There are many herbs that can help us cool off on hot and humid days – whether by cooling and relaxing our tissues, helping open our pores to release heat, or by bringing extra moisture into our bodies. Here’s a list of 5 Cooling Herbs to beat the heat this summer and how to prepare them at home.
5 Cooling Herbs to Beat the Summer Heat
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 26, 2022 clinical herbalist, clinical herbalist pittsburgh, herbalism, herbalist pittsburgh, holistic health, holistic medicine, integrative health, integrative medicine, integrative mental health, self care, Uncategorized0 comments
- Hibiscus has bright and luscious flowers that are enjoyed as a cooling beverage throughout the world. The taste is tangy, sour, and slightly astringent. I highly recommend trying this one iced and sweetened with a bit of honey!Also – If you happen to have Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus, a common landscaping bush) growing in your yard – good news! This is a variety of hibiscus and the flowers can also be enjoyed as tea. Just make sure your plants are not sprayed with chemical pesticides! Iced Hibiscus Tea: Add ¼ C hibiscus flowers to a quart jar and fill with boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes, add honey to sweeten, and chill in the refrigerator.
- Marshmallow Root: A cousin to hibiscus and yes, the namesake of the fluffy white confections that we enjoy in s’mores, Marshmallow is a wonderful herb to cool and moisten overly hot and dry tissues. Marshmallow contains “mucilage”, a lubricating compound that soothes and cools our the tissues of our body, particularly our respiratory, digestive, and urinary tract systems. This beverage is best prepared with cool or room temperature water and has an earthy and sweet taste. Marshmallow Infusion: Use ¼ C sifted marshmallow roots to a quart jar of cool or room temperature water. Let steep for 4 hours (or overnight), strain, and add ice and a bit of maple syrup.
- Rose: Did you know that roses are also medicinal and a lovely, cooling herb? Both the rose petals and the rose hips (the “fruit” of the rose) are edible and full of vitamin C. The petals are floral, sweet, and slightly astringent, and the rosehips are more tangy and sour. I love adding a small handful of rose petals to my water bottle in the summer time for a nice gentle and uplifting floral flavor. My other favorite preparation is a rose petal simple syrup (described below). If you have roses growing in your yard, you can use them as long as you don’t spray chemical pesticides or herbicides. Do not use commercially grown roses that you buy in the store as these almost always contain harmful chemical residues! Rose Petal Simple Syrup: Combine 1 C of rose petals, 1 C of sugar, and 2 C of water. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let steep for 1 – 4 hours. Strain and store in the refrigerator! Add rose syrup to cocktails or sparkling water.
- Lemon Balm, one of the most bright, sweet, and sunny tasting herbs around, is from the mint family. This beautiful and aromatic herb uplifts the spirit and calms a restless heart. The physical effects are gentle and cooling, slightly sour and bitter. Lemon balm can be brewed as a regular tea infusion, or made into a “Sun Tea”. Lemon Balm Sun Tea: Pack a quart jar full of fresh lemon balm, or use ½ – 1 C of dried lemon balm. Fill with water, cover and place out in the sun all day long. After you strain, this tea can be chilled in the refrigerator and stored for 2 – 3 days.
- Raspberry leaf is high in vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes, making it like a natural gatorade. It’s a well known ally for people that menstruate and pregnant folks, due to the high levels of iron and calcium and its action as a uterine tonic. The leaves are not quite as sweet and tart as the raspberry fruit, but they still contain a subtle tanginess that can be quite enjoyable! Raspberry iced tea: Pour 2 C boiling water over 1 tbsp of dried raspberry leave. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes, strain, add honey and chill in the refrigerator. To obtain more minerals and vitamins, infuse and steep overnight!
Ready to try them at home? If you’re local to Pittsburgh you can find many of these herbs at the East End Food Coop or at Cutting Root Apothecary. You can also order online at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Written by: Clinical Herbalist Annie Fox Derek.
If you’re interested in working with Annie you can reach us at 412-322-2129 or contact us here.
What is Complicated Grief?
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 19, 2021 bereavement, divorce, family estrangement, family loss, grief, grief counseling, grief counseling monroeville, grief counseling pittsburgh, grief therapy, grief therapy monroeville, grief therapy pittsburgh, grieving the loss of a parent, Uncategorized0 comments
Losing someone close to you can invoke many complex emotions like sadness, pain, loss, and hurt. These feelings are natural and a part of life, but with complicated grief, or complicated bereavement disorder, such feelings don’t fade with time or improve. Their emotions might be so intense that it disrupts their daily life.
Living with complicated grief can bring up dysfunctional behaviors and unconventional thoughts. This chronic form of suffering can make it impossible to return to a healthy state of life. When normal grief does not go away, complicated grief occurs.
Think of complicated grief like being in a heightened state of mourning that prevents you from accepting and moving forward. Often this looks like intense sorrow and pain and constantly thinking about the loss of your loved one. You may find it challenging to think about anything else but your loved one’s death. But also, complicated grief could also arise from separation as well as life transition such as loss of job.
Losing someone close to you is a distressing and natural event that everyone faces at one point or another throughout their lives. It is entirely normal to go through a period of sadness, numbness, regret, guilt, or even anger. However, these feelings eventually fade and are replaced with acceptance and the ability to get on with life.
For most people, the grieving experience follows a natural sequence and timing of events:
- Acceptance of loss
- Experiencing the pain and grief of your loss
- Adjusting to a new reality without your loved one
- Having new relationships
Complicated grief does not allow you to move through these stages in a healthy time frame.
Examples and Signs of Complicated Grief
Complicated grief can look like normal grief, except that symptoms usually fade over time with normal grief.
Examples of complicated grief may include:
- Avoiding thinking of their loss
- Obsessively thinking of their loved one
- Intense longing for their loved one
- Feeling a loss of purpose in life
- Constantly reminding themselves of their loved one
- Suicidal thoughts
- Unable to accept their loss that occurred at least six months ago
- Feelings of loneliness
- Lack of interest in taking care of one’s self
- Reckless and self-destructive behavior
- Inability to resume their regular routine
- Avoiding activities or places that remind them of their lost one
- Loss of appetite
- Stress and anxiety
If these symptoms persist for more than a month and significantly impair your life, then it may be time to seek help.
Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if you have suicidal thoughts to receive support and assistance from a compassionate, trained professional.
Healthy Ways to Cope
The best way to cope with complicated grief is by seeking out professional counseling and therapy. Treatment can help you focus on your condition and begin the process of healing.
The most common treatment option is called bereavement therapy. A bereavement counselor will show you ways to monitor your grief and stabilize your emotions. You can also join a bereavement support group to talk about your feelings of sorrow, pain, and loss. It’s important to know that you are not alone and that other people experience the same emotions.
Other forms of therapy can help you cope with your situation, such as traumatic grief therapy. Help is always available, and you can find ways to find happiness and peace again.
If you are suffering from grief know that you’re not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help if you feel your grief is overwhelming. You can contact us at 412-322-2129 to set up an appointment with one of our Grief Counselors or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started. Or contact us here.
Mental Health for Everyone
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Learning about mental health and why it is important to take care of breeds promise for a happy, healthy community. Beginning in America in 1949, this outreach program has grown to include over 150 countries. Today, in 2021, its’ purpose of raising awareness and educating the public about mental health is more important now than ever before due to the effects Covid-19 has had on the world.
Even before the pandemic, mental illness was a global public health crisis. One in five people were affected by a mental health condition and many did not seek treatment because they were scared or uninsured. Now, those numbers have grown and, to date, are unable to be calculated. Health authorities just know they are increasing, and mental health is becoming a growing problem.
What, exactly, is mental health?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is:
“… a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Many times, suffering with mental health is mild and can be completely overlooked. Sometimes it can be hard to identify a mental disorder especially in oneself, and sometimes it can be accepted as being normal when it should not be. Mental health professionals can formally diagnose and treat disorders when they have a patient, but most people do not understand they need treatment or are afraid of the stigma. This is where raising awareness comes in. It is important to understand what is positive and normal within the realm of mental health and what is not and act accordingly. A life may depend on it.
Mental health affects thoughts, feelings, and actions. Examples of mental disorders include anxiety, depression, eating disorder, personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychotic disorder. Mental health problems affect individuals, their families and loved ones, as well as their communities. Mental illnesses also affects that persons’ income, employment, education, homelessness, community participation, and life expectancy.
It is common for many people to suffer with mental health to one degree or another. Some cases are severe, and others are mild. Either way, mental health can be improved. When someone wants help, but declines seeking it, their struggle may seem real, but it is unnecessary. Speaking with a therapist can help and studies show that people with mental health issues can be treated, get better, and even recover completely.
Receiving care can be costly, though, so recently President Joe Biden’s administration released large amounts of aid for a system of care for the mental health needs of adults and children. With suicide rates unusually high among black youth and LGBTQI+ demographics during Covid, he stated: ”I call upon citizens, government agencies, organizations, healthcare providers, and research institutions to raise mental health awareness and continue helping Americans live longer, healthier lives.”
Treatments like counseling and therapy, services, and community support is available more now than ever before and these approaches do work. Living a normal life is within reach. You just need to start the journey to recovery. Seek help. We are here for you.
There is hope.Learn More
Cut Down on Stress by Cutting out These Two Words Stop Stressing Yourself Out!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghDecember 22, 2020 albert ellis, holidays stress reduction, irrational beliefs, stress, stress management, Uncategorized0 comments
Cut Down on Stress by Cutting out These Two Words
Stop Stressing Yourself Out!
The Holidays are an easy opportunity to let stress bubble over and become full blown anxiety. Stressors are a fact of life, but a majority of the stress we experience is actually a result of the things we tell ourselves. Often, our anxiety is rooted in the unfortunate human tendency to take our hopes, goals and desires and morph them into what are called absolute demands. We take our wants and then mistakenly, and usually without realizing it, turn them into needs. Inevitably, we come up short and the result is a mix of shame, guilt, and anxiety. We fail to meet the rigid demands we place on ourselves, and then we beat ourselves up for not meeting these unrealistic and unachievable standards! The most common way we do this is by using the words “should” and “must.” Without realizing it, you are probably causing yourself a lot of unnecessary anxiety with these absolute should’s and must’s. If you want a stress-free holiday one simple and effective trick is to replace “should,” and “must” with flexible language.
When your thoughts are flexible and rational, you experience positive and negative emotions in a healthy and balanced way. Rigid and inflexible thoughts set unachievable standards, and when these standards aren’t met the result is extreme and dysfunctional emotions. With plenty of things to do, places to be, and relationships to manage, the holidays are a prime time for high standards and rigid beliefs to run wild. How often do you tell yourself you, should, must, have to, or need, to do something? If you find yourself using these words a lot, it might be a sign that you are stressing yourself out! The good news is that you can stop most of your worryin
g by recognizing your irrational beliefs, when we notice that we are making statements that begin with ‘should and must’ we know that we are using irrational beliefs, instead we should alternate those statements by replacing them with flexible and rational thoughts.
Should’s and must’s fall into a category of common mental mistakes that we all make called absolute demands. They are rigid forms of thinking that result in unhealthy negative emotional states like shame, guilt, anxiety and depression. Without realizing it, we take our preferences, hopes, desires, and goals, and turn them into needs. The fact is your wants are not needs. We say things like, “I need the approval of other people.” “I should be more successful.” Or, “I must be perfect in everything I do.” The result of our illogical jump in thinking is that these thoughts are not rationally based. When our thinking is not based on reality, things can quickly get out of hand! If our need’s for approval, success, or perfection are not fulfilled we experience it as a total catastrophe. Our rigid musts lead to extreme, and unhealthy beliefs, overgeneralizations about ourselves, other people, or the world. Everyone will express these must’s and should’s in slightly different ways, but here are some basic examples of what this might look like:
The absolute demand, “I must/should do well,”
Leads to the extreme conclusion “or I am no good.”
The absolute demand, “You must/should treat me well,”
Leads to the extreme conclusion, “If you don’t, you are worthless.”
The absolute demand, “The world must give me what I want, when I want.”
Leads to the extreme conclusion, “If not, it a horrible place.”
If we didn’t create these absolute must’s for ourselves, we wouldn’t experience most of our unhealthy emotional reactions. Other examples of absolute demands are have to’s, ought to’s and need to’s, but the two main forms of absolute demands are our should’s, and must’s. The fact of the matter is that there is no logical reason for these must’s and should’s. They are actually illogical, and the result of rigid and illogical thinking is more rigid and illogical thinking, leaving us in an emotional mess. If you think about the words literally, and from a rational perspective, anything that should be already is. If something must be then literally it already is that way. When we use should and must we don’t always literally mean what we say. The issue is that our brain doesn’t know that, and it reacts to the logic we use, thinking those things like success and approval are needs. We believe what we tell ourselves. The desires for approval and for success are very good and healthy human desires, but they are wants, not needs. The real need’s humans have are food, water, and oxygen, almost everything else is a preference or desire. The result of turning these preferences into should’s and must’s in our self-talk is unhealthy negative emotion, and dysfunctional behavior.
Respond to Your Should’s & Musts
In order to replace your should’s and must’s with flexible beliefs the first thing you have to do is pay attention to your thoughts. Try to notice all the times when you use these should’s and must’s. After you catch yourself, there are two steps to responding to your should’s and must’s with flexible beliefs. The first step is to tell yourself what your want is, and the second step is to acknowledge that you do not have to get what you want. For example, If I thought to myself “I should have woken up earlier today.” The effect of this thought is that I feel ashamed and guilty. I may even make the extreme conclusion, “I’m lazy and no good for not waking up earlier, this just proves that I am a failure.” The result of my thinking is unnecessary shame and guilt. I can respond by telling myself what I would have preferred to happen, and then acknowledging that I am still okay even thought that didn’t happen. I might say to myself, “I would have liked to wake up earlier this morning, but just because I slept in, is no justification to say I am no good.” I could even add, “On top of that, just because someone sleeps in once, does not mean they are completely lazy or no good! That is a huge overgeneralization.” This is an example of using this flexible and preferential language to address my should, and to dispute my irrational thought. The result of my flexible thinking is that I feel much better and feel motivated to do better next time.
Here are a few more examples of possible Holiday should’s and must’s:
Holiday Should’s and Must’s & Alternative “Preferential Thinking”
|Rigid Thoughts||Extreme Conclusion||Flexible Thoughts||Rational Conclusion|
|The Holidays are a time where everyone in the family should get along.||If not, it will completely ruin the celebration.||I would really like for everyone to get along, BUT there is a chance someone might not get along and it will be okay.||If there is a fight, it will be difficult, but it won’t completely ruin the celebration.|
|The Holidays are a time where everyone in the family should get along.||And, If not, it will completely ruin the celebration.||I would really like for everyone to get along, BUT there is a chance someone might not get along and it will be okay.||If there is a fight, it will be difficult, but it won’t completely ruin the celebration.|
|I must complete my holiday to-do list||And, If I don’t, I won’t be able to enjoy myself.||I want to complete my Holiday to-do list, But the world will not completely stop if I don’t.||If I don’t complete my holiday to-do list, I will be a bit disappointed, but I will still be able to enjoy my holiday|
|I must get the perfect gifts for everyone.||And, If I don’t my family will have a terrible Christmas and I couldn’t stand myself.||I want to get the best gifts I can for everyone, but It couldn’t possibly get a gift that is perfect in every way.||Even if I don’t get everyone the most perfect gift, I will be able to enjoy Christmas and I will be able to accept myself.|
|My significant other must appreciate the time and effort I put in to find their gift.||And if they don’t, it means they are a terrible partner.||I would very much like for my significant other to appreciate the time and effort I put in to find their gift, but I don’t have to.||If my significant other doesn’t appreciate the time and effort, I put in to find their gift, it doesn’t mean they are a terrible partner.|
|I should be more organized with Holiday planning.||And, If I am not organized, I am a failure.||I would like to be more organized with Holiday planning, but there is no universal law that says I must be more organized.||If I am not organized, it does not mean I am a failure, it just means that it is an area in my life that could be improved upon. It does not change my value as a person.|
|I must cook the perfect meal for my household or loved ones.||And, If I don’t, Christmas will be ruined.||I would like to cook the best meal I can, but there is no perfect meal. A good meal will be just as good!||Even if I don’t cook the perfect meal for Christmas, my family will still be able to enjoy the celebration, and I will still be able to be happy.|
We Stress Ourselves Out
We mostly upset ourselves by adopting dysfunctional and rigid standards and then when we don’t meet these standards, we beat ourselves up. We take our preferences, hopes, wants, and desires which are usually all good and healthy, and we turn them into absolute demands. For example, It is perfectly rational to want things to be easy, but when this desire for leisure becomes a need for everything to be easy, we can get overwhelmed when things are difficult. This type of rigid thinking creates extreme beliefs and dysfunctional emotional reactions. When we think irrationally, we upset ourselves. When it comes down to it, and we evaluate these demands on a rational level, they actually don’t hold much weight. This is a common mental mistake that we all make, but in order to stop our unhelpful thoughts, we have to pay attention to our self-talk, and adopt flexible language.
Unhealthy Self-Talk Makes You Stressed, Depressed & Anxious
Thinking is a habit, and learning new habits of thinking that are flexible and rational will result in decreased stress, and increased life satisfaction. This holiday season try to replace your demands with desires. Preferential language is flexible and accurate, and it helps us feel the way we want to feel, and really enjoy our experiences. Rational Thinking provides us with healthy and accurate interpretations of ourselves, the world, and others. Now that you know that your feelings are caused by your thoughts, you have to actually practice noticing and responding to these unhelpful thoughts. You have to start to stubbornly refuse to upset yourself! This is what is called thought disputation. If you want to be happy, healthy, and stress free, stop telling yourself things that aren’t true. Inflexible rules and demands result in unhealthy emotions, and create guilt, frustration, and unhealthy negative emotions. Pay attention to your thoughts, ask yourself “do I really “need” to do this?” “Is this thought really true?” “Is this thought Helpful?” If it is not, try to respond with a more flexible thought. By recognizing your inflexible, rigid thinking and replacing it with accurate rational thoughts you will create a climate of healthy self-talk. It’s especially easy to be hard on yourself around the holidays, but you deserve a break! One simple and effective trick you can do to lessen stress, and cultivate healthy self-talk is to replace your should’s and must’s with flexible, preferential language.
By John-Paul Dombrowski
Dryden, W., DiGiuseppe, R., & Neenan, M. (2010). A primer on rational emotive behavior therapy. Champaign, IL: Research Press.
Ellis, A., & Doyle, K. A. (2019). How to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything-yes, anything!London: Robinson.
Sexual Wellness and ‘Self Care’
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 21, 2020 self care month, sex therapist, sexual wellness, Uncategorized0 comments
May is Self Care Month! In honor of that, let’s explore a form of self care that might not be the first thing you think of when you think about wellness. When the oxygen masks drop on the plane you always put on your own before helping someone else. This is self-care. The actions you take to keep all dimensions of your own health (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, mental) as strong as possible so that you can continue performing at your peak, whether at home, at work, or in your personal life. The phrase ‘self-care’ has made its rounds in mainstream media and for many people may include a spa day, sleeping in, or saying ‘no’ to certain obligations. However, one activity, self-pleasure or masturbation, has not gotten the credit it deserves as the ultimate form of self-care. Sex therapist Lauren Aikin-Smith from Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh shares her expertise in masturbation as a form of self care.
To start, anyone can masturbate. It isn’t restricted by wealth, gender identity, body shape/size, ability, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity. It’s easily adjustable based on your other life factors. For example, you can get it done in a few minutes while the kids are napping or leisurely take up an afternoon if you have the time. It can be done alone or with a partner(s). It’s cost effective and fits every budget. It can fit everyone’s personal style and isn’t limited to just involving the genitals, but may include a bubble bath, rubbing lotion on your body, or even involve other erogenous zones like the ears, scalp, and nipples.
Self-pleasure simultaneously has positive effects on the physical, mental, and emotional dimensions of health. The sensations, relaxation, deep breathing, and mindfulness that accompany masturbation promote the release of endorphins and oxytocin, even without achieving orgasm. Orgasm is accompanied by a surge of dopamine, activating the brain’s reward pathways. The endorphins and flow of blood throughout the body help release pent up energy, and promote stress and pain relief throughout the body by relieving stress, tension, headaches, and period cramps. Finally, there is a release of serotonin which is responsible for good mood and relaxation and can help promote sleep, another essential aspect of self-care.
Self-pleasure connects the mind and body, and can help you better understand what arouses and turns you on. It can help you recognize how your body responds to touch, sounds, and smells. Over time, you’re able to get a better sense of the sensations and movements that are pleasurable for you, which in turn also promotes body positivity.
Masturbation is empowering. You will never be in control of all aspects of your life, and many times you may feel like you aren’t in control of much at all, but, you can at least be in control of your own pleasure. You don’t need to rely on someone else for pleasure, it can be all your own.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, masturbation is the ultimate form of self-care because through all the craziness of life, it allows for a few moments that are focused solely on nothing other than your own personal gratification. The only way any of us are going to make it through life is by making time for ourselves, for our self-care, and for personal pleasure.
To discuss any sexual or intimate health concerns with one of our licensed counselors or sex therapists, call us at 412-322-2129 for an appointment.Learn More
What are the best ways to practice mindfulness in every day life
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJuly 1, 2019 Uncategorized, ways to incorporate mindfulness into daily life0 comments
Mindfulness and Meditation for Everyday Life The most beautiful thing about mindfulness is that we can practice it anywhere and anytime not just while we are in the middle of our downward facing dog or seated lotus position. Here are 6 ways to practice mindfulness that you probably never thought of! Let’s face it, being seated is not the ideal way to cultivate clarity of consciousness for all people, this is what makes mindfulness more accessible that meditation, it can be practiced while you’re moving, working, walking, and relating.
Mindful Gardening– To some it is pulling a weed and to others it is an act of meditation. Think about the great Japanese bonsai masters! The science backs us up here as we note that pulling weeds and being close to the earth have very potent health enhancing benefits. Feel the sensation of the plant in your fingers, contemplate its origin, and allow yourself to feel the texture of it between your fingers, breath deeply and notice the plants scent as the air passes through your nostrils.
Mindfulness in Motion– A mindful hike or walk, wondering how a normal hike or walk differs from a mindful one? Mindfulness is anytime we tune into our experience and allow all of our senses to become activated, notice the way your feet feel as they are making contact with the earth, be conscious of your breathing and the way that the air feels on your skin, listen to the sounds of the outdoors around you. Mindfulness is when we are perceiving deeply.
Mindful cooking – To some cooking is a burden to bare, as we activate our potential to be mindful, we can become enlightened through our cooking too. Use you hands when you cook! Tactile experiences easily lend themselves to being potentially mindful. When we bake cookies and knead the dough, we can hone in on the temperature of the dough, the way it feels on our skin and squishes between our fingers! Breath in the scents around you and notice how the foods you are cooking change in scent from raw to cooked. When you are mindful, you are aware and present to everything your senses perceive.
Mindful Eating– Luckily the mindful opportunity doesn’t need to end when the food is done cooking! There are many mindful eating exercises, that start by touching the food and considering its source. For instance an orange, where did it come from, how did it get to you. Then touching it with awareness and noticing its exteriors texture. Slowly, opening and peeling the different layers, when on the inside you can smell its juicy sweetness and then move to tasting. Try to take each bite and chew it for 10 bites, notice the way that the texture and flavor changes with each bite.
Mindful Shower- Showering is a great time to be mindful because it is usually uninterrupted time, away from the kids, the boss, or your partner. Some people enjoy keeping aromatherapy diffusers in their showers and making a meditative haven with deep breathes as each shower drop warms our skin. By being aware of our bodies, the soup that we use to clean ourselves, and taking many full slow inhalations we make the most of this time.
Mindful Loving Mindfulness doesn’t need to be what we do when we are alone, mindfulness can be used to enhance our relationships. There is something that we call beginners mind, when we first get to know a partner we ask many interested questions about who they are and what they like. Yet with time, we assume to have those answers. Unfortunately, with our assumptions we fail to take advantage of coming to know the great changes that happen for all of us through time. When we use beginners mind and interact with our partner as though they are a new person who we do not know all of the answers to, we are naturally more curious and tuned in.Learn More
How to Boost Your Brain Health, BDNF!
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMarch 12, 2019 bdfn, brain health, healthy food, NIH, Uncategorized0 comments
How to Boost Your Brain Health
If you knew that tweaking some lifestyle habits could act like brain fertilizer, building new connections to reduce your risk of dementia, improve mood and reduce depression, improve heart function, and more, would you want to learn about it? Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN, is here as your licensed nutritionist to help you navigate those changes and learn about the best ways that nutrition can support your wellness.
Then read on! Above I have provided a brief explanation of a protein that impacts all of this, and possibly even lifespan, greatly, and below you will find multiple ways that we can increase its production. This magical protein is BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) and while some details of our individual levels are genetically determined, and it naturally wanes as we age, we have great agency in boosting its production through lifestyle choices and habits we make.
- Eat more oily fish! Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA or Eicosapentaenoic Acid, a neuroprotective nutrient found in the brain. Also, DHA Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, found in fish. Both of these nutrients have many benefits including increasing BDNF (it also has the most anti-inflammatory action). This is an essential nutrient, and studies show up to 95% of Americans are deficient in it. SMASH is acronym for high omega-3, low contaminant fish: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring.
- If fish consumption is not for you, supplements are also available, check for molecularly distilled 3rd party analysis and therapeutic dose levels. Omega-3’s are also found in vegetable sources like flax, chia and walnuts, and while still beneficial, contain ALA which may not convert well to EPA and DHA.
- Increase intake of Turmeric and Curry, Blueberries and Red grapes! Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color, and has a plethora of health benefits, including boosting BDNF. It has been recognized for many epidemiological aspects of better health in cultures where it is a staple, such as lower Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and less inflammation. Try a golden milk recipe, or cauliflower turmeric flatbread. It can be added to many dishes, with a sprinkle of black pepper to increase bioavailability. It is also available in supplement form. The pigment that gives blueberries their color, anthocyanin, and a phytochemical, resveratrol, found in red grapes also raise BDNF levels.
- Avoid sugar, processed foods and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) these items have the opposite action, as the SAD (Standard American Diet) which are high in these elements, has been shown to result in lower BDNF levels. For optimal brain and all around function, we have to put optimal fuel into the body.
- Intermittent Fasting is another way to increase BDNF, there is increasing evidence that periods of gut rest, as short as 12 hours, can boost our bodies repair mechanisms. While this is not for everyone, there is a growing body of research on the topic.
- Exercise!!! It is the best way to boost our BDNF levels. Find ways that work with your life, and that you enjoy, as developing this habit is a huge key to keeping our brain and hearts functioning optimally throughout our lifespan.
- Social Connection, Stress Reduction and Mental Stimulation! Nurturing relationships with close friends and family members, and spending time where authentic communication, love and acceptance are present provides a boost. People under a lot of stress produce less BDNF, so finding ways to reduce stress including meditation, yoga, exercise and mindfulness practices, getting out in nature, are critical.
- Sun can boost BDNF levels. This can be short amounts daily, while practicing skin cancer awareness and limits.
- Sleep….last but not least! Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep, this is critical to general health. BDNF is reduced with sleep deprivation. If you struggle with this, investigate changing your sleep hygiene habits, including trying a guided meditation for sleep.
So many great choices….where will you begin with your health and wellness goals?
If you are thinking about how nutrition counseling can help you or looking for a near by nutrition counselor, Lauri Lang, RDN, LDN is glad to help. Call us at 412-322-2129 or find our counselors near you at;
Counseling Near ME – Pittsburgh
Counseling Near ME- MonroevilleLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 12, 2019 Uncategorized0 comments
When individuals experience trauma or toxic stress it is not uncommon to need therapeutic support and guidance. Samantha Ricci, MS, LPC is passionate about helping to create a safe and effective space for individuals to explore emotions and traumatic/ stressful experiences. To help her clients, who include children, adults, couples, and families who are experiencing emotional or relationship distress. Samantha’s therapeutic approach is devoted to help her clients create healthy perceptions of themselves, to strengthen their relationships, to promote balanced and strong attachments, full and rich emotional bonds. Samantha is trained to help you experience change, through these systematic and evidence based strategies her clients reports that their innate capacity for trust, empathy, and compassion emerges to greater joy. Samantha’s area of clinical expertise include helping her clients recover from Stress/Anxiety, Mood Disorders, Adjustment disorders, Trauma focused care, Attachment disorders, Child Therapy, and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
Samantha’s clinical focus is on treatment that utilizes an attachment informed lens and trauma focused care with children, adults, couples, and families. Specifically, Samantha is rostered in Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) is an empirically-supported treatment model which is scientifically shown to enhance the emotional health of young children from infancy through seven years old. CPP is a unique and specific relationship-based therapy in which the clinician collaboratively engages in play and treatment with the child and caregivers. CPP positively impacts children’s behavioral and mental health outcomes while promoting protective factors and strengths, such as stable, warm relationships with parents and caregivers.
Samantha’s educational background includes a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology and a graduate Certificate in Infant Mental Health from Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA. She has a Dual Degree, Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation and Human Services as well as Communication Science and Disorders from The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA. In addition to Samanthas work with Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, she also works with UPMC in their Mathilda Theiss center where she specializes in pediatric and family counseling. In her free time, Samantha enjoys exploring new restaurants in the city of Pittsburgh, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and being a dog mom to her well loved frenchie/pug, Luna. Samantha also has a fervent passion for Pittsburgh and local sports and enthusiastically spends her Saturdays watching Penn State Football games with her fiance.Learn 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
Wellness Tip of The Month, Frankincense
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 6, 2018 meditation, mental health, mindfulness, personal growth, Uncategorized, wellness, wisdom, yoga0 comments
We love wellness and always are committed to bringing to you all the latest and often times most historically revered practices to sustain and support emotional, physical and spiritual health. This month we are highlighting Frankincense. Some of you may be familiar with the giving of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, in ancient times, these were gifts offered to kings and royalty, they even mention them in the Christian Bible as offerings brought to baby Jesus Christ by The Three Wise Men. Why all of the spotlight on Frankincense? Well in indigenous cultures, Frankincense was treated as medicine to reduce symptoms and even cure diseases of inflammation.
Modern Science is exploring the many benefits of Frankincense, some studies offering evidence that this can be used to cure everything depression, anxiety, and even certain forms of cancer. While we can not conclude the effectiveness of these treatments because it has not been supported of verified by the food and drug administration plant oils and herbs offer a wonderful route to healing and treating our bodies holistically.