Health Promotion Newsletter Issue No. 33

16 Feb

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Dear Clients,

I have to say this winter we had not experienced any blistering cold weather except in the month of December.  In February we did have a couple days of chilling weather.

If you are ready to shake off your winter mood please come and join us at our first Health Promotion workshop on Feb. 24, 2017 (Friday).  I am pleased to announce that I have invited Ms. Connie Kim, P.H.D. ,  to present on the topic: CD4 and non-response.  If you’d like to attend please R.S.V.P. to your support staffs.

On March 10, 2017 (Friday) our second Health Promotion workshop will focus on the topic of: Diet and supplements for people living with HIV.  We welcome back Dr. Hal Huff, N.D. to share his wealth of knowledge with us.

On March 11, 2017 (Saturday) our third gathering from OPA+ will be a fun-filled evening,  creative out-of-the-box  activities and an informed  presentation on Asian P.H.A. Resiliency Dialogue Project.   Look out for the invitation from Mr. James Lee (Community Engagement Worker and OPA+ Coordinator).

ACT also offers a couple of Health Forum workshops in the month of February and March. ACT workshops will be held at Ramada Inn on Jarvis street, south of Carlton Street.  Please see information below:

  1. February 23, 2017(Thursday), “Living with HIV and Cancer”
  2. March 16, 2017 (Thursday), “Bi/Gay/Queer Men Navigating Mental and Substance Use Services for People Living with HIV”

There will be a P.H.A. panel discussion in each ACT workshop. Our long standing committed community member Mr. Christian Hui will be one of the panelists on March 16, 2017 workshop.  As an Asian L.G.B.T.Q member it will be nice to attend and celebrate his resiliency.  No R.S.V.P. is necessary for ACT workshops but it will be nice to inform Mr. Rui Pirez (ACT Gay Men Health Education coordinator) Direct: 416-340-8484 for your attendance.

This issue I like to share an article on supporting your mood and mental health created by Ms. Naomi Ha. On behalf of ACAS I sincerely thank Ms. ha for her energy and time to prepare this wonderful article for us to enjoy.  Please see the article as attached.

Kenneth Poon

mindfulness.jpg

Naomi Ha, BSc. (Hons.), 4th Year Naturopathic Medicine Intern (Sherbourne Health Center, Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic, Brampton Naturopathic Teaching Clinic)

Life can be unpredictable. We make plans, have visions for where we’d like to be in a few years, only to have things fall through and propel us through more uncertainties. We worry, we coast, we ride the wave, often dissatisfied with ourselves and fixated on the goals that still remain unrealized. We ruminate, initiating the downward spiral that traps us within the confines of our own insecurities and perceived shortcomings. We become discouraged, confronted by our failures, and as a result, impeding our forward progression because we become afraid that we will continue to repeat the same futile patterns.

But what we fail to recognize is that these are just thoughts- they do not necessarily reflect the reality. Yet, they have the power to change the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us, and thus making us more vulnerable to the maladaptive thought patterns that are characteristic of many mental disorders. From anxiety and depression, to bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the common thread that runs through them all is that they remove us from the present moment. We worry, we stress about future maybes, events that may or may not occur, regardless of their probability. Though we can’t distance ourselves from the stressors that accompany our day-to-day lives, we can change the way we react to them through the practice of mindfulness.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a medical professor in the US, and founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), posits that by remaining in the present moment and observing it from a nonjudgmental standpoint, rather than forming judgments or reactions to our stressors, we can experience them and let them go, without forming the thoughts that later feed our worry. The future and tomorrow are human constructs devised to quantify time that has yet to pass, an eventuality. We worry that our situations today will somehow have that butterfly effect that will have implications on our futures, but as humans, we all have the agency to change our trajectories. We can focus on living every moment with intention, instead of living with the constant worry of what tomorrow will bring, because tomorrow is outside of our control. Mindfulness is a skill that we can all develop, all it takes is an investment of time to increase our awareness of our inner states and the presence of everything around us. It helps us build resilience, so that we may face the storms with the confidence that we’ll get through every rough patch because we’ve overcome them before. Rather than reacting with emotional turmoil, we can ride the wave of emotions, taking notice of any thoughts of physical sensations that we experience and recognizing them for their fleeting nature, and then letting them go (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). In the study conducted by Keng and Tong (2016), it was found that people who regularly practiced mindfulness not only experienced negative emotions for a shorter time period but also reported experiencing positive emotions sooner, after a difficult time/event, compared to those who did not practice mindfulness. The results imply that mindfulness helps to build resilience, that is, the ability to cope and recover from difficult situations.

Fitting in time for a short meditation is also an easy way to get some quiet time during the day to calm the mind. The three-minute breathing space (these meditations are available on YouTube) can be very effective to quiet those daily anxieties and help stave off the complete feeling of overwhelm. These two DIY-treatments are simple and time effective, but can produce great results in stress reduction.

Although stress is not considered a mental disorder, it can be just as debilitating. There are also some commonalities between the signs and symptoms of stress and other mood disorders. For example, anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways, including incessant and unwanted thoughts of failure and danger, and the panic resulting from heart palpitations and shortness of breath, similar to a physical stress reaction. Whether directed towards a particular trigger or generalized, anxiety can be quite debilitating if left unmanaged. During a panic attack, it is key to remember that the episode will pass, and you will not feel like this forever. It can also be helpful to maintain a single point of focus on a surrounding wall and to name all the objects that you see there, which can alleviate anxiety by removing the focus away from the anxiety itself. Acutely, there are supplements that have been shown to be effective in promoting a sense of calm and wellbeing, especially while in the midst of experiencing an anxious episode. L-theanine, an extract from green tea, has been observed  to induce relaxation, and relieve tension when taken at 200 mg (Dietz & Dekker, 2017). Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is especially helpful during those anxious episodes where your mind is racing and you can’t seem to collect your thoughts because they continue to pop up one after the other. It can also be indicated if stress and anxiety are causing difficulty falling asleep (Sarris, Panossian, Schweitzer, Stough, & Scholey, 2011).

In contrast to anxiety in which the mind and body feel overstimulated, depression can manifest as low mood, sluggish cognition, withdrawal from interests and friends/family, and low mood, among other symptoms. These might last for only short periods (depressive episodes), or may persist for months at a time (major depressive disorder, MDD). Although these disorders are highly responsive to pharmacological treatment, studies have also shown efficacy for various naturopathic treatments. Remmelt et al. (2016) observed lower brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate the nervous system, within actively depressive patients. These results point towards GABA supplementation as a way to balance the neurochemical pathways in depressive disorders, however, results are preliminary and additional research is needed before consensus to its efficacy may be reached. Perhaps the best known herbal remedy for depression is St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum). A study by Seifritz, Hatziner & Holsboer-Trachsler (2016) found that using 300 mg of St. John’s Wort extract each day resulted in a greater reduction in the severity of depressive symptoms as well as improved remission rates, compared to those taking selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the first-line class of drugs for depression. Despite the promising results for these alternative treatments, not everyone will respond in the same way, so it’s always recommended that you consult a physician before starting any of these treatments, due to any drug-herb interactions that might occur.

As each and every person experiences and copes differently with the various stressors that are engrained in daily life, the small selection of naturopathic supportive treatments mentioned in this article might not work for everyone. However, it is important to spread awareness of the normalcy of stress and mental health concerns, as everyone has experienced them to some extent during their lifetime and to empower everyone to strive for mental wellbeing due to its immense impact upon how we experience our lives and the decisions that we make. It is easier to cope with life’s difficulties when we accept their fleeting nature and overcome them with resilience.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your physician or naturopathic doctor prior to initiating any treatment.

References

Dietz, C., & Dekker, M. (2017). Effect of green tea photochemicals on mood and cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design, Jan 5. Epub.


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