Friday, December 14, 2018

Mentally Healthy

Mental health is a term that is so frequently connected with an illness label (e.g. bi-polar or depression) that we might have difficulty thinking about how to work on our mental health.  Just because you don't have a diagnosed mental illness does not automatically mean you are mentally healthy.  Like in our other spheres of being (physical, emotional, spiritual, or social) imbalances can interfere in our ability to function at the top of our game.  So, how would we know if we're mentally healthy?

Some signs of having good mental health include:

  • Absence of worry
  • Positive regard toward yourself and others
  • Ability to be truthful in your dealings with others
  • Ability to quickly calm yourself after a conflict or disagreement
  • Being able to keep a positive attitude when thrown a curve you didn't expect.
  • Ability to sort out what problems are yours and what are someone else's.
Often times the learned pathways our thinking takes us down greatly increases our stress.  For example, if we more easily imagine the worst result coming from a situation than we can imagine the best, we are likely increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and anxiety level simply from that thinking.  Yet our imagination and our thinking alone do not a reality create. How we talk to ourselves has a tremendous effect on how we present ourselves to the public, how comfortable we feel in the presence of others, how confident we can be in any life situation.

Our social up-bringing and the life experiences we have gone through have often unconsciously shaped our mental health.  Because it's what we've always known or lived with, we may think we already have the best mental health we can get.  But, we do not have to be so many of the things people may have called us all our life -- things like shy, ugly, fat, obnoxious, difficult, perfectionist....   You can break out of those unfair and negative molds and rediscover an original you that is so much healthier and vibrant in life.

One aspect of health coaching I do includes assessing and helping you find course corrections/practices to improve how you think about and relate to yourself, other people in your lives, and the situations you face daily. Please call and we can talk about how your mental health is keeping you from being the person you want to be!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Chilling Your Stress

One of the unnoticed elephants in the medical exam room is stress.  Hans Selye was one of the early pioneers who studied stress. His animal experiments on stress opened our awareness to all the health problems that stress causes. Since Selye's early work, our pace of life today has only increased.  Stress is an almost guaranteed factor in so many different health concerns including:

  1. Weight gain
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Changes in libido
  4. Frequent colds & infections
  5. Fatigue & the need to nap during the day
  6. Difficulty sleeping through the night
  7. Irregular periods

How Stress Works
The adrenal glands are the hormone center for how your body copes with stress.  Hormonal and nerve communications flow in direct lines between the adrenal glands and your midbrain, primarily the amygdala and hippocampus.  Those brain centers interpret what stimuli are worthy of a fight-flight reaction.  If an accident is impending the midbrain sends an urgent message to the adrenal glands.  The adrenals then immediately send out a wave of fight-flight hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, epinephrine...) which increase your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and reflexes. You are able to respond in time with your foot on the brake and the accident is averted. 

External stimuli are not the only thing that can trigger a fight-flight reaction.  One of the most common stimuli is what we trigger within ourselves -- our thoughts.  Negative thinking, bad attitudes, and worrying trigger cortisol and other adrenal hormones.  If you're the type of person who can find something wrong with everything and you complain a lot - all that irritable energy feeds back into the hippocampus and amygdala like that deafening shrill noise when microphones feedback. In the words of Bob Newhart in one of my favorite scenes where he is counseling someone, "Stop it!"  Complaining and fretting get you absolutely nothing (but more of the above symptoms) and it's simply a useless behavior you've been taught and it's kept going by your sheer repetition.

Cooling the Stress Response

  1. Think of all the calming things you can imagine.  Create a list of all the practical ones that you can pull up and practice on regular basis.  The more you practice and experience calmness, the more you can call on that feeling to manifest itself in stressful moments.  Perhaps people reading this post could comment on a few of their favorite calming activities.
  2. Are you getting enough sleep?  Admittedly, stress can create havoc for your sleep, but there's a stress triangle that you have more influence over than you might think.  The three sides of that triangle are: a) bedtime routine, b) thought management, and c) sleep aids.  Under bedtime routine: send the signal to your body and brain that it's time to sleep through keeping the same time for bed and doing the same getting ready for bed routine.  Thought management means putting things that your brain is working on aside at least an hour before bedtime.  Avoid things that will get your thinking stirred up. Begin a regular 10 minute meditation time.  Under sleep aids include room temperature and bedding.  There are a lot of calming herbs that aid sleep including valerian, skullcap, passion flower, and lavender.
  3. Tire your body out through exercise, but don't save it until bedtime. Exercise can mean simply brisk 30 minute walks, or full-on workouts at a gym.  Interestingly, exercise seems to encourage your brain to move its stressors to your muscles, which then burn that energy during your walk/workout. 
  4. See a naturopathic physician or herbalist for "adaptagenic" herbs for the adrenals.  Limit caffeine intake beyond the early afternoon.
In Conclusion:
Because there are so many ways that we are exposed to stress in busy daily lives, making stress management a routine lifestyle practice is the way toward preserving your health and longevity.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Lifestyle Shapes Your Future

A parade of new studies are providing more evidence that lifestyle practices have great impact on your long-term health.  Here are a few examples.

  • High blood sugar levels (diabetes) shrink brain size and increase risk of dementia.
  • Gestational diabetes during pregnancy directly increases risk of heart attacks later in life by 30%.  This risk can be reduced back to baseline by practicing 3 out of 4 healthy habits, one of which is cessation of smoking.
  • Menopausal hot flashes and night sweats are strongly associated with the development of diabetes.
  • Sitting for long periods of time in middle age shrink the size of the brain -- some researchers are calling this the new high risk behavior akin to the risks of smoking.
As implied in the risks listed above, all of these health situations can be transformed into optimal health with a change of habits.  Unearthing the rut you've gotten yourself into and starting new habits is as simple as deciding to do it.  You can choose a different path to go down and you are not doomed to putting yourself or your family through dementia, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.

I'm not saying that changing unhealthy habits is easy!  Trust me, I know.  I have been working at it for the past 20 years.  Losing weight, getting sugar addiction tamed, exercising, eating a high percentage plant-based diet, drinking water, limiting alcohol intake, finding ways to sleep 7-9 hours... all these and the other many things you can do for your health takes mindful intention and lots of practice.  This is made much easier if you have a coach to work alongside of you encouraging and helping you build a support & belief system that will sustain you for the long haul.

Wellness coaching is my life purpose and one of my absolute favorite relationships I can have with anyone.  It has the potential to make the biggest difference in your life.  It has the capability to change your vitality and presence with your family clear into your last days.  It can improve your energy level, your attitude, and your hope.  Visit my coaching website for more information, or just give me a call.  The website is at

Friday, March 16, 2018

I'm So Tired

"I'm so tired," is one of the most common symptoms that people report.  In my clinical practice, it is more common in women than men.  Natural medicine always tries to look for a cause.  So, let's look at some of those causes.  

(My clinic Facebook page recently carried a question about this Perhaps you're here to check your answer.)

Tiredness is a nebulous symptom because there are so many reasons for it.  I had trouble writing the FB question because I had trouble thinking of a reason that doesn't potentially cause tiredness.  The correct answer was "Living one's life purpose."  Comments about some other answers follow.

Anemia -- is a deficiency of red blood cells or iron or hemoglobin.  In menstruating women it can be a result of extra heavy or frequent periods.  So, it can be from blood loss.  It can be from dietary deficiencies of iron, or Vitamin B-12 or Folic acid.

Energy Vampires -- These are people who suck your energy from you.  They are extra needy people who take and take and give nothing back to you.  The tiredness associated with this cause tends to be more emotional or mental in nature.

Depression -- tiredness and wanting to sleep a lot can be a result of depression.  There are two kinds.  Depression caused by situations, such as the ending of a relationship.  The other kind is clinical, where there is an internal biochemical imbalance.

A few other causes of tiredness:

Sleep Apnea -- breathing impairments while sleeping can reduce oxygen to the brain resulting in a rebound feeling of exhaustion during the waking hours.

Low grade infections -- drain energy via the immune system.  Common locations for simmering infection can be in the gums, sinuses, or the gastrointestinal system.

Adrenal fatigue -- is the result of chronic stress.  Stress changes the release of adrenal hormones, which disrupts sleep patterns that create insomnia at night and tired sleepiness during the day.

Dr. Mark has expertise in working with all of these causes and getting your energy back on track.  Click here to check out how coaching could help in a comprehensive way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What Are Your Health Goals?

Have you thought about this?  Do you have any health goals?

A lot of people spend a lot of time and money in doctors' offices.  A lot of people have multiple diagnoses and get a lot of different prescription medications to address a medical label.  But, is anyone working to make you healthier?  Is anyone trying to help you get at the cause?  Has anyone ever asked you if you want to get healthier?  Drugs are great for this moment in time, but are they really making you healthier, or more resilient?

What goals would you like to pursue regarding your health? Do you have any immediate goals?  How about 5 or 10-year goals?  Do you know where to begin in coming up with those?  Can you stick with them by yourself?  I can tell you that I know how to help you, whether you're nearby or across the country.

Start walking your illnesses backwards by addressing the underlying cause(s).  

Several times a day you come upon a fork in life's road and have a choice - do you continue the road you're on, or change course.

I'm here for the course changers...

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mirror, Mirror

"Mirror, Mirror why oh why do those same 15 pounds keep coming back?  No matter how I smooth my clothes around them, they still make me look dowdy."

The trouble with diets is that we usually go into them with a short-term goal, i.e. lose 15 pounds.  But, when you arrive there, then what?  Most diets, if they're followed closely, will lose your 15 pounds.  The issue with short-term goals is they don't change anything about you, your thinking, your habits, or your general health.  You meet the goal, celebrate, and then go right back to doing what you were doing to put on the extra weight.

Losing weight is not an end in itself.  To keep it off your perspectives, habits, and lifestyle need to change.  The true goal, realized or not, is to improve your health.  Setting out in pursuit of health is, admittedly, a larger task, but one that has a much larger pay-off in the long-term in reduced risks for "old-age" chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, strokes, dementia, and heart attacks.

  • Breaking life-time habits
  • Adopting new eating practices
  • Reducing health risks
  • Addressing nagging health concerns
  • Avoiding numerous expensive medications
  • Altering perspective from feel-good to happily life-sustaining

-- takes diligence, education, and the support of a good guide and/or group.

So, why not embark on a more comprehensive learning journey, and lose the weight along the trail?

Health Coaching is now available through my clinic.  See my website about it at: 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Tasty Morning Breakfast
(Gluten, sugar-free)

One serving:
1-1/2 c. water
3/4 c. oatmeal
2 Tbsp. dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 of apple sliced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a sprinkle of cloves
5-8 chopped pecans

Start water to boil, adding fruits. Bring to boil.  Add oatmeal and spices.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add pecans.  Enjoy.