Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Is it just a Blue Christmas?

Is it Christmas blues or could it be depression

Sometimes signs are all around us and yet seeing them is difficult. The holidays can be a time of mixed emotion for anyone. For those of us who serve, those feelings can be compounded. Sadness can hide in the glow of holiday lights and loneliness most certainly lurks in places far from home. So, how do you tell the difference between a Blue Christmas and depression?

If you’ve been around here much you will likely know that I’m a Navy veteran. You may even know that I have a son currently serving in the Marine Corps. What you likely don’t know is that I suffered from my first bout of depression while I was on active duty.  

Because I have the unique perspective of someone who served during a time of war, having been a military spouse, and now being a Marine mom, Med-IQ reached out to me for help in spreading the word about how to recognize the symptoms of depression – or major depressive disorder. Through this sponsored post I hope to shine some light on the signs of depression and dispel some myths along the way.

Looking back I wish that I’d understood that what I was going through wasn’t just homesickness. I wouldn’t have put so much blame for my sadness on being half a globe away from home. Maybe I’d have recognized that it wasn’t all Bing Crosby’s fault even though every damn time I visited the chow hall that December, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” seemed to be in an endless loop – that is just cruel! The truth was I’d been spiraling downward far before that holiday season began.

With the benefit of hindsight and talking with Dr. Leslie Citrome, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College, I now understand that I’d been experiencing some of the signs of depression for months. I now know that things like changes in sleep patterns, pervasive sadness, loss of interest in things once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating and feelings of hopelessness are all signs of depression and not just the blues – Christmas or otherwise.

I served in the early nineties, a time when seeking help for mental illness meant an almost sure smudge on your record. Even if I’d known that I was going through was depression, I would never have sought help in that environment. The good news is that these days the military has gotten a bit better at allowing active duty members to seek mental health care. A bit.

There is still a long way to go. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is getting more attention, the fact is that those with PTSD tend to also suffer from depression. The two are not one in the same. Those with PTSD have higher rates of anxiety, are more irritable and have more difficulty sleeping, which can also mean that the signs of major depressive disorder go undiagnosed. PTSD and depression often travel together. 

Knowing the signs to look for can help us distinguish the difference between just having a Blue Christmas – which let’s face it, the holidays aren’t the same when you serve – and suffering from depression. Recognizing a bout of homesickness from the beginnings of an illness is only one part of the mission. We all need to do a better job of dispelling myths that create a stigma around those who suffer from mental illnesses because ignorance can be costly.

Though rates of suicide in the military have decreased since an all-time high in 2012, the rate at which members of the military take their own lives still far outpaces that of the general public. In my own military family, we’ve experienced two suicides attempts in the last year. One successful and two too many.

 

The truth is that if you have major depressive disorder, you are sick in the same way that someone who has cancer, diabetes or heart disease is sick. There is nothing defective about you. Whether it is genetics or environment that caused your illness, you didn’t bring this on yourself.

Those of us who serve have had each other’s backs time and again to complete the mission. I’m asking that we do the same in this mission of spreading awareness. Knowing the enemy is the first step. Med-IQ, in conjunction with Dr. Citrome, has developed a quick and confidential survey to learn how much we as a military community, as caregivers and even as civilians understand about depression.

This survey does not collect your personal information; it is completely confidential and secure. It is a quick (10 minutes tops) and easy way to help us help each other. You could also win one of 10 $100 VISA gift cards for your participation. To keep your response confidential and still participate in the drawing, simply email surveydepression@gmail.com and let them know you’ve completed the survey and would like your shot at winning. START YOUR SURVEY

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t think you are alone. There is help out there. Veterans and their families can reach out to ptsd.va.gov . If you believe you are suffering from holiday-related depression, visit the Mayo Clinic for resources. Also, avoid Bing Crosby at all costs, haha.

 

I was compensated by Med-IQ through a grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression awareness. All my opinions are my own.

*These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.

Stress: There’s An App For That

You looked stressed. In all fairness… don’t we all? Even the most zen among us can’t claim they’re stress free. Where they differ from those of us who find ourselves practically pulling our hair out on the regular is in how they deal with their stress. Me? I go mobile. Believe it or not, there are some great stress management apps out there. 

Recently I embarked on a new professional (and personal) adventure. After over a decade of owning my own consulting business – working mostly from home or far-flung exotic locales like, Dublin and Detroit- I’m back in an office, working for someone else. Part of my new gig entails teaching people what a big role stress plays in our over all health and wellness. 

To be honest, I could be the poster girl for the ill effects of stress. Hair loss? Been there, lost that.  Insomnia? There aren’t sheep enough for all the counting I’ve done. Weight gain? Yeah, we aren’t even going there. This new job has forced be to stare stress right in the baggy, dark-circled eyes and deal with it so I can help others do the same. 

great-stress-managment-appsMy top advice? Find apps that make it easier to coral the cortisol. After all if you’ve got to stress about how to deal with stress you’re sort of doing this whole thing wrong… really wrong. 

Stress: There IS an App for That! 

Headspace – This app is by far my absolute favorite – and not only because I love the cute British man-voice. Headspace is sort of like a gym for your brain. In daily 10-minute guided meditations you’re guided through ways quite and focus the mind. I find that squeezing in a session or two during the work day really helps renew my energy and stave off that afternoon slump in creativity. (If you want to know more, I wrote a full post and review of Headspace over at (cool) progeny)

Mood Panda – When I was young I carried around a beat up old diary with a lock I’m sure my brothers would never have dreamed of picking. I’d pour every unedited thought into those pages as though I were at confession. For a lonely word-nerd that diary was about as close to a BFF as it got.

Mood Panda may not be a trusty, old-school diary but it is a good app for recording your feelings, literally.  Knowing how you’re feeling/felt, when and where you were can be a key step to unlocking the patterns in your stress. From there you can put in some work in avoiding or dealing with those issues in a new way.  Plus… pandas!

Attitudes of Gratitude – A while back my side kick and the brilliant brain responsible for keeping The Nuggs up and running – Cameron of Daddy Bookins fame – had a pretty terrifying health scare. In the midst of going through that he started to do daily posts sharing gratitude for things big and small. It was an exercise in grounding. Be thankful for each day, try not to let stress take that away. 

If you’re not necessarily into public declarations of thankfulness, this could be the app for you. Record at least one daily moment of gratitude. In doing that, you force stress to loosen it’s grip on your day. 

Bright Side Up – I’ve only used this app a few times, but my daughter loves it. Swiping away the clouds and seeing the bright side is something we could all use. 

Just click the clouds to whisk them away and bring out a fresh, original BrightUp written by Amy Spencer that can shift how you feel by suggesting something to do, think or try. Use these BrightUps on their own or as a companion to the book Bright Side Up, full of strategies for looking at your life in an entirely new way.  

I’ll confess that I find myself singing Always Look at the Bright Side of Life from Monty Python’s Life of Brian when I see this app. Don’t judge, laughter is a stress release after all!

Kick the Stress by Playing

Zen Koi – Have you ever spent time in a Japanese garden with a Koi pond? Isn’t there something inherently calming in just being in a place like that? Would that we could all have a Koi pond in our homes, offices or in line at the DMV, eh? While this app may not be the next best thing it certainly is calming.

I’m not much of a gamer but there is something about guiding virtual Koi around this pond, watching them evolve and chilling out to the zen background music that forces you to relax. Stress falls away as you let go and just play. Play is a great way to manage stress. Go ahead, try it.

These are just a few apps I personally like. The beauty of living a mobile lifestyle is you can find the app, vibe and time that suites you. No need to stress about it, just explore!

Disclosure: As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events. All opinions entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

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Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the Globe

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the GlobeThis year in preparation for cold and flu season, I decided to get ahead of the germs and cook my own penicillin. Okay, maybe it was more a Pinterest endeavor than a petri dish thing, but I think that soup might have it’s own curative cultures. I’m not alone in that theory. Turns out soup is “prescribed” rather universally. Here is a sampling of chicken soup recipes from around the globe. 

Cilantro is one of those flavors that you either love or hate. I’m no hater. So this Peruvian recipe – from Nutrients, You Fools {best. food. blog. name. ever}  which is packed with the stuff really appealed to me.  The pungent aroma is great for the sinuses too. I substituted olive oil for the butter though and tossed in a bit more garlic. 

Chicken Soup Recipes from around the globe
photo credit: nutrientsyoufools.com


Over the last couple of years I’ve been exploring Persian cooking. I love the heady aroma this spice-laden cooking and the vibrant colors that come from the use of turmeric, paprika, and saffron. Fittingly this next recipe comes from a blog called, Turmeric & Saffron. 

Barley is the surprise ingredient in Soup-e Jo, a Persian chicken soup that is rich, hearty, colorful and has just a bit of tang to it.

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the Globe
photo credit: turmericsaffron.blogspot.com

No proper post on chicken soup would be worth it’s salt without some “Jewish Penicillin” better known as Mazto Ball Soup. This soup is an art form, as such there are many shades and variations.  

Some prefer their Mazto in a dainty bite size, others {me included} like to dig into a giant ball of yum floating in a sea of flavor. There are those that shun the dill and some who simply won’t stand for anything other than a crystal clear broth. One thing we can all agree on though, is if you’re sick a good Mazto Ball soup is as necessary as rest and a warm blanket.  

I’ll admit that I’ve never mastered the art of making the stuff, sad to say. I do have masterful ordering skills though and luckily the famed Chick & Ruth’s Annapolis delivers! I may have to give this recipe from Girl and The Kitchen ago. It as everything I consider high-art in a Mazto Ball soup. 

Chicken Soup Reicpes from Around the Globe
photo credit: girlandthekitchen.com

One of the things I loved most about Greece is the abundance of lemon. If tooth enamel were not a necessary thing, I think I could just live off lemons alone. While Greek seafood will always been my favorite, this recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Soup from A Family Feast is sunshine in a bowl – the perfect pick-me-up for when you’re feeling under the weather. 

A bonus here, the stock recipe included in this post is phenomenal. I made two batches of it last month, canned and froze some. Having homemade stock for cold and flu season is like adding to your medicine cabinet. Do it. It is well worth the time and effort.

Chicken Soup Recipes from Around the World
photo credit: afamilyfeast.com

While I was putting together this post…

I. Got. Sick.

Isn’t that just how it works, eh? One stroke of luck though, I found some of my dad’s famous Albondigas Soup made with chicken meatballs in our deep freezer.  I credit the spicy soup filled with squash, carrots, potatoes, and rice with my quick recovery. Maybe we can all guilt him into revealing his secret recipe.

Have a favorite chicken soup recipe with a global twist? I’d love to add it to this list. 

airplane rules

airplane rules put your own mask on firstWho gets the oxygen first? I’ve always found it a bit counterintuitive when flight attendants give their safety briefing and tell you to put on your oxygen mask on first before attempting to help others. Okay, so maybe you won’t be much help to anyone if you pass out from oxygen deprivation, but still shouldn’t at least the kids come first? Then I went to see a psychic.

Wow, that flight took a sharp left eh?

I’m not one to seek out metaphysical advice, in fact this meeting was pure chance.  A celestial alignment of a girlfriends weekend, the Presidential Suite, and fortune telling. Curiouser and curiouser…

I won’t go into details revealed to me about the future. We’ll just say that monetary windfall needs to make a landing before the teen gets into Berkley.  Tarot cards and mystic crystals aside, she had some true wisdom to impart. Wisdom she calls, “The Airplane Rule.”

Rooted in that safety briefing, the idea is rather simple. In the same way that we wouldn’t be much use helping someone else get their mask on if we were passed out on the cabin floor, we aren’t much use any day if we don’t we don’t take care of ourselves first.

Here is how Airplane Rules work; Take six minutes a day to just be with yourself. Do something just for you. Meditate, take a walk, enjoy a cup of tea all by yourself. Turn off the noise and welcome the quiet.

Simple? Yeah, right!

Yes I do realize that making time to care for ourselves is typically anything but simple. With a new school year looming, making time for myself seems about as likely as having Sam Heughan show up on my doorstep bent on whisking me away to 18th century Scotland. That said, I’m really starting to think that The Airplane Rule has some merit.

sam heughan in a kilt what girl wouldn't love to be resuced by this Outlander hunk? We women tend to feel the urge to nurture others so strongly that it comes at the risk of failing ourselves. Or worse, feeling guilty about making time to do that. Guilt and I are lifelong pals.  Half an hour at the salon getting my nails done is an open invitation for guilt to take up residence on our sofa.

That psychic said something so profound to me, “Everyone has six minutes. There is nothing on your to-do list that can’t wait for you to dedicate six minutes to yourself. Find that six minutes and then before you know it you’ll have 12.”

So I gave it a try this morning

I went back to using the Headspace app. It’s a free and easy way to make some time for you through guided {or unguided} meditation. Maybe it was ten instead of six minutes, but it turns out I had time for even that long. The result? I got more checked off that to-do list than I’d even planned for.

I think I might just start to live by the airplane rule.

Summer in a Ski Town – The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe

Gorgeous views from the lobby of TheResort at Squaw CreekIt may seem odd to think about visiting a destination best known for world-class skiing when the only snow you’re likely to find is in a cone.  As it turns out some ski towns have nearly as much to offer in the summer. The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe makes for a great base camp to test that theory. 

The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe

All about the lake – Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe itself is the largest Alpine lake in North America. Boating, kayaking, and stand-up paddle boarding are just a few of the ways to enjoy this stunning natural wonder with water so clear in some spots that you can see to a depth of around 70 feet.  At times it reminded me of the waters off the east coast of Jamaica.

(photo credit: Squaw Valley Lodge / CC BY-SA 2.0)
(photo credit: Squaw Valley Lodge / CC BY-SA 2.0)

What is there to actually do at a ski resort in summer?

The simple answer? Lots!

Hike through stunning mountainsides dotted with waterfalls, hidden lakes, and a rainbow of beautiful wild flowers. 

Waterfall on the Shirley Canyon Hiking Trail - Lake TahoeTake an aerial tram ride up 2,000 vertical feet to High Camp where a pool, museum, outdoor activities, bar and cafe await with stunning views from an elevation of 8,200 feet. 

Go horseback riding on trails that cross streams and wind up into the mountains giving breath-taking views of protected forest ranges. Who knows, you might even run into a local or two. We met up with a Black Tail deer who could have cared less that we were there, she was so busy munching.

Horseback riding at Alpine Meadows - Lake TahoeOr, you could just hang out by the pool. The Resort at Squaw Creek has large recreation pool, plunge pool, 120-foot water slide, a children’s pool and 3 outdoor all-season whirlpools.

Worked up an appetite? The food scene at Lake Tahoe holds its own with the well-developed tastes of Foodies visiting from the San Francisco bay area. The Resort at Squaw Creek boasts three eateries open year-round, as well as two open seasonally.

Stop in for breakfast at Cascades and indulge in a buffet that features great artisanial eats like local honey, cheeses, and pastries. Don’t miss the build-your-own Bloody Mary Bar. 

Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary BarHave Sweet Potatoes Deli box you up a lunch for your outdoor adventures. Their quinoa and tomato salad is sublime.

Signature cocktails share center stage with gorgeous views, and innovated, gourmet dishes at Six Peaks Grille. Fine dining by the fire? I’m in.

Crispy Duck with Blueberry Confit - Six Peaks Grille at The Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake TahoeThe Spa, aaah! In my mind no hotel property should be allowed to call itself a resort if they don’t have a great spa. Squaw Creek earns their “resort” cred with a spa that Condé Nast Traveler named among the Top Five Resort Spas. 

It may not be the biggest, but it melds perfectly into the “nature vibe” of the area making the experience immersive, and unique. I thoroughly enjoyed their Coconut/Honey Sugar Scrub treatment, and highly recommend asking if Norma-Jean has any openings when you book any treatment at the spa.

How are the rooms? It just so happened that during my visit The Resort at Squaw Creek was celebrating it’s 25th anniversary by getting some work done. Rooms are in the process of being updated with modern amenities, like: marble tiled bathrooms with separate soaking tubs and separate showers, and chic resort decor. The rooms are actually more like micro-apartments with a kitchen stocked with utensils, appliances and tableware, making them great for families.

I will say that the refrigerator in my room was odd. The shelves were so narrow that you couldn’t fit a full-sized wine or soft drink bottle in without laying it flat.  

The Resort at Squaw Creek - Renovated RoomThe renovations are being done in two stages, the first complete already with the rest expected to be finished by the time ski season arrives. I’d suggest calling the property to book your room so you can request one that has been updated.

Tips

If you’re flying in from the East Coast, consider departing from New York if you can. JetBlue has recently opened up a non-stop route from JFK to Reno.

The Resort at Squaw Creek is about an hour drive from the Reno airport. Don’t bother renting a car, there is shuttle service from the resort to just about anywhere you want to go. Instead, make a reservation with Sierra-Tahoe Car Service.  Not only will you get a reliable ride in a full-sized SUV with room for your family and gear, you’ll also be able to take in the sites on the scenic drive up to the resort.

The holidays are a great time to stay at the resort. In fact, there are some great sales coming up just for that time of year.  They won’t be advertizing these prices so be sure you’re in the know by signing up for info

Sunset on Lake Tahoe

 

As you know, sometimes I get the opportunity to visit places as a hosted guest of the destination. I was hosted on this trip. That said, I received no compensation and was not required to write a review of any sort. Everything you just read is 100% my honest opinion, because you deserve nothing less!