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Balance Your Mood With Food: How Good Nutrition Supports Mental Health

By | General, Nutrition | No Comments

Our brains are magnificent machines: while the brain controls rudimentary yet complex functions like your heartbeat, breathing and motor functions, it also controls a multitude of other complicated tasks such as creating your thoughts and feelings. A machine this advanced, that runs 24/7, clearly requires fuel to run. The fuel you supply to your hard-working brain is none other than the food and drink you consume.

Like any other machine, the quality of your brain function is relative to the quality of the fuel you put in it. Foods rich in nourishment such as complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help stabilize blood sugar levels while increasing your brain’s energy. When it comes to feeding the brain, you get back what you put in.

Selenium

Selenium is an important mineral that your body relies on to perform many of its basic functions. Studies have shown that people with a low amount of selenium in their diet have an elevated rate of depression, irritability, and anxiety. While too little selenium causes health problems, too much can be toxic. According to the National Institute of Health, 55 mcg of selenium a day is the sweet spot for adults 19 years of age and older.

Brazil nuts are by far the most selenium-rich food available. An ounce (about 7 or 8) of brazil nuts contains 544 mcg of selenium per serving, so two or three brazil nuts a day is more than sufficient to get your RDA of selenium. You can also get your 55 mcg a day with 3 to 4 ounces of halibut, roasted ham, or shrimp. Cottage cheese, roast chicken, oatmeal, and eggs also contain moderate amounts of selenium, around 10 to 20 mcg per serving.

Folate (Folic Acid)

Studies have shown that an increased intake of folate or folic acid is associated with a lower risk of depression. Folate is found in a wide variety of food, with spinach, liver, yeast, asparagus, and brussels sprouts containing the highest levels. You can also get your recommended 400 mcg of folate with avocado, peanuts, orange juice, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, and whole grains, among many other foods.

Omega-3

Dopamine and serotonin are chemicals in the brain that are produced by nerve cells. Serotonin is a natural mood stabilizer, and dopamine controls your feelings of pleasure and reward. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties in them, and they effect the transmission of dopamine and serotonin. Omega-3 also has a role in brain development and function, with the ability to stabilize moods. Omega 3 foods include salmon, walnuts, soybeans, and chia seeds.

There are many other nutritious foods that will serve as prime fuel for your brain, helping you perform, feel and be at your very best. Using this list to help change your eating habits for the better is a great step in the right direction.

If you’re struggling with a mood disorder and would like some support and guidance to live a more balanced life, contact my office today so we can set up a time to talk.

5 Free Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

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When we talk about our mental health, we’re talking about much more than a clinical diagnosis. Your mental health also refers to your psychological well-being. Having a healthy psychological well-being means you’re able to better manage your emotions as well as your mood. Every day presents its unique challenges, and a healthy mental state can help you take challenges in stride.

1. Positive Affirmations

Repeating an affirmation can help you create a positive mental outlook that will be a driving force in your life. Use a search engine to look up “positive affirmations” and you’ll find several ideas of words and phrases that resonate with you, and things you struggle with. You can also try searching for something more specific, such as “positive affirmations for women” or “positive affirmations to improve self esteem”.

Repeat your phrase or phrases during meditation, either out loud or in your mind. Repeating affirmations or mantras during consistent meditation practices can help you overcome negative self-talk, which will greatly improve your mental health.

2. Gratitude

Practicing gratitude will sharpen your attention towards the positive aspects of your life. By focusing on what’s good, you’ll start to notice and appreciate other positive things in your life. Gratitude is more than just a feeling; it is a choice. By choosing to be grateful, you can keep your mind distracted from negative thoughts.

3. Eat Healthy

Eating healthy is a vital part of positive mental health. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, creating a consistent level of energy that won’t leave you feeling tired or sluggish. Eating healthy will also provide a mental boost because you’ll feel good about your healthy food choices.

4. Sunshine

Sunshine is a great way to boost your mood. Put on some comfortable walking shoes and take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, or a local park. Exposure to sunlight will help your brain release serotonin which will boost your mood, and help you feel more calm and focused.

5. Get Some Sleep

A good night’s sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. When you’re well rested, you’re naturally energized. Regular sleep also boosts your immune system as well as your cognitive and mental health.

 

You have the power to improve your mood. By making some healthy additions to your daily routines, you can develop regular habits that will improve your overall mental well-being.

Are you having trouble staying positive or managing your moods? A licensed mental health professional can help you find better coping strategies, and offer additional support and guidance to help you live a more balanced life. Call my office today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

The Caregiver’s Guide to Self-Care

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Are you acting as a caregiver to a loved one? Maybe your elderly parent or a spouse or child that is battling a serious illness?

According to womenshealth.gov, 36% of Americans provided unpaid care to another adult with an illness or disability in 2012, and that number has almost certainly climbed as the baby boomer population continues to age.

Acting as a caregiver to another is definitely a labor of love, but it can also take a physical, mental and emotional toll on a person. When you focus all of your energy on the needs of other people, it is entirely too easy to put your own needs on the back burner.

Do You Have Caregiver Burnout?

Here are some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout:

  • Uncharacteristic irritability and impatience
  • Poor sleep
  • Forgetfulness
  • Somatic symptoms, such as headaches and gastrointestinal distress
  • Changes in appetite
  • Turning to substances to self-medicate
  • Lack of interest in friendships and hobbies
  • Thoughts of harming oneself or the person being cared for
  • Increased illness
  • Anxiety and/or depression

With so many people relying on caregivers, it’s important that these people learn to take good care of themselves!

Here are some ways you can begin practicing self-care so you don’t experience burnout:

Get More Sleep

The quantity and quality of sleep you get each night will have a huge impact on how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally. Stress can make it hard for us to get good sleep, so don’t make it any harder.

Avoid caffeinated beverages after 2 pm as well as using any digital screens at night. The blue light emitted from these devices messes with our sleep cycle. You may also want to use room-darkening curtains to make your bedroom dark in the morning so you don’t awaken too early.

Get Plenty of Exercise

All of the stress, tension, and balled-up emotions need to go somewhere, or you’re likely to become sick yourself. Exercise is a great way to work all of this… “stuff” out of you. As a bonus, your body releases endorphins after a good workout, and these chemicals give your mood a nice boost.

Eat Right

Your instinct may be to reach for sugary comfort foods but you need to stay healthy and strong. Opt for protein and healthy fats along with some organic produce.

Ask for Help

While everyone around you may refer to you as “superhuman,” the truth is, you’re just human, and you can’t handle everything by yourself ALL of the time. Ask people to help you provide care once or twice a week so that you may have a little bit of time for yourself.

Talk to Someone

If you are dealing with your own depression and anxiety, it’s important that you speak with someone who can offer coping strategies.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver that could use someone to talk to, please feel free to be in touch. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

References:

Five Healthy Ways to Reward Yourself

By | General, Nutrition | No Comments

For many of us, when we think of a treat or a reward, our minds turn to food: our favorite chocolate cake at the local bakery, or a big, cheesy slice of pizza. If food doesn’t do it for you, you might want to reward yourself with some other unhealthy habit such as expensive purchases or overindulging in alcohol.

When we’re looking to treat ourselves, it’s usually to reward a positive change or goal we’ve reached through discipline and consistent effort. While there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, turning to an unhealthy habit to reward good behavior can possibly un-do your hard work; at the very least, you’re taking a step back from your healthy change instead of taking a more positive step forward. If you want to find ways to treat yourself that won’t impede your progress, read on to discover five healthy ways you can reward yourself for a job well done.

1. Relax & Rejuvenate

There might be no better way to spoil yourself than a massage or day spa treatment. Schedule yourself for a massage, a facial treatment, a mud bath or a hot stone massage. You might also want to visit a hot spring, where you can relax surrounded by nature in warm, geothermal pools.

2. Get a Makeover

A makeover is a great way to celebrate hitting a goal. Get a manicure, a new haircut or hire a professional makeup artist to create a new look. You can also consult a personal stylist to help you update your wardrobe.

3. Enjoy Some Alone Time

Some alone time might be just what you need to treat yourself. Take a day off work and plan a “stay-cation” for yourself. Take a bubble bath, find a new podcast to listen to, have a cup of hot tea or coffee while you curl up with a new book or binge-watch some shows on your streaming service. You can also go out by yourself and enjoy a movie or visit an art gallery.

4. Plan a Night Out

If spending time with loved ones is something you crave, plan a fun night out with friends. Find a comedy club, a festival, concert or sporting event to attend.

5. Take a Day Trip

Plan a day trip to a locale you’ve been meaning to visit. Plan a mountain hike or a visit to a beach or lake and enjoy a swim and a healthy picnic. If you’re looking for something more active, consider canoeing, horseback riding or a bike ride. If something relaxing is more your speed, take a long drive and spend the night out under the stars with a loved one.

Changing out our bad habits for healthier ones takes time and effort. By learning to reward ourselves in a more positive way, we reinforce our newer, better habits while discarding the old habits that held us back.

If you’re trying to make positive changes in your life and need guidance and encouragement, a licensed professional can help. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule a time to talk.

Are You Doing Self-Care All Wrong?

By | General | No Comments

The topic of self-care is one that has been discussed openly and often over the past decade. But for many, the concept of self-care is one that is still a bit mysterious, if not downright confusing.

What Is Self-Care?

First, self-care is a practice and a commitment we make to ourselves. It is any activity we do deliberately to support our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Not only does the right kind of self-care improve our health and life, but it can also improve the relationships we have with others.

Some examples of self-care might be:

  • Creating better habits
  • Eating right
  • Getting plenty of quality sleep
  • Exercising
  • Meditation
  • Spending quality time with loved ones
  • Making time to enjoy a hobby
  • Learning something new

Self-care isn’t always fun or easy, but you do it anyway because you know that the activity is what is BEST for you. In this way, self-care is a bit like acting as your own parent, making sure you do the things you don’t necessarily feel like doing because it is what your mind, body, and spirit need.

What Self-Care Isn’t

Self-care isn’t necessarily about making yourself feel better.

Person A has had a very bad day. They practice proper self-care and, when they get home, they change clothes, go for a 3-mile run, then cook a healthy dinner that refuels their body.

Person B has also had a very bad day and practices phony self-care. On their way home, person B stops at the store and gets a 6-pack of beer and a gallon of ice cream, then spends the entire night on the sofa drinking and eating poorly in an attempt to make the bad day go away.

This phony style of self-care is very immature. It is not parental but something a child does. If the parent insists you eat your veggies because they are good for you, the child will eat only candy bars when the parent isn’t looking.

Self-care is about making decisions based on what is good for you, not what you FEEL like doing at the moment.

Self-care should also not be confused with pampering. While there is nothing wrong with getting massages and pedicures, these again tend to be quick fixes we give ourselves to make ourselves feel better in the moment.

At the end of the day, self-care is a commitment to yourself to live, grow, and evolve in healthy ways. It means making choices that will lead to your best self and greatest potential.

 

SOURCES:

Coping with Working from Home During COVID-19

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How many mornings have you shut off that alarm, wishing you could just work from home in your PJs? Well now many of us are getting our wish thanks to COVID-19.

While in theory working from home may seem ideal, the reality for many of us is that it’s, well, kind of a pain. Particularly if you have young children home from school that you now have to teach while still keeping productive at work.

The fact is, this sudden and unexpected disruption to our daily lives has many of us feeling stressed!

Here are some ways you can cope with working from home for the unforeseeable future.

1. Get Your Space Right

If you don’t have a dedicated home office, you’ll want to figure something out ASAP. Having the right space at home will help you focus on the tasks at hand. It will also automatically set boundaries with family.

Do you have a spare room you can use? Is there an area in your finished basement that could work? If not, clear off the dining table and set up there.

2. Keep Your Regular Schedule

You may want to treat the next 2-3 weeks as a sort of family vacation, but it’s best if you and the kids stick to your regular routines. That means getting up and going to bed at the same time, showering, getting dressed and having breakfast as you normally would. Straying from routine will demotivate you to complete the work that needs to get done.

3. Take Advantage of the Flexibility

While it’s important to keep to your routines, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of having more time on your hands. Instead of spending an hour plus on a commute each day, you could use that time to catch up on home projects that have been on your to-do list for a while. You can also use the added time to reconnect with your family.

4. Give Your Kids Structure

Kids need structure, so give them some each day. This could mean giving them three options of how they will spend the afternoon: playing with Legos in the living room, watching a movie or quiet reading in their bedrooms. Be sure to take a break from work every couple of hours to check in with your kids to answer any questions they may have. Lord knows they ALWAYS have some!

5. Get Some Virtual Babysitters

On those days when you have to conduct many meetings and get much done, consider reaching out to family and friends to arrange virtual playdates with the kids. Thanks to Skype and FaceTime, your virtual babysitters can read, play games and interact with your kids online while you get some important work done.

If you find you are getting a bit squirrelly, even after following these tips, you can always reach out to a mental healthcare provider who can give you some more ideas of how to manage the stress.

If you’d like to speak to someone, please reach out to me. At this time, I am able to conduct sessions via phone or Skype, so you don’t even have to leave your home if your state is on lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/biofeedback-and-mindfulness-in-everyday-life/202003/77-strategies-working-home-during-covid-19

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/17/working-at-home-with-kids-during-covid-19-crisis-with-kids-underfoot.html

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

By | Anxiety, General | No Comments

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay because it will be.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. What can you do with the extra time that isn’t being used to drive an hour or more each day in commuting? Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Tackle them now, you’ll feel great about it later.

 

If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via Skype, so you won’t even have to leave your home if your state is in lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf

How Telehealth May Change the Future of Therapy

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A while back there was a very funny television show starring Lisa Kudrow (ditzy Phoebe from Friends) called “Web Therapy.” It was an improvised show and Lisa played a therapist who treated her patients over the Internet. Hence the title of the show.

Well, back when the show was on, the idea of treating mental health patients via a webcam seemed ludicrous. And the show did a great job at poking fun of Lisa’s character and her “wacky idea” of web therapy.

Fast forward 12 years after the show’s debut, and web therapy is now “a thing” thanks to telehealth technology. Yes, psychotherapy appointments can be held between therapist and patient while one is in one building, state, or country and the other is somewhere else entirely.

Why was web therapy a joke 12 years ago but telehealth is now gaining in popularity? The shift is most likely due to the growing popularity of tech solutions among younger generations. There’s also something very attractive about the ease of telehealth; of not having to leave your house or office to get the help you need.

As younger generations have become accustomed to using apps to have food, beer and groceries delivered right to their door, they expect these same conveniences from their health providers. While it may take a few more years before telehealth becomes truly mainstream, indicators suggest that push is more than likely to happen.

Benefits of Telehealth

We’ve already discussed the most obvious benefit of telehealth to consumers, and that is ease. But what about the benefits to the therapists?

To start, telehealth means those people who would otherwise feel too uncomfortable seeking therapy in person will now be open to seeing a therapist “privately.” This means a therapist has a larger number of people to deliver their services to.

Also, since these services can be delivered from a home office, a therapist can easily reduce their practice’s operating costs and overhead expenses.

Many therapists are saying the adoption of telehealth should have come sooner, but support and guidance on telehealth are finally coming from the American Psychological Association (APA) and other psychological organizations.

Therapist Need to Get Ready for the Switch

You can’t expect a therapist who has been treating patients face-to-face for x number of years to suddenly do well sitting in front of their computer’s camera. There are some subtle but important differences in working with patients over electronic connections.

For instance, in person, when a therapist breaks eye contact with a patient to take down a few notes, there is still a connection there because they are still in the same physical space. But over the Internet, when a therapist looks away to take notes, it may seem to the patient that the client is distracted. Providers interested in offering telehealth services to their patients will have to keep things like this in mind and always assure they are paying attention.

The APA offers continuing-education workshops on telehealth at its Annual Convention, and several divisions have begun providing training in telehealth as well. Therapists can also find online courses and training offered by the American Telemedicine Association.

No one is laughing any longer at the idea of web therapy. Instead, both consumers and therapists are embracing technology to bring about positive change and outcomes.

References: