Category Archives: Healthy Living

Articles, recipes and tips for healthy living.

The Power of Nature to Ease Anxiety

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The calming effects of being in nature, especially the wilderness, have been well known for most of human history. In the 19th century, writers like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Muir laid the foundation for conservationism, which created the National Park system. Their experiences in nature to overcome anxiety of the modern world and trauma from childhood is well documented in their writings and encouraged others to use wilderness experience for similar healing.

Over the decades since, millions of people have had similar healing experiences in nature without the need of any scientific evidence of its effectiveness. For those in the medical community who prefer scientific evidence before recommending a treatment, evidence is now available.

Annette McGivney, writer, outdoors enthusiast and anxiety sufferer, summarizes this research in her 2018 Backpacker Magazine article.  “In an effort to make this brand of wilderness medicine a reality, the Sierra Club has teamed up with scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, to create the Great Outdoors Lab, which compiles research to quantify the effects nature has on chronic health conditions. ‘We hope to make public lands part of a common health care prescription,’ says Sierra Club Outdoors director Stacy Bare, who is also an Iraq War veteran diagnosed with PTSD.”

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The Importance of Cervical Cancer Screening

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Every year in the United States, there are about 14,000 women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Since January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a great time to discuss necessary cervical cancer screenings and their importance in helping to detect cervical precancer or cancer as early as possible.  

Cervical cancer screening saves lives. According to the American College of Gynecologists, it generally takes three to seven years for high-grade changes in cervical cells to become cancer. Getting regularly screened for cervical cancer can help detect these changes before they become cancer. In fact, over the last 30 years, the number of cervical cancer cases and deaths in the United States has decreased by half, mainly as a result of women getting regular cervical cancer screening.

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A Worthy New Year’s Resolution: Healthy Boundaries

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Every year people make New Year’s resolutions related to health and fitness, many of which are difficult to sustain. While improving one’s diet or increasing physical exercise are admirable and needed changes, many people could also benefit from a positive change in social skills, namely, improving interpersonal boundaries.

Many people who enter into psychotherapy demonstrate poor boundaries with people in their life.  They may have difficulty saying “no” or may let others take advantage of them. These are some basic signs of poor boundaries. But there is more to boundaries than learning assertiveness.

Interpersonal boundaries can be thought of as an invisible fence between a person and everyone else in the world. This fence marks what the person is responsible for and what they are not responsible for. On their side of the fence lie their own behavior, speech, thoughts and feelings. On the other side are everything else, including others’ behaviors, thoughts and feelings, as well as the traffic, the weather and the nightly news.

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Tips to Help With Anxiety

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There is no denying that the COVID pandemic has been a scary time. It seems that the world is constantly changing, sometimes minute by minute. All this change can create anxiety, especially as restrictions are being lifted and people are starting to get back to “normal life,” or as we continue to hear of new variants.

Anxiety is a normal part of life and is something that everyone experiences. Anxiety can be a helpful emotion at times. It warns of danger and prepares us for fight or flight. However, when left unchecked anxiety can have many negative impacts, which might include isolation, avoidance of anxiety-producing situations, chronic health problems and panic attacks. A healthy fear and caution are normal responses to an unknown world, and avoidance can seem like a healthy way to deal with anxiety. However, using avoidance as a form of coping can adversely affect anxiety by increasing the amount of anxiety that is experienced when we inevitably must do the thing that causes us anxiety. The way to overcome fear and anxiety is to do the things that cause fear and anxiety.   

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Is Birth Control A Cause of Fertility Issues?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 12 percent of women ages 15 – 44 in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

Another CDC statistic tells us that 14 percent of women ages 15 – 49 are currently using the birth control pill as a method of contraception, and 10.4 percent of women are using a long-acting reversible contraception, such as an IUD.

A common myth that’s been circulating related to these two sets of statistics is that birth control or contraceptives have a negative impact on fertility or can even cause infertility. However, we know this is simply not true – birth control does not have a negative impact on fertility.

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The Importance of Advance Care Planning

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People don’t like to think about unexpected illnesses and injuries, or a time when they are so sick that they are unable to make decisions about their medical and/or mental health care. Who would you trust to make those decisions for you? And what should those decisions be?

Q. What is advance care planning?

A. The central feature of advance care planning is selecting another adult as your patient advocate. Advance care planning also includes an ongoing process of discussing with your patient advocate and your health care provider what is important for you to live well. Talking with your patient advocate about your current state of health and what medical interventions you would like and those you would like to avoid is also included in this process.

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Tips on Talking to Your Children When A Crisis Occurs

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Earlier this week, a school shooting occurred at Oxford High School. This tragedy may have parents wondering how to speak with their children about what happened as well as how to help manage grief, stress and mental health that’s associated with a trauma or crisis.

  • Validate what your child is feeling. Give your child the space to be heard and the opportunity to express their feelings. Feelings of fear, nervousness and trauma are common in these scenarios, and it’s important to validate your child’s feelings. Tell them that it’s okay to feel scared or nervous rather than telling them that they have nothing to worry about.
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Seasonal Affective Disorder

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It is that time of year again when we must confront the cyclic moods we call Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D. Each year during the winter months, some individuals experience depression that is cyclic and predictable. This mood change usually starts sometime around October or November and subsides around March or April. Symptoms may include: 

  • A drop in energy level
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Becoming increasingly irritable
  • Experiencing a change in appetite, craving sweets or carbs
  • Oversleeping
  • Increased fatigue
  • Weight gain

While depression can be caused by major life changes, certain medications, or alcohol and other drugs, S.A.D. is believed to be caused by a change in circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is the repeating cycle that regulates day and night activities and is fueled by the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland in response to darkness. Whereas melatonin induces sleep, the hormone serotonin produces energy and feelings of happiness, and increases with exposure to bright light.

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Fear, Pain and Joy

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There is a famous example of the fear, pain and joy concept told by Howard Schubiner, M.D., a leading pain researcher, of a construction worker who stepped on a nail that went through the sole of his boot and came out the top of the boot. Upon seeing the nail emerge through the top of his boot, the man began to scream in pain. He was taken to the emergency room, where he was given strong pain medication before they were able to get the boot off his foot. When they got the boot off his foot they discovered that the nail had gone between his toes and left no mark on his foot at all. So why did he experience pain? Because his brain was expecting it based on what he saw. That is the power of the brain – to create the sensation to protect the body from perceived danger. 

This is an example of the power of the brain to create pain based on fear and expectation. It neuro-circuits in the brain causing the pain responding to danger signals. Because the sensation of pain is one of the brain’s responses to danger signals, any experience that increases the potential of danger signals can increase the possibility of pain signals.

Fear is one of those things that can increase the danger signal. For example, if a person has had an injury in their foot that resulted in pain while weight bearing, then they may, very understandably, fear bearing weight in the future. That fear will then turn on the danger signal in the brain and increase the likelihood of pain being experienced. It can become a vicious cycle.

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