Author Archives: arianna

Lido Wellness Center Blog

Gentle Movement and Finding Relief Within

April 20, 2022 | by Amy VanBeccelaere, LCPC, R-DMT

April is National Move More Month and Stress Awareness Month. Amy VanBeccelaere, is a dance/movement therapist and counselor at Lido Wellness Center. She shares her experiences of working with patients and alumni through movement in non-traditional ways.

Often when we hear, you need to move more, we immediately start to think about exercise. You might imagine yourself in the gym, sweating and forcing yourself to get active. Some people love going to the gym, and if this is you, by all means do it! Movement is meant to be joyful. Our bodies were created to move. Early people used movement to communicate, to celebrate, to grieve and to pray. Movement is innate. I believe that if you can tap into what type of movement lights you up inside, this is the movement that will not only feel good in your body but also in your soul. When you find this type of movement, you don’t have to force anything.

In my private practice, I often move with clients. I think back to last week. I have a client who is going through a particularly hard time right now. So challenging that it is often difficult for him to find words to express it. He was feeling overwhelmed going into session and I suggested that we meet at a nearby nature preserve to hike. As he began to tell me what was going on in his life, I noticed that he began to become overwhelmed and dysregulated. At times, we would just stop among the wildflowers and birds, I would ask him to look around, orient and take a deep breath. He shared with me “I don’t think I have been breathing all week.”  As we continued to hike through the preserve together, he found that the movement itself and the breath work was helping more than the talking. So instead of forcing verbal processing, we shared presence in nature, breathing, noticing and moving. Together we saw eagles, butterflies, lizards, hummingbirds and gophers. We took long moments to inhale the scent of the wildflowers, the sage and the rosemary growing wild throughout the preserve. We felt the breeze on our cheeks as the wind blew. It was mindfulness practice. It was movement. My client expressed “This is exactly what I needed.” That same patient has returned to the nature reserve for movement on his own, twice, since that session.

So, as we ease into April: Move More Month, might I suggest that you get into nature? There are so many beautiful things blooming in the Spring. You might even find yourself with a new hobby or movement practice by doing so. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can walk on a trail. You can ride your bike. You can take a hike. If you aren’t sure where to go, I would recommend googling local nature preserves. Also, there is a great app called ‘All Trails’ that shows you local hikes and how long they are. This way you can choose something that you know will be approachable. A few weeks ago, I used this very same app to find a hike to a waterfall in Alaska. The hike was only 1.5 miles, so I knew it would be doable with my knee injuries. Movement is meant to add to your life, not be something laborious that you force yourself into. I hope you find movement that fills your soul. Nature is healing and immersive. So go ahead, take a walk on the wild side, you might find that it is just what you need.

At Lido Wellness Center, mental health treatment in Orange County, CA, we integrate movement as part of the therapeutic journey for patients.  As a premier wellness center, our aim is helping adults who are struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, chronic pain and stressor-related conditions.  Our expert clinical team is passionate about the care they provide. For information, please contact our team for a consultation at 949-541-8466.

 

by Amy VanBeccelaere, LCPC, R-DMT

Alumni and Patient Care Coordinator

Lido Wellness Center Blog

Nutrition and the Mental Health Connection

March 9, 2022 | Hanna McAlister, RDN

Have you ever heard of our gut being our ‘second brain?” We have what’s called the Gut-brain connection. It’s so powerful that just thinking about eating can change our stomach acid and release juices in preparation for food. The cons of this powerful connection is how poor mental health affects the gut. The sayings “my stomach is in knots” or “I have butterflies in my stomach” are ways we describe the physical effects of anxiety. Having anxiety actually increases our stomach acid and wreaks havoc on digestion. 

The brain and gastrointestinal tract are connected with the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our “rest and digest” state. Having food in our stomach will activate this state. However, when a person is in a stressed state, caused by either physical or emotional stress, their parasympathetic function shuts off and turns on the sympathetic function, known as “fight or flight”. When we eat food while our body is in the sympathetic function, digestion is virtually turned off. This leads to slow gastric emptying and storing energy rather than using it. A person with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health condition, may have the sympathetic function turned on, more often than not. The best thing to do before eating if you are in an anxious state, is a few mindful exercises, like the ones I have listed below. 

Serotonin is a hormone and chemical messenger that helps us feel calm, reduces anxiety, helps us sleep and also with GI mobility. 90% of serotonin is actually produced in the gut and we produce the precursors for serotonin and dopamine through amino acids (food!). Tyrosine is the precursor for dopamine. High tyrosine foods include beef, pork, fish, chicken, tofu, milk, cheese, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains. Tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin. High tryptophan foods include chicken, turkey, red meat, pork, tofu, fish, beans, milk, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, and eggs. Making sure you are getting a wide variety of foods in your diet will help with your serotonin and dopamine production.

Nutrition plays such a huge role in mental health because they feed off each other (pun intended!) If our anxiety and depression is low, our stomach acid is being regulated and we are able to enter the parasympathetic function when eating. Thus, having the ability to digest properly and utilize all of the consumed energy for our metabolic function. If our anxiety and depression is high, not only will we not be digesting properly, but we will also be craving foods higher in carbohydrates for a quick serotonin release. This could lead into disordered eating behaviors such as eating when we are not hungry and not in tune with our hunger/fullness cues. 

Balanced nutrition is the goal for everyone. A simple way I like to help people get on track with balanced eating, is educating on macronutrients vs micronutrients. There are 3 macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. There are a ton of micronutrients so we will just call these our fruits and vegetables. At each meal, there should be a representative from each category of macronutrient and at least one fruit or vegetable. For example: in a burger, the bun is the carbohydrate, the patty is the protein, the spread or sauce is the fat, and the lettuce/onion/tomato is the micro nutrient. So yes, a burger is a balanced meal!

Mindfulness exercises before eating:

  1. Sit straight up in a chair with feet firmly planted on the ground
  2. Complete a few rounds of breathing techniques such as boxed breathing. Here’s a how to: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321805#the-box-breathing-method  
  3. Check in with your hunger/fullness and anxiety
  4. Repeat some affirmations

 

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553141/ 

Hanna McAlister, RDN