A mental health professional weighs in on why you wake up with feelings of anxiety or sadness, and the self-care interventions to implement to fix it.
The post Anxiety In The Morning? Why It Happens And What To Do About It, According To A Mental Health Pro appeared first on Women’s Health.
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Use these techniques to reprogram your neural brain circuitry for success.
New year or not, making a goal and seeing it through is tricky business, and in some instances, you are your own worst enemy when it comes to success.
“When your unconscious patterns hold you back from having an appropriate emotional response, you sabotage your own success,” says Rock Thomas, motivational speaker and author of The Power of Your Identity: The Secret to Creating Lasting Change (AuthorHouse, 2006). “This leads to a disempowered state and results in a decision that does not take you closer to your desires
According to Thomas, success is an inside job, and your internal dialogue has a lot to do with your circumstances. “Essentially, thoughts become things,” Thomas says. “Most people think about what they don’t want, and therefore that’s exactly what they attract into their lives.”
Don’t despair, though — you can retrain your brain for the better with these tips from Thomas.
Deprogram your daily life.
Most of the time, you’re reacting to programming from your past when faced with a situation, so the key to happiness is rejigging those poor thoughts into rich thoughts. For example, perhaps people told you that you were too skinny or too fat as a kid. Today, instead of saying “I hate my body,” say “I am grateful for my health and am unique just as I am.”
New you review.
Ask someone you trust for his or her best memory of you and how that person remembers you at your best. It’s valuable to see yourself through someone else’s less-critical eyes, especially in moments of self-doubt.
Pinpoint a pattern.
Sabotage is usually because of an unconscious pattern that you developed while growing up. Likely someone hurt you or you had a profound experience that now triggers you emotionally. “For instance, my brother would not let me ride his motorcycle, yet he taunted me daily that he would,” Thomas says. “Until I realized this pattern, I would often refuse the offerings of others due to the unconscious fear of them not being given.” Pay attention to the things you say to yourself. If you hear yourself saying something negative or self-defeating, choose in that moment to replace it with a positive thought. Over time, you’ll train your brain to turn negatives into positives automatically.
Practice daily meditation.
The first step to change is awareness, and carving out 10 minutes each day for meditation is great for slowing down your mind’s chatter. Once you’re able to focus, the answers to your questions and the solutions to your problems will often come more easily.
Stop blaming your parents.
Likely your parents downloaded their own programming onto you, albeit unconsciously, so blame them all you want for your issues, but ultimately you have to take responsibility for your life as it is today. Once you’ve claimed ownership, then break the cycle so it does not continue with your own children. “My father never played ball with me, and it hurt my feelings,” Thomas says. “So I decided to become the coach of my son’s soccer team.”
Watch your words.
The words that follow the phrase “I am …” are powerful, so avoid saying things like “I am a loser” or “I am unworthy.” Instead, each morning and evening, say things that excite and empower you versus things that hold you back. “Speak yourself into your potential, otherwise you will keep living a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to negativity,” Thomas says.
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The treatment usually prescribed by doctors, hormone therapy (HT), is controversial and not appropriate for some women. I won’t get into the HT debate here—Mark did a great job covering the pros and cons recently. Suffice it to say that HT isn’t the answer for everyone, and it’s not a panacea by any means.
Whether or not they choose to go the HT route, many women desire additional support during perimenopause and beyond. For the sake of keeping this post from becoming a novella, I’m going to focus on mind-body therapies today.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of nonhormonal options, nor is it meant to try to dissuade you from trying HT. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself with your doctor. The approaches below can be used alone or in combination with other modalities, including HT.
As with any medical-adjacent tools, if you are considering any of the options here, take the time to educate yourself, talk to your doctor, and find qualified practitioners to help you implement these practices.
A Note Regarding Research Evidence…
Because so many women are interested in complementary or alternative approaches, there’s a fair amount of research into nonhormonal treatments. There are also important limitations.
A lot of the randomized control trials—experiments that are best for establishing causal effects—are small. There is considerable variability in research design, so it’s difficult to generalize across studies.
Participants in these studies tend to be white and well-educated. Since there are cross-cultural differences in the experience of menopause, we shouldn’t assume that the findings apply to all women. Likewise, a lot of the research focuses on women with a history of breast cancer because HT is generally contraindicated in this population. While the results of these studies probably generalize to other women, it would be great to have more data.
Finally, vasomotor symptoms—hot flushes and night sweats—are studied more than other types of symptoms. Though they are the most common complaint, many women do not experience debilitating vasomotor symptoms. They might, however, experience mood fluctuations, depression, sexual issues, memory problems, and more. We know less about how these approaches might help those women.
Nevertheless, I’ll highlight some of the potentially fruitful avenues you might explore. When possible, I’ll focus on systematic reviews and meta-analyses. They pool the results of multiple smaller studies to help a more reliable picture emerge.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
In CBT, individuals are encouraged to explore how their thoughts (cognitions) affect feelings, behaviors, and physical symptoms. With help, they change their thoughts or beliefs about a situation to help manage their responses and improve coping skills.
Although there isn’t a ton of research on CBT for menopause, available studies are very promising. Whether or not CBT reduces the actual number of hot flushes—and the data here are mixed—CBT should work by changing women’s perceptions of their hot flushes. Multiple studies do find that after CBT women view their hot flushes as interfering less with daily life. As expected, they are also less bothered by them.
Women who see themselves as having less control over their hot flushes also tend to experience more distress. Changing their perceived control could be an effective intervention for improving quality of life. Indeed, in one study, 95 women received either group-based or self-help CBT. After therapy they reported feeling greater control over hot flushes and having better coping skills compared to women in a no-CBT control condition. Further analyses showed that women’s beliefs about control and coping predicted how problematic they found their hot flushes to be. (Having more positive beliefs about how hot flushes affect sleep also helped.)
Women who participated in CBT also experienced fewer sleep issues and insomnia as well as fewer depressive symptoms and sexual concerns. They also noticed less impairment at work. Positive results were found with in-person therapy, self-help programs, and telephone-based therapy. When studies included a follow-up assessment, the beneficial effects of CBT persisted for at least six months.
Mindfulness, Meditation and Relaxation Training
A cross-sectional study of 1744 women found that women with higher scores on a mindfulness assessment tended to report less severe menopausal symptoms. For women with higher life stress, this association was especially strong. The idea here is that when women are able to be present-focused and observe their symptoms without judgment, they are protected against some of the distress, and possibly the physical symptoms, associated with menopause.
Although some of the women in that survey are probably mindful by nature—lucky them—mindfulness is also a skill that can be learned and cultivated. Among the many reasons to do so, mindfulness and meditation training can apparently lessen menopausal symptoms.
For example, researchers assigned 110 women to either an intensive eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program or a control group. The women who received mindfulness training reported having less bothersome hot flushes, better sleep quality, less anxiety and stress, and greater overall quality of life compared to the control group. When the researchers followed participants over the next 11 weeks, these results persisted or became even stronger.
A few other studies found that women who receive mindfulness or meditation training report fewer and less bothersome hot flushes, improved sleep, and better psychological functioning, though the results have not consistently endured over time. However, when looking at more general relaxation training and paced breathing techniques, effects are minimal, at least for hot flushes.
An ethnographic study of nine female yogi masters concluded that they tend to skate fairly easily through menopause. The authors concluded that menopausal women should be encouraged to practice yoga. Of course, in addition to yoga, these yogi masters’ lifestyles included “healthy food habits, adequate sleep, and the use of nature cure techniques (i.e., fasting, detoxification, selection of suitable food products, and living in well-ventilated houses) that facilitated the art of living in tune with nature.” This sounds pretty great, but can we give really yoga all the credit here?
Probably not. However, two recent meta-analyses did conclude that yoga offers small but significant relief from symptoms of all types: vasomotor, psychological (including depression), somatic (including fatigue and sleep disturbances), and urogenital. Women also report better overall well-being and quality of life after receiving yoga training.
In one study, a group of breast cancer survivors received twelve weeks of yoga and meditation instruction, and they were encouraged to practice daily at home. Compared to women in a control group (no instruction), they reported fewer symptoms and improved quality of life at the end of the twelve weeks and again when asked three months later. A later analysis found that many of the effects were mediated by improved self-esteem in the yoga group.
Note that most of the individual studies are small, and they employ different types of yoga practices. This might be considered a strength insofar as different practices have been shown to work, or a weakness in that it’s not clear if one approach is particularly effective.
Cross-cultural surveys find that women who are more active tend to have an easier time with menopause. For example, two large surveys of Swedish women found that women who exercised at least once per week reported less intrusive symptoms than women who never exercised, and women who exercised more than three hours per week were significantly less likely to experience severe symptoms than their less active counterparts. Sedentary women in this Finnish study experienced more vasomotor, psychological, and somatic/pain symptoms than women who were at least somewhat active.
While promising, experimental studies have not yielded such favorable results. When women were assigned to “physical activity” conditions (often walking), some studies report improvements, but others find no improvements or even worsening symptoms (perhaps depending on women’s baseline fitness). Multiple reviews have concluded that there is no systematic effect of exercise, particularly not for vasomotor symptoms.
Does that mean menopausal women shouldn’t exercise? Obviously no. It’s clear that being active—or at least not being sedentary—is important for overall health, and it probably helps menopausal women through the transition. However, there isn’t enough research to know what types of exercise are most effective and when. Do the types of movement you enjoy and that make your body feel good.
A recent review concluded that acupuncture is effective for reducing vasomotor symptoms, both frequency and severity, as well as for improving quality of life. However, the reviewers also found that acupuncture was not reliably better than sham acupuncture where needles are inserted at points other than the prescribed pressure points and at a shallower depth—a placebo condition.
A handful of studies have shown that clinical hypnosis can reduce hot flush frequency and distress among breast cancer patients. Another study of 187 women without breast cancer found that women who received hypnotherapy had fewer, less severe, and less bothersome hot flashes, as well as improved sleep. These results were evident at the end of the five-week treatment protocol, and they remained or got stronger in the six-week follow-up period.
The Experts Weigh In…
In 2015, the North American Menopause Society released a position statement on nonhormonal management of vasomotor symptoms. Of the approaches discussed here, the only ones NAMS recommended based on the strength of the available evidence were CBT and hypnosis. Mindfulness-based stress reduction earned a “recommend with caution,” which means, “We think it might work, but the evidence isn’t conclusive.”
The others—yoga, exercise, relaxation and paced breathing techniques, and acupuncture—were not recommended. This does not mean they are not worth trying! It simply means that based on their standards, the evidence was not strong enough for the committee to conclude that they are likely to be effective treatments for vasomotor symptoms specifically. This says nothing about other types of symptoms, nor about general well-being or quality of life.
Mind-Body Therapy Pros and Cons
So where does this leave us? Each of these therapies shows promise for alleviating at least some symptoms of menopause. Moreover, all these therapies have the potential to improve overall quality of life, sleep, stress, and general health. While reading these studies, I did wonder whether some of the women felt better simply because they were investing time and energy in taking care of themselves. If so, is that a problem? I don’t think so. They are low-risk interventions with a lot of potential upside.
That said, these aren’t quick solutions. The effective mindfulness/mediation trainings included six to eight weeks of classes and multiple hours per week. Women practiced yoga for two to four months during the study periods. Hypnotherapy was five weeks or longer. It’s not clear what the minimum time frame is for each of these therapies to be useful, but they’ll certainly involve a time commitment that might not be practical for all women. However, yoga, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, and even CBT can all be practiced at home once you know the proper technique.
As I said at the beginning, this is not an exhaustive list of nonhormonal therapies. There are also various supplements that might help, as well as lifestyle modifications that most of you Primal-savvy readers are probably already implementing: eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, getting plenty of sunlight, practicing good sleep hygiene, and nurturing social connections.
Whatever you choose, be patient. Don’t just focus on one symptom; focus on the big picture. Pay attention to how you’re feeling more globally. Consider that while an intervention might not hit its desired mark, it might help you in ways you didn’t expect.
Have you used mind-body techniques (these or others)? What’s been your experience? Share your insights and questions below, and have a great week, everyone.
Atapattu PM. Vasomotor symptoms: What is the impact of physical exercise? J SAFOMS. 2105 Jan-Jun;3(1):15-19.
Goldstein KM, et al. Use of mindfulness, meditation and relaxation to treat vasomotor symptoms. Climacteric. 2017 Apr;20(2):178-182.
McMillan TL, Mark S. Complementary and alternative medicine and physical activity for menopausal symptoms. J Am Med Womens Assoc (1972). 2004 Fall;59(4):270-7.
Molefi-Youri W. Is there a role for mindfulness-based interventions (here defined as MBCT and MBSR) in facilitating optimal psychological adjustment in the menopause? Post Reprod Health. 2019 Sep;25(3):143-149
Moore TR, Franks RB, Fox C. Review of Efficacy of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2017 May;62(3):286-297.
Sliwinski JR, Johnson AK, Elkins GR. Memory Decline in Peri- and Post-menopausal Women: The Potential of Mind-Body Medicine to Improve Cognitive Performance. Integr Med Insights. 2014;9:17–23.
van Driel CM, Stuursma A, Schroevers MJ, Mourits MJ, de Bock GH. Mindfulness, cognitive behavioural and behaviour-based therapy for natural and treatment-induced menopausal symptoms: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG. 2019;126(3):330–339.
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Dealing with difficult people is often, well, difficult. But it doesn’t have to be — psychologists explain 9 strategies to make interactions better.
The post How To Deal With The Difficult People In Your Life, According To Psychologists appeared first on Women’s Health.
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For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering one question from a reader. It’s all about synthetic peptides, small chains of amino acids with potentially huge effects on your health and physiological function. In most cases, these synthetic peptides are based on naturally-occurring compounds found in the human body. Scientists isolate the “active component” of the compound and whip it up in a lab by stringing together the right amino acids. Many of these peptides are available for purchase online, strictly “for research purposes.” But people are using them.
Are these safe for humans? Are they effective?
Mark, I would love if you did a write-up on BPC-157 and LL-37 with regards to gut health. I’m surprised with all your articles on collagen peptides you haven’t written once about “synthetic” peptides. Thanks!
Let Me Cover PBC-157 First….
BPC-157 is a partial reconstruction of a string of 15 amino acids that’s already found in Body Protection Compound, a naturally occurring healing compound the body produces. Its creators took the natural BPC and figured out the most “biologically active” section of its amino acid chain, then synthesized that section alone. You can find the real thing in human stomach juice (and presumably throughout the body doing its job). You can buy the synthetic version online.
What Does BPC-157 Allegedly Do?
It enhances healing and recovery from injury. In one study, BPC-157-treated Achilles’ tendon tissues were more resistant to injury, spread more quickly on a petri dish, and recovered faster than untreated tendon tissues.
In another rat study, their cecums—the beginning of the large intestine—were perforated. Applying BPC-157 enhanced healing, stopped bleeding, and sped up recovery.
It counteracts NSAID toxicity. BPC-157 blocks aspirin-induced bleeding and improves healing of NSAID-mediated lesions in the gut, brain, and liver.
Another rat study even used BPC-157 to improve healing from a spinal cord injury. BPC rats regained functional autonomy, had better control over their tails, and were less spastic.
It can treat periodontal disease, reversing inflammation and reducing bone loss.
It can treat colitis, reducing gut inflammation and restoring mucosal integrity.
Briefly looking through all the anecdotes online, most people are using this peptide to heal joint or tissue injuries, which seems to be the best use. Ben Greenfield swears it healed his tennis elbow and hamstring damage. I even saw one person who used it to improve brain health and function after years of stimulant abuse. Some research does show that BPC-157 can restore dopaminergic function in the brain. Some are even reporting restored sensitivity to stimulants (although using a healing peptide just to restore your ability to get high off Adderall again seems counterproductive).
What Are the Downsides?
It must be subcutaneously injected for maximal efficacy. This isn’t as hard as it looks (millions of diabetics do it every day) but some people are really nervous around needles. Orally-active BPC-157 is available, but I’m not sure how it compares.
There is the small problem of the total lack of published human studies. If there are any, I didn’t see them. The animal studies are impressive, though, and the fact that the peptide chain does naturally occur in our bodies suggests it’s relatively safe, but we don’t know for sure.
A big problem is that you can’t verify the purity of the products available online. You have to read reviews, know the right people, and do the research. These aren’t legally intended for human consumption, so there’s no testing authority regulating the safety and content of these products.
Now For LL-37….
LL-37 is an anti-microbial peptide found naturally in people. It’s heavily involved in the immune response, and its role in health isn’t very clear. It isn’t consistently “good” or “bad.” For instance, its presence can suppress tumor growth in colon and gastric cancer, but it’s been shown to promote tumor growth in ovarian, lung, and breast cancers. But it’s also able to bind to and negate the effects of lipopolysaccharide, the bacterial endotoxin secreted by many gut pathogens, and selectively target apoptotic white blood cells while leaving viable ones unaffected.
Why Are People Using It?
There are online forums populated by people who are using this peptide to heal gut issues, deal with inflammatory diseases, and treat autoimmunity—or, they’re at least buying the peptide, injecting it, and hoping that it works and not always following up with the results. I’m skeptical about using these as justification to experiment. As one recent paper put it, LL-37 is a tiny peptide with huge effects:
Some of the functions of LL-37 are anti-inflammatory, particularly those involved in blocking Gram-negative signaling pathways through TLR4. However, in the context of the inflammatory response, this peptide may also provide proinflammatory signals that can propagate inflammation, stimulate type I IFN production, and result in induction of autoimmune diseases. Further research is needed to fully understand the big effects of this little peptide on immune system function so that potential therapeutic uses can be explored.
Sticking Points With LL-37
Much of this could be a guilt by association situation: LL-37 is often found elevated at disease sites and in diseases states because it’s part of the inflammatory response. It isn’t necessarily causing the disease. But the immune response is a delicate one with huge ramifications. I’d be very careful with injecting a peptide that the body normally produces in times of acute inflammation. That sounds a lot like trying to attempt top-down regulation of innate immunity—a decidedly bottoms-up process. Probably better to wait for human trials rather than rely on positive anecdotes from unsourced forum posts. I’m not saying these people aren’t helping themselves with this compound. I’m saying the risk of complications or unwanted effects would be too high for me.
That’s it for today, folks. Thanks for reading and be sure to comment down below. Do you have any experience using these synthetic peptides? How about any others?
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Body dysmorphia affects men and women, but the real questions is whether or not, the flaws you see when you look at the mirror are real?
The post Real Talk: It’s Time We Discussed Body Dysmorphia And Its Psychological Impact appeared first on Women’s Health.
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If you ever feel like self-help books make you feel worse about yourself instead of better, this woman’s experience is exactly what you need to read.
The post I Run A Podcast About Self-Help Books (Even Though I Can’t Stand Them) appeared first on Women’s Health.
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October is Mental Health Awareness Month. Here’s how employers can make the workplace a safe environment for those dealing with mental health issues…
The post 9 Things Your Employer Can Do To Help You With Your Mental Health Issues At Work appeared first on Women’s Health.
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Yolandi Stegmann found herself at the lowest point of her existence at the end of last year. As a self-admitted emotional-eater, she decided that instead of turning to her usual crutch, she’d turn to exercise as a coping mechanism.
The post “My Fitness Journey Led Me To Complete Body Acceptance” appeared first on Women’s Health.
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