Introducing our new Physician Assistant!

Help us welcome Alison Wensrich to the practice as our new Physician Assistant (PA)!

Alison graduated from Southlake Carroll and went to UT Austin, graduating with a BS in Nutrition. After this, she completed PA training at Baylor College of Medicine, where she earned both her MS and PA certificate. Following her first two years working in family medicine, Alison worked for ten years in hematology oncology at Texas Oncology HEB.  

Alison and her husband have two kids, a five-year-old son and almost-three-year-old daughter, who keep them pretty busy—but she enjoys finding time for exercise. An avid runner, Alison has finished two marathons and about 20 half marathons over the last ten years. She also practices yoga once a week. Alison and her family enjoy being outside together, whether it be at her son’s soccer games or on bike rides, outdoor time is a priority for them. 

At the age of 20, Alison was diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma and had to go through chemotherapy and radiation. She is grateful that it was a very treatable cancer, and she has now been in remission 19 years.

In her own words, Alison says, “I’m excited to join the Southlake Wellness Center because through my own journey to restoring physical and mental health, I have developed a passion for helping others, with a focus on prevention and overall health, and I feel that SWC will allow me to educate myself further in a way to provide the best care I can to those looking to restore their health and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I do believe that treating the whole person, and not just a symptom, is the best way to help others have optimal health and quality of life. I am excited to learn from Dr. Rector and to really make a difference in helping others feel like themselves again!”

Starting mid-June, Alison will be shadowing Dr. Rector with the expectation of beginning to see patients early July. We are so excited to welcome her to Southlake Wellness Center!

Dawson's Story

The following is written by guest contributor and SWC patient, Amanda Coleman. It has been a joy to witness Dawson's journey toward wellness. 


There were telltale signs of trouble from the beginning—but overall, Dawson seemed to be a happy and healthy baby. Some of the signs I now realize I missed, and others, like the eczema, I minimized because it is so common these days. Thankfully, I learned and was able to prevent my third child, who showed similar symptoms, from traveling down the same awful road, as I am about to share. 

At 9 months, a series of events pushed Dawson’s little body over the edge, unable to handle all that was being thrown at it. And seemingly overnight, we were catapulted into a “new normal.”

He transformed from a happy baby who slept through the night into a sad little boy who only wanted to scratch and cry, who was no longer able to sleep because of his pain. Our new normal involved giving him multiple baths a day, wrapping him in wet clothing, protecting his little arms with scratch sleeves … and lots of tears, little laughter, and even less sleep.

We now realize that moving into a completely remodeled 1950’s home was the main catalyst for our new normal. This was before I knew about off-gassing and chemicals, about excess toxins in common construction materials and carpets. Dawson’s little system became overloaded with toxins, unable to eliminate them, ultimately becoming sensitive to things like chemical cleaners and polyester. A very scary asthma attack caused by construction dust ended in a hospital stay for Dawson.

After a basic blood allergy test, we learned he had tons of food allergies, but sadly, our pediatrician at the time only directed us toward symptom management, complete with bleach baths to prevent topical infection (from the scratching). But we didn’t want just symptom management; we wanted wellness. 

I started thinking, there’s got to be a root cause of all this. This question led me down a road I never imagined, filled with TONS of learning and sweet relationships I would’ve never experienced otherwise. I’ve learned how WONDERFULLY our bodies are made, if only we give them what they were created for. But processed foods, chemical home and personal-care products, over-usage of medicines and negative emotions cause stress we weren’t designed to handle. It’s SO important what we put in and on our bodies!

I’m so thankful God led us to Dr Rector. Although I had already begun making important changes in our home and Dawson’s routine, Dr. Rector was able to identify additional key pieces of Dawson’s health puzzle that have been vital to his healing. Though still not like most “normal” kids his age, he is a happy, beautiful, feisty 6 year old who has come a VERY long way. I’m so thankful to God for all He taught me throughout this journey … namely that He is good ALL THE TIME, and even when life was extra rocky, I could truly say “it is well with my soul.”

My top can’t-live-without chemical-free products!

Sadly, stories like Dawson’s are becoming more and more common. I love sharing my life with others and count it a privilege to walk alongside others as they take baby steps towards a healthier lifestyle.  If any part of Dawson’s story has resonated with you, I’d love to connect and share what I’ve learned along the way in hopes of it blessing your home and child.

*Young Living Oils sold at Southlake Wellness Center.


Legal Disclaimer: The content of all guest blog posts represent personal views and opinions that may not necessarily be the opinions of Southlake Wellness Center, Dr. Rector, or his staff. This blog is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or to any other individual. 

Learning to Really Live

The following is written by guest contributor and SWC patient, Carrie Shane. It has been a joy to witness her journey toward wellness. 


The signs were there for years ...

Dental issues, joint pain, rapid weight loss (that part was heavenly to my sixteen-year-old self). My doctor at that time told me I was lucky to have such a fast metabolism. I felt like I was starving every hour and a half, not what I considered “lucky.”

Fast forward to my mid-twenties. I was married, had one awesome little boy and another on the way. It was supposed to be the best time of my life, but after giving birth to my second baby, the bottom of my world fell out, and I started a sixteen-year journey of misery, years filled with pain, illness—and honestly—a lot of anger. 

My list of symptoms grew: fibromyalgia, acid reflux, sleep apnea, Hashimoto’s, weight gain, heart issues ... on and on it went. No one knew what to do for me. I got eye rolls, shoulder shrugs, and was even chewed out a few times for making excuses for my “laziness.” These were the professionals that were supposed to help me! I felt so hopeless.

As the mental and emotional problems took over, I began to feel trapped inside myself, isolated and alone, like I was watching the world pass me by. Suicide burned in the back of my mind. Where was my purpose? What had I done wrong? Where was God? The few blessings that I had been given seemed wasted on me. My husband and sons deserved so much better.

God was there the whole time. He is the One that kept me alive when I wanted to end it all. I believe God promised that He would deliver me out of the valley in which I was trapped. The valley was deep and dark and so painful. He promised He would walk through it with me to the other side. That other side came into view a little over two years ago when I first visited Southlake Wellness Center.

Like the valley, the “other side” asked a lot of me. I had to trust in methods I was not used to. I had to be patient to see results of the hard work. My life was flipped upside down ... IV treatments, diet changes, supplements, lifestyle changes, and detoxing. One step forward and two steps back. It required a lot of faith. But God keeps His promises, and He is faithful.

I sit here now a different person. My healing has been dramatic and deep, physical and spiritual. Where I used to feel hopeless, I now offer hope to others trapped inside their world of pain. There are lessons to be learned in suffering. For me, being the rule-following “control freak” that I am, I am learning to let it all go and give it to Him. Learning, sometimes very slowly, to be satisfied with what I have been given, not just the good but the bad as well. A year or so ago, Dr. Rector reminded me of this verse:

Therefore we do not lose heart, though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Sometimes you have to be stripped down to nothing before you can learn to really live. 

By: Carrie Shane

Carrie on a recent trip to Ireland. 

Carrie on a recent trip to Ireland. 

 

 

Legal Disclaimer: The content of all guest blog posts represent personal views and opinions that may not necessarily be the opinions of Southlake Wellness Center, Dr. Rector, or his staff. This blog is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or to any other individual. 

Clean Personal Care: why it's important & products we love

(Originally published on September 4th, 2015 at Well Designed Wellness; written by Calli Birch.)

Did you know that the United States cosmetic industry isn’t regulated? That no warning labels are required on products that contain known carcinogens and toxins? I admittedly knew nothing about this until I moved abroad.

Public health was a hot topic in the UK the year my husband and I lived there over a decade ago. Massive warning labels had recently been mandated to cover cigarette boxes, and organics were already on the rise. Both trends years ahead of the US. Furthermore, the personal care industry was undergoing a major makeover, and this is when I first started learning about the chemicals hiding in our common personal care products. 

Now, it’s eleven later, and while the United States finally followed suit with warning labels on cigarette boxes, only 11 chemicals have been "restricted from use" in the US cosmetic industry. By contrast, in the European Union (which includes the UK) 1,100 chemicals are currently being restricted! 

This means that countries such as Czech Republic, Latvia, Romania, and Croatia are doing a better job protecting their public from known carcinogens and toxins. Ouch!

So while we’re waiting for our country's legislation to catch up, it’s time to start paying attention to what we put on our body. When I first started researching my toiletries, I was shocked to discover how I daily lathered on a whole host of chemical-laden, toxic products.

For a quick overview on the topic, I recommend watching this video:

And if you want to learn more, follow up with this excellent talk from Environmental Working Group's Executive Director:

 

SO, WHERE TO START? 

First of all, learn the major chemicals to avoid: Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), Proplene Glycol, Acrylamide, DEA, Phenol, Dioxane, Fragrance, Formaldehyde, Parabens (Methylparaben, Propylparaben, IIsoparaben, Butylparaben), and Heavy Metals (lead, aluminum, arsenic, nickel, beryllium, cadmium & mercury). 

Second, look for fewer ingredients, and ones that you can actually read! 

Third, use the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” database to identify your product’s safety. (Your goal should be to stay in the 0-2 rating.) They also have a great app that allows you to scan barcodes while shopping! 


HERE ARE FIVE PRODUCTS WE HAVE IDENTIFIED AS FAVORITES: 

 

1. Ken Paves “You are Beautiful” Hairspray

The Designer is a confessed hairspray addict (hey, she's a southern lady)! But when we realized that known neurotoxins and aluminum are in the majority of hairsprays, we had to find something new. Ken Paves hairspray is not only clean and effective, but it smells AMAZING because it uses essential oils. Also check out his dry shampoo. 

2. Physicians Formula Super CC Cream (also an Organic Wear option)

I had been using a much more expensive “all natural” BB cream for a couple years; then when I decided to check it out on EWG’s website, I discovered that it had a toxicity rating of 4. Yikes! (Note: "Natural" doesn’t always mean safe.) So, I searched for a new product, and what I came to discover is one of the cleanest inexpensive cosmetic lines: Physicians Formula. Many of their products rate at a 1 or 2, and they are very affordable to boot. This CC cream rates at a 2, and it is my go-to product. I've also used several of their "Organic Wear" eye products, and they've all been great!

3. Jane Iredale “Glow Time” Full Coverage Mineral BB Cream

The Designer and I both love this product! I only wear it when I want thicker coverage, but it’s The Designer’s daily face cream. Jane Iredale is considered one of the cleanest boutique-brand cosmetic companies out there, and buying it also gives us an excuse to visit our favorite local spa, Corinthian. It's a win/win all around!

4. Toms of Maine Aluminum-Free & Flouride-Free Products

We have been using the Tom’s of Maine aluminum-free deodorant and fluoride-free toothpaste for years. My husband and I both also enjoy their fluoride-free mouthwash. There may be some cleaner products out there (if you know of one, please share in the comments), but these definitely work while eliminating two significant toxins. 

5. Dr. Bronner’s Soap

The slightly-eccentric Dr. Bronner’s “All-One” liquid soap not only provides interesting reading material in the shower, but lives up to its name. Aside from making it my primary soap in both the bath and shower, I now use it exclusively to shave, and my skin has never been softer! In fact, using this pure-castile liquid soap has also decreased my need for body lotion, as it seems to help my skin retain its natural moisture and its coconut and olive oils provide an added benefit. All of the scents are fabulous, but my favorite is lavender.  

 

As a sixth bonus tip: use a microfiber hair wrap such as this one. Since I took this advice, I have cut my hair products in half and enjoy much smoother hair! 

And finally, introduce essential oils into your routine, as using them effectively can greatly decrease the need for multiple personal care products! I swear by Thieves, Peppermint, and Lavender oils. If interested, ask our health coach at Southlake Wellness Center for more information on how you can include oils in your life. 


About the author: Calli Birch, daughter of Dr. Rector, is a freelance writer, blogger, and proud mama of two girls. In between loads of laundry and homeschool lessons, she also blogs at Sparrow & Lilies.

Please Eat Your Broccoli & How

(Originally published on July 8th, 2015 at Well Designed Wellness; written by Calli Birch.)

My oldest daughter has always been a fabulous eater. I needn’t worry about “kid food” with her, as she prefers whatever is on my plate—including vegetables. So when my second came along innately suspicious of solid foods (completely rejecting them until almost a year old), I was thrilled to discover one green vegetable she would happily consume.

BROCCOLI.

Over the last two years, I’ve prepared broccoli for her in any variety of ways, but The Doctor recently informed me that if I’m wanting to receive broccoli’s full benefits (which are quite extensive), then I should be cooking it one specific way. Who knew?!

Researchers hail broccoli as one of the most effective cancer-preventing vegetables, both because of its levels of Indole 3 carbinol (I-3-c) and sulforaphane. I-3-c also helps to balance estrogen metabolism, making it a significant vegetable for female diets. 

But here’s the deal, overcooking broccoli destroys the sulforaphane. Many people boil or microwave their broccoli (that’s what I often did), but a recent studydiscovered that the enzyme that releases the sulforaphane is destroyed within one minute of either microwaving or boiling broccoli. Oops!

Raw broccoli is still good, especially if combined with another food that provides the enzyme that releases sulforaphane, such as wasabi or radishes, but what is best? Research found that light steaming—steaming for 3 to 4 minutes—is ideal.  

So what about frozen broccoli? This is the bummer news. In the same study, they discovered that people get practically no Indole-3-carbinol or sulforaphane from frozen broccoli. The theory is that this is a result of blanching vegetables before freezing them, which is a standard practice throughout the food industry. 

Interestingly enough, in regard to inhibiting cancer growth, research suggests that the best combination is broccoli with tomatoes, and the tomatoes can be cooked in any way; they simply need a bit of oil added, as lycopene (the chemical that increases antioxidant levels) is lipid soluble. 

So for the last couple months, when making any meal containing tomatoes or tomato sauce, I try to add in nice serving of lightly steamed broccoli coated in coconut oil. Considering that my youngest will only eat a limited range of green vegetables, it’s good to know that she’s actually receiving the full benefits of broccoli. 


About the author: Calli Birch, daughter of Dr. Rector, is a freelance writer, blogger, and proud mama of two girls. In between loads of laundry and homeschool lessons, she also blogs at Sparrow & Lilies.

5 Simple Wellness Resolutions

(Originally published on January 22nd, 2015 at Well Designed Wellness; written by Calli Birch.)

So here we are, three weeks into the new year. 

This is about the time when I usually need a start over.

A start over, start over. 

See, I love goal-making. My husband and I both do. This often means that our new-year goals include major life changes. 

 

Such as:

1. Everyday, run 2 - 5 miles. 

2. Eat 5 servings of greens daily.

3. Wake by 5:00 every morning.

4. Cut all processed food out of diet.

You get the picture. Extremes and absolutes. No exceptions. No wiggle room. 

 

But over the years, we’ve learned something about ourselves. While these types of goals may work for some, we (my husband and I) were inevitably setting ourselves up for failure. So now we allow ourselves some space and grace in our annual goal-setting.

Because the truth is, what may appear a small change on the surface, may in fact be what makes a substantial difference in the end. 

And this got me thinking, if The Doctor were to identify 5 simple lifestyle changes that could impact health, what would they be?

So, I asked him. 

Some of these won’t come as a surprise, but they’re a good reminder, nonetheless. Others may be new to you. Maybe there is a small change listed here that you can make today.


THE DOCTOR’S LIST OF 5 SIMPLE RESOLUTIONS

 

1. Drink Plenty of Purified, Filtered Water. Plenty. 

Most of us don’t drink enough water, even though we know it is essential. But with water, it’s not just about quantity—quality matters as well. So, even if you are drinking enough (8 glasses), do you still need to purchase a filter? 

2. Choose to Move. 

You don’t have to run a half-marathon to get adequate exercise. Throughout your days, make choices that fight the sedentary lifestyle. Park in the back of the parking lot, take the stairs, do yoga poses while watching TV. Something that my husband and I have discovered as a HUGE motivation to exercise is to listen to audio books, podcasts, or audio Bible readings while working out—several which are free! Just download them to your smartphone, and you’re good to go.

3. Take a High-Quality Probiotic.

We’ve heard about the huge benefits of probiotics from yogurt commercials and health magazines, but it’s important to know that all probiotics are not created equal. When purchasing probiotics on your own, you need to do your research. Here and here are a couple helpful articles to get you started. 

4. Sleep between 10 P.M. and 2 A.M.

For a self-proclaimed night owl, this goal has been quite difficult for me to achieve, but it is a good one. Did you know the sleep between these hours is typically more restorative than during other times? It supports our natural circadian rhythm and helps balance cortisol levels. For tips on quality sleep habits, see previous post.

5. Take a Daily Oasis Break. 

This isn’t just putting your feet up at the end of the day; this is an intentional practice that decreases the stress hormones in your body, therefore having the potential to increase your overall wellbeing. 

First, try to find a solitary space that promotes relaxation. Some people even designate a “sacred space” in their house for this specific purpose or defuse essential oils that are known for their de-stressing qualities, such as lavender, mint, or eucalyptus. 

Next, give yourself 5 to 10 minutes to practice one (or more) of the following options:

~ Stretching or Gentle Yin Yoga. 

~ Deep Breathing Exercises (like the one we previously highlighted).

~ Singing or listening to your “happy song” or a favorite childhood song that brings positive emotions.

~ Taking a “mental vacation”—mentally place yourself in a peaceful environment or your most happy/peaceful memory, then visualize that place & stay there for a bit. 

~ Prayer, Meditation, or Gratitude Practice.


About the author: Calli Birch, daughter of Dr. Rector, is a freelance writer, blogger, and proud mama of two girls. In between loads of laundry and homeschool lessons, she also blogs at Sparrow & Lilies.

Understanding Organic

(Originally published on April 1st, 2014 at Well Designed Wellness; written by Calli Birch.)

Sometimes grocery shopping is just too much

Do you ever feel this way?

On one hand, I’m juggling the family budget, and on the other, I’m weighed by the knowledge of what is best for my family. My husband and daughter both struggle with food sensitivities, and not just to food groups, but also to preservatives and artificial colorings, dyes, flavors, etc. I have to examine the ingredient list to every package or bag I put into my cart.

And if that’s not enough … add in the organic vs. conventional food issue, and my head is reeling. 

You see, I’ve been buying organic for years, but whereas I originally focused on a few select organic items … now it seems EVERYTHING has an organic variety. What about those organic potato chips, should I buy them too?

So, in an effort to set myself straight during my grocery shopping routine, I revisited the issue, had a nice chat with The Doctor, and we put together a little list, which is what we will share today.

First things first. It might be a bit helpful to refresh your knowledge on the technical definition of “organic,” because it is NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH HEALTHY!!! For this review, we recommend watching the following video.

Wasn't that cute?! I'm so guilty of buying organic chicken nuggets! Anywho ... now that we are all on the same page, let's take a look at which organic foods we should be buying and consuming.


 

TOP 5 ITEMS TO BUY ORGANIC:

5. Eggs: They're are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, free of antibiotic residues, and contain no arsenic, which is added to factory-farmed chicken feed to prevent infections and promote growth. What is really best is free range (or pastured) organic eggs, but the term “free range” isn’t regulated, so unfortunately anyone can slap that label on the carton. 

What to do: Organic eggs at the grocery store are good, but it may be worth the time to find a local supplier, as this is reliable and often cheaper ($2-$4 dozen, depending on where you live). We have found someone who raises free-range, organic hens locally and sells their eggs. This kind of jewel is becoming increasingly easier to come by (just look on your local craigslist; there are likely dozens of postings!). Another option is to visit your local farmers market or small natural food store to see if they have a local supplier.

4. Beef: While federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pork and poultry (whether this law is followed or not, is another issue), conventional beef is allowed such hormones. "Research suggests a strong connection between some of the hormones given to cattle and cancer in humans, particularly breast cancer," says Samuel Epstein, M.D., professor emeritus of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health (site). 

What to do? Aside from simply purchasing organic beef, there are other options. Less commercialized meats such as goat, lamb, and venison tend to offer a cleaner alternative. This is where having a hunter in the family is a huge bonus! The Doctor routinely fills not only his deep freezer, but ours as well, with delicious venison. An unconventional, but cost effective option is to buy beef directly from a local farmer. After a quick craigslist search, I easily located two farms local to the DFW area (where we live) that raise and sell organic, grass-fed beef at a reasonable price; one company even delivers straight to your doorstep!

*A couple quick notes on buying from local farms: Many of these farms are open to the public. This is a great opportunity for you (and possibly, your children) to see firsthand where your food comes from. Some local farmers (especially at small, family run farms) have decided not to use the term “organic” because there is so much government red tape necessary for them to legally use the term. If it is a local farm that emphasizes sustainable practices and free-range, antibiotic-and-pesticide-free food, then it is likely “organic” … just ask around and you can usually figure it out.

3. Dairy: In general, The Doctor doesn’t promote the regular drinking of dairy milk and greatly encourages decreasing dairy consumption. We drink coconut and almond milk at my house, but we still love cheese and yogurt, although we limit intake. Organic dairy isn’t treated with pesticides or growth hormones that have been linked with cancer (see here). 

What to do? Bottom line, your organic dollar is worth it when it comes to dairy! Luckily, this is one area where organic options are widely available and affordable. I haven’t done this yet, but in an effort to avoid carrageenan (a possible carcinogen in several brands of almond & coconut milk) I plan to try making my own coconut milk soon. Supposedly it is super easy and very cost effective; here is one link for directions.

2. Thin-Skinned Fruits & Veggies: The skin doesn't prevent the penetration of pesticides, so as a result, no washing can completely remove them. Of these fruits & veggies, the worst offenders are berries (particularly strawberries), apples, and potatoes. Here is the EWG's "dirty dozen" list. 

1. Dark Leafy Greens: This includes Spinach, Kale, Mustard, Swiss Chard, and Collard Greens. These receive high levels of pesticides, which are very difficult to remove; this is why they are also on the “dirty dozen” list. 

What to do: Organic apples, spinach, and kale are all becoming quite affordable in my area, hopefully in yours too. But why not try a bit of gardening? Depending on where you live, you could organically grow some of the “dirty dozen” items in a simple raised garden. I’m hoping to do this soon!

THE GOOD NEWS: THE CLEAN FIFTEEN!

These are the items that the EWG have identified as “safe” to purchase conventionally, as they show low levels of pesticides, which can easily be removed through washing or peeling (please see above image for list).


About the author: Calli Birch, daughter of Dr. Rector, is a freelance writer, blogger, and proud mama of two girls. In between loads of laundry and homeschool lessons, she also blogs at Sparrow & Lilies.

Restoring Sleep

(Originally published on May 8th, 2014 at Well Designed Wellness; written by Calli Birch.)

At ten-years-old, I hid under my covers with a flashlight, my imagination bright with with lives of Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables. My parents had no idea that I regularly stayed awake until midnight, or at least until my little eyes were simply too exhausted to read one more word … 

This innocent girlish love for late-night reading laid the foundation for a my sleep habits. While the reason for staying up has changed with every season of life—homework, deadlines, crying babies—my identity as a “night owl” has held fast. But now in my early thirties, my body is rebelling, making it perfectly clear that it is time to forge a new relationship with sleep.

In contrast, my father is the paragon of a healthy sleeper. This wasn’t always the case; he certainly lost some sleep in medical school and when working the night shift early in his career. But at some point he recognized sleep as a major priority that cannot be ignored, the linchpin of our health. 

As he regularly explains to his patients, restorative sleep is essential for complete wellness. It affects hormone balance, weight management, emotional wellbeing, and a whole host of other health issues. Many aging studies reveal that healthy sleep is at the foundation of productive, vibrant aging. 

This is why The Doctor always strives to educate his patients on healthy sleep habits, and this is why we’re sharing his “20 Tips for Great Sleep” with you today!

 

THE DOCTOR’S 20 TIPS FOR GREAT SLEEP:

 

1. Listen to relaxing music or “white noise,” which could be a ceiling fan, a CD of ocean waves or nature sounds. You can create your own "white noise" mix for free on this website.

2. Avoid before-bed snacks of grains or sugars. These can raise your blood sugar and have a stimulating effect. Do try a protein snack such as almond butter.

3. Sleep in complete darkness. Even small amounts of light can affect our brain’s sleep hormones of melatonin and serotonin. If you can’t get your bedroom totally dark, wear an eye mask.

4. No TV right before bed. It’s too negative and stimulating. Even better, get the TV and computer out of the bedroom.

5. Read something spiritual or religious. This can calm & relax.

6. Avoid loud and bright alarm clocks. A soft crescendo sound or a radio set on low volume which will avoid the high stress of a blaring alarm. Also, it’s a good idea to keep clocks out of view to avoid adding to your worry & to keep clocks and any other electrical device (iPad, smart phone, etc) at least 3 feet away from your bed, as the electro-magnetic fields can disrupt the brain’s sleep hormones.

7. Journaling can help prevent the mind from racing when you lay down to sleep. Write down your thoughts, ideas, and tasks, and then let them go so you can have a good night’s sleep.

8. Melatonin or its precursor. If behavioral changes don’t work, it may be helpful to try melatonin (but do not mix with prescription sleep meds without checking with your doctor).

9. Get to bed as early as possible. Our bodies get the most restorative sleep between 10PM and 2AM.

10. Keep the temperature to no higher than 70 degrees F. Warmer temps tend to impair restful sleep patterns.

11. Avoid caffeine. Its break down is highly variable. Some people can have substantial levels twelve hours after drinking a caffeine beverage. Watch for hidden caffeine in medicines such as head ache or diet pills.

12. Avoid alcohol. Yes, it does make you drowsy, but it retards falling into the deepest sleep stages, which is where you get the most rest.

13. Lose Weight. Being Overweight can increase the risk of sleep apnea, a potentially harmful condition.

14. Avoid foods to which you may be sensitive. Dairy and wheat are the most common.

15. Don’t drink fluids within 2 hours of bedtime. It’s pretty clear why :-)

16. Take a hot shower, bath, or sauna before bed. The brief rise in body temperature will help you relax.

17. Be consistent on sleep time. Go to bed and get up about the same time every day (including weekends), as this helps the body set a natural sleep rhythm.

18. Regular exercise for 30 minutes most days is a great stress reducer, but don’t do any vigorous exercise in the evening, which can be a stimulant.

19. Set a bedtime routine. Deep breathing, relaxed stretching, meditation, prayer are all great ideas. The key is to find something that is relaxing to you.

20. Put your work away 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. This will give you some time to wind down and get into your bedtime routine.


About the author: Calli Birch, daughter of Dr. Rector, is a freelance writer, blogger, and proud mama of two girls. In between loads of laundry and homeschool lessons, she also blogs at Sparrow & Lilies.

Learning to Breathe Deeply

(Originally published on March 7th, 2014 at Well Designed Wellness; written by Calli Birch.)

Company is coming over in a couple hours. The laundry sits nicely folded on the sofa; all I need to do is put it away, clean the bathroom, sweep & wet jet the kitchen floor, and light a few candles before I jump in the shower to get ready. The girls are sequestered in their playroom, being perfect little angels, of course.  

I give myself a congratulatory pat on the back for having amazing kids and for being so darn productive today; I imagine my husband walking through the door in about an hour, groceries in tow, his eyes wide in amazement at the meticulous perfection surrounding him. I’ll put on my cute Anthropologie apron, I think to myself, just to contribute to the domesticity.

Then I round the corner into my living room and see the previously folded laundry strewn all over the floor, our little dog perched atop the pile. Before I can even take in the scene, I hear a crash, a scream, and a “MOMMA!!!” I run into the kitchen to discover a half-gallon of almond milk emptying its contents onto the cold, dirty tile while my two “angels” watch helplessly, the toddler still standing inside the fridge.

“Don’t move,” I speak in my firm, authoritative voice, “we need to clean the milk off your feet before you walk around.” Darting toward the hallway closet to grab a towel, I catch a glimpse of the playroom door out of my peripheral vision. No. Seriously?! A purple crayon masterpiece now adorns its surface, and behind the door a pink disaster zone of princess gear, baby dolls, and coloring books litters the room.

“M-o-m-m-a …” I spin around to find two little ragamuffins at my heels. “Momma, I told her to stay, but she wanted to follow you,” my concerned four-year-old explains, protectively holding her little sister’s hand. Behind them, a milky foot-print trail dots the living room carpet and the clean clothes they just traipsed over. 

At this point, I have a few options:

A. Cancel the dinner plans and go hide in the bathroom until husband gets home.

B. Yell and be a generally bad mom.

C. Breathe Deeply.

Although A & B are definitely my instinctual response, I’m learning to practice C. 

THE FACT IS “BREATHE DEEPLY” IS NOT SIMPLY A CUTE QUOTATION TO PUT UP ON YOUR WALL AS A REMINDER NOT TO STRESS OUT TOO MUCH. IT’S SCIENCE.

 

For years, The Doctor has suggested “Deep Breathing Exercises” to his patients who struggle with stress & anxiety (ahem, including me :-) I used to keep a “Relaxing Breath” handout taped to the white board in my classroom as a reminder during the hectic school day.

This breathing technique is borrowed from Dr. Weil (founder/director of the fellowship of Integrated Medicine, of which The Doctor is a graduate fellow). All of the following information is taken from Dr. Weil’s website here


THE 4-7-8 (OR RELAXING BREATH) EXERCISE

This exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it when anything upsetting happens—before you react! Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.

To watch Dr. Weil demonstrate the "Relaxing Breath" exercise, click here


About the author: Calli Birch, daughter of Dr. Rector, is a freelance writer, blogger, and proud mama of two girls. In between loads of laundry and homeschool lessons, she also blogs at Sparrow & Lilies.