TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo

Archive for the ‘depression/anxiety’ Category

Finding Balance

Posted on: April 5th, 2018 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

This past season I have found it very difficult to find balance…something that I strive for and value deeply.  I can struggle with the cold weather, particularly if that cold weather makes it difficult to be outside and definitely if it involves a lack of sun.  It’s been a hard and long winter season for a variety of personal reasons too and with that comes thoughts and reflections about behaviours and patterns that I often do throughout the winter season that don’t always do a great job of creating balance.

Solitary Stool
If you’ve spoken with me before, you know I speak about the stool analogy when it comes to balance….the four legged wooden kind of stool, not to be confused with speaking about bowel movements, although that is an important and helpful discussion, as well.  I love this analogy, as many people understand it and often connect well to it. I often say, if you and your well being are the seat of the stool, you are held up by 4 legs – the mental leg, the emotional leg, the physical leg and the spiritual leg. Sometimes we make the stool a tripod, if that last leg is not a match for the individual.  And my job, as a Naturopath is to figure out why the stool is toppling. In this analogy, maybe one stool leg is extra long, making it topple over, or maybe one leg is incredibly short and thin. For some, the mental leg takes the brunt, for others it’s the physical leg. Regardless of what it is, I find it fascinating to see how we all work at doing our best to create balance amongst adversity and stress.

Many people come to see me for physical reasons and as we begin dialog, the focus is on the physical leg of the stool, but as we dive in deeper to the root cause of the problem, we often uncover other legs of the stool to be at the root of the problem.  Let’s use me for an example. In previous years I have created a wonderful habit of running almost each morning. I wake up early and run with my dog to clear my head, feel nature and get some physical exercise. I work at eating a clean diet…clean meaning no gluten and dairy for me with my specific health concerns and limiting sweets, even fruit as I love sweet food, but can struggle with insulin regulation.  Everything in my world feels and works better if I maintain exercise and clean eating. I physically feel great, emotionally am more stable and mentally am sharp….I love this place, as it’s me feeling something I adore, balance. But, at the end of January someone very close to me passed away when I had a few other stressful things happening at the same time, it felt like the emotional leg of the stool got yanked out from under me and I was flustering to achieve balance in the other legs.  The mental, spiritual and physical legs of the stool were doing their best to compensate to ensure I stayed upright but life changed. I stopped running as I didn’t have time/ability to do so daily, my clean eating went out the window as I physically couldn’t grocery shop easily or have energy to food prep and I started getting into old patterns of behaviour to compensate for my heart feeling broken.

As a culture, we are notorious for avoiding being present with difficult situations/pain.  We distract and numb ourselves through television, food, social media, etc. and all the while our emotional leg of the stool is not actually being nurtured while the other legs of the stool are suffering, desperately working at creating balance for the whole.  These distractions and changes in behaviour can have a time and a place, but the tricky thing is catching when the compensation becomes a pattern and then a habit. For me, this past winter, I started watching tv shows at night – positive, lovely shows but it was distraction from feeling what was real for me.  I stopped journaling regularly, as it was hard to be real with the hurt and I started baking often as this is a comfort for me. Even if my baking choices are raw vegan desserts and technically “healthy”, they are still desserts and connecting to a pattern I developed as a child, that when I was sad, food would numb the hurt.

The body is an amazing thing, always striving for balance or homeostasis, a medical term for essentially the same thing. I see many people in my practice where the physical leg of the stool is in rough shape – but if that’s happening for you, consider thinking about the stool analogy and what events got you to where you are today.  Yes, that physical leg of the stool will need care and support but as that leg gets stronger, the other legs can be nurtured and are often the real reason we are off balance in the first place.

For me, I know the warmth and sun of next week will help.  I have supported my adrenals the past few weeks which have helped give energy and motivation to consider cleaning up my diet and food patterns.  I have good supports that I have used to help sort out the past events and I have once again, run daily. My runs are slow and not super long, my diet could be even cleaner with better prep work, but I’m feeling more balanced and stronger again with an improved inner resilience.

This past season has been hard for many and this culture we live in, particularly, the culture of Kitchener-Waterloo is unbalanced.  We are driven, busy and stressed out people. See which leg of the stool in this analog needs nurturing for yourself and seek out that balance.  Whether it’s doing more social events, improving your physical exercise regime, taking up a creative hobby, clean eating, meditating, having alone time…work at creating the specific balance you need.  The journey is much easier when the stool is not toppling.

Hoping that you are able to feel supported and balanced into the coming season.

 Amanda Cressman, N.D.

Stop Staring, it’s starting to get weird

Posted on: April 24th, 2017 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

I recently saw this quote written by a friend and it made me laugh out loud.  I love laughing out loud…it doesn’t happen that often but when it does, I take notice.

By the way, your past called to say, stop staring, it’s starting to get weird.”

Dr. Rajesh Ragbir, N.D.

If my past could talk she’d definitely yell this out with a few other words as a reminder to move on, to stop being stuck.  It’s so easy to get stuck though, to stop and stare.  Part of the staring can be helpful – to reflect, to learn and understand how to change outcomes in the future, but so much of the staring is the opposite of helpful.  Why I love this quote so much is the friendly and humour-filled reminder points out that the staring is weird.  Just like if you caught someone staring at you for long periods of time, it’s weird.  You can’t do anything about it, so stop staring, stop ruminating, stop beating yourself up over a moment that is done.

So much about getting better on all levels of our being, whether that be the emotional, the mental or the physical is about moving on…not being stuck.  Yes, reflection is important and necessary at times, but the staring…not so much.  What a fun and playful reminder Dr. Ragbir, N.D. gave us with these words.  I hope if you catch yourself staring at the past, that you’ll gently remind yourself to stop and maybe in that moment, you’ll stare around at the now where real change can take place and where you can actually do something about it.

Dr. Amanda Cressman, N.D.

Expectations

Posted on: January 9th, 2016 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

The holiday season is a time of year where expectations run high. We’re told where to go, how long to stay, what to do, what to eat, what to buy and sometimes even, how much to spend. Now, of course they can also be filled with wonderful moments and experiences but that’s not what this blog post is about. This post is about dealing with the expectations from others and from ourselves. We are past the holiday season, but the expectations don’t go away…especially those from ourselves and they are the cause of great frustration and stress for some. So, how do we work with them?

I had a very different holiday season this year, as I kept a mantra in mind. It came from Brene Brown and it really helped.   A few weeks ago on her facebook page she wrote, “Choose discomfort over resentment.”

I’ll write it again, “Choose discomfort over resentment”

I liked it immediately but knew it would be hard. I have been very good at ensuring others are not uncomfortable while at times I can be overstressed, overtaxed and inevitably become resentful for overextending myself. This past season, I kept Brene’s mantra in mind and created a holiday season that worked for me.

So, I said no…a few times to a few different people. I said no to others and yes to myself. It was hard but I feel so much better with no uncomfortable resentment lurking inside.

Boundaries are one of the biggest things I talk to about with my patients. Whether we’re dialoging about boundaries with family, coworkers, children, etc. When people breach our boundaries we feel the effects and what can start, as annoyance and frustration can then become bigger issues that can affect our health. This is where I see people with anxiousness, panic attacks, long standing resentments, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, etc.

This year consider using Brene’s mantra. If you haven’t put your needs first in awhile, it may be difficult, even incredibly uncomfortable, but consider it. Choosing discomfort over resentment doesn’t mean others will necessarily be uncomfortable, it just means you’re choosing to do what genuinely feels right. And when we do things authentically, I believe we all win. See what you think.

Dr. Amanda Cressman, Naturopathic Doctor

Getting to Joy Through Sadness  

Posted on: August 24th, 2015 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

This may seem like a funny title or topic to write about it, but it is one very dear to me. I had written an article awhile back about my Journey with Colic…about my experience with my newborn babe who wouldn’t respond to treatment for her “colic”. She cried the majority of the time (12-18 hours/day) for the first 3-4 months of her life. It was humbling to say the least, as I couldn’t make her better. And what followed these 4 months was not what I anticipated. Once the crying stopped and we discovered we had a wonderful, happy little girl…I got sad…real sad and soon realized that I had post partum depression. I have been reluctant to write about this, as I wouldn’t consider myself completely over it, but I watched a movie that convinced me that it was time to share about my experience.

I used to love movies…I adored them. I enjoyed sitting down and watching the beautiful scenery of somewhere far away, listening to a fantastic music score created specifically for it and appreciating the wonderful acting the supported a story line worth telling. This was when I was younger and since then, I have rarely enjoyed a movie. I guess I’m searching for something that inspires me, encourages me to think about things differently or to be better. But…I got this all back last week when I watched, Inside Out. I was told to watch this film by someone I respect and I was so grateful she did so, as I would not have normally decided to watch a cartoon. Watching Inside Out reminded me of something I forgot in these past few months…sometimes you can’t jump over or crawl under an uncomfortable emotion you are experiencing. Sometimes the only way to get to the other side is to go through it and that has been the best advice with my postpartum depression.

For those of you who haven’t watched, Inside Out, I won’t give it away but simply put, it’s about a young girl growing up and follows her emotions that are trying to guide her through a difficult time. What is most surprising is the focus on all emotions – whether that be joy, sadness, fear, anger, etc…the film helps us understand that all have a place…including sadness.

We often hear we should fake it until we make it. To not focus on anything negative, so as to not attract it…but sometimes that does the opposite of what we hope. By avoiding the uncomfortable or bad thoughts, we aren’t being real with what is and we can’t find the proper support/help.

So – how does this Pixar film relate to my Postpartum Depression? Well, after I found myself crying watching this film until there were literally no tears left to cry, I realized that I had been fighting something that just was. I desperately wanted to be happy, to be joyful, to savour up each and every moment I had with my girls, but sometimes, the Joy was lacking…sometimes it felt like Joy had left all together. The more I pretended or hoped it wasn’t there, the more I felt it. I was Sad. My short maternity leave was everything I didn’t expect it or want it to be – with a crying babe, surprising life stressors and a horribly cold winter that kept me inside. My time with my baby was hard and the truth was, most people didn’t want to hear about that when I tried to share. We live in a culture where the expected answer to “How are you doing?” is, fine, good, great or wonderful. But how often do we feel that? Sometimes we feel rotten, upset, hurt, sad, used up or even angry.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, there is pressure to have it all figured out, to be healthy, fit, optimistic and on it. I was none of those things and the harder I tried to get there the less I experienced them. Inside Out reminded me in a gentle but beautiful way, that sometimes the only way to get to Joy is to allow Sadness in. In doing so, you acknowledge whatever you’re going through instead of pushing it away. Once I did this, I could better support my post partum depression. I could be real with it and find the proper support that I needed to get myself back.

Since then, I’ve had more glimpses of Joy and anticipate that it will continue to grow, as I get myself back.

Sometimes the only way to get to the other side of a difficult situation is to go through it and we are fortunate to live in a time where there are so many options of support to help us get there.

If you are needing support, finding your way to Joy, I’d love to help.

Dr. Amanda Cressman, ND

Seasonal Affective Disorder…what can be done to help

Posted on: October 22nd, 2011 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

As the autumn weather blows in its coolness, we begin to shift into a different gear that is preparing for the winter season.

Are you beginning to notice a change in your eating habits?  Are you migrating toward the root vegetables, carbohydrates and sweets?

Are you noticing you are wanting to be outside less and feel more comfortable bundled up inside?

Are you feeling your mood is a little bit lower than you’ve known yourself to be?

This is the time of year when many of us feel the seasonal shift internally with mood and externally with our food cravings and body composition.

The term SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) has been coined in recent years to explain this phenomenon.  It is essentially bouts of depression or depressed mood at certain times of year, mostly in the winter months.  Younger people are more susceptible and it is more common in women.

So, what can be done to help?

LOTS.

Taking a mind-body approach to treatment is the best way of making positive change in someone’s life that is affected by SAD.

To break it down in categories, these are the areas that exert positive change.

Light: with SAD people tend to want to be inside, in dark spaces and away from stimuli.  Get out, get up and get some light in your eyes.  Full spectrum lights are incredibly powerful in lighting up your mood and energy.  30 minutes per day is most beneficial and when used upon rising, it mimics sunrise.

More Light…in the form of Vitamin D.  Get your levels tested.  Low levels of this powerful immune and mood supporting vitamin can increase rates of SAD.  See your Naturopathic Doctor to assess your levels and begin supplementation to get you on track.

Movement: We want to be the hibernating bear, but this only makes things work.  Even if all you can do is walk around the block once, that is progress.

Breathing: while you move, remember to breathe deeply and easily increasing oxygen to cells.

Nutrition: what we crave only perpetuates the mood we are feeling.  To get out of that mood, eat clean.  Choose to have a strong focus on vegetables and always in heated form.  Teas are also great.

Acupuncture: to balance the energy meridians and support stable mood.

Supplementation: Naturopathic Doctors can help create plans with botanical, vitamin/mineral support to increase mood and overall wellbeing.  Winter is a wonderful time to support your mood, your adrenals and your immune system.

Environment: For me television almost always makes the mood worse.  It feels good for a minute, but after I’m done watching a program, I feel heavy and frustrated with wasted time.  Choose to have nourishing music, programs, book, and company around you.

There is so much that can be done to support depressed mood and SAD, turning your winter into a more enjoyable experience.

If you are interested in learning how Naturopathic Medicine can support you, please contact the clinic at: info@touchstonehealth.ca or 1-888-454-4667

What if Life Is Working for Me?

Posted on: April 3rd, 2011 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

Life is a very interesting and dynamic thing.  I am always amazed with all the twists and turns that are apart of it.  When I was younger, I imagined that life simply got easier, better and more enjoyable as time moved on and that I in turn would become stronger, lighter and happier….this this continuum always progressing in a positive direction.

It makes me smile, even laugh looking back on these thoughts and realizing that the progression of life and the progression of an individual experience is not so clear cut or linear. It would be a lot easier if it were, but also fairly boring.

Life twists and turns, just like a beautiful, strong river. Sometimes the twists take us back to places we thought we had already been and don’t need to visit again…but it does so all the same.

Sometimes it’s easy to feel frustrated with this journey, especially if we envisioned that it “should” be different from how it is. How does one lift out of pain, sadness, frustration, guilt, shame…all of these emotions that are experienced and can be re-experienced?

I like to ask a question. I ask myself in those times,”What if Life is Working for Me?”. What if amongst all this…that life is actually working to support me? At first that appears to be a difficult question, as this time may contain a great deal of hardship, but if you probe deeper you may find more comfort and understanding upon asking it. Perhaps the present circumstance is helping you revisit something to encourage release, perhaps more lessons are coming from this and needed for your growth, perhaps a final revisit is needed before you can shed it completely.

Whatever the case, it’s a good one to ask when you’re wondering why life is presenting you with something that you feel “shouldn’t” be there. If you genuinely want the answer and give yourself sufficient time and space to respond, you may be pleasantly surprised and comforted with what comes up.

It’s an interesting journey, this life; always flowing, moving, drastically changing and urging us to do the same. And if we all had the mindset that perhaps life is working for me…it could possibly be a lighter and happier experience.

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Posted on: November 13th, 2010 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

Today is Random Acts of Kindness Day. What a fantastic celebration, honouring kindness displayed to others.

This time of year is an interesting one, although the past week has been filled with sun and warmth, the winter season has been slipping in with the turning of the calendar. Moods are shifting, energy is going inward and many have felt a change within themselves in recent days as we prepare for the colder weather and change in season. November seems like the perfect month to remind us all of doing random acts of kindness.

In Dr. Wayne W, Dyer’s book, “The Power of Intention” he explains that when we show kindness to another, the neurotransmitter, serotonin is released. This is that feel good hormone that makes our mood feel lifted, our appetite in check and produces an overall sense of calm. So, intuitively, we all know this to be true. When someone does something for us, it lifts us up. But what is so interesting is that serotonin levels are also elevated in the one performing the kindness and…anyone else who witnessed it! This is powerful. I’m sure you can all remember a time when you watched a stranger do something kind for another, possibly helping them across a street, running to hand them something that was dropped or just saying a kind thing. Kindness spreads like wildfire and has ripple effects that go beyond our understanding.

So I challenge you to sharing more Random Acts of Kindness with this world. See what goes on for the individual who is receiving and check in yourself, to see how you feel thereafter. Your little serotonin receptors will be smiling!

"Hey, how ya doing?"

Posted on: April 8th, 2010 by Dr. Amanda Sue Cressman

These four words are commonly asked when we greet one another. And whenever I hear them, I remember back to an August morning with my grandma. It was two weeks after my grandfather had suddenly passed away from a heart attack and we were walking along the street when an acquaintance of my grandmothers saw us and said, “Hey, how ya doing?” And my grandma, my dear blessed grandma – yells back, “horrible, I wish I were dead!”

Now, that seems rather harsh but, let’s face it, she was being real with the emotion she was feeling. But the best part of this story was his remark. I’m sure there are a range of things you could possibly imagine him saying, but probably not what ended up coming out. He replied, with a smile on his face….”Great” and kept walking. Great? Yep, he actually didn’t even register what she said. Now, my first response was – “Grandma, that’s not right – you can’t just say how you feel.” And she fairly retorted with, “See, he didn’t even hear me and why can’t I say how I feel, it’s true isn’t it? Why do people ask if they don’t want to hear the answer?” And without realizing it, she asked a profound question.

I share this story, as many of us are often asked the question of how we are doing with the expected answer of “great” or “wonderful” or “fine” But sometimes this is not the truth of what is going on, sometimes life does feel wonderful but sometimes it feels down right low, frustrating and hard.

In my practice as a Naturopathic Doctor, I see a variety of concerns and diseases. I help work with skin conditions, digestive disorders, hormonal balancing, fertility support, pain management to name a few; but the growing area of complaints and concerns in my practice is anxiety and depression. Although the sun is beginning to shine and we are feeling the warmth of spring, it is important to take care of ourselves and ensure we have wellbeing on all levels.

According to Health Canada and Statistics Canada, it is estimated that 13% of adults will experience a mood disorder at some point in their lives. And of these individuals only 20% will receive treatment. Now this is an important number, as many more go undiagnosed or have mild/transient cases.

Depression and anxiety have become Canada’s fastest rising diagnosis, with twice as many women as men having the diagnosis. On average the age for women to experience depression/anxiety appears between the ages for 25-44. For many women, this is in their childrearing years, with increased demands in the home, with work, in the community or with all of the above. As you are looking after others, it is imperative that you look after yourself as well. You deserve to feel as good as you help others do so all around you.

So, what can be done? The most exciting aspect of my work as a Naturopathic Doctor, is teaching my patients that there is always hope of betterment and change. So many people have been told or believe that what is now is what will always be and that isn’t necessarily the case. There is always hope of betterment, it’s just finding what avenue will lead you there.

Identifying root cause is the first place to start, as the reason why one becomes depressed/anxious is different from the next. Naturopathic Medicine honours the uniqueness of the individual and treats according to your specific needs. We have a few modalities we can work with, creating a plan that is particular to the individual.

Therapeutic Nutrition:looking at diet, including foods that help stabilize your blood sugar and help increase the feel good hormones. This goes back to the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates who said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”

Tip: One great place to start is creating a Diet Diary. Writing down foods that are consumed and then have an additional column that specifies how you felt after you ate these foods. Maybe energy was good and high all morning after your breakfast, or perhaps you felt heavy and lethargic. Creating a diary will help you connect with foods that increase mood/energy and ones that take it away.

Another area of care is Acupuncture. This form of medicine has been used for thousands of years. It is very effective at calming the nervous system and providing stress relief for the individual.

Tip: Acupressure can also be done at home for support. One area that is particularly helpful for anxiety in a point about 2 inches up from your wrist, located on the inside of your arm between those 2 strong tendons. Pressing on this point when anxious/noxious alleviates these symptoms and gives you relief.

Homeopathic Medicine can also be used, using very diluted forms of plant or mineral extracts to gently support your mood. These can be taken for acute situations or for a more chronic concern.

Botanical Medicine is one of my favourite areas of care for depression/anxiety. Herbs have been used since the beginning of time to elevate mood and wellbeing. These are carefully prescribed upon a detailed analysis of a case to balance mood.

Tip: Chamomile Tea and Passionflower Tea are excellent for calming nerves and are excellent after a long day to help ease you into a deeper sleep.

And last but certainly not least is Lifestyle Counseling. Dialog about the stressors in our lives gives insight and clarity to resolution, along with stress managing techniques to improve relaxation.

Tip: Journaling on a regular basis is known to relieve stress and connect you with your feelings. Going back and reading old entries can shed insight onto your journey while writing current feelings gives a release from the stressors presently experienced. I like to also, no matter what mood is felt, write down 3 things I feel grateful for each day. This encourages a grateful heart and shifts mood ever so gently.

There is so much available to support mood and deal with high levels of stress. There is always hope of betterment, it’s just about finding the right avenue of care for you and knowing you are a priority. And in our busy world, one thing we can perhaps do to help, is really listen to a friend when they honestly answer the question of “hey, how are you doing?”” even if the mood isn’t always great, listening and caring can be a great place to start.

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