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Tame Your Moods, De-Stress, and Find Balance Using Herbal Remedies, Aromatherapy, and More
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What is Moodtopia? It simply means being in control of your moods so they’re not in control of you! Sara-Chana Silverstein should know. Go-to Master herbalist RH(AHG), and classical homeopath, Sara-Chana has walked thousands of women through a focused, natural regimen that nourishes their physical, emotional, and spiritual lives. Packed with hundreds of tools, tips, and strategies, Moodtopia is a practical, easy-to-use guide to herbs, adaptogens, aromatherapy, color therapy, feng shui, intuition, homeopathy and so much more. Sara-Chana shares the best natural remedies to help combat stress, anxiety, and promote peace of mind and general health. She shows how herbs and other natural approaches are a gentle way to enhance one’s emotional state without having to resort to antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, or other medications that may have unwanted side effects. With an easy-to-implement 90-day program, Moodtopia teaches women to harness the power of nature coupled with their own inner strength to achieve optimal emotional and mental wellness.
Moods: Can’t Live with Them, Can’t Live Without Them
FACING THE CHALLENGE
Life is a train of moods like a string of beads; and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses, which paint the world their own hue, and each shows us only what lies in its own focus.
—RALPH WALDO EMERSON
MY OLDEST DAUGHTER WAS SUBSTITUTE TEACHING AT A PRESCHOOL WHEN I received a call from her just as I was getting ready to work out at the gym.
“Mom, it’s so weird,” she said, sounding a little worried. “My right arm is tingly and numb, and I just don’t feel right.”
“Do you want me to pick you up, or can you take the subway home?” I asked.
“Why don’t you come get me?” she replied. An independent millennial, this was so unlike her. I quickly changed back into my street clothes and was reaching for my car keys when she called again.
“Now my left arm is numb,” she reported.
“Call an ambulance,” I advised, breathless now from anxiety. “I’m on my way.”
As I arrived, the EMT informed my daughter that she hadn’t had a heart attack or a stroke. This news was not greeted with joy. “A stroke?” she said incredulously to the EMT. “Of course, I didn’t have a stroke. I’m twenty-seven years old!” We called our family doctor in Brooklyn, and he told us to come straight to him. Together, we’d decide how to proceed.
My daughter slowly walked to the car, and I drove to our doctor. The numbness continued unabated, and within two hours, she had lost all sensation in her body from the shoulders down. She had become a quadriplegic. After three weeks in the hospital, the prognosis was that she would be bedridden for the rest of her life. Her doctors gave up on her and were preparing to send her to a nursing home where she would spend the rest of her life. Oh. My. G-d.
The doctors diagnosed that she had transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the whole spinal cord that severely and (usually) irreversibly damages the nerve fibers. An acute form of this disorder can come on within sixty minutes, and sadly, this was my daughter’s diagnosis and prognosis. How could this have happened? After many false starts and turns down blind alleys, the best we could figure was that, because a few months earlier she’d been hit by a tow truck, the accident might have caused an undetected blood clot in her spine.
I am the mother of seven children. Over the years, I’d learned to balance my parenting duties with my full-time career as a master herbalist, classical homeopath, and lactation consultant. But now, I had to set aside my former life and spend nearly four months living at the hospital 24/7 with my stricken daughter, after which we were transferred to a rehab facility for three more months.
I’d made a vow that I would stay positive with my daughter, but I was finding it impossible those first few weeks. This was the most challenging time of my life. Some days, when I would leave the hospital to buy us food, I wouldn’t even look both ways when crossing the street, in the secret hope that I’d be hit by a car and be put out of my misery. Other times, I just wished I could open the window on the twelfth floor of her hospital room and throw myself out. To see my daughter unable to even scratch herself if she was itchy or wipe her eyes when she cried was too much for me to bear.
Before this tragedy, I’d been organizing my thoughts for this book. I’d spent many years helping women understand their emotions. I’d taught them how to empower themselves rather than drown in their feelings, and here I was, facing what surely must be the most difficult test a human could endure, and I felt I was failing. I was a hypocrite. I would duck out of the hospital room and bawl in the stairwell so loudly that the sound reverberated off the walls. With no hope to be found, I was a disaster… I hadn’t slept in two weeks, couldn’t eat, and could barely speak. I would collapse on the bathroom floor down the hall, unable to breathe, my body convulsing in sobs.
But then, one day, Nurse Rita showed up. No… she didn’t come to our rescue—or maybe she did, but in a backhanded way. You see, Rita was nasty; Rita was negative; Rita was sour. I wasn’t even aware of how kind and wonderful the other nurses were until I encountered one who was mean. But she did do something right: she lit a fire under me. I decided that even if I didn’t make it through this test, I would muster the courage to help my child. I would help her find her strength so that she would stay positive and in control of her emotions rather than getting lost in the moods that this horrible injury had created. I made a decision to not let my feelings dominate my actions. I would rise above them. I would create an environment of healing for my daughter.
First, I’d had enough of grumpy nurses like Rita and frustrated doctors who treated my daughter as if she were a “hopeless case,” so I hung a huge sign on the door of her room saying, “You can only enter if you’re smiling and nice.” I barred access to anyone who would bring negative energy. I discovered what time the nurse in charge picked the staff for the following day and demanded that my daughter receive care from only those who were upbeat and surrounded her with positive energy.
Next, I decided to “fake it” with my daughter since she wasn’t in a position to handle my reactions—and it was unfair for me to foist them on her. After throwing up in the bathroom from grief, I would clean myself up and then walk into her hospital room with a grin on my face. I helped her respond to her friends’ texts and e-mails. They started arranging delicious meals for us. We became proactive. (Okay, I did cave sometimes. I am only human, after all. But I worked on it.)
I changed whatever I could in the hospital environment. I didn’t touch the monitors and medical equipment, but no one considered what my daughter needed to feel safe—so that was something I could do. For instance, I moved the bed and furniture around so she could immediately see who was entering the room. I sprayed different essential oils daily so we didn’t have to smell the sad odors of the hospital. I purchased fresh flowers every day and taped get-well cards on the walls from her friends and hand-drawn pictures from their kids. I found the funniest photo in Vogue of high-fashion boots that looked exactly like the heavy medical ones she had to wear to prevent her feet from getting stuck in one position. We got a hoot out of that.
I bought her T-shirts and leggings in her “color palette” so she looked stunning every day. The colors really made her feel better. I washed and brushed her hair and polished her nails with her favorite color. I found a little garden area outside and brought my daughter there in the wheelchair when the doctors finally allowed me to take her out. Every frustration pushed me to find a positive solution. Every no I heard from the doctors, I changed into a maybe as I became the foremost authority on transverse myelitis.
And as for self-care, the smile on my face (even if it was plastered on), essential oils, pictures, flowers, colors, and positive energy helped me, too. I also took herbs every day to soften my sadness and anger. Certainly, my herbs couldn’t fix the problem, but they helped temper my reactions.
After our first two months in the hospital, I realized that I was incorporating into my handling of this crisis all the tools I’d planned to write about in this book. The best part was that they were really helping my daughter and me. I began coping in ways I’d never thought possible. The guidelines I share here kept me together enough to enable me to encourage my daughter to heal. I was able to hold my emotions steady (not always, but at least most of the time), and I was able to learn which doctors I could cry to and which were turned off by tears. I learned how to control my anger unless I could use it to get my child what she needed. In fact, while I had been working with women on stabilizing their moods and emotions for years, I learned more about moods and emotions in those eight months than I had in my whole life before then.
The best news is that by the time I was able to start writing, my daughter was defying all odds and predictions. Rather than being bedridden and paralyzed for the rest of her life, she is now out of the hospital on her way to a full and complete recovery.
She’s a hero. And I’m a survivor.
WHAT IS MOODTOPIA?
Moodtopia means being in control of your moods so they don’t control you. Plain and simple. It means being able to identify your mood, acknowledge that it’s real and okay, but also decide whether it works to benefit you and those around you in any particular moment. It doesn’t mean being euphoric or happy all the time—that’s an impossible and actually unwanted goal! But it does mean having greater awareness about your moods and how to manage them.
Although you may never encounter the dire circumstances I did with my daughter, most likely you will find yourself in a stressful situation that can trigger moodiness. We all do! In fact, emotional extremes are part of what makes us human—they’re hardwired into our brain and our hormonal system… they help us bond with our children, decode what our partner is feeling even before a word is spoken, empathize with those in need, and communicate passionately.
Our feelings are a large part of what makes us tick. They are real and true. But after spending decades helping women, raising my own children, and being a woman myself, I know that moodiness is a problem for many of us. It’s a question that comes up when I work with teens, new moms and dads, grandparents, and even little girls and boys. Sometimes our feelings get the better of us. Whether or not it’s hormonal, we can find ourselves crabby and irritable. We’re short-tempered and easily triggered; passionate and intense. We get hijacked by our anxiety or anger and suddenly we’re out of control, yelling at our children, acting spitefully toward our mother, or sulking in a corner… resentful and even bitter over a girlfriend’s snub or a sister’s unkind remark. Unfortunately, these negative emotions as well as the darker energy that leaks out of us at these difficult times are destructive not only to our own well-being but also to the happiness of the people we love.
These strong feelings arise at all stages of our life. We all know about the moodiness of the “terrible twos,” and let’s not even get into teenagers’ mood swings! Although women often attribute moodiness to their menstrual cycle, we all know that the nonhormonal times can be just as emotionally challenging.
Most individuals who struggle with moods feel they’ve either experienced or are currently suffering lots of stress. Anxiety and tension change the way your body functions chemically and how your mind responds emotionally. But there are many actions you can take to help you. Taking herbs, for instance, pampers, supports, and nourishes your body and brain. Herbs can help end the cascade of negative chemicals that flood you when you’re frazzled. And when you stop this cascade, you can ultimately learn to be in control of your moods so they don’t control you—a state of Moodtopia.
My intention in writing this book is to help you find your own Moodtopia. We all handle our moods uniquely. Some of us hold them in and get stomachaches and headaches; some act out; and others seem contained but in actuality are like pressure cookers ready to explode. On the other hand, some of us should be handed awards because we’ve figured out how to handle our waves of emotions and express them appropriately. We know that stress is a real ingredient to poorer health outcomes as we age. We need to ask ourselves: Is the situation we’re in so stressful that it warrants the flood of emotions we’re feeling? Or are the emotions we’re expressing more problematic than the situation at hand? If we could learn to understand our emotional responses and feel more in control of them, would we then feel less stressed? More balanced? I believe we would.
Now this may seem like an impossible goal because, as we all know, bad things do happen to good people and everyone has cruddy days, cruddy months, and even cruddy years. A good cry, shrieking like a banshee, wanting to throw a plate across a room, or yelling at other drivers through a closed car window is appropriate more often than one would expect. But I also believe that as we battle through this crazy world, we need to be able to gain control of our moodiness. The best way to do this is with awareness.
With some thought, insight, tools, and effort, we can harness these negative feelings and use them to our benefit—and not let them get in the way of our happiness. From my experience with thousands of clients, I have learned that most of us have not been given the skills to recognize these feelings or prevent them from dominating us. Although this moodiness factor is inborn in all of us, in our fast-paced culture today, it’s hardly attended to. So, despite our best intentions, our roller-coaster emotions are infectious, spreading to the people we least want to hurt, leading people around us down a rabbit hole of angst and distress. And who wants that?
HERBS AND MORE TO THE RESCUE
Moodtopia will give you the understanding, the observational skills, and the tools to change your life in just three months! The information in this book will allow you to be the master of your emotions. It will show you how to approach your moods from unique perspectives, from understanding the “Cycle-of-Sanity” to identifying and relying on your intuition, to seeking help from medicinal herbs, to attending to the colors you wear, and the way you decorate your home. This multidimensional approach has been very successful in my practice with thousands of women over the last twenty-five years. And it’s what helped me and my daughter extricate ourselves from the depths of our darkest moments.
As I mentioned, I am a master herbalist RH (AHG), classical homeopath, and board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). I am also a TV and radio health expert, keynote speaker, businesswoman, wife, and the mother of five boys born in close succession and two girls. (Yes, I have a lot of energy!) For over twenty-five years, I‘ve worked with nearly twenty thousand women, helping them achieve the healthy state they desire, guiding them on how to give birth naturally, teaching mothers to successfully and painlessly breastfeed their babies, and most important as relates to this book, helping them deal with mood swings that can disrupt the peace in their home.
I see clients over the course of their life—often two to four times a year as a complement to their relationship with their family doctor. So many today want to approach their ailments naturally and to support any medical treatments with holistic remedies. Just as I successfully provide the latter to my patients, I can also help you find alternative ways to deal with your emotional ups and downs. Safe and proven medicinal herbs may be just what you need to help you improve your life not only for your own well-being but also for the sake of those you love.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
The healing path and specific cures in Moodtopia are based on the treatments and steps I teach and suggest to women in my practice. It encompasses many dimensions—physical, emotional, and spiritual.
In truth, there’s a gap between feeling anxious and blue and needing antidepressants, antianxiety pills, or other mood-related medications. Here’s where herbs step in. They’re a gentle, natural way to enhance your emotional state and nourish your nervous system so you can withstand the stresses of modern life without the potential unwanted side effects medications can have (although I do not oppose them since I’ve seen that, for some, they can be lifesavers). Indeed, if you are struggling with depression and/or serious anxiety, panic attacks, and other psychological issues that last more than a few days, herbs can be a life-enhancing relief. But if you don’t see improvements with the herbs, then it’s important to seek the advice of your doctor, therapist, psychologist, or a master herbalist, since clinical depression can be dangerous. And, if you are taking any medications, check with your health-care provider before taking herbs, for any contraindications.
Taken together, my advice can help turn moodiness and a sense of feeling overwhelmed into cheer and calmness. And with an attitude of fun and adventure, you—and everyone around you—will flourish.
FALLING MADLY IN LOVE WITH HERBS: THE MAKING OF AN HERBALIST
When I was a senior at the University of California, I was invited, through a Yale University drama program, to study Shakespeare and Chekhov at Oxford University. England! Hurray! But while my fellow students were happily analyzing these literary titans, I could be found sitting on the floor of the local health food store, poring over Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss and Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy—definitely not what Yale had in mind.
Why had I become so interested in herbs and healing? I’d had severe childhood allergies; I survived on allergy shots and antihistamines. The allergies continued to plague me through young adulthood, and once again I found myself struggling, but this time I was far from home and my regular doctor. There had to be a better way to treat my allergies, so I turned to the massive Oxford library and my love of research to look for answers.
These authors presented a different way to look at medical problems. They advocated using herbs, breathing, walks, and healing massage. Absorbing what these books had to offer, I realized that it was possible for all of us to heal ourselves and our family with plants. I understood that the world had within it all the healing properties we would ever need.
In my tiny dorm room at Oxford, I began making decoctions of herbs. Glass jars filled with floating flowers, leaves, twigs, and roots were lined up on my desk. As I took herbs, my allergies started getting better, my sleep improved and my overall energy was more consistent. Over the next few years, back in the United States, I pursued the artistic life as a ballet dancer, and the herbs I continued to take relieved muscle pain and kept my muscles strong. I felt a big difference in my performances.
Ten years after my awakening to botanicals at Oxford, I found myself sitting in a class on herbs in Manhattan with a group of New Age hippies from all over the tristate area. They all lived in rural communities. I took the train in from Brooklyn in my high heels and coral nail polish, with my sunglasses perched on my head—not your typical herbalist. I was there to learn as much as I could to help myself. One thing stands out in my mind from that time. During one of her lectures, our teacher said, “If you want to heal someone, just see what grows around their house.”
Oh no, I thought. I live in Brooklyn. What do we have? Fire escapes, exhaust fumes, concrete, and dog poop? Nothing grows where I live. I spoke to the teacher after class and told her I thought her comments didn’t apply to my situation. She threw The Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants into my hand and said, “Walk around your neighborhood and open your eyes.”
I grabbed my husband and begged him to join me in a walk. Within the first two blocks around my building, we found ten medicinal herbs. Like the rose in Spanish Harlem, they were poking out of cracks in the concrete in alleys, along the curbs under parked cars, in rain gutters, and through crevices in building foundations. They were all around me, if I’d only pay attention!
It wasn’t long after this class that I became a mom and soon found my children dealing with serious allergies that the pediatrician couldn’t control with standard medicines. I turned to herbs with new commitment and the wise herbal treatments of a neighborhood Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner. To my amazement, what my allopathic doctor could not cure in my daughter, my Chinese herbalist could. She no longer needed a tissue in her hand at all times, she stopped snoring like a truck driver, and the bags under her eyes began to recede. Her skin returned to a rosy glow, and her eyes sparkled. When my second child was born with eczema and began a similar wheezing-and-chronic-stuffy-nose pattern, I knew that I had to study herbal medicine and homeopathy professionally. I began a five-year homeopathic training program and upon graduation, I plunged into my training in botanical herbal medicine. In the end, I completed five years of homeopathic and two additional years of herbal training. During this same period, I also became an international board certification lactation consultant, logging in 2,500 clinical hours of breastfeeding training.
DISCOVERING THE EMOTIONAL-HEALING PROPERTIES OF HERBS
Until my children were born, I’d used herbs for purely physical issues. I’d learned that botanicals helped lower blood sugar, increase thyroid function, support the liver, and reduce high blood pressure. But I never believed they could soothe emotional issues until I experienced it myself.
When I first learned about the herb motherwort, I was intrigued but dubious. It could reduce my gloominess? Really? So, I decided to try it on myself. When I became crabby and took motherwort, the gray cloud that was ready to envelop my body and flip my mood dissipated in twenty minutes. I was able to rationally articulate what I was feeling and shed the skin of a helpless victim of my emotional state. What a revelation! I learned to anticipate what would make me moody… if I was going to be in that kind of situation, I would run for the motherwort. As I did more research into the world of botanicals, I started using other herbs to modulate my moods. As a result, I was able to communicate better and be a calmer parent—especially as the mother of seven children.
Imagine this scenario: At three forty-five each afternoon, my five sons would burst into our small apartment punching, yelling, throwing their clothes on the furniture, dropping their cereal all over the place… letting off steam after a tough day at school. But instead of screaming at them, I would take a dropperful of an herb called skullcap and chill out. I didn’t grit my teeth, my stomach wasn’t in knots, and I didn’t explode because my floor was covered with smashed crackers, books, and jackets. Skullcap is my go-to herb for stress. It wouldn’t change the reality of what was happening around me—no, boys will still be boys. Rather, it changed how I reacted to the noisy chaos. The motherwort and skullcap helped me get through those times with more grace and aplomb than anyone could have reasonably expected.
I realized herbs could benefit the women in my growing practice as well. My many interactions with my patients taught me their issues were often multidimensional. Although they were coming in for a breast infection or their child’s chronic ear infections, their moodiness seemed a more pressing issue. I knew that with my herbal education, I would be able to help them gain better control of their emotional states. I started to apply to the women in my practice the mood-healing remedies I developed for myself. I began educating them about which herbs were available. Much to our shared delight, my clients’ moods improved appreciably. And they were happier mothers and wives, sisters, and neighbors for it.
Remember, herbs will not fix or change the situation that’s creating your nervousness, stress, or anxiety. But they will help calm your system, make you less reactive, and allow you to find better ways to problem-solve. The remedies you’ll find in Part 2 of this book are the same ones I’ve been recommending for decades to those who come to me for help. Over the course of the years, I learned that if people are taught about their predisposition to moodiness at an early age, they’ll realize this is normal and just the way they are hardwired. And if they are also taught the skills needed to control their moods, including the use of herbal remedies, they’ll feel empowered to establish attainable emotional goals and not feel victimized by the ebb and flow of their own internal states.
- "Our moods regulate our biology and in turn our biological well-being regulates our moods/emotions. In this book, Sara-Chana Silverstein shows you how you can enjoy the experience of a joyful energetic body, a loving compassionate heart, a restful alert mind and lightness of being.—Deepak Chopra, MD
- "With all of the confusing mixed messages we get about how to manage and control our moods, Sara-Chana Silverstein has masterfully created a beautiful handbook for those of us looking to think outside of the box!"—Mayim Bialik
- "What a breath of fresh air! While the world may seem whirling out of control, there are simple daily steps, and natural remedies, easily within your reach that you can take to reclaim calm, peace, and joy in your life."—Aviva Romm, MD, author of The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution
- "I love a good shortcut to looking and feeling great; Sara-Chana's tips help you get back to your best self with nature's best medicine."—Christie Brinkley
- "Silverstein offers plant-based remedies designed to ease stress, soothe moods and support the liver, which, as the body's main detox organ, helps clear out noxious substances that can affect mental balance."—Energy Times
- "Like the best self-help books, [Moodtopia] takes case studies and the author's experience to create an illuminating read."—Library Journal
- "Sara-Chana captures tricky mood changes with authority. She lights a beacon for anyone seeking straight answers. Her emphasis on optimism and choice is right in line with her hard-nosed realism. Her Cycle-of-Sanity allows folks to use 'negative' feelings to get 'unstuck' quickly."—Amanda McQuade Crawford, MA, Dip. Phyto., RH (AHG) founding member, ABC advisory board member, MCPP Licensed Marriage Family Therapist
- "Packed from cover to cover with hundreds of tools, tips, and strategies...A practical, easy-to-use guide to herbs, adaptogens, aromatherapy, color therapy, feng shui, intuition, homeopathy and so much more."—Midwest Book Review
- "Silverstein offers a powerful alternative to pharmaceutical solutions. If negative moods keep interrupting your life, you may find relief by adopting the multidimensional approach taught in [Moodtopia]."—Taste for Life
- "[Moodtopia] will help you understand and take control of those roller-coaster emotions."—Herbal Remedies
- On Sale
- Aug 28, 2018
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books