Self-Healing

Sitting here, sipping an herbal tea blend, serenaded by the glorious chatter of birds at the start of another beautiful summer morning, and reflecting on the tremendous personal transitions that have occurred over the first half of this year. All sorts of transitions. 

And as disruptive as transitions can be, at their core they nudge at personal transformation, a unique invitation to go deep and do the inner work required to shift, grow and flourish in the newly created reality. Healing.

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But healing requires stillness, feeling, praying and breathing through the adjustments that come with change. When we ignore and ‘power through’ transitions, we are at risk of becoming stuck. Literally. Pain, stiffness, indifference, depression, anxiety, doubt, loss of joy, and isolation are stuck indicators. 

The summer season signifies the transition from slower (yin) energy to active (yang) energy, from inner reflection to outward experiences. It’s the season of graduations and weddings, vacations and impromptu activities. Quite naturally, constant sunshine and warmer temperatures translate to more social interactions, being out and about, and a tendency to shun planning, routine, and structure.

High activity can, however, serve as a distraction from the inner self work. Even in the midst of sun and fun, we must find quiet moments to rest, meditate, move and care for self in order to relieve stress and create pathways for emotional accountability and healing.

To help you maintain your self care, and to facilitate any healing you are working towards, I’ve turned to a few dedicated, holistic colleagues to share their tips for summer wellness ...

Tasha Edwards, The Hip Healthy Chick - FB | IG | Twitter

Summer can have us feeling light, easy and social. It’s usually when we break from the normal and vacation and stay out enjoying the late sunshine. Often times we forget about our exercise routine.

It is so important to keep up with some type of physical activity. Whether it is a nice, walk with friends, a few laps in the pool, a weekend yoga class or an at-home Pilates routine, it is vital to our overall wellness to not get so far away from taking care of our bodies that we enter into Fall with the promise to do better, only to fall prey to Halloween candy, Thanksgiving meals and Christmas celebrations.

For your heart’s sake, stay active during the summer.

Rhonda Kuykendall-Jabari, Advanced Reiki Practitioner at Wellness Uprising - FB | IG

As a lifetime allergy sufferer, I have mixed feelings about summer. I love the sun shining on my body, brightly colored clothes, and lounging at the beach or park. I HATE the tingling nose, watery eyes, scratchy that, stuffiness and post nasal drip. At the first signs of allergy season, I do three things.
First, I reach for my lemon, lavender and peppermint essential oils. I use this powerful combination in diffusers at work and at home.
Second, I mix one drop of each in the palms of my hands, and rub vigorously for a few seconds, and practice Reiki self-treatments, making sure to gently massage a bit into the back of the neck. I do this every morning and night through allergy season.
My third revolutionary anti-allergy act is to consume blends of lemon, lavender and peppermint oils in either a cup of hot water or in the form of doTERRA TriEase Seasonal Blend Softgels.
These three steps help remove airborne allergens, clear and align the aura and chakras, and provides the body with natural antihistamines without the drowsiness and other side-effects of over-the-counter drugs.

M. Hakikah Shamsideen, Holistic Home, Health & Spirit Coach - FB | IG

Most of us are overstressed and overbooked. Even though summer is considered a leisure season, it's filled with much to do: vacation travel, events, camp, figuring out what to do with the kids, the list is endless. Those endless tasks can fill you with unhealthy levels of stress, much of it undetectable. I have a solution. Whenever I fell overwhelmed or out of sorts, one of the things I can do anywhere and anytime and helps me and my clients enormously is taking a moment to just stop and breathe. Breathing heals. So I created, 21 Breaths: Self Care Through The Chakras. It's a gentle guided meditation through your 7 energy centers; its purpose, peace. You can download your copy here. Just like that, simple, accessible, self-care. And like breathing, it's free.

Sourcing authentic, quality supplements (2)

Are you purchasing your supplements on Amazon? If so, you really should read this...

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For some time now, I've been fielding questions about the option to save money by purchasing high-quality supplements from Amazon. I always recommend against it. Here's why ...

Recently it's come to light that Amazon listings contain a HIGH volume of counterfeit or expired 'supplements' (often with new expiration dates affixed). In some cases they have been tampered with. In fact, you may be purchasing fake supplements with too much of the active ingredients, or not enough, or none at all. When buying fake supplements, not only may you be harming your body with unknown ingredients/doses (no quality control), but you are wasting money and have no legal recourse with the actual company.

All of the companies we deal with offer quality, tested, professional-grade supplements. They only sell direct via their website (retail) or through screened healthcare professionals (who may offer discounts). They do not sell through online 3rd-party sites like Amazon.

In checking with several of these companies about their supplements being sold on Amazon, each stated that they in fact DO NOT sell through Amazon ... ever. Even after verifying that there were supplements with their company label, name and logo being sold on Amazon, they reverified that they do not sell through Amazon. The only way to purchase their supplements/herbs is through their website or an approved practitioner.

When asked about these products bearing their name on Amazon, each stated that they did not know anything about those products, their contents, quality, or expiration. Further, they do not guarantee or assume responsibility for any products sold in their name through such websites.

*Some of the companies I've spoken to directly include Thorne Research, Pure Encapsulations, Vital Nutrients, and Nature's Sunshine to name a few. 

WHAT TO DO

Shift your mindset. Put your health first. Spend your money wisely.

Always purchase pharmaceutical grade or professional grade supplements that contain higher quality ingredients, and usually undergo stringent testing before being brought to market. 

Ensure that you are getting the actual supplements you want. Go through the company's website or a trusted healthcare practitioner, like Qi To Wellness. If you aren't getting the actual product you want, you aren't saving any money.

For quality, tested, professional-grade supplements you can trust, visit our online dispensary and save on legitimate vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements.

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Can't find your supplements in the dispensary? Contact me directly by call/text at 804.977.1779.     Need supplements but not sure where to begin? Book a wellness consultation with Aqiylah.


The dispensary is  available no matter where you live in the USA. Ultimately, at Qi To Wellness, our intention is provide you with phenomenal resources to help you take radically good care of yourself, and achieve your health and wellness goals! Contact us directly with any questions.

The blessing of transition

From the time of our birth, each of us is moving forward, with each passing moment, towards our death. It's a subtle movement, much like that of an hour hand, pulling each cell, every thought, all of our energy, in one direction. Even though we are not consumed with it, the reality remains in perpetual motion. 

Some of the aspects of death are unpleasant to think about, indeed, to deal with. Being confronted with the end of this known reality forces us to face certain inevitabilities ... that we most certainly will lose some of those we care deeply for ... that even we will not live forever ... that even with all of our beliefs, our future destination and experiences are uncertain. A harsh reality. 

Our human inclination is to survive, and hopefully to thrive. Much of our life's energy is spent in forward propulsion. Nearly everything in our world supports upward mobility - a welcome distraction from the finality of our journey.  And so, for many, it is easier to pretend that it will not happen, to delude ourselves into believing that THAT DAY is far, far, far off in the unforeseeable, mystical, unknown future. 

As a doula and caregiver, I've come to understand our human instinct to fear, deny, flee, disconnect, control, or be paralyzed by the news of grave illness or death. The day after having a heart attack, my own father told me, "I never really believed that I would die". At the time I thought it was arrogance. I mean how could anyone actually believe that they would somehow escape mortality? Decades later, just after his transition, I realized that it wasn't arrogance at all. Until the heart attack, Dad had been doing what most of us do, living in happy denial. 

And why not? It's so much easier to just live as if tomorrow is certain. Even if it's not. Insulation allows us to be motivated to get up and tackle the world each new day. And so we often perceive death, and thoughts or talk of it, as negative ... a dark cloud, morbid, foreboding, depressing, something to be avoided completely. 

But life itself is transition. Each second we are alive, we are transitioning - from one breath or moment or experience or feeling or reality, to the next. And if we are fortunate, life teaches that even death can be extremely meaningful and, dare I say, joyful ... as much as, if not even more than, birth.

To transition is to move through or change. It is a process - one that is necessary to embrace new understanding. Humans are creatures of comfort. We like things to be steady and smooth and shiny and bright and calm and easy. But life is about growth ... on every level imaginable. What is stagnant does not grow. It can only sit where it is, and in a sense, die right there. Yet the world, with all of its elements and personalities and phenomena, constantly shifts through various phases of being. And so, we must align ourselves with change or be left behind, spiritually, technically, and relationally disconnected.

Shifting our focus to how we live today as a preparation for our future, opens the door to embracing life's many transitions with less anxiety. When we make each day count, the end of the physical life becomes less about loss, regret, or fear and more about embarking on the next phase of being. In this mind and heart space we are able to be fully present for the transition of others. In the process our own souls shift. And that is the most powerful blessing of all.


Aqiylah Collins is an energy worker, holistic practitioner and doula who has been the primary caregiver for her terminally-ill parents and stepmother. The physical, emotional and spiritual lessons, practices and skills amassed from these (and other) life experiences inform her private practice at her holistic wellness center, Qi To Wellness.

Sourcing authentic, quality supplements (1)

According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a growing number of Americans (the majority) take supplements - vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.

But are YOUR supplements any good?

The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way as conventional foods and drugs. Aside from prohibitions on marketing adulterated or misbranded products, it is up to the individual manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements (and their ingredients) to hold themselves to high standards of safety and labeling.

It’s a fact that most big box stores do not manufacture their own vitamins and minerals, but instead purchase from a few industry suppliers who private label for them. And often those suppliers use ingredients that are synthetic (manmade), counterfeit, adulterated, unsafe, questionable, or mislabeled, manufactured under poor quality control, or contain little to none of the listed raw materials.

Two recent cases in point:

Why do we take inferior supplements?

Because we’ve been trained to. American culture is huge on saving money, especially on things we consider ‘incidental’. Everyone knows folks who willingly go into debt for a car, a kitchen renovation, a handbag, and more but then skimp and cut corners on high quality food and supplements. The food industry has changed but our mindset has not caught up yet. It just doesn’t make sense to continue thinking the same way about food and our health.  It’s time to evolve and stop treating our health casually.

How?

We make well-being a priority, giving our body the attention it deserves. This means ensuring that what we take in is of high quality, even if it costs a little more. It means doing independent research on product companies to understand their standards and checkpoints. It means carefully creating a circle of trusted mental, emotional, physical and spiritual professionals who understand the mind-body-spirit connection, are willing to partner in our health advancement, and have our best interest at heart.

So what now?

One of our commitments at Qi To Wellness is to always use, promote and offer products from companies that are transparent about their processes and standards, offer full disclosure on ingredients, use independent 3rd party testing, and have research to back up their claims of effectiveness! We support companies that want to take care of you.

A few years ago, Qi To Wellness partnered with Fullscript to offer professional-grade nutritional supplements. Through our convenient online dispensary consumers can access quality vitamins, minerals and herbs from companies like Pure Encapsulation, Thorne Research, Metagenics, Klaire Labs, Gaia for Women, Designs for Health and others who maintain the highest standards in raw materials, manufacturing processes, and rigorous product and purity testing.

Whether you are looking for a quality multivitamin, individual vitamins, omega-3s, antioxidants, minerals, herbs, detox products, or more, you can find it in your private Fullscript dispensary portal. 

Best of all, you can take advantage of and benefit from:

  • the knowledge and assistance of a certified integrative health coach
  • a wellness assessment that many of our clients take advantage of for personalized recommendations on replacing the supplements they currently use
  • a micronutrient test to determine if and where you are deficient, and provide you with a good starting point

Both the dispensary and services are available no matter where you live in the USA. Ultimately, at Qi To Wellness, our intention is provide you with phenomenal resources to help you take radically good care of yourself, and achieve your health and wellness goals! Contact us directly with any questions.

Adult coloring for fun and wellness

Last year I posted an article on Facebook about the benefits of my rediscovered hobby - coloring. The post sparked a wonderful, yet unexpected, response from my friends. Who knew that so many people were open to reclaiming this favorite childhood pastime?! It's no wonder that adult coloring is the new relaxation hobby.

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Shortly after posting the article, I scoured several art supply stores (a very creativity-stimulating way to spend an afternoon!) to find just the right markers. I stumbled into Plaza Art, one block from VCU's Siegel Center, where the helpful clerk guided me to several suitable options. I already owned a beautiful coloring pencil set, so after some testing I selected the Stabilo Pen 68 and the Stabilo Pen 68 Mini. Once back home I looked through Amazon's extensive list of coloring books and settled on a few that caught my eye. All in, launching my new hobby cost about $30. 

 Vibrant results with Stabilo Pens.

Vibrant results with Stabilo Pens.

Now, a year later, I'm still at it with several more coloring books. I even found a lovely purse-sized coloring book at Five Below, so my trademark itty-bitty purses are on extended vacation! Seriously though, now I can color in between clients, while getting my hair done, waiting at the car wash or the doctor's office. 

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Over the past year I've noticed that (at least for me) consistent coloring helps lower blood pressure, maintain hand-eye coordination, improve spatial reasoning, boost problem solving skills, relieve stress and anxiety, and promote good memories, plus it's heck-a-fun! Coloring's ease and affordability places it at the top of my self-care list. I'm even encouraging my clients give it a try.

 Filled using colored pencils.

Filled using colored pencils.

If you haven't started coloring because you worry about rules like 'staying in the lines' or 'using appropriate colors', you might be happy to know that regardless of whether you stay within the perceived boundaries or not, simply coloring is therapeutic. So go ahead, give it a try and discover how it enhances your sense of well-being. 

I'd love to hear ... do you color? why? and how is it benefiting you? I hope you'll share. To your health and wellness!

Family remedies

 Cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks

Cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks

I grew up with the old fashioned grandmother. Nanny grew her own food, raised chickens out back, wore an apron most of the day, hummed old gospel hymns over collard greens and black eyed peas, made dumplins from scratch, and frogs legs on special occasions. 

Culture is critical to one's foundation. It stays with you long after folks pass on, long after the lessons end. 

Maybe it's that I am the oldest grandchild or perhaps because I was the slowest eater ... whatever the reason, of all the things I learned from Nanny, her love of food is what stuck with me. And as I raised my own children, those family recipes brought comfort, healing and a few new twists. Seeing as it is the cold season, I wanted to share one with you.

This concoction came in handy whenever my family came down with sniffles, sore throat, upset stomachs, fever, or chills. Make large batches to hot drink throughout the day, using local and organic ingredients when possible.

3 cinnamon sticks

3 whole cloves

3 whole Chinese* star anise pods

1 piece fresh ginger root (at least 1")

2-4 quarts water

lemon (optional)

honey (optional)

Bring water to a low boil in stainless or glass pot/kettle.

Add cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise and ginger root.

Turn off heat, cover, and steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain.

Serve alone or with a little raw honey and/or lemon.

Enjoy!

Cinnamon

  • Potential for regulating blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and improving memory
  • Improves circulation, lowers risk of infection, and healing to the sinuses.
  • Increases digestion
  • Excellent source of potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, manganese, vitamin A, and niacin

Cloves

  • Warming and soothing
  • Antispasmodic properties help to relieve coughing
  • Useful at relieving indigestion, nausea, constipation, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure
  • Great source of manganese, vitamin C, potassium, selenium, calcium, fiber, vitamins A, C, B1, B6 and K

Star Anise (Illicium verum)

*CAUTION: Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum) is highly poisonous!*

  • Energy building
  • Immune system strengthener
  • Relieves respiratory pain and cough
  • An important ingredient in Tamiflu
  • Good source of calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamins A and C

Ginger root

  • Settles the stomach
  • Relieves nausea and vomiting
  • Promotes healthy sweating
  • GRAS to use during pregnancy
  • Good source of magnesium, B6, potassium and copper

Are you positive?

It’s amazing how easy it is to spread negativity without even realizing it, or possibly even meaning to. Certainly, when our day begins with a lack of enthusiasm, we cannot be surprised when the day turns out to be unproductive. And one day turns into two, then three ... and boom, the result is an unfulfilled life.

But how to change the script? By embracing a new definition of radical self-care!

There is nothing wrong with pampering and treating oneself to spa treatments, mani/pedis, and healing sessions. In fact, I highly recommend them! But what about the internal work - the work that needs to place deep down in the soul, that space where no one else can go with you, the place we often cover up, gloss over and avoid because intuitively we know it requires some WORK and we are the only ones who can do it? Yes, THAT inner space.

The first (and most difficult step) is developing the habit of shifting the focus of the critical eye away from others and onto ourselves. When we are avoiding that inner work, it's easy to gaze outward and see all that's wrong with the world, as if we are somehow above it all - exempt, apart, better than.

The challenge is to accept that there will ALWAYS be situations beyond your control, that there will always be people who act contrary to what "I" think is right, and that more times than your care to acknowledge, you often create your own negative situation(s). In essence, the task is not to focus on others, but rather, on self, and create opportunities for BREAK THROUGH.

Begin by devoting the first few minutes upon waking to the planting of positive seeds that will continue to grow, manifesting compassion, humility, joy, peace and beauty throughout your day.

Give prayer, meditation, laughter, generosity and peace an exalted seat within your sacred internal space.

Check YOURSELF for behaviors of self-sabotage, manipulation, and divisiveness.

Commit to the intentional, conscious ushering out of negative energy by refusing to loiter in conversations and situations that make themselves known as energy drains.

Surround yourself with people who are continually working on self-improvement and moving toward greatness.

Count your blessings, literally - every. single. day. Maybe even write them down or say them out loud.

Hug a tree. Take a walk in nature. Or simply sit quietly and breathe without action or thought (or television or phone or music) for a few minutes each day.

Help someone just because you can.

Look directly in the mirror and tell yourself "I. Love. You." 7 times. Slowly. Do it.

Eat something that grows naturally from the earth (a fruit or vegetable) in it's raw form without any preparation, at each meal.

Give yourself 30 days of positivity and observe how you begin to naturally redirect and quell the rudeness, nay-saying, jealousy, sarcasm, indifference, and other negative attitudes.

Always remember ... positive energy flows abundantly in the universe. Open a pathway for it to come in and help you create a empowered and joyful life. 

Ashe!

Fasting

Eating is always an adventure and I am continually amazed at the volume of lessons one can derive from food.

Over recent months, I’d gotten very good at listening to my body’s voice. People were commenting on how nourishing my food was, how healthy I seemed. And Ah! I had amazing physical energy.

Then Ramadan, a lunar month during which we abstain from all food and drink (as well as sex, gossip, anger, etc) between dawn and sunset hours, arrived bringing much needed spiritual recentering. As always, it is destined to be a life-affirming experience!

 

For me, the first four days are the most difficult. Not because of hunger, headache, weakness or thirst but due to the emotional energy needed to break free of habits centered around food, like going to the refrigerator out of boredom, random snacking, mindless eating and the annoying habit of leaving the grocery store with more than I ever intended to buy, only to get home and realize that my eyes are indeed bigger than the shrinking ability to stuff myself. We are so addicted to food.

But with consistency, transition doesn't take long.

Ramadan is about so much more than food. The word translates as “a burning off” – of greed, vanity, gluttony, lust, wrath, envy … those all-too-familiar desires. The fast requires daily self-imposed restraint from all that feeds the physical (lower) self, in order to elevate the spiritual (higher) self. When the physical things are removed, we are left with a sharper focus on introspection, reflection, charity, humility, positive productivity, gratefulness, worship, and the development of an environment conducive to inner purification.

It never fails that every year, at the very moment I am pondering this powerful integration, someone asks how I can go without food and especially water, all day long . Often the inquiry ends with them saying, “I just could never do it”. I’ve given this sentiment a lot of thought over the years. Oftentimes I’ve explained how it is not really difficult or how we have way more than we actually need or how I am used to it after so many years.

I am not saying that fasting for 30 days is a walk in the park. But the truth is that we are reminded of the Creator's promise that the fast will be easy. It is then, up to us to foster a mindset which embraces that truth. When the mind shifts, the body follows suit, adapting and solidifying a new consciousness of and appreciation for the the ability to self-regulate and choose how we move through this life.

Separation of food & drugs

It's an absolutely nutty notion that a whole room full of people get together and manage to come up with a bad idea. 

Case in point: have you ever thought about why or how the nation's food and its drugs are administered by the same governmental department? I mean, how did they even get lumped together? Food. Drugs. They don't go together. And yet we're so accustomed to the idea, that it just rolls off of our tongues ... "the Food and Drug Administration". See? ... Bad idea.

As hard as it is to believe, many still do not understand that the food manufacturers, the food police (FDA), and the pharmaceutical companies are working together. Or worse, that 'certain' food crops receive staggering government subsidies to keep them affordable for the unsuspecting and disadvantaged (how else can they afford to put corn, soy and wheat in just about everything?). My friend, Michele (thx Lady!), recently shared a video from The Guardian that breaks it down, links the growing incidence of chronic illness to the evils in our food system, AND offers grassroots, corporate and government solutions.

The bottom line: both Food and Drugs are big business, and profit is more important than people to too many. It's the truth and everyone knows it. It's time to cut the cord and wean our food system off the drugs. In order to offset what's offered in the marketplace, one man, Ron Finley, took on his local city government to start what is now referred to as Guerrilla or Urban Gardening. He is but one of many examples of people reclaiming the land for food. I started with a commitment to being informed and selective about what ends up on my fork from the marketplaces I frequent. 

How will YOU demand the right to eat real, living, wholesome food?

10 Tips for Supporting Caregivers

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We all know a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, who is a caregiver of an aging, ill or disabled parent, spouse, sibling or child. Unless you’ve done this work of caregiving, there’s no real understanding of the limitations, the complexity of difficulty, or the toll it takes on the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial well-being of the caregiver. And although it’s extremely rewarding, it’s a very tough, never-ending job. 

It’s not uncommon for caregivers to give and give and give with little in return. Oftentimes the person being cared for is unable to reciprocate appreciation or affection, especially over time. As a result, many caregivers feel isolated, and for a number of reasons, are unable to ask for help. An elderly woman caring for a sick husband may fear losing her independence, the mother of a disabled child may worry about how she is viewed as a mother, a man caring for his demented mother may feel he’s not living up to his role as a son. There is an entire range of unspoken emotions and thoughts to deal with, none of them easy.

So, supportive interaction becomes critical to the stability and stamina of caregivers. Support must come from the heart, clothed in genuine love and compassion. There is no room for criticism or controlling gestures. Here’s how you can help:

1. Pick up the phone and call. Caregivers need human connection. More importantly, make the call about THEM. Ask how they are doing. Bring them some good news. Make them laugh. Do it often.

2. Give ample notice when extending an invitation. Attending something as simple as a lunch date or holiday party often requires advance arrangements to have someone ‘stand in’ to provide care. 

3. Learn about dementia, Aspergers, autism, cystic fibrosis, Parkinson’s, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask/talk about these conditions in an appropriate setting. Pretending nothing is wrong is isolating. 

4. Be aware that caregiving is very different from (and often more challenging than) raising children. With childrearing there is an end goal in sight. Your children are growing UP and, at some point, moving on to their own lives. Even as our children lose their innocence, there is a lasting sense of pride and joy that comes from raising a child into adulthood. With caregiving, temporary illness care aside, the opposite is usually true. There is a deep sense of loss (of that person, of one’s personal life, of one’s freedom from the situation, etc) that accompanies caring for someone who will never be independent or who is slowly moving toward the end of their life. 

5. Be sensitive.  Some caregivers are on limited or fixed incomes, sometimes having had to give up their job/career to care for someone else or living on part time employment wages. Something to consider when asking them to go out or travel. 

6. Visit. Traveling with a sick or disabled person is disruptive, often requiring both the caregiver and the one being cared for to go without resources they rely upon for activities of daily living. Traveling without one’s charge means finding someone trustworthy or paying HIGH fees for their care in your absence. So if there’s a family gathering or special occasion in the works, consider bringing it to the caregiver’s home! Since those being cared for usually respond best to routine schedules, be sure to include the caregiver in all the plans … and be prepared to lend a hand when you arrive.

7. Help them locate community resources - home care aides, physical or occupational therapists, chaplains, social workers, hospice. See if they are interested in attending a caregiver’s support group. If so, locate one (or several) and perhaps offer to go with them. This can be especially helpful for long time caregivers who’ve never sought help but are exhibiting signs of caregiver stress.

8. Ask how you can help. The caregiver knows what they need but may need a little coaxing. Be prepared for anything from ‘would you sit with him/her while I take a bath?’ to ‘can you recommend a ____?’. 

9. Know the signs of caregiver stress (denial, frustration, anger, guilt, social withdrawal, depression, lack of concentration, loneliness, exhaustion, unchecked health problems) and how it affects health. Encourage and do what you can to make it possible for them to take better care of themselves, to get out of the house, and to enjoy life.

10. Reassure them know you are there for them. And really, really be there when they need you.

Direct care: an affordable health care option?

Holistic health recognizes that self-care comes in many forms and access to affordable health care is one of them. Some people even gather to pray for it! So if you are one of the millions of Americans without health coverage growing tired of the health care debate and just want to be able to see a doctor, affordably, keep reading.

For years now, there’s been a quiet buzz stirring about Direct Care (aka Flat-rate Primary Care, Concierge Medical Care, Direct Primary Care, DPC), a private member-based solution to primary health care. DPC isn’t your typical health spending account, HMO, or insurance plan. It’s more like a health club membership.

Using this model, doctors see patients for primary care which according to the Direct Primary Care website “spans preventative care (such as immunizations and check-ups), routine treatment of common injuries and complaints, and maintenance for ongoing health issues”. Patients pay an initial enrollment fee, then a flat monthly fee directly to the provider for unrestricted access to visits. No co-pays, no insurance forms, no in-/out-of-network providers, and perhaps best of all, no denial of benefits based on pre-existing conditions.

The general philosophy behind direct care is that when people have health concerns, they visit their doctor who is able to diagnose, consult and treat most problems. While specialists and hospitals are available for more serious or complex illnesses, the need to use them is not as likely as routine care. Yet the current health insurance model forces consumers to pay for the occasional unexpected, expensive treatment all the time. By cutting out health insurance companies, the direct care model allows private practitioners to lower their overhead, reduce paperwork and stop charging patients for expensive care they may or may not receive. The result is an holistic approach that encourages consumers to choose what doctor they employ, see that doctor as little or often as needed and pay less for low-cost services (plus minimal charges for generic medications, complex lab work, etc).

So what about insurance for a serious injury, surgery or ongoing treatment for a life-threatening illness? A catastrophic health insurance plan can cover those medical necessities. Deductibles are normally higher. And although rates vary depending on individual’s medical history and type of plan chosen (supplemental or comprehensive), they are typically much lower than traditional health insurance premiums.

Qliance is a leading direct primary care provider based in Seattle, Washington. Founded by Norman Wu and Dr. Garrison Bliss, Qliance offers affordable medical care that includes in-office visits, phone and email support to manage ongoing chronic conditions of its insured and uninsured patients. Recognizing the occasional need for additional services, they also partner with local medical service providers, make referrals and coordinate specialist care. With five clinics in Seattle, they plan to expand in the state next year.

The bottom line is that comprehensive health care is out of reach for many Americans, leaving them uninsured. For them, and especially for families with children, direct primary care is an alternative option for affordable health care. Having a medical system focused on patient care should fill at least one of the huge gaps left by our current system.

For more info: Forbes article

7 practical uses for peppermint essential oil

Peppermint grows with ease and abundance in many regions. One can often find a wide variety growing in backyards, neighborhood and community gardens, sold at farmers markets and natural food stores. To tell if a live plant is fresh, gently rub a mint leaf between your fingers to release the oils and inhale the wonderful aroma. Ahhh.

A favorite of many for centuries, peppermint is one of the most useful essential oils. Its variety of therapeutic uses has found application in many commercial products. The oil blends well with other oils such as lavender, frankincense, lemon, sandalwood, orange and ylang ylang.

Although generally regarded as safe (GRAS), peppermint can cause skin irritation. Therefore, pregnant and lactating women and young children should always seek the counsel of a health care or holistic health practitioner before using.

Peppermint is easily incorporated into the home and lifestyle and can even replace many common over-the-counter remedies used to …

  1. Soothe. Apply peppermint topically to sooth itching and reduce swelling of mosquito or spider bites, and bee stings. Along with lavender and frankincense, peppermint can help to drain the sinuses, relieve headaches, and even relieve migraine pain.
  2. Breathe. Peppermint instantly opens the sinuses and bronchial airways, improving breathing for allergy, hay fever, asthma and bronchitis sufferers.
  3. Invigorate. Peppermint’s ability to arouse mental alertness and concentration makes it useful as a quick pick-me-up to combat sleepiness, dizziness, faintness, fogginess, or general dullness.
  4. Calm. Just as peppermint invigorates, it also soothes and relaxes. It can reduce the symptoms of hysteria, shock, anxiousness, restlessness, insomnia and stress, especially when combined with lavender.
  5. Deodorize. Peppermint is a powerful freshener. It’s commonly used in the laundry, bathrooms (add to cotton balls), foot deodorizers (add to creams or oils), toothpaste, and mouthwash. One drop under or at the back of the tongue is a great breath freshener.
  6. Digest. Even just the fragrance of peppermint is known to stimulate the appetite, ease digestion, alleviate nausea, and relieve irritable bowel and motion sickness.
  7. Flavor. A few drops of peppermint essential oil can be used to flavor homemade toothpaste or mouthwash, or added to teas and salads.

Due to the powerful nature of pure, therapeutic essential oils, a little goes a LONG way. There is no need to overuse oils. That said, essential oils can be …

  • Diffused into the air. There are several ways to diffuse essential oils and many commercial diffusers are available. The goal: accessing the oils’ beneficial properties.
  • Applied or massaged directly into the skin. Diluting with carrier oil is recommended. Always test on a small patch of skin first to determine potential skin sensitivity.
  • Ingested. Caution: only certain oils can be consumed. Find and consult with a registered aromatherapist for details.

*Peppermint should be avoided altogether if you have mint allergies.

Did you know?

Therapeutic grade oils are distilled or cold-pressed in a way that maintains the integrity of the plant’s effectiveness. Not all essential oils are created equal. 

For more info on certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG) essential oils, check out An Intro to Essential Oils

[Full Disclosure: Aqiylah Collins is a dōTERRA Wellness Advocate]


Image: Mint Leaves by Kham Tran is used here with permissions granted under the GNU Free Documentation License

Managing Moods

Moody.
1. Given to frequent changes of mood; temperamental.
2. Subject to periods of depression; sulky.
3. Expressive of a mood, especially a sullen or gloomy mood
— www.thefreedictionary.com/moody
 Image: Mood Mix by  Aqiylah Collins . All rights reserved.

Image: Mood Mix by Aqiylah Collins. All rights reserved.


Image: Blood Brain Barriere by Ben Brahim Mohammed is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

Osteoporosis: are you at risk?

Osteoporosis has been called the silent disease. As we age, particularly beyond menopause (for women), it's not uncommon for bones to thin, weaken and fracture without warning.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, those who meet the following conditions are at greater risk:

  • female
  • advanced age
  • Caucasian
  • a history of fractures
  • a small thin frame
  • alcohol and tobacco use
  • family history of osteoporosis
  • surgical ovary removal
  • early menopause
  • a low calcium diet or poor absorption
  • lack of weight bearing exercise
  • long term use of certain medications (steroids, anti-convulsant drugs, HRTs)
 Image:  Age and Bone Mass  by  Anatomy and Physiology, Connexions Website  is used here with permissions granted under the  Creative Commons   Attribution 3.0 Unported  license

Image: Age and Bone Mass by Anatomy and Physiology, Connexions Website is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license


But there's good news! Osteoporosis is preventable. Even though some factors can't be altered (gender, ethnicity, family history, etc), others can. Prevention begins with doing what you can to minimize the risks. Even if you've already been diagnosed, these steps can slow down the progression of bone loss. Start now and do what you can.

Get serious about giving up tobacco. See your medical doctor for advise. If traditional methods aren't successful, try hypnosis or neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Calcium is crucial to building and maintaining solid bone mass and density. Up to age 50, the average adult needs 1000 mg per day. For women over 50 or at the onset of menopause, and for men older than 70, the requirement increases to 1200 mg per day..

Beyond dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), be sure your diet includes plant-based calcium-rich foods such as fresh leafy greens like collards and cabbage, sardines, salmon, soy, almonds, and pistachios. Vitamin D aids calcium absorption and may be lacking in certain regions or during winter months when sunshine is minimized. Also, salt intake interferes with calcium absorption, so lowering your intake may be helpful.

Begin a regular routine of walking, running, jumping rope, aerobics, take a Zumba class, or find a tennis partner and dust off the racket. Any exercise that requires you to use the weight of your body increases bone density.

Detecting Osteoporosis is as simple as getting tested. The test, called a bone mineral density scan (or DEXA) can identify early osteoporosis and monitor treatment. For convenience, many radiology centers can schedule a scan at the same time as your annual mammogram.

Best of all, the test lasts about 30 minutes and is simple, painless and non-invasive.


Image: Human Hip Bone by Patrick Siemer is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Another word on avocados

Every time I go food shopping I'm tempted to buy avocados to add to salads, accompany beans, make guacamole, or mixed with lime juice and salt atop corn thins. The body loves all the healthy fats and fiber in avocados too. In fact, in people with mildly elevated cholesterol levels, the monounsaturated fats in avocados have been found to lower LDL (bad fats) and raise HDLs (good fats).

Between the versatility and health benefits of avocados, who can buy just one? Certainly not me!

Unfortunately, if you don't eat them fast enough, they go bad. And refrigeration doesn't really help. So, my dilemma became what to do with really ripe avocados. Inadvertently, I found a solution: pudding. Yes, pudding ... made from avocados. 

Of all the recipes I tried, Louisa Shafia's 5-Minute Carob Pudding (get the printed recipe here) has become my favorite for the following reasons:

  • It's vegan - no dairy or eggs
  • It uses carob instead of chocolate (which I can't have)
  • Avocados + Carob = Super Nutrients
  • It requires minimal and natural ingredients
  • It makes two satisfying servings
  • It refrigerates nicely for the next day
  • Clean up is a cinch
  • The resulting texture and flavor are enjoyable
  • And most importantly, it is quick, healthy and delicious!

Here's how mine came out ...

 Image: Avo-Pudding by  Aqiylah Collins . All rights reserved.

Image: Avo-Pudding by Aqiylah Collins. All rights reserved.

Let's face it, when you want dessert, you want it right then, not in 30 minutes, but now! Although Shafia's recipe claims to take 5 minutes, I find that to be true once you have all of the ingredients assembled and measured out. So in reality it's more like 10 minutes, which is still a short time to satisfy a craving for something decadent ... and healthy!


Image: Avocado FruitnFoiliage by Geographer is used here with permissions granted under the Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic license

Verbal energy

Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs. -Pearl Strachan

A while back, a friend shared that she was about to receive her college degree. I asked what her major was and she replied, "Art History, but I could only go part time so it's just an Associates degree".  

Say what?! ONLY? JUST?? 

Uh last time I checked, earning a college degree was a huge accomplishment in and of itself, so it's a pretty BIG DEAL for a single 37-year-old mother of 2 with a full time job

I clearly remember a special day many years ago. My grandfather woke me early so we could shine our shoes before gathering round the dining room table for my grandmother's homemade breakfast. Then we donned our Sunday best and piled into the family car. Everyone was smiling as we headed to my mom's graduation from the local community college. I was 9.

Being present when Mom received that Associates of Science degree in Political Science remains one of the highlights of my life! For 3 years, I lived with my grandparents during the week so Mom could attend night school after working all day at her full time job, to earn that darn piece of paper. This day represented triumph over the history, obstacles, and the naysayers. Mom was the first in our immediate family to both attend AND graduate from college.

Yet the real success rested in reclaiming HER personal dreams and writing her own story rather than succumbing to perceived notions of a young single woman of color raising a child in a world that deemed her future as limited. That day, I learned many great lessons about being a strong, resilient, determined, goal-oriented woman, as well as the necessity of a powerful support system.

Today, I feel the impact of those two small words - JUST and ONLY - in diminishing the hard work and sacrifices we make to achieve a dream or reach a goal or shine from within or simply function. As a health coach, I personally witness people giving away their power, their energy: "I only ate 3 vegetables today" or "I'm only 23 so no one is going to take me seriously" or "I'm just a paralegal" and "I'm just working out 3 days a week". 

Using these two words, in this way, is an unconsciously learned behavior that is rooted in our history. The practice sucks the life out of our accomplishments, and all that went into achieving them. It's an unintentional dishonoring of how we've spent our time and our energy, which is the stuff life is made of, truly. 

The good news is that we can choose to energize our lives by honoring our efforts! And let me be clear that this is not bragging but rather stating what is AND not making excuses for it in the same breath.

My challenge to you is to take the 3-day Words Have Power Challenge by committing to:

  • being more conscious about the words you use
  • spreading the word about self-limiting vocabulary

Start whenever you want or whenever you can. If you forget, start again. Make it fun by engaging a partner. No rules. Just be more mindful of your own vocabulary and inspire others to do the same in a loving and gentle way. I hope you'll share how you are embodying this new verbal energy. Your words have power, so use them wisely!

Much ♥


9 natural UTI prevention tips

A urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder infection occurs when harmful bacteria take up residence in the bladder or ureters (tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder where it is stored until emptied via the urethra). Urination is a natural process that flushes bacteria from the body.

Although infection can be caused by many things, women are at greater risk for UTIs than men. A shorter urethra and closer proximity to the anus, making them more likely to develop infection following sexual activity. Women who use a diaphragm, are pregnant, or have entered menopause seem to be more susceptible as well.

Other risk factors include diabetes, loose stools, extended periods of immobility, bowel and urine incontinence, surgery, having a catheter, advanced age, kidney stones, enlarged prostate, problems emptying the bladder, or anything blocking the flow of urine.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Pain or burning when urinating 
  • Foul smelling urine 
  • Cloudy urine or traces of blood in urine 
  • Frequent urination or inability to hold small amounts of urine 
  • Weakness 
  • Excessive tiredness 
  • Back pain or pain below the rib cage 
  • Pain or pressure in the rectum (men) 
  • Pain or pressure near the pubic bone (women) 
  • Mental confusion, refusal to drink water, or loss of appetite (elderly) 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Fever or bleeding, if the infection has moved into the kidneys or bloodstream 
 Image:  lllu Urinary System  by  Arcadian  is used here with permissions granted under the  U.S. Public Domain  (original works of the Federal Government)

Image: lllu Urinary System by Arcadian is used here with permissions granted under the U.S. Public Domain (original works of the Federal Government)

Sadly, I've been down this road enough times with folks to know that the healing modality depends on the particular bacteria strain. A urine culture will reveal the strain of bacteria you are dealing with, and most doctors will tell you if a UTI can be managed without antibiotics. Something like ecoli (yes, you read that right) requires a remedy more powerful than what's discussed here. If you cannot take antibiotics or prefer not to, consult a qualified herbalist.

As for prevention or early first sign of UTIs, consider the following ...

  1. Practice good genital hygiene. Avoid unclean public toilets. Keep a squeeze (perineal) bottle with warm water by toilet and use to wash front and back after eliminating, and be sure to ALWAYS wipe front to back. 
  2. Always practice safe sex, exercise caution during sexual activities, and bathe afterwards. Be sure to properly clean intrauterine devices (IUDs). 
  3. Cranberries contain hippuric acid which create an acidic environment, making the urinary tract unattractive to bacteria, and helps to inhibit their growth. Use a pure cranberry juice or tablet. For recurring UTIs (aka RUTIs), select a high dosage cranberry tablet with a non-acidic vitamin C (I favor Ester-C with Cranberry by American Health). 
  4. A probiotic designed to reach maximum effectiveness in the lower intestine. (I highly recommend Ultra Flora Plus by Metagenics). 
  5. Drink LOTS of fresh water. 
  6. Avoid cheeses, carbonated and caffeinated beverages, chocolate, alcohol, yeast, and cigarettes to inhibit bacterial growth. 
  7. Increase garlic, tumeric, clove and other spices with antibacterial properties, prunes and plums (for their hip pubic acid), plus grains, corn, beans, lentils, walnuts, and peanuts for their acidic value. 
  8. Mix equal parts of tea tree, frankincense, bergamot, and juniper essential oils with EVOO or fractionated coconut oil and massage over bladder. Can also diffuse the essential oils into the air. 
  9. Eat foods high in Vitamin C. A list of the best choices can be found at World's Healthiest Foods

Note: A bladder infection is a serious condition that left untreated or improperly treated can lead to severe complications, kidney damage, and even blood poisoning. Please consult a medical or naturopathic doctor if you suspect or develop an infection.


Image: Pyuria by Bobjgalindo is used here with permissions granted under the GNU Free Documentation License

Life's not-so-little reminders

Funny how we plan, and then another Plan comes into play. You know the One. The One we never take into account when we are doing what we do. The One we conveniently forget about as we move-n-shake our way through life. Yeah that One. The Ultimate Plan.

While it is true that we can manifest what we want in our lives, it is also true that life is interconnected. And every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It's the domino effect.

So, in the words of my grandmother, "be careful what you manifest. Think it through, yet know too that there exists what you cannot see or know or plan for, so be prepared for life to throw you a curve when you least expect it, but most need it". Wisdom.

Recently, a bout of severe pain, chills, fever, exhaution, a trip to the emergency room, and a diagnosis of pneumonia, brought my Nana's words rushing back to me and everything of real importance into clear focus ... again, because we get off-track. And I am reminded of a few observations to share:

  • Slowww dowwwn
  • The healthier the body, the harder it fights to maintain homeostasis, and the faster it heals
  • After 3 days of self-treatment with no improvement, seek medical care
  • A strong tolerance for pain is NOT a permission slip for needless suffering
  • Allow those who love you and can see what you can't, to advocate for you
  • Doctors are great diagnosticians and symptom-solvers
  • Sometimes the immediate benefit of drugs outweighs the potential harm
  • 'Healing' is a personal commitment we make to ourselves every day
  • Strengthen the use of foundational wellness tools (like prayer, Reiki, healing affirmations, essential oils, fresh water, fruits and veggies) at every stage of dis-ease and every stage of wellness
  • Get with a health coach to improve daily wellness choices to cleanse properly, boost the immune system, and regain strength
  • Give thanks - good health is a precious, delicate, beautiful gift

Peace and good health!


What do juicing and breastfeeding on-the-go have in common

The other day, I was coaching a postpartum mom who is currently weaning her one-year-old off of breastmilk and is considering doing a juice & raw food cleanse to get back to her pre-pregnancy diet. 

Her challenge: With a demanding job as a corporate attorney, how to juice during the day? 

Ironically, this was the same question she had asked after returning to work as a breastfeeding mama ("how do I breastfeed and work full time?"). Her question created an AHA moment for both of us! 

Me: How did you solve the problem of nursing your baby during work hours?

Her: I pumped and bottled my milk so it could go with her to daycare.

........................................... Silence ..........................................

Her: Ooh, maybe I could do the same thing ... juice in the morning, bottle it and take it with me?

Me: That sounds like an idea!

Her: But I've heard that fruits and veggies lose vitamins and minerals once juiced and so you should drink them right away rather than refrigerate for later use. Is that true?

Me: Hmm, does that happen with pumped and bottled breastmilk? What do you think? 

Her: Well, pumped and bottled milk probably loses some value nutritionally, but the real value lost in not nursing directly from the breast is the soul connection ... lovingly holding your baby, looking her in the eye, that close skin-to-skin bonding time. It just can't be replaced. 

Me: Does that mean that pumped and bottled breastmilk is not valuable? Or that you don't get to make that connection with your baby at other times?

Her: NO! It's still considered the next best thing to actually feeding AT the breast. I mean, even doctors will verify that it's still better than formula in most cases. And I still nurse her on the breast at night time plus as she gets older we are creating new ways of connecting.

Me: Indeed. And when you pump your milk, is it with the same love and caring for your baby that you have when feeding at the breast directly?

Her: Oh yes!

Me: So, how does this all translate to produce and juicing?

Her: I guess once you cut into veggies they do begin to lose some of their nutritional value. That happens when we cook too, but we still eat cooked foods, right?

Me: Yes. How can you put that same caring and love into juicing?

Her: Hmm, maybe by choosing, washing, handling, storing, and preparing my fruits and veggies with a mindfulness for its connection to wellness and healing my body?

Me: Sounds like you are saying that your mindset and the interaction with your food is important to the energy of your food, and what value it has for your body.

Her: Yes! Exactly!

Me: So what can you conclude from this discussion?

Her: Well, I have to work. And I want to be healthy. So just like I pump my milk and send it with my baby, I can juice my fruits and veggies and carry them to work with me. It's not ideal, but it is the best in our given situation. Plus I get to choose the quality and determine the care that goes into the preparation ... something I have no control of outside my kitchen.

Me: Wow. Sounds like you've made a decision and feel good about it!

Her: YES! I have. Now all I have to do is find a fabulous portable container to store and carry my juices in. Thank you for helping work through this!

Me: You are an amazing advocate for your own health.


How I came to love chia seeds

In the midst of an experiment to see how certain foods effect my health, I decided to eliminate gluten-rich foods (that's wheat, including durum, graham, kamut, semolina, and spelt, plus rye, barley and triticale) for 90 days. Today is day 52.

Living without gluten breads, pastas, and baked goods hasn't been difficult, in fact, it's much easier than I expected. Being more conscious of where gluten might show up unexpectedly requires a little more thought but not enough to be bothersome. Mainly, i've just steered clear of anything that might be breaded, dusted or mixed with flour, and decided not to indulge any of the numerous gluten-free breads on the market.

There's something about elimination that begs of new discoveries, and so this month began my exploration of a food I've noticed from afar for quite a while - chia seeds. Other than adding them to an occasional smoothie, I hadn't really thought much, in the past, about what else could be done with these teeny tiny seeds. 

  Chia seeds come in two varieties - dark & light

Chia seeds come in two varieties - dark & light

My research led to a week-long chia seed obsession. I experimented with adding chia seeds to smoothies and soups and stir-fry and oatmeal, making fruity chia seed puddings, sprinkling over salads, and even mixing the seeds with water to see if they worked as a vegan egg substitute in baking (they do!). What I discovered is that I LOVE CHIA SEEDS. With barely a flavor of their own, they hide/mix well in just about everything. It's a bonus that they are easy, delicious, and each little seed is loaded with amazing stuff (vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, soluble and insoluble fiber, complete protein, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, ...) that's good for you. So chia seed has become a staple in the Qi To Wellness kitchen!

Chia seed pudding topped with maple syrup & berries

Up next on the gluten-free (GF) journey:

  • My adventures with Polenta! 

In the meantime, I'm enjoying life without gluten and it feels great! Do you have a gluten-free story or recipe to share? Please do so in the comments section below or email me. I love learning from YOU!