I am incredibly passionate about mental health. I have had my own mental health journey. I have been to therapy multiple times. I have read more self-help books than I can count. And I am so grateful to be able to now feel mentally and emotionally well. It is an incredible privilege as a health and wellness coach to be able to be a part of others health and wellness journeys in more ways than just physical health. Your mental and emotional health impact every aspect of your health and wellness.
If you are struggling with your own mental health journey, please take the time to watch this video and hear others share about their mental health journeys. There is an incredible amount of power when we can connect to one another’s stories and realize that we are not alone in our suffering.
It takes bravery to be willing to admit that we are not okay and that we need help. It takes bravery to be kind to ourselves and invest in getting help when we need it. It takes bravery to keep fighting when it feels like the world is fighting against us.
Keep your chin up. Remember you are not alone. Things will get better.
I believe there is an incredibly large gap in the way we approach health and wellness with a significant emphasis placed on our physical health. When something starts to go wrong physically (i.e. weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, pre-diabetes, depression/anxiety, etc.), we turn to physical methods to try and solve the problem. This could include changing our diet and exercise plan, starting a new medication, and the list goes on. What I hope to demonstrate in this article is that our physical health is often an outer expression of an inner conflict. Bear with me as we dive into some astounding research summarized by Jane Ellen Stevens at ACEs Too High News.
In 1985, a man named Dr. Vincent Felitti, chief of Kaiser Permanente’s revolutionary Department of Preventive Medicine in San Diego, CA, ran an obesity clinic. Anyone who wanted to shed as little as 30 pounds could participate, but the clinic was designed for people who were 100 to 600 pounds overweight. Every year, more than 50,000 people were screened for disease. It was the largest medical evaluation site in the world.
Although Dr. Felitti’s department was incredibly successful, he couldn’t figure out why, each year for the last five years, more than half of the people in his obesity clinic dropped out. After reviewing the people who had dropped out he discovered that all of these people were losing weight when they left the program. Why would someone who weighed 300 pounds, and had lost 100 of those pounds in his program, drop out? The mystery turned into a 25-year quest involving researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and more than 17,000 members of Kaiser Permanente’s San Diego care program.
Dr. Felitti began interviewing hundreds of his clients who dropped out of this program. At first he made no progress in discovering the root of the problem until he began asking the following questions: How much did you weigh when you were born? How much did you weigh when you started first grade? How much did you weigh when you entered high school? How much did you weigh when you became sexually active? He was astonished when his first patient, a woman, replied, “Forty pounds.” And then elaborated further, “It was when I was four years old, with my father.”
A shocking 286 patients later almost all had replied in a similar manner. As startling as this was, it turned out to be less significant than another piece of the puzzle that dropped into place during an interview with a woman who had been raped when she was 23 years old. In the year after the attack, she told Felitti that she’d gained 105 pounds. “Overweight is overlooked, and that’s the way I need to be.” He realized that being overweight for these people was not a problem it was actually a solution. In the case of the woman who’d been raped, she felt as if she were invisible to men. In the case of a man who’d been beaten up when he was a skinny kid, being fat kept him safe, because when he gained a lot of weight, nobody bothered him. In the case of another woman — whose father told her while he was raping her when she was 7 years old that the only reason he wasn’t doing the same to her 9-year-old sister was because she was fat — being obese protected her. Losing weight increased these patient’s anxiety, depression, and fear to levels that were intolerable.
Over time, these results would reach far beyond an obesity clinic. They began to help explain why hundreds of millions of people around the world use biochemical coping methods – such as alcohol, marijuana, food, sex, tobacco, violence, work, methamphetamines, thrill sports – to escape intense fear, anxiety, depression, and anger. All of this led to one of the largest and perhaps most important public health studies of all time.
Between 1995 and 1997 a survey was filled out by 17,421 individuals coming through Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Preventive Medicine. The survey consisted of the top 10 most common adverse childhood experiences that had been reported by Dr. Felitti’s patients.
The results of this study were mind-boggling!
There was a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, as well as mental illness, doing time in prison, and work issues, such as absenteeism.
Two-thirds of the adults in the study had experienced one or more types of adverse childhood experiences. Of those, 87 percent had experienced 2 or more types. This showed that people who had an alcoholic father, for example, were likely to have also experienced physical abuse or verbal abuse. In other words, adverse childhood experiences(ACEs) usually didn’t happen in isolation.
More adverse childhood experiences resulted in a higher risk of medical, mental, and social problems as an adult.
A scoring system was developed that gave each ACE one point. For example, if a person experienced verbal abuse, lived with a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic father, their ACE score was three. Compared with people with zero ACEs, those with four categories of ACEs the results were as follows:
240% greater risk of hepatitis
390% greater risk of COPD
240% higher risk of a sexually transmitted disease
Twice as likely to smoke
12 times more likely to have attempted suicide
7 times more likely to be an alcoholic
10 times more likely to have injected street drugs
More likely to be violent, have more marriages, more broken bones, more drug prescriptions, more depression, more auto-immune diseases, and more work absences.
To further validate the shocking results of this study, the participants were average Americans. Seventy-five percent were white, 11 percent Latino, 7.5 percent Asian and Pacific Islander, and 5 percent were black. They were middle-class, middle-aged, 36 percent had attended college and 40 percent had college degrees or higher. Since they were members of Kaiser Permanente, they all had jobs and great health care. Their average age was 57.
I think the results of this study speak for themselves, but if you are one of those people asking the question of why this really matters, let me elaborate further.
The ACE Study became even more significant with the publication of parallel research that provided the link between why something that happened to you when you were a kid could land you in the hospital at age 50. The stress of severe and chronic childhood trauma – such as being regularly hit, constantly belittled and berated, watching your father often hit your mother – put a child in constant fight or flight mode which releases hormones that physically damage a child’s developing brain. This fight or flight mode is beneficial when we’re being chased by a bear, but the real problem comes when that bear comes home from the bar every night. Constantly staying in a fight or flight mode is incredibly damaging to every aspect of our health leading to the adoption of health risk behaviors, disease, disability and early death.
The results in this study show extreme examples of what many people go through during their childhood, but that isn’t to say that other events in your life can’t have very similar effects and outcomes. Maybe you experienced trauma or loss or betrayal or abuse or disappointment at an older age. It may not physically impact your young developing brain, but the result is similar. We store these memories, try to bury them out of shame, fear, or anger and try to move on with our lives. Over time we develop ways to avoid feeling the pain. Maybe we work excessively as an avoidance tactic or form some other type of unhealthy or extreme habit to attempt to get on with life. Maybe it manifests in our relationships with our loved ones and causes a significant amount of stress on a regular basis. There are so many life events that can result in prolonged stress if we aren’t aware of or know how to deal with them in a healthy way.
Take a second to read through the ACEs questionnaire and determine how many you may have experienced. Each time you select “yes” that counts as one ACE. This is also a good time to evaluate other experiences in your life and explore the amount of impact those experiences may still have on your everyday life and on your current and future health. It’s never too late to get help to work through past difficulties and create healthy habits so you can avoid the many pitfalls of chronic stress that lead to chronic illness, disability, and early death.
If you feel like this topic may relate to you, NOW is the time to do something about it so you don’t have to look back in the future and wonder how different your life could have been if you had taken the right steps toward better health before it was too late.
Please book a free coaching session on my contact page today to discuss available options for you to get started.
“It’s never too late to get help to work through past difficulties and create healthy habits so you can avoid the many pitfalls of chronic stress that lead to chronic illness.”
There is one guarantee in life and that is that nothing is as constant as change. Everyday things around us change. Sometimes those things are minuscule and have little impact on the outcome of the rest of our lives. But sometimes changes come in large doses that are incredibly difficult to accept and seem almost impossible to manage. These are the moments when our power to choose becomes incredibly important.
I remember when I was a teenager struggling through the emotions and heart break of my parents divorce. My world had been torn apart. I was hurt and angry and didn’t quite know how I was going to handle it all. I was at the perfect time in my life to get into trouble and make poor decisions and blame it on my situation.
I have a very vivid memory of a decision I made that changed the course of my entire life. I was seventeen and I had just been in a fight with a family member. I left the house in a rage, backed my car out of my driveway and for some reason had an epiphany right there in the middle of the road. There were two paths that became very clear in my mind. I could channel my anger into revenge and blame my situation for the poor decisions I wanted to make or I could choose to stay true to the young woman that I was and had always worked hard to become. I made a decision right then and there.
I am in control of my life and the person I become and I will not allow my circumstances or the choices of anyone else to take that away from me. I am the master of my fate.
I hope this video will serve as a reminder that no matter the circumstances you are placed in NO ONE can take away your ability to choose how you will come out on the other side of the struggle.
This past year has been quite the rollercoaster to say the least. This pandemic has had such a significant impact on so many aspects of our lives. Jobs lost, businesses closed, financial hardship, isolation, extreme uncertainty, fear of losing loved ones, and the list goes on. For many months we have been asking the question, “IS THIS EVER GOING TO END?!” It is hard to say for sure what the future holds, but we certainly have hope with the new vaccines that have been developed and are demonstrating efficacy.
I feel incredibly blessed to have been working at the Mayo Clinic through this pandemic as they have done an excellent job of distributing up-to-date and credible information. They recently posted an article that is SO important with the first COVID vaccine being approved by the FDA. I have copied and pasted the information below without making any changes to their article and also including links they provided for more information. There are a lot of myths and conspiracies floating around so PLEASE take the time to educate yourself and your loved ones about COVID vaccines through credible sources.
COVID-19 vaccine myths debunked
Written by Mayo Clinic December 9, 2020
Vaccines are perhaps the best hope for ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Two pharmaceutical companies have applied for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization for new COVID-19 vaccines, and a limited number of vaccines will be available before the end of the year.
It’s likely you’ve heard claims about these COVID-19 vaccines on social media or from the people in your life. Also, the rapid development and approval of these vaccines may make you hesitant about safety or effectiveness.
Let’s set the record straight on some of the myths circulating about COVID-19 vaccines.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines are not safe because they were developed and tested quickly.
Fact: Many pharmaceutical companies have invested significant resources into developing COVID-19 vaccines quickly because of the worldwide effects of the pandemic. This emergency situation warranted an emergency response. That does not mean the companies bypassed safety protocols or performed inadequate testing.
Mayo Clinic will recommend the use of those vaccines that it is confident are safe. While there are many COVID-19 vaccine candidates in development, early data are encouraging for the Pfizer vaccine, which likely is to be the first authorized for emergency use by the FDA. This vaccine was created using new technology based on the molecular structure of the virus that allows it to be free from materials of animal origin and synthesized by an efficient, cell-free process without preservatives. This vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTecH has been studied in approximately 43,000 people.
To receive emergency use authorization, biopharmaceutical manufacturers must have followed at least half of the participants in their vaccine trials for at least two months after completing the vaccination series, and the vaccine must be proven safe and effective in that population.
In addition to the safety review by the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization has convened a panel of vaccine safety experts to independently evaluate the safety data from the clinical trial. Mayo Clinic vaccine experts also will review the available data. The safety of COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be closely monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA.
Myth: I already had COVID-19 and I have recovered, so I don’t need to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Fact: There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long after infection someone is protected from getting COVID-19 again. This is called natural immunity. Early evidence suggests natural immunity from COVID-19 may not last long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.
Mayo Clinic recommends getting the COVID-19 vaccine even if you’ve had COVID-19 previously. However, those who have had COVID-19 should delay vaccination until about 90 days from diagnosis. People should not get vaccinated if in quarantine after exposure or if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines have severe side effects.
Fact: COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to have short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury.
Early-phase studies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine show that it is safe. About 15% of people developed short-lived symptoms at the site of the injection. Half developed systemic reactions, primarily headache, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or fever lasting for a day or two.
Keep in mind that these side effects indicate that your immune system is responding to the vaccine. These side effects are common with vaccinations.
Myth: I won’t need to wear a mask after I get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Fact: It may take time for everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination to get one. Also, while the vaccine may prevent you from getting sick, it is unknown whether you can still carry and transmit the virus to others after vaccination.
Until more is understood about how well the vaccine works, continuing with precautions, such as wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing and washing hands frequently, will be important.
Myth: More people will die as a result of a negative side effect to the COVID-19 vaccine than would die from the virus.
Fact: A claim circulating on social media is that the COVID-19 mortality rate is 1%–2% and that people should not be vaccinated against a virus with a high survival rate. However, a 1% mortality rate is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. In addition, the mortality rate can vary widely based on age, sex and underlying health conditions.
In contrast, clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines have shown only short-term mild or moderate vaccine reactions that resolve without complication or injury.
While some people who receive the vaccine may develop symptoms as their immune system responds, this is common when receiving any vaccine, and these symptoms are not considered serious or life-threatening. And you cannot become infected with COVID-19 from COVID-19 vaccines. These are inactivated vaccines, not live-virus vaccines.
It’s important to recognize that getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is not just about survival from COVID-19. It’s about preventing spread of the virus to others and preventing infection that can lead to long-term negative health effects.
While no vaccine is 100% effective, getting vaccinated is far better than not getting vaccinated. The benefits outweigh the risks in healthy people.
Myth: COVID-19 vaccines were developed to control the population through microchip tracking or “nanotransducers” in the human brain.
Fact: There is no vaccine microchip, and the vaccine will not track people or gather personal information into a database.
This myth started after comments made by Bill Gates from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation about a digital certificate of vaccine records. The technology he was referencing is not a microchip, has not been implemented in any manner and is not tied to the development, testing or distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
Fact: The first COVID-19 vaccines to reach the market are likely to be messenger RNA, or mRNA, vaccines. Messenger RNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response, according to the CDC. Injecting messenger RNA into your body will not interact or do anything to the DNA of your cells. Human cells break down and get rid of the messenger RNA soon after they have finished using the instructions.
Over the last several months I have been contemplating how to talk about my experience with chronic illness in a way that was realistic, but also encouraging. I was rather stumped because I didn’t want it to sound depressing or like I was seeking pity or attention. I can’t even really say it’s an attempt to raise awareness either. I simply want to share my story with all it’s difficulty and encourage you to embrace and share yours. The reality is that we really aren’t all that different whether you struggle with a chronic illness or not. Life is full of challenges and on any given day there are a handful of people you and I know and love that are struggling with really challenging life beasts. It is my sincere hope that through sharing our honest, authentic and raw moments with one another we’ll feel a little more connected and a little less stuck in our struggles all alone.
It has been an interesting couple of months for me as I have prepared to give a very personal speech to my Toastmasters speaking group. It has been emotional and has taken more bravery than I realized it would to put this out into to world.
I had a past coaching client who was quite sick with some very debilitating chronic illnesses. As we created a wellness vision for her I encouraged her to think of an image she could print out that would be empowering to her when she looked at it each day. She introduced me to a very unique and ancient Japanese technique called Kintsugi, the repairing of broken pottery. As she described to me the meaning behind a Kintsugi for her, it was as though she could see herself in a new light, even with chronic illness. She could see all of the scars. She could see all of the ways that her life was different than it used to be. She could see the grandmother she wanted to be, but was stuck being the grandmother her illness forced her to be. And yet, she was still able to find the beauty in who she was. I have to give her credit for inspiring me with the idea of the kintsugi.
The most rewarding part of coaching is being able to hear your amazing stories and ideas and how you conquer the challenges in your individual lives. It is inspiring! In an attempt to honor those whom I have coached who have been able to embrace their scars and their imperfections and to be proud of who they are in their own skin, I would like to share an incredibly personal and precious part of my life journey with you.
It is written here in the format of a speech, but if you would prefer to see the actual video of me giving the speech, please visit my YouTube channel.
I want to take you on a journey today. A journey that is deeply emotional. A journey that is painful and personal. A journey that is best illustrated by an ancient Japanese art called kintsugi.
Kintsugi, is the art of fixing broken pottery. Rather than rejoin ceramic pieces with a camouflaged adhesive, the Kintsugi technique uses a special tree sap lacquer dusted with powdered gold. Once completed, beautiful seams of gold glint in the conspicuous cracks of ceramic wares, giving a one-of-a-kind appearance to each “repaired” piece.
This unique method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. It often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with a new look and giving it a second life.
Journal Entry: June 16, 2013
I’m broken today. Most days I can convince myself I’m happy and manage life pretty well. Other times, like today, I realize that deep down inside I am truly broken.
My hardest struggle is feeling that people really don’t care about me. Maybe I can’t believe that they could really love me? Or maybe they really don’t. Or maybe they really don’t know how to show it. Or maybe if they tried to care I pushed them away so they stopped caring.
Maybe the same thing happened with you. I struggle with faith so much. Are you really there? Why can’t I feel you or see you? Am I broken?
If you’re there…stick with me…? Please? If you’re there…will you love me?
Around the time of this journal entry, I began going to therapy to try to figure out why life was so devastatingly hard for me.
At one of my first therapy sessions my therapist took me through a long, religious, visualization. She had me imagine being in a very relaxing atmosphere and creating a reality where I could be at peace. She then had me walk to an area where I stood in front of Christ himself. I was instructed to hand him my heart and allow him to heal it and then hand it back to me.
At the completion of this exercise she asked, “What happened for you in this experience?” “…Nothing,” I responded flatly. “And why do you think nothing happened?” To which I responded, “Probably for two reasons. One, I don’t know if I believe and two, I feel like I have this deep, dark, heavy, black hole inside of me and I don’t know what it is. How can you give something away when you don’t even know what it is?”
After a lot of reading and soul searching I began to discover that this deep pit inside of me could be given a description. I began to call it abandonment. As I searched deeper in to my life and learned about these challenges with abandonment, I began to realize the years of experiences that had slowly sculpted this reality for me.
Some came from self abandonment from being made fun of, so I hid myself.
Some came from religious cultural abandonment. I was loved and praised when I was doing everything right, but I felt ashamed and unloved when I didn’t feel like that cultural mold was something I agreed with anymore.
Some came from emotional abandonment. When you don’t see the world like everyone else and can’t openly express your true feelings and be accepted…it’s lonely.
Some came from my parents divorce when it felt in the moment like the people who you love the most are the ones who hurt you and abandon you.
And some came from God. I had crafted such an unhealthy dependency on God, there’s no way it wouldn’t crumble in abandonment at some point.
So what even is abandonment and why is it so devastatingly painful? Abandonment deals with loss, but it’s different than loss when a loved one passes away. Loss from abandonment cuts all the way through to the self. You were left by choice. You lose not just your loved one, but also your core belief in yourself. You doubt that you are lovable and acceptable and you turn on yourself.
I remember one of my most painful days. I walked into my room after a long day at school. I felt so miserable. Before I could even make it to my bed, tears began to stream down my face. My knees buckled and I crumbled to the floor. My heart clenched in pain and I cried out in sobbing devastation for hours. I was broken. All the way to my core.
You might be wondering where one might go from here? How do you even begin to pick up the pieces?
I don’t completely know the answer. It took years of hard work but I began by using a visualization technique that changed everything for me. Through this technique I would go back in my past and uncover all the incredibly painful memories I had hid away and I would relive them in my mind; experiencing again the pain, moment by moment. But this time it was a little different. As I revisited my younger self in these experiences I brought along my older self for comfort. “What’s wrong?” I would ask my younger self. “Why are you crying?” After she explained the situation, and the hurt, and the fear, I would hold her in my arms and tell her that everything was going to be okay. I was there, and I loved her and was never going to leave her.
Memory after painful memory and piece after painful broken piece I began to rebuild. First with camouflage adhesive to build up enough strength and then slowly I began to dust those scars with powdered gold. I began to let the world see me for who I was and what I believed. I began to stand for something. I began to believe that I had a purpose in the world and I had something to say.
The result of my masterly crafted kinsugi was breath taking. I became deeply proud of the woman my life had shaped me into becoming. My scars and imperfections were glistening with gold for the whole world to see and I felt that I had a chance at a second life.
Journal Entry: June 23, 2016
After three years of my deepest heart wrenching struggle, it feels almost heavenly to be able to say…no matter what happens today or tomorrow or years down the road…I will be okay.
A few months ago I was catching up with an old friend that I hadn’t talked to in several years. As we caught each other up on what had happened in our lives, we stumbled upon the topic of chronic illness. Shockingly, we had both been newly diagnosed with an auto-immune disease. As we talked more about what our individual lives looked like with a chronic illness, my friend mentioned that he is so busy he just can’t seem to find the time to sleep more than 4-5 hours a night. There were too many important things he was doing that he just couldn’t afford to spend more time sleeping. The thought that immediately popped into the back of my mind, especially for someone who already has an auto-immune disease, was that he really couldn’t afford to NOT get a good nights sleep. Unfortunately, when we get busy in our lives and we don’t have enough time to fit everything in, the aspect of our health that seems easiest to sacrifice in order to create more time is sleep. Initially this might seem like a great plan to create more time in your day, but what you might not be aware of are the long term effects of too little sleep.
According to the CDCinsufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Lets dive a little deeper into what sleep’s effect is on each of these conditions.
Research has found that insufficient sleep is linked to an increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes. Specifically, sleep duration and quality have emerged as predictors of blood sugar control. Recent research has also suggested that getting more sleep can help improve blood sugar control for those who already have type 2 diabetes.
People who have sleep apnea have been found to be at increased risk for a number of cardiovascular diseases. Notably, hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias have been found to be more common among those with disordered sleep.
Laboratory research has found that short sleep duration results in metabolic changes that may be linked to obesity. Studies have also revealed an association between short sleep duration and excess body weight. This association has been reported in all age groups—but has been particularly pronounced in children.
The relationship between sleep and depression is complex. While sleep disturbance is a symptom of depression, recent research has indicated that depressive symptoms may decrease once sleep apnea has been effectively treated and sufficient sleep restored.
If sleep is SO crucial to our health and helping to prevent the development of chronic illness, why do we so willingly sacrifice our sleep and what can we do to improve it? There are a lot of resources out there providing guidance for good sleep habits. This guidance is typically referred to as sleep hygiene. Below is an overall summary of several tips from several resources including Mayo Clinic, CDC, and Anxiety Canada to help improve your sleep.
Establish a sleep routine. Begin getting ready for bed at the same time each night and set a consistent routine that you follow. This will help trigger your body to know it’s time for bed. Allow for 7-8 hours of sleep and get up at the same time each morning no matter how well you slept. Avoid taking a nap during the day. This will help your body establish a regular rhythm.
Create a comfortable sleep environment. Make sure that you have a supportive mattress and fresh, comfortable bedding. Ensure that your room is not too hot or cold, minimize noise, and block out light. Avoid using technology(TV, phone, etc.) at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Interesting side note:A study was recently conducted and published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a reputable medical journal, that looked at the association of artificial light exposure at night while sleeping and weight gain in 43,722 women. They did find evidence that sleeping with exposure to artificial light may be a risk factor for weight gain and obesity. Some thoughts behind this is that it may impact the amount of melatonin your body produces and cause poor quality sleep leading to weight gain. More research is needed to further support the results, but in the meantime, turn off your TV, phone, or any other sources of artificial light while you sleep!
Only use your bed for sleeping (sex is the only exception). Try to avoid reading, watching TV, working, or studying in bed. This can keep your mind active and get in the way of sleep.
Try to relax before going to bed. If your mind is stressed and busy, try using meditation techniques or listening to calming music. Keep a notepad by your bed so you can write down your thoughts at any point during the night and address them in the morning.
If you’re hungry at bedtime, have a small healthy snack. Although a heavy meal late in the evening can disrupt sleep, a healthy light snack in the evening can improve sleep. Try eating light cheese and crackers, turkey, or bananas, or drink a warm glass of milk. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods.
Exercising during the day can help improve your sleep. So, get moving! Go for a walk or a run. Exercising later in the day can help you sleep better but don’t exercise within 2-4 hours of when you’re planning to go to bed.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and smoking at least 4 hours before bedtime. They can all interfere with a good night sleep. If you have trouble sleeping in general, try avoiding caffeine completely.
Get some natural light. Try to spend some time outdoors or in natural light every day. Getting some sunlight early in the day can be helpful for setting your body’s natural wake and sleep cycle.
Sleep only when you are sleepy. Don’t force yourself into bed at a particularly time if you’re not feeling sleepy. You’ll only lie awake in bed, frustrated that you can’t sleep.
Sometimes you might need to try some over-the-counter sleep aids to help you change your sleeping habits or get on a better sleeping schedule.
Melatonin is usually a good option for helping you to feel sleepy and fall asleep. It generally doesn’t keep you asleep though. Try up to 5mg of melatonin to see if this can help you fall asleep. (Remember to get a USP certified product)
Another over-the-counter sleep aid you can try is Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Start with 25mg and increase to 50mg if that doesn’t do the trick. Benadryl will help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Keep in mind though that this is not a long term solution. Your body will typically adjust to it’s effects after about 2 weeks so try to use this to help you develop a sleep schedule and incorporate these other sleep hygiene strategies in the meantime.
If you can’t fall asleep after 20 to 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring (e.g. read the manual on how to program your clock radio, read the sports section of the newspaper (if you’re not a sports fan) or try relaxing (e.g. meditate, listen to calm music, have a warm de-caffeinated drink). When you start to feel sleepy, try going back to bed. This strategy can feel like you are making things worse, but if you stick with it, it can really help.
TIP: Try not to worry about the fact that you’re laying there not sleeping. Let go of your belief that you have to get 8 hours of sleep or you can’t function. Stop looking at the clock and stop trying to make yourself fall sleep. It will happen when it happens.
keys to success
Start Small. Don’t try to do everything all at once. Pick 1 or 2 strategies and try them consistently before you add something else. The goal is to slowly start increasing behaviors that can help you sleep, while reducing the things that are interfering with your sleep.
Be consistent. Once you pick a strategy, be consistent with it and do the same thing every night.
Be patient. These strategies can take time to improve your sleep. It might even feel like your sleep gets a little worse before it gets better. Hang in there and stick with it.
Chart your progress. Keep track of the strategies you are using and how they are effecting you so over time you can see what’s working for you and what’s not.
Sleep is incredibly important to maintaining good health as well as managing weight and preventing chronic illness. When there isn’t enough time in the day, don’t sacrifice sleep to get more done! You might not see the immediate effects of losing sleep, but they will catch up to you over time.
All my life I have been very active and adventurous with sports, dancing, traveling and the list goes on. A few years ago over a period of about two months I became so sick with an auto-immune disease that my quality of life was turned upside down. I had to give up literally everything I loved doing. Over the last couple years of dealing with a chronic illness, I have come to accept that my life will never be the same. Chronic illness comes in many shapes and sizes, but the bottom line is, you don’t want one if you can avoid it.
You might be as shocked as I was to learn about the prevalence of chronic illness in the U.S. According to the CDC, 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease and 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have two or more chronic diseases!
The CDC also provides a list of the key lifestyle risks for developing a chronic disease:
Lack of physical activity
Excessive alcohol use
These lifestyle risks and many more are all too prevalent in our society today. The odds of remaining illness free are certainly against us. I don’t think you would be shocked if I pointed out that these key lifestyle risks are often how we tend to respond to excessive stress in our lives. Not all stress is bad. It is beneficial for our body to be able to go into “fight or flight” mode to help us function through stressful situations. The problem comes when we keep our bodies consistently in this mode. When we stay in a state of chronic stress, our body consistently releases the stress hormone
cortisol and not only makes us crave unhealthy habits to compensate and keep us going, but it also can lead to many health problems, some of which are illustrated in this image on the right from Healthline. It’s easy to get stuck in some of these habits and only become aware of the consequences once it’s too late.
Wellness coaching is a rapidly growing profession to help people create healthy lifestyles and avoid unseen pitfalls leading to many of these health risks in the future.
So what exactly is coaching and how can it benefit you?
Coaching is different than therapy or going to the doctor in that these types of professions take the roll of an expert. They are trained to figure out what is wrong and provide some sort solution to the problem. In coaching, however, the coach takes the opposite role valuing you as the client to be the expert of your own life.
The beauty and power of coaching comes from within you. By using a variety of skills and techniques, coaching enables you to recognize your own strengths and values. A coach helps you discover what is truly important to you and what motivates you. They help you to envision your ideal best self and figure out what works for you to slowly bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
Take Jill for example. Jill comes in to meet with a coach. The coach asks Jill what she wants to work on and she explains that she has a sugar tooth and really wants to cut down on the amount of sugar she is eating.
Instead of telling Jill what she needs to do, a coach would ask many questions to get to know her and what her everyday life looks like. They would draw out her strengths and her values and hand them back to her to use as tools to help her develop strategies that will set her up for success.
In Jill’s actual story as I met with her we started discussing sugar intake but we then discovered that the reason she is craving sugar is because she is so stressed. After discussing the aspects of her life that were most stressful and evaluating which of these areas was most important to her, she had this “ah ha” moment that what she really needed and wanted to do was to work on her relationship with her husband. Often times the thing you think you want to change is just the tip of the ice berg. Only you can discover those things in your own life and a coach has the unique skill set to help you find them.
Over the course of the last few years of my life as I have learned to live with an incredible amount of physical limitation, I would often think of the quote from Thornton Wilder’s Play, Our Town. “Do human beings ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?” Sometimes we don’t realize what we have until it slips through our fingers. Collaborating with a coach will help you get your life to a point where you can really live and enjoy those precious moments life presents to you.
You don’t have to have health problems or want to lose weight in order to meet with a wellness coach. Wellness encompasses nearly every aspect of your well being. If you ever find yourself wanting things in your life to be different but can’t seem to find a way to get there, coaching may be your ticket to success. If you already have a chronic illness the coaching approach is slightly different in that we try to simplify things in your life that are a burden so you can use the limited energy you have on the things that are most important to you.
As a medical professional and a certified wellness coach, I would strongly urge you to put in the effort to invest in your health and wellness today so you don’t have to look back on your life and wonder what if? “What if I had invested in my health then…? What would my life look like now?”
It’s never to late to create and live a whole and happy life regardless of your circumstances. I offer free consultation phone calls to help you determine if coaching is a good fit for you. If you’re interested in giving coaching a try or want to learn more, please reach out to me! firstname.lastname@example.org
“Often times the thing you think you want to change is just the tip of the ice berg. Only you can discover those things in your own life and a coach has the unique skill set to help you find them.”
There’s a lot of talk these days about dietary supplements. Some people swear by them and take several of them while others are very hesitant to use them at all. Through all the information out there about dietary supplements it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. Do you take them? Could they really make an impact on your health? Are they actually safe or are there things to be cautious about?
Being trained as a pharmacist, I take the stance of most pharmacists, which is typically to shy away from dietary supplements unless medically necessary. But why is that a typical pharmacist response? Pharmacists are trained to rely heavily on research data when it comes to substances we put into our bodies. As a hospital clinical pharmacist, it is my responsibility to review each medication that is ordered by a physician and make sure that what the patient is receiving is going to be safe and effective. Throughout my work day when I make difficult medication decisions I have to ask myself, if something went wrong in this situation, do I have enough reason and data to back up my decision in a court of law? With that thought process being ingrained in the back of my mind, the topic of dietary supplements is sometimes hard to get behind.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 created a new regulatory framework for the safety and labeling of dietary supplements where the FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed. Once products are marketed, supplement manufacturers are required to report adverse events that are reported to them to the FDA. Only once multiple incidences and medical illnesses are reported is the FDA able to investigate. This means that harmful products have to cause harm to people taking them before they are investigated and recalled from the market.
It’s really difficult for you as the consumer to be certain what is actually put in the supplement you are taking and how effective or harmful it is. According to the FDA, these are common reasons for a dietary supplement to be recalled from the market:
Microbiological, pesticide, and heavy metal contamination.
Absence of a dietary ingredient claimed to be in the product.
The presence of more or less than the amount of the dietary ingredient claimed on the label.
If you simply google dietary supplement recalls, you will find that, unfortunately, a lot of recalls do happen, so be careful when deciding which dietary supplements to take.
All that being said, dietary supplements do have their place in therapy and some do have research to support their use. The question then becomes, how do you choose a dietary supplement if you need to take one? This is the part where I do actually have some good news! I know some of you were hoping for that.
When choosing a dietary supplement you want to look for a product that has a UPS Verifiedstamp on the label. USP stands for the United States Pharmacopeia. It is not a government agency but it is recognized by US Law and works closely with the FDA. All medications sold in the United States must be approved by the FDA and are required to meet USP standards. When it comes to dietary supplements, USP meets with company owners and inspects their manufacturing facilities. They review
their ingredients, how their supplements are made, what methods they use to test both the ingredients and the final products, and whether those tests are appropriate for the product and capable of identifying harmful contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, and microbes. And finally, they test the products against science-based quality standards.
When you see the USP Verified stamp on a dietary supplement label it indicates that the product:
Contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts.
Does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants.
Will break down and release into the body within a specified amount of time.
Has been made according to FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices using sanitary and well-controlled procedures.
If you need to take a dietary supplement for a medical reason that is recommended by your doctor, make sure you look for products that have the USP Verified stamp on the label. This way you can know that what you think you are getting in your dietary supplement, you are actually getting. You can also look on the USP website to find a list of verified brands and products.
Dietary supplements are often involved in health fraud and it is very easy to fall victim to these scams. Subscribe to my newsletter below to receive a free guide to detecting health fraud and learning to evaluate the validity of health research claims.
“Subscribe to my newsletter below to receive a free guide to detecting health fraud and learning to evaluate the validity of health research claims.”
There is an incredible amount of health information available to us today through the internet. Not only is it readily available, but it pops up constantly through ads and social media even when we aren’t searching for it. Because we depend so heavily on news,
social media, and online information for health guidance, I’m curious what your reaction would be if I told you that 88% of all online health information is distorted in some way?
Some of you may have trusted me and responded by thinking, “Wow! I had no idea,” or maybe even, “I could believe that!” while others might have been skeptical and wanted to know how I could possibly make that claim. Even though I can provide you with my source(that I do consider to be pretty credible) for where that statement comes from, I might have skewed or overgeneralized the information myself. The big question is how can you as the reader figure out how credible that statement is? Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult if not impossible unless I provide you with my source. Even then, it can still take a lot of time to find the truth and know how to apply it to your life and your health.
When I was a pharmacy student on one of my clinical hospital rotations, I encountered a very extreme example of a patient who had wholeheartedly embraced inaccurate health information. They had type 2 diabetes and were in the hospital for a bone infection(osteomyelitis) in their foot. The infection had become so bad that their foot would need to be amputated in order for them to survive.
Every health care worker interacting with this patient tried to explain that this infection had been caused by their uncontrolled diabetes. Their blood glucose was consistently so high that they had lost feeling in their feet(peripheral neuropathy) and developed a sore that they couldn’t feel which became infected and had now infected their bone.
Despite our relentless efforts to educate this patient about the proper care and medication needed for diabetes and how they could not only salvage their limbs, but also continue to survive, they refused any medical treatment except for essential oils. Now, where this patient found all their health information, I’m not completely sure, but it was costing them their quality of life and before long, their life itself.
Again, this is an extreme example, but if we’re not careful and educated about how to determine if information is valid or not, we could find ourselves in a world of hurt. So, let’s get to it!
How can we determine if the health information we are provided is valid, credible, and applicable?
Step 1: Be SKEPTICAL
It might not be in your nature to be skeptical, but this is a good approach when evaluating health information. Start with 5 basic questions:
1. Who runs or created the site or app? Can you trust them?
Is it a stand alone practitioner? What are their credentials? Are they supported by others in their field? Do they provide credible references and research studies?
2. What are they promising or offering? Does it sound to good to be true?
Watch out for exaggerated claims such as: “cure all”, “miracle”, “new cure”, “breakthrough”, “new discovery”, “totally safe.”
3. When was this information written or reviewed? It is up-to-date?
If you don’t see a date, don’t assume the information is recent. It may be outdated.
Check to see if the information has been reviewed(“peer review” is a common practice of research articles to increase their validity).
It could also be reviewed by a site like Health on the Net (HON) that validates sites that meet their criteria for credibility and accurate information.
4. Where does the information come from? Is it based on scientific research?
Look for government sites such as the National Institutes of Health(NIH) and well respected hospitals and universities or national organizations to support the information.
Evidence-based studies published in medical journals are credible sources.
Subscribe to my email newsletter to get a free outline on determining the strength of different types of research studies – not all research is created equal!
5. Why does the site or app exist? Is it selling something?
Oftentimes if someone is trying to sell you something, the information provided will be distorted to make it seem more appealing and more beneficial than it really is.
Their focus is more on getting you to buy in to what they are selling so they can make money and less on how it will effect you.
step 2: fact check
1. Use sites that are designed for fact checking health information
Please do your research about dietary supplements!
2. Search for multiple credible sources that support what you are reading or considering
If there is enough research to support a health claim, you will be able to find multiple credible sources supporting it.
Remember your most credible resources are government sites, well respected hospitals and universities, national organizations, and research studies published in medical journals.
3. Pay attention to references
Always look for references accompanying the information you read.
If references are provided, do a little digging to check their claims and make sure they are using credible resources(they could still put a spin on cited information – most people don’t take the time to fact check cited references).
If you are not provided with references, request them. If they cannot be provided, they are hiding something. This information should be avoided and could be harmful.
step 3: stick with the basics
There is a reason government institutions, large universities and national organizations are not the ones promoting the latest fad diet or the new health solution that is going to change your life. These institutions base their health recommendations on decades of health research. Because of how well researched their health information is, there is very rarely(almost never) a ground breaking, life changing announcement that everyone should try.
It seems easier in our fast paced world to find a quick solution, a new diet, or a weight loss medication. However, quick fixes usually result in short, not-so-healthy successes.
If you choose to follow the latest fad even after you have done all your fact checking and realize there isn’t a whole lot of data, but still want to try, please proceed with caution.
There may be some benefits, but there are always risks. Without any data, those risks are completely unknown.
Now, lets put your new skills to the test! I have provided some references below to support my claim that 88% of all health information online is distorted in some way. Is my claim valid? Why or why not? Let me know what you find in the comment section below!
“Subscribe to my email newsletter below to get a free outline on determining the strength of different types of research studies – not all research is created equal!”
Haneef R, Lazarus C, Ravaud P, Yavchitz A, Boutron I (2015) Interpretation of Results of Studies Evaluating an Intervention Highlighted in Google Health News: A Cross-Sectional Study of News. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0140889. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0140889
Boutron, I., Haneef, R., Yavchitz, A. et al.Three randomized controlled trials evaluating the impact of “spin” in health news stories reporting studies of pharmacologic treatments on patients’/caregivers’ interpretation of treatment benefit. BMC Med17, 105 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-019-1330-9