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Brookhaven Retreat Blog
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 01:06

When Life Capsizes

In this day of live news stories, up to the minute details and hundreds of tragic stories every day, we may find that we become numb to truly understanding the pain and grief each individual directly affected is going through. For the past week or so major media outlets have been covering the tragic event half a world away; a South Korean ferry carrying nearly 500 people, mostly high schoolers, capsized in the frigid ocean. So far, less than 200 survivors have been accounted for, leaving many family and friends with heavy hearts, clinging to hope their children might still be alive.

Tragedies have a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone both directly and indirectly affected. Guilt and anguish often plague survivors, who question why they made it while hundreds of others perished. Frequently the burden weighs heavily on unsuspecting shoulders. The prime minister of South Korea has taken blame for the tragedy and made the decision to step down from his position.

Sometimes grief can take a more serious turn, such as in the case of the survivor and vice principal of the high school, who committed suicide only days after being rescued.

Those who survived the tragedy may experience what is often referred to as “survivor guilt.” When a catastrophe occurs and many lives are lost, guilt and anxiety may surface for those who survived. Without treatment, these feelings may cause long-term PTSD and emotional suffering.

Families and friends who have lost loved ones due to a sudden and traumatic event struggle to cope with the feelings of loss and the inability to say goodbye. In South Korea, the mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles stay together, anxiously clinging to hope that is quickly dwindling. Basic needs become luxuries as their depression takes hold, and their minds are consumed with fear and sadness.

Whether we are the sole survivor of a traumatic event or dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one, the grief we are left with can greatly impact daily life. After a tragedy it can be hard to accept that life has now drastically changed. But, by accepting and processing the trauma and treating the subsequent mental health issues, grief can be manageable and life can feel possible again.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Tuesday, 29 April 2014 03:45

DIY Detoxifying Face Mask

Healthy and radiant skin is important to everyone and often hard to achieve without spending hundreds, even thousands of dollars. But this “do it yourself” facemask repairs and rejuvenates dull skin. The ingredients are simple and natural: coffee, cocoa, honey and yogurt.

Coffee is obviously full of caffeine, which can play a major part in awakening your skin. Coffee is full of anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness and puffiness under eyes. The caffeine in coffee reduces under eye circles by breaking up the blood vessels built up under the eye.

Cocoa powder is the next ingredient in this facial mask. The antioxidants in cocoa promote healthy cellular growth and neutralize free radicals that are damaging to the body.

Honey has amazing benefits to our skin. It is a natural antibacterial, making it superb in treating acne. Honey opens up pores, moisturizes and creates a natural radiance. Plus, the antioxidants in honey work to slow the aging process.

The last ingredient is plain, no-sugar-added yogurt. Yogurt works to heal and hydrate skin. The lactic acid exfoliates dry skin and reduces wrinkles. It is full of zinc, an anti-inflammatory that tightens tissue, regulates oil and prevents acne. The calcium in yogurt helps regenerate skin calls heal dry skin.

Here is the Recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground coffee
  • 2 tablespoons pure cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt

To create this mask, first blend all ingredients together. Next, evenly and liberally spread the mix over skin and let it sit for 10 minutes. Lastly, rinse your face using warm water. This mixture can also be used to moisturize the entire body while taking a shower!

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Sunday, 27 April 2014 17:52

The Pattern of Life

If you look at any interior design or fashion store, you are bound to spot a few items with the consistent inverted V pattern, known as chevron. This zigzag trend is everywhere, from pillows to dresses. The typical chevron consists of slow slanting angles, in a calm waved pattern, not too high and not too deep. Although not as popular, chevron can also be a dramatic zigzag, with higher highs, and lower lows.

So why do we like this retro design so much? Could it be because it symbolizes the ups and downs of our own life?

For some women in life their chevron pattern is far too extreme. They have major low pits and then drastically shoot to major peaks. Their highs are uncontrollable, feeling as if they are on top of the world. They seem impulsive, furnish large gifts, are exceedingly happy and make unattainable plans. Then they quickly drop. The lows are filled with overwhelming depression, irritability and loneliness. This drastic pattern is often referred to as Bipolar Disorder and affects roughly 6 million Americans.

More than 19 million adults in the United States are living with depression. While suffering with depression, their life can feel more like a striped pattern and less like a typical chevron. They feel persistently down, tired and hopeless. The highs have disappeared, and they’ve lost the joy of life.

Without the peaks we lose happiness, and without the lows we don’t recognize the peaks. To fully enjoy life we must experience both, but the pattern should be gradual and moderate. So next time your eye catches the gentle up and downs of the trendy chevron, ask yourself what pattern your life is. Is it the dramatic and intense zigzags? Or maybe it’s missing the high points altogether.

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Saturday, 26 April 2014 22:04

Beef Tenderloin with Spring Vegetables

It is always a plus to prepare dinner that incorporates fresh, in-season vegetables that can be found locally and for a reduced price. Spring is the peak of most vegetables’ growing season, allowing for a variety of delicious and nutritious veggies in almost every meal.

Although the traditional Irish dish uses lamb, substituting beef tenderloin offers a less-expensive and modern twist. The great thing about this recipe is that it can easily be modified to save time by preparing the vegetables earlier in the day.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups beef stock or canned broth
  • 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
  • 4 small carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 16 green beans, trimmed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 8 strips
  • 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
  • 8 asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 4 8-ounce beef tenderloin steaks (about 1 1/4 inches thick)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Combine beef stock and chicken stock in medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Cook carrots in large saucepan of boiling salted water 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer carrots to strainer and rinse under cold water. Add beans to boiling water; cook 1 minute. Transfer to strainer with carrots and rinse under cold water. Drain well. Arrange carrots, beans, bell pepper, mushrooms, asparagus and zucchini in single layer on large baking sheet. (Stock and vegetables can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover stock and vegetables separately and refrigerate.)

Preheat broiler. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add steaks; cook to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plate; tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Add ½ cup beef stock to same skillet. Boil until stock is reduced to 1 tablespoon, scraping up browned bits, about 3 minutes. Add reduced stock and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add chilled butter a few pieces at a time and whisk just until melted. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, brush vegetables lightly with olive oil. Broil vegetables until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes per side for carrots, green beans, bell peppers and mushrooms and about 2 minutes per side for asparagus and zucchini.

Place steaks on four plates. Arrange vegetables decoratively. Spoon sauce over vegetables and serve.

SOURCE: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Beef-Tenderloin-with-Spring-Vegetables-2071

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Saturday, 26 April 2014 03:44

Boston Strong

A little over a year ago, we all watched the news with terror as images of the Boston Marathon bombing hit our screens. The events of that day, along with the manhunt that followed, left many of us with a sense of fear. We’ve experienced this many times together as a nation – tragedies at Columbine, the World Trade Center, Aurora CO, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood (twice), and Boston remind us that our safety is always precarious. We cannot protect ourselves; we cannot protect our families. When you throw in random tragedies like car accidents and terminal illnesses, it can all be too much to handle.

Sometimes, the world’s tragedies make me want to give up – to crawl in a hole somewhere and hug the people I love to keep them safe. But the hole probably isn’t safe, either. It’s a scary thing to realize the utter vulnerability that we face in every day living. Every day, we dodge thousands of proverbial bullets – and some people live in places where they are dodging literal ones. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PROTECT OURSELVES. Yikes.

Watching the Boston Marathon though, a year after the bombing, I realized something about fear and tragedy. This past week in Boston, MORE, not fewer people came to cheer on the runners. MORE, not fewer, people signed up to run. The temptation to crawl in a hole and avoid danger did not hit city of Boston.

Now at first glance, it might seem a bit careless for all of those people to have decided to participate in this event after such tragedy last year. It’s like watching the news and seeing people who have their houses hit by tornadoes over and over – and we wonder why they don’t just move. Don’t they get that their current situation isn’t safe anymore?

Well, the city of Boston was smarter than all of that. The people involved in planning this event spent time reflecting. They looked at the event and found where the weaknesses were. They were honest about their faults. Then, they got to work. They brainstormed possible changes and new safety measures that could be implemented. They asked people to carry materials in clear bags. They increased security in some areas. They had a plan for keeping the crowds down at the finish line.

Boston wasn’t going to let one bad day ruin the joy of their tradition. They reflected, made changes, and had courage. People went back in large force, and participated in a safe and successful event. The best part is that many people used this year’s race as a way to heal from last year’s tragedy. If the city had decided to give up and cancel, many people would have been unable to continue the healing process.

We can all learn from Boston. Tragedies are a part of our lives. That is an uncontested fact. Crawling in a hole never solved anything or made tragedies less common. So, what we can do is reflect on the situation, decide what is within our control to change, create new safety nets for ourselves, and get back out in the world. By taking these steps, we can begin to more fully heal.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Friday, 25 April 2014 04:48

The Dark Side of Spring

Fragrant flowers, busy bees and sunny days entice us to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. However, the abundant pollen from blooming flowers prompts severe itchy eyes, runny nose and frequent sneezing, making springtime a miserable arrival for nearly 36 million Americans with seasonal allergies.

Women suffering from severe allergies are twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety as women who do not have allergies. Lack of sleep caused by allergy symptoms trigger mood changes and overwhelming stress. Allergies reduce the presence of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin, and cause the body to release cytokines, a compound that increases inflammation. These factors may play a role in the increased number of suicides each spring.

Here are 5 easy ways to reduce depression and anxiety caused by severe allergy symptoms:

  • Avoid unhealthy coping habits: Seeking relief through temporary and unhealthy outlets such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, can cause inflammation and worsen allergies. Yeast and bacteria present in alcohol produce histamines that cause allergy symptoms. Cigarette smoke pollutes the air and can increase nasal allergies and trigger asthma.
  • Eat right: Avoiding foods is just as important as adding them. Avoiding bananas, melon, sunflower seeds and chamomile can minimize weed pollen allergies. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids and a high-nutrient diet protect against seasonal allergies.
  • Natural remedies: Vitamins, minerals and herbs can fight a runny nose and itchy eyes better than manufactured drugs. Vitamin C and quercetin, found in apples, are antihistamines that may offer relief from allergens. Butterbur is an herb that’s been reported to be four times as effective as any over the counter drug. Acupuncture is a natural practice of medicine that can stimulate allergy relief.
  • Start Medicine Early: If you know that you have seasonal allergies, take medicines sooner rather than later. The earlier you start taking them the more time if has in your system and can help you avoid symptoms altogether.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Sleep is a major part of overall mental health, and sleep deprivation can lead to serious mood changes, fatigue and depression. Washing the sheets once a week and using a bedroom dehumidifier may help reduce allergens. Not allowing pets in the bed will decrease the prevalence of pollen, dust mites and mold.
Published in Brookhaven Blog
Wednesday, 23 April 2014 22:59

Opposite Action

Emotions are essential for survival. Emotions such as anger and jealousy help us defend ourselves, fear and shame help us protect ourselves, love connects us with others, and guilt helps us stay true to our values. Emotions trigger the urge for us to react and take action.

Our thoughts and interpretations produce an instant biochemical response that gives us an urge to take action before we are even aware of an emotion. “Action urges” are very powerful and often times we find ourselves reacting before we even think about the result of our actions. In dangerous situations this is a positive because we react by retreating to safety without hesitation. However, it can create turmoil and devastation in other situations. For example, you wake up and don’t feel like going to work so you roll over and go back to sleep. The next day you show up to work and find out you have been fired. This is what happens when we take action based on our “emotion urge” before using our wise mind.

However, opposite action skills can help prevent these types of outcomes. By using mindfulness, you can recognize the emotion, the action urge, and the prompting event. Then ask, is my emotion justified or unjustified? If it is unjustified and not helpful then do the opposite of your emotional urge. Never suppress the emotion; when we suppress the emotion it only grows larger. The urges and intensity are the problem, not the emotion.

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Wednesday, 23 April 2014 03:25

Iron In Women’s Health

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in women. About 20% of women and 50% of pregnant women do not have enough iron in their body (whereas only about 3% of men are deficient). When someone is iron-deficient, their body cannot produce enough hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that makes it possible for them to carry oxygen to the body’s tissue. Without sufficient oxygen circulating throughout the body, one may feel weak, tried, and irritable. The solution, in many cases, is to consume a plentiful amount of iron-rich foods.

Types and Food Sources of Iron

Animal Sources

There are two forms of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in animal sources such as meats, fish, and poultry. Since heme is derived from hemoglobin, which is already found in animal meat, it is more readily absorbed in the small intestine. Some of the best sources of heme iron include:

3.5 milligrams or more per 3 oz serving:

  • beef or chicken liver
  • clams, mollusks, or mussels
  • oysters

2.1 milligrams or more per 3 oz serving:

  • cooked beef
  • canned sardines, canned in oil
  • cooked turkey

0.7 milligrams or more per 3 oz serving:

  • chicken
  • halibut, haddock, perch, salmon, or tuna
  • ham
  • veal

Plant Sources

However, for health reasons one may choose not to eat meat or animal products. Plant sources of iron contain the non-heme form of iron, which is not absorbed as efficiently, so if you are a vegan or vegetarian you may need more than the RDA of 18mg/day. Some plant-based, non-heme sources of iron include:

3.5 milligrams or more per serving:

  • Breakfast cereals enriched with iron
  • 1 cup of cooked beans
  • 1/2 cup of tofu
  • 1 oz of pumpkin, sesame, or squash seeds

2.1 milligrams or more per serving:

  • 1/2 cup of canned lima beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, or split peas
  • 1 cup of dried apricots
  • 1 medium baked potato
  • 1 medium stalk of broccoli
  • 1/4 cup of wheat germ

0.7 milligrams or more:

  • 1 oz of peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, roasted almonds, roasted cashews, or sunflower seeds
  • 1/2cup of dried seedless raisins, peaches, or prunes
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 1 medium green pepper
  • 1 cup of pasta
  • 1 slice of bread, pumpernickel bagel, or bran muffin
  • 1 cup of rice

Better Iron Absorption

Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron; try eating strawberries, broccoli, or citrus fruit with non-heme sources of iron. Also, avoid drinking coffee or tea or consuming calcium-rich foods or drinks with meals containing iron-rich foods, as they hinder iron absorption.

Supplementation

Some people may be anemic and have trouble consuming or absorbing enough iron in their diet. In this case supplementation may be needed. Speak to your health care professional if you think this may be necessary.

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Monday, 21 April 2014 22:26

April Showers

“April showers bring May flowers.” It is a familiar saying that we recite to ourselves after days of rainy spring weather to remind us that even the ugly days serve a purpose. I often find myself repeating this when I feel the metaphoric storms over my head, keeping in mind that these rain showers bring forth new, beautiful life.

The stress of work, love, friendships and daily life can really take a toll on emotional and mental health. It is easy to start feeling like the burden of it all will cause you to drown. Some troubles can feel never ending leaving us depressed, anxious and impulsive. We may even begin to look for temporary relief from the storm by abusing alcohol or drugs.

But even the bad days are valuable. If there were no rough winds, hard times and feelings of sadness, we would not blossom into the strong, beautiful person we are today. Our trials help us grow. They make the sunny days special, and we become a little stronger after each storm.

Without the rain, there would be no tropical rainforest, full of color, diversity and beauty. Life does not flourish in a dry, sunny desert. Without a rainy April, May would be barren.

So, when it feels like it is constantly raining, and we feel we are about to drown in our troubles, just remember: Rain is essential to life, and so are our struggles. It is impossible for a beautiful flower to exist with no rain and constant sunshine; it will dry out. Instead of letting the stormy weather provoke depression and anxiety, and stress over when the sun will shine again, just remember that these showers cultivate beauty, growth and life.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Monday, 21 April 2014 01:53

Don’t Overload Your Plate

Spring is finally here for most people! Once again, we have made it through the seemingly endless winter months and can crawl out of hibernation to enjoy the weather and maybe even complete some project around the house that we’ve wanted to do.

The first few weeks of spring I am filled with the joy of a child. I will go outside and sit on the porch steps meditating, or feeling the sunshine, or enjoying the smells of the new season. I also enjoy walking more with the dog, which I’m pretty sure she likes too. The hopefulness that is accompanied by the arrival of spring, for me renews my trust in the universe; that seasons will change and so will my life.

Last spring I decided that I was going to plan a beautiful flower garden in the backyard where, before winter, I had torn out. Not having the slightest idea of how to plant a garden, and being too prideful to ask, I went out and got all sorts of flowers and various greeneries. I kind of was aware of the direction on the pack of seeds that say how much light and water and each of the flowers/plants need, but I didn’t figure it made too much difference. I wanted what I wanted. My next step was to plant the seeds. I was kind of aware that I needed to place soil more conducive for growing for the plants, but I didn’t want to do all that. I was sure it would grow in the ground regardless. So I planted the seeds, watered them, and weeded the ground nearly every day. When a few started to sprout I got so excited! Eventually the flowers grew in, but I was so disappointed to see how stringy and weepy they all were. They did not grow into the beautiful flower garden I had imagined.

When I thought about what I did wrong, first of all, I was caught up in pride whereas if I had simply asked for a little bit of help things would likely have turned out better. I talked to a local greenhouse owner who lives a few doors down from me and he said that even ignoring the sun and watering directions I still would have been okay and the flowers would have looked healthier and brighter had I not haphazardly placed them in the ground. He explained that by overloading the garden, I had created a competitive environment for the flowers. I essentially set the flowers up for failure right from the start.

Needless to say, I learned some lessons from that experience, but one lesson that came subtly from the gardener was when he said I “overloaded the garden.” That was a very perfect thing to hear at that moment because for me, with the start of spring comes excitement, new energy, and increased motivation. I take on many new projects but fail to really process through whether they are going to be healthy for me and whether I have time to commit to the projects. I overload myself with working, writing, taking small trips, helping family and friends with house remodeling, being part of Big Brother/Big Sister. Suddenly I have all this responsibility and commitment to helping others and I haven’t even left time for me to take care of myself. I “overload my garden” so-to-speak, and like the flowers, I set myself up for failure. I divide myself in too many ways, end up with many negative consequences for my health and well-being and ultimately end up spending a week or so without doing anything at all for anyone because I’ve run my energy reserves low.

I am determined that this year will be different. First, because I have the awareness of my tendencies in previous spring seasons, but also because I like being well. I like feeling a balance of play and work in my life. I have developed increased comfort with telling people ‘no’ if helping them would leave me overloaded and stressed out. This spring I have set my intention to live healthy, work healthy, and play healthy. I have changed my diet to less sugar, more super foods, more juicing. I have taken on work responsibilities that I can realistically managed and have avoided overloading myself with extra work that would knock things off balance. I have much enjoyed my playtime the last few weeks. I have enjoyed playing with my nephew, going on hikes with my dog and sometimes with my brother, I have enjoyed going to the local farms to see the new arrival baby animals. I already feel much happier, satisfied, and proud of for setting limits for myself and sticking to them.

I would challenge you to check what the status of your garden is. Of course there are always projects that need done and deadlines to meet, but make sure your not choking out your potential like I did with my flowers. Make sure your living balanced; whatever that is to you. Have a healthy and happy spring!

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