Promote Calmness Through Food

It’s a good day to promote calmness through food. For lots of people in my state, it’s a hard day to be calm. Our basketball team plays in the Elite Eight tonight. They’ve been a bit of a heart attack team in the tournament so far, making it impossible to calmly lounge on the couch and watch. Could the snacks we choose for the game help quell our anxiety?

I’m not going to pretend that only a handful of almonds tonight will slow our heartbeats when we’re trailing by 10. That’s not how wellness through food generally works. But skipping the sugary, carb-filled food and beverages can help diminish the jittery feeling caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels.

That doesn’t mean you have to go snack free to reduce anxiety. A handful of crunchy raw almonds or sunflower seeds will provide magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to increase anxiety-related behaviors.

Spinach is also a source of magnesium as are Swiss chard, legumes, other seeds and nuts, and whole grains. You may not want to eat a spinach salad during the game, but spinach dip could hit the spot. You could even serve it with bean-based tortilla chips.

Some experts recommend foods rich in B vitamins to reduce anxiety. That makes guacamole another great gameday snack food. Or serve layer dip with beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cheese, green onions, and tomatoes.

Pickles are probiotics that have been linked to lower social anxiety. A plate of crunchy dill pickles will be a welcome addition to your coffee table fare.  Another option is pickled asparagus. You’ll get probiotic benefits coupled with the anti-anxiety properties of asparagus.

And while you’re gathering snacks, don’t forget one of our family favorites – deviled eggs. Foods rich in zinc, like eggs, have also been linked to lower levels of anxiety.

Gluten-free diet followers will be pleased to learn that low anxiety dessert is in the offing. Buckwheat and quinoa are high in magnesium as well as B vitamins. And dark chocolate provides both magnesium and antioxidants. More antioxidants can mean less anxiety. A buckwheat chocolate cookie sweetened with dates, honey, or coconut crystals is the perfect dessert combination for game day.

If you don’t have time to bake, a bowl of fresh berries topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg is a refreshing addition to an antioxidant-filled menu.

And when it’s not game day, all of these foods will still help reduce anxiety. Many are effective for lessening depression as well.

A balanced diet filled with fresh food and plenty of water will give your body the support it needs to function properly. This can go a long way toward building physical and mental and emotional resiliency. I need to get started snacking now so that I’ll have the stamina to watch the game…calmly.

Flip the Negatives Around and Celebrate the Positives!

Today, I am choosing to celebrate the positives! The method I will use is practicing gratitude. Admittedly, I don’t feel like doing this or feel very grateful so I’m using force of will to get started, but I know the process will shift my focus and I’ll soon embrace the better feelings it will create.

In spite of the amount of body work I’ve done, past trauma leaves me bracing for the worst much of the time. I can feel myself holding feelings back with my steeled posture. If I don’t let negative feelings flow and release them, I can’t feel positive feelings.

The process of practicing gratitude can work for me as a way to slowly and carefully access feelings I’m not sure I want to feel or that I am subconsciously avoiding. I know it’s not touted as a technique designed for that, but I like to use it in this manner because it accomplishes a couple of things simultaneously.

With a structure for getting to the emotions beneath the surface, I don’t feel anxious or frantic. It’s like walking up a gentle slope to the top of the mountain rather than free-soloing the face of a cliff. The other thing that happens is, by the time I reach them, bad feelings are diminished or cushioned by the positive framework of gratitude I’ve created to support me. There’s a real beauty in the way this works.
positives
Here’s today’s process:

I am grateful the rain has stopped. My roof is leaking. I filed an insurance claim two weeks ago, but due to a delay by my agent and then another by the insuring company, an adjuster won’t show up until tomorrow. During those two weeks, wind gusts carried away a whole section of shingles and yesterday it began to rain.

I am grateful that the roof leak is small. The pitch of my roof is very steep so most of the water runs right off. I’ve been able to catch the drips that make it inside in a plastic tub lined with towels.

I am grateful I woke up early. Instead of trying to convince myself to go back to sleep, I made my way downstairs to discover the sound of running water. I followed my ears to the closet that contains my water heater. A pipe is leaking. Water was just beginning to pool. If I had waited until my alarm sounded, I would have had a flooded floor. Instead, I’ll just have a cold shower.

I am grateful I finally found an engineer who may be able to help with the flooding of my office building. The first 12 years I owned that building, the French drain was adequate. Now it floods often. The experts have determined the drain is clear and adding another would not help. What they haven’t determined is what will help. I’m hopeful that this new engineer will have the magic potion.

There seems to be a water theme here. How can that come as a surprise? When it rains, it pours, right? But wait, there’s more! That’s good because I’m not really feeling better yet.

I am grateful I haven’t contracted the stomach virus my son’s family is passing around. Even if I eventually get it, I appreciate the fact that I am not fighting floods while fighting a virus.

I am grateful I have power at my house. Thousands in my state do not because of the storms.

I’m grateful for all of those reusable grocery bags I found cleaning out the water heater closet. I didn’t realize I had so many size options.

I’m grateful I don’t have to do the dishes for a few hours. I tested some recipes and have a few pans that have to be hand washed. I don’t love that task so taking it off the list for awhile makes me happy.

Awww, a glimpse of feeling good!

I’m grateful I tested those recipes because that means there’s food in the refrigerator. I don’t have to think about what I’m going to eat today. All I have to do is reach, reheat, eat!

This makes me feel more secure. Yeah, my association of food availability and a feeling of security is a long story for another day. Suffice it to say I’m painfully aware of the connection.

Now I’ve reached the point where things get real. I still feel sad about the experiences that created that connection. The underlying feeling is grief.

That old grief is not all I feel. I have a load of grief and loss from current events as well. Finding the time and space to process it fully and still meet my obligations is a difficult balancing act. Especially when there are floods to clean up.

So, I’m grateful to understand that I am carrying grief. This is good information because grief often manifests as anxiety which I feel as a pain in my stomach. Knowing the difference allows me to heal my stomach, my spirit, and my psyche.

I’m not alone in experiencing grief as anxiety. Some also experience it as depression or sleep problems. Max Strom has a whole Ted Talk on breathing & healing in which he states that a vast number of us have a grief problem masquerading as anxiety or panic.

When I can reach the feeling of grief that is lurking, I also immediately feel more grounded, centered, and calm. The “bad” brings with it the good. I am no longer willfully focussing on positive. It just appears in my awareness.

That allows me to relax the steeled posture I previously described. I can focus on my breath rather than holding it. This is a great beginning point!

There is much to process. In the moment, grief can feel like slogging in mud with unexpected waves of water suddenly crashing against you. But looking back, I quickly recognize that feeling grief does not crush me. It frees me.

I believe that eventually I will be free enough to revel in joy and I am grateful to be on that path.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34

https://maxstrom.com/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/im-going-let-thanksgiving-kickoff-new-year-filled-gratitude/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/gratitude-is-my-best-defense/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/preparation-for-healing-managing-expectations-begins-with-setting-clear-intentions/


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Coulda, Woulda, and Should Have!

I’m wondering why my relatives who coulda, woulda, and should have thrown out the trash chose to hang on to it? I just spent yet another weekend in my hometown cleaning out my mom’s cousin’s house. Although I thought I’d already emptied all of the bags and boxes that have to be slowly sorted, I discovered I was wrong!

There were bags behind a chair, boxes under the dresser and the beds, and piles on top of the cedar chest. There’s unopened mail from 1987 mixed with family photos, used Kleenex, financial records for still active accounts, pharmacy bags with prescriptions attached, and pill bottles filled with quarters all in the same box or bag.
bags
In the past 3 years, I’ve been tasked with cleaning out two houses and a 3000 sqft storage building filled with similar mixtures of trash, recycle, shred, keep, and donate. Trash, recycle, shred, keep, donate. Trash, recycle, shred, keep, donate.

I can quickly think of four relatives no more distant than second cousins who have stopped throwing things away. They don’t shop compulsively. They are proponents of recycling. They pay their bills. They have active social lives. And they keep trash. And they mix trash with non-trash. And they leave the trash casserole for someone else to deal with.

This weekend I was joined in the cleanup by my psychologist cousin who thinks this is a form of hoarding or obsessive-compulsive behavior. Of course, my first question was, “Is it genetic?” According to Dr. Nancy, there is most likely a genetic component, but no specific marker has been identified. I know I came home with a compulsive desire to get rid of something.

In my mom’s house, there was an identifiable point in time at which filing and organization stopped. Prior to that, she saved a lot of things, but it wasn’t unheard of for her to pare down. There is an identifiable year when things changed in her cousin’s house as well.

While the cousin’s change in habits seems timed to correlate with the loss of her mother, my mom’s appears to correspond with her marriage to her second husband. I guess the commonality in the two is significant life change.

Logically I understand how loss might trigger a desire to hang onto things that belonged to a person you lost or that hold fond memories of a person lost. It’s interesting that it might trigger hanging onto junk mail or ceasing to file.
pile
I think it’s possible that a triggering change can cause a freeze response that manifests in an inability to take care of yourself in some way. Perhaps it interrupts your maintenance of your environment or perhaps you struggle to feed yourself.

Saying it’s a triggering change implies a previous wound or a latent biological response. Obsessive-Compulsive disorders and Eating Disorders are closely related to anxiety. Anxiety is at its most simple, distress.

Distress can come from old or new feelings of terror, grief, sadness, helplessness, humiliation, danger, distrust, rejection, invisibility, shunning, defectiveness, and unloveability. Old incidents of neglect, abuse, or cruelty sensitize us to anything that feels the same.

All of these feelings can be so powerful that we can become overwhelmed. Pushing ourselves gently into action may seem like the straw that will break us. Of course, the reality is that the only way to heal the distress is to find a way to feel then release the feelings.

Hopefully most of us will find a way to do this instead of ceasing to throw away trash. Living in the midst of clutter weighs us down. The dust collected can irritate allergies. Piles can create a falling or fire hazard.

Neglected kitchens and bathrooms can pose other health risks. During my weekend, I observed that canned vegetables can sit unused long enough that the can begins to disintegrate and leak thick, black tar-like liquid that runs out of the cabinets and drips onto the countertop. I’m not sure I can describe to you how gross this is!

I donned a mask and gloves, but I felt like I needed a full hazmat suit to dispose of the cans. An antique Kerr jelly glass with a metal lid accidentally tumbled into the contractor bag along with a can. I did not go after it. I realize they sell for almost $20 on Etsy. It still wasn’t worth the dive.

Yesterday, I drove the three hours home wanting nothing more than to wash the day off of me and go to bed. Now that I’m back, everything in my house is suspected trash! I’m looking to see if there’s anything I coulda, woulda, or should have thrown away by now.

I sometimes feel like taking the position of my mom’s cousin Jimmy. Jimmy had a barn in disrepair that he wanted to tear down. The barn was located on the original homestead and contained some family heirlooms. Jimmy tried to get the family to come claim those treasures so he could proceed with demolition.

Instead, they stalled, lobbied, guilted, humiliated, and generally made him so miserable that for 15 or 20 years whenever someone mentioned that barn he’d just shake his head and say, “Light a match!” That was almost 40 years ago. He never demolished or torched the barn.

In fact, he finally sold the land to my dad and I now own the repaired, refurbished barn. I have no idea what’s in it. Maybe I coulda, woulda, or should have, but I’m afraid to open the door!

…Light a match?

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/hoarding-disorder/what-is-hoarding-disorder

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/eating-disorder/eating-disorders-anxiety
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Could Ghrelin be my Hunger Gremlin?

Could ghrelin be my hunger gremlin? For years I’ve been wondering whether my hunger sensor is broken. I can end up with all the symptoms of low blood sugar before I ever feel hungry. On the flip side, I can eat and eat and never feel full. Most likely, there’s a communication problem between my celiac damaged gut and my brain. The question is, what’s the problem and can it be fixed?
gremlin
Asking this question led me to some reading on the hormone ghrelin. I’ll keep the information here simple, but have placed some links below if you’d like to read about the function of this multifaceted hormone in greater detail.

Initially, I ran across information that indicated ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone. It activates its receptor, growth hormone secretagogue receptor (GHS-R), to regulate nutrient sensing, meal initiation, appetite, fat deposition, and growth hormone release. This sounds related to my hunger sensor concern. Perhaps ghrelin is my hunger gremlin. In order to find out, I had to keep reading.

Scientific literature now suggests its functions go well beyond those related to simple appetite stimulation. Ghrelin has been increasingly recognized as having a role in regulating many organs and systems such the process of creating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources (gluconeogenesis) by inhibiting insulin secretion. It can also regulate energy expenditure by signaling a decrease in heat in the body.

This hormone provides a measure of cardioprotection by reducing sympathetic nerve activity which increases the survival prognosis after a heart attack. That doesn’t sound like gremlin activity. That sounds helpful. It prevents muscle atrophy — also helpful. In spite of all these helpful functions, Ghrelin has a gremliny side. It may promote cancer development and metastasis.

And it seems that ghrelin prevents excessive anxiety under conditions of chronic stress. Now we could be getting somewhere. My early years were filled with enough chronic stress to wear out whatever mechanisms were regulating my stress levels. Still, I don’t have enough information to quite put the pieces together to figure out why my hunger sensor is off.

It’s possible that in the future, ghrelin-related drugs will be produced to help with my problem and many others. The wide-ranging roles of ghrelin and GHS-R make them likely targets for drug development.

A paper has already been published showing that in rats ghrelin can alleviate disturbance of glucose and lipids caused by consumption of the party drug ecstasy (MDMA). Sounds like this could lead to a drug to fight the detrimental effects of a drug. That can either be good or bad, depends on how you look at it.

With all my reading I learned a lot, but I did not find a definitive answer. I don’t know if the problem with my hunger signals is primarily in my brain, my gut, my adrenal glands or somewhere else. I still don’t know whether ghrelin is my hunger gremlin.

http://theconversation.com/chemical-messengers-how-hormones-make-us-feel-hungry-and-full-35545

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049314/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273630/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535766

http://acta.tums.ac.ir/index.php/acta/article/viewFile/6420/5025

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22521145