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Devils Hill, Peacham, VT

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and in that honor, I am sharing my story. I believe in the message of no stigma, and share my story with friends and family, but now it’s time to take it to the next level in hopes of inspiring and Coaching individuals with mental health conditions so they can live a fully engaged life.

In 2008, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, with no family history. You can imagine the scariness of this for myself and my family. No one knew what was happening. Only that my words and actions were significantly slowed, and I was waking up in the middle of the night in a sheer panic. Just to name a couple of symptoms. I felt like my husband and I were drifting out on a raft in the middle of an ocean.

One, of the most freighting realities of this initial experience, was that I couldn’t get an appointment with a Psychiatrist for a few months [….]. And although I know food is thine medicine, in the case of Bipolar Disorder, you have to take some form of medication to bring you into a balanced state and to remain in a balanced state.

“Medication, coupled with exercise, healthy eating, sleep routine

and a support network is what allows me and others to remain

fully engaged in our lives, both personally and professionally.”

Due to the number of psychiatrist and number of them who practice the art of listening, it is hard to develop a rapport and trust the prescription of medication making the trial and error period of finding the right prescription and dosage of medication one of the biggest challenges. It often leaves a person feeling tired, like your brain is numb and your unable to access your creative thoughts, and being able to move through this process requires a reframe; one that takes us from, this is not working, to, this is part of the process to get me well and living a fully engaged life.

Certified Health Coaches are an important member of Team, particularly those with personal experience, and can provide weekly support and accountability. If you know someone who is living with a mental health condition and having difficulties re-engaging in life, please share my information. (603) 479-6746 (c). I offer my services via telephone and/or skype. It is not limited by geographic location.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month and in that honor, I am sharing my story. I believe in the message of no stigma, and share my story with friends and family, but now it’s time to take it to the next level in hopes of inspiring and Coaching individuals with mental health conditions so they can live a fully engaged life.

In 2008, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, with no family history. You can imagine the scariness of this for myself and my family. No one knew what was happening. Only that my words and actions were significantly slowed, and I was waking up in the middle of the night in a sheer panic. Just to name a couple of symptoms. I felt like my husband and I were drifting out on a raft in the middle of an ocean.

One, of the most freighting realities of this initial experience, was that I couldn’t get an appointment with a Psychiatrist for a few months [….]. And although I know food is thine medicine, in the case of Bipolar Disorder, you have to take some form of medication to bring you into a balanced state and to remain in a balanced state.

“Medication, coupled with exercise, healthy eating, sleep routine

and a support network is what allows me and others to remain

fully engaged in our lives, both personally and professionally.”

Due to the number of psychiatrist and number of them who practice the art of listening, it is hard to develop a rapport and trust the prescription of medication making the trial and error period of finding the right prescription and dosage of medication one of the biggest challenges. It often leaves a person feeling tired, like your brain is numb and your unable to access your creative thoughts, and being able to move through this process requires a reframe; one that takes us from, this is not working, to, this is part of the process to get me well and living a fully engaged life.

Certified Health Coaches are an important member of Team, particularly those with personal experience, and can provide weekly support and accountability. If you know someone who is living with a mental health condition and having difficulties re-engaging in life, please share my information. (603) 479-6746 (c). I offer my services via telephone and/or skype. It is not limited by geographic location.

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I have collected books on mindfulness, to include mindful eating, but it wasn’t until completing my Health Coach training that I realized all of its benefits, particularly for those of us with bipolar disorder. Here are four that come to mind.

Mindful eating has helped with the enjoyment of food, by allowing our senses to fully engage in the process. When we do this, we enjoy the colors and textures through our sight, we smell the herbs and seasonings causing our mouth to water and begin the digestive process and we fully taste what we are eating by chewing thoroughly causing us to consume less because we get the signal that we are getting full and we can stop eating. Second, I have noticed that when I incorporate mindful eating, it helps with weight management as a result of taking prescribed medication by being aware of the increased cravings to eat more than usual, particularly carbohydrates. The goal is to identify it and own it rather than letting it get out of control and then being prepared with healthy snacks or engaging in another activity. Third, mindful eating allows flexibility to make choices that fit in with a lifestyle vs. a diet mentality of I can’t have that. So, when you choose to eat bread or pasta, you make the best choice and you don’t overeat because you are in-tune with your bodies signal that I am getting full. Finally, and maybe even more importantly, mindful eating turns off the emotional/stress response and when this happens, your body experiences optimal digestion with a whole host of its own benefits

When you Google what is a Cleanse, you’re bound to dig up more information on BS Facts and Types of Cleanses as there are celebrities testifying to their greatness, but we’re only going to cover 6 in this blog. So, let’s jump to the chase.

#1 Cleanses Are Not Safe: In fact, if you do your homework, you’ll want to choose one that is using a hypo-allergenic diet or elimination diet. This approach is gentle, yet effective and will help you identify food sensitivities that are causing your symptoms.

# 2 Cleanses Are Not Necessary: When traditional medicine looks at Cleanses they are looking through a purely scientific lens. It’s like the black and white of yin and yang, it does not take into account mind and bod...

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Do you and your spouse have different cooking styles? I know Christopher and I do. For me, I have to follow a recipe, but much to my delight, Christopher naturally knows how to pair spices together. In this recipe, he included the vegetables we had left over in the refrigerator to serve up an al dente stir fry that did not disappoint.

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil – 1-2 tablespoons

  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed

  • Ground sage – teaspoon or so

  • Carrots – multi-color mix, sliced in half lengthwise then cut into 1” pieces, about two cups

  • Small bag of Cipollini onions, peeled, bottoms cut off

  • Broccoli – 1 head, florets sliced (like for stir fry)

  • Cauliflower – 5 or 6 florets sliced

Cooking instructions:

  • Add oil to cold pan, set stove to medium high heat

  • Add garlic and sage to oil before pan comes up to temperature, stir a little bit as it starts to get hot – this releases the flavors better and you can tell when it is time to start adding the veggies

  • Add carrots and onions, stir occasionally – sauté for about 5 minutes, onions should start to caramelize

  • Add broccoli and cauliflower – sauté for another five minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender

  • Serve

*Steak serving size: 2. For weight loss I recommend filling your plate with 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 healthy starch, 1/4 clean protein.

Welcome to the first edition of Strength & Grace; an E-Newsletter for and about health and wellness issues facing today’s professional woman.

Today’s topic Resilience: What is Resilience? And, why does it matter? The American Physiological Association defines Resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity… and significant sources of stress- such as health, family, and finances.” If you look back over the years on the roles of women at home and in the workplace, you certainly know this to be true. Particularly since women have entered the work force.

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So why should this matter to me if I have this innate ability to be resilient?

There is plenty of medical data that shows women are developing chronic disease at the same and/or similar rates as men, again since entering the workforce and now adding the role of caregiving. As functional medicine is now beginning to take hold, we know there is a connection between ongoing stress and chronic disease.

The take home message being – “just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it is not happening.”

The good news is, it’s never too late to begin a healthy lifestyle. Here is a Simple Tip from my Health Coaching Program that you can start today that will reduce the effects of a stressful day both inside and out:

Breathe: “5-5-7 Breath”

Sit in a comfortable position, spine straight, and feet flat on the floor. Eyes can be opened or closed. Inhale for 1,2,3,4,5 filling your lungs to 2/3 capacity. Hold for 5… Exhale for 7,6,5,4,3,2,1…As you continue this conscious breathing, relax your eyebrows, mouth, shoulder, pelvis. Repeat x 10.

I love this exercise because it is free, it only takes 2 minutes and you can do it anywhere. The key is to employ it consistently so you can keep stress at bay whenever it arises.

To your Health & Well-being –

Stacy Thrall

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By Richard Stevens, University of Connecticut | Photo Credit: Davi Ozolin, CC BY-NC-SA

A Dark Night Is Good For Your Health

Today most people do not get enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called insufficient sleep an epidemic. While we are finally paying attention to the importance of sleep, the need for dark is still mostly ignored.

That’s right. Dark. Your body needs it too.

Being exposed to regular patterns of light and dark regulates our circadian rhythm. Disruption of this rhythm may increase the risk of developing some health conditions including obesity, diabetes and breast cancer

Light Regulates Our Sleep And Wake Patterns

The physiological processes that control the daily cycle of sleep and wake, hunger, activity levels, body temperature, melatonin level in the blood, and many other physiological traits are called the endogenous circadian rhythm.

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Sunrise. | Photo Credit: Mathilde AUDIAU, CC BY-NC-ND

On its own, the endogenous circadian rhythm is nearly, but not exactly, 24 hours. Our bodies rely on the Sun to reset this cycle and keep it at precisely 24 hours, the length of our days. The light – and the dark – are important signals for the cycle. This circadian rhythm has developed over three billion years as life evolved on Earth in the context of the Sun’s day/night cycle. It is built deeply into our genetic makeup.

During the night, in the dark, body temperature drops, metabolism slows, and the hormone melatonin rises dramatically. When the Sun comes up in the morning, melatonin has already started falling, and you wake up. This natural physiological transition into and out of night is of ancient origin, and melatonin is crucial for the process to proceed as it should.

If you were to put someone in a dark cave with no time cues at all, the cycle will last about 24 hours, but not exactly. Without time cues like those from the Sun, eventually that person would become out of sync with people outside. In fact many profoundly blind people, who cannot perceive light, must cope with this de-synchronization in their daily lives.

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Dark is good.

What Does Your Body Do In The Dark?

Many things happen to our bodies during the dark. Levels of the hormone leptin, which helps control hunger, go up. High levels of leptin mean we do not feel hungry while low levels make us hungry.

Why does leptin go up in the dark? Since we evolved without artificial light at night, one theory holds that leptin goes up at night because it would be good to not be hungry during the night, rather than needing to forage in the dark and possibly get into trouble.

This fasting that should happen every night, and why we call the first meal in the morning “breakfast.” Experiments in human beings have shown that sleep disruption and turning on lights lowers leptin levels which makes people hungry in the middle of the night.

In the last decade or two it has become clear that the genes which control the endogenous circadian rhythm (the “clock genes”) also control a large part of our entire genome including genes for metabolism (how we process the food we eat), DNA damage response (how we are protected from toxic chemicals and radiation), and cell cycle regulation and hormone production (how our cells and tissues grow).

Light at night disrupts these processes. The changes that result from exposure to electric light at night have biological connections to disease and conditions that are common in the modern world today including obesity, diabetes, cancer and depression.

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Blue light from tablets can make it hard to fall asleep.

Blue Light, Red Light, No Light

Not all light is the same – some kinds of light make you more alert and more awake, and others have less of an effect.

Light from the Sun is strong in blue, short wavelength light, although it includes all other colors as well. That’s important in the morning when we need to be alert and awake. But when it comes in the evening or during the night, it fools the body into thinking it’s daytime. We now know that this bright blue light has the strongest effect on lowering melatonin during the night.

Your tablet, phone, computer or compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) all emit this kind of blue light. So using these devices in the evening can prevent that primordial physiological transition to night from occurring. This makes it harder to sleep and might also increase the longer term risk of ill-health.

Other kinds of light, like dimmer long wavelength yellow and red light, have very little effect on this transition. This is the kind of light from a campfire or a candle; even the old fashioned incandescent light bulb is dimmer and redder than the new CFL.

Only in the last 20 years have we acquired a basic biological understanding of how the eye’s retina tells the circadian system it is daytime. Now we know that blue, short wave-length light is captured by the newly discovered photopigment melanopsin in the retina, and that when blue light stops, we start our physiological transition to nighttime mode.

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It’s hard to find dark, even at night.

Electricity Changed The Way We Sleep

Before electricity, people experienced bright, full-spectrum days of sunlight and dark nights. We slept in a different way than we do now. The dark lasted about twelve hours and during this time people slept for eight or nine hours in two separate bouts, and were awake, but in the dark, for another three or four hours.

Everything changed when electric lighting was invented in the latter part of the 19th century. Since then there has been an ever increasing assault on dark. Outdoor environments are relentlessly lit, and more and more people use computer tablets and smart phones at all hours, bathing their faces in bright blue light at times of day when they should be transitioning to nighttime physiology.

When people get away from the city and its artificial light to go camping, they often notice a marked improvement in their sleep. A recent study has verified this effect.

Today, most of us get too little light during the day and too much at night for our circadian rhythm to function at its best. It is the rare person who sleeps in a completely dark bedroom, and many people get very little sunlight because they work inside all day long.

What can you do for your circadian health? Get bright, blue light in the morning (preferably from the Sun), and use dim, longer wavelength light (more yellow and red like incandescent) in the evening. And sleep in the dark.

This will certainly improve sleep, and may reduce risk of later disease.

Richard G ‘Bugs’ Stevens, Professor, School of Medicine, University of Connecticut