Ziya’s Day

I had a positively wonderful massage at my local Massage Envy today. The therapist who worked on me recommended medical massage to relieve the tension in my back; we compromised by dedicating the 1st half of the massage to medical and the 2nd half to relaxation. Without me saying a word about my diet and exercise habits (or lack thereof), she was able to tell that I was dehydrated and suffered from malnutrition based on the areas and degree of tension in my back. She said I needed to drink more water, eat more fiber (beans & vegetables), reduce my sugar intake, and start exercising. She also realigned my right leg and both hips, literally helped me breathe more easily, and (I thought) improved circulation to my arms.

I opted for aromatherapy during my massage, namely the “Anxiety Release” blend. The aromatherapy in conjunction with massage helped me to relax, both physically and emotionally. Though the therapist said I “slept like a baby,” I was actually awake, listening to the relaxing background music and feeling the massage with my eyes closed. I was also thinking quite a bit about what I can do to take better care of myself.

Thinking clip art#1

Obviously I need to do the things the therapist recommended, including getting massages regularly (for now, every other week; I’m hoping to be able to reduce that to once a month by the time I’ve used up all the pre-paid massage hours I’ve accrued).

I also need to take one day off each week, a day dedicated entirely to my mental, physical, and spiritual health. It will be a day when I do not have to do anything for Mom – unless it is an emergency. A day to relax, get a massage, turn off the computer and other electronics, express my spirituality and creativity, and really focus in on my health. On this one day per week I am thinking of abstaining from foods with added sugar, and limiting my diet to whole fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs, and maybe milk. I’ll be happy to spend time with loved ones on this day, as long as that does not interfere with me focusing primarily on my well-being.

CaptureMay

I love the idea of my day for all this being Wednesday because it’s smack in the middle of the week! What better way to put myself at the center of my own life? Wednesday should work for now, based on my and Mom’s schedules, but if necessary I can change it to another day. However, I will not compromise having one day per week to myself – unless there is an emergency.

I hate tracking food (and planning meals), but I need to get a realistic idea of how I’m eating in order to improve my nutrition. I’ve used SparkPeople in the past and find it mostly good for tracking and to some extent receiving motivation to live a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of ads that get annoying and send messages I’m not entirely confident are healthy, but using the site is otherwise free of (monetary) cost. I did have to spend a lot of time looking up nutrition info on other sites, though. :-/

My biggest gripe, though, is that it doesn’t really give one the information needed to track the “nutrient” I’m most concerned about right now: sugar. I could track my fructose and sucrose intake, but the site provides no guidelines regarding how much of each I should consume. “Sugar” only exists when you’re viewing or inputting nutritional information for a specific food; it is not a “nutrient” you can track, nor are there clear guidelines – on SparkPeople or in general! – on how much of it one should eat in a day.

Based on this LiveStrong.com article and the daily range of calories recommended to me by SparkPeople, I figured out that the maximum amount of sugar I should consume in one day is 31 grams. Just the 2 chocolate chip cookies I had hours before my massage contained enough sugar to put me over this limit for today.

I'll use an Excel spreadsheet to track sugar in foods I eat, excluding the natural sugar found in fruits.

I’ll use an Excel spreadsheet to track sugar in foods I eat, excluding the natural sugar found in fruits.

It’s not something I expect to be able to adhere to every day, but I hope that at least intermittent tracking will hep me to become more aware of what I’m putting into my body. Maybe it will help me makeĀ better choices more in line with my need to be healthy and live a fulfilling life!

Aromatherapy Treatment of Anxiety and Depression: More Research Needed!

I did some research in peer-reviewed scientific journals about the efficacy (effectiveness) of aromatherapy as a treatment for anxiety and depression. Most of the articles I read seem to support it as a complementary treatment – that is, to be used along with traditional treatments such as psychotherapy and medication. There is a need for research that 1) separates the effects of aromatherapy from that of massage and 2) examines the relative efficacy of specific essential oils. Lavender is an essential oil that might help with anxiety, depression, and sleep disorder.

Here are my notes on three review articles:

A review of 16 studies from 1990 to 2010 found that aromatherapy can safely be used as a complementary therapy to reduce anxiety (Lee, et al, 2011). More research is needed to understand how best to implement it (e.g. massage or inhalation) and why it works biologically.

A review of 6 studies from 2000 to 2008 found that aromatherapy-enhanced massage can safely be used to improve mood in people with depressive symptoms (Yim, et al, 2009). A substance found in essential oils, citral, “produces relaxation and antidepressant effects” (192). It is unclear whether particular essential oils are more effective than others; additional research is needed.

Perry & Perry (2006) examine use of aromatherapy in a variety of disorders, including sleep disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Sleep Disorder – “In one study, a blend of basil, juniper, lavender, and sweet marjoram was applied by hand massage; satisfactory sleep increased from 73% to 97% of patient nights […]” (264). Lavender is the essential oil most discussed in the treatment of sleep disorders.

Anxiety – There is limited support for use of aromatherapy to treat anxiety, but of the essential oils, lavender seems most promising.

Depression – There is some support for the use of chamomile, citrus, and lavender. Controlled trials are needed to confirm efficacy.

For more information about aromatherapy, including safety and quality information, visit the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

References

Lee, Y., Wu, Y., Tsang, H.W.H., Leung, A.Y.., & Cheung, W.M. (2011). A systematic review on the anxiolytic effects of aromatherapy in people with anxiety symptoms. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17 (2), 101-108.

Perry, N. & Perry, E. (2006). Aromatherapy in the management of psychiatric disorders: Clinical and neuropharmacological perspectives. CNS Drugs, 20 (4), 257-280.

Yim, V.W.C., Ng, A.K.Y., Tsang, H.W.H., & Leung, A.Y. (2009). A review on the effects of aromatherapy for patients with depressive symptoms. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15 (2), 187-195.