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Part 1: Finding the Balance

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With daily topics like global warming, political strife and natural disasters it takes a serious effort for anyone to find peace and inner quiet today. For young people who have grown up in the era of media and technology infiltrating many aspects of their lives, anxiety is commonly an everyday feeling.

Historically, I worked with teens and young adults for issues like acne, headaches, growing pains, hormone balance and eating disorders. Today, every single teen and young adult I know complains of anxiety as a primary challenge. Often with this comes the classic swing of the pendulum of struggling with depression as well.   According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 25% of teens have diagnosable anxiety disorders. This is a significant increase from previous generations and does not include low grade anxiety or social anxiety, which are even more common.

What ever happened to carefree childhoods and wanting to stay forever young? Nowadays it seems the urgency to grow up to better cope with the apocalyptic dilemma’s that circulate everyday life robs our youth of the freedom to explore their hearts desire and contributes to an all too common emotional instability.

It is not all external factors either. The more we learn about brain development and neurological balance, the more we recognize increasing challenges with the pathways in our brain that reduce neurological stimulation. There are numerous substances we consume or are exposed to that provoke brain excitability that can cause an anxious feeling to linger a lot longer than it should. Some people being far more vulnerable to these than others.

Now more than ever, we all need help finding ways to access our peaceful, joyous selves. We need something that will bring us out of the flurry of worries, fears and anticipations and into a calm present moment. Tools we can use for momentary stressful events that provoke anxiety as well as routines we can establish in our lives to cultivate our happiness.

Integrative medicine provides a unique lens to address mental health concerns. Utilizing tools from standard, allopathic healthcare in addition to traditional systems from around the world offering a diverse approach to balance health. The first goal of understanding the symptom is to identify the cause. This is the key to providing immediate relief and long term changes. Both physical exam diagnostic tools and lab testing can help reveal which organs of the body may be experiencing distress to contribute to feelings of uneasiness. For young people this is especially important so that interventions are supporting the long term health as the body grows.

Stay tuned as this 4 part series addresses youth anxiety and is intended to provide a resource for the community to discover new ways to find a peaceful center while moving through the chaos of the modern world.

If you or someone you love are struggling with anxiety and/or depression, get help today with integrative medicine. At Stillwater, we encourage the combination of psychotherapy and natural medicine tools as well as collaboration with western medical providers for pharmaceutical support as needed. Our goal is to make use of the best of all systems of healing to get patients the balanced care they need for today, as well as for a healthier future.

 

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It’s a perfect day when you wake up naturally without an alarm or anyone screaming at you.  To arise fully rested and rather than feel hit by a mound of responsibilities the day has for you, stretch your arms leisurely and yawn.  Pondering with a gentle inquisition, “hmmm, what do I feel like doing today?”  When fresh vital foods are all that you crave so you make yourself a gorgeous meal to start your day.

It’s a perfect day when you find vigorous exercise is a welcome and natural component of the day’s rhythm.  When you feel creative, successful and spend more time laughing than crying.  And when you allow your energy to naturally flux, enjoying when it’s high and resting when it dips.

Wouldn’t it be great if every day were perfect.  Instead, we deal with the imperfections of life and do our best.  Juggling schedules, deadlines, desires, responsibilities and more.  We accommodate and we compromise.  We settle for a quick easy meal.  We skimp on sleep.  Some reach for substances to give an extra push to the days flow and over time, find it essential.

Any day can be a perfect day.  No matter what we juggle, we can (almost) always make the choice to prioritize our needs and peace of mind.  It will certainly look different from one person to the next on what makes a perfect day.  Sustainably respecting the body’s needs is #1.  If you’re caught in a cycle of using substances to boost your energy, here are some things to consider: 

The most common vices:

–       Caffeine:  A favorite across the world. This substance has a phenomenal ability to quicken the brain, sharpen the senses and lift the mood.  While daily use limits the perception of its impact, dramatic variation in dosage makes it quite clear.  While this substance has usefulness in moderation, its daily use can be detrimental exhausting adrenal function.  Accelerated aging, increased acidity and inflammation can result.

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Alternates:  Get more sleep!  If you love the flavor, stick with Organic Decaf coffee.  Swiss water processing provides a non-toxic flavorful alternative that minimizes the negative impact to the body.  Use a form of creamer and drink it only with a full stomach and it might even be good for you.  If you love the ritual enjoy herbal tonic formulas instead!  Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, Maca root and many others may be just right for you.  Come to Stillwater to learn more.

–       Sugar:  Refined sugar has no beneficial quality to the human body.  It is more a toxin than a food and yet it has permeated our food supply so thoroughly that it takes significant effort to avoid it 100%.  Humans are biologically engineered to have a powerful affinity to this substance.  As our bodies break down complex molecules into simple sugars as food for the cells, the refined version enters so rapidly it creates detrimental effects through gylcosylation.  The diabetic process of tissue deterioration leading to blindness, dementia and amputation are harsh and vivid realities.

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Alternates:  When craving sugar between meals, your body likely needs protein or fat to provide long-lasting fuel.  When craving sugar after meals, your body likely needs digestive support.  Try a digestive enzyme instead.  When craving sugar for emotional comfort, you likely need to get more hugs.  Put on the sign that says “Free Hugs” and go visit a big city or music festival.

–       Alcohol:  Used across cultures as far as human history tracks, we as a species have an intimate history with alcohol.  Alcohol is a by-product of the natural biological process of fermentation.  As with all things, dosage is everything.  When fermented vegetables produce alcohol and a jar of pickles from the autumn is eaten in late spring, everyone feels happy.  Yet somehow, when a fifth of refined liquor is consumed, people die.  The toxic shock of direct alcohol to cells is no doubt harmful.  Dulls reactions, deadens the senses and liberates the soul from the body.

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Alternates:  The fermented bubbly drinks can have advantages, when they’re alcohol minimal.  Try home-made water kefir or dairy if it suits you.  Kombucha, Beet Kavas, Jun and more.  Every traditional diet has some form of fermented beverage, capturing the vital probiotic cultures in a variety of interesting flavors.  When you’re stuck in a cycle of routine alcohol use, your body likely needs increased exercise and hydration.

Substance Use:  This list goes on and on.  Everyone has a variety of favorites and nothing in excess supports the balance of health.  If you are troubled with addiction and substance use of any intensity, seek help.   If you are troubled by too many demands on yourself, seek help.  Mental health counseling, Naturopathic and Chinese medicine can be life-savers and game changers for how we juggle our life’s routines and needs.

Chemistry is amazing. We have so much to enjoy as a result of human innovation and the excess use of caffeine, sugar, alcohol and more.  Everyday people push themselves harder than is reasonable to accomplish a day’s work.  Yet, we are all subject to the basic principles of life.  The fact is, cells function better in a harmonious environment.  There are landscapes where life grows easy and thrives.  This too, is like the human body.

In pursuit of one perfect day after the next, know this; when there is low inflammation and a gentle alkaline environment cells replicate easy.  Muscles and tissues circulate fluidly and feel great.  When blood sugar is balanced by the strength of the will and pancreas, a steady stream of energy enters the cells.  This keeps cognition even and the emotions stable.  Not to mention preventing excess cellular damage and XYZ disease….  When the liver is free of excess toxins, it is better able to keep the body balanced.  It prevents all chronic diseases and supports a long, passionate life.  May you all be comfortable in your skin, happy in your life and peaceful in your spirit. 

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This article was published in the Lyons Recorder newspaper in response to the massive floods that destroyed the town in the fall of 2013…

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First there was the flood, then there were the decisions every person made to survive.  For most people, these were very different decisions than those made weeks and even days prior.  Instead of, “What should we have for dinner tonight,” it became “What is going to go bad the quickest that we need to eat first,” or “Where will I get my next meal?”

With the community bonding together, spirits were high, perhaps even manic.  The initial trauma of a natural disaster or other tragedy sends neurotransmitters and stress hormones sky-rocketing.  The experience becomes almost euphoric and provides the much needed additional resources (mentally, emotionally and physically) to sustain.

One by one the utilities went out, everyone was asked to leave.  Everyone experienced hardship of one kind or another; abruptly relocating to new homes, learning a new way to live and creating new routines.  The crisis continued to require everyone to rise to an unanticipated challenge and endure.

Then, the holidays came.  The season of joy, full of traditions deeply engrained and expectations to fulfill.  While some residents had returned to their homes, others were far from it and the switch to now celebrating holidays required a whole new energy burst to come through.  For some this was a relief, reconnecting with loved one’s and returning to faith.  However, the inevitable indulgences built into the holiday traditions flood the body with stimulating substances more likely to cause irritation than restoration.

For many residents of Lyons and the surrounding community, life has now settled into a new normal.  The stress is still elevated but it’s become routine and the expectation to tend to it all continues.  Despite the river’s worth of work to be done to restore this community, there is only so much anyone can do and eventually, something’s got to give.

Routine self-care is essential to maintaining health and longevity.  During times of life’s ease, simply sleeping 7-8 hours each night and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine can be adequat.  However, when faced with 5 months or more of unfathomable challenges, the body, mind and spirit are going to need a lot more care in order to maintain.

The normal, healthy balance of life is integrally related to the cortisol or circadian rhythm of the body.  In the morning, cortisol levels peak as we rise naturally to meet our day’s activity.  This cortisol peak works intimately with all the other neurotransmitters of the brain supporting the ability to think, learn, remember and feel good!  The normal cortisol rhythm naturally drops through the day, elevates slightly after our midday meal and descends gently into the evening.

Cortisol also shares a very close relationship with our reproductive hormones and thyroid gland influencing all aspects of metabolism.  When we experience stress, the body adjusts by elevating cortisol in order to respond.  However, this is meant to be a brief change, not something that continues long term.  With stress, eventually cortisol levels drop, unable to rise to meet the challenge of the day and overall metabolism begins to fail.

Symptoms of chronic stress include:

  • Weight Gain
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep or maintaining sleep)
  • Poor digestion & nutrient assimilation
  • Memory loss
  • Decreased immune function – more frequent colds or increasing allergies
  • Fatigue
  • Increased inflammation
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Slower reflex time, poor balance and clumsiness
  • Irrational behavior
  • Progression of chronic disease

Managing stress is one of the biggest challenges to health in our modern lives.  As a very intellectually oriented society, the needs of the body are easy to overlook.  We compensate with any of the readily available stimulants and press on through our days.  Eventually this inevitably catches up with us.

We’re not going to be able to avoid the stress in our lives, especially in Lyons.  But, we can counteract the challenges with stress-relieving tools.  Learning to care for our energy resevoir through lifestyle changes when we are under stress is key.  Using direct acting nervous system support is invaluable.

At Stillwater Healing Arts Clinic we have a wide array of tools both to assess and care for long lasting health.  Taking from traditions around the world, we utilize the best that medicine has to offer in conjunction with standard medical care.  We are now offering a unique opportunity for routine, affordable healthcare with our greatly reduced rates bundled in our Membership Program.  Please visit www.stillwaterhealingarts.com to learn more today!

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