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7 Life Practices to Prevent Anxiety and Depression

7 Life Practices to Prevent Anxiety and Depression


Welcome back to my four-part blog series on mental health. So far we’ve talked about anxiety and depression, what they are and their root causes.

In this blog post, the third in the series, I want to offer you some tools for prevention, so I’ll be sharing a few resources that I use personally and recommend to my patients to prevent anxiety and depression and keep our minds healthy.

Before we dive in, I want to remind you that while these resources can be helpful in preventing bouts of anxiety and depression, they are not meant to replace medical care. If you are experiencing severe anxiety or depression, reach out to a health practitioner for guidance and support.

 

Therapies and Practices for a Healthy Mind

Set aside time for yourself

Life is busy, and it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily living. Working, parenting, prioritizing everyone and everything except ourselves.

All of those things are important, but so are you. It’s really important to set aside time to be with yourself if you want to maintain and healthy mind and prevent anxiety and depression.

 

Get support from a professional that you trust

If you’ve experienced anxiety and depression, you know that they sometimes cause us to ruminate or continuously think about people, places, or situations that are upsetting. To combat this, it can be helpful to have professional support – someone to help you put things into perspective and offer tools for personal assessment and reflection.

I personally see a life coach twice a month. Having someone to check in with and to offer perspective is essential to my mental wellness and something that helps me prevent anxiety and depression in my life.

Working with my life coach has helped me to gain clarity around my life and my feelings. He helps me to assess where I am with everything in my life and provides tools to assist me in daily self-reflection.

There is a lot of guidance that happens in his office, but whether you see a life coach, therapist, or another health practitioner, there is also work to be done on your own.

 

Breathe

Running a busy (and growing) practice can be overwhelming for me at times, so setting aside time to breathe and check in with myself is a non-negotiable daily practice for me.

I sit for 20 minutes twice a day in a quiet space breathing and connecting with myself. I notice how I’m doing and what I’m feeling in my body.

Our bodies are incredibly wise, so setting aside time to check in and notice what’s present for you in your body can be really telling.

I encourage you to add this to your daily routine to help prevent anxiety and depression, make time to connect with your breath and your body. If 20 minutes feels like a challenge to fit into your schedule, start with 5 minutes.

No matter how much time you decide to incorporate, make sure it’s quality time. Get intimate with yourself and cultivate a relationship with your body. Take the time to pay attention to what you’re feeling, sit with your emotions, observe them without becoming attached. Most importantly, hold space for yourself in the same way you hold space for others.

 

Prioritize Sleep

Sleep is essential for a healthy mind

Your mind is a beautiful machine that works all day to keep your body functioning and well. It also produces the neurotransmitters you need to keep your mind healthy, like serotonin and dopamine. Without adequate sleep this process can become impaired, leading to bouts of anxiety and depression.

If you are having difficulty sleeping, a supplement like Mood 5-HTP may help. I recommend this often to patients as it supports the body in producing the serotonin you need at night for more restful sleep.

 

Connect with Nature

Connecting with nature is one of my favorite ways to reconnect with myself when I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed. I especially love spending time at the beach.

Recently, I spent four days at the beach to celebrate my husband’s birthday. Initially, I thought I was going to use some of the time to catch up on work, but once I got there, I realized that I really needed a break. I needed time to reset after weeks of working non-stop, so I decided to put work aside to make time for self-care and rest.

I forced myself to pause, which created time and space for me to be more present and connect with nature more intentionally. Spending my time communing with nature, instead of working, helped me to feel more grounded and energized. I encourage you to do the same.

Step away from your computer or your phone and go outside.

Go to the mountains or the water, whatever terrain makes you feel most at peace. Make time to take off your shoes, feel the earth, and breathe in the fresh air. Being outdoors, connecting with nature, supports the body’s natural cleansing process. It can also help your body reset and find its natural rhythm. All of these things are important as you work to maintain a healthy mind and body (1).

 

Exercise

Exercise and a healthy mind are directly linked. When you exercise the blood flow to areas of the brain, like the hippocampus, is increased, resulting in an increase in brain volume as well as an increase in the production of the neurochemicals that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections (2). Research has shown that it can also reduce anxiety and depression (3).

Part of my daily movement routine is walking for at least 20 minutes, but find the type of exercise that works for you and incorporate it into your wellness routine at least three times each week.

 

Take supplements to ensure proper nutrition

Another way you can prevent anxiety and depression is to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need on a daily basis to support the health of your brain and body. These are the supplements I take and recommend to my patients:

 

As you can see, there are several things you can do to prevent anxiety and depression and maintain a healthy mind. Many of them are easier to incorporate than you think!

In the next (and last) blog post in this series on mental health, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the connection between spirituality and mental health. It’s a topic that isn’t spoken about as often as it should be, so I hope you’ll stay tuned for what’s to come.

xo,

 

 

 

Understanding the Root Cause of Anxiety and Depression

Understanding the Root Cause of Anxiety and Depression

As we continue to focus on mental health during October, mental health awareness month, I want to emphasize again that your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

Your mental wellness can affect every aspect of your life, including your work, your relationships, and the way you experience the world. Similarly, the causes of mental illness, anxiety, and depression specifically are multifactorial, so in this blog post, I want to discuss the root causes of anxiety and depression based on what I see most frequently in my clinic.

Root Causes of Anxiety and Depression

 

1. Chronic Stress and Overwhelm

In times of stress, your brain signals different glands in your body to produce the hormones you need to respond to the stressful situation. This process is known most commonly as “fight or flight” and one of the glands it involves are the adrenal glands. In this process, your adrenal glands secrete a hormone that you’ve most likely heard of, adrenaline.

Adrenaline can cause your heart rate to increase, your breathing to become more rapid, and you become more sensitive and aware of any potential threat or danger in your environment. This process is helpful when there is an actual threat or dangerous situation. However, because we live such busy and stressful lives, our adrenals are often working overtime to adjust, even when there is no real threat or danger.

Being in this state of hyperarousal continuously can cause anxiety.

The longer you remain in this state, the more fatigued your adrenals become, which can lead to depression and many of the symptoms that accompany it, like fatigue, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping.

This is something I see often with my patients, but have also experienced myself – when I overwork and push myself beyond my natural limits, I start to feel anxiety and overwhelm.

It’s important that we take the time to decompress and practice self-care so our adrenal glands don’t become stressed and fatigued, so we can avoid this root cause of depression and anxiety.

 

2. Hormone Imbalances

It’s not uncommon to experience depression and anxiety during periods in life when we undergo natural hormonal changes. For women, these major hormone shifts happen during puberty, during and after pregnancy, and before and during menopause. Similarly, for men, hormonal changes occur during puberty and andropause.

Many of my patients that have gone through pregnancy experience postpartum depression. I also have several patients who experience depression and anxiety due to premenstrual syndrome or PMS (1).

If you aren’t under a significant amount of stress, the root cause of anxiety and depression, for you, could be a hormone imbalance. Be sure to have your hormone levels checked regularly by your healthcare provider.

 

3. Isolation

As humans were are social creatures, meant to interact and commune with others. However, many of us are living behind the screens of our computers and our phones missing out on in-person social interactions and the nourishment we get from being in community with others. This can lead to the third root cause of depression and anxiety: isolation.

If you find yourself glued to your phone frequently, designate time to put it down and interact with the people around you.

Share your experiences with friends, enjoy the company of family. Connect with others in real time, not just via social media, email, and text messages (2).

Support groups are also a great resource for community and connection if you’re feeling isolated and want to connect with people who may have similar interests or concerns.

 

4. Lack of Purpose

Another root cause of depression and anxiety is a lack of purpose, or living an unfulfilled life.

What often gets overlooked in mental health are the spiritual components, those that would be considered more existential in nature. I believe we are all here for a reason and we all have a life path that will make us feel fulfilled and give our lives meaning.

If you find that your life is lacking joy, meaning or purpose, take some time access your life and think about what might bring you joy and the gifts you have to share with the world. Examining these things and incorporating more of them into your life may help you experience life differently.

 

5. Diet

Your gut is your second brain (3). It is home to bacteria and fungi that can affect your mood if imbalanced. It also produces many of the neurochemicals that you need for mood regulation and stabilization, like serotonin and dopamine. I often see patients that have an overgrowth of specific fungi or bacteria, like Candida, that are also struggling with anxiety or depression.

Avoiding this root cause of anxiety and depression is one of many reasons to eat a well-balanced diet.

 

Many people think of mental illness as a chemical imbalance in the brain and while there are imbalances at play, they are not just happening in the brain.

 

If you are living with mental illness and want to better understand what the root causes may be, access the five elements mentioned in this blog post and take a look at the first blog post in this series if you haven’t already.

I hope they provide you with some of the information you need to understand and assess what might be contributing to any anxiety or depression you may be experiencing.

xo,

 

 

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Disclaimer: In a crisis or having thoughts of suicide? Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (8255). It is a free, 24-hour hotline.

 

Are you paying attention to your mental health?

Are you paying attention to your mental health?

October is mental health awareness month, so this month on the blog we’ll be discussing depression and anxiety in a four-part series.

In this first post, I’ll share some of the basics about depression and anxiety. In the posts to come, we’ll discuss the root causes of depression and anxiety, therapies and practices for mental wellness, and the role spirituality can play in helping you maintain your mental health.

To start, let’s define depression and anxiety.

Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or apathy that lasts two weeks or more and interferes with daily functioning.

 

This low mood can also be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Difficulty sleeping, sleep disturbances or sleeping excessively
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Physical pain, like headaches, stomach pain, and back pain

 

Did you know that the United States is the most depressed country with depression affecting more than 16 million American adults (1)?

 

If you suspect that you may be depressed, take this self-assessment test and discuss the results with your doctor or a licensed mental health practitioner.

Awareness is the first step to healing.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by debilitating feelings of worry, fear, or apprehension.

 

Some other symptoms associated with anxiety disorders are:

  • Persistent nervousness and/or irritability
  • Feeling a sense of impending danger or panic
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rapid breathing or hyperventilation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach pain or digestive issues

 

Generalized anxiety disorder affects more than 6 million American adults with women twice as likely to be affected than men (2).

 

If you suspect that you may have an anxiety disorder, take the self-assessment quiz here and discuss the results with your healthcare provider.

At least 70% of my patients come to me because they are struggling with anxiety and depression, finding it difficult to cope with the challenges of daily living. I have also struggled with depression and anxiety at different points in my life. This is why I believe it’s important for all of us to prioritize our mental health.

In the next post of this series, we’ll dig deeper into the topic of mental health and discuss potential root causes of anxiety and depression. In the meantime, take the time to assess your mental health using the resources shared in this blog post, and remember to care for your mind as much as you care for your body.

xo,

 

 

 

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Disclaimer: In a crisis or having thoughts of suicide? Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.TALK (8255). It is a free, 24-hour hotline.

 

Are there Toxins Hiding in Your Home?

Are there Toxins Hiding in Your Home?

We’re exposed to toxins all the time. They’re in the air we breathe, the products we use, and they’re even in our homes! 

In fact, in most cases, our homes and other indoor spaces are two to five times more toxic than our outdoor environment.

 

Since the average American spends 90 percent of their lives indoors (1), the health of your family is dependent upon you having a healthy home, literally. So in this blog post, the final post in this series on family health, you’ll learn where the toxins in your home are hiding, plus how to reduce them and create a safe, toxin-free space for your family.

 

You may have a toxic home if it contains any of the following:
  1. Non-Organic Mattresses
  2. Dry Cleaned Clothing
  3. Carpet
  4. Mold
  5. Pesticides
  6. Bleach

Non-organic Mattresses

You sleep on your mattress every night in a contained space that may not have the ventilation needed to clear the air of all of the chemicals found in your conventional mattress. That means for 7-9 hours each night, you are breathing in toxins like flame retardants, boric acid, formaldehyde, and antimony.

All conventional mattresses in the United States are treated with antimony and other flame retardant chemicals to prevent household fires from spreading. They have been shown to cause reproductive, neurological, thyroid and other developmental problems, making them especially harmful for infants. Long-term exposure can also cause damage to the liver and the heart (2, 3).

Formaldehyde is a strong smelling chemical that is used in mattresses and a variety of building materials. According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to formaldehyde can result in coughing, nausea, and skin problems. It can also cause cancer and liver toxicity with long-term exposure (4).  

 

Did you know it takes 7 years to off-gas all of the chemicals found in a conventional mattress?

 

Create a healthy home by purchasing an organic mattress, like these from Naturepedic, or by setting your mattress outside for 4-5 days in a dry, sunny place. Sun and wind are powerful off-gassing tools and will help to reduce the chemicals and toxins in your mattress before you bring it into your home.

 

Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaners use toxic chemical solvents, like perchloroethylene, also known as tetrachloroethylene, PCE, or perc. When inhaled, even small amounts of perc have been shown to cause eye irritation, headaches, respiratory discomfort, dizziness, and vision problems (5).

You can create a healthy and less toxic home by choosing organic or green dry cleaning options, or by hanging your dry cleaned clothing outside for a few hours to air out before bringing it inside.

 

Carpet

Carpet contains many of the same toxic chemicals as conventional mattresses: formaldehyde, flame retardants, carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and polybrominated-biphenyl-ethers (PBDEs). Also, if you’re walking on your carpet with your shoes on, they also contain pollen, dust, bacteria, and any dirt and chemicals that you happened to step in or on outside.

The solution?

Remove your shoes when you enter your home. If possible, choose hardwood floors over carpet. If carpet is a must, opt for organic wool or cotton as they contain fewer chemicals than synthetic materials.

You can also reduce toxins and create a safe and healthy home by opening windows for ventilation or using an air purifier to filter out toxins in the air.

To clear the air, Dr. Judy recommends IQ air purifiers.

 

Mold

Another toxin that may be preventing you from having a healthy home is mold.

Mold and mildew thrive in homes, especially in warm, damp places – under sinks, in washing machines, and showers. Exposure to mold can cause a range of symptoms, most notably nasal congestion, throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, and skin irritation (6).

If you suspect that mold is present in your home, have your home tested and if necessary, treated using non-toxic products.

 

Pesticides

We all want green grass and lush landscapes, but the chemicals typically used to make this happen can be detrimental to your health, causing dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine system problems (7).

If you must spray your lawn with conventional products, spray only on the perimeter and areas that are several feet away from the windows and doors of your home. Otherwise, choose organic products or work with a company that uses organic, eco-friendly options, like Ladybug Pest Control here in Arizona.

You can also reduce your family’s exposure to pesticides by choosing organic fruits and vegetables over conventional varieties.

 

Bleach

Bleach is one of the most commonly used disinfectants in the world, but it’s not the safest, especially for individuals with asthma or chronic bronchitis as it is more likely to cause respiratory problems than other cleaners. (8).

Prolonged exposure to bleach can also cause chemical pneumonitis, a condition with symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing, the feeling of not being able to get enough air, gurgling chest sounds and burning in the chest. (9)

Fortunately, you don’t need to use bleach to have a healthy home. There are more natural alternatives available, like distilled vinegar, lemon juice, and hydrogen peroxide.

 

It’s impossible to rid your home environment of all toxins, but you can reduce the toxicity of your home by opening windows to improve air circulation, removing your shoes when you enter your home, and using a high-quality air filter.

 

If you want to take your home detoxification a step further, buy some plants!

Plants are a natural and effective way to remove toxins from your home (10). These are the most effective when it comes to purifying the air:

  • Spider Plant
  • Bromeliad
  • Dracaena
  • Jade Plant

Ensuring you don’t have a toxic home, feeding your family healthy and nourishing foods, slowing down and making time for joy – these are all essential for family wellness.

I hope you’ll use the tools and resources shared in this series on family health to support and optimize your health and the health of your family.

xo,

 

 

Simple Meal Planning Tips + Recipes for Families

Simple Meal Planning Tips + Recipes for Families

There are several aspects to maintaining the health and wellness of your family, many of them you can find in the first two blog posts of this series on family health (here and here). The thing that is going to help you implement all of these recommendations, however, is planning – meal planning to be exact!

Life gets busy, but you don’t have to sacrifice healthy eating because you and your family have busy schedules. You can get a healthy meal on the table after a long day of work or school with a little preparation.

 

Meal planning and prep will save you time and money!

 

Often we settle for take-out because we don’t have the time or energy after a long day of work and school to prepare a healthy meal for our family to eat, but if you set aside one day each week to plan and prepare your meals for the week, healthy eating during the week becomes a lot less challenging.   

 

Here’s how it works:
  1. Set aside one day each weekend for meal planning. Use this time to decide what your family will eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week.
  2. Make a grocery list complete with all the ingredients you need for each meal.
  3. Head to the grocery store to stock up on all the food you’ll need for the week.
  4. Spend some time in the kitchen preparing for the week:
    • washing, chopping and roasting veggies
    • pre-cooking chicken, turkey, beans or other proteins
    • cooking carbohydrates, like oats, rice, quinoa, and cauliflower
  5. Store everything in BPA-free storage containers and refrigerate

It may take you an hour or two to plan meals and prepare, but it takes the guesswork out of weekday meals, making healthy eating much easier and sustainable.

It’s also an activity that everyone in your family can do together.

 

Prep once, eat all week long!

 

The trick here is to keep it simple.

When putting your meals together, think protein, veggies, starches, and healthy fats.

Your plate should be composed of 25% protein, 50% veggies, 20% gluten-free grains or starches, and 1-2 Tablespoons of healthy fat, like avocado or olive oil.

 

To make your meal planning experience a little easier, here are some of my favorite recipes:

 

Breakfast:

Paleo Breakfast Bowl

Turkey Sausage Patty with Eggs

Toasted Coconut Baked Oatmeal  

 

Lunch:

Asian Almond Chicken Salad

Turkey Club Chopped Salad with Aioli Vinaigrette

Curry Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Kale Salad

 

Dinner:

Vegan Red Lentil Chili

Instant Pot Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Perfect Roasted Chicken

Fish en Papillote with Citrus, Ginger, and Shiitake

 

I hope these recipes inspire you to start meal planning with your family. I promise it will make healthy eating less stressful for you and your family.

In the next (and last) post in this series on family wellness, I’ll be discussing toxins and how to ensure the health of your family by removing toxins from your home.

With toxins lurking in everything from skincare to cleaning products, this is an essential part of your family wellness plan, and a blog post you don’t want to miss!

xo,

 

 

How to Maintain Family Health During Stressful Times

How to Maintain Family Health During Stressful Times

One of the most common questions my patients ask me is, “how do I keep my family healthy?”

It’s a question that comes up often during times of transition – before traveling, sending kids back to school, or when seasons change.

What all of these transitions have in common is that they create or heighten stress levels, which can significantly impact family health and wellness.

Since I get this question so often, I want to formally address it as part of this month’s series on family health.

How can you maintain family wellness during times of stress?

Family can be the greatest joy in your life, and it can also be your greatest stressor, even more so during major life transitions, but there are a few things you can do to keep your family healthy and well.

1. Be Kind and Compassionate

When times get tough, one of the first things that wanes is our patience and understanding, especially with family. However, making an effort to be kind and compassionate with ourselves and our families will help everyone to feel emotionally nourished and supported. Remember, the mental and emotional health of your family is just as important as their physical health and wellbeing.

2. Slow Down

One of the most important things you can do during busy, stressful times for your health and your family’s health is to slow down and create space in your day to take breaks and breathe. You can do this alone, but it’s a great practice for the whole family because it helps to regulate the nervous system and lowers cortisol levels, which allows everyone to respond to stressors from a place of presence and proactivity.

3. Create Joy

It’s easy to get into our daily routines and let stress get the best of us, but make a conscious effort to add joy to your day. Set aside time to play a board game together, watch a funny television show, or read a book together. You can even make mealtime one of celebration and joy by having everyone share one moment from their day that they are proud of and celebrating that moment with them.

Don’t wait until vacations and days off to incorporate joy into your life, make it a non-negotiable part of your daily family health and wellness routine.

Everyone’s health and wellness will improve because of it.

4. Stay Hydrated

Mild dehydration can adversely affect mood, energy levels, and concentration, so it’s important to make hydration part of your family health plan. If you have children and they’re in school, pack a refillable water bottle in their backpack and encourage them to drink water throughout the day. This will help them to be more focused and have the energy they need to get through the day. Similarly, as a parent, you’ll also have more energy and maybe even be a little more present, kind, and compassionate if you are well hydrated.

5. Take these 4 Essential Supplements:

  • Probiotics for gut health, regular bowel movements, and immune system support
  • Fish oil to support mood stability and brain health
  • A high-quality mineral formula to keep you hydrated and help restore the minerals most commonly depleted during times of stress – magnesium, zinc, and selenium
  • Methylated B Vitamins to support energy production, and immune, cardiovascular and neurological health

These supplements will support the overall health and wellness of your family during stressful times.

 

As you can see family health and wellness isn’t just about the food you eat, it also includes our emotional health and the ways in which we interact with each other.

 

Incorporating the tips shared in this blog post along with my recommendations from the first blog post in this series on family wellness will help you keep everyone in your family happy and healthy.

I haven’t forgotten about the more physical aspects of family health, however. In the next blog post of this series on family wellness, I’ll be sharing recipes and meal planning tips to help you keep your family healthy and well fed. If this is something that you struggle with, stick around for more recommendations and resources!

xo,

 

 

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