Wednesday, December 28, 2016

7 Ways To Cope With The Holidays
And The Crazy World Around Us

The world is super crazy right now.
Here are some tips on how to cope.

Getting through the holidays can sometimes be enough of a challenge, but his year’s political and international events have pushed many of us to the brink.  If you are feeling unmotivated, hopeless, sad and anxious, you are not alone. But there are things we can do to try and lift the funk. Here are a few of them:

#1 – Fight Negativity with Positive Thoughts
Even with the election behind us, our thirst for minute-to-minute news has not abated even if it causes more anxiety.  So I could suggest that we disconnect, but in reality we won’t – and perhaps we shouldn’t because it’s important to stay involved with what’s happening around us. But just when I think my head is going to explode, I realize that there are still many things that I can be thankful for. So I make a mental list or, better yet, I write them down, post them on the bathroom mirror and keep a copy on my bedside table so I can begin and end the day with positive thoughts, such as: “I am in good health.” “My children are happy.” “ I have a loving husband.” “ I have 54 pints of tomato sauce I canned from my summer garden to enjoy all winter.”

I also think of visual images that make me smile, like the look on my grandson’s face when he opened a particular gift he wanted, or the memory of my dog Zoe guarding the foot of my bed in the morning. These affirmations and positive images bring me back to those things in my tangible world that bring me joy and away from thoughts that create fear and anxiety.

Before your head explodes, think positive thoughts.

#2 – The Power of Food 
The day after the election, my entire lunch consisted of a bowl of French fries. For those of you who know me, I can see you gasping! I chased it down with a Mai Tai (I was in Hawaii). I didn’t feel better. In fact I felt worse. I eventually came to my senses and started eating my usual clean diet. But we all know how stress and anxiety can lead to poor food and beverage choices and it can become a vicious cycle. Then comes the weight gain that leads to even more stress and anxiety.

A diet that will improve your mood, and help lose a few pounds too, should include “power foods” such as beans, salmon, kale and other leafy greens, berries, nuts and seeds, quinoa and other whole grains, avocados, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, onions and garlic, dark chocolate and mushrooms. Avoid fad diets and prepackaged meals and shakes. These can do more damage than good, in the long run.

It’s also very important to include fermented foods in your diet every day, such as raw sauerkraut or pickles, kombucha, miso, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, or yogurt. These power foods not only provide the critical nutrients you need, but they also create a healthy environment for your gut microbes. It turns out that these little bugs have a big affect on our mood!

From a DNA count, we are more microbial than human so it’s no surprise that research continues to discover the many ways that these microbes significantly affect our health. Researchers found that the micro-organisms in our gut significantly influence the body’s level of serotonin, the brain chemical that regulates how happy we feel. In fact, the pharmaceutical drugs Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil treat anxiety and depression the same way, by managing the body’s levels of serotonin. So maybe it’s best to ditch the pills and just eat a diet that will promote a good environment for our little friends!

Microbes can affect our mood

#3 - Get off the Couch
Sitting is the new smoking. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer, arthritis, and type-2 diabetes. Exercise can help prevent these diseases. In addition, exercise can help reduce anxiety and greatly improve mood.

I remember when I was a serious runner (serious for me), and would go out and run 3 miles in the hills or on a nearby track with my favorite tunes flowing in my ears. I would return home with rosy cheeks and a runner’s high. I can’t even describe how elated I felt.  Why did I feel that good?

It turns out that exercise causes the body to release endorphins, endocannabinoids and other “feel-good” brain chemicals that can ease depression. It also is a great distraction, unless of course you are watching a news program while you are on your treadmill. 

Although I don’t run 3 miles a day like I did 25 years ago, I find other ways to get my blood and lymph flowing and my endorphins to kick in. I love to take brisk walks, do Zumba, or jump on my new mini-trampoline. So find an exercise you love doing and start pumping out happy brain chemicals!

A race I ran in 1989

#4 - Connect with Friends and Family
When reading the book, Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner, I noticed that people who live to 100 or older, had one thing in common - they all had a network of friends or family and a sense of community that gave them a life purpose. In today's world, many of us live apart from our families and move from city to city for our careers. So it's important to create a network of friends and assimilate into your community as best you can. Meet like-minded people and work at creating relationships. You can't sit at home and wait for your new best friend to come knocking at your door. 

Eight years ago, after working and living in San Jose for over 20 years, my husband and I moved to Sebastopol and had to basically start over making new friends. None of our children or grandchildren live in California, so our friends are our main source of connection. Fortunately, we have many interests and have joined groups in the community that have lead to deep friendships – ones that give us support and comfort. I love this town and I feel like it’s wrapped its arms around us. 

Blue Zones

#5 – Know your Triggers
There are certain things that make individuals depressed. Each person is unique and has different triggers. I, for one, cannot watch thrillers or violent movies as they make me super anxious. I also avoid watching the nightly news right before bed. Despite it’s health benefits and ability to help me get a good night sleep, I can’t take melatonin for more than a few nights in a row. Even as very low dosages, it makes me sad and depressed. I also have a terrible reaction to cortisone, even in the form of nose sprays, since they can throw me into a deep state of depression when I get off it. Alcohol is also a depressant, although it is more depressing to think of not enjoying a glass of wine or sake each night with dinner, so I have to make sure I limit it to one glass or skip a night or two. Sometimes a trigger can be a person who upsets you or, for example, taunts you about your beliefs. What are your triggers? Can you avoid them?

#6 –Vitamins and Herbs that Calm or Induce Euphoria
In times of stress, our bodies quickly use up our B vitamins. Since they are water soluble, they need to be replenished daily so I take a good Stress B-complex. 

Vitamin Code Raw B-Complex

There are many herbs that calm the nervous system such as chamomile, skullcap, hops, lavender, clary sage, rosemary, valerian, California poppy, passionflower and more. Many are available, individually or in a combination, as a tea or tincture. Some, like lavender for example, may be used as an essential oil in aroma therapy.  Many of these herbs can help with anxiety-induced insomnia. As a sleep aid, I take a tincture that is a combination of skullcap, hops, California poppy, passionflower, and valerian. 

One of the most effective herbs to induce euphoria is cannabis. If you have a medical cannabis recommendation and happen to live in a progressive state, you can go a local clinic and pick up a strain described to have the following strain attributes: “happy, uplifted, euphoric, and relaxed.” For example, Sour Diesel, Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookies, are THC strains (those with psychoactive effects) with these attributes. High CBD strains (those that do not cause psychoactivity), such as ACDC, Cannatonic, Ringo’s Gift and others, have been successfully used to treat anxiety. New vaporizers make smoking cannabis much less harsh. The advantage of smoking is that you can take a puff or two and get immediate results. If you are going to consume a tincture or other THC edibles, just be aware that they take several hours to kick in and it’s very easy to take too much. So start with a tiny, tiny dosage and wait a few hours before taking more. 

#7 – Put Things in Prospective
Being upset about politics, world issues, the planet, etc. is serious for sure. It can make us depressed, anxious, even sick as these pressures can definitely weaken our immune system. But other events closer to us can bring these into prospective. 

My cousin just passed away recently. She was from a very tight-knit family of six children and my 90-year-old aunt had to endure the pain of losing a child. To watch their tributes on Facebook each day, especially during the holidays, is heart breaking. And then there’s my dear friend’s husband who has been battling stage 4 colon cancer.  They have taken an alternative route of treatment that requires administration of numerous herbs, IV treatments, and more that have to be carefully scheduled nearly every hour of the day. Needless to say, this has turned their lives upside down. So we should put our anxiety and fears in prospective. 

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