Archive For: Wellness

Cooking without Sodium or Sugar

Assortments of spices, white pepper, chili flakes, lemongrass, coriander and cumin seeds in jars on grey stone background. Copy space

Executive Chef Stan Hodes Shares Secrets of the Spice Rack

The benefits of reducing sodium and sugar in the diet are compelling, backed by well- documented studies. The flip side is an equally powerful human craving for enhanced flavor, compounded by years of exposure to products boosted with salt and sugar and the ongoing quest for umami (the fifth taste, defined by experts as the essence of deliciousness).

“Salt and sugar were once basic to preserving foods, and we’re predisposed to enjoy the sweet and the salty, the yin and the yang, such as salted caramel,” explains executive chef Stan Hodes, who has spent three decades bringing the “wow” factor to hospital and senior living meals with strict nutritional requirements. In this two-part series, he shares how to coax out natural flavors with no shakers of salt or spoonsful of sugar.

Hodes encourages a holistic approach to meeting recommended limits for calories, sodium, sugar and fat.

“All too frequently, reducing sodium in a particular product or recipe can mean amping up the sugar instead, so it’s best to consider the overall nutritional value rather than a single component,” he explains. “Then, be inspired by natural substitutes from other cultures that don’t use salt to create their remarkable flavor profiles with real punch from the very first bite, such as Cajun spice mixes or Indian garam masala (a coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg blend).”

Hodes’ spicy recommendations

Bagel seasoning. Low-sodium versions of this blend of poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds, dried garlic, dehydrated onions and other spices provide a welcome bit of crunch and texture as well as flavor.

Black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Eliminate the need for salt with a light dusting of these pungent peppers.

Cinnamon. A peppery and semi-sweet spice ideal for tomato sauces, curries and marinades. Hodes uses a potent mix of cinnamon and coffee as the closely held keys to flavor in his popular chili.

Citrus juices. Drizzle over cooked vegetables, tenderize meats and fish, and transform vinaigrettes with an acidic zing from the juice of a lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or yuzu (a small Japanese citrus fruit). Additionally, try grating (zesting) the peel of a lemon and mix it into soups, marinades and beverages to bring out the flavors.

Coffee. A rich source of flavor sometimes found in Mexican moles, brewed coffee can be reduced by half in a saucepan and used in sauces, stews and gravies, or try a sprinkle of instant coffee instead.

Ginger. Chop and mix fresh ginger root into stir-fries, sauces, soups and beverages; this pungent and sweet spice is also known for its possible anti-inflammatory effects.

Infused oils. Place stalks of fresh garlic, rosemary and oregano, each in a separate bottle of olive oil, for freshly flavored dressings.

Mushrooms and beets. These naturally occurring sources of umami can easily be added to recipes for a burst of flavor: Dehydrate mushrooms by roasting until crisp and store them in a jar for future use; oven-roast beets, slice, and add to salads, soups or root vegetable platters.

Nutritional yeast. This deactivated yeast, available as flakes or powder, provides a cheesy, salty flavor without using either. Ideal on roasted vegetables or baked taco chips; when blended with carrots, potatoes, lemon juice, garlic and onion powder, “It tastes exactly like Velveeta cheese,” promises Hodes. Pour it over cooked elbow noodles for a lower-sodium, non-dairy mac ’n’ cheese.

Olives. Known for their salty taste and high sodium content, olives can be used more healthily if you soak the sodium out. Cut them in half, immerse overnight in a bowl of tap water and drain the next day.

Paprika. Warm up any recipe with fresh or smoked varieties of this vibrant red spice made from a variety of red peppers.

Sage. Strongly aromatic, with an earthy taste of citrus and pine, this herb can be used fresh or dried to flavor sauces, roasted vegetables and bean dishes.
Salsa. Store-bought salsas can bring too much sodium into the mix, so make your own fruit salsa with finely diced melons and a dash of orange juice as a colorful, phytonutrient-rich topping for grilled fish, chicken or salads.

Vinegars. Another way to use the power of acidity is with rice wine vinegars for seasoning; the sweetly sharp tang of balsamic vinegar to wake up dressings, stews and marinades; and the strong kick of apple cider vinegar.

Wines. Cook red or white wine until reduced by half, let it thicken and cool, and store in a squeeze bottle to use as a glaze for proteins.

Stan Hodes served as Executive Chef and Manager of Dining Services Operations at Baptist Hospital of Miami for 27 years, and worked as chef for the Marriott Hotels, Cancun’s Casa Magna Resort, and Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines. He was recognized by HealthLeaders magazine as one of the top 20 Most Innovative Foodservice Executives in America.

The post Cooking without Sodium or Sugar appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

Cooking without Sodium or Sugar

Assortments of spices, white pepper, chili flakes, lemongrass, coriander and cumin seeds in jars on grey stone background. Copy space

Executive Chef Stan Hodes Shares Secrets of the Spice Rack

The benefits of reducing sodium and sugar in the diet are compelling, backed by well- documented studies. The flip side is an equally powerful human craving for enhanced flavor, compounded by years of exposure to products boosted with salt and sugar and the ongoing quest for umami (the fifth taste, defined by experts as the essence of deliciousness).

“Salt and sugar were once basic to preserving foods, and we’re predisposed to enjoy the sweet and the salty, the yin and the yang, such as salted caramel,” explains executive chef Stan Hodes, who has spent three decades bringing the “wow” factor to hospital and senior living meals with strict nutritional requirements. In this two-part series, he shares how to coax out natural flavors with no shakers of salt or spoonsful of sugar.

Hodes encourages a holistic approach to meeting recommended limits for calories, sodium, sugar and fat.

“All too frequently, reducing sodium in a particular product or recipe can mean amping up the sugar instead, so it’s best to consider the overall nutritional value rather than a single component,” he explains. “Then, be inspired by natural substitutes from other cultures that don’t use salt to create their remarkable flavor profiles with real punch from the very first bite, such as Cajun spice mixes or Indian garam masala (a coriander, cumin, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg blend).”

Hodes’ spicy recommendations

Bagel seasoning. Low-sodium versions of this blend of poppy seeds, toasted sesame seeds, dried garlic, dehydrated onions and other spices provide a welcome bit of crunch and texture as well as flavor.

Black pepper, cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. Eliminate the need for salt with a light dusting of these pungent peppers.

Cinnamon. A peppery and semi-sweet spice ideal for tomato sauces, curries and marinades. Hodes uses a potent mix of cinnamon and coffee as the closely held keys to flavor in his popular chili.

Citrus juices. Drizzle over cooked vegetables, tenderize meats and fish, and transform vinaigrettes with an acidic zing from the juice of a lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit or yuzu (a small Japanese citrus fruit). Additionally, try grating (zesting) the peel of a lemon and mix it into soups, marinades and beverages to bring out the flavors.

Coffee. A rich source of flavor sometimes found in Mexican moles, brewed coffee can be reduced by half in a saucepan and used in sauces, stews and gravies, or try a sprinkle of instant coffee instead.

Ginger. Chop and mix fresh ginger root into stir-fries, sauces, soups and beverages; this pungent and sweet spice is also known for its possible anti-inflammatory effects.

Infused oils. Place stalks of fresh garlic, rosemary and oregano, each in a separate bottle of olive oil, for freshly flavored dressings.

Mushrooms and beets. These naturally occurring sources of umami can easily be added to recipes for a burst of flavor: Dehydrate mushrooms by roasting until crisp and store them in a jar for future use; oven-roast beets, slice, and add to salads, soups or root vegetable platters.

Nutritional yeast. This deactivated yeast, available as flakes or powder, provides a cheesy, salty flavor without using either. Ideal on roasted vegetables or baked taco chips; when blended with carrots, potatoes, lemon juice, garlic and onion powder, “It tastes exactly like Velveeta cheese,” promises Hodes. Pour it over cooked elbow noodles for a lower-sodium, non-dairy mac ’n’ cheese.

Olives. Known for their salty taste and high sodium content, olives can be used more healthily if you soak the sodium out. Cut them in half, immerse overnight in a bowl of tap water and drain the next day.

Paprika. Warm up any recipe with fresh or smoked varieties of this vibrant red spice made from a variety of red peppers.

Sage. Strongly aromatic, with an earthy taste of citrus and pine, this herb can be used fresh or dried to flavor sauces, roasted vegetables and bean dishes.
Salsa. Store-bought salsas can bring too much sodium into the mix, so make your own fruit salsa with finely diced melons and a dash of orange juice as a colorful, phytonutrient-rich topping for grilled fish, chicken or salads.

Vinegars. Another way to use the power of acidity is with rice wine vinegars for seasoning; the sweetly sharp tang of balsamic vinegar to wake up dressings, stews and marinades; and the strong kick of apple cider vinegar.

Wines. Cook red or white wine until reduced by half, let it thicken and cool, and store in a squeeze bottle to use as a glaze for proteins.

Stan Hodes served as Executive Chef and Manager of Dining Services Operations at Baptist Hospital of Miami for 27 years, and worked as chef for the Marriott Hotels, Cancun’s Casa Magna Resort, and Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines. He was recognized by HealthLeaders magazine as one of the top 20 Most Innovative Foodservice Executives in America.

The post Cooking without Sodium or Sugar appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

New Year’s Resolutions Are So 2020!

What are your 2021 Anti-Resolutions?

Year after year, the pattern rarely varies. Resolutions made, promptly followed by resolutions broken. The odds of sticking to New Year’s resolutions are, in fact, completely stacked against us, as research shows a paltry success rate of between 10 and 20%. But since the challenges of 2020 have reconfigured every aspect of daily living, 2021 may be the ideal time to reset this ritual as well. Perhaps it’s time we consider this upcoming new year, the year of the anti-resolution for dieting, exercising, eating healthier and managing stress.

We’ve asked therapists steeped in mindful eating, body positivity and resilient thinking to help reframe this perennial wish list. There are no checklists to mark off or milestones to meet, just inspiration to view yourself and the world around you through a new lens.

Instead of Dieting in 2021… Consider being more mindful about what you eat.

Replace the resolve to lose weight on a diet with a shift to mindful eating. “Keep in mind that while all diets work in the short run, there’s not a single plan that has long-term results for the majority of participants, and that’s why people make the same resolution every year,” says Judith Matz, nationally recognized speaker, therapist and co-author of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook and Beyond a Shadow of a Diet. “The deprivation that comes from dieting often leads to overeating or bingeing, setting into motion an endless cycle of frustration.”

Instead, learn to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, and choose from a wide variety of foods, including healthful ones.

Matz describes the essence of the process. “First, learn to recognize when you are just beginning to feel hungry. If you have a headache, are crabby, irritable, fatigued and low on energy, you’ve waited too long and are much more likely to overeat as a result.”

Next, think about what food would make you feel satisfied. “Sometimes a fresh apple or a raw carrot is exactly what you want, and at other times you might want ice cream or a bowl of pasta. Depriving yourself of foods you love can be counterproductive – there’s room for all types of food,” she says.
For patients with specific medical issues, such as high cholesterol, Matz notes that adjustments can easily be made while still respecting the process: a craving for ice cream can be met with a sorbet instead.

Finally, trust your body to let you know when to stop eating. While that may sound simple, Matz counsels patience, especially for chronic dieters. “It can take time to tune in to your natural cues for both hunger and satiety.”

The key is to stop having rules around food and to really listen to your body. “Ultimately it’s about having a healthy relationship with food rather than focusing solely on eating so-called healthful foods,” she says.

Moving from body image to body appreciation.

An equally important shift is changing the desire for a new body size to a genuine appreciation of the body you have. Matz defines this as “body positivity, relating to your body with acceptance and respect rather than self-criticism and shame.” It means rejecting ingrained cultural messages related to body embarrassment and weight stigma and replacing them with ones that reflect inclusiveness and self-compassion. It encourages taking pleasure in natural body changes throughout your life cycle and not putting off anything you might enjoy doing because you’re not the “perfect” size or shape.

Body positivity also empowers you to view exercise positively rather than as punishment for having the wrong body. “Unhook exercise from weight, and focus on choosing exercise for endurance, strength, flexibility, stress reduction, health, social connection or just the simple pleasure of moving your body,” advises Matz.

Finally, refrain from focusing on weight loss praise, which reinforces the mistaken belief that you can’t be happy, healthy and successful unless you’re a certain body size, says Matz.
“Consider that body positivity is a gift we can give to support family, friends and, most notably, the next generation.”

Find joy in what you do and who you surround yourself with to reduce stress.

Resolving to manage stress effectively is an oft-expressed but infrequently realized New Year’s wish. But it can be triggered by one pivotal question, says influential family therapist Debbie Gross, who asks it at every session with a new client: “What brings you joy?”

She explains, “It’s transformational in terms of moving out of the survival mode many experienced last year, and into thriving mode. When people are in crisis, they become overwhelmed by the thought that no one will meet their needs. Their only goal is to focus on how to get through this moment; their attitude is ‘If I don’t take care of me, who will?’”

To stop the “anxiety spiral” in the brain, Gross recommends the “5, 4, 3” grounding exercise for staying in the present: “Focus on five things you can see, four things you can hear and three things you can feel, either physically or emotionally.”

And while it’s all too easy to devolve into perpetual doom and gloom against a backdrop of unceasing anxiety, Gross says we have a choice – Eeyore or Tigger?
“We can wake up each day just waiting for the next problem to come our way, or we can look at the world with more of a ‘beginner mind’ that recognizes small, everyday miracles,” she says. “It takes real work for some to switch the channel in their brain to that mindset, but the difference it makes is astounding.”

The post New Year’s Resolutions Are So 2020! appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

Pandemic Stress Likely Compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder

Experts Expect Record Numbers of Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnoses in 2021

As we continue to weather the storm of COVID-19, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is also on our radar. More subtle than an arctic blast, SAD is just as real, with just as much potential to have a chilling effect on our mood, productivity and wellness. Unfortunately, the emotional stress and fear that come with a global pandemic create an ideal climate for SAD this winter. Not surprisingly, mental health experts are expecting to diagnose and treat more cases of SAD in 2021 than ever before.

First discovered in the 1840s, SAD was not officially recognized as a disorder until the early 1980s, when Dr. Norman Rosenthal coined the term and categorized it as a form of clinical depression. We now know that SAD affects at least 5% of Americans; is more likely to affect women than men, those with other forms of depression or family members with the condition; and is far more common in northern regions, due to reduced natural sunlight. New research has advanced several theories as to why some people develop SAD, including: sluggish transmission of serotonin (which helps regulate mood and the body’s circadian rhythms; reduced sensitivity of the eyes to environmental light; a combination of these factors; or other reasons yet to be uncovered).

Increased understanding of what triggers SAD and its impact on mental health has inspired a growing number of clinical treatments that can effectively neutralize its effects.

Chief among them:

Healing light.

Sitting in front of a bright light box for 30 to 45 minutes daily has been a treatment of choice for more than three decades, helping SAD patients with either 10,000 lux of white fluorescent or full spectrum light that shines 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor illumination. Dawn simulation, another form of light therapy, begins in early morning before patients awake by emitting a low level of light that gradually increases over 30 to 90 minutes to recommended room light level (approximately 250 lux). Enhancing indoor lighting with regular lamps and fixtures is also recommended).

Talk therapy.

Newer studies from the University of Vermont suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a psychological treatment aimed at providing patients with tools to change negative thoughts and behaviors, may be as effective as light therapy for treating SAD. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), CBT adapted for SAD focuses on behavioral activation, helping SAD sufferers identify and engage in enjoyable seasonal activities to combat the ennui and fatigue they typically experience in winter.

Sleep hygiene.

Creating a consistent light-dark, sleep-wake cycle is important for SAD patients, who often experience hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) and insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep).
Antidepressant medications. Because SAD is associated with disturbances in serotonin activity, antidepressant medications have been effectively used to treat symptoms.
Active days. Keep moving with daily walks outside, even on cloudy days, and aerobic exercise. Both can help alleviate symptoms of SAD.

Winterize your mental health

Be proactive in safeguarding your mental wellness over the coming months. Most importantly, know the symptoms of SAD and call our office for help if you’re experiencing:

  • Diminished interest in things that were once enjoyable
  • Low energy or overwhelming fatigue
  • Difficulty with concentration or focus
  • Worthless or helpless feeling
  • Sleep issues: too much sleep, or not enough
  • Changes in appetite or weight; increases in carbohydrate and sugar cravings
  • Agitation

Experts advise those who’ve previously experienced episodes of seasonal depression to try to get in front of it this year. Call our office for guidance regarding medications or CBT sessions. For many, reprogramming their mindset can help restore proper circadian rhythms and eliminate the psychological dread of winter. Try enrolling in an online class, taking up a new hobby or creating a new routine to optimize daylight exposure. Or keep it even simpler. As Dr. Rosenthal recently told the New York Times, “A 20-minute early morning walk in the sun can be as good as commercial light therapy.”

 
 

The post Pandemic Stress Likely Compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

Start 2021 off Right by Sticking to your Winter Exercise Plan

A Winter Workout Routine Will Prepare You For Life After COVID 

Exercise will reduce pain, improve function and mobility, lower blood pressure and blood sugar,  decrease risk of chronic illness and death from heart disease and many forms of cancer,  enhance mood and focus, and may even help reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.

Despite those compelling benefits, only 5% of us stick to an exercise regimen. With months of  staying close to home base ahead, we asked national exercise expert Dr. Josh D’Angelo, PT, of MovementX to help us beat the odds and emerge from our winter cocoons fitter, stronger and  more limber than before.

“Recent research has shown that even a little bit of exercise and movement is beneficial in  improving your movement, health and life,” says Dr. D’Angelo. “We start with a focus on  functional strength training exercises because it provides the best protection against future  injury and helps with everything from mobility to balance. To maximize your gains, we  encourage supplementing with 15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking briskly,  riding a stationary bike, dancing … or anything that gets you moving and you enjoy! And  remember, every little bit of movement helps.”

Following are some ways to get started, from MovementX’s “AgeProof Your Body” program:

Work toward repeating three complete sets of these fundamental exercises: squats, pushups  and abdominal strengthening for your core. Start with 5-8 repetitions each, and build weekly.  Rest, repeat.

  • Squats. Focusing on lower body and core strength, this is one of the most functional  activities and will also get your heart rate going. Proper mechanics are important.
    • Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart.
    • Slowly bend knees and drop your hips backward to sit in chair. Rise and repeat.
    • Pro Tip: Push energy down in your heels and into the midfoot – you should be  able to wiggle your toes, and you should not feel discomfort in your knees or  back.
    • Advanced: Add load (dumbbells or household objects) or vary your speed as your  strength and endurance improve. Adding repetitions can also increase the  challenge
  • Pushups. These are challenging, but start with this beginner position and perform 5-8 repetitions until you can advance to a lower position and more reps.
    • Start by standing 18-24 inches away from a wall. Extend your arms and place  your hands on the wall, shoulder width apart. Lean toward the wall, keeping  your arms straight
    • Bend your elbows, allowing your body to come closer to the wall – let your chest  lead, and keep your body straight.
    • Push away. You should feel this in your chest, shoulders and core.
    • Advanced: How low can you go? As you progress with the wall pushup, start  with your feet farther away from the wall. Even lower? Position your hands on a  sturdy chair for a lower incline. Lower? Go to the floor on your mat, starting with  your knees set on the floor. The lowest is going for the full pushup position with  only your hands and toes touching the floor.
  • Abdominals Series. Core strength is key to developing functional fitness that helps  prevent injuries, reduce back pain and make your daily activities easier to accomplish.
    • Setup: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on floor, and arms by your sides.  Your lower back should not be arched at all during this exercise; push it down  into the floor to tighten abs.
    • Slowly bring knees up toward your chest as you bend your elbows to let your  hands meet your knees (at the edge of the thigh).
    • Push your hands into your thigh just where it meets your knee, pressing your  hands up and toward the ceiling. Continue to do this for 20 seconds. Make sure  to breathe! Work your way up to holding for 30 seconds.

The post Start 2021 off Right by Sticking to your Winter Exercise Plan appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

New Year’s Resolutions Are So 2020!

What are your 2021 Anti-Resolutions?

Year after year, the pattern rarely varies. Resolutions made, promptly followed by resolutions broken. The odds of sticking to New Year’s resolutions are, in fact, completely stacked against us, as research shows a paltry success rate of between 10 and 20%. But since the challenges of 2020 have reconfigured every aspect of daily living, 2021 may be the ideal time to reset this ritual as well. Perhaps it’s time we consider this upcoming new year, the year of the anti-resolution for dieting, exercising, eating healthier and managing stress.

We’ve asked therapists steeped in mindful eating, body positivity and resilient thinking to help reframe this perennial wish list. There are no checklists to mark off or milestones to meet, just inspiration to view yourself and the world around you through a new lens.

Instead of Dieting in 2021… Consider being more mindful about what you eat.

Replace the resolve to lose weight on a diet with a shift to mindful eating. “Keep in mind that while all diets work in the short run, there’s not a single plan that has long-term results for the majority of participants, and that’s why people make the same resolution every year,” says Judith Matz, nationally recognized speaker, therapist and co-author of The Diet Survivor’s Handbook and Beyond a Shadow of a Diet. “The deprivation that comes from dieting often leads to overeating or bingeing, setting into motion an endless cycle of frustration.”

Instead, learn to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, and choose from a wide variety of foods, including healthful ones.

Matz describes the essence of the process. “First, learn to recognize when you are just beginning to feel hungry. If you have a headache, are crabby, irritable, fatigued and low on energy, you’ve waited too long and are much more likely to overeat as a result.”

Next, think about what food would make you feel satisfied. “Sometimes a fresh apple or a raw carrot is exactly what you want, and at other times you might want ice cream or a bowl of pasta. Depriving yourself of foods you love can be counterproductive – there’s room for all types of food,” she says.
For patients with specific medical issues, such as high cholesterol, Matz notes that adjustments can easily be made while still respecting the process: a craving for ice cream can be met with a sorbet instead.

Finally, trust your body to let you know when to stop eating. While that may sound simple, Matz counsels patience, especially for chronic dieters. “It can take time to tune in to your natural cues for both hunger and satiety.”

The key is to stop having rules around food and to really listen to your body. “Ultimately it’s about having a healthy relationship with food rather than focusing solely on eating so-called healthful foods,” she says.

Moving from body image to body appreciation.

An equally important shift is changing the desire for a new body size to a genuine appreciation of the body you have. Matz defines this as “body positivity, relating to your body with acceptance and respect rather than self-criticism and shame.” It means rejecting ingrained cultural messages related to body embarrassment and weight stigma and replacing them with ones that reflect inclusiveness and self-compassion. It encourages taking pleasure in natural body changes throughout your life cycle and not putting off anything you might enjoy doing because you’re not the “perfect” size or shape.

Body positivity also empowers you to view exercise positively rather than as punishment for having the wrong body. “Unhook exercise from weight, and focus on choosing exercise for endurance, strength, flexibility, stress reduction, health, social connection or just the simple pleasure of moving your body,” advises Matz.

Finally, refrain from focusing on weight loss praise, which reinforces the mistaken belief that you can’t be happy, healthy and successful unless you’re a certain body size, says Matz.
“Consider that body positivity is a gift we can give to support family, friends and, most notably, the next generation.”

Find joy in what you do and who you surround yourself with to reduce stress.

Resolving to manage stress effectively is an oft-expressed but infrequently realized New Year’s wish. But it can be triggered by one pivotal question, says influential family therapist Debbie Gross, who asks it at every session with a new client: “What brings you joy?”

She explains, “It’s transformational in terms of moving out of the survival mode many experienced last year, and into thriving mode. When people are in crisis, they become overwhelmed by the thought that no one will meet their needs. Their only goal is to focus on how to get through this moment; their attitude is ‘If I don’t take care of me, who will?’”

To stop the “anxiety spiral” in the brain, Gross recommends the “5, 4, 3” grounding exercise for staying in the present: “Focus on five things you can see, four things you can hear and three things you can feel, either physically or emotionally.”

And while it’s all too easy to devolve into perpetual doom and gloom against a backdrop of unceasing anxiety, Gross says we have a choice – Eeyore or Tigger?
“We can wake up each day just waiting for the next problem to come our way, or we can look at the world with more of a ‘beginner mind’ that recognizes small, everyday miracles,” she says. “It takes real work for some to switch the channel in their brain to that mindset, but the difference it makes is astounding.”

The post New Year’s Resolutions Are So 2020! appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

Pandemic Stress Likely Compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder

Experts Expect Record Numbers of Seasonal Affective Disorder Diagnoses in 2021

As we continue to weather the storm of COVID-19, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is also on our radar. More subtle than an arctic blast, SAD is just as real, with just as much potential to have a chilling effect on our mood, productivity and wellness. Unfortunately, the emotional stress and fear that come with a global pandemic create an ideal climate for SAD this winter. Not surprisingly, mental health experts are expecting to diagnose and treat more cases of SAD in 2021 than ever before.

First discovered in the 1840s, SAD was not officially recognized as a disorder until the early 1980s, when Dr. Norman Rosenthal coined the term and categorized it as a form of clinical depression. We now know that SAD affects at least 5% of Americans; is more likely to affect women than men, those with other forms of depression or family members with the condition; and is far more common in northern regions, due to reduced natural sunlight. New research has advanced several theories as to why some people develop SAD, including: sluggish transmission of serotonin (which helps regulate mood and the body’s circadian rhythms; reduced sensitivity of the eyes to environmental light; a combination of these factors; or other reasons yet to be uncovered).

Increased understanding of what triggers SAD and its impact on mental health has inspired a growing number of clinical treatments that can effectively neutralize its effects.

Chief among them:

Healing light.

Sitting in front of a bright light box for 30 to 45 minutes daily has been a treatment of choice for more than three decades, helping SAD patients with either 10,000 lux of white fluorescent or full spectrum light that shines 20 times brighter than ordinary indoor illumination. Dawn simulation, another form of light therapy, begins in early morning before patients awake by emitting a low level of light that gradually increases over 30 to 90 minutes to recommended room light level (approximately 250 lux). Enhancing indoor lighting with regular lamps and fixtures is also recommended).

Talk therapy.

Newer studies from the University of Vermont suggest that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a psychological treatment aimed at providing patients with tools to change negative thoughts and behaviors, may be as effective as light therapy for treating SAD. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), CBT adapted for SAD focuses on behavioral activation, helping SAD sufferers identify and engage in enjoyable seasonal activities to combat the ennui and fatigue they typically experience in winter.

Sleep hygiene.

Creating a consistent light-dark, sleep-wake cycle is important for SAD patients, who often experience hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) and insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep).
Antidepressant medications. Because SAD is associated with disturbances in serotonin activity, antidepressant medications have been effectively used to treat symptoms.
Active days. Keep moving with daily walks outside, even on cloudy days, and aerobic exercise. Both can help alleviate symptoms of SAD.

Winterize your mental health

Be proactive in safeguarding your mental wellness over the coming months. Most importantly, know the symptoms of SAD and call our office for help if you’re experiencing:

  • Diminished interest in things that were once enjoyable
  • Low energy or overwhelming fatigue
  • Difficulty with concentration or focus
  • Worthless or helpless feeling
  • Sleep issues: too much sleep, or not enough
  • Changes in appetite or weight; increases in carbohydrate and sugar cravings
  • Agitation

Experts advise those who’ve previously experienced episodes of seasonal depression to try to get in front of it this year. Call our office for guidance regarding medications or CBT sessions. For many, reprogramming their mindset can help restore proper circadian rhythms and eliminate the psychological dread of winter. Try enrolling in an online class, taking up a new hobby or creating a new routine to optimize daylight exposure. Or keep it even simpler. As Dr. Rosenthal recently told the New York Times, “A 20-minute early morning walk in the sun can be as good as commercial light therapy.”

 
 

The post Pandemic Stress Likely Compounded by Seasonal Affective Disorder appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

Start 2021 off Right by Sticking to your Winter Exercise Plan

A Winter Workout Routine Will Prepare You For Life After COVID 

Exercise will reduce pain, improve function and mobility, lower blood pressure and blood sugar,  decrease risk of chronic illness and death from heart disease and many forms of cancer,  enhance mood and focus, and may even help reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.

Despite those compelling benefits, only 5% of us stick to an exercise regimen. With months of  staying close to home base ahead, we asked national exercise expert Dr. Josh D’Angelo, PT, of MovementX to help us beat the odds and emerge from our winter cocoons fitter, stronger and  more limber than before.

“Recent research has shown that even a little bit of exercise and movement is beneficial in  improving your movement, health and life,” says Dr. D’Angelo. “We start with a focus on  functional strength training exercises because it provides the best protection against future  injury and helps with everything from mobility to balance. To maximize your gains, we  encourage supplementing with 15-20 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking briskly,  riding a stationary bike, dancing … or anything that gets you moving and you enjoy! And  remember, every little bit of movement helps.”

Following are some ways to get started, from MovementX’s “AgeProof Your Body” program:

Work toward repeating three complete sets of these fundamental exercises: squats, pushups  and abdominal strengthening for your core. Start with 5-8 repetitions each, and build weekly.  Rest, repeat.

  • Squats. Focusing on lower body and core strength, this is one of the most functional  activities and will also get your heart rate going. Proper mechanics are important.
    • Stand up straight, feet shoulder width apart.
    • Slowly bend knees and drop your hips backward to sit in chair. Rise and repeat.
    • Pro Tip: Push energy down in your heels and into the midfoot – you should be  able to wiggle your toes, and you should not feel discomfort in your knees or  back.
    • Advanced: Add load (dumbbells or household objects) or vary your speed as your  strength and endurance improve. Adding repetitions can also increase the  challenge
  • Pushups. These are challenging, but start with this beginner position and perform 5-8 repetitions until you can advance to a lower position and more reps.
    • Start by standing 18-24 inches away from a wall. Extend your arms and place  your hands on the wall, shoulder width apart. Lean toward the wall, keeping  your arms straight
    • Bend your elbows, allowing your body to come closer to the wall – let your chest  lead, and keep your body straight.
    • Push away. You should feel this in your chest, shoulders and core.
    • Advanced: How low can you go? As you progress with the wall pushup, start  with your feet farther away from the wall. Even lower? Position your hands on a  sturdy chair for a lower incline. Lower? Go to the floor on your mat, starting with  your knees set on the floor. The lowest is going for the full pushup position with  only your hands and toes touching the floor.
  • Abdominals Series. Core strength is key to developing functional fitness that helps  prevent injuries, reduce back pain and make your daily activities easier to accomplish.
    • Setup: Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on floor, and arms by your sides.  Your lower back should not be arched at all during this exercise; push it down  into the floor to tighten abs.
    • Slowly bring knees up toward your chest as you bend your elbows to let your  hands meet your knees (at the edge of the thigh).
    • Push your hands into your thigh just where it meets your knee, pressing your  hands up and toward the ceiling. Continue to do this for 20 seconds. Make sure  to breathe! Work your way up to holding for 30 seconds.

The post Start 2021 off Right by Sticking to your Winter Exercise Plan appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation

Finding Peace Through Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindful, compassionate, serene, happy: emotions that have been in short supply during the pandemic but can be beautifully restored to those who embrace the chance to learn the time- honored practice and art of meditation. For many, it is as easy as downloading the Headspace app on their smartphone, receiving a seamless introduction to a technique the company describes as “rooted both in ancient history and modern science.”

There’s an App For That

Meditation has been practiced for over 3,000 years, and its benefits, improving well-being, helping eliminate insomnia, enhancing focus, decreasing stress, and reducing blood pressure, among many others, have been studied for decades.

But the real democratization of meditation may have been ushered in by the proliferation of apps like Calm, Buddhify, Insight Timer and Simple Habit. Since its 2010 debut, global leader Headspace has been downloaded more than 65 million times, a number that has steadily risen during the coronavirus crisis.

Dr. Megan Jones Bell, the company’s chief science officer, reports a tenfold increase in those starting the “stressed” meditation and a twelvefold increase in “reframing anxiety at home” users from mid-March to mid-May of 2020.

Getting Started

First, choose a time to meditate, and consistently make it part of your daily routine. Find an uncluttered, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Make yourself comfortable in a chair or on the floor with a pillow behind you, close your eyes and allow yourself to let go. It’s natural to wonder, “Am I doing this right?” The experts at Headspace offer some gentle guidance:

  • If your body is fidgeting or your mind keeps constantly chatting, you may want to walk away from the feeling. Instead of giving up, just write off the first few minutes and give your mind time to slow down. It’s not time wasted, but time spent training the mind.
  • Dozing off occasionally during the first few weeks of meditation is normal. If it keeps happening, try a different time of day, sit up a little straighter or splash a little cold water on your face before you meditate.
  • You may feel all sorts of unpleasant emotions, such as impatience, irritation and rage. Don’t suppress them, but give them the space to arise, unravel and ultimately fall away. Do the same if you’re fixated on a particular worrisome thought, or if you’re experiencing sadness. Acknowledge the feeling, even shed a few tears, and keep meditating.
  • If you find yourself planning incessantly in a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a sound.
  • Find the sweet spot between pushing yourself too hard and not applying enough focus. You may have a certain idea of what meditation should be, but it’s important to get out of your own way and give the experience room to breathe.

More Than One Way to Meditate

More than a dozen different types of meditation are taught, including:

  • Guided: Form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
  • Mantra: Silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness: An increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment; observe thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgement.
  • Calming: Cultivate a quieter, more peaceful state of mind and improved concentration.
  • Insight: Set an intention to develop qualities such as wisdom and compassion.
  • Body scan: Sync body and mind by performing a mental scan and paying attention to any discomfort or tensions.
  • Visualization: Focus on a mental image.
  • Loving kindness: Direct positive energy and goodwill to yourself and then to others.
  • Resting awareness: Let thoughts simply drift away.
  • Zen: Focus on following the breath to foster a sense of presence.
  • Chakra: Bring the body’s core centers of energy into balance.

The post Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.

Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation

Finding Peace Through Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindful, compassionate, serene, happy: emotions that have been in short supply during the pandemic but can be beautifully restored to those who embrace the chance to learn the time- honored practice and art of meditation. For many, it is as easy as downloading the Headspace app on their smartphone, receiving a seamless introduction to a technique the company describes as “rooted both in ancient history and modern science.”

There’s an App For That

Meditation has been practiced for over 3,000 years, and its benefits, improving well-being, helping eliminate insomnia, enhancing focus, decreasing stress, and reducing blood pressure, among many others, have been studied for decades.

But the real democratization of meditation may have been ushered in by the proliferation of apps like Calm, Buddhify, Insight Timer and Simple Habit. Since its 2010 debut, global leader Headspace has been downloaded more than 65 million times, a number that has steadily risen during the coronavirus crisis.

Dr. Megan Jones Bell, the company’s chief science officer, reports a tenfold increase in those starting the “stressed” meditation and a twelvefold increase in “reframing anxiety at home” users from mid-March to mid-May of 2020.

Getting Started

First, choose a time to meditate, and consistently make it part of your daily routine. Find an uncluttered, quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed. Make yourself comfortable in a chair or on the floor with a pillow behind you, close your eyes and allow yourself to let go. It’s natural to wonder, “Am I doing this right?” The experts at Headspace offer some gentle guidance:

  • If your body is fidgeting or your mind keeps constantly chatting, you may want to walk away from the feeling. Instead of giving up, just write off the first few minutes and give your mind time to slow down. It’s not time wasted, but time spent training the mind.
  • Dozing off occasionally during the first few weeks of meditation is normal. If it keeps happening, try a different time of day, sit up a little straighter or splash a little cold water on your face before you meditate.
  • You may feel all sorts of unpleasant emotions, such as impatience, irritation and rage. Don’t suppress them, but give them the space to arise, unravel and ultimately fall away. Do the same if you’re fixated on a particular worrisome thought, or if you’re experiencing sadness. Acknowledge the feeling, even shed a few tears, and keep meditating.
  • If you find yourself planning incessantly in a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a way that is unproductive and unhealthy, let those thoughts go and come back to your focus – a breath, an image, a sound.
  • Find the sweet spot between pushing yourself too hard and not applying enough focus. You may have a certain idea of what meditation should be, but it’s important to get out of your own way and give the experience room to breathe.

More Than One Way to Meditate

More than a dozen different types of meditation are taught, including:

  • Guided: Form mental images of places or situations you find relaxing.
  • Mantra: Silently repeat a calming word, thought or phrase to prevent distracting thoughts.
  • Mindfulness: An increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment; observe thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgement.
  • Calming: Cultivate a quieter, more peaceful state of mind and improved concentration.
  • Insight: Set an intention to develop qualities such as wisdom and compassion.
  • Body scan: Sync body and mind by performing a mental scan and paying attention to any discomfort or tensions.
  • Visualization: Focus on a mental image.
  • Loving kindness: Direct positive energy and goodwill to yourself and then to others.
  • Resting awareness: Let thoughts simply drift away.
  • Zen: Focus on following the breath to foster a sense of presence.
  • Chakra: Bring the body’s core centers of energy into balance.

The post Let It Go: The Ancient Art of Meditation appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants.