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The Relaxation Equation: Find Your Zen

There are two things I am sure of.

First, is that at least one of my patients every day will tell me they are tired, exhausted and overwhelmed most of the time. Second, is that these same patients are the kind of people that do everything for others, always put their family and friends first, and rarely if ever take time to do anything for themselves. In fact when I ask the question, ‘When was the last time you did something you love to do, rather than spend your free time running errands and checking things off your list?’ they will thoughtfully consider the question then with tears in their eyes quietly tell me that they don’t remember the last time. If they do, the response is often in years.

Now I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that this is sometimes the case for me, too. I have spent years balancing work, marriage, school, kids, starting a practice, all while trying to hold together friendships when it seems there is no time to even send regular emails let alone a phone call or coffee date.

I’ve been the person that has for years said ‘If I can just get through (insert event X), then things will slow down and I can relax and catch up’ but inevitably after ‘event X’ comes ‘event Y’ and the cycle continues.

Can you relate to any of this- (1)

 

 

 

Rewind five months ago when my husband and I were planning our first vacation together and alone in eight years and were planning to go to Australia. Turns out Australia is a pretty big place to visit for only 2.5 weeks and if you want to make sure you see what you want, you have to plan it all out ahead of time. Just the thought of planning the trip was overwhelming. One night I turned to my husband and said ‘Let’s forget Australia. I can’t even start planning because the thought of it exhausts me. Let’s go to Fiji. Let’s book a flight, a resort, and just figure it out when we get there.’ Much to my surprise he agreed, and this huge weight was suddenly lifted.

Why am I telling you this story?

 

 

 

Because I think it’s important for you to know that I follow my own advice. And not only do I follow my own advice, I recognize how valuable this particular piece is. So here it is:

 

Spend time every week doing things that you love to do, not that you have to do. (2)

 

It’s not rocket science, but here’s the trouble that everyone (myself included) runs into. We say this. We know it would be great. But we don’t schedule it in and make it a priority. So then that Monday night yoga class you scheduled becomes the class you’ll do on Tuesday instead. But then on Tuesday one of your kids gets sick and you push it to Thursday. Then on Thursday you’re exhausted so you say you’ll just wait until next Monday again. And so it continues and when do you typically get to that yoga class? Never (or very, very rarely).

Fiji for us was like a dream. It was 2.5 weeks of utter relaxation, where the only major decision we had was whether to read by the beach or by the pool. No deadlines. No to-do lists. Just allowing myself the luxury of nothingness. In my whole life, I don’t remember feeling that relaxed. I slept soundly. I woke refreshed. I smiled all day long without effort.

So I’ll let you in on another secret I have learned:

Can you relate to any of this- (4)

 

 

 

How, you ask? Well, for me it first took realizing that I was capable of feeling that good to know that was possible. Then I figured out that I didn’t have to escape to Fiji to get there. Really what was I feeling? I was experiencing what it was like to relinquish all of the expectations that I place on myself when I’m home. Experiencing what it was like to only have my own well being in mind. Experiencing what it was like to go to sleep with a clear mind because I could always do tomorrow what I hadn’t done today. I realized when I returned that there was no reason not to feel that when I’m home also, which takes me back to the first secret, taking time each week to do something I love to do. No excuses. No guilt. My sanity, as I have realized, depends on it. I have discovered that it makes me a better mother, a better wife, a more productive worker, and I think ultimately a better person.

So now my patient’s know that when I give them this exact advice in an appointment, I am walking the walk. I am dedicated to it, as I feel everyone should be. And you won’t truly realize how much you need it, until you start doing it.

Start this week. There is no time like the present. Your health and wellbeing are worth the small investment. And another thing I have learned – it’s addictive. The more you do it, the easier it gets, because like chocolate, utter relaxation releases amazing chemicals that calm your mind and bring you happiness. Long lasting, sustained happiness – something you can’t get from a pill.

Challenge yourself to make the step. If you need help, I’m here to support you. I consider myself a master at helping busy women find time in their lives that they feel are overfull. If I can do it, you can, too.

Childhood Anxiety: 7 Things You Need to Know

Childhood Anxiety: Dr. Lisa Ghent, NDThe first week of school has come and gone. Everyone’s feeling relieved about that, right? Maybe not. Lots of kids feel anxiety about heading back to class, and for many different reasons. We gear up for that first day and then think we’re over the hump, but what if your child’s anxiety sticks around? For some, just getting into their new environment will help them to realize that not all change is bad, but for others it’s just the beginning.

It’s important to realize that some anxiety is normal, and that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Anxiety can be a normal and expected response to change and the unknown, and we all get it at some point. What is most important is the frequency with which it occurs and how you and your child cope with it.

What can you to do to help your child, and when should you seek professional advice?

  • Teach your child to recognize when they are feeling anxiety: Your child may not have the vocabulary to describe what they are feeling, and haven’t recognized there are a pattern of feelings they experience when they are anxious. This is something you need to teach them, and do so in words and descriptions that are age appropriate. For example, many people feel anxiety in their stomach. You may describe it as butterflies, bubbles, a squeezing feeling, pain, or discomfort. When you see that your child is having anxiety, stop and ask them to close their eyes and describe where in their body they are feeling it. If they need help, start at their head and move to their feet, naming places and providing words that they can relate to. Common places where people feel anxiety are their head, face, throat, chest, stomach, hands and legs.
  • Make sure your child knows what they are experiencing is normal: Anxiety is something that everyone experiences in certain situations. Help your child to understand that. Kids feel more secure (and often less anxious) if they know they aren’t alone. Share your own experiences with your kids, and tell them what you do to cope with anxiety. Help them realize that the feeling doesn’t last forever and that they have some control over how it affects them.
  • Teach your child coping skills: Once your child can recognize that they are experiencing anxiety, you can teach them skills to manage it. For example, taking a small time out to do some deep breathing is effective for most people of any age. Deep breathing helps to shift our bodies into a state of relaxation, and is something that can be done anywhere. I recommend finding a quiet location, ideally where you can sit or lean against a wall, closing your eyes, visualizing a safe and comforting place, and taking ten slow, even breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Help your child to figure out what this safe place is for them and encourage them to visualize this same place every time they take a breathing time out. Teach your child to concentrate on their breathing by having them place their hand on their stomach and feeling it rise and fall with each breath. There are many other ways of coping with anxiety in the moment; experiment with different techniques to find out what works best for your child.
  • Model the behaviour: The number one piece of advice I give parents on just about everything, is that you should practice what you preach. We are all victims of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ from time to time, but truly, your child learns the most from watching you. Kids observe their parents even when we think they aren’t. They listen to everything we say. They take in all that information and assimilate it into their own behaviour. If you are showing your child healthy ways of managing stress and anxiety, they will follow suit.
  • Try not to let your worry show: When we are worried about our kids, it’s hard for it not to show. But if you are concerned that your child is experiencing anxiety, letting them know you are worried about it will likely make the situation worse. Don’t assume that your child is abnormally anxious; assume that what they are experiencing is a normal and expected part of growing up and that you have been presented with the opportunity to help them develop skills that will last them a lifetime. The vast majority of kids I see for anxiety are the first-born of the family, and I don’t think this is a coincidence. As parents we are just doing the best we can at the time, and our oldest child is where we learn the ropes. We worry more with our first because we haven’t yet seen that the parenting we provide allows the child to turn out alright. By the time we get to the second, third or beyond, we know what to expect, and we trust that as parents we are doing a good enough job. Do your best, trust your gut, and let your child learn through experience – these are three of the best pieces of parenting advice I can give you.
  • Provide the building blocks: The cornerstones of a healthy childhood are good nutrition, restorative sleep and lots of play. Reduce or eliminate added sugar in their diet, ensure they are ‘eating a rainbow’, make sure they are getting adequate sleep (most kids need at least 10 – 12 hours of sleep a night), and spend time daily playing and laughing with your kids.
  • When it’s time to get help: While anxiety is normal, sometimes it impacts your child’s daily life to a degree that is negative and disruptive. If this is the case and you have already tried your best to implement the suggestions listed here, then it’s time to get additional help, particularly if any of the following is negatively impacted: eating, sleeping, socialization, or education.

They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and sometimes that is very true. Don’t be ashamed if you need help. It doesn’t make you any less of a parent. In fact, it’s a great lesson to teach your child that it’s ok to ask for help when you need it. As a naturopathic doctor, I am equipped to help you make sense of your child’s anxiety and create a holistic plan to address it, including referral to other healthcare professionals when appropriate. If you feel like you need a hand, or just a second opinion, you can book an appointment online here: www.drlisaghent.com/book.

Sleeping Through The Night

Sweet Dreams

 

One of the most common questions I get from moms is why their baby isn’t sleeping through the night. At four months old, it is still completely normal for baby to want to nurse or take a bottle through the night, although at this point most moms are dreaming of longer stretches of sleep.

 

It’s important to remember that ‘sleeping through the night’ doesn’t mean the same for a baby as it does for an adult.  Once you’ve hit the milestone of baby sleeping 6 hours straight at night, you are doing well.  Let’s be honest, once you’ve experienced managing through the day on 2 hour at a time sleep stretches, you feel like superwoman when you have 6.  If your baby is four to six months old and is still getting up every 2 – 3 hours to feed, here are a few things to consider:

 

  • Your baby might be having a growth spurt. It’s completely normal for babies to eat more frequently when they are growing more rapidly, even if they slept for longer stretches before.
  • Your baby might need more milk/formula before their nighttime sleep. Consider cluster feeding or feeding every 2 hours for the 6 hour stretch right before you put your baby down for the night.
  • Your baby might not actually be hungry when he/she wakes up. Much like adults that get up for work at the same time each week day often wake up at the same time on the weekend, babies develop sleep habits.  Sometimes these habits are associated with the comfort of knowing mom is nearby and sometimes it’s simply how their clock has been set.  This is most likely to be true if when you go to feed baby he/she only takes a couple of ounces, and it tends to be at the same time every night.

 

I’ve had three babies, so I’ve been there.  The first few months are hard for all moms.  Even with friends and family to help, the first months of a baby’s life while being incredibly rewarding and full of joy, are also tiring and sometimes frustrating, pushing you to the limits of what you thought you could handle. Just remember that you are doing a great job, and the sleep deprivation is short term. I am here to help if you would like advice on your baby’s sleep patterns, or if you just need a little extra support on your journey through motherhood.  Click here if you would like to book an appointment.

Vitamins 101

 

Vitamins fall into two categories – water soluble and fat soluble.  Water soluble vitamins are all the B vitamins, as well as vitamin C and biotin.  The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K.

 

Why is this important?

 

Water soluble vitamins are more likely to be destroyed by heat or cooking and are minimally stored in your body.  One notable exception is vitamin B12, which is stored in your liver for a few years.  When you eat water soluble vitamins, they are absorbed directly into your bloodstream along with water in your small intestines.  Because they aren’t stored, and because they are easily excreted in your urine, you need them in your diet every day.  It’s these vitamins that people notice turn their pee fluorescent yellow.

 

Fat soluble vitamins are not absorbed directly into your blood.  Bile from your liver and gallbladder is necessary for proper breakdown and absorption of these vitamins.  Once broken down in your intestines, fat soluble vitamins go through your lymph channels to get into the bloodstream, and they typically need protein to carry them there.  Fat soluble vitamins are more stable than water soluble vitamins so they stand up better with cooking.  They are also stored in your body (mostly in your liver and fat tissue).  Because they are stored, you don’t necessarily need them in your diet every day.  To avoid toxicity of fat soluble vitamins, don’t supplement with them unless directed by a medical professional.

 

You need a variety of vitamins in your diet every day for optimal long-term health.  My favourite (and easiest) piece of advice for patients is to make sure you’re eating a rainbow on your plate at every meal.  What’s great about this advice is that it’s also easy for children to learn and understand, plus it can make eating fun.

 

Need ideas about how to incorporate greater variety into your diet?  Head over to Pinterest and check out my boards: www.pinterest.com/DrLisaGhent.  Follow me there to get notified about new and interesting recipes every week.

 

Want more personalized help?  Visit me for naturopathic care and I’ll do a full assessment of your current health and goals and get you on the right track.  Click here to book an appointment online: www.drlisaghent.com/book.

Healthy All Year

My child seems to be sick all the time.  What can I do?

This is probably one of the most common questions I get asked, and there are two parts to my answer. The first is to remember that getting sick isn’t all bad. If your child gets sick and then quickly fends it off with minimal complications, it’s a sign that their immune system is functioning well. It’s nice to know that when a bug gets into their system that they have the ability to fight it off.

The second part of my answer focuses on increasing immune function so that when kids get sick it’s less severe or that they get sick less often. Here are a few of my top recommendations for increasing immunity in children:

  • Probiotics – I know this has been a bit of a fad, but the right probiotic, in the right amount can be really helpful. Think about it this way – many of the bugs that make us sick get into our body because they are ingested. Probiotics are the good bugs, and if we have enough of them then they can help to kill the bad bugs and make sure they don’t ever have a chance.  This is especially important if someone has ever taken antibiotics, which get rid of what is making you sick but also get rid of good bacteria.  Sometimes you need antibiotics, but then you need to put some good bugs back in.RONyPwknRQOO3ag4xf3R_Kinsey
  • Vitamin D – This has also been a bit of a fad, but for good reason. Fact: kids on average spend less time outside than they usedto, and when they are outside they are often slathered in sunscreen. Now I’m not opposed to sunscreen, but it’s important to remember that it’s necessary for the skin to be directly exposed to sun in order for vitamin D to be activated in the body. While the actual amount of vitamin D supplementation is different for everyone, starting with the basics (400 IU a day in kids and 1000 IU a day in adults) is safe for most people.
  • Variety everyday keeps the doctor away – From a young age I taught my kids two things about eating vegetables; that they should eat a rainbow, and that half of their plate at any meal should be vegetables. Both points are very important, and it’s never too late to start with your own children. Many kids don’t eat enough vegetables, and of those that do, many eat only a couple different types. Kids can’t grow up optimally eating only tomatoes and carrots. Stay tuned for some creative cooking ideas on how to introduce some diversity into your family’s eating, but in the meantime, follow me on Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/DrLisaGhent). I have a whole board dedicated to picky eaters, with lots of valuable ideas for introducing greater nutritional variety to your kids.

There are other ways to increase immunity in your child, and I would love the opportunity to sit down with you one-on-one and come up with a personalized solution for your specific needs.  Head over to the Book Appointment page and book online today.