Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Yeah I know it's coming into winter in the Southern Hemisphere and it's harder to motivate yourself to get outside but seriously, if you do anything this weekend, get yourself into some dense forest, near the ocean, by a waterfall or on a mountain.    Why so specific?   As well as the fact that it is good to get outside and move, it's because of these wee things called Ions. 

What is an ion?  'An ion is a molecule that has lost or gained an electron through various atmospheric forces or environmental influences.'. 

 I have always been aware of how good I felt out at my Nanas house which has dense bush and is close to the West Coast.  But never before have I been so aware of the benefits of being near the ocean, waterfalls, and on a mountain as when I was working in Iceland with McNair Snowsports in April.  I was teaching yoga, cooking, and then we were exerting ourselves through the day climbing on our split-boards over 1000meters and then riding down huge faces...and doing it all again.   I came away from this week feeling simply incredible.  So much so that I've started running again (something I haven't been able to since I suffered from Chronic Fatigue (see 'Sian's Story for more on this)).  So I began questioning why and how and where this excessive energy was coming from.    

In brief, as humans in the modern world we are running 'positively charged'.   

Positive ions are usually carbon dioxide molecules that have been stripped of an electron. They have a negative effect on your body when you are exposed to them in excess, which you are if you are living in a polluted city, in crowded areas, and in confined spaces such as offices, industrial areas, schools and cars.

This is particularly the case with your lungs and respiratory tract but your immune system can also be affected. This is because positive ions are so small they can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream from the air you breathe. 

An excess of positively charged ions in your environment is believed to contribute to tiredness and a lack of energy, tension, anxiety and irritability. 

So lets talk Negative (which is really positive, honestly).   

Negative Ions facilitate the acquisition of oxygen from the air into the lungs, turbo-boosting the functions of the body, improving its defences, which in turn benefits  the entire cardiovascular, endocrine (hormonal) and nervous systems.

Hello nervous system!  For starters negative ions act on the nervous system to relax it. This, in turn, influences various functions of the body, including stimulating the production of red blood cells, the development of healthy cells, raising the blood ph (we want a good non-acidic ph going on in our bodies),  reducing cholesterol in the blood, exerting a beneficial effect on the bronchial tubes, lungs and throughout the nervous system.

So where do we find these negative Ions I hear you cry -  negative ions are in abundance in forests, at the beach, less so, but still, in the mountains and most intensely near waterfalls. This is a good part of the reason why you usually feel so great in these places and find it difficult to be tired or depressed.

So if you aren't convinced by this wee overview to get outside, experiment on yourself, blow dry your hair, talk on your mobile, put some clothes in the drier, use your printer and computer, lie in front of your TV, talk on your phone, (a regular day eh) and see how you feel at the end of the day, compared to a day walking in the bush to a waterfall,  a swim in the ocean, or best of all....go snowboarding in Iceland. 

For more information about purchasing Negative Ionisers have a look on here


Breathing - the key to domestic bliss

I was having a heated discussion with husband earlier in the week about something so trivial I can't recall what it was.  It may have been over the fact I never screw the lids on jars properly, or perhaps it was the state of our Tupperware division (my bad), either way, the moment I took my focus to my breath it all became much like white noise.   Although this served to calm me dramatically, I did notice my long slow deep breath through my nose and my lowering of my lids seemed to only make him more riled.  Mental note, need to teach husband more about breath.  

So, L'aspiration.  For me, yin yoga has been my inroad into breathing properly. Before my diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I was having trouble getting the breath into my lungs.  At that time I didn't understand that I had become a chronic shallow breather and this was a massive contributing factor to a lot of my symptoms.   I remember sitting in the waiting room at my Dr's for the hundredth time thinking omg, I actually can't breath.  Am I having a panic attack?  It was so odd for me, having never been a 'panicy' sort of person, to feel this sensation.   I had always thrived on the buzz of life.  I mean really?  Breathing is something that our body just knows how to do right?   

Onto the next health practitioner,  I was offered the following list: 


  • Fatigue
  • Tension
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Indigestion
  • Chest tightness
  • Compromised immune function

I was so devastated I had to answer yes to everything.  But I couldn't believe that something as simple as the breath could make all of those things disappear. Surely nothing that simple could fix my poor failing body.   I now understand that shallow breathing can cause all of the above.  I was so busy keeping up with life I frequently 'forgot' to breath.  Through my day I was dealing with sick toddlers, a flailing business, an absent husband and my shallow breathing just became a habit, I was emptying too much carbon dioxide out of my blood and my stress levels were just  rising and rising...and thus I was shallow breathing more....and on and on.  


For you folk out there who need the science behind the etherial guff, read on.  Yes, breathing is controlled by the respiratory centre of the brain and is an automatic body function. Relaxed, slow, steady, easy breathing allows for the exchange of gases our cells need to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.

The stress response can cause the breathing pattern to change, lets face it, we all face some sort of stress every day.   I usually ask my clients to notice whether they breath into the chest or belly.   They often use their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of the lungs.  I then ask them if they have neck and shoulder pain and they look surprised as if I have read their mind.   Frequently neck and shoulder pain can be dissipated through the introduction of basic breathing exercises. 

When we breath properly we use the abdomen and diaphragm to suck and exhale air into and out of the lungs, soothing the autonomic nervous system.  Belly breathing can reduce tension in the neck and shoulders, massage the heart, and activate the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for rest and digest) through the phrenic nerve that runs down both sides of the diaphragm.  


Just as the sympathetic nervous system turns on the 'fight or flight' response, stress can be managed and reduced with proper breathing. Although breathing is an automatic body function, we can control it. With a little awareness, we can consciously shift into abdominal breathing, which has been shown to calm the autonomic nervous system and create a relaxation response.  I make a conscious effort to take a few deep breaths before I sit down and eat at every meal (also when I'm on the loo and sitting at traffic lights too). On my inhalation I think 'rest', and on my exhalation I think 'digest'.

Abdominal breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones. Furthermore, it boosts the immune system and promotes a sense of calm. Breathing and meditation assist you to feel high on life.   They balance you, clear your brain and really help in decision-making.  The next time you have a difficult decision, ask yourself the question and then meditate or take 5 deep breaths to your belly. The answer will come from a gut feeling, taking you beyond the thinking mind. Yogis call this dhi or buddhi, which means 'knowingness'.   

If you, like me, find it hard to sit and focus on your breath, get there through movement.  When you are practicing yoga, or doing anything to get the blood pumping, take your mind to your breath.  It's a good way to start.  

The following breathing patterns can be used beyond traditional meditation and applied for immediate stress relief. Need more convincing?  Read about a brilliant Harvard study which gives you living proof.  Link is below the pic.    


Practice in bed in the morning or evening with your knees bent. If sitting in a chair, sit upright so you’re able to support your own spine.  I do this whenever I can, especially before I respond to a heated discussion about lids and Tupperware....

Place your hands on your belly, thumbs at the navel and finger tips below. Allow the belly to expand under your finger tips on the inhale and to contract on the exhale.

Envision an ocean wave: The belly expands on the inhale – the wave rises; the navel contracts on the exhale – the wave returns to the ocean.

If you aren’t getting any movement, press your finger tips gently into your belly so you know it’s contracting on the exhale. Release the press on the inhale.

As the expansion and contraction become more natural, focus on keeping a rhythmic breathing pattern, where the inhale and exhale are equal.

When your mind wanders, call it back in again, sometimes I find it easier to say 'I am inhaling, I am exhaling' or counting, 'inhale 2,3,4, exhale 2,3,4'.  

Take it slowly, be kind to yourself, and in the immortal words of Rachel Hunter  'It won't happen overnight, but it will happen'. 


I breathe to you, god of Tupperware, let my lids all find their bases and the drawer become miraculously tidy by morning  Photo Credit: Melody Sky 

I breathe to you, god of Tupperware, let my lids all find their bases and the drawer become miraculously tidy by morning

Photo Credit: Melody Sky