Saturday, October 31, 2015

Better Late Than Never

Two weeks ago, TJ and I joined my siblings and their spouses, plus my parents at a weekend retreat on Beaver Mountain.  Are you reading that correctly?  This means that there were no kids there.

It was heaven.

Not that I have anything against kids.  But it's nice to be a kid again myself, sometime.

 The weekend started, as all weekends should, with a chocolate fountain.
                             


                                       
       
I hope you all have a guy who looks at you like that, my friends.  If you do, treasure him.  
If not, keep holding out for the real thing.

Here Spence and I are geeking out on choir music, despite those who laughed from the great and spacious building.  


There goes my happy vein again.

It really was a fun night.  I promise.

Here are my three sisters.  Together we make up the more intelligent half of the sibling tribe.

 TJ with a redheaded boy on his shoulders.  Now where have I seen that before?

Totally stole this picture from Georgia.  Plus a lot of the other best ones.  

  
Dad smoked his fish for us and they were amazing!





 I love this beautiful shot of Spencer's wife, Kristen.


 Mom was unfortunate enough to get lost with TJ and I on our way to the lake, and we went even slower because we kept stopping for pictures.  She was such a good sport!








Here we are at Utah's tallest tree, a ponderosa pine.


And this is what happens when Dad leaves his pistol in the care of my sisters and I.  
Okay, maybe we're not the intelligent half of the family. 










I've heard that when Jews celebrate the Passover, they always say, "next year in Jerusalem," even if it's not remotely possible.  I feel like I understand the sentiment.  The only thing that could have made this weekend more perfect would have been the presence of the other three brothers, Kendall, Taylor and Lawson.   

My family is the best.







Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Sleep

This is the fifth of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

It's no secret that a lack of sleep can cause depression.  Ask any new mom how she's feeling, and right after she tells you what a joyful time it is, she might just burst into tears.  If you've ever gone through a period of sleep deprivation or if you've suffered from a sleep disorder you know it's true: lack of sleep messes with your mind.

The link between depression and sleep disorders is cyclical: loose too much sleep and you may start to feel depressed; feelings of fatigue and worthlessness make us less likely to get up on time, exercise, eat right and take our vitamins; the resulting poor health can make it even harder to sleep.

Breaking the cycle can be tough, but it's oh-so-worth it.  And the good news is, the other five steps in this program can really help--especially the sun lamp and the exercise.  The sun lamp gets your circadian rhythms synced up so that you're awake during the day and sleepy at night.  And exercise can significantly improve sleep patterns.

In his book, The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression Without Drugs Dr. Ilardi shares some great tips for sleeping better at night.  Here they are, with my commentary:

1.  Use the bed only for sleeping. This doesn't mean you need to kick your spouse out of bed.  ;) Actually there is a study showing that sex can help you sleep better--but that's the only exception to the rule.  This means that the more time we spend awake in bed, the weaker the associative link our brain has between bed and sleep.  So if you're in the habit of reading in bed, your brain won't do that great Pavlovian thing it's supposed to do when your head hits the pillow.  Read in the living room, then go to bed when you're sleepy, and then if you can't sleep after about fifteen minutes, get up and do some more reading.  This will help you program your brain to shut down as soon as you lie down.

2.  Get up at the same time every day.  This one can be brutal if you feel you're getting your best sleep right when you're "supposed" to be getting up.  And the temptation to catch up on sleep on weekends can be huge if you're sleep deprived.  But science is clear here.  Discipline yourself.  Use an alarm clock and especially use your sun lamp first thing when you wake up!  After just a few days, you'll find it easy to get up on time...and especially, go to sleep on time.

3.  Avoid napping.  Again, it's counterintuitive to give up sleep if you're dying for it.  But when you really think about it, you're lying awake at night because your body thinks  you've had enough.  Full disclosure, I nap most days of the week, but I always do it before three pm and always less than forty-five minutes.  And during bouts of insomnia, I start skipping naps until things are normal again.

4.  Avoid bright light at night.  Remember we're trying to condition the brain here, so this is one more trick.  Dim the lights before bedtime, make sure you don't have hall lights or night lights through the night, even wear a sleeping mask if you have to.

5.  Avoid caffeine and other simulants.  There are times when I love being a Mormon girl.  This is one of them.

6.  Avoid alcohol at night.  Ditto.

7.  Keep the same bedtime every night.   I struggle to be consistent here, so I can't tell you from personal experience how well it works.  But our body is a programmable clock.  So it makes sense that what we habitually do, is what our body will expect and go for.

8.  Turn down your thermostat at night.  Dr. Ilardi sites studies that we do sleep better when temperatures are just about five degrees cooler than we like it during the day.  We started doing this early in our marriage and it's been wonderful.  There's nothing like snuggling under the covers when it's just chilly enough to need covers.

9.  Avoid taking your problems to bed with you.  This one has been huge for me.  I almost always hop on the computer after the kids are in bed and try to get a little work done, but it's important to turn it off about an hour before bed and start to unwind and disconnect.  After that, it's mindless activities only, such as reading a novel or taking a shower.  If there are still things bothering my mind when we turn in, I tell TJ about them and let him convince me that everything is going to be okay.  Making a conscious effort to shelve your troubles before you go to bed helps you avoid worrying through the night.

10.  Don't try to fall asleep.  I first struggled with insomnia when I was a teen, right around the same time I got my first Indiglo watch.  I could look at it right before I drifted off, and anytime I was awake during the night I could figure out how much sleep I was missing and worry about it.  This turned out to be terrible for my sleep patterns.  After struggling with insomnia into my twenties, I decided to ditch the clock--which by this time had morphed into a night stand alarm clock.  Every night I set the alarm and then turned the face down.  It took self-control through the night not to check the time over and over, but I soon found myself sleeping better.  Don't psyche yourself out about sleep.  The more we stress about it, the less we'll be able to sleep well--so let it go.  If you're not sleeping, get up and read until you feel tired.  If you never do feel tired again until morning, be strong and get up anyway.  The second night after a sleepless one usually goes better if you can avoid the temptation the sleep in or nap.

Are you starting to see how the six steps of this program tie together?  You'll find that hard work in one area will have a ripple effect on the other ones, making it easier to use them all.  Sleep researcher Nancy Hamilton is quoted in The Depression Cure as saying of falling asleep, "All it takes is a tired body and a quiet mind."

Sweet dreams, my friends!

This is the fifth of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program. Come back next week and learn how to combat depression by avoiding rumination.  

And just so you know... I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  ;)


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Omega-3s

This is the fourth of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!

If you could change your state of mind just by adding a dietary supplement, would you do it? Out of of the six steps outlined in Stephen Ilardi's The Depression Cure, the fish oil component is admittedly the least sexy.  But it's probably the easiest step, and, according the author, might even be the most powerful.

The media hype surrounding Omega-3s has mostly died down, leaving us with one more member of the nutritional pantheon to ignore/feel guilty about--but maybe it's worth remembering, after all. There are two big links between a lack of Omega-3s and depression:  1. Dopamine and serotonin production flag when we don't have a high enough intake of Omega-3s--and this compromises our neurons' ability to transmit and receive messages.  Basically, the brain is made of fat, and a lack of the right kind of fatty acids can cause it to misfire, which causes depression.  2.  A lack of Omega-3s can lead to rampant inflammation, which also is a contributor to depression.

If you hate the idea of swallowing a fish capsule every day, think hard about the alternatives.  You could actually eat fish, which is what our amazingly healthy Japanese friends do.  Two or three servings a day will do the trick.  But make sure it's farm-raised so you don't get a side dish of mercury and other post-industrialist byproducts.  And then there are plant-based oil capsules that work; however the only ones that contain the recommended amounts of DHA and EPA are not only crazy expensive, but they're formulated from algae.  So I don't know if that's going to help you get around the gross factor.

Best to just buck up and swallow that yellow goodness, my friends.  Here's how to start:
  • Find a supplement that contains 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA.
  • Make sure it's "molecularly distilled" or "pharmaceutical grade."  This will save you from the chemicals ingested by fish in the wild and also from the chance that the manufacturers are giving you rancid oil.  Gross!
  • You might have the occasional fishy burp.  Never fear!  Keep the pills in the freezer, and the delay in digestion should solve that problem.
It sounds so hard, but it's really so easy.  Way, way easier than slogging through your day at less than full capacity.  Pretend you are your own beloved child and make yourself take your vitamins.  You deserve to feel well.

This is fourth of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary program.  Come back next week and learn how important sleep is to our mental health.

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Maybe They're Here for You: Hope for Home School Mamas


I suffer from clinical depression.  I home school my kids.  And before you go on, I need you to know that I'm what you'd call "high-functioning," which means I can fool most people into thinking everything's fine.  Even the kids don't usually notice my terrible days.  So don't worry, the kids are fine.  But I'm starting to see that the Adversary wants me to believe that it's a weakness to our family.

Two weeks ago, I had a really terrible day of home-schooling, and not really because anything in particular was going wrong.  I was just in terrible shape, mentally.

There are a few demons who like to buzz around my head when I'm tired, depressed or just weak, and they say the same things over and over.  "You're failing as a mom.  You're failing as a teacher.  Your kids would be better off in public school, just because they'd be away from you."  I bat at them half-heartedly, pushing through lessons, through power struggles with saucy tweens, through technology challenges, through messy rooms and undone laundry, and knowing that if I can hang on long enough, I can go to bed.

I'm not going to lie.  Depression and home school are unlikely and poorly-suited bedfellows.  When I'm really underwater, the people who love me most remind me that I can always send the kids back to public school.  If it provided me with a less stressful lifestyle, it might just help me stay mentally healthy more of the time.

Next year, my youngest will be old enough for kindergarten, and this brings my questions to the surface like nothing else could: is this really, really, really the very best thing for the kids?  Because, if not, I can see myself liking very much to spend six hours a day blissfully alone.  I see myself getting the groceries bought, the house cleaned, the budget balanced, and even having time to take a shower before they get home.  I see me staying on top of things that, lately, have been relegated to "Squeeze-it-in-Someday-Soon-I-Hope" list--like buying church clothes.  Ezra has been in need of church pants for at least three months, and finding the time to go with him to the store baffles me every week.  I see myself reading.  I see myself writing.  I see myself finally finishing my college degree.  I see myself finally getting good at yoga.  And I'm not gonna lie, I see myself eating a lot of food with gluten, eggs, and dairy.  So yes, I'd gain weight pretty quick.

This vision of complete introverted bliss tempts me.  The nasty mom-guilt torments me.  And some days I question why I'm even doing home school.  Maybe I should have sent them to public school this year, I think. Maybe it's too late for them and they'll suffer all their lives because their mother had delusions of grandeur. Maybe I'm wrong for home school and home school is wrong for me.

So, back to my story, it was a day to be endured.  I was batting at the demons, pushing for bedtime, and thinking, I'm not doing these kids any good at all.

And the Spirit said, "maybe you're not here for them.  Maybe they're here for you."

I felt free for the first time in many, many days.  And I saw my amazing kids more clearly than ever. God created them to be a joy to me, and they truly, truly are.  They are smart.  They are funny. They are compassionate.  They are wise.

What would my daily life be like if they weren't here with me?  Who would hug and kiss me when I felt hopeless inside?  And really, why would I even get out of bed on those hard days?  The love I have for these kids motivates me to fight my depression, to fight my demons.  I might not even try if they weren't here to try for.

Our culture talks a lot about the challenges of parenting, about the pain of parenting, about the stress of parenting.  And if you home school your kids, just get ready for all the pats on the back you get for being such a perfect parent.  You really start to believe that you are the most saintly martyr in the world for giving up so much for the sake of your children.

And it's true.  I've made sacrifices for these kids.  All moms do.  But I've fallen too often into the trap of believing that it's my job to provide them with happiness.  And forget about the fact that the weight of such responsibility is too heavy for any mortal shoulders, and that Christ himself is the giver of all good things--I have forgotten that my kids are here for me just as much as I am here for them.

I had a bit of a meltdown today, and the kids surrounded me with hugs, kisses, and offers of help with my work.  I hate being in that position--I really want to be the strong one for them, to be a good example of strength and courage.  But really, why?  In a world of entitlement and narcissism, my kids stand a chance a good chance of growing up with some compassion.

God knew what He was doing when He called me to this work, weak and mortal as I am.  In fact, maybe the calling was extended before this life even began--to the kids.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Family Pictures 2015

My darling amazing sister Georgia took the time to do our family pictures this week and I love her so much for it.  She's right at the end of her pregnancy, and yet she worked tirelessly to coax the best lighting and smiles for each shot.  I can't say how happy I am with these pictures.  














Beating Depression in Six Simple Steps: Exercise

This is the third of my seven posts on beating depression without meds.  Share any one of my posts in this series on Pinterest or Facebook, and then let me know you've done so by commenting here on the blog.  Each share is worth one entry, so if you share each of the seven articles on both sites, you'll be entered fourteen times.  On November 8, I will draw the name of one lucky reader out of a hat for the grand prize: a NatureBright Sun Touch Plus therapy lamp!


You knew it was going to come up, right?  Because everyone from Dr. Phil to Dr. Who is recommending we exercise more.  Well, I'm sure you're not surprised that exercise is on the list of things that can prevent and even reverse depression.  I do have a surprise for you, though.  Just a little bit of exercise each week can make a huge difference here.  And that's good news for folks like me who would rather not exercise.  Ever.

It's an ongoing joke with all my siblings that we only run if we're being chased by a bear.  That's why I really really need this bumper sticker.


But even though I don't run, and I've never participated in organized sports, I do move my body voluntarily sometimes.  I love yoga.  I love biking.  I love hiking.  And those three things are enough to help me beat depression most of the time.  Just like my brother Spencer says,
  "Get your body moving, and your brain will catch up."

It's a little mind-blowing to imagine that pharmaceuticals costing our economy billions of dollars to design, produce and market can so easily be replaced and even surpassed.  But it's true: according to The Depression Cure and dozens of studies backing it up, moderate exercise just three times a week shows better results than anti-depressant medications.  Dr. Ilardi cites one such study of 156 depressed patients, all sadly out of shape, half of whom were prescribed exercise, and the other half Zoloft.  The exercise required was almost laughable: they took a brisk half-hour walk three times a week.  At first the treatments showed about equal amounts of improvement, but at about ten months, those who were exercising were "much more likely than those taking Zoloft to remain depression-free."  Dr. Ilardi continues:
Over a dozen clinical trials now show that exercise can effectively treat depression... [because] exercise actually changes the brain.  Like an antidepressant medication, it increases the activity of important brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.  It also stimulates the brain's release of a key growth hormone (BDNF), which in turn helps reverse the toxic, brain-damaging effects of depression.  It even sharpens memory and concentration, and helps us think more clearly.  Simply put, exercise is medicine--one that effects the brain more powerfully than any drug.
I can't tell you how happy I was to find that I could make a powerful impact on my mental health just by exercising an hour and a half a week.  I began to see that opportunities to squeeze in half-hour chunks of exercise were relatively easy to find.  Twice a week I hop on my bike for a half-hour spin, and once a week, I attend an hour-long yoga class--thus becoming an athletic overachiever by one half hour.  And for a certified couch potato, I have to say to my fellow loungers--I feel better physically, too.  My back and my tricky wrist don't hurt anymore, and I sleep better at night. Exercise is better for your mind and for your body--who knew, right?  :)

So I've convinced you it's worth a shot, yes?  Here are some basic steps for getting started:
  • Choose an activity: your target heart rate should be between 60%-90% of the maximum heart rate for your age.  Check out an online chart if you want to be precise, but basically you want to be breathing a little harder and sweating--but not feeling like you want to die.  Which is why I don't run.  It should be something you already enjoy or something that sounds fun to you.  I also recommend it be something that won't require a total overhaul of your budget or finances--this way it'll be easy to start and stick to.  However, if a little money is required for the plan you really love, I encourage you to go for it.  After all, what wouldn't you give up to feel well again?  The sacrifice will pay off quickly and for a long time.  The bike TJ surprised me with almost ten years ago still blesses my life in a big way.
  • Make a plan and get loved ones to help: ideally, you want to break up your ninety minutes of exercise throughout the week.  I like to bike early and late in the week, with my yoga class right in the middle. Get your family and friends on board here.  TJ knows how much better I feel when I go, so he totally supports me in this.  Even when I'm tempted to be lazy, he pushes me out the door.  But since he makes dinner on my yoga night, I am pretty motivated to get out of the way and let him do his thing.
  • Make it fun: If you must run, at least do it with friends.  (Okay, last jab at runners, I promise. The truth is you make me feel super-insecure because you're awesome.)  But really, we all know that we're more likely to roll out of bed and head for the gym if we know someone we love is expecting us there.  Join forces.  It'll bless your life and theirs.  Also, it should go without saying that you shouldn't plan on an activity that bores you--but depression patients are gluttons for punishment and we often make plans that sound terrible even to us.  Think hard about what would fun for you and do that.  And don't forget that integrating a sense of purpose will make it more fun and fulfilling, too.  Gardening will give you sunshine and fresh air in the bargain, and you'll be crossing off stuff on your to-do list.
Friends, I hope you'll remember this little article when the going gets tough for you.  Exercise is often touted as a cure-all--and that's because it really is one--but don't let it become white noise for you. While it takes years for you to enjoy the fact that you're not dying of heart disease, exercising today will help you feel happier today.  Go out and try it, and take along someone you love.

This is the third of seven posts on beating depression without meds, based heavily on Stephen S. Ilardi's The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beating Depression Without Drugs.  I highly recommend you read the whole book to learn how best to implement this revolutionary treatment program.  Come back next week and learn how incorporating Omega-3s into your diet can help you win this battle.

And just so you know...I'm not getting anything from NatureBright or from the publishers of The Depression Cure.  I just get a kick out of helping others beat depression.  Somehow it makes what I go through worthwhile.  Almost.  :)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

General Conference

General Conference, I love you so much.  And it's not just because you bring crepes with you when you come.

But the crepes are a part of it. 

Once upon a time, Elder Nelson shared his wife's tradition of making doughnuts during the priesthood session so that the whole family can feast on them at the end of the meeting.  I loved the idea, and we've been doing it for years.  It got to be a lot of work though, with gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free kids in the family.  So this year we switched to my mom's tradition, which is crepes.  Much easier, and just as delicious!

Of course, the best part of the tradition is that it gets us all together. 







I love talking with my parents, and siblings about conference.  I love hearing that that they were inspired by some of the same things I was.  General Conference has been a strength to us ever since I can remember, and I'm so grateful Mom and Dad have always made it a top priority.  

As always, General Conference was a rich spiritual feast.  


Elder Durrant's wonderful counsel to treasure up the words of life really hit home for me.  Eliza later said that she knew I'd love that talk, and that soon I'd be starting everyone on a grand new scheme to "ponderize" a new scripture every week.  Haha!  She knows me well.  I can't wait to get started.


Elder Holland feels like a personal friend to me.  I always feel like he is just about to say my name in the middle of one of his talks.  I was so grateful for his words of encouragement and his heartfelt testimony of the divinity of mothers.


I've been thinking so much lately about the role of women in the kingdom of God.  I've been studying and writing about the effects of feminism in the church.  I've been wrestling with my own preconceived notions about what part I should play in my family and in the world.  And this talk is helping me get a little closer to solving the puzzle.  The Savior Jesus Christ needs strong, articulate, loving, covenant-keeping women to do his work, and it is my highest ambition to be a reliable tool in His capable hands.  (Be patient, it'll take awhile!)


Elder Oaks' eloquent testimony of the Savior's mission to heal and bless us in our pains and infirmities caused my heart to burn.  I have witnessed Christ's grace in my daily life for many, many years.  I have been healed.  I have been carried.  I have been cheered.  I have been sustained.  I know that Jesus Christ knows me, remembers me always, and is always running to my aid.  I know that because of his infinite sacrifice, I can hope for a better world to come.  

I always feel that I can only absorb a small portion of the truth and enlightenment imparted at General Conference.  I can't wait to review what I learned and make it a real part of my daily life.  If you missed any part of conference, you can catch up on the joy here!