Category — Mental Health
As the new year approaches, many people start focusing on what is to come and putting together their lists of resolutions and other things they want to do differently in the coming year. I personally like to take a moment at the end of the year and make a list of things that made me feel thankful over the past year. I find it to be a calming and encouraging ritual during the craziness of the end-of-year holiday season. While there are many things I’m thankful for personally, this is not my personal musing blog – it’s my nutrition blog! So I thought I’d make a list of a few things in the world of health and nutrition that made me feel thankful this year. Hopefully they make you feel the same!
I am thankful:
- That the human body is much smarter than we realize and it is always looking out for our best interest. One example of this over the past year was learning that candida (the type of yeast that grows in the body) eats heavy metals. So, for people who have stubborn candida problems that won’t respond to anything else, sometimes the body is allowing the candida to grow in excess because that is helping to relieve their body’s burden of heavy metals such as mercury (and in some cases, copper). People in this situation may benefit from having a mineral profile test done by their doctor to see if they have an excess of toxic metals and/or a deficiency of healthy minerals and how to deal with it. This knowledge helped me give hope to a few clients who were struggling with candida and angry at their bodies for letting it overgrow!
- That a fetus feeds off of the yolk sac for the first few weeks of life, which means it gets the nutrition it needs (as long as mom was building up her own nutrition prior to pregnancy) and is not as directly affected by what its mother eats the way it is later in pregnancy. This is such an amazing adaptation that I am so very thankful for because in those first few weeks of life a woman may not know she is pregnant and may decide to go on an exciting party date with her husband while on vacation in California because their toddler is with grandma for the evening, and maybe the restaurant they ate at had a $5 martini special and maybe she had too many lemon drop martinis and then found out a few weeks later that she was not alone in her body! Not that this ever happened to me personally in the last 6 months…
- That plastics are being recognized as a significant source of health problems for men, women, and children – especially those containing Bis-phenol A and phthalates. Maybe this seems like something to be sad about, but I am actually thankful that the knowledge is getting out there and more and more people are making changes to avoid plastic exposure.
- That the FDA recently conceded that raw milk can be transported across state lines for personal consumption. This doesn’t mean raw milk is becoming legal for sale, but it is quite encouraging to finally have the FDA not persecuting people for ridiculous things such as drinking milk from their own healthy cow. Yes, there are many other things I am not happy with the FDA for approving (Splenda, aspartame, pesticides, the list goes on) but this is one small victory.
- That the CDC is working with hospitals and taking steps to encourage women to breastfeed their babies at least through the first 6 months of life. This is still much less than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 2 years or more, but it’s an encouraging step!
There are many other things I could list, but these are the first that come to mind. When you have a minute, I encourage you to make your own list of things over the past year that you are thankful for and tuck it away somewhere – it’s always fun to come across lists like that later on and read them again. It’s also a great exercise that acts kind of like a mental “feng shui” treatment – clearing out the clutter of stress and worry and helping your mind focus on the things that make you happy. I have found that being thankful for what I have helps to bring more things into my life to be thankful for. Happy new year!
December 30, 2011 1 Comment
Last weekend I had the privilege of flying to Iowa to speak at the Iowa City Yoga Festival, which was quite a fabulous occasion. It was my very first overnight trip away from Mr. Milk (boo-hoo) so I made it as short as possible by arriving Friday afternoon and leaving at 6 AM on Monday. Quite a fast trip to get used to a 5 hour time change! In addition to this, I happened to be finishing my first trimester of incubation for baby #2 (that is a whole separate story, but I blame my husband’s Hawaiian ancestry which is biochemically driven to procreate despite all barrier methods of birth control used). Thankfully I have not had any pregnancy symptoms – which is partially why I felt like one of those ladies from the “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” show when the ultrasound showed a fully formed little creature doing the Team America “It’s Me” dance (warning – bad word at the 11th second!) and we had just figured out I was pregnant a couple weeks earlier. But I digress.
The point of this blog is to share with you the fact that despite traveling over 5 time zones and lecturing 4 hours a day within the first day of landing AND being pregnant I did not experience any jet lag! Many people take melatonin to help them adjust their sleep-wake cycles while traveling but that was not an option for me since due to the pregnancy (melatonin works with pituitary gland hormones). It actually surprised me how quickly I adjusted to the time difference, so I wanted to share with you what I did.
- I made myself stay awake until a normal bed time on my arrival day. Truthfully this wasn’t hard to do, since 10:00 in Iowa is 5:00 in Hawaii but I had flown all night on the red eye so was a little tired. The way I got around this was to stay busy. I ran a few errands, had a late lunch with my two little nieces who are really hilarious and were giving (loud) social commentary regarding other people at the restaurant (they are 4 and 8 years old), went to a meeting with the other speakers, swam in the hotel pool with my nieces for a long enough time that the chlorine burned my eyeballs (not necessarily recommended), and then ordered in Thai food. Basically, do anything you can to stay happily awake, which means avoiding hanging out in your hotel bed watching TV at all costs!
- I drank a ridiculous amount of water. One of my errands mentioned above was to buy 2 gallons of water at the local store, enough for me to drink a full gallon for each day of lecturing. I didn’t quite make that amount, and drank closer to 3/4 of a gallon each day, but I do think that this made the most significant impact for me in adjusting to the time difference.
- I took 1 or 2 warm baths each day. Maybe this had nothing to do with it, but I feel like it really made a difference because I’ve traveled a lot and tried to drink water and done well but never have I felt this good. And no, it wasn’t a pregnancy hormone high – I was 14 weeks pregnant with the Little Mister (he’s in the late stages of weaning so I have to stop calling him Mr. Milk – maybe Mr. Muscles can be his new name since he’s a meaty little boy) when I left Iowa to move to Hawaii and I was 14 weeks pregnant when flying back to Iowa (the state requires that of me I guess) and this trip was definitely different as far as fatigue. So, you can throw this point out if you want but I really think that there’s something to soaking in a tub of warm water that helps you adjust to the magnetic field of the time zone that you’re in. Either that, or the hydrotherapy of the bath helped me detox and feel great, or the bath was just relaxing and refreshing enough to get rid of any fatigue that would have set in.
So there you have it. Not exactly rocket science but I find that the simple things seem to make the most difference! And in this case it sure made a crazy weekend into an enjoyable experience. Oh, and how did Mr. Muscles do with my absence, you ask? As you can see from the photo below – taken on Friday while I was still traveling – he really had a miserably hard time with it.
October 14, 2011 1 Comment
It has been a really stressful week! I won’t get into the details because they’re really nothing to focus on but the point of it all is that I’ve found that when things don’t go the way I planned I tend to get stressed. Maybe that is a normal response, and maybe the fact that I am a Virgo/Libra cusper makes me even more of a control freak than normal, but the thing I have been watching in myself is the tendency to focus on the negative. When one or two things don’t go right it’s so easy to throw out all the hundreds of things in life that ARE going right and just focus on what is being a struggle. What hit me today, and the thing I wanted to blog about, is the importance of being thankful even when things seem to be hard. You’re probably thinking this is a nutrition blog not Jessica’s Deep Thoughts blog, but give me a minute.
After realizing the importance of thankfulness in my own mental world, I got into doing some research on the health benefits of thankfulness. There are tons of studies that confirm the importance of having a thankful attitude and several that link “counting blessings” to better sleep, increased desire to exercise, fewer physical complaints, and even the tendency to have healthier heart rhythms.
So, my idea was to make the month of November into a month to try a thankfulness experiment. Each day I’m going to write a few things in my journal that I am specifically thankful for that day. Please feel free to join me in this! If I can get to a computer I will also either tweet something (I’m @ForbesNutrition if you want to follow) or if it’s something blog-worthy I’ll post a blog to help you remember to recognize and write down specific things you are thankful for. If you’re not a computer person just try writing down a few things each day that you’re thankful for and see how your health improves!
Since it’s the third day of November I’ll play a little catch-up and list 3 things I’m thankful for right now:
- My husband, who is so patient with me even when I’m following him around the house spraying him with magnesium oil or doing other weird nutritional experiments on him.
- Mr. Milk, who is finally (at 10 months!) sprouting some teeth so I can stop having a complex about why he doesn’t have teeth and if he is willfully repressing their growth in order to stay on an all-milk diet for the rest of his life.
- Brie cheese, which is freakishly delicious. Thank you French people for inventing it!
You might think it’s weird to include cheese on a list with my husband and son, but they were the first 3 things to pop into my mind. So take a second now and write down a few things that you are thankful for! Once you start I bet it will be hard to stop. If possible, keep your list in a place that you will see it and remember each day for the rest of the month (or forever if you choose!) to count your blessings.
November 3, 2010 6 Comments
We moved into a new house and have not yet signed up for cable tv. It’s sort of becoming a game of how long we can hold out until the lure of mindless television becomes a priority (hopefully never!). Since I am missing such quality television as The Real Housewives of New Jersey to keep me entertained during Mr. Milk’s ever demanding nursing schedule (which you think would have slowed down with the introduction of solids but he still wants milk within an hour of eating bowls of poi, coconut milk, and egg yolks), I have been catching up on my reading. My most recent read worthy of sharing is Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, and Impulsiveness by Daniel G. Amen, MD. It was loaned to me by a very health conscious friend and is a great read.
Dr. Amen specializes in mental health and uses brain imaging as part of his diagnostic process. He has found a strong correlation between mental and emotional health and brain injury (even that caused by minor head injury – NOT a comforting read for a new mom whose 8 month old’s instinct for exploration surpasses his instinct for depth perception) and provides many fascinating case studies in his book. There are several chapters that discuss patterns of thinking and the specific areas of the brain that are involved, which I thought was very interesting. He also offers limited but useful nutritional advice (avoid caffeine and sugar, eat protein, use ginkgo and other brain-boosting herbs as needed) which I appreciated reading in a book written by a medical doctor.
One thing that bothered me while reading this book was his sometimes casual approach to psychotropic medications – in one case study in particular he couldn’t fathom why a patient would be hesitant to start medicating. However, I really can’t fault Dr. Amen for that because the world he lives in is very medication oriented and I’m sure the people he works with in his practice are dealing with serious enough imbalances that they need pharmaceutical support. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here – I absolutely believe there is a time and a place for psychotropic medication and I know they save lives every day and can be a real answer for those of us who need a stop-gap while figuring out how to balance our emotional and physical health. I just think it’s important to really look at the long-term effects of the medication and make sure that they know what they are getting into. I have worked with too many people who thought they would just go onto a short round of anti-depressants but then stopped taking them cold turkey and ended up having to be put back onto several medications just to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. So, if someone is considering antidepressants and their doctor feels they are stable enough to take some time and explore other options first, I think it is worth looking into programs such as those run by Joan Matthews Larson or The Road Back (this one is especially helpful if a person is experiencing withdrawal symptoms and has a doctor who will work with them to prescribe proper doses for weaning off medication).
My favorite section of the book, which in my opinion makes it worth sharing with you all and well worth the $4 you’d spend for a used copy on amazon.com is Chapter 4: “Enhancing Positive Thought Patterns and Strengthening Connections”. In this chapter, Dr. Amen clearly defines several “automatic negative thought” patterns (ANTs for short) and discusses the importance of identifying these thoughts and then retraining the brain by replacing them with positive thoughts. It is definitely not a smarmy “think positive” or self affirmation chapter – he explains the science behind such things because thoughts are real and create real chemicals in your brain which exert real chemical reactions in your body as well as really affect how you behave. He includes information on how to protect children from future mental instability by helping their limbic system blossom with plenty of cuddling and interaction (important for adults too!). There is also information on how good smells and good memories can interact to keep the brain functioning healthfully.
There is an exercise in the above mentioned chapter to help practice identifying and killing ANTs. In it, you write down the negative thought, identify what type of negative thought it is (he gives 9 species including always/never thinking, focusing on the negative, and blaming), and then correcting that thought. When I completed the exercise I found that I tend to have always/never negative thoughts such as “I am always behind on everything I need to get done and I am never going to catch up.” When I wrote this thought out on paper I realized how ridiculous it was and then replaced it with the truth, which is “While I may not complete every thing on my to-do list today, I get a lot done for a new mom who has many different plates spinning and as time passes I’m learning to be more and more efficient.” When I wrote that out (and said it out loud, since I believe in the power of the spoken word) I could feel the self-imposed pressure in my brain lightening and my whole day felt more fun.
I don’t think that watching The Real Housewives quite has that effect.
September 20, 2010 7 Comments