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

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.

Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks! Tips for Starting a Later-In-Life Hobby

Most of us, when we were growing up, had hobbies. Some of us collected stamps or coins, others rode horses, and still others liked to draw or bake. But then we grew up and our world became filled with work and family responsibilities, and we had little time to do the things we once loved.

And that’s too bad, because hobbies are essentially a way for us to play as adult. We don’t pursue needlepoint to become famous or to make millions of dollars (if only!), we partake in hobbies for the pure pleasurethey bring to us.

Happiness isn’t just nice to feel, happiness actually makes us healthier and live longer! A study found that older people who are happy have a 35% lower risk of dying over a five-year period than unhappy people. The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But I’m Too Old to Pick Up a Hobby

Rubbish.

Did you know that Winston Churchill didn’t start painting until he was in his middle years? He absolutely fell in love with it. In a small book called Painting as a Pastime, he wrote:

“… There is no subject on which I feel more humble or yet at the same time more natural. I do not presume to explain how to paint, but only how to get enjoyment.” [and then later in the book] “We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint-box…”

Whether it’s painting, ceramics, photography, Italian cooking, writing poetry, or scrapbooking – or something else entirely – pick something you’ve always wanted to do and just try it.

Getting Started

Okay, let’s set you out on your new journey of growth, discovery, and joy! Here are some steps you can take to get started.

1. Brainstorm – If you aren’t exactly sure what kind of hobby you would enjoy, spend some time making a list of things you have enjoyed in the past. Maybe you like music or you’ve always liked being outdoors.

2. Research – To narrow your list, do some research on things like cost and time needed for these hobbies. This is good to know before you dive in.

3. Don’t listen to others – Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re foolish for wanting to learn to Salsa dance or kayak “at your age.” These people are to be pitied, not listened to.

4. Be honest with yourself – Maybe you’ll love the hobby you choose and maybe you’ll want to try something else. The idea here is to play and explore yourself.

It is never to old to begin a new journey. I wish you an exciting one!

What is Trauma and What Causes it?

Most of us won’t get through life without our own fair share of stress and heartache. But some people experience not just stress, sadness or grief, but actual trauma. This can be from events like being involved in a bad car accident, rape, a natural disaster, or war.

The result of experiencing such events is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where the mind is unable to process the event as it processes ordinary life events. The result is a brain that misfires information, causing the person to live much of their life distressed, as if the event were still happening to them.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms associated with PTSD, but the most common ones are:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks
• Psychological and physiological distress at reminders
• Avoidance of internal and external reminders
• Dissociative amnesia
• Negative beliefs about oneself and the world
• Distorted blaming of oneself
• Negative persistent emotional states
• Loss of interests
• Detachment from loved ones
• Hyper vigilance
• Exaggerated startle response
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Causes of PTSD

Researchers are not altogether clear on why some people experience PTSD and others don’t. What makes one soldier come home from war with PTSD and another one not develop the disorder?

The best we can guess is that development of PTSD is likely from a combination of complex factors such as neurological, stress, life experiences, personality, and genetics. It is also worth mentioning that pre-traumatic psychological factors (low self-esteem, for example) may increase the risk factor for developing PTSD.

How Can Trauma be Treated?

The most common form of treatment for PTSD is something called cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy involves meeting with a specially-trained therapist over a number of sessions to learn strategies and techniques that will reduce and/or eliminate symptoms of PTSD such as recurring thoughts, emotional numbness, sleep issues, and concentration problems. Beyond finding a trained therapist, it’s important to find one you and your family feel comfortable with, so make sure to interview a few candidates to see who might help you on your journey to wellness.

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to see how I may be able to help.

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/disorders/ptsd/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-causes/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/trauma

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stress-relief/201707/what-is-ptsd-exactly

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/trauma-focused-cognitive-behavior-therapy

5 Personal Techniques to Work Through Flashbacks

Flashbacks are our brain’s way of processing traumatic events that we’ve experienced. But what tends to happen is, our subconscious goes to our storage cabinet to access some important memories regarding the event, and everything sort of tumbles out of the cabinet all at once. This falling out or flashback experience can feel almost as traumatic as the initial event.

Flashbacks usually happen without warning. Most result from a “triggering” that occurs by an external experience. Triggers are typically sensory-based experiences that manifest via smells, sounds, tastes, textures that remind the person of the traumatic event. The smell of cologne can remind someone of their perpetrator. The sound of fireworks or a car backfiring can remind a soldier of gunfire.

Living with flashbacks is very difficult, but there are some ways you can work through these disturbing events:

1. Remember

Remind yourself that you are safe and having a flashback. Tell yourself as many times as necessary that these are only memories, the event is in the past, until you can feel yourself begin to calm.

2. Empower Yourself

Sometimes using your five senses can help you to be in the present moment. If one sense it causing the flashback – your sense of smell for example – use your other senses to place yourself in the actual current environment. The tactile experience of stamping your feet on the ground can remind yourself that you are free to get away from any situation that has become uncomfortable for you.

3. Breathe

As soon as we become fearful or panicked, our breathing becomes shallow and erratic. This only exacerbates the stress we feel in that moment because our body is literally panicking from a lack of oxygen. In these fearful moments, when we slow our breathing and take deeper and deeper breaths, we actually signal to our brain and body that everything is okay.

4. Honor the Experience

The initial trauma was awful, so it’s perfectly reasonable for you to want to move on “NOW!” However, you should understand that the body needs to go through this process and experience a full range of emotions. Honor the experience and yourself for having gotten through it.

5. Find Support

It’s important that you let loved ones know about your flashbacks so they can help you through the process. You may also want to seek the guidance of a professional mental health therapist who can offer coping strategies.

 

If you or a loved one is suffering from flashbacks and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch, I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES

https://psychcentral.com/lib/coping-with-flashbacks/

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2013/11/why-do-flashbacks-happen/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/healing-trauma-s-wounds/201506/understanding-and-working-flashbacks-part-one

5 Daily Self-Care Exercises for Survivors of Abuse

Unfortunately, being a survivor of trauma or abuse is exceedingly common. According to the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. And according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2017 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, nearly 1 in 4 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 adult men report having experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.

While it is challenging to be a survivor of abuse, the journey to a place of peace and acceptance can be an empowering one. No matter if the abuse you endured was recent or long ago, a daily self-care regimen will help you cope with what still affects you today.

1. Quality Sleep

Ensuring you have adequate sleep on a nightly basis is an essential component of maintaining optimum physical, mental, and emotional health. Fundamentally, your body needs regular rest to operate properly. A good night’s sleep will uplift your mood and energy, improve your memory and help keep stress levels at a minimum.

2. Meditate

Setting aside just five to ten minutes a day for some quiet reflection can help boost your immune system, manage stress, help you focus, and boost your mood, to name just a few of the many health benefits. Find an easy or beginner meditation to follow with a Google search, smartphone app, or the free meditation exercises available on YouTube.

3. Exercise

Finding some forms of enjoyable exercise will help you feel more energized. Exercise is also a great physical outlet to release pent-up emotions you likely have as a result of your abuse or trauma. Try taking up walking, jogging, yoga or anything you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to do anything wholly unpleasant or push yourself too hard; exercise is an act of self-care, not a punishment.

4. Positive Affirmations

It’s all too common for abuse survivors to feel shame about it and blame themselves; for that reason, it’s important to program yourself with positive thoughts and beliefs. You can tell yourself, for example: “I am valuable,” “I am worthy,” “I am capable,” “I am strong,” “I am intelligent.” Pinpoint negative self-talk and counter those thoughts with positive affirmations.

5. Support

Engage your support system by calling a friend or family member, joining a support group and/or finding a therapist. If your support system is lacking, use a smartphone app or the Meetup website to find a local, like-minded group and make some new friends. Sharing your struggles with people who understand and care about your well-being is an important aspect of your healing journey.

 

Are you a survivor of trauma or abuse? A licensed mental health professional can help you so you don’t have to go through this alone. Give our office a call today so we can set up a time to talk.

 

SOURCES

http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/media-room/nca-digital-media-kit/national-statistics-on-child-abuse/

How to Tell Your Partner About Your Past Sexual Abuse

Relationships always start out on a high note. Your mutual attraction combined with your commonalities stirs up your feelings, while finding out about your differences and exploring the world together makes your relationship fresh and exciting. When your relationship starts to become more intimate, you may start to wonder when the right time is for you to open up to your partner about your past sexual abuse.

Being a survivor of sexual assault is, unfortunately, not uncommon. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men in the United States experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. So when is the right time to open up to your partner about your past, and how do you tell them?

Be Ready
It’s important as a survivor that you are in control of when you share your story. Center yourself around your own needs and share only when you’re ready, and not before. You may need to discuss it first with a therapist, counselor, friend or support group.

Know What You Need
Know in advance what you’ll need to get through this discussion. You may need your partner to not ask questions, or to not touch you while you’re talking. Be honest and upfront, and ask for support when you need it.

Prepare for a Response
How people respond to your story will vary widely. Hearing sexual abuse disclosures affect both the person telling the story, as well as the person listening. Your partner may be silent for a while as they take the information and consider what to say. Give them time to process it. If it will make you more comfortable, you can ask them to give you some time before you discuss the matter again.

 

Opening up and discussing difficult, sensitive topics with your partner is never easy. But these challenging times are often the ones that create milestones in your relationship, and will ultimately bring the two of you closer than ever.

Are you a sexual assault survivor and in need of guidance and counseling? A licensed therapist can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

5 Ways to Recharge Your Energy After a Rough Day

Few things zap your energy the way a stressful day can. Stress is known to reduce our levels of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play an important role in our mood, energy and motivation. After a difficult day, you might be tempted to lounge on the couch watching TV until it’s time to go to bed. Although it might feel good in the moment, it won’t give you the mood and energy lift you need after a rough day. Here are five simple ways you can recharge yourself.

1. Unplug

After a stress-filled day, you need to unwind—and that means turning off your phone for some much-needed “me” time. It can be tempting to sit on the couch with your phone all night, checking emails, responding to texts, or getting lost on Facebook or Instagram.

Unplug. Turn your phone off and put it in a drawer in a room in your house that’s out of the way, or leave it in your car. Don’t touch it again until after you’ve had a good night’s rest.

2. Go Outside

If the sun is still out after your rough day, put on your comfy shoes and go for a quick walk. Exposure to the sunlight will help your brain release serotonin, which will boost your mood and help you feel calm and focused. Exercise is also one of the best ways you can improve your mood, helping you relieve stress and sleep better at night. Even if the sun is down, a walk outside will still help, as the exercise and fresh air will help you feel invigorated.

3. Refresh Yourself

After a tough day, take the time to refresh yourself by taking a 45-minute nap. A quick 5 or 10-minute meditation session can also help lift you up. Use your phone to find a guided meditation on YouTube, or play some relaxing music while you meditate quietly for a few minutes. You can also pamper yourself with a bubble bath, or if you need something more uplifting, take a quick shower. Before you get out of the shower, splash some ice cold water in your face; the chill will refresh you and wake you up.

4. Eat Healthy

A healthy dinner or snack is just the thing you need after a rough day. Avoid comfort foods that will leave you feeling sluggish. Instead, fuel your body with protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods will slowly release energy into your bloodstream, and you’ll likely get a mental boost as well from the feel-good result of eating healthy.

5. Make Plans

Looking forward to something is a great way to boost your mood long-term. Plan a vacation, a weekend getaway, or just a day trip. Even planning a special meal, or a visit to a new bar or restaurant will help; give yourself something to look forward to.

 

Are you struggling to maintain your energy levels? Is stress causing you to feel tired, anxious or depressed? A licensed therapist can help you find ways to manage stressful situations. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

4 Subtle Signs of Trauma: When You’re Dealing with More Than You Think

When you think about someone experiencing trauma, incidents such as a violent or sexual assault or a terrible car accident might come to mind. But there are other, subtler forms of trauma that can negatively affect our lives and hinder our relationships.

Emotional trauma is often overlooked and minimized, and we may think we’ve “gotten over” some emotional pain that we’ve simply buried, and not dealt with. A break up, being passed over for a promotion at work or even a simple but negative childhood experience can cause emotional trauma. Read on to see if you recognize any of these four subtle signs of trauma in yourself.

Overwhelm

Anxiety and stress may develop in the aftermath of trauma, causing you to feel overwhelmed in numerous ways. You might feel out of control, like there is too much to do, or that people in your life are taking up too much of your time and attention. If you often feel as though your life has become unmanageable, this could be a sign that you have some unresolved emotional trauma.

Overreacting

Emotional overreactions are a common symptom of trauma. A victim of trauma might redirect their overwhelming emotions towards others, such as family and friends. Because these undealt with emotions are always bubbling under the surface, any incident that brings feelings forward can unleash these pent-up emotions. If you can recall times when you’ve overreacted, and perhaps have even been surprised at your own reactions, this may be a sign of trauma.

Shame

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from emotional trauma to have feelings of shame and self-blame. If you have feelings of shame because of a traumatic event, you may devalue yourself or see yourself as weak. You might feel a stigma from what you endured, and this may prevent you from admitting that you may be traumatized, or prevent you from seeking help.

Daydreaming

Another subtle sign of trauma is “zoning” or “spacing out.” You might feel disconnected from others or have difficulty staying present in social situations. Emotional trauma can cause you to slow down internally, numbing your emotions or causing you to feel exhausted. Because of the trauma you experienced, you may be averse to the expression of painful emotions, so you turn those emotions off. As you withdraw, your relationships with others suffer, causing you further psychological pain.

If these signs seem familiar and you believe you may be suffering from trauma, help is available. A caring, licensed professional trained in trauma treatment can help. Take the first step by giving me a call today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

How to Find New Purpose After Losing Your Faith

For people of faith, their belief system is an important aspect of their life and who they are as a person. It could be a faith that was cultivated in them since they were a child, or one that they found on their own in adulthood. However we find our faith, as we move through the world and experience life, we inevitably come upon trials that test our beliefs.

If you’ve come to a point in your life where you no longer hold on to traditional beliefs, or your religious teachings have been challenged and you no longer believe in them, you might wonder how you can create renewed meaning in your life that will fill the void left by your loss of faith.

Find Healing
When you lose your faith, you go through a process of grieving. How deep the grieving is depends largely on how ingrained faith was in your life. If losing your faith means losing friends and regular gatherings, it can be very difficult to heal. You can heal through this loss by finding a friend to talk to; particularly one who has experienced a similar loss. Talk to like-minded people online, through a support group, or with a licensed therapist.

Find Peace
Finding peace is another important aspect in moving forward after losing your faith. It will help greatly to quiet your mind, and stop from dwelling on the past. Thinking about how you lost time by believing something you no longer believe in, or thinking about how you were lied to growing up will only bring you discomfort and inner turmoil. Quiet your mind through meditation, cooking, crafting, gardening or a long walk through the woods, concentrating only on things you can see, hear, smell, and touch. You can also try donating your time through volunteer work, or helping out a friend or loved one in need with some simple tasks.

Find Meaning
After a loss of faith, you must find new direction for your life. As the lyrics go to an old song, “the best things in life are free.” Paradoxically, you’ll find that the best way to find new meaning is to simply enjoy the little things in life. Enjoying the breeze during a walk in the park, feeling wet sand between your toes as you take a stroll along the beach, savoring wine with friends in front of an open fire.

When you’ve lost your faith, it might feel as though your life no longer has meaning. The truth is, you’ve just lost your way a bit. The road you were on may have closed, but the directions haven’t changed.

 

Are you struggling with your loss of faith, and need guidance and encouragement to move forward? A licensed professional can help. Call my office today and let’s schedule a time to talk.

How Meditation Can Help Manage Symptoms of Trauma

Meditation offers practitioners powerful benefits, yet many people are confused as to what exactly those benefits are. In a nutshell, meditation focuses attention in a deliberate manner, taking you from a state of noisy mental chatter to calm and quiet inner peace. And isn’t that something most of us could use?

While meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in the east and – more recently – west as a way to grow spiritually, modern medicine is now finally extolling the numerous health benefits that meditation offers.

Meditation has the ability to reduce stress hormones by calming the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. These systems are what activate our main panic responses (“fight,” “flight,” “freeze,” or “friend”) to stressful situations. Because of this, meditation can be a wonderful coping strategy for those suffering with trauma.

Is Meditation Better than Medication

Historically, people battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been given medication to help alleviate unwanted and unpleasant symptoms. But a new study has found that regular practice of meditation enables some active duty service members battling PTSD to reduce, or even eliminate their need of psychotropic medications and to better control their often-debilitating symptoms.

This is great news for service men and women, and anyone who is battling PTSD. Not only can meditation help to calm your nerves and rewire your brain, it can also reduce the risk of developing negative side effects to many psychotropic medications used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. Beyond memory loss and erectile dysfunction, one of the biggest side effects of these medications is depression. That’s the last thing a person suffering from PTSD needs.

How to Begin a Meditation Practice

If you are suffering from the effects of trauma and would like to try meditation, here are some steps you can take to get started:

Find a Group Practice

If you’re completely new to meditation, you may want to join a group meditation course that meets every week. You can usually find groups in your local area through online communities such as Meetup.com.

Be Open Minded

Meditation has long been associated with new age movements. But you would be amazed at the different kinds of people that now practice meditation. If you tend to be a skeptical person, try to have an open mind as you begin your practice.

Be Patient

It’s called a practice for a reason. You won’t “get” meditation overnight. You’ll have to keep at it before it becomes natural for you and you really reap the benefits. Try to have patience and just keep at it.

 

If you or a loved one are suffering from trauma symptoms and would like to speak with someone who can help, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss the treatment options that would work best for you.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/meditation-reduces-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-symptoms

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/how-does-meditation-reduce-anxiety-neural-level

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/01/13/transcendental-meditation-shown-to-ease-veterans-ptsd/131167.html