Xanax From Nature: Calming Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter X post in the #AtoZChallenge. Sorry for the weird title, but I had to come up with something starting with X. Xanax (alprazolam) is a benzodiazepine anti-anxiety and sleep medication. Here in the Netherlands, benzodiazepine medications aren’t covered by insurance, at least not when used for sleep or relaxation. In the spirit of finding alternatives to benzos, today I’m sharing what essential oils can do to promote relaxation. Now I don’t say that essential oils are as effective, but in some cases, they might just be, especially since benzos are highly addictive.

The most well-known oil for tranquility is, of course, lavender. Lavender is thought to help relieve anxiety by affecting the limbic region of the brain, the area that involves emotion. You can either use some lavender essential oil in a diffuser blend or enjoy a lavender bath. To do this, combine a few drops of lavender essential oil with a teaspoon or so of the carrier oil of your choice or an unscented bath gel.

Valerian is up next. I don’t own this oil and haven’t talked about it. Valerian is an herb that has been used since ancient times to promote sleep and relaxation. The herb can be used in herbal teas, but there’s also an essential oil derived from it that can be used in a diffuser blend.

Jasmine is also sometimes used in aromatherapy to promote relaxation. It has a beautifully floral scent and, in helping with anxiety, has the advantage that it doesn’t cause sleepiness. Jasmine is usually sold as an absolute and even then can be quite expensive.

Chamomile essential oil, particularly Roman chamomile, is also commonly used for helping reduce anxiety. I do not own this oil, as it is pretty expensive, but would love to in the future. I did at one point use chamomile in herbal tea.

Lastly, frankincense and vetiver essential oil both have calming properties.

There are also oils that have both calming and uplifting properties. For example, I personally didn’t expect patchouli essential oil to help with anxiety, as it is mostly thought of as an uplifting oil. However, of course, oils can do both. I will discuss more uplifting oils later.

Lavender and Lavandin #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter L post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I’ll share about one of my favorite and most commonly used essential oils: lavender. I will also discuss its cousin, lavandin.

True lavender essential oil is distilled from the flower spikes of the plant Lavandula angustifolia. It has a sweet, floral yet slightly herbal scent. Lavandin comes from a hybrid between true lavender and Lavandula latifolia. Lavandin’s scent is more herbaceous and camphoraceous than lavender, but it still retains some of lavender’s floral scent. I like to describe it as “lavender light”. Lavandin was originally introduced to the cosmetic industry in the 1970s because of it being more affordable than lavender. For this reason, some essential oil profiteers adulterate true lavender essential oil with the less expensive lavandin.

Lavender essential oil is very well-known for promoting relaxation and sleep. There are no controlled clinical trials of lavender essential oil in people with anxiety, but some less well-designed studies show that lavender may definitely help lessen anxiety as well as improving one’s mood. A study I found reported that internal use of lavender might work as well as lorazepam in treating anxiety. However, please note that I do not recommend using essential oils internally. Besides, this study was done over a time of six weeks, which is enough time for people taking lorazepam to have developed tolerance.

Lavender, when consumed as a tea (not the essential oil, but the herb itself!), is reported to help with digestive issues such as nausea, intestinal gas, an upset stomach and abdominal swelling.

Lavender and lavandin essential oils blend well with many other oils, including clary sage, citrus oils such as bergamot and orange, ylang ylang and patchouli. I like a blend of eight drops of lavender oil and two drops of geranium essential oil to promote sleep.

Do you like the scent of lavender?

Things That Made Me Smile (March 22, 2021) #WeeklySmile

Hi all on this lovely Monday! I am so excited to have discovered the Weekly Smile. This is, as the name suggests, a weekly blog event in which participants share what made them smile. Having discovered this meme itself is a reason to smile. I love being positive! Let me share what else made me smile.

First up is my new assigned staff’s kindness. Like I said in my #WeekendCoffeeShare post on Friday, I have a new assigned staff. She is calm, kind and very dedicated to her job. I initially worried she might get too attached and then have to withdraw as my assigned staff. She reassured me though that she maintains her professionalism.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit triggered. The student staff, with whom I am not fully comfortable yet, had been my one-on-one for the evening. In addition, a male staff may get to work in my home soon. He seems kind enough, but still, it’s an adjustment. All this led me to feeling a bit stressed out when I was going to bed. Thankfully, my new assigned staff comforted me.

After the staff had taken me to bed, I pressed the call button a few times for the staff to come back, but she didn’t mind. She has this little rhyme she tells me each time she puts me to bed. It goes something like this:
Sleep well,
Head on the pillow,
Ass in the straw,
Then Astrid sleeps soon.

This time, the staff adjusted the rhyme to address not just me, but all of the voices (alters) inside my head. That definitely made me smile.

Second is my sensory room experience that I was able to create in my own bedroom. First, I found a calming essential oil blend to put in my diffuser. Then, I found the album on Spotify that I used to have in the CD player in the day center’s sensory room. It is called Songbird Symphony. Lastly, I crawled under my weighted blanket and had my staff cover me with the ball-filled blanket that came with the sensory bed from our makeshift sensory room. In total, I had at least 20kg of weighted blankets on top of me. This probably isn’t healthy for actual sleeping, so I threw off the ball blanket before actually drifting off to sleep. However, the feeling before this was so peaceful. It reminded me of Temple Grandin’s “hug machine”. Reading about that introduced to me the comforting effect of deep pressure years before I felt able to explore my own sensory experiences. Now, I totally appreciate my care staff, physical therapist and the manager for having helped me find my sensory comfort.

What made you smile this past week?

Grateful for My Health

Hi everyone, how are you? Today, I want to write, but didn’t know at first what to write about. For this reason, I looked at the eBook Journaling with Lisa Shea, which is really a collection of eleven of her eBooks on journaling. In the one about gratitude, one of the prompts asks us what we’re most grateful for with respect to our health.

I often worry that I’m deteriorating. In truth, I may or may not be, but I have the health I have now. Here are some things I am grateful for about my health.

1. My mobility. I know, I know, I want it to be better. I wish I could walk with the stamina and speed that my husband can. Then again, he’s much taller and skinnier than I am and doesn’t have a physical disability. Considering this, I am so grateful I am able to walk over 10K steps most days. When I wrote a post on my old blog several years ago about what optimal health would mean to me, this was one of the things I listed.

2. My energy level. Generally, difficult as I may find it to see, this has improved much over the past several years. Ten years ago, I struggled greatly to even write one blog post a week. I also slept on average ten to twelve hours a night, sometimes more. Now, I rest for about an hour in the afternoon sometimes, but not always. I also don’t need the long nights I apparently needed some years ago.

3. My sleep. I said above that I need less sleep now than I needed some years ago. Part of the reason may be an improved sleep quality. Though my sleep is still disrupted a lot, it’s much less so than it used to be. I used to snore horribly. Either my husband got used to it or I snore a little less now. I think it’s the latter, as I rarely wake up gasping for air now.

4. My mood. I still experience meltdowns and emotional outbursts almost on a daily basis. However, it’s been months since I’ve been depressed. In general, I feel my mood is pretty good overall.

5. My skin health. Many people experience dry skin in the colder months and it isn’t helped by the need to wash your hands like all the time. I, indeed, do have dry and eczema-prone skin sometimes, but haven’t had a flare up of this since last summer. My hands feel remarkably smooth compared to others’.

6. My heart health. It could definitely be better, but it could also be a lot worse. My resting heartrate is within the normal range and so is my resting blood pressure. As regular readers may know, I had a scare related to possible hypertension last October. The doctor reassured me that it’s okay now.

Of course, there are still areas in which I could improve my health, but overall, I’m pretty content.

What are you grateful about with respect to your health?

My Random Musings
loopyloulaura

Also joining in with Grace and Gratitude. This linky really inspired me to write about gratitude.

Gratitude List (January 29, 2021) #TToT

Hi everyone on this rainy Friday. I didn’t write anything yesterday or on Wednesday, because on Wednesday I was feeling uninspired and yesterday I was in bed all day feeling like crap. Today, I want to write again and I’m joining Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT) for a gratitude list.

1. I am grateful for a beautiful sunset on Monday. I’m also grateful for still having the residual sight to actually enjoy it. By the time I got my camera to take a picture, the sun had already set a little more than it had when I first saw it. Therefore, the actual thing was even more beautiful than the picture.

Sunset

2. I am grateful my husband is feeling better. This week-end, I get to go to our house.

3. I am grateful for still no COVID among my family or close relatives. My mother-in-law had to get tested last week, but thankfully, she was negative.

4. I am grateful I’m feeling slightly better today than I was yesterday. I have been horribly constipated for about a week now and yesterday evening, was nauseated from it. That has thankfully gone.

I am hoping to get a new medication for the constipation later today. I currently take Macrogol, which gives me horrible gas and cramping. The staff called my GP this morning and she’s going to send in some different kind of medication. I forgot to ask what she’s prescribed exactly, but I’ll find out.

5. I am grateful for rest. I was able to sleep pretty well last night despite having been in bed all afternoon yesterday and having gone back to sleep at 8PM. Thankfully, I feel rested now.

6. I am grateful for my sensory cat soft toy. It can be heated in the microwave and then gives off heat and a lavender scent. I had it in bed with me last night.

7. I am grateful for my new AFO or foot brace or whatever it’s called. The original one came on Monday, but it was painful to wear in a way that the physical therapist thought wouldn’t go away with practice. Thankfully, I now have another one. It’s still painful to walk on uneven ground wearing it, but that’s supposed to go away when I get used to the thing.

8. I am grateful for delicious Turkish pizza. A staff brought me some today and I ate it with salad and mayonaise. It was awesome!

9. I am grateful for some DIY inspiration. Today, the staff (same one who brought the pizza) helped me create some air-dry clay figures which I will later hang onto something for decorating my room.

10. I am grateful for books and Netflix shows. I was able to read again on Wednesday and really enjoyed it. I also got a Netflix subscription again last week. Though I’m not sure for how long I’ll keep it, I did enjoy watching some shows.

What are you grateful for?

Gratitude List (December 26, 2020) #TToT

Hello everyone and a belated merry Christmas to you all! As usual on Saturdays nowadays, I’m writing a gratitude list. I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Enjoy!

1. I am grateful for Jesus! I’m so grateful I became a Christian this year and this time hopefully for real. I say this because I’ve been a progressive believer for many years but hardly took my faith seriously at all. I still could take it more seriously and I’m praying God will open my heart and mind to him even more.

2. I am grateful for my family. My parents sent me a Braille-typed Christmas card and my sister sent me a card too. This reminds me that, even though we don’t have the closest relationship, I still matter to them.

3. I am grateful for my husband and in-laws.

4. I am grateful for great Christmas meals. Yesterday, my husband and I made use of the fact that people can legally have two (actually three on Christmas and boxing day) visitors and celebrated Christmas with my in-laws. We had a delicious dinner.

Also, the bakery in a nearby village sent the entire care facility a Christmas lunch of freshly-baked buns. Normally they give it to the day center in that village, where the clients help package their goods. However, that day center is closed due to COVID. Most clients from my care facility don’t work at the day center there, but some do and the bakery was so generous as to give us all the lunch.

5. I am grateful for my psychiatrist. As we wrote on Tuesday, she completely validated us. I haven’t yet needed my new PRN medication.

6. I am grateful the days are getting longer again. Ugh, how I hate the dark days!

7. I am grateful for the motivation and focus to be able to read again. I’m reading a middle grade novel, but that’s okay.

8. I am grateful for uplifting, Christian music. My husband has some on in the car and I discovered some on Spotify.

9. I am grateful for sausage rolls this morning. My husband joked that he was going to eat them all if I didn’t make it downstairs soon enough. I guess I did though.

10. I am grateful for a lie-in this morning. My husband didn’t get up at 7:30AM like usual on Sundays (maybe because it’s Saturday today), so I slept in longer than usual too.

I hope you all had a very happy Christmas. What have you been grateful for lately?

Gratitude List (December 5, 2020) #TToT

Hi everyone. I hope you’re well. Last week, I said I’d like to make gratitude lists a weekly habit again. Here goes. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT).

1. My mood being slightly better than it was last week. I seem to be slowly climbing out of the pit of depression and overload. I am still in crisis multiple times a week, but it’s no longer an almost-daily occurrence.

2. St. Nicholas. This is celebrated today here in the Netherlands. Usually, kids get gifts then. We no longer celebrate it in our family and my niece is probably too young to understand the concept too. We don’t really celebrate it in the care facility this year either. However, we do have lots of special St. Nicholas candies.

3. My mother-in-law. She visited me on Thursday, which was good. I really had a good time.

4. Reading. Like I said earlier, the second novel in Kenneth Oppel’s trilogy is out this week and I immediately downloaded it off Bookshare. It’s a true page-turner.

5. Playing cards. I love to play the game of mau-mau or “bullying”, as it is called here.

6. A rainbow-colored ball. I can’t remember how I got it, but it’s among my toys. I have been loving throwing it back and forth with the staff.

7. The snoezelen® equipment we got at the home now. I may have said before that there’s an empty room that the staff had turned into a snoezelen® room when the day center closed. Then we got a client temporarily placed in that room, so its sensory equipment had to be removed. That client left though and it’s unlikely we’ll get a new placement anytime soon. So our staff bought some more sensory equipment. We now have a special sensory bed with speakers installed in it. I lay on the bed yesterday and loved feeling and hearing the soothing music.

8. Getting to the psychiatrist sooner than expected. Originally, I heard me appt isn’t till sometime in January. Thankfully though, the psychiatrist had a cancellation or something, so I was fitted in for December 22. Though my mood is slowly lifting, I am still glad I can see her.

9. Essential oils once again. Okay, I’ve shared about those before, but I keep discovering new blends. Yesterday I had one that included geranium and I hated the smell. I quickly emptied the diffuser though and then tried another blend.

10. Sleep. I haven’t had nightmares in a week or so. At least not ones that haunt me during the day. That’s definitely a win!

Yay, I got to ten. I know some are repeats, but that’s okay. And at least I didn’t include a ton of food-related thankfuls.

What have you been grateful for lately?

Early November 2020 Health and Wellness Update

Like I said a couple of weeks ago, I had a physical health check-up at the mental health agency. That wasn’t good. That is, my blood pressure was high and so was my weight. Even though the nurse said I might not have gained any weight compared to the last time I stepped onto the scales, as each scale is different, I was pretty alarmed. So was my husband. He asked whether I could be put on a diet. Well, no-one can force me, but I did agree on a food plan with the staff.

Now we’re a little over two weeks on. I didn’t get my blood pressure taken today, as my GP recommended we wait three months and then check it everyday for a week. I did get weighed in though. And guess what? I lost 1kg compared to the last time I stepped onto this scale in early September and 3kg compared to the health check. Only two more kilograms to go and I’m no longer obese.

Overall, I’m doing okay sticking to the food plan. I eat bread rather than crunchy muesli for breakfast, make sure I eat enough veggies and fruit and drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day. That plus coffee, which contrary to common belief does hydrate the body to an extent, and occasionally green tea. I do usually eat a cookie with each coffee break, while my food plan says I can only have a cookie with my evening coffee. However, each day that I skip a cookie, I’m proud of myself for making a healthy food choice. Same each morning with breakfast, which is a real struggle, as I’m not a bread person.

I also make sure I get in enough physical activity. Last week, I felt really lazy, but, according to my Fitbit, still got more than the recommended 150 weekly minutes in active heartrate zones. This week, so far, I got 341. I broke my personal step count record yesterday by getting in over 16K steps. I don’t go on the elliptical as often as I’d like, but that’s because after walking two to three times a day, my legs are often tired.

In other health-related news, I talked to my CPN from mental health about sleep on Tuesday. I usually get enough sleep, but I have very vivid nightmares most nights. They aren’t your standard monster-chasing-me nightmares. In fact, most revolve around my sense of safety here at the care facility. My CPN may talk to my nurse practitioner about it. She said I might benefit from medication to help with this. Thankfully though, having discussed the issue has already calmed things down a bit.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 1, 2020)

Oh my, it’s November already! Can you believe it? I feel this year is going both really fast and really slow. How about you?

Today, I’m joining in with #WeekendCoffeeShare. I’ve had three cups of coffee already today and it’s not even time for my afternoon coffee yet. Then again, I was up at seven o’clock this morning. I’m thankfully not too tired as of yet. Let’s have coffee and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the weather is surprisingly nice. We were supposed to get a lot of rain this week, but so far, it’s been raining only some of the time. This means I’ve been able to go out for walks everyday. I didn’t get in my minutes in active heartrate zones, because most of the time apparently I walked too slowly. I also went on the elliptical once.

If we were having coffee, I’d ramble a bit about my idea of restarting the polymer clay hobby. I did this for a bit some years ago, but never got beyond a child’s level with respect to my sculpting abilities. Then again, maybe if the day activities staff help me read tutorials, I’ll be able to progress somewhat further. I’m not yet 100% sure I’ll actually invest in yet another hobby that might turn out to lead to massive failure. Okay, I’m not a failure at soap making, but I’m not a success either.

If we were having coffee, I would moan a bit about my diet. I’m not sticking to it 100% of the time, but maybe I’m doing an okay job of it. I don’t know, since I haven’t been weighed in yet. I, however, try to remind myself that everytime I make a healthy food choice, I’m doing a good job of caring for my body.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my sister, brother-in-law and one-year-old niece were supposed to visit yesterday. However, on Friday, I had a slight cold, which wasn’t fully gone yesterday morning. I also had felt slightly out of breath Friday evening. That’s probably just stress, but I canceled the visit anyway. Today I’m feeling as well as possible. We’ve rescheduled for next week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that tomorrow marks the thirteen-year anniversary of my mental crisis. I still find the month of November hard for this reason.

I also have been struggling with the end of daylight saving time. I’m more tired than usual and find myself going to bed very early and getting up early in the morning too. My Fitbit has noticed, as it said I seem like a morning person. I’m not. That is, right now, I’m mostly hibernating, in that even though I get up early, I sleep a lot during the day. I can’t wait for spring!

What’s up with you lately?

Self-Care Strategies for Coping with Mental Health Issues #Blogtober20

Today’s prompt in #Blogtober20 is “She Drives Me Crazy”. Many bloggers are using the prompt to inspire posts on organization, decluttering and mental health. So am I.

I’m not feeling too well today. Yesterday, my inner voices started back up with a vengeance. This led to a mini-crisis in the middle of the night. Today I’m feeling a bit low. It may be to blame on my lack of proper sleep last night, or it might just be a bit of the seasonal blues. I hope not, of course.

Anyway, here are some things I do to cope with mental health issues. Some of these are specific to a certain problem, such as depression or anxiety. Others are more general wellbeing tips.

1. Proper sleep and rest. I’ve noticed that, when I don’t sleep well, my mental health goes downhill rapidly. For this reason, I’m trying to get into a better night-time routine. I still use my computer or phone before bed, which I probably shouldn’t do, but I don’t know what else to do in the evening.

I currently am in the process of trying out a weighted blanket, which really helps with relaxation. I mean, even if I don’t sleep, I do rest more when using this. I also use an app called MyNoise, which allows users to customize various mixes of nature sounds or other sensory-friendly sounds. You can set the individual volume for each sound within the mix and there are about 150 mixes to choose from if you have the paid version (which is a one-time purchase of I believe €10,99). Last night, I ultimately fell asleep listening to a soundscape called Patagonia.

I do usually take one hour-long nap during the day. Most days, if I stick to just that after-lunch nap, I sleep pretty well during the night and still feel refreshed the rest of the day.

2. Sensory-friendly activities. I already mentioned the weighted blanket and the MyNoise soundscapes. In addition, I often diffuse essential oil blends into my diffuser. Just today, some new oils arrived, so I’m excited to try them out soon.

3. Staying active. Today is a bad day weather-wise, as it’s been raining most of the day. Still, I managed to squeeze in a walk in the afternoon. I also made sure to stay active and do something in the morning. I made a soap. This is not physically exerting myself, but it definitely gives me joy.

It helps me to stick to a routine as much as possible. Like, I drink coffee in the morning and afternoon, eat my meals at regular times, and do an activity in the morning and afternoon too. I also usually go for a walk in the evening, but today it was raining and the staff were too busy.

4. Mindfulness. I haven’t practised that today, but I find it can help me stay grounded in the moment. I sometimes try a body scan meditation. I also for one love guided visualizations.

How do you take good care of yourself?

For those who are interested, last April, I participated in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge with the topic of self-care. If you click on the #AtoZChallenge tag in my tag cloud, you’ll find a lot of information.

#Blogtober20