Saturday, September 30, 2023

“Everyone Said, ‘You’re Just Busy and Getting Older’ But I Knew There Was More to It!” – One Woman’s Chronic Fatigue Battle

Sara Higgens, founder of the health centre Hana, on her own journey with chronic fatigue and how she started to heal her body.

It’s never been the kind of colour to invoke calm and tranquillity. It’s the anxiety inducing fuel light that pops up on your dashboard; the traffic light that brings you to a halt when you’re already late; the indication that your account is overdrawn, the speeding fire-engine…

Well, this week I’ve had my mindset changed on red, because it turns out, it’s darn important for our wellbeing.

We’re all coming to understand that what we’re doing right at this moment – hunching over a screen – is hitting us with blue light all day long (and all night too, if we’re sitting in bed scrolling!) All that blue light is sending our body the wrong messages about what time of day it is – quite royally screwing up melatonin production and stopping us from getting a good night’s sleep.

I’ve raved about infrared saunas before, because for me, they help me sleep better and calm down some of the more frustrating symptoms of my auto-immune condition (mainly muscle and joint pain, numbness and tingling).

Sara Higgins (image supplied)

This week I talked to Sara Higgins, who has opened up a wellness centre in Auckland’s Grey Lynn, named Hana – which translates in Te Reo Māori to shine and to radiate love and warmth. Her centre brings together various therapies, including infrared saunas (they’re available for 45 mins a pop) and Photobiomodulation (red light) therapy pods (for up to 20 minutes).

Sara’s a former pharmacist with a background in nutritional and environmental medicine, who found herself on the other side of her profession, when she began feeling unexplained fatigue and mind-fog. “It first happened when I started a new job, and I explained it away as being that, but six months later I was feeling the same and I felt I just had to get to the bottom of what was going on.”

Her journey saw her visit functional doctors, naturopaths, taking various supplements, heavy metal collation – basically any treatment she could find, she says. “For a while I thought it was my thyroid, then my adrenals – I’d start taking treatments, and feeling a bit better, then I’d plateau. People kept saying to me, ‘Oh, you’re busy and this is just part of getting older!’ And I thought, ‘No, that’s not it. I’m only 30 – I’m too young to feel like this!”

Sara was working in a pharmacy at the time – in her last couple of years in the industry she worked at a holistic pharmaceutical company – and began noticing just how many people were coming in with similar complaints. “We’d have clients coming in at the end of their tether trying to find out what was wrong with them.”

One of the treatments she sought was infrared saunas, recommended by her naturopath, And she began to see just how big of an impact emotional health can play in our physical wellbeing. Eventually she decided to leave her job to start up her own holistic health business, Hana. “I was looking for a change because I didn’t think it was feasible for my health to keep my old job up. I had staff to manage, and to be honest there were parts of it I was passionate about, but there were other parts I really wasn’t. You’ve got to love what you’re doing – it’s essential for your emotional health, and your overall health. I could see long-term it wasn’t going to work out.”

Now Sara is an advocate for slowing down, finding truly nourishing ways to relax and unwind. “We all live such busy lives now, and our health is suffering. So many people rely on taking a handful of supplements, but it’s not a good long term solution.”

Your go-to at the end of a busy day, may be a glass of red wine and to plonk yourself in front of your telly, or your phone for a mindless scroll – but Sara suggests we replace that with a wind down with a gentle walk in nature, a meditation session, or perhaps time in an infrared sauna – or even a boost from one of her Photobiomodulation (red light) therapy pods.

As Sara explains, the red light in the therapy pods is “similar to the LED facial ones you’ll see in clinics. It’s good for collagen production, tone and texture, reducing wrinkles and scars – including acne and stretch marks. Then the near infrared wave length – which is invisible light – that’s really good for stimulating cellular energy, and restoring mitochondrial function. It helps with muscle recovery and seems to help with health conditions that include inflammation, including autoimmune conditions like arthritis.”

Inside, it feels a bit like lying inside a sun-bed that’s actually good for you – just minus the heat (and those damaging UV rays!!). In 20 minutes my joint pain is definitely on the improve – and after I follow it up with a 45 minute infrared sauna, I’m feeling ten times calmer and more relaxed. I’m a red light convert!


For more on our Invisible Illness series, visit here

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