Dr. Melissa Glover's 10 tips to improve mental wellness during the holidays

Most of us ditch our self-care routine in December; the excess social engagements, holiday temptations, and opportunities to indulge can cause not only our physical health to suffer, but also our mental health. While this month can be challenging with the extra stress and expectation of the holidays, there are a few adjustments we can make in our day-to-day to help manage our well-being. Dr. Melissa Glover gives her top 10 tips to improve mental wellness during the holidays:

Dr. Melissa Glover Naturopath
  1. Eat your greens

Optimal diet is key to optimal health.Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, chard and arugula contain vitamins and minerals such as B-vitamins, magnesium and iron. These nutrients reduce inflammation, boost energy and metabolic function, and improve mood by supporting the formation of neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.


2. Limit sugar and processed foods

We all expect there to be a ton of sugar in pop, candy, and baked goods, but shockingly sugar also hides in places we don’t expect it! Check the labels of your cereal or granola, sauces and condiments, protein bars, and even dairy products like yogurt and you’ll be surprised by the sugar content. The World Health Organization recently lowered the recommendation of daily sugar intake to under 5% of daily energy intake, or ~25g of refined sugars per day.

When we eat sugar our bodies release an excessive amount of insulin to process all the sugar which causes a rapid reduction of blood sugar. This leads to the release of a hormone called cortisol to compensate for it  Cortisol is our “fight or flight” hormone, a necessary survival mechanism but it can also cause anxiety and irritability. Blood sugar spikes and crashes also affect our energy levels and lead to that afternoon sluggish feeling. The best way to avoid these blood sugar crashes is to limit refined sugars, and if you are going to have something with sugar or a lot of starch, pair it with fat, fibre, and protein!


3. Support the adrenals.

The adrenal glands produce our stress hormone cortisol, and as previously mentioned cortisol is our “fight or flight” hormone. Cortisol is released from our adrenals when something is considered in our minds to be dangerous, harmful or stressful, or during physiological stressors like illness or inflammation. As you can imagine, there are a lot of things in our day-to-day lives that cause cortisol to be released, and therefore our adrenal glands often need some TLC.

There are lots of natural ways to support the adrenal glands including mitigating our stress where we can, and practicing mindful meditation or breathing exercises. We can also use adaptogenic herbs to support the adrenals. These herbs counteract the adverse effects of cortisol and stress, and support our adrenal glands to do their job more efficiently. Adaptogens enable the body's cells to access more energy and eliminate toxic by-products. Some examples of adaptogenic herbs include ashwaghanda, licorice, rhodiola, ginseng, and reishi mushroom. Check with your naturopathic doctor if adaptogenic herbs are right for you.


4. Be realistic, set goals, and prioritize.

It seems so simple, but it makes a world of a difference. Make a list of tasks you must do, and tackle them in order of importance. Delegate responsibilities where you can and prioritize what you love the most. Sometimes even this can seem overwhelming, so I often coach my patients to break projects into small steps. Be willing to compromise with yourself and with others, but set boundaries and stick to them.


5. Breathe

Shallow breathing prevents the body from getting enough oxygen. Many people fail to breathe deeply when they feel tense, which is one reason you might feel exhausted at the end of a stressful day. Breathing deeper, slower, quieter and more regularly helps you force more oxygen into your cells. Increased oxygen in your cells slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and ultimately provides more energy.


6. Get active

Just 30 minutes of exercise at least three times per week allow us to get the cardiovascular benefits that lead to increased vitality. A study by California State University has found that the more steps people take, the more energetic they report feeling. This can be hard to imagine, because a lot of times when people are fatigued the last thing they want to do is exercise, but realistically exercise will be the thing that often energizes them the most. Unfortunately during the busy (and cold) holiday season, this is typically what gets dropped! Try to maintain an exercise routine to keep your mental and physical health in check.


7. Sleep soundly

Sleep hygiene is vital to getting those valuable Zzz’s. The basic aspects of proper sleep hygiene are having a regular schedule and bedtime routine; eliminating all light sources; avoiding stimulants in the afternoon and avoiding snacks high in simple carbohydrates (sugars) before bed.

Some ways to optimize your bedroom for sleep are to:

  • Keep it cool. A drop of body temperature stimulates sleep.

  • Keep it comfortable. If you wake up with more back or neck pain than you went to bed with it is probably time to buy a new mattress or pillow.

  • Keep it quiet. If your room is noisy use ear plugs, white noise, a fan or soft music.

  • Keep it dark. Melatonin, the main hormone for stimulating sleep, requires darkness. Use thick curtains, blinds, or eye masks to ensure maximum darkness.

  • Keep it work-free. Your bedroom is for sleeping and sex only. Watching television, working on a computer and reading can over stimulate the mind and negatively affect sleep.

  • Keep it free from distractions. Turn your phone on do not disturb (better yet, keep it out of the room), and turn your clock away from view.

  • Create bedroom “Zen.” Try removing clutter, homework, calendars etc., if you can, think about painting the room to earthy tones or making it your relaxing place, use calming lavender or peppermint essential oils in a diffuser.

  • Avoid using a loud alarm clock. Waking up suddenly to the blaring wail of an alarm clock can be a shock to your body; you’ll also find you’ll feel groggier when you are roused in the middle of a sleep cycle, if you get enough sleep on a regular basis, an alarm clock will not be necessary, if you do use an alarm, you should wake just before it goes off

    • Try a sunrise alarm, which is an alarm clock with natural light built in that simulates a sunrise,

    • Try an alarm that gradually gets louder, or soothing classical music


8. Get enough vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble compound that’s important as much for brain development as it is for bone development. Data suggests Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased depressive symptoms. To naturally get enough vitamin D we require 15 minutes a day of sunlight on the skin between 10am and 3pm during summer when the UV index is at its highest. That being said, sunscreen is still advised to ward off harmful UV rays, and unfortunately reduces your ability to produce vitamin D by 90%. Aside from sunlight, vitamin D can also be found in oily fish, UVB-exposed mushrooms and fortified milk.

9. Incorporate healthy fats (omega-3s, essential fatty acids)

Polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids) have a vital role in maintaining proper neuronal structure and function, as well as in modulating critical aspects of the inflammatory pathway in the body. Omega 3 fatty acids are one of nature’s best anti-inflammatories. Omega-3 fats can be found in nuts, seeds and oysters, although the highest amounts exist in oily fish such as sardines, salmon (especially King salmon), anchovies and mackerel.

MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil is another source of essential fatty acids that is rich in antioxidants. MCTs are digested easily and sent to your liver where they can quickly positively affect your metabolism by being burned as fuel, as ketones. A 2004 study found that the MCTs in coconut oil helped improve memory problems in older adults (The Journal of Neurobiology of Aging), and also can make you feel more clear-headed, energetic and positive. MCT oil helps not only feed your brain cells, but also improves your digestive health via the gut-brain connection.


10. Take probiotics

Research shows a connection between the bacteria in our guts and brain health, which may affect mental health, mood and energy (Trends Neurosci, 2013). Likely because over 80% of our serotonin is produced in the gut by these bacteria and serotonin is our happy, calm, focussed and relaxed neurotransmitter. Peripheral serotonin is produced in the digestive tract by enterochromaffin (EC) cells and by types of immune cells and neurons.

When the composition of the gut flora is compromised it can result in inflammatory responses that can negatively affect the nervous system and brain function. A balanced microflora environment is supported by a diet rich in the foods that nourish beneficial bacteria and reduce harmful microbial species. Beneficial microflora can be supported by eating fermented foods such as tempeh, sauerkraut, kefir and yoghurt, and by pectin-rich foods such as fruit skin or supplementing with a multi-strain probiotic.

You don’t need to completely change your lifestyle to employ these tips. Do what you can, and start small. Even a few changes can lead you to be more mindful of your mental wellness.




How to practice self-care during the holiday season

Amanda Erickson RMT

Our Western world and busy lives tell us that our productivity is a measure of our success. We are conditioned to believe we must show up, persevere, and keep going; no matter what.  

However, when we observe nature at this time of year, everything slows down. Squirrels have stashed their treasures, the birds fly south, and creatures hibernate until the warmth of spring returns.  Yet here we are running around like there’s never enough time in the day.

I have been experimenting with what it means to listen to my nervous system. I  crave the slow days and evenings at home.  Like nature, this time of year has me turning inwards. I want to curl up beside a fireplace with a pile of knitting and endless pots of tea, all while my brain says, “Go! Holidays are around the corner. Prepare! Do more!”

The looming holiday season is full of events, to-do’s, and social commitments. Often it can feel overwhelming. Tune into yourself and listen to what aligns you as you navigate times of busyness.

Here are a few tips to get started:

1.     Manage your schedule

Physically scheduling in my self-care time is a great help and a huge start to the process. Treating your body to a massage or acupuncture is a great way to turn down the heightened nervous system at this time of year, and to let that unneeded shoulder tension dissipate. Take a new yoga class, or get a session with a kinesiologist, physiotherapist, or other health professional to get the support you need.

 

2.     Get outside

 Take a walk in nature, even if it's just stepping outside your office or front door for a stroll around the block. Notice the beautiful details of nature; take it all in, and relish in the present moment.

 

3.     Slow down

Take five deep, nourishing breaths. Try this before you leave the house for work, or before you head out to tackle that list of to-do’s. Try a few minutes of meditation of savasana (corpse pose) to slow the mind.

 

4.     Cultivate gratitude

Write down five things you are grateful for in this moment. Focussing on what you’re grateful for helps give you perspective and realize all that you currently have.

 

From my experience, when we tune into self we can use our time more efficiently. The above options have proven to me that when we prioritize turning towards alignment of heart, mind, and body, the to-do list becomes checked off, and the time to accomplish it is all there.  Taking just a few extra moments to turn inwards with ourselves gives us more time in return.

6 ways to stay active in the winter

I’ll be the first to admit that keeping up with an exercise routine is more difficult when the days get shorter and the temperature gets cooler. However, I also know that staying active is vital for both my physical health and mental well-being, and this keeps me motivated to prioritize exercise in my weekly schedule. Think of it this way - we don’t always want to brush our teeth, but we do it every day because we know its good for our health and we always feel better afterwards. The same goes for exercise.

So, how exactly do we prioritize exercise in our weekly schedule, especially as winter approaches? Here are a few tips to help keep you motivated:

Alex Piller Kinesiology Blog
  1. Find a type of exercise you enjoy

    Exercise is a form of self-care and should be fun! If you enjoy an activity, it increase the likelihood that you will actually do it. Sometimes, though, the activities we enjoy in the summer aren’t as much fun in the winter. For example, I am a “fair weather cyclist,” so instead of cycling outdoors in the winter I attend an indoor spin class. If you’re someone who enjoys going for daily walks, maybe try going during your lunch break while the sun is still up instead of waiting until after work. Sometimes trying another form of your favourite exercise or tweaking your schedule is all you need to do to keep yourself motivated.

  2. Schedule it in!

    When you’re planning your weekly schedule, purposefully set aside time for physical activity. It’s even better if you can write it in your calendar or sign up for fitness classes ahead of time. Planning ahead will help you commit.


  3. Surround yourself with people who motivate you

    This may mean finding a workout partner, or attending an instructor-led class. Typically, the hardest part about getting active is physically getting to the gym (or putting your walking shoes on). If you can commit to meeting a friend or signing up for a class, you’re more likely to actually go.


  4. Get a support network

    Sometimes watching someone exercise is all the motivation we need to get off the couch. Try following social media accounts or YouTube channels of your favourite athletes, exercise specialists, health and fitness magazines, or local gyms for regular inspirational content on your feed (Disclaimer: choose accounts that help to motivate you, not those that cause you to compare yourself to others or leave you with negative thoughts about yourself).


  5. Consider the time of day you schedule your workouts

    If you’re anything like me and plan to wake up early to workout, only to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, chances are you’re going to bail more often than not. Instead of trying to workout early in the morning, I go straight to the gym after work. This works best for me because if I go home first, I may get too comfortable (or hungry) and decide to stay put. On the contrary, I know lots of “morning people” who prefer to start their day with a workout, and that way they don’t have to worry about their day getting away from them and not being able to fit it in.


  6. Set goals

    The more specific, the better. For example, “exercise more” is vague and open to interpretation, but “exercise three times per week for 60 minutes” is clear and concise. You may have goals around committing to regular weekly activity, or they may be more personal (e.g. lose 10 lbs before Mexico vacation, increase 1 rep max back squat by 20 lbs, run 10 km in under 50 minutes) - what matters is that they’re meaningful to you.

-By Alex Piller

What do chiropractors do?

“What do Chiropractors do and how can they help me?” - I answer this question on a regular basis. A common misassumption is that chiropractic care and spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) are the same thing. SMT, commonly known as spinal adjustments or ‘back cracking,’ is the tool us chiropractors are best known for, but this is not the only tool we use.

Dr. Ben Stebbins Chiropractor

So what tools do chiropractors use?

Chiropractors are medical professionals who use manual skills and techniques to treat musculoskeletal and spinal conditions.

The Harvard Medical Journal briefly explains some of the other tools chiropractors use to treat patients:

In addition to spinal manipulation, a chiropractor may educate you about changing your biomechanics, rehabilitation and suggest other treatments and techniques. The ultimate goal of chiropractic is to help relieve pain and help patients better manage their condition at home.

Helping patients better manage their condition at home is one of the most important pieces to the therapeutic puzzle.  Initially finding a good exercise, movement modification or habit to start incorporating at home or in the office is imperative to continue the progress that was made during your chiropractic visit. Patients deserve a well-rounded approach to care that they are actively involved and informed in.

Active and passive treatment

Every person who walks through my door has a unique experience with their pain or dysfunction, therefore they require an individualized approach to their care.   Treating patients in this way requires me to have a variety of treatment techniques at my disposal.  These techniques can be separated into two categories: active and passive. 

I use passive treatments to help relax patients and decrease painful symptoms. They’re called passive because the patient doesn’t have to actively participate. These are things like spinal manipulation, deep tissue massage and joint mobilization.  Passive care can be a very important initially to help decrease pain and relax the body, but this is only a stepping stone to get to the active component of care where we can make more lasting and meaningful changes.

Active treatment requires the patient to be involved.  I always use movement with my treatments, even with those that are traditionally passive; soft tissue therapy, cupping, and Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue therapy (IASTM). 

Why do I need to move through my treatment?

Movement helps create meaning and confidence in the treatment.  I want to get my patients back to doing the things they want to do quickly with more strength than before. There is no better way to do this than to empower them that they can move without pain.  Getting my patients actively involved in their treatment allows them to get off the table and back to being active.

I believe in educating my patients how to move better, stronger and without pain.  Everyone who walks through my door is different; they all have different experiences, expectations and requirements to help them get better.  Knowing this, I have built up a ‘tool box’ full of different techniques and tools to help you feel better, faster.

Dr. Ben Stebbins Chiropractor

Travelling with a concussion

Injuries don't happen at the ideal time.  A concussion can put a serious hiccup in your summer travel plans - but you don't necessarily need to cancel everything.

Over the past few months, a handful of our patients who are recovering from concussions were able to successfully travel to see their families, enjoy a vacation and embark on some fun adventures.  


Can I travel after a concussion? 

Concussion Program, Integrated Health Clinic

If you're considering traveling within a few weeks (or months) of your concussion injury - check with your doctor for advice. 

Some doctors will advise that you do not do long-haul travel (by plane, car, bus or train) within the first few days or weeks after injury.  It's not that these forms of travel are dangerous - but they can definitely make your symptoms feel worse. 

There's no evidence to say that flying or traveling will cause you any harm, but managing your symptoms on a trip can be a bit more difficult.  You should consider adjusting your trip to fit with what you can tolerate.  Some examples are taking more rest, doing less walking or exercise, doing fewer outings, and generally pacing yourself.  

Getting away from your usual environment and getting some exposure to new things can help you heal.  Just make sure you take it slow.

What are the benefits of travelling after an injury?

Being stuck at home and feeling unwell is not fun.  Often, going on a trip or vacation can be a very healthy experience.  Getting away from your usual environment and getting some exposure to new things can help you heal.  Just make sure you take it slow.

Concussion Program, Occupational Therapy

What are some tips for travel?

Based on our clients' experiences, we've put together a helpful list of travel tips and tricks on our concussion website.

The key things are to plan ahead and ask for more help than you need.  Airlines (and other travel services) are happy to help.  You can often get special treatment through security and boarding if you let them know your situation.

If you're feeling uncomfortable asking for help, remember that it's better to disclose your situation and get help rather than be pulled aside for additional screening because you're acting weird.

If you have questions about travelling or want more help - let us know!