View this email in your browser
In this issue:
Mindfulness Meditation Moment from Dr. J. Zink
Stress: Our Emotional Echo Chamber
How good nutrition helps reduce stress
The latest on antibody testing
May 6 Zoom with Dr. Cheffet
Nutrition Zoom with Linda
This week we are weighing in with ways to address stress in this challenging time. You'll find many tools to use now, and even when life returns to the new normal--whatever that may be. From mindfulness, to breathing, and even what you eat can make a difference in your experience of daily life.

For a mindfulness meditation moment, we have a wonderful offering from our trusted colleague, friend and patient, Dr. J. Zink. He's been a master counselor and psychotherapist to countless corporations and executive families for over 30 years and an author of this wonderful book, Upbringing: Raising A Responsible Child. We're thankful for his contribution to the health of our LWI family!
J. ZINK, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist (Ret.)
Here is a helpful exercise to reduce stress in these times of Covid-19 and quarantine challenges.

Imagine you are in the place where you were the happiest and most peaceful in your life.

Rather than remember it, or worse, try to remember it, close your eyes, take three deeply inhaled and slowly exhaled breaths, and go there. Discover or rediscover as many specific details as possible. Engage as many of your senses as you can for this de-stressing exercise. Taste the experience. Savor individual odors, and listen again sharply for the ambient sounds of the place, sounds you may have once heard and possibly forgotten, but now give yourself permission to remember again. Reap as many delicious details of the experience as you can and be in that moment, enjoying more fully the moment, than you did when you first experienced it.

Done effectively, this self-hypnotic experience, if only for a few moments of re-focus and relaxation, can lower your heart rate, reduce your blood pressure, and allow your mind and body to experience one thing to the exclusion of everything else that is yelling at you for attention.

I was fortunate enough to spend about twenty minutes backstage with The Dali Lama about twenty years ago and the above exercise was nearly the entire focus of our conversation. I had asked His Holiness how long it took him to learn to clear his mind.

“Oh, Jay” he said. “It was twenty years.”

I was hoping, of course, that he could offer me some tricks or short cuts. He saw immediately my disappointment. Before he could come to my rescue, I said, “What about learning to focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else?”

That is when I got that beatific smile he is famous for as he said, “of course, that is the basis for self-hypnosis, isn’t it?“

So. Give yourself permission to experience this altered state of deep relaxation. It is especially effective when you wake up anxious at 3am and your mind, and heart, start to racing.

Make it happen.

Dr. J.
From Dr. Cheffet
Our Emotional Echo Chamber

As we move into the 6th week of COVID 19 quarantine, we are likely experiencing a range of emotions influenced by long term exposure to a single environment. Some of us may live with our children or aging parents, while others may live alone.  Spiritually, we may find that this “quality time,” either alone or with others, can create feelings that fluctuate on a spectrum from frustration to gratitude. As we contemplate what our new normal will look like when the stay-at-home orders are lifted, we may swing from moments of excitement to anxiety. As we guide ourselves through these trying times, we must take a moment to understand the ripple effects we are experiencing from our environments. 

As we try to gain a greater understanding of the emotional interplay of our environment, it is helpful to be aware of the biologic changes stress and anxiety can be causing. The amygdala is a part of the brain, often called the “reptilian brain,” signifying that it is involved in our most primitive thoughts and emotions.  It is most active during times of fear, stress and pleasure. From an evolutionary standpoint, the amygdala’s response to stress has allowed humans to adapt to changing environments, such as the “fight or flight” response that provides our ability to recognize and respond to threats. However, it is very clear that prolonged stress is not healthy for neurologic emotional development and flexibility. Repeated stress results in the brain releasing higher than normal levels of cortisol and inflammatory markers. Therefore, increased stress will not only increase the neuro-synaptic connections that amplify feelings of stress but can also manifest as physical pain and inflammation. 

So how can we make our homes and work environments more “brain-friendly” as our society prepares to re-open?  First, we need to be mindful of our own emotional interplay with others.  We can wake up feeling peaceful and hopeful, however we can physically feel our emotions shift as soon as we interact with another person who may be feeling anxious or sad.  Day after day, this emotional echo chamber can be physically and mentally exhausting. 

To help maintain whole person wellness, it is important to check-in with your own physical and spiritual status. As Linda points out in the next section, nutrition can have a big role in helping you find resilience during times of stress. In previous newsletters, Meghan has also offered excellent ideas for exercise that can help reduce stress during quarantine. In addition, we would like to encourage you to take time each day to assess your spiritual health. A simple way to do this is to find a quiet space with no distractions (electronic or human) and take 20 minutes to do a breathing exercise. Forty minutes is even better, but if you can’t dedicate 20 minutes, do what you can, even if it’s during another activity, such as walking the dog. During this time, try to close your eyes and feel the sensation of breathing in and out. Just by doing mindful breathing, you will naturally slow down the rate of your respiratory rate.  In addition, it has been shown that intentionally slowing down the rate of your breathing can result in decreased stress, decreased pain and overall improved health. This can be done once a day or as needed for times when you feel that your mental health is needing an additional assessment. 

As we start to open our doors to society again, we are bound to feel anxious and uncertain on what activities or exposures are safe or recommended. If we have health issues or loved ones who would be considered “high risk” for complications from COVID19, we can expect that our anxiety will increase in the coming weeks as exposure to other people naturally increases. Spiritually, we are craving walks on the beach and get-togethers with friends and family, however, this pandemic experience will undoubtedly have left a spiritual mark on us all. Therefore, it is crucial to use the next few weeks to find ways to help ourselves remain mentally and physical resilient to the ripple effect this social isolation has caused. Increased awareness of our own spiritual needs is one of our greatest resources in the formation of our self-care plan. 
Zoom with Dr. Shannon Cheffet
Wednesday May 6, 11 am

Dr. Cheffet will discuss the decision making behind when to start medications vs. lifestyle measures for hypertension, high cholesterol and pre-diabetes. She will briefly summarize the evidence behind therapy options and how to view them as a "bridge to health, rather than a life sentence to take medication.“

Managing stress with nutrition. 
We often talk about stress as causing us to feel anxious, short on patience, or overwhelmed, dismissing the physical aspects or symptoms of stress. Western culture teaches us to ignore many
of the physical symptoms we experience.
We tend not to be tuned into our body as much we tune into our ability to produce a product, finish a task, or essentially get things done.

Physical symptoms of stress can present as difficulty sleeping, muscle or facial twitches, flares in auto immune symptoms, elevated blood pressure, an elevated heart rate. High blood pressure needs to be measured and an elevated heart rate is often difficult to feel, so these are particularly difficult symptoms to identify. Viruses like varicella that causes chickenpox and shingles often make a recurrence during times of stress. Our ability to build resilience to stressors and to identify stressors are key to mitigating the effects of stress on our bodies. Good nutrition can build resilience to stress by providing the nutrients necessary to make healthy brain chemicals, reduce inflammation and promote healthy sleep.
In my recent online class on plant centric eating in the immune system, I discussed how including or fruits and vegetables in your diet has been found to improve moods. By including 45 servings of vegetable and or fruit per day research subjects were found to report better moods the day they ate them, and most interestingly the following day as well. Additionally, researchers have found that a higher level of an antioxidant called carotenoids is associated with greater feelings of optimism. When searching for the effects of nutrition on brain chemistry and moods I found a plethora of research to support these findings.
 In addition to improving your mood, a plant centric diet can increase physical feelings of health. This can be experienced as a lack of joint pain, if you were body aches or headaches. Eating a plant centric diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and whole grains, is anti-inflammatory in nature. In addition, removing inflammatory foods such as refined grains, refined sugar, and industrial oils from the diet is similar to putting less fuel on a fire. When we stop consuming inflammatory foods, we stop inflammation at the source.
By improving the quality of what we consume, we also better manage our blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are in a healthier range, we experience fewer mood swings, improved energy, and better sleep. A great place to start is to look at the healthy eating plate designed by Harvard medical school. Fill ½ of your plate with vegetables: that would be about 2 cups. Use ¼ of the plate to hold your protein choices which could be animal protein, beans, Tempe, tofu or a mixture of animal and plant protein. Use the remaining ¼ of the plate to hold a healthy carbohydrate like brown rice, quinoa, blue potatoes, or farro. If you prefer to avoid grains, use the remaining ¼ of the plate for additional vegetables or a serving of fruit. By filling your plate in this way, you are insured to get the antioxidants, the fiber, and low glycemic carbohydrate that help maintain healthy blood sugar, better cholesterol levels, and foster good brain health.
Give it a try for one week. In most cases you might be surprised to find that you feel less stress, or sleeping more soundly, and enjoy eating a more plant centric diet.
Earth Day Zoom meeting with Linda Illingworth, RDN
IMPORTANT UPDATE on antibody testing at LWI/SDSM:
We have received many questions about access to testing for antibodies to COVID-19. SDSM does not recommend COVID Antibody testing at this time. Currently, the test results are inaccurate and unable to be adequately interpreted, and therefore, would not change the management of the individual patient.  We do expect with further work that the tests will become a valuable tool in the overall management of this crisis in the future. We will keep you informed.

A  big THANK YOU to our colleague and pal Dr. J. Zink and our own Shannon and Linda for their tremendously helpful contributions in this issue of our LWI newsletter.  Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend as we gradually re-emerge to enjoy each other and the spectacular nature that we’re so blessed to be able to enjoy. 

Stay healthy and be well,

~ Lee

Copyright © 2020 Lifewellness Institute, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp