There remains much debate over whether or not to get your yearly “flu shot.” That’s a decision that should be made after researching current findings, talking with your health care provider, and trusting your gut. Whether or not you opt for the flu shot, however, there are other measures you can take to help avoid the flu – all by boosting your immune system. Let’s talk about some of these.
Diet – Foods and conditions which may negatively impact the immune system include:
• Rancid oils (keep all oils, nuts, and seeds in refrigerator)
• Excessive Alcohol
• Excessive Caffeine
• Processed foods
• Over cooked foods (over cooked foods lack the necessary vitamins and minerals necessary for building immune components)
• Excessive food quantities (can lead to obesity which can contribute to a depressed immune system)
• Food Allergies
Exercise – Moderate, consistent exercise benefits the immune response and when exercise is performed daily, the effect becomes cumulative. Those who exercise regularly, therefore, will be better able to recover from health challenges and will be sick less frequently. (Extreme exercise negates this benefit.)
Sleep – Lack of sleep is related to obesity as well as a depressed immune system. Melatonin, an antioxidant hormone which stimulates the immune system is normally increased at night, allowing restful sleep. Electrical pollution, however can interfere with Melatonin production and thus affect our immune system as well as our quality of sleep. It is advised by Ann Louise Gittleman in her book Zapped, to have minimal or no electronic devices in the bedroom, including cell phones. Wireless routers should be unplugged, electric blankets removed, and any appliances such as alarm clocks at least six feet away from the bed. Limiting alcohol can also help by allowing the deep restful sleep needed.
Stress management – By now most of us know that stress impacts the immune system. One way to reduce stress and boost the immune system is through catharsis – laughing, crying, talking to a trusted friend or adviser, and journaling. One famous study measured college students’ number of visits to the health clinic. Half of the students were instructed to journal daily, the other half were given no special instructions. It was found that the students who journaled had significantly less visits to the health clinic than those who did not! And we know that ~80% of all physician visits are for stress-related illness.
Spiritual practice – This can include anything from meditation, gratitude, and strong connections with others to laughing, dancing, singing and being in nature. It seems our immune system benefits from liberal doses of joy and connection, including pets.
In addition to these measures, frequent hand washing and avoidance of those who are obviously sick with a respiratory illness are recommended. Since you can’t avoid “germs” such as influenza virus altogether, it’s always prudent to keep your immune system in good running order. So take a walk, eat your veggies, get plenty of sleep, take time for fun and listen to the voice within.
I’m recalling an exercise that was shared with a group of health care workers in a local nursing center last year. We were asked to write down 10 things that were very important to us and that would be difficult to live without. After completing our list, we were asked to remove 2 things from the list. This process continued until we were down to the last 2 items and we were asked to remove one. This was an exercise in empathy, helping us understand how difficult it must be for residents of a nursing home to give up so many things that are meaningful to them. I was a bit surprised by what was left on my list of one – “health.” I realized that all those other things, including my beloved furry companion, were not as important as maintaining the gift of health, without which I would be unable to care for her. With that in mind, I’ve decided to suggest some “last minute gifts” that you may want to give yourself to benefit your own health:
- Benevolence – Is there a particular charity that might benefit from your services or a monetary contribution? Is there a neighbor who might need some help at this time of year, perhaps with you cleaning up their yard leaves or gifting a casserole? Giving to others provides the giver with health benefits, including that warm feeling around your heart.
- Forgiveness – Who do you need to forgive? Don’t forget to include yourself here, knowing that the immune system “hears” everything. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior, it simply means letting go of the resentments for the sake of your health. After all, holding a grudge doesn’t hurt the other person, only the one holding it.
- Play – This time of year can be unusually stressful as we place high expectations on ourselves and others to produce the perfect holidays. We need to counter the stress with exercise, healthy foods, social support, and a liberal dose of fun! Schedule in some play time doing what you most enjoy – sports, a movie, visiting grandchildren, or even dressing up in Santa-wear at the office.
- Nutrition – Much has been said on this topic but many don’t realize that a typical American diet actually promotes more stress and compromises the immune system, leaving us vulnerable to a host of illnesses. Plan ahead so you’re not left victim to the many processed and sugary foods served at holiday parties. It’s “ok” to bring your own snacks!
You may be motivated to gift yourself in other ways – there are many “free” gifts available. Choose gifts that bring you joy – a surefire way to promote wellness. Happy gifting!
Women are typically the keepers of health practices and assurance. We see to it that our family members keep routine doctor’s appointments, eat a balanced diet, receive appropriate medical attention for sudden or prolonged illness, and avoid risky and unhealthy behaviors as we also keep tabs on the newest health information.
Yesterday I was privileged to attend the Enterprising Women conference in Hyannis, which, while billed as a business and networking experience, contained many overtones of health and wellness. There were several great speakers who spoke on achieving our hearts desire, personal branding and confidence building, surviving crisis, and leadership traits. The speakers spoke from the heart, sometimes risking honest emotion which connected the audience to them. The presenters weren’t simply instructing us on how to do these things, they were authentically revealing their own struggles and successes on the topics. There were tears, laughter, and speaker anxiety shared with a room full of supportive women.
Experiential segments included short journaling exercises designed to help us manifest our visions and group craft projects, designing Christmas gift bags and ornaments for children in need.
Awards were given to local women business owners, inspiring everyone to reach higher, while providing a warm glow for those of us witnessing their successes.
The afternoon consisted of roundtable discussions sponsored by ABWA and SCORE. Facilitators helped women with diverse topics such as Striving for Work/Life Balance, Networking for the Introvert, and Incorporating Coaching into your Leadership. The discussions allowed women to learn from others as everyone shared their personal challenges.
All of the activities and presentations were inspirational while promoting self-awareness, self-confidence, benevolence, and networking; encouraging authenticity and vulnerability; providing large doses of inspiration; and even encouraging fun! All were therefore health-promoting since we know the value of helping others, catharsis, authenticity, journaling, fun and gaining support by connecting with others on our body-minds and spirits. As if all that weren’t enough, the conference put out an appetizing lunch with several healthy choices which reminded all of us to “Eat your veggies!”
Perhaps next year the promotions will include statements such as “Increase your business savvy while you promote personal health and wellness.” We received a hefty dose of both yesterday!
Women are traditionally the care-takers. Whether you’re a nurse as I am or not, we as women are charged with taking care of others in a multitude of ways. We send out sympathy and birthday cards, plan dinners, provide support to a friend in need, attend PTA meetings and attend to a never ending list of other tasks that help support the family and our other relationships. But what do we do to take care of ourselves and where do we find the resources to keep our bodies/minds/spirits intact? And how do we nourish the well from which we must draw to nurture others? There’s no one right way to answer this but there are many things we can do to manage the stress that drains our energy and to fill the well from which we drink. Women’s Day of Wellness will provide you with many of the tips and techniques you need to help nurture and nourish yourself so you can be available to those you care for. We strongly encourage you to BRING A FRIEND although you will make new friends at the event if you come alone. This is a day for renewal, education, relaxation, connection, inspiration and FUN! Topics include:
Holistic Self Care
Organize Your Way to Wellness
Time Management for Stress Reduction
Experiential sessions include interactive presentations, songs, qi gong, yoga, guided imagery, “one stone” meditation, and zumba
Call Amanda for more info: 508.862.6395 or register online at www.wellnesspaths.com/womens-day-of-wellness
It’s September and it’s back to school – time to bone up on our wellness strategies. In today’s complicated world, we need help deciphering complex, contradictory, and confusing health information. Similar to deciphering complex legal information where a legal consultant is necessary, a coach/educator is often needed to navigate the vast arena of health and wellness information and make it useable. When choosing a health educator or health coach be sure to ask about their credentials: Where did they get their education? Are they certified in their area of specialty? How many related credentials do they have? How long have they been teaching or coaching? What is their personal relationship to health and wellness or to illness? Is their primary goal to sell products? In other words, you need to get the “Wholistic” view before you choose someone to help with your personal goals.
Workshops which are conducted in a safe, caring, and supportive environment allow each participant to express and develop their unique gifts. Classes should be designed to inform, inspire, and empower, allowing individual self-discovery through a combination of shared information and experiential sessions. The instructor should be sensitive to the needs of the group, using effective coaching skills such as deep listening and authenticity. So check out your options today – plan now to make your health and wellness a priority and head back to school!
Some of the workshops available from Wellness Paths include:
- Holistic Stress Management
- Humor – Jest for the Health of It!
- Eating Outside the Box
- Blessed or Stressed?
- Empowering Strategies for Hidden Health Hazards
- What’s so Funny about Aging?
- Care & Feeding of the Body, Mind, & Spirit (also available as a CE class for nurses and social workers)
- Aromatherapy for Health & Enjoyment
Professional caregivers, including nurses and social workers, often suffer burnout from becoming overly attached to client outcomes while neglecting their own needs. Taking responsibility for another’s well- being rather than simply providing them with the tools for self-healing is one of the most common causes of professional caregiver burnout.
Other causes of burnout include unrealistic goals – self or other imposed, unrealistic expectations, unreasonable rules, violation of personal values, boredom/lack of challenge, and feeling trapped due to financial concerns. Signs and symptoms include depression, anxiety, cynicism, self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or food, detachment and isolation, frustration, exhaustion, sadness, and irritability.
What can be done? True collaboration with the client, rather than assuming responsibility for their well-being is necessary. Deep listening, genuine caring, authenticity, and providing education and feedback are effective skills that can facilitate your clients’ healing. Also, as the professional caregiver assumes increased responsibility for her/his own health and wellness through deliberate self-care activities, they become a role model for their clients, providing another tool for their self-healing.
Some of the benefits of self-care include the professional becoming more empathetic, authentic, and available to their clients, as their own needs are met. Self-care may include hobbies, vacations, journaling, exercise, meditation/prayer, pleasure reading, improved nutrition, therapy, and time spent in healing environments such as nature.
Burnout is one of many topics covered in an upcoming class “Holistic Care & Feeding of the Body, Mind, & Spirit” which provides 4 CEs for nurses and social workers. Professional caregivers will learn many self-care strategies including stress management that they can apply to their own lives and share with their clients. Registration is now being accepted for a workshop on August 12th at Thirwood Place in So. Yarmouth. For more info call Amanda at 508.862.6395 or register at www.wellnesspaths.com/ce-class.
Holistic Care & Feeding of the Body, Mind, & Spirit
Back by popular demand! Here’s your chance to earn continuing education credits while practicing many of the holistic/integrative techniques and tenets. You will be informed, inspired, empowered, and engaged in this relevant workshop.
CE Program for Nurses & Social Workers (4 CEs) (Certificate of Completion awarded to others)
March 8, 2016 8:00 AM – 1:30 PM
Thirwood Place, 237 N. Main St., South Yarmouth, MA 02664
Professional Statement of Purpose: The purpose of this activity is to enable the learner to understand and integrate holistic/integrative concepts, particularly self-care, into their personal and professional practices.
Participants must be present for entire presentation to earn CE’s; no partial credit given
Presented by Amanda Murphy, RN, BA, HN-BC who shares her insights and experience of more than 40 years in health-care.
Breakfast, Registration, Welcome: 8:00 AM – 8:30 AM
Presentation: 8:30 AM – 1:00 PM
Lunch: 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Cost: $59.00 includes breakfast, lunch, handouts, 4 CEs for nurses & social workers
Go to Wellness Paths to register/for more info OR call Amanda at 508.862.6395
This class has been presented at Epoch Sr. Living in Brewster, at Thirwood Place in Yarmouth, and at Emerald Physicians in Centerville. Evaluations have been unanimously positive!
This continuing nursing education activity was approved by the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA), an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. Approval for contact hours through the American Holistic Nurses Association (AHNA) is based on an assessment of the educational merit of this program and does not constitute endorsement of the use of any specific modality in the care of clients.
This program has been approved for 4 Social Work Continuing Education Credits, for the licensure period of October 1, 2014 — September 30, 2016, in accordance with 258 CMR. Boston University School of Social Work Authorization Number B-16-103.
Who cares for the professional care-giver?
Professional nurses and social workers are at high risk for burn-out, sometimes referred to as “compassion fatigue.” Burnout occurs when the caregivers’ needs go unmet and she/he is taking responsibility for another’s healing.
Some of the symptoms of burn-out include:
• Feeling Powerless
• Feeling trapped
• Feeling a failure
Due to their intense involvement with patients’/clients’ physical/psycho-social/spiritual health challenges and crises, these care-takers are at risk for an inordinate amount of stress. They often suffer feelings of failure if the client doesn’t improve, adding to the stress. They may also neglect their own needs as they devote themselves to others. Nursing theorist Jean Watson offers some sage advice:
“We need to love, respect, and care for ourselves and treat ourselves with dignity before we can love, respect, and care for others.”
Holistic Care & Feeding of the Body, Mind, & Spirit is a 4 CE program designed and approved specifically for nurses and social workers. This is a four-hour presentation describing the holistic/integrative health paradigm with emphasis on the need for professional care-giver self-care and stress management. Topics include the mind-body connection, conventional vs holistic/integrative health care model, burn-out, nutrition, and coping and relaxation strategies including humor and communication. Experiential sessions allow participants to begin using self-care strategies immediately. Designed to inform, inspire, and empower professional care-givers to better care for themselves as they care for others, this program will allow the integration of holistic/integrative concepts, particularly self-care, into their personal and professional practices.
Holistic Care and Feeding of the Body, Mind, & Spirit is a Wellness Paths class that will inspire you toward greater health. As Bernie Siegel once said:
“Information does not resolve unhealthy behavior. People who smoke or are two hundred pounds overweight are not acting out of stupidity or a lack of knowledge. What everyone needs is inspiration.”
Through the use of story-telling, sharing of personal insights, liberal amounts of humor, and respect for personal choices, participants are inspired to consider their values and personal responsibilities which influence their health. Rather than tell people what they should do to become healthy, Amanda offers various options – paths – for wellness, encouraging participants to choose their own. Several experiential sessions allow the participant to begin using holistic measures, experiencing stress reduction and health benefits right away.
This class was created by Amanda Murphy, a registered nurse who has been on both sides of healthcare – as a professional care-giver and as a patient. She shares her experiences from both lenses as she provides cutting edge, evidence-based information on the causes of disease and on preventative measures that can keep us healthier, happier, and more productive.
A four-hour Continuing Education version of this class has been approved for nurses and social workers. The purpose of this program is to enable the learner to understand and integrate holistic/integrative concepts, particularly self-care, into their personal and professional practices. This class is unique and creative, designed to engage, inspire, and empower the learner. Some of the topics covered include:
- Food as medicine
- Stress management
- Coping and relaxation strategies including humor and communication
- Several experiential sessions including guided imagery and spirituality.
Call Amanda for more information or to schedule a preview of this or other Wellness Programs.
We hear and read a lot of conflicting information on nutrition and what to eat including information from major universities, top government agencies, and leading nutritionists. It seems sometimes the best thing to do is trust your instincts and find what works best for you! To help you with this, the following information has been compiled from the integrative/holistic health community. While not all-inclusive, these suggestions for healthy eating are generally agreed on in the current literature.
• Eat REAL food – as Michael Pollan would say “Don’t eat anything your great great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
• Eat whole food – this means nothing processed – think and eat
“outside the box.” Processed food is devitalized, containing little nutritional value and usually contains a plethora of artificial colors and flavors and preservatives. In addition, toxic ingredients such as MSG (hidden under a variety of names) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are often lurking.
• Eat a variety of food colors – this ensures you receive the necessary phytochemicals (e.g., bio-flavonoids) which help protect against chronic disease.
• Choose foods high in antioxidants – This includes fruits, veggies, and fresh herbs to fight free radicals. Free radicals find their way into our bodies through air pollution, tobacco smoke, radiation, herbicides, and rancid fatty foods. (Be sure to refrigerate all nuts and oils to prevent rancidity.)Free radicals contribute to premature aging and chronic disease. Antioxidants are found largely in fruits and vegetables.
• Choose organic – This eliminates most of the synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, & fungicides many of which are known carcinogens as well as endocrine disruptors which also wreak havoc on our immune system. Choosing organic will ensure you are not eating so-called “Frankenfood” – genetically modified organisms or “GMOs” which are believed to be contributing to an increased incidence of food allergies. Most all processed foods contain GMO’s, often in the form of corn and/or soy. If a product is not certified organic, it most likely contains genetically modified organisms.
• Drink Filtered water – Tap water (of which a large percentage of bottled water is comprised of) contains heavy metals, toxic chemicals including chlorine & fluoride, and medications (Silent Spring Institute has tested drinking water here on Cape Cod and found Sulfa drugs and fire retardants among other contaminants in our drinking water.) How much filtered water should you drink? Newest research suggests you drink half of your weight in ounces of water daily – so if you weigh 150 lbs. you should divide that by 2 which equals 75 ounces of water daily.
• Limit intake of caffeinated beverages – Caffeine increases stress by releasing more stress hormones into the body – thereby impacting the immune system, blood pressure, heart rate, and insulin. It also contributes to dehydration by it’s diuretic action. It is recommended that for every caffeinated (or alcoholic) drink, you should consume one extra glass of water in addition to your minimum daily requirement.
• Limit alcohol consumption – In addition to being toxic to the liver and compromising immune function, alcohol raises the blood sugar, requiring large amounts of damaging insulin to be secreted. It is also dehydrating. While there is no recognized “safe” recommendation, the CDC’s newest guidelines state “Women are classified as heavy drinkers if they have eight or more drinks a week, or roughly one per day. Men are classified as heavy drinkers if they have 14 drinks a week or two per day. Some integrative health practitioners recommend no more than 3 drinks per week for women and 7 for men.
• Eat only meat & dairy that is organic and free-ranged – This ensures the meat is free from antibiotics, synthetic hormones and other harmful chemicals. It also ensures the inclusion of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), present only in grass fed beef and its milk which is believed beneficial for weight control, skin disorders, and other health problems.
• Buy organic free-ranged eggs – meat & chicken that have been raised in CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations) are fed an unnatural diet of primarily (genetically modified) corn. As Michael Pollan observed “We are what we eat eats.”
• Increase consumption of Omega 3’s – Omega 3 & Omega 6 oils are essential fatty acids. This means that your body cannot produce them internally and hence they must be obtained from outside sources. Since most of us have an imbalance in these essential fats, consuming too much inflammatory Omega 6 oil, we need to concentrate on obtaining Omega 3’s which are anti-inflammatory. Sources of Omega 3’s include cold-water fish (e.g. Salmon, Cod, and Tuna) flax seed oil, and walnuts.
• Increase fiber – Newer guidelines recommend up to 50 grams per day. Most of us consume about 10 grams. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes (peas, beans, lentils, etc.) Fiber acts to keep the colon clean, reducing toxins and cholesterol as well as ensuring the recommended number of bowel movements – one for each meal. Hippocrates believed that auto-intoxication from constipation was the cause of chronic disease!
• Eat low glycemic foods – this automatically eliminates sugar and “junk food” but also includes foods such as white rice, potatoes, and grains as well as artificial sweeteners which can trick your body. High glycemic foods cause insulin spikes which can eventually lead to Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes. High glycemic foods also raise blood lipids and can lead to fatty liver.
• Consider eliminating wheat consumption – while not everyone is in agreement on this, there is much evidence that the wheat of today is vastly different from the wheat of yesteryear, having a much higher percentage of gluten which may be contributing to the rapid rise of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. In addition, farming methods include spraying wheat prior to harvest with Roundup, a notoriously toxic herbicide, to hasten drying.
• Avoid trans fats and hydrogenated fats – these are fats which have been chemically altered and are especially toxic to your body.
• Consume healthy fats – Among those generally considered healthy are olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and meat and eggs from organically raised animals.
These are some of the major points to remember when planning your food menus. One thing is clear from all this: “Eat your fruits and veggies” is probably the best advice your grandmother ever gave you for healthy eating! They supply much needed fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Newer recommendations advice up to 7 servings per day and some recommend filling your plate ¾ full with veggies while another source recommends we choose 35 different fruits & veggies per week! (I tried this and it was fun keeping track as well as flavorful!) Hope all this food for thought was helpful – let me know!