Categories: Kristin's Earlier Blogs, About Kristin
Yesterday, I was hiking/walking in one of my favorite places. In Autumn, the skies turn a brilliant shade of azure in Colorado, the sun feels warm and tingly rather than the penetrating death rays of summer, and the air is so clear, it seems you can just reach out and touch the mountains. The Peak had a heavy dusting of snow from a storm the previous day and against that sky makes for a dazzling western horizon.
As I was walking along, thoroughly enjoying my time out-of-doors, I began thinking about SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. I suffered from SAD for many years before moving to Colorado. I grew up in Michigan and underneath perpetually gray winter skies, gray slush in the streets, gray snow for weeks, grayness everywhere. I felt inundated by gray in winter.
I remember once in college, skipping all my classes one day off on a mission to find color. I was determined to find some color in all that gray. I roamed my little college town for hours before I began seeing hints of color here and there. And it was certainly a stretch to see even that.
Upon moving to Colorado in the mid 80’s, I recall the experience of suddenly realizing that here it was, in the middle of January, and I wasn’t even slightly depressed. I wondered why. I looked around me; it had just dumped a foot of snow the night before but the skies were brilliantly blue, the snow already melting off the streets (never any gray slush here), the Flatirons and foothills were sparkling with the new snow against the sky, and I realized it had to be the light. The light was why I wasn’t depressed. It was then I had another realization - I had suffered from SAD since a teenager and never even knew it.
So, just what is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Also known as Winter Depression, it is a biochemical imbalance in the hypothalamus due to the shortage of daylight hours and lack of sunlight in Winter. Also, melatonin secreted by the pineal gland in the brain has been linked to SAD. Symptoms generally begin in the Fall, peak in Winter, and resolve in the Spring. Some of the most common symptoms are oversleeping, fatigue, cravings for carbs and sweets, weight gain (hmm... how could that be?), depression, and loss of libido, among others. A weakened immune system is often seen in people suffering from SAD.
Alas and alack, as I am getting older, I have seen symptoms of SAD returning, even though I live where there is bright light in the Winter...until 4:00 in the afternoon when the sun falls behind the mountains and darkness descends. So what to do? I take light baths on warm sunny afternoons, but perhaps you live in a place where it is gray and cold. Full spectrum light helps, and there are many sources on light therapy and how to do it. Following the Blood Type Diet is crucial as well, being watchful of carbs and emphasizing beneficial meats, dairy, veggies and fruit. I notice my symptoms lessen with a high degree of compliance: very difficult around the holidays, I know. Maintaining your exercise program throughout the winter is equally as important as eating well, too.
But really, if I could name the number one mood elevator in my life it would be: creativity.
Harold, did she really say creativity?
Yes, yes I did.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking; you’re saying to yourself, “Well, I’m not at all creative” and you almost have yourself convinced of that too. Almost.
Creative doesn’t necessarily mean artistic. You can be creative in the way you prepare a meal, playful silliness with your child or spouse, the appreciation of a sunrise or a moving piece of music, dancing with abandon when no one is watching, belting out a torch song driving in the car, telling a loved one how much you enjoy their presence in your life. I have started taking my sketchbook along on my hikes and taking a few minutes to stop and do a few gesture drawings. Now, a visual artist I am not. But I do enjoy sketching, and drawing out in nature really helps me to see what I am seeing; I gain a greater understanding of it by taking the time to really observe. And let me tell you, my drawings are not anything I would ever show anybody. But, they help me keep my creative spirit alive.
So, I challenge you to find time in your life to express your own, unique self through your creativity. Even just 15 minutes a day will make a difference. If you are stumped for ideas, Nina Wise has a book called “A Big, New, Free, Happy, Unusual Life”. Ya gotta love a book with a title like that. She is a performance artist and teacher of improvisation, there are many exercises and info in the book to get you started.
Fifteen minutes a day. Are you with me?
I’m looking forward to feeling great all the way through the approaching dark season.
When my first son was born, we were seeing a friendly D.O. for our family’s healthcare. My son was born in a hospital, which was not our plan, and I relied on our doctor to help navigate us through that experience. It was quite a brutal experience, actually, largely due to the prejudices the local medical community held toward homebirth families at the time. When I took my son in to our doctor for a bilirubin check due to jaundice, my doctor looked him over casually and said he was fine. When I asked about the lack of a more thorough exam, my doctor replied that he rarely has any concerns with homebirth families in his practice since, in his experience, they take responsibility for their health.
At the time I thought, “Well, gosh, doesn’t everybody?” I know now that not everybody does. I find that rather shocking, especially amongst my friends who run to their MD’s for every little sniffle, constantly taking OTC medications and prescriptions for everything under the sun. Always trying to knock out symptoms. Rarely inquiring into the origins of their discomforts. And always failing to take responsibility for their health.
One of the things I love about the BTD community is that we DO take responsibility for our health. We are some of the most informed, knowledgeable people I know, especially in the area of health and wellness. I am constantly amazed at our willingness to keep learning, not to mention putting it all into practice.
In case you haven’t yet heard, Dr. D’Adamo has reassembled an incredible new message board. There are several forums available and everyone is invited to share their experience with others, learn something new, and grow together as a BTD community. Here’s the link
Come join us...
P.S. Since you asked... Some of you have requested the Turkey Rice Soup I mentioned a while back so here it is:
Turkey Rice Soup is my favorite reason for cooking a turkey. I most often make it the day after Thanksgiving, or any day in which we are lucky enough to have turkey leftovers. It is an adaptation of my mother's chicken soup recipe.
First, I take the leftover carcass and place in a large stock pot and fill with water to make the stock. I add a few bay leaves and sometimes peppercorns and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 1-2 hours. Any leftover meat usually falls off the carcass. After simmering, I remove the carcass and skin, and take out any large pieces of turkey meat.
While the meat is cooling, I skim the oil off stock and add about 1 to 2 cups of brown rice or brown and wild rice mixed (wild rice is an avoid for B secretors), 1 large onion, chopped, a couple chopped carrots and chopped stalks of celery, several cloves of sliced garlic,and about 1 to 2 teaspoons of celery seed to the stock pot. After the meat has cooled from the carcass, I cut that into smaller pieces and add that to the soup along with any other leftover turkey meat I want to add - usually lots because I like my soup meaty. Simmer until the rice and veggies are cooked, usually about 2 hours or so. Season with salt and serve.
This makes alot of soup! so I always freeze some for future use. It is great to have homemade soup on hand when feeling under the weather and all you have to do is heat it up.
As the morning air has settled into cold, brisk, and autumnal, it is now time for warm breakfasts. This is my all time favorite meal of the day; I love hot breakfasts. And since I work primarily at home, I get the luxury of not having to rush out the door most mornings. Today, I made a lovely porridge out of steel cut oats cooked in milk and water with apples, dried blueberries, vanilla, nutmeg, maple syrup, and salt. So nourishing in the cool mornings.
My boys did not have school today, so after grocery shopping I decided to take them out for lunch. I let them decide on a locale, which was, of course, the neighborhood dive. I had a turkey club sandwich and forgot to tell them to hold the ham. I did take the ham off the sandwich...Ok, I took the ham off after I had a couple of bites and realized the taste of deli ham was not worth the price of eating an avoid. The tomatoes were the first to come off. I did eat the tasty walnut bread it came on, though.
I am now headed out to dig up some carrots from the garden for dinner. I cooked a leg of lamb last night and I always make Apple-Curry Lamb Stew from "Cook Right" with the leftovers. It is my favorite recipe from that book. The new carrots lightly steamed will go nicely with that dish. But the real reason for harvesting the carrots is because my boys are playing outside and I just want to be in their company. Even though I sometimes tire of living surrounded by males, I know the day will come all too soon when they will move ahead into their own lives. For now, I choose to relish in their peals of laughter.
I guess I’m pretty lucky that I so enjoy being in the presence of my children.
Today, the weather forecasters are predicting the first snow of the season. It always snows around the 20th of September. Yesterday, it was in the 80’s here. Today, snow.
Last evening, I was running a low grade fever with a scratchy throat. I took enough Emer’gen-C to gag a horse and “hit the hay” so to speak (sorry). In the morning all that was left of that virus was some slight sinus congestion and elevated temperature. That’s what you get on the Blood Type Diet, a strong immune system that does not succumb very easily to unwanted intruders.
Anyhoo, since my outside plans for today were scrapped due to health and weather, I decided to make my favorite cold weather comfort food: Egg Custard. I have fond memories of my grandmother making egg custard when I was a girl. The recipe is dirt simple and easy to remember: 3 eggs, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and 3 cups of milk. Whisk the eggs together, add the brown sugar and then the milk. Add a sploik of vanilla and a large pinch of salt. Mix until well combined. I mix it in the 1&1/ 2 quart pyrex bowl that I will be baking it in. Sprinkle the top of the custard with grated nutmeg.
Now for the baking. Custard needs to be baked in a hot water bath which sounds complicated but it really isn’t. Figure this out before you start preparing the custard. You will need a pan to bake the custard in, preferably pyrex or other baking glass; not just any old glass bowl but one you can BAKE in, and another larger pyrex dish or high-sided metal pan that your baking dish can fit into with a least an inch to spare around the sides. Place your baking dish with the custard into the larger dish or pan. Add boiling water from a tea kettle, not just hot water from the tap, into the larger dish until the custard dish is surrounded by water about half way up the side. DO NOT put the hot water IN the custard. Place pan assemblage carefully into an oven heated to 325ºF for about 40-50 minutes. Cool, and then refrigerate.
How do you tell when the custard is done? That took me some time to figure out. When the top looks set, place a butter knife into the custard about halfway between the side and the center. If the knife comes out clean (not dripping with liquid), the custard is ready. The custard will be quite jiggly when it is done, especially in the center. If you overcook the custard, which is quite easy to do, it will have lots of air bubbles and the texture will not be quite as smooth, but it will still be tasty. You can also substitute maple syrup for the brown sugar to make maple custard.
It took me a long time to believe that dairy foods were healthy foods for B’s when sick. Most protocols go against feeding dairy to sickie’s. I have read that when milk is cooked, the protein is concentrated as some of the liquid evaporates, and thus, milk that has been cooked is digested more as food. I just know that it is very soothing to my system.
I have been trying to bolster my intake of bene’s the past few weeks, especially the ones that have fallen away from practice, like kefir, so wonderfully tangy, and replacing cheddar cheese with beneficial ones, like farmer’s and mozzarella.
But I always hit an impasse when I try to add green tea to my diet. I have tried regular green tea, organic green tea, decaf, steeping longer, steeping shorter... all with the same result: I feel jittery and have shakiness in my legs which is very similar to what I experience with dental anesthesia/anesthetics.
Now I can only guess as to why this is true but I bet it is something to do with being an HSP, which is an acronym for Highly Sensitive Person. I am not talking here about emotional sensitivity but neurological sensitivity.
I realized very early in life that I was wired differently than most people I knew. Things that other people found enjoyable or stimulating were, and are, very stressful for me; things like roller coasters, horror movies, violence in any way, shape, or form, large crowds, video games and other highly visual stimuli, loud sounds, city noise, etc. Airports drive me insane. So do hotel ballrooms with large, busy patterns on the carpeting and walls. These are all common stressful experiences to us HSPer’s.
HSP is an inherited trait. About 15 to 20% of the population possess this trait and it is seen at those numbers in other animal species as well. HSPer’s have a nervous system that is more sensitive to subtleties; their brains process information and reflect on it more deeply than non-HSPs. Highly Sensitive People are often mislabeled as introverted or shy, and I know many people viewed me through those lenses when I was younger. I have since learned to cope with being a different type of minority in the society of human species.
A very common experience with HSP’s is a difference in sleep patterns. We are the classic “light” sleeper, but also have difficulty sleeping when stressed and over-stimulated. I take great care to not let myself get too exhausted or else I will not sleep well, sometimes it can take several restless nights before I unwind enough for a decent sleep. We can, however, get adequate rest by lying down with eyes closed whether we are officially sleeping or not. It’s the break from visual processing that is rejuvenating.
What is the point of all this? Something in green tea over-stimulates my sensitive nervous system. It could be the caffeine although I react the same way to decaffeinated green tea and I can drink decaf black tea. But the real point is that although my blood type is B, I am also an individual and choose to make choices not only based on the principles of the blood type diet, but also how my body responds to those choices. Even though green tea is a beneficial for B’s, I have tried it enough times through the years to know it is not beneficial for me. Perhaps you have similar experiences with a beneficial as well.
As for the blood type connection with HSP, alas, there is none...yet. I would like to think of it as more of a B type trait. But that could just be wishful thinking. I bet there are many A’s who fit the bill; maybe there’s a cortisol connection. Hmmm....
To find out more about HSP, go to www.hsperson.com. Dr. Elaine Aron, herself an HSP, has a very informative site on this unique trait where much of the info for this blog came from. You can even take a little test to see if you're HSP too!
The more, the merrier... well, I’ll be happy with quieter and peaceful.