The Good Life: “Time is the Longest Distance Between Two Places”

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Where Has the Time Gone?

I’m not sure exactly what I did with my time when I was, say, 22. I know I was living with my BFF in an apartment in Milwaukee, WI, and working in an art gallery downtown. I did not have a computer, a smartphone, or a Facebook account. I think I read. I think I read the mail, read magazines, read books. I remember going to an upscale hotel where I had a gym membership and I exercised. I went out, I had people over. There was no reality TV, but I had plenty of time to watch it if there had been. But, where has the time gone? Really. Where has it gone? Read the rest of this entry »

Western MA Folk Remedies for Stress

Stress

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing in a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: 'I’ll go take a hot bath.' I meditate in the bath. The water needs to be very hot, so hot that you can barely stand putting your foot in it. Then you lower your self inch by inch, till the water is up to your neck. - I remember the ceiling over every bath tub I’ve stretched out in. I remember the texture of the ceilings and the cracks and the colors and the damp spots and the light fixtures. I remember the tubs too, the antique griffin legged tubs and the modern coffin shaped tubs, and the fancy pink marble tubs overlooking the indoor lily pond and I remember the shapes and sizes of the water taps and the different sorts of soap holders . . . I never feel so much myself as when I am in a hot bath.” - Excerpt from The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“Staying healthy to me means staying happy with myself. If I’m feeling sad, lonely or stressed (which can lead to lower immune functioning and dis-ease of all sorts) I call over a group of friends and we have a meal, play games, dance, laugh and/or create art together. I think this is the best household remedy of all! Life is full of dis-ease, if I keep myself at-ease within community and friends my mind stays happy and healthy a day at a time. Good health is not always curing the symptoms – to me it is rejuvenating my spirit.” – Ricki Carroll, New England Cheese Makers Supplies, Ashfield

“When I’m feeling down, blue, or all-around crappy, it’s usually because my own world feels too small. So anything I can do to break out of my own world perception is especially helpful. I definitely make plans with friends with whom I laugh a lot or I go see some sort of entertainment that is a far cry from my own life – an anatomically incorrect rock musical for example. Anything that helps me to see, understand, and embrace the infinite possibilities of this world. Of course, spending my day wandering around trying to get the babies of strangers to laugh or smile is also very satisfying as well.”– Kelsey Flynn, Available for lunch, Northampton

“A tincture with St. Johnswort, Lemon Balm and Motherwort (along with self-heal and mullein flower essences) has been really helpful for a couple of friends. One was suffering from panic attacks and my other friend was feeling very depressed.” – Cathy Whitely

“Hot milk and honey and put your worries in a sack under your bed. They will be there in the morning.” – Eileen Latshang

“Maude knew. . . . “It’s oat straw tea. You’ve never had oat straw tea, have you?” “No.” “Well then.” She smiled and picked up the kettle. Do you remember this scene from the 1971 movie Harold and Maude written by Colin Higgins? –  Oats (Avena sativa) are in fact one of the best remedies for ‘feeding’ the nervous system, especially when under stress. They’re a specific treatment for nervous debility and exhaustion, particularly when associated with depression. Oats act quite slowly but can be of real long-term benefit in any weakness of the nervous system. Oats are one of the classic plants which form a bridge between food and medicine (see oatmeal recipe under winter blues). Whenever I am feeling frazzled, rushed, overworked and that there is not enough time in the day, I brew myself a pot of oatstraw tea.” – Tony(a) Lemos, Ashfield

“I use passion flower and valerian tincture for anxiety and sleeplessness.” – Becky Loveland, Northampton

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Friendships May Help Mothers Tend to Their Children

Thank you to Dina Raymond of Goshen, MA for sharing this study.

UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women
by Gale Berkowitz

Bouquet of Black-eyed Susan

"A friend is one who walks in when others walk out." - Walter Winchell (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.

Scientists now suspect that hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis. A landmark UCLA study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. It’s a stunning find that has turned five decades of stress research—most of it on men—upside down.

Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study’s authors.

It’s an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers. Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight!

In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.

This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone—which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress—seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it!

The discovery that women respond to stress differently than men was made in a classic “aha” moment shared by two women scientists who were talking one day in a lab at UCLA. There was this joke that when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded, says Dr. Klein.

When the men were stressed they holed up somewhere on their own. I commented one day to fellow researcher Shelley Taylor that nearly 90% of the stress research is on males. I showed her the data from my lab, and the two of us knew instantly that we were onto something.

The women cleared their schedules and started meeting with one scientist after another from various research specialties. Very quickly, Drs. Klein and Taylor discovered that by not including women in stress research, scientists had made a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to stress differently than men has significant implications for our health.

It may take some time for new studies to reveal all the ways that oxytocin encourages us to care for children and hang out with other women, but the “tend and befriend” notion developed by Drs. Klein and Taylor may explain why women consistently outlive men. Study after study has found that social ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol. There’s no doubt, says Dr. Klein, that friends are helping us live longer.

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