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Are you sure you want things to improve?

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While we are on the topic of legal, over-the-counter drugs that people consume on a daily basis without any thought to how it will impact their mental health, let’s take a look at caffeine!

As mentioned in my previous post, my office shares a parking lot with a popular java joint. I am not innocent; I treat myself once or twice per week to a latte. I am very aware of the effects; which is why I limit myself AND take efforts to avoid any excess consumption of caffeine.

Caffeine is a stimulant. It has been studied and found that caffeine is linked to increased anxiety, sleep disturbance, and can lead to symptoms of mania. Caffeine can lead to restlessness, agitation, excitement, rambling thought and speech, and insomnia. For those with psychiatric diagnoses, it exacerbates agitation, psychosis and the above mentioned symptoms.

While caffeine isn’t all bad, low doses can improve cognitive functioning and mood, it is common for dependence and abuse to occur. Caffeine withdrawal leads to fatigue, headaches, irritability and depressive symptoms.

If you are already an anxious person or are seeking treatment for an anxiety, sleep, impuls control, or bipolar disorder, I would absolutely recommend that you avoid caffeine. Why fuel the fire?! I personally and professionally do not agree with minors (those under the age of 18) drinking coffee or energy drinks. This means that parents need to say no and have contingencies in place if the rule is breached. I believe there are more holistic methods to improve alertness in all people (Think healthy sleep and exercise)! Teaching kids, teens and young adults to reach for a quick fix has horrific implications later in life (think drugs, promiscuity, risk taking).

Citations and Further reading:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777290/

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So you want to get better?

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THEN STOP WITH ALL THE SUGAR! My office shares a parking lot with a certain popular coffee chain. I am not going to lie, I really enjoy this perk at times. What really hurts my heart though, is when my clients show up with blended (coffee)SUGAR drinks. The office space we rent is also in a building with a soda machine…enter children, teens, and adults who are frequently carrying sodas and lemonades laden with sugar.

Here’s the deal: the World Health Organization currently recommends 25 grams of sugar per day MAX. This means…you do not need to get to 25 grams, there are no bonus points for consistently getting to 25 grams…it is the red line to STAY AWAY FROM. Major problem is that most people surpass that number on a daily basis.

What we know about consumption of added sugar in a diet (we aren’t talking about fruit here…) is that it leads to your blood sugar spiking and then crashing. The effect of this on the human body is extreme. I will spare you the details other than it leads to a (short) burst of energy followed by a significant dip in mood: increased depression, anxiety, and irritability. Challenge me on that…really…and just use your imagination on what this looks like for someone who repeats the cycle several times per day. A 2014 study by Emory recently found that teens with high fructose diets tend to have increase rates of depressive behaviors (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141118141852.htm).

A 2012 study from UCLA (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2012.230078/full) found that high fructose corn syrup LITERALLY slows brain function, impairs memory and inhibits new learning. So when clients walk into my office high on sugar, I already know they are primed to NOT retain what we are working on. This is a problem when teens and college students are hitting up coffee chains and vending machines on their way to school!

We all know that abusing sugar can lead to diabetes; however high blood sugar has also been linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease later in life. (http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/09/high-blood-sugar-linked-to-dementia/?_r=0) It seems that if the high sugar diet doesn’t seem to cause an effect at the current moment, it certainly increases risks all throughout your life span.

To learn about how sugar becomes addicting like a drug, check out this TED Talk: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-sugar-affects-the-brain-nicole-avena

Here are some common sugar contents (things I see in my office often):

Starbucks Grande Vanilla Bean Frappachino 57 grams of sugar
Dunkin Donuts Medium Caramel Iced Coffee 37 grams of sugar
20 oz Coca Cola 65 grams of sugar
20 oz Mountain Dew 77 grams of sugar
Arizona Iced Tea 72 grams of sugar
One package of Skittles 47 grams of sugar
2 Pop Tarts 34 grams of sugar

In conclusion:

This is not a soap box that I stand on. This is not be being a health nut. This is a national crisis in which I see people being more willing to take prescription medications (which carry very real risks of side effects) rather than even TRY to reduce their sugar intake to under 25 grams per day. Parents have an obligation to be mindful of what they are buying and providing for their children. Teens are old enough to learn about the effects of sugar and yet lack the impulse control to moderate their behavior 100% of the time without support. Adults can learn to manage their urges and make healthier choices which will lead to improved mental and physical health, reduced healthcare costs, and improved finances!

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Adult Coloring Books

As a therapist, I have always offered coloring sheets and a variety of media for my clients to work on during their sessions. For many, the ability to focus their attention on something so “simple” as coloring, allows them to relax and confront some deeper issues. For others, it is something to focus on if sitting face to face feels too invasive. Yet for others, it is a way to unlock creativity and develop a sense of confidence as they unlock the beauty of a picture!
In terms of a mindfulness activity (paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, without worrying about the past or being anxious about the future) coloring offers a great escape. Spending time mindfully reduces suffering, increases focus and productivity while actually calming your amygdala (the part of your brain that freaks out!).

It is no secret that adult coloring books have been a CRAZE lately. Check below for links to a few free sites with great coloring page options!

http://www.coloring-pages-adults.com/coloring-zen
http://www.crayola.com/free-coloring-pages/adult-coloring-pages/

If this topic interests you, please refer back to my post on art journaling! (https://yourmentalrestoration.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/art-journaling/)