Category Archives: mental health

Shed stress, shed pounds

Maybe your problem is not sugar after all.

It might be cortisol. It’s a useful hormone that helps you kick into “fight or flight” mode.

Your adrenal glands dump into your blood system during stress. Its purpose was to — occasionally — heighten blood pressure and heartbeat when in danger of a predator or war in ancient times.

stress and sugarNowadays, sabre tooth tigers, Black Plague or invading mongols are not a threat. No, your problems are worse- bills, deadlines, domestic friction, rejection, loneliness, competition, low self esteem, weight gain, sickness. Plus, the world is coming to an end (again)

We have more stress points than any civilization ever, and as a result our cortisol levels are puncturing the stratosphere. Excess cortisol cues hypertension, high blood sugar, inflammation, depression, insomnia, atherosclerosis and a bunch of other cools ways to die or live in misery before dying. This is serious! There’s even a full-blown academic journal dedicated to its study: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress.

We’re stressed about stress.

Of course, people develop coping mechanisms to lighten the overload. There are some that are escapist and some are counteractions: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, binge-watching, oversleeping, social isolation, scape-goating, gaming.

One more: dunking donuts.

Or candy, or soda.

Sugar gives an instant pleasure from a dopamine release in your bloodstream. Dopamine is the happy hormone. It counteracts the cortisol and offsets it, if temporarily. It’s an tangible relief.

Behold then!

Excessive obesity then is not just a product of the prevalence of added sugar in grocery store items. It’s not just a product an overly sedentary lifestyle. Lack of information about nutrition alone cannot be blamed — nor can the marketing fusillade of the food industry.

Our weight problem can be traced to unhealthy stress levels.

You don’t need to strengthen your willpower to resist that chocolate bar. You need to lower your stress levels. Read the rest of the article for practical tips to lower stress and thus shed pounds.

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Who knew Sheila Walsh suffered mental illness

12_SheilaWalshUnder the semblance of a successful Christian music career, Scottish-born New Wave singer Sheila Walsh hid a rumbling volcano of mental illness that started when her father suffered a brain aneurysm and lashed out at the 5-year-old girl.

The volcano finally erupted in 1992 when she checked herself into a mental institution to come to grips with the rejection, depression and suicidal inclinations. Her recovery — and the help of Jesus — are the subject of her book Honestly.

“I was very much a daddy’s girl. I thought my father was the most amazing man on earth,” Sheila recounts. The tenderness and warmth ended brusquely with an aneurysm he suffered one night. After he returned from the hospital a few weeks later, he was paralyzed on the left side of his body and could only make grunting, animal-like noises.

“Sometimes during acute brain injury, the person hits out instinctively at the one person they believe will love them,” Sheila says. “But you don’t understand that when you’re five years old.

1539097700001_5852439046001_5850381258001-vs“The only one my father would take his anger out on was me,” she adds. “He would spit in my face or pull lumps of my hair out. As a child I thought, ‘What am I doing wrong?’”

One night, dad approached Sheila from behind and raised his cane to smash it down on her skull. If not for the growling of her little dog Heidy, he might have achieved his twisted intent.

“I don’t know whether I pulled it or pushed, but he fell and hit the ground hard,” she remembers. “He lay there like an animal just roaring.”

Four men were needed to carry him to the nearest asylum in Ayr, Scotland.

He escaped the asylum, dragged himself to the river, where he entangled himself in the salmon nets to drown. Search and rescue crews found him dead the next morning. He had committed suicide.

Sheila’s mother arrived home dressed in black. She took down every photo of dad from the walls and stowed them in a suitcase under her bed.

“We never talked about him again,” she says.

“All I knew is that I had done something to make my father hate me, or he had seen something in me that he despised,” she adds.

Sheila Walsh husband and sonNeighbors would try to encourage her: “Sheila, you’re just like your dad.” They meant mannerisms or singing voice, but Sheila feared they meant she was mentally ill like him.

“What I heard was: ‘There’s a crack in your soul like your father, and one of these days, no matter how fast you run, it’s going to catch up with you,’” she says. “I spent the next many, many years trying to make sure that whatever it was my father saw, no one else would ever see.”

She finished studies in theology at the London Bible College (now called London School of Theology) in 1979. She studied music at the London Academy of Operatic Art. She also worked as an evangelist for Youth for Christ in Britain and sang in a group called Oasis.

In 1981, she released a solo album of New Wave music with Christian lyrics entitled Future Eyes. She toured the United States opening for Phil Keaggy. In 1992, Pat Robertson made her co-host on the 700 Club.

“I found the perfect hiding place: Christian ministry,” she says. “Outwardly it looked like God had really put his hand of favor on my life. But inside I was still the same scared little girl. It felt as if I was on the edge of this volcano and this distant rumble was getting louder and louder every day, and I didn’t know what to do.”

She stayed busy and constantly filled her world with music and noise.

One day while interviewing a guest on the 700 Club on live T.V., the guest asked her how she was doing. “I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t get the chance to pull my guard up,” she says. “And that day I did what I vowed I would never do. I cried on live T.V.”

She went away from work that day feeling naked before the world. The ghosts from the past had finally caught up with her, and she didn’t know how to deal with them. She went to the coast and walked out into the water, with every intention of drowning herself like her father.

What held her back was the thought of her mother receiving the phone call that her daughter had repeated the curse of inheritance.

She checked into a psych hospital. “I felt I had gone to hell,” she says. She was in a simple room with a chair, and personnel checked on her every 15 minutes.

A man came in at 3:00 and gave her a stuffed animal, a lamb.

“As he was leaving, he turned and said, ‘Sheila, the Shepherd knows where to find you,’” she remembers. Sheila was treated for a month and never saw that man again. Read the rest of Sheila Walsh mental health and suicide.

Raised in Appalachian family fighting culture, he found peace with God

usa_today_10392817.0Once, Cody almost sliced off his brother’s finger with a knife. On another occasion, his brother punched his ear so hard, it swelled and became a “cauliflower ear.” Another time, they took their squabble outside city limits where they wailed on each other for 45 minutes. This is how Cody Garbrandt became an MMA champion.

But he almost lost a battle with depression until the same brother intervened.

“I almost hung myself,” Cody says on an I am Second video. “He busted down the door and came in and saved my life. He gave me the biggest hug and sat there with me and cried with me. He said everything was going to be all right. That day was a changing point for me in my life. That brought us even closer, you know, attending church together.”

cody-garbrandtCody grew up in the Appalachian mountains of Ohio in small towns where people are as proud of their hometowns as they are poor in the economically depressed areas of Uhrichsville and Denison.

Fighting is a way of life there — especially for the Garbrandt family.

“From both sides of my family, we were fighters.” Cody says. “We had a last name to uphold. Oh you’re from Garbrandt clan or the Mease clan. You don’t mess with those guys.”

He watched his uncle fight, while his grandfather, drunk in the stands, fought with a spectator.

With his brother Zach Garbrandt

“We’d just be sitting there watching it,” he remembers. “That was normal for us.”

Since fighting was “normal,” Cody and his brother Zach made grappling a normal part of sibling rivalries.

“Out of the womb, I was fighting over the bottle,” Cody jokes. “Zach was my fierce competitor. My brother was always bigger, stronger, faster, meaner than me growing up, so that’s why I was always quick to fight: I had something to prove.

“Me and Zach, we fought so many times in our lives. We had some pretty violent fights.”

Once when Zach provoked him to punch him, Cody grabbed a knife in the sink and slashed him, nearly cutting off his middle finger.

0_1218_SPO_LDN-L-UFC-GARBRANT-HG13“I remember he looked at me, wrapped his finger in a paper towel, punched the stove and shattered the whole glass stove and went back to bed,” Cody remembers.

In their last fight, Cody was 17; Zach, 18.

“We ended up fighting over a Subway sandwich,” he recalls.

After Grandma intervened to stop, the brothers jumped in their cars and drove to “the pump house.”

“That’s where we would take out-of-towners to fight,” he says. “We would take them out of city limits where cops wouldn’t go.”

The fight lasted 45 minutes.

“It was always a knock-out, drag-out fight with Zach,” he says. The fights were so fierce it was possible someone might die.

“My knuckles were all cut up, my lip was bloodied, my teeth were all busted up,” he says. “I hit with a right-handed, overhand right. He had the stanky legs like he was walking in potholes. He looked at me with this crazed look, like, ‘Alright, awesome. Cody finally hit me with a nice shot that hurt me.” Read the rest: Cody Garbrandt’s toughest fight.

How to cut sugar without stress

sugar addictionBusiness Insider recently showed how sugar is becoming the #1 culprit (ahead of fatty foods) behind the current weight gain epidemic. Naturally.

So concerned diet experts are targeting sugar consumption. Unfortunately sugar already has been targeting you — usually with great success.

If you feel your own powerlessness, you’re not alone. Like starting a fitness routine, there are right ways and wrong ways to start a sugar-reduction plan.

Today. Right now.

Ready?

Here’s seven tips to slay sugar:

1. Your stomach doesn’t really care. Your brain does. Find alternative rewards for your brain: Sugar fires off dopamine production in your brain, a key component of addiction. Unlike a balanced meal (which can also trigger dopamine but tapers off if repeated), sugar keeps flooding the brain with warm fuzzies. It is this overactive reward system that creates craving.

Suggestion: Source the pleasure hormone elsewhere:

  • Consume large quantities of meat and other proteins, specifically Tyrosine which can be found in almonds, avocados, bananas, chocolate, coffee, eggs, green tea and watermelon.
  • Eat yogurt, kimchee, pickles, some cheeses or other foods rich in probiotics.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Enjoy music.
  • Meditate.
  • Get sunlight.
  • Consider supplements as curcumin, ginkgo biloba, L-theanine, acetyl-l-tyrosine
  • Get a massage. Hug your family. Get a pet.
  • Learn something new. Make new discoveries. Develop and satisfy your curiosity.
  • Divide your duties into small tasks and check them off as you go. A sense of accomplishment releases dopamine.

Other reward hormones: Other feel-good hormones also provide potent sugar substitutes:

  • Endorphins — from significant exercise. Go to the gym.
  • Serotonin — from feeling significant or important. Socialize.
  • Oxytocin — from feeling cherished, cuddled, intimate or trusted. Get support from family and friends. Cultivate relationships.
  • Adrenaline — from fear or competition. Ride a roller coaster, make a high risk investment, or watch a horror movie.

2. Rewire your brain. Neurobiologists are changing the way we see human weakness (addiction). A bad habit is not simply dusted away — or ridiculed by the strong. It’s actually rooted in your brain. It turns out that there are neural highways in your gray matter. The more you reinforce any behavior, the more electro-chemical pulses are fired along certain pathways. Dendrites are even added to the most used thoroughfares, and pulses are sped up.

Yikes! your brain literally aids and abets your addiction.

To forge a new path is to head off through brambles and crawlers; it will be slow go. You’re off the beaten path, so the walking is not easy. This is not only bad news because it’s not impossible, just hard. You can “re-wire” your brain, but you need to be realistic. It might takes weeks, months, even years.

Suggestion: Journal your progress. Set small goals towards a larger objective. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. If you “fall off the wagon,” get back immediately. Get a empathetic support group or accountability partner. Repetition is the key to forming both bad and good habits, so try to steer clear of sugar over and over.

3. Identify negative emotions. There’s a reason why they’re called “comfort foods.” The are a happy-reset button. What are the emotional storm clouds you escape from? Here are a few common factors inducing sugar addiction:

  • Stress — The inability to handle stress well is ripe fruit for escapism.
  • Fear/ anxiety — Ditto above.
  • Boredom — The dull lulls of life make you want to zest up your life with some tasty morsels.
  • Loneliness — Social isolation, anxiety and rejection bring a heavy emotional cost.
  • Frustration — Failure and setbacks bring depression, from which you naturally want to take a break.

Suggestions: Developing strategies for these and other negative emotions may require some outside help from a trusted counselor. You might get inspiration from a good book or some motivational videos on YouTube. Journaling can help you analyze, dissect and give you the objectivity to overcome these. Get a hobby, take up gaming, learn a new language or play the guitar. Read the four other tips for cutting sugar without stress.

bamboo steamer kitchen revolutionMr. Mustard Seed is selling 10″ bamboo steamers on Amazon as a way to help the health habit. Profits go to his ministry.

Boredom, stress, frustration

boredom, stress, frustration They are simply dangerous foes. They send you into drugs or some other sin.

When the Bible exhorts to “take captive” every thought, these are intended to be arrested and hauled off to jail. It’s a telling image, but how?

How many a saint has dabbled with sin simply out of boredom? How many a saint has sought a release from stress? How many a Christian has reacted against frustration by throwing himself into sin?

Because of boredom, David falls with Bathsheba. Because of stress, Elijah abandons post and runs off to the desert. Because of frustration, Moses calls it quits and retires to shepherding.

If you are in Christianity for the long haul, you will eventually grapple with these three, which threaten to become your demise.

This is why the fruits of the spirit counter each. Instead of boredom, we have joy. For stress, peace. In place of frustration, trust. In Christ, we possess the arms to counter the devil’s wiles. This is not to say I have perfectly mastered it. No, I rather encourage myself while encouraging others.