Thursday, December 31, 2009

Loneliness and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about loneliness and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Well folks, here it is, the last day of my Holiday Blues posts and the last day of the year. And today I turn to loneliness and the part it plays in the blues.

First, let me clarify that loneliness isn't necessarily associate with being alone. Many people are perfectly happy spending some time alone. Some of us even prefer it. That will primarily depend on where your temprament falls on the introvert-extrovert continuum.

Loneliness, however, is a sense of feeling alone, separated, and can occur even when among friends or in very crowded places. So what's the remedy for that? My thought go like this: you can't necessarily simply get out and amongst people as a rememdy, for reasons explained in the previous statement; you have to go where the problem is...inside you. What are your thoughts and feelings about being alone? Until you improve your perspective on this, you will experience loneliness.

One misconception that occurs in loneliness is the feeling/belief that you are outside the norm. Loneliness/depression group meetings can help you set that straight; there are many others in the same boat. Such groups can also help you discover what works for others in you situation, so that you can give new solutions a try.

Other misconstrued feelings and beliefs can include guilt, low self-esteem, fear, and disappointment. Each of these has its own roots, which, when discovered, can lead to a natural remedy: more accurate beliefs. If you watched any episodes of "How to Look Good Naked" (which never actually showed any nudity - follow the link to watch an episode) you'll have seen how most people set themselves a notch or two below the way others perceive them. In addition to glamming it up, a perspective shift helped raise each person's self-esteem and confidence. See if you can be a little kinder and more forgiving with yourself. Get help from friends or and/or self-help resources (some listed/linked below.)

New Year's Eve is the biggest "date night" of the year. Don't let being caught without one, or not being with the person of your dreams, get in the way of your being happy and having fun tonight. Invite your other single friends over for a casual New Year's Eve get-together. Don't drown your sorrows, have fun with your singleness! Celebrate it!

Or celebrate your aloneness alone, but celebrate it for goodness sake; wallowing in loneliness only leads to more of what you don't want! Fix yourself a lovely dinner, have a glass or two of wine or champagne (get a small bottle so you won't be tempted to drink it all!) if you like, watch the ball drop at Times Square, appreciate Dick Clark's positive attitude, tenacity and humor - as well as his ability to let go and let other carry part of the load! And be glad you aren't there among the crowds. It's cold, and the reality you rarely hear is you have to get there very early in the day, and public restrooms are not readily available! Sometimes staying at home, even home alone, is actually more pleasant than something that seems to be a lot of fun! (Clearly, it is fun, the place is packed every year, but I think you understand my point, don't you?)

OK, so get over the New Year's Eve blues, get outside yourself or enjoy yourself, whichever appeals to you most, and enjoy the celebration of ringing out the old and ringing in the new!


New Year's Eve Movie Lists:

14 rockin’ New Year’s Eve movies - at MSNBC

New Years Eve in the Movies - article about movies that uplift, and some that don't.

Top 5 New Year's Eve movies - St. Petersburg Times

Best New Year's Eve Movies - on comumnist Bill White's blog.


Lonliness Resources:

How to Deal With Loleliness - at WikiHow

Loneliness Affects How The Brain Operates - Science Daily article on loneliness as cause, effect, feedback loop, and studies of brain functioning.

The Dangers of Loneliness - Phychology Today article that explores human interaction and relationships as a fundamental need, and differentiates between occasional and chronic loneliness.


Just for Fun

Dave Barry Official Website - if you don't find a laugh there, get help!

I Can Has Cheezburger? - feline hilarity.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Laughter and The Holiday Blues



Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.


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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about laughter for depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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As Reader's Digest has been saying for years, "Laughter is the Best Medicine." You can't laugh and be sad at the same time. It's like trying to sneeze with your eyes open, somehow, the two just don't go together.

So when you see the holidays are coming up, prepare yourself. Prepare to laugh, that is! Look for the humor in every moment, even - and especially - the most frustrating and depressing. I speak from experience. In my teen years, long ago and far away, I clearly remember a moment when I was determinedly suicidal...until the realization occured to me that if I ended it all right then, my last meal would have been a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Which made me laugh, and want to put off such drama for a more auspicious moment; 40 years later that moment has not arrived.

On another occasion, I came to the rescue of a family member who had been brutally attacked. Seeing a borrowed article of my clothing which had been used as a gag--not funny--I pointed to it and said in mock seriousness, "That isn't my ____, is it?" Uproarously funny. An injection of humor which lifted the victim for a moment even in the midst of trauma. Ha ha, I turned a not funny gag into a funny gag! It helps to have a wacky sense of humor and to know what others will appreciate.

I got it my sense of humor from my Dad. In 1979 he was terminally ill and had a visit from a couple of people he'd been very close to but hadn't seen for quite a while: his sister and his best friend. As they laughed and reminisced, having an uproarously good time, I remember him joking, "Well have to get together again the next time I'm dying of cancer!"

So, maybe humor is in your genes, maybe not. Or maybe you're just not feeling humorous at the moment. Fortunately, there are lots of other souces of humor: books, movies, TV. Find what suits you best, makes you feel good, lifts you out of your mood. Perhaps devote an area to a humor collection: books, CDs of humorous books or comedy routines, DVDs of your most favorite funny movies. Even fun activities: a jump rope, a box of tiddly winks. Go there when you're feeling down. Pick something to lift you back up. It just might be the most important holiday preparation you can make!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Present and The Holiday Blues



Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.


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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about living in the present moment and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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The present. It isn't just something you unwrap on birthdays and holidays. It's the greatest gift of all. Now. Right now.

So what, you may wonder, does the present have to do with depression. Well, a lot, especially if you aren't truly in it! If you fill your present moments rehashing sadnesses from the past or feeling anxieties about the future, you're totally missing the present!

Consider this. Stop actively thinking about the past and/or future and focus on the present. Where are you now, what's happening this very second? You're reading what I'm writing. Do you have background dialogue running in your head? Turn it off, for goodness sake, you can't be in the present if you're distracted. Stop. Focus. Guide your awareness to the sensations you are feeling at this moment.

(A word of caution, if you are seriously depressed at this moment, do not do this exercise; if you're going to do it anyway despite my warning, do not do it unsupervised!)

Close your eyes and allow yourself to stay focused on the present moment, how you're feeling right now. Become aware of it and stay focused on it. Allow it to slowly lead to a deeper level of understanding, release, dissipation. Stay focused on your present feelings as they unfold. It's like peeling the layers of an onion. You are simply observing here, not directing or anticipating, not trying to figure anything out. This is essential for the process to work. Just stay focused and let the work do itself.

Stay gently focused on the present internal moment until you feel a sense of peace returning to you. When you're ready, open your eyes and face the present external world refreshed and renewed, having released some of the burden you've been carrying. Lightening your load in this way is a bit of mental/emotional housecleaning that can leave you feeling more at ease with yourself and your world. And that's my gift to you today.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Television and The Holiday Blues, pt. 2


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.


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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about news and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Yesterday I wrote about TV and the holiday blues. That led me to thinking about the most depressing thing on TV these days: the news. Call it slanted journalism, whatever network you watch it on, because these days it is. Whichever side of the fence your thinking resides on doesn't matter, this isn't about politics, it's about business: the business of selling news.

Today's business of selling news requires a certain amount of sensationalism. It dramatizes the news. It's in what is chosen to present to the viewers. And you can often hear it in people's tones of voice. Wolf Blitzer comes to mind: hard-hitting and arrogant. I don't need the world punched at me that way, thank you very much, click, change the channel. All kudos to Anderson Cooper for his heartfelt news presentation; Aaron Brown, you are missed!!!

Well, you can tell which news channel I favor, and which flavor of news I favor. Your taste may differ, both politically and tempramentally, but the same principles apply: watch the newscasters you are most comfortable with, and don't let them bias your news to the point of making you feel depressed. If they do, we recommend the same remedies we gave yesterday: change the channel or turn off the TV.

For years I didn't watch the news or read newspapers. You know how I keep in touch with important events? David Letterman! Why not get the evening news with a humor slant? Those opening monologues focus on the big news of the day, and the guest interviews often have some current events discussion, too. If you want to find out more about something, you can, without being overdosed by all the world's troubles, which for the most part have nothing whatsoever to do with your life. (A bit of my buddist-ish beliefs poking throught there.)

There are also online sources that present the news more calmly and moderately, such as The Christian Science Monitor, which in spite of its name is not actually a religious publication. For a broader perspective on US and world news than you'd get "at home" visit BBC News. And for a sarcastic, sometimes over the top slant, you can't beat The Onion. When the news gets ya down, they'll put in in perspective for ya.

Remember the saying, "No news is good news." So true, if it's depressing you. Make it your holiday motto, and enjoy happier, more positive holidays!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Television and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.


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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about television and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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During the holidays, we have traditions, some of which involve watching traditional holiday entertainment. But notice: is some of the holiday entertainment you watch on TV making you blue? Well, there are two simple remedies for that! Change the channel. Turn the TV off.

If you're already kinda worn out, and are watching TV because it's the simplest entertainment, the more likely choices are changing the channel and getting some needed sleep. So here's a suggestion: make yourself a cup of Sleeytime tea (Celestial Seasoning's herbal tea) and watch something uplifting. Something funny. Anything you don't find boring or depressing. The tea will help you move toward the sleep you need while you are entertained in a more positive way.

If you're watching TV in bed, set a timer to make it go off. Time it for the end of the show you are watching, so if you're still awake the show isn't suddenly get cut off. But don't leave it running while you sleep. Distressing, disturbing, even just annoying things may come on during your sleep, and your unconscious mind can pick up on them!

So watch what you watch, and sculpt your entertainment toward more positive emotional input. And have a happier holiday season!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Post-Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about post-holiday letdown and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Previously I talked about not overdoing it and simplification as ways to avoid resulting depression. Today I shift a little to a different aspect of the aftermath of a holiday, the letdown effect.

After all the fun and frivolity, the days, weeks and perhaps even months of preparations, suddenly there's nothing--no excitement, no guests, no planning. It may leave you feeling kind of empty! A little extra planning can remedy this situation.

Plan for this down-time by scheduling some much needed rest or quiet activity. Have a loved one serve you breakfast in bed, spend a day at a spa, or create your own mini-spa at home.

Your mini-spa can be as simple as a tub full of pleasantly scented water or bubblebath, some soft light--candlelight is nice--lovely music, a glass of wine, and a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door! After your relaxing soak, perhaps someone could give you a massage! If you got a "free massage" gift of service coupon from someone, now would be a good time to collect. (Remember to let them know of your plans in advance!)

If you don't want to be home alone, plan on visiting a friend, or meeting them for lunch or dinner at a favorite restaurant. That's sure to pick up your spirits. If your funds are limited, make this a gift request!

Or invite a friend over for dinner and a movie. Perhaps you can make this a gift for someone who could use a break and a post-holiday pick-me-up, and do yourself a favor as well! Limited funds can lead to all kinds of creativity and truly meaningful gifts!

Perhaps you have nobody available to share the day with. In that case, plan a nice dinner for yourself, get a hilarious movie (one that is really funny, not just one that says it is) and treat yourself to a good time. Maybe you can get your local library to plan a craft day for people such as yourself, with simple donated materials (old magazines, holiday and birthday cards, sewing scraps, buttons, whatever) and easy-to-do crafts for beginners.

Whatever seems good to you for the day after, it's helpful to plan ahead. Have a plan B in case plan A falls through. You could even make yourself a jar or box with slips of paper suggesting various fun activities. Then when you feel a bit at loose ends you don't have to think of what to do, just draw out a paper...and if you don't like that one at the moment, put it back and pick another!

Most of all, knowing the day after a big holiday or event can be anti-climactic may keep such a time from taking you for a ride on the downhill slope of the roller coaster of life. Redefine it as downtime, R&R, a time for quiet enjoyment. And enjoy the ride!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Simplification and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about simplification and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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As mentioned in previous posts on depression, overdoing it can lead to depression. So on this major holiday, prevent depression by keeping it simple. Visit one family for Thanksgiving, the other on Christmas, and switch next year. Minimize commotion by having just one person open a present at a time. This way each person can appreciate more fully what the others receive.

Bring in trash containers to hold the wrappings. Perhaps this could become part of your family's pre-Christmas ritual: preparing and decorating large paper grocery bags for use on the big day. Or just grab some bags and have each person--yes even little kids can do it--clean up as they unwrap.

Prepare for simplicity by having all gift givers focus on fewer, larger presents instead of numerous smaller ones. If funds are limited, pool resources or draw names and each person only gives a present to the person they have drawn, with a dollar limit placed on the purchase.

Another way to simplify gift giving is giving gifts of service, either through an organization such as SEVA, or personal gifts of service such as a coupon for a free massage, fixing dinner, washing the dog, whatever would be a treat for the recipient. Kids can make and give coupon books for free hugs and/or whatever chores they can do.

Have as much of the holiday meal prepared the day before as possible. Make a list and keep it for upcoming years so you don't have to think it all up again every time. Purchase premade food items if you have a good source and can afford it.

If you have small children, chances are you were you didn't get enough sleep. Perhaps a gift from a friend or relative could be taking the kids out for a couple of hours so you can rest after the holiday meal. Another friend or relative might enjoy giving you a free meal cleanup after enjoying your holiday meal with you. If you make the request in advance, it can be done quite gracefully, and may give someone with limited resources a way to give you a very meaningful gift!

If you have no family and aren't invited to share someone else's holiday (or don't want to accept such invitations) consider serving the holiday meal at a soup kitchen. It's an opportunity to feel useful, be with others, and appreciate what you have.

Alternatively, if you have no family nearby, invite other single friends and relatives over for a Christmas potluck. If coordinating the food so everyone doesn't show up with apple pie or cranberry sauce is too stressful for you, ask one of the invitees to perform this task, or suggest a category for each guest: main dish, vegetable, bread, or dessert. You provide the beverage or the main dish and tableware.

There are many ways to simplify the holidays. I've talked about Christmas, but the same goes for New Year's Eve celebrations. Have a pot luck. You provide the fireworks or other entertainment and any decorations. Guests provide the food and perhaps even the cleanup. Asking for volunteers ahead of time is a good idea, both for preparations and cleanup, and can relieve you of excess activity that may lead to depression afterwards.

So keep it simple, and keep yourself happy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Memories and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about memories and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Holiday time can bring on sadness if it makes you think of unhappy memories. Without changing the memories themselves, it is possible to reduce or remove the emotional component, or replace it with a happer emotional connection.

Perhaps you lost someone you love and are missing them at this time of year, or lost a loved one during the holidays. Maybe the holidays remind you of happier times, togetherness, financial freedom, better health. You can miss situations as much as people; either can give you a sense of loss.

In a way, it's all in your head. Your thoughts trigger emotions so quickly you may not notice they are the first step. Sadness may seem to hit you out of the blue. Stop. Rewind the tape. What were you thinking just before you got sad? Now what would you like instead? This bit of mental play, creative daydreaming, can give your mind and emotions a new pathway to follow, and the old trigger can automatically lead to a better emotional state.

Here's an example of the process, taken from a real life story. It was about a distressing event that happened to my daughter when she was about 8 years old. Not depression, but that doesn't really matter for illustrative purposes, the process is the same.

A cranky neighbor yelled at my daughter for leaning on her new car. She was just taking a peek through the window of the shiny new vehicle to see the inside. There were several other kids around, and after the loud and rude verbal chastisement, my daughter came to me quite upset.

After she told me what happened, I told her to visualise the neighbor, see her getting angrier and angrier, her head getting bigger and bigger - until it exploded, raining confetti everywhere. My daughter laughed. I asked her to describe the incident again, which she did without the emotional impact it had just minutes before. Yes, dramatic change can occur that quickly. It doesn't always, but it can. All your mind needs is a new choice, a new outcome. It doesn't matter that it is imagined, your mind will automatically pick the best choice.

To expand the explanation a bit, you first recall the triggering incident as fully as you can, in as many sensory modalities as possible: what you saw, heard, felt (emotional and/or touch), smelled, tasted. Focus on the sense that bothers you the most. If it's what you heard, then imagine the sound getting quieter, faster, slower, raise or lower the pitch, make it blank out in spots, play circus music behind it, hear the person speaking with a phony French accent, play the tape backwards(!) or whatever appeals to you.

Same with visual information: change the color, size, distance, rotate the image sideways (photoshop your memories!), make it darker, lighter, change a color image to black and white, make it get so small the picture disappears like the dot on an old (really old now!) TV when it's turned off. Or add something into the picture...Godzilla coming to your rescue, or you being big and your tormentor very small (with a squeaky voice!)

Similar changes can be made with the other senses. If you fell on a hard, rough sidewalk, imagine it was smooth as silk and soft as a cloud. See your self bounce and laugh. OK, by now you should have a good enough idea of this aspect of the procedure.

If it's a person you're missing--for example if your mother never got to meet your children--imagine you all together. Introduce your mother to your children. Maybe they can sing Christmas carols together. If it's just the person and you, imagine you are together now. Tell them what you would if they were really there, and listen to their response. Or just give them a hug. Whatever seems right, or whatever it is you truly desire and are missing.

Keep playing with ideas until you have the feeling you really want to have. If it feels better but not quite it yet, ask your inner self what else it is you want, and your inner self will probably provide not only the answer, but also a scenario to go with it. When you're done, you know it. You get a feeling of connection and release, and perhaps new insight.

Aside from the holidays, this technique can be helpful for any relationship which ended without closure, such as a sudden, unexpected death. It's never to late to have closure!

Another way this process can help you is if you had an unhappy childhood. Imagine a mildly unpleasant incident. (Just like exercise, you want to start off slowly until you get the hang of it.) Run the tape through in your head the way it originally occured. Then run it again and imagine getting a different response: a parent applauding your efforts instead of a disparaging response. Your mother having time to stop and help you when you need it. Or imagine yourself being the strong athletic child your father wanted. See his pride in you. Then play it again, with you being the way you really were. Does he respond differently to you this time?

Imagine whatever it is you want to change, and the way you would have preferred it to happen; first the original, then however many imagined scenarios it takes for you to feel the love and support you wanted.

There are so many ways to go with this process; it is as limitless as your imagination. What? You have no imagination? Hmmm....you probably have more than you realize, it just may be stuck on producing negative outcomes! (It's called worrying!) Or perhaps you just never played with your imagination in such a creative way.

Keep in mind, most of us are stronger in one imaginary sense than the others. The majority of people are visual, followed in popularity by auditory (hearing), then by kinesthetic (feelings, both emotional and touch.) Start with the one you're strongest in. It doesn't matter if you can't create pictures in your head. A blind person could do this process, just by using whatever senses comprise the memory that is being played with. So do what works for you, and build in as many senses as you can to make the experience as full as possible.

The funny thing is, once you give your mind new possible outcomes the old trigger will usually elicit a different and better emotional response automatically. If it doesn't, keep adding new choices until you you have all the inner resources you need to achieve the desired state.

When I guide people through this process, it is not uncommon for them to imagine what it is they think they want, but they do not get the satisfying feeling they thought they would get. On further examination, they realize there is another component they need to complete the process. Perhaps they think they want acceptance and imagine it quite well, but aren't satisfied until they add hope, trust, wealth, joy, or whatever missing element or elements are needed to generate the desired outcome.

Another possiblilty is that if the original emotion was very strong it may take more resources to outweigh it. (It's best to consult a professional for more intense issues.) Keep building imagined resources, as described above, until the new pathway becomes as easy and successful for the mind to follow as the old one was, or more so.

To test the process for completion, imagine the original incident again. How do you feel about it now? Satisfied? Then take one final step. Imagine a scenario in the future when the old trigger would lead to uncomfortable feelings. When this, too, has a new and better emotional response, one you are comfortable with, you are done. And when such a moment arrives in reality, you'll probably be surprised at your new, improved, automatic response.

Oh, and it's perfectly normal to feel confused momentarily when you complete the process and test it by recalling the original incident. It's a bit disorienting when your brain can't access the familiar unwanted response. Actually, that confusion is one of the ways NLP practitioners (see next paragraph) can tell your process has succeeded: they see your confusion and know it signifies a disconnect between the triggering memory and the old emotional response.

The process described above is one I learned in my Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner training. If you don't feel comfortable guiding yourself through this process, find a qualified NLP practitioner to help you. They'll have numerous techniques for eliciting change and desired states.

Here are some NLP Practitioner directories:

NLP Practitioner Database Search - at nlp-practitioners.com

NLP Database - International list of NLP Practioners, NLP Master Practioners, and NLP Trainers.

You can google NLP Practitioner directory to find more listings and directories.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Exercise and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about exercise for depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Since I wrote about rest and the holiday blues, I thought it would be good to follow with exercise and the holiday blues. And what perfect timing, since you may also want to lose a few extra pound gained during the holidays.

When you feel depressed, probably the last thing you want to do is exercise. Get a buddy to exercise with, to help you keep motivated. A simple ten minute walk is a whole lot better than just sitting around feeling down. Bundle up, and get out in the fresh air. Wear a scarf to cover your mouth and nose if you have problems exercising in cold air.

Don't feel like getting out? Hop on an exercise bike or treadmill if you have one. If you don't have an exercise machine, put on some lively music and dance, it's great exercise! Two or three songs and you've had a short but helpful workout. Make some playlists for exercise for your iPod or MP3 player. Variety makes it more interesting, and you can make playlists for 10, 15, 20 and 30-minute exercise periods.

If you have a Wii, get an exercise program to go with it. Borrow one for a few days if you're not sure you'll really like it. Such a system helps you keep track of what you've accomplished, which will motivate you to stick with it.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Since it's hard to motivate yourself to exercise when you already feel down, exercise regularly to help prevent depression.
  • Don't overdo it. If you haven't exercised lately, start with 3, 5 or 10 minute exercise routines, and build up slowly.
  • If you stop while you're still enjoying it, you'll want to do it again! Even if you put in less time to begin with, you may exercise more regularly and stay with the program! So you benefit more in the long run.
  • Mix it up! Walk one day, ride a bike on a warmer day, swim, dance, etc. Spice up your routine with variety. Alternatively, if you're a creature of habit and like things the same, choose one type of exercise and do it for a while, then switch to another if you want a change.
  • Break it up! Even simple, brief bouts of exercise help, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking your car farther away in the parking lot. (Once upon a time we had to get up to change the channel!)

How exercise helps

  • Exercise increases your heart rate, which can raise your metabolic rate. More exercise leads to more energy!
  • It also works your muscles, keeping them stronger so physical tasks are easier. When you let yourself get too out of shape, your body has more difficulty keeping up with daily life, and that, in itself, is depressing! (I speak from years of experience.)
  • When you exercise, you blow off some toxins through respiration, and you may also increase your lung capacity. If your exercise has directions that include specific breathing techniques, be sure to follow them; they help you oxygenate your body properly to help you exercise more efficiently and effectively.
  • Exercise alters your body chemistry in a way that helps fight depression.


Further Reading:

Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms - Mayo Clinic's website

Exercise and Depression - WebMD article

Exercise and Depression - Harvard Health Publication, Harvard Medical School

Is Nintendo's Wii Really Good Exercise? - ConsumerAffairs.com article explores benefits, concludes it may be good for mile to moderate exercise, but not the best for a good cardio workout.


Exercise Equipment:


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Overdoing It and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about overdoing it and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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One thing that can lead to depression is an excess of activity. You do too much, strive too much, overreach too much, and you take longer to recover. In effect, you're borrowing from tomorrow's energy.

There's a real art to pacing yourself properly, knowing your limits. Forget what others can accomplish, what you'd like to accomplish, what you or someone else may think you should accomplish in a day.

Make a to-do list for the day. Set the items in priority order. Draw the line at a realistic point, one that will not exhaust you. In a previous lifetime, when I was a Mary Kay consultant, I learned her theory on this: make a list of the five most important things you need to do each day; anything more than that was unreasonable. It doesn't sound like five things would take so much of your day, but they really can, interspersed with daily living and things that pop up for you to do during the course of a day.

Another boost you get from paring down your list is the feeling of accomplishment when you actually get the items done that day! I'm not against pushing yourself when you really need to. Sometimes you just have to. But if you do that to yourself every day, biting off more than you can chew, it's easy to feel like an overwhelmed underachiever, after pushing yourself to the limit. How depressing is that!

If you set your sights so high, always out of reach, you can squeeze every ounce of energy out of yourself and never feel satisfied. Yet, if you set your sights properly, you'll feel both stimulated and satisfied. You'll also be better able to tackle tomorrow's tasks. Spread yourself too thin, and you'll break more easily.

So do yourself a favor, and everyone who depends on you as well: pace yourself, set proper limits, and enjoy better physical and emotional health!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sleep and The Holiday Blues, part 2


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is a swauel about sleep and depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Yesterday's post discussed sleep (or lack thereof) and what feels similar to depression. I realized you may want a sequel that gives you some sleep remedies that may help solve the problem of not being able to get to sleep!

I'll start with the obvious and well-known: no caffeine (coffee, soda, chocolate) in the evening. Same goes for strenuous exercise. Avoid that for at least an hour before bedtime.

Now for my personal recommendations.

A glass of warm milk. An old-time remedy that may work by helping you get more absorbable caclium into your blood. Adelle Davis, who I mention and quote frequently, called calcium tablets "lullaby pills" and recommended taking them at bedtime. Search online and you'll find the warm milk at bedtime is not substantiated, but the studies weren't looking at calcium, but things like tryptophan and melatonin (more on those two at the end of this post.)

Another old fashioned remedy that works on the same principle is a warm bath before bedtime. Heat makes your blood more acid, which draws more calcium into solution - not from your bones, from your blood vessel walls, where it settles when your blood is too alkaline. (And probably helps build up arterial plaque? I'll check that out and post something about it later if I find anything interesting.)

Sleepytime tea by Celestial Seasonings is my next suggestion. This blend of herbs can help you relax for bedtime. It has chamomile as well as other herbs. Chamomile has calcium, and you drink the tea warm. You're catching on now, right?

Personally, I can't get to sleep if I'm the least bit cool. I don't like to be overheated, either, but even a little cool draft on my neck or shoulder can keep me from getting to sleep. And remember, the whole point of sleep here is to have a better, happier day when you wake up. So make sure you're comfortably warm, whatever that level is for you, so you're not kept awake by cold that may also make your calcium be less useful.

Calcium is a natural pain-killer, so if pain keeps you awake, this may help you in that department as well.

Another simple remedy is complex carbohydrates. I don't remember where I read this, but the suggestion to bake a couple of large potatoes and eat a quarter of one at bedtime really helped me when I did it. (Do this before you brush your teeth, of course.) Cold, leftover potatoes from the fridge work fine. The principle at work here is carbs, not warmth/calcium.

Alcohol seems like an easy remedy, and it is, but it isn't a good one, especially if you want to avoid depression. So add alcohol to your list of things to avoid if you want to get a good night's sleep and not feel depressed the next day.

If your bladder keeps you awake, first get checked for infection, or other underlying problem, but if it is a chronic irritation or interstitial cystitis, you may find nettle extract helps you. I take a half dropperful at bedtime when I have a flareup, and it helps some. (A little baking soda in water helps too, sometimes, but keep in mind, it makes you more alkaline, and neutralizes some stomach acid which is necessary for calcium absorption!)

There's also a popular homeopathic remedy, Calms Forte, you may find helpful. If you're lactose intolerant, beware: most homeopathic tablets have lactose in them.

Aromatherapy also offers some sleep aids. Lavender is a popular aromatherapy remedy that helps relax you. So does hops. You can buy (or make) a little sachet pillow of either and let its scent help you find la la land. There are bed sprays, bath soaps, body lotions, and essential oils with lavender, so you shouldn't have any trouble finding those. Hops you may find as loose tea at a health food store.

"Studies also suggest that massage with essential oils, particularly lavender, may result in improved sleep quality, more stable mood, increased mental capacity, and reduced anxiety. In one recent study, participants who received massage with lavender felt less anxious and more positive than participants who received massage alone." - Lavender, University of Maryland Medical Center website article, provided by ADAM.

A caution about a popular sleep remedy, melatonin, is in order here. If you're prone to depression, keep in mind this hormone can make you feel depressed, or more depressed. (Same goes for the oh-so-popular prescription medication, Valium.) If you already have bouts of depression and still want to try melatonin, start with a minimal dose; if depression appears or worsens, discontinue use!

Tryptophan, which has been touted and studied as the possible reason for warm milk helping promote sleep (if milk actually even does that...the scientific jury is still out) is also not necessarily a good sleep remedy, since it alters the stages of sleep. You may get more sleep, but not the right quality. Still, it may be a good idea if you just can't sleep, especially if you haven't slept well for several days and have to get some sleep. But try the other remedies first.

OK, hopefully, with all these ideas you'll find one that works for you, to help you sleep well and have a brighter tomorrow! If you want more info, see the links below. Following those are some remedies you can purchase online.


Further Reading:

How to Take Calcium and Sleep Well at Night - article at eHow discusses calcium as well as other factors that help it work.

Foods for Sleep - at AskDrSears.com

A Warm Bath and Your Sleep
- helpful tips, including what to add to your warm bath.


Shop for Sleep Remedies:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sleep and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about sleep depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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When you're tired, you're (IMHO) depressed, at least physically, if not also mentally. By depressed, I mean slowed down. Not as energetic. So if you're feeling a bit depressed, nothing seems interesting, you don't even feel like doing something you normally enjoy, stop and think. Did you get enough sleep last night? Could it be you're actually tired?

It took me most of my life experiencing this sort of situation to finally realize if I'm bored but don't feel like doing anything interesting, what I really am is tired. When I feel like that, it feels somewhat like depression. My interest in doing anything interesting is just about zip. (I'll watch TV usually, that's about all I feel up to doing; it solves the boredom without having to actually do anything or think about anything more than changing the channel.)

Even though I now recognize that situation in myself, I don't necessarily stop and sleep right away when I realize I'm tired; it my be an inconvenient time, or I don't want to mess up the upcoming night's sleep. Still, just knowing that all that's really wrong is I need a good night's sleep makes me feel better. That vague feeling of something being wrong because I didn't feel like doing anything doesn't hit me like it used to, because now I understand what's really going on.

Perhaps this simple connection will help you. You don't have to decide now. Sleep on it!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Light Therapy and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about light therapy for depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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During the holiday season, we put up lights to bring good cheer. Perhaps that's instinctive, since the days are shorter and there's not as much natural light. On top of that, many people live in cold climates and spend more time indoors in winter. So the days are shorter, and more time is spent indoors in artficial light. Double whammy. Really triple whammy, because indoor light is not as bright and not full spectrum, unless you have special lights. Oh heck, it's really a quadruple whammy, because winter sunlight isn't as intense, either. Anyway...

Without sufficient light, the pineal gland is understimulated, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may result. That's a particular kind of depression cause by a light deficiency. So, hey, lighten up! It may be what you need to brighten your mood!

Getting out in early morning and late afternoon is safest, although the light is less intense at these times...probably more of a factor in summer than winter anyway, and often it's too cold to be out at those times, other than taking the time to scrape the snow and ice off your windshield.

There are light boxes made for just this purpose, so you can use them indoors, where it's warm. They generally run about $200, but if that's not in your budget, you can make your own light bank. I spoke of full spectrum light earlier. That isn't absolutely essential for SAD, a quantity of light spoken of as 10,000 lux is the usual therapeutic dose, but light boxes vary on how close you have to be to receive that amount.

I've linked below to further information in case you want specifics, background info, instructions on making a light bank. Below the text links are some light boxes you can buy at Amazon.

May your days be merry and bright!


Further Reading:

Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light therapy box - Mayo Clinic website article includes safety precautions as well as purchase considerations.

Light Therapy - another Mayo Clinic article. This one is about the uses of light therapy, as well as possible side effects.

Light on Winter Darkness: Disorders Beyond SAD - article at About.com describes several disorders for which light therapy may be useful.

Is light therapy a good depression treatment option? - yet another bit of info from the Mayo Clinic website. Basicly says the jury is still out on this one, and gives info for further help, including emergency contact info.

Light Therapy - Wiki

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Information - M&M Lighting Co. web page includes info on how light (or lack thereof) affects the pineal gland.

Lightbox Construction - Pictures and all! Personally, I wouldn't make mine with CFLs because of the mercury contamination if one breaks. But the instructions are for any type of light bulb, so although it's what they picture, you can use incandescent if you prefer.


Get a Light Box:



Friday, December 18, 2009

Biotin and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about Biotin for depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Biotin, also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H, is a B vitamin which, when deficient, can cause depression. Consider this passage from chapter nine of Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit by Adelle Davis.
"A substance in raw egg white, avidin, can combine with biotin in the intestinal tract and prevent it from reaching the blood. Biotin deficiencies have been produced in human volunteers by adequate diets to which was added daily 1/2 cup of powdered but uncooked egg whites. The first symptom noticed was mental depression. In time the subjects developed dry peeling skin, extreme fatigue, muscular pain, nausea, and distress around the heart. The mental depression became so intense that it was described as 'panic,' and some volunteers experienced suicidal tendencies. All symptoms disappeared in three to five days after biotin was added to the diet."
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University gives similar information on biotin along with info on predisposing conditions that lead to biotin deficiency, a recommended intake chart, food sources, and cautions: Micronutrient Information Center: Biotin. Note that their food source chart mentions the biotin content of a package of yeast. I assume this means baker's yeast, which is the only yeast I know of that comes in packets. Do NOT consume this yeast from the packet! It must be baked! (Unlike brewer's yeast and nutritional yeast which can be consumed without cooking.)

How do you know if you are deficient in biotin? The Linus Pauling Institute at OSU, linked above, states that,
"Three measures of biotin status have been validated as indicators of biotin status: (1) high excretion of an organic acid (3-hydroxyisovaleric acid) that reflects decreased activity of the biotin-dependent enzyme, methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase; (2) reduced urinary excretion of biotin; and (3) propionyl-CoA carboxylase activity in peripheral blood lymphocytes"
That means have your doctor order appropriate labwork. Other than that, you could go by the symptoms list, and try supplimenting to see if you notice a change. Keep in mind, that some of the conditions described in the Linus Pauling Institute's biotin page can keep you from absorbing or utilizing biotin properly. Higher than normal supplimentation levels may be required. Of course, before adding any suppliment, check with your medical practioner to make sure you do not have an personal or drug contraindications!

I observed one of the symptoms of biotin deficiency, a greyish skin color, in my father when he had cancer. He had depression and fatigue, too. All three of these symptoms cleared up when we started the extensive nutritional supplimentation Adelle Davis recommended for people with cancer, which included biotin. (Cancer grows rapidly in persons deficient in biotin, another reason to make sure your intake is adequate!)

Biotin is inexpensive. I bought a bottle of 150 1,000 microgram (mcg) tablets at Walmart today for a mere $3. This is a pretty hefty dosage, compared to the 35 mcg to 60 mcg per day recomended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine as the Adequate Intake (AI) level. However, it has not been clearly established that this level is truly adequate. Studies of biotin in diabetics have included supplements totalling 16,000 mcg per day, and amounts of up to 5,000 mcg daily have not revealed adverse affects in persons without biotinidase deficiency, and up to 20,000 were well tolerated by people with biotinidase deficiency. (Biotinidase is an enzyme required to utilize and recycle biotin.)

Take note holiday revelers: alcohol can cause a reduction of B vitamins, including biotin. Alcohol can cause depression (perhaps by reducing your biotin level) so if you are going to imbibe, make sure you get sufficient nutrition to replace what you lose!

Oh, another important thing to consider: antibiotics can also cause a reduction in biotin, since part of your biotin supply is manufactured by friendly bacteria in your intestines. Antibiotics kill off these little B-vitamin factories, and few doctors tell you to replace them after a course of antibiotics by taking acidophilus or consuming a good brand of yogurt for several days. (Some brands are unreliable for providing sufficient live bacteria. Back in the 1960s, Alta Dena was recommended as the most reliable provider. Their website lists places where you can purchase Alta Dena products.)

Although biotin deficiency is considered uncommon, there are several circumstances in which you may benefit from extra biotin in your diet or in a suppliment. As always, consult with your medical practitioner before adding using this or any other suppliment. Particular caution should be taken by diabetics and epileptics.

Enjoy your holidays, and perhaps add some biotin to your health regime.


Further Reading:

Micronutrient Information Center: Biotin - Linus Pauling Institute's web page on this B vitamin.

Biotin - Wiki

How Biotin Works - article by Jennifer Brett, N.D., which discusses effects of alcohol and antibiotics on biotin levels.

Biotin-responsive depression during hyperalimentation. - PubMed abstract of a case report.

Biotinidase - Wiki describing this enzyme and the effects of biotinidase deficiency, a hereditary disorder.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mustard Flower Essence and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.


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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about mustard flower essence for depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Bach flower remedy MustardOn day three of this holiday depression series, we turn to a vibrational remedy: the flower essence mustard. Don't worry if you don't like the condiment, it's nothing like that. Flower essences, much like homeopathic remedies, are the essence or vibration of the original item, in this case, mustard flowers. The condiment mustard is prepared with ground mustard seeds. Totally different, although if you're allergic, use with caution or avoid altogether.

If you're thinking vibrational medicine sounds kinda hokey, well okay, it kinda does, especially to someone who is not familiar with it. Perhaps you're familiar with quantum mechanics? Not so much? I assure you, the effects of flower essences and homeopathic remedies are real, however subtle the essence may be.

Think it's all in one's head? Explain this: a homeopathic remedy, Rescue Remedy, that works wonderfully on pets! I'm not just saying that because of the charming advertisement. When I worked in a local health food store a veterinary clinic a mile up the road used to send clients to get Rescue Remedy by Bach--the one for humans, the pet version wasn't available then--for their pets, especially dogs who got skittish in Florida's fierce electrical storms. And they came back for more.

'Nuff said. Now let's talk about mustard flower essence.
  
Dr. Edward Bach described his mustard flower essence thusly, "Those who are liable to times of gloom or even despair, as though a cold dark cloud overshadowed them and hid the light and the joy of life. It may not be possible to give any reason or explanation for such attacks. Under these conditions it is almost impossible to appear happy or cheerful." [source]

I have used mustard flower remedy personally, as I am given to periods of depression, and find it quite helpful. The one I use is made by Flower Essence Services (FES). I've used several of their remedies and find they all work well for me.

There's lots of anecdotal evidence about mustard flower essence in books and on websites, but scientific studies are scanty and difficult to access, so the best way to see if this remedy will help you is to try it. Your local health food store may carry it; if not they can probably order some for you. It's also available online through Bach's website, Amazon, FES, etc.

Caution: flower remedies generally contain alcohol, such as brandy, so if you avoid alcohol, perhaps you can find one that is alcohol-free. Whole Energy Essences makes such products, but does not have mustard in its product list. Findhorn, in Scotland, also makes alcohol-free essences, but not mustard essence. (If you find some, please let me know or comment the info below.) (Oh, and if you know where they've hidden spell check on the blogger updated interface, please let me know! I'm a creative speller, and need it badlee baadly very much!)


Further Reading:

Flower Essence Remedy: Mustard - a brief explanation of its qualities at healing.about.com

Bach flower remedies - Wiki

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bergamot and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.


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From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about using Bergamot for depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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Bergamot is an essential oil for external use. It may help lift your spirits with its pleasant citrusy-fruity smell. In The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy author Valerie Ann Worwood presents a bergamot-lavender-geranium formula for depression and guilt, with 10, 5, and 15 drops, respectively. This formula can be added to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for use in massage, or it could be added to a diffuser--use proportions, not number of drops for this--or you could make your own room spray, diluting at the rate of 4 drops per cup of warm water. (Use caution when spraying near pets or sensitive furnishings and materials!)

Personally, I have an electrical plug-in diffuser by Aura Cacia with a pad onto which essential oils can be dropped. It does quite nicely for a couple of days, on just a drop or two of bergamot oil. I use Aura Cacia brand bergamot oil, too. There are less expensive essential oils, but generally I find Aura Cacia's smell better. Some inexpensive brands I have used were a little off-smelling. A local health food store may supply samplers of essential oils so you can smell a particular one, and perhaps compare brands.

In addition to its use as a mood-lifter, Ms. Worwood includes bergamot in her party formula for its purported antibacteria properties. If I can set the party mood and keep my guests healthier, I'm all for it!

Please note that while bergamot is a citrus fruit, and the flesh is consumed, its aromatic fragance extract comes from the peel, is highly concentrated, and can irritate the skin. The label on Aura Cacia's bergamot oil says it is not for internal use.

For further reading on the lovely bergamot, see the links below.


Recommended Reading:

Bergamot orange - Wiki

How to Use Bergamot in Aromatherapy - eHow's helpful tips

Bergamot Essential Oil - bergamot profile at AromaWeb


Bergamot and Diffuser Products:


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Low Blood Sugar and The Holiday Blues


Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about low blood sugar as a cause of depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.
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When your blood sugar drops, your brain cannot function properly, and one possible result of this is depression. So let's consider what could cause your blood sugar to drop.

First of all, and most obviously, not eating! Some of us get so busy preparing for the holidays we forget to eat when we should, or we remember, but we just keep going anyway. Keep your blood sugar up with regular meals, and healthy between-meal snacks such as peanut butter and crackers or cheese and crackers.

If you're prone to low blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycemia, your doctor may have recommended you eat six smaller meals per day. This is a good way to keep your blood sugar consistent even if you have not been diagnosed as hypoglycemic. If you are diabetic, however, do not change your diet without medical approval.

Other dietary insults that can drive down your blood sugar are sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Many years ago, sugar was recommended for hypoglycemics experiencing a drop in blood sugar. Now that the condition is better understood, it has been recognized that the quick sugar pick-me-up raises the blood sugar but can then cause it to drop even lower! So don't grab a candy bar, grab the protein and cracker type snacks mentioned earlier, or some other healthy snack with protein, and perhaps some fruit juice along with it if you're really crashing.

Plan ahead for times when your sugar may drop. If you're going shopping, slip a healthy snack into your pocket or purse. Don't wait until you're ravenous; eat your snack based on the amount of time since you last ate, your activity level, or the beginnings of feeling hungry.

If you work at home or in an office where you can grab a quick nibble, keep something handy. I keep a small jar of raw organic cashews on my desk, refilled every few days from the package in the fridge so they don't spoil. When I'm in the middle of something and don't want to stop to eat, I can grab a handful. If I'm in a video chat in Skype and need to take a nibble, I always offer some to the other person, holding it up to the camera so they can reach through and grab a few :-) a courtesy they really appreciate!

If you're trying to lose weight, and think you shouldn't eat between meals, consider this: if your blood sugar drops too low you're likely to overeat at the next meal.

Keep your blood sugar and your mood up, and have a happier, healthier holiday season!


Recommended Reading:

Low Blood Sugar and You by Carlton Fredericks, out of print, but you can still get it at Amazon.

The Sugar Blues by William Dufty, available at Amazon.

Hypoglycemia - the NIH website's official, in-depth explanation. Note that they discuss hypoglycemia in diabetics and non-diabetics. For diabetics, they recommend a glucose quick-fix. This is because excess insulin can cause a severe and dangerous drop in blood sugar fairly rapidly and must be corrected quickly. Scroll down to their section on non-diabetic hypoglycemia, and you'll see that for such people they recommend non-sugary foods, and give other recommendations, similar to what I have mentioned in this blog.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vitamin B12

Consult your medical practioner before taking a suppliment if you are on medication of any kind, or have a health disorder. You never know what might contraindicate the information here, and I am not qualified to diagnose or prescribe. I only share information as a health enthusiast.

Essential suppliment for vegans!

And I've been forgetting to take mine. That's rather frightening, because a deficiency can lead to pernicious anemia, which can cause irreversable nerve damage and paralysis. Worse yet, the damage is done before you even know you have pernicious anemia!

It's not that I'm unaware, don't think it's necessary to take it, or that it's difficult to take, expensive, or that I ran out. I have it, it's cheap and easy to take. It just got pushed to the back of my vitamin drawer and I forgot about it. Sometimes I take a multiple vitamin that contains B12, but those I did run out of...several weeks ago. And even though I have a bottle of sublingual B12, I didn't think to start taking it again.

So, I went and popped one under my tongue, and put the bottle where I'll see and remember it! You may want to take some, too, if you're vegetarian or vegan, and perhaps even if you're an omnivore.

For extra assurance take a sublingual form. B12 needs intrinsic factor to be utilized, and if your levels are low, the B12 tablet you swallow can give you a false sense of security.

Why, you may ask, is a sublingual form better? There's a great blood supply under the tongue, and B12 is readily absorbed through the skin. Put the two together and you have an excellent supply route.

For additional health protection, get a supplement that also has folic acid. You can have elevated homocysteine levels when either B12 or folic acid (B9) is inadequate. "Strong evidence has been gathered over the past decade that even slightly elevated homocysteine levels increase risk of heart disease and stroke and pregnancy complications." [veganoutreach.org]

If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, perhaps you get sufficient B12 from animal products. But in addition to intrinsic factor, hydrochloric acid is required to get the process started. Are your levels of hydrochloric acid sufficient? Has your hydrochloric acid been neutralized?

What, you may ask, would neutralize hydrocholric acid? Calcium (supplement, acid neutralizer such as Tums, or some medications) or baking soda, for starters. So even omnivores may need a B12 supplement!

Below are links to further information, followed by links to a variety of B12 products, by various companies, in different potencies...some sublingual, some sprays (same principle) and some with folic acid. You're sure to find one that fits your needs.

Regarding potency, Adelle Davis recommended 50 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin B12 once a week for vegetarians. The NIH link below has an RDA chart for B12. (Note, theirs is calculated for daily intake, Ms. Davis' recommendation was a weekly amount.) Also, before adding B12 as a suppliment, read the labels of packaged foods you consume. Some are fortified with B12.


Further Information on Vitamin B12:

Vitamin B12 Wiki

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12 - at NIH, the official facts on B12

What Every Vegan Should Know about Vitamin B12



Purchase a B12 Suppliment:


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

City Kitchen Witch: Ingredient of the Day - Ginger


Note: I know I've written about ginger already, but it's always interesting and informative to read another person's writing about it. It's such a wonderful remedy! So go read this article!

Health Wonders Of Turmeric

Link to article at Buskia.com: Health Wonders Of Turmeric

Note: I haven't had time to blog here lately, but want to pass along this info. Personally, I take 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric powder daily in my morning smoothie, for its anti-inflamatory and pain-relieving qualities.
 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Melatonin for Time Change


If you have trouble adjusting to the time change when we switch on and off Daylight Savings Time you may find melatonin helpful. It helps reset your circadium rhythm, and is popularly used for jet lag and promoting sleep. See the reference in the (Merck Manual of Health & Aging) for details on its use.

Personally, I take 300 mcg when needed. This is a very low dose, but since I get depressed easily, and melatonin can bring it on, I find this is a safe but effective dose for me.

If you have a sleep disorder or any other medical condition, consult your medical practitioner before taking. Melatonin is a hormone, and you may have contraindications due to your personal health situation or other medications you are taking.

For your convenience, there are links to online sources below, but you can buy it over the counter at any local drugstore, health food store, and many supermarkets and discount/department stores.



Friday, May 8, 2009

Vitamin C Injection Alternatives


Years ago I read of the amazing effectiveness of Vitamin C injections, in Let's Eat Right To Keep Fit, by Adelle Davis. In all these years (since 1974!) I have yet to personally be under the care of an M.D. who is knowledgeable about Vitamin C injections and/or promotes them in word or practice. Since the dawn of the Internet, I've seen some info, but nothing that would indicate the medical profession or top researchers are seriously investigating this wonder vitamin and its wondrous abilities. For example, a search for Vitamin C injection at the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine came up empty.

Recently I stumbled upon references to a couple of relatively new forms of oral Vitamin C which enhance absorbability while minimizing the side affects--gastrointestinal upset and/or diarrhea--that have kept oral administration from achieving anything like the results from Vitamin C injections.

Before I tell you about them, let me explain why Vitamin C is so valuable.
  1. It neutralizes viruses, bacteria, and poisons like nobody's business!
  2. Viruses and bacteria don't develop immunity to Vitamin C.
  3. It's so darned inexpensive!
The two new forms I read about cost a little more than your garden variety Vitamin C, but not so much as to prohibit their daily use, or at least a supply for times of illness.

The less expensive of the alternatives is sodium ascorbate with Riboperine. The most affordable I found was The Right C by Nature's Way, available at iHerb. I ordered a couple bottles of the powdered form there. It comes in tablets and capsules, too. If you decide to order there, you can use coupon code KUH646 to get $5 off your first order. Their shipping costs were reasonable, they shipped quickly, and my order arrived in a timely manner, well packaged.

The more expensive but likely to be better alternative is Lypo-Spheric™ Vitamin C by LivOn Labs. (You can order from then directly, but it's available elsewhere, for much less - see Order link below.) This form is touted as being as effective as Vitamin C injections! See quote and link below in the Links section. I like that doses are individually packaged, preserving their potency. An open bottle of powdered Vitamin C (my preferred format) may lose some with exposure to oxygen in the bottle. (It does still seem to work, though!) I'll wait until the weather cools off in the Fall to order this one. Vitamin C is destroyed by heat, and it's already very warmish here in Florida, and often even warmer in delivery trucks. Generally, I place large orders in Fall and Spring to keep myself supplied with all my potions.

So why Vitamin C? Why am I bring it up now? The "Swine Flu" scare. I simply think Vitamin C is the best protection, and the best cure. And a "pound of cure" when it comes to Vitamin C means greater risk of diarrhea, something a sick person just doesn't need. (Who does?) When battling severe sore throats I've taken 15 grams in a single dose--without unpleasant side effects, only remarkable healing time. But I also know from experience that taking less--5 or 10 grams orally in one dose--may have no apparent effect on a serious illness, such as the aforementioned sore throats, bad colds (are there good ones?) or flu. Yet a 15 gram single dose (plus other smaller doses throughout the day) the following day will have remarkable effectiveness.

Another benefit of Vitamin C is that, unlike antibiotics, it works on bacterial and viral infections. So if you happen to have a virus, you aren't taking a medication that may be both unnecessary and unhelpful. And why not kill two birds with one stone? (Is there an animal-friendly version of that expression?)

Update: I have been using The Right C since this post was initiated. It dissolves very well in water, has very little taste, and I can take 3 grams at a time without any hint of diarrhea. And it seems to be really helping the UTI which the prescribed antibiotics aren't seeming to cure. Back to the doctor tomorrow for a follow-up. Wheee! (Oh, don't say that. It sounds to much like...well, you know!)

Links:

Can vitamin C kill swine flu? - Blog post by Patrick Holford, which says, "There are some forms of vitamin C, notably sodium ascorbate with riboperine, and lipospheric vitamin C that allow even more to be absorbed without reaching bowel tolerance."

Conquering Cancer Through Vitamin C & Other Antioxidants - (Conquering cancer, Copyright (C) Dr Steve Hickey) "Use of liposomal preparations of vitamin C may increase its effectiveness, blurring the distinction between oral and intravenous therapies."

For Doctors: Preparation of Vitamin C IV's - obviously not for the do-it-yourselfer, but please spread the word to your doctor!

High dose vitamin C injections slash tumor growth in mice - article at Life Extension Foundation's website.

Order Vitamin C (forms recommended in this article):

LivOn Labs Lypo-Spheric C (at Immune Matrix) - You can order it directly from LivOn Labs, but it costs a lot more there!

The Right C by Nature's Way, available at iHerb. Use coupon code KUH646 to get $5 off your first order of Vitamin C and/or other products.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Remedies for Bee and Wasp Stings


Spring is in the air, summer will be here soon, and many of us are enjoying the great outdoors. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing, and some of us will be stung. Here are a couple of remedies to ease the pain quickly.

Warning
: If you know you are allergic, or suspect you may have developed an allergy to bee or wasp stings, seek medical attention immediately!

First, if you're out and about, the handiest remedy is often tobacco. Remove some tobacco. If you dare, moisten it in your mouth (caution: you can easily absorb nicotine this way!) or place it in the palm of your hand and add saliva. Once moistened, apply to the affected area. You'll want at least a dime sized wad. In my experience, this brings immediate relief. [Note: various online sources indicate that dampening the tobacco with water works, too.]

Second, if you're at home, and have some apple cider vinegar, slap some on. OK, no need to get rough, just apply it. I've done this for a wasp sting. True story: I lived in the country, behind a field where small game hunting was often performed. One day I was washing my hair in the tub, with my backside facing the direction of the field, when I felt a sudden "pain in the butt." My first thought was that I'd caught a stray bullet. However, with lightning-fast reflexes I'd slapped the area, and when I turned around to see, there was a wasp lying dead in the tub right below the scene of the crime. Aha! In those days I used a natural homemade hair rinse: apple cider vinegar in water. And the bottle of apple cider vinegar was right there. I applied some to the area and the pain subsided just about immediately. This was circa 1979, and I don't remember if I had to reapply this remedy later. But it's certainly easily obtained and inexpensive enough! (I've used it for ant bites, too, over the years. It helps.)

So there's the two remedies I've tried (the first on my son, the second on myself) with excellent results both times.

Addition advice I found while researching this post said not to use tweezers or squeeze the stinger out, but to scrape it with a credit card or fingernail; squeezing causes more venom to be released. Other remedies included drinking a shot glass of apple cider vinegar, a paste of aspirin and water (do not use if allergic to aspirin!), a paste of baking soda and water, a poultice of mud and water, a poultice of activated charcoal (not barbecue charcoal) and water, meat tenderizer, beer, ice, toothpaste, household ammonia, tea tree oil, and lavender oil.

My highest recommendation still goes to apple cider vinegar.

Links:

Sting Operation: What's the best remedy for a bee sting? - William Brantley used himself as a guinea pig for remedies and reported the results.

How to Treat a Bee Sting with Tobacco - simple instructions at eHow.

Tobacco and Bee Stings - Why does it work? Read a simple explanation at the Ask A Scientist© Biology Archive.

Purchase Remedies:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Still Taking Time Off


Just posting this notice to let my readers know I haven't abandoned the blog... I'm just super-busy with a major project that will take another couple of weeks, plus a little recovery time. So, come back and visit again! I should be posting again by mid-April at the latest. And thanks for stopping by!

Update: I haven't forgotten about my blog...just taking a little longer to get back to it than I had anticipated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Update for Article on Post-Menopausal Bleeding


Last month I wrote about the possibility that vitamin K might help post-menopausal bleeding. Today I found out the person who inspired that article has adenocarcinoma of the uterus. It seems to still be in the early stages, and more tests will be done pronto to determine the best course of action.

I'm all for remedies, but this really shook me up - not that I missed the serious underlying cause, I had no clue - but that her doctors didn't move more swiftly to check out this possibility. I just can't imagine them not knowing.

So today's article isn't about a remedy, it's to alert anyone who read my earlier post or anyone else who might be helped by knowing that:

"The most frequent symptom of cancer of the uterus is abnormal bleeding. In postmenopausal women any bleeding is considered cancer of the uterus until proven not to be." [source]

Please read this article about adenocarcinoma, which gives a good basic description of it, along with information about stages and statistics for prognosis.

Remedies are great, but only if you have the correct diagnosis to begin with, and if the remedy is safe and applicable to the given condition. Once you have ruled out the more serious possibilities (and you're sure your doctors have, too!) consider remedies as a choice for enhancing your quality of life.

It may be a few days before I post again...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sleep


Great remedy for memory loss, short temper, boredom.

When you don't get enough sleep, your brain just doesn't work as well as it does after sufficient rest. Insufficient sleep is one of the reasons older folks suffer memory loss. And sufficient REM sleep is essential for good mental health. Go without for long enough, and age doesn't matter, it shows! For babies and toddlers, who need more sleep, one late or missed nap time is apparent to everyone in hearing distance!

So what can you do to ensure better sleep? Start with good pre-sleep habits. No caffeine before bedtime - have a glass of warm milk instead. Or a warm bath for about 20 minutes. Adding a cup or so of epsom salts helps relax your muscles even more. Refrain from exercise a couple of hours before bedtime. Even yoga can be stimulating.

Many people will wake up at the same time every day regardless of going to sleep late the night before. So it's important to start winding down in time to actually go to sleep at the desired hour.

If you don't like warm milk, or perhaps don't drink milk at all, take calcium tablets at bedtime or shortly before. Half the RDI - or about 400 mg of quality calcium such as calcium citrate which is readily absorbable.

Exercising earlier in the day can also help. A good workout - a walk, bicycling, swimming, aerobics, or whatever you enjoy - followed by at least two hours before you go to sleep, can really help you wind down when it's time.

Entrain yourself to go to sleep to a particular music CD - mix your own if you like. Perhaps start with something a little livelier, and song by song, slow down the pace of the music till it's lulling you to sleep. Repeating the same music, entrainment, sets up an association between the music and sleepiness.

To start with, only play the CD when you feel very sleepy at bedtime. It doesn't matter if you fall asleep while listening. Actually, that's the point! Then, when you've got the music and sleep well associated, you'll start feeling sleepy when you hear the music!

Some other sleep remedies: melatonin, hops (herb tea or herbs in pillow), lavender (aromatherapy, herbs in pillow, herb spray on pillow or bedding), chamomile and other soothing herbs, homeopathic remedies, and abdominal breathing (chest breathing is stimulating.)

Light and sound can affect your ability to sleep well, too. Try a sleep mask to block out light, ear plugs and/or a white noise machine to block out distracting sounds.

If worries keep you awake, or from going back to sleep, try this acupressure tip: put your hands on your knees, thumbs on the inner side of your leg, an inch or so above the knee. With moderate pressure, explore until you find a rather sensitive or sore spot. Once you find the spots (one on each leg) rub them with moderate pressure for two or three minutes. This helps break the worry cycle.

A skipped night every now and then isn't so noticeable, but make a habit of not getting enough sleep, and you build up sleep debt that, contrary to popular belief, isn't fixed with a single night's good sleep.

And boredom. Well, the reason I mentioned that is sometimes I feel really bored, but at the same time, I really don't feel like doing anything. I finally realized that combo indicates I'm actually tired. I may want or be able to sleep right away, but at least I understand why I'm having these feelings simultaneously. If it isn't a good time for sleep, I'll try some fairly brainless activity like watching TV.

I'll nap if I just can't stay awake. But napping can come back to bite you when you try to go to sleep that night. So I don't unless I really have to. Your sleep and napping habits may differ. Some people swear by naps. Perhaps they're able to take shorter ones. Mine tend to be a couple hours, and that usually interferes with normal sleep later.

One final tip, eating carbs before bed helps you sleep by boosting serotonin. Bake a potato, quarter it, and eat a piece before bedtime. (Put the rest away for other nights.) Even an eighth of a potato may be enough to help you get drowsy. Now brush your teeth and hop in bed! Good night and sweet dreams!

Articles about sleep and memory:

Sleep Boosts Memory - article on Psychology Today's website.

Just Sleep on It! - Neuroscience for Kids' article on sleep and memory.

Memory Consolidation and REM Sleep - article discussing sleep studies and theories about REM sleep.

Order items to help you sleep: