Dec 10

Self-Love ~ Are You Sending Yourself Mixed Messages?

Why is it so dang hard for some people to keep up a regular exercise regime? I often ask this question to my massage therapy clients and to myself.

The number one answer I get is, TIME. There’s not enough time. But. I don’t buy that it’s a TIME thing.

After much contemplation…I think it’s the same concept as the episode “Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little” from my beloved TV show, Sex and the City.   In this scene, Jack Berger (Carrie’s boyfriend) and the girls are out on the town having drinks and talking about the mixed messages men send. When asked for his perspective on why Miranda’s date didn’t accept her invitation to come up for a post first date drink, Berger introduces the girls to the concept ” He’s just not that into you.” He goes on to say: ”With guys, it’s very simple. If we’re into you, we’re coming upstairs, we’re booking the next date. There are no mixed messages.”

For some of my patients, it’s very simple. They wake up early to get their exercises in before breakfast or they stop off at the gym or yoga studio on their way home from work. They build their exercise regime into their schedule. There are no mixed messages.

If you’re into you, it’s very simple.  You’re finding the time and you’re booking the next exercise date. There are no mixed messages.  So why don’t you want to?

Have you forgotten how to love yourself?

Fear not!  A self-love reunion is well within your reach.

I invite you to consider the possibility of starting where you are and offering yourself compassion for the current story you’re telling yourself about why you are not able to make time for your regular exercise regime. Brené Brown, Research Professor (courage, shame, vulnerability and empathy) at the University of Houston and  #1 New York Times Bestselling Author, tells us that  “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.”

The next easy step you can take towards restoring your exercise regime is scheduling yourself some therapeutic nurturing.  From both my professional and personal experience, receiving healing hands on physical support and/or psychological counseling can help you re-connect to your body and assist you in addressing the mixed messages that keep you from engaging in your regular exercise regime. A private session with an RMT, Physiotherapist, Yoga Teacher, Nutritionist, Pilates Instructor, Acupuncturist, Chiropractor, Psychotherapist, Osteopath or Naturopathic Doctor are each equipped in their own right to empower you to remember how to love yourself again!


Nancy J Brooks is a registered massage therapist and musician.

When Nancy is not massaging clients or making music she loves to practice yoga, go camping and watch rugby with her Irish Lad!

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Dec 3

Mind Your Media – Are You Hooked?

Writing this was hard because I felt that discussing how media can be addictive would put me in the position of ruining something that is fun for others. However, the reality is that many of us have fallen prey to the addictive nature of social media. These days, we have become the lab rats of media companies that use science, algorithms and everything they know about hooking us up to just do that: hook us to be online.  They create an experience that hooks us to stay hooked. The problem is that what starts as a potentially fun activity ends substituting for the rest of our lives. It becomes an unsatisfying virtual world that substitutes for what can be a reality.

What is an addiction? An addiction is something we do compulsively despite the negative effects it may have on our life and health. If you drink a glass of wine and have fun with your friends it is not an addiction. If you drink two bottles of wine and it ends ruining your relationships because you keep doing it, and doing it until you black out, then it is an addiction. Social media, because it can destroy your social life, erode your activities, ruin your sleep and harm your relationships, can become an addiction.

Media becomes an addiction when it distances us from feeling that our life has meaning. This is because many social media experiences are designed to make us feel anticipation for the possible reward of having people talking about us or being part of a larger community.

When your app shows us the number of new tweets or new e-friends our brain releases dopamine, the pleasure neurotransmitter. Then we feel compelled to look into our app to get more dopamine. The prospect of more dopamine keeps our brain hooked to stay online, and so we stay late and lose sleep.

The next day, you are sluggish, but the prospect of getting home and looking at you Instagram or Facebook may get you going through the day. Over time, you stop paying much attention to your analog friends. If you go on a date, you may even be more attentive to the phone than to the flesh and blood person in front of you.

Media starts to acts as a substitute for your real life. You can sometimes see couples that are both looking at the phone, on a date. I often wonder how that ends, if they forget that they care any more. In a sense, it makes chemical sense. Like a substance addiction, media addiction offers the promise of endless dopamine release.

Sometimes we get hooked because psychologically, the escape is also a great attraction that helps us engage in denial about other problems we may be having. What I am talking about is that our life may not be going anywhere, but playing video games for hours or spending hours online substitutes for a life well-lived. Research shows a close relationship between depression and anxiety, and media consumption.

As one withdraws from the world gradually, one gradually loses connection with people and activities and it becomes more and more difficult to re-engage. This is because real life people do not have the hype of Youtube personalities. Most people are less exciting.

We forget that the media personality only spends a few minutes making the video, the rest of their day they act normal. In an endless binge of short videos that promise us pleasure and dopamine, we gorge on more than one video. One after the other, we stay hooked.

We let hours go by without doing nary a thing to advance our life, and now it is still where we left it. Our life gets co-opted by fake hype and endless fluff. When we get off, we most likely feel hollow and depressed, because what is around us lacks the hype and needs our care. We feel bad about being even more isolated and having less command of our lives.

The problem is that media consumption is easy. Our life is not. Media companies benefit from this because their manipulations are aimed to make us waste time on their sites so they get paid for our time. Our lifetime. So what to do?

The first thing to do is to change the way you engage in using social media or gaming.

A good goal-management method is to use media as a reward that we only get after we have completed certain tasks that we identify as important. Only after we finish the laundry, then we get a bit of media as a prize. We complete a project, then we get a bit of media to reward us.

Another method is to schedule our media consumption and keep track of the time spent. There are apps that track time spent on certain sites and then lock you out. There are many apps you can use to monitor your consumption such as iPhone’s new iOS, for example, that has a monitoring feature embedded in the software and it gives you weekly reports.

Another method is to make a list of favorite activities that do not involve either our phone, the computer, or media. The goal is to make us go through the whole list before we are allowed to indulge in media or phone use again. I use that one myself. I like it because it brings balance to my life and I get to enjoy some media every so often.

What happens if you try these strategies and cannot reduce your consumption? If you feel that you are continuing to use media or your phone compulsively, it is ruining your life, and you don’t know how to stop…then you may have an addiction and may need addiction counselling.

Another possibility, which I believe is true for many people, is that we may have forgotten how to endow life with the excitement and meaning that we crave. This situation requires a bit of work towards identifying clearer life goals and managing one’s life to achieve them. You cannot, however, do that while you are hooked on media.

The counselling professionals at IHI (Ariel Blau, RSW and Lauren Berger, RSW) can help you change your life so you can enjoy more meaningful activities, better relationships, and feel more joy. The other practitioners at IHI can help you build activities that enhance your well-being such as developing healthy habits, eat better and improve your physical health. Make an appointment today, so we can help you get on your way to a better life.

 


Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital and served as  Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.

Ariel Blau brings a sense of active engagement, innovation, and imagination to his work as a catalyst for change, responding to the idea that every person’s life is a work in progress. He wakes every morning eager to do what he loves, full of energy and enthusiasm.

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Nov 29

Runners – Are you Killing your Immune System?

Are you catching every cold that comes your way, yet determined to keep running?   Continue reading to learn how to Beat the Immune Battle.

Exercise, particularly running longer distances or intense work outs, can be a stressor on your system. The recovery phase from intense exercise has shown lower levels of lymphocytes in the blood. Lymphocytes are found in your white blood cells and are suppressed during infections, particularly viral infections. This triggers a cascade in immune reactions resulting in increased levels of inflammatory cytokines in the blood resulting in simultaneous inflammation and a temporary suppression of the cellular immune system. The most pronounced findings being 2-4 h after the exercise [i].   These reactions involve the neurological system, hormonal influences and metabolic factors. This in combination with fluctuations in weather temperatures plus cold and flu season are a recipe for muscle damage and illness!

So what’s a runner to do?

  1. Rest
    • The one thing runners won’t do is STOP! You need to give your body time to recover, especially when exercise can aggravate an illness. Muscle recovery is also enhanced when appropriate rest times are scheduled in.
  2. Probiotics
    • Probiotics are live micro-organisms that when administered orally for several weeks can increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut. These have been associated with a range of potential benefits to gut health, as well as modulation of immune function. A Cochrane review shows ~ a 50% decrease in Upper Respiratory Symptoms and ~ two day shortening of illnesses[ii]. Probiotics are generally well received with minimal side effects.   Lactobacillis Plantarum can be beneficial for modulating inflammation while Bifidobacterium strains can help support a health immune system[iii]. Ask your Naturopathic Doctor which strain is best for you.
  3. Zinc
    • A deficiency in zinc in not unheard of in athletes. Zinc is an enzyme cofactor for immune cells, therefore a deficiency can result in impaired immunity and more frequent colds. A Cochrane review shows a benefit when zinc is taken less than 24 hours after the onset of Upper Respiratory Symptoms[iv]. High doses and long-term use of zinc is not recommended without medical supervision as this can impact healthy copper levels. Side effects of Zinc supplementation can include bad taste and nausea.
  4. Vitamin D3
    • A deficiency can affect many systems in our body, including gene regulation. A decrease has been associated with Upper Respiratory Symptoms. Athletes are at risk of insufficiency, particularly in the winter months when training may be taken indoors. Skin exposure from sunlight can account for 90% of our absorption of Vitamin D[v]. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so those on low fat diets or with difficult digestion may not be absorbing as much as they think. Your Naturopathic Doctor can run a simple blood test to determine your Vitamin D levels. For those that are deficient or sick, a body weight algorithm can be used to determine safe dosing as toxicity is possible.
  5. Glutamine
    • It is an important amino acid. It is a building block of protein that has offers runners a Health Hat Trick – helping with muscle recovery, immunity and intestinal health. Athletes with heavy training loads are prone to infectious illnesses, suggesting that their training may suppress immune function. A study published in 2015, measured athletes Natural Killer cell activity and immune responses. They found that glutamine was lowered with longer exercise sessions and supplementation may be able to restore immune function and reduce the immunosuppressive effects of heavy-load training[vi].

I believe Food is Medicine. Here are 3 of my top food picks to support a Runner’s Immune System:

  1. Red Cabbage
    • has sulphur containing compounds that can support a healthy immune system. Do you find you are getting sick after long runs? Add 1 cup shredded red cabbage into salads and stir fry’s to fend off colds.
  2. Kiwi
    • 100g of this fuzzy little fruit contains 92.7mg of Vitamin C (approx. 1.5 kiwis). Compare that to an orange at 53.2mg[vii]. Vitamin C is essential to the formation and repair of tissue – particularly cartilage, blood vessels, tendons and skin – all of which are essential to the survival of a runners body. Did you know you can eat the skin? Mix up an Avocado Kiwi Salsa for tendon support.
  3. Garlic
    • More than 100 biologically-useful chemicals are in this germ fighting ninja with the most common being allicin. These compounds can boost your immune system by increasing the rate at which your natural killer cells are made. Garlic has been shown to protect against the common cold and can help fight off harmful bacteria, viruses and even yeast infections. Garlic has also been shown to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are associated with elevated inflammatory responses and are directly linked to high cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease[viii]. If you can’t stand having garlic breath in the office, supplement form can offer higher concentrations with a greater therapeutic threshold. Garlic Scape can enhance the flavour of your recipes. If you haven’t tried this version of garlic you have to head out to your local farmers market and give it a go! Check out Julie Daniluk’s twist on a Ceasar Salad below.

If you find you can’t kick your cough or cold, link in bio to book and begin your journey to becoming stronger inside.

Immune-boosting Caesar Salad from Julie Daniluk.

Salad:
  • 1 head Romaine hearts (1 heart = 232 g)
  • 1 head purple endive, leaves separated (1 leaf = 15 g)
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, diced
  • 10 flax crackers (gluten-free if possible), broken into pieces
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Caesar dressing:

Makes enough dressing for two to three salads so store leftovers in the fridge and consume quickly.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp wheat-free tamari
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 date (1 tsp of honey works if dates are unavailable)
  • 1/2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
Directions
  1. Wash and dry romaine hearts and endive leaves.
  2. Chop pineapple and layer on top of the greens. Top with a light dusting of capers, flax crackers and grated hard cheese if desired.
  3. Using a blender, whip all the dressing ingredients together.
  4. Top the salad with the dressing and enjoy.

Makes two full salad servings.

The information provided is for informative purposes and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

References

[i] Pedersen BK1, Rohde T, Ostrowski K. Acta Physiol Scand. 1998 Mar;162(3):325-32. Recovery of the immune system after exercise. PMID: 9578378 DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-201X.1998.0325e.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9578378

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5867441/

[iii] https://www.humnutrition.com/blog/the-guide-to-choosing-the-best-probiotic-for-you/

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5867441/

[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5867441/

[vi] Song QH, Xu RM, Zhang QH, Shen GQ, Ma M, Zhao XP, Guo YH, Wang Y. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2015 May;53(5):372-6. doi: 10.5414/CP202227. Glutamine supplementation and immune function during heavy load training.

[vii]https://www.google.ca/search?q=how+many+mgs+of+vitamin+c+in+an+orange&rlz=1C1JZAP_enCA731CA731&oq=how+many+mgs+of+vitamin+c+in+an+orange&aqs=chrome.0.0l6.7812j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

[viii] Daniluk, Julie. Meals That Heal Inflammation.

Dr. Jennifer Tanner, has a broad, evidence-based practice with a focus on sports and performance-based medicine. Being a marathon runner and having been a competitive equestrian, an active lifestyle is important. Dr. Tanner uses a variety of tools including Acupuncture and Clinical Nutrition, putting an emphasis on “food as medicine” and addressing the root causes of inflammation. In conjunction with the Integrative Health team, Dr. Tanner is thrilled to help people achieve an optimal state of health and pursue their performance based health goals!

www.drjennifertannernd.com

@drjennifertannernd

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Nov 26

Positive Masculinity


It is well known that men have a harder time deciding to go to the doctor and to see a therapist. I believe that the main reason is that we are taught to be self-reliant, a bit heroic and take care of others, so we avoid doing it until we clearly can’t possibly handle it anymore. I also think it is because the field has focused so much on how some traditional forms of masculinity can be constrictive, that it has neglected, until recently, the amazing traits that non-constrictive masculinities contribute across different cultures.

 This neglect of positive masculinities might make men to feel criticized for their values when they go to counselling. Counselling that is based on deficits rather than strengths can feel very alienating, and the media stereotypes don’t do counselling professionals like me any favors. Images of emasculating providers can feel confusing, unfair, and unbalanced, especially when a man is trying their best to be a “good camper” and might need help from a counsellor.

 The good news is that an emerging current in positive psychology is looking at how to overcome this imbalance and provide men with access to therapists that embrace men’s strengths as useful and positive in building wellbeing, supporting gender equity and positively contributing to society.

I like to work within these emerging modalities because I believe that we need to balance and be more accurate in the way we look at men’s contributions. The reparative focus on feminism has put the lens on the way patriarchy has negatively affected both men and women. The effort was well justified to overcome inequities, yet it took our awareness away from the many positive ways in which men are socialized. It is necessary to re-appraise some of these ways.

 Men have also been negatively affected by patriarchy because it constrains the expression of positive masculinities, especially our wish to be nurturing fathers, providers, loving partners and contributors to society. We need to give men a chance to learn how to wield the positive masculine traits and redeploy them in more equitable ways.

 As a matter of fact, working to help others and helping society are masculine values that I embrace with my work. As a psychotherapist, I feel the need to be inclusive and supportive of constructive models of masculinity. Positive psychology offers a way to do that. Positive Psychology is an emerging modality that balances psychology’s past focus on correcting negative concerns, and “fixing” people. It guides efforts toward building what is right and necessary, using existing strengths as the foundation of the work.

 Recent research in this modality is looking at how to serve men better by learning to positively appreciate the traditional roles in which men are socialized while avoiding the more constrictive currents. Kiselica, Englar-Carlson and their colleagues have written a few articles identifying some of these roles. As we use positive psychology to build on existing strengths, let’s take a look at some of these positive traits that men are socialized with that can be harnessed in counselling to build better lives. These are representative and also not necessarily exclusive to men.

 One such trait is that men’s relational style tends to be in groups and engaging in high action. Men tend to enjoy high action instrumental activities in groups to develop friendship and intimacy with each other, such as sports or getting together to do something for others. Women enjoy groups too and tend to favor dyadic relationships more.

 Men are raised with the expectation they must protect other members of their family and their friends. They also tend to be socialized to act upon other people’s perceived needs. This is expressed in participation in group-oriented activities that have positive societal impact. Some of these can be banding together to participate in athletic groups, philanthropic organizations, work crews, and socially minded gatherings that give men a sense of purpose and community. Some of these male groups include fraternal organizations that have humanitarian service and community building goals. I wonder whether group therapy might not be better for men, considering what I just wrote.

 At the same time, men tend to be socialized to seek self-reliance by developing resourcefulness and courage. This may be an ingredient in why men tend to wait too long before seeking therapy or medical advice, because they are socialized to fend for themselves. However, men are expected to help out when others need it, so accepting someone’s help can be considered the other side of that coin. A good example is when men stop to help others on the highway. Can getting counseling be considered metaphorically as the same as accepting help changing a tire?

 Men are expected to go out in the world and do things as a “worker.” Having a job that can fulfill the expected role of being a worker and a productive member of society can also contribute to a man’s sense of positive masculinity. Also, men can be generous and thoughtful providers to their families and loved ones. Many men derive a positive sense of identity from the provider role, including valuable self-esteem, purpose and meaning. When a man has conflicts or problems at work, the pressure to be a provider may compound the problem by encouraging the feeling they have to stick around even though the situation might be untenable. Women feel this pressure too!

 Positive parenting is something that many men relish as well. A man can be a very positive parent, responding readily and consistently to his child’s developmental needs over time. Men do this with the goal of guiding the next generation to enjoying a better life, often showing involvement that balances guidance and independence, and cultivating the self-reliance mentioned above. Many times, men struggle with balancing a perceived sense of obligation to provide, be successful or have a good job with this desire to be a positive presence in his loved ones’ lives. This is also reinforced by the cultivation of heroic and courageous traits in men.

 Men have traditionally taken on societal roles where they have to take risks to do certain dangerous but necessary tasks, protect others, and negotiate danger. This includes the idea that a man might need to go through extraordinary efforts such as heroic actions to contribute to society and to demonstrate exceptional nobility of character. Of course, this is not the purview of men only, but teaching men to distinguish between worthwhile and reckless risks has been a way in which masculinity is socialized. While heroic stance can be a positive trait in certain situations, many times men paradoxically wait too long to take action to help themselves. It is not unusual for a partner or spouse to finally bring up the problem and help the individual seek the help they need. I suspect many men feel they might appear as lacking self-reliance if they accept that they might need the services of a counselling provider.

 In therapy, stigma also contributes to the misunderstanding that only very sick individuals need the help. It is true that very sick people benefit from counselling, but the range of conditions where counselling is useful is rather broad. I think of counselling for people that are not severely ill as a form of consulting, where the beneficiary learns to incorporate insight, self-awareness and new skills as tools to better engage life.

 Thinking of going to see a provider as self-reliance may be a way to change many men’s way to look at self-care. Like the parent that needs to place the plane’s oxygen mask on their own face before tending to their child, helping oneself is a pre-requisite for helping others and being present in one’s best possible condition. A man that wants to be there for his loved ones, to be in good shape to sustain good work, and help others, may want to embrace radical self-care as a form of self-reliance and using the best tools to stay in shape and be there for others, and to live a long and fruitful life.


Ariel Blau has a formidable passion for helping his clients energize a joyful, loving and creative life. He has more than 30 years of experience helping people bloom. His formal education includes a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, a Master’s in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, and a great number of workshops, certificates and seminars. He has been studying mindfulness and how to bring compassion into the world for more than 15 years. His passion for helping others is matched by his enormous drive for continuous learning. Ariel completed his professional clinical training at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, and served as  Lead Clinician at the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven.

Ariel Blau brings a sense of active engagement, innovation, and imagination to his work as a catalyst for change, responding to the idea that every person’s life is a work in progress. He wakes every morning eager to do what he loves, full of energy and enthusiasm.

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Nov 19

Innovative Masculinity

My biggest fears lie in how uncomfortable I am with not knowing enough. As I get older, I become slightly more comfortable with not knowing everything. The more that you navigate the world, the more that you learn to question things.

But the brain doesn’t like uncertainty. It always goes back to the reference point of what was successful in the past. In light of recent events in the world, I think, as men, we must look at, not only what patterns we have used before which may be outdated, but also how we define success.

As a health expert, rightly or wrongly, I feel a desire to reveal some ideas to the larger community. With regards to what is happening I feel reluctantly compelled to say something from my own first hand experience, and also from my observations. As someone who has the privilege to hear conversations among men, and also in groups, which are predominantly women, I feel my position may be somewhat unique.

Yet as a forty-something heterosexual man, I am also just asking myself: How do I make sense of this environment as a man in 2018?

As a disclaimer, I’ve never been in any position of privilege or ease, and maybe my thought processes and behaviour would have been different if that were the case. I hope and pray that it wouldn’t be, but there is always the possibility.

Growing up in a situation which was survival challenged, it was hard to expand the bandwidth or consider alternative ideas or behaviours beyond observed social and cultural conditions. There is no specific ritual that transitions boys from adolescence into manhood, and often what we lack in resources in that adolescent time becomes a driving force in adulthood, as we continue to try to prove our worth and whatever is our standard of masculinity.

Men are generally assigned status—at least amongst ourselves—based on three basic categories: financial success, sexual prowess, and physicality or athleticism. The dominant male institution is designed to prove your toughness rather than to find your own voice and be resolute in your own convictions.

Further to these limiting beliefs is a disturbing trend in which we seem to be looking to politicians and celebrities as some sort of barometer for normal, acceptable behaviour—whether scrutinizing or idolizing what we see.

While I don’t think we need to expand upon why to not use politicians as our moral compass, there are some media portrayals of men that are quite standard, and can shape both boys’ and men’s perspective on what is expected or tolerated.

There tends to be four archetypes of men presented through the media:

  1. The slightly charming buffoon.
    • The one with the perfect wife and the imperfect physique who hangs out with his friends, watches sports, drinks beer, works an average job, and largely gets by on his humor.
    • Envision Ray Barone, or any other sit-com husband in this role.
  2. The hyper-stoic man.
    • The rigid and somewhat angry man, sometimes formerly of the military.
    • Whether his opinions and short-temper are a source of humor or discord depends on the context but, his lack of emotionality is highlighted—as Don Draper in Mad Men.
  3. The dysfunctional hyper-productive man.
    • He may be a workaholic in any field, or maybe a Dr. House-type man whose genius allows whatever are his other character ‘flaws’ to be overlooked.
    • Regardless, his commitment and accomplishments in his work may seem somehow admirable, even when his treatment of people is questionable.
  4. The glorified heroic figure.
    • The one of perfect physique who selflessly risks his life and predictably saves the day—and sometimes a woman in distress while he is at it.
    • He may be somewhat tortured in his own right, behind whatever is his ‘mask’, but he always comes out on the right side of the moral dilemma.

All these archetypes fit a certain stereotype of men—in their masculine portrayal and in their relationship with women. And, as we all relate or aspire to some version of them, these can become ‘identity traps’ for the accepted, or even desired, notion of what men ‘should’ be.

We must be aware of our own identity traps. In order for psychological transformation to take place, we have to be aware of our masculinity threats. I have heard it said that manhood is a hard thing to learn, yet is quite easy to lose. We tend to devolve whenever rejection occurs, as threat is perceived to the fragility of that identity.

One part of the discussion regarding Brett Kavanaugh involves how men are conditioned to impress other men, and this establishment of hierarchy can, at times, derail who we really are. Where such conditioning in the brain and the environment intersect, we establish what is normalized behaviour; yet we still must have accountability and courage to know what is right and wrong.

While I think most men can recall instances where we may have been guilty of some stupidity or indiscretions, I believe the true expression of masculinity is to be as realistic and pragmatic as you can be in facing the challenges—both in responding and evolving. For that change to occur, it is time for us to stop directing our focus just on categorizing what we perceive to be a discretion towards women, rather seeing it from a larger perspective.

We have the opportunity to innovate the modern version of masculinity in a way that is healthier for everyone. These times are sparking us to do so and, rather than see it as what we are losing, we can focus on what we can create. From that spark we can use the strengths of the masculine in developing clear steps and strategies to start something great.

I can’t say as I even know how to accurately define feminism, but I think we can learn from women in how they are more likely to collaborate, innovate, and adapt versus the more traditional tendency of men to simply walk away or close off.

Innovation requires encouragement, collaboration, and communication to keep that spark going. Genetically and epigenetically we have this adaptive potential to change. As men, we can be better with expressing our needs and our fears with an emotional nuance which may resonate better with women and, ultimately, allow us to navigate our own internal and external environments more effectively.

Perhaps the boldest thing we can do right now is to start the conversation.

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Nov 12

Your Crohn’s and Colitis Coping Cheat Sheet

Welcome to a special edition of Lauren’s Top Tips! November is Crohn’s and Colitis Month and, as someone who was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 10 years old, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to cope when the going gets rough.  The best part about these tips is that they are absolutely not specific to Crohn’s and Colitis; they apply to anyone who needs to find ways to help manage the stress in their lives.  (And really, who doesn’t need a little less stress?)  Let’s get to it!

Take a breather.

  • The almost immediate sensation of relaxation when you slow your breath is nothing short of magical.  Even when I demonstrate breathing exercises for clients, I notice a calm wash over me.  The best part of a simple breathing exercise is that it can be done anywhere, anytime, and no one knows what you’re up to.  For Crohn’s and Colitis patients (or any chronic illness sufferer) breathing for relaxation can be essential for slowing down the stressors in the body that may contribute to inflammation.  A simple how-to?  Breathe slowly in through the nose for a count of five, slowly out through the mouth for a count of five, focusing on letting your lungs expand like a balloon with the fresh air.  Do ten of these.  Notice how you feel all over.

Find a like-minded friend.

  • When you have a chronic illness, sometimes you feel the need to vent to someone who gets it.  While you may have family and friends who are super supportive, it can be helpful to also have a pal who can understand first-hand how you feel about your steroid-induced roid rage, your anxiety for unpleasant medical tests, or the embarrassment that goes hand in hand with a bathroom-related illness.  Vent to each other.  Support each other.  Celebrate each other’s medical victories.  Haven’t found your medical soulmate yet?  Try reaching out through support groups, whether in person or online, and see who you may connect with.

Minimize discomfort.

  • Make sure you address any pain with your medical professionals.  With their go-ahead, seek out new ways to manage pain symptoms that don’t seem to be helped by your medications.  I am a huge champion of Clinical Hypnosis.  I have been using it for pain relief (and much more) since my diagnosis, and continue to use it today.  I’ve been successfully using hypnosis with clients for almost a decade.  Tapping into the power of your mind and seeing for yourself how you do have control over your symptoms can be life-changing.  For myself and my clients, I’ve used hypnosis to minimize pain, gas, and urgency, as well as depression and anxiety surrounding their diagnosis.  Bonus?  I teach my clients’ self-hypnosis to use at home whenever they need or want to.  Seek out a specialist like myself who has extensive knowledge and expertise in hypnosis use with chronic illness to explore this option.

Chronic illnesses like Crohn’s Disease and Colitis can be a major bummer, but you’re not alone.  I’m right there with you.  There are always more ways to make the journey a little less bumpy.  Wishing you bowel bliss!

**Disclaimer:  The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**

 

Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI.  Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

 

 

 

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Nov 3

Counting Macros: Key to Success or Obsessive Behaviour

Whether from the trainer at the gym, or your pal at work, you’ve probably heard the buzz about counting macros. What does that term actually mean, and is it a necessary part of your nutrition strategy, or an obsessive dieting behaviour? Let’s dive deeper!

But before we do, I want you to think about a time when you had several sugary or carb-heavy meals in one day. Maybe a donut for breakfast, a bagel for lunch, and we’ve all done it… ice cream for dinner. Do you remember how you felt at the end of the day? Jittery? Anxious? Short-tempered? Your blood sugar was probably out of whack due to macronutrient imbalances, and if you did this every day for a long period of time I bet you’d start to feel pretty crappy.

What are macros?

Macronutrients are substances your body needs in large amounts. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all macronutrients and they perform different functions, briefly:

  • Carbs

    • Provide your body with a main source of energy
    • Can be stored as energy for later
    • Fibre, a type of carbohydrate, keeps things moving in your digestive system and keeps you regular
  • Fats

    • Can be used as a fuel source as well
    • Help you absorb certain vitamins
    • Insulator for the body
    • Affect the level of inflammation in the body
  • Proteins

    • Building blocks of your body
    • Involved in immune function
    • Some hormones are made from protein (e.g. insulin)

The balance between these three nutrients is important as they affect bodily functions like processing energy, immune response, tissue growth, joint fluidity, and even the rate your body heals after an injury. A diet too high in carbohydrates (common in Western diets) can destabilize blood sugar and raise fat levels in the blood. Western diets are high in carbs because they’re easy and cheap to produce, think of all the processed foods like pastries, chips, and candy that are readily available in stores.

In Mediterranean diets there is greater emphasis on fat with 30-40% of the diet coming from that source, 50-60% carbs, and about 10-20% protein. The common ketogenic diet trend takes a low carbohydrate approach (10-15% of intake) and puts the body in a state called ketosis where fat is used as fuel instead of carbs.

How do you count macros?

I won’t go too deep into the nitty gritty of counting because it involves complex calculations, and there’s plenty of calculators online. But briefly, a rough estimate of your caloric needs are calculated based on your age, sex, weight, height, activity level, and weight goals (lose, maintain, or gain). Then the calculator examines the balance between the three macronutrients and tells you to aim for a certain number of grams of each per day.

Should I be counting macros?

Is it important to count numbers to determine the correct ratio? I would argue it’s important to be aware of the nutritional content of your food and strive to have balanced whole food meals, but I don’t believe in strict food rules. That crosses into dangerous territory of disordered eating. Eating should be an enjoyable experience, and if you truly enjoy counting those numbers then go ahead, but for the majority of people it’s a pain and sets you up for failure. It leads to harmful self-talk like “I was bad today” if you don’t meet your goal or things get off track.

How mindful eating fits in?

This brings me to the importance of mindful or intuitive eating. Your body naturally knows what balance of nutrients it needs, you just need to amplify those signals.

Here are a few ways:

  1. Eat when your body tells you to eat
  2. Slow down mealtimes, taking at least 20 minutes for a meal
  3. Appreciate your food and where it came from

Focusing on mostly whole foods in the diet sets you up to maximize your nutrition and eating mindfully is the missing puzzle piece for good health. I’m here to help you tune into those signals and figure out what balance of nutrients is going to work best for you!

 

Heather is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist trained by the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She also has a Masters of Science in Public Health and a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology both from the University of Waterloo.
Heather specializes in personalized nutrition using live, natural, and whole foods and looks at many factors surrounding food choices such as stress, sleep, mood, and lifestyle. She has a strong background in mental health and is passionate about promoting its connection to nutrition. Heather sees clients who are overworked, overstressed, and overtired and empowers them to bring their body back into balance. She also specializes in plant-based diets, being vegan herself since 2013. In her spare time, you can find her scouring dog parks for animals to pet, or searching for the city’s best smoothie!

Heather Lillico, MSc, RHN, RYT

 

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Oct 24

Brainfullness Experiment

All of us are looking for magic, with a culture that reinforces it.

A partner, a degree, a job, a new stress management tool that will take us to a better place. Our brains are continuously being hacked by media and advertising, and every other external source that profits from our fear. In addition, we are in a post- modernist world where perspectivism and ‘my truth’ is the prevailing attitude. These are some of the hidden forces contributing to stress and anxiety, and leaving us feeling confused and alone.

We are coming to understand the benefits of meditation, yet it is a practice that many people find frustrating. If you feel that you lack the template or skills to do it, the notion of brainfullness may help bring some clarity to the workings of the system, to encourage you to continue and allow you to be both adaptive and responsive to whatever comes along. If we understand meditation as a neurological feedback process, we can access the system, thereby increasing our chances of success.

The idea of brainfullness is to make your whole thinking process more transparent. I define brainfullness as the dedication and process of bringing one’s awareness to experiences occurring in the present moment through the lens of functional neuroscience.

As such, you may wish to adopt your own movement, meditation, or mindfulness practice, with an understanding of the conceptual system that can help you to navigate your life.

There are four key variables to consider:

  • Awareness
  • Focus
  • Generative practice
  • Reflection

In order to prime you for how to apply this, it might serve you best to know some important neuroscience.

At the very basis of our nervous system are the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, which tell us whether to avoid or approach something. Most of us spend the majority of our time in the sympathetic state, and knowing how to reset the balance is the aim of all meditation and health care as 90% of diseases have a stress component. Even though this system has been 400 million years in the making, it still has its limitations. We can only recognize what our nervous system has evolved to perceive. Likewise, we are also limited by language in only having access to words provided by culture.

Where your awareness goes most of the time, that becomes your focus. Additionally, when you have an input through the viscera or interoceptive system (aka a feeling), your brain starts to file through your experiences, your imagination, and your self-generating fears, and makes up a story to accompany that input. It is looking to establish familiarity and context to determine your safety. Once we realize that it is doing what it is supposed to do, we can stop making the semantic mistake of believing that every story that we tell ourselves is true.

Most of the brain imaging done during meditation shows an increase in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and insula activation, which are areas of the brain responsible for the processing of emotions, as well as the expression of self-compassion and empathy toward others. The insula is always active, as it is constantly receiving information from the body. This information can be noisy and unrelenting, and knowing the difference between the noise and the signal is what the brain is trying to decipher. The ACC is less active in people with ADHD, which highlights its importance in awareness and focus.

With this knowledge on your side, we can reverse engineer what we are hoping to achieve. So, let’s bring this brainfullness concept to life in a simple, daily practice: your morning coffee.

While this is an experience that you share with 80% of the world’s population, it is one that you can make part of your own self-care. Practice awareness by taking the time to notice the smell of the coffee and the warmth of the cup in your hand—really enjoy that first sip. To further experiment, see if there is a difference in how you feel if you drink it sitting versus standing. Or you can try using your non- dominant hand to drink it—this would require more focus, though, so make sure you have a clean shirt on stand-by. Sharpen your focus even more by visualizing your brain as the most complicated organ in the universe—or as an over-grown cauliflower.

Understanding that this is a process that takes time is part of the mastery. The development of new neural pathways and blood vessels, and increasing mitochondria and myelination does not happen overnight. It is a generative process which allows us the capacity to intentionally affect our emotional state, helping us get a better immune response, increase stress tolerance, and supplement our reality with much richer experiences.

It is said that thoughts think for themselves, but we should identify with our positive thoughts as we tippy-toe through brainfullness. It is important to reflect at the end of each practice, what things we liked about the practice itself and what things we didn’t like to find the ritual that works best for each of us. But it is also important to note that what we may have learned through the discomfort of what we didn’t like may also afford an opportunity for discovery in itself.

Brainfullness allows you to plug and play. You can begin with either focus or awareness; it is not a hierarchy where one is a prerequisite for the other. You can focus on anything; bring your awareness to your breathing, or to a particular part of your body.

The big challenge with meditating is the froth of irritation that arises in the stillness and feelings of awkwardness that might seem like a capitulation. While it may look daunting, we can choose to view it like the froth on a cappuccino—one that looks big, but is really light.

Use it as an opportunity to recharge your curiosity and to know yourself in the most granular way. Bring the attitude of ‘what am I going to discover?’ to your meditation, and stop asking impoverished, meaningless questions like ‘am I doing it right?’.

Because it is an experiment, there is a built-in, expected failure rate and inherent messiness, but the point of the process is to discover what is interesting about it or what is possible within it. Experimenting with yourself to establish your own practices is part of the discovery and, hopefully, understanding it as less of a semantic jump and more of a neurological leap is helpful to your journey.

Action-based results—brain-based explanation.

Dr. Tabrizi is a chiropractor, osteopath and a passionate member of both the local and scientific community, whose goal is to teach that the pursuit of optimal health and wellness is much more than being symptom-free. His practice is rooted in the philosophy of treating the person rather than just treating the illness or ailment. As a result of his interdisciplinary training, Dr. Tabrizi has developed a neuroscience-based therapeutic education approach to treating his patients, focusing on healing illness from a wider perspective, placing equal responsibility on patient as well as practitioner. Dr. Tabrizi aims to educate his patients and provide them with the tools and framework needed to integrate pain management and healthy living into the fabric of their everyday lives.

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Oct 22

3 Must Have Fall Recipes

Fall is here, and it’s so much more than pumpkin spice lattes, I promise you! Foods that are in season now are hearty, filling, and full of nutrients, which is especially important as flu season approaches. Here are 3 must-have fall recipes that will boost your immune system!

1. Five-Minute Pumpkin Chia Pudding

Why it’s great: Pumpkins are in season right now and are loaded with Vitamins A and C, needed for a healthy immune system.

Prep time: 5 min  Total time: 8 hrs 5 min  Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups coconut milk
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup rolled or steel cut oats
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a jar and store in the fridge overnight. Take out in the morning and enjoy!

2. Flu-fighting Fungi Pâté

Why it’s great: Mushrooms are an immunity powerhouse. They fight inflammation and help destroy harmful bacteria. The garlic in this dish is also has antibacterial and antiviral properties. Vampires beware!

Prep time: 10 min  Total time: 2 hrs  Serves: 8

Ingredients
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of mixed mushrooms (e.g. shitake, button, oyster, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 tbsp dried
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Toast the walnuts for 2-3 minutes in a large pan over medium heat. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Remove the walnuts from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the olive oil to the pan and then the onions and garlic. Sauté until the onions soften and turn translucent (about 4 minutes). Add in all the remaining ingredients: mushrooms, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper and sauté until the mushrooms have cooked and water is mostly evaporated, another 5 – 8 minutes.
  3. Add the mushroom mixture and the walnuts to a food processor. Pulse, stopping to scrape the sides as needed until you reach a pâté texture. Press into a container for serving using a spatula to smooth it, and let it chill completely in the fridge before serving (1-2 hours).
  4. Serve with your favourite veggies or crackers.

Adapted from: It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken

3. Inflammation Banishing Golden Milk

Why it’s great: Turmeric boosts activation of T-cells and B-cells in the body, major components of the immune system. The active ingredient, curcumin, also decreases pro-inflammatory markers in the body

Prep time: 1 min  Total time: 5 min  Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup unsweetened almond/soy milk
  • 1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper**
  • ½ tsp maple syrup/honey
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a pot and whisk over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir frequently.
  2. Pour into a glass and serve immediately.

**Important as black pepper increases the absorption of turmeric

Heather is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist trained by the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She also has a Masters of Science in Public Health and a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology both from the University of Waterloo.
Heather specializes in personalized nutrition using live, natural, and whole foods and looks at many factors surrounding food choices such as stress, sleep, mood, and lifestyle. She has a strong background in mental health and is passionate about promoting its connection to nutrition. Heather sees clients who are overworked, overstressed, and overtired and empowers them to bring their body back into balance. She also specializes in plant-based diets, being vegan herself since 2013. In her spare time, you can find her scouring dog parks for animals to pet, or searching for the city’s best smoothie!

Heather Lillico, MSc, RHN, RYT

 

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Oct 15

Masquerading Emotions

Gather round, all you ghosts and goblins, and let me tell you a Halloween story. Witches and vampires and devils aren’t the only costumes you may see this month. Our emotional selves are more complicated than they seem, and one emotion may sometimes wear the “costume” of another emotion. When we can distinguish what the true emotion is, we are better able to address it. So grab your pumpkin spice latte and make yourself comfortable while I break down your masquerading emotions in the latest edition of Lauren’s Top Tips.

1. You’re not angry, you’re…hurt

  • Have you had a social situation that has left you feeling ragey? Has it made you direct negativity or anger toward someone? Look inside and see how it affects you. Chances are you are disappointed in the way you were treated (directly or indirectly) and feeling upset about it. If you can acknowledge the ways you were hurt, this can translate into an excellent communication tool to explain to the person why you are angry, instead of putting them on blast and widening the gap between you with a monster fight.

2. You’re not anxious, you’re…excited

  • Many emotions have two sides to them, much like a coin has two different sides but is still the same coin. This is especially true of anxiety and excitement; anxiety is, at times, the unhealthy version of excitement. Think about it: when you’re going out on a date with someone who really intrigues you, part of you may feel like you’re going to throw up and want to hide under the covers… but why? Likely because you may, underneath all that nervousness, be excited for the prospect of something wonderful that may come from that date. Similarly, if you’re anxious for a presentation at work, it likely isn’t just because all eyes are on you, but because you’re excited about the possibility of a promotion, or just being proud of a job well done. So the next time you’re feeling anxious about something, try flipping the coin: why may you be super excited about this event? Bring your attention to that.

3. You’re not disappointed, you’re… feeling self-doubt.

  • Remember that date we were just talking about? Well, if you got friend-zoned at the end of the evening (and it’s happened to the best of us), it’s absolutely understandable to feel disappointed. But what’s hiding underneath that disappointment? You may very well be wondering “what’s wrong with me?!” which may result in lowered self-esteem. This can also be true of that work presentation we mentioned. Not feeling good enough to do your job or be promoted is a lousy feeling, especially if it leaves you questioning your talents or intelligence. Just remember that we can’t always have success, and that does not take away from your wonderful traits. Chalk it up to “you can’t win ’em all” and remember that you’re awesome.

4. You’re not moody, you’re…hungry 

  • ’Nuff said. Have a Snickers.

If you’re confused about what you’re really feeling, have a check-in with yourself and consult these tips. Your counsellor can also help you break it down so that you can learn more about yourself and the best way to tackle these emotions. Reveal your true emotions and leave the dress-up to the kids this Halloween.*

*(Just kidding, go have fun, y’all!)

**Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**


Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at lauren@laurenberger.ca, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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