by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 24, 2018 keto diet, ketogenic diet0 comments
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic or Keto diet for short is a buzzword now, but it’s not new! Decades ago, it was used primarily to treat epilepsy in children whose seizures were uncontrolled. Research found that those with epilepsy had fewer seizures when in a state of ketosis vs. being glucose dependent. Today, there are many more applications for this diet that show promise to continue researching for more potential benefits. But, let’s take a deeper dive into what being in ketosis really means!
Being in ketosis means that the primary fuel source in the diet is fat, instead of carbohydrates. When you become fat adapted and burn fat over glucose, the body makes byproducts called ketones which the brain used for fuel. This spares glucose, the primary fuel source for the red blood cells, endocrine system and muscles. Traditionally, carbs make up 45-65% of our daily intake, protein makes up 10-35% and fat makes up 20-35%. On the keto diet, one might be consuming as much as 70% fat, 20% protein with a mere 10% coming from carbohydrates. One a standard 2,000 calorie diet that is only 50 grams coming from carbohydrates. A very strict approach to this diet might allow only 20 grams of carbohydrates, while a more moderate approach may allow between 40-60 grams depending on goals and taking into account each individuals therapeutic need.
So, what are some reasons to pursue a very low carbohydrate diet like this? Evidence is suggesting that the ketogenic diet is a great way to spark weight loss. Since it’s very low carbohydrate, this keeps insulin (our fat storage hormone) low. This means that fat stores can be unlocked and used for fuel. Additionally, prevention and improvement of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease have been seen with high fat diets. The brain seems to do very well when using ketones for fuel instead of glucose. These applications are very relevant for Americans today, as neurodegenerative diseases and obesity are on the rise. Maybe even more important, are the applications for cancer. Cancer cells love sugar (glucose). Starving the cancer cells on a ketogenic diet shows promise in slowing cancer progression.
One drawback to the keto diet is that it is usually low in fiber since fiber is found in carbohydrate rich foods. GI issues like constipation, cramping or acid reflux may occur. One way around this is to count only net carbohydrates. That is, total carbohydrates minus the total fiber. This is usually a more moderate approach, but still confers the benefits of a traditional diet and keeps carbohydrate intake low.
The long term effects of the ketogenic diet are still being studied, but it shows much promise for short term use. Pregnant or nursing women, those with gallbladder disease or insulin dependent diabetics should use caution and discuss with their health care or dietary professional before implementing and keto changes into their diet.
If you want to learn more about this diet, book an appointment with Liz or check out “The Keto Diet”, a great comprehensive read on those curious about whether a high fat diet might be right for them. Remember that every body is different and diets should be tailored to what works best for your health and wellness goals.
Here is an example of the satiating kinds of meal plan a person can enjoy on the Keto Diet!
For breakfast you might have scrambled eggs and add in heavy cream, chives, and up to 4 slices of your favorite nitrate free bacon. With so much dense nourishment, you will hardly notice that you skipped the bread!
For lunch, put your favorite protein on a bed of baby salad greens, add a vinegar or cream based dressing.
For dinner: Go all out with a generously cut Ribeye that can be enjoyed with mushroom cream sauce and several ounces of broccoli.
Health and Wellness,
Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDNLearn More
Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Including Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 7, 2018 anti-inflammatory diet, chronic inflammation, diabetes, medicine, nutrition, Uncategorized, Wijkstrom0 comments
Anti-Inflammatory Diet, What it is, What it Does and Including a Meal Plan by Licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, CNS, LDN.
Every standard anatomy course covers a section on inflammation, health circles and modern medicine studies how this physiological process effects our bodies. Modern science has uncovered much evidence related to how our dietary consumption fuels our internal inflammation. To understand inflammation, let’s talk what about what inflammation really is. Inflammation is a normal part of our body’s healing process. Think of the redness, pain and swelling that comes along with an acute injury. These are bio-markers that our white blood cells are migrating to the origin of a wound, when the white blood cells arrive they will unfold to facilitate the healing process. This mechanism is a normal and necessary indication that our immune response is hard at work. But what happens when our immune systems are working over time in a way we can’t see? This is a part of what is termed ‘chronic inflammation’, and our diet definitely plays a large role in both calming it down or conversely, throwing fuel on the flames.
Chronic inflammation is a contributing factor to many common diseases in the U.S today. Obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes are some common diseases to which inflammation contributes to the onset and progression (Lopez-Condelez 2017). Additionally, according to a 2018 study Dr. Billmore et, al, which was published in Nature, there is also evidence that inflammation may contribute to certain forms of depression as well as aiding in the development and progression of this mental health disease, inflammation is also being study as a contributing factor in the development of other mood disorders. Of course diet alone can not provide total therapy for depression or disease but it is an important pathway to providing our best course to become well.
The fact is when our immune system becomes chronically activated, low-grade, systemic inflammation occurs. Even if you aren’t suffering from an overt disease, things like stress, leaky gut, food sensitivities and even an imbalance in our gut micro-biome all are capable of pushing our bodies into an inflammatory state. The consequences of chronic inflammation are serious. Increased risk of neuro-degenerative and cardiovascular disease, trouble losing weight, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, and cellular damage may all occur as a result.
Our food choices can either promote or calm inflammation. Many of the diseases and problems listed above may be prevented or mitigated with an anti-inflammatory diet. The top foods that commonly contribute to chronic inflammation in the standard American diet are:
- Refined grains (bread, crackers, cookies, cakes, snack foods)
- Dairy (all cow dairy products including milk, ice cream, and yogurt
- Sugar (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners)
- Vegetable oils (Canola, Corn, Safflower, Sunflower and Rapeseed oils)
- Trans fat (Margarine, peanut butter, mayonnaise, packaged snacks)
- Conventional/commercially raised meat
- Alcohol (More than 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men)
- Food additives (MSG, artificial flavors and food dyes)
On the flip side, nourishing foods can also accelerate healing in the body and prevent the inflammatory cascade from becoming chronic. For whole body health and wellness, add these anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet:
- Fatty fish (Halibut, salmon, sardines, trout)
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Vegetables (Any and all kinds!)
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Grass-fed animal meats
We know that one of the barriers to incorporating dietary changes is that we simply don’t know where to begin. As an added bonus, we will share an example one-day meal plan, made by a certified and licensed Nutrition Counselor, Liz Mckinney, by using this plan, you can jump start your anti-inflammatory diet today!
- 2 scrambled eggs with sautéed spinach, mushrooms and garlic
- ½ avocado
- 2 cups mixed greens with 4 oz. salmon or chicken and walnuts with a turmeric ginger dressing (Juice from 2 large organic lemons, approximately 1/4 cup of fresh juice, 1″ fresh ginger, skin removed, 1 garlic clove, 2 teaspoon ground turmeric, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, Salt to taste – Blend in food processor)
- Sautéed lemon pepper shrimp over zucchini “noodles” sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper
- 70% or greater dark chocolate, almonds/walnuts, rice cake with mashed avocado, hard boiled egg with spicy mustard, cut up veggies with hummus or another home made veggie dip
Additionally, by working with a licensed nutritionist or dietitian to identify food sensitivities, heal leaky gut, balance your gut micro-biome, eradicating bacterial overgrowth, and implementing a stress reduction plan into your daily life, your wellness, emotional, and physical health can be optimized. As always, wellness routines that include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, spending time in nature, or deep breathing are all proven techniques to increase resilience to stress.
Blog article is written by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Liz is the licensed and certified nutritionist for the Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, Liz can provide nutrition counseling near you, now accepting new patients in Western Pennsylvania.
edited, by Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCCLearn More
28 Foods to Decrease Anxiety and Depression & Enhance Positive Moods
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 31, 2018 food for anxiety, food for depression, food for mood0 comments
Food & Mood Series by Liz Mckinney, CNS, Board Certified Nutritionist
“It is both compelling and daunting to consider that dietary intervention at an individual or population level could reduce rates of psychiatric disorders. There are exciting implications for clinical care, public health, and research” – editorial in the American Journal of Psychiatry https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09060881
Mood imbalances like depression and anxiety are on the rise in the U.S. In 2016, the National Institute for Mental Health estimated that 16.2 million Americans have experienced at least one major depressive episode and 42 million have an anxiety disorder of some kind. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml Additionally, depression is the leading cause of disability globally. Traditionally, depression and anxiety are viewed as being caused by chemical imbalances, due to under production of our feel good neurotransmitters like dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. Lets explore how food is related to emotional health and how we can put ourselves at risk for developing anxiety or depression with our diet, as well as the good news of how diet can increase of mood, energy, and all around wellness.
So what factors contribute to a drop in the production of neurotransmitters? Biologically, this question has a multi-tiered answer. First, genetics and epigenetics (namely, how our environmental exposures affect which of our genes become activated) certainly play a role in a person’s proclivity towards depression and anxiety. For example, a common genetic mutation called MTHFR has a big impact in how we activate the B vitamin folate in our cells. Those with this genetic mutation are more prone to depression because of folate’s role in making serotonin. But, we know that our genetics don’t tell the whole story. The second factor influencing the expression of our genes, are our mental and emotional stressors or triggers, this is the part that can be effected by our social supports and reduced with therapy. Social factors and cognitive perceptions contribute significantly to the onset of these common mood disorders.
The Standard American Diet, which is low in fiber, healthy fats and protein and packed full of cheap, convenient sugar laden foods means we have less of the amino acid building blocks we need to make GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. A second issue to consider is that poor gut health is directly linked to worsened mood disorders thanks to the two-way gut-brain connection. Intake of processed snack foods packed with sugar, flour, and trans fat are like pouring gasoline on the fire and promote overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast in our gut where up to 80% of our body’s serotonin is produced. Eating poor quality proteins or simply not enough further compound the issue because proteins are the building blocks for these important compounds that keep our moods stable. Grain fed, factory farmed eggs and meats and genetically modified crops are not only loaded with toxins and pesticides that alter our microbiomes, they serve to ramp up that low grade chronic inflammation. Finally, fiber intake has never been lower thanks to the standard American diet. Fiber rich foods serve as probiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria in our large intestine. Without fuel, the good “bugs” are more likely to die off, leaving room for the pathogenic species to flourish. Our bacteria send signals to our brains, so we want our good bacteria to dominate and send signals that promote brain health, not cause further chemical imbalances and inflammation.
Now time for the empowering news! The food we eat can also improve mood, and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Food can be a kind of internal therapy, by nourishing organs, healing of stomach linings and then increasing energy and brain health, they have a huge impact on decreasing ones susceptibility to relapsing from mental health disorders.
- High quality proteins
- Cage-free Eggs
- Grass-fed Beef and
- Chicken raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.
Vegan or vegetarian
- Non-GMO soy
- Vegetable proteins like legumes, pea chia, or hemp.
- Fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, or sauerkraut which contain live organisms that populate the microbiome with beneficial bacteria.
The above mentioned foods promote emotional and physical health by keeping the gut happy and healthy. As a word of caution, avoid processed, packaged snack foods at all costs and focus on whole, unprocessed foods like promote a good mood. Here are some more delicious options to add to your daily diet that calm inflammation and support mood:
- Dark Chocolate (70% or darker)
- Vitamin B rich foods – eggs, raw dairy, grass fed beef, and organic chicken and turkey, leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard, and bananas
- Red, Purple, and Blue Berries – Contain Vitamin C and other antioxidants
- Omega 3s – wild caught fatty fish (2 servings weekly), walnuts and flax seed
- Coconut oil
As a final note, understanding mood disorders is complex and the underlying factors multi-tiered. Everyone is unique and requires and individualized approach that takes into account genetics and epigenetics, mental and emotional health and diet and lifestyle. When all three are addressed, we are better able to address mood disorders and provide the best outcomes. If you want to learn more about health enhancing diets and what foods can support emotional and physical health, meet with a board certified and licensed nutritionist, our nutritionist, Liz Mckinney, CNS accepts Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance as well as self paying clients.
Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy, ‘Wellness for People Like Me.’
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 16, 2018 anxiety during pregnancy, depression in pregnancy, postpartum, stress pregnancy0 comments
Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy, ‘Wellness For People Like Me.’
Writer, blogger, and art therapy graduate Angela Grace Wilt shares some of her experiences in recovering positive coping and mental health including ways to manage anxiety and depression during pregnancy. This is a part of the ‘People Like Me’ Series of our wellness blog, real people, real stories, real ways to incorporate wellness into stages and experiences of everyday normal life.
Being a woman comes with a lot of ups and downs. Women are prone to anxiety and it can be very hard to to admit. For example, women are closely tied to the monthly cycles that their body experiences. Things such as menstruation cause anxiety, depression, mood swings, and intense bodily urges with cravings. Men never will get us or grasp what we go through. We are just that unique. For as long as I could remember, I have felt that as a woman I am special and cursed all at once.
Then of course recently, as I have taken this jump into parenthood with the amazing biological potential of my body, quickly I have learned that while things like premenstrual dysphoria, and the normal anxieties and depression of menstruation are challenging, pregnancy holds a whole long list of unique and larger fears and physical difficulties. In fact, this is true for all women, and according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of anxiety or depression during pregnancy. The shift in mental health have multiple sources, think about it, there is insomnia because our body is changing so fast that some women can be prone to rapid heartbeat, which makes it harder to fall asleep. There is also the whole list of ‘what ifs.’ Will my baby and I make it to full term? Will my baby be healthy? I can no longer drink alcohol, ride adrenaline driven roller coasters, lift heavy weights, or really take any chances of too adventurous tasks. With each decision I make, I consider the question ‘what will makes my little bump, a healthy or not so healthy baby.’
Physical and emotional changes are also thread within social fears and adjustments, I sometimes wonder, have I planned enough for this pregnancy that has in many ways, just happened. The truth is, I am not some 30 something who has been charting my cycle for 6 months to achieve conception, I didn’t plan to get pregnant just yet. I thought about it sure, but just like most couples we wanted to walk down the aisle with a white dress of lace and flowers all the scenery of our closest friends and family shouting us on, it was always my dream of being that princess and marrying my soul mate! We still will have that for our future, but it will be after we get through the current stresses. In addition to the changes in my timeline, I also care about what our parents think about our having a baby right now. Having a baby out before marriage can be shocking for some religious and cultural values. We were lucky because my family is just fine with it, and with a little time to adjust, my better half’s is now happy about the news.
The list of anxieties and real practical matters which accelerate my concerns are aplenty, even small things have caused me stress, I have had to shop for insurance as a pregnant women, because I am twenty-six, pregnant, and didn’t have any. Finally, babies are expensive, health insurance is also expensive, we have stresses of finding better jobs, I have to go on insurance yet because I am twenty-six and don’t have any. We are cleaning house and making a baby room. When all of these real life stresses start to mount very high, I can feel my heart beating faster, I try to stop and think of the things that we do have, I try to re-frame my anxieties and depressed thoughts in a positive light, I pause and I say to myself, ‘I have my boyfriend, our love together, and I have a supportive family. I have myself and my strengths, and I am strong and able.’That always seems to calm me down and help me to remember that there is much to be excited about as we move forward together as a young family.
With all of these anxious and depressed thoughts swirling in my mind, I have taken the time to put together a small list of ways that I manage and support my emotional health during my pregnancy. Of course if you are struggling with mental health during or after your pregnancy, talk to you PCP or Mental Health provider, get a screening for Postpartum or Baby Blues, every year women die or don’t bond with their babies due to maternal mental health factors. If you are like me and relatively healthy but feeling a little anxious or blue, then read on because these tips may help you as much as they helped me.
Use positive self talk, be your own biggest fan and encourage yourself like you would a friend
I say nice things to myself, I write little notes and post them through out the house, simple thoughts like,’ Rome was built in a day’ ‘We will get everything done in time.’ We’re already almost half way there at twelve weeks. It’s just a wild ride. My body is going through so many beautiful changes. Tune in, all of my emotions are heightened. Hunger is giving me nourishment now. Sleep is always appreciated. Sex is fierce and always wanted. Sadness and anger are intense. I have energy that comes out of nowhere. Its ok if sometimes I can’t stop crying. I love my baby and baby’s daddy and not want anything more than to be with just them and them alone. I want the best by our new child. I want to give it proper nutrition and a good home life. I want to be a good parent and my baby to grow in a family where love is the answer and anger is dealt with in a healthy supportive manner. I will protect this baby with all that I have. This child’s needs and wants are now first. I am ready to teach this baby proper education, morals, respect, and spirituality.
Its normal to be overwhelmed, life is now changing!
Anxiety,stress, and fear are the norm when we are overcoming big changes. ways just important to remember that having a baby is a life changing experience. Normalizing the emotions that I am experiencing helps me by making me not feel the guilty, ashamed, or odd for having these dips and emotional shifts.
Reach for your Tribe!
Please remember, you are not alone. You are a powerhouse and you have many people who will listen and talk. Make a list of 5, if you can not list at least 5 people who will pick up the phone for you, see a therapist and talk about the feelings of isolation and loneliness. Mom, dad, best friends, siblings, make a list and think about who is the best person to talk with through the things that come up. It will likely be a different person for each of situations that one may encounter on the pregnancy journey.
Use your breath
The body and its breathing are powerful, breathing can be used to energize and manage our response to stress. Take some deeps breaths every day.
Make a Wellness Routine
Do calming relaxing type activities like yoga, walking in nature or just walking, stretch, journal, and keep time for yourself to collect your thought and consider the daily experiences that you are managing. Essential oils can help ease the mind and emotions and of course be sure to choose blends that are safe to use during pregnancy.
Bond with your baby
Talk to your baby while its in the womb, there will likely be a time after your baby is born that you are longing to be so closely connected to him or her again, try to cherish these moments and zoom out towards the big picture where you are nurturing a sacred bond right now in your womb. Being a woman is very special, and this connection, with baby snugly centered in my sacral area, right as my mother and my mothers mother have always done, this is something that men can not understand, but I am ok with that.
We are powerful, we are able to make changes that influence the outcomes of our life. Pregnancy like all things, is what you make of it. Do your best to stay positive by thinking of the new exciting things that can be done all in great fun with your new family together. Your love of baby and yourself will take you far. Be gentle with yourself when you notice the stress, anxiety, and fear of the 9 months ahead. This is a special time that can be used to get really healthy and in tune with your bodies needs. As always, seek medical help from a PCP, Gynecologist, or Licensed Professional Counselor if you have concerns about your mental health.
The Amazing Natural Substance that treats Depression and Anxiety
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 5, 2018 anxiety, clinical herbalist, complementary medicine, depression, holistic health, integrative mental health, natural health, turmeric0 comments
The Amazing Natural Substance that treats Depression and Anxiety
Want to manage anxiety and depression as well as double down on a dose of wellness? We have one incredible natural health, food substance to report to you. Turmeric is a rhizome and a member of the ginger family. Turmeric a major ingredient of Indian curries and has also been used to dye clothing throughout history, due to its vivid yellow color. The scientific community continues to research its uses as a healing substance, specifically trying to gauge the mechanism of action and effectiveness of the active substance, curcumin.
Curcumin is known as the most active ingredient in turmeric and continues to intrigue the medical community with its ability to providing relief for symptoms like depression and anxiety. According to a recent metanalysis funded by The National Institute of Health, curcumin was shown to be safe and effective in reducing symptoms of depression (Hewlings, 2017). That study recommended that while there are some conclusive therapeutic effects in treating depression, more research should be done to determine it’s clinical role in the treatment of anxiety.
Turmeric entered the clinical limelight when researches wanted to investigate the differences in cancer rates between westerners and some eastern and Indian populations. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have used these plants for thousands of years. Natural and holistic health options find ways to use the medicinal properties of commonly used foods to enhance well-
being. Some common ways of administering them are by grinding them into a fine powder, then using it topically as a salve or ingesting them to treat multiple ailments ranging from skin lesions to memory enhancement.
While the mechanisms of Turmeric’s health and wellness benefits are not completely understood, it is believed that curcumins ability to reduce inflammation, is one of the major health enhancing properties which can affect the brain, cancer, lupus, and renal disease. Curcumins also have other functions in addition to reducing symptoms of depression, it benefits the entire body and can be used as protection from liver toxic substances, to manage Crohn’s disease, reduce symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome to name a few (Gupta, 2013). In addition to reducing symptoms, this amazing root is reported to also enhance post work out recovery, (Hewlings, 2017. ) Turmeric is not a replacement for pharmaceuticals treating depression. Patients should still seek advice from medical professionals since other medical conditions need to be ruled out. Nor does it replace the benefits of managing the symptoms of depression or anxiety by getting counseling. Rather, it viewed as complementary to current therapeutic options.
The beneficial effects of turmeric on health is dose-dependent. It is not sufficient to heap an extra serving of curry at your favorite Indian restaurant in hopes of healing the brain and body. The clinically relevant dose of turmeric is upwards 600 mg several times per day. We recommend that the reader consult with a clinical Herbalist or Nutritionist to assess the appropriate regimen to manage the symptoms that you aim to address. Most sources recommend turmeric in capsule form to standardize the dosage. Some also enjoy turmeric in a latte or smoothie for added tasting pleasure. There is also some research being done about whether it may be further beneficial to use turmeric as an accompaniment to black pepper and some other fats like coconut milk, which are known to allow greater absorption of the active compounds. With no known side effects and so much to gain, curcumin seems like a great place to start if you want neuro-protective and physically benefits all in one delicious root!
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
2539 Monroeville Blvd, Monroeville Pa 15146
Be Well Pittsburgh!
- Gupta, S. C., Patchva, S., & Aggarwal, B. B. (2013). Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin: Lessons Learned from Clinical Trials. The AAPS Journal, 15(1), 195–218. http://doi.org/10.1208/s12248-012-9432-8
- Hewlings, S. J., & Kalman, D. S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods, 6(10), 92. http://doi.org/10.3390/foods6100092
- Lopresti AL, Drummond PD (2017) Efficacy of curcumin, and a saffron/curcumin combination for the treatment of major depression: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Affect Disord.
Meditation, The Number One Mistake Beginners Make
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 19, 2018 counseling, meditation, mindfulness, therapy, wellness0 comments
Want to Become a Meditation Master? This is the Most Common Mistake that New Meditators Make and How to Fix It!
So maybe you have read the abundant data that meditation is one of the most fantastic tools that there is to enhancing mental clarity, reducing individual response to stress, and enjoyment of the great benefit of greater calm. According to the National Institute of Complimentary Health and Medicine which is a branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH), symptoms and consequences associated with anxiety, anger, depression, and stress disorders are all distinguished and well managed with a self-care plan which incorporates meditation. In knowing all of these benefits, with abundant enthusiasm, you have decided to get started on utilizing this most fantastic tool to wellness.
The fact is many people struggle in their meditation and may even feel so defeated that they quit altogether, and this is due to one common misconception about meditation and how to do it. When starting out with a meditation practice, we summon our inner oracle and alight with the goal of embodying our inner Buddha. Fantasies turn to reality and we stuff and mold our shape into some oddly contorted seated position and with our full lotus blooming, we close our eyes and turn our wellness aspirations inward toward the journey of the self. We imagine that the goal in mind with all of this blood, sweat and ‘OM’ is to turn off our mind.
Here we have it, this is the number one mistake that we make that prevents us from developing a meditation practice, you see “We are not able to turn off our thoughts.” I promise that for any meditator who has climbed the precipice to ascend mindless nirvana, you have faceplanted while careening down the jagged cliff face and end up irritated and hopeless with yourself and the whole concept of mediation. The fact is, it is the nature of our thoughts to keep producing other considerations, a typical inner monologue during meditation might be thinking;
“how uncomfortable the cross legged position, belly is hungry, need breakfast, am I done yet, hope my hair isn’t close to getting singed by that candle, why was my boss so upset yesterday?”
All of this thinking is just fine, in meditation, we anticipate that the endless churning of our thinking will ramble on as it always does. In a mindfulness meditation, we breathe deeply and acknowledge the existence of all of the thoughts that our mind produces and then we take a step back and we become conscious of the kind and quality of the thoughts that we are having. We practice an ever present non-judgmental position with ourselves. For example, for the above thoughts, I would label the overall thinking state as anxious and fearful. I was desiring breakfast, fearing my hair could get burned, wanting to complete the meditation. Those are all anxious and desirous thoughts. As we become more skilled at meditation, we add in a thought or question to assess how we are thinking and we keeping breathing deeply through it. For example, as we are having our inner monologue during the above meditation, we would have the same thoughts and every so many moments we pause to think about how we are thinking.
“how uncomfortable the cross-legged position, belly is hungry, need breakfast, am I done yet? Oh yes, I am thinking of the future, I always am thinking about what is next. I hope my hair isn’t close to getting singed by that candle? I am fearful sometimes. Why was my boss so upset yesterday? I am often very concerned with what others are feeling.”
When we are mindful, and aware of our thoughts and consciousness, we become able to know that we are sentient beings, with vivid imaginings, with endlessly burning thoughts. Yet we are not these thoughts, we are some where afar and above all of the background and inward noise of being, we are the observer, conscious of our selves and the world around us, free and responsible to choose our actions and to develop ourselves, to become a more aware, and well version of our most mindful and well self.
The Therapists of-Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
2539 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville Pa 15146
Relationship Wellness Checklist, A Mindful Marriage Moment
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 16, 2018 counseling, marriage counseling, mindfulness0 comments
Relationship Wellness Checklist, A Mindful Marriage Moment
Marriage, relationships, couple-dom, all forms of interpersonal dynamics work based upon unstated rules, we peacefully and automatically operate with a lifetime of typical exchanges. Some moments are peppered with glimmers of joy, one part emotional support, heaps of memories made, when we are being good stewards of love we dutifully maintain our promises for commitment. How to maintain contented connections with our loved ones isn’t usually a goal that we think about until something starts to go wrong. We know that to keep our minds, bodies, and spirits healthy, mindfulness holds the keys to happiness and longevity. The wellness model has useful applications to marriage counseling and couples therapy, we have compiled a 5-part relationship wellness checklist – lets take a moment to see how well your relationship makes the grade.
- Do you disagree and air grievances with your partner? By disagreeing, we mean constructively having a discussion about things that are bothering you within the relationship. One very ominous behavior pattern is when a couple comes in for therapy and tells the therapist or counselor that they never argue. We know that this is usually a sign of relationship disease. In this situation, it is likely that one or both partners are withholding vital information and may even be passive aggressive and building resentment by not discussing their true feelings. This communication fallacy is a product of imagining that by not being open about annoyances that they are preserving their bond. Withholding feelings and missing chances to constructively manage disagreements is a relationship destroyer and leads to emotional disengagement in the long term.
- Does your relationship have intimacy? The concept and behaviors associated with intimacy are multifaceted. Intimacy is a dynamic synergy of emotional trust, physical connection, and having shared meaning within the relationship. Intimacy is built over time and is facilitated through travailing joys and difficulties together for example, by exhibiting the ability to offer emotional support through a crisis.
- Do you check in with each other through the day? Many of us have demanding jobs and schedules, even having to endure travel to maintain our work responsibilities. Yet, our cell phones and Skype provide us with a chance to tighten the chasm of disconnection by having some face-time, texting, or calls through the day. It is important to turn toward our partner to share highlights and check in, and this characteristic is something that healthy relationships do have in common. Alternately, this doesn’t mean to call every hour and lapse into conflict if our relationship is not experiencing as much face-time as we would like. We should highlight that checking in, is a natural response to feeling connected and participating in the intimacy of our friendship with our partner.
- Is there sexual and non-sexual touching between you and your partner? Both forms of touch are very important in our relationships, while many couples go through periods of lower sexual frequency, they stay connected by touching, hand holding and having other forms of non-sexual touch. Both forms, sexual and non-sexual touch are equally vital for our sense of well-being and bonding. Keeping in mind, consensual intimate touch provides a cascade of hormonal responses, releasing Oxytocin which is dubbed the cuddle hormone and facilitates bonding.
- Who do you turn to for support? Can you name 5 people? Is your partner one of those people? If your partner is not one of the top 5 people who you turn to for support, your relationship may be headed for trouble and this is an indication signaling that your relationship may be prey to a deeper issue worth exploring with a marriage counselor or couples therapist.
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Yoga for Wellness
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 14, 2018 counseling for depression, counseling for PTSD, meditation, mindfulness, nature therapy, Nutrition Counseling, outdoor yoga, stress managment, wellness counseling pittsburgh, wellness pittsburgh, yoga0 comments
Yoga. To many, the word conjures up images of Instagram perfection and beautiful backgrounds. Thousands of years ago, the poses (asanas) were only part of the defining point of a yoga practice. Yoga by ancient definition means “union.” A union of spiritual, emotional and physical practices of wellness. The poses are an integral part, but not comprehensive whole of the practice. Patanjali, one of the forefathers of yoga defined yoga as, the neutralization of the vortices of feeling.” An intense definition, but the meaning of yoga must encompass all that it is, in a few words.
In this modern day of technology and constant stimulation, it is essential to unplug from your phone and laptop and connect with yourself. The benefits of yoga intertwine the spiritual, emotional and physical goals of the practice. Yoga has even been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder. The physical benefits are easier to notice, but the spiritual and emotional impacts cannot be underestimated. The first step to a yoga practice is openness for change and self-improvement. The rest of the benefits will follow:
The beautiful Instagram pictures exemplify the increased flexibility regular yoga practice results in. However, there are many other physical benefits that are not as easily photographed. Yoga practice increases the functioning of the immune system, the digestive system, circulatory system and bone health. By toning and strengthening the muscles and ligaments, yoga can help prevent injury and increase an individual’s metabolism.
Pranayama (breathe control) increases the functioning of the respiratory system. Certain sequences can help with insomnia, but overall yoga helps to increase energy levels in an individual. The physical benefits are often noticeable with a consistent practice. Health benefits of yoga can be even further multiplied by practicing outdoors as nature has its own beneficial effects.
When my 3-year-old niece gets upset, my sister has taught her to belly-breathe. This has a calming effect on her and can prevent a temper tantrum. Practicing yoga is calming and can reduce stress, depression and anxiety. Participating in physical activity releases endorphins in the body, which makes people feel happy. Yoga increases concentration and ability to focus on a task at hand.
One of the most important aspects of yoga is being present and mindful in your body. Not comparing your current state to anyone else and manifesting a non-judgmental relationship with yourself.
Yoga encompasses all religions, spiritually the practice seeks to remind its followers that they are part of a bigger picture. We are connected to other beings and the environment. Contrary to some beliefs, the practice of yoga does not aim to convert anyone to a religion. Yoga is not a religion. The practice aims to seek a higher consciousness or meaning behind everything we think and do.
Everyone comes to the mat for a myriad of reasons, relieving stress, moving on your mat after a hard day at the office, or to try a new pose seen in passing….The pull towards stepping on the your yoga mat may even vary day to day. However, whether the practice is home-based or in a studio, it will help improve your moods, increase energy levels and bring a new level of self-awareness, among other power benefits. The versatility of a yoga practice can alter depending on your schedule or how you feel. It can vary from a 5 minute mindful child’s pose to a vigorous 90 minute vinyasa flow. Any practice can make a positive impact in your life and begin a ripple effect towards those around you. Yoga can be incorporated into a wellness plan including nutrition counseling, meditation, and mindfulness.
By Lauren Shaffer, Certified Yoga Instructor and Wellness Guru of PittsburghLearn More
Nature Therapy Reduces Stress
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 5, 2018 anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, counseling, counseling for anxiety, counseling pittsburgh, licensed therapist monroeville, licensed therapist pittsburgh, meditation, nature therapy, stress managment0 comments
Green & Serene; Nature Therapy Reduces Stress
Mindfulness, mantras, fitness and new age therapy are all devoted to finding ways to enhance wellbeing, joy, and alternately to decrease stress levels. Combating the effects of stress are increasingly important for all of us as we manage demanding lives. One of the best ways natural ways to enhance feelings of wellbeing is by practicing fitness or some form of exercise therapy. In many studies, cardio vascular exercise is explored and compared with placebos and even pharmacology and it is verified to significantly impact and reduce the symptoms associate with anxiety and depression. Yet, there seems to be new evidence that we can even further enhance the benefits of exercise.
Increasingly, we learn that the great outdoors may have many secrets to enhancing our wellness potential. In fact in a 2013 study published by the National Institute of Health, cortisol levels were measured in people who had taken a long walk indoors and others who had done the same walk outdoors in a green serene setting. Those who had gotten their cardio amidst the trees had significantly less cortisol in their saliva than those who were indoors. Peaceful outdoorsy people have long felt the call of the wild and reported the great benefit of getting their fitness fix by hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. We know that we can boost endorphins and decrease cortisol levels from the experience of being outdoors. Keep in mind the Cortisol is a hormone produced in the body by the adrenal glands, its activating presence leads to the physical responses involved in “fight or flight.” When cortisol is contained in overabundance in our bodies it can lead to many forms of disease, weight gain, and chronic stress to name a few. So in short, discovering ways to reduce cortisol’s overabundance in our bodies is vital, the mental health community is ready to explore many ways to expound upon the health benefits of spending more time outdoors.
Here are a few of our therapists top 12 to be well, ways to enjoy the outdoors:
Learn to forage for wild edible plants and berries with an expert guide.
Take your lunch break outdoors, even a ten minute walk helps.
Learn how to do a walking meditation.
Create an outdoor space at your home.
Pack a picnic with your dog or your partner.
Try to go camping.
Do some star gazing.
Take a flower sniffing tour.
Plant a garden and make some farm to table meals of your own.
Pick up litter, we can even be altruistic with our wellness.
Ask your therapist to do an outdoor walking session.
Take an outdoor fitness or yoga
We love western Pennsylvania and finding ways to enhance wellness with our abundant green outdoor spaces.
This short wellness moment is brought to you by our licensed professional counselors and wellness providers at The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh.
Be Well Pittsburgh, Monroeville, and Western Pennsylvania!
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh PA 15233
2539 Monroeville BLVD Monroeville PA 15146Learn More
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder OCD, Therapy and Counseling
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 16, 2018 anxiety, anxiety therapy pittsburgh, cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, counseling for anxiety, counseling pittsburgh, generalized anxiety disorder therapy pittsburgh, Help for obsessive compulsive disorder, licensed therapist monroeville, licensed therapist pittsburgh, obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD, searching for a therapist in monroeville, searching for a therapist pittsburgh, therapist in murrysville, therapists, therapy, Therapy and Counseling For Anxiety, therapy for anxiety, therapy pittsburgh0 comments
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder which afflicts .5-2.5% of the population. The disorder greatly effects the quality of life for the sufferer and becomes a consuming pattern of anxieties and rituals which are centered around both obsessional worries and compulsive behaviors. Most of the individuals who have this disorder at one time or another acknowledge or have insight that their worry is excessive or disproportionate to the actual fear or anxiety. An example of someone who may be experiencing Obsessive Compulsive disorder is that “It started when I was in my mid 20’s, I was always worried that I would get something wrong, I made lists so I could try to manage my daily living tasks. Soon lists became my life, I would write a list of everything that I needed to do while I was in the shower, then I would check the list 3 times after writing it, to be sure that I did get everything right. Then I would reread my list again 2 times before entering the shower and read it out loud, If I didn’t perform this task I was simply unable to take my shower for the day because I would lapse into such overwhelming anxiety.”
Some examples of symptoms and behaviors association with this disorder are as follows
according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual;
That the individual has either obsessions or compulsions and which the definition of these are;
- Thoughts which are recurring and persistent including images or impulses, these impulses are distressing and cause impairment including anxiety.
- These impulses, thoughts and images are not related to a threat or worry about a real life problem.
- There is an attempt to repress and ignore the distressing images, impulses and thoughts.
- The person who is suffering from this disorder is in recognition that these fears are in fact a product of his or her own thought process.
Compulsions are defined as
- Repetitive behaviors (e.g., checking, cleaning, cleaning,) and also cognitive acts such as (ie, ritualized prayer, tracing in the mind, taking count of objects or steps) the person feels compelled to enact the behavior in response to the obsession in a system of self created rules.
Obsessive compulsive disorder is a treatable anxiety disorder, the best form of therapy often involves both pharmacology including SSRI’s delivered in conjunction with long-term psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven effective in managing the symptoms associated with this diagnosis as well as Behavioral Therapy such as Exposure therapy are all effective treatment or counseling models to progress beyond this disorder and take back control over life.Learn More