Your Best Solution for Anxiety

woman using mindfulness meditation to relieve anxiety
Meditation is not just for hippies any more

The Benefits of Meditation For Anxiety in Difficult Times

Do you have tense muscles? Are your shoulders creeping up toward your ears? Do you obsess about the news? Do you have anxiety about your future? Difficulty sleeping? All of the above? You’re definitely not alone. There’s no doubt that we are all living with a lot of uncertainty right now.

So how can we cope when we don’t know if we’ll keep our job if we can pay our rent or mortgage, if we can keep putting food on the table, if we can save for our retirement or our children’s education?

How Doing Nothing Helps You Cope with Everything

The answer might be as simple as doing nothing, simply sitting still and purposefully clearing your thoughts through meditation. Studies show that it has an astounding number of benefits that are vital in situations just like this.

In fact, fostering an ongoing meditation practice actually changes the structure of your brain. That change provides benefits that continue even when you have finished meditating.

In short, meditation just may be one of the best things you can do for yourself in these troubled times. Will it put food on the table? No. But, it may get your brain out of the current “fight or flight” pattern that makes clear-headed decision making next to impossible. That way you can make a clear and decisive path forward.

Five Benefits Of Meditation

Here are just a few of the many positive things that happen when you meditate:

Lower Blood Pressure

As I mentioned, meditation decreases the “flight or fight” hormones in your body. As a result of this relaxation response, your blood vessels open up, which in turn improves your blood pressure if it tends to be high.

Less Stress-Induced Inflammation

Excess cortisol, one of your main stress hormones, increases blood sugar, which then increases insulin, which leads to inflammation in many parts of your body. A common example of this is in your gut. Digestive issues are common during times of high stress. Because meditation lowers the amount of cortisol you produce, inflammation is reduced.

Embracing Uncertainty

Despite all of the health benefits, the ultimate goal of meditation isn’t necessarily focused on physical results. It’s more a process of learning to embrace uncertainty. It’s not about eliminating or controlling the storm, it’s about learning to be still and calm despite the storm going on around you.

A More Optimistic Outlook

Who doesn’t need a more positive outlook right now? Meditation has been found to actually alter (in a good way) the parts of your brain responsible for positive thoughts. As well, by becoming more aware of your thoughts, you can fend off negativity. There are many health benefits to having a positive, optimistic attitude. In fact, studies show that higher optimism is a significant predictor of better survival, better cardiovascular outcomes, improved physiological markers (including immune function), better outcomes related to pregnancy, fewer physical symptoms, and reduced pain.

Reduced Anxiety And Rumination

It’s perfectly normal to be experiencing anxiety and worries about health and financial security when you are faced with something as stressful as a pandemic. However, when those thoughts spiral out of control they can negatively affect your family members as well as your own mental and physical health. High cortisol levels even lower your immune response, and we all need a strong immune system right now.

How Does Meditation Help With Negative Thoughts?

It may be difficult to imagine reining in the out-of-control, off-the-rails thought train when world events, and substantial changes to our daily lives, are so overwhelming.

However, meditation teaches us how to experience those thoughts without panicking or feeling the need to repress them. With a little practice, you should be able to just sit with your thoughts and feelings, without judgment or analysis, and start to process them without spiralling out of control. You can be present in the moment without projecting into the future or ruminating on the past.

And right now, faced with so many uncertainties, that’s particularly beneficial.

Why Start Meditating Now?

You might feel that now is not a good time to start meditation. After all, you’re likely stuck at home and perhaps feel antsy and confined. Who wants to sit still? However, meditation has proven to be an effective mental health treatment. Right now we need to be focusing not just on keeping a healthy body but also maintaining a healthy mind.

How To Meditate

Many people find the thought of taking up meditation a bit intimidating. After all, it has had a reputation of being “weird” and “fringe” throughout the ages. It’s important to know that you don’t have to “master” meditation. It’s OK to be imperfect. Your mind will probably wander, and you may feel uncomfortable at first. That’s perfectly normal.

Setting Up Your Practice

The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to get started. In basic terms, you just need to:

  • Find a comfortable place. Ideally, somewhere that is quiet.
  • Sit in a natural, relaxed position.
  • Breathe normally.
  • Focus on your breath.

Try not to overthink this: just focus on each exhalation and inhalation. It’s not necessary to force anything.

  • If your mind wanders (and since you’re human, there’s a good chance that it will) try to sit back and “observe” your thoughts. Don’t analyze them. And don’t berate yourself for losing focus. It’s all part of the process. They are just passing through your brain.

How Long Should You Meditate For?

You may have heard of people going on week-long meditation retreats. That’s great – but it’s not really necessary. Just a few minutes a day is a good start. In fact, studies have found that just five minutes of meditation has significant benefits.

And who can’t fit 5 minutes of meditation into their day?

How Often Should You Meditate?

As with many things, consistency is a key component of a successful meditation practice. Try to carve out a few minutes per day to dedicate to your mental health. Some people find that it helps to make it the same time every day. Some find that doing 5 minutes in the morning as soon as they wake up and setting an intention for the day helps. Others will do 5 minutes as they are going to bed at night. And other people find it beneficial to do 5 minutes here and there throughout the day when they are feeling the most anxious. There is no hard and fast rule. Do what works for you.

Ok, full disclosure here, I have a hard time with meditating. I find it hard to just be still and “do nothing”. But here’s what I can do. After I have done my morning yoga, and I reach the end. I’m lying on my back in Shavasana or Corpse pose, then I can add 5 more minutes to just clear my mind and prepare for the rest of my day. That’s what works best for me with meditation.

Resources To Get Your Meditation Practice Started

There are quite a few wonderful resources available to help you get started with meditation should you need a little help – here are a few of our favourites:

Headspace

Calm

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics

There are many reasons to start meditation. Why not start now? Let us know how it works for you and remember that we are here to support your health and wellness.

Need more help?

Our clinic is still (virtually) open via telehealth (phone or video call) with our naturopaths, our chiropractor, our dietitian, and our psychotherapist. Chiropractor Dr. Darlene Buan-Basit is available for in-person essential care appointments. Simply send us an email at Maria@ForcesofNature.ca, leave a message 416-481-0222 or book online.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Meditation Research

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25390009

https://www.npr.org/2008/08/21/93796200/to-lower-blood-pressure-open-up-and-say-om

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112004758

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159112004758

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5946075_Relationships_between_mindfulness_practice_and_levels_of_mindfulness_medical_and_psychological_symptoms_and_well-being_in_a_mindfulness-based_stress_reduction_program

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0306624X19856232

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Effects-of-Five-Minute-Mindfulness-Meditation-on-Lam-Sterling/7a7529a9e6401679016ab78f398eaaf4487aff84

https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2003/07000/Alterations_in_Brain and_Immune_Function_Produced.14.aspx

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19711142

Conquer Holiday Stress

Reconnect and Relieve Holiday Stress

December brings festivities, family fun, cherished holiday traditions… and stress! How much stress do the holidays entail? Well, according to a Healthline survey, the combination of joy and pressure that makes up the month of December means that more than 60% of us rate the holiday season as “somewhat” to “very stressful”.

What Causes Holiday Stress?

There are many factors that account for stress around the holidays:

  1. You have to navigate tricky family politics or familial dysfunction.
  2. Your busy schedule gets in the way of regular exercise and the stress relief that it provides.
  3. The frustrations of trying to get around in inclement winter weather.
  4. Endless appetizers and indulgent dinners out sabotage your diet or make you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
  5. The financial stress that the extra cash outflow, synonymous with the spending season, entails. One study found that Canadians spend about $1,500 extra in the month of December, and Americans about $1000. That extra expense definitely impacts your budget! For many people, that financial hit just adds insult to injury.

Given all of the above, the real question is how does anyone end up NOT feeling stressed out by the holidays? It’s not surprising that many of us get through December feeling as though we need a holiday from our holidays.

How Stress affects Your Digestion

Have you ever noticed that the gut-brain connection becomes especially evident in December? It makes sense. There is extra stress, and of course, there’s also extra food. To further complicate matters, it’s often the kind of food that wreaks havoc with your gut and your microbiome.

Stress Mode or “Fight or Flight”

Every part of your digestive system gets affected. When cortisone kicks in, your esophagus spasms, and your digestive activity reduces meaning that food sits in your stomach like a brick for a long time after eating.

In stress mode, blood flow to your gut slows down as your body redirects your blood supply to your muscles so that you can fight or run. This is what happens whenever you are in the “fight or flight” mode. This shift leads to an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. The results are cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and a host of other digestive issues. The whole process isn’t exactly fun and festive!

Calm Your Digestive Tract

How can you combat the Great December Stomach Ache? Taking a few minutes to meditate or breathe deeply before your meal triggers your body’s “relaxation response”. This switches on your parasympathetic nervous system which controls your digestion. The blood flow returns to your stomach and intestines. That allows digestion to work normally. As an added bonus, this practice may also lead to more mindful eating. This time of year eating more consciously and thoughtfully is very beneficial. One study even found a correlation between meditation and increased vegetable and lower meat consumption without any prompting of participants to choose certain foods.

It’s a good idea to increase your consumption of fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, and kimchi, or even take a probiotic supplement during times of stress to help maintain your healthy gut bacteria.

Tense Muscles Mean Shallow Breathing

To further complicate this dynamic, your tense, rigid torso muscles restrict your breathing. Again this creates a vicious cycle, shallow breathing exacerbates pain and perpetuates stress. So when you’re in pain, you can’t breathe deeply, and when you can’t breathe deeply, you feel more stress and pain.

How Holiday Stress Gives You Back Pain and Makes it Worse

Anxiety, stress, and back pain often come together in a distressing trifecta. To make matters worse, they also intensify each other. How does that work? When you’re stressed, your muscles tense up. That restricts your freedom of movement and alters the normal function of your joints and spine. In fact, chronic stress and chronic pain eventually rewire the way your brain works.

It’s no wonder many people complain of back pain at this time of the year – especially when you factor in physical stressors like shoveling snow, lugging around gifts, trudging through snow, slipping on ice or putting up seasonal lights.

The Role of Posture in Pain

Paying more attention to your posture is a good first step to getting a handle on back pain. It may sound simple, but working with a chiropractor, osteopath or massage therapist on your everyday movement patterns helps you focus on tips and tricks to bring your body back into alignment. Proper alignment reduces tension, enhances your freedom of movement, relaxes your muscles and improves your breathing. All of these have a positive effect on breaking the cycle of your pain.

Treat Yourself

Also, consider indulging yourself with some pain-relief treats! After all, self-care does not need to take a break during the busy season. Invest in a restorative yoga class, visit a naturopath, chiropractor or osteopath or have a therapeutic massage or relaxing bath. Not only will you relieve some of the emotional pressure that comes with the season, but manual therapies break the vicious cycle of stress and pain.

How Stress Affects Your Sleep

Do visions of sugarplums dance in your head in December? Or would nightmares about bill payments be a more accurate description?

In addition to financial stress, many other factors impact your sleep in December. We’re often eating and drinking more, as well as staying out later. Full stomachs, disrupted sleep schedules, anxiety and alcohol all interfere with getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleep Hygiene

It’s still important to maintain a solid sleep hygiene routine during these busy times.

Holiday sleep tips:

  1. Try to stay as close to your regular schedule as possible. Yes, even on weekends and party nights.
  2. Create a sleep-inducing bedtime routine. That means putting your phone and other devices away a couple of hours before bedtime.
  3. If you are drinking alcohol, try to have it earlier in the evening so that the effects wear off before bed. Alcohol de-stabilizes your blood sugar which then disrupts your sleep.
  4. Keep devices out of your bedroom while you sleep. Notifications, blinking lights, and flashing screens disturb your sleep. Many people say that they need their phone alarm to wake them up, but an old-fashioned alarm clock does the job just as well without the potential for sleep disturbance.
  5. Make sure that your room is cool, dark, and quiet. These are essential elements of a good night’s sleep at any time of year. Fortunately, many products are available that can optimize your environment, including blackout curtains, white noise machines, and fans.

Supplements for Sleep

There are effective supplements to help you through a rough patch and get you back on track with your sleep.

Melatonin

Many people have good sleep experiences with melatonin, for example. An important point about melatonin is that this is a substance that is made naturally by your body every night to get you to sleep. Darkness is the cue to your brain to make melatonin. This is why getting off screens before bed and keeping your bedroom dark are important. It does, however, have side effects and it interacts with some prescription medications. So always talk to your naturopathic doctor before taking melatonin, especially if you already take antidepressant drugs or other sleep aids.

Chamomile

Sipping a relaxing cup of chamomile tea before bed helps some people relax and sleep better.

Valerian

Valerian contains a number of compounds that promote calmness, improve the stress response and maintain adequate levels of mood-stabilizing brain chemicals. It’s been coined nature’s Valium and has been known to work well to aid in sleep issues.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that helps your muscles to physically relax and let go. A magnesium supplement or Epsom Salts bath is a safe and effective part of a relaxing bedtime routine.

‘Tis the Season for Self-Care and Connections

Of course, the best way to treat stress is to tackle it at the source. At this time of the year, we’re all too often the source of our own stress. Maybe we got so caught up in finding the “perfect” presents and hosting the “perfect” party that we forgot the real purpose of the holidays, which is connection. The plain truth is that a memorable holiday does not have to cost a lot of money or create a lot of stress if we stay mindful of what the holiday is really about.

The Best Present of All

In fact, at least one study has found that the best gifts are experiences, not things. And often, the key component of a memorable experience is the company you’re with. So instead of pushing yourself to buy more or do more, consider putting some time aside to just hang out with your friends and family, or attend community events. In the end, human connection is what we all want for the holidays and every day.

Here are some of the Best Experience Gifts in Toronto

  1. Escape Casa Loma – If you think all escape rooms are alike, you will be surprised to learn that this one is different. We have completed several escape rooms in Toronto and this one is definitely unique. For one, there are live actors who are playing out scenes in the castle guiding you through the escape room. Secondly, you are in a castle! Thirdly, because of the atmosphere and the live actors, this is a totally immersive experience.
  2. I-Fly – If you’ve always wanted to try out sky-diving, this is the experience for you. Our sons got this as a Christmas gift last year. Our instructor was fantastic and seeing how accomplished he is was so inspiring. Of course, now they’re wanting to try sky-diving for real.
  3. The CN Tower EdgeWalk – Have a fear of heights? You may want to skip this one, but maybe it would make for good exposure therapy. It’s the world’s highest, full circle hands-free walk. In your harness with your fellow Edge-Walkers, you walk around a 5-foot ledge 116 stories above the ground. You may want your valerian and magnesium for this!

The Best Free Experiences

  1. Winter sports. Hit the rink, grab your sled and tackle the hills, have a snowball fight, or build a snow fort. Make the most of the season, get outdoors, fresh air, exercise and bond with your family all in one!
  2. Get in the spirit. Get a group of friends, family or colleagues together to go caroling, volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter, or attend a tree-lighting ceremony.
  3. Make a meal. Get the whole family involved in making a super special meal. Plan an appetizer, main, side dishes, and dessert. Make a shopping list and tackle it together. Planning, getting the ingredients for and creating a fabulous meal as a family makes the meal that much more special.

Looking for a little extra help to stay healthy in December and tackle 2020 on the right foot? Come into the office and we can review your self-care routine together. If you’re trying to assemble your self-care team, we have all the self-care experts in one place. Call to book an appointment at 416.481.0222 or book online at any time here.


Authored by Dr. Pamela Frank, Naturopath

Research

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5556586/

https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23983029

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23983029

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/what-stresses-us-most-at-the-holidays-113015#1

Beating Burnout

pic showing rocks balancing with words is your body out of balance
How to Balance Your Life

How to Restore Balance to Your Life

Are you feeling burnt out and overwhelmed? You’re not alone. Let’s face it: We’re all busy, dealing with endless to-do lists and struggling to balance it all. The result is often a day-to-day life that feels too hectic. We feel pulled away from the things that really matter most. We may have even forgotten what those things are!

Many people find their way to our wellness clinic at a point in their lives where they feel compelled to take charge of their well-being before it gets even further out of control. Sometimes they’re experiencing health problems that they just can’t shake. Some have symptoms but no one can figure out what is wrong with them. Others are ready to take their health to the next level because they know that their health is their greatest asset. By seeking the kind of holistic help all of our wellness experts provide, they’re claiming ownership of their current and future health.

A Fork In The Road

The inescapable truth is that good health is vital to living a rich and meaningful life. Fortunately, our bodies let us know when we’re jeopardizing our present and future health by giving us warning signs in the form of unpleasant symptoms. However, many of us don’t listen to those signs or we try to cover them up with band-aid solutions and carry on. This propels our health even further down a slippery slope.

Here’s a key fact: Disease doesn’t develop overnight. It often begins when we’re out of balance and burnt out. We need to pay attention to the warning signs before they escalate into something much worse.

Five Signs That Your Body Is Out Of Balance

You Feel Incredibly Stressed

We all feel stressed from time to time. Some stress is actually beneficial to motivate us to get things done. However, chronic stress leads to many health issues, including muscle pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, cardiovascular and digestive issues, hormonal imbalance, depression, anxiety, and low immune system function.

From a survival standpoint, the “fight or flight” response produced by stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline makes sense. By putting your body into overdrive, those hormones help you physically if you are in danger. For example, when our ancestors were under attack by a predator, the fight or flight hormones helped them fight back or escape. However, in today’s world, stress tends to be more mental or emotional than physical, and more chronic than acute. As a result, your hormone levels end up way out of balance.

Irritability and Mood Swings are Signs of Burnout

Are you ready to fly off the handle at any moment? Do the things that used to make you laugh now irritate you? You could have an imbalance in the neurotransmitters that affect your moods, such as serotonin or GABA. Changes in estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels and thyroid hormone imbalances also lead to irritability.

You are Experiencing Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty Falling or Staying Asleep

Sleep problems can become a vicious cycle. We need sleep to refresh our minds and restore balance, but when our bodies are out of balance, it is difficult to sleep well. If you toss and turn for hours, or wake up in the night with your mind racing, it may be time to listen to your body and start practicing better sleep hygiene.

Following these steps to improve sleep resolves most issues:

  1. Maintain a regular bedtime, try to go to bed by 10 p.m.
  2. Shut down electronic devices by 8 p.m. and keep them out of your bedroom
  3. Keep your bedroom cool, quiet and dark. Invest in blackout curtains.
  4. Avoid eating for at least 2 hours before bed
  5. Avoid sugar and alcohol in the evening. These destabilize your blood sugar at night. The resultant dips in blood sugar wake you up in the night or keep you in a light, restless sleep.
  6. Do something that relaxes you in the evening. Read a book. Have a bath. Knit.
  7. Have a little protein (eggs, fish, nuts/nut butter) before bed. These help to stabilize your blood sugar to help you get to sleep, get into a deeper sleep and stay asleep longer.
  8. Balance your hormones. Hormone balance is crucial to good quality sleep.

Your Body is Changing and you Can’t Figure Out Why

Many patients experience mysterious symptoms that can’t be explained by conventional medicine. These symptoms may include rapid, unexplained weight gain, debilitating fatigue, and skin problems. Weight gain is a common symptom of imbalance. If you find you’ve gained weight without any change to your lifestyle, your body might be telling you that it’s out of balance. Similarly, unexplained fatigue or sudden acne (long past the teen years) are symptoms you shouldn’t just ignore.

There is an explanation for symptoms like these. If you’re being told it’s “just stress“, our naturopaths will dig deeper to get to the root cause of your problem.

You Rely on External Substances to “Manage” Life

If you feel like you can’t make it through the day without your morning coffee, mid-morning macchiato, and afternoon pumpkin spice latte and muffin, ask yourself what purpose those caffeinated drinks and sugar are serving. Relying on a substance, be it sugar, caffeine, or even alcohol, marijuana or cigarettes is not a sustainable way of coping with life’s difficulties. The short-term boost they provide soon gives way to imbalance and disease. It’s important to seek help to nip these habits in the bud.

Does anything on that list sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone! Feeling overwhelmed is often the result of our natural instinct to try to do everything or please everyone. The good news is that there’s a better way.

Recovering From Burnout: How To Bring Your Health Back Into Balance

How can you start the process of restoring balance? When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may seem like a daunting task. But, it’s simpler than you might think.

Step One. Prioritize What’s Really Important.

What matters most to you? Chances are that it’s not the housework, what’s happening on Instagram, your emails, buying a nicer couch, or any of the other things that take up space on your to-do list. Ultimately, for most of us, the important things are more intangible: our health, relationships, and family. In order to prioritize the things that matter, we need to put self-care at the top of our to-do list. Simply put, we can’t devote energy to the truly important things or people if we’re not looking after ourselves.

Interestingly, many people find that when they adjust their priorities, the other things cease to feel like such a struggle. It may seem like a bit of a paradox, but when we look after ourselves, everything else in life just falls into place.

If you want to reconnect with your priorities and figure out what really matters, mindfulness meditation helps. You can also try journaling. Writing down your thoughts is a great way to sort them out. In fact, writing down your emotions can be the outlet you need to ease the harmful physical effects of stress. Remember to include what you are thankful for in your journal. Take time for expressing gratitude daily. Studies show that higher levels of gratitude are associated with higher levels of subjective well-being.

Three vital self-care tips

  1. Take time to make healthy meals. Then take the time to sit down together with friends and family to enjoy them. Meal prep on Sundays with a meal prep menu so that making a healthy dinner isn’t rushed at the end of a long work-day.
  2. Schedule time with your wellness team and explore all of your health options. Why not try someone new? Have you ever seen an osteopath? A psychotherapist? An acupuncturist? A chiropractor? A naturopath? Why not have all hands on deck to optimize your health?
  3. Fit exercise into your busy schedule. Get up earlier to workout, take stairs, walk, take transit instead of taking the car. Taking the TTC builds exercise into your day by walking more and taking stairs and helps our environment too.

Step 2: Prioritize Down-time

Despite having busy lives, our bodies need a certain amount of downtime every day. If you are working all day, doing chores in the evening, answering email until you go to bed, your body doesn’t get the time it needs to recover. Disconnect from your devices and make a point of relaxing from 8 p.m. until you go to bed, every night. Get a full 8 hours of good quality sleep every night.

Step 3: Get the Right Nutrition

When you are constantly on the go and under pressure, your body’s demand for certain vitamins and minerals increases. Coping with stress necessitates adequate stores of vitamin C, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc. Good food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwi, berries, peppers, and melons. Foods rich in vitamin B5 include mushrooms, eggs, salmon, beef, chicken, turkey, sunflower seeds, pork, sweet potato, and avocados. Vitamin B6 is found in foods like salmon, chicken, beef, pork, avocados, sweet potato, and pistachios. Magnesium-rich foods include dark, green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens, as well as seeds, beans, nuts, fish and chocolate. Zinc is abundant in egg yolks, beef, shellfish, and pumpkin seeds.

The amount of these vitamins and minerals that you need under stress may be more than you can provide through diet alone, however. In that case, supplementation with good quality vitamins and minerals becomes vital.

Step 4: Recognize Where you Need Help and Ask For It

This step can be hard for many people. After all, as adults, we’re supposed to be self-sufficient, right? However, consider this: Many highly successful people have help. Athletes have health and fitness coaches; musicians have teachers; many business owners have mentors. And they often credit their success to that support and guidance.

The real strength is in identifying the areas of your life that feel out of control or could be better, and admitting that you could do with a helping hand. Then finding the right person to guide you in that area.

A good first step is to book a thorough review of your health and wellness status with your Naturopathic Doctor. We’re here to help you better understand where these feelings of overwhelm and troublesome symptoms are coming from. We’ll give you the tools that you need to find balance again. We can also direct you to the other healthcare practitioners that would be most beneficial for you.

Functional testing is available to remove the guesswork. Tests identify any possible underlying physical issues, such as hormonal imbalances. This holistic approach allows us to support you with an effective plan of action for your health and well-being that’s tailored specifically to you.

If you are ready to dive deeper into your health and rebalance your life, give us a call at 416-481-0222!

Authored By Dr. Pamela Frank


References

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/raising-happiness/201609/9-ways-ease-overwhelm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Edo_De_Kloet/publication/7849122_De_Kloet_ER_Joels_M_Holsboer_F_Stress_and_the_brain_from_adaptation_to_disease_Nat_Rev_Neurosci_6_463-475/links/53f477e80cf2888a7490fcf9/De-Kloet-ER-Joels-M-Holsboer-F-Stress-and-the-brain-from-adaptation-to-disease-Nat-Rev-Neurosci-6-463-475.pdf

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/advances-in-psychiatric-treatment/article/emotional-and-physical-health-benefits-of-expressive-writing/ED2976A61F5DE56B46F07A1CE9EA9F9F

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31105762

Are You Happy?

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Did You Know You Have a Baseline Level of Happiness?

It might seem like a simple question, but for many people, happiness feels like an impossible goal. In fact, studies show that only about one in three people consistently identify as “happy.”

If that seems a bit depressing, rest easy. The steps to living a happier life are easy. And no, those steps don’t involve winning the lottery. Believe it or not, most lottery winners have the same level of happiness as they had before hitting the jackpot. Researchers call this the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation”. What it means is that no matter what happens to us, we repeatedly return to a baseline level of happiness. This occurs whether there are positive or negative changes to our circumstances. Crazy right?!

What is Happiness?

Happiness is defined as feeling a sense of joy, well-being, or contentment.

Happiness Comes from Within

The simple truth is that living a happier life starts from within. Becoming happier involves a change in our internal circumstances. That may sound a bit far fetched, but the science of happiness has found consistent patterns in people who live their lives with joy.

What are the Health Benefits of Happiness?

There’s a lot of motivation to become a happy person. In addition to making our days more pleasurable, happiness offers many health benefits, including:

  • Better cardiovascular health through lowering your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Lower levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol
  • A better response to pain

What Makes People Happy?

Research shows that predictors of happiness and well-being include having high-quality social interaction, enjoying a better standard of living, and being satisfied with one’s own health.

Interestingly, a study on whether people equate happiness with social connections like friends, family and love, found that people with lower financial resources do so more than people with greater financial resources.

Another study analysed the association between household income and tendencies to experience 7 positive emotions that are central to happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love, and pride. This study confirmed previous ones showing that income contributes to patterns of attending to oneself versus orienting to others. Higher income was associated with greater feelings of contentment and pride, and with greater amusement. Lower income was associated with more other-oriented feelings of compassion and love, and with greater awe.

The Happiness Checklist

Take a look at this happiness checklist to see the areas of your own life that could provide a happiness boost.

  1. Is your gut healthy and happy?
  2. Are you surrounded by happy people?
  3. Are you connected with nature?
  4. How is your exercise?
  5. Do you get enough rest?
  6. Do you volunteer to help others?
  7. Can you forgive?
  8. Do you practice gratitude?

Is your gut healthy and happy?

When we say happiness starts from within, we mean it literally. More research is finding that our gut bacteria have a profound influence on our moods. Researchers call this dynamic the “gut-brain-axis.” In simple terms, when our gut is inflamed, we experience increased levels of anxiety and depression. That’s because your gut contains microbes that produce substances that control your mood like serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical called a neurotransmitter that helps us to feel happy. More serotonin is produced in your gut than anywhere else in your body, including in your brain. In addition, your gut and your brain are connected by a complex network of nerves. Inflammation in your gut means a great deal of stimulus being sent directly to your brain. It can make it difficult to relax, feel calm and sleep.

Diet Changes for Gut Health and Your Mood

What can you eat to feel happier? Try these 3 steps:

  1. Focus on high-fiber whole foods (broccoli, kale unprocessed grains)
  2. Eat foods with plenty of Omega-3 fats (fish)
  3. Enjoy fermented foods (yogourt, kefir, kim chi, sauerkraut). Fermented foods can positively influence your brain activity!

Are you around other happy people?

You really can catch a good mood. One study found that happiness can go viral. In other words, being around people who are upbeat and feel good about their lives can impact your own happiness levels. The study didn’t just consider the impact of your immediate family’s moods. It also took into account your neighbour’s moods. And being around a happy person has a domino effect. Your own increased happiness then influences those around you, and so on. The whole process is not unlike transmitting a cold – but much healthier!

This viral transmission of happiness may stem from the fact that even if you don’t feel happy, if you force yourself to smile, you will feel happier. Smiling back at those happy people can’t help but make you feel happy.

Positivity breeds positivity!

Do you get a regular dose of Vitamin N (for Nature)?

Spending time in natural environments boosts happiness levels in several ways. In one study, those who were more connected to nature had:

  • a more positive mood
  • greater vitality, and
  • increased life satisfaction

Nature enhances healing and enables growth. Interestingly, the effects of nature are stronger in women than men, and stronger in older adults than their younger counterparts.

Are you moving enough?

You probably know that exercise triggers the release of the feel-good endorphins that improve your mood. However, you may not realize that you don’t have to make a big investment in fitness to reap the benefits. In fact, endorphins can kick in quickly. One study found that it only takes 20 minutes of walking outside to experience a boost in your mood. Exercising outside versus inside, also helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol. High levels of cortisol have been linked to major depression.

Do you get enough rest?

It’s important to note that rest is just as important as exercise. Adequate sleep’s effect on our brain is to help us to focus on the positive. Being sleep-deprived makes us more sensitive to negative emotions. In another study, researchers found that people who don’t get enough sleep recall unpleasant memories much more quickly than people getting enough sleep.

Do you help others?

Acts of kindness are another way that happiness spreads. In other words, by making others happy, you feel happier. Doing something nice for someone else, whether it’s donating to charity, volunteering your time, or simply holding the door for another person, makes us feel better about ourselves. And if you think you’re too busy or too stressed to donate your time, consider this: One study found that 78 percent of people who volunteer say it lowers their stress levels. And in another study, people felt happier after buying something for someone else than they did after treating themselves!

Can you forgive?

Forgiving others may ultimately be a kindness to yourself. By forgiveness, we don’t necessarily mean letting bad behavior slide or turning into a pushover. Instead, focus on letting go of resentment and anger. Those negative emotions are not helping you. They often keep you stuck in the past instead of moving forward. And studies show that a more forgiving attitude leads to multiple physical and emotional benefits.

Are you grateful?

Gratitude for what we have also increases happiness levels. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. For example, if you keep a gratitude journal, you will look for things you’re grateful for to record in it throughout the course of your day. Over time, you’ll find yourself focusing on the positive.

How Can an ND Help with Happiness?

Our naturopathic doctors help people feel happier by:

  1. Balancing hormones. Healthy hormone balance is crucial to having a healthy mood.
  2. Helping you maintain a healthy gut. We are gut health experts. We can balance your microbiome and fix issues like IBS, leaky gut, Candida, SIBO, Crohn’s and colitis.
  3. Lifestyle counselling. Getting you on track with exercise, eating right, sleeping properly and spending time in nature helps you maintain a positive mind-set.
  4. Helping you achieve your health goals. Whatever your health goals are, we help set out a plan to take you there.

How Can a Psychotherapist Help with Happiness?

If you are feeling stuck, making a change, going through a life transition, having guidance and support can make all the difference. A psychotherapist gives you the tools you need to navigate difficult times successfully.

How Can a Massage Therapist, Osteopath, Acupuncturist or Chiropractor help with Happiness?

Well, if you are living with chronic pain, your mood will be negatively affected. In fact, that’s one of the causes of depression. Non-pharmaceutical pain relief from massage therapy, osteopathy or chiropractic does wonders for mood.

How did you do on the checklist? Are you interested in improving your happiness levels? As you can see, living life happily requires a holistic approach. If you’d like to work together for a happier, more fulfilling life, give us a call and let’s do this together. Science and nature are a powerful combination! Call 416-481-0222 to get started today.

5 Best Happiness Quotes

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” 
― Dr. Seuss

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” 
― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” 
― Abraham Lincoln

Sources

https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/content/dam/UHG/PDF/2013/UNH-Health-Volunteering-Study.pdf

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161005102254.htm

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Safaria_Triantoro/publication/275025845_Forgivness_Gratitude_and_Happiness_among_College_Students/links/552f3cf00cf2acd38cbbf270.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197458005002769\

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97848789

https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2011/04/how-to-quickly-and-easiy-feel-happier-and-mor/#ixzz2b36XGs00

https://my.happify.com/hd/forgiving-others-is-the-best-thing-you-can-do-for-yourself/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839572/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29867302

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25249992

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30123175

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30870075

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29251946

Mindfulness: Making the Mind-Body Connection

pic of meditation tips to connect mind-body

The Mind-Body Connection

Our mind-body connection is far more powerful than we realize. Our thoughts influence our emotions, our psychological well-being and the way we experience the world around us. Even when we imagine future situations or visualize potential outcomes, our bodies physically respond to those thoughts.

Think of how you react when someone cuts you off in traffic and nearly causes an accident. The incident may only last a moment, but, in that instant, your body prepares for the potential negative outcome. The stress triggers a surge of adrenaline, your body’s hormonal response to a fight or flight situation. Your physical reaction isn’t limited to a release of adrenaline though. In that instant of fear that you may be hurt or your car damaged, those alarming thoughts can trigger your body to experience all types of physiological responses. You may have changes in your blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate and chemical alterations in your brain. These changes can be harmless, or, over time, they can be detrimental to your health.

Mind-Body: The Placebo Phenomenon

What is a placebo?

The definition of a placebo is “a harmless or inactive pill, medicine, or procedure prescribed more for the psychological effect on the patient than for any physiological effect”. Placebos are usually used in evaluating new medications to see whether the effect of the medication is psychological or physical.

In 2013, a study was conducted on 270 patients looking to alleviate severe arm pain. Half of the subjects received “acupuncture” treatments, and the other half received “pain-reducing pills”. Some side-effects experienced in both groups included an increase in pain, sluggishness, swelling, and redness. Both groups found relief with treatment, but those who received acupuncture reported feeling even better than the group that did not receive this treatment. However, the study was not designed to measure the effectiveness of acupuncture versus pain pills. The “acupuncture” needles had retractable shafts that never actually pierced the skin, and the “painkillers were made of cornstarch”. The study was meant to measure the power of placebos. It illustrated that just because the patients thought that a harmless procedure or pill would cause side effects, it did. Also, because they thought the same inactive procedures or pills would help, their condition improved.

Imagine! Even without any actual treatment, the body still reacted according to what each patient thought or expected. Of course, you cannot think yourself better to remove a tumour or cure a virus. But researchers have found that the power of the mind can have a physical impact when it comes to pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and even some symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Our brain chemistry is also influenced by those around us.  In another study conducted at the University of Turin Medical School, 100 students went on a trip to the Italian Alps with the researcher Fabrizio Benedetti. Shortly before the trip, Benedetti told one individual in the group that the thin air may cause migraines. A few days passed, giving the rumour time to make the rounds to one-quarter of the travellers – all of whom experienced horrible headaches. Saliva tests on the “socially-infected” individuals also revealed low oxygen conditions beyond what was expected.

Now, apply that study to our everyday lives and how gossip and social media influence can negatively impact our thoughts. What happens when family and friends fuel your negative expectations, worries, and doubts? It makes things worse, doesn’t it? And what about the opposite – what happens when your loved ones surround you with warmth and encouragement? It feels amazing and makes life’s challenges feel less difficult.  These are examples of the mind-body connection in action.

Embracing positive social support makes a positive difference in your health!

Change your thoughts. Change your life.

Play along for a moment and allow yourself to take in a long conscious breath.

Feel how the air moves through your body as you inhale and exhale and try to clear your thoughts.  Imagine the air flushing out all of the negativity in your body and mind.

Now take another full deep breath. And another. One more.

How do you feel? Did time slow down a little? Did you enjoy a brief moment of calm or peace?

If only we lived breath by breath instead of task-by-task. Our to-do lists will never be empty, so we must schedule time in our day to reconnect with ourselves. We may feel like finding time to meditate is beyond our control. It isn’t. And the results are worth it!

Spending a moment in meditation each morning is one of the best things you can do for your health and well-being. Even if only for ten minutes, it is a time investment that you’ll never regret. By starting your day on the right track, it makes it that much easier to get yourself back on track whenever life goes off the rails.

The Benefits of Meditation

  • Meditation deepens your self-connection on a physical, mental and spiritual level.
  • Meditation helps to release suppressed emotions by giving you space to reset.
  • Meditation enhances our overall health and well-being by increasing positive emotions and improving immune function.

Studies have also shown that when we work on our emotional awareness and self-compassion, we can experience a healthier response to rejection, improve eating behaviours, and effectively manage weight loss.

Feel like meditation is a little too woo-woo for you? Science supports this practice. Check out the following studies on the benefits of meditation:

  1. The use of a community-accessible mindful awareness practice intervention resulted in improvements in sleep quality at immediate post-intervention, which was superior to a highly structured sleep hygiene education intervention. Formalized mindfulness-based interventions have clinical importance by possibly serving to remediate sleep problems among older adults in the short term, and this effect appears to carry over into reducing sleep-related daytime impairment that has implications for quality of life. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Apr;175(4):494-501. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081.
  2. Stress reduction was observed in several types of meditation. After meditation, hormonal orchestration modulates effects in the central nervous system and in the body. All types of meditation are associated with blood pressure control, enhancement in insulin resistance, reduction of lipid peroxidation and cellular senescence, independent of the type of meditation. Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 2014 Jun;18(3):137-43. doi: 10.1515/hmbci-2013-0056.
  3. Meditation helps regulate the stress response, thereby suppressing chronic inflammation states and maintaining a healthy gut-barrier function. Adv Mind Body Med. 2017 Fall;31(4):10-25.

These are just a drop in the bucket from the multitude of studies showing widespread health benefits from meditation. Busy lives create an “always on”, “go-go-go” mentality that is in direct opposition to the effects of meditation. Taking the time to meditate or at the very least take 5 deep, cleansing breaths, all the way into your belly and all the way out at least once per day can have significant health benefits.

No matter your struggle, success always begins with a positive frame of mind.  Perspective is everything.

A few key points to remember…
1. Stress is not inherently negative – it all depends on how you look at things. If you perceive something as a threat, then your body responds accordingly and your health will deteriorate. However, if you simply use the mind-body connection to change your mindset from seeing things as a threat to a challenge, then you enhance your health!

2. Emotions are only energy in motion. Instead of thinking of your emotions as a hindrance, consider them the currency required for the motivation to change. Unresolved feelings don’t atrophy or disappear – their dammed-up energies accumulate. Like an untreated health condition, if your emotions are allowed to fester inwardly, they will eventually cause physical conditions and behavioural issues.

3. Both negative and positive emotions left unresolved will deplete your body’s immune system. Acknowledge your feelings and learn how to manage them effectively. Managing emotions leads to balance in the body, a centred mind, and a spiritual connection. Remember, if there are no peaks or valleys, you’re not really living.

Do you find yourself entrenched in negative thought patterns? Do you think some of your health concerns might be related to your outlook on life? Let’s discuss and see if we can uncover the triggers behind your health issues and develop strategies to overcome them together. Contact us at Forces of Nature and we’ll start working on bringing you back to your best.

Call or email us at 416-481-0222 or Info@ForcesofNature.ca.

To your best health!
The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic – Naturopathic Doctors, Chiropractor, Osteopath, RMT’s, Registered Dietitian, Acupuncturist/TCMP, Craniosacral Therapist, Psychotherapist

Mind-Body Research:

https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1504023

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26164587

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12883106

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316737540_Stomaching_rejection_Self-compassion_and_self esteem_moderate_the_impact_of_daily_social_rejection_on_restrictive_eating_behaviours_among_college_women

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/324225709_A_qualitative_analysis_of_the_role_of_emotions_in_different_patterns_of_long-term_weight_loss

Defusing Depression

depression pic of bench with the words feeling depressed

Defusing Depression

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Do you or have you ever suffered from depression? If so, you’re not alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide and that it is a leading cause of disability. Fifteen percent of adults will experience depression at least once in their lifetime.

Depression knows no bounds. It can impact anyone at any point in their life, regardless of age, gender, medical history, or socioeconomic status. This is evidenced by the recent very high profile suicides of designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain. While depression may seem like an invisible condition, there are warning signs to look for.

What is Depression?

How can you tell if you or someone you know might be experiencing a major depressive episode? A major depressive episode is defined as a depressed mood lasting at least two weeks or more. Life seems filled with darkness, heaviness or hopelessness, and there is a loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities. Depression also comes with other symptoms that can interfere with your work, school or social life.

What are the signs or symptoms of depression?

The signs and symptoms of depression include:

  • Sleep issues. You may be either sleeping too much or having difficulty falling asleep
  • Fatigue. Low energy or feeling fatigued almost every day for no reason
  • Indecision, lack of focus or concentration. Inability to focus, make decisions or think clearly.
  • Moving slower than usual or making unintentional motions to a degree that is noticeable by others
  • Changes in weight and appetite, with an increase or decrease of more than five percent of your body weight a month
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide, a suicide attempt, or a specific plan in place for suicide

If you are or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to start a conversation right away, get professional help to identify the cause, and find some appropriate solutions.

What Causes Depression?

What makes depression so puzzling is that there is no one single cause. Hormones, brain chemistry, hypothyroidism, family genetics, life experiences and physical health are all possible contributing factors that can trigger a depressive episode. While some types of depression can be attributed to conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter or early spring due to lack of sunshine over the winter) or postpartum depression (after giving birth), for many the source might not be so obvious.

Unfortunately, in this situation, doctors prefer to medicate rather than investigate, prescribing antidepressants instead of exploring the cause of the condition or offering counselling. Antidepressants have their time and place, but with a myriad of possible side-effects, they are not always an appealing or effective option for everyone. Also, a lifetime prescription to antidepressants is only a Band-Aid solution that doesn’t really address the underlying problem.

Research shows that high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammatory disease, have been documented in subjects with depression. In fact, results from a national health and nutrition examination survey showed that subjects with depressive symptoms had CRP levels that were 46 percent higher than those of non-depressed subjects. Research has illustrated a connection between inflammation in the brain from IgG food sensitivities and depression. Additional studies also suggest that subjects with a depressed mood have low levels of fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FeNO), which is an indication of airway inflammation.

Over time, depression can also lead to significantly more inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is our body’s response to injury or illness, and when left untreated, it can cause chronic illnesses like heart disease and potentially even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. So not only is identifying the cause of depression early on important for your mental health; it’s also important for your long-term physical health!

This is why visiting a naturopathic doctor can be so crucial. Not only is depression a serious condition, not to be taken lightly, but there are so many possible influences, that it requires a proper 360-degree assessment to determine what might be the cause. The first thing you need to ask yourself is “Why am I feeling depressed?”, we can help pinpoint the underlying cause.

5 Ways to Treat Depression

For those with mild to moderate depression, there are a variety of natural options that can help fight the blues effectively, without pharmaceuticals.

Sunshine & Exercise

It may sound trite to suggest a little fresh air and exercise; however, you can never underestimate the value of a brisk walk in the sunshine. Activity pumps up serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, which are our feel-good, happy brain chemicals. Go for a run to experience a true natural high. Running has been shown to increase a brain chemical called Anandamide. The word is derived from a Sanskrit word, Ananda, which means joy or bliss. It works to lift your mood by binding to the same receptors as THC from marijuana.

Don’t forget, the sun doesn’t just light up the sky. It can also lighten up your mood with its feel-good rays that help your body produce vitamin D. Invest in a therapeutic light box for those cloudy days and winter months.

Create a Regular Bedtime Routine

Depression and sleep issues are intimately connected. For those who have trouble falling asleep, a nighttime routine can help ease you into a more restful slumber.

Set a regular bedtime and unplug from all devices at least two hours beforehand. Use that digital downtime time to take a bath, read a book, listen to music, meditate or unwind in any other low key way. By eliminating sources of constant stimulation and slowing down your evening habits, you will be working with your natural body rhythm and foster a better mental environment for sleep. If you’ve been dealing with insomnia for a while, melatonin is a helpful natural supplement to reset your internal clock. This supplement may not be appropriate for everyone, it should never be taken with sleep medications and in some patients, it has shown a slight increase in depressive symptoms.

Keep yourself on a consistent schedule by setting your alarm to go off after 8 hours. Try to resist the urge to nap during the day as it can disrupt your nighttime sleep.

Natural Supplements

Serotonin is a vital brain chemical called a neurotransmitter. It regulates our mood, behaviour, libido, sleep, and memory. Keep your serotonin levels elevated by getting your fill of healthy omega-3 fatty acids ─ the kind you find in fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, and more.

Cut down on coffee, which can reduce serotonin levels. Instead, try green tea which has L-theanine, an amino acid that has a calming and relaxing effect. L-Theanine boosts neurotransmitters and helps to alleviate stress and anxiety. It can create a calm alertness though, so green tea and L-theanine are best consumed early in the day.

Rhodiola rosea and St. John’s wort are other natural supplements that many individuals have had success with for treating depression. That said, St. John’s wort may interfere with birth control or other medications and should NEVER be taken with antidepressants. This is why it is always important to get professional guidance on which supplements and what dose might work best for you.

Get Your Hormones Balanced

Our hormones have an impact on our physical body, our brain and our mood. They can be the reason behind depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, weight gain, and more. Think of your adrenal, sex and thyroid hormones as Jenga blocks. When certain blocks that work together and support each other become imbalanced, it can send our whole life tumbling out of control. The longer you take to correct the imbalance, the more difficult it can be to heal. Getting your hormones tested is an easy and effective way to assess any issues so that you can effectively identify what your options are to get back into balance.

Talk to someone

While you may feel vulnerable or uncomfortable at first, opening up to friends and family may be the relief you need to get through dark times without feeling so alone. Social support is critical when you are feeling depressed. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your burdens with the people you know, then seek professional counselling, whether a therapist, life coach or trusted doctor. We are all here to help, not to judge and we can offer you a fresh, new perspective on things.

If you think you are dealing with depression or can’t shake the blues, we invite you to reach out to us at Forces of Nature. Please feel free to book an appointment or a free 15-minute consultation with us by calling 416-481-0222 or emailing Maria@ForcesofNature.ca. You don’t have to battle depression alone. We can help you get your life back!

The Team at Forces of Nature Wellness Clinic

References:

https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanpsy/PIIS2215-0366(18)30087-7.pdf

http://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2016/v77n12/v77n1221.aspx

http://ndnr.com/mindbody/case-study-herbal-treatment-of-depression/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005791617300629#sec4

The Trouble with Stress


woman with stress

Why is Stress a Problem?

We often underestimate the power of stress. We like to see it as natural, and even helpful, in being productive in our day-to-day lives. But the positive effects of stress, like goal orientation, motivation, and even intensified memory or cognitive responses are most beneficial in small doses.

Many of us have built up tolerances to living with constant, heightened stress levels, and the temptation to see this as a positive or heroic trait has reduced our natural desire to respond to it. Instead of recognizing and reacting to the core ‘fight or flight’ survival response that it provides, many of us function with long durations of heightened stress without realizing that living under continued high levels can have dire health consequences.

How Stress works:

You’ve probably heard this before, and you’ve certainly felt it: the pounding heart, the rushing sounds in your ears, and an acute and intense desire for action when something has caught you completely off guard.

When your brain perceives some kind of stress, be it your move in a basketball game, a heated argument, or stepping off a busy street, it starts producing an influx of epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol hormones. This flood of chemicals produces a variety of reactions: increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and an acute focus on taking whatever action is necessary to stay safe.

Stress can be brought on by a variety of internal and external factors, and it can be a very healthy reaction and necessary to maintain our survival. It’s when you remain in a heightened state for prolonged periods of time, that the effects of stress on your system can become a real medical problem.

How much stress is too much?

Life events, changes in lifestyle, work, family, or even shifting responsibilities such as child or parent care, relationships, and work can directly affect feelings of overwhelm. When the amount on our plate reaches a place of critical mass, we experience overwhelm. That experience can present itself in many ways. Emotional stressors like these, that remain for a period of weeks, months, or even years, can become detrimental to your immune system, and your overall health. Being able to recognize our own stress signals is the first step to finding ways to cope with and dissipate it, to return to a healthy state that will enable you to work through the demands placed on you.

Recognizing Stress Responses:

There are many ways that stress expresses itself. While some might be more familiar to you than others, a person can experience some or all of these at different times. But, multiplied sources of ongoing stress can lead to larger health issues. If chronic stress is not dealt with effectively, it can become debilitating, leading to an inability of what we want to do most: thrive at work, and in life with our family and friends.

Being able to recognize the sensations of stress is the first step to being able to discuss them with your family doctor and your personal health team. Then, they can help you find ways to cope more effectively.

Stress can feel like:

  • Frenetic energy or restlessness
  • Fatigue, or trouble sleeping or staying awake
  • Digestive issues, changes in appetite, over or under eating
  • Change in use of addictive substances like alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
  • Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
  • Increased frequency of colds or other illnesses like autoimmune disease flares
  • Heightened anger or impatience
  • Headaches, migraines, body aches
  • Increased irritability, anger, or anxiety
  • Lack of motivation, depression, sadness
  • Inability to catch your breath, panic attacks
  • Change in sex drive, social withdrawal
  • Feelings of being ‘burnt out’

That’s me! What should I do?

First, know that everyone experiences high stress at one time or another. You are not alone.

Second, understand that it is manageable and that there are many tools that Dr. Pamela Frank, ND  Dr. Rachel Vong, ND and Ichih Wang, therapist in training, have at their disposal to help hone in on treatments and and actions that will support you in managing yours. If stress is creating muscle tension, back pain or neck pain, see one of our massage therapists, our acupuncturist/TCMP Joy Walraven or one of our chiropractors.

There’s no need to wait until stress is overwhelming to start practicing some simple management techniques. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends including a few key practices to help manage everyday stress, so that if a major issue should arise, you’ll have a few great tools already in your tool box.

Some people find great benefit in:

  • Effective, gentle breathing and stretching techniques
  • Tai Chi or gentle yoga (such as Hatha, Yin, or Restorative not Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Power)
  • Exercising regularly, choosing gentle forms of movement and temporarily reducing or eliminating cardio intensive exercise (which increases the cortisol response)
  • Allotting quiet time for yourself, to think, journal, meditate, or engage in a creative activity that you enjoy
  • Implement a restful sleep routine that makes a conscious effort towards reducing screen-time and stimulants before bed, and gives you the opportunity to regulate the amount and timing of your sleep hours – the mind and body heal when at rest

Let the mind and body work together:

Remember that stress starts in the brain, and then exhibits in the body. It is not a form of weakness; rather, it is a normal psychological and physical response to situations that require our attention. The way that we can best manage stress is by paying attention and caring for the mind as well as the body, holistically. Some potential stress diagnostic and stress management tools your practitioner could suggest include:

  • Hormone testing and re-balancing
  • Methods of identifying and eliminating stressors
  • Natural, non-addictive, sleep training
  • Building inroads to create family support
  • Natural nutritional supplements such as:
    • Magnesium glycinate
    • B vitamins
    • Adrenal support and adaptogenic supplements (like ashwaganda, Korean ginseng, licorice root, or schisandra)
  • Properly administered essential oil blends, such as:
    • Chamomile
    • Frankincense
    • Lavender
    • Lemon balm
    • Rose
    • Vanilla
    • Valerian

It’s never too early to start learning how to identify and copy better with stress. After all, life is full of surprises. Have you tried any of these tools? Which ones have worked best for you? Which new ones will you try?

Your Forces of Nature Wellness Team is here to help you. If you find that your stress management toolkit isn’t providing what you need, please call us. We would love to support you to finding your best health.

Get off Antidepressants

woman who wants to get off antidepressants

How to Get off Antidepressants

In practice, I see a number of patients who are on antidepressants but don’t want to be for various reasons.

Reasons Why People Come off Antidepressants

Here are the most common reasons why people want to discontinue taking antidepressants:

  1. They feel that they are ineffective
  2. Others feel that they are no longer warranted
  3. Still, others are coming to me for fertility treatment and don’t want to be on medication during pregnancy
  4. Some prefer to take a more natural, holistic approach
  5. They find the side effects unbearable.

Regardless of the reason for wanting to come off, there are a number of naturopathic options that can help with discontinuing anti-depressant therapy. This should only be undertaken under the supervision of your medical doctor and a naturopathic doctor.

How to Come off Antidepressants

Firstly, weaning off of anti-depressants needs to be done very slowly. Sometimes you would use dosages that are not available and need to be custom compounded. In patients who have been on anti-depressants longer term (more than a year or two), tapering off may take 6-24 months.  This must be done under your medical doctor’s supervision. 

Secondly, there are several medications that are NOT safe to use together with herbal antidepressant alternatives like St. John’s Wort. These include antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors/SSRI’s), benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety), warfarin, statins, verapamil, digoxin, and oral contraceptives.

How a Naturopath Can Help you Get off Antidepressants

To help with weaning off of anti-depressants, we will:

  1. Make dietary changes to support your brain and nervous system
  2. Introduce lifestyle changes like stress reduction, meditation, yoga, and exercise, and
  3. Use nutritional supplements like fish oil, B vitamins, magnesium and protein to support normal brain function
  4. Herbs may be used to reduce anxiety (Passionflower, valerian, lemon balm, oatstraw, skullcap), improve resilience to stress (Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Schisandra) and improve mood.

Some of these herbs require gradual weaning on as the anti-depressant dose is being reduced. Because of the risk of interactions with anti-depressants or other medications, herbs should only be used for this under the supervision of a naturopathic doctor.

Acupuncture can be used to help with weaning off of antidepressants as it can help to “raise the spirit qi”.

For advice about how to get off antidepressants, book a consultation with one of our naturopathic doctors.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

References:

Jane Clewes, MA A Case Report of Onset of Tinnitus Following Discontinuation of Antidepressant and a Review of the Literature. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2012; 14(1): PCC.11br01218.

Davis SA, Feldman SR, Taylor SL. Use of St. John’s Wort in potentially dangerous combinations. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jul;20(7):578-9. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0216.