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Beyond Pills : Cognitive Behavioral Solutions For Insomnia

“The night is the hardest time to be alive and 4 AM knows all my secrets.”- Poppy Z. Brite

Insomnia is perhaps one of the most frustrating physical and mental experiences that a insomniahuman being can struggle with. It is estimated that as many as 30% of people struggle with it on a regular basis. The medical world defines it as a difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, waking up too early, and in some cases, non-restorative or poor quality of sleep. To meet the formal definition a person must meet the criteria at least three times per week for a duration of at least one month. Whether you meet the formal definition or not, I’m sure you’ve experienced it at some point in your life. Most do not seek out a formal medical intervention, opting for over-the-counter medications or simply gutting it out for a day or two until the symptoms pass.

Most people who suffer from insomnia will initially take some over-the-counter medication that contains diphenhydramine, an anti-histamine that has sedating qualities, is relatively safe and is highly effective. After a night or two however, its effects wear off and the frustrated insomniac turns to his primary care physician for a stronger pharmaceutical solution. The doctor, who does not have adequate time to do a full medical and psychiatric workup, will prescribed a stronger remedy such as a benzodiazepine or a sedative. These medications also work quite well and will work instantly, but they are not designed for long-term use as a sleep remedy. The individual then gets dependent on them and may suffer from daytime side effects such as drowsiness, poor concentration, and moodiness. In extreme cases, a person is more prone to falls, accidents, and difficulties driving motor vehicles. Long-term use of these medications can result in tolerance and dependence, characteristics of addiction and chemical dependence. Even natural remedies, such as melatonin and herbal teas, will lose their effectiveness over time.

Alcohol is often used as a self prescribed solution to insomnia. Use of alcohol alcfor sleep can actually become a cause of insomnia. Long-term use of alcohol causes a decrease in the quality of stage 3 and 4 sleep, the deepest and most restful sleep stages. It also suppresses the brain’s ability to produce REM sleep, the dream stage in which the brain is its most active and most creative. Alcohol, much like pharmaceuticals, works well initially, creating a tendency towards dependence. Over time, a person who relies on alcohol for sleep runs the risk of becoming dependent upon it, and, of course, some will combine this with pills, a prescription for disaster.

Over the past few years there have been numerous studies which have shown Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to be an effective, non-medical, alternative in the treatment of insomnia. A 2012 research study published in the medical journal BMC Family Practice proved CBT to be superior to medications in the treatment and management of insomnia. CBT strategies were compared to medications in the benzodiazepine, hypnotic, and sedative classes. CBT was proven to be equally effective in the short run. Over the long term, however, it was proven to be more effective, giving longer-lasting relief, while the pharmaceutical interventions lost their efficacy over time.

If you are someone who suffers from insomnia it is a good idea to get in touch with your primary care physician and consult with him or her about what steps you might take. If they suggests a sleep medication, then it’s probably a good idea to ask for some other, less invasive, solution. You may be referred to a sleep study, or a sleep specialist. In the meantime, there’s a lot you can do on your own utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy. Here are some CBT techniques have been shown to work:

Progressive muscle relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation involves starting at one end of your body, either your head or your feet, and alternately tensing and relaxing those muscles. noticing the contrast of feelings between a tight muscle and a relaxed one. As you move up or down your body, tensing and relaxing, tensing and relaxing, your body becomes deeply relaxed and you will soon get a drifting kind of feeling conducive to sleep. This technique also works very well with people who experience muscle pain and lower levels of physical tension. Progressive muscle relaxation is best done flat on your back in bed while trying to sleep. If you suffer from low back pain, you may want to put a pillow underneath your knees to take the stress off your spine.
Meditation. If you meditate on a regular basis, then you know how to quiet your mind. Meditation before bed, or even better, while in bed, can help quiet your mind and prepare you for sleep. Meditation following progressive relaxation as mentioned above, is a great combination to prepare your mind and body for slumber.
Written exercises. Many people wake up at 2 AM, either replaying something from the writeprevious day or previewing something they have to do the next. Some brief writing before bed can help you put the previous day’s worries and concerns to rest, or set you up with a “to do” list for the next day. No need to worry or replay things in your mind because the invasive thoughts have been captured on paper. You can always refer to them the next day after you wake up from a sound sleep.
Stimulus control. This involves using your bedroom only for sleep, dressing, or sexual activity. You are conditioning yourself that going into the bedroom involves one of these three activities and nothing else. No computer, television, reading, or anything else takes place in the bedroom. You’ll learn to associate the bedroom with slumber, making sleeping easier.
Sleep hygiene. This involves making some needed lifestyle changes, eliminating or cutting down activities, behaviors, and the consumption of anything that has the ability to negatively impact your sleep. Cutting out caffeine after 3 PM, cutting down your consumption of alcohol, smoking, and eating too much before bedtime, all qualify as good hygiene. You also want to get into a routine of regular exercise, being sure not to exercise too close to bedtime.
Sleep environment improvement. This involves making your bedroom more conducive to sleep. Eliminating sources of light by window shades, unplugging computers, and shutting off televisions is all part of that. It has been shown that blue lights from iPads, computer screens, and smart phones contribute to insomnia, tricking the brain into thinking that it is daytime. You also want to have the temperature set in a way that is most comfortable for you. Generally speaking, the darker the room the better.
Paradoxical intention. This involves trying to stay awake rather than sleeping. The logic is that because you are forbidden to sleep, it becomes almost impossible not to. The secret to this strategy is that you are not allowed to worry about not sleeping. It has been proven in numerous studies that worrying about it actually makes sleep more difficult. The idea behind this strategy is to remain passively awake.
Biofeedback. No, you don’t need one of those machines with monitors and all those sticky things attached to your brain. Biofeedback simply is monitoring your body’s biological signs such as heart rate and breathing. You can simply use your heart rate or rate of respiration as a monitor. Slowing down your heart rate or your breathing is a great way to relax your body and allow sleep to do its thing. Using your breathing as a biofeedback device is a great skill to develop, as it allows you to relax to prepare for sleep, to handle stress, and to control your ability to do work and exercise. Breathing is always available as a biofeedback technique, and you could not stop it even if you wanted to. Learning to control your breathing can help you function better in virtually every area of your life, including sleep.

If you struggle with sleep on a regular basis, then cognitive behavioral therapy may need to be combined with medication initially. If you are an occasional victim of insomnia, then these lifestyle changes are certainly worth initiating. There are no negative side effects to any of these CBT skills and, whether you have insomnia or not, these are lifestyle changes that will be beneficial for you, in some cases bringing immediate, positive benefits. These sleepare not instant solutions, but are some changes to make as part of a comprehensive plan of physical and mental wellness.

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”- W.C. Fields




P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Rx From Hippocrates : Seven Wellness Prescriptions From The Father Of Medicine

“There is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9

Hippocrates of Kos was a Greek physician during the Classical Age of Ancient Greece. Hippocrates’ work led to clive-uptton-hippocratesthe development of medicine as a profession, rather than a philosophy. His contributions to the field of medicine were so outstanding and influential that he is considered to be the Father of Western Medicine. Even today all in the medical field are schooled in what has become known as the Hippocratic Oath, which is, “First do no harm.” It is rather ironic that only recently has Western medicine realized the simple genius of his prescriptions and suggestions for how to develop and maintain health and wellness.

Hippocrates was the first scientist to assert that illness occurs due to natural causes, not superstition, curses, or afflictions bestowed by the gods. He also was among the first to recognize that prevention should be one of the primary goals of medicine. As the field of medicine entered the modern era and medications became the preferred way of coping with physical and mental illnesses, his prescriptions lost favor among medical community, being perceived as old-fashioned and too simplistic. Within the last 20 years or so, the medical world has realized that much of the wisdom and simple solutions proposed by Hippocrates 2,400 years ago are some of the most important prescriptions that a doctor in the 21st century can impart to his patients.

Here are some quotes attributed to Hippocrates that we probably all should consider when putting together a plan of health and wellness:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

This is a simple prescription that clearly modern man has lost sight of. At one point in human history, we ate as a matter of survival. All animals, humans included, must eat in order to survive. Modern man, however, has the luxury of eating for a lot of other reasons. Many of us eat for psychological reasons such as boredom, loneliness, when depressed, to celebrate, and when feeling overwhelmed. For many, gorging on a lot of carbohydrates has become an addiction. Our diet is chock-full of processed sugars in the form of cheap sources such as corn syrup and fructose. Consumed in excess, our bodies convert this to fat which we hang on to and most find impossible to lose. Food has become plentiful and cheap and modern man does not have to spend 8 to 10 hours per day in search of his next meal. This gives us plenty of time to be bored and, of course, more time to consume more of those tasty carbohydrates that we crave. Even the poorest among us have access to an abundance of inexpensive, calorie dense, food choices. Hippocrates would suggest that we make our choices a little more wisely. For more see http://mindbodycoach.org/food-mood-connection/

“Walking is man’s best medicine. ”

This is another pearl of wisdom that mankind has rediscovered in the 21st century. By the time of the mid-20th century, Americans have lost touch with walking as a form of transportation and socializing. The automobile industry became a huge business after the Second World War, and most suburban families had at least one motor vehicle. By the 21st century, these same suburban families had multiple vehicles, teenagers saved money to buy their own vehicles, and “good” parents would never allow their children to walk more than a half mile to school. This created a generation of young people with an aversion to walking. Walking became something that poor people did or something that was done as a punishment when your parents were too angry to come pick you up from school, practice, or your friend’s house. One of the ultimate ironies of modern life’s relationship to walking is that many people drive miles in a motor vehicle to a gym and walk on a treadmill. For more on this topic, see also http://mindbodycoach.org/an-inconvenient-truth-walking-is-the-best-exercise/

“That which is used – develops. That which is not used wastes away.”

Here’s something we all know, but conveniently have forgotten. Because modern man does not exercise the way that he once did, our bodies have taken on a larger, yet weaker and less softer size. Active exercise builds muscle, and active lifestyle builds muscles conducive to the proliferation of a healthy lifestyle. Because of the modern conveniences that we have in the way of transportation, tools, and furniture, muscles atrophy at a considerable rate after a person reaches adulthood. The average person loses 1% of muscle mass per year after the age of 20. We rationalize that we are “adults now,” and that we just simply “don’t have enough time to get any exercise.” In reality, we must find the time because we are adults, and if we don’t use it, we lose it. Most people think in an all or nothing mindset, believing that if they don’t have time to participate in gym workouts, hour-long hot yoga classes, or something similar to football double sessions, then it’s not worth even attempting. Not true, and a convenient reason to continue to be lazy, atrophy, get fatter, and all the other negative aspects that can accompany the 21st century lifestyle. Use it, or lose it applies at all stages of adult life, right up until our senior years. Workouts do not have to be marathon sessions, but they do have to be consistent and tax your muscles, heart, and lungs to a moderate extent. Here is an article that gives some helpful hints on how to keep what you have indefinitely: http://mindbodycoach.org/preventing-shrinkage/

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”

Everyone knows that we should lead a balanced lifestyle. But what does balance mean? Balance depends on the individual. A person knows they’re in a state of balance when they are happy, healthy, and connected to their work and significant others in their lives. People who are content in the majority of those areas tend to be the healthiest, even if there is an area that they are lagging in. We all have heard those stories of someone’s great-grandfather who drank three shots of whiskey and smoked a pack of cigarettes per day and lived to be age 95. Many will cite that as an example that a healthy lifestyle is unnecessary in the pursuit of longevity. Not necessarily true. If you examined carefully the lifestyle of great grandpa, you’d probably find that he was quite happy and in balance in many other areas of his life. He probably had some great relationships with family and friends, work and hobbies that he loved doing, and I’d bet he also had a pretty resilient outlook on life and was in good mental health. I’m not saying to go out and buy a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pack of Camels, what I am saying is take an overall view of your lifestyle and seek contentment and happiness in as many areas as you can. Who knows, maybe if great-grandfather took better care of himself he might still be around.

“If you are in a bad mood go for a walk. If you are still in a bad mood go for another walk.”

walkinggHere’s some advice that would improve your life on a lot of levels. Brief bouts of exercise throughout the day have proven to maintain a positive mood as well as improve health and wellness. Research has shown that as little as four minutes at a time of moderate exercise has the ability to noticeably change a person’s mood, attitude, and outlook. If you’re a person prone to mood swings, you’d also probably get a considerable amount of exercise throughout the average day if you take Hippocrates suggestion.

In 2010, the American Psychological Association approved exercise as a means of coping with depression, placing it right up there with antidepressant medications such as Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa. Clinical trials showed that exercise was as effective at two, four, and six weeks as the prescription antidepressant Zoloft, and even more effective from six weeks and beyond. Starting your day with a brief walk, or even a long walk if you are so inclined, can set your brain chemistry up for a more positive day. Finishing your day with a a walk with your partner, spouse, a family member or a friend can be a great way to wind down from the stress and strain that your day has given you. A dog can be truly your best friend if you are reluctant or hesitant to start a regimen of daily walking.

“Everything in excess Is opposed by nature.”

Living in the age of instant information, virtually every bit of information we receive is taken to excess. If there is an interesting news story, you can bet that every network is going to cover it. If some tragedy occurs someplace, you can be sure that we are going to be barraged for at least 72 hours with every gory detail of who did what, to whom, and how. Too many people obsess over and over with the latest tragedy or conspiracy theory, allowing a news story that has little, if anything ,to do with their own life to influence their mood in a negative way. Without real, meaningful, interactions with humans in real time, it would be very easy to believe that the world is entirely negative and life is not worth living. We live in an age of excess information and TMI which did not exist during Hippocrates’s day. I believe if he were alive today he would tell many mental health clients to shut off the TV, get off the Internet, and engage in some positive interactions and activities in real time, with real people. Information, much like food, is best consumed carefully, wisely, and for a specific purpose. Too much of the wrong kind will create stress, needless worry, and interrupt the way that you function in your own life. See also http://mindbodycoach.org/going-unplugged-age-distraction/

“Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases.”

Despite living a life close to nature, consuming natural foods, having meaningful work, meaningful relationships, and a life of purpose, we all are prone to illness, maladies, and ultimately death. Jim Morrison was right, no one gets out of here alive. We can however, prolong our life and increase the quality of our time on earth if we combine Hippocrates’ advice with the wonders of modern medicine. Living a life in harmony with the suggestions of Hippocrates, and calling in the big guns of modern medicine when needed, makes the most sense. The reality is that, despite what Hippocrates is suggesting, there will be times when medication and modern treatment is necessary. Too frequently modern medicine prescribes a medication for something that could probably be resolved with a healthier lifestyle, a little exercise, and a little effort and planning. There will be times when medication, pills, and more heroic modern medical means are necessary. There will, inevitably. be extreme diseases that befall all of us, despite all our efforts to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This is the time to bring in extreme remedies. Having a good working relationship with your primary care physician and making an informed decision on when to bring in these modern interventions makes more sense than trying to find a pill to resolve every problem. If you were someone on a lot of medications, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor if there is a more natural way to treat some of the illnesses for which you are prescribed medication. You also may want to supplement your medication regimen with some good old fashion lifestyle changes. I am sure your doctor will not be offended.

Almost 2,500 years later, Hippocrates is medical advice still stands the test of time. While it is not a guarantee of chiefWellnessPic1a long life, it does promise greater wellness and fulfillment during the time that we do have. Taking responsibility for your health and wellness through positive behaviors is probably his greatest suggestion. It’s medicine that you may find enjoyable.

“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.” – Hippocrates


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Misunderstood History : Why The Pursuit Of Happiness Is Your Responsibility

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson, from The Declaration of Independence

JeffersonMost Americans, and in fact most people in the developed world, are familiar with this quote penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. Most of us believe that Jefferson promised the right to be happy, meaning the right to be a person that exists in a state of happiness. In reality, this is not what he meant. In fact, he promised us something more meaningful, practical, and profound than what we were taught in history class.

In 1776, the word “pursuit” had a far different meaning than it does today. Today we think of it as being some kind of chase, a quest if you will, to be happy. Most people believe that we have a right to be happy, and happiness comes from things that we possess, control, and can manipulate. Somehow, the modern interpretation of the word has given us the impression that we are guaranteed happiness. In Jefferson’s day, and during the Enlightenment period, the word “pursuit” meant a practice that one engages in continuously and often never perfects.

Contemporary man “practices” few things. We speak of the practice of yoga, the practice of martial arts, the practice of meditation, etc. If you engage in any of these practices, you know that it is often a futile attempt at perfection, chasing something diligently and, while getting close, you never quite arrive at that destination. Your practice is never perfect, your results are never quite what you hope they could be, but you realize that your practice is rewarding in and of itself and serves the deeper purpose of making you a better and more fulfilled human being. For example, if you practice yoga do you have the right to the perfect pose? If you’re a martial artist, do you have a right to possess perfect technique and skills? If you are a meditator, do you have the right to hours upon hours of daily bliss? Of course not, but you pursue these aims anyway.

Thomas Jefferson, and most of the Founding Fathers, are subject to a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation, further confused by changes in the English language that have occurred since Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence in 1776. In his own lifetime, Jefferson referred to himself as an Epicurean, a Greek philosophy from the third century BC. Epicureans believed that pleasure was the greatest good. Contemporary thought interprets this to mean that Epicureans were hedonistic, self-centered, party animals. Actually, nothing could be further than the truth.

Epicureans believe that the best way to attain pleasure was to live a modest life, being cognizant of how the world works and the limits of one’s desires. This pursuit would lead a person to a state of serenity and tranquility, where an individual would be aware of the limiting factors of human wants and the reality of the human condition. In other words, an Epicurean would arrive at a state of acceptance and contentment with what they already possessed. This acceptance would serve to alleviate pain, fear, and wants. To the Epicureans, this was happiness in its purest form, being content with what one already has. One of Jefferson’s Enlightenment contemporaries, William Wollaston, defined the pursuit of happiness as the “truest definition of natural religion.”
Since the 1970s, approximately 1/3 of Americans are able to describe themselves as “very happy,” according to surveys conducted by the National Science Foundation. By 2013 less than 50% of Americans defined themselves as optimists. By the time an American turns age 18 there is an 11% chance of being diagnosed with depression, 20% of us will suffer from a mood disorder during our lifetime, and 30% of us will have issues with anxiety disorder. Clearly, many of us are having a hard time practicing happiness.

The mass media has made the pursuit of happiness a big business. Watching television commercials gives the impression that happiness is something that can be bought, driven, worn, or consumed. The irony is that in countries having the most consumable products actually have lower rates of happiness among its population. The 2012 World Happiness Report, conducted by Columbia University, ranked the United States 23rd in a 50 nation happiness index, behind the number one nation Iceland, number two New Zealand, number three Denmark, and behind nations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Tanzania.

So, how does one “practice” happiness? First and foremost, it is important to realize that happiness is an internal state, an emotional condition in which one feels contentment, satisfaction, completeness, and wholeness. While it may be influenced by what happens in the outside world, ultimately it is a feeling state that one possesses. This realization is the secret to obtaining true happiness.

Here are some other suggestions that research indicates are factors in the internal condition we refer to as happiness:

Think of happiness as an action and a behavior, rather than a possession. Research indicates that people who are actively involved in life, by doing, living, and striving for things, tend to be the most happy. Sigmund Freud, probably not the happiest figure in the history human psychology, said that happiness comes from “love and work.” Although research indicates he was probably wrong with a lot of his theories, it does indicate that he was onto something with this.
After basic needs are met, focus on relationships and connectedness to others. Abraham Maslow, one of the most influential psychological theorists, believed that once a basic human needs are met, connectedness to our work and other people is what truly makes us happy. If you’re not familiar with his ideas, Google him. Humans are tribal, pack animals, and the best way to connect to others is to share. Sharing not only applies to material possessions, but also to emotions as well. Celebrating others happiness can be infectious, sharing their pain and suffering can make life meaningful. Gordon Gekko was wrong when he said “Greed is good.”
Be more mindful. Mindfulness has become the new buzzword in human psychology and development. Don’t be fooled by its trendiness, it is important and a key to happiness. Simply put, it means to be aware of where you are and what you are doing. How many times have you look back on previous period of your life with nostalgia, longing for those good old days? At the time, you didn’t realize it. Realizing that the good old days are now is an aspect of mindfulness that you should strive to embrace if you want to be happy.
movementEnjoy your physicality. Move, walk, exercise, bend, stretch etc. Enjoy movement as much as you can. It’s much easier to pursue happiness if you are feeling good. Happiness starts from the inside out, not vice versa. There is a high correlation between people who are physical and those who are happy.
Stop trying to purchase happiness. Yes, have a lot of stuff may be nice, but the pursuit of stuff and the pursuit of happiness are not the same thing. Next time you contemplate purchasing some big-ticket item, clothing, jewelry, or 70 mile per gallon automobile, ask yourself what your intention is and what, if anything it has to do with your happiness.
⦁ Get your thinking in line. Your internal dialogue and self talk are critical factor in your perception of happiness. Noticing the things you say to yourself on a regular basis, and working to change those thoughts that are not conducive to happiness, will go a long way towards changing your outlook on life.
Stop comparing yourself to others. There is a tendency in people who are not happy to compare themselves to their friends, family, and even celebrities. We all assume that everyone else has got it going on, has more, and is more. They are not. This is why we have a fascination with celebrities who have drug problems, illnesses, emotional problems, business failures, and divorce. It brings them down to our level. Remember, somebody else’s success or suffering has nothing to do with your happiness.

While we do have the right to the pursuit of happiness, we certainly do not have a guaranteed to be happy. What we do have is the potential to be happier by taking control of our outlook on life and our ability to manage well those things that we can control. The pursuit, and practice, of happiness should be a priority. We are all more capable of attaining more of it.Funny_LINCOLN_400

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”-Abraham Lincoln


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Syndrome X : The Not So Silent Killer

A syndrome is a set of medical signs and symptoms that are correlated with each other and, often, with a specific disease. The word derives from the Greek σύνδρομον, meaning “concurrence”.- From Wikipedia

bbellySyndrome X, now known as Metabolic Syndrome, is a cluster of at least three of five medical conditions- high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar, belly fat, or low HDL cholesterol. Approximately 34%, or 47 million Americans have Syndrome X currently, and many are in the process of falling victim to it. The syndrome appears to run in families, and is more common in African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and is a risk factor in heart disease, all cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, premature death, and diminished quality of life. Not all doctors are comfortable with the term, as it is not a single condition but a syndrome, a grouping of risk factors. What all doctors do agree on is that it is a killer disease and that there is a lot that we can do to prevent it from spreading and killing us.

According to the American Heart Association, there are five risk factors associated with Syndrome X, AKA metabolic syndrome:
1. A waist size of over 40 inches for a male, and 35 inches or more for a female. In addition, it is a matter of pear 2how body fat is stored in a person’s core. Males with an “apple” shaped abdomen are at greater risk, as are women with a “pear” shaped core.

2. High triglycerides. This is the “bad cholesterol” that resides in your bloodstream to provide your body with energy. Too much of it clogs arteries leading to cardiovascular diseases. A triglyceride rate of 150mg or greater puts you at risk.

3. Low “Good Cholesterol,” or HDL. For men this is less than 40mg and four women less than 50mg. It is recommended that all Americans have a lipid profile done every five years to determine these numbers. If you are in a high risk category, African-American, Native American, Asian, it makes sense to have them done more frequently. Discuss with your doctor how often to have these tests done.

4. High blood pressure. Having blood pressure of over 135/85 places you at risk. Either of these numbers being elevated is a red flag. Blood pressure can be monitored quite easily using a home monitor or sticking your arm in one of those contraptions that are probably in the corner of your neighborhood pharmacy.

5. High blood sugar levels. A blood sugar level of over 100 puts you in a high risk category, with a number of 100 to 125 putting you in “pre-diabetic” category. 79 million Americans are currently prediabetic, and without some lifestyle changes run the risk of developing type II or “adult onset diabetes.”

To be diagnosed with Syndrome X,  you must have three of these five risk factors, but certainly taking action on any one of these is in your best interest.

How can syndrome X be prevented? The good news is that it is not that difficult. The bad news is that, for some people, it is difficult to prevent because it requires some effort and lifestyle changes. Syndrome X is a group of diseases exacerbated by modern lifestyle and reliance upon technology. Experts say that you prevent metabolic syndrome essentially the same way that you would treat it with the exception of medications. The following will lifestyle changes are the safest way to prevent becoming a victim of Syndrome X:

cardio-exercise-walkingExercise. Most any kind of physical activity will do, but something that works to keep your body moving and your weight at a reasonable level. The American Heart Association recommends building up to between 30 and 60 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. Keep in mind that the activity does not have to be done all at one time but can be broken up into shorter bouts. The key is consistency. While you may opt for longer sessions occasionally, such as gym workouts or weight training three times per week, it is more important that you do something every day. It may be as simple as parking your car a little farther from your destination, walking your dog a few more times a week, or some floor exercises while watching TV.
Cleanup your diet. No mystery with this one. Eat more fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and all that stuff that you know is good for you. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you which foods to avoid, but generally anything that is processed or packaged should be avoided at all costs. Seek to find healthier alternatives to that sweet tooth and your appetite for junk food. Go light on fruit juices, as they are hidden sources of sugar. Eating fruit in its natural state is far better than filling up on juices.
Lose some weight. Again not a shocking revelation that being overweight contributes to Syndrome X. Weighing yourself at least 2 to 3 times per week and putting a tape measure to your waist occasionally may be damaging to your ego, but it just may prevent you from falling victim to Syndrome X. Facing those numbers can be frightening, but denial of these numbers can literally be fatal.
If you are a smoker, quit. If you’ve tried and failed multiple times, contact your physician and quit immediately. That “I’ve cut down” attitude is not helping anything. Consider that “cigarette or two” you smoke each day to be similar to playing Russian roulette with a pistol with a “bullet or two” in the chamber. Eventually, it’s going to kill you.
Develop a working relationship with your primary care physician. Even if you don’t feel you are at risk for pcpdeveloping Syndrome X, your doctor should be familiar with you and your unique medical needs. Even if you are in good condition, get a physical when it is recommended. The worst that can happen is your doctor gives you a pat on the back, you feel better, and you leave the office with a little ego boost. It’s a good idea to look under the hood once in a while.
⦁ Take medications if they are prescribed for you. Medications for blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol are critical if you are in a high-risk category or early stages of Syndrome X. If your numbers improve, don’t stop taking your medication. Too many people rationalize that, “I’m doing well, my numbers are good, so I don’t need this medication any longer.” The reality is that your numbers are good because you are taking that medication. It should be evidence to you that the regimen you are on is working.

Syndrome X is a not so silent killer that can be prevented in most cases. Modern medical science and living an old school lifestyle can keep even those in high-risk categories alive and well over a longer period of time. The recommended lifestyle changes here are not too big a sacrifice, and may even make your life more enjoyable. Don’t fall victim to Syndrome X!

“Warning: Before beginning an program of physical inactivity, consult your doctor. Sedentary living is abnormal and dangerous to your health.”- Frank Forencich, Exuberant Animal: The Power of Health, Play and Joyful Movement


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

Seussology 101 : Life Lessons From Dr. Seuss

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was an American author and illustrator who sold more than seuss600 million books from 1927 to 1980. If you were a child during any of that era, or beyond, it’s likely you are familiar with his work. You probably read some of his books as a child, or at least had them read to you. (What child hasn’t had Green Eggs and Ham read to them?) His books were a smorgasbord of humorous words and silly phrases, nonsensical characters, and subtle, yet definite, life lessons. A lot of these lessons are lost on the target audience children up to the age of 10. The reality of Dr. Seuss is that he was a brilliant scholar, Dartmouth and Oxford University educated, and a philosopher in his own right. Maybe it’s time some of us adults reviewed a little Seussology to see some of the lessons that we may have missed the first time around.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!

I’ve been a practicing psychotherapist, coach, and educator for over 30 years. If I had a nickel for every person I’ve known in these capacities who was not content with themselves I would probably be the richest man on the planet. Almost everyone who has emotional issues is not content with who they are or where they are in their life. Quite frequently, their problem stems from a lack of self-esteem and an unrealistic, negative, self image. They have lost their sense of purpose and their self-esteem. In most cases, the lack of self-esteem has been lost because of some long standing view that they are somehow less than other people. They’ve lost that sense of uniqueness, that all of us innately have. Therapy, counseling, and the work that we have to do as client and counselor is to restore that sense of uniqueness that Dr. Seuss is referring to in this quote. His words, although simplistic, are undoubtedly true.

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – Dr. Seuss

Many of the problems that people have that become the focus of attention in counseling or coaching are due to the fact that many of us overthink things. In the confines of our own minds, things can get murky and confusing. Phrases like “Yeah, but…” “what if,” “I can’t,” and similar negative projections prevent us from not only succeeding, but often not even attempting a lot of things that, if we took a rational, logical approach, we would have a fairly high chance of succeeding. When you get inside the logic of a negative thinker, it becomes pretty obvious that they are their own worst enemy, imagining horrific, embarrassing, and often devastating events that virtually never happen, or if they do they are nowhere near as bad in reality as they were in the imagination. Paralysis analysis kills more dreams than virtually anything else. The doctor is right, sometimes the answers are quite simple.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Often people who come into counseling or coaching have forgotten that they, and they alone, control their own destiny. True, many of them have suffered some very negative events in their lives, usually not of their own making. The challenge is to get them back in control of their own lives. It is a process rather than an event, but the critical realization is that they need to get back in touch with their own personal power. Like Seuss says, we are the ones who ultimately decide where we go with our lives and we are the only ones who can change. Suggestions will be made, undoubtedly, but ultimately every person has their own walk of life. As Seuss says, you will decide where you will go. Too many people live their lives passively, waiting for the right opportunity, the perfect situation, the perfect partner, or the planets to line up and miraculously give them what they are seeking from life. The doctor’s argument here is that it doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t have a remote, if you don’t like it get up and change it yourself.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”- Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

thingA negative consequence of the information age is the tendency of people to sit back, observe the events, complain about them, and do nothing. There is so much news and information that it becomes very difficult for individuals to decide what to care about, which causes to support, which political and social organizations to get behind, and to take action on issues of importance. These same people often have a tendency to complain about these very same issues, all the while doing nothing. Caring and involvement are one of the ways that a human being can get more deeply involved in their life. Involvement leads to connections, connections lead to being a part of something that is greater than yourself. A life of purpose and connection is bound to be a more fulfilling one. The doctor thinks we should get more involved. Think about the things that are important to you. What are some of the ways that you can get more deeply involved in causes, events, and activities that are important to you? Take the doctor’s advice.

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

How do you typically start your day? What are your morning rituals? Do they set you up for success, or do they start with a negative thought and things only get worse from there? One of the most important times of the day is those first 30 minutes after you wake. Naturally, people have different preferred styles of getting into their morning. Some are fortunate, and are “morning people” who wake up easily ready to take on the day and anything that it may bring. Others are slowburners who need to warm up before taking on the challenge of the next 16 to 18 hours. Regardless of which one you are, your thinking and self talk are a critical component in how you take on that day and ultimately what kind of day you have. Seuss’s morning pep talk, or some similar positive self talk is one way to set yourself up for success. What you say to yourself about what’s going on in your world is important to the day’s outcome, creating feelings of self efficacy and mastery. Each day there is some kind of “mountain” waiting to be scaled. Seuss’s suggesting tackling it with a “can do” attitude. There’s no other way to climb a mountain. Get on your way!

Dr. Seuss’s words are worth revisiting, holding hidden gems of advice for us adults. His philosophy of life can make you smile and just may make your life richer.

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. Andblance will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.” – Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!


P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at john@mindbodycoach.org

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