Stress Awareness Month: Products I’m Loving to Support STRESS Management

April is Stress Awareness Month, and wow, what a year for stress, right? After devoting several presentations and podcast episodes to the importance of stress management, I’ve learned that the topic never gets old…because as much as we can manage it, stress never goes away.

Your body experiences stress on a physiological level. Every thought you think is a chemical messenger to your body, so when you are in “fight or flight” mode in your brain, the rest of your body listens and acts accordingly. Digestion may shut down, reproductive function can be altered, your blood sugar response may be affected, and your blood pressure will send signals as well.

Learning to manage stress matters, and it’s not something we are taught growing up. In fact, we often get the opposite messaging. Culture tells us to push through, work harder, and there aren’t enough hours. We’re led to believe that poor sleep, afternoon fatigue, and relying on caffeine for energy is normal. It may be common, but it should never be normal.

I say this all the time, but if we don’t learn to manage stress, our stress WILL manage us. It will show up in our bodies and cause all kinds of health problems. Stress creates inflammation, and inflammation creates chronic disease.

This is why I’ve created a list of my favorite stress-supporting products. If we can decrease our response to stress, we can decrease the effect stress has on our bodies.

To be clear, I often get to to try out lots of cool new products, whether it’s for social media promotion or podcast sponsors or podcast guests’ companies or suggestions. I’ve sorted through what I’ve been trying lately, and what follows are my favorites. Do you have to try them all, like me? Of course not! There is no one size fits all to health, and our bodies will all respond to products differently. I believe many supplements should be rotated seasonally, and sometimes it will even depend on the time of month – or even what phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in.

Continue reading “Stress Awareness Month: Products I’m Loving to Support STRESS Management”

How Stress Makes You Close-Minded

Brain health truth bomb: When I am living under chronic stress, in “fight or flight,” I am physiologically incapable of accepting other perspectives and showing empathy. My brain can’t make sense of new information, especially information that is contrary to what I believe is necessary for my survival.

This is becoming more and more apparent to me, this year especially. I typically love welcoming other perspectives and opinions, which is the reason I will interview anyone and everyone on my podcast, no matter what side they are on for any issue.

So when I’m feeling triggered by something someone says, it’s a sign to me that I am not carefully self-regulating or taking care of myself the way I need to.  I have to do a self check-in.

Continue reading “How Stress Makes You Close-Minded”

Handling Grief Over the Holidays

December is never an easy month for me. Even in the years I decide to get a head start on my “seasonal lows,” I often end up getting hit by an intense overwhelm at some point during the month. This year, thanks to the added Covid-related stress, it feels like my winter blues got a superboost.

That’s why I was so grateful to get to speak to Licensed Professional Counselor Michael Sweeney on the latest episode of my podcast. Not gonna lie – it felt like free therapy. I realized that these intense feelings I am experiencing right now, on a more intense level than usual, are related to grief. Grief isn’t just losing a person – it can be any kind of loss.

There are many misconceptions to grief. I didn’t realize that my distractibility and lack of focus can also be signs that my nervous system is struggling to process grief while also stay here in the present. I don’t often find myself at a loss for words, but in this episode I definitely was. We cover why holiday grief is so common, how grief doesn’t always take the form we expect, how we need to stop comparing our grief, and ways we can process and manage our grief that is helpful to us!

Download and listen wherever you get podcasts, or listen here.

Learn more about Michael and his practice here.

What Kept Me From a Breakdown in 2020

How does someone with an active mental illness get through 2020?

My first response is, “I have no idea.”

But that’s not true. In reality, I’ve spent years prepping for 2020. I’ve spent years restoring my body and brain through a variety of therapies because I know that I can’t guarantee smooth sailing in every life stage. I’ve spent years reading, studying, and educating others about mental health tools.

I am so glad I did. I believe the key to treating mental illness, in whatever form, is to initiate tools for healing before times get bad, before the waves of instability hit. I played defense with my health for far too long, so at some point in the last decade or so – I started playing offense and implemented a wide range of strategies to manage my moods.

Yes, this year I have struggled with bits of anxiety, disrupted sleep patterns, and moments of apathy. I have had days where I lay around the house and don’t shower, eating at random times and doing nothing but reading crap fiction and watching crap TV shows. But that is very rare, and honestly – sometimes I plan for those days of doing nothing and I schedule my lazy days like I schedule my appointments – which makes them intentional and responsive, not reactive.

So this is my “pat myself on the back” moment. I haven’t had a breakdown. I haven’t gone into a full blown manic or depressed episode. I haven’t lost it.

But I’m not out of the woods. Ever. I must stay vigilant. I must continue to utilize the tools that have gotten me through so many years of stability.

Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, or you are simply struggling with the mental fog that is the year 2020, I want to share some of my tips that keep me sane in the hopes that it helps you, too. There is no one cause to mental illness, therefore there is no one solution. What works for me might not work as well for you. This list is not exhaustive and is only a brief summary.

Continue reading “What Kept Me From a Breakdown in 2020”

Getting to the Root of Anxiety with Trudy Scott

Trudy Scott is a Food-Mood Expert and Certified Nutritionist who educates anxious individuals about nutritional solutions for anxiety. She is the author of The Antianxiety Food Solution and host of The Anxiety Summit, an online educational platform for both consumers and health professionals.

The Anxiety Summit 6: Toxins, Meds and Infections is airing November 2-8, 2020 and you can register for free here.

In this episode, we dive into the root causes of anxiety. It will challenge you to rethink the common everyday items in your life and how they are contributing to your mental function. As Trudy says, “A lot of people think of anxiety as only being a psychological thing… but there are underlying factors that trigger anxiety.”

Key topics include:

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    • Fluoride’s impact on mental health and GABA levels
    • The health foods that hurt us

    • Common medications and infections that trigger anxiety

    • Which amino acids benefit mental health symptoms and how to use them

    • How hormones impact neurotransmitters – The negative impacts of Accutane and Miralax

    • What pthalates are and how they affect anxiety

    • How “fragrance is the new smoking”

    • Other supportive tools for healing anxiety 

    Learn more about Trudy Scott at her website: http://www.everywomanover29.com

    Her Facebook page is called Trudy Scott Antianxiety Food Solution.

    This episode is sponsored by Swanson Health. Use the code Whole20 to receive 20% off supplements sitewide at swanson.com.

    Understanding the Mind/Body Connection on a Deeper Level

    Matt Erb is a physiotherapist, senior faculty member with The Center for Mind Body Medicine, instructor at The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine, and the Founder of Embody Your Mind, which specializes in high quality writing, teaching, and consulting in integrative and mind-body medicine topics.

    In this episode we discuss the powerful mind/body connection and why we need to be listening to how our bodies handle our stressors.

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    Key Topics:
    – How he uses acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
    – The principles of ACT
    – Survival biology and the aversion response to pain or unpleasant sensations
    – The importance of improving our relationship to things
    – Biobehavioral patterns of seeking care and comfort and regulating our physiological state
    – Understanding emotional eating
    – How ACT can help us in our day to day? Who is this useful for?
    – Mechanics of emotional eating, autonomic nervous system development
    – Mind-body practices we all could incorporate right now

    Continue reading “Understanding the Mind/Body Connection on a Deeper Level”

    Thanks to PTSD, I’ll Never Be a Hero

    Thanks to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, I’ll never be a hero.

    I want to. I’d like to think that I’m a person of action, and that if I witness a dangerous event I’ll jump right into rescue mode. I’m a nice woman, and I like helping.

    But I can’t. Trauma keeps me from moving. Trauma keeps me frozen in place, dissociating myself from reality, stuck to the floor in cement boots.

    I taught English for 11 years, so looking back, I’m glad the topic of “disaster response time” wasn’t a job interview question. I wouldn’t have passed to the next level of interviews, that’s for sure.

    I remember once when I worked at a middle school, a substitute teacher passed out in a classroom down the hall from me. I heard students running down the hallway, calling for the nurse. I peeked my head out the door, knowing I needed to check and see what was going on, knowing I needed to respond. But everything started moving in slow motion. I heard cries, I heard the words “CPR,” I saw others in action. But I was frozen. I couldn’t move.

    I was chained to the past.

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    I was 9 years old again, listening to the cries of my mother and grandmother as they try to revive my dying grandfather. I hear my grandma shout “No Freeman!” I watch him falling out of the car to the sidewalk and onto my front lawn. I watch them get out an epi pen, perform CPR, yelling for help.

    I watch his eyes roll back.

    Continue reading “Thanks to PTSD, I’ll Never Be a Hero”

    How Food is Mood – Interview with Ali Miller, RD

    Ali Miller is a registered dietitian, integrative functional medicine practitioner, and author of Naturally Nourished, The Anti-Anxiety Diet, and The Anti-Anxiety Diet Cookbook.

    In this episode we discuss the concept of food as mood, how neurotransmitters play a role in gut health, and how your stress response affects your overall health – from mental wellness to reproductive function to immune health.

    She explains the 6 approaches she takes to restoring our bodies to their rightful state, how to biohack our bodies and create metabolic flexibility – and simple tools to reducing panic and anxiety during times of stress.

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    Key topics covered in this episode:

    • Blood sugar regulation is key to balancing mood.
    • The imbalance of our stress response in the HPA axis and how “the body has to feel safe to do well.”
    • Reduce inflammation, reset the microbiome, repair the gut lining, restore micronutrients, rebound the adrenal glands, and rebalance neurotransmitters.
    • What excessive screen time does for our dopamine.
    • How 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut and why probiotics can be nature’s Prozac.
    • Breath is the most powerful way to harness the HPA axis and how to use mantras.
    • How she uses a strategic ketogenic approach with her clients and the reasons it has been beneficial for so many of them.

    To download and listen to the full episode, click here. For the link to iTunes, click here.

    To learn more about Ali and her work, head to http://www.alimillerrd.com or check out her podcast at http://www.naturallynourishedrd.com.

     

     

    Mom Life During a Pandemic: How We Can Best Support Our Kids’ Mental Health

    I don’t have to remind anyone that the last few weeks of this pandemic and period of social distance have been unlike anything experienced or seen in our lifetime. My work schedule has been interrupted, my husband’s work schedule has been interrupted, our social life has disappeared, and my kids are completely thrown off. Field trips were cancelled, basketball season has been delayed, and school went online until…when? Do we even know? Dates spin in and out of my head, fighting for the return of normalcy. Is it April 9th? 21st? Or do we wait for the 30th to resume prior activities? I can’t even keep track.

    This kind of disruption and uncertainty is difficult for me. Change of all kind is hard for me, especially as one who fights to stay mentally stable. I get the opportunity to verbalize that, share about it with my friends (via phone or text only, of course), and have long discussions with my husband.

    My kids, however, don’t know how to express their fear or anxiety as well. For them, it comes out in misbehavior, aggression, moodiness, hyperactivity, tearfulness, or even closed off apathy. That is developmentally understandable. As their prefrontal cortexes are still developing, it is difficult for them to access emotions or positive decision-making when they are in fight or flight mode. A stressful trigger, like being told they can no longer see their friends or go to school, is going to take a toll on their bodies. Stress hormones get ramped up, contributing to more fear and anxiety that is difficult to process. Chronic stress can also affect the immune system and its function.

    This is true for adults as well. Even though we have the luxury of developed brains, it is still difficult to access our frontal lobe and respond appropriately to hardship when we are faced with extreme stressors.

    So what is the solution?

    It starts with us.

    Continue reading “Mom Life During a Pandemic: How We Can Best Support Our Kids’ Mental Health”

    Healthy For the Holidays

    Here I go, adding to the noise in cyber space to try to tell you what it means to be healthy during the holidays.

    img_1244But seriously – this is an important time of year to take care of ourselves – body, mind, and soul.

    Rule number one: Take care of your stress load. This is a great time of year to exercise your “no muscle.” Don’t try to do it all. Stress weakens the immune system, shuts down proper digestion, and wreaks havoc on our health.

    Start a gratitude journal. Get outside and move your body. Play with your kids. Breathe. Eat your colors. Minimize your screen usage (and social media). Do the things you WANT to do, not the things you feel you HAVE to do. This is supposed to be a season of joy, not a season of obligation.

    In the latest episode of Sparking Wholeness, I chat with my friend and fellow health coach, Melissa McGaughey. We discuss our top tips for staying healthy during the hectic holiday season. Click here to find it on iTunes, or here to find it on my show page.