TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo

Archive for the ‘depression/anxiety’ Category

Showing Up Authentically

Posted on: May 22nd, 2020 by TouchStone Health

by: Dr. Amanda Cressman, N.D.

This post is looooong overdue.  It has been 10 weeks from today that I had been seeing patients in clinic when COVID-19 had changed our lives.

It’s been such an interesting time and for anyone who knows me, you know I love the word interesting as it is a great umbrella word for a variety of experiences.  What’s so bizarre and difficult to wrap my head around is the variance of experiences in the past 2.5 months.  How this virus can be life threatening to some and not to others, how the isolation has been horrendous for some and absolutely welcomed and enjoyable for others and the financial implications for so many people and businesses.  The only thread of consistency is that we are all connected in this, that this experience has affected us all and that among the variances, we are in it together.  We all know that life will never be quite the same hereafter- how businesses will run, how we interact with each other and ultimately how we perceive others.

With so much disruption, it is jarring, especially for those who are wired similarly to myself.

The reason I called this post Showing Up Authentically is that I ask people in my practice to do this.  I value authenticity and to ask it of others, which means I need to always ask it of myself….especially when it’s hard to do so.

When stress happens we often do one of three things.  We fight, we flee or we freeze.  My response when all this began was to fight.  My nervous system was spun.  Sleep was altered with the dreaded 3 am wakeup where my mind racing, the wired but tired feeling throughout the day was present, causing great levels of anxiety, the change in appetite and cravings were not great, to put it politely and the overall heaviness of this new and very unwelcome reality was felt.  But with time, the fight died off and the freeze took over, a feeling very new to me – numbness, fatigue, lack of motivation and deep sadness.  Collective grief was spoken about a lot in that time and was a great analysis of what we were all experiencing.

But like all things, there is a season, thank goodness there are seasons in nature and in life…as that fight and freeze response had passed to the present reality of acceptance and even finding joy with the changes that have come from all of this.

The point of this article is to remind you that you are not alone and that whatever season you are presently in – whether that be fear, joy, uncertainty, anger or ambivalence…you are not alone.  It’s been an honour to connect with people over the last few weeks and months, hearing their experiences, sharing in their story and supporting them…as it’s been really hard for many.  There is so much information out there, that many of us are in mental overdrive.  It’s hard to digest it all, knowing what to trust, wondering when things will change and how it will all look.  With all the mental chatter, it takes work and effort to connect with ourselves on an emotional level, really listening to what we need and giving space to feel it.  For me, as a health care practitioner, I’ve struggled with feeling some of these not so pleasant feelings and grateful to have given room for them to be felt.

Everything has a season and this has been one of the most bizarre seasons of my life.  I think many can relate to that.  The more we share, the more we open up about what is honestly going on in our lives, the more we remind others that we are in this together.  Showing up authentically is easy when things are great but not when things are tricky.  I hope however you are feeling, wherever you are at, that you are remembering your goodness, your worth and that you are not alone.

 

Helpful Resource

Posted on: April 10th, 2020 by TouchStone Health

by: Amanda Cressman, N.D.

Loving Kindness Meditation is one of the of the more popular meditations that has been studied to understand its role on creating calm and well being for the individual practicing it as well as promoting compassion and kindness for others.  In this time of uncertainty where stress is high within ourselves but also in relation to others, these are things we could use more of.
This meditation can be incredibly helpful and one that is worth a consideration.

Here are some articles explaining it.  See what you think.

https://positivepsychology.com/loving-kindness-meditation/

https://www.mindful.org/this-loving-kindness-meditation-is-a-radical-act-of-love/

 

Helpful Resource

Posted on: April 9th, 2020 by TouchStone Health

by: Dr. Jocelyn Hayes, D.C.

A breathing exercise for stress reduction

  • Find a position that is comfortable to you (sitting, lying, etc) in a space that is quiet and free of distractions (for a few minutes at least).
  • Start to let your body settle into that position and become heavy on the chair you sit in, or bed you lay in, or wherever you find yourself at the moment.
  • Let go of any tension you’re holding in your body or face. Without changing your breath just start to pay attention to it.
  • After a few breaths, start to let your breath get deeper into your chest and belly.
  • You may want to put a hand on your chest and one on your belly so you can feel where your breath is going.
  • If your hand on your belly is not feeling any movement, deepen your breath into the belly until you feel some movement there.
  • For the next few breaths, start to lengthen each inhale and exhale slightly to slow the breath down.
  • Now we start a 5-10 breath, meaning you inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for a count of 10. If this feels like too much then try a 4 count inhale and 8 count exhale – the key is that the exhale is twice as long as the inhale. This switches our brain and body out of a stress state and into a relaxed state.
  • Keep doing your 5-10 or 4-8 breath for several minutes. I recommend at least 5 to 10 min, but you can do this for shorter lengths during the day to reduce stress when you notice it rising. You can also do it for much longer if you would like an even more peaceful and relaxing result.

The benefits of a 5-10 breathing exercise are many. As I mentioned, it moves your nervous system out of the stress cycle and into a more restful and calm state. This has the effect of reducing mental stress, anxiety, physical pain and muscle tension – things many of us are experiencing a lot of recently. Breath work also increases your oxygen levels, improves posture, massages your internal organs and can even help to improve circulation and digestion.

Stress management is essential to our overall health and wellbeing.  Breath work is an excellent tool that can have incredible benefits on your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. I encourage you to carve out time in your schedule to take a few deep breaths, and hope it brings you a few moments of calm.

Helpful Resource

Posted on: April 8th, 2020 by TouchStone Health

by: Amanda Cressman, N.D.

Self Compassion is something that is spoken about but rarely practiced.  In so many of the individuals that I speak with, negative self talk or a negative inner critic is often apart of anxiety, depressed mood and contributes to an overall stressed out individual.

Especially in this time, where so much change and stress are felt, compassion for self is of vital importance.  It helps us cope in difficult times, bridging over to a greater understanding of ourselves which can lead to helpful solutions.

I have loved Kristin Neff’s work on self compassion.  Her website has various resources and support.  https://self-compassion.org/. If you check it out, I hope it brings something helpful to you.

Helpful Resource

Posted on: April 6th, 2020 by TouchStone Health

by: Dr. Melanie Reidl, N.D. Naturopathic Doctor

I can’t recommend the ‘Calm’ App enough. With nearly every patient that I see, I write the name of this App on their prescription with the hope that it supports their individual mindfulness meditation practices. Also, I often play a guided meditation from Calm during acupuncture sessions so that my patients can practice mindfulness meditation and learn about mindfulness during their appointments.

Why do I recommend this App so frequently? Research continues to show that mindfulness-based therapies can benefit general psychological health, stress management, pain disorders, and as an adjunctive treatment in depression. When practiced consistently, mindfulness-based interventions can reduce stress, anxiety and depression symptom severity, as well as protect against recurrence of some mental illnesses.  Pretty amazing, right?

I hope Calm helps you, wherever you’re at with your mental health, as much as it’s helped me.

March Return & My Less-Than-Perfect Maternity Leave

Posted on: February 25th, 2020 by TouchStone Health

Written by: Dr. Melanie Reidl, N.D.

I’m feeling excited and energized about my return to Touchstone in March. After 6 months of maternity leave, it’s feeling right to step back into a career that brings me joy, challenges me, and allows me to help others.

In this post, I wanted to share a little bit about my time away from Touchstone. The honest truth about this maternity leave is that it’s been HARD. And it hasn’t been because of my beautiful baby girl, as you would expect it to be.  Since our sweet girl entered our lives in September, she has brought more joy, fulfillment, and love than we could have imagined. She’s literally been my sunshine on cloudy days.

Starting in November, my family was presented with several challenges and difficult news. In summary; Our family dog became very ill and we had to let him go, my grandfather’s cancer returned and he passed away, and I faced unexpected complications related to a past injury that required multiple visits to my orthopaedic surgeon, a surgery, and, during that time, left me extremely anxious about my health.

We’re all doing well now and I’m certain we’re through the worst of it. However during those difficult weeks I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘why is this happening?’ and ‘why all at once?’  Now that I’m through it, I feel that it was meant to be a test of my strength and resilience. It also forced my husband and I to work more as a team to care for our girls, to reach out for support from family, and to really APPRECIATE our blessings.

I am more grateful than ever to have my health, my two healthy babies, my husband, and my incredibly supportive family and friends.

I feel more motivated than ever to help you, my patients, through health (and life) challenges when I return to practice in March. If you’re currently facing a health challenge (or other life challenge), I am here for you, I will be present for you, and I will provide the most compassionate care that I can. 

Balance

Posted on: June 12th, 2019 by TouchStone Health

We live in an interesting world where we are inundated.  Inundated with images, busyness and lots of opinions on what we should be doing, eating, looking like, feeling like and thinking like.  I don’t know about you, but I find it overwhelming at times.  I historically loved listening to podcasts and generally am inspired by entrepreneurial individuals who have worked hard to be who they are against what society has told them is possible or “normal.”  But lately these podcasts and interviews have been demotivating as there seems to be this trend of pressure.  Pressure to be exceptional, pressure to be unique, pressure to have it all together and pressure to be special.  Although I believe in many of these messages and appreciate the inspiration, I also think they are not balanced and can cause undue stress to individuals if we perceive ourselves to not be hitting the mark.

I love looking at health and life in the framework of seasons.  It seems to be a common analogy that many individuals are using these days- to honour the variety and contrasting experiences we have in life to the four seasons.  Spring season refers to the beginning of something where excitement and opportunity exist.  Summer is a flourishing time where manifestation and abundance are thriving.  Autumn is where change is approaching and what was once flourishing is now diminishing.  And Winter where there is no growth but stagnation, creating a time for reflection and renewal.

What I have learned…in a rather difficult way is that we are all in different seasons at different times.  Although this seems obvious, it’s hard when you are in a winter season of your life and someone else is in their spring.  The comparisons can be difficult and social media takes this to a whole new level where everyone appears to be in the most exciting, most abundant time of their lives…their summer season.

So many of our self help books/podcasts/blogs are about getting you and keeping you in your summer season…which is impossible, unrealistic and goes back to creating more pressure.  Pressure to be on, to be abundant and joyful at all times.  This is unbalanced and a request that isn’t made by Mother Nature but from and to ourselves.

Balance for me, is the key to health and wellness.  Whether that’s balance in your physical body, your mental mind or your emotional heart…balance keeps the whole system in check and this balance needs each season to happen for totality of health.  We’ve somehow lost that here in our culture…specifically the work culture of Kitchener Waterloo, where in many industries performance and achievement are valued over other virtues.  I see many people in their winter season –  pushing themselves beyond what is healthy to keep on top, to help stay relevant or valued.  When people feel they are in a fall or winter season, it’s often met with feelings of inferiority, that something needs fixing or changing when in actuality it may be a time for more rest, for recuperation and for reflection.  But there are times when things are off balance too…even drastically so, where support and intervention are necessary.  What’s important is that if you do find yourself in a fall/winter season of life, that you can give the time and space needed to honour that…finding your way back to balance.

For someone who has recently been in her “winter season” for awhile, due to life circumstances of grief, loss and change…it can feel like failure at times when I’m not doing as much as I historically could do but I need to stop and remind myself that this is only a season, that it will pass as all seasons do and I will come back to a spring season once again….if I take the time to reflect, to support my body and mind, to help set the stage to heal and for renewal.

Balance, I feel is becoming a lost state but one that is the foundation for wellbeing.  If the analogy of seasons is a match for you, check in to where you are presently…to where you have been and see if there are things you can do to nurture that specific season.  Through doing so, you will create the balance your being is needing to create health and wellness.  Just like with Mother Nature, you can’t be in summer season all the time, if so, things would fall apart and you’d miss out on all the pleasures that the other seasons provide.

Amanda Cressman, N.D.

Lessons Learned from my Fertility Journey

Posted on: February 20th, 2019 by TouchStone Health

By Melanie Reidl, Naturopathic Doctor

2018 was a difficult year for me, to say the least. One of my fears became a reality, I was struggling with trying to conceive and was experiencing significant anxiety and depression about it. I wanted to share a little about my fertility journey in this article, as I have so many patients, friends, and family members who have had their own fertility challenges and I know it can be a very isolating and distressing experience.

Going through my own fertility challenges has given me insight and compassion for others who are also going through it. The extensive testing, frequent appointments, worry, sadness, relationship stress…I’ve been there. But I do know that your experience can really depend on the approach you choose to take toward your fertility journey. When I started going to a fertility clinic this summer, I was overcome with anxiety, fear, and distrust. I didn’t trust in my body, my decisions, the doctor… and the experience became very scary for me.

Life circumstances required me to take a short break from care with the fertility clinic. During this time, I decided that I was tired of feeling like my fertility was out of my control. I took my health into my hands and I started to take better care of myself. I wanted to do what I could to improve my fertility, naturally. So, I nourished my body with whole foods. I moved my body in ways that felt good: yoga and walking. I made sleep a priority. I took high quality supplements to support my nutritional status, egg quality, and hormonal balance. I started meditating to calm my mind at night and practiced mindfulness. I used affirmations and chose to think more positive thoughts.

After a few months, I felt ready to return to the fertility clinic, but this time I decided to go in with a new outlook. I trusted my body more, felt more confident in my decisions, and trusted my great doctor. I began to feel a sense of empowerment over my health and fertility. I no longer felt anxious about the experience, I felt excited about it. After all, it was leading me to (hopefully) conceiving!

With time and patience, my body responded to all of the self-care I had been doing. I started to get regular ovulatory menstrual cycles again. My bloodwork showed that my hormones were doing exactly what they should be. My ultrasounds showed that my follicles were growing and that I was ovulating. With each piece of encouraging news, I started to trust and love my body more and more for the amazing things it was doing for me.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this journey is to TRUST. Trust is the opposite of anxiety. When you trust in your body, yourself, your doctors, the universe… you will feel calmer and more at peace with your journey. Feeling calmer and more at peace is also exactly the state you want to be in to allow your nervous system to relax and support healthy conception. :)

Please let Melanie know if you have any questions ( MelanieReidlND@gmail.com ).

A Promise…

Posted on: January 13th, 2019 by TouchStone Health

Written by: Amanda Cressman, N.D.

The New Years is generally a time of reflection and creation of goals and plans for the coming year.  20 years ago I created a resolution of sorts with myself and have been asked to share it here.  It’s one I have spoken about numerous times in my office and I hope it may be of interest to you, if you’re reading this.

When I was 19 years old, I was in my first year of university and was doing my best to be successful in all aspects of life.  I was in a science program that was challenging, living in a dorm with lots of people and away from home for the first time.  To give you more context, I didn’t know it then but I was a perfectionist…or at least on the spectrum – expecting the best from myself and frustrated and embarrassed when this wasn’t achieved.  I had a ton of friends…I literally was invited to 50 weddings in 7 years.  I was that girl…the girl everyone was friends with, who floated easily between cliques and groups of friends and somehow made connections in them. I was about 30-40 lbs heavier than what I am now and I went to each of these weddings alone…single which was difficult but was my reality.  I share these details to help you gain more understanding as to why this resolution was created.

So, one day in the Math Building at University of Waterloo, I got back a calculus test and didn’t do well.  I did ok, but ok was never enough for me, it needed to be great.  I was known as the ‘smart’ girl growing up and not achieving well in school shattered this core part of my identity.  Upon getting the mark, I did what I always did in times like that….I went for it…and began criticizing and basically yelling at myself.  My inner dialog was mean, harsh, shaming and malicious.  And it didn’t just stop at not achieving the mark I thought I should have, it was relentless and began attacking my body, my personality, every shortcoming it could see, it attacked.  In those moments I would freeze, almost like a child receiving punishment, waiting for it to be over….for my sense of worth to be trampled on before moving on with my day.  But for some reason, something was different this day.  I was struck with a new thought, that this behaviour was hypocritical…that if I were to talk to any of my friends the way I talked to myself, that they would be appalled and I would have no friends.  For some reason, this dissonance was very unsettling and wasn’t ok.  I have always strived to be authentic as best I can and this was the opposite of that.

So, I did something that was very un-me.  I went out shopping and spent money on myself.  I bought myself a ring as rings had represented something very special to me – the symbol of worth.  And instead of waiting for someone to give me this gift, it was time to give it to myself.  So, I bought myself a promise ring and made a commitment to work at being my own friend.  Each time I would catch myself criticizing or judging myself, I would rub my ring and say, “What would you want your best friend to say to you?” and I would say it to myself.  It was actually really hard for the first bit and was challenging as trying to be an authentic person…the compliment felt very inauthentic.  But I kept with it and 20 years later, I’m on my 3rd ring with the compliments finally feeling easy and becoming more of my natural narrative.  It’s still a process, one that needs attention and care but changing anything is just that…a process.

New Years Resolutions are a wonderful symbol of the desire to change but a game plan is needed to implement the change on a day to day basis, especially when it really counts.  I am so grateful for that moment in the Math Building when the realization that the narrative had to change to ensure I was being authentic and able to lead a kinder and happier life.

Happy New Years to you and hoping whatever resolution you have created, that it’s one that creates health and well being for you on all levels.

Amanda Cressman, N.D.

 

What are your big rocks?

Posted on: December 10th, 2018 by TouchStone Health

Change of season often brings with it just that…change.  The easy going energy of summer and transitionary time of fall have passed and we often find ourselves busy with routine once again.  Amongst the winter season brings physical and emotional stressors…particularly the months of December-February.  Kitchener Waterloo is a busy city with very busy people.  I see many people in my office trying to juggle a lot and often come in when the stress has become too much, resulting in anxiety, depressed mood, insomnia, etc.  For many, prioritizing self and our health can be tricky when so much is asked of us.

It’s a time to ensure care for self is a priority as this season often brings increased expectations and busyness.

I once heard this great story about a teacher from an elementary class who wanted to remind his students about the importance of priorities.  Apparently this is a true story.

Each kid was given:

  • a gallon jar with the lid
  • a pile of sand
  • 4 large rocks
  • a pile of gravel
  • handful of little rocks
  • a pitcher of water

The teacher asked the students to fit everything into the jar and they attempted to do so.  Many combinations were tried but after 10-15 minutes they gave up, saying it was impossible.  The teacher then showed them how to strategically fit everything into the glass jar, proving it wasn’t impossible.  First the large rocks went in, staggered upon each other.  Next were the little rocks, that fit in between the empty spaces, then the gravel, then the sand and finally, the water.  Each smaller item filled the spots that were left open and finally the lid was put on.

The teacher then shared with his class, the point of the exercise: Life is always going to be very full…with demands and expectations from various areas of ones life and our job is to figure out what the ‘big rocks’ are and ensure they are a priority.

I was told this story about 25 years ago and have remembered it.  As I have grown, the prediction of that teacher proved true – that life is full with expectations coming from so many places.  But when I have identified what my ‘big rocks’ are and ensured they fit into my jar/life first – everything else seems to sort itself out.  The key for me though, was remembering that my ‘big rocks’ change from time to time….some weeks/months demand something different where a former ‘big rock’ has needed to become a ‘small rock’ in this analogy.

This simple example reminded me that there needs to be fluidity in our lives with our goals/ideals.  Life is full of varying experiences and we need to support ourselves amongst that diversity.

I hope this simple story is helpful, reminding you to honour what your ‘big rocks’ are and knowing that nothing is set in stone, per say…things can change from time to time.  But give space for honouring them and seeing if everything you desire fits in the jar more easily and readily thereafter.

Amanda Cressman, N.D. Naturopathic Doctor

564-572 Weber Street North, Unit 3A
Waterloo, Ontario
N2L5C6