Stress, Me and the Honey Bee

In his book ‘Becoming Supernatural’, Joe Dispenza likens living in a state of chronic stress to driving with one foot on the break, the other on the accelerator. Well, I’ve never actually tried it but when I read this I knew how it felt. It perfectly described how life used to be for me. Living in a state of stress had become ‘normal’. So much so, I had no idea there was anything wrong. Until, of course, to continue the metaphor, the damn wheels came off.

Now it’s a different story. I am much more aware, and know how to return my mind and body to a state of calm and when I do, I also get to experience joy, gratitude, love and just feeling pretty good about life. These emotions cannot be truly felt when we’re chronically stressed as the mix of chemicals that get released into the bloodstream when we’re stressed are very different to those that are triggered by higher emotions. And they can’t all be there at the same time.

That’s not to say it’s always easy. My old stress-inducing habits can creep up on me because sometimes, I still don’t think I’m good enough. Being aware though, means I can change my state at will. One day last week, I got some help from an unexpected source.

Sitting in my conservatory, I was doing some admin work on my website and social media (not my favourite job). I could feel my stress levels rising and knew my thoughts of lack of self-belief were intruding and threatening to overwhelm me. I stopped what I was doing, took a deep breath and glanced down at the floor. There, crawling in front of my foot was a honey bee and he looked in a bad way. He’d obviously been trapped in there all night and was literally, on his last legs.

Now wild honey bees are a rare and beautiful thing so I knew I had to get him outside pretty quickly. I scooped him onto a piece of paper and tossed him gently out of the window. No sooner had I let him go, I realised he’d landed in a thick, sticky spider’s web. I was horrified! I couldn’t just sit and watch the poor thing struggle to his demise.

So it began, operation bee rescue. I went outside, plucked him from the web and brought him back into the house. His body was wrapped tightly in the viscous strands and he was barely moving. I went to get my tweezers and nail file and set to work. Piece by piece I began by holding him down with the nail file and untangling him with the tweezers, freeing one leg and each wing at a time.

He was lying on his side, very still, so when I’d done all I could to remove the web, I mixed together a honey and water solution, put a small drop on a saucer and laid the bee gently next to it, propping it up on it’s crumpled legs. To my relief, he started drinking down the sugary nourishment.

They say bees get drunk on nectar, and I reckon that’s what happened. When he’d had his fill, he began thrashing around, unable to walk. He kept falling over and finally fell into the honey and water. This seemed to be going from bad to worse.

For a moment I thought he’d OD’ed! Maybe he’d just passed out, he was certainly very still. As a last ditch attempt to save him, I scooped him back onto a piece of paper, placed him in the sunlight to warm up and dry off (or maybe sleep it off!). Anyway, I watched him closely, looking for signs of life. I noticed he was breathing, and within a few minutes he began to stretch his wings, laying them out to catch the sun’s rays. Gradually, he started to move his wobbly legs and finally grooming his head, body, legs and wings to remove every last trace of web, honey and anything else that shouldn’t have been there.

He took his time until, gathering strength and energy and with all the grace and magnificence of his species, he rose triumphantly into the air. I managed to coax him outside and I can’t tell you how bloody great I felt as I watched him fly off into the garden to live his life.

Now, what’s that got to do with stress?

After nearly killing him, I had two choices, leave him, feel bad and go back to telling myself how useless I am at social media or interrupt my thinking, change my focus and do my best to help, feel compassion and work calmly and mindfully at trying to save him.

I had no idea if I’d succeed or not, only that I could try. The outcome wasn’t really in my control, but the process was. And the process was about being in the moment and it changed my state. By the time that bee had flown away, I was feeling a whole range of positive emotions. And when you feel calmness, compassion, empathy, joy, gratitude and downright chuffed, there’s no room for stress.

I hope the little fella is still out there somewhere, getting drunk on nectar, doing other bee things and keeping out of conservatories!

Thanks to my good friend Charlotte Kessler for allowing me to use her beautiful Honey Bee artwork in this blog.

https://www.charlottejanekessler.co.uk/

Coming through the menopause: My Story.

When Irene from One Dream One Vision approached me in July and asked if I’d tell the story of my menopause experience in a podcast interview, I was delighted. I’d never done a podcast before but had enjoyed listening to many. I like the feeling of listening in to a conversation that is both entertaining and informative.

So, here was my chance to ‘go public’ with what happened to me during my enforced menopause, due to cancer treatment.

In the podcast I share my journey of discovery. From struggling with anxiety, losing my confidence, almost my sanity and walking away from a 22 year teaching career, to understanding that it doesn’t have to be that way and to a new and rewarding lifestyle.

Take a listen to how I made changes to nutrition and mindset to overcome many of the debilitating symptoms brought on by a combination of drugs, fear and imbalances in hormones. How I realised that although the menopause is a natural phase of life, the way we live it often isn’t! I learned that food really is medicine from nutritional experts such as Dr Marilyn Glenville https://www.marilynglenville.com/ and I learned to listen to my body and go with what it needed rather than fighting it and above all, I changed my mind.

I chose to come off and stay off medication, to find new habits, to stick to my core values and beliefs around health and to take action to change how I felt about myself, to nourish my mind and body and to enjoy this amazing and precious gift of life I have.

Treatment, T cells and Walking in Nature.

I’ve always been something of a rebel. Not in the ‘outrageous behaviour’ type of way. Just quietly refusing to conform, at times, when it’s felt like the right thing to do. Sometimes that has meant having real courage. The courage of my own convictions. Occasionally, it’s got me into trouble but mostly, it’s meant learning, growth as a person and maybe even a life-saver.

In the summer of 2010 I began the long process of recovery. The wonderful medical staff referred to this as my ‘treatment plan’. I called it ‘healing’, mind, body and soul.

The treatment plan involved surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and would take around nine months, followed by eight years of medication to rid my body of excess oestrogen to prevent the cancer returning.

The healing journey started on 16th June 2010, the day of my diagnosis…and is ongoing. It began with a question: why me? I’ve never believed things ‘just happen’ and so I soon realised that I’d been living with chronic stress for years. And that chronic stress downgrades the immune system, and the result, for me, was breast cancer. So I chose to find out how I could change the things in my life that were creating it, that included my environment, the food I ate, the people I was around, and most importantly, the thoughts I had – about myself, other people and the world around me. I learned that the thoughts we have repeatedly trigger the release of chemicals in our body – and for those thoughts that don’t serve us well – those chemicals are stress hormones.

I did conform, at first. Too bloody terrified not to. In the summer I had the surgery to remove the tumour. Afterwards, I went with my husband to our favourite Greek Island to relax, to swim in the Mediterranean sea and walk barefoot on the beach. I returned home calmer, stronger, tanned and ready for the next phase.

As Autumn crept closer, so did the chemo and the rebel in me began to stir. Grim-faced nurses informed me I would lose all my hair (everywhere!) and that I would be open to infection so I was to stay indoors on ‘bad’ weeks, not to do any gardening, and to keep warm.

Well, I did lose all of my hair, yet from my first chemo session in September to my last on Christmas Eve I ignored most of the advice. Sure, on days when vomiting was my main activity, I stayed put and rested, but as soon as it stopped I began gardening. Pruning and weeding became my mission, getting rid of the old and dead, anything that stopped and stifled new growth. Just as I was doing with my mind. Being in nature felt instinctive. I didn’t know then that trees actually release chemicals that stimulate natural killer T cells – part of our immune response that not only kill viruses but cancer cells too.

As winter approached, so did the snow and ice as we experienced the worst November and December I could remember. On my ‘bad’ days I watched how beautiful the world looked, covered in white from my window. When I had the energy, I walked miles. I heaved on my red wellies and headed for the local nature reserve. There’s something really mindful about crunching through snow, something peaceful about watching a frozen lake and something magical about winter sunlight through the bare branches.

The new shoots of Spring had begun to emerge as the daily trek for radiotherapy became my new routine. New shoots were sprouting on my body too – my hair was starting to grow back! Radiotherapy left me very tired and yet the more time I spent in nature, the more energised and re-vitalised I felt, breathing in deeply, feeling a sense of gratitude for my life that I’d never known before.

As Spring really came into it’s own, I turned 50, celebrated for weeks, danced, party’ed and then went back to my life. My other life, the one where I became a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunty, teacher and friend. And yet it was not the same, never would be. Over the next three years I began to lose sight of those calm and healing moments in nature. Those moments of joy seemed to disappear as I mourned the old me, felt plagued with fear and tried to get to grips with who I was becoming. I was also struggling with the physical, mental and emotional effects of an enforced menopause, triggered by the drug tamoxifen.

It was then that the rebel in me reared up again and I stopped taking the drug. Within two days I began to feel better. And I made the decision to stay away from tamoxifen and any other drug I was offered in it’s place, for good. I would take my chances. It was then that I sought help from a nutritional therapist and medical herbalist. Patient, wise, kind and caring women who not only provided me with natural alternatives to the pills, they guided me towards change and courage. They helped me to find the new me, or maybe the real me. Someone who could see this life-changing event as a positive. I thought I would always live in fear after 2010, instead I’m learning (yes it’s ongoing) to live in the now, in gratitude and to always walk in nature.