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  • August 03, 2022 12:53 PM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    Many health experts argue that sleep is the cornerstone of health. It's just as imperative for good health as exercise and diet.  Studies show inadequate quality of sleep on a regular bases raises risks for many chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, as well as anxiety and depression. 

    As we are winding down the summer, you may have noticed some sleep disruption.  Believe it or not, summer months are difficult sleep-wise for many.  As if the heat weren’t enough, increased daylight hours, seasonal allergies, and disrupted schedules due to school being out and summer vacations all contribute to sleep disruption.  As we prepare for fall and the beginning of a new school year, it's important to address better sleep routines.

    Here are some common sleep tips to help establish healthy routines:

    1.  Power off electronics.  We are surrounded by electronics. Laptops, iPads, smartphones, tablets, and TVs should all be turned off and put aside an hour or so before our desired sleep time. It has been documented that blue light is emitted by these devices and interferes with production of melatonin, an intrinsic hormone we have that regulates our sleep and circadian rhythms.

    2.   Sleep in a cool and dark room.  Make sure your bedroom is cool with a source of circulation in the air, like a fan, an open window, or air conditioning.  Some researchers feel that the optimum temperature for sleep is around 68 degrees F.   In addition to a cool room, be sure your room is dark and quiet. Black out curtains, eye masks, and noise machines can help. 

    3.   Consistent bedtime.  Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This helps to reinforce the sleep-wake cycle. Try to keep this time consistent within a half hour or so each night. Experts recommend getting to bed around 10pm to protect specific parts of our sleep cycle, especially our Delta cycle and REM cycle. These sleep cycles help detox our cells, protect our immune system, increase energy storages, and help regulate our moods. 

    4. Bedtime routine matters.  It's important to establish bedtime routines that involve relaxing activities to signal to our body and mind that it's time for sleep. Relaxing activity such as warm bath, a hot shower, reading a book, stretching, listening to music or sounds in nature, can all help. It's also important to avoid strenuous exercise or increased cardiovascular activity after 6pm. 

    5. Avoid stimulants.  Avoid caffeine such as coffee, tea, or other beverages in the evening. It's best to reduce caffeine altogether, but definitely avoid it after 2-3pm in the afternoon. Herbal teas such as Chamomile, Valerian, Kava, and other sleep-promoting teas are okay in the evening. Medications can also interfere with sleep especially if they are stimulants. Be sure to let your provider know if you are having difficulty with sleep and are also taking medications such as Effexor, Strattera, Wellbutrin or medications like Adderall or Ritalin.  Avoid stimulating activity before bed such as strenuous exercise, emotional conversations, or viewing upsetting television such as violent TV shows or the news.  

    6. Consider sleep disorders. Sleep apnea is a common medical condition and should be considered if have you are having difficulty with sleep especially if you have associated symptoms of such as brain fog, headaches, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Please let your healthcare provider be aware if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. 

    If you or someone you know is having consistent difficulty with sleep, Tranquil Healthcare integrative medicine for mental health and wellness can help diagnose possible causes and underlying issues, and offer solutions for better sleep and health. Please email us at sonia@tranquilhealthcare.com to schedule a consultation. 

    Tranquil Healthcare: is an Integrative Mental Health & Wellness practice focusing on anxiety and depression disorders as well as improving over all health and wellness. They practice conventional medicine as well as integrative and functional medicine approaches to your mental health for issues like mood/anxiety, sleep issues, depression, GI/ abdominal issues, fatigue.  Tranquil Healthcare is the only board certified female run solo Nurse Practitioner practice in the heart of DC focusing on mental health and wellness.  Learn more at tranquilhealthcare.com

  • July 20, 2022 2:24 PM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    “Just being surrounded by bountiful nature, rejuvenates and inspires us.“
    – EO Wilson (Theory of Biophilia)

    Think back to some of your favorite childhood memories.  Try to pull out the details of the memory and take note of what you saw, felt, and touched.  Does the memory involve nature or animals?  If it does, you’re not alone.  Humans have a core need for the natural world, and when most of us remember our favorite moments, they usually take place outdoors or in places of natural beauty.  This connection to the outside world isn’t coincidental, and research is increasingly showing us the need for connection to the natural world.  This is particularly true for children.

    Pre-Covid the American Academy of Pediatrics estimated that the average child spent 7 hours a day on electronic devices.  Covid introduced virtual school, and the public schools in Alexandria switched to having children and teens isolated and on devices day after day.  These decisions were made to protect kids, but those of us who work in child and adolescent mental health see the other side of this.  We see the kids who retreated into their homes, their devices, and themselves, and we see the cost of this on their mental health.  It has been and continues to be devastating.

    “Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” 
    – John Muir

    This summer, right now, is an opportunity for kids and teens to get outside and reconnect with nature and simultaneously reconnect with themselves.  The last several years of restrictions have shrunk down our worlds to limited people and spaces. We now need to work (safely!) with kids to build these worlds back up.  A starting place is right outside your door.  Research shows that hands-on contact with nature actually builds self-esteem and increases kids' overall sense of well-being.  This can include playing with a hose, building a dam in a creek, digging in the dirt, making fairy houses out of moss and leaves or using twigs to make new worlds.  The simplest acts can have significant positive impacts.

    “Nature itself is the best physician.” 
    – Hippocrates

    Mental health is complex and the current mental health struggle right now is real and devastating.  There will need to be shifts in policy and intervention far beyond anything I can write about here, but there is something that you can do to help the kids and teens in your life today.  Now. Go outside.  Walk to the creek. Find a path among trees. Watch squirrels in the park. Build boats out of sticks and grass. Sit in a wooded area. Listen to the sounds around you.  These simple activities are crucial steps to helping kids reconnect with themselves, the world and nature.  These most basic steps won’t fix everything - not even close - but they will bolster spirits and resilience to help us all move forward.

    Visit Elisa at http://www.CBTforKids.com and find out more about her services and to order her book,  Your Amazing Teen Brain: CBT and Neuroscience Skills to Stress Less, Balance Emotions, and Strengthen Your Growing Mind.
  • June 22, 2022 1:23 PM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    I take care of A LOT of people with anxiety. Some formally diagnosed, some self-diagnosed, some medicated, some with panic attacks and others with a low-grade, all day un-ease. None of them came to me to treat the disorder, they came for other reasons, but in many cases, they have found that their anxiety has improved as well.

    Four Reasons Why

    1. Appropriate stimulation to the nervous system.  Chiropractic care, as well as other forms of body work, have been repeatedly proven to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and improve the body's response to stress.

    Spinal manipulation will reduce blood pressure, heart rate and help release dopamine - a neurotransmitter that evokes a feeling of calm. Chiropractic care stimulates the parasympathetic portion of the nervous system and mitigates our "fight-or-flight" response.

    Specific adjustments that normalize function of the upper cervical spine also stimulate vagal nerve pathways. Vagal parasympathetic stimulation is considered an effective therapy for depression and anxiety as it releases neurotrophic chemicals (soluble proteins that regulate survival, growth and synthesis of neurons) that impact mood. This is a long winded explanation as to why you feel more relaxed after an adjustment.

    Research: (1) (2) (3)

    2. Pain management. It's no surprise that pain causes stress, anxiety and depression. When patients come in for care, my primary goal is to help them find a way back to a functional and happy life. With an acute patient, simply reassuring them that they will get better and reminding them to breathe does a world of good even before the first treatment (please refer to my last blog post on breathing!).

    After reviewing health history and performing an exam (sometimes X-Rays or MRI) I provide a clear care plan that typically includes a series of spinal adjustments and mandatory at home rehab. Very often, having a plan in place is a comfort to someone who's been struggling with pain for a long time.

    Reducing pain and getting back to the simple elements of normal life...walking the dog, driving in a car or airplane, gardening and just rolling over in bed, provide a huge relief both emotionally and physically.

    3. Nutritional support.  In addition to chiropractic care, I also provide nutritional counseling to many of my patients. Again, they aren't usually seeking my help for anxiety, more often for weight loss, fatigue and hormonal challenges. But as their nutritional profile improves, anxiety frequently improves as well.

    Digestive health is primary, as the gut produces more serotonin than the brain. Proper absorption, digestion and elimination must be addressed even BEFORE we consider supplementation.

    All of our hormones and neurotransmitters are dependent upon specific nutrients and chemical catalysts for their production. These include B-complex vitamins, vitamin D3, trace minerals like zinc, magnesium, calcium and selenium and essential fatty-acids. When we introduce adequate amounts of these substances, the brain and endocrine organs will respond by increasing production of the chemicals that decrease stress and increase well-being.

    Herbal support can be helpful as well. I often suggest a patient use valerian root, kava or CBD to help with anxiety and sleep. (St. John's Wort has been studied extensively for use to treat depression, but should be not be used with SSRI medication).

    4. Exercise.  As I mentioned above, ALL of my patients are encouraged to exercise within the limits of their condition. For some people who haven't been able to move around much because of pain, the exercise piece alone can be huge. There is significant evidence suggesting that a fitness regimen can be as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression, and it should always be suggested (along with counseling) before medication is prescribed.  Just do it!

    Please call The Healing Tree or email Dr. Cindy directly if you'd like a complimentary 15 minute consultation. (Please reference the Well Ray blog!) 703.706.9500 or drcindydurakis@gmail.com

    The Healing Tree is dedicated to providing the best in chiropractic care, therapeutic massage, and acupuncture in a professional healing environment. They approach every client/patient with respect, compassion and integrity and make every effort to listen to, and treat the person and not simply the condition, ache or pain.  Learn more at www.healingtr.com.

  • June 15, 2022 11:59 AM | Pat Miller (Administrator)
    Week-long retreats are a wonderful way to take ourselves away from the busyness of life and to unplug and to do the deep work on us. I am leaning more and more toward this type of work with people because this is where, I believe, the true transformations happen.

    In February 2023, I am so thrilled to be offering three different week long retreats in Nosara Costa Rica. The first week of February, Becky Sutton and I have one spot left in our yoga retreat at the Bodhi Tree Resort. The third week of February Ann Hunt and I have a waitlist for our retreat, also at the Bodhi Tree.

    The big news is that I have an exciting new retreat to offer at a totally new resort in Costa Rica. This retreat will take place the second week of February 2023. The resort is private and totally new. We will have direct access to the beach and we will be the only guests at the resort. I have partnered with two fabulous women that I met during my time living in Nosara.

    This is an incredible opportunity to truly go deep, to get away, to connect with yourself and to connect with others.

    My two Bodhi Tree retreats are women only and for this special retreat we are open to all. Check out the details below and email me for pricing information and further questions if you are interested.
    Costa Rican Wellness Retreat

    De-stress. Decompress. Regulate. Rejuvenate. Restore. Reconnect.

    February 18 - 25, 2023.
    Nosara, Costa Rica, Playa Pelada- Paradise Hideaway  Ocean. Beach. Private Resort. Movement Medicine. Meditation. Yoga. Qigong. Healing food. Expert level teaching-guidance. Daily facilitated Transformational Coaching. All genders are welcome. Fun!

    Join us for an unforgettable weeklong journey of self discovery, rejuvenation, centering and reconnection with our physical & emotional body-mind-soul.  Eat healthy meals in a nourishing, soothing oasis.  Regulate your nervous system and bring your body to a place of restoration and calm. Let the warmth and fertility of the Costa Rican tropical forest and oceanfront bathe your senses and replenish your soul.  

    What to Expect Each Day  
    7:15 to 8:15am : Movement class
    8:15am : Fresh Healthy breakfast
    9:00 to 11:00am : Free time
    11:00 to 12:30pm : Group Coaching Classes
    12:30pm : Delicious Lunch
    Until 3pm: Free time
    3:00 to 4:30pm : Guided movement, mindfulness and meditation
    4:30 to 6pm : Beach time and sunset
    7pm: Nourishing Dinner
    8 pm: Hang out Time

    Your 7 Day Wellness Retreat includes:

    * 7 nights luxury, private, beach resort accommodation.  The property fronts one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Pelada, in Nosara.

    * 3 meals/day provided. Healthy, fresh, home-made, locally sourced, whole food meals, with vegetarian/vegan options, provided in-house.

    * Daily morning movement classes of Yoga, Qigong, Therapeutic Fitness, and Meditation. 

    * Daily guided therapeutic movement/somatic-based healing and mindfulness/meditation class.

    * Daily facilitated personal development coaching workshops utilizing Internal Family Systems (IFS.)  What is IFS? An evidence-based, psychodynamic model of powerfully transformative coaching
    How will it be utilized in the retreat? Guided, inquiry-based, hands-on user-friendly body and brain exercises & journaling that facilitate self-empowering paradigm & meaningful context for our lives.

    * Specialty gentle breathwork class supporting nervous system regulation and stress downregulation & healing.

    * Two themed evenings; a beach bonfire and BBQ night, and a guided nature walk to mangrove forests, the river mouth, and sunset evening at the most spectacular “voted best view & sunsets” spot in Nosara.

    * Access to healing massage & bodywork sessions for an additional fee

    * Access to on-site healthy juice & smoothie bar

    * Retreat workbook that you’ll use for classes & workshops

    * Collectively as facilitators, we are longtime physical therapists, movement specialists, IFS trauma informed therapists, and yoga, meditation, and fitness educators & teachers.

    Your Guides for the Week

    Jane Marchant
    Jane grew up in Switzerland where she graduated as a physical therapist in 1990. In 1995 she moved to Costa Rica where for 5 years, she worked for Don and Amba Stapleton, founders of the Nosara Yoga Institute (NYI), Interdisciplinary Yoga and Pranassage. In 2000 Jane founded Nosara Wellness, a center for healing and movement therapies. In addition to being a Mom of two young adults, she continues to work as a Physical Therapist,  and offers Therapeutic Fitness classes, and also Equine Facilitated Coaching. In the past two years she has been educating herself more about the myofascial tissue, how to treat it and how to rebalance our body through specific movements addressing the myofascial chains. 

    Islena Faircrest 
    Islena is an Internal Family Systems & trauma-informed practitioner and transformational coach, somatic practitioner, and 21 year Yoga and wellness educator--serving individuals and families on their healing journeys towards empowered living.  A mother of two young adults and a former doula and prenatal educator, she facilitates the healing power of learning how to create secure attachments in relationships. Since 2000 she has therapeutically guided people of all ages, taught Yoga teacher trainings and retreats in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Costa Rica, and written for health content media. As a somatic bodyworker she utilized an intuitive blend of systems rebalancing, myofascial release, Bowen Bodywork Therapy, energy retrieval, and cognitive therapy.  You can connect with her at www.onboardyoga.com

    Tara Casagrande   
    Tara grew up in Ontario, Canada.  Tara and her husband  raised their three children in Alexandria Virginia for the last 23 years. After an incredibly transformative year living in Nosara, Costa Rica in 2009, Tara graduated from NYI (Nosara Yoga Institute).  Tara went on to share the knowledge given to her by her teachers in her community through the yoga studio she founded, Ease Yoga Cafe.  Tara now leads annual yoga retreats to Nosara.  Currently a student of Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, Tara is working toward her Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Certification Program, a two year mindfulness training.  Tara enjoys teaching vinyasa style yoga, qigong and meditation.  Tara also loves to have a lot of fun and not take life too seriously.  A twenty year survivor of cervical cancer, Tara sees movement, meditation and healthy lifestyle as key ingredients to bring peace, calm and happiness. www.taracasagrande.com  @tcyogamindfulness 

    For more infomation about this incredible opportunity, email tara@easeyogacafe.com or call 703-717-8037.

     Tara Casagrande yoga & mindfulness provides yoga, mindfulness and meditation classes as well as a Women's Wisdom Circle and Embracing UnEase, racial discussions through the lens of yoga.  Learn more at taracasagrande.com.

  • June 08, 2022 1:17 PM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    When kids are in school during the year, there’s a certain comfort that comes with a sense of routine each week. When summer break comes that routine can quickly unravel, making things like meals, screen time, and sleep get off track fast. 

    In this blog post, I share my top three tips to help keep a sense of routine in place this summer (which might mean starting new routines!) while your child is not in school. 

    1. Use a toddler clock to establish when it’s time to get out of bed in the morning. 

    I don’t know about you, but the way my kids and I start our day directly impacts how the rest of our day goes. One routine we have in place to make mornings go more smoothly is the use of a toddler clock, so my oldest (4.5 years old) knows when she can get out of bed and come to the living room each day. 

    She knows that if she wakes in the night or in the morning and her light is off, it’s time to sleep (or at least stay in bed quietly). If she wakes and her light is blue, she can hop out of bed and start her day.

    Some parents will have the clock turn green in the morning, so their child can remember, “green means go.” Or for kiddos who are afraid of the dark and need a night light on all night, the toddler clock can be on a dim red and they can remember, “red means bed.”

    Rather than having to say “it’s still not morning time” over and over again, you can give your child the responsibility and independence over managing that boundary themselves. For more guidance on to how to establish boundaries around bedtime and morning wake times, snag this free resource with printable boundary cards for your little ones.

    For more information on how to start using a toddler clock, read this blog post. Read this post to learn about why the Hatch Rest is my favorite toddler clock.


    2. Implement an afternoon quiet time

    When toddlers and preschoolers stop napping, it can feel like there’s no time to stop and breathe during the day. I suggest replacing nap time with quiet time.  It’s a regular time each day for you and your kiddos to wind down, rest, and do an independent activity. It works best to implement quiet time after lunch, since lunch is a “routine” that happens each day and it breaks the day up nicely. This quiet time could even be a set screen time, or it might end with screen time.

    When it comes to screens and sleep my biggest rule of thumb is that screens should be off at least an hour before bedtime. This ensures that our natural melatonin has time to release. A clear guideline for kids to follow is screens off for the night once it’s dinner time. 

    3. Establish a consistent bedtime and bedtime routine 

    Although it’s summertime and bedtime can be a bit later if mornings don’t have to be as early, it’s still important to have a consistent bedtime for the sake of your child’s body clock. If their bedtime was 8pm during the school year, you might push bedtime to 8:30pm or even 9pm over the summer, as long as their morning wake up time adjusts along with it (which may take up to two weeks). Whatever bedtime works best for your child and family, try to keep bedtime as consistent as possible during the summer.

    It’s also helpful to have a consistent bedtime routine, so your child’s mind and body have time to transition to sleep time. After a long and fun day of playing outside, swimming, hanging out with friends, etc., a bedtime routine is the perfect time to wind down each night and prepare for sleep. 

    If you’re curious about what an age-appropriate bedtime looks like based on your child’s age, checkout this blog post.


    If the idea of your toddler or older child falling asleep independently at bedtime or staying in their own bed all night long until their clock changes sounds impossible to you, it’s not. To learn more about your toddler or older child’s sleep without having a personalized sleep plan, checkout my latest resource, Big Kid Sleep from A to Z.  It’s a foundational sleep course for kids between 18 months and 5 years old, without the day-to-day sleep training plan. 

    If you’re looking for specific one-on-one help to teach your child to sleep in their own bed all night long, checkout my toddler and older child sleep packages. Sleep is possible this summer and I’d love to help you get there!

    Sleep is not a luxury!  Certified pediatric sleep consultant Lauren Engler can help you solve your child's puzzling or challenging sleep habits.  Learn more at  viagraces.com.

  • June 08, 2022 10:58 AM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    Known for its top-rated fitness studios, holistic health professionals, and the neighborhood’s healthy vibe, Del Ray earned the nickname "Well Ray" -- the inspiration behind the community's annual health and wellness festival, which returns after a two-year hiatus on Saturday, June 11 with the theme Igniting Wellness Through Movement.

    The 7th Annual Well Ray Festival will take place on Mount Vernon Avenue in the heart of Del Ray, this free, family- and pet-friendly event features over 75 health and lifestyle-inspired vendors offering free fitness classes, demonstrations, and sample treatments such as health screenings, massages, acupuncture, physical therapy, nutritional assessments, and reiki energy treatments.

    Here are some can't miss festival picks:

    Discover Your New Favorite Workout:   Alexandria’s top fitness professionals will offer a variety of free 45-minute classes including yoga, Pilates Boot Camp, HIIT Classes, boxing, Barre, cycling, dance classes, meditation, and even a hula hoop class and 90s dance party. Visit www.wellraydelray.com for the complete schedule and free advance registration (but hurry – note that some classes have limited availability!).

    Get the Whole Family Moving!  Well Ray features plenty of family-friendly activities to the kids moving while having fun, including field day-style games and soccer challenges.  Don’t miss the Crossfit Kids’ classes and family boxing lessons with Foundation Fitness

    Reach New Heights:  After a sweat session during a free fitness class, reward yourself with a view from top of a rock climbing wall,  fitness challenges, a dance party, or fun photo zone.

    Be A Ninja: Parkour -- the sport of moving rapidly through urban environments, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing -- was brought to Alexandria by the team at PK Move.  The program creates a workout from any environment, and has been proven to help reduce falls for seniors.  Test your agility at their Well Ray course!

    Connect Mind, Body, and Spirit:  The wellness community in Del Ray firmly believes that wellness is more than just physical fitness. Visit Mindful Modern Living, an online and in-person community hosting a range of classes, workshops, retreats, and casual socializing events specializing in interpersonal relationship skills and mindfulness practices, for a beginner mindfulness meditation.  Or  let the vibrations of gongs, crystal bowls and chimes to wash over you during a Gong Sound Bath with Sound Wellness.

    Bring Your Best Friend!:  Learn more about canine fitness and conditioning with Wholistic Hound Academy.  Alexandria’s first and only training and learning center for people and their dogs will provide demonstrations to help show how dogs learn body awareness, increase balance, flexibility, muscle tone, strength, and build confidence. And wellness is not just for humans – bring your furry friend to K9ZENTIME for a mini-massage session and learn how pups can release stress, tension and tightness through dog massage.

    Give Back: Celebrate health and wellness by helping save a life.  The Inova Bloodmobile will be at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Raymond Avenues, featuring a special giveaway.  Visit tinyurl.com/wellrayblooddrive for more information on donation requirements and to make your appointment.

    Win!  Well Ray registration is free, and available at wellraydelray.com. All registrants will also be entered into the Well Ray raffle for a chance to win great prizes, including gift certificates for athletic wear, MedSpa, Reiki, yoga, and more.

    Well Ray takes place on Saturday, June 11 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mount Vernon Avenue between Hume and Uhler Avenues and is free and open to all ages; free advance registration is available at wellraydelray.com.  Participants are encouraged to bring their own mats and water bottles.  The event is hosted by The Wellness District of the Del Ray Business Association, and is presented by The Jen Walker Team.  For more information on available classes and more, visit www.wellraydelray.com

  • June 01, 2022 6:48 AM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    The Del Ray Business Association will host the 7th Annual Well Ray Festival on Saturday, June 11 in the heart of Del Ray from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The free, family and pet friendly event will take place along Mt. Vernon Avenue between Hume and Raymond Avenues. This festival is a celebration of the health and wellness for all and the theme is “Igniting Wellness Through Movement.” The presenting sponsor is the Jen Walker Team.

    Over 75 health and lifestyle inspired vendors will offer demonstrations and sample treatments such as health screens, massages, acupuncture, physical therapy, nutritional assessments, and reiki energy treatments.

    Alexandria’s best fitness professionals will be offering a variety of 45 minute classes such as yoga, Pilates, HIIT Classes, boxing, Barre, cycling, dance classes, and meditation classes. Food vendors will feature healthy food bites and local retailers will feature wellness related fashion and products.

    There are also a variety of activities for the whole family to enjoy such as a rock climbing wall, a Parkour course, field day-inspired games, soccer challenges, fitness challenges, a dance party, and a fun photo zone. Pets are also able to enjoy some healthy treats and an obstacle course!

    The festival each year draws thousands from across the region who want to explore the latest and greatest the world of health and wellness has to offer.

    The full event schedule and participating vendors are located at WellRayDelRay.com.

    Click here for your FREE registration -- but hurry -- the free fitness classes are filling up fast!  Registration includes entry into a raffle to win one of the many gift certificates for Athletic Wear, MedSpa, Reiki, yoga, and much more!

  • May 18, 2022 9:48 AM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    In my practice, when clients pro-actively embody mindfulness into their daily lives, a seismic shift in their self-care follows. This is due to a focus on self-awareness and moving away from automatic negative self-talk. When I teach about mindfulness, I explain it as a practice that helps you to be fully present with all of your senses, without judgement towards yourself or the situation you are experiencing.

    In fact, UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center defines mindfulness as a “means of maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”

    The Center explains, “Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.”

    Therefore, a mindfulness practice can actively foster both self-compassion and self-awareness so you can tune into what your body and mind need at this very moment to feel nourished, cared for, and safe.

    Mindfulness can take many forms, such as the practice of active listening, where you are intentionally listening undistracted through a lens of non-judgement and presence. Mindfulness can also take the form of mindful breathing, where you take a few moments to practice deep breathing and being in the moment. In this practice, when an intrusive thought comes into your mind, you simply go back to your breath with no judgement toward yourself or the situation. You are simply present.

    If depression is regret about the the past, and anxiety is fear of the future, practicing moments of mindfulness throughout your day helps your thoughts take a pause from rumination about the past and future. Instead, mindfulness allows you to revel in the present moment. Being fully present serves as a vacation for your mind from obsessive thought patterns. This in turn helps your nervous system escape from an overactive sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight” mode) and move into the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” mode). 

    Take the first step to a deeper level of self-care by incorporating a daily practice of mindfulness throughout your day. The goal is never perfection because perfection leads to paralysis and anxiety. The intention is to practice mindfulness so you can grow a greater sense of self-awareness and presence to help your life and health. 

    An easy way to start a mindfulness practice is to practice active listening in your next conversation and simply notice what it is like to be fully present without multi-tasking or being distracted. 

    In my practice, I help clients move away from future or past tripping, so they can fully embrace the present moment with self-compassion, which also helps them be more understanding to others around them. Mindfulness coupled with self-compassion is a super power for self-care because you become aware of healthy boundaries and setting your intention in the present moment.

    For more inspirational tips and information, follow Mai Health Now's social media feeds: 

    Instagram: @Mai Health Now
    Facebook: @Mai Health Now
    YouTube: @Mai Health Now

    Mai Health Now is committed to teaching people how to focus on their health first so they can be happier, healthier, and more productive. To book a program, presentation or personal session, or to learn more, visit www.maihealthnow.com

  • May 04, 2022 2:04 AM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    There is no love like a mother’s love. But what about when this love no longer plays a role in your life? What if this love is something you are grieving? And what if this love is something that never actually existed for you? 

    After witnessing years of alcohol abuse and enduring the emotional abuse that followed, I was estranged from my mother at the age of 12. We were reunited again in my early twenties, right around the time I met my now husband. With my husband, I was experiencing solid, loyal love from another human which jolted me to seek the biological love of my birth mother. Due to what I now know is defined as Mother Hunger, I reached out to her. My desire for connection, approval and love blindsided me to the reality that I was initiating contact with someone who had abandoned me for twelve years.  In the high of the early days of my relationship with my husband, I felt invincible. Beautiful. Strong. Worthy. “Maybe now,” I thought, “maybe now she will be ready to love me.”

    My mother and I were reconnected again for five years. Those five years were a gift to the young girl that I was. The girl that held out hope for the mother she knew she deserved to have. In the five years I had with my mother, there were good times. We did things I always imagined mothers and daughters would do together. We went to farmers markets and spent time on the phone before noticing it had been hours.

    There were also times within those five years that brought me back to childhood again. Days, weeks, and sometimes months would pass and I wouldn’t hear from her. My mind would race off and I felt I was being abandoned all over again. At twenty seven years old, I felt the adolescent girl inside me still crying out for my mother’s nurturance, protection, and guidance. I also felt guilty for becoming a healthy version of myself without her. I felt guilty for thriving despite her lack of guidance. There I was, in my late twenties, and I had never felt more caught up in a relationship with someone who was lying, gaslighting, and emotionally abusing me. 

    While I’m saving the specific details of what happened for my memoir, last May, the weekend before Mother’s Day, it became clear that cutting off contact with my mother was the healthiest, safest way for me to continue living. Today marks the one year anniversary of my decision. It has been one year since I learned the most important truth of my life: I can offer myself what my birth mother cannot. I deserve to offer myself what my birth mother could not. I am worthy of nurturance, protection and guidance. 

    Through my lens as a therapist, working with adolescents and teens, I witness many young girls struggling to understand their relationships with their mothers. Whether a mother is present in your life or not, feeling disconnected from your mother can be excruciating. It is something that is not talked about enough and many girls grow up to be strong women despite the cavity this pain causes inside. Our society glamorizes motherhood and mother-daughter relationships. This can make some daughters and motherless woman feel invisible and unseen. 

    While there's no love like a mother’s love, it is important to recognize that sometimes the absence of this love is an enormous source of pain. The greatest gift my mother ever gave me was her absence: the opportunity to become the mother of my own heart.  This Mother’s Day, I invite you to recognize and nurture the motherly love that exists inside of you. 

    Reflections to consider: 

    1. If you are grieving a mother you have lost to death, allow yourself to be sad. Honor the ways your mother held you in her life. Share funny stories; talk about her! What we don’t speak about, we store in our bodies. A mother’s love is something to celebrate and it's allowed to exist outside of you. Reflect on how you can continue living your mother’s love both internally and externally. How are you allowing yourself to keep her with you? 

    2. For those of you with complicated relationships to your mother, I encourage you to validate yourself more often. How you feel is not wrong. Allow yourself to explore your childhood. Growing up, did you ever feel obligated to take care of mom? How did this role impact you as a child? How is it still currently impacting you as an adult woman? How can you amplify your own voice?

    3. I talk a lot in my personal life and professional work about building an inner mother. What does this mean, exactly? Secure motherhood involves nurturing, protecting and guiding. Wow are you offering these things in your life, to yourself and others? Are there feelings you tend to avoid or downplay? 

    4. If any part of your relationship with your mother hurts, grief work is essential. You owe it to yourself. Grieving can be immensely validating. Growing up without a mother or in a toxic relationship with your mother can begin to feel normal. In order to meet your own needs moving forward, it is essential to grieve what you were not given as a child. 

    5. If there is a girl in your life who lacks a mother, or is in a complicated relationship with one, don't be afraid to ask her what she needs. Please, notice her. How can you show up to offer her the nurturing and protective guidance that is needed for her development into a healthy woman? 

    Please don't hesitate to reach out for support:
    Whitney Taylor

    Suggested Readings:
    Discovering the Inner Mother by Bethany Webster

    Mother Hunger: How Adult Daughters Can Understand and Heal from Lost Nurturance, Protection, and Guidance, by Kelly McDaniel

    Wild, by Cheryl Strayd

    Somebody’s Daughter, by Ashley C. Ford

    How To Do The Work, by Dr. Nicole LePera

    Motherless Mothers, by Hope Edelman

    The Wise Family is a Northern Virginia-based counseling and assessment practice with over 30 years of training and experience in the field of child and adolescent development. Through individual and group counseling, strategic psychoeducation with families, and educational assessment, The Wise Family works to encourage the growth of emotional intelligence, flexibility, resilience and family connection in order to ensure success both at home and in life.  Learn more at thewisefamily.com

  • April 27, 2022 9:00 AM | Pat Miller (Administrator)

    More sun means more UV exposure, both for your skin and eyes. Just like we protect our skin by applying proper SPF and wear a hat to reduce glare, wearing proper sunglasses are the “sunscreen for your eyes."

    Water reflects up to 100% of UV, but what about other activities?  Dry sand and concrete reflect up to 25%, snow reflects up to 85%, and grass reflects up to 3%. Basically, UV is coming at you from all directions.

    Why protect your eyes? Sunburned skin isn’t fun, so imagine how sunburned eyes feel. Red, irritated, burning, and/or blurring that doesn’t get better after putting in over the counter drops, are all signs that your eyes are probably sunburned. In more severe cases, extreme sensitivity to light and swelling lids can also occur.  Preventing accumulated UV exposure helps reduce your risk of developing cataracts and developing irreversible macular degeneration as you age.

    What about the kids? How often do you see parents wearing sunglasses, but their kids are in the stroller or walking with a hat, squinting because UV rays are going into their eyes.  Parents, take off your sunglasses and see how long you are comfortable before you get irritable and cranky.  Remember, problems come from cumulative UV, so early prevention is key.  Make sure your kids are wearing sunglasses too.  Just like with any habit, you need to be consistent and carry sunglasses along with you wherever you go.

    Haven’t had a baseline wellness eye exam in a while? Or ever? Schedule one now to make sure your eye health stays on track with your other wellness goals. Click here for your Del Ray Eye Exam.

    eye2eye is a locally owned & operated optical boutique with two locations in Alexandria, VA. They are a community-oriented eye care practice offering the most unique selection of eyewear & cutting edge eye care.  Learn more at www.myeye2eye.com

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