On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southeast of Lamjung, Nepal. It has been described as the most powerful disaster to strike Nepal since the Nepal-Bihar earthquake of 1934. Before the end of the day, staggering statistics and graphic images and video had been released across multiple global media platforms. The Earthquake was covered on network news stations and headlined online news sites. Social media response was swift with donation sites and ‘people tracking’ apps quickly being added to help connect donors with associations and loved ones with friends and family overseas. In this modern age of instant communication, a support system has already been put in place and is being utilized to bring reports and updates directly into millions of homes every hour. Natural disasters (and terror attacks) elicits strong emotional responses and are therefore, deserving of comprehensive, continual, and, eventually, repetitive media coverage.
While family, friends, and relief sponsors desperately need this information for their mental health, other people may be best served by avoiding some of these reports. Survivors of past traumatic events, such as the Asian Tsunami of 2004, The Haiti Earthquake of 2010, or the Arkansas Tornado in 2014, who have suffered natural disaster based trauma, may be more inclined to suffer the effects of secondary trauma from the current news reports. Secondary trauma, or vicarious trauma, is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another or is indirectly exposed. Secondary trauma can occur from watching videos, news reports, viewing photos, or even from hearing graphic accounts of traumatic or violent events. Those who have been exposed to strong past trauma are more vulnerable due to emotional susceptibility or unresolved emotional issues related to past events such as depression and anxiety. Those who have never been exposed to similar trauma may still be susceptible as a consequence of the stress resulting from empathy or even an extreme desire to help.
Symptoms and conditions associated with secondary trauma are similar to the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. These include: hyper vigilance, hopelessness, sleeplessness, chronic exhaustion, anxiety, guilt, social withdrawal, anger, bereavement, and severe depression. These symptoms might not be immediately present. Generally speaking, they will present over the course of four weeks after the traumatizing event. You may not immediately recognize the symptoms before coping strategies evolve. Coping strategies can involve eating disorders, self-injurious behavior, substance abuse or chemical dependency.
If you are experiencing these symptoms or coping strategies, you may need to seek treatment or help with emotional regulation. You may need to decrease your personal level of connectivity to reduce additional exposure. Avoid additional news coverage. Consider using less social media (unless you are involved with a social media support group). If professional help is needed, get help. Treatment options do exist and include psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, counseling, and support groups in both residential treatment facilities and outpatient treatment centers.
Most importantly, make sure you take care of yourself and your mental health. Natural disasters are, by definition, catastrophic events. The earthquake has already cause extensive damage and loss of life. Don’t let your family become secondary victims.
Ever heard of soaking your nuts, seeds and grains? This may seem like a new fad or trendy thing to do… or maybe just like plain hard, time-consuming work. But hang on—there is really something to this process.
Nuts, seeds and grains are small, but amazing powerhouses with the potential to grow and bear life and nourishment. They contain natural inhibitors that prevent them from germinating before environmental conditions are right so that their survival is ensured. However, these protective agents act as enzyme inhibitors and can wreak digestive havoc on your body. Whole grains also contain antinutrients in their outer layer, such as phytates or phytic acid, which work as a shield to the seed, but as inhibitor to nutrient absorption to us. Iron, calcium, copper, zinc, and magnesium cannot be properly digested and absorbed with the presence of these antinutrients. High levels of phytic acid can lead to zinc deficiencies, which have been shown to play and active role in depression (Swardfager, Hermann, Mazereeuw, Goldberger, Harimoto, & Lanctot, 2013).
So should we eat white, refined starches—no way! Soaking and/or sprouting can take care of the problem!
Soaking is quick and easy. It sounds like a lot work, something you may not have time for, but with a little planning, you can soak and leave them be and come back with them ready to go.
Foods require different soaking times. As a general rule with nuts: the harder the nut, the longer the soak. Long-soak (almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts); Medium-soak (pecans, walnuts and Brazil nuts—oilier and swell up quickly); Short-soak (cashews, macadamias and pine nuts). Over soaking creamier nuts breaks down their precious and flavorful oils.
Five Good Reasons to Soak:
Improves Digestion: Soaking raw nuts, seeds and grains in warm, salted water stimulates the ideal moist germinating conditions these foods wait for in nature, essentially tricking the food into sprouting, which neutralizes enzyme inhibitors.
Unlocks Nutrients: Soaking activates the full nutrient potential of the food. Live enzymes are released. Vitamin A, C and the B vitamins get a boost, and protein becomes more available. Chronic exposure to cigarette smoke and alcoholism caused by anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and mental health issues can lead to secondary deficiency of Vitamin A (Combs, 2008).
Produces Better Flavor and Texture: Soaking the food makes it softer and easier to blend, and gives a creamer texture.
Reduces Cook Time: Soaked grains cook more quickly, and soaked brown rice, when cooked gets fluffy likes its white counterpart.
Prevents Blender Wear and Tear: Soaking hard and fibrous foods means less labor for the motor.
How to Soak:
Combs, G. F. (2008). The Vitamins: Fundamenal aspects in nutrition and health. (3rd Edition ed.). Burlington: Elsevier Academic Press.
Swardfager, W., Hermann, Mazereeuw, Goldberger, Harimoto, & Lanctot, K. L. (2013). Zinc in Depression: a meta analysis. Diol Psychiatry , 74 (12), 872-878.
Can you imagine how different the world would be without the atrocity of child abuse? I have to believe there would be considerably less drug and alcohol abuse without the need to numb the pain of such an awful challenge to one’s mental health. If ever we think of such possibilities, especially those of us who have never been victims of any kind of abuse, we should ponder them during the month of April, when Child Abuse Prevention Month is observed.
The first National Child Abuse Prevention Week was observed in 1982. The following year, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This year of 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Although great strides have been made to eradicate child abuse, as long as there are people in the world, there will be abusers. It is a sad fact that assuming a child is not killed by an abuser, victims grow up to be adults and trauma manifests in many ways, sometimes throughout their lives. Perhaps the best case scenario is that relationships are difficult to navigate and trust issues are impossible to shake. Then, of course, there are worse outcomes that bleed into every aspect of life and the ability to function well.
Although there is no single diagnosis or condition that describes the psychological effects of child abuse, adult survivors of child abuse are often diagnosed with multiple psychological conditions, many which overlap. Over the last thirty years, research studies have documented the link between child abuse and mental illness in later life. But the actual impact of the type of abuse one sustains depends on a variety of factors, such as the type and severity of abuse, one’s relationship to his or her abuser, the victim’s family life, among other things. These factors either worsen the outcome or enable a healthy outcome. In other words, not everyone who is abused is ruined for life.
Childwelfare.gov has posted a timeline of events related to child abuse and the progress that has been made over the years. Perhaps one of the most important of the significant dates is Jan. 31, 1974, when President Richard Nixon signed the first Federal child protection legislation, CAPTA, which marked the beginning of a new national response to the problem of child abuse and neglect.
Yet, according to data collected by Child Protective Services, the problem is still rampant and the numbers are repulsive. In 2012, there were 3.8 million children investigated for maltreatment, while 678,810 were reportedly victims of abuse or neglect.
In an effort to step out of the problem and into the solution, Childwelfare.gov has also provided the 2015 Prevention Resource Guide: Making Meaningful Connections, which was developed to support community-based child abuse prevention professionals who work to prevent child maltreatment and promote well-being.
In the guide is a tip sheet for parents and caregivers about how to prevent child abuse. We as parents need to be aware that boys and girls of all ages in all kinds of neighborhoods and communities are potential victims. Abusers may go about it creatively so the child doesn’t even realize what’s happening until it’s too late. Then, there may be other creative tactics for keeping the abuse quiet. But here are some things you can do to help you protect your children and help them protect themselves.
If your child admits that he or she has been abused, stay focused and calm, thank them for telling you and report the abuse immediately. Never blame your child. But don’t blame yourself either. Remember to get out of the problem and into the solution as quickly as possible. Keep your children safe. It’s a full-time job.
Comfort foods are a nostalgic, sentimental food choice that is found to be satisfying on an emotional and physical level. They are often eaten as an emotional response during times of anxiety, depression, bereavement, or guilt. Most of my personal comfort food choices include copious amounts of carbohydrates. Scientifically speaking, carbs increase serotonin levels and produce an immediate calming feeling. Personally speaking, carbs take me back to my grandmother’s kitchen where food was nourishment for the body as well as for the soul.
Pasta Primavera is the best of both worlds. By combining hearty vegetable choices with a healthy whole-wheat linguine, we can treat our taste buds to an explosion of flavor with the added zing of emotional support that comfort foods are best known for.
Source: Elli Krieger, So Easy
With April halfway gone, it is easy to notice the abundance of flowers. They are everywhere! Flowers signal the rebirth of spring and are often used to symbolize hope and recovery. They encourage us feel good and, if we take the time to stop, their scent can take us back through time to happier moments of the distant past. Their endless parade of beauty and elegance signifies the renewal of life that comes as cold mornings give way to warm afternoons.
The flowers of spring never fail to remind me of a quote recently used by a guest of Brookhaven Retreat: “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.” While this quote is not attributed to any particular author, it has been used many times and will continue to be a favorite for many years because it speaks to the soul.
A flower is a beautiful natural creation. It does not focus on being more beautiful than the flower next to it. Instead, it focuses its energy on blooming. The flower does not self-judge nor is it jealous. The flower simply exists; secure in the form it presently holds. A tulip stands just as proud by a rose as when growing next to a dandelion and the dandelion, feeling no shame, continues to bloom long after the tulip has wilted.
If we were to imitate the flower in our own self-confidence, we would be less inclined to subject ourselves to self-judging behaviors that can lead to feelings of inferiority, anxiety, depression, and guilt. A positive outlook on our selves leads to improved mental health and an overall sense of self-worth. Remember, we each have our own unique beauty and have no need for comparison. As Theodore Roosevelt once phrased so perfectly, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Here’s an idea: Today, just bloom.
Perhaps you’ve heard people talk about northern New Jersey, which like any state, has nice areas and not-so-nice areas. My family and I lived in a section I refer to now as the “armpit” of the state, which is obviously not a nice thing to say. But from what I remember, it was at least partially true and many aspects of it happened to stink both literally and figuratively.
Although there were people who were like us and wanted to live in peace, there were others whose mental health I questioned. They seemed to prefer noise pollution and public displays of anger and controversy. For that reason, my brother and I were instructed to stay in the fenced-in yard, which belonged to our landlords, who lived next door to the two-family house they rented to us.
We lived in the upstairs portion of the house and for years I had nightmares about the white-haired couple from downstairs who fought like English-speaking stray cats. I often wondered if when they got tired of battling each other they might look for others to fight with and break our door down.
Considering how often we tolerated their violence, I always thought they had a lot of nerve when they banged on the ceiling when we were too loud. The difference in our noise was clearly in the emotion. Sometimes loud music excited us and we’d jump from the coffee table into the big beanbag chair on the floor. They must have expected us to keep the volume of our joy to a dull roar rather than controlling the volume of their seemingly uncontrollable fits of anger. And that’s when I learned the meaning of the word unreasonable.
I’m happy to be able to say we left for a much more appealing part of the state when I was about 10. But during our time there, I do remember the flowers our landlady planted in the backyard, which served as a sort of deodorant to the great outdoors that reeked of trouble and the mysterious smell of coffee grinds, which I imagined she might sprinkle in the garden as some horticultural trick. She also had dogwood trees, like the one Brookhaven Retreat recently planted on their property. They have a distinctive woodsy aroma I still think of when I recall her pride in her yard, which I now realize was a sanctuary that offset the turmoil that existed on the opposite side of her house.
She loved trees and talked about Arbor Day when it rolled around each April, which I only recently found out originated in Spain in 1805. The first American tree-loving holiday was celebrated in Nebraska in 1872, when they planted about a million trees. The Connecticut man who globalized the holiday in 1883 had exactly the right name for the job. Birdsey Northrop soon chaired the committee to campaign for the national celebration of the holiday, proving the theory that certain people are born to do certain things.
I love trees too, though my name fails to reflect the fact. Moving to a place where we owned the property meant that we could plant trees, which was almost as exciting in our young minds as the freedom to run, play and ride our bicycles without constantly fearing for our safety.
I remember the year we planted an evergreen about my height and had the privilege of watching it double and triple in size. I knew how quickly time was passing by how tall the tree was growing. We also had a flowering crab apple blossom in our front yard that produced small pink bouquets perfect for wedging between my hair and ear in springtime. I loved that tree too because it bore deliciously tart crab apples that the birds, squirrels and rabbits and I shared. That same tree also had roots that grew around certain pipes connected to our downstairs plumbing that on more than one occasion filled our entryway with water from the powder room commode. But I never blamed the tree. It was too beautiful to wish it any harm. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to cut some of the roots, but the tree survived the surgery is still there doing what that tree was born to do.
With their roots in the ground and their crown in the sky, trees have long symbolized enduring strength, protection, and recovery from illness. They are strong and flexible, able to resist tumultuous storms, and yet they are kind and graceful offering shade on a sunny day or the bounty of fruit for harvest. Trees give life. They gather in the everyday pollution that results from our existence and purify it to be released as life giving oxygen. One day per year, we celebrate this act of generosity and call it Arbor Day. For Arbor Day, people are encouraged to plant and care for trees.
This year, if you are unable to plant a physical tree, I encourage you to plant a figurative tree in the garden of your soul. Plant this tree to meet your individual needs. To do this, picture your ideal tree then visualize planting it inside yourself where no one else knows its there. Keep it as your secret and visit it as needed to maintain your mental health. Allow your tree to take in all of your mental pollution and purify it from your mind.
Choose a tree that is indicative of where you are in life. Some options include:
After your tree is planted, spend some time contemplating the choice you made. Are there issues in your life that need to be addressed? Are there choices that need to be made?
You can return at any time to visit with your tree. I find that my introspections often occur around life events where I am dealing with strong emotions. I visit during times of bereavement, depression and anxiety. During times of abundant joy, I often find my tree blooming with vibrant shades or loaded with abundant fruit waiting for me to pluck the bounty from its branches. No matter which emotion I am dealing with, my tree is always there, right where I left it, waiting for my visit.
Earth Day comes around each year at the end of April providing us a day to reflect on our individual and collective impact on our planet. Some people take a good hard look at their carbon footprint and others spend the afternoon helping collect garbage from parks, streams, and roadsides. For me, Earth Day is about changing my own personal habits to become a better caretaker for Earth while focusing on the three Rs of Earth Day: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Reduce: I try to reduce the amount of waste my household creates. Many years, I do an abbreviated version of spring cleaning and empty out all of the clothing and shoes that have accumulated over the past year but are no longer in fashion, no longer fit, or that I just no longer like. I check the kitchen cabinets for an over abundance of mugs and other common acquisitions. Finally, I check the bookshelves and magazine racks for books, newspapers, and magazines. Instead of tossing this in the garbage, I will look at other options.
Reuse: In the case of mugs, I will look into repurposing them for other items. Coffee mugs make great pencil holders. They are also easy to repurpose into small planters for herbs and small flowers. Old sneakers can also be used as a funky alternative to a planter. Clothing and books can be donated to women’s shelters or thrift stores to be used by people in need.
Recycle: After donating or repurposing, any items left can be turned in for recycling. Many schools will accept newspapers for recycling, magazines for repurposing (think collage), and books for lending libraries.
By applying the principals of Earth Day in our homes, we can make small changes throughout our lives. Reducing the clutter in our homes helps us make inroads into reducing clutter in other aspects of our lives. Clutter can lead to feelings of stress, depression and anxiety. It’s easier to feel good about ourselves when we have our physical house in order.
Lemons are naturally alkalizing, meaning they help balance the acidity from animal products, sugar and grains. One may think that lemons are acidic—and they are in their natural state—however, once metabolized they leave an alkaline ash in the body and help balance one’s pH by lowering the body’s overall acidity. Higher levels of acidity in the brain have been related to mental health conditions connected to stress or fear responses such as bipolar, depression, anxiety, and PTSD (Wood, 2012).
When we are exposed to environmental pollutants, cigarette smoke, alcohol, medication, meat, dairy, sugar and grain products our body is faced with a huge acidic onslaught. Try this easy nightly beverage to help cleanse and alkalize the body:
Drink nightly for up to 2 weeks. You’ll notice better sleep and energy, as well as brighter looking skin.
Wood, J. (2012, May 20). Acid in the brain linked to panic disorders, depression. Retrieved April 2015, from Psych Central: http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/05/20/acid-in-the-brain-linked-to-panic-disorders-depression/28953.html
When I was a kid, my parents had what might be considered a European approach to alcohol when it came to raising my brother and me. In other words, they didn’t make it the forbidden fruit. Looking back on it, I thought it was smart and proceeded to do the same with my kids because it worked for me.
By the time I was of legal drinking age, I didn’t treat drinking like a hobby, unlike so many of my peers. I was allowed to sip wine with dinner and have a drink or two at parties by the time I was 16. To this day, I am often compelled not to drink because I don’t like how it makes me feel. I understand that alcohol is a depressant and though I may experience a few joyous moments, it ultimately brings me down. However, according to CNN, researchers at Brown University say claim children who sip alcohol at an early age will be more inclined to drink later, along with other findings that now appear in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The study’s co-author, Kristina Jackson was quoted by CNN as saying, “… I would say that it is advisable not to offer your child a sip of your beverage, as it may send the wrong message---younger teens and tweens may be unable to understand the different between drinking a sip and drinking one or more drinks.” Jackson and her team studied 561 middle school students over three years and found that less than one-third said they had sipped alcohol by the beginning of middle school. Most of them said their parents allowed them a sip at a special occasion or party. Twenty-six percent said they had a full drink by the time they reached ninth grade, compared with the six percent who never had a sip. Nine percent said they had five or more drinks in one sitting, or had gotten drunk by ninth grade, compared with less than two percent who never had a sip.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) announces this year’s theme of National Alcohol Awareness Month, observed in April, is “For the Health of it: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction.”
Since 1987, the NCADD works hard to increase public awareness and understanding, as well as reduce the stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcohol-related issues. The current theme aims to educate young people before problems occur. Alcohol has been named the number one drug of choice among young people, and is more likely to kill them than all the illegal drugs combined. If they do live, and have to grow and develop under the influence, consider their brains, which are still developing until well into their 20s.
Underage drinking can result in many permanent solutions to short-term problems. A drug alcohol treatment center may be one way to intervene and give your child a second chance. If you think you can’t prevent your child from drinking, consider these statistics, and figure out a way. For instance, 5,000 people under age 21 die annually from alcohol-related incidents. More than 190,000 people in the same age bracket went to the emergency room for treatment for alcohol-related injuries. Children who drink are more likely to make bad decisions such as driving under the influence, having unprotected sex or engaging in violence. They’re also more likely to be either the victims or perpetrators of a physical or sexual assault.
How can you tell if your child is drinking? Here are some possible warning signs that should parents to learn the truth.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, if a teen alcoholic grows up to be an adult with the same addiction; the excessive use of alcohol over the course of many years can create a plethora of health problems including: