Phoenix Acupuncture & Holistic Health

Loneliness - It is not all its cracked up to be!


Gwen James

Posted on 09:33 22/01/2018

Everybody feels lonely at some time in their life. Maybe they've just lost a loved one. Maybe they've moved to a new city and don't yet know anybody. Maybe they're sick or in pain and feel cut off from other people. We've all felt it but what exactly is loneliness and how does it affect us?

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is an emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. It often includes anxiety about being disconnected from other people or not having anyone to turn to in times of distress or depression. Loneliness is an emotion - like happiness, sadness or surprise - and has nothing to do with whether you are a good person or a good friend.

Loneliness can be temporary - such as when your plans for a night out suddenly fall through and you find yourself alone. In these cases it may only last hours or a day.

It can also be a chronic situation - where people feel cut off or isolated from others for months or even years.

Is loneliness bad for you?

Loneliness can have a significant impact on your health. Not so much temporary loneliness; although this may result in anxiety or depression but generally, this is short lived.

Chronic loneliness is another thing. Research has shown that loneliness increases the risk of just about every major chronic illness: cancer, heart attacks, infections and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. In addition, there are psychological impacts such as chronic stress, anxiety and depression. Some people have said that the health risks of chronic loneliness are similar to smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or obesity!

Why is chronic loneliness so bad?

Most people have heard of the "flight or fight" response. This is a very old response to a potentially dangerous or challenging situation, such as a sabre tooth tiger attack. When you feel threatened, your body releases a hormone called adrenalin which causes a number of changes in the body: increased heart and breathing rate, blood to flow to limbs to allow you to run or fight and increases your alertness and ability to quickly respond to a situation. It also prepares the body's ability to rapidly respond to an injury, such as a sabre tooth tiger bite, by increasing inflammation and dampening down your response to other infections.

People who are chronically lonely are in a constant "flight or fight" mode. They are constantly primed for the sabre tooth tiger attack that never comes. This means they constantly have a faster breathing and pulse rate, they feel constantly stressed and very importantly, they have high levels of inflammation. High levels of inflammation have been linked to cancer, depression, Alzheimer's disease, obesity and many other chronic health conditions.

If loneliness is so bad, why do you feel it?

Loneliness is a biological warning - just like hunger and pain. It is telling you that you felt disconnected or alone as a prompt to seek out others. It probably evolved very early in the history of mankind - when people lived in groups as a means of protection, Back then, it was potentially dangerous for people to be alone because they may be attacked by animals or fall and hurt themselves.

Who is most likely to feel chronically lonely?

Anybody can feel chronically lonely but certain groups have a higher risk:

  • Elderly people - elderly people who can no longer get about on their own or do not have family and friends close by may no longer have many social interactions.
  • Carers - people who are caring for a sick, elderly or disabled person cannot make plans for activities and gradually lose contact with other people.
  • People with chronic health conditions, disability or pain - the people often lose contact with friends and family as they cannot make plans to join in activities because of their health or disability.
  • New mothers - women who have just had a baby often lose contact with friends because they can no longer commit to events or are too tired to join in. Their isolation is worse if they have no family close by.
  • People in abusive situations - people who in abusive situations (either at home or work) often withdraw from social contact as they feel nobody will understand their situation or they don't wish to tell people about it.
  • Solo parents - people who have sole care of their child or children often feel isolated as their main concern is caring for their kids. Working may help to ease the situation as they have interaction with others in the work place but sometimes it makes it worse when they cannot join in other activities due to parental duties.
  • Bereavement - people who have lost a loved one or somebody they have been caring for may withdraw into their grief. During this time they may not wish to be involved in activities with others or they may feel guilty about enjoying life when their loved one is dead.

What can you do if you feel lonely?

Loneliness is often assumed to be a problem of social isolation - one that main effects the elderly, people who are unable to leave their home or those who have no family or friends close by. In fact, loneliness has little to do with being on your own or not having many friends - you can feel lonely in a crowd of people and married people can feel lonely although their spouse is right beside them!

Loneliness has more to do with a mismatch between what we are experiencing and our expectations of our lives should be or how we believe we should be interacting with others. Matthew felt lonely when his wife died and he was facing his old age alone. Susan felt lonely when her ex-husband moved overseas leaving her to bring up their three children alone. Peter felt lonely when he moved to work in a city where he had no social or family circle. If you believe you should have a particular type of but it has turned out very different, you may feel lonely.

To change the feeling of loneliness, rather than trying to expand your social circle, start by expanding your mind. Loneliness is an emotion and it's a well known fact that you can't feel two emotions at the same time! So, concentrate of feeling other, positive emotions. They are happening - all the time - but when your mind is consumed with loneliness, you concentrate on the negative things that reinforce this emotion.

As a first step, when you have a social interaction - maybe a meeting with somebody, a phone call or a visitor - try to remember one good thing that happened during that interaction. It's known that lonely people often pay attention to or remember the negative things that occur during a social event and this compounds their feeling of loneliness so by paying attention to the good things, it helps to break this cycle.

Another good things to do is keep a small diary. At the end of each day, write down at least one good thing that happened - it's even better if that good thing happened when you were with another person! Start the sentence with "Today I enjoyed......" . In this way, you start to look for the good things that happen each day.

Gratitude is another emotion that can help us overcome loneliness. Gratitude is an emotion we feel with somebody does something unexpected to help us. When we feel gratitude, we feel connected to that person. In your little diary, write down three things you were grateful for - naming the person - each week!

Finding a sense of purpose or meaning in life can often help people who are lonely.  When people develop an interest in or a passion about something, it takes them out of their negative mind set. They look for knowledge and ways to apply their new learning and skills. Along the way they may meet new people and find a new community of like minded people. This was the case of Carol who moved interstate for her work. Living in a small rural community and working long hours, she had little time to develop friendships and became lonely. One day she saw an advertisement for a free wildlife carer's course. She'd always been interested in wildlife so went alone and quickly became involved in rescuing and caring for wildlife. As Karen discovered, it's very difficult to feel lonely when you're enthusiastic about a new project!

What if loneliness is overwhelming?

Sometimes, your sense of loneliness is overwhelming - you feel totally disconnected from other people and social situations. You may feel that you don't want to leave the house or talk to anybody. This is okay in the short term- as few days or so - but in the long term this may indicated you need some assistance. A health care profession such as a psychologist can help you identify what is causing this severe anxiety or depression and help you with it. It may be necessary to take medication for a short period of time to help "break the circuit".

If you are feeling suicidal or homicidal it is essential that you seek assistance.

People who are in abusive situations, particularly domestic violence, may need special assistance to help escape the situation.

Category: Emotional Health    Tags:

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Pain Management without Codeine


Gwen James

Posted on 10:20 08/01/2018

John got chronic headaches. To prevent them, several times a day he takes paracetamol/codeine tablets. He's been doing this for years and refer to his tablets as "smarties". If John forget to take his smarties, he gets a headache - which he says proves he has chronic headaches. In fact, John is addicted to codeine and the headaches he gets when he forgets to take his "smartie" is the beginning of withdrawal symptoms. And John is not alone!

Restrictions on codeine products

At the moment, people can buy products containing codeine at over the counter at the chemist. These products include: nurofen plus, pandeiene, mersyndol, codral and demazin products (including cough syrup). But from 1 February, 2018 this will change and people will need to have a doctor's prescription to get any medication which contains codeine. This has been introduced because it is possible to become addicted to codeine.

Currently, many people, like John, take something every day which contains codeine. Many of these people have unintentionally and unknowingly become addicted to it.

We tend to think of people who have addictions as craving a substance which they take in large amounts. In fact, you can be addicted to as little as one or two tablets a day! If you compare it to a caffeine addiction, people who only have two or three cups of coffee a day may be addicted to caffeine but they have no idea they are until they try to stop drinking it! A friend of mine, who had two cups of coffee each morning, got headaches when she started to drink decaffeinated coffee - it was only then she realised she had become addicted to caffeine!

What happens when you can't get your daily codeine tablets?

People who have been taking codeine every day, particularly for a long time, run a high risk of being addicted to it. When they can no longer get it, they will have withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms may be quite mild such as: headaches, insomnia, muscle aches and pains and diarrhoea. Although unpleasant and painful, the symptoms usually improve within 72 hours. More intense symptoms include: vomiting, severe diarrhoea, severe anxiety, rapid heart beat, high blood pressure. These symptoms can be life threatening and often require hospitalisation.

The problem with withdrawing from codeine, especially if you have been taking a lot or for long periods of time, is you have no idea if you will experience mild or severe withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, it is important that talk to a doctor and get advice and possibly assistance for the withdrawal process. There are medications that can help you feel more comfortable during the withdrawal process or your doctor may recommend you withdraw under medical supervision (such as in a hospital).

What next?

Once you've withdrawn from the codeine, you may still have a problem: pain. Many people started taking the codeine product to manage pain such as a sore back or chronic headaches. These problems may reoccur once you stop taking the medication so it's important to consider some pain management process before you stop taking the codeine.

What are your options for pain management?

There are many options for pain management that you can consider - but they will depend on what exactly is causing the pain. Your doctor may recommend other medication to help you.

Other things that can often help include:

    Acupuncture - acupuncture is great for managing many different types of pain. Acupuncture treatment can be started before you stop taking codeine so you don't have a relapse of severe pain.

    Exercise - depending on what is causing your pain, exercise may help but strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the area. A personal trainer who is experienced in rehabilitation exercise is the best person to speak to about this - they can advise you of the best exercise for you and what to avoid. People often think that yoga or stretching is the best thing for pain but for some conditions it may actually make the pain worse so it's best to check before you start a program!

    Heat - a hot pack can be invaluable for pain. There are many disposable heat packs available on the market so you don't need to have access to hot water or a microwave to keep packs hot!

    Water - drinking water is essential to pain management. When the muscles and their covering, fascia, becomes dehydrated they become "sticky" and don't move freely. This can create more pain.

    Physiotherapy - A physiotherapist has a range of treats available to help relieve pain. Many good physiotherapists work together with an acupuncturist to provide holistic pain management.

    Massage - sometimes pain is caused or made worse by tight muscles. A massage can often help to release the muscles and provide relief.

    Relaxation - people in pain often find it difficult to relax and yet relaxation is essential to pain relief! Relaxation is very personal and may include listening to music, reading or spending time in the garden.

    Don't they say body and mind are important?

    What's happening in your mind is just as important as the things you do to physically help manage pain. Research has shown that negative emotions such as worry, anxiety, stress and depression can actually increase the pain you experience. Strangely, positive emotions such as happiness, gratitude and love seem to lessen the pain felt. Although it is difficult to feel happiness when you're in pain, concentrating on a enjoyable or pleasant moments can help. There are two little exercises that can help with this:

    • At the end of each day, write down at least one thing that you enjoyed or that made you happy. After a while, you will find that you go through the day looking for the happy or enjoyable things to write down!
    • The mind can only hold one thought at a time (try it!). When you find you're concentrating on something unpleasant such as the pain you're feeling, replace the thought with a more cheerful one! Maybe it's something your kids said, a joke you heard on the radio or a funny movie. Or it maybe a beautiful sunset you saw or the anticipation of an upcoming holiday. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it makes you feel good!

    Another thing that can help mentally manage pain is meditation. Meditation is often linked to mystics sitting on mountains and chanting mantras so doesn't seem very relevant to pain management! However, mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation which teaches people to be present in the moment rather than worry about the past or be anxious about the future. It has been shown to be very helpful to people experiencing pain. When you're totally focusing on what it happening at that moment, such as washing the dishes, it is difficult to also be worried about the pain you're feeling!

    Help is at hand!

    If you have been taking codeine regularly, it is important that seek help before the 1 February. Start with talking to your doctor about the possibility you may have unintentionally become addicted to the drug and what you should do. With that advice under your belt, consider alternatives for pain management. When the 1 February rolls around, you will be ready!

    Category: Pain Management    Tags:

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    Recovering from a Dreadful Christmas


    Gwen James

    Posted on 07:31 03/01/2018

    Recently I spoke to a friend who had a terrible Christmas: his father had a heart attack on Christmas Day and his mother had a stroke two days later!

    He wasn't the only one who had a challenging Christmas break. A number of people have told me that they struggled with parents or children hospitalised around Christmas Day. Others have told me that the happy Christmas dinner was ruined by a massive family fight and people walking out. Sadly, Christmas can very quickly change from a joyful holiday to a stressful event that you just want to end.

    When holidays don't live up to our expectations, we may feel cheated and more stressed than before the holiday. At those times for a little "emotional first aid" can help you recover! Here are my tips for recovering from an unexpectedly stressful Christmas!

    1. Congratulate yourself - you got through!

    You may be feeling a bit battered or weary but you got through the worst. There may still be things to do, but you've made a start! Sometimes we're so focused on what we still have to do or how difficult the situation still is that we forget to look at what we've achieved! Maybe you did end up spending Christmas Day at the hospital - but your loved one knew you were there supporting them and that is part of giving, part of what Christmas is all about! Well done! Give yourself a pat on the back!

    2. Appreciate the Beauty in the World

    Every morning, take five or ten minutes and just look at something beautiful. It may be a flower. It may be a photograph of a beautiful scene. It maybe your garden. It doesn't matter what it is, just sit and look at it. Don't think, just look. And enjoy - there is beauty in the world and there's no time when it's more important to appreciate it than when we're very stressed.

    3. Enjoy Something, Every Day

    When we're very stress or things don't go right, it's easy to think that nothing good is happening in our lives. But there are moments of happiness happening every day! Once, when I was returning my trolley at the supermarket, I found a packet of blueberries in a discarded trolley - it made my day! Good things may be very small - like a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Sometimes we need to look for them - and when you start looking, you may be surprised how many there are each day! Try this exercise: get a little pocket diary and each night, write down at least one thing that happened that was good or you enjoyed. On the days when it seems that nothing good is happening, look back as see all the things that have happened in the past!

    4. Experience Gratitude

    Gratitude is an emotion you feel when somebody does something unexpected that benefits you. Small, unexpected, acts of kindness happen all the time. It maybe a stranger handing you some money you dropped at the bus stop. It may be a health care practitioner who opens their clinic to you after hours. It may be the friend who sends you a quick text message each night so you know you're in her thoughts. Sometimes when we're in middle of a stressful situation or it's just passed, we can feel isolated. When we recognise somebody has done something extra to help us and feel grateful to them, we also feel connected and part of a community.

    5. Get the Negative Emotions Out

    Okay, things didn't happen as expected. In fact, things were awful. It's alright to admit that. It's alright to feel sad, angry, frustrated or disappointed. It may not be appropriate to have a melt down, starting screaming or crying but it is important to acknowledge those emotions and get them out - if you just try to ignore them or repress them, they're going to find other ways out like giving you headaches or making you sick! Getting those emotions out without upsetting others can be tricky but there are ways:

    • Write a letter - it maybe to yourself or to somebody else or even to an imaginary friend. Write down what you're feeling - really let it out! Don't hold back! When you've finished, you may want to destroy the letter - have a ritual burning and imagine all that anger and disappointment going up in smoke!
    • Do something creative - draw a picture or make something that reflects what you're feeling. Again, you may want to keep it or you may want to get rid of it afterwards so you don't have a reminder.
    • Have a conversation with an imaginary person - the person may be made up or some people imagine it's a friend or relative they often talk to or use to talk to. Make a cup of tea or coffee and sit down with the imaginary person (make them a cup too!) and tell them what's been happening and how you feel.
    • Go down the gym and hit the punching bag - imagine the bag contains all the things that have gone wrong. If it helps, write the things on little post-stick notes and stick them on the punching bag and really set loose!

    6. Do a Mental Review of the Events

    At the end of each day, mentally review what happened. Could you have done something different? Maybe you yelled at the kids because you were tired or stressed - acknowledge you could have handled this differently and let it go. Maybe you're feeling guilty about something but can't really see how you could have done it differently - let it go.

    If you're really beating yourself up about something - something you did or didn't do - try this exercise: imagine that somebody else is telling you the story about what happened. Would you beat them up and tell them they did an awful job? Or would you console them and give them a hug? Give yourself the same kindness you'd give to somebody else.

    7. Give Yourself a Treat

    Things have been pretty stressful and you feel like you've been through the wringer. Give yourself a little lift - do something kind, just for you! Maybe having a spa or a massage would give you a little bit of relaxation. Maybe a couple of hours reading a book with a glass of wine would make your day. Or maybe an hour going for a bushwalk or just sitting by the lake would be heaven. Choose something just for you and do it!

    Sometimes you don't feel you have time to do something for yourself - there are all these other things that have to be done. Believe me, those things will still be there in an hour or two - and you'll get through them much faster if you're feeling a bit more relaxed and calm. Maybe the stressful event is over or maybe you're still going through it - being kind to yourself will help you to cope with the situation.

    There are times when the situation is overwhelming. You may feel you're not coping or having trouble eating or sleeping. This is where professional health care practitioners may be helpful. An acupuncturist can help you manage the stress. Psychologists can give you strategies for managing your thoughts and feelings. And doctors can help with medication. If you feel it's just getting too much, help is at hand!

    Category: Christmas Health    Tags: Stress management,Christmas,Positive emotions,Dealing with negative emotions,Emotional first aid

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    Welcome to the Phoenix Acupuncture and Holistic Health Blog


    Gwen James

    Posted on 12:15 06/06/2017

    Welcome to the Phoenix Acupuncture and Holistic Health Blog!

    In this blog I'll be looking at acupuncture topics, health related issues and talking about some of the things I do in clinic! I'll be posting a new blog every couple of weeks - so remember to check in!

    Category: Welcome    Tags:

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    1 19:43 01/10/2017

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    1 02:47 07/12/2017

    Disclaimer: We are not responsible for any financial loss, data loss, downgrade in search engine rankings, missed customers, undeliverable email or any other damages that you may suffer upon the expiration of For more information please refer to section 17.c.1a of our User Agreement. nn This is your final notice to renew nn nn In the event that expires, we reserve the right to offer your listing to competing businesses in the same niche and region after 3 business days on an auction basis. nn This is the final communication that we are required to send out regarding the expiration of nn Secure Online Payment: nn nn All services will be automatically restored on if payment is received in full before expiration. Thank you for your cooperation.

    Christmas Stress Busters!


    Gwen James

    Posted on 07:07 20/12/2017

    Last weekend I decided to do some Christmas baking. I had biscuit batter on the biscuit sheet, muffin batter in the muffin tin and a cake mixing up. Then I checked the oven which I had put on to was dead as a dodo! I couldn't believe it!! I checked all the connections, the fuse box...that oven was not going to heat up for anybody!

    And yes, my pre-Christmas stress level hit a new height!

    I know I'm sharing this pre-Christmas stress with many, many people so here are my suggestions for keeping it in check!

    1. Be Realistic About What You Can Do!

    With all that's going on at this time of year, think about what you really have time to do! Juggling social events with work and all the enjoyable things that make up the festive season can leave us feeling very tired. And when we get tired, we just don't enjoy things as much. If things are getting too hectic, it maybe time to cut back a bit - choose the things you really want to go to and make those a priority!

    Be realistic about your time lines too! Thinking about making some gifts but haven't started yet? Unless it's something that you've done before and know the process, it may be better to think of something different! Things can go wrong, run out or just end up as a total catastrophe! And Christmas morning is the worst time to find out that your precious, handmade gift is a total bomb!

    One year a friend of mine decided to make chocolates to give as gifts on Christmas Day. She was so busy that she didn't start making them until the evening of Christmas Eve. Late that night, which the chocolates made and setting on the kitchen counter, she finally crawled into bed. On Christmas morning she found the cat sitting in the middle of the chocolates! What remained were squashed or covered in cat hair!

    2. Out-Source as Much as You Can!

    There is so much to do at this time of year, if you can get some help it's like gold! Don't have time to make the Christmas pudding or mince pies? Grab them from the supermarket! Okay, so maybe grandmother, who always made everything from scratch, wouldn't approve - but she neither did she have a supermarket to fall back on when she was young!

    There are many services that can lighten the load and don't cost a lot. Consider things like ordering your groceries on-line and having them delivered or getting gifts wrapped in the store when you buy them. And if you're having people over for a drink, grab a cheese or fruit platter from the supermarket! 

    If you've invited a fifty people for drinks on Boxing Day and you haven't started to plan what you're going to give them to eat or drink or what they're going to sit on, you're in trouble! Think about what you can realistically do and ask other people to help! Maybe they can bring some food, pick something up at the supermarket, bring some chairs or some ice. You don't have to do everything yourself - most people are more than happy to help!

    3. Don't Feel Guilty!

    We can't always do all the things we think we should be doing - or that others think we should be doing - especially on Christmas Day! Accept this and look for compromises. First of all, work out is most important to you: is it to see your parents, exchange gifts with a friend, meet your niece's new baby or see an elderly relative who may not have any visitors on Christmas Day. Once you know what the focus is, make plans so you can do it. If the focus is to catch up with your friend, maybe you can meet a couple of days after Christmas. If your relative is going to be alone on Christmas Day, maybe organise for somebody to pick them up and bring them to your home for Christmas lunch.

    My cousin lives several hours away. In the week leading up to Christmas, we were trying to organise to meet and exchange gifts but neither of us could afford the time to do the round trip. The compromise: to meet half way, have a lovely lunch together and exchange gifts!

    4. Enjoy the Free Stuff!

    Christmas has come to be associated with spending lots of money - but there are things around that are free...and fun! Check out the newspaper for the winners of the Christmas lights competition and spend an evening going around checking them out! Talk to other people who are also watching the lights - they may tell you about other houses that have fabulous displays that weren't part of the competition!

    Many communities have Carols by Candle Light - it may not be as swish as the one shown on the television but it's lots of fun and it's free! And not only that, if you're feeling stressed, thundering out a tuneless version of "Jingle Bells" can be very therapeutic!

    5. Don't Expect Miracles!

    If every Christmas your uncle gets drunk and starts to argue with people, your sister-in-law insults you and your grandmother asks you when you're going to have kids, don't expect this Christmas to be any different! All these things will probably happen again - but often we make ourselves unhappy dreading it or hoping for a miraculous Christmas where these things don't happen. Instead, accept it - and have a few "contingency plans".  When your uncle has obviously had too much, move to the next room out of firing range. When your sister-in-law insults you, smile enigmatically  and say "is that so?" and walk away - she'll spend the rest of the night wondering what just happened! When your gran asks about kids, change the subject and ask about her life when she had kids - it may lead to a fascinating conversation!

    6. Have Fun!

    Remember fun? It was what we use to have before we got stressed! Sometimes we get so busy with Christmas that we forget to have fun - to laugh and smile! Often we specifically organise enjoyable things - like a bar-bar-que with friends or going to the beach for the day. But sometimes fun can be letting yourself go - doing something unexpected or out of character that just catches your imagination!

    A few years ago I flew out to meet my family at 6am on Christmas Day. I had worked Christmas Eve then spent the evening washing, wrapping presents and packing. When I got up at 3am on Christmas Day, I was tired and stressed. The only thing I wanted to do was go back to bed. As I brushed my teeth, some blue and green hair chalk caught my eye.  In a flash, I was rubbing it through my hair and roaring with laughter!

    7. Be Prepared

    Have the phone number of an electrician (and maybe a plumber) handy.

    Because you never know.....

    Category: Christmas Health    Tags: Christmas,Stress managment,Acupuncture,Holistic health

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    Christmas Gifts for the Stressed!


    Gwen James

    Posted on 09:12 21/11/2017

    Christmas is just over four weeks away! And many people are starting to feel the pressure of organising Christmas gatherings, preparing for travel or school holidays, buying gifts, attending parties and functions as well as doing all the usually things like going to work! By the time Christmas Day actually gets here, many people are just exhausted!

    Helping people to de-stress is something I do a lot so today’s blog has two purposes: to help people who are stressing over what to get others for Christmas and to give some ideas about gifts they can give themselves to de-stress! Here are my ten top tips for Christmas gifts to help people enjoy
    the festive season!

    1.    An Acupuncture Treatment

    Of course this was going to be top of the list! Acupuncture has some fantastic techniques to help people manage their stress. It can help insomnia, ease those digestive problems from eating too much and promote relaxation. Worried about the needles? No need to be – many acupuncturists, like me, offer laser acupuncture! Because acupuncture is a primary health care treatment, it isn't legal for practitioners to sell gift certificates. However, a clinic will be more than happy to book you in for a treatment just before Christmas or early in January!

    2.    A Massage

    Massage is wonderful for easing those knots in your shoulders and back. There are a range of massage techniques: deep tissue is great for tight muscles whereas a gentler relaxation massage may help the tension to melt away! Many clinics offer gift certificates or book yourself in for an hour of peace!


    3.    A Meditation Class

    Meditation can be a great way to unwind and many classes will offer gift certificates. However, a little homework is needed – not all meditation classes are relaxing and some can be hard work! Also, there are many different types of meditation – visualisation, music, chanting or focusing on the breathing. It’s a good idea to talk to the instructor about the aims of the class and the techniques used to make sure it’s the best fit.

    4.    A Special Water Bottle

      Drinking plenty of water, especially in the hotter months, is important for good health but often people don’t drink a lot because they don’t like having a plastic water bottle on their desk. Why not encourage a friend or family member to drink more water by getting them a special water bottle? Many speciality or novelty shops sell lovely patterned or enamelled water bottles. Don’t overlook on-line shops – a few years ago I was given a gorgeous bamboo bottle which doubled as a thermos in winter! Maybe your friend isn’t keen on water bottles at all so how about a little glass jug? Op shops often have some lovely glass or even crystal water jugs which make a wonderful and unusual

      5.    Some Speciality Tea

      Most people know that chamomile tea is good to help de-stress but not everybody likes chamomile. Check out a speciality tea shop for some great alternatives. A blend that has mint or spearmint in it can be relaxing or maybe something that is fruit based. Choosing a delicious combination has an added bonus – it can be drunk cold in summer for a refreshing lift! If there is no speciality tea shop close by, there are several on line!

      6.    An Essential Oil Blend

      Smell can be one of our most powerful senses yet it is often overlooked! Many companies that make essential oils have relaxation blends but the scent that will work best for you is the one that reminds you of a relaxing time in your life. Think of a time when you were really relaxed – maybe it was a beach holiday or a camping trip in the bush or when you were a child playing in your grandmother’s garden. Is there a smell that was associated with that time? Maybe coconut or eucalyptus or rose – just smelling that again will remind you of that holiday and how relaxed you were!

      7.    A Childminding Certificate

      The is a great gift for the friend who is frazzled by the demands of kids at Christmas – a certificate saying you will mind their kids for an hour of two so they can have some down time! Take the kids out to the park or to the movies and let your friend enjoy the quiet! 

        8.    A Housework Certificate

        Having friends or relatives over at Christmas can be fun but the mess afterwards isn’t so much fun. We would all like the clean-up fairy to come so give your friend a treat and be the clean-up fairy!  Give them a certificate saying to leave the washing up or floor cleaning and you’ll be over to do it! As an added bonus, you can have a cup of coffee together afterwards!

        9.    A Sauna Appointment

        Okay – a sauna may seem out of place when the temperature is in the mid-thirties but for those people who are wound up tight as a spring, it may be just what they need! Many places will give certificates for a half hour or hour sauna and some even combine it with a massage to really make sure those muscles are released!

        10.    A Mineral Spa Reservation

        Mineral spas are great to help release those tight muscles and relax! Some places offer a range of spa baths at different temperatures and some also have steam rooms or saunas included in the price.  You may even be able to add on a massage for a deluxe pampering! An hour or two and you’ll be so relaxed you won’t recognise yourself!

        Category: Christmas Health    Tags: Acupuncture,Massage,Holistic health,Christmas,Stress management,Stress busters

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        Sugar Tax - What, Why and Does it Work?


        Gwen James

        Posted on 11:33 17/01/2018

        A couple of times a year the prospect of a sugar tax is raised....but what is a sugar tax, why should it be introduced and does it work?

        What is a Sugar Tax?

        A sugar tax is an additional tax which is placed on processed foods which have high levels of sugar. Soft drinks are the most common thing taxed by a sugar tax but it may extend to confectionery or even ice cream.

        Unprocessed foods which contain natural sugars, such as fruit, are not usually included in a sugar tax. This would include fruit juice too but fruit juices which contain additional sugar may be taxed.

        Why Introduce a Sugar Tax?

        When I was a child, lunch was a sandwich and piece of fruit and dinner was meat, three or four vegetables and fruit for desert. We drank water or milk with our meals - soft drink was something you only had on special occasions.

        Over the last thirty years, there has been a significant move away from unprocessed foods (such as fruit and vegetables) and increased consumption of processed foods particularly those containing large amounts of sugar. It is not unusual for both adults and children to include biscuits, a chocolate bar, ice cream and soft drink in lunch and dinner. These include significant amounts of sugar and when all added together, a high amount of sugar is being consumed daily.

        While a small amount of sugar can contribute to giving us energy, large amounts are very detrimental to health. It may contribute to obesity, diabetes, liver and heart disease, dental disease and has been linked to Alzheimer's.

        The foods that a sugar tax are placed on are usually high in kilojoules - particularly "empty kilojoules". This means that the food gives us energy due to the sugar but doesn't have other nutritional value such as provide protein or vitamins.

        The aim of a sugar tax is to improve people's health, particularly to help them lose weight, by discourage them from eating or drinking foods which contain high amounts of sugar. By increasing the cost of sugary foods, such as soft drink, it makes it less attractive to people who are on a budget so they chose more healthy options such as fruit juice or water.

        This is a similar argument used for tobacco products: by placing taxes on cigarettes and cigars it makes them so expensive that eventually people stop using them.

        Who has a Sugar Tax?

        Mexico was one of the first places to introduce a sugar tax. Now, over 26 countries have sugar taxes - mainly on soft drinks - include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, France, Denmark, Thailand and the Philippines.  

        Does the Sugar Tax Work?

        In asking if the sugar tax works, you need to define exactly what the tax is intended to achieve. If the intention is to decrease the amount of sugary soft drink being drunk, it would appear that it does work.  One year after the tax was introduced in Mexico, it was reported that less soft drink was being consumed and more water was being drunk.

        However, a reduction in the amount of soft drink being drunk will only be achieved if there is safe and cheap alternatives - that is, water that is clean and safe to drink. If people must drink bottled water and it is a similar price to the soft drink, there will be little incentive to stop drinking soft drink. I saw this occur in a small rural town in Australia: the tap water was not safe to drink, bottled water cost a dollar a bottle and a the same size bottle of soft drink was twenty cents more. Most people chose the soft drink.

        There is no clear evidence that a sugar tax will contribute to a decrease in obesity and the incidence of diabetes in the community. This is partly because most taxes have not been in place long enough to prove this and also because there are many other things that impact on people's diets such as how much fatty food is eaten and the availability and affordability of fresh fruit and vegetables. Research from Duke University in the USA in 2010 suggested that the sugar tax may not contribute to a decrease in obesity and diabetes because many people will switch to other sweet drinks that aren't taxed such as fruit juice and flavoured milk.

        One thing is certain: if people want to drink sugary soft drink, they will drink it regardless of the price and regardless of the impact on their health. A similar thing has been seen in smokers - despite the cost of cigarettes going up virtually annually, people still smoke.

        Category: Current Health Issues    Tags: Sugar tax,Nutrition,Holistic health

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        When Christmas Isn't Happy


        Gwen James

        Posted on 09:32 11/12/2017

        It's Christmas time! All around us are images of family and friends coming together and enjoying delicious food and happy companionship. We are shown pictures of people embracing, laughing and smiling. But for many people this isn't the case.

        For may people, Christmas is a time of loneliness, sadness and even depression. And often it's made worse because they believe they should be feeling different. It means Christmas is a very stressful time - but it doesn't have to be!

        The first thing to realise is that it's okay to be sad or lonely or even depressed at Christmas time. Think about what is causing that feeling. Recognise the reasons - you may have recently lost a loved one or gone through a life changing experience like a divorce. You may be caring for somebody who is celebrating their last Christmas. You may be living in a place which is far away from your family and close friends. These are all good reasons for feeling sad or lonely.

        Once you've embraced the reasons you're feeling sad or lonely, consider if this is the way you want to spend your Christmas. You may decide that this year, this is the way you want to feel. And that's okay. Christmas was my mother's favourite time of year and her home was always elaborately decorated for the season. When my mother died, a few months before Christmas, I couldn't even look at the boxes of decorations without bursting into tears.  That year, I decided it was okay to grieve at Christmas time and left the house undecorated.

        You may choose to be alone at Christmas time. If you are grieving or sad or Christmas holds traumatic memories for you, rather than celebrating, you may prefer to use the time reflecting. Tony hated Christmas: his son was killed in car crash on Christmas Eve. To him, Christmas was a day of mourning not celebration. Tony preferred to be alone on Christmas day; in the morning he would write his son a long letter. In the afternoon he went to the cemetery and put bunch of flowers, and the letter, went on his son's grave. Then he went fishing - and just sat, looked at the horizon and felt at peace. It didn't matter if he didn't catch a thing!

        Of course, being alone may not suit you and you may decide that you want to do something - although it may be different to what you've done in past years. Changes in our life give us an opportunity to try something new - and this may be the start a new tradition! Penny was the only child of a sole parent. After her parent died, she felt very alone at Christmas time. Rather than have Christmas lunch at home, she had done with in the past, she did something new: she invited a friend, who was also alone at Christmas, to lunch at a fancy restaurant. This was the start of a new tradition and the two of them continued to have Christmas lunch together for years - eventually including spouses and children!

        For somebody who is an extrovert, being alone at Christmas time can be quite depressing. There are many ways not to be alone at Christmas time if you don't want to be. You could volunteer at a charity - maybe serve lunch to homeless people. Or talk to the staff at the local aged care home - many elderly people are alone at Christmas and having somebody take them for a walk or read to them may brighten their day! Helping other people can be a great antidote to loneliness! 

        Some people who are separated from family and friends at Christmas hold a party for others in similar circumstances. Matt and his wife moved interstate a few months before Christmas. They had a number of new acquaintances but no family or close friends in their new city. On Christmas Day they held a "Christmas Orphans" party: a party for anyone who didn't have a family or other celebration to attend. An astonishing number of people turned up. The party became an annual event and grew so large they moved it to a local park!

        Okay, you've recognised why you feel sad, lonely or depressed and made a plan to spend Christmas a certain way - but you still feel the same! Does this mean you've failed? Absolutely not! If you've been feeling down in the weeks or months leading up to Christmas, this isn't going to miraculously make you feel better. But small miracles do happen every day: even when we feel totally miserable, life gives us little moments of pleasure and contentment. Look for these moments through out the day - seeing a nice flower, the sun on your face, a cool breeze on a hot day, your dog's excitement when they see you! These moments occur through the day - Christmas Day and every day - and when you start to catch them, your mood will lift and you'll feel at peace.

        Category: Christmas Health    Tags: Christmas,Depression,Loneliness,Managing depression,Grief,Managing grief

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        Why Don't Acupuncturists Have Gift Certificates?


        Gwen James

        Posted on 06:45 06/12/2017

        Acupuncture is great for helping many conditions! Many people who experience benefits from their treatment want to encourage others to come for treatment - and often I am asked if I offer gift certificates. Sadly, the answer is "no" - but there is a good reason:

        It's actually not legal!

        You can't get a gift certificate from your doctor or your dentist -  but why is that? It's because they're primary health care providers. Acupuncturists are also primary health care providers. This means that people should only be going to see them when they have an issue that is treatable by their service. In addition, the practitioner should only be providing treatment to address a specific problem - it shouldn't be an ongoing, open ended arrangement where each time you go the practitioner finds something new to treat!

        Doctors, dentists and other primary health care professionals (including acupuncturists) are registered. This means there are strict standards and laws they have to stick to. One of these is that they are not permitted, by law, to offer gift certificates or other inducements (such as reduced fees for bulk appointments) to encourage people to make appointments. This is because it may encourage people to book appointments when they may not need any treatment. 

        If it's illegal, why does the acupuncture clinic I go to offer Gift Certificates?

        Some acupuncture or Chinese medicine clinics do offer gift certificates - but these certificates are not for an acupuncture treatment or a Chinese medicine consultation! They may be for an appointment with a massage therapist who works at the clinic or for another service offered at the clinic. My clinic offers a "Stress Buster Gift Certificate" - this is for a session designed to relieve stress through cupping, laser treatment, stretching, relaxation exercises and relaxation meditation. People purchasing these certificates or booking a session are told there is no Chinese medicine consultation or acupuncture included in the stress busting appointment.

        Why can massage therapists and naturopaths give Gift Certificates?

        Massage therapists and naturopaths are not registered health care professionals - that means their treatments are not considered to be primary health care interventions. So, they not bound by the same laws that relate to registered health care providers. People do not need to have a specific problem to go to see a massage therapist or naturopath (although often they do!). For this reason, they can offer gift certificates or treatments as a prize in a competition.

        My friend wants to come but can't afford it - can I pay?

        Sometimes people tell me they have a friend or a family member who would really like to come for a treatment but can't afford it - they ask if they can pay instead. Yes, of course they can - at the time of the appointment! Again, taking a payment in advance for an appointment that has yet to be made would be considered to be enticing a person to come for treatment. If you'd like to pay for a person's appointment, why not meet them at the end of the appointment and pay then?

        I'm going to pay, can I make a "surprise" appointment for them?

        Certainly - if the person is a child under your care! However, anyone else must make their own appointment. There are two reasons for this: one is that, once again, a "surprise" appointment could be considered enticing somebody to have a treatment they don't need. The other is that the person may not want the treatment or may not want it at that time! What you could do is take the practitioner's business card and enclose it in a little card to your friend or family member saying your gift to them is to pay for an appointment with this person - it is then up to the person receiving the card to make the appointment.

        How can I encourage my friend or family member to make an appointment?

        Think of it this way - if your friend or family member had a toothache, how would you encourage them to go to the dentist? You could ask around to find a good dentist, ring the dentist and ask about their rates and maybe drop in and get a business card. You would then talk to your friend or family member about going. You could encourage somebody to go to an acupuncturist in exactly the same way! Acupuncturists are not permitted (by law - again!) to put testimonials on their websites or Facebook pages so telling your friend or family member about the benefits you experienced is the best reference! If you are considering a different acupuncturist to the one you go to, you could ring them and ask them about the work they do and their rates. The acupuncturist's website will also give you some great information about what they do, the hours they are open and sometimes even their rates. Most acupuncturists provide an email address or telephone number and are happy to answer questions - your friend or family member may feel comfortable emailing or telephoning them first to discuss their issue!

        Around Christmas time many people are looking for a good and useful gift for friends and family. An acupuncture appointment may seem like the perfect gift! Although acupuncturists and Chinese medicine practitioners don't offer gift certificates, you can "gift" them an appointment by encouraging them to make and appointment and pay for it on their behalf!

        Category: Gift Certificates    Tags: Acupuncture,Gift certficates,Stress managemet,Chinese medicine,Christmas

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        Managing Festive Stress


        Gwen James

        Posted on 05:09 10/11/2017

        It was two weeks before Christmas when I got the call from one of my patients; she was so stressed that she'd taken the Christmas tree and thrown it out the door! Could I help her? There wasn't much I could do to resurrect the Christmas tree but I could certainly help distress her so she could enjoy Christmas!

        Why am I bring up Christmas now? Well, it's about six weeks until Christmas and this is the time when stress starts to build! People are starting to make their plans for the Christmas-New Year period, organise travel arrangements, buy gifts and think about their budgets. Disagreements between family members are starting to erupt. Pressure is being put on people to meet expectations for gifts, to spend time with people and to provide holiday entertainment for their kids. All this creates stress!

        In a couple of weeks Christmas parties will start which place a different type of stress on us: too many late nights, too much sweet or rich food and too much alcohol or sweet drinks. Is it any wonder that so many people are exhausted by the time Christmas actually arrives?!

        The good news is there are a number of things we can do to manage the stress of the next six weeks! Here are my top eight tips!

        1. Work out a Diet You can Stick to!

        Christmas only rolls around once a year and it's a time known for rich and sweet food. Many of the treats we indulge in at this time are special to the festive period - so not only is it very easy to pack on the weight but we are often left feeling sluggish and irritable! Don't deny yourself all the treats - that will also leave you feeling irritable! The best idea is to work out a plan that builds lots of good tasting healthy food around the treats! Salads, seafood, lean meat like turkey and fresh fruit are all great healthy options - choose some of the things that you don't have at other times of the year to make it special: maybe roast turkey breast, some delicious lobster tails or fresh berries! Half fill your plate with salad (have the dressing on the side), add some meat or seafood and finish off with "treat" - maybe a rich potato salad made with a creamy dressing. Or maybe you want to made desert your treat! A fruit salad made with all the fresh summer fruits, blueberries, raspberries, mango, peaches, nectarines, is not only healthy but a real treat!! Yum!

        2. Stick to Your Exercise Routine

        When things get busy, it's often easy to skip that morning walk or the session at the gym. Try to stick to your routine as exercise is crucial not only in managing stress but in helping to keep your weight in check! If you're feeling stressed, a good workout can help you to burn off that extra adrenalin and you may also find it gives you energy and helps you to sleep! Choose whatever exercise you enjoy: a session at the gym, swimming, cycling or a walk in the morning sunshine! If you find that it's getting too hard to fit an exercise session in, get out an play a game: a round of backyard cricket or beach volleyball with the kids is loads of fun and gets your blood pumping.

        3. Take Time to Relax

        Spending time with family and friends may be enjoyable, but constant socialising can become stressful! It's important to spend a little time each day, even just half an hour, to recharge your batteries. A quiet walk with the dog in the coolness of the morning, meditating to some relaxing music or just some quiet time to read in the sun can leave you feeling calm and peaceful.

        4. Get Plenty of Sleep

        The rounds of parties and socialising often means you don't get as much sleep as usual. There are many side effects to not getting enough sleep including difficulty concentrating, headaches, irritability and trouble managing stress. If you know you're going to have a series of late nights, consider sleeping in a little later in the morning or having a nap during the day.

        5. Drink in Moderation

        Christmas functions and Christmas Day often mean lots of alcohol. Of course, excessive alcohol has many effects but even having a couple of extra drinks each day can have an impact on your concentration, sleep and moods. Alcohol is also dehydrating which can leave you sluggish and irritable. Consider having at least one glass of water or sparkling water between each alcoholic drink. If you're not keen on water, try squeezing some lime juice into a glass of cool sparking water - very refreshing! If you're going to a number of parties or events close together, think about not drinking alcohol at one of them or decide in advance that you'll only have a couple of alcoholic drinks at each event.

        6. Manage You Sugar Intake

        There's always heaps of sugary treats around at Christmas time: biscuits, Christmas cake, chocolates and deserts just to name a few. Then there are soft drinks or drinks made with fruit juice. Lots of sugar can also leave you feeling sluggish and irritable. Try to limit the amount of sugar you have. At meal times choose just one treat - maybe a bit of Christmas pudding - and enjoy! At the end of each meal, put all the biscuits, cakes and deserts away - out of sight, out of mind! Replace a soft drink with a refreshing sparkling water - add some ground mint or lemon juice to spice it up!

        7. Treat Yourself to a Massage

        After carrying around all that Christmas shopping, setting up the Christmas tree and preparing the Christmas treats, your body can be as tight as a band! Treat yourself to a massage to help to ease the kinks and stress out of those muscles! You'll feel like a million dollars and ready to take on the world!

        8. Acupuncture - the Great De-Stressor!

        When you feel that stress starting to build, help is at hand: acupuncture! There are some great techniques available to help you manage your stress so you can enjoy the Christmas festivities!

        Category: Christmas Health    Tags: Acupuncture,Christmas,Stress management

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        Why Didn't My Acupuuncture Treatment Work?


        Gwen James

        Posted on 10:24 23/08/2017

        Often when I tell people I'm an acupuncturist they comment "Oh I tried that once but it didn't work"! Why is it that acupuncture works for some people and not for others? There can be a number of reasons! In the clinic there are a number that I see commonly - here are the top six!

        1. Acupuncture Wasn't the Right Treatment!

        Sadly acupuncture can't treat everything!  If you have a slipped disc, acupuncture can certainly help you with managing the pain but there is no way in the world that acupuncture can fix the problem. So how do you know it acupuncture can help? It can be tricky. Most acupuncturists have a website or other promotional material that gives you an idea of the things they treat most commonly. If you're still not sure, give them a call! Most acupuncturist will be quite happy to talk to you about your condition. Good questions to ask are: "Have you had experience in treating this condition?", "What kind of results do you usually get?" and "How do you usually treat it?".

        Be aware that many acupuncturists will have promotional material or websites that say they "treat" various things. The word "treat" isn't always explained. A good acupuncturist will openly tell you that they can only help you manage the condition but can't resolve it. If you're unsure, ask them!

        2.  Unrealistic Expectations

        John hurt his back playing football and when it didn't improve after three months came to me saying a friend had "the same" problems and it was fixed after a single acupuncture session. When I examined him it was clear that the injury would required several treatments. Certainly, there are some conditions that only require a single session but the vast majority require more.  If you are seeking treatment for an injury that has occurred in the last day or so, it is more likely to be resolved in one or two sessions than an injury that occurred six months ago. In most cases there will some change after the first session but it may not last. A good acupuncturist will examine you and then give an idea of how many sessions you are looking at.

        3. Too Long Between Treatments

        When you first come for treatment, the acupuncturist will give you an idea of how often you need to come back. Generally, the treatments are closer together initially and then further apart as you get better. If there is too long between treatments, especially initially, there will be minimal, if any, improvement. Jossie rang me wanting to make an appointment for help with a irritable bowel syndrome. She told me she'd had for some time. During the conversation she mentioned she could come once but then would be away on holiday for a month. I recommended that she wait until she came back before starting treatment as a single treatment with a break of a month was unlikely to achieve anything. She agreed and made an appointment for the week she got back.

        4. Missing Information

        Susan came to me for treatment on a shoulder that had been sore for several months. After several treatments there had been improvement but no to the level I expected. As I was treating her one afternoon Susan mentioned her son had been killed in a traffic accident a month before she hurt her shoulder. She was still deeply traumatised by the loss. It was immediately clear to me that the emotional trauma caused by the loss of her son was impacting on the ability of her shoulder to heal! After talking to her, Susan agreed that we would change the focus of the treatment to supporting her in her grief with a secondary focus on the shoulder. To her surprise, the shoulder healed after a few more treatments. Most people would not see the link between grief and the shoulder injury but to an acupuncturist it is clear! Although a bit of information may not seem related to you, it's still important to mention it because it may be important to your treatment!

        5. Stopping Treatment Early

        Most acupuncturists will give you an idea of how many treatments you are going to need. In some cases, the condition may not respond as expected and more sessions will be required. It is always sad when a person stops coming just as they start to improve! Of course, there are many reasons for this: they may not be able to afford more treatment, they may change shifts and are unable to attend or they may not believe it is making a difference. If you don't think it's making a difference, talk to the acupuncturist about it. Sometimes the change is so gradual you don't notice it and other times the acupuncturist may change their treatment to get a better result. Robert came to me for treatment for his depression. After 6 treatments he told me that he didn't think it was making any difference and thought he might stop. I went back through his file with him and reminded him of some of the things he had said in the first session. Many of the things he had forgotten and it helped him to realise that there had been quite a difference since the first treatment but it had been so gradual he hadn't noticed. He was happy to continue treatment and every few weeks we would review his file to see the progress he had made.

        6. Not Following Through

        Most acupuncturist give their patients advice: what to eat or not to eat, drink more water or stay warm. Some will give specific exercises or stretches and some will recommend herbs or other supplements. Sometimes you may even be referred to a massage therapist or chiropractor for treatment which complements the acupuncture. These suggestions are made after the acupuncturist has considered your cases and worked out what will be most beneficial for your condition. Not doing the things suggested may mean the treatment isn't as successful or may mean your condition takes longer to improve. Matthew came to me for treatment after he'd had a stroke. His memory had been affected, had trouble articulating thoughts and had limited movement in one arm. I worked out a treatment regime which included acupuncture, some exercises to complement the acupuncture treatment and some speech exercises based on nursery rhymes. After a few treatments we were making progress but it was limited. Matthew admitted that he was having trouble remembering to do the exercises I had recommended. We discussed possible options that might help and Matthew decided the best way was to put a reminder on his phone. Once he started doing the exercises twice a day and the treatment became much more effective.

        There are many other reasons why treatment may not work. If you feel your acupuncture treatment isn't work, talk to the acupuncturist. By discussing what is going on, you may actually find the problem and be able to resolve it so the treatment becomes more effective!

        Category: Acupuncture Treatment    Tags: Acupuncture,Treatment,Treatment effectiveness

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        When Pain is Impacting Your Life


        Gwen James

        Posted on 08:38 28/07/2017

        Everybody suffers pain at some time in their lives. It can affect any part of your body, be short lived and due to a small event such as stubbing your toe or it can be chronic, severe and debilitating. Pain can not only be physical, such as muscular or neurological, it can also be emotional and may lead to conditions such as depression. No matter what it's cause, what part of the body it is effecting or it's duration, pain is a stress on us. And sometimes a significant stress! What can you do to help it?

        Pain is one of the things that I treat most often in my clinic - both physical pain and emotional pain. From a Chinese Medicine point of view, pain is a blockage or stagnation in the energy in the body. This sounds very vague so consider it this way: when you break your leg you have pain because the energy in the leg - the blood flow, the nerves, the muscles are disrupted and can't work properly. How do we fix it? We remove the blockage! And that's exactly what Chinese Medicine does to help people manage pain! That's not to say that Chinese Medicine can fix a broken leg - you are much better advised to see a doctor about that - but managing the pain as the leg heals is something that Chinese Medicine can definitely help with!

        Lifestyle is also very important in the management of pain. Whether the pain is emotional or physical, the following are important:

        • Getting enough sleep - sleep is when our body heals itself. If you're not getting enough sleep or your sleep is disturbed by the pain, your body will have trouble healing.
        • Eating a good balanced diet - your body needs nutrition to heal especially carbohydrates to fuel the healing process and protein to heal tissue. Often people in pain don't feel like eating much so eating small amounts regularly or drinking protein smoothies can be a great help.
        • Drink plenty of water - the tissues need to be fully hydrated to heal.
        • Exercise - when you're in pain, your body releases hormones, such as adrenalin and cortisol, to let you know you're under stress. Exercise can help you burn off some of those hormones. Many people who are in pain don't feel like exercising - they have little energy and it hurts to do things. Choose exercise that is suitable for you - some gentle walking or maybe a swim.
        • Get outside - having the sun on your face and breathing fresh air can give you a real lift.
        • Stay warm - cold is an enemy of pain! Muscles exposed to cold will contract - this is a natural, normal reaction! But when you have an injury or pain and the muscles around it contract, it may cause spasm which will increase the pain! Staying warm can not only help to stop spasms, it also encourages a normal blood flow to the area bringing in the nutrients it needs to heal and flushing out the waste products.

        Sometimes, severe pain can threaten to consume your life. The is an old saying: "No pain, no gain". We may learn some things about ourselves through severe pain, such as our resilience and ability to keep going when all we want to do is curl up in bed, but generally, but we gain much more if we can manage our pain! If you are in pain and it is becoming overwhelming, don't try and do it alone! Try some of the lifestyle changes but also get some people around you who can help: acupuncturists, massage therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists and doctors.  Finding the right group of people may take a little time but rest assured, they are out there and keen to help!

        Category: Pain Management    Tags: Pain,Pain management,Chinese medicine,Holistic health

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        Embrace Your Yin!


        Gwen James

        Posted on 08:07 07/07/2017

        As many people know, Yin and Yang are the basis of Chinese Medicine. The Yang is all about energy, activity and movement while the Yin is about quietness, calmness and introspection. If you consider the bustle and activity of summer as Yang, then winter with it's cold temperatures and long dark nights encouraging us to spend more time in sedentary actives is definitely Yin! Winter is certainly a time when we eat and rest more, building up our inner reserves - so we can bloom back into action when the warmer weather comes! But wouldn't it be great is we could build up some of those inner reserves all year around? Well, of course, you can!

        Many years ago, I did a month long meditation retreat. The rules were simple but strict: only one hour of talking allowed each afternoon, one  vegetarian meal each day, no telephones, email or other contact with the outside world, no sex and no alcohol, cigarettes or drugs. We rose at 5am for the first meditation session and the last meditation session was in the evening. At the end of the month, most people had become surprisingly calm and tranquil but we didn't fully appreciate it until we left the retreat and returned to the clamour of ordinary life.

        While doing a month meditation retreat is a wonderful way to cultivate your Yin, it isn't possible for most people and even those who do have the opportunity rarely get more than one chance! Luckily we can take some of the lessons from it and use them in daily life to develop a bit of serenity each day - and it's not that hard! Set aside ten minutes a day and find a quiet place to sit - somewhere were you won't be disturbed by kids, partners or pets. You don't have to sit in any special posture or on the floor but do sit with your back straight so you can breathe deeply. Close your eyes a little and put your tongue on the roof of your mouth and try to concentrate on your breath. Sounds easy? Actually, it's not! As soon as you try not to think of anything except observing your breath, your mind will start chattering away, trying to distract you. That's okay! It's normal! When you suddenly become aware it is going on, just bring your attention back to your breath.

        Some people find concentrating on their breath difficult. If that's you, concentrate on something else: imagine a place you'd like to be and concentrate on that. Or put on some gentle music and concentrate on hearing each note. Or put a picture or even a burning candle in front of you and concentrate on that. The idea is just to concentrate on one thing and put aside other chaotic thoughts that enter your mind.  

        Winter is a great time to start this practice - the season encourages us to spend more time in gentle, enriching activities. Finding time for a short meditative practice each day in winter will make it a habit and much easier to continue in the more active summer months. So go ahead! Embrace your Yin!

        Category: Mental Health    Tags: Meditation,Yin,Holistic health,Winter

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        The Age of Anxiety


        Gwen James

        Posted on 11:20 15/06/2017

        We live in a time of bad and sometimes horrific events: terrorist attacks, wars, home invasions, domestic violence, job insecurity and rising prices. Not only do we hear about them on the news, we're assaulted by images on the television, internet and social media. Not surprising, there's been an escalation in people's anxiety! Some people have become so anxious, they don't even like to leave home and they don't like members of their family being out.

        Anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, uneasiness or concern about things that have an uncertain outcome. It normal and it can be even beneficial - it causes hormones, such as adrenalin, to pump through and this can make us more alert! Think about the feeling of anxiety when you're about to go for a job interview; it can actually help you think of the answers to the questions!

        But anxiety isn't good when it's prolonged. All that adrenalin doesn't go away and can cause an increase in blood pressure, insomnia and muscle tension. Not only that, because we're constantly anxious we change some of our behaviour - going out less so we become more isolated and spending more time thinking about the things that worry us!

        So what can we do?

        The first thing - turn off! It's good to know what's going on in the world but when it comes to the distressing images, interviews and commentaries, hit the off button.

        Next: if you can change something to lessen the anxiety, do it! Sometimes you can totally remove the source of the anxiety: for somebody who has become very anxious because of working in a toxic environment, finding a new job may alleviate it altogether. You can't always alleviate the problem but maybe you can do little things to help: being anxious about your house being broken into may be eased by putting new deadlocks on the doors or switching the garage doors off at the power source at night so they stay locked down.

        And then there are lifestyle things that can help you manage the anxiety. Maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding illicit drugs and alcohol and getting enough sleep all help. Exercise is essential - it helps to burn off that adrenalin! Even a short walk a day is great - you get outside, feel the sun on your face, breath deeply and come back feeling good. Acupuncture is great to help you manage anxiety and massage can you release those tight muscles.

        Of course relaxation is vital for managing anxiety - but that's easier said than done, isn't it? Sometimes relaxing can be the hardest thing when you're all tensed up. Consider going to a meditation or stretch class or maybe having a sauna or relaxation massage. There is also a huge number of relaxation CDs, DVDs, podcasts or apps so check out one that suits you.

        Connecting with people you like and doing enjoyable things has so many beneficial effects they can't be all listed here! It reminds you that you aren't alone - we're all in this together! Doing things you enjoy with people you like means you smile and maybe even laugh - and that gets all the "feel good" hormones pumping. And giving somebody a hug - or receiving one - is perhaps the best therapeutic thing you could do! So go ahead - hug somebody you care about!

        Category: Anxiety and Mental Health    Tags: Acupuncture,Holistich health,Phoenix centre for acupuncture,Relaxation,Mental health,Anxiety

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        I didn't know acupuncture could treat that!


        Gwen James

        Posted on 08:55 09/06/2017

        Sometimes when I tell people about the kind of work I do in clinic they look surprised and say "I didn't know acupuncture could treat that"!

        Many people know that acupuncture is good for treating sore backs or sore shoulders - but that's just the tip of the iceberg! There is so much more that acupuncture can help treat! In fact, some conditions which aren't very responsive to biomedicine - such as endometriosis or fibromyalgia - are treated very effectively by acupuncture! So what exactly can acupuncture treat? Well, the list is so long that it would fill several pages! Basically, acupuncture treats the external body such as skin conditions or torn muscles, the internal body such as digestive problems or menstrual issues and the mind such as anxiety and depression. Acupuncture also treats things where it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing them: headaches, chronic tiredness or fatigue and sleep problems.

        But I don't mean to suggest that acupuncture can treat all conditions. In some cases, the treatment I provide is to help the patient manage their condition such as a person who comes in with a prolapsed disc in their back. I certainly cannot "fix" the prolapse but I can provide some pain relief. In fact, many of the patients I treat with back pain or shoulder pain are waiting for surgery and I assist them with pain relief until the surgery can be scheduled.

        I have also had people come into my clinic with diabetes, epilepsy or high blood pressure who want to stop taking their medication and have seen there are traditional Chinese medicine treatments for these conditions. This is true - historically, these conditions were treated by acupuncture and Chinese herbs - but acupuncturists in Australia cannot treat these conditions.

        On my website I list the six conditions I treat most often: various types of pain, hayfever, menstrual and menopause conditions, stress and boosting the immune system but these are just the start!

        Category: Conditions Treated    Tags: Acupuncture,Condition,Pain relief,Hayfever,Menstural,Menopause,Chinese medicine

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