The Calm Emergence of Fall
Have you noticed that the sun is dwindling earlier in the evening and rising a bit later in the morning? I swear, I have heard a gentle yawn originating from the horizon as I watch this beautiful ray of light emerge at the break of day. I have noticed a little less zealousness exuding from our favorite luminous celestial body these past few weeks. Nature appears to be presenting us with a message to take a little more time for ourselves during this change and transition of seasons, encouraging a time for rest that our cerebral culture may miss in its rush to get to the next “productive” thing.
In fact, in 2007 a health bulletin from the Aussie’s stated that time pressure, regardless of season, is bad for our health:
Time pressure is emerging as a modern malaise. It is linked to changes in working life, with longer work hours and faster work pace, and it is compounded in families; nowadays both parents must combine working with caring. Time pressure also challenges urban, health and environmental policy because many interventions have an unacknowledged time dimension. People need time to keep healthy, to exercise and to maintain strong social and family bonds. If urban designs or environmental solutions can reduce time demands they may directly improve health and social outcomes. However, where they increase time demands they may have unanticipated health costs, create disincentives for the uptake of interventions and disadvantage those who are most time poor.
Furthermore, when it comes to professions who take care of sick patients, ignoring rejuvenation has a downside. For example, an article in Nursing Economics states the consequences of all work and no play in the nursing profession, “Human beings are not machines. The patient safety literature documents the price we pay for excessive overtime, long hours, and no breaks. Disengaged staff, high vacancy rates, and turnover are the products of cultures that do not support a professional environment where nurses are seen as knowledge workers.”
Too much information and the quest for more isn’t just affecting how we practice medicine. It is also affecting what is evidence-based practice. It makes you wonder, “Informationsüberlastung im Gesundheitswesen: zu viel des Guten?” Translating from German, “Information overload in healthcare: too much of a good thing?” As stated in this article:
The rapidly growing production of healthcare information – both scientific and popular – increasingly leads to a situation of information overload affecting all actors of the healthcare system and threatening to impede the adoption of evidence-based practice.
As I witness nature turn over its leaves and the yellow school buses “slowing 3 PM traffic again,” I have begun my preparation to move to a new home across town. This made me especially reflective on my own relationship with time and information as I sat down to write out the summary of my favorite reads during this last month of summer.
As I contemplated how “scheduling in time to move,” seemed to be too much of an endeavor, and, as I aimed to keep up with all my usual activities, writings, and projects, I pondered my own views on busyness. I came across the Spring/Summer 2016 John Hopkins Health Review, “The Cult of Busyness.” The author writes:
Busyness is more than an annoying truth of modern life. It has emerged as a significant health concern, according to Joseph Bienvenu, a psychiatrist and director of the Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He sees patients wound up from so much overscheduling that they can’t sleep, think, or make time for important activities like exercise. “Emotional distress due to overbusyness manifests as difficulty focusing and concentrating, impatience and irritability, trouble getting adequate sleep, and mental and physical fatigue,” he says. “This is a vicious cycle, of course. Emotional distress leads to trouble with sleep and fatigue, and lack of sleep and exercise leads to more distress.”
Naturopathic medical school and functional medicine certification provided its students the gift of teaching us the importance of “physician heal thyself.” I constantly harp on my clients about the importance of self-care, rest, and giving their body the nourishment they need to heal. Yet, I find it hard to escape the world’s obsession with busyness myself: the “time is money” mentality, the push to know it all so I can serve my clients better, the need to have all the information instantaneously, and the unspoken scholarly necessity of the (healthy and unhealthy) competitive race for more publications, plaques, and recognition. It seems like the only respite and permission for some doctors and “devoted” workers is to reach the state of burnout in order to receive a “get out of work for some-time off” shame-free card. Quoting Mamma Quigley to her 10-year old, sensing the drive in her little girl with appropriate concern, “Sarah, you’ll never get it all done, so relax for now. It’ll be there to pick up again when you return.” Darn mothers always being right.
This could be why the practice of mindfulness and re-connecting with ourselves is now so popular. For instance, just this month, I read about the link between mindfulness and mood and how allowing the brain to get lost in music helps the minds of cancer survivors. What was most interesting; however, was the study with prisoners. Researchers actually found that exposure to nature videos correlated to reduction in aggressive behavior among inmates. This reminded me of the work Dr. Amen has done with re-mediating the brains of those who exhibit violent and socially offensive behavior. Folks, this is beyond fish oil for hostility. It’s a comprehensive look at the connections between supporting our body with proper nourishment from the foods we eat to the experiences and lifestyles we are subject to.
For these reasons, this fall season serves as a welcome guest in my life. It’s a reminder that the inevitable white stuff will magically fill the air in the Northeast and cause an instantaneous, forced slow-down. I have become appreciative that after a bit of frenetic energy with back-to-school prep, the world becomes a little more quiet and inward focused. ‘Tis the season of gatherings of friends cozying-up inside and the tradition-based activities leading to winter celebrations. As Kermit the Frog states in a Muppet Family Christmas, “Yeah, life would just pass in a blur if it weren’t for times like this.”
In an attempt once again to continue with my own monthly tradition of sharing all the news I’ve come across, I intended to present to you some of my favorite and noteworthy headlines. Now, I’m contemplating if my intentions to de-clutter your inbox with one long blog may just overwhelm your brain. So, I’ve arranged what I already have into topics for you to skim… for next week. If you find something interesting, you can click on the link. But, I’ve decided to hold off on releasing all of it at once.
Rather, I will give you a little bit this week here, on my Saratoga blog, and another summary with a shorter length next week. In this way, we all will be less hit with overwhelming and offensive lists and have some time to go out and pick some organic apples this fall harvest season. It looks like it may be just what the doctor ordered, and maybe what she’ll be doing herself…after the move. Let’s welcome fall together….
Wait, What about Diffusing Oils?!
Before I close out, I have some exciting finds to share this with you, my essential oils followers! You can read more details on my Saratoga.com blog. There, I’ve written about a new study on how essential oil diffusion may assist with mitigating pollution’s harmful lung and liver effects. Here’s an excerpt:
We also know now that inhalation and diffusion of essential oils has profound effects on the brain and body. In fact, a recent study in rodents demonstrated how aromatic essential oils (lavender, clary sage, sweet orange, and sandalwood) modulated metabolic effects in their brain biochemistry and urinary metabolites. This further supported their properties as secondary metabolites modulating physiology beyond aroma. For my scientific-speak followers, the authors concluded:
In conclusion, we identified the global metabolic responses to aromas intervention characterized by unique metabolic signatures in rat brain tissue and urine involving neurotransmitters, fatty acids, carbohydrates and amino acids. Inhalation of essential oil is able to attenuate anxiety-induced metabolic perturbation, concurrent with the behavioral findings that inhalation of essential oil significantly increased the open arms time and open arms entries.
Now, a new study reports that essential oils may directly impact and alleviate lung and liver ailments caused by air pollution. The study was done in vitro using lung and liver cells exposed to airborne particulates. The authors sought to determine how essential oil components, free and encapsulated, from extracts from cloves, aniseed, fennel and ylang ylang would impact inflammatory mediators produced from the exposures. They found that these compounds reduced the resultant inflammation responses of the cells. You can read the rest here.
Stay tuned for little bits of updates sprinkled throughout the month in my new format that honors the need for less overwhelm,but still provides information with space.
Strazdins L, Loughrey B. Too busy: why time is a health and environmental problem. New South Wales Public Health Bulletin. December 6, 2007; 18(12) 219–221 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/NB07029.
Kerfoot K. Beyond busyness: creating slack in the organization. Nurs Econ. 2006 May-Jun;24(3):168-70.
Dickinson EE. The Cult of Busyness. John Hopkins Health Review. Spring/Summer 2016; 3(1).
Klerings I, Weinhandl AS, Thaler KJ. Information overload in healthcare: too much of a good thing? Informationsüberlastung im Gesundheitswesen: zu viel des Guten? Zeitschrift für Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualität im Gesundheitswesen. 2015; 109(4-5): 285-290.
PubMed Health. Depression: What is burnout syndrome? Informed Health Online [Internet]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072470/
Chao SC, Young G, Oberg CJ. Effect of a Diffused Essential Oil Blend on Bacterial Bioaerosols. Journal of Essential Oil Research. 1998;10:5. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10412905.1998.9700958
Wu Y, Zhang Y, Xie G, et al. The Metabolic Responses to Aerial Diffusion of Essential Oils. Ye J, ed. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(9):e44830. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044830.
Kfoury M, Borgie M, Verdin A, Ledoux F, Courcot D, Auezova L, Fourmentin S. Essential oil components decrease pulmonary and hepatic cells inflammation induced by air pollution particulate matter. Environmental Chemistry Letters. 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s10311-016-0572-4