The Mind-Body SHIFT

Nourishing the Body, Feeding the Mind, Nurturing the Soul


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How to Fight Overwhelm With a Wintry Nature Walk

Treading Roiling WaterLately, I’ve been feeling like I’m barely treading a rising tide of roiling waters. I’m just emerging from almost two months of being shut in due to a nasty respiratory infection that wouldn’t quit and to relentless storms leaving several feet of snow that refused to melt in persistently freezing temperatures. Yet the cloudiness of sinus pressure and brain fog lingers, and dystonic episodes threaten, as I attempt to tackle the tasks of the day. There’s more than enough to keep me busy—write articles, follow-up with potential clients, conduct interviews, practice yoga, read and review books, research classes, workshops and publications, and continually expand my knowledge in my myriad pursuits and passions. The overwhelm facing all these things on my plate has also been threatening to paralyze me for the past couple weeks now, not knowing how to pause for a breath, where to put my primary focus and when to dig in. Physically drained, mentally overwhelmed and spiritually running near empty—and tired of hearing my whiney inner dialogue—yesterday I decided I needed a reboot.

With the sun shining and my car finally home and running after a couple months of winter retirement, I decided to take a needed self-care day. I couldn’t take jumping back and forth between a dozen active windows on the computer screen any longer. I slipped on my new Ailie Casual Walker Mary Jane shoes by Vionic; they were made for walking, so that’s just what they would do.

These Vionic Mary Janes Were Made for Walking

After running several errands in the tri-town area, I decided to hit a couple of my favorite haunts. I investigated what was new, tasty and healthy at a favorite local health food store, curiously grabbing some flyers on intriguing holistic classes and workshops in the area as I made my way out the door. I felt the giddy excitement of a schoolgirl bookworm as I perused the shelves at the library, ever on the alert for books to stimulate my mind and nurture my imagination. Finally, my spirit cried out for some attention and nourishment, so I found myself driving to a small, yet scenic park where I have had several enjoyable nature adventures.

Winter Fence

By the Lake Shore

Snowy Footprints

The grounds were still covered in snow and the lake was mostly frozen, but the park’s beauty prevailed. Trees lined the horizon and playful clouds dotted the sky. I slowly made my way down to the water, hopping from grassy patch to grassy patch. My shoes weren’t exactly designed for squelching muddy terrain, but they held up rather nicely. Leaping before I looked, the open-faced Mary Janes were splashed by waterlogged grass in one small region, but the bright sun quickly dried my socks.

Hiking in Ailie Mary Janes

Standing At the Waterfall

By the time I made my way over to the modest yet bustling waterfall, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rock face surrounding it was dry and warm. I climbed atop a rock mound and sat watching the scenery for a while. I deeply breathed in the earthy aroma and reviled in the quietude of being alone in nature. My mind was blissfully free from dizzying thoughts, totally present in the moment; only pausing to reflect on the beauty of solitary snow prints tracing the lake in the snow or to listen to the soothing rush of water nearby.

Snowy Waterfall

Outdoor Yoga

Dancer’s Pose, or Natarajasana

At last, I stood and inhaled an invigorating breath of fresh air. It had been far too long since I last could do so without feeling the cut of an icy breeze or having my cough-tattered throat and wheezing chest ache in complaint. I walked as close to the waterfall as I could, getting good footing on a mostly flat surface of gray rock. While I’d already taken a few photos of nature’s beauty, I decided I wanted to capture my joy of the moment embracing the outdoors. I wanted to be able to look at that expression of peaceful bliss during those times when life once again threatened to overwhelm me.

Spanish poet and philosopher George Santayana once wrote, “The earth has music for those who listen.” It made perfect sense to me, thus, to pay tribute to nature’s song with dancer’s pose. I was pleased to discover that I could even find my balance—inside and out—there on that uneven rock.

The sounds and visions of nature were what my spirit had been secretly craving for so many weeks. I found, to paraphrase Byron, pleasure in the pathless woods and rapture on the lonely shore. I felt inner peace returning to my soul as I breathed the air and drank from the “tonic of wildness” of which Thoreau speaks. Rejuvenated and grounded once again by nature, I am able to face my life head-on once again.

Anne Frank Quotes

Thanks to Vionic Shoes for letting me try out these new stylish, yet active Ailie Casual Walker Mary Janes. I am pleased to report that I can stand and walk for hours in these without aching feet or knees, a very common concern with my über flat feet. Even better that they give me enough support and flexibility to do yoga in them! Vionic shoes feature a removable orthotic footbed that supports feet and helps realign the lower legs, improving posture and balance.  Find the Ailie Mary Jane and other active shoes for women online at Vionic.


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How Water Safety and Scarcity Affects Human Health

Drinking Water
How often do we stop and think about where we will get our next glass of drinking water, when we will next bathe or where we will go the bathroom? Many of us take quick and easy access to clean, safe water for granted, but the fact is that an estimated 750 million people—roughly two and half times the U.S. population—lack that privilege in developing countries around the world, especially in rural areas. Global Citizen estimates that half of all under-nutrition globally is caused by the lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene. These conditions also increase overall mortality; 842,000 people died in 2012 due to inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene.

Dirty water and unhygienic human waste removal are the fifth largest cause of mortality in women around the world, leading to more deaths than breast cancer, diabetes and AIDS. The development organization WaterAid said that one in 10 women do not have access to clean water, while one in three—more than 1 billion women—do not have access to a healthy toilet. According to research from the Seattle-based Institute of Health Metrics, WaterAid reports that roughly 800,000 women die annually due to a lack of access to clean water and safe toilets. Inadequate water safety makes it increasingly difficult to manage menstrual hygienically and safely birth children.

Children are also at increased risk for water-related disease. According to World Vision, nearly 1,600 children under age 5 die each day from diarrhea caused by dirty water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. Diarrhea is the fourth leading cause of child mortality globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 577,500 children under age 5 died in 2013 from diarrhea, the majority from water-related causes. It is estimated that 58 percent of cases of diarrhea in middle- and low-income countries can be attributed to inadequate drinking water, poor hand hygiene and inadequate sanitation.

Upwards of 36 percent of the world’s population lacks access to improved sanitation, defined as a facility that ensures the hygienic separation of human excrement from human contact. One billion people still go to the bathroom outdoors, which pollutes the immediate area and can contaminate water supplies in a community. It also puts women and girls more at risk for sexual assault. According to Burden of disease from inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene in low- and middle-income settings, 280,000 people die each year from diarrhea caused by inadequate sanitation.

Another 297,000 die from diarrhea due to inadequate hand hygiene. Regular handwashing is so crucial for helping people to stay healthy and for preventing the spread of germs to others. Washing hands with soap reduces the risk diarrheal disease by approximately 23 percent.

Src: Water.org

Src: Water.org

An estimated 502,000 people die annually from preventable cases of diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water. According to TreeHugger, 1.8 billion people worldwide drink water that is contaminated with feces. Without clean water nearby, females in developed countries are typically tasked with fetching water from wells, spending up to 25 percent of their day on this task. This takes women away from a job or from household tasks and children away from schools to travels. It is estimated that women and children around the world collectively spend 200 million hours daily transporting water.

“This completely unacceptable situation affects women and girls’ education, their health, their dignity and ultimately, in too many cases, results in an early and needless death,” said WaterAid CEO Barbara Frost in a statement.

The positive news is that more than half of the world’s population now has a piped drinking water connection to their homes, which is considered the highest level of water access. Between 1990 and 2012, more than 2 billion people gained access to cleaner drinking water, nearly 2 billion people gained access to improved sanitation, and the percent of the population who defecate out in the open decreased to 14 percent, according to the WHO’s Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation—2014 Update. However 2.5 million do not use an improved sanitation facility, and more than 700 million people still lack easy access to an improved source of drinking water.

U.S. Water UsageIt is recommended that 5 gallons of water is needed daily per person to cover basic hygiene and food hygiene needs. While the average American uses about 100 gallons of water daily, a sub-Saharan African uses just 2 to 5 gallons of water daily, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Americans use more water daily by flushing the toilet than any other activity—and a running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day—so water waste is a concern here and abroad. In many countries, water use is largely wasteful and unregulated, with rampant pollution. Approximately 90 percent of untreated sewage is dumped into rivers, lakes, and oceans, harming ecosystems and costing billions of dollars in environmental damage.

Water conservation efforts are being urged as a growing global population, water pollution and climate change make water security a concern for us all. Increasing groundwater is needed for farming and industry, as well as personal consumption. Around 80 percent of India’s population, for example, relies on groundwater for drinking to avoid bacteria-infested surface waters.

Src: SyngentaCommunications

Src: SyngentaCommunications

A report released March 20 by the United Nations predicts an international water deficit of 40 percent in just 15 years unless countries dramatically change their usage of water. The UN’s 2015 World Water Development report predicts that as underwater reserves dwindle, global water demand will increase 55 percent by 2050. Without a dramatic change in the collective usage and stewardship of water resources, the world will have only 60 percent of the water it needs in 2030, the report said. As a result, there would likely be an increase in crop failures, ecosystem deterioration and industry collapse, more frequent violent conflicts over access to water and worsened poverty and disease.

“Unsustainable development pathways and governance failures have affected the quality and availability of water resources, compromising their capacity to generate social and economic benefits,” the report said. “Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit.

Learn more at:

Src: ableskills.co.uk/water-facts

Src: ableskills.co.uk/water-facts


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The Unfolding Journey to Finding Your Voice

The Journey Unfolds

Poetry in Motion for World Poetry Day

The Journey

By Mary Oliver 

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Taking Flight


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Celebrating Spring Renewal on International Happiness Day

Spring Flower and ButterfliesThis Friday, we celebrate the onset of spring with the rare astronomical occurrence of an equinox, solar eclipse and supermoon all on the same date. During this symbolic period of rebirth and transformation, we take time to say goodbye to what no longer serves us—harsh winter weather, physical clutter and the limiting thoughts of fear, doubt and regret that may have been holding us back from a full life of contentment. As we replace negative energy with positive energy, we open our hearts and minds, trust our recalibrated and finely tuned intuition, stay grounded in the present and make room for the new—whether that means re-cultivating the land for new flowers, crops and wildlife; embracing a different way of eating or new form of exercise; starting a new job or even forging a new career path; or taking a different approach to doing things and looking at the world around us. It makes perfect sense then that today also marks the International Day of Happiness.

On this annual celebration of what brings us joy, we take time to show our appreciation for the world around us. We are thankful for the chance at a fresh start; our hearts fill with gratitude for the lessons we’ve learned from the past and for the hope-filled possibilities of the future, while acknowledging where we are and who we are in the present. We honor the relationships we have with individuals and the larger community, which are continual sources of support, encouragement, inspiration and love. We are grateful for the experiences and opportunities we have in life, which—let’s face it—too many of us take for granted much of the time.

“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”―Groucho Marx, The Essential Groucho: Writings For By And About Groucho Marx

I personally am so very grateful for all encouragement to be me and to strive toward being my best me—to bolster my health, to follow my dreams, and to live life on my own terms. I am so very thankful to have the love and support of the people who surround me—both my family and friends. It gives me joy…

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." Thích Nhất Hạnh

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” –Thích Nhất Hạnh

–To wake up to the same handsome and smiling face every morning.
–To feed myself with healthy and delicious, quality food that nourishes and sustains me.
–To walk onto the sacred space of my yoga mat to unite, strengthen and heal my body, my mind and my spirit.
–To be able to give of myself in a multitude of ways and bring gratitude and a smile to someone else’s face.
–To appreciate and be appreciated by my circle of friends and family.
–To establish common ground and nurture understanding with a stranger.
–To find stimulation, solace and solidarity through the written word.
–To learn more about myself and the world around me, each and every day.
–To laugh, to laugh, to laugh.
–To step outside, feel the fresh breeze of nature lick my skin and hear the joyful sounds of life surround me.

What are some of the things that fill YOU with joy and contentment today? I have found—and research confirms—that we can strengthen and expand our capacity for joy and optimism by regularly taking the time to note the things for which we are grateful each day. Learn more about how unlocking the benefits of gratitude bring you joy here.

To further inspire to fully celebrate International Happiness Day, I leave you 10 of my favorite quotes about joy and happiness, starting with words that seem to perfectly capture the essence of this new season of spring:

1. “I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’” ―Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

2. “They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” ―Tom Bodett

3. “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”―Mahatma Gandhi

4. “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

5. “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”―Oprah Winfrey

6. “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”―Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

7. “No medicine cures what happiness cannot.” ―Gabriel García Márquez

8. “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”―Seneca the Younger

9. “Let this sink deep in your heart: only creative people are happy. Happiness is a by-product of creativity. Create something, and you will be happy. Create a garden, let the garden bloom, and something will bloom in you. Create a painting, and something starts growing in you with the growing painting. As the painting comes to the finish, as you are giving the last touches to the painting, you will see you are no more the same person. You are giving the last touches to something that is very new in you. Write a poem, sing a song, dance a dance, and see: you start becoming happy.” –Osho

10. “…people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” ―Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love


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How To Fend Off The Flu By Diffusing Essential Oils

Essential Oil DiffuserAfter one of the most brutal winters in northeast United States, we’re finally seeing the light of spring at the end of the tunnel. With a February that was the coldest month on record in Connecticut, we pushed through roughly six weeks of snowstorms and bitter freezing temperatures. Not surprisingly, people I knew in the area were felled by flu and colds left and right—including myself. Loath to take antibiotics, I treated myself with essential oils, hot lemon tea, extra vitamins C and D, nasal saline solution, and, when necessary, Nyquil. After enduring more than a month of an aggressive cough, sinus pressure and earache—and countless nights sleeping inclined against the coach— I finally gave in and sought medical attention.

My nurse practitioner confirmed a nasty, upper respiratory infection and agreed that antibiotics would do more harm than good in my case. After completely clearing out my lungs (at last!) with a nebulizer and prescribing me an inhaler, she told me I was doing exactly the right things at home—irrigating the sinuses, suppressing the cough and finally clearing the lungs with a diffuser. The delivery of a PureGuardian® Spa aroma diffuser from Guardian Technologies™ for review couldn’t have come at a better time.

Previously, I had only used essential oils topically during a cold. Applying a dab or two of peppermint oil to the chest and over the sinuses has always helped clear my sinuses and relieve chest congestion, in addition to making me feel more alert again. The blend of peppermint, eucalyptus, lemon, laurel leaf, melaleuca (tea tree) and ravensara has also done wonders to soothe the airways, to help fight bacteria and viruses and to reduce the pain of coughs and colds. Yet further research revealed additional benefits of the aromatic application of essential oils.

Essential oils can be breathed in by direct or indirect inhalation; through a diffuser, humidifier or a steam tent; or used as a perfume or room deodorizer. In addition to supporting the respiratory system and stimulating an immune system response, aromatic application can help protect against airborne contaminants and improve indoor air quality. Using a diffuser allows you to breathe in the fine mist or vapor, which contains all the physical properties of the oil.

The PureGuardian® Spa Aromatherapy Ultrasonic Oil Diffuser is stylish, portable, lightweight and easy to use. I simply filled the unit with tap water, added a few drops of eucalyptus oil and used the touch screen controls to turned on the diffuser. Within seconds, a fine, cool mist began filling the room. Almost immediately my nose perked up to the eucalyptus and my sinuses and lungs began to clear. Left on, the diffuser continually disperses oils throughout the room for more than five hours, and up to eight. A good diffuser uses cool or room temperature or ultrasonic vibrations to diffuse oil into the air; the PureGuardian Spa uses ultrasonic vibrations.

Eucalyptus oil is a powerful decongestant and cough expectorant, helping you to breathe easier. It also has antibacterial and anti-viral properties and stimulates the immune system, helping to fight germs. Eucalyptus also increases oxygen to cells all over the body and boosts blood flow to the brain, which may have the effect of alleviating exhaustion and mental sluggishness and stimulating mental alertness and clarity.

When essential oils are inhaled, the olfactory receptors of the nose send information about odor to the olfactory bulb of the brain. The olfactory bulb sends information about the odor to other parts of the brain, such as the amygdala and hippocampus, to be further processed. The limbic system, of which these structures of the brain are a part, can effect motivation and memory, as well as emotion and behavior. The effect of essential oils on the limbic system can stimulate or subdue us and cause us to be more attentive and alert or more restful and relaxed. According to sustainable baby steps, inhaling essential oils can boost alertness, cognition and memory; support the hormones; and alleviate both physical and emotional distress and tension.

Diffuser NightlightThe PureGuardian® Spa diffuser comes with lavender oil, which has calming and relaxing effects, both physically and mentally. Lavender oil has been used as a remedy for both insomnia and stress, and it helps to promote deep wave sleep. Thus it is the perfect essential oil to diffuse while doing restorative yoga in the evening. I can select the night light option on the diffuser and a glowing blue nightlight accompanies the soothing scent of lavender. The PureGuardian Spa Line also includes a deluxe diffuser that has an alarm clock and timer with four settings to control when the aroma is released.

PureGuardian Spa Aromatherapy Oil Diffusers are currently sold on the Guardian Technologies’ website. For more information about the products or to find a retailer near you call, 1-866-603-5900.


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Young Filmmaker Reveals the Emotional Scars of Self-Harm in Self Inflicted

Monica Zinn's Self InflictedIncreasing numbers of teens and young adults are using self-injury as a strategy for dealing with negative emotions. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) collaborative study found the number of teenagers who self-harmed in England had tripled in the last decade. The 2013-2014 survey found 20 percent of 15-year-olds had self-harmed over the past year, as compared to 6.9 percent of 15- and 16-year-olds in 2002. Approximately 15 percent of American teens have admitted to some type of self-injury. Among college students, self-injury rates range from 17 to 35 percent, according to Theravive. However, the actual number of youth who self-harm is likely much higher, as it is stigmatized behavior, usually done in private. People take great care to cover their scares.

“People who self-harm are scared of what they’re doing, ashamed of what they’re doing. Self-injury hasn’t really been talked about, so we freak out about it,” said USC student Monica Zinn, who made the documentary short, “Self Inflicted,” to bring increased awareness and understanding to the issue.

Non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a direct and deliberate act to damage body tissues, such as cutting, carving, scratching or burning the skin, in order to relieve emotional distress. NSSI in the extreme form may also include breaking one’s own bones. People tend to self-harm to deal with negative emotions, such as depression, anxiety or anger. The act of self-harm brings temporary relief to one’s emotional suffering.

“Everyone has points of extreme emotional distress. We all just handle it in different ways,” said Zinn. Where others may use drugs or sex to cope with emotions, she said that self-harmers use NSSI for relief.

Zinn, 21, grew up not knowing anything about NSSI. “When I was younger, maybe 14 or 15, I started meeting people who hurt themselves. It absolutely terrified me,” she admitted. Adults never told her what self-harm was, and media didn’t give her any helpful information. “My peers were doing that to themselves, and if they weren’t close to me, I couldn’t ask them about it.”

To better understand what her peers were going through, Zinn felt compelled to learn more about self-harm. “If there’s something I can’t empathize with, then I have to find out more about it,” said the young filmmaker. “I feel like I know more about myself when I understand people more.”

Self InflictedWorking on her documentary for three years, Zinn buried herself in research on self-injury. She said she could not find a lot of media on self-harm that rang true. Most of it was sensationalistic and scary. Her film aimed to be authentic, informative and empathetic.

“Even though I hadn’t ever harmed myself, I knew people who had,” said Zinn, “and because of that, I could check the legitimacy of research or media texts I found with them and see if it rang true.”

Doing research for her documentary, Zinn found that people who self-harm tend to be very empathetic and sensitive people, susceptible to feeling more emotional pain than others. She also discovered that self-harm is seen in animals and young children. In a 2012 study, the journal Pediatrics reported that approximately 8 percent of children ages 7 to 16 had attempted self-injury.

“Kids hurt themselves on purpose a lot,” said Zinn. “I talked to a 3-year-old who said she would pick at her finger because her parents were upset. It’s very natural to do when you’re very anxious or dealing with a lot of stress but don’t know how to cope with that. One parent told me that her eight year old used to bang his head against the wall when he would get upset.”

Zinn talked to friends and used social media to invite people to share their stories about self-injury. Lauren Kristen, also a photographer, was encouraged to share how she sees the world when she thinks about self-harm. One of the more touching segments of the “Self Inflected” is Lauren’s interview with her sister Grace.

Self Injury and SiblingsGrace confesses to how difficult it is for her to understand why her sister hurts herself to feel better. “It’s sad because I don’t know how to help her with it, but I don’t want to overstep my boundaries with it. Self-harm has always made me squeamish. Because I personally have never understood it,” she said in the film. “It sort of makes me sad because there’s other ways to deal your pain.”

Zinn was touched by Lauren’s boldness to share the effects of self-harm on the family. “There’s confidence in Lauren. She understands her family may not understand it but feels comfortable talking about it,” said Zinn. “It’s obvious that there’s so much love in the family.”

Viewers especially seem to relate to Grace’s struggle to understand self-harm. “We’re not trying to ostracize or judge someone who harms or anyone who doesn’t understand self-harm,” Zinn said. “It’s okay for you to feel that way. It’s big of you to watch this film even when you don’t understand.”

Both “Self Inflicted” and her 2011 film “Perfection,” were inspired by Zinn’s desire to know about things for which there were not a lot of reliable information and genuine, firsthand accounts. The earlier film was about disordered eating and was initially made as a student project when Zinn was just 17. The adapted version went onto receive Best Documentary Film at the Virginia Student Film Festival and was accepted in several film festivals across the country.

“It was really just showing me how powerful this medium is,” she said. “It showed me that this side of eating disorders, of mental illness, of young women really isn’t being shown. There are tons of people who want to see this side of things, and have this sort of honest conversation with young women who are struggling with eating disorders.”

Award-winning documentary PerfectionThe documentary “Perfection” was inspired by a blog on eating disorders that one of the main characters wrote. After Zinn spoke with her, the filmmaker started thinking about her own friends struggling with eating disorders, one of whom had recently been to an eating disorder facility for her struggles with eating. Many of her friends with disordered eating were driven by the overwhelming desire for control and perfection.

“We all get weird about food. We all get weird about the body. I am control freak myself in different ways, so I can relate to that compulsion,” she said. “I was really lucky that my interview subjects opened up to me, and it helped that they were close friends of mine.”

The young women featured in “Perfection,” suffered from a combination of bulimia, anorexia and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). All of them eventually went to rehabilitation facilities for their disordered eating. However, it took viewing the film for Shannon to finally realize how unsustainable her behavior was; then, she too sought help.

“We’ve seen lately much more awareness of depression. I think that’s really helped us be more comfortable with the subject, to bring the subject up,” social worker Cheryl Hundsberger said in the film. “And I think the same could be said of eating disorders if we had more knowledge and more awareness. I think we would key into that quicker.”

Zinn’s films are helping to do just that. Her next documentary, “Noxious,” hits even closer to home, as it was inspired by her own personal trauma. As a student at USC, Zinn was a drugged last semester and suffered a serious concussion that busted open her head and caused her to lose consciousness.

Many people she told about the assault afterward responded, “Thank God you weren’t sexually assaulted.” But with the bottom face of her face black and covered with bandages, Zinn took some offense at how her experience was being downplayed. She said, It took me a while to convince myself that what happened to me was an act of violence.

Though she originally would refer to the incident as “an accident,” her therapist helped her see the act of being drugged as a physical assault. “Someone took control of your body and because of that, you were hurt in a way you wouldn’t have been if you weren’t under the influence of that drug,” her therapist said.

Co-producers Monica Zinn and Astri Griel on NoxiousZinn soon came to discover that drugging someone is considered assault in most states. “Most people have no idea that this is a felony in a lot of states, and even if they do, it’s still a faceless crime,” she said. “You won’t get a prosecution if no one saw it happen, and you won’t remember.  Also, a toxicology report may show date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol or GHB, in your system, provided it’s in the 60 hour time frame, but those aren’t the only drugs used to assault people.”

Certain medications mixed with alcohol can make people “drowsy, feel ‘good’ and, thus, more inclined to do things they wouldn’t normally do. They impair your judgement and increase the likelihood of making risk-taking decisions,” she said.

In Zinn’s case, no one at the hospital thought to ask her if she was drugged or to test her for anything. At the time, she didn’t realize that it was obvious to the medical staff that she’d been drugged, due to the type of physical damage she’d experienced in her fall. She was initially ashamed because she didn’t really remember anything and thought she must have drank too much. She finally came to realize that what happened to her was an “off-the-fringe kind of violence.” She said, “And to have spent all that time talking it down to an accident… it was very painful to realize what this really was: a physical assault, a felony.

After the assault, Zinn experienced a lot of anxiety and depression. “I’ve been in places where I feel like I want to do something drastic, but because of the work I’ve done, I know it won’t give me what I’m looking for,” she said. “But it’s hard not to go with your immediate impulse. The biggest thing for me was to ask myself, ‘What do I really want—do I want to be happy and thriving?’ If I hurt myself, or worse, it’s not going to solve or change anything. I look at long-term coping mechanisms to help ease my suffering but not quick fixes.”

Mindfulness meditation has helped her to combat a racing mind and the reactive behavior that arises from the involuntary thoughts of automatic thinking. This type of cognitive behavioral therapy has also proved helpful to people struggling with disordered eating and to those with the compulsion to self-harm.

Since the drugging, the documentary filmmaker has also become a big advocate of setting boundaries, speaking up for her self and not being afraid to not be polite. After her older sister’s untimely death at age 19, when Zinn was 16, she and her siblings lived very much in the public eye of their northern Virginian community. She grew used to talking about anything people asked her—even when she didn’t particularly want to—and to trying to make people feel comfortable with what she was going through, instead of paying attention to how she felt.

“For four years after that, I always felt my issues were on the table for everyone. I felt like I was almost too open. That way of being that wasn’t very sustainable. I pushed my feelings back into myself somehow,” she said. What I’ve been learning now is that it’s a sign of insecurity to give that much of yourself up. I would get taken advantage of a lot because I would give people everything, including my soul.

She has since taken to spending a lot of time with herself, as she used to when she was a young child telling herself stories. “I was so self-focused as a kid and was really just trying to explore myself and the world around me. I didn’t feel a lot of suffering as a child,” she said. Today she continues to “absorb things that make me understand the world around me better.”

Documentary on Being DruggedZinn was inspired to make the documentary “Noxious” to help others understand the world around them better as well. Through the film, she aims to provide a resource and safe place for people to discuss the experiences of being drugged. “It’s not talked about at all. It’s very scary not knowing what to do and to explain what happened,” she said. “People should know there is no judgment about what you were doing beforehand because it’s not your fault. Here’s what you’re going to need in order to prosecute. Find a witness. Get a toxicology report.”

The documentary “Noxious,” which is currently in pre-production, will be a success in Zinn’s eyes “if it can help anyone get a prosecution or if it can increase reports of [being drugged].”

Readers can learn about drugging laws in their state or anonymously share their story about being drugged at the Noxious website.

“Once people see something they connect to, they’ll reach out,” Zinn said. “When I start telling people what I’m working on, in this instance my drugging documentary, I start to hear stories everywhere I go….’”

Assistant producer Astri Griel is on board to aid Zinn tactically and emotionally through the film. “Obviously this film is going to be triggering for me,” she said. “It’s hard to make emotionally, so it’s nice to have a more solid backbone, to have that other person there if something goes wrong.”

Zinn’s films not only build awareness, they also build communities of support and understanding. “Self-Inflicted” is an official partner of 7 Cups of Tea, which provides free, confidential conversations with trained active listeners on topics like traumatic experiences, eating disorders and self-harm.

Self Inflicted will be released online March 13 at www.monicazinn.com


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Celebrating the Unconditional Love of Caregivers for Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease

Caregiving for Loved Ones With Alzheimer's

Src: LivingWithAlzheimers.wordpress.com

Last month, romantic love was celebrated across the nation and in other parts of the world. Today, Mind-Body Shift takes time to honor the gift of unconditional love, the expression of caring for others without the expectation of reciprocation or reward. MBS especially celebrates the people who selflessly care for others living with debilitating chronic disease, particularly the caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s.

“Especially in February, the month of love, so much of love is thought of as romantic love. That’s important too for us to experience, but at the same time, the greatest love is unconditional love,” said Kailen Rosenberg, an expert on the subject, known as the Love Architect. “It’s a love that comes from every bit of our being in times that are not easy, that are difficult, that we’re not expecting.”

More than 15 million people offer unconditional love by providing unpaid care to a relative or friend with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 65 percent of caregivers are women. Betsy Broyles Arnold, along her twin sister, Linda, became the primary caregiver to their mother, who lost her battle with Alzheimer’s in 2004.

Arnold, whose father is the football icon Coach Frank Boyles, moved her family home from Texas to Arkansas to take care of her mother more than 10 years ago. “It was a very interesting experience. All of a sudden you’re in a role reversal,” Arnold said in a recent interview, describing the shift from the role of child to suddenly caring for a parent. “It’s difficult, and it’s emotional.”

Facts and Figures on Alzheimer's Disease 2014

Src: 2014 Alzheimer’s Disease
Facts and Figures

An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, with one in nine people over age 65 in the United States living with this debilitating neurological disease. It is the most common form of dementia, making up 60 to 80 percent of cases, according to Alzheimer’s Association. It is caused by damage to the brain cells, which creates interference with people’s ability to communicate with one another. Dementia describes a constellation of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and other mental faculties—like communication, reasoning and ability to focus—severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks.

As a progressive disease, Alzheimer’s symptoms gradually worsen over time, and most people with the disease live an average of eight years after developing noticeable symptoms. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, In the early stages of the disease, memory loss is relatively low. However, people with late-stage of the disease eventually lose the ability to carry on conversation and respond to their environment.

“One of the things that’s important for people to know about this disease is that [those with it] do live moment to moment to moment. And so you have to ask yourself [as a caregiver], what moment are they in? As the disease progresses, their age regresses, so you’re dealing with someone who is going back in time—and that’s difficult too,” explained Arnold.

Rosenberg notes that people are not usually prepared to care for someone with Alzheimer’s “Most don’t think that they’ll be in the situation where they will be taking care of someone, especially a parent, where that role reversal is taking place,” she said. ”Especially with Alzheimer’s, it’s so important to find and to seek as much knowledge and understanding of the disease, of the best ways to take care of the loved one that you have, or someone that you know is taking care of someone who is struggling with Alzheimer’s.”

Rosenberg recommends AlzheimersUnconditionalLove.com as a great online resource for learning about the disease, as well as providing support. “As with everything that has to do with love, we’re trying to understand it and how to best give it,” she said. “We need to be okay asking questions and being excited and open to getting the answers.”

There weren’t a lot of resources about the disease for Arnold when she was caring for her mother many years ago. “So we learned by trial and error. That’s what goes along with this disease,” she said. “Education is power, so I cannot stress enough, as my dad, would say, ‘There’s no substitute for good preparation.’ That’s just critical with this disease.”

Love Expert Kailen Rosenberg and Alzheimer's Caregiver Betsy Broyles ArnoldBoth Rosenberg and Arnold emphasize the importance of caregivers doing everything within their power to learn and understand about the disease. “It’s so important to educate yourself because you’re dealing with someone who’s not only losing their memory, but their reasoning, their judgment, and ultimately language,” said Arnold. “To be a good caregiver, you have to understand this disease.”

Being a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s requires a lot of patience, understanding and unconditional love. Unconditional love is “an ultimate act of selflessness. It is putting your ego aside,” said Rosenberg, author of Real Love, Right Now. “It is showing up in ways you didn’t know or think you were capable. But you kind of feel it in the moment, and you just trust it and you go with it. There is no greater gift to give than really all of our selves and our love to one another. We’re blessed and filled up by doing that, and so are the people that we’re loving on and taking care of.”

Rosenberg, stresses the need for more support to caregivers, so they do not have to feel like they are in it alone. She urges loved ones to ask caregivers what they need and to encourage them not to be afraid to receive. “It’s so easy to give and give and give and love on others and forget about one’s self. In order to give our best, there has to be a healthy balance,” she reminded. “Like they say, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ I think it takes a village to love on one another and be a support to one another. We need to keep everyone in mind because it does affect everyone. But we can all be there for each other.”

Both Rosenberg and Arnold have great respect for people who devote their time and efforts to care for loved ones, referring to them as unsung heroes. “But then you have some other unsung heroes, and really, that’s the kids,” added Rosenberg.

Arnold’s children were adolescents when she moved the family to take care of her mother. “I had my children who were 12 and 13 years old, and then my mother,” she said. Her kids also needed her attention, time, energy and level, but she needed to put more of her focus on her mother, which filled her with guilt at times.

“It’s important to have that unconditional love from your family too, because they need to understand what you’re going through, and the choices you have to make–because whenever my mother needed me, you know, my mother always won. And so, I think that was a hard place to be,” she said.

Sounding much like her coach father, Arnold added, “But your attitude is your greatest asset. You just have to look at this in a positive way, and that it’s for a season. It’s a labor of love, and that’s why you do what you do—that unconditional love you have for the person you’re taking care of.”

Her experience with her mother led Arnold, her sister and father to create The Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation to help families and caregivers who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Learn more at www.caregiversunited.com.

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