Tag Archive: Wellness


“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God…?” Romans 11:33 (MSG)

 

This was my fourth time to attend the WOF Conferences and, to be completely honest, I wasn’t planning on going this year.  They had decided to split the core group of speakers and welcome “some new friends to the porch.” While I was certain that these new “friends” were wonderful women, I was not excited about missing-out on hearing from Sheila Walsh, Luci Swindoll, and Mary Graham. Besides…I had heard their inspiring messages before.  What new messages of hope, love, and encouragement could they possibly be bringing to Oklahoma City?  Fortunately, God had other plans…I was contacted and selected by Thomas Nelson Publishing through their blogger program Booksneeze, to be their guest at this years conference and to write about my experience.

 

I am so thankful and overjoyed that I went.  As Patsy Clairmont says, “Change can be good.”

 

I have decided to make two posts regarding the WOF conference so that I can fully share the wisdom that was given during this two day conference.

If you have never attended one of these events, it is difficult to fully explain the experience.  No matter who your are, where you are from, or what is going on in your life, the stories shared here will resonate with you.  Even having heard the narratives of Marilyn Meberg, Patsy Clairmont, and Lisa Whelchel before, I realized that the stories shared at this event were different; moreover, that I was in such a different place in my life as well. I have already found myself sharing the truth of “more” and finding real contentment, as shared by Marilyn Meberg, with several of my patients over this past week.  The testimonies of each of these incredible women (and wonderful man–Andy Andrews) were poignant, transparent, and pointed fully to the power of God in each of their lives.  Each of the speakers share with such intimacy, despite being with 7,000 of your closest girlfriends, that you leave feeling like you really know each of them and share a special bond.

 

And then there’s the music…

There is nothing more moving than singing worship with 7,000 women.  I still get chills thinking about singing  Revelation Song as led by the four talented women of the Rejoice   Worship Team.  The entire Chesapeake Arena was energized as we danced & sang with Mandisa and the Worship Team. Amy Grant shared a very intimate and beautiful concert with us that concluded with the entire WOF lineup dancing on the stage with her.  I am always in awe of the incredible talent of Sandi Patty and so grateful to be able to hear her sing my favorite song, The Prayer with her husband Don Peslis.

It was an energizing weekend filled with truth, wisdom, renewal, and hope….truly it was Over the Top.

Are you always searching for “something more?”  Do you identify with any of the following drives or characteristics:

  • Extreme Confidence
  • Constant Need for New Challenges
  • Need for Recognition based on Performance, not gender
  • Greatest pleasures come from work place achievements
  • Learn best from Experience

Have you been frustrated by managers or situations that don’t challenge you to grow, provide opportunities for connecting, or sufficient validation?  This may be the book for you.

Always searching for tools, tricks, and tips to share with my girlfriends and patients, I was thrilled when presented with the opportunity to review Marcia Reynolds’Wander Woman. (obligatory disclosure: I received a review copy of the book at no cost with no obligation to provide a positive review) Going beyond the traditional call for finding “balance”, Wander Woman presents as a self-help book for “high-achieving women who are confident, ambitious, driven yet anxious, discontented, and above all, restless.”  This book succeeds in this endeavor and is a fascinating character study as well.

Dr. Reynolds begins by defining what constitutes a “Wander Woman” and explores the conditions that have contributed to the formation of such persons.  She then describes the process of “intentional transformation” and does a beautiful job of elucidating the many archetypes that characterize the various aspects of one’s personality: the Victim, the Saboteur, the Rebel, and so on…  Dr. Reynolds utilizes her masterful coaching expertise to provide specific exercises to aid in the discovery and development of these aspects of personality, provides instruction on correcting distortions of thoughts (“debunking your assumptions”), as well as gives specific directions on how to gain useful insight through the technique of “Appreciative Dialogue.”

Although I initially was interested in this book as it would apply to others, I quickly found myself relating to this Wander Woman phenomenon…with one exception: I no longer feel the need to “wander.”  I was fortunate enough to find and create the conditions I needed for contentment and fulfillment in my personal and professional life by becoming self-employed.  This solution, while appropriate in my situation, is not an option for many.  Fortunately, this book guides women through the process of self-discovery and provides specific resources for developing a “conscious strategy to find your direction and plan for your future.”

I recommend this book to any woman interested in introspection, not just those who set out to become “high-achievers.”  Wander Woman is full of great insights and is a wonderful exercise in personal development and transformation for any woman who wants “to know what they can accomplish in this lifetime without feeling exhausted and lonely in the end.”

(from the publisher)

Dr. Marcia Reynolds is fascinated by the brain, especially the nuances of the female brain. She is a master certified coach with a doctorate in organizational psychology, focusing on the needs and challenges of smart, strong women in the workplace. She travels around the world speaking at conferences and teaching classes in leadership, emotional intelligence and organizational change. Her book Wander Woman: How High Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction was released this summer.

You can read more about the book at wanderwomanbook.com and follow the author on Facebookand Twitter.

It’s Summer! It’s that time of year when temperatures rise, clothing covers less, and thoughts turn to having the perfect “swimsuit” body and that favorite of four-letter-words: DIET.  While there are a multitude of books available promoting weight loss; most are based on unhealthy fads that do not translate into long-term weight loss.  Most of these tomes tell what magical mixture of foods, or lack thereof, will cause the pounds to melt away.  The only problem is that, once you return to your normal pattern of eating, the pounds find their way back home and bring their friends.  A few years ago, I was faced with a diagnosis of diabetes and the reality of needing to lose 35 pounds on a permanent basis.  I set out to find a way to change not only my eating habits but, most importantly, how I thought about food.  Fortunately, I discovered Dr. Judith Beck’s “The Beck Diet Solution.”

Dr. Beck’s book seems unique in the weight loss genre: it doesn’t suggest any particular diet or exercise program.  It promises to work with ANY healthy diet and exercise plan.  This book uses techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (a mental health technique created by her father, Dr. Aaron Beck, to treat depression) to identify the distorted thoughts that keep one from being motivated, disciplined, and successful.  Dr. Beck’s book goes beyond “eat less and move more” and teaches how to do so when you don’t want to or when it’s not easy.  People who struggle with their weight, says Beck, all have one thing in common: They don’t know how to think like a thin person – their behavior, mindset, lifestyle, and habits all sabotage their best intentions. For example, she writes, people often have thoughts such as “I know I shouldn’t eat this, but I don’t care,” or “It’s okay if I eat [this food] just this one time.” Permanent weight control requires a life long change in thoughts and attitudes while dealing with such sabotaging habits and behaviors.  Three years later, I’ve maintained the weight loss I achieved using her techniques.  So before you sign up for hormone weight-loss shots or some other fad diet de jour, consider checking out “The Beck Diet Solution” and see if there are some “sabotaging thoughts” that are derailing your best intents and efforts.  While you won’t drop “7 pounds in 7 days”, it certainly is more palatable than Dolly Parton soup and grapefruit for every meal.

I am excited to be a part of a wonderful group of women who will be  contributing regularly to the Book End Babes website.  I will be writing about “Wellness” every 1st and 3rd Wednesday.  My first post appeared today:  Play to Your Strengths: which takes a look at the problems that many women face when trying to be “balanced” and “have it all”.  I would love to hear your thoughts; please feel free to leave comments on either website.  Also, please let me know if there are any other topics you would like me to cover or books that I should check out.

Mindfulness meditation is a term that is used to describe the cultivation of “non-judgemental, moment-to-moment awareness” of events in our daily life.  Through the purposeful exercise of bringing our awareness to the present moment, we can learn to be “more present” in our day to day lives and less distracted by ruminations of the past or anxieties about the future.  Such a practice can lead to a greater richness and fullness in relationships with spouses & children, help with problems with over-eating, as well as help coping with chronic stress, pain, or illness.  While it is based in Buddhist mediative discipline, Mindfulness Mediation is not a religious meditation; although, being “mindful” and “present” is emphasized by most religious and spiritual traditions.  Mindfulness meditation is not for the purpose of relaxation, although you may feel more relaxed, but rather an exercise in bringing our awareness to the present moment, “the only moment in which we are really alive”.  Most any activity can be done “mindfully” by experiencing the activity with all of our senses.

Mindful breathing is foundational to many mindfulness exercises and is a great place from which to begin a mindful meditation practice.  Mindful breathing does not require a large commitment of time, any special equipment, or location.  Our “breath” intersects both the voluntary and involuntary nervous systems.  Because of this, mindful breathing offers a wonderful opportunity to experience mind-body connectedness.  You may have noticed that when you are very upset or agitated, your breath becomes shallow and rapid.  This shallow breathing further exacerbates feelings of anxiety and creates a negative feedback loop.  Conversely, when we focus our attention on the breath and allow it to “be” without forcing it to be any particular way, our breathing calms down and with it, our mind calms down as well.  Our mind receives the message, “Everything is okay, no need to worry”, which helps us to feel at ease.

Here is a brief, introductory mindful breathing exercise:

Assume a comfortable position, either seated or lying down.  Allow your awareness to center on one area of the breath: such as the flow of air at the nostrils or rise and fall of the abdomen, but away from the mind and “thinking”.  Allow your body to breathe in and out exactly as it wants to.  You may notice the flow of the air in and out, the onset of the breath, the inflection point just before you begin to exhale, and the length of the pause before your next breath begins. Be aware that with every breath you are nourishing every cell in your body. Continue to follow the breath in and out of our body.  When your thinking pulls you away, as it will certainly do, notice the thoughts without judgement and gently bring your focus back to your breath.  Continue your practice for a comfortable period of time; perhaps starting with five to ten minutes.

Guided mindful mediations are a great way to experience Mindfulness Meditation and are readily available from various sources.  I have enjoyed the CD “Mindfulness for Beginners” by Jon Kabat-Zinn (available on iTunes or through Amazon.com).  I also highly recommend “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook” by Bob Stahl, PhD and Elisha Goldstein, PhD. for more complete instruction in the art of mindfulness meditation.

May is Mental Health Month. Established by Congress in 1949, this designation was made to help illustrate the importance of mental health issues to the overall health and well-being of American citizens.  While mental health care has changed dramatically since 1949, one thing still remains: the perceived stigma regarding mental health conditions.

Despite the availability of relatively safe and efficacious treatments for these disorders, many individuals fail to seek treatment for their mental health conditions.  Inadequate treatment of mental health conditions remain a significant public health concern: costing millions of dollars in lost productivity, absenteeism, and health care costs.   Existing barriers to receiving adequate mental health treatment include the availability of appropriately trained mental health providers, affordable treatment options, and perceived stigma.  Perceived stigma is the belief that people will devalue and discriminate against individuals who use mental health services and/or have a mental illness.

Perceived stigma can cause a variety of problems for individuals experiencing mental health conditions, including:

  • a delay or failure to seek appropriate treatment
  • premature discontinuation of treatment
  • rejection or ridicule by family and friends
  • discrimination at work, school, or church
  • inadequate health insurance coverage of mental health conditions
  • feelings of anger, frustration, shame, or low self-esteem
  • encountering harassment or violence

Mental illness was commonly thought of as a personal character weakness; we now know that mental health disorders have a biological basis and can be treated like any other medical condition.  Yet as recently as 2008, an APA survey revealed that more than 50% of Americans saw stigma and potential negative perceptions as barriers that would prevent them from seeking treatment.  While an estimated 75 millions Americans experience a mental health disorder in any given year, only one in four will receive treatment. Current lifetime prevalence rates for any mental disorder (including substance abuse) indicate that 57.4 percent of all Americans will personally experience mental illness at some time in their life.

Historically, the traditional medical model has separated mental and physical health; only recently is science “catching up” and revealing the multitude of “mind and body” connections.  We now know that our physical health is directly impacted by our emotional health; and that suffering from a mental condition can be a devastating and debilitating as any physical condition can be.

Despite the progress that has been made in correcting and removing many of the misconceptions surrounding mental health conditions, we still have a long way to go to defeat many of the biases, fears, and misinformation that people continue to have about mental health and the subsequent stigma these attitudes can create. By talking about mental health, we can raise awareness and dispel the stereotypes that exist about individuals with mental health conditions.

What can you do to fight the stigma?

  • Seek treatment– If you suffer from a mental health condition, don’t let fear keep you from getting relief by seeking appropriate diagnosis and treatment.  Safe and effective treatments are available.
  • Don’t define yourself by your disorder–  You are not “Depressed”, you are a person with depression.
  • Utilize available resources– seek out support and assistance groups such as Celebrate Recovery and NAMI. If you can not afford your medications, inquire about patient assistance programs.
  • Speak out and speak up– Your story may encourage someone else to seek the treatment they have needed but didn’t have the courage to ask for.
  • Don’t allow your mental health condition to cause you to feel shame or self-doubt– Mental health conditions are real medical conditions; they are not character-weaknesses or punishments.  By coming to terms with your own illness, you show others that their judgements are based on a lack of understanding rather than reality.  If you are having problems with negative self-esteem or shame, seek appropriate counseling to come to terms with these feelings.

Here is an expanded, integrative approach to sleep hygiene, which is not meant to be applied mechanically, but implemented as a part of a personalized, soothing evening ritual.

  • Be mindful of the basic rhythm of daily life by establishing a regular bed and rising time, obtaining exposure to early morning light and evening dim light, and maintaining regular times for meals and exercise. You should avoid napping if you have insomnia.
  • Manage caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and other drugs. Caffeinated foods and drinks can affect some people up to 12 hours later. Even if you do not think caffeine affects you, it may be interfering with the quality of your sleep.
  • Although regular and adequate cardiovascular exercise promotes healthy sleep, it should be avoided at least 3–4 hours prior to bed because it raises your core body temperature, which can interfere with sleep.
  • Avoid high glycemic and harder to digest foods as bedtime snacks. As an alternative, consider complex carbohydrates (e.g., whole grains, lentils, beans) that may help transport tryptophan, a precursor to melatonin, across the blood-brain barrier.
  • Create a healthy sleep environment by keeping the bedroom cool (about 68° F), completely dark, quiet, and psychologically safe.
  • Avoid clock watching at night since it draws you back to waking consciousness. Ideally, position the clock away from the bed or use a non-illuminated battery operated clock to avoid light and subtle EMF radiation.
  • Manage hyper-arousal and anxiety with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and body-mind techniques. CBT, which is more effective than hypnotics over the long term, addresses sleep-related dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs that trigger arousal. For some, self-help workbooks may prove helpful. CBT is best coupled with body-mind techniques such as mindfulness meditation, progressive muscular relaxation, breathing exercises and guided imagery.
  • Manage bed and bedroom stimulation, which can condition these areas for wakefulness, by using the bed only for sleep and sex. Minimize wakeful time spent there by going to bed only when sleepy and getting out of bed with extended period (15–20 minutes or more) of nighttime wakefulness until becoming sleepy again.
  • Ask your clinician about using a botanical supplement, such as valerian or hops, for sleep for a short term. Melatonin is useful when there is advancing age and/or circadian irregularities. Always use supplements with other sleep hygiene recommendations. Be aware that botanicals are drugs and may have drug-drug interactions with other medications.  Please consult with your physician before starting any supplements.
  • Understand that letting go and surrender are key in sleep onset. In the end, we cannot finagle sleep. We can set the stage and be receptive to it, but we cannot intentionally “go to sleep”.  Efforts to do so typically backfire.

Tips courtesy of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

A new study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry makes a strong case that processed junk food can trigger or contribute to depression, while eating whole and healthy food seems protective.  Here are some tips for food-based approach to mood disorders.

Reduce processed and refined carbohydrates and eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These healthy carbohydrates are important for reducing anxiety, as they increase serotonin levels in the brain, which allows one to feel calmer. Examples include:

  • Apples, pears, blueberries, and strawberries.
  • Brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta, and beans
  • Broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and cabbage

Don’t skip meals. As blood sugar levels fall, stress hormones are released to make emergency fuel for the body. This can lead to jitteriness, irritability, and feeling anxious. It is very important to maintain a stable blood sugar by eating a combination of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates every three to four hours. Some examples include:

  • A slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter.
  • Low-fat yogurt with sliced apple and 1 Tbsp of walnuts
  • Whole grain pita bread with hummus and carrot sticks
  • Fish with brown rice and steamed veggies

Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for mental health.

  • Add fish 2 times per week to your diet and nuts and seeds everyday

Avoid caffeine. This alkaloid, found in coffee, tea, chocolate, many sodas and even certain medications, produces an effect similar to the stress response in our bodies. As little as two servings per day can cause jitteriness and worsen anxiety.

  • Substitute decaf for caffeinated coffee or tea.
  • Choose herbal teas that don’t contain any caffeine.
  • Drink water and/or flavored water to stay hydrated.

Reduce your alcohol intake. While small amounts of alcohol can be good for your heart, too much can aggravate depression and also deplete your body of important vitamins and minerals.

Ensure adequate magnesium intake. Studies suggest that low magnesium can trigger anxiety and depressive symptoms.

  • Almonds, cashews, and other nuts are a great source of magnesium.
  • Green vegetables, such as soybeans and spinach, are also good sources of magnesium.

Ask your clinician if should have your vitamin B12 and vitamin D levels checked. Deficiencies in these vitamins can increase the risk of depression and you might need to take a supplement. Otherwise:

  • Get 10 minutes of sun 2–3 times per week, exposing 25% of your skin without sunscreen to increase vitamin D levels.

(Tips courtesy of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine)