How to Ground Your Energy When Feeing Anxious

The last couple of years have been hard on everyone.  The pandemic has caused so many disruptions in our lives – lost jobs and income, friends and loved ones becoming ill, children home from school and missing socialization, feeling more isolated and less connected.  It’s no wonder that an even greater number of people have reported feeling anxious. 

Talk therapy, supplements, exercise and medication are beneficial solutions for curbing anxiety.  There are also practical strategies you can utilize when experiencing anxiety.

1)  Box Breathing – If you’ve ever practiced meditation then you know how helpful mindful breathing can be to calm your nervous system.  Close your eyes and then breathe slowly in for four counts.  Hold your breath for four counts and then exhale slowly for four counts. At the bottom of the exhale count to four while doing nothing.  Repeat this process for a total of four times.  Once completed you should feel much more relaxed and centered.

2) Name Objects in Your Line of Vision – If your thoughts are spiraling out of control you can change your state of mind by simply naming objects that you see.  Keep doing this as long as you need to until you feel your energy begin to mellow.  This works because you are changing which hemisphere of your brain is being used, moving from the emotional side to the logical side. 

3) Mantras – Taking the time to recite a mantra is valuable for grounding feelings of anxiety.  Some examples are “I am safe”, “I am peaceful”, “I am loved” or “With every breath I feel myself relaxing”.  Write down your own affirmations that resonate with you the most and then say them repeatedly when you’re feeling anxious.

4) Gratitude – We cannot be in a state of fear or anxiety and be in a state of calm or peace a the same time.  Pausing to “count your blessings” will transition your energy into a more relaxed vibration. Write down five things you are grateful for or if you can’t write them down, list them in your mind.

The next time you find your heart beating fast or your mind racing, try practicing these strategies to ground your energy.

The next time you find your heart beating fast or your mind racing, try practicing these strategies to ground your energy.

If you or someone you know can benefit from working with our health coaches please contact our office to make an appointment. 

In health,
Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Long COVID

Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH

Over the past year I have seen an increasing number of patients with symptoms of post-acute sequelae of Covid 19 (PASC), also known as long Covid. 

What is long Covid?  As defined by the CDC, long Covid is a range of new, returning or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks following SARS-COV-2 (Covid 19) infection.  Symptoms can vary significantly by person and can include fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, anxiety, disturbed sleep, joint pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, loss of taste or smell or shortness of breath.  Most of the patients I have seen with long Covid suffer from fatigue and brain fog and many have other accompanying symptoms.

In a recent systematic review of 57 studies comprising more than 250,000 survivors of Covid 19, most symptoms included mental health, pulmonary and neurologic disorders which were present 6 months after SARS-Cov-2 exposure. 1

How many people are suffering from long Covid?  Clinical trials have shown anywhere from 31% to 69% of people who have had Covid infection will suffer from long Covid. This is a present and emerging health care crisis with tens of millions of Americans currently suffering and millions more at risk of developing this syndrome. Chances are that you or someone you know has long Covid.

How long does long Covid last?  This appears to vary significantly by person.  Some clinical trials have shown average length to be about 3 months while others have shown that symptoms may last more than a year. An emerging consensus is that most people have symptoms for 6 months or more.

Who gets long Covid?  While some clinical trials show a relationship to acute disease severity, others have shown a significant risk for long Covid even in mild or asymptomatic cases.  In other words, it is possible to develop long Covid even if you had no symptoms of acute Covid infection.

A study just published in Cell on January 24, 2001 followed 200 patients over two to three months following their COVID-19 diagnoses. The researchers determined four biological factors that they say are associated with whether a person will develop long COVID.

The first factor is the level of viral RNA in the blood at diagnosis. The second is the presence of autoantibodies—those that attack the patient’s own body. Third is the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, a common virus that most people are infected with and recover from early in life. The last is Type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, the most predictive factor for long Covid was the presence of autoantibodies in the blood. 2

Several other studies have found significant autoantibody levels in patients with long Covid.  In one study just published this month, researchers found signals of autoantibody activity that are usually linked to chronic inflammation and injury involving specific organ systems and tissues such as the joints, skin and nervous system in patients with long Covid. 3 We know that certain viruses can trigger the body’s immune system to begin attacking itself through a process called molecular mimicry.  That appears to be a significant source of cellular damage and inflammation in patients who develop long Covid.

Another study published in Gut examined changes in the gut microbiome in patients with long Covid.  They found that an altered gut microbiome composition is strongly associated with persistent symptoms in patients with COVID-19 up to 6 months after clearance of SARS-CoV-2 virus. 4

Can long Covid be treated?  Yes.  While conventional medicine has yet to find a medication to treat long Covid, a functional medicine approach to this illness works well.  Addressing the root cause(s) of ongoing inflammation in the body from the viral over stimulation of the immune system is a top priority.  Evaluation and treatment of increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), gut dysbiosis and a disrupted adrenal axis works well to help rebalance the immune system, calm inflammation and improve symptoms. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from long Covid, please contact our office to make an appointment with one of our functional medicine providers.

In health,

Susan D. Denny, MD, MPH

References:

  1. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(10):e2128568. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.28568
  2. Su  Y, et al. Cell. 2022;doi:10.1016/j.cell.2022.01.014.
  3. Liu Y, et al. J Transl Med. 2022;doi:10.1186/s12967-021-03184-8.
  4. Gut (2022). DOI: DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2021-325989

Neurofeedback Therapy

Robert Baric, DC

We have invited several expert practitioners to educate our practice community on approaches to healing that are complementary to Functional Medicine. Our expert this week is Robert Baric, DC who will educate us on Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is quite different from “biofeedback” with which you may be familiar. Dr. Baric is board certified in neurofeedback and has over 26 years of clinical experience. His passion for health and wellness has emerged throughout the years as he continues to deliver the most up to date knowledge to his patients, while providing them with impactful treatment in addition to neurofeedback, including nutrition, acupuncture, chiropractic techniques, and other applied therapies. I will hand off the microphone to Dr. Baric.
 


 
 Neurofeedback Therapy: A Compliment to Traditional Medicine
Amidst 56 years of positive research and clinical trials in neuropsychology, neurofeedback has emerged as a modality of complementary therapy that is “evidence based”. Neurofeedback therapy has gained increasing popularity due to its non-invasive properties and the sizable body of research supporting its efficacy, along with it being an alternative to traditional pharmacological treatment. Essentially, neurofeedback is EEG-biofeedback, where a method of retraining brain waves through operant conditioning is utilized. Various conditions like ADHD, depression and anxiety, addiction, and insomnia are all cognitive disorders that can negatively impact an individual’s brain waves.

 The first step to neurofeedback therapy is an initial brain scan that determines if a patient is a suitable candidate for neurofeedback therapy. A quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) shows brain activity and function allowing professionals to understand what ailments may be present and what can be done to mitigate symptoms at the root of the problem. The qEEG process takes just 45 minutes, recording brain waves with the eyes closed and opened. The results are then analyzed and a customized training protocol is created specifically tailored to the patient. Treatment includes monitoring the dysfunctional area while rewarding the preferred wave formation, with the reward being a TV show of the patient’s choice.  Brain waves are monitored, and using operant conditioning, stimuli are adjusted to guide the brain waves back into a healthy pattern.  If accepted as a patient, most individuals experience a marked improvement by sessions 10-15, most conditions requiring 40 sessions to finalize neuroplastic changes.
  
There are multiple conditions for which neurofeedback is impactful, with few being the most prominent throughout my years of experience. 
 
 Depression and Anxiety
The zeitgeist proves the need for complementary treatment options for individuals suffering with depression and anxiety. Approximately 33.7% of the population suffers with anxiety related disorders in their life, often comorbid with depression (1).  The Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology yielded results showing significant improvement in patients symptoms of depression with neurofeedback (2). Similar results were shown in patients with anxiety disorders, with the Journal of Industrial Psychology exhibiting results where neurofeedback therapy was deemed essentially as effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety as medication (3). 
 
 ADHD 
Children and adults suffering with ADHD recognize notable improvements in their focus and attention after a series of neurofeedback treatment. When a group of students received either neurofeedback or pharmacological support, evidence showed those in the neurofeedback group improved in executive control to a greater extent than the pharmacological support group (4). A plethora of research supports the decrease of ADHD symptoms in both children and adults. 
 
 Insomnia
Brain waves play a significant role in the ability to sleep. If a patient is unable to enter into a restful and deeply restorative state, there could be a misalignment in brain waves causing a patient to feel unwell and never feel rested. Medications can be utilized to aid in sleep, but frequently result in a feeling of grogginess upon waking. Neurofeedback actually tackles the problem at hand at the root by retraining the brain waves in order to get quality sleep without the use of medications. 
 
For issues involving the brain and cognition, it is essential to tackle the issue from multiple directions, utilizing multiple forms of treatment.  As a pain-free and relaxing process, neurofeedback will maximize its growth throughout the coming years. Neurofeedback will continue to provide millions of individuals with a fully customized treatment plan to ensure optimal brain health, and alleviate years of morbid symptoms.

If there are any questions about neurofeedback please reach out through email or phone and MyBrainDr would be happy to discuss any inquiries. 
 
Email: admin@mybraindr.com
Phone: 919-721-4800
Website: www.MyBrainDr.com

Food and Mood

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

I think about many things this time of the year with seasons changing and holidays approaching. As a functional medicine provider, I consider how changing landscapes not only affect my patient’s physical health, but also their emotional health. This landscape or “environment” of less direct sunlight, more time indoors, increased celebratory food and drink and increased holiday stress has a major impact on mental health for many of us.

Our relationship with food is complex, as is our body’s response to our culinary selections. We hope that our bodies can effectively digest food and absorb its nutritious content, but how do we know if it doesn’t? We hope the foods we are eating are contributing to healthy neurotransmitter production, healthy immune system messaging, but what does it feel like if that’s not the case?

You’d think that your stomach would definitely let you know if any of the above was amiss, but consider this: approximately 30% of us will have a gastrointestinal/gut symptom if there are imbalances in digestion or immune activation, while the majority of us will have a “beyond the gut” symptom first, such as headaches, mood changes, sleep disruptions, fatigue and pain. Thus, the majority of people may not be thinking of a direct relationship between green bean casserole and their anxious or sad days.

Several things need to happen when we eat a meal. First, we need to be in a “rest and digest” state. This signals to the body it’s time to produce digestive acids, enzymes and bile to sterilize the food, break it down and absorb it well. Next, we need healthy proteins that can be broken down by these digestive supports to become the basic amino acids that our body will use as the building blocks to create neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Neurotransmitters are signaling molecules, providing communication between nerves. The balance of neurotransmitter production, absorption and clearance, affects mental and physical health. Further, this building of neurotransmitters requires cofactors of several micronutrients like zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium and vitamin D.

To cap things off, there can be immune system reactions to foods, allergies and/or sensitivities that are contributing to inflammatory messaging that starts in the gut, but travels “beyond the gut”, affecting our emotional state.

In my practice, I regularly see low levels these cofactors, low levels of digestive enzymes and gastric acid, high stress and of course, the daily challenge in regularly making healthy eating and drinking choices.

In order for a body and mind to be healthy, each of these areas needs to be considered, evaluated and addressed.

While there are objective tests available for providers to check your nutrient and digestive status, there are also excellent lifestyle supports to begin making a shift in your wellness today.

-Eat at regular intervals. It is less stressful for the body when it knows it can count on you to feed it. This also helps the timing of the digestive acids/enzymes release where there are patterns in meal timing.

-Whole foods. Limit processed foods. Head to the refrigerator, before you head to the pantry. Each meal should contain a protein, small amount of fat, and colorful fruits and vegetables.

-Mindful eating, not distracted eating. Try to avoid multitasking while eating. As often as you can, eat at a table, focused on your food and the company that you share. Look, smell, taste and chew well! Even the process of chewing is signaling release of enzymes.

-Connect with your healthcare provider to review your micronutrient and vitamin status. You might discuss multivitamin, magnesium and/or zinc supports and also test your vitamin D to help assign dosing recommendations.

Remember, Food can be medicine! Make sure you use it wisely!

Your Partner in Health!

Blair Cuneo, PA-C

How Many “New Year Resolutions Have You Made?

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC

How many ‘New Year resolutions’ have you made over the years? Do you ever wonder why so many promises made with the best of intentions fade away into chocolates and flowers by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around? With the popularity of books like The Power of Habit by James Duhig and Atomic Habits by James Clear, the inevitable social pressures to make resolutions, and the loss of so much routine and normalcy over the last 2 years, the time seems ripe for some intentionality around building or replacing habits with behaviors that will serve us well.

The dramatic and unexpected shifts to working from home, changing jobs, and reduced social interaction have forced many of the routines that once worked for us to be eliminated or drastically changed. Maybe you miss the drive to and from work that you once thought was stressful. Maybe you are exposed to significantly more trauma and environmental stress than you were accustomed to. Maybe you are grieving the loss of a family member you depended on. No matter what has changed for you, you have the power to decide how you want to spend your time and energy going forward. January 1 is not the only opportunity to make a change – if you look around, you just might find there are chances around you every single day to make a new choice.

 As we delve into another year of uncertainty, I invite you to consider a few thoughts and strategies to support you on your path. Cheers to drawing nearer to YOUR vision of the healthiest version of you.

  1. You are the expert on you.

Take some time to yourself to get clear on what matters most to you – not  to your family or friends or employer. What does ‘healthy’ mean to you? Health may be physical, emotional, financial, relational, spiritual… any aspect of your life that affects your ability to have your desired experience most days.

  • Self compassion is not selfish.

If 2020 & 2021 taught us anything it’s that some days just won’t happen the way we desire or expect them to. Many of your circumstances and situations are beyond your control. The way you respond, however, is under your sole control. This is why it is called responsibility or ‘response-ability.’ When you choose to let go of thoughts about mistakes made by yourself or others, you are free to return that energy to doing the next right thing for you. Name that negative voice in your head and tell it to go away. I like to say ‘Shut up, Sharon!’ (No offense to anyone named Sharon out there.) If you fall short some days, simply begin again.

  • Replace – don’t restrict.

Once you identify a behavior that is no longer serving you, consider changing or replacing it instead of trying to quit ‘cold turkey.’ Your brain likes the predictability of your responses to certain things (triggers) in the environment. It is a much smaller effort to alter your response than to just stop responding. If, for example, you want to stop drinking alcohol or sodas the first step would be to notice what comes before you drink the undesirable beverage. Next, choose a more desirable beverage to have when you are presented with those triggers.

  • Willpower doesn’t work and motivation is a myth. Mindset matters.

To increase your odds of success in replacing one behavior with another, make the desirable replacement beverage (or other behavior) very convenient and the undesirable ones very inconvenient (not in your house.) Finally, notice and appreciate yourself each time you choose the behavior you were aiming for. For some, a habit tracker – paper or electronic – serves as a useful reward. Making the choice on your own terms makes the ‘stress’ of change into a positive stress. Try to think of it in positive terms like ‘I GET to do this’ instead of ‘I HAVE TO do this.’ Eventually we all have a day when our resolve is not as strong and putting these supports in place will make it easier to endure, or begin again.

  • Set yourself up for success.

Do not try to quit drinking alcohol, caffeine and sugar all at once! At most, take on one or two changes at a time. Start with the things that matter most to you and celebrate as you notice the promises you are keeping to yourself. See if you don’t feel so great when you make one change that you want to make another!  

Your Partner in Health!

Erica Nelson, MSPH, NBC-HWC

Magnificent Magnesium

Frances Meredith, MD

In the times of COVID, so many nutrients seem to be in the news these days from quercetin to Zinc, to Vitamin D.  Overlooked I believe is the nutrient essential for every cell and every process in our body including immune readiness: Magnesium!

Magnesium is a cofactor for over 300 enzymatic reactions, supporting DNA and RNA synthesis, cell growth and reproduction. Magnesium enters the energy cycle as a cofactor in at least 12 different steps in the process, and is essential for the little batteries in every cell, our mitochondria, to transport electrons and create energy. It is necessary for bone growth and strength, stabilizing the cell membrane, and maintaining normal nerve and muscle function.

Magnesium sits within the cell, balancing all of our cells, keeping calcium outside the cell from overstimulating cellular activity in all parts of the body. For example, Mag balances Calcium in the NMDA glutamate receptor, controlling its opening, avoiding “neuroexcitation”.  Thus, lack of Magnesium sets the stage for nerve overactivation, hyperexcitability (think chronic anxiety, chronic pain, chronic states of inflammation created by lack of Magnesium). When we are Mag deficient this NMDA glutamate receptor activates. This is good for survival when we are under intense stress, but not something we want to live with on a day in and day out basis.

Low Magnesium can express itself in so many ways including fatigue, muscle cramping/tension, PMS, headaches, especially migraines, constipation, insomnia, tinnitus, brain fog, heart arrhythmias, anxiety and depression, TMJ, ADHD, and blood sugar issues. Sound familiar?  If that’s not enough, Magnesium deficiency is implicated in diabetes, osteoporosis, and hypertension. It is a natural “calcium channel blocker” (think drugs that do this such as amlodipine used for hypertension). The lower the Magnesium levels the greater the progression of Alzheimer’s. Fibromyalgia improves with Magnesium treatment. Increasing Magnesium intake is correlated with a decrease in stroke, diabetes, heart failure, fracture risk and all-cause mortality. Sounds like we all need more, yes?

Why are we so deficient? The answer lies both in the disruption of our food chain and the breakdown of our food choices. The soil is now deficient in Magnesium due to lack of crop rotation, pesticide use and overproduction; in addition, the use of fertilizer heavy in nitrogen and phosphate blocks the plants’ ability to absorb Magnesium.  Further, as foods are processed, Magnesium is leached out. The end product: less for us.

Testing for Magnesium is easy, with red blood cell levels being the most accurate form of testing. Body signals, however, are much more important than a test result. Symptoms such as myofascial and muscular tightness/tension/cramping, sluggish bowels, and low energy point to low Magnesium and a trial of Magnesium is warranted even without checking a blood level.

So how can we optimize Magnesium for all of the cells in our body to “sing”? It is clear that plant-based Magnesium is much more effective than the mineral in supplement form. This is due to the fact that Magnesium is at the heart of chlorophyll, responsible for the green pigment in our green foods. Plant based Magnesium is very absorbable and is already charged, essential for its function. The big winners for high magnesium are pumpkin seeds, spinach, almonds and cashews. This great link from Cleveland Clinic lists the magnesium content of many foods.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15650-magnesium-rich-food

 Magnesium in supplement form can be very helpful, and must be attached to a “chelator” to get across the intestinal border. They are best taken with food to improve stability. Magnesium comes in forms including glycinate, citrate, theonate, asparate, orotate, and oxide, with different benefits associated with the specific chelators.

For example, the Mag oxide form is only minimally absorbed and very unstable, drawing water into the intestinal tract, helpful for severe constipation or impaction but not helpful to get Magnesium into cells elsewhere in the body. In contrast the Magnesium glycinate is more stable, better absorbed and better for anxiety or insomnia. Mag citrate is helpful for intestinal motility/constipation as well as energy as it plugs directly into our “Krebs cycle” to create energy.

In addition, optimal intestinal absorption is necessary, with Magnesium absorbed mostly in the ileum of our small intestines. Therefore, if things go awry in the ileum, our ability to absorb Magnesium (as well as other nutrients) will be impacted (think leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial or fungal overgrowth).

Sounds like most everyone would be better off with a little more Magnesium! If any of the above-mentioned symptoms or conditions apply to you, your functional medicine provider at Carolina Total Wellness would be most happy to discuss this with you.

Your Partner In Health

Frances T. Meredith, MD

5 Strategies For Stress Eating

Stress eating occurs when we eat in response to a stress signal instead of a hunger signal.  It is reaching for food to calm our nerves, soothe our sadness, chase away boredom or buffer against other emotions we are uncomfortable with.
 
When we stress eat we are usually reaching for sugary and/or salty foods.  It’s often food we eat with our hands.  Hand to mouth eating frequently occurs without much awareness or mindfulness.

 
Tips to Help Decrease Stress Eating:
 

1) Being Body Aware – This means getting in touch with your body.  Get back into your body, get grounded, get centered.    Are you truly hungry?  Pay attention to what sensations are going on in your body.  Has your heart rate increased?  Do you have butterflies in your stomach?  Are you feeling fragmented and disassociated in your body?  Feeling out of sync between body and mind?
 
You can bring yourself back to center by concentrating on your breath.  Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly and breathe in deeply.  Is the breath going to the upper chest area or the belly?  You want the breath to go into the low belly.  By doing this you engage the parasympathetic system (aka rest and digest) and reduce the sympathetic system (aka fight or flight).
 
2) Exercise your emotional muscle – Emotions are energy in motion.  Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.  We need to let emotions flow and we need to express them.  When we don’t do this we “eat our emotions” with food.  Emotional eaters tend to eat foods that are nutrient poor (junk food) instead of nutrient rich (veggies, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins).
 
Keep a check on your feelings.  One way to do this is to check in with family and friends.  Be real about your emotions as this allows others to feel comfortable to open up with you as well.  Journaling is also a great tool for expressing your emotions. 
 
3) Developing alternatives – Rather than engaging in stress eating come up with alternatives.  Make a list of 5 things that you can do instead of eat when you are not really hungry but are craving food due to emotions.  Some ideas:  call a friend, physical movement, journaling, nap, read a good book, organize a drawer in your kitchen or bathroom.
 
4) Having healthy foods available – If you can’t fight the urge to eat, make the best choices with the cravings you have.  Ideas:  avocado for someone who craves fat, fruit for someone that craves sugar, cacao powder in water for someone who craves chocolate, olives for someone who craves salt. 
 
5) Fueling your body with real food – Be sure you are getting lots of nutrients so you are not vulnerable to the effects of stress.  Food modulates our mood and if we stick with whole unprocessed foods our mood will be better and we won’t feel as stressed.


Your Partner In Health!
Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Five Tips to Get Back on Track with Exercise

Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

There are many reasons exercise may fall to the wayside:  injury, surgery, a major life event such as a divorce or death, demands of work or simply losing interest in an exercise routine can all disrupt your exercise schedule.  Life is full of ups and downs and sometimes things gets in the way of consistent exercise and movement.

Here are five tips to help you get back on track: 

Choose a Type of Movement
You don’t have to stick with the same type of exercise you have done in the past.  Perhaps it’s time to try something new – maybe something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t.  Think about your current lifestyle and what exercise would suit you best.  There are so many different types of exercise.  You may want to sample a few before you decide on an exercise plan.

 Set Realistic Expectations
Don’t attempt to go from the couch to exercising 7 days a week overnight.  This will often end up in injury and put you BACK on the couch.  Instead come up with a plan that eases you back into consistent movement such as walking 2-3 days a week for 15-20 minutes.  This primes your muscles and joints more effectively.   It also gives you a “win” because it is manageable and you will succeed.  This is great for your mindset and will keep you moving forward with your goals.

Focus on Consistency
One of the most important aspects of forming a new habit is to be consistent.  So rather than working out once a week for 2 hours (and ending up sore and possibly injured) it is much better to exercise 5 days a week for 30 minutes.  Make a commitment to yourself to exercise a specific number of days a week and keep that commitment.  

Get Support from Family and Friends
Let your family know what your new fitness goals are so they can support you.  You may need others to take over some of the tasks around the house so you have time to exercise. Enlisting a friend to exercise with you can help keep you focused and can make exercise more fun.

 Fuel Your Body with Nutritious Foods
You’ll need to make sure you are fueling yourself well when adding exercise back into your routine.  Depending on what type of exercise you are doing you may need more protein than you are currently eating.  Focusing on whole foods with adequate protein, lots of veggies and healthy fats will give you the energy you need to get through your workouts. Exercise is hard sometimes but it should be fun!  Find something you enjoy doing and see how good it makes you feel to move.
 
 Your Partner In Health!
Sara Yadlowsky, FMHC

Kids and Mindfulness

Caroline Wilson, M.Ed., FMHC
 You may be thinking that kids and mindfulness are not two things that naturally go together. But as anxiety continues to become an epidemic for our children and teens, we must find ways to help them make mindfulness a part of their lives.

So, what is mindfulness? 

A great definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction describes it well:

 Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. 

Stopping, paying attention, and noticing what’s happening around you, and everything you’re feeling, thinking and doing in that particular moment with honesty and without judgment is being mindful.  Sounds easy enough, right?

Actually, this Harvard study found that we spend almost 50% of our time thinking about something else and NOT what we’re actually doing!

Here are just a few of the health benefits of mindfulness that have been researched:
Increased focus and attention
Improved memory and learning
Less anxiety and depression
Better emotional self-regulation
Stronger immune system
Reduced inflammation 

Here are a couple of my favorite mindfulness exercises that you can do with your kids:
 
STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN
 
You and your kids can practice mindfulness anywhere and anytime.  A great way for kids to learn how to be mindful is by using the STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN method.  This involves, STOPPING what you are doing, LOOKING around you and using all 5 senses (what are you seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and even tasting) and LISTENING (listen to your body and mind and how it feels in that moment).

THE FIVE SENSES EXERCISE

Another quick exercise that can be done anywhere is the 5 senses exercise.  Notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.  This exercise can bring you to a mindful state quickly.
These are just a couple of examples of how you can practice mindfulness with your kids.   

Your Partner in Health!
Caroline Wilson, M.Ed., FMHC

Tips To Slow Down

Clarissa A. Kussin, ND, RYT-500

It has never been easier to connect with someone on the other side of the world, yet it’s so easy to feel disconnected from the people closest to us.  We have more tools than ever to simplify tasks and accomplish more things quickly, yet our to-do lists have never been longer. Life is short, and time flies, especially in today’s fast-paced world.  

These exercises are meant to help you slow down, enjoy life, and focus on the most important parts of your day.  Take the time to prioritize daily objectives.
 By focusing on the most important tasks to get done, we eliminate the hustle and stress of trying to accomplish everything at once. 
Cut personal Internet use by half.
Technology has become a major element in most of our lives. Social networking, email, and web-surfing can occasionally cause our minds to lose focus and wander through hundreds of topics, thoughts and ideas.
Try to use half your designated Internet time to explore new hobbies, exercise, or meditate.

 Enjoy nature.
When time permits – take a five to ten minute break to step outside and breathe in some fresh air. Disconnect from the rest of the world and concentrate on the beauty of nature.

Eat slower.
A lot of us tend to speed through meals – missing the chance to appreciate different textures and flavors. Start to chew foods slower and distinguish new tastes, aromas, and consistencies. 
 
Connect and make time for yourself.

Acknowledge and consciously thank yourself for taking care of YOU.  When did you last spend valuable time with yourself? Take a night to find a new book, watch a favorite movie, try yoga, meditate, or cook a new recipe.

Give yourself more time.
Some of us like to stick to a tight schedule and plan all our daily events. Next time you’re jotting down new tasks in your planner, try to factor in a few extra minutes when estimating how long things will take. This will help you not rush through daily tasks.

Take the scenic route.
Next time you’re driving a somewhat long distance – try taking the scenic route. Driving through open fields, mountains, or viewing a city skyline can be very relaxing.

Sit for a moment with your eyes closed when you start your computer. Even just a few moments of meditation can set the tone for the rest of your day. Try to empty your mind and take deep breaths before jumping into your day’s tasks.

Remember your goals and aspirations.
Each morning when you wake up, take a few moments to think about your life goals and aspirations. Try to recall the milestones you’ve already made in your life, and your drive to achieve new ones. Try doing this for about five minutes before getting out of bed to start your day.

Take the time and share this with someone you love that may need some support in slowing down…

 
Your Partner in Health!
Clarissa Kussin, ND, RYT 500