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Meditation Basics for Stress Management In 4 Easy Steps

beautiful woman practicing meditation on yoga mat

Stress is something that plagues most people these days. Jobs, health, relationships and all the random unexpected surprises can lead to stress. Meditation is one technique often used for stress management. Best of all, it’s free. Meditation techniques help a person achieve a calm state of mind without drugs or relaxation tools and implements. Every step to meditation is done in the mind.

If you’ve never meditated, it can be a bit daunting at first. Here are some steps for a beginner to start with meditation as their stress management strategy.

Find A Quiet Corner To Start Your Meditation.

If you’ve ever stayed awake at night thinking about something that happened years ago, your to do list and why Pluto is no longer a planet and also why is Pluto a dog-dog and Goofy a human-dog, you know that our brains are awesome at creating distractions. The last thing you need when starting a meditation practice is more distraction from the outside. When you close your eyes, your sense of hearing will be twice as good, so almost any noise in your surroundings will make it hard for you to concentrate.

For beginners, it is important to start out in a quiet place in your home where noise is non-existent. (Ha!) While not necessary, you may want some ear plugs, headphones, a fan or other source of white noise, or some suitable meditation music. These can help block out the noise or give your brain somewhere to focus.

woman in white button up long sleeve shirt sitting on black couch in lotus position Meditation
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Ready Your Position.

It is best for beginners to avoid lying down when practicing meditation. The goal is not to sleep, and it is likely that you will fall asleep if your mind reaches a relaxed state. To stop this from happening, you can start your meditation in a comfortable seated position. This can be on the floor, on a cushion, in a chair, wherever you are most comfortable. It is absolutely not necessary to meditate in the lotus position, unless that is what is most comfortable for you. I know my knees and hips do not tolerate it!

Once you’ve found a comfortable position, make sure that your back is straight and your hands are relaxed on the armrest or on your lap. Do a quick scan of your body and adjust any areas that are likely to cause pain after a few minutes. You’ll also want to relax any areas of tension as much as possible.

Begin Your Meditation With Proper Breathing.

Once you are in a comfortable position, you’ll focus on breathing. Some say to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. To me, that is distracting. I find it better to just breathe through my nose. In my experience, the best way is whatever is most comfortable to you.

I have recently heard that the exhale is the important part for relaxation, so you may want to focus on making the exhale longer than the inhale. What I often do is inhale for a count of four and out for eight. I do that at the beginning of my meditation for about four or five cycles. Then I stop counting and let my body try to continue that rhythm. I know I don’t stay exactly on the 4-8 pattern, but it’s not about perfection. If I start to get distracted, I bring my mind back to focus on my breathing and counting again.

The cool thing about this breathing technique, is you can use it outside of meditation to calm down in a stressful situation. Even if you’ve never meditated before, it will help. Once you associate it with meditation, it will be even more effective.

Focus On Your Mind.

While concentrating on your breathing, eventually your mind will start throwing images at you. These are mostly random- events of the day, future plans, problems and worries, fears and so on. It will be hard to ignore these thoughts and you are not supposed to ignore them. The goal here is to acknowledge these thoughts and then release them. This might sound hard, but, honestly it’s something we do all the time.

Here is a simple example to understand the concept. You know that you have furniture at home- you can see it clearly with your eyes, but you aren’t really concentrating on it. Focusing on the furniture makes you think of its color, its material, how it looks in that part of your home, and more. When you don’t focus on it, the furniture fades into the background.

Likewise, you need to look at these random thoughts in a similarly detached state, seeing them clearly in your head but not focusing your attention on it. Eventually, these random thoughts will stop and you will notice that youre already in a blank space in your mind. This is the state you want to achieve during meditation. This blank space is where you can think about a problem or goal and focus on it till you can find a solution. Your “mind palace” for any Sherlock fans.

woman in black top sitting on brown armchair meditating
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Remember that meditation is not a one shot deal. It is almost impossible to attain a calm state of mind in just a matter of minutes, especially if it’s your first time. It is important that you keep practicing meditation until you have conditioned your mind to achieve that calm state just by thinking about it.

With this, you have successfully mastered the basics of meditation for your stress management program.

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6 Simple Self Care Practices You Can Start Now

Between work, home, and family responsibilities, do you often feel that all your time is spent taking care of others? Neglecting self care is easy, especially for moms, but the consequences can be serious. Adding self-care practices to your daily routine can greatly strengthen your health and well-being. It’s like they tell you when flying. You need to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. Otherwise, you won’t be able to help anyone else.

Here are 6 basic self care practices to get started:

 

  • Block out time for self-care in your schedule. It’s not enough to occasionally stop your busy lifestyle and take a walk or indulge in a hot bath. Self-care is an ongoing process. Just as you reserve time in your schedule for other appointments, set aside time to take care of yourself, too.  It’s important to adopt self-care habits that you can enjoy on a regular basis. They’ll help you avoid burnout, increase your productivity, and allow you to enjoy life.
  • Enjoy your favorite hobby. Whether you love to experiment with new recipes in the kitchen sew, or paint pictures of sunsets, your favorite hobbies can be part of self-care. Hobbies and activities that you already enjoy are easy to select and put into practice. You just have to find room in your schedule to do them. This is an important step and shows your commitment to self-care.
photo of person holding cup
Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com
  • Make note of the compliments you receive. You can enjoy this self-care practice even as you work or run errands! Start taking notes of the compliments you receive. You can keep them in a journal, diary, or online folder. Your compliment folder can also include emails, notes, thank you cards, and other things that make you smile. This self-care practice can help you fight negative thoughts. Compliments can serve as reminders that you matter, your existence is important, and someone appreciates you. On that same note, find reasons to give genuine compliments to others. It just might make their day, too!
  • Remove clutter. Whether you decide to declutter your closet or clean out the fridge, removing clutter will uplift you. Clutter can drain you physically and mentally. It can also make you unhappy as you try to move through your day.  Eliminate the things that no longer serve you. For example, if you’re keeping clothes in your closet that you hate each time you open the door, replace them with clothes that you love. Since you’re here, you probably sew. 🙂 Old, ill-fitting or clothing that just isn’t your style can be altered or used for the fabric and notions. That way you can eliminate clutter frugally and engage in your hobby.
Self care
  • Do one selfish act. Living selfishly all day isn’t recommended, but doing one thing just for yourself that makes you happy can do wonders. You can enjoy just that one thing without feeling guilty about it! If you struggle with self-care, it’s often because you spend all of your energy and time taking care of others. There’s nothing left in your well for yourself. By taking the time to do one selfish act, such as reading your favorite book or ignoring a boring phone call, you’ll be restoring your own importance.
  • Check off important health related self-care tasks. This is the most important one of all. Self care on social media is all about the relaxing baths, the books, hobbies, etc. Those things are an important element, but far more important is taking time to have that checkup, go to the dentist, or find a therapist. Take a moment to schedule that appointment that you’ve been putting off. I’m in the US, so I know that access to healthcare isn’t always easy, but there are some resources and low-cost options to explore.

Self-care often takes a backseat to work, family, and other obligations. However, without stopping to take care of your mind and body, you’re at risk of burning out and suffering from serious health issues. Start making time for your self-care practices today! 

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Never Ending Upcycled Chaos Candle Making

I love candles and wax melts, but I hate it when there’s a little left in the bottom of a jar or the wax has lost it’s scent. I don’t want to just throw the wax away. If it’s a jar candle, I won’t throw it a way, so it ends up taking up space waiting for me to find a new use for it. 

I’ve always been interested in candle making, but I honestly don’t know much about the correct way to do it. This is just my, for me, kind of chaotic, fun way of using up the leftover wax scraps and jars. If you try to join in my chaos, always take care with the melting, pouring and burning, make sure everything you use is safe for this usage and never leave anything burning or melting unattended.

My solution is to melt down the wax and make my own candles in the old jars. I bought this wick set for the wicks. I start by picking the jar I want to use and then putting in the same number of wicks that were originally in the jar.

Chaos layered perpetual never-ending upcycled candles candle making
My candles still need a haircut. 😀

For the candles in the above photo, the one on the left was originally a three wick candle, so it got three wicks. The one on the right was a yogurt jar, so I just guessed and went with one wick.

After the wicks are in place, I melt down any scrap wax I have and pour it in. Usually, I do this a little at a time as I finish other candles, rather than all at once. That gives it the cool sand art layered look.

With jar candles, to get the last bit of wax out, if I don’t pour it while it’s still melted from the last time I burned the candle, I set the jar on my coffee warmer (do not leave it unattended!). Wax melts just get melted as usual and poured into the jar.

Coffee warmer
Coffee warmer- Not just for coffee.

I do try to keep the candles mostly the same type of wax. In the photo, the big candle on the left is made from candle wax ends. The yogurt jar candle is made of soy wax melts with a little of the tea light wax remnants added.

Tea light candle wax warmer
My one tea light warmer.

For scent, most of the candles I burn are in the same spicy or vanilla scent family. Since the leftover candle wax usually has a good bit of scent left, I don’t worry about adding my own. With the wax melts, I either just leave them as they are and have a mild to unscented candle, or I add a drop or two of an essential or fragrance oil to each layer as I pour it.

I don’t know if my chaos candle making method will help anyone else, but I have fun with it, and the resulting candles are pretty. It’s also a way to reduce waste and save money.

This post does contain an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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How to Use Aromatherapy to Help Insomnia

 

Aromatherapy provides a natural way to deal with insomnia, anxiety, and stress. The primary purpose of aromatherapy is to produce a scent that induces an effect on the human body. The smells from aromatherapy work on a subconscious level. Smell can affect the way that human beings react. Different smells can stimulate the brain and evoke feelings that are then associated with that smell. For example, if the smell of baking cookies reminds you of your grandma and makes you feel relaxed and safe, that is aromatherapy.

Aromatherapy is used for mental and emotional well being. The oils of aromatherapy are often used to stimulate or relax the person as needed. Some aromatherapy oils are lavender, frankincense, patchouli, chamomile, sandalwood, orange, and peppermint.

Aromatherapy to fight insomnia

There are a few different ways that you can enjoy the smells of aromatherapy. One way is to add scent to your bath water. You could blend essential oils with a carrier oil for a massage. You can even sprinkle a few drops on your pillow at night.

Herbs to fight insomnia through aromatherapy

Using aromatic herbs for insomnia

We often think that aromatherapy equals essential oils, but that is not always the case. Herbs like chamomile, lavender and peppermint are a bit more versatile as you can drink it in the form of an herbal infusion (tea). Chamomile tea is well known to be relaxing and aid in sleep.

Essential oil blends

If you look into aromatherapy for the sole purpose of insomnia there will be actual recipes that you can make yourself that act very well for insomnia. One in particular is a mixture of two drops of jasmine essential oil and four drops of lavender essential oil. This can be used in a diffuser or you can place drops of it surrounding your bed. Frankincense and patchouli are also some of my favorites for relaxation and sleep. Just make sure that it is in a place where you will be able to smell it best. This mixture can also be added to a carrier oil and used for a massage.

a woman on a massage table Massage to fight insomnia
Photo by Cojanu Alexandru on Pexels.com

Aromatherapy candles and wax melts are also available in the various scents that are mentioned above. The scent from candles and wax melts are not quite as strong in most cases as the essential oil. They are a great way to test out a new scent to see how it affects you. They are also a nice way to layer scents for aromatherapy.

Other tools to use alongside aromatherapy

Finally, in conjunction with aromatherapy, meditation and yoga work excellently for relaxation. They work as a way to free the negative energy from your body that is causing you to lose precious sleep. Besides helping with insomnia, it will lead you into a more healthy life in general.

woman in red shirt sitting on couch meditating to fight insomnia
Photo by Mikael Blomkvist on Pexels.com

The most popular aromatherapy oil used today is lavender. Lavender is very versatile and can even be grown in your own backyard. It also works great for digestive related issues and as a mild antidepressant. Further, it calms nerves, relaxes the body, and promotes sleep.

Sometimes the everyday stresses of life can build up and a combination of aromatherapy oils can be a seemingly magical tool in creating a harmonic balance, a sense of well being and relaxation, and promoting sleep.

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New Aromatherapy Wax Melts in the Shop

fresh fruit orange beside porcelain mug

This is just a quick post to let you know about the new aromatherapy wax melt scents available at SubEarthan Cottage. I now offer Lemon Mint, Lavender Rosemary, Patchouli Orange and Lavender essential oil soy wax melts. I also still have Pumpkin Lavender and Frankincense and Myrrh fragrance oil scented soy wax melts for those who love those scents year round. 

fresh fruit orange beside porcelain mug
Photo by Ena Marinkovic on Pexels.com
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Make Your Own Aromatherapy Bath Salts Easily from Basic Ingredients

set of salt for bath placed on marble table

 

Creating your own aromatherapy bath salts is a terrific way to enjoy aromatherapy at home. Surprisingly, bath salts are very affordable to make and require no harsh ingredients. In fact, the main ingredients in bath salts include baking soda, table salt and epsom salt. Each of these are commonly found in a local grocery or retail store and are safe to use. The advantage to creating your own bath salts is that you can tailor the recipe to your needs and preferences. This way, you also know that the ingredients are going into your product safe for you to use.

Basic Aromatherapy Bath Salt Recipe 

First, you’ll need a large mixing bowl and spoon reserved for this type of project. Essential oils are not easily washed out, especially if you use plastic, so keep this bowl separate from your food prep bowls. The next step is to add 3 cups of epsom salt, 2 cups of baking soda and 1 cup of table salt into the mixing bowl. You can also add pink Himalayan salt or sea salt instead of table salt. Once each of the ingredients are added, begin mixing them with your hand or the spoon.

Coloring your Aromatherapy bath salts

If you’d like to color your bath salts, food coloring is a great option. If I’m coloring my bath salts, I try to match the color to the intended purpose of the bath salts. For example, if I’m making lavender bath salts for relaxation, I would choose a calming color like blue or purple.

Once mixing is complete, slowly add the food coloring to the mixture. Adding more drops will darken the color and adding fewer will make it softer. If you’re blending colors, such as blue and red to make purple, mix them before adding to the bath salts. Otherwise, you will end up with splotches of red and blue, not an even purple.

set of salt for bath placed on marble table
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Adding the essential oils

The final step is to add essential oils until the desired scent is achieved. While I have made lavender bath salts by adding the lavender essential oil directly to the salt mixture, it is best to dilute the essential oils in a carrier oil. This is especially important with things like peppermint essential oil that could be very uncomfortable in a bath if not diluted properly (essential oils do not dilute in water!)

I like to use 1-2 tablespoons of carrier oil and add the essential oils until I get the scent level I’m needing. Ten drops of essential oil per cup of bath salts is a good guideline to start. I then add the diluted essential oils to the salt mixture and blend well.

Essential oil alternatives

If you’d prefer not to use essential oils, you can use skin safe fragrance oils or a bit of your favorite perfume. Just be absolutely sure anything you add is made to use on skin. I would use the same method for adding the fragrance as for essential oils.

Storing your Aromatherapy bath Salts

For the best results, store your bath salts in an airtight container. I like using glass canning jars because they are reusable, the essential oils don’t get embedded into the glass, and they are pretty. If you choose to use glass too, just be careful not to drop them in the tub.

Aromatherapy bath salts

I do offer aromatherapy bath salts in my shop, so check them out if you’d prefer not to make them yourself. 🙂

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Aromatherapy for healing the Mind and Body

two clear glass bottles with liquids

 

Aroma is very powerful. We all have certain scents that bring back memories or evoke certain thoughts and feelings. It’s no wonder, then, that for thousands of years people have used scents to evoke a physical response and to heal. Strong evidence was found to link aromatherapy to many ancient traditions. Though aromatic oils have been used to treat and cure various ailments and conditions for centuries, the formal study on their properties only started in 1928.

What is Aromatherapy?

In its simplest form, aromatherapy is the use of scent, usually in the form of essential plant oils for therapeutic purposes. The essential oils are normally used to relieve a person from stress and a variety of stress-related conditions. They are also used for promoting a person’s general well being and invigorating the body and psyche.

How does it work?

Aromatherapy works by inducing our olfactory nerve cells with aromatic oils, which then carries the message to our limbic system in the brain. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for controlling memory and emotions.

Aromatherapy is concerned in the workings of both our physical and emotional selves. Physically, aromatherapy helps in relieving specific conditions by stimulating our nervous, immune and circulatory systems. In emotions, however, they work by evoking pleasant memories and uplifting our mood.

Although the medical community is not in agreement over whether aromatherapy in itself is instrumental to healing various medical conditions, the idea of recovery through aromatherapy is widely accepted. Think of eucalyptus for easing cold symptoms, minty or peppery salves for soothing achy muscles and lavender, rose or frankincense for relieving stress.

How are essential oils made? 

Essential oils are derived from the distillation of the parts of a plant. They can come from the leaves, roots, flowers, stems or bark. They hold the true essence of the plants from which they originally came in high concentration. Though termed as oil, essential oils normally do not have all of the real properties of oil. It is important to note that, like oil, essential oils do not dilute in water. Their high concentration means that they should not be ingested or used without properly diluting them in a carrier oil first.  

clear glass bottles on white surface
Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

How are essential oils used?

Essential oils are used in a variety of methods. A few are through inhalation, by blending them with a carrier oil and adding them to bathwater, or by the application of the diluted oil on the body.

You should only use pure essential oils for aromatherapy. You want to look for 100% essential oils, not fragrance oils when choosing oils for aromatherapy. Be aware, though that labels like “therapeutic grade” do not have a standardized meaning, nor are essential oils FDA approved.

Commonly Used Oils in Aromatherapy

Carrier (base) oils

The following is a list of the most common oils used in aromatherapy. First are the common carrier oils (also known as vegetable oils or base oils).

  • Almond, Sweet
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Avocado
  • Borage
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Coconut
  • Grapeseed
  • Jojoba
  • Olive
  • Rose Hip
  • Shea Butter (carrier)
  • Sunflower

Essential Oils

Next are some of the most commonly used essential oils. Everyone has their own preference, so expect some variation depending on the practitioner. 

  • Frankincense
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sweet Orange
  • Tea Tree
selective focus of essential oil bottles
Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

Essential Oils to Avoid

Below are some essential oils that are not recommended to use in aromatherapy. This is especially true if you are not supervised by a professional, licensed aromatherapist. This is not an extensive list, so please, know your essential oil before using it. Remember, essential oils are highly concentrated. Just because something is safe as a food does not mean it is safe as an essential oil.

  • Almond, Bitter
  • Arnica
  • Birch, Sweet
  • Broom, Spanish
  • Calamus
  • Camphor
  • Garlic
  • Horseradish
  • Mugwort
  • Mustard
  • Onion
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rue
  • Sassafras
  • Thuja
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormwood

Aromatherapy at Work 

You’ll find aromatherapists in a variety of work environments including in private practice, natural health clinics, health clubs, spas and holistic medical practices, among others.

While there is limited formal research on aromatherapy, therapists and physicians often prescribe aromatic essential oils for a range of complaints. These include colds and flus, insomnia, sinusitis, migraines, digestive problems and muscle pains. Most people are familiar with using lavender for insomnia or peppermint and eucalyptus for congestion. While I’ve probably said this about a million times by now, essential oils should never be taken orally. They should also be diluted in a carrier oil and used sparingly at first until you know how you react to them.

Aromatherapy for You

If you’re interested in learning more to begin using aromatherapy yourself, check out my 9 Tips For Aromatherapy Beginners

If you’d like to read some of the research on the medicinal use of essential oils, here are a few articles for you:

The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in Reducing Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work?

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