Coloring and Anxiety

School Nurses see a lot of anxiety

As a school nurse at a very large high school, to say I saw a lot, is an understatement.   Kids came to me with paper cuts, tummy aches, rashes, headaches, anaphylactic reactions to latex, sprains, strains, dislocated shoulders, sore throats, on and on.  But the predominant condition that stands out most is the anxiety and depression, along with self-injury that I saw.  At first, in my inexperience, I thought these kids were coming to the nurse’s office simply to get out of class or to get attention.   As I grew in my assessment skills and awareness, I realized there was something real happening.

Kids came to me saying that they couldn’t breathe, or they felt as though there were having a heart attack. Heart rate and respirations were elevated, sometimes they were sweating, pupils often were dilated. Something physical was happening.  I came to understand that these “frequent fliers”, as became know as, were experiencing physical manifestations of anxiety.  Turns out, it wasn’t all ‘in their head’.

Anxiety is Real

These kids, often high achievers, sometimes introverts, sometimes the forgotten ones…..they were experiencing a host of conditions related to anxiety, stress and depression. Some were taking medications, some weren’t.  Some had supportive teachers and families, some didn’t. Some were highly pressured by their parents to excel, some had parents who seemed to not care at all.  But what they all had in common, was that they were looking for help.  And they saw my office as a place to get it.

This was long before coloring was a “thing”.  Long before adult coloring was cool.  I got the idea that they needed something to take their minds off of their problems, free them, if only for a few minutes, from their worry, their stress, their anxiety, their sadness, their depression.  I went online and found some mandalas and printed them out, bought some markers and colored pencils, and started in intervention for anxiety.

Coloring is the same as meditation

I watched kids go from total panic mode to relaxation just with the act of coloring.  I watched their personalities flow as they colored. Some were Type A, intricate and colored with perfection, others sketched.  Some stayed well within the lines, others ventured outside the lines.  I kept their work, and they’d come back when they needed to, and they’d finish masterpieces.  I had an entire wall of mandalas.  As word got out, I even had some teachers or staff come and color.

Who knew that I was so ahead of the times. Now, it seems, coloring really is “a thing”!

I’m a member of  a coloring club, and I love it.  If you know someone who might benefit from coloring, you should check it out.   It’s so fun, so relaxing, so gratifying.  You’ll see physical change as you or someone you know goes from fight or flight parasympathetic activation, to relaxation and balance.  For a double whammy, I my essential oils diffuser going with a wonderful blend, and forget about it! Don’t even get me started on the bliss that happens.

PennySue Mueller

Penny Mueller
Email: Penny Mueller




Which Essential Oil Should I Buy…Part 2

Is There Really a Difference?

In Which Essential Oil Should I Buy? Part 1, I talked about how essential oils are manufactured, from seed to bottling.  We learned that a lot goes into producing a bottle of essential oil, and that along the way, there are multiple ways that manufacturers and distributors can affect the quality of the oil.

How and Where to Purchase Essential Oils

Now that you know some basics about essential oils, the next step is to find quality therapeutic grade oils. It’s not as easy as you’d think.  I’ve tried over ten different brands of essential oils, and I’m studying to become a certified clinical aromatherapist.  I’d like to think that I’ve learned a thing or two about essential oils, and I’d like to share with you some of what I know.   Read More→

Which Essential Oil Should I Buy?

Why Are Some Essential Oils So Expensive?

Why Are Some Essential Oils So Cheap?

Is There Really a Difference?

People have been asking me what is the best brand of essential oils, so I thought I’d write a post to help clear up some myths and misconceptions about essential oils.

I’ve been using essential oils for several years, and have tried at least ten different brands of essential oils. There are good ones, and there are bad ones.  There are cheap oils, and expensive oils.  Let’s sort through them, shall we?  I’ll show you what to look for in an essential oil, reduce some confusion, and maybe even end up saving you some money, because I’ve wasted a lot of money on cheap oils.  And I will say right up front, that cheaper isn’t better. So, let’s get started.

First off, What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are the lifeblood of the plant.  Just like we have blood that flowing through our bodies, carrying nutrients to all of our cells, essential oils carry nutrient throughout the plant.

Essential Oils Are A Plant’s Life Blood:

  • Carry nutrients to the plant cells
  • Protect the plant from any form of stress
  • Protect the plant against infection and disease
  • Give the plant its characteristic aroma
  • May be found in any portion of the bush, flower, herb or tree.
  • Just like we can’t live without blood, plants can’t live without this essential part of the plant.

Read More→

Why Stress is Bad for Your Heart

Modern life is full of hassles.

Jobs, bills, mortgages, households to run, children to raise, demands, deadlines, frustrations, responsibilities! And then we add on more without even thinking. Continuing our education, working for that promotion, taking on a car payment,  remodeling the house, spinning all those plates and hoping one doesn’t fall.

Whether we realize it or not, whether we like it or not, our body responds.  And we have no control over it.  The nervous system releases a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.  These hormones force the body to go into emergency response. The heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, your senses become sharper.  The purpose of all this is to get you to rise up and meet the challenges that you face.  We are preparing for fight or flight!

Stress related diseases are on the rise and are not only  affecting our ability to cope, but are also destroying our immune function. Read More→

West Wind Healing

Vibration underlies every aspect of life.  

From atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, bodies, and entire systems.  From cellular respiration and division, the heart beat, nerve impulses up and down the spine, to brain waves, our bodies each have their own vibrational signature and rhythm.  This is orderly and organized.  There is no chaos.  The entire body oscillates within its own electromagnetic energy field and subtle energy field.  The body is a vibrant energy system containing the mind, spirit and physical body.

What is Aromatherapy?

In life, our bodies want harmony. Health is a positive energy that flows strong and coherent, while illness and disease manifest as negative, weak, incoherent energies.   When illness or disease are present, they might show up as chemical imbalances, but underlying this is an electromagnetic imbalance that has changed the molecules, cells, tissues and organs of the body.  Healing will occur when a healthy, positive frequency brings the cells back to a state of balance.  This is where energy work and essential oils come in. Read More→

Your Natural Medicine Cabinet and First Aid Kit Part 3

Natural Medicine Cabinet Item #3: Peppermint Oil

Fresh herbs in first aid kitThe third essential for your natural first aid kit and medicine cabinet is Peppermint Oil (mentha piperita), right there next to your Lavender and  Tea Tree oil. Peppermint is another essential oil that is a foundational item for everyone’s medicine cabinet and first aid kit. Peppermint has a fresh, piercing, minty aroma that acts as a dilator, or “opener”in the body. It opens up the lungs and veins to bring more air into the lungs and more blood to the brain. Peppermint can be used as a mental stimulant, to improve memory, increase efficiency and productivity. It is a great way to fight sleepiness, fatigue, and mental fog.

Read More→

Your Natural Medicine Cabinet and First Aid Kit Part 2

Natural Medicine Cabinet  Item #2:   Tea Tree Oil

The second item you need in your natural first aid kit and medicine cabinet is Tea Tree Oil, right there next to your  Lavender. Tea Tree oil  is another essential oil that is a foundational item for everyone’s medicine cabinet and first aid kit. Tea Tree Oil is a basic essential oil, but has countless uses. If you’ve never smelled Tea Tree oil, it is not necessarily aromatically pleasing like lavender, rather it has a medicinal, terpene, antiseptic aroma. Despite the strong odor, it is very gentle and can be used neat (undiluted) on adult skin.

Read More→

Minnesota: winter and road construction; kinda like my life

Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road construction

Road Work Ahead Sign

My life is like road construction

If you’ve ever lived through road construction here, you know all about the countless detours, roadblocks, pot holes, closed off-ramps, closed on-ramps, crumbling bridges that are falling down, and not to mention passive-aggressive drivers (so typical of Minnesota), angry drivers, and buick drivers (you know who I’m talking about…..the ones who won’t take that Buick past 50mph in the fast lane). The roads and bridges in Minnesota are a mess and worry-free routes are few and far between. Kind of like my life: in perpetual road construction.

Over the past several years, I have experienced numerous major life-changing events.

Many of them were purposeful and intentional. Exactly one year ago, I sold my big house of 19 years, bought a tiny cottage near the lake, and had plans to downsize, simplify, get back to basics, unwind, relax, and enjoy life by the lake. The sailing was smooth and the winds were light. I even landed a fabulous job with excellent pay. What could be better? I downsized my mortage payment by 60% and I increase my income by 50%. Finally, things were looking good! But as so often is the trend in my world, fair weather is often short-lived. The winds picked up, the storm blew in, and I got relentlessly slammed in the face, time after time after time, like a Minnesota blizzard in February.

Read More→

An Open Letter to The Administrators at Wayzata High School

An open letter to The Wayzata High School Administrators, Faculty and Staff

June 5, 2014

EDITED 2/21/17.  This little blog post created quite an uproar when I wrote it almost 3 years ago.  I took my daughter out of the school district after the threats I received.  I was threatened and blackmailed to take this post down.  I eventually took it down.  But today, I’m making it public once again as a tribute to yet another life lost.    This is not to implicate Wayzata, we are far removed from the Wayzata Public School district.  This is not to blame anyone, but to implore EVERYONE to please, be aware of depression. Be aware of everyone around you and how they are doing.  Make them know they matter.  Make them know they are loved.   Put up with their moods and their depression and their inability to get out of bed.  Be there for them NO MATTER WHAT.  Stand beside them and walk beside them until they make it out the other side, till they make it out okay.    We need to stop losing young people to suicide.  WE NEED TO BE AWARE.

This letter is also intended as a public letter to the School District Superintendent, School Board, Wayzata Public Schools faculty and staff, all parents, students, family members, community members of the Wayzata Public School District. The purpose of this letter is to ask you this two-fold question:

How many more lives are you going to allow to be sacrificed before you do something about the suicide epidemic that has swept through Wayzata High School, and, what are you going to do about it?

I’m not asking this question as a knee-jerk reaction to the 2 suicides within 4 weeks, nor as a knee-jerk reaction to 4 suicides within 2 years. I’m asking as a concerned community member and parent of 4 Wayzata Public Schools students who have been in the district from kindergarten through graduation.© Cristina Bernhardsen | Dreamstime Stock Photos I come to you as someone who has more than average experience with suicide. I am a registered nurse, a former school nurse to a major Minnesota High School, and someone who has first-hand experience with suicide within my own family. My daughter is a sophomore at Wayzata High School. One of my other daughters recently graduated with the class of 2014. Each of these girls have now had fellow classmates commit suicide.

Yesterday, yet another Wayzata High School student took his own life. How many more lives need to be lost before you address this?

Today, my daughter and her classmates wanted to talk about it in class. I am appalled at what happened next. Her teacher did not even ask them if they needed anything or if they needed to talk. No, instead, her teacher silenced them, shut down the conversation and refused to address it. Basically, as my daughter described it, it was a perfect summation and reflection of the clueless denial that the administration has and its refusal to address this life and death problem. Today I received an email from the Wayzata Public Schools with a link on how to talk to adolescents about death. Are you serious? A link? Two suicides within a month and that’s all you’re going to do to address this epidemic? You’re going to send out a link? There are lives at stake here. People are dying. Do you acknowledge that? Have you asked the question of WHY? Have you asked the question of What is it about Wayzata Public Schools that has created this culture?

Clearly there is a cultural defect within Wayzata schools that has enough influence and impact as to drive these young people to the point of such desperation to conclude that their only option is to end their own lives. If you are honest, you might be able to see it. I can.

I urge you to ask yourselves about the culture at Wayzata Public Schools and Wayzata High School in particular. Take a moment to consider the pressure these young people are under: the stress to succeed—-not just to succeed, but to excel at beyond a college level, AP classes, Honors programs, academic competency tests, college entrance exams, honor roll, honor society, scholarships, financial implications, awards, letters, metals, accolades.

Yes, Wayzata has high academic standards-the best in the State. Yes, Wayzata is a leader in athletics. BUT AT WHAT COST?

In addition to academic and athletic pressure, there is the entirely new phenomenon of social media, in which a student has absolutely NO WAY to escape. There is no way for a student to avoid it, because it is an ONLINE world now. Yet, what is the school’s answer? Yes, it hands out Ipads to every student, just in case they don’t have enough online time, just give them more inability to escape it. More pressure. More stress.


I’m urging you–you’ve got to change something. You’ve got to do something about the culture at Wayzata High School. You’ve got to affect change. You’ve got to relieve the pressure, reduce the stress, and for once, let these kids just be kids. Stop killing them. Please stop letting them die.

Penny Mueller
Wayzata Parent

ADDENDUM (6/12/14) 

To all readers, there has been an overwhelming response to this controversial blog post. Due to the nature of the comments, I’ve found it necessary to add some rules to keep all conversations on this blog civilized.

The rules for commenting:
1. First and last name are required. No screen names. No more hiding in anonymity.
2. Verifiable email address.
3. If you wish to protect your identity (if you’ve been a victim, attempted suicide, have a sensitive story to tell, etc.) leave your comment and I will privately contact you and discuss editing to protect you yet still share your story.
4. Reminder: this is a blog written by a private individual. Reading it is optional. Disagreements are welcome as long as they are constructive and respectful.
5. All comments published are at the discretion of the editor.

The next blog post will be about Bullying in Wayzata. If you have a story that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you. Again, all victims identities will be protected.

do not say anything in the dark that you wouldn’t say in the light

The many benefits of coconut oil

Returning to nature for your medicine cabinet doesn’t require exotic ingredients. In fact, I mostly stick with easily obtainable, simple ingredients.  One of my absolute favorite additions to my natural medicine cabinet is  COCONUT OIL. Organic, virgin coconut oil.

trader joes coconut oilYou’ll see arbitrary language on coconut oil labels. The main thing to keep in mind is virgin, or cold pressed.  Here is what Trader Joe’s says about their organic coconut oil: “To make our Organic Virgin Coconut Oil our supplier starts with freshly harvested coconuts that are de-husked and grated. Then, when the meat of the coconut is still fresh, it’s cold pressed and filtered to remove any remaining pieces of the fruit. That’s the process. Nothing more. Some coconut oil is extracted using high heat, chemicals and even bleach. Not ours. Producing the oil in this more pure, natural way, we are able to retain the nutrients, flavor characteristics and aromas of fresh coconuts. Use Organic Virgin Coconut Oil in cooking – it stands up to relatively high heat and imparts a distinctive flavor – in salad dressings, for baking, and even as a moisturizer for dry skin. It’s true! It will fluctuate from a liquid to a solid state, depending on the temperature at which it’s stored, so don’t be surprised when you see liquid in a jar that’s been stored in a hot pantry.” Read More→