Feb 25

When should someone else get help?

By: Ariel Blau, MSW, RSW, LCSW

Very often a client comes seeking my services because they are worried about someone else who has depression. This client finds that they are worrying enough about another person, to go seek help themselves. How does one decide what to do? The answer is a mixed “depends”, because everybody goes through something that looks like depression at some point, and everybody is different. The good news is that having a bit of a depressed spell is not worrisome in itself. A full-on depression is another story, as you will see below. 

COMMON LOW MOOD

Having a depressive episode is so common that at some point or other, one third of the population goes through one. If it so common, how does one know when something needs to be done about it? There are many factors to consider. The time factor of when it starts and how long it lasts is important. Most normal low mood periods are in response to a specific event or circumstance, and for a few weeks. The feelings communicate to us that something is not working and needs action. Once the situation gets resolved, mood changes, and everything goes back to how it was. This is not something to worry about, because timing is related to a specific event. On the other hand, is grief something to get alarmed about? 

IS GRIEF NORMAL?

Grieving is another emotion timed to a specific loss and looks a lot like depression. A loss happens when someone you care about moves away, goes through a divorce, or a family member passes away.  More complex losses are generated by some illnesses, immigration, and life transitions. Processing life transitions through grief is normal, and even necessary. Embracing these confusing feelings can help you resolve and shorten the process. If the process shifts over time, you are likely processing your grief effectively. 

SEASONAL LOW MOOD

You probably heard of seasonal affective disorder (or SAD). This happens when people feel low and with low energy during the dark winter. SAD involves a disruption of body rhythms due to lack of sunlight, and can result in lowered mood and energy. Is there anything that helps? The good news is that this light-related condition can get better with a few interventions. You can ask your naturopath about supplements, getting exposed to light with daily walks outside and bright lamps, and exercising. Your counsellor can help overcome gloomy thoughts. There is hope! 

WHEN TO WORRY

When low mood is not following the seasons, loss, or a specific circumstance, and stays more than 2 or 3 months, then it is time to start paying attention because it could be a more serious depression. It is good to identify this condition with a health professional, because there can be very effective ways to overcome it. Here are some of the indicators of depression impact activity levels and other are related to the level of distress each person feels. 

LOSS OF ENERGY

The first thing you need to pay attention is how much the person has lost their previous energy levels. Lower levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, typical of depression, leave one feeling drained of energy. One feels that nothing one can do matters. 

LOSS OF INTEREST

Often people with depression abandon activities that previously delivered pleasure. Long-lasting loss of interest is a common indicator of depression. The usual pleasures that come from getting things done, seeing people, or even accomplishing small tasks, are gone. Soon one feels even worse for not doing anything. 

NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

At worse, depression can change people’s thoughts and make them lose the sense that life is worth living. Pervasive negative thoughts of gloom are one of the serious indicators of depression, and sometimes feelings of doom. Who wants to feel like that? 

FEELING INADEQUATE

People with depression may also experience strong feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness and not being good enough. These awful negative thinking patterns can beset otherwise capable and intelligent people, and are not related to reality. The debilitating feelings result in lost confidence and effectiveness. 

CRYING

Sometimes people with depression tend to feel more sensitive and cry often, for no obvious reason. They just feel sad and down. Their life seems as gloomy as their feelings, even though nothing might have changed externally! 

ISOLATING

Increased isolation is another possible indicator that something needs to be checked out. Many individuals with serious depression don’t want to be seen in bad shape and start to isolate and withdraw from the world. When people who were social before withdraw over time, they may need to get help, or a few phone calls to get them out again. They may even fantasize of suicide as a way out of their gloom. 

SUICIDALITY

For one, it is always important to ask people how they feel and get people help when they have suicidal fantasies, plans, and thoughts. I used to feel scared of finding out, but I overcame it because I quickly saw that it is amazingly helpful to the person to be able to share. It can save someone’s life! If you find out they are feeling this low, the hospital maybe the best place to have someone knowledgeable check for their wellbeing (some links below). While depression left unmanaged can end in such low states, the good news is that there are many things you can do to help the person not get into such dire situation. 

STEPS TO TAKE

Usually, seeing a naturopath or other medical provider is the first step to rule out any organic causes. Many organic conditions such as low levels of certain vitamins, heart problems, or digestive conditions, even allergies, can make a person depressed. It is very good to know if something like this is involved because you can then get it under control! 

MEDS

Effective medications, supplements and herbs are available from many medical orientations to help with mood. Naturopaths can look at underlying systemic issues, diet, and herbal supplements. Homeopathy is effective for many individuals. Psychiatric medications such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been improved and have widespread positive effects. Trans-cranial electrical stimulation using low levels of electrical impulses matching brain levels is an emerging technique currently undergoing research. It is not yet officially approved for treatment in many areas, but many folks that use it claim it has few side effects. Exercise and yoga can be very effective. 

SLEEP, GOOD FOOD

Good sleep and diet are important things to consider for the depressed individual. The state of your gut is related to your moods, so eating affects your healing. There are other things you can suggest as well, such as helping them get to a counsellor or psychotherapist. 

COUNSELLING

The first support strategy a psychotherapist may try might be to get the person to agree to act against their feelings. It is called behavioral activation and consists of prioritizing activities that once were pleasurable and doing them even if one feels resistance. It helps to have a friend or partner help nudge the person along. Changing the person’s thoughts is another good strategy that psychotherapists use. Actively changing thoughts affects the brain positively. This can be done with affirmations, gratefulness and talk therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to change thoughts and psychodynamic therapies are found to be effective for people with depression. Sometimes just venting can help. 

SUPPORTIVE ATTITUDE

For the friends and family of someone with depression, it is very important to realize that many of the attitudes and choices of a depressed person are dictated by the condition. It is important to not blame the person or criticize their character. Showing understanding, gently inviting them to join and helping them overcome their resistance can be supportive. Even offering a ride to help them get help is a great way to start. 

Disclaimer: This essay/blog is not intended as a substitute for a direct and specific consultation with a mental health provider. If you need a professional assessment for a condition, please see a trained professional.

EXTRAS

If someone you know has a concern, we invite you to schedule an appointment with one of our IHI counselors. We both offer short meet-and-greet and regular appointments that can start the helping process:

Lauren Berger, RSW: https://ihi.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/13

Ariel Blau, RSW: https://ihi.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/38
– – – – – –  – – – – – – –  – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – –

USEFUL LINKS

If you are thinking of suicide or think someone else may be, there is help.  Call your local crisis line or mobile crisis team or the police, or go to the emergency room of your local hospital.

Mental Health Helpline: 1-866-531-2600

Crisis Text Line: free, 24/7, confidential text message service for people in crisis. The service is currently available in Canada via SMS at 686868. Info about depression

Mood Disorders Association of Ontario:  https://www.mooddisorders.ca/faq/depression 

CAMHhttps://ontario.cmha.ca/document-category/mental-health-and-addictions-conditions/ 

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.

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Feb 19

Six Nutrients Runners Need to be Aware of

Running. Is. Awesome.

It releases endorphins. It takes us to our happy place. It gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. But when we are tired and stressed, getting to this place of freedom can seem like a constant uphill run. 

It’s not you. You may be suffering from Nutrient Deficiencies that can leave you feeling like you are never going to be able to climb out of the ditch.  With a few simple tweaks, you can be up and running towards your goals again.

Runners often ask me, which nutrients do they need most? Here is the run down on Six Nutrients Runners Need:

Vitamin C.

We have all heard of Scurvy. Scurvy is a severe version of Vitamin C deficiency that is not commonly seen in North America. However, a Vitamin C deficiency can occur as part of general undernutrition or illness. If you have experienced any of the following lately, your bodies need for Vitamin C may have increased: fever, inflammation, diarrhea, stress from extreme temperatures and sunburns. Smoking, hyperthyroidism and iron deficiency can also increase these demands.

  • What runners should look for: Symptoms of deficiency may include fatigue, irritability, depression, impaired wound healing, gingivitis and muscle pains[i].
Vitamin D.

Runners love to get outside. The reality of a Canadian Winter is we may be pushed inside to the treadmill more than we like. As I am writing this, it is -18 and a healthy snowstorm is in the works – Not an ideal day for running.    

Lower Vitamin D levels may contribute to decreased performance and impaired immune function. Keep in mind, that genetic and environmental factors also influence our Vitamin D levels[ii]. There is also a misconception that running outdoors guarantees you satisfactory Vitamin D levels. This fat-soluble vitamin has many other factors that can influence its absorption, including Magnesium which we will talk about below.

  • What runners should look for: Getting Stress Fractures? Vitamin D is important for runners as this vitamin supports bone health. Research shows that vitamin D deficiency plays a role in stress injuries and fractures.
Vitamin E.

Vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin. Therefore, dieting and eating diets low in fat may exacerbate low Vitamin E levels. Women who run longer distances are more susceptible to deficiencies[iii].  

  • What runners should look for: Interestingly, this Vitamin can be deficient in women who have irregular periods. Low Vitamin E levels can also have an impact on those trying to conceive.
Iron.

Amenorrhea, or lack of a period, is common in women who engage in intense exercise regimes. However, a study conducted during the 2015 London Marathon found that 1/3 of the participants suffered from a heavy period – despite the increased training load. Only 22% of the runners found to have heavy periods sought medical advice[iv]. Ladies, this a huge red flag. If something is off, we need to pay attention. It turns out heavy periods are more common than we thought.  The increased flow can contribute to a condition called iron deficiency anemia. These irregularities are symptoms. They should and can be treated. 

  • What runners should look for: Iron depletion could affect the ability to train and recover from strenuous runs. Common deficiency symptoms are fatigue, anxiety, reduced mood and energy levels. This can have a negative impact on quality of life and productivity[v]
Magnesium.

Magnesium is an electrolyte that can be lost when we sweat. The “Standard American Diet” (notice how the acronym is ironically “SAD”), has been noted to contain only about 50 percent of our magnesium recommendations[vi]. Yikes, that’s pretty low, especially when considering all of the amazing things magnesium can do in our body including regulating hormones, helping you sleep and preventing muscle cramps.

  • What runners should look for: Muscle twitches, spasms and cramping can indicate a deficiency. Heavy exercisers may experience a buildup of lactic acid, shin splints and painful muscles during and after exercise.
Zinc.

A zinc deficiency can be difficult to detect. Women who are dieting or carbo loading may be susceptible to a zinc deficiency. Loading up on carbs while limiting protein and fat contributes to deficient levels of zinc[vii]Those who are switching over to becoming vegetarian tend to gravitate to carb heavy diets until they learn how to properly balance their diets.

  • What runners should look for: In runners, a zinc deficiency can lead to a loss of appetite resulting in a significant loss in bodyweight, fatigue with decreased endurance and a risk of osteoporosis[viii].  Frequent colds and infections can be a sign your zinc status is off.

How can you tell if you are deficient in one of these Nutrients?

Test. Naturopathic Doctors have access to epic tests that provide unique insight to your individual code. Identifying deficiencies can be a catalyst to your energy and how you and your body respond to your running program. 

Take Home Note: Remember, having a running schedule or training program is a must to improve your distance or time.  What many of us forget is that is only a part of what makes you successful. Ensuring you are absorbing your nutrients and your organ systems are functioning in an optimal window will be what drives you to the Runners Dream place.

If you found any of this information useful, share it with a friend who you think may be heading towards a deficiency. If you are suspecting a deficiency in yourself, let’s test. Click on the link below to book your appointment.  Don’t worry if you are in your off season.  This is the ideal time to support your health to start your season off with a bang.  Together, we will identify your deficiencies and create an individualized powerful protocol to give you relief from your symptoms.  I am here to guide you in your journey to becoming STRONGER INSIDE.

References:

[i] https://www.merckmanuals.com/en-ca/professional/nutritional-disorders/vitamin-deficiency,-dependency,-and-toxicity/vitamin-c

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22735329

[iii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=vitamin+e+deficiency+and+runners

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26901873

[v] https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/50/9/566

[vi] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180226122548.htm

[vii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7472669

[viii] http://www.ncbi.nln.nih.gov/pubmed/11475319

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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Feb 12

I Laughed So Hard I Peed!

Ladies, ladies, ladies….. Let’s be real for a minute. Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a thing. You may know this thing as “I pee a little when I sneeze”, “I pee when I run”, “I pee when I skip rope” “I pee on the trampoline” “I pee when I quickly lift up my 48lbs child or 100lbs barbell”.  And you know what?  You’re not alone. You’ve probably even had a giggle with your girlfriends who’ve gone through the same thing. You admit that you only buy black leggings because any other colour would be too obvious if there was a “leak”. You may be running again but you go to the bathroom 3 extra times before you go out, just to make sure all the pee is gone.  Skipping rope is a thing of the past…a mere grade school activity.  Trampolines are a no-go zone unless getting your child off of one, but you make sure to have one foot planted on the outer ring and definitely no jumping.

We justify these lifestyle changes because our circle of friends tells us “it’s normal after childbirth” or “oh that happens when you get into intense weightlifting or CrossFit”.

No, no, no with a side of absolutely not.  

PEEING YOUR PANTS IS COMMON, not NORMAL.

Let’s be clear.  SUI is COMMON, but it is not NORMAL.  This would be like spraining or breaking your ankle and limping for 6 weeks but telling people it’s “normal” when you’re still limping 6 months or even years later.  Sure, a panty liner is back-up, a just in-case plan but how is that any different than using a cane for that ankle injury one year later.  Just like there is no shame in spraining your ankle, there is no shame in getting help for SUI. Independence from any external device post-injury should always be the goal of treatment.  Accident-free living is the goal of pelvic physiotherapy.

WHAT CAUSES STRESS URINARY INCONTINENCE?

SUI is the most common occurring form of incontinence in women under the age of 60 and accounts for more than half of the cases.  It is defined as the involuntary loss of urine when there is an increase in intra-abdominal pressure.  Several health factors put you at risk as well as life events.  They include nerve and muscle damage from birthing or surgical trauma, loss of pelvic muscle tone (often seen with aging), hysterectomy, obesity, menopause, chronic coughing due to smoking or lung disease and even heavy lifting or high impact sports in younger female athletes.

SO WHY IS MY PELVIC FLOOR TO BLAME?

Pelvic floor muscles (PFM) act as a sling to provide support for our internal pelvic organs (bladder, rectum, uterus).  When an increase in pressure from our abdominal cavity pushes down, our PFM act to keep everything in…. pee included.  For many of us, our PFMs have become dysfunctional due to trauma or repeated changes in our behavior (heavy lifting) such that they have adapted to a new normal.  PFMs can be too weak but, surprisingly, they can also be dysfunctional if they are too tight.  How many times does your physiotherapist tell you that your quads or calves are too tight and to stretch or roll them out?  Sometimes, our PFMs need to relax so they work efficiently too.

KEGELS?  THROW THEM OUT OR DO 4000 OF THEM?

It depends on your internal pelvic assessment.  Yes. Internal.  Evidence repeatedly supports that women who see a physiotherapist and have an internal pelvic assessment and treatment have much higher success rates in managing SUI and other PFM-related symptoms.  But your physiotherapist cannot determine if you should be doing 4000 Kegels (pelvic floor contractions) or 0 Kegels unless they can feel the integrity of the tissue and how it contracts.  We were all led down the single solution road of Kegels from our mothers, our GPs and even our OB/GYNs.  What if this is making it worse? 

THE GOOD NEWS WITH ALL THIS PEE….

Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy is gaining awareness and IHI is very excited to have Kate Roddy join our team to help you skip, run, laugh, sneeze and wear red, pink and even baby blue leggings to work out in again.  Kate can help guide you back to an accident-free normal.  It’s common to be dry as well.

Kate has been a physiotherapist for 14 years at one of the top sport medicine clinics in Toronto.  After the birth of her two very large babies, she became a busy, athletic mom with all the “common but not normal” post-partum incontinence symptoms.  She has since become a certified pelvic health therapist and a Studio Lagree Pilates instructor.  Her extensive background in all these areas lets her be uniquely suited to restoring pelvic floor function and overall functional movement in women and men trying to be active and accident-free.

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Feb 11

The Language of (Un)Love(ing)

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

Love is a many splendored thing… until it’s not.  Even though love and relationships are permanent fixtures in our society, that doesn’t mean that they are easy or simple.  It seems like we have to kiss a lot of frogs until we find a great match.  Hey, that’s okay!  This is true of almost everyone.  When we take turns dating several people, there is an inevitable caveat that we must deal with: breakups.  We usually look at breakups as the most uncomfortable part of dating, but today I’m breaking down (see what I did there?) ways to keep it clean, considerate, and comfortable.  Buckle up and let’s go!

1. Are you sure? 

Rough patches are part of even the best relationships.  If things have been awesome and you’ve just hit a bump in the road, consider if ending the relationship is truly what you want to do or if you want to work through the issue.  Some issues are non-negotiables for some people (cheating, having kids, core values), and others have the potential to be sorted out (overbearing family members, moving countries, even religious differences).  Think about the reality of not having this person in your life and see if the problem is truly a deal breaker or if there’s still hope.  Don’t feel the need to tackle it alone.  A couple’s counsellor can work wonders to help you move through the heavy stuff and see if you can make it work. 

2. Use your words

When a person feels angry, sad, or resentful toward their partner, it’s easy to use a lot of four-letter words when ending the relationship.  While your soon-to-be-ex may deserve a few choice comments, think about ways you can express yourself that will leave you feeling better about ending things instead of worse.  Relay information about how you have been affected in the relationship, what’s no longer working for you, and (if you’re feeling generous) what has been great or memorable about the relationship.  Chances are there were some awesome moments, and it may make everyone feel better to remember these.  The key is to address things from your own point of view, also known as the “I statement”.  I feel unhappy with our long-distance relationship.  I feel that we aren’t as compatible as we had hoped.  When you start using “you statements”, the other party will likely become defensive and you’ll wind up in an argument.  You never show me you care.  You don’t help me when I ask you.  Keep your approach in mind in order to keep an awkward break up a little more comfortable. 

3. Is it kind/necessary/true?

This is the trifecta of communication.  Before you speak, consider if what you’re about to say is kind, necessary, and true.  I know that if you’re angry, leaving out the “kind” bit may seem appropriate, so at least aim for civil.  You’ll likely sleep better at night in the weeks that follow if you do.  Taking the high ground can help you feel like the bigger person and keeps things clean.

4. And if you’re the dumpee…

Ouch.  We’ve all been there and know that it sucks.  But you learn something important about yourself, what you want, and what you don’t want in every romantic encounter you have (whether it’s a one-night stand or a 10 year marriage).  Figure out what that valuable information is, and use it as data for the next love you experience.

5. When all else fails…

Just remember this: there are always two sides to every story.  Even if you think the other person’s is ridiculous, try to keep this in mind when ending things.  Feeling a bit empathetic for your soon-to-be-ex will help you remember why you were together in the first place and help keep things kind.  Everyone is just trying to get by and find some love along the way.  Remembering that will also help you be kind to yourself if you recognize that you’ve been in the wrong along the way.  Hey, nobody’s perfect.  Learn from this and move on as a wiser person (see #4).

Breaking up is hard to do, but it’s often necessary as you navigate all the possibilities out there to find someone you truly click with.  Just avoid breaking up with someone on Valentine’s Day, that’s just mean (and yes I did that once.  Oops.)  This Valentine’s Day, I’m wishing you all love and the courage to leave something that isn’t right in the pursuit of love.

**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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Feb 4

5 tips for getting through the Winter blahs

By: Heather Lillico, Holistic Nutritionist & Yoga Instructor

As the cold sets in and the months of blah ensue, it’s time to take stock of your mood. Check in with yourself, has the weather affected your attitude?

I notice a difference BIG TIME! Usually around mid February my mood starts to dip and I never want to leave my apartment. I’m an introvert during the best of times, but throw some inclement weather in there and I’m never leaving my couch. I suspect a lot of people feel this way so I’m throwing out my top tips for surviving Winter!

1. Focus on warming soups

Miso soup is a great bet this time of year as it’s a fermented food that will keep your gut in tip top shape. There’s a huge link between gut bacteria and mood. Did you know the majority of your body’s serotonin (your brain’s happy juice) is produced in your gut? Also, your body is likely craving warming broths during colder weather in an attempt to warm up, so give in and get toasty!

2. Up your Vitamin D intake

Ahhh Vitamin D, the vitamin that’s more like a hormone. Receptors for Vitamin D are found in your intestines, pancreas, kidneys, bones, and in parts of your immune system. It has a large role in how your immune system functions, hello flu season! Vitamin D also has a role in mood; people with depression have lower levels in their blood. Supplementing Vitamin D produces mood boosts similar to light therapy for people experiencing seasonal affective disorder.

Being bundled up in Canada all Winter means you’re less likely to get this sunshine vitamin. Now might good be a good time to supplement your intake, usually available in the form D3 as drops or pills.

3. Eat your leafy greens

You’ve no doubt heard about antioxidants and “superfoods” that contain them. Antioxidants are like police officers that arrest free radical punks before they damage your body. People with depression have lower levels of antioxidants in their blood and higher rates of oxidative stress (more free radicals that cause damage). A good way to get antioxidants (and folate, another key mood vitamin) is to increase your leafy green intake. Kale isn’t the only superhero here…have you tried watercress or mustard greens?

4. Limit refined sugar

Refined and processed sugars throw your blood sugar out of whack. This leads to changes in your mood including how jittery and irritable you are. To get through Winter you need a steady supply of slow-release complex carbs like sweet potato and squash or grains like oats and quinoa. Avoid the temptation of baked goods as overconsumption of these has been linked with depression.

5. Find an activity you love

This advice works for any time of year, but is especially relevant during the blah of Winter. Clients tell me all the time they hate going to the gym. My response? K…then don’t go to the gym. It really is that simple, don’t do an activity that you don’t enjoy because you’ll never keep up with it! Explore different activities like yoga, zumba, adult colouring, acting, knitting, making t-shirts, whatever appeals to you! Then actually schedule time to make it happen, just like you would a coffee date with a friend. Only this date is with yourself and it’s unbreakable 😉

If you need more support to get through Winter there’s loads to be done nutritionally. Reach out and set up a meet n’ greet to learn more.

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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Jan 30

When do people decide to see a counsellor or psychotherapist?

I just ended a meeting with one of my clients, someone who has a bundle of things going on in life and who could very well deal with it by themselves. Instead, they decided to seek help and use my services to help align their life with their goals. It got me thinking about how to figure out when one would need help and when one does not. As a psychotherapist and counsellor, it is important to know what it is that makes people take the step. Why take the plunge and stop waiting?

Why do people decide they want to take the steps to seek help? Most of my clients are rather well adjusted and rather successful individuals, gifted in some way or another, with a “real” life going on. If the great majority of my clients are individuals who are rather good at what they do, have “a life” or have some kind of amazing ability, and who are completely fine…why and when do they decide to use therapy?

Too many things at once

My sense, from experience, is that most high functioning people use therapy when they have more than one of two things going on that they need to juggle. I firmly believe that otherwise they would probably try and deal with it themselves. Why come to me then? What do I have that they don’t? The truth is the right training, and that I am not them.

Why talking to a stranger works

The helpful part of therapy is mostly the relationship you establish with the “shrink.” Research undeniably shows that it really does not matter what interventions the psychotherapist uses, the most important thing across the board correlated with success is the relationship. But why not talk to your friends and family?

Talking to someone that is not connected to you emotionally can have many advantages. When loved ones are involved in the life you are trying to figure out, it can be too much to constantly discuss your concerns with them, right? You are in the same stew, stewing about the same things. It is hard to get the necessary perspective. I also hear from others that sometimes people close to them are too keen on giving advice and not listening.

Listening without giving “helpful advice” is very difficult, especially if you want to help someone in a way that makes you feel good. In my first year as a therapist, I would often fall into that trap. Many therapists fall into what I call the “family member” or “best friend” trap, which is to feel compelled to solve the situation. This is because they feel anxiety about it as much as the client!

Deep listening

I quickly learned to listen carefully, because most people don’t want anyone to tell them what to do, and they already know what the solution is. Many of my clients come to therapy to find a safe place where they are able to hear themselves talk, to try solutions on for size, in a welcoming, empathic and accepting place, in their terms.

If I talk too much, my clients may think of me as another uncle or aunt, or another “well-intentioned” friend. I keep quiet until it is obvious my clients need me to talk and they do not need to talk any more. Timing is important. 

Re-inventing your self

One of my first jobs was working in a psychiatric hospital with individuals suffering from serious mental illness and substance problems. These individuals could be super sensitive. I had to learn to be very patient and to stay put. Coming to a counselling session can feel a bit sensitive.

After all, one is opening up to a stranger about intimate matters and feelings. This may be what keeps someone from coming in the first place, this feeling of vulnerability. The payoff is that someone that is more of a stranger can give you the space that you don’t get with people close to you. You might get to see yourself in different ways than the way your loved ones see you, and you might get to try out your thoughts, feelings and ideas in ways that allow for change, adjustment and re-invention.

Are you ready for the payoff?

People make the decision to start therapy when the are ready for the payoff of being able to see themselves in a different way or behave differently. The opportunity to be focused on your internal world, with a person who is more “objective” and less enmeshed in your regular life can be refreshing. It can open a chance to experience how it feels to be less weighted down by established ways of behaving. It is like a trip abroad, when you can re-imagine yourself because no one knows who you have been all this time. This can be very energizing and elating!

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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Jan 16

A Session With Dr. T—The Chiropractic Magician

Being a Yoga Instructor you’d probably assume I have a perfectly healthy and mobile body—and while that’s partly true, I’m also at great risk of injury due to popping in and out of poses to demo for students and going to my max for photo shoots (damn you Instagram)! The thing that I found frustrating about seeing Chiropractors in the past is that everyone has a different approach and each one said my problem was different. It’s your back, it’s your knees, it’s your hips…I’ve heard it all! I always questioned this because their explanations didn’t intuitively make sense in my body. I also found that aggressive popping and pulling treatments left me extremely sore after.

Now after one session with Dr. T I’m quite certain he’s a magician or wizard of sorts. His approach is totally unique and honestly I’m still trying to grasp what I learned…but here are a few things he taught me:

The body takes the path of least resistance

  • Just like in our conscious lives, we often gravitate towards the easiest option. If we didn’t, Uber probably wouldn’t exist. Our bodies do the same thing, if it’s easier to jut my hip out to the side when I stand then that’s what I’ll do. If I do it one time it’s no biggie, but repeatedly doing it will lead to some major misalignment in the body. And not just at the hip…but this could show up in my knees, ankles, back, etc. One of the most curious things I learned was my right foot turns slightly in, causing a rotation of my leg in the hip socket…because it was easiest for my body to compensate for the foot in that way!

Performing movements in one area of the body affects other areas

  • So this next part is where the magic started. I saw that my foot was turned slightly in and could feel I was restricted in almost all movements on my right side. Dr. T started pressing on different areas of my body (not even close to my foot) and then within minutes my foot was facing normally again and my right side was rotating evenly with my left. Did it feel good while this was happening? Heck no! I was using some deep yoga breath work here folks.

You can show the brain a different path

  • Which leads me to the final point… the discomfort was happening because my neurons were being stimulated to let the brain know there was an alternate option, a better option for movement. Essentially the manual pressure and movement was showing my brain it didn’t have to send its signals the way it normally does.

After the session my body felt strong and mobile and I can say a week after I’m still feeling great! I’ll be going back because old habits come back fast and I think my brain will need another tune up on how to move!

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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Jan 7

How To Find a Therapist

 Finding Your Perfect Fit Therapist

By Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

If the mad rush that is December has left you feeling fried, you’re not alone.  The end of the year is notoriously a high-stress time.  Enter January, a time for laying low and self-reflection.  This is the perfect time to get your mental health on track and set yourself up properly for 2019.  As Bell Let’s Talk Day approaches on January 31st, more and more people are realizing that reaching out for support is the first step in improving mental health and feeling great.  But who should you reach out to?  It’s important that you find a mental health professional that suits your needs in order to meet your goals.  How do you weed through the pros to find the right fit for you?  Lauren’s Top Tips are zeroing in on discovering your mental health match.

What do you want to accomplish?

You wouldn’t go to a podiatrist for a stomach issue, would you?  Just because someone is a psychotherapist doesn’t mean that they are well suited to handle every type of issue.  If you’re looking for help with an eating disorder, make sure you’re seeking out someone who specializes in eating.  Are you and your mate having trouble in paradise?  Make sure you meet with a couples therapist who specializes in relationships instead of individual therapy.  You may be surprised just how precisely the pros can specialize.  In your search, make sure you specify the issues at hand so you can get the most specialized therapists in your corner.

How are you gonna get there?

Next, consider the way you want to reach your goal.  Different therapy modes work well with different issues.  If anxiety is the problem, consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  Need some help with Borderline Personality Disorder?  Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is likely for you.  If you’re finding the roadblocks to success are too steep to manage, Clinical Hypnosis may be the key.  Do you have no idea what therapy may be best for your issue and personality type?  You’re not alone… it’s confusing!  Contact a counsellor and let him or her break down the methods that would likely bring you the most success.

Feel the vibe.

If you don’t click with your therapist, it will probably be harder to see results.  “Clicking” doesn’t always mean that you want to be best friends; you just need to connect so you can work well together.  Some people need tough love and others need a lot of comfort along the way.  Whatever it is you need, make sure you speak up if you feel you’re not getting it.  Your therapist can adjust his or her approach or refer you to someone else if necessary.  I often say that finding your therapist is kind of like finding your romantic partner (minus any romance, of course); you don’t always find your perfect match with the first person you “date”, and it’s totally cool to try new people if you’re not feeling the connection.  You’ll know when you hit it.

Jump in.

Just go for it.  Often the hardest part of the therapeutic journey is taking the plunge to make your first appointment and begin.  Once you get over that hump, you’ll likely find it much easier to continue.  If you find yourself thinking, “But I feel better today… maybe I don’t really need counselling”, I still strongly suggest making your appointment and getting started.  It’s terrific to not be feeling your worst, but unresolved issues are just that – unresolved.  They will likely rear their ugly heads again before too long.  Beginning the process at a point when you’re feeling stronger is a great opportunity to learn coping mechanisms before you need to use them next time.  And remember: if the techniques don’t seem to be your speed, speak up.  There are always more tools in the toolbox

Nothing is written in stone.

Is it really just not working with your therapist?  Don’t be shy to ask for a referral to someone else.  Your therapist wants you to be successful and have a great outcome, even if he or she isn’t the one to guide you.  No need to ghost out of there and feel alone in finding the right fit.  Your therapist likely has a pool of colleagues to make an appropriate referral, and anyone worth their salt will be happy to assist you in finding your right match.  Never be shy to ask for help.  That’s why we’re here.

Wading through all the wonderful therapists out there may seem like a daunting task but, with my tips, you’re well-equipped to find the person that is going to help you achieve your goals and feel happier.  Bell Let’s Talk Day reminds us that mental health is just that – health.  We must be as vigilant with our mental health as we are with our physical health.  It is both smart and an act of self-love to care for your mind.  Reaching out is the first step.

**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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Dec 27

A User’s Manual for Your Brain

Moonshots rarely begin with brainstorming clever solutions. The kind of personal evolution we are seeking starts with the hard work of finding the right questions. And I believe the primary question to be; “What does it take to feel more capable?”

While there are several legs on the stool that comprise our well-being which must be in balance to optimize health and performance—nutrition, exercise, mindfulness—when it comes to feeling capable, agility, creativity, and the reduction of uncertainty are the tools which allow us to flourish.

Information is the reduction of uncertainty.

We receive information from our environment through our bodies to be interpreted by the brain.Whether it be through our hands with touch, or through movement with our legs, these are the in puts that our brains are filtering and processing—trying to make maps and make sense of the input to determine an output. The thalamus is the part of the brain that acts as the relay station to decide where information gets processed. With the amount of information that we take in, this can be a bottleneck, which is why we want to maximize the quality of the input. The more we are able to send good, accurate signals, the more we are able to nourish better connections.

Intelligence is the reduction of effort.

The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain where we formulate ideas and explore our creativity. It is also the area through which we interpret what is happening and assign meaning to our situations. It has the important jobs of executive functioning and decision-making yet, through evolution, it is the newest part of our brains and is not actually fully developed until age 25. While this is the area that may carry a large part of the load in what we consider productivity, it is also the part that tends to frustrate us in the practice of mindfulness or meditation as either our thoughts race or our minds wander. Learning to be aware of our present state without assigning meaning or fearing an outcome is where we tend to struggle.

Attention is the self-directed attempt to maximize learning.

Our attempts at attention cause the activation of an area of our brain called the nucleus bacillus. It is this region which determines where our neurotransmitters need to be directed for immediate focus and action. With the number of places which we may have clamouring for our attention, this can be another area which becomes a bottleneck. In this way it can be metabolically expensive for us to be attentive leading to fatigue, confusion, and brain fog. Being able to be more conscious and deliberate in where we are focusing our attention, even in very small ways, can facilitate a cleaner process.

So, another question becomes: With the constraint of time, how can we maximize the benefit of our practices to upgrade our consciousness to match both our desires and our demands?

With brainfullness, we can integrate all of these mechanisms so we have a greater capacity to be more intentional and less reactive in our daily tasks. We can create coherence within the different areas of our brain by engaging our bodies and using our physiology to reverse engineer the process to reduce the clutter and create more neurological space. By what we are seeing biomechanically, we can target and activate certain areas within our bodies, being deliberate in our attention and movement, there by creating better connections neurochemically. In doing so, we increase our efficiency and, with less metabolic waste, we reduce the confusion and the brain fog, leaving more room for the creativity that comes with agility and clarity.

I think we all feel some degree of suffering, stagnation, and social pressure, but our self-care methods should be helping to alleviate our stress, not adding to it. Whether faced with major obstacles or the feeling of a thousand paper cuts, there may be times when we feel alone, sluggish, and even over-whelmed; but having a tool which is a gateway to tap into the system can help us to feel more confident and capable within our work, our relationships, and ourselves.

Learning to stay in our senses, honour and adhere to the details, and challenge our perceptions are all part of the process, giving us the skills to manage our lives through our internal environment rather than relying on the feedback of the external. And whether you use brainfullness instead of mindfulness or as a springboard that makes mindfulness and meditation more attainable to you is part of the beauty that is the flexibility of this practice.

There is a paradox of choice in all of the things we think we ‘should’ be doing, but brainfullness allows us to start at the thin end of the wedge and set ourselves up for success. By activating another system and shifting our attention, it buys us some time to give us a greater degree of sovereignty in making better choices. Having more awareness in how we use our bodies gives us a greater ability to train our brains and more agency in how we live our lives.

A key to navigating and mastering our internal environment is changing our perception of uncertainty.Having the audacity to challenge our personal and cultural norms, the authenticity to formulate an individualized plan, and a process that offers achievability through precise simplicity is the bedrock for answering life’s big questions and maximizing our health and well-being.

Starting in 2019 I am very excited to be offering Brainfullness workshops to introduce you to this concept and show you how to apply it as your own practice. Whether you are recovering from injury or dealing with anxiety, trying to make better lifestyle decisions or reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, you will be given the strategies in this workshop which will translate to an immediate day- to – day shift. To join me in this process of self-transformation and brain optimization, or to simply be better and gain an edge, send me an email for further information.

Brainfullness. Learn the resets. See you at the workshop!

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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Dec 21

Survive the Holidays with Chaga Hot Chocolate and Cordycep Tea

This Hot Chocolate can help you Survive the Holidays…and possibly improve your performance.

Doesn’t it seem like the holiday season begins earlier and earlier each year? As stores fill their shelves with festive gear months in advance, I find my stress levels rise. In October, yes – October, I start asking myself questions like – “Oh my, am I ready for the season yet? Who do I have to buy for? Do I have enough snowsuits, mitts and hats for everyone in the family? What are we going to eat? Oh, the eating. Read on for one of my favourite health tips to help you Survive the Season.

CHAGA HOT CHOCOLATE and CORDYCEP TEA.

I have a sweet tooth. Instead of completely denying myself, I will swap out a regular sugar-laden hot chocolate with an immune-boosting Chaga Hot Chocolate. Single-use sachets or powdered form can be found at specialty tea shops. Four Sigmatic Mushroom Hot Cacao mix is just one company that offers this delicious option. They even have Ginger and Cordyceps Tea combinations to help settle your tummy.

What’s so great about Chaga and Cordyceps?

  • Stress and Immune:

Both Chaga and Cordyceps are adaptogenic mushrooms that can help an immune system adapt to the onslaught of activities and feasting during the holidays. The primary mechanism of an adaptogen is to aid in the modulation of stress.  Cortisol is not always the bad guy. It is what drives busy people and athletes to success. It is when the chronic release of cortisol becomes fatiguing that leads to stress. The management of stress allows athletes to remain healthy and to sustain a high level of training[i].

  • Mood:

This fungus can also help elevate your mood with its antidepressant-like activity[ii]. This attribute is particularly helpful during our long, dark winter months where many Canadians suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SADS causing a lowering of mood from November to March.

  • Respiratory Illnesses and Energy:

Cordyceps has been known to treat respiratory illness and fatigue. This may partially be due to the extracts ability to increase ATP ratios in the liver (seen in mice)[iii]. It is an excellent source of bioactive metabolites with more than 21 clinically approved benefits on human health including blood sugar and anti-aging support[iv].

How do mushrooms like Chaga and Cordyceps relate to my performance?

Cordyceps hit the headlines in 1993 when runners from China blew up world records in track. According to their coach, Ma Junren, the secret to their remarkable athletic performance was caterpillar fungi (and yes, this is where Cordyceps is from)! Although the coach was later found to be giving these athletes illegal performance-enhancing drugs, the fungus itself is quite real[v].

Interesting fact – Tibetan Sherpas make tea from this caterpillar fungus and claim it allows them to climb Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Because the mushroom only grows at high altitudes, researchers theorize Cordyceps Sinensis has unique blood-oxygenating properties[vi] and can enhance aerobic performance[vii]. This quest leads to research that has shown Cordyceps extracts to have the capacity to increase motor coordination via increased muscle endurance or anti-fatigue like activity[viii].  Researchers conclude that improving lactate clearance allows athletes greater anaerobic performance[ix].

Who is Chaga and Cordyceps not for?

Chaga comes with a caution in those with kidney stones, gout and fibromyalgia as its high anti-oxidant counts also come with high oxylates.

Cordyceps can increase your risk of bleeding so it is important to avoid this pre and post surgery[x].

As you may have heard me say before, my goal is to help my patients become STONGER INSIDE. Optimal functioning organ systems leave us feeling healthy and strong. If you have questions about Adaptogenic Herbs or would like to embark on the adventure of becoming STRONGER INSIDE, I invite you to book a Complimentary 15 minute Meet and Greet appointment to see if we are the right fit!

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

Medical Disclaimer

As with any recommendation, this information is intended as educational and does not replace medical advice. It is important to discuss any changes with your primary health care provider.

References:

[i] https://firstendurance.com/cordyceps-endurance-performance/

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243266/

[iii] Noboru Manabe et. Al.; Effects of the Mycelial Extract of Cultured Cordyceps Sinensis on In Vivo Hepatic Energy Metabolism in the Mouse. Japanese Journal of Pharmacology 70, 85-88 (1996).

[iv] Medicinal uses of the mushroom Cordyceps militaris: current state and prospects. Das SK, Masuda M, Sakurai A, Sakakibara M

Fitoterapia. 2010 Dec; 81(8):961-8.

[v] https://www.healthline.com/health/cordyceps-exercise-performance

[vi] https://firstendurance.com/cordyceps-endurance-performance/

[vii] https://firstendurance.com/cordyceps-endurance-performance/

[viii] [viii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243266/

[ix] Burke, Edmund R. Herbs Enhance Lactate Metabolism. Nutrition Science News, V.3; N.9 P. 458 (1998)

[x] www.rxlist.com/consumer_cordyceps/drugs-condition.htm

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