TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo
TouchStone Health Photo

Archive for the ‘stress’ 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 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.

In case you forgot…

Posted on: July 31st, 2019 by TouchStone Health

You (1)

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

Stop Staring, it’s starting to get weird

Posted on: April 24th, 2017 by TouchStone Health

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 TouchStone Health

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

A Journey with Colic

Posted on: May 22nd, 2015 by TouchStone Health

This is a very difficult article for me to write as my baby has just turned 4 months and is coming out a period where she experienced “colic”. I put the word colic in quotation marks as it’s a very misleading and confusing word. In general terms it is defined as a baby crying for 3 hours a day for more than 3 days a week, for 3 consecutive weeks in a child that is otherwise healthy. The usual onset is 2 weeks of age and it usually lasts until about 3-4 months. But the reasons for colic can be very different and it’s not always due to gas, as the word colic implies.

Some babies have reflux – where it’s noticeable with obvious signs of spit up and pain after eating or silent with no symptoms present at all. For other babies it’s digestive and gas is usually the culprit. For others, they are incredibly sensitive, reacting to any stimulus that is strong, loud or bright. And for others, it is developmental, meaning it is a normal phase, which is now being coined as The Period of PURPLE Crying®. For anyone who has had or known a baby to go through colic…the last word that you imagine being associated with it, is normal.

But this article will not focus on the causes and treatments of colic…that will be for another article, which I will soon publish. This article is about the stress and impact it has on those caring for the crying child and talking about options of support. This article is hard to write, as this experience of having a colicky baby has been one of the hardest I have been through and I feel very passionate about helping anyone who is or will be going through it. It’s a vulnerable place to write about one’s own experience, but I feel there will be value in sharing, as this topic is a difficult one to speak about with others. Let me tell you a bit about my past 4 months.

When my baby was born, she screamed for her first 90 minutes of life. The midwives and myself found it a bit odd, but she was deemed healthy and normal and went home soon after her birth. I had hoped her screams were just signs of her strong vitality but as the days came and went her crying increased. At 2 weeks it was bad – lasting close to 12 hours/day…at 4 weeks it was worse, lasting 12-16 hours/day and at 6-8 weeks it was horrible, lasting upwards of 18+ hours/day. She was gaining weight, peeing and pooing as expected and considered healthy with no other underlying causes for the crying.

With each week, I hoped the next would be better but my heart sunk further and further as it kept worsening. I would rock her most nights from 11 pm-4 or 5 am while she screamed in my arms. Sometimes I may have cried just as much as she did, as the screaming was what I call, ‘crazy making’ for me. Sometimes she slept in the day due to exhaustion, but there was always more crying than not and the kind of crying that breaks your heart as it seemed it did not matter what we did, it remained.

Leaving the house was awful, as the crying was worse in the car, in the stroller or in anyone else’s arms. Everytime we went grocery shopping I’d literally have 5 or 6 people come up and ask me if she was ok or worse yet, they’d tell me what I should do to make it better. I realize everyone was trying to be helpful, but it generally did the opposite.  Having people over was stressful, as no one likes listening to a baby crying and I would feel the need to try to entertain or try to hold a conversation, even though it felt more like a burden than a gift of having a visitor. As the days came and went, my babe and I found no routine that we could latch onto…we just got by and I hoped the next day would be better…but it usually wasn’t.

I would feel embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t make my baby stop crying, especially being a Naturopath.  My babies colic wasn’t due to gas or reflux which there are natural supports that can sometimes help dramatically.  For her the best medicine was time which was the hardest medicine for me to swallow.

I had hoped to exercise, to eat clean, to get my former body back in shape and strength, just like I had after my first daughter was born. But with time, the weight kept staying on, eating clean foods no longer was a priority or possible and I had no desire to exercise, take supplements or do anything good for myself. I tried…I really, really tried, but I was burnt out in every aspect of my being and I had nothing left for myself.  What was worse, was that I knew how to do all the “right” things but I had nothing left in my tank.  My body and emotions reflected how burnt out I was.

So many women that I see in my practice who have had colicky babe, difficult babes or post partum depression often suffer in silence. Speaking for myself, I’ve felt it inappropriate to complain or share about this struggle, as I know many others struggle with their own journey’s…whether that be infertility, miscarriage or the loss of a child.

Now, I need to preface this article, with saying I am and always was grateful for my daughter and don’t take it lightly, how fortunate I am to have a babe. I know many women would love to have babes who can’t…that some women would gladly have a colicky baby. The reason I share this, is I feel it is important to keep perspective. But it’s also important to be honest about where you’re at and this article is written with the hope that if you’re suffering from exhaustion, anxiety, depression, loneliness or lack of will to look after yourself…that you’re not alone.

Whatever your journey has been, please know that if you’re wanting or needing support, you have options. Your emotions need a place where they can express what you have gone through, your mind needs a place to make sense of your experience and encouragement to shift perspectives if you’re ready for that and your body needs a place to rebuild its depleted stores and get strong again.

I lost myself in the care of my colicky daughter. I lost the drive to prepare healthy foods, I lost the drive to run and be outside which helps my body and mind, I lost the drive to connect with life and ultimately myself. I’m in the process of rebuilding myself and it’s taking work and love and care on many fronts…but I’m getting myself back and grateful that there are natural supports to do so.

The process of rebuilding takes time and needs nurturing care but is the most important thing you can do.  I’m in this process myself and if you’re needing a place to help rebuild yourself, I’d be honoured to a be a part of that. Know you have options and that you’re not alone.

Amanda Cressman, ND.

The Compound Effect

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by TouchStone Health

When it comes to health, many of us would like to have instantaneous change when things are not well or balanced. Whether it’s for weight loss, hormonal balancing, digestive improvement, skin health, pain or mental well being…we would all like to see these things improve easily and readily. But unfortunately, that is generally not the case. As illness or poor health take time to develop, it also takes time to improve. But how do we have patience and time for creating positive change?

I recently came across a book, The Compound Effect, that speaks about a principle that we often disregard or under value. The principle is the same as the title, The Compound Effect. The author, Darren Hardy, explains it as:

“The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. What’s most interesting about this process to me is that, even though the results are massive, the steps, in the moment, don’t feel significant. Whether you’re using this strategy for improving your health, relationships, finances, or anything else for that matter, the changes are so subtle, they’re almost imperceptible. These small changes offer little or no immediate result…

Success is earned in the moment to moment decisions that in themselves make no visible difference whatsoever, but the accumulated compounding effect is profound.”

This is a great reminder that positive change often happens with small, incremental steps.  Whether it’s taking the stairs at work, refraining from eating after 8 pm, going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual, going for a run twice a week, shutting down all screen time an hour before bed, daily writing down something you’ve appreciated from the day…the list could go on, but I think you get the point.  Small changes are needed to achieve great change…profound change, as Hardy explains.  Doing small things is something we are all capable of, no matter how busy or full life is.  Choose one small thing you could do to enhance your life today and stick to it, commit to it and if that’s hard to do, find someone to help you with this process.  The gain and improvement in your life will be well worth it.

Your job is to be you!

Posted on: June 12th, 2014 by TouchStone Health

We so often talk about stress and the effect it has on our lives.  As a Naturopathic Doctor, stress is an important piece to identify in addressing the obstacles to wellness.  Whether it is a physical, mental or emotional stressor…the same cascades of reaction go off in the body and we are affected.

On my intake forms, I have a question that often highlights where one source of stress comes.  The question is: What is the most misunderstood aspect of you?

It’s an interesting question and is often left blank.  The rare individual feels understood, but the majority feel very misunderstood and this causes great stress.  Some of the most common answers revolve around comparing ourselves to others and hoping to be perceived as though we have it all together like, whomever it is we think does.

The comparison game is as old as time, I imagine.  We are humans who judge, compare and aspire to be like others.  This can be positive, helpful and motivating…but often it tips the scales in the opposite direction where self talk is brutal, unkind and disapproving of self.  Most of us have played this game or are active players.  Feeling like our bodies are not as fit or healthy as that person in spin class that we ride beside, our skills at work are not as strong as our coworkers, our relationships are not as fun as that friend who is always out socializing and so on.  I find the comparison game annoying and depleting but yet it’s hard to not take part at times.  But then I read something that helped shift it.

Joseph Campbell once said, “the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

Wow.

We each have a job and that is to be who we are.  We teach children this, we actively remind them to be who they are, embrace it, love it and know it’s enough.  Where and when did we forget this?  That throughout our lives, this is one of the most important jobs we have…to be us and stop playing the comparison game where we can come up short.  In the poem Desiderata, written by Max Ehrmann in 1927, he reminds us of this concept, “If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

So what is it that you could do to compare less and accept yourself more?  For me, something that really helped was closing down a social media account.  As wonderful as these sites are for staying connected, for me, it tipped the scales in the direction of comparison and I never felt good after browsing.  Find out what it is for you and do it.  Your job is to be you, no one else and the sooner we own that, the happier and less stressed out we will all be.

 

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