How Does Nutrition Affect Mental Health?

How Does Nutrition Affect Mental Health?

Food and mental health, how do they relate? There is actually a very close relationship between the food we eat and the way we feel mentally. The truth is, how we feel can affect our decisions about food, just as the food we eat can affect how we feel.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, making healthy food choices can become second nature once you develop a habit of making them. When it comes to mental health, eating a nutrient-dense balanced diet can contribute tremendously. There have been countless studies on the ways in which various diets affect functioning and overall health. Fad diets come and go, but organic, balanced, and nutrient-dense foods will always be your best bet.

Life can be hard, and everyday stressors can take a toll on your mental health. Even more difficult can be the challenges faced as a result of substance abuse. There will be many ups and downs along the path to recovery, but there are ways to ensure you are in your best state to cope with them. You have to eat, right?  Why not make choices that support good mental health?

Planning Ahead

Sure, it’s easy to pull through that drive-through and grab something quick on your way to work or to run errands. Sometimes, it’s not as convenient to actually cook or prepare something a little more nutritious. Meal prepping is always a good idea. This takes the guesswork out of it and allows you to grab and go. Planning ahead and creating meals and snacks ahead of time can feel like a little extra work upfront, but it makes things so much easier throughout the week and on busy days.

Impacts of Unhealthy Foods

Eating healthy makes you feel good. When you feel good, you’re more likely to be more active, focused, efficient, and productive overall. Eating unhealthy foods that are filled with processed sugars and ingredients can leave you feeling less than your best and significantly impact brain health. Unhealthy foods, or junk food, can often increase levels of stress hormones and result in a lack of energy, motivation, and focus. As further explained in the article “Food and Mood: How Do Diet and Nutrition Affect Mental Wellbeing?” by Joseph Firth, James E. Gangwisch, Alessandra Borsini, Robyn E. Wootton, and Emeran A. Mayer, "Although mood itself can affect our food choices, plausible mechanisms exist by which high consumption of processed carbohydrates could increase the risk of depression and anxiety—for example, through repeated and rapid increases and decreases in blood glucose.”

Good Nutrition During Treatment

Good nutrition is important for everyone. It’s particularly important for those who are trying to heal from substance use disorder (SUD). Addiction takes a toll on your mental, physical, and spiritual health. It takes time and intentional efforts to repair the damage caused by abusing drugs or alcohol. Eating healthy, organic foods during treatment and throughout recovery can help promote more complete and faster healing.

Maintaining a healthy diet throughout treatment and recovery is important for a variety of reasons. In order to get the most out of your treatment experience, you need to feel your best. A lot goes into feeling your best, but a large component of that is determined by what you put in your body. Drinking enough water and choosing to eat healthy foods and balanced meals can make a huge difference. You are better able to focus on learning during your therapy sessions and group meetings. You will be more motivated to stay on track and will stay aware of your goals. You will also have more energy to try new things and engage in other health and wellness activities that also promote better mental health.

Healthy eating can actually be fun! As you become more comfortable with trying different healthy foods, it can be fun to create new recipes using more organic and nutritious ingredients. You may find that you really enjoy cooking and preparing healthy meals. Engaging in cooking classes and wellness activities during treatment can help you develop habits and hobbies to carry with you throughout recovery.

Like anything else, healthy eating can sometimes take practice. Your appetite may have been significantly impacted by your substance abuse. Often, you develop an unhealthy relationship with food during this time. It could be that you were eating way too much of all the wrong things, or maybe you weren’t eating enough. Either way, treatment is an excellent time to allow your body to reset and fill it with healthy organic foods.

After eating this way for a while, it can become second nature. Habits, good or bad, can be easily formed and difficult to break. Once you break habits of poor eating and make it common practice to make good food choices, it becomes easy to maintain and implement into your routine throughout recovery.

Good mental health is so important. Achieving good mental health and maintaining it can certainly be challenging at times. Eating healthy can help. By making good nutrition a priority, you can feel better, look better, and function at your best. When you feel good and are in a good space mentally, you can better focus on your recovery and making the most of life. You can achieve a healthier lifestyle and promote better healing by choosing a treatment center that prioritizes organic and nutrient-dense foods. Enlightened Solutions offers a full menu composed of locally grown organic foods, many of which are grown on-site at the Enlightened Farm. Healing begins from the inside out. Let us help you restore your health and begin your journey to recovery. If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, give Enlightened Solutions a call today at (833) 801-LIVE.


Somatoform Disorder Is Scary, but What Is It?

Somatoform disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions where you experience unexplained pain and other bodily symptoms. Somatoform symptoms cause serious distress but are not entirely attributable to any known medical condition or other mental disorder, and they can have a considerable impact on your daily life and well-being.

Symptoms of somatoform disorder manifest in different ways. These include:

  • Pain
  • Neurological disorders relating to your central nervous system 
  • Problems in your stomach, gut, and digestive system
  • Sexual problems

Having a somatoform disorder can be stressful and frustrating. You may feel unsatisfied that there is not a simple medical cause that doctors can treat to end the pain. Sometimes friends, loved ones, and others around you do not appreciate the levels of distress and the challenges you face as a result of the illness. However, the distress and sensation of pain you experience are real, even if there isn’t an underlying medical explanation.

While it may not be possible to find a medical cause, you can still treat and recover from somatoform disorders. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, and treatment for co-occurring disorders can all help to manage symptoms so you can enjoy your daily life.

What Are Some Types of Somatoform Disorder?

There are many types of somatoform disorder, including:

  • Somatization disorder - where you experience several different kinds of physical symptoms
  • Undifferentiated somatoform disorder - which causes a smaller range of symptoms
  • Conversion disorder - causing only voluntary motor or sensory function symptoms
  • Pain disorder - where psychological factors cause or worsen pain
  • Body dysmorphic disorder - where you become overly concerned by a real or imaginary defect on your body
  • Hypochondriasis - an illness anxiety disorder where you are extremely worried about your health

How Does Somatoform Disorder Relate to Depression and Anxiety?

Somatoform disorders often lead to general health anxiety and fears about the cause of the bodily symptoms. However, stress and other mental health issues may also be a driving force behind the disorder. A study by the American Psychiatric Journal found strong associations between somatoform disorders and other psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety and depression. 

How Does Somatoform Disorder Lead to Substance Abuse?

Somatic symptoms and other related disorders cause bodily pain that can be severe and difficult to manage. As a result, you may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to ease symptoms and escape from feelings of stress and frustration.

Marijuana, opioid painkillers, and benzodiazepines can all help to relieve pain and anxiety. However, these drugs are also addictive. Using illicit drugs or prescription drugs in ways other than your doctor prescribes may lead to substance use disorders that can devastate your health and social life.

How Does Drug Use Affect Somatoform Disorder?

Drug abuse and addiction may also affect somatic symptoms. Medications like opioid painkillers can make you hypersensitive to pain and exacerbate the symptoms of somatoform disorders. In addition, withdrawal symptoms and side effects of drug abuse may worsen gastrointestinal, sexual, and coordination problems.

How Can You Treat Somatoform Disorder?

Somatic disorder treatment often involves different kinds of therapy and treatment for co-occurring disorders like substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression which may underlie somatic symptoms. 

Treatment is more successful if doctors recognize the disorder quickly and avoid unnecessary testing and ineffective treatments. In addition, health care professionals should deliver diagnosis and treatment with empathy and a complete understanding of the pain and distress the patient is experiencing.

Treatment for co-occurring substance use and somatic form disorders should treat both illnesses simultaneously. Somatoform disorders can be a driving factor behind substance abuse, and if ignored, drug-seeking behaviors can re-emerge, even after long periods of sobriety. Holistic treatment that focuses on underlying mental and physical conditions is fundamental to recovering from both kinds of disorder.  

Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center. We offer a holistic treatment program that treats underlying mental health issues alongside addiction. Our location on the picturesque south shores of New Jersey provides an optimal setting for healing and relaxation.

Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-step philosophy, and we provide each client with an individualized recovery plan. We offer a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. If you or someone close to you seeks relief from addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.

 


Are Stimulant Use and ADHD Related?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental health disorders diagnosed in children. About half of childhood cases persist into adulthood, although it is normal for hyperactive symptoms to diminish somewhat.

Adults with ADHD are at much higher risk of developing substance use disorder; between 25% - 40% of adults in active addiction also have ADHD.

ADHD and Addiction

The exact mechanism of what causes ADHD is unknown, but we know that it often correlates with a deficit of dopamine in the brain. This characteristic poses a multitude of challenges to people with ADHD, including:

  • Difficulties with judgment
  • Impulsivity
  • Distractibility
  • Fidgeting
  • Overactivity
  • Short-term reward-seeking
  • Social awkwardness

These traits put people with ADHD at a unique risk of developing an addiction. Young people who struggle to control impulses or behavioral differences are often exposed to drug use earlier in life and are less resistant. At the same time, self-medication is extremely common among people who are not diagnosed. Adults with ADHD frequently abuse substances initially to quiet distractions, calm themselves down, and be productive.

Self-Medication With Illegal Stimulants

Abusing stimulants to self-medicate puts users at the same risk of addiction as using stimulants to get high. In addition, most illegal stimulants cause mental dependence when they are taken long-term, meaning the brain slows down its dopamine production when the drug is consistently in the system.

Using stimulants to self-medicate increases the risk of addiction. To the user, it may feel like these drugs are necessary to function, but this self-imposed treatment sets the groundwork for psychological addiction.

In a user with ADHD, this could cause further issues and make recovering from addiction more challenging. Withdrawal can also heighten ADHD symptoms, and they can be more extreme due to initial low dopamine production in the brain prior to the use of any medication.

Prescription Stimulant Addiction

Prescription drugs used to medicate ADHD are addictive in their own right. The most common drugs used to treat ADHD (Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin) are all central nervous system stimulants with the potential for abuse.

Modern research hasn’t found an overall trend in people developing addictions to their prescription drugs, but it occasionally happens. ADHD stimulant medication tends to produce highs only when it is improperly used or used by people without ADHD - however, dependence can develop regardless.

In addition, when people in treatment start to increase their dose against their doctor’s guidance or use short-acting medications at times of day not prescribed (e.g. outside of regular working hours), this can suggest abuse.

Treating Addiction and ADHD

Dual diagnosis

If a person is suffering from substance abuse disorder and undiagnosed ADHD, addiction treatment is highly likely to help. Effective addiction treatment incorporates dual diagnosis from the very beginning, which highlights the presence of any underlying psychiatric or behavioural conditions. Recovery is different for everyone, and co-occurring disorders require individual treatment. In people with ADHD, an effective treatment program needs to focus on building healthy coping strategies for its mental and behavioral challenges.

Therapies

Attending any type of professional addiction therapy is universally helpful. However, in many cases, ADHD and drug treatment therapy compliment each other. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to strengthen resolve and empower people to make positive changes in their actions. These changes help people to manage ADHD symptoms and also cope with drug cravings healthily.

We Can Help

If a mental health disorder is complicating a substance use disorder for you or your loved one, we can help. Enlightened Solutions is licensed to treat substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders such as ADHD that frequently accompany them. We offer a range of modalities, including dual diagnosis, psychotherapy, yoga, meditation, art and music therapies, acupuncture, and chiropractic care - all rooted in the 12-step philosophy. If you would like more information about our ADHD and stimulant addiction treatment, please call us at (833) 801-5483.


power of touch

The Importance of Touch for Physical and Mental Health

COVID-19 has brought considerable changes to our daily lives. We might now be working from home. If children attend school in person, they wear masks, and their desks are probably shielded with plexiglass partitions. Fast-food workers might place our to-go bags on trays before handing us our food, so there is very little chance of the customer and employee accidentally touching.

We miss a lot from our pre-COVID life, like getting together with friends and seeing extended family. We miss going to the movies and concerts. Most of all, we miss human contact. We miss shaking hands, and we miss hugs. We have become “touch-deprived.”

According to Tiffany Field, Ph.D., “we were already a touch-deprived society before [the pandemic].” Dr. Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, references research that has been done in airports, studying behavior in lines. Previously, there was touching. People held hands. Now, we are all on our cell phones.

Problems Caused by Touch Deprivation

Touch deprivation, also called skin hunger, can cause mental and physical health issues. According to an article published on Nordic Cuddle’s website, a cuddle therapy provider located in the United Kingdom, people in Western cultures tended to be less “touch-friendly” even before the COVID-19 pandemic due to technology, mobile devices, and fears of allegations of harassment.

Lack of positive touch is associated with mental and physical health concerns, including the following:

  • Aggressive behavior, both verbal and physical
  • Body image disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • High levels of stress
  • Loneliness (signs could include prolonged hot showers and baths, wrapping up in blankets, and clinging to pillows and pets)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alexithymia (a condition that prevents people from expressing and interpreting their emotions)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Fear of attachment

Benefits of Touch

The importance of touch was discussed in a recent article in Time magazine, “The Corona Virus Outbreak Keeps Humans from Touching: Here’s Why That’s So Stressful,” published April 10, 2020. According to the article, people need platonic touch daily. Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says that positive touch, like hugging your life partner or linking arms with a friend, reduces stress. Other health benefits include a strengthened immune system, improved digestion, deeper sleep, and an enhanced ability to empathize with others.

Examples of positive touch include a hug, a handshake, a high-five, or a pat on the back. In fact, touch is so essential to human development that part of the treatment for premature babies includes skin-to-skin contact between babies and their parents, called “Kangaroo care.”

According to Grace L. Heer, a certified cuddlist who works in Southern California, positive touch increases levels of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in the brain. These increased hormone levels decrease anxiety and stress levels and can lower the heart rate and reduce blood pressure. 

(Professional cuddling is a holistic therapy that provides clients with safe touch. Sessions could include hand-holding, hugs, spooning, conversation, or shared silence.)

How to Find Positive Touch During the Pandemic

Fortunately, there are ways to increase the amount of touch we receive, even during the pandemic. Sales of weighted blankets have increased during COVID-19, and people have started cuddling with stuffed animals and pets. Pet adoptions have increased during the pandemic as well. According to an article in the Washington Post, animal shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, and pet stores all say that there is more demand for puppies and dogs than they can meet.

In a New York Times article, Dr. Field says that one way to get touch in your life in a very safe manner during the pandemic is a treatment she describes as “moving the skin.” Pressure receptors are located beneath the skin. Instead of merely stroking your skin, move your skin firmly enough to cause temporary indentations. She also recommends giving yourself a scalp massage, doing abdominal crunches, wearing compression clothing, or even rolling around on a carpeted floor or yoga mat. In addition, she says that yoga can function as a form of self-massage (“What All That Touch Deprivation Is Doing to Us,” New York Times, Oct. 6, 2020).

Due to the pandemic, Heer has been offering virtual cuddle sessions, leading participants in self-soothing techniques that boost oxytocin without physical contact. For example, she leads participants in performing mirror exercises. Participants complete the same movements at the same time, mirroring each other over Zoom. Doing the same movement at the same time, she explains, creates an emotional connection. Oxytocin levels in the brain are increased as they would be with physical contact because of how the neurons fire in the brain.

Touch is vital to our physical and mental well-being. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer many holistic treatment modalities that utilize touch, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage, and reiki. These therapeutic techniques are valuable in treating substance use disorders as well as mental health issues. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat substance use disorders and the mental health issues that frequently accompany addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. It includes one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and many alternative therapies, including art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, yoga and meditation, and equine-assisted therapy. We are located near the southern New Jersey shore, and we offer each client a customized treatment program. Our focus is on healing the whole person rather than merely treating the addiction. If you seek relief from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, please call us at (833) 801-5483.


Bed

“Make Your Bed”: The Importance of Routine in Addiction Recovery

“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day….Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

Retired Navy Adm. William H. McRaven first gave that advice in 2014 as part of his commencement speech at the University of Texas, Austin. His speech evidently touched a nerve, because it went viral and became a basis for his book Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...and Maybe the World. Making sure that you have time for, and take care of, the little things ensures that the big things will happen too.

Sobriety: A Huge Change

Your decision to say goodbye to addiction and embrace sobriety is a huge change. When you went through a treatment program, you made many positive changes in your life. Embracing sobriety isn’t just about overcoming addiction; it’s also about creating a new, healthy lifestyle.

In treatment, your schedule was provided for you. You knew when to get up when to eat, when to workout, when to go to therapy, when to go to your support group, and when to go to bed. The routine was established to make sure that everything you needed for your recovery happened and to establish healthy habits. Now that you have finished treatment, you need to create a routine to ensure that you continue with those healthy habits.

Routine Provides Structure and Stability

When you were struggling with your addiction, your life was out of your control and your substance of choice was in charge. Through treatment, you regained control of your life. Having a stable routine will help you remain in control.

Routine provides us with structure. Knowing what we are going to do and when we are going to do it gives us control of our lives and a sense of self-efficacy. We know what to expect and we can prepare. A routine can even give us a sense of accomplishment because if we have a plan for our day, we will know that we have completed what we set out to do.

How to Create a Routine

When you start creating your routine, begin with what could be called your anchor points. Another way to think of it is to begin creating your routine by starting with the non-negotiable items. While those will vary from person to person, for many of us they will revolve around our work schedule and when our children (if we have children) need to be in school. Remember to include the time that it takes to get to and from the places that you go routinely. Time spent in transit may not be as important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people are working from home and some children are attending school online, but it is still something to consider.

Another set of vital anchor points to pin down is the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. When you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day, it improves the quality of your sleep. And a good night’s sleep makes the next day so much better.

When you have established a few key anchors, you can begin linking other important activities to these points. For example, you may decide that after you wake up, you will meditate or go for a run. You might set out your clothes for the next day as part of getting ready for bed.

When you are creating your routine, remember that not every day will look the same and that’s okay. On some days you may be ferrying children to practice or rehearsal (although not so much during the pandemic) and on other days you may be attending your support group. What’s important is that you have a plan and you know what to expect.

What to Include in Your Routine

As you establish your routine, you will want to make sure you have time for activities that nourish your body and your soul and support your sobriety. You will want to make time to attend your support group. Many people in early sobriety go to several meetings a week. You will want to make time for appointments with your therapist. Exercise is important to your physical and mental well-being, so you will want to be sure that you include time for exercise several times a week. Include time to plan and prepare nutritious meals and be sure to include some time for self-care and household maintenance.

Having a routine does not mean that everything will be within your control, but it does mean that more of your day will go as planned. In addition to reducing feelings of anxiety, this will give you a sense of efficacy and accomplishment, and that feels really good.

Establishing a routine to follow in recovery may sound trivial, but it helps ensure that you attend to all the little details that require attention. When you succeed at the little things, you are set up to meet your big goals as well, like remaining sober. A routine provides your life with structure and ensures that you have time for the activities that nourish your body and soul. Learning to create routines is one of the life skills you will gain at Enlightened Solutions. Enlightened Solutions is a drug and alcohol treatment center located on New Jersey’s southern shore. We are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, which means that we can help with the mental health issues that frequently go hand-in-hand with substance abuse. Our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating an addiction. In addition, to talk therapy and group support, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, and acupuncture. If you have been struggling with an addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We are here to help you.


bed

Healing From the Outside In

A big part of addiction recovery is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. When most people think of therapy, that’s what they think of. The patient and the therapist talk. The patient talks about issues of concern and the therapist actively listens, guiding the conversation as necessary to help the client. Many types of talk therapy are used today and can be extremely beneficial.

But sometimes, we might feel like we are “talked out.” Maybe we have talked and talked and talked and it seems as if nothing has changed. We are tired of talking or we don’t want to talk. In the case of unresolved trauma, we might not be able to talk.

Fortunately, healing can happen in other ways. In addiction recovery, both the mind and the body need to heal. We can use the mind-body connection for healing. We can access the mind through the body. We can use various forms of touch in a therapeutic setting.

The Power of Massage

If you have had the good fortune to have a massage from a licensed massage therapist, you know how relaxing it can be--it’s hard for your mind to stay anxious when your body is relaxed. That is the mind-body connection in action. Psychological stress can be stored in our muscles and it can be massaged away. Although being in treatment for addiction is very beneficial in the long run--lifesaving even--it can be very hard work and stress can arise during treatment. In addition, anxiety is a common withdrawal symptom and a frequent co-occurring mental health disorder. Massaging away that anxiety is good for both the mind and the body and can create a profound sense of calm.

Acupuncture: An Ancient Healing Modality

Acupuncture is an ancient method of healing that originated in China. Very thin needles are placed at specific points in the patient’s body to treat various health conditions, both physical and mental. (The needles usually don’t hurt and many patients don’t feel them at all.) The goal of acupuncture is to improve the flow of the body’s energy, called the chi, along the body’s energy pathways, called meridians.

In the 1970s, acupuncture began to be used in addiction treatment and was found to reduce the stress experienced during withdrawal and cravings. The protocol used to treat addiction concentrates on five points on the ear and calms the nervous system, relieves anxiety, promotes healing of your organs, supports the work done by your liver, regulates emotions, and increases the strength of your breath. The benefits of acupuncture include increased energy, improved mood, reduced cravings, better sleep, inner peace, and relaxation. In fact, some patients become so relaxed during acupuncture sessions that they fall asleep.

Chiropractic Care: Connecting the Body and the Mind

A chiropractor once told a patient that the phrase “pain in the neck” was more than just a figure of speech. The idea that the weight of the world is on your shoulders is more than just a commonly used phrase. Many of us carry emotional stress and pain which manifests as physical pain in our bodies, particularly in our neck, back, and shoulders. If we are struggling with an addiction, the stress and pain we carry are even greater.

Chiropractic care is another treatment modality in which treating the body can have a powerful healing effect on the mind. The theory behind chiropractic care is that proper alignment of the skeleton and muscles, especially in the spine, will allow the body to heal itself. Chiropractic care is particularly effective for conditions involving muscles,  joints, bones, and connective tissue throughout the body. Chiropractic adjustments can be a very powerful way to relieve pain. Chiropractors also work to improve the range of motion in the body’s joints and include exercise and physical rehabilitation in the treatment plans they develop for patients. The overall goal is to restore function and prevent injury in addition to relieving pain.

In treating addiction, a chiropractor will correct misalignments in the spinal column. When the spinal column is in alignment, the nervous system can function properly and can better process the natural “feel-good” chemicals that the brain produces. When this happens, addiction is easier to treat. Also, because the patient’s physical health has been restored, addiction is easier to treat.

The Value of Human Touch

Massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are all holistic treatment modalities that involve therapeutic touch--direct human contact. The therapeutic relationship--the bond between the patient and the provider--is part of the healing. When we were in the life of addiction, our relationships with other people may not have been healthy or based on trust. Part of recovery is learning to trust again. Building a therapeutic relationship with a health-care provider can be part of that process.

Sometimes when you are in therapy, you reach a point where you feel like you are “talked out.” You might have an issue that you don’t want to talk about or you may have experienced trauma and are not able to talk about it. Fortunately, the mind can be reached through the body and healing can be brought about that way. This can happen through treatment modalities that involve therapeutic touch, including massage therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. These treatment methods are among the holistic treatment modalities that we offer at Enlightened Solutions. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center located on New Jersey’s southern shore. We are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders that frequently accompany substance use disorder. If you are struggling with an addiction and are ready to seek treatment, call us at (833) 801-5483. We can help you build a life free from the pain and destruction of substance abuse.


Break Up

Surviving and Moving On After a Breakup

Maybe you saw it coming. You two hadn’t been getting along and the fights had become more frequent. You hadn’t seen each other as much. The calls and texts were becoming fewer and farther between.

Maybe it was sudden. Your partner said it wasn’t working out or you two weren’t right for each other. It doesn’t make sense. All you know is that you are alone and that you are hurting.

Although recovering from a heartache takes time, making sure that you are taking care of yourself will help the process along.

Food to Help Mend a Broken Heart

Grief may cause you to lose your appetite and it may be very hard to make yourself eat. Now is the time for comfort food, food that reminds you of happier times. For many people, that means food from childhood. Your favorite might be macaroni and cheese. If you wanted to boost the nutrition a bit, you could add pureed butternut squash or make it with whole-grain pasta. Cheese, despite being rich in calories, is rich in calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Eating cheese causes your brain to produce more dopamine and serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate sleep and impulse control, and dopamine boosts mood, motivation, and attention and helps to regulate emotional responses. Other foods that boost serotonin levels include eggs, salmon, and nuts.

If you are a chocolate lover, feel free to indulge a bit. Cacao, the main ingredient of chocolate, enhances mood because it contains tryptophan which is used by the brain to produce serotonin. Also, most people associate chocolate with happy times, which helps. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains antioxidants, which protect your body from the effects of free radicals.

Cooking for Comfort and Community

The act of cooking can make you feel better too. When you cook, you need to be aware and present. You need to focus on what you are doing in the moment. Cooking requires mindfulness, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. In addition, the act of cooking will take your mind off your heartache and provide you with a creative outlet.

Also, when you have a broken heart, you need the support of your friends. Cooking is a great way to bring people together and can remind you that you are not alone.

Make Time to Work Out

Although you may not feel like it, exercise will help you feel better. Working out is very important for your mental health. An article published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry discussed the benefits of exercise and stated that aerobic exercise (like running, walking, swimming, cycling, and dancing) reduces anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Exercise also improves self-esteem and cognitive function. The article recommended that you get thirty minutes of moderate exercise 3 to 5 days a week. The benefit to you is improved sleep, stress relief, increased mental alertness, and an improved mood.

Make Time for Sleep

Grief can make it difficult to sleep, but getting good sleep is important to your mental health. Depression and anxiety can be made worse by lack of sleep. If you don’t already, make sure that you go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day. Doing so will improve the quality of your sleep and keep some structure and routine in your daily life. 

If you are having trouble sleeping, try following the suggestions offered by the Sleep Foundation:

  • Make your bedroom comfortable and distraction-free
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Keep naps short and don’t nap in the late afternoon
  • Spend about 30 minutes winding down (read, stretch, meditate, listen to soft music)
  • Dim the lights
  • Put electronic devices away 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime
  • Cut down or eliminate caffeine in the afternoon and evening

What Not to Do

As normal as it is to want to understand why the relationship ended and have closure, you may never know what happened. Resist the impulse to replay the entire relationship in your head. Don’t analyze old text messages looking for clues as to what went wrong and don’t spend all your time discussing the relationship with friends and family members. Don’t neglect your well-being and don’t isolate yourself. Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape from the pain. While it may bring you some relief in the near term, in the long run substance abuse will not help and can damage your physical and mental health.

The best cure for grief after a relationship is time. Although you can’t put time in a bottle, if you take care of yourself by eating well, spending time with family and friends, exercising, and getting restorative sleep, you will begin to feel better.

The end of a romantic relationship can be devastating. Although healing takes time, you can help the process by eating well, exercising, and getting restorative sleep. What you should not do is neglect your self-care, obsess over the relationship, isolate yourself from family and friends,  or turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. If your grief seems excessive to you or you find yourself abusing drugs or alcohol, you may need professional help. Grief is one of the mental health issues that Enlightened Solutions can help with. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders. Our focus is on healing the whole person and we individualize a treatment plan for each client. In addition, to talk therapy and group support rooted in the 12-Step philosophy, we offer a number of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, acupuncture, family constellation therapy, and equine therapy. If you are tired of struggling with addiction and ready to begin healing, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Eating Disorder

You Can Never Be Too Thin--or Can You?

“You can never be too thin or too rich.” This quote has been ascribed to twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, the American woman for whom Edward VIII abdicated England’s throne. Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, was reportedly obsessed with wealth--and being thin.

Apparently, the duchess isn’t the only one to ascribe to this point of view. Thin models and celebrities stare at us from magazine covers. Celebutantes, almost always thin, post their filtered, carefully posed selfies on Instagram. Women of every age try diet after diet in an attempt to look like the airbrushed images that bombard them every day. According to BusinessWire, the weight loss and diet control market in the United States reached $72 billion in 2019, the highest it had ever been.

That last point may be proof that what’s good for Wall Street isn’t always good for Main Street. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), twenty million women and ten million men in the United States suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders have the “second-highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid addiction.” NEDA works to educate the public about eating disorders, build communities to support people who are recovering from these disorders, fund research, and provide people with resources. In an effort to educate the public, NEDA sponsors National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which will be February 22 through 28 in 2021.

What Are Eating Disorders?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are “serious medical illnesses marked by severe disturbances to a person’s eating behaviors….These disorders can affect a person’s physical and mental health; in some cases, they can be life-threatening.”

Three common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

People with anorexia avoid food or severely limit the amount and types of food they eat. They see themselves as overweight even when they are severely underweight. Some people with anorexia, in addition to restricting food, will force themselves to vomit or misuse laxatives and diuretics in an effort to further limit calories. Signs that someone may have anorexia include restricted eating, excessive exercise, extreme thinness, fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body image. As the illness progresses the person may develop medical issues, including:

  • Anemia
  • Muscle wasting and weakness
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Low body temperature
  • Lethargy or fatigue
  • Heart damage
  • Brain damage
  • Multi-organ failure

Anorexia can be fatal and people who die from anorexia exhibit medical conditions associated with starvation.

People with bulimia eat unusually large amounts of food and feel as if they have no control over their eating. They compensate for binge eating by forcing themselves to vomit, misusing laxatives or diuretics, fasting, or excessive exercise. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people with bulimia can be a normal weight or even be overweight. Medical issues caused by bulimia include a chronically inflamed and sore throat; swollen salivary glands; worn tooth enamel and tooth decay; acid reflux; intestinal issues from laxative abuse; dehydration; and electrolyte imbalance which can lead to a stroke or heart attack.

Sufferers of binge-eating disorder have repeated episodes of binge eating, usually defined as “eating an amount of food that exceeds what most people would eat within a two-hour time period. People with this disorder will eat even when they are not hungry and eat until they are uncomfortable. They tend to eat very rapidly during these binge episodes and they frequently eat alone or in secret because of feelings of shame or embarrassment. People with binge-eating disorder are frequently overweight or obese and diet without success. Heart problems are the most common health problem for this group.

Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues

While the causes of eating disorders are not known, experts speculate that eating disorders are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and societal forces. What is known, however, is that many people with eating disorders also suffer from depression and anxiety and may have issues with substance abuse. 

A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that 50% of people with eating disorders abuse drugs or alcohol, particularly those who engaged in some sort of purging behavior. According to an advisory released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), people with eating disorders have high rates of substance abuse as well. As the eating disorder becomes more severe, the likelihood that more than one substance is abused increases as well. Studies reported in the advisory found that people with binge-eating disorder tended to abuse alcohol, while those who attempted to increase their weight loss by purging (including bulimics and anorexics who purge) abused stimulants and sleeping pills.

The same advisory noted that co-occurring mental health disorders are common among people with eating disorders, particularly anxiety disorders, mood disorders (including major depressive, bipolar, and seasonal affective disorders) and impulse control disorders.

Help--and Hope--Is Available

Fortunately, help is available for people suffering from eating disorders. As serious as these disorders are, they are treatable, and people do recover.

Treatment for an eating disorder includes nutrition education, psychotherapy (talk therapy), and medication. Of the available psychotherapies, family-based therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy have been found to be effective. Alternative treatment modalities are also helpful in treating eating disorders. These include yoga, meditation, massage, fitness therapy, and acupuncture. 

You can recover from an eating disorder and receive treatment for co-occurring disorders that you may have. Treatment can literally save your life.

Experts estimate that nearly thirty million Americans suffer from an eating disorder, which has one of the highest mortality rates of all mental health issues. Approximately half of those who have an eating disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol and co-occurring mental health issues are also prevalent in this population. Eating disorders are serious health issues that can result in death if not treated. Help for eating disorders is available at Enlightened Solutions. We are a drug and alcohol treatment center on New Jersey’s southern shore and we are licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder. Our treatment plans are rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We focus on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. In addition to traditional talk therapy and support groups, we offer a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga and meditation, art and music therapy, and family constellation therapy. If you have been struggling with an eating disorder or other addiction, please call us at (833) 801-5483. We can help.


Kind

Why Kindness Matters

When you head out for your morning walk, you take a bag with you and pick up trash that you find on your route. You leave a post-it note on the mirror in the restroom of a local restaurant that reads “You are amazing.” You donate books you’ve finished reading to your community library. All of these acts are examples of kindness and could make someone’s day a little bit brighter.

In 2021, Random Acts of Kindness Day is on February 17 and the week beginning February 14 has been designated Random Acts of Kindness Week. This day--and week-- is sponsored by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, a nonprofit organization started in 1995 and sustained by financial contributions from an anonymous donor.

The “Helper’s High”

According to the Random Acts of Kindness website, being kind to others is good for your health. Seeing or performing a kind act increases the production of serotonin, the “love hormone.” This boosts self-esteem and optimism, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiovascular health. Kindness also results in higher serotonin levels, which improves sleep, lessens anxiety and depression, and contributes to bone density. In addition, those of us who volunteer or make a point of being kind to others have reported that they have more energy and are happier. Researchers at Emory University found that when you do something for someone else, the brain’s reward and pleasure centers activate. This occurrence is called the “helper’s high.” In addition, performing acts of kindness could even cause you to live longer.

Performing acts of kindness reduce physical pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and blood pressure, according to the Random Acts of Kindness website. Pain is lessened because acts of kindness stimulate the production of endorphins, which are considered “the brain’s natural painkillers.” Those of us who volunteer in our communities or make it a point to be kind to others have a 23% lower level of cortisol (the stress hormone), resulting in less perceived stress. In a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, individuals diagnosed with social anxiety disorder performed a minimum of six acts of kindness per week. After one month, this group had a more positive mood, indicated more satisfaction with their personal relationships, and showed less social avoidance. A professor at Case Western Reserve says that doing good for others decreases depression and improves feelings of overall well-being. And finally, being kind to others lowers our blood pressure because of increased serotonin levels.

Turning Your Focus Outward Can Aid Recovery

Performing acts of kindness for others can also help us in our recovery from substance use disorder. When we were drinking, using drugs, or engaging in other harmful addictive behaviors (gambling, for example), we were thinking almost exclusively about ourselves and our addiction. Our focus was on our next drink, wondering where we would get the money for more meth, hoping someone at the party had ecstasy, or whatever our craving was. Our focus was inward. When we perform an act of kindness or service, our focus turns outward to other people and their needs.

Doing good deeds can also help us form connections with other people and with our communities. If we are volunteering as part of an organization, we can bond with others who choose to support the same cause, be it holding a clothing drive to aid people who are returning to the workforce after being homeless, cleaning cages at an animal shelter, or spending a week building a home for a family through Habitat for Humanity.

If you are fairly new to your recovery, you may find yourself feeling bored and with time on your hands. Boredom can lead to relapse, so it is important to have activities to fill the time that you used to spend drinking or doing drugs. Doing a good deed, be it for an individual or a group, will give you something else to think about and to do while helping someone else at the same time. Volunteering with an organization whose mission you believe in can give your life structure and an additional sense of purpose, which will aid your recovery.

Kindness and Service in Recovery Groups

If you are in recovery from an addiction, you are probably in a support group. The most common are the 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, to name a few) and SMART Recovery. Both organizations provide free support to people struggling with or in recovery from substance use disorders on an international level and rely on volunteers. In both groups, volunteers facilitate meetings, both in-person and online. If you are volunteering with your support group, whether you are running the meeting, making coffee, or setting up chairs, it’s a great way to perform an act of kindness and connect with other people. Serving in this way also means that you have made a commitment beyond going to meetings, and this can get you to a meeting when you don’t feel like going, and that can support your recovery.

Performing an act of kindness for someone else, no matter how large or how small, benefits the giver as much or more than it does the recipient.

Random Acts of Kindness Day--and Week--celebrates acts of kindness large and small. As it turns out, doing good deeds is good for your physical and mental health and being of service to others is part of the 12-Step tradition. At Enlightened Solutions, a drug and alcohol treatment center licensed to treat co-occurring disorders, service opportunities are built into some of the healing modalities that we offer. For example, in the horticultural therapy modality, patients participate in the work of the organic farm that supplies the produce for the center. We are located on New Jersey’s southern shore and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just treating the addiction. We will individualize treatment for you based on your own unique needs. The treatment we offer includes talk therapy and support groups as well as a range of holistic treatment modalities including yoga, meditation, art and music therapy, family constellation therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and equine therapy. If you have been trapped in a life controlled by drugs and alcohol and are ready to break free, call us at (833) 801-5483.


Reduce Anxiety

“The Sky Is Falling”: Anxiety and Addiction

Most of us are familiar with the old folktale about Chicken Little. In one of the more familiar versions, an acorn falls from a tree and hits Chicken Little in the head. Chicken Little decides that the sky must be falling and that the king needs to be warned. He (or she in some versions) sets out, proclaiming “the sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Along the way, he meets other animals who join him. Different morals have been drawn from the fable, among them that you have to have courage and that you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.

The term “Chicken Little” has come to refer to a person who is unreasonably anxious or afraid and who spreads unreasonable fear or anxiety to other people. In psychological terms, Chicken Little was probably suffering from generalized anxiety disorder and had a tendency to catastrophize--that is, to always expect the worst possible outcome from a situation.

What Is Anxiety?

Everyone gets anxious or nervous from time to time--you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t--but an actual anxiety disorder is not just something you experience from time to time and it doesn’t just go away. People who suffer from anxiety tend to be easily irritated and to think the worst of any given situation. They frequently have trouble sleeping, difficulty in making decisions, and are plagued by self-doubt. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety can interfere with daily activities and can have a negative effect on job performance, school work, and relationships. Several types of anxiety disorder have been identified. People with generalized anxiety disorder worry excessively about everyday concerns including their health, work, and social interactions. Symptoms include irritability, feeling restless or edgy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and a general feeling of worry. Panic disorder is diagnosed when a person has recurring, unexpected panic attacks. Symptoms include heart palpitations, pounding or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, feeling short of breath or as if you are choking or smothering, and a general feeling of impending doom. Panic attacks can mimic the symptoms of a heart attack and people who have had panic attacks tend to become afraid and worried about the panic attacks themselves.

Phobias are described as “an intense fear of a particular object or circumstance,” but the fear the person experiences is out of proportion to the actual danger. Examples of phobias include fear of heights, flying, spiders, or snakes. If a person has a phobia of a particular object, say spiders, the person will worry a lot about encountering a spider, take extreme measures to avoid spiders, and become extremely and immediately anxious if they come across a spider. Agoraphobia is a specific phobia in which the person is very anxious about two or more of the following situations: using public transportation, being in an open or an enclosed space, crowds or lines, or being alone outside of his or her home. Social anxiety disorder is a fear of being in social or performance situations, and if a person has separation anxiety disorder, he or she will be very fearful of being away from the person that he or she is attached to. Although separation anxiety disorder is often associated with children, adults can suffer from the disorder as well.

Can Anxiety Lead to Addiction?

Anxiety disorders are commonly associated with substance use disorder. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, you might turn to alcohol or drugs in an effort to lessen the anxiety and make the symptoms more bearable. You may get relief that way, but only in the short-term. In the long-term, drugs or alcohol can actually increase your anxiety, so you can find yourself in a repeating circle: You feel anxious, so you have a few drinks; the alcohol (in the long-term) increases your anxiety, so you have a few more drinks, and on and on it goes. You could end up with two problems--the original anxiety disorder and a resulting alcohol use disorder. A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) interviewed more than 43,000 people who had suffered from anxiety in the previous year and found that fifteen percent of them met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder, about twice the rate for the general population.

Treatment for Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are usually treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is frequently used in treating anxiety because it helps people to see the ways in which their thinking is unhelpful or distorted. Clients learn ways to reframe their thinking with respect to their phobia. 

Treatment for anxiety can also include mindfulness exercises and meditation, both of which calm our minds. Breathing exercises can bring us back to a calm place very quickly. These techniques can retrain our brains, so we realize that we aren’t in actual danger--that the snake dozing in its habitat at the local pet store probably won’t break the glass, escape, and destroy everything in its path.  

Like Chicken Little, when an acorn falls on our head, we need to realize that it’s just an acorn. The sky is not falling.

If you suffer from an anxiety disorder as well as an alcohol or drug addiction, both conditions need to be treated. If only the addiction is treated and not the underlying anxiety, it will be very difficult for treatment to be successful. Enlightened Solutions is a licensed co-occurring treatment center, meaning that we can treat substance use disorders and the mental health issues that so often accompany addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-Step philosophy. We offer traditional talk therapy and many alternative therapies, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, art and music therapy, sound therapy, equine therapy, and horticultural therapy. We customize treatment for each client and our focus is on healing the whole person, not just the addiction. We are located near the southern New Jersey shore. If you are seeking recovery and relief from addiction and anxiety, please call us at (833) 801-5483.