Do you find it difficult to focus when you’re at work? Do you feel like you’re pulled in so many directions, that you can’t even think straight? Are you irritable? By the time you get home from work, do you find it hard to do much of anything? Well … you’re not alone! Many people experience this phenomenon in various forms. Perhaps you feel like you don’t even know where to look for help with this. Or maybe you’ve tried, seemingly everything, and nothing has changed. Don’t despair! Here are 3 quick and easy ways to start honing in on the problems:
1. Distraction. If you do a lot of multi-tasking, you are probably highly distracted. There might also be quite a bit of background noise and action going on, making it even harder to concentrate. Your emotions can take a hit from this as well as your ability to think. We are living in the age of information, with data bombarding us at every turn. How can we keep up emotionally and intellectually? Research tells us that if the people you work with trust each other, your performance will probably be better, and so will your thoughts, feelings, and ability to concentrate. If you work with people who have little to no trust to each other, performance will suffer. Read up on positive psychology and emotional intelligence and start developing a plan for self-improvement. Also, ask yourself if you need to change your work environment.
2. Diet. Certain foods will help you be calmer and better focused. These are anti-inflammatory foods, like clean proteins, non-starchy vegetables, and low sugar fruits. If you eat lots of junk foods at the office and elsewhere – donuts, other sugary bakery treats, pizza, candy, etc. – you are exacerbating your problems with focus, mood, concentration, and even motivation. So, think ahead and pack your food if you have no good alternatives and limit your temptations this way. There are also healthy ways to bake your own treats which will not spike your insulin and you can enjoy these while staying more productive and alert than your co-workers!
3. Are you sleeping at night? Sleep is very important and can impact your performance and mood in general, and especially at work. Sleep is restorative and healing, and when this important cycle is disturbed, it can wreak havoc with your daily life. Are you sleeping close to 8 hours per night? Are you sleeping restfully? Do you wake up refreshed and ready for your day or tired? Do you wake up every few hours? It very well might be time to change habits or visit a sleep clinic to determine if you have a disorder, like sleep apnea. Make sure your electronic equipment is off when you go to bed and that the room is dark – this signals sleep hormones to help you fall asleep.
These are a few areas to consider and a few suggestions for improvement. You can change your ability to focus – don’t give up and you will find your way!
Have a happy and holistic day!
- Dr. P
Sadly … this is true, even today. In fact, many people with mental health disorders still do not reach out for help, and one large contributing factor is the stigma that still exists. The World Health Organization states that mental illness costs more than any other health issue.
Reportedly, 60% of the 450 million people in the world who suffer with mental health problems do not get care. Ninety percent of people who get no care are in developing countries.
Shocking statistics? You bet they are. According to research, most people still have negative attitudes and stereotype those with mental health issues, no matter what the cause of the disorders. Many think such individuals grappling with mental illness are dangerous. Yet they may be close personal friends and family members.
Because of this, people struggling with mental health disorders often become isolated. This has the power to feed into the problems, perhaps making depression and anxiety – two examples – worse. These individuals are subjected to bullying, discrimination, and rejection.
Unfortunately, this can lead to internalizing the prejudice, and many develop a type of self-stigma, making the situation more complex.
Most mental health disorders are treatable to a large degree. Diet, of course, can play a crucial role in mood disorders. Ditching most of the grains and sugars out of the food we eat may make a highly significant difference in a person’s self-efficacy and self-esteem, in addition to treatment. Making treatment more accessible is, of course, necessary.
Education is one of our most effective tools against any kind of ignorance, bullying, bias, prejudice, and stereotyping. Why not include this in elementary, middle school, and high school curricula? It is relevant to health class and perhaps others.
The Mental Health Association GC calls for “supportive and nurturing school communities [which are] conducive to mental wellbeing.” We should include our young people in bringing a solution to stigma.
Have a happy and holistic day!
- Dr. P
Let’s review – holistic and natural approaches to just about anything means that we optimize and support what Mother Nature designed and put into motion.
So, a holistic approach to pregnancy and childbirth means that we are supporting the naturally designed process of conception, nourishment, and giving birth – hopefully from a standpoint of having had optimal health when starting this process. This process believes in and follows the natural progression of having kids from before conception through labor and birth.
But let’s face it – not all of us are at our optimal health when getting pregnant. So, the good news is that even if you don’t start this process from a point of total health, it’s entirely possible to build your health from that day of finding out you’re pregnant onward!
If you read my blogs and newsletters, you will know that a natural pregnancy starts with a natural, health-giving diet, hopefully tailored to you and your lifestyle and your individual, unique body. Eating nutrient rich foods, whole foods that require minimal processing, is best. Avoiding overly processed foods, empty, junk calorie foods (you know the drill!) is a given, especially when you get pregnant. Be aware of any food or other sensitivities you (and/or your baby) may have and adjust accordingly.
After all, your body has a great deal more to do when you’re pregnant, and you don’t want to bog down either your own health or that of your growing baby. So, think about eating a wide variety of fresh and lightly steamed veggies and some fruit, all preferably organic if you can get it. If not, fresh will certainly do!
By the way, if you find yourself craving sugar, try eating clean proteins first before succumbing to sugary treats. (Okay, indulging once in a while probably won’t be a deal breaker!) This means fresh meat, poultry, seafood, etc. If you’re a vegan, eat in whole form that which creates plant-based protein. If consuming protein from an animal source, try to procure wild fish and seafood (or responsibly farmed), poultry that is free-range, grass-fed beef, etc.
Stay hydrated! Drink lots of fresh water each day, either very well filtered water (a triple filter will likely do), or spring water. Watch that you don’t drink too much juice – even if there are no added sugars, fruits, especially in concentrated forms like juice, contain a great deal of sugar.
It’s a good idea to be sensible about this – but getting moderate exercise – without hurting you or your growing little one, is always a good idea unless you are restricted medically. (It goes without saying that you should always be working with a competent health care professional!) I remember doing some bike riding (nothing strenuous) and continuing to take dance lessons…until my baby protested too much! Then I knew I had to cut back….
Mindfulness is a common buzzword – and the shoe fits here as well. Center yourself, calm yourself, and enjoy being in the moment with hopefully joy and fulfillment. Do meditation, binaural beats, take nice luxurious bubble baths, or whatever helps you be calm and just … be. There are no self-recriminations or condemnations allowed.
It’s also a great idea to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. I had a friend who was fearful, each time she was pregnant, that she didn’t love her child. I told her I knew she was a very loving person, and soon she would feel that love for her kids. Not to worry – she was flooded with love as soon as she met both of her boys at the births!
Some people find great comfort in keeping a gratitude journal. Imagine all the good things in life we take for granted … I’m guilty, too! So, by keeping a journal of wonderful things, people, happenings, around you, you can at least give equal time to all of that. It might be the smell of coffee in the morning, or a rose in your garden with raindrops on it. Whatever makes you feel appreciative, note it and bask in it.
If it’s a natural birth you desire, take time to find the right people and situation and be ready for that big moment. You might also consider utilizing integrative therapies if this resonates with you.
Even if you end up with a conventionally handled birth, it might be a wonderful experience. If it’s not, don’t let that steal all your joy! Your own happiness emanates from within you, no matter what’s going on outside of you.
And as always – please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
How much thought do we give to the notion that we have to watch caffeine intake? In a world gone mad with heroin overdoses, marijuana becoming legal for both recreation and medicine (yes, I have a problem with it), not to mention the regular use of alcohol, etc., well … caffeine seems relatively harmless, right? After all, it even has some beneficial properties!
I personally love my coffee, especially with some low sugar whipped cream. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks, soda, the kola nut, guarana berries, and more. It can be found in supplements and medications. While caffeine must be listed in the ingredients, how often do we check? Are we paying attention to the cumulative effect, not to mention the possible synergistic interactions?
Did you know that you may experience withdrawal symptoms due to caffeine intake? You may get a headache, be tired when you shouldn’t, experience some depression and a lesser sense of well-being; you may have difficulty concentrating, experience irritability, and have fuzzy thinking.
If you stop ingesting anything containing caffeine, between 12 and 24 hours later you may get these withdrawal symptoms. These can last about a week, give or take a few days.
On the plus side, caffeine may help increase memory, and if mixed with carbohydrates can replace muscle glycogen faster after exercising. Caffeine also has a detoxifying effect on the liver. Ever heard of coffee enemas?! They work! Caffeine may stimulate hair growth for both men and women. Caffeine may even have some protective features in Parkinson’s disease, as well as in Alzheimer’s.
Regardless of the empirically validated pros and cons to ingesting caffeine containing foods and supplements, take note of how your body feels when you do. This is called mindfulness. Your body talks to you. Be an active listener of you! Follow the advice your body gives you. It is immeasurably intelligent!
Have a happy and holistic day!
- Dr. P
This past year and a half has brought about so many changes for many of us. One of the largest changes has been that many people, who once worked in office or other work location, are now doing their job from home. Are you one of these people? Whether or not you are, you still need mindfulness and stress reduction!
These changes may have had an unintended effect – drawing the lines between work and home has proven to be very challenging, and these lines are now crossed over a great deal. I imagine that some of you have kids at home, and everyone is stuck in the house while you are trying to work!
Maybe you had to improvise and created a workspace in the kitchen, living or dining room, or even part of the bedroom. I remember when first setting up my office space at home, I had to do it in my bedroom, because there was no other usable space. Later on, I was able to build a beautiful office in my basement and that has worked very well. You can imagine that an office space in the bedroom would have an adverse effect on sleeping patterns. No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop thinking about work when I was trying to go to sleep. Plus, I had the lights of my equipment to deal with. And we all know how important sleep is to our wellbeing….
Some people, in trying to adapt to extremely trying circumstances, experienced lower work productivity, mixed feelings which directly impacted motivation, and as if we didn’t have enough of it already, think of all the added layers of stress created by the hoopla surrounding the “pandemic” (and now the “variants”), as well as having to adapt to working from home.
All of this has a dampening effect on our mental health as well as our physiological health. Plus, counselors who had been providing direct services to clients had to adapt to online delivery, and clients had to adapt to that too. Many educators and students had to switch to the online environment if they weren’t using those platforms already.
What is your story?
If you’ve been following my many articles, then you know how much I harp on staying healthy from a holistic perspective – mind, body, and soul. In fact, I’ve been able to reverse my auto-immune disease and restore my health back to where I was at a much earlier age … so, I know personally that it works!
How then do we cope with these unusual circumstances that so many of us are still dealing with? How about people who need to recover from the effects of all this change, even if our world has righted itself again … mostly?
If you’ve heard of mindfulness, then you know that it’s about slowing down internally, so you’re actually present at any given second, without your mind racing to what’s ahead of you or what happened earlier. It’s often said that mindfulness is being present in the moment. There are not supposed to be any self-recriminations during this process – you are simply supposed to “be” in the moment, noticing what’s happening – no value judgments, no put-downs, etc.
It’s often helpful to create a time of day, even if it’s only 5-10 minutes, when you shut out the outside world and just exist. A time for you and you alone! There are numerous ways to accomplish this, and my personal favorite is to have binaural beats playing in the background, so low that I can barely hear them, and often music is playing which is also deeply meditative in nature. There are many free apps for this so you can just use your phone, or you can look on YouTube.
Mindfulness can also be sitting quietly with some meditation music and just “being” for 5-10 minutes. In fact, I have a comfortable chair in my bedroom set up where I can shut out the world for a few minutes, and just relax and enjoy the music.
Of course, you can do whatever helps you slow down and smell the roses (or coffee as the case may be)! How about a nice relaxing bubble bath, with or without candles, or a nice glass of wine (providing you have no substance use issues). You are only limited by your imagination, so experiment and find out what you like the best.
How often have we heard the words stress reduction? It sounds so easy, right? But we all know that lessening negative stress in our lives can be a stress in and of itself, too. Ironic!
I can remember trying to reduce my stress, back when my kids were young, at home, and always getting into things. Every time I tried to carve out some “me” time, the kids (and the pets too) would always find me and want something from me. What, do they have hidden radar or something?!
When trying to reduce stress, first sit down and think of the sources. Identify them. Is it work? Is it the kids? Is it your significant other? Is it your in-laws? Are you ill and trying to maintain your and your family’s lives with a semblance of normalcy?
It’s good to stop rationalizing, blaming others, justifying things in some way. If you don’t take responsibility for what’s happening, putting yourself behind the steering wheel, it will only continue. A suggestion for this is to start to journal the sources of stress. Identify how you think about it, how you feel about it, and how it affects your physical body (i.e., does your tummy hurt when you are stressed out or do you get a stiff neck).
Next you can analyze how to make reductions. Does someone in particular stress you out? Can you limit or eliminate time spent in contact? Does it make you nervous to hear how many cases of COVID-19 are reported incessantly? I know I’m sick of hearing all the doomsday reporting, so I just rarely listen to the news anymore. My mornings especially are calmer now. I pick up whatever news I want from the internet and am in of control how much that is.
Do you hate cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.? Find alternate ways to deal with it. For some people, it’s having groceries delivered or just picked up. Store employees can do your shopping. If you have the budget for it and you hate cleaning but like a clean environment (like me), find someone honest and reliable to hire to do it for you.
I can go on, but I think you get the idea. Learning how to take better care of yourself so you’re more available to yourself and others is quite valuable. Think about it – if you’re all stressed out, then your kids and other loved ones pick up on this as well. If you’re calmer and dealing with life in a healthy way, that’s what rubs off then too.
Have a happy and holistic day!
- Dr. P
If you’re concerned about your health, eating habits, medications, or getting sick, then you may be ready for a holistic health makeover. Hey – it’s a great state of mind to be in! I’ll tell you why I think so.
Most of us know that the typical American lifestyle habits aren’t exactly making or keeping us healthy. If you read books, articles, blogs, etc., you might already have thought about this. Maybe you want to eat healthy but are too invested in what you are doing right now to change. That’s okay. Keep thinking, learning, and mulling it over. Do what you can, when you can, but never give up. And don’t wait forever because you might get sick if you wait too long!
Holistic living covers several areas. I think of these as our feelings, thoughts, physical bodies, and our spirituality. So, we in the holistic living realm like to pay attention to all aspects of being and becoming truly healthy, no matter what our age is.
Having said that, many experts agree that about 75% of our entire health comes from what we put into our mouths. So, this is the foundational piece of getting (and staying) healthy. It supports healthy feelings and thoughts, which result in behavioral choices for the better. It certainly makes all the difference in our physiological health and even supports our spirituality; in whatever form it takes for each individual. Yes, we are genetically wired for spirituality, whether we choose to exercise it or not!
There are many different dietary approaches out there, and they all feel they’re the best. Most of the ones that get health results consistently are well-researched. But it can be confusing to know which – if any – of these approaches will work for you.
So, I like to start with the basics. First start taking out the junk foods, the sodas, the high sugar and highly processed, grainy foods, and start drinking fresh water. Spring water is a good choice, although there are many good choices on the market. Then start adding some extremely healthy food choices, like fresh and/or lightly steamed vegetables, and some fruits. Watch out for high sugar in fruit– if you binge on higher-sugar choices like bananas, and tell yourself you’re eating healthy, you will end up with more sugar than you need, which can cause health problems!
Eat salads with varied types of veggies (not exclusively iceberg as it has very few nutrients), be moderate with your salad additives like dressing, sugared cranberries, nuts, etc., and make organic or local choices as often as you can. If you are a meat eater, eat free range chickens, grass-fed beef, etc. If you eat fish, try to stay with either wild-caught or responsibly farmed (to be differentiated from simple farmed fish which contains higher levels of mercury). Let me tell you – well-prepared healthy food tastes wonderful – the flavors really pop!
Some other really tasty and healthy food items which are high in nutrients but not in calories are blueberries, turmeric, avocados (okay, it’s higher in fat and calories, but oh so healthy and tasty), salmon, flaxseeds, and cinnamon. These are considered to be some of the superfoods.
And remember, if you eat a diet of junk food and just add a few superfoods, while it may give you a start, you will not win the health game. They cannot be used as a substitute for an otherwise unhealthy diet.
Have a happy and holistic day!
- Dr. P
It perhaps seems counter-intuitive that what we put into our mouths for nourishment for our physical bodies can also make a huge difference in our mental health. But it’s true!
Of course, if you’ve been at all interested in the food/mood connection and read or listen to videos and podcasts, then you’re aware of this. How much do you really know? And more importantly, would you like to know more?
A diet that is healthy and conducive to excellent mental health will help us be able to think clearly, feel more alert, be in a good mood, and feel difficult emotions like anger and sadness in a way that will not keep us down for a long time.
On the other hand, a poor diet can bring about extreme tiredness, impair our decision-making process, slow reaction times, and leave us feeling angry, anxious, irritable, aggressive, and more. Our behavioral choices usually show how we’re feeling and thinking.
Which way would you like to feel? Do I really need to ask this – LOL?!
Here in America and increasingly across the globe, we are consuming highly processed foods more and more. These are foods high in flour and sugar and other unnecessary chemicals and they have an addictive effect in our brains which leads to cravings for these unhealthy foods. (Well, this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it does happen the majority of time to the majority of people.)
So, if we ask you to stop eating these foods, your brain physiology will start to change! And yes, that’s a great thing. You will start to feel better, and your moods will start to improve. How you handle stress and other things will also start to improve.
That is, as long as you start to eat healthier foods instead. Have you heard of the gut/brain barrier? These two parts of our bodies are linked together through the vagus nerve, and they send messages back and forth to each other. The gut can influence emotional behavior inside your brain, and the brain can change the type of bacteria which lives in our tummies.
Inside our guts live the good bacteria, also known as the immune system, and the bad bacteria, the kind that causes problems. The bacteria in our guts produce neurochemicals that regulate both physical and mental processes, including how we feel. Most of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, is produced by the gut bacteria.
Most anti-bacterial products will effectively remove the bad bacteria, but they usually take the good bacteria down with it as well. It’s very important to know this! We do not want to weaken our immune system – it’s what protects us.
A few tips to help us build up our mental health are:
Other helpful suggestions might be not to eat in front of the TV and eat in a relaxing environment. Pay attention to what you’re eating – be in the moment – and really enjoy the flavors, textures, and other pleasant sensations. Also – enjoy your company if you’re not eating alone!
As always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!
- Dr. P