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Gardening for Stress Management: Get your free cilantro tips here!

cilantroIt’s no surprise to most that time spent in nature— unplugged from technology and without everyday burdens— can reduce stress. But I bet you didn’t know these facts…

 

 

  • The actual components of soil may increase serotonin and lead to a decrease in depression! (See the Journal of Neuroscience, 2007)
  • Gardening reduces one’s levels of cortisol (the body’s natural stress hormone) and, in turn, can lower levels of anxiety! (Journal of Health Psychology, 2011)
  • Exposure to a natural environment— even looking out the window at a natural scene or having potted plants in the room— improves our ability to tolerate stress, think creatively and problem solve! (Journal of Affective Disorders, 2012)

As a token of our appreciation and to inspire people to do something joyful like gardening, Intuition Wellness Center will be distributing over 100 coriander seed packets to teachers and staff at Tucson local schools. These coriander seeds, (when planted with care and joy), will grow into cilantro plants that can be eaten, frozen, or enjoyed simply for their fragrance and the mental health benefits of growing them. We know not everyone has developed their green thumb just yet, so for all of our new friends who are taking home seed packets and to any others inspired by the joy of gardening, here’s some basic “how-to” info on planting coriander seeds, storing cut cilantro leaves, harvesting seeds from your cilantro plant, as well as a quick and easy recipe for a tasty and unconventional cilantro pesto.

How to: Plant Cilantro (Coriander Seeds)
Tucson falls are ideal for growing cilantro! Plant in your garden or make your cilantro a potted plant. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy the refreshing “fruits” of your labor with fall or spring planting.

Method

  1. Plant seeds just under the surface of the soil in a sunny or light shade location about 6 to 8 inches apart.
  2. Keep the soil moist.
  3. From the time of sowing seed, cilantro leaves can begin to be harvested in about 3 to 4 weeks. Cut or pinch the large leaves down about once a week to keep it bushy and productive. Eventually it will flower, signifying it’s nearing the end of it’s lifespan.
  4. To enjoy cilantro all season long, plant successive sowings every 2 to 3 weeks.

How to: Store Cilantro
Have you ever had trouble keeping fresh herbs fresh? This super easy trick is a surefire way to keep your cilantro perky and tasty for up to two weeks in the fridge!

Method

  1. Snip off the bottom of the stems.
  2. Make sure the leaves are completely dry. Better to hold off rinsing them until you’re about to use them.
  3. Fill a jar or a water glass partially with water and place the stem ends of the herbs into the water in the jar.
  4. Store in the refrigerator, cover loosely with a plastic bag.
  5. Change the water after several days if the water starts to discolor.

Cilantro can last up to 2 weeks or longer when stored this way. You can also freeze! Put the leaves in a freezer storage bag and voila!

How to: Harvest Cilantro Seeds
Cilantro is a forgiving and relatively cooperative plant. Though a cilantro plant may not produce new leaves for more than a month or so, it’s so easy to harvest seeds and re-plant, you can still enjoy fresh cilantro all season long!

Method

  1. When the cilantro grows its stalk, you can either leave it be and let it self-seed or choose to store the seed (called coriander).
  2. To store coriander seeds, cut off the seed heads when the plant begins to turn brown and put them in a paper bag.
  3. Hang the bag until the plant dries and the seeds fall off. You can then store the seeds in sealed containers.

Beyond being used to grow a new cilantro plant, coriander seeds are also often used in cooking and are enjoyed for their distinctive flavor!

How to: Make a Fragrant and Refreshing Cilantro Pesto
Prep time: 15min; Cook time: 15 min; Ready to eat: in no time at all!

Icilantro pastangredients
1 (16 ounce) package pasta of your choice
1 bunch fresh cilantro
3-5 cloves garlic, minced (to your preference)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts
salt to taste
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil (to your preference)

 

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. In an electric food processor or blender, blend cilantro, garlic, lemon juice, cheese, cayenne pepper, nuts, and salt. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and blend the pesto. Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency.
  3. Pour pesto in a small saucepan and place over low heat, stirring constantly until pesto begins to simmer.
  4. Pour pesto over cooked pasta and toss. Enjoy!

Want more ideas for bringing joy and health into your life? Like us on Facebook to receive regular updates on Intuition’s activities, practical tips for families, creative inspiration, and links to educational material.

 

Images courtesy of SOMMAI and KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Depression 101: Treatment & Tips To Ward Off Depression

Stress Management
Depression is a common mental health illness in the US and around the world. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that 1 in 10 adults in the US report experiencing depression. What is most troubling to me is that only about 51% of those people suffering from depression seek out treatment according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Depression may begin at any age and may be caused by any number of triggers such as bullying, parental or marital conflict, sense of isolation, loss, seasonal causes, etc.

As a result, I wanted to write a blog post specifically on depression, its treatment, and offer wellness tips to ward off depression. Please note that depression is one of several mood disorders and is different than bipolar, dysthymia, and other mood disorders. This blog post will focus on depression technically known as Major Depressive Disorder. I also want to make it very clear that depression is a treatable illness but, like many illnesses, it can require ongoing “maintenance.”

First let me review the symptoms of depression, followed by the treatment, and then offer some tips to ward off depression.

Symptoms of Depression: To meet criteria, five or more symptoms must be present for at least a 2 week period according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It is also very important to rule out physiological effects of a substance/drug, other psychiatric disorders such as bereavement, and medical conditions such as thyroid problems that may cause depressive symptoms.

  • Sad or depressed mood most of the day, almost every day.
  • Anhedonia, which is loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Sleep problems, usually hypersomnia but can also be insomnia.
  • Weight gain or loss not due to diet or exercise.
  • Low of energy or fatigue even with sufficient rest.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation, which is usually moving or talking slower.
  • Poor concentration or ability to think.
  • Feeling of worthlessness or excessive guilt.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, which could be the most serious of all the symptoms and must be taken seriously even in children.

Here are some other symptoms to look for that are frequently present in depression:

  • Thoughts of helplessness
  • Thoughts of hopelessness
  • Isolation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Crying
  • Decrease in sex drive

Treatment for Depression
Treatment for depression begins with an evaluation by a licensed mental health professional to determine severity of depression, to rule out other possible issues, and to refer for appropriate services. Treatment usually entails either counseling or psychotropic medication or a combo of both, depending on severity. Severe depression usually requires a psychiatric evaluation by a psychiatrist for psychotropic medication to help improve symptoms enough for counseling to be effective, while mild to moderate depression can usually be treated with counseling alone. It is important to know there are a countless approaches to counseling such as cognitive behavior, psychodynamic, humanistic, and many more. Many approaches explore the person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. The trust developed between the client-therapist relationship is what many approaches have in common and what research has found to be an essential ingredient to effective treatment. That is why it is imperative that one choose a therapist that is a good fit.

In addition, there are other interventions or activities such as exercise and meditation that have been found to be effective treatment for mild to moderate depression. Family therapy can also be helpful at alleviating tensions at home that may be impacting one’s depression and hindering treatment progress.

Tips to Ward Off Depression

  • Exercise Regularly as it has been found to be fantastic not only for managing stress and preventing physical problems but also at reducing depression and anxiety.
  • Be Present is where people often report being happy while being in the future can create anxiety and being in the past can lead to feelings of regret, guilt, and depression. Focus on being more mindful about how you are feeling right now rather than how you felt weeks or years ago.
  • Seek Support from licensed mental health professionals, friends, family and even animals, whom can be helpful. Surround yourself with people that are positive and validating.
  • Know the Signs of depression so that you know when you or someone you in your life needs help.
  • Know your Depression and be proactive. If you know that you happen to be extra susceptible to depression during the winter months, prepare for it by scheduling regular activities or seeking extra support during this time.
  • Get Outside because sunlight can be helpful and so can nature. Experiencing the grandeur nature can help put one’s problems into perspective and when our problems seem small they don’t bother us as much.
  • Find Meaning or a reason for living as it can be a powerful motivation to keep living. One’s meaning can be their partner, children, or even a cause.
  • Sleep is vital to good health and mental functioning. Avoid sleep problems by having a regular bedtime even on weekends, keeping distractions from the bedroom (e.g., TV), and creating a bedtime that is conducive for relaxation.
  • Visit Your Primary Care Doctor regularly to prevent, catch, or treat medical illnesses early that can create depressive symptoms.
  • Eat Healthy meals to improve physical, mental, and emotional functioning. Eating unhealthy foods erodes your physical health, impairs cognitive functioning, and also impacts how you feel about yourself.
  • Respect your Emotions rather than stuffing them. Bottling your feelings can be toxic to your body while expressing how you feel can be very relieving especially when your feelings are validated.

Author: Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist

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Stress & Anxiety: Wellness Tips

Stress Management

According to the National Institute of Mental Health about 18% of adults in the United States experience an anxiety disorder while only 37% of those receive treatment. Meaning that about 63% of adults affected do not seek out services for treatable anxiety disorders. There are many triggers that increase stress and anxiety such as relationship conflicts, financial hardship, and school or work demands. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report 26% to 40% of workers responding to surveys reported that their jobs were very stressful. That is important because stress and anxiety impairs functioning whether that be academic or occupational, leading to injury or lower productivity. The first step to wellness is becoming aware of your physical and psychological reactions to stress and anxiety. Below are some common signs of stress and anxiety:

  • Headaches or backaches
  • Muscle tension and stiffness
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds (impaired immune functioning)

Furthermore, scientific evidence suggests that stress impacts your physical health. Many medical conditions are caused or exacerbated by stress, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines
  • Ulcers
  • Heartburn
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • PMS
  • Obesity
  • Infertility
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Skin problems

Wellness Tips

  1. Know yourself – Understanding how you experience stress is a vital step towards identifying what is causing you stress and preparing for or preventing it in the future.
  2. Identify causes of stress – Knowledge is power. Once you know what your triggers for stress or anxiety are, you can take steps to minimize its effect.
  3. Eat healthy – Good physical health promotes good mental health and vice versa. Stressed people tend to overeat or make unhealthy nutritional choices, so choose healthy foods and eat in moderation.
  4. Be proactive not passive – Don’t just sit with your hands crossed waiting to feel better, cope with stress actively by engaging in healthy stress relieving activities such as exercise, art, music, or dance.
  5. Get plenty of Zzzzzz – Poor sleep hygiene can leave you tired and cranky in the morning making you more susceptible to stress, so get the recommended 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis.
  6. Laugh, it is good for the heart – Laughing produces feel-good brain chemicals that relief stress and promote wellbeing.
  7. Live in the now: Many people experience anticipatory anxiety for something that hasn’t happened or ruminate over past events not realizing that in the actual moment there is nothing stressing them.
  8. Social support – The ability to seek out and have social support has been associated with resilience, the ability to bounce back from stress. There is a reason why humans are social beings.
  9. Seek professional help: When symptoms persevere and begin to impact functioning in other areas of your life such as school or work, therapy has been shown to help.

Author: Dr. Yoendry Torres, Clinical Psychologist

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Obesity in the US – Mental Health Implications & Recommendations

US Obesity Trends Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obesity in the United States is a major public health concern affecting not only an individual’s physical health but also their mental health and the emotional health of their family. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher, which is calculated using one’s weight and height. Weight gain and obesity result from consuming more calories than the body requires given the level of physical activity.

Two of the leading culprits of obesity are sedentary lifestyles and the quantity and quality of one’s diet. Some other factors that impact obesity include genetics, metabolism, endocrine problems, and culture. The Surgeon General (2010) recommends 60 minutes of moderate physical daily exercise for children and teenagers and at least 150 minutes weekly for adults. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has updated its Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommending half your plate be fruits and vegetables and half be grains and protein.

Here are some alarming statistics from the Surgeon General 2010 Report that will hopefully move one to make meaningful lifestyle changes that lead to happier and healthier lives.

  • Obesity contributes to an estimated 112,000 preventable deaths annually (Surgeon General, 2010).
  • Obesity increases one’s health risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Surgeon General, 2010).
  • Mental health problems such as depression are associated with obesity (Surgeon General, 2010).
  • Obesity is also an increasing problem for children, rising from 5% in 1980 to 17% in 2008 (Surgeon General, 2010).
  • There are disparities among some racial groups: 29% of non-Hispanic black teenagers and 17.5% of Hispanic teenagers are obese, while the prevalence for non-Hispanic white teenagers is 14.5% (Surgeon General, 2010).
  • Obesity is “more prevalent in persons with mental illness with some reports indicating 83% of people with serious mental illness being overweight or obese” (Surgeon General, 2010).

These statistics are shocking and getting worse every year, just check out the CDC US Obesity Trends by State Map. Many health providers and even First Lady Michelle Obama with her Let’s Move initiative have seen this crisis as a call for action and are working hard to ameliorate this issue. However, the focus has usually been on the physical impact of obesity, often neglecting or downplaying the mental health implications.

MENTAL HEALTH IMPLICATIONS
Given the increasing number of obese or overweight people in the United States and the associated mental health problems such as depression, one can speculate that depression rates will also increase. Addressing depression and other mental health issues associated with obesity is important because one’s emotional state can affect compliance with treatment plans and medications. Depressive symptoms include:

  • Low energy
  • Low motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Anhedonia (i.e., diminished interest in previous enjoyable activities)
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Decreased or increased appetite
  • Decreased or increased weight
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death and suicide

Each of the above depressive symptoms can complicate treatment for obesity; for example, having low energy, motivation, and fatigue reduce the likelihood of following through with workout routines, taking medications, complying with treatment plans, or adhering to nutritional recommendations. Furthermore, family members are affected by partners and children who are depressed, as it can be difficult living with a depressed individual who may be easily irritated or has little to no interest in doing anything fun. Not surprisingly, children of depressed parents are at higher risk for their own psychiatric problems, interpersonal difficulties, and academic challenges.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE THE RISKS OF OBESITY AND MENTAL HEALTH IMPLICATIONS

  • Seek professional help – Just like you go to a doctor to treat diabetes or go to a mechanic to fix your car, seek professional counseling/psychotherapy to treat depression or other mental health illnesses.
  • Make lifestyle changes – Implement longterm health driven changes to your diet and exercise routines rather than temporary ones.
  • Manage stress – Stress can zap your energy leaving you tired and irritable, so manage it actively by incorporating coping skills such as meditation, exercise, or play into your daily routines.
  • Make exercise fun – Discover alternative ways to get exercise by joining a group fitness class, enrolling in a martial arts school, taking dance lessons, going for a bike ride, or training with a friend.
  • Take a hike – The magnificence of nature can be therapeutic so go for a hike at a nearby trail to burn some calories and reflect on life.
  • Limit TV – Keep TV out of children’s rooms and limit TV time. Instead encourage children to participate in sports or other physical activities that foster moral and social development.
  • Get plenty of sleep – Lack of sleep not only impacts your energy level but also your mood and concentration so get to bed early on a regular basis. Create nighttime wind down routines to relax and promote good sleep.
  • Eat in moderation – Do not supersize your meals, instead eat smaller, recommended portions. Don’t forget to manage your stress as it can increase emotional eating.
  • Eat healthy foods – Avoid greasy, fatty, processed, fried foods and put down sugary drinks such as sodas. Eat more fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water. Make healthy snacks easily accessible at home.
  • Make it a family event – Working out with your partner can be motivating and reinvigorating to your relationship while going to a park with your children to play can create stronger bonds and teach family values.
  • Lead by example – You are your children’s biggest role model, if you start eating fruits and veggies and begin exercising so will they.

Author: Dr. Yoendry Torres, Clinical Psychologist

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