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13 Jul

Why are we hearing breaking news about the health benefits of yoga and meditation? We already knew they were good for us…

11 Jul

Remember when the word “hypnosis” conjured up images of a stage Svengali snookering some hapless volunteer from the audience to walk like a duck and cluck like a chicken?

Well, according to a just-published University of Birmingham research analysis, hypnosis and hypnotherapy have come a long way from that perception. The investigators show most people are open to using it for medical or psychotherapeutic purposes.

03 Jul

During this week of the Fourth of July, I’m focused on the idea I grew up with of what is the classic American Hero. 

I was born during World War II, infused with an ideal of a certain post-war, iconic, American male. In the movies, he was best exemplified by Gary Cooper in High Noon and Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird - both won Oscars for Best Actor, by the way.

This hero figure was gallant, brave and principled, protecting the weak and doing what was right, even at great personal cost.

26 Jun

June 27th is National Posttraumatic Stress Awareness Day, so I’m taking the occasion to point out a few things. 

The actual name for the day is “PTSD” Awareness Day, but I’m not using those initials, because I don’t think the “D” (for Disorder) belongs there. The experience of Posttraumatic Stress does not constitute a mental disorder, regardless of PTSD’s prominent listing in the DSM-V. (That’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which therapists use to assign diagnoses and file for insurance).  

PTS is a normal reaction to abnormal events.

It’s a body based neurophysiological and biochemical response to threat.

It’s an ancient, human, survival-driven, wired-in answer to danger, real or perceived – it makes no difference to the body.

Capacity for words shuts down and sheer instinct takes over. That’s so we can move and act faster, the better to save our lives.

Ugly images stay stuck in the brain and repeat, as fresh and contemporaneous as the day they first showed up. That’s because traumatic memories aren’t stored in the usual structures in the brain where normal memories are housed.

That’s why standard therapy or “the talking cure” doesn’t help as much as we once thought it could.  It’s like apples trying to talk to oranges.

Instead, techniques like guided imagery, EMDR, Healing Touch, Somatic Experiencing, Yoga Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique and other sensory and body based approaches are far more effective and quick-acting. That’s apples talking to apples.

I tried to spell this out in my book, Invisible Heroes. So does Robert Scaer in The Body Bears the Burden. Peter Levine was early to the party with Waking the Tiger. Bessel van der Kolk came later with The Body Keeps the Score

Hopefully the DSM-VI will set the record straight and take out that D. Stay tuned!

All best,

br signature

Belleruth 

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19 Jun

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a short-term, behavioral therapy that helps people counter anxiety and their own limiting beliefs, in order to make positive changes. It requires no deep-dish psychodynamic insight into motivation and no delving into anguished family history – all it asks (more or less) is that you state a positive intention while tapping on acupoints.

Now, all that tapping can look pretty weird, but it seems to help a good slice of the population. And, because it’s so undemanding on a person’s time and cash reserves, it’s not a bad strategy to try first, before signing up for the more lengthy, pricey and complicated process of psychotherapy.

12 Jun

I just had a hip replacement - a surprisingly easy and comfortable surgery, as these things go. The staff had me walking the same day, and I was able to leave the hospital soon after, with only a mild ache in my leg – nothing a little Tylenol couldn’t handle, and, truth be told, I’d have been fine without the Tylenol, too.

(My physical therapist says she finds that about half the people who have this surgery find it a breeze. The other half are wired to experience significant pain. In terms of actual healing and recovery, however, it takes the same amount of time for both groups.) 

Nonetheless, my excellent surgeon discharged me from the hospital with 60 Oxycodone tablets (5 mg.), and 14 Morphine extended release tabs (15 mg.). That’s a lot of dope.

07 Jun

Men are neither as healthy nor as long-lived as women. What makes them so much more vulnerable? It’s Men’s Health Week, after all, and a good time to ask.

A lot of studies point to one critical variable, and it’s not obesity, smoking or even stress.

30 May

The tragic death of 52-year-old grunge rock icon, Chris Cornell, highlights our mounting national concern over the overuse of prescription drugs and the opioid epidemic assailing us.

Evidently Cornell told his wife he had taken too much Ativan after his Detroit concert. We know Ativan is highly addictive and can produce some unpleasant – even dangerous and suicidal - side effects. Its generic name, Lorazepam, is part of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines or benzos.

Valium is another well-known benzo. Back in the 80’s, before docs knew about its addictive nature, Valium was dispensed like candy to anyone complaining of feeling nervous, unsettled, agitated or panicky.

Other meds are now recommended for anxiety first – SSRI’s and anti-depressants.

22 May

For National Meditation Month, we’re saluting three of my favorite teachers – pioneers who’ve made meditative practices more accessible, widely used and accepted by thousands of people.

The first tip of the hat is for Jon Kabat-Zinn, because he’s done so much to bring mindfulness to Westerners.  He created a simplified protocol, related it to the practical goal of relieving stress, called it MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and persuaded hundreds of academic researchers to test its efficacy. (I just searched “MBSR” on PubMed, and today, it delivered 404 studies, 64 of which were published in 2017 – and it’s only May.)

15 May

Compulsive hoarding, holding on to possessions to the extent that it negatively affects every aspect of your life, is called Hoarding Disorder, and if this applies to you or someone you love, it’s time to get professional help.

In her blog post, A 61-Year-Old Woman Suffers from Compulsive Hoarding, Cluttering her House, Belleruth explained it this way: “If left untended, it can get quite extreme, with more and more of your life constricted and disabled by it. There is a biochemical and neurological aspect to this condition.

“Some people have so much accumulation, they will only have a narrow path from room to room, because canyons have been created by floor-to-ceiling stacks of newspapers and magazines. Stovetops, sofas and tables are buried. Fire and health hazards are created. And of course, your social life is constricted too - you’re too ashamed to have people over to the house. So are your kids.”