I have been been reading a lot about integrative pain management and healing pain due to my own issues as well as wanting to improve the care I provide for my clients. I’ve been integrating mindfulness and nutrition in addition to standard cognitive behavioral therapy on a regular basis. This type of treatment was not widely found outside of a complementary and alternative wellness center...or so I thought.
I had the pleasure of attending a talk and book-signing by Jen Sincero. She's the author of two books:
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
You are a Badass at Making Money
I highly recommend reading these books to help you become the best, most connected, happiest version of yourself. AND, if you can get your hands on the audio versions (my library had them through Hoopla), do it and listen over and over and over....in the car, on a walk, while you make dinner, etc. Not only is it convenient to listen throughout your day, but Ms. Sincero is HILARIOUS, and due to the funny voices that she used and ad-libbing here and there, I remembered key phrases in a way that I wouldn't from reading alone. Also, I learned at this book talk (is that what they are called??) and signing, she speaks just as she writes. She is the real deal.
You can read the books to get all of the golden nuggets of wisdom packaged in an approachable box with a laugh-out-loud funny bow on top. I'm giving you the life lesson jewels that she dropped during the talk.
If you go to the bookstore or the library or more likely, search your trusty Amazon app for books on healthy eating, you'll be overwhelmed with conflicting titles... "Low Carb Living" "Low Fat Living" "Eat Right for Your Blood Type" "Zero Sugar Diet" "Eat Fat, Get Thin" "The Keto Diet" "The Complete Mediterranean Diet"
I could keep going, but you get the picture. The messages are all over the place with research to support each camp. It's easy to see why SO MANY people throw their hands up in frustration and dive into a bowl of mac and cheese. I get it. Our brain can't deal with so many options, especially while you are working a full time job, being a parent, commuting, volunteering, etc., etc., etc.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere. We got a few tv stations, and I think we had a promotional trial of HBO at some point in my teens. Life-changing!!! So when we found a movie that we liked, we'd record it and watch it over and over and over and over again. One of those movies etched in my brain is The Secret of My Success starring Michael J. Fox. I can still hear the background music, "...bow bow...chi, chi-ca-chi-ca, der, bow bow..." Michael J. Fox was a nobody who REALLY wanted to be a somebody in the corporate world. He knew that he wanted to be an executive, and he didn't take his eyes off the prize, even when slightly pulled away by a beautiful woman....because love will do that to you in the best way possible and makes for a great plot twist. Fox works as a mail clerk while simultaneously creating and executing a plan to make him an instant executive. I won't spoil it for you by giving away the ending, but let's just say that I wouldn't be using this as an example unless...you get the picture.
We’ve all had a splinter or stubbed our toe and seen what happens as a result…the area hurts, it gets red, and swells up. Those symptoms are inflammation at its finest. Those symptoms are our body’s way of beginning the healing process. Those symptoms are signs that the immune system has turned on and is ready to fight invaders to prevent infection. That’s the good part of inflammation…the white knight coming to the rescue; it’s called acute inflammation. Acute inflammation’s evil step-sister (no offense to amazing step-sisters out there!) is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is…well…chronic. It is always there. Whereas acute inflammation is a natural process that we don’t control, chronic inflammation is within our control; we can turn it on or off with our lifestyle and nutrition choices. Before we get into what we can do to stop chronic inflammation, let’s take a closer at what it is and what problems/issues it causes.
Before I get into the details, let me say that this post is as much for me as it is for anyone else. I've felt especially emotional lately, and I couldn't figure out what exactly was going on, until I found my eyes welling with tears at the coffee shop this morning. Then, it hit me...change. And lots of it. Involving people who have become family. And change that is out of my control.
It began with my neighbors. The neighbors with whom I have shared a wall of my home for nearly seven years. The neighbors whose same-aged son is the closest thing my son has had to a brother. Those dear neighbors announced that they are moving at the end of the summer. Boom...kick to the gut.
A strong back. Just like that picture. That's my goal picture. And I've realized that itt’s called a journey because there really is no “end,” right? Well, I’m still on the path. Two weeks ago, I was performing my “Stretches for a Healthy Back” (and that’s really what they are called!), when, mid-lunge, I felt that familiar twinge and tightness in my lower back. As I eased out of the stretch, I cursed myself for not being more careful but quickly caught myself and realized that I hadn’t done anything wrong. The blame neural network path is clearly tied to the pain neural network path. In fact, they might be married. After I caught myself, I quickly switched out of blame and into healing mode. After getting my son off to school, I reviewed and started the McKenzie extension exercises and the wall slides to correct my torso's C shape caused by the muscle spasms. I found an article and video by Dr. Axe, and that has shaped the current part of my journey.
Holidays bring family together...for better AND for worse. Holiday gatherings can be like an Instant Pot of family dynamics. These gatherings turn the heat up fast and cause steam to fly out of orifices after only a very brief period of time. These modern pressure cooker scenarios bring out the best and worst of us.
Christmas is all about the BIG: big lights, big gifts, big sales, big traffic, big parties, big food, big bonuses (okay, not me but hopefully you!), big trees, and big jolly men in red suits. BUT, what really matters this season is not the big things...it's the little things. The little in-the-moment, everyday things are the foundation of relationships and love and joy. When you focus on the little things, Christmas lives inside you all year long.
Oh FOMO. What is FOMO you ask? Well I had to consult "the Google" after hearing FOMO on a reality tv show (yes, I’ve been known to watch a Real Housewives now and then) and having no idea what the heck they were talking about. Urban Dictionary told me that FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. Suddenly it all made sense. And I started to notice when FOMO reared its ugly head in my life. Most recently it popped up while helping facilitate an out-of-town weekend workshop. All weekend I couldn’t find my social groove and found myself standing in the middle of the conference room, alone. I was alone because I feared missing out on any and every conversation!
Holistic psychology treats the total person focusing on the relationships among the mind, body, and spirit. The holistic approach is not new. In fact, over 2,500 years ago Hippocrates used the term to describe health and health care. Hippocrates emphasized the importance of looking at all aspects of a person, understanding that various factors all contribute to a person’s health. Holistic therapy educates the individual and draws from cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, breath work, personal growth, relaxation, imagery, and nutrition. Holistic therapy works to enhance a person’s well-being.
Recently, I received a question from a reader asking how he and his partner could better communicate without judging one another. Being non-judgmental is great, but putting that into practice takes effort and, well, practice. Just like any other skill (e.g., cooking, soccer, knitting, etc.), effective communication takes practice. Whether you are currently struggling with communication or want to enhance your current communication, here are some strategies for healthy, non-judgmental communication in relationships, with colleagues, with family and neighbors, etc.:
The metaphor for self-care. We've all experienced it or at least heard it...as part of the standard pre-flight announcements, the flight attendant instructs that, "if there should be a change in cabin pressure...put your oxygen mask on first before helping others." I get the importance of this if your plane is in free-fall, but it is not a good metaphor for self-care in everyday life. Why? Because that example is an extreme emergency. If we waited for extreme emergencies to start implementing self-care we'd be burnt out, have autoimmune issues, develop cancer, be overweight, be depressed, anxious, and in pain, etc. Oh wait, THAT is actually happening!!
Meaning. We've all likely mused about it or thought about engaging in more pursuits that feel meaningful; however, soccer practice, needing to provide a steady income for the little things like a roof over your head, food on the table, healthcare, etc. sometimes fly in the face of a Mother Teresa-like image of making meaning. The bad news...one of the biggest regrets of the dying is not cultivating meaning and lack of meaning makes folks want to kill themselves. The good news...cultivating meaning can be done in little ways, every day.
What do a sprained ankle, asthma, acne, depression, and Alzheimer’s all have in common?
Inflammation is a natural, innate response to injury, stress, illness, pain, etc. It’s our body’s way of bringing attention to an area that needs some attention/healing so that other parts of the vascular system and the immune system can be notified and work to reduce the inflammation. Acute inflammation is good. Think of times in which inflammation helped you. Any ideas? Have you had an infection? Have you sprained your ankle? Have you had a paper cut? In those instances, inflammation can be helpful, but when inflammation doesn’t stop at acute injury, it can take over the body. Widespread inflammation leads to a host of illnesses, but you can make changes to reduce inflammation
Countless articles have been written about how to balance having a career and being a parent. I know because I've read them, and I've fallen short of the expectation that balancing was possible. What happens when you release the expectation that you should be able to balance it all and ease into the murky abyss of blending your career passions with the humans you love the most?
In this disease-focused society, diagnoses are given out like chocolate on Halloween night. But what if we looked at the paradigm a bit differently? What if we saw anxiety as a messenger…as a friend? What if anxious feelings were really just our body and mind talking to us, trying to get us to listen, urging us to make a little or a big change? Anxious feelings like shallow, rapid breathing, dry mouth, and/or a racing heartbeat may be signs urging us to do something. Here are a few things that anxiety might be trying to tell you…
One of my dearest friends just broke up with her long-term boyfriend mere months before their planned, year-long travel adventure. One of my colleagues lost both of her parents in the past 8 months. And yet another friend lost a job she thought she’d be in for the long-haul. What do these women have in common…besides wanting to listen to some sappy music and eat some good chocolate? They now have the OPPORTUNITY to truly figure out what they want to do with their lives on their own terms.
The mind-body connection is vital, but often, when there is a problem like stress, anxiety, depression, or trauma (e.g., PTSD), the issue is thought to be housed solely in the brain/mind; therefore, the solution is thought to be drugs and talk therapy that focus on the neurochemistry and belief systems of the brain/mind. That is an incomplete answer. Due to the mechanisms by which trauma, stress reactions, etc. become lodged in the brain (a vast topic of recent research), therapies that access the body are often helpful at tapping into the areas of the brain where the trauma and stress get stuck, thus assisting with resolving the issue.
When I answered my phone late on a Thursday afternoon, the voice that responded to my greeting was defeated and irritable. Lisa, as I would soon learn, was randomly calling therapists, and I was the fourth therapist she’d seen this month. She didn’t know what questions to ask me or how to search for a therapist who was a good fit for her. The following six strategies can save you time and energy by finding a great therapist for you.
By this point, the list of providers that I had seen was longer than my son’s Christmas list (and that’s saying something). As you might imagine, I was/am feeling beyond frustrated that none of these providers could help me. And it’s not so much that I expect one to have the magic wand to fix everything, but having someone who cared enough to put the emotional and physical pieces together and examine the whole me…not just what is going on at the space in my spine between L4 and L5 (the results of the MRI indicated a bulging disc on the opposite side of my pain), but to also look at my history of SI joint issues exacerbated by pregnancy, and to note that my hamstring muscle seems to be tight and twisted which might be related to why my ankle keeps swelling…and I haven’t even touched acknowledging the role that stress and muscle tension might be having in this whole mess.
Prenote: I’m not comfortable with vulnerability (especially public vulnerability!!), but I have learned much from Brene Brown’s work and think that vulnerability is part of healing, so here we go…
My pride pushed back on the idea of a mind-body syndrome such as tension myositis syndrome (TMS) causing my pain. I’m a mind body psychologist! How could my back/glute/hamstring pain be related to the mind-body? Well, it's a thing called blind spots...we often don’t see the things in ourselves that are so seemingly obvious in others!
Many of my favorite health and personal development professionals have said that they’ve had an “on my knees” moment of dark despair (e.g., Christine Hassler, Elizabeth Gilbert) or a health crisis (e.g., Christa Orecchio, Chris Kresser) that caused them to pursue their personal healing path and, subsequently, to teach others how to be healthier…both in mind and body. These professionals wrote about their experiences once they were safely on the other side of the crisis. I admired that but was simultaneously grateful that I had no such health crisis or "on my knees" moment of despair…until December 10th. And I am writing this while still very much in the midst of the crisis.
If there were a substance that could reduce inflammation, boost energy, improve thyroid function, aid in nutrient absorption, improve brain function, and tastes delicious, you would probably want to know how to get your hands on some of this amazing substance, right? The substance is something you might already have in your pantry, or if not, you’d certainly be able to find it at your local grocery store. That substance is…coconut oil!
Several months ago I participated in a clinician training for Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). According to The Rosenzweig Center for Rapid Recovery, ART is “a form of psychotherapy with roots in existing evidence-based therapies but shown to achieve benefits much more rapidly (usually within 1-5 sessions). Clients with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, sexual abuse and many other mental and physical conditions can experience remarkable benefits starting in the first session.”
Sounds too good to be true, right? I thought so, too, until I tried it.
I love books. For real. And I even like writing book reports, so when I found out that I could obtain continuing education units for my nutritional therapy certification by writing book reports, I was all in!
The book that I reviewed was Dr. Kellyann's Bone Broth Diet by Kellyann Petrucci, MD, ND. I chose this book for several reasons. First, many of my clients want to know how to lose weight, and some of them are ready to take drastic measures to drop some pounds. Second, it's cold here in the mid-Atlantic, and a cup of hot bone broth sounds really good on a rainy 30 degree day. Third, I've heard Dr. Kellyann on a number of podcasts, and she seems very relate-able plus she looks AMAZING, so she must be doing something right :)
I've never been a fan of diagnoses. (More on that in future blog posts!). From my early days in graduate school when we learned which symptoms combine together to create a diagnosis, the process never quite felt right to me. Two people with the same diagnosis could have very different underlying issues causing their symptoms. Diagnoses are labels. Labels can be helpful in some cases, but they also can have negative ramifications. Labels can limit the belief about the ability to return to health.