love. I’d be grateful for any ideas on how to hold a large family party on Zoom!

We’re coming to the end of the worst year most of us have ever experienced. A world-wide annus horribilis. And it’s taken its toll.

In the summer I spoke to someone who does thermography scans. She has noticed that all the scans this year shown people’s immune systems were over-stimulated. She thinks it’s a result of all the anxiety.

What can we do?

Your nervous system has two parts.

  • One part responds to threats using fight, flight or freeze.

  • The other part deals with rest, repair and digestion.

We need both in balance.

The threat response part is only supposed to work in short bursts -followed by recovery. This hasn’t changed from ancient days when we had to run from danger.

This year our threat response has been in action big-time, for months. We feel that we’ve been under threat this whole year.

Fear of the virus; fear of lockdown consequences like job losses, business closures, home losses, inability to pay bills, uncertainty over the future; stress from being physically cut off from those we love and who support us emotionally; stress from being shut in with those who abuse us; stress from children being out of school and all the exam chaos; stress from losing trust in the government and its actions; grief for the loss of friends, family and the things that enrich our lives like sports clubs, choirs, restaurants and theatres; misery for not having anything to look forward to and no end in sight.

The list is endless and the fall-out is only just beginning to emerge.

It’s no good pretending that everything is fine.

It isn’t.

All is not well.

And it’s right to acknowledge how you feel at each moment in time.

It’s also good to do things, even little things, that help in any way.

Here are some ideas:

When we get stressed, our breathing changes. Fortunately this works both ways so deliberately changing our breathing can make us become calmer. By using the link between your breathing and your nervous system you allow your body to do some resting, digesting, healing.

Here’s a nice breathing exercise (it’s part of a talk on the body-mind connection from the Public Health Collaboration Virtual Conference).  Start at 28minutes 30 seconds to hear the explanation then do it for a few minutes a few times a day, perhaps even more slowly than Joe’s description.  Try it just before you eat so you get maximum nutrition from your food.

Chronic stress increases the hormone cortisol. That makes us hungry so some of us have put on weight. When my Father was dying in the spring, I wanted to eat all the time. I called it my ‘grief gut’. You can get back to proper appetite balance by calming down (as well as ditching junk and eating real food of course).

You will have some personal favourite activities that get you into a relaxed state. You’ll know when you’ve found what’s right for you – time will cease to exist, you’ll feel in the zone, you’ll be so absorbed you won’t notice anything going on around you.

I’m a fan of mindfulness, which is all about noticing how things are, moment by moment, without trying to change them (see this little mindfulness video).

Most people feel good doing yoga or T’ai Chi. It’s necessary to be fully engaged in balance and movement when you stand on one leg – or you fall over!

TV can veg us out but often doesn’t calm us; it’s too passive and lots of programmes feature people being unkind or shouting which will trigger your subconscious defences even more. Try Slow TV, listen to the birds in your garden or mellow out with a nature video – here’s one of a woodland stream (with no birdsong – videos with birds are available!).

The right music works magic too. If you’re up-tight, your brain might reject gentle music, so start with something quite fast, easing it down gradually.

Visually relaxing activities include jigsaws, art and needlework. Stick a bird feeder on your window for delightfully entertaining action to watch.

Getting physical with exercise, gardening, walking the dog or even cleaning the house might work for you. (Take care not to do too much; extreme exercise is like another threat and depresses your immune system.) Gentle stretching helps release muscle tension. Mindful walking in nature gives you physical, mental and visual calming in one.

Waft away and be relaxed by scent – in the bath, as an aromatherapy massage or in a diffuser (always use essential oils, not factory-made perfumes).

Losing yourself in a good book can take you to another place entirely.

Being creative in the kitchen engages all the senses and you get to eat something wonderful at the end!

Top tip: Ramp up whatever calms you.

I wish you a peaceful, if far from normal, Christmas.

Get Cooking For Christmas

Have fun with home-made this Christmas.

Yes, creating decorations and cards is fun – but I mean food! Are you like me, rather free and easy in the kitchen? I rarely weigh or measure anything and often play fast and loose with recipe ingredients and methods. Or you might be like my friend who puts a recipe book on a stand to follow everything to the letter using measuring jugs and scales for each ingredient. I suspect she has few disasters!

I love Emma Porter’s recipes and she has an ebook just for Christmas.

So leaf through your recipe books or browse the internet.   Here are a few from my own recipe book:  

Apple sauce

Peel, core and chop a cooking apple.

Put in a pan with a drop of water, some lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg or mixed spice.

Cook until the apple is soft.

Beat in a teaspoon of butter.

Put in a hot clean jar, lid and allow to cool.

After the jar is opened, keep in the fridge and use within a week.

Mince pies

For a rich pastry:

8oz flour, ½ tsp salt, 4oz butter – rub together until resembling breadcrumbs.

Lightly beat together an egg and 20ml water. Sprinkle on and mix using a knife. Draw together and knead briefly into a smooth dough then put in the fridge for ½ h (covered).

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut your tops and bottoms.

Grease a bun tin (not muffin tin) with butter and assemble your pies, putting a teaspoon of mincemeat in each. You’ll use a small (410g) jar of mincemeat for this much pastry and it makes about 20 pies.

Put two knife cuts in the top of each one and brush with milk.

Bake in a preheated oven at 220 degrees C for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

These will last a couple of weeks in a tin. They freeze well too and are great warmed up with some cream on.

For Gluten free, low-carb, use a mix of 4oz ground almonds, 2oz coconut flour and 2oz tapioca to give some elasticity. 4oz butter, ½ tsp salt and one egg as above.

 

Sardine pate

The world’s 2nd most nutritious food (after liver) but not everyone is keen on them on their own. This very simple recipe gives a fresh, clean taste and with a bit of salad would make a tasty starter for Christmas dinner. It will keep for a few days in the fridge.

4oz butter

4oz cream cheese

2 tins sardines

Juice and zest of a lemon

1 teaspoon mustard

1 desert spoon fresh chopped parsley

Salt, pepper

If you have a food processor, you can whizz it in that. Other wise, use soft butter, put the all ingredients in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon.

 

Rum truffles

220g dark chocolate

100ml single cream

12g butter

Drop of vanilla essence

15ml rum

A saucer of dry coating of your choice – eg cocoa powder, desiccated coconut, sesame seeds, chopped nuts.

Heat the cream and butter to a rolling boil, then allow to cool and add the vanilla essence.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt gently in the microwave.

Mix the chocolate and cream and add the rum.

Pour into a shallow tray or dish lined with greaseproof paper and put it somewhere cool, uncovered for 24 hours.

Take about a teaspoon at a time and form into balls.

Roll the truffles around your saucer until they are coated and not sticky to touch any more. You can pop them into individual sweet papers.

Keep in the fridge. (no pic – I haven’t made any yet for this year!!!)   Top tip – Enjoying cooking up some goodies for Christmas.

Quote of the Month – Kindness

It’s a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research & study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other.

Aldous Huxley

After a year of toxic politics I hope they’ve got the message that such nastiness isn’t clever and doesn’t attract much support.

We’re all different but that doesn’t mean we can’t accept our differences and live together. A little kindness or even a little more than is needed will help this time of healing.

Let’s end the year with kindness, love and peace.

Merry Christmas

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday

I’ve been noticing adverts for perfume on the telly, have seen Christmas cards in the shops and realise that there are only a few weeks left to buy suitably pleasing presents for my loved ones (deep breath and don’t panic). A shopper I am not. Whist I really enjoy giving presents, it’s having the inspiration to choose gifts that are suitably pleasing that gets me in a tiz.

Last month I had reason to spend most of a day in the Metro Centre. I had no success at all. The chain stores are doing their usual thing which is fine but I’ve decided it’s small businesses that will save the day. Cockermouth of course is full of them. The sheer diversity is a delight. They’re personal and friendly. The owners are knowledgeable and passionate about what they sell whether that’s delicious, locally produced edible items, books, jewellery or toys. If you have family from other parts of the country, they regard with wonder things we take for granted. One year I bought all my aunts and uncles hand made chocolate. My cousin lives in France and was bowled over by venison pie and Cumbrian pickle. (No, I didn’t post them – he was over here!)

small-business-saturday-uk-2016-logo-english-blue

3rd December is Small Business Saturday so do go shopping and support them. I’m taking part along with 5 million other small business. I’m offering 25% off a 1 hour skype or telephone appointment from the 3rd to the 8th December on a first-come-first-serve basis until I run out of appointments. If you’d like a better body – more energy – better health – and freedom from diets, let’s talk about how you can learn to eat well. Drop me an email to book.

Top Tip – support small businesses.