Topic: How seeing a herbalist works

Move Mountains with me

National Stress Awareness Week

How I reduce your stress with herbs and EFT

So, we all know how it feels to be stressed. We all know what it’s like in our bodies, in our minds and how it impacts on us.

Or, do we?

Do you notice the relentless micro-stressors in your daily life? Do you feel the constant onslaught of more things to do and get done, more blips on your phone nagging at you, your children tugging your sleeve wanting things and maybe your partner asking for things from you too?

Sometimes, you will and you feel ok about it and sometimes, it all builds up into TOO MUCH and that’s when we might eg shout at someone we love and then feel guilty. It’s a relentless cycle sometimes.

How can herbs help me with that? That’s just in my head, isn’t it? It’s up to me to be more controlled and in control of myself. Right?

How’s that been going for you?

Adaptogens

As a herbalist, I have an entire armoury of wonderful medicines at my disposal to support you. There are different ways of approaching it. If you are feeling stressed and that’s the predominant feature, I can prescribe one out of many different adaptogens. These literally do what they say – they assist your mind and body adapt to stress.

My most recent work with a patient who is taking the lovely adaptogen Withania somnifera has been remarkable. Withania is indicated in many scenarios but particularly for the ‘tired and wired’ and can be brilliant for busy, working mums. We’re also using EFT-tapping and she’s finding the ramifications of the double-pronged approach and subtle changes to be really far-reaching:

  • She is calmer at work, choosing to lead with love (she’s in what she describes as a ruthless industry)
  • She has told me that she has chosen the humble path with her husband and that an argument was diffused and she felt much stronger and less petty

These changes are not directed by me, she is growing them from within her as she feels stronger and more at peace. How much more peaceful (and less stressful) are the choice of humility and love? Those outcomes may not completely resonate for you but these outcomes feel right for this person.

Don’t forget nervines…

A medicinal preparation, usually of herbal origin, which is said to act on the nervous system, reduce anxiety and tension (nervine relaxant), and stimulate or strengthen neural function.

https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/nervine

Nervines calm you by soothing and nourishing the nervous system. We have a wide variety of nervine herbs with subtly differing actions – some also support the digestion, some support the gynaecological system, some the muscularskeletal system and others the cardiovascular system. I choose the herbs which align most closely with your experience. Is feeling stressed sending your blood pressure through the roof? There’s a herb for that. Are you getting palpitations when you’re uptight? There’s a herb for that. Do you get bloating in your belly? There’s loads of herbs for that!

I would use a nervous system trophorestorative when someone’s body is far out of whack with what would be considered normal rhythms and responses. Perhaps you’re a hypervigilant new mum who can’t fall asleep as every noise triggers an ‘alarm’ response preventing the ‘permission’ to sink into sleep. Or a distressed student who is feeling totally overwhelmed and panicked by the volume of work they have to tackle and the upcoming assessments and deadlines. Maybe the business person who lies awake half the night, then eventually oversleeps and ends up dashing for the train every morning…

Maybe one of those describes you?

When we work together and using herbs and healthful food choices to nudge the body back to a state of wellness and the EFT to clear out habitual patterns of emotional responses, we can, almost literally, move mountains. Those old thought patterns get tapped away so that the herbally nourished body can flourish.

I have seen it time and again. When our frenetic brains lead the way and we forget our bodies, then we can move out of balance and into a situation of illness. Often something with no name but a collection of life-impacting symptoms. Maybe it’s a dodgy digestion, hurting head, aches and pains, tired all the time…? There are so many annoying ways our clever body devises to send out the SOS signals. My job is to hear them and help you to find the best ways to soothe them and take notice in a constructive, reparative way.

Sounds difficult? Not got time? We do it in ways which work for you and with your routines. Baby steps or giant leaps, whatever you need and are ready for. There is no set path as it is entirely tailored to you. Every prescription is different. Every bit of advice on food and lifestyle. Each takes into account what you can do and manage. This mountain is not moved in one day and not by you on your own. We’re in this together, picking up the pebbles and step-by-step, moving your mountain.

Let’s do it! Contact me to support you in choosing the pebbles to move to become a less stressed and healthier you.

Change

I talked in my blog on joyous practise about playing the violin. I have played since I was a child of just 8 years old.

Recently, I used my lack of playing during the Covid-19 lockdown to wipe the violin slate clean. Going back and picking it up after not playing for over a year meant I could really feel the bodily contortions I inadvertently get myself into. All the habitual tensions, the “oh no, this will sound really dreadful” downward negative judgements beginning before the bow hads even hit the string. 

And, I’ll be completely honest it did sounds dreadful. It sounded awful because my ear was not as out of practise as my fingers and my musician’s critical faculties were in fine fettle. And, it sounded dreadful because I was not able to offer myself the compassion I would to others.

How to wipe the slate clean?

I’ve started Alexander Technique lessons with Julia Duschenes in St Albans. Alexander Technique is a form of body re-education, a way to ‘get out of your own way’, to notice tension and release what’s not needed. Julia’s marvellous AND she plays a stringed instrument AND she works with lots of string players. She is helping me re-build my body and change my body’s reflex response to the violin. I don’t have to take up a ‘violin posture’ before I’ve even lifted it out the case. I don’t have to assume it’ll be hard work, tense, self-critical, not good enough. What joy it is to begin to remove those things from my playing. 

During a recent weekend of playing, I’ve noticed the “argh, that’s a lot of very fast notes” tightening in my left hand and aimed to let go of as much of it as I could. I’ve released the “got to be perfect” self-pressure and whilst the habit is not yet gone, it was so joyful to have those moments of freedom, enjoyment and a sense of largesse in my playing.

And, beginning to be freed from my own fearful sense of being ‘not good enough’ I could enjoy being what I am. Fancy that. Enjoying being what I am, in this moment.

So, what am I actually doing?

I’m inviting change. It’s not easy. There are a lot of years of withheld tears in those muscular habits, lots of time suffering from the ‘not good enough’ belief and years of believing that musicians strive for something they’ll never attain: perfection. In truth, I won’t reach that place of CD perfection because I’m a human being not a robot, I don’t practise 4+ hours per day, every day and I don’t want to. It’s simply not that important to me. I have chosen another path. So, my musical mind, my musical body is learning to let go of that pressure and accept that good enough really is.

Why change?

As with any change, noticing a way to be positively different is key. Start interrupting the usual pathway and asking how it could be different. I learned this from Julia. What now sounds soo obvious, and just wasn’t a few short weeks ago, is changing from self-flagellating for a mistake and feeling worthless as a result of that mistake to asking how did it happen and what could I do differently to avoid it next time? Using curiosity rather than harsh self-judgement. Being my own teacher rather than judge and jury.

Why write about change?

I ask my patients to be ready to, and support them in becoming ready for, change. It might sound obvious that there’ll be change but it’s generally the hardest part. We like the way we do things. That’s why we do them that way. We might not see the connection between the outcome and some of our actions and choices. So, it is my job to aid in seeing things differently. Or, we might feel powerless to make positive changes as we feel as though we are losing something important, secure and familiar. But, it is only in adopting changes that we can bring about change.

If we want our bodies to BE different, we have to DO different

Lucy Blunden

My role is to engage you in those changes, enable you to feel it’s possible and help you notice that it feels good when you stick with it.
Having spent years fighting myself over habits which were doing me no good, I really understand how hard it can be to being about change. I recognise that change requires all sorts of different parts of us and sometimes those around us to be on board. Coralling all of those things can be tricky as well. Taking baby steps with my guidance will help you find your way forward moving towards those changes you desire. This is one of the things which I love about my job; helping people to find that a-ha moment enabling them to step into the new concepts positively and with confidence.

Food Plate

Working with my patients on their health, I always look at their food choices. I say that the herbs are like your dominant hand – really effective on its own at getting things done all day long – but when you bring your other hand (food!) along to the party then that’s when we really make a difference to your health. And, those differences are the ones you are empowered to continue by yourself.

What we think we eat and what we actually eat are often quite different. We also tend to think we eat pretty healthily but once we examine it, the things we’ve put in our mouths e.g. after temptation (shop tills, TV adverts), stress and comfort eating and so on have come our way, it can turn out to be quite different to the things we have intentionally put in our mouths.

5-A-DAY? It’s just not enough. And, many of us don’t even achieve that. Aim for 8-10 instead with only two of those being sweet fruits.

My favourite way of thinking about what to eat is based on rainbows! Eating a daily rainbow of fruit and vegetable colours is a great way to get a good variety of the nutrients we need. The BHF talk about it here but mostly we don’t eat 5-a-day let alone the much more ideal 8/10-a-day. If counting portions isn’t your thing, imagine your lunch and dinner plates are 50% covered by colourful veg. Then you will hit that target. It doesn’t have to be 50% steamed veg, it includes pulses, beans and a whole heap of fun, tasty and exciting ways to eat veg like in warm or cold salads.

In my opinion, the NHS eatwell plate is not the best balanced version. I much prefer the Alliance for Natural Health plate instead (there is a different one for children under 6 years old). Look at how differently it is balanced with a strong emphasis on vegetables, low emphasis on fruit and only gluten-free grains, plenty of protein and fats and a good wallop of spices and herbs thrown in for good measure.

A wobbly screen shot of the ANH food plate!

Just think of all the wonderful meals you could eat and feed your family with if you ate like this! Does your diet look like this?

HOW I DO IT: Currently, most of my fruit eating goes on my breakfast with stewed apples (sweetened with cinnamon), some berries or dates if we’ve neither of those in the house. Lunch is often a big salad with a slice of homemade brown Spelt bread with seeds and a protein – tuna & beans, smoked salmon, occasional mortadella/salami/ham etc. We have been experimenting with recipe boxes and the veg portions in our evening meals are generally too few but as I get to know the recipes better, I will be padding them out with more veg or beans.

How seeing a herbalist works – 1

Before we even meet…

I have a 15-min free chat with potential patients before we meet. I think this is crucial as it helps us to know whether we think we might work well together.

A big part of any complementary medicine appointment is the therapeutic relationship. If you don’t like me, that just won’t be there. And vice versa! 🙂

I explain how I work and give you some things to do before we even meet!

  • pre-appointment medical health questionnaire
  • food & drinks journal
  • quiz

Yes, I am a big fan of the quiz. It’s by Gretchen Rubin who looks at how we respond to making changes. Herbal medicine treatment generally requires quite a few lifestyle and dietary changes in addition to taking the herbs I prescribe. After all, you want something about your health to change. That’s why you’re seeking help.

BUT, those changes to your health don’t happen without you making changes too. And, if you aren’t ready for that, it’s going to be an uphill battle for us both. Frankly, there’s likely to be little point trying!

I sometimes say it’s a little like tying your non-dominant hand behind your back. You can go about your life pretty well, but it’s so much better when you can use both your hands. (In this little analogy, the herbs are your dominant hand and the changes I ask of you are your non-dominant hand)

This way, I know how you will best respond to suggestions of change, what other health challenges you have faced and will have a snapshot of how you fuel your body. I get a lot of fodder from these inputs and that enables us to focus our time together on why you are coming to see me.