All Entries For mental health
The other day I arrived at yoga about 20 minutes before class. I didn't want to head in the studio just yet, as it was a lovely, sunny day. Instead, I spent 10 minutes hiking to the top of a super-steep street that's next to the studio.
I left my phone in the car but wore the watch from my heart-rate monitor to track time. I didn't take music. I just walked and breathed.
That night, my practice was spot-on. I felt so strong and focused, and as I lay in Savasana (corpse pose) for our final relaxation, I felt my body relax more deeply than it had in a few weeks. (I've been B-U-S-Y!) Those 10 minutes of "me" time were just what I needed to center my mind, warm up my body and leave the day behind before unrolling my mat.
At SparkPeople, we frequently talk about the importance of starting small, especially when it comes to exercise. But this reminded me that the same tactic can be applied to stress, relaxation, and general well-being.
10 minutes is enough time to...
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Life may give you plenty of opportunities to gripe, but knowing the right way to complain and get a positive result in return can be tricky in most everyday situations. Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness, says that you can strike a balance between passively keeping your complaints to yourself and screaming about cold coffee by being assertive when an issue arises. Ask yourself if the aggravating situation will matter in a week or a month, suggests life coach Valorie Burton, founder of the Coaching & Positive Psychology Institute and author of Where Will You Go from Here? If the answer is yes, then learn how to complain effectively by following this situation-based advice.
Your neighbor’s dog does number two in your yard…again.
If you're tired of finding surprises left by Fido, before approaching your neighbors for the first time, give them the benefit of the doubt in order to avoid a huge confrontation. Try saying, “You guys are probably unaware of this, but your dog has been doing his business all over our yard. Any ideas on how we can keep him out?” Guy Winch, PhD, author of The Squeaky Wheel, says they are more likely to comply if they don’t feel that they are to blame. However, if they insist that it can’t be their dog but you are certain because you saw him commit the deed, you should let them know. “If the idea of a confrontation is intimidating, you can tell them in writing," suggests Dr. Winch. Drop off a simple note stating: “I just wanted to clarify that I saw Rover ‘fertilize’ my yard several times. I’m letting you know because I assumed you were unaware of what he was doing and I would like to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” Read More ›
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)
Binge eating has always been one of my biggest obstacles to overcome in losing weight. For me, once a binge is triggered and I take that first bite, I’m farther from stopping a binge than before I took the first bite. That first bite puts me into a frenzy and I forget all of my good intentions, aiming instead for a blissful food coma. That feeling of everything being better, calm, okay, safe and warm washes over me and I forget the guilt that will ensue for a few minutes. Tomorrow is another day, I reason. I can do better then. Deep down though, I know tomorrow will be full of regret, feelings of failure and doubt that I can ever pull off this weight loss/ fitness goal of mine.
With the help of SparkPeople and therapy, I have learned to have more control over my binge eating. I have lost 144 pounds to date and it hasn’t been binge free. I’ve had my setbacks and struggles too. I’ve controlled my binges by using various techniques in this article and by using Spark Streaks. Streaks are consecutive days of doing something. I would like to share some of the things I’ve learned and gathered from SparkPeople and various forms of therapy with you.
How do you prevent a binge? How do you stop one once it starts? Those answers are very individualized, as not one answer will work for everyone. If you have tried different things in the past and given up, don’t throw in the towel yet. There are many more things to try.
I went to Over Eaters Anonymous, which offered the advice to “Avoid that first compulsive bite.” When I asked how I would know what bite was compulsive, I was told that it was the one I knew would send me into that frenzy that I was telling you about. Prevent the first compulsive bite and you prevent the binge.
Another technique I learned was called HALT. It reminds you to ask yourself if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired before reaching for food as a comforting tool. These emotions are strong binge triggers, so eating for the sake of eating while feeling them is not a good idea. Figure out what you are really feeling and distract yourself for a little while to address the problem mentally. Once you know why you want to eat and what the root cause is, do something about it or decide to not. Make it your choice, your decision; put things in your hands again. You are now in control.
With emotions and eating as well as anxiety, there is a pattern I learned from my therapist. First you start with an event that causes an emotion. That emotion can be dealt with, stuffed down or raised to panic or anxiety. As binge eaters, we tend to stuff it down with food. Then the binge upsets us and we feel guilt and shame. Those new emotions become a new event. That causes new eating behavior to cover the emotional overload and then we eat more. Once again the shame kicks in and we begin a spiral downward into a binge that leaves us feeling full of shame and remorse by the end. Compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder are finally being recognized as official eating disorders that can be treated just like anorexia and bulimia. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for help if you need it. These eating disorders are just as serious and as unhealthy as their thinner counterparts. The difference is that there is a stigma attached to them because society as a whole is still unwilling to see people of size as being little more than out of control of their eating or lazy. This stigma keeps people in the dark about the gravity of their compulsive overeating and binge eating disorder. If your doctor is not familiar with these terms, and you know you need help, ask to be referred to a therapist who deals specifically with eating disorders besides anorexia and bulimia. Mention the terms “compulsive overeating” and “binge eating disorder.”
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Editor's note: If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental-health issue, please contact your health-care provider immediately. The information listed here is meant to inspire and offer hope but should not be interpreted as advice or recommendations.
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)
Among my health issues is a diagnosis of clinical major depression. It can be rather difficult to deal with depression and other mental health issues, especially on your own, so I wanted to share how I’ve dealt with my depression and anxiety, along with the help of my doctor and other health-care professionals. (If you think you're suffering from a mental health issue, talk to your health-care provider immediately.)
First, I want to talk about my anxiety. I have experienced full-on panic attacks that have stopped me in the middle of a store and made me abandon my cart and leave. I felt dizzy, like the world was crashing in on me. I couldn’t breathe, and most of all I just had to escape. I was nauseated, sweaty, disoriented, and needed to lie down after such an experience.
A therapist once told me the best advice I’ve ever heard that helped me with my panic attacks, and I find that it applies to binge eating, too: First there is an event that triggers the panic or the desire to binge, and then there is an emotion. We can either deal with that emotion or stuff it down with food or brute strength. Left undealt with, the emotion becomes another, even stronger event. Eventually one will give in and run or eat.
The answer to the problem is to deal with the emotion as it comes. Ask yourself what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Then discern what could resolve those feelings: In other words, what action can you take? So the ideal model would be event-emotion-action. Without the action, you risk heading into complete downward spiral of emotion, panic, and bad choices (such as binging).
I’m a strong believer in getting help when help is needed. Read More ›
By Beth Donovan aka ~Indygirl
There is one phrase that I think we may not use enough.
“No, thank you.”
There is nothing wrong with politely refusing.
Too many times I have stuffed my own feelings down and said “Yes” to things I didn’t want to do, staying in a bad situation or one that made me feel uncomfortable, or allowing someone else’s negative mood become my own. Maybe I didn’t set out to do those things, but I didn’t refuse them either. I’ve learned to draw a better line in the sand when it comes to such things and choose my battles with the power of “No.”
How do you do it?
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From our partners at Woman's Day
Sure, marriage is hard work, but if yours is a happy one most of the time, both you and your spouse will reap major health benefits. “People who are married can have a built-in support system and social network. One of you might encourage the other to eat better or join in a workout, or nag until the other stops smoking,” explains Alice Domar, PhD, coauthor of Live a Little!
Married folks are less likely to...
…develop diabetes. Women with higher-than-normal blood glucose readings were more apt to end up with full-blown diabetes if they lived alone rather than with a partner, says research published in the journal Diabetes Care.
…have hypertension. Researchers from Brigham Young University found that happily married people had the healthiest blood pressure levels. The catch: Unhappy couples had the worst readings. “I have counseled some patients to get divorced,” says Dr. Domar. “A bad marriage is worse for you than being single.”
…smoke or drink too much—compared with people who never married, are divorced or are widowed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
…die prematurely. People who never married are 58 percent more likely to die early, according to a study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
8 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex
The Secrets to Staying Married
9 Marital Bad Habits and How to Break Them
What do you think about these side effects of marriage? Read More ›
Once upon a time I knew a guy from New Zealand who was teaching English in Korea to save money to move to Australia and study energy healing. He was vegetarian. He had a peaceful soul. He seemed to radiate an almost tangible calmness.
I was battling anxiety, enjoying my youth, and indulging my every whim. I was miserable. I was constantly on edge. I had panic attacks regularly, drank too much alcohol and caffeine, and though I was losing weight and working out, I wasn’t the picture of health that I am today.
How the two of us ever crossed paths, I’ll never know.
One day, he held me. (Forgive me for venturing into the personal side, dear readers, but I promise it's germane to the story.) I was exhausted. I was defeated. For the first time in a very long time, a feeling of calm washed over me. I fought it at first, but I gave in. I stood still, my head against his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart and the rhythm of his breath. My own pulse and breath slowed. I felt every muscle relax.
The last time I saw Gareth, it was across a crowded room the night that I left Korea for good. I’m told that, much later that night, he stopped by my going-away party, only to find that I’d already left for the airport. I never got to say goodbye, or thank you.
In January 2008, I wrote him:
"…you had an effect on me, and I wanted you to know that. I was terribly lost in Korea, in the middle of a quarterlife crisis and a serious depression. With you, for brief moments, I felt peace and calm. I've emerged, stronger and healthier than ever. I start yoga teacher training in March, I'm now a fitness and nutrition writer for a health website, and I went vegetarian two years ago. I'm living in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I'm currently staring out at about six inches of snow and ice, though my mind keeps drifting farther east, to the land of the morning calm."
He never wrote back, though I later heard he did head back to Australia to study the healing arts.
People enter your life for reasons unbeknownst to you. I believe he entered mine to encourage me to seek a solution to my anxiety. Before then, I felt powerless against my anxiety. When crossing Seoul, I had to get off crowded trains and flee to the restroom to catch my breath and let the panic subside. I found myself paralyzed by fear and indecision, and I wished away precious moments. I needed prescription anti-anxiety medication.
How did my life change? I wish I had a simple answer to share with you. I can say for sure that three things profoundly changed my life:
- 1. Practicing yoga
2. Eliminating and reducing stress by living in the moment
3. Committing myself to a regimen of regular exercise and healthy eating.
Last Friday, Coach Nicole and Coach Jen each shared a link with me that bolstered my confidence in that list. Read More ›
Celery is often wrongly touted as an example of a negative calorie food. People like to believe low calorie foods like celery take more calories to digest them than they contain so they have no influence on weight. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a negative calorie food. Although, celery does have a high water content, which makes it a great choice for juicing while also being low calorie and high in fiber, it is not calorie free. Although it may not be a negative calorie food, new research suggests it could be a memory super food.
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Previous studies have found an inverse relationship between B vitamins and homocysteine levels. Likewise, higher homocysteine levels have been linked to atherosclerosis and higher risks of fatal coronary heart disease (CHD) and strokes. CHD studies have found a reduction in the average level of homocysteine since folic acid fortification was instituted in the U.S. A new study ties low serum folate levels with increased risk of depression symptoms as well. The cross-sectional population-based study is one of the first conducted among U.S. adults since the mandatory fortification of folic acid. The study also looked at vitamin B12 and total homocysteine (tHcy) levels as well.
Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin naturally occurring in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form added to foods for fortification or in supplements. Diets rich in whole foods typically are rich in folate since leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and dried beans and peas all provide natural sources. Since the 1996 FDA requirement of folic acid fortification, enriched breads, cereals, flours, pastas, rice, and other grain products, provide other popular sources to the American diet. Since depression is a common medical condition, surrounded by myths and misconceptions about its causes, symptoms and seriousness, learning more about its relationship with folate levels could be beneficial for those that are trying to cope.
Researchers for the study, published online last month in Psychosomatic Medicine, used cross-sectional information from NHANES data collected from 2005-2006. Data from more than 2,500 adults between 20-85 years of age were included. In addition to folate, vitamin B12, and total homocysteine levels, researchers also looked at data related to demographics, diet, physical activity, smoking habits, blood pressure, and depressive symptoms. The study indentified a significant association between folate levels and elevated depressive symptoms as well as elevated homocysteine levels especially in people over the age of 50.
So what do these results mean for those dealing with depression issues?
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You're probably familiar with the terms "apple" and "pear" when they apply to body shapes. People who are apple shaped tend to carry their extra weight in the abdomen region, but usually have relatively slim arms and legs. Men tend to be apple shaped, but many women are, too. Pear shaped individuals, by contrast, tend to carry fat in their lower body: hips, butt, and thighs.
Besides making our fat stores seem cuter by naming them after fruit (hehe), it's important to know which shape you are because it can help you determine your disease risk. It's has long been established that apple shapes are less health because excess fat storage around the abdomen is associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Pear shapes are often touted as less risky—healthy, even—especially when compared to abdominal fat storage.
I'm a pear shape and always figured that I wasn't at risk for health problems as a result. Even if I gained weight in the future, it would likely be in my hips and thighs. "No biggie," I thought. "Pear shapes are healthier, even when they're overweight." So I thought. I was really surprised when I read about a new study published in the July 14 issue of Journal of the American Geriatric Society that associated fat storage in the lower body with its own set of health risks. Read More ›
Confession: Last week, I was in a funk. I could blame the heat, some personal stress, a busy schedule, or a general sense of ennui, but truth be told, sometimes there is no concrete reason for a case of the blues or the mean reds.
Sometimes we just don't wanna eat our vegetables, put away the laundry, go for a run, eat a sensible dinner, mow the lawn, or roll out of bed on time. And then--boom--we suddenly do again.
When we're heading down a slippery slope, eating one too many macaroons after dinner, skipping a workout, or ordering a second glass of wine instead of the club soda you know you should, it doesn't take much to reverse your path.
I'm a Type A personality, a perfectionist, an overachiever. When I am less than my best, I tend to see that as failure, at least for a fleeting moment. I'm hard on myself.
This weekend was not the best for me. I spent most of Saturday on the couch after an allergic reaction to something containing cashews. (Actually, it was due to the Benedryl I took to combat the reaction that rendered me a dizzy, woozy, incomprehensible blob.) Sunday I felt hungover from the reaction, which left me feeling sort of blah.
Monday when I awoke, I decided I needed to make the most of my Monday to rebound and re-energize myself. And so, I made one healthy decision. Then I made another. Read More ›
Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, Rita Hayworth, and Mary Ellen Westerman are all people that had one thing in common. The first three names are people that were important to the world in one way or another but the last was someone that was important to me. Mary Ellen Westerman was my grandmother and although she was physically healthy when she turned eighty, like millions of other people she battled a degenerative disease of the brain.
This degenerative brain disease is known as Alzheimer's and it causes a gradual loss of memory, judgment, and ultimately the total ability to function. As was the case with my grandmother, dementia typically appears in older people as subtle forgetfulness that worsens and limits their ability to function normally in many aspects of daily life. Familiar settings become confusing, memories focus on places and experiences from many years before, and routine tasks turn into a challenge. The decline of my grandmother stood in stark contrast to my then newborn son. As he was learning to walk, talk, and feed himself, she was losing her ability to do the same. Eventually like most others, she required total care during her advanced stages of the disease before losing the battle due to general body wasting. It is estimated that about 5.3 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately for my family, not only does the risk of contracting the disease go up as we get older, it is also higher if a family member has had the disease. Since my husband also lost his grandmother to the same disease, I suppose the race is on to see which of us forgets the other first.
I previously told you about a participation opportunity for the VITAL study, a research study designed to see if taking omega 3 fatty acids or vitamin D supplements could reduce the development of cancer, heart disease and strokes in healthy people. Now there is another opportunity I wanted to bring to your attention.
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Just a few short days ago we ushered in one of my favorite seasons of the year. Spring to me is like a rebirth of sorts. For many, me included, this is the one time of year I rummage through the rooms, closets and garage to find items no longer needed and freshen up those still in use. I take the blankets off the bed, flip the mattresses and do a thorough cleaning of each room from top to bottom. It's a cathartic ritual to clear myself of the material clutter that keeps me from appreciating the simplicity in my life.
It is also a time I like to take inventory of where I am in my life's journey. How am I managing with my eating, exercise, stress management, sleep, etc. It is a journey in letting go of things that are no longer necessary-guilt and perfection being two big ones I can think of off-hand, while working to clean up those they have been tucked away for a while--self-esteem and positivity.
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I remember the first time we went on vacation as a family with my (then) 9-month old daughter. As a tired new mom, I was looking forward to a relaxing week at the beach with my family. But the week didn't go exactly as I'd planned. We had great weather, good food and lively conversation, but it was stressful. For some reason I thought "vacation" meant that my daughter would require less work and I could relax. But she still needed to be fed, changed, played with, etc. And that was even more challenging in a new place when she wasn't sleeping in her own bed and I had to constantly watch her in a condo that was far from baby-proofed. I ended up coming back from the trip more tired than when we left. Ever since then, I've revised my expectations about vacations. Now new research is measuring how vacations affect overall happiness and how long it lasts. Read More ›