Why pathology reference ranges aren’t giving you the answers you need….

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I have had a spate of clients recently with all manner of symptoms who been told that their blood test results are all in the ‘normal’ range. They have been looking for answers but they’re not finding them at the doctors office.

When discussing their declining health some have been told that this is just the way it goes, some have been offered antidepressants and others have been told that there is nothing wrong. One woman whose quality of life was very poor was told to be grateful that she didn’t have something more sinister going on. If your blood results are ‘normal’ then there is nothing to be done no matter what your symptoms are saying.

It’s hard when you are feeling genuinely unwell and seek help but end up being told that their is no evidence for the way you are feeling. It can lead people to feel fobbed off, disbelieved or like it’s all in their heads. One woman I saw recently told me that she had seen two GP’s and a specialist for terrible fatigue and headaches. She had blood tests, scans, spent hundreds of dollars and came out with a referral to a psychologist and a script for an antidepressant. She told me that she felt like they thought she was ‘just a complainer or one step away from a straight jacket’. This capable, productive, warm and friendly woman really was feeling quite low but not because of her original symptoms.

When we looked at her pathology results we discovered that the laboratories reference ranges were hugely wide. When we compared her iron levels and B12 levels to those of a year ago they had decreased significantly. They were still barely within the reference range but something had obviously happened to bring about such a drastic change in her normal range.

The previous year she had suffered a terrible personal loss, had changed jobs and had lost a lot of weight due to her inability to eat while grieving. All of this, combined with the enormous nutritional requirements of that kind of stress, had left her iron depleted, lacking in B12 and with some other essential levels barely scraping by.

After three weeks of nutrient therapy, herbal medicine and recommencing some gentle exercise her low mood symptoms had significantly reduced. She felt like ‘the fog had lifted’ and her energy levels were slowly building up again.

It will take a few more months to feel the full benefit of treatment but at least she is back on track, feeling hopeful and not the least bit ‘crazy’. She can see that there was a physiological cause for her symptoms and is feeling that there is light at the end of the tunnel. She is also feeling validated and good about the fact that someone has taken her seriously.

If this story resonates with you why not make an appointment to have a health assessment and review of your pathology tests. The results may surprise you and give you the answers you are looking for.

  • Story shared with permission of client

 

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Sleep difficulties ? Massage to the rescue

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Over the last couple of weeks, for a number of weird and wonderful reasons I have been having real trouble with sleep. Getting to sleep, staying asleep, weird dreams – it’s all been a bit of a drag really.

At times I have felt weary, emotional, overwhelmed and frustrated. Never underestimate the importance and benefits of good quality sleep. Any insomniac will tell you that !

I have been doing guided meditations, having small evening meals, baths, warm drinks, taking magnesium and calming herbs. They’ve all helped but nothing really gave me that lovely ‘knocked out for eight hours’ feeling.

Last night my daughter, who doubles as the most skilful massage therapist I have ever known went to town on my sore muscles. She knows her stuff, she is intuitive and her help in getting me some sleep has been beyond measure. Yes, I am unashamedly biased – she is lovely, kind and talented but apart from these qualities she actually does have some serious massage game and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Check out her website or FB page for testimonials to her skills.

Some of you know her as Feel Better, Move Better Remedial Massage.

After a quick assessment she went to work easing sore muscles, finding strange spots that I didn’t even know I was holding tension in, resolving my imbalanced hips and lower back, calming my central nervous system and leaving me feeling cared for, loved up and more relaxed and calm than I thought possible. What followed was nine hours , yes NINE HOURS, of restorative slumber.

We have undertaken to do weekly massages to see how this affects my sleep – thank you massage gods for blessing me ! I’m sure it’s going to be a raging success.

So if you need some help with sleep, sore muscles, injuries or stress take my advice and book an appointment. You won’t regret it, I promise !

 

 

 

One for the boys … the magic of testosterone

 

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Are you one of those men who doesn’t really pay much attention to your health ? When was the last time you felt really good ? Had a routine blood test ? Had a check up ?

Lately I have been encountering a number men who have a sadly common list of symptoms. They feel unwell, low or just not themselves somehow. Some have seen their GP but been told that everything is fine. They are testosterone deficient and it’s really dragging them down but they are being sent home without answers and it’s a crying shame.

Testosterone is a hormone that helps men feel good. It’s great for maintaining muscle mass, bone strength and density, sexual function, libido, production of sperm, confidence, good mood and energy.

At around age 40 testosterone starts to naturally decline but in healthy men this should only be by around 1-3% per year. Other reasons for declining testosterone are high cholesterol and blood pressure, too much sugar intake, poor sleep, obesity, stress, low levels of exercise, too much alcohol and some medical conditions like diabetes.

So what are the symptoms of low testosterone ? Low libido, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, low mood/depression, reduced strength and muscle loss, infertility, sleep problems, reduced energy and confidence and weight gain, especially around the belly region.

Why isn’t it being picked up by doctors ? I have seen a number of pathology results lately which place men in the ‘normal’ range according to their blood results. The problem with these reference ranges is that they are so wide you could drive a truck through them, they are based on sampling of men aged 18-69 with a host of varying health conditions and they don’t relate specifically to your age group. The ‘acceptable level of health’ has been set so low that many men are suffering unnecessarily.

A testosterone result of 8.5 might put you in the ‘normal’ range but normal for who ? A 65 year old man with diabetes, an 18 year old boy, a 45 year old athlete ? While pathology testing is useful it’s just as important to look at your symptoms and see if they match up.

So what can you do ? Make sure you aren’t inhibiting your testosterone production with the factors mentioned before – sleep, stress, obesity etc. Ensure that you have a good intake of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut oil – healthy cholesterol is the building block of testosterone and low fat diets are not your friend. Get some exercise – especially HIIT and weight bearing/lifting. The good news is that if you are trying to increase your testosterone you need to have more sex – I haven’t had anyone complain about that yet.

There are lots of ways to naturally increase testosterone. Ensuring adequate levels of zinc, potassium, vitamins A, B6, C and E is important. There are also a number of herbs which are very effective in getting things running well again.

So if you recognise yourself here don’t just put up with it. Come and see me – we can get you back on track again.

These are da (bath) bomb …

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If, at any time in the future, someone questions my hippy/naturopath credentials I am going to refer them to this blog post.

There are a few people in my family who are partial to a long hot soak in the bath and we usually like to throw in a bath bomb. I was having a look at the list of ingredients on some at the shops this morning and I realised that I really didn’t want to spend an hour of my life soaking in that stuff….Anything called PEG-150, titanium dioxide, benzyl benzoate and weird colours and fragrances that are identified only by scary secret numbers are not my friend.

So I came home, did some research and made my own !

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With a few simple ingredients from the pantry I made a dozen of these sweet smelling beauties. Just a few dollars worth of ingredients, a quick trip to the garden and five minutes of my time and I now have twelve baths to look forward to and the knowledge that there is no cocktail of nasties involved.

How to …

Mix together 1/2 cup citric acid, 1 cup bicarbonate of soda and 1 cup epsom salts

Stir well and make sure there are no lumps.

Stir in 2 – 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil and mix well again. Stir in 10-20 drops of essential oil if desired. The mix should be crumbly but hold together when you squash some in your hands. You can add a little extra water or coconut oil to get the right consistency.

You can mix in any colours, herbs, flowers etc that you’d like to use now or you can just sprinkle them into the moulds before filling with bath bomb mixture.

Lightly oil a muffin tray, or any mould you want to use, with a little coconut oil and spoon the mix in pressing down firmly.

Leave to dry for at least 8 hours then gently unmould and store in airtight container. Best used within a few weeks.

Now go find a book, light a candle and have a good soak on me.

Taking my own advice ….thyroid and adrenal health

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I’m good at giving advice. I love to help people find their way back to feeling good. Few things make me happier than good feedback from clients and the feeling that I have been able to help them achieve something they thought they couldn’t. Now I’m having to try to be this for myself ….

I can tell you all about the things that will nurture your body and spirit back to health – changed diets, high density nutrition, supplements, herbal medicine, relaxation and stress management techniques, finding something fun that you love doing. I’ve got all the theories !

Recently, after a prolonged period of stress and caring for everyone but myself (most Mum’s will relate to that one !) I found myself in the midst of a thyroid/adrenal storm. I have had issues with hypothyroidism for a number of years but have managed them well and, until recently, felt pretty good about how things were progressing.

A few weeks ago I found myself completely exhausted and depleted, unable to manage my normal life and feeling bewildered by it all. Feeling flat, fatigued and gaining weight for no apparent reason rang all my thyroid bells. After some soul searching, pathology testing and getting fed up with feeling crappy I made some changes which are starting to kick in and help me back to my old self.

Like a bolt from the blue the world had conspired to have me take heed of some of my own advice. I’ve had to do those things that I have encouraged so many others to do – rest, eat really well, take care of myself, be a bit kinder and less harsh in my self judgement, let other people help me. It’s been TOUGH ! Way TOUGH ! It’s been frustrating, humbling and difficult – and shown me just how loved I am.

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I have struggled with feeling that I will be judged as being not quite up to scratch. A naturopath who is feeling pretty poorly and has had a number of weeks away from work is not a great advertisement. Or is it ??? Somehow, I am starting to realise that there is value in this experience and in taking some of my own advice. I have had to do what I routinely ask of my clients. I am learning to say no to things that don’t support me or that will take more of a toll than I can afford at the moment. I am realising that in order to look after your health and wellbeing, especially when things reach a kind of crisis point, it takes a certain amount of courage, humility and willingness to be vulnerable. These are all admirable qualities although sometimes hard to embrace when it can feel like weakness.

So here I am. On the road to recovery but not quite there yet. Still trying to balance my need to take care of myself with my need to ‘get stuff done’.

So what has changed ? I’m resting a lot. My diet is gluten free and nutrient dense – smoothies are full of fresh fruit and veg, raw cacao and maca powder. I’ve slightly increased my healthy carbs (so necessary for hypothyroidism), I’ve upped my healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil and I’m trying to listen to my body for what I need to eat. So many of us hypothyroid folk live on such spartan diets in an attempt to keep the weight off – its easy to find yourself nutrient deficient if you’re not careful. I’ve also implemented a herbal medicine and nutrient supplement regime to address the drivers and manage the symptoms. I’ve also finally started asking for help when I need it. If you ask my gorgeous husband he will tell you that this is MASSIVE for me ! Things are starting to look up….

Have a look at this list of symptoms and see if they ring bells for you… if you need some help recovering I am your gal. I’ve walked the walk and talked the talk. Been there, done that.

Signs of adrenal / thyroid issues include :

Morning fatigue, trouble waking up, waking feeling unrested
Low mood/ low motivation/ racing thoughts / anxiety
Muscle weakness
Poor focus and concentration
Bone loss
Lowered libido
Inflammation
Increased allergies or new allergy symptoms  – food or environmental
Difficulty sleeping – often feeling exhausted during the day or afternoon but then unable to get to sleep. Often have a more wakeful period late at night.
Irritability, intolerance and mood changes
General tiredness
Cravings for sugar
Hair loss
Weight gain
Muscle tension and pain
Feeling overwhelmed/ unable to cope
Low blood pressure – especially dizziness or lightheadedness when standing up.
Intolerance/jumpiness with loud noises or bright lights
Shortness of breath with minimal exertion
Iron deficiency

The lowdown on cortisol …

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Most of us know that there is a link between stress and cortisol levels but there’s a lot more to this little steroid hormone than you may think.

Cortisol is produced in two ways – in response to stress and as part of our natural sleep and wake cycle. It peaks at about 8am to help us rise and shine and get active for the day.The levels drop throughout the day with the low point happening at around 4am before it ramps up again for our daily wake up call.

Cortisol plays a big role in our stress response. Cortisol helps us deal with stress by shutting down some  functions to allow the body to direct all its energy to dealing with the stress. This cortisol reaction is supposed to be short term and just long enough to deal with the source of stress. Unfortunately our lives can be anything but stress free and when stress is chronic this becomes a problem.

How does cortisol affect us ?

  • It stimulates glucose production and slows insulin meaning you end up with lots of sugar in your blood. Thats great if you actually have something you’re trying to run away from but not so good when you’re just sitting around feeling stressed about how to pay your bills.
  • Cortisol hinders the immune system when levels are high making your body more susceptible to infections and bacteria. Have you noticed how you always get sick when your stressed ?
  • It also slows bone formation and decreases calcium absorption so when its too high there’s no bone growth and no muscle growth.
  • It causes high blood pressure and decreased blood flow to organs
  • Too much or too little cortisol messes up thyroid hormones
  • Leads to increased stomach acid and reflux
  • Makes us less fertile and more likely to miscarry
  • Changes our metabolism and makes us hungry and less able to realise when we are satisfied

Our body has a system that is meant to regulate cortisol levels by shutting down production when things get too high. Unfortunately when we are stressed all the time the system gets mucked up and can’t regulate properly  – kind of like insulin resistance when we flood our bodies daily with sugar. The result is that our cortisol levels become unhealthy and high or  low at the wrong time of day leaving us feeling out of kilter.

Ways to lower cortisol

  • Regular exercise – not marathon running – try yoga, pilates, walking, stretching
  • Meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises
  • Get enough sleep
  • Listen to music you love
  • Drink black tea – about 3 cups per day
  • Get a massage
  • Learn some stress management techniques
  • Avoid all alcohol
  • Eat nutrient dense food – especially those high in magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins.
  • See a naturopath for help doing all of the above ! There are some great herbal medicines and supplements that can support you back to healthy cortisol levels.

Headaches ….

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When I see clients and we do an assessment of their health almost everyone tells me that they experience headaches. Sometime it’s an  occasional thing but for many people it is a regular part of their life. Some people suffer with migraine and anyone who has had a migraine can tell you that it’s no fun at all. There are lots of causes so let’s have a look at what drives headache and some simple things you can do to help yourself.

  1. Dehydration. This is one of the leading causes of headache and the simplest type to fix. As a general rule multiplying your body weight by thirty gives you a rough guide of how much you should be aiming to drink daily. So if you are 60 kilos – 60kg x 30ml = 1800ml or  1.8 litres. You need to adjust this up according to how much exercise you do.
  2. Magnesium – Magnesium is needed for hundreds of body processes including stress management, muscle action and cardiovascular health. Deficiencies or even sub optimal levels can leave you open to headache. Lack of magnesium can cause cramping, muscle tension, blood pressure issues and poor blood oxygenation – all big drivers of headache pain.
  3. Mechanical issues – such as poor posture and  working at computers with head, neck and shoulders always bent downwards can cause headache. Try to have things at eye level and consider remedial massage for management.
  4. Low B12, B6 or iron levels. These deficiencies can be easily assessed with a blood test. Symptoms include fatigue, headache, brain fog, moodiness. Iron and B12 stores are needed to efficiently transport oxygen around the body, especially to muscles and brain. Lack of oxygen leads to headache and migraine. Vitamin B6 is a really important nutrient in the production and use of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine and this is strongly related to migraine, depression and irritability.It is also necessary for the nervous system to function correctly so can lead to stress headaches when people feel overwhelmed.
  5. Liver function. If your liver isn’t working as well as it needs to toxins such as chemicals, bacteria, heavy metals, unhealthy foods, alcohol and caffeine won’t be efficiently removed from your system and will continue to recirculate through your blood stream. These toxins are particularly problematic for your brain where the capillaries and protection is thinnest leading to inflammation and headache pain. You need good levels of water, B vitamins and magnesium for liver function. The best thing though is to avoid the toxins in the first place.

If you are one of the many people who suffer with headaches I hope this helps you to manage them.

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The worship of busyness

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I’ve been noticing lately that when I see people and say ‘ How are you ?’ the stock response is “I’m just so busy”.  I don’t know if that’s how they are actually feeling – its a knee jerk kinda thing. What ever happened to feeling great, a bit under the weather, a little bit blue, excited, pensive, nervous, happy ?….. I am wondering how and when this new religion of relentlessly full days, never ending to-do lists and the glorification of not a minutes peace came to be. When did busy replace all the possibilities of how we feel and move through the world ?

No doubt we all want to feel like we are leading full, meaningful and valuable lives. Sometimes the frantic kick of adrenalin we feel can be mistaken for a sense of purpose – like a validation that anyone who feels this overwhelmed must surely be doing important stuff.

When I look at the people I admire – the ones who smile a lot, lead meaningful lives, who contribute, who chose what they do while still considering the people around them, who have time for their friends and family, who make you feel that you matter, who have their values and priorities sorted – they are the ones who have opted out of the culture of busy. They are actually quite busy people but its not something they complain or tell you about with a withering sigh. They just enjoy the things they have chosen to engage in so its not busyness to them – its just having a good life.

I am definitely a list person. I love a list to keep me on track, to declutter my head and to give me that giddy little thrill when you tick things off. It’s instant gratification and helps me remember what I have chosen to do. With alarming regularity I rewrite my list. I go through it and look at whether or not those things really need to be there and if I am just filling my days with blah instead of meaning. More often than not that list can be cut down to size without any loss of quality of life or sense of self. I don’t always recognise ‘busy’ and the overwhelmed feelings come but I’m trying hard to not let it gather too much steam.

There’s a lot of status these days which accompanies the frantic ones amongst us. It seems that if you’re not ambitious, driven, networking, always on to the next thing before this one has finished, booked up till next year, crazily running from one project ( which seems to also include our children, partners, friends, family) then you’re just not really trying.

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Over the years I have seen lots of people in my clinic for lots of different reasons. When I ask about peoples levels of stress one common response is “Well, yeah I’m crazy stressed but that’s just life”. My question is ” Is it really ? Is that what you signed up for ? When you were little did you just long to be a time poor, stress head ?”

You don’t need me to tell you again the effects of stress on your body, mind, relationships, life expectancy, sleep patterns. You know its not good news  –  so why do we keep worshipping at the alter of busyness ?

I expect the answer lies somewhere in feeling validated, successful, important. I wonder if we are looking for some kind of cure for our existential questions of why we are here, why me and not someone else, what is my purpose ?

My son, who is 17, has taken to meditation in the last couple of years. He did this off his own back with no particular aim in mind other than to calm his thoughts. He comes up with some pearls of wisdom that have taken many others decades to understand. The only difference is that he is willingly, happily and productively carving out an hour or so a day to sit still, be quiet and think or maybe not think. I am so impressed by his commitment and the obvious benefits he gets from this practice. He has wisdom, kindness, light heartedness and compassion to spare. That may just be him but I think the stillness has allowed it to sit more easily and with less stress about what other people think than it does for most young men his age.

I’ve never been ambitious. I like space and time and options. I like quiet days and opportunities. That’s not to say that I don’t have a valuable life. I have raised three beautiful children, have a great marriage, a home and garden and chooks. I grow food, read books, go to the gym, cook, read, see friends …… I also work at a job I really like. It hasn’t always been this way and its not always as perfect as it sounds, in fact, sometimes it goes wildly out of shape. Sometimes the balance goes out the window and I find myself feeling stressed and worried and not at all myself. Sometimes I’d like to earn a bit more money, have a few more holidays, do other things. Sometimes I wonder if I should be a bit more giddy up but then I remember that I’m running my own race here and I don’t have to be caught up in the competition of it all. We can all decide on our own idea of success and aim for that.

The thing I have gained from not worshipping busyness is time and space. I am around when my kids want to talk. I am open to a change of plans. I have been to all the soccer games. I have rarely had to say to anyone in my family that I don’t have time for them. That’s real success to me.

Adrenal Fatigue ….that wired and tired feeling

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You sleep all night but wake up tired. The first thing you want in the morning is coffee and sugar. The mid morning slump and coffee craving are regular parts of your day. By midday you are hoping for an afternoon nap. Dinner time is when you find some energy then fade again by 9pm.  Can’t concentrate. Forgetful. Craving carbs, Hair is falling out. No time to feel sick but when you do you go down hard.   Sound familiar ?????

It could be adrenal fatigue…

Our adrenals are small glands located on top of your kidneys. They regulate our stress response by releasing adrenalin and cortisol. Stress comes in lots of forms –
Physical – injury, excess weight, pain
Emotional – upset, stressed, overwhelmed, grief, anxiety
Mental – studying, long bouts of concentration, work

We experience different kinds of stress but it all has the same effect on our bodies – a release of cortisol and adrenaline.  These hormones are known as the fight or flight response and traditionally provided us with a quick response to get us up and running from threats and once the danger had passed, to rest and digest. Unfortunately our lives can often feel like a constant barrage of stressful events.

Cortisol is the hormone that protects our bodies from the free radical damage that adrenaline causes. To create cortisol our bodies need protein, stomach acid to break it down, zinc, b vitamins, vitamin c, and magnesium. These nutrients are also needed for lots of other body functions so making sure you have enough, especially when you’re stressed, is hugely important.

Ways to look after your adrenals…

Sleep – aim for at least seven hours per night.
When you feel exhausted try lying flat for 10 minutes. This gives your body cues that you are responding to your stress and slows the adrenal response.
Smile – There are lots of studies proving the positive effects on stress hormones and the adrenals when a person feels happy. Be careful about what you let into your head – avoid negativity, steer clear of the sad/scary movies.
Move you body– just 20 minutes of gentle exercise daily reduces stress and adrenaline. Remember you are not doing this to train or lose weight – just enjoy a walk in the sun or a leisurely bike ride.
Swap caffeine and sugar for real nutrients – make sure you are getting plenty of  zinc, vitamin C, B’s, magnesium, and protein. Caffeine and sugar actually cause direct stress to the adrenals so while it may feel like a short term solution its actually creating a long term problem.
Try to do something for yourself or ask for some help – all too often the person with adrenal fatigue is the one who is looking after everyone else.
Get some help with your health – herbs, supplements, diet and stress management can help you feel good again. Talking to someone about your stress and how to manage it can help you feel more in control and get you back on track faster.

The many benefits of solitude …..

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There is a lot of pressure these days to be social….constantly. I think we may be losing the valuable art of contented aloneness. Whatever happened to being able to be happily by ourselves without the constant feedback and reassurance of others ?  It’s so important to be able to feel alone without feeling lonely.

I do understand that circumstances can determine how we feel about solitude. I remember a time many years ago when I was feeling very alone and solitude was a double edged sword. Even as a child I had loved being alone and yet when it was forced upon me I felt more lonely than anything else. It ended up being a very important time for me and set the groundwork for my appreciation now of my family and friends. It drew me back into the world.

Loneliness is very different to alone time and I think we may have been getting those confused.

I have noticed that lots of people tell me that they would kill for a day to themselves and when it comes they do things like spend it at the shopping mall surrounded by thousands of strangers. I actually know a few people who have recently deleted their facebook or twitter accounts because they felt like it was all getting a bit out of control and taking up way more time that it deserved. I particularly fear for the young ones amongst us who are comforted by their 1000 facebook “friends”.  True friends are often hard to come by – treasure them, make time for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I like facebook – it’s a great way to keep in touch and is certainly a valuable way for me to get information out to my clients and friends but lets not confuse looking at peoples photos and hearing about how they spent their weekend with true friendship.

I am an unashamed solitude seeker. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends, adore my family and really like talking to people about all sorts of things but if there isn’t enough alone time I can start to feel tetchy, spread thin and less able to enjoy the social interaction when it comes. I need that space to clear my head, feel a relief from all the stimulation, to regroup. I am definitely a better person to be around when I have had enough of not being around.

It’s such a blessing to spend a day quietly, happily alone, out in the world or  in my garden or with a good book. Allowing the space for idle thoughts to turn into useful ideas, for some reflection about how you actually want to be in the world, even to just stop talking for a while.