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Dealing with Loneliness during the Holidays

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The longest night of the year is coming up soon! Dec 21st is the December solstice for us who live in the northern hemisphere.

While this coming 21st is definitely a long night, many people have long nights every night of the year. And the long nights frequently turn into long days, months, and even years. There are many people who suffer alone through long days and nights.

Loneliness seems to be increasing at a rapid rate. Maybe I am simply more aware of it and notice it more. Maybe it is all of the so-called devices that are stealing time away from people. You would think with all of the ways to connect with each other, we would be less lonely.

I do think loneliness is tough on just about anybody. If you think about Jesus who existed for eternity with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit, he suffered tremendously from loneliness when he was on the cross. It was the first time he was ever separated from God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Not only was he experiencing wrath for all of humanity’s sins, he was experiencing extreme loneliness—perhaps for the first and only time.

If you are experiencing loneliness, you are not ALONE! There are many others feeling the exact same way. It is often worse around the holidays. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. Ask them to meet you for coffee or breakfast. Join a gym or a civic club. Do something to put yourself into contact with others—physical contact not electronic!

Psalm 68:6 states, “God sets the lonely in families.” I am not sure how this worked in the Old Testament times, but today I think he places us in our church families as well as our biological families.

If you are struggling with loneliness, I would encourage you to get more involved with your church. I may not know where you go to church, but I can promise you they need more help in the children’s area! Getting more involved and being around people is very therapeutic. I believe you will get more back than you give.

We were created to be in a community. We need others around us to thrive. If you have a family member or friend you might think is lonely, drop in on them this week and say howdy!

Wishing You an Amazing Life,

Dr. Curtis Brown

Stress Tip: Smile for a While

 How was your week? Was it a productive week or was it one filled with frustration and stress? If I had to guess, more people experienced frustration than enjoyment. I hope that is not true for you, but I know in our culture there is a tremendous amount of stress.

I believe stress is really a code word for fear. When I say that I am stressed, it usually means I am fearful something isn’t going according to my blueprint for life. Stress (fear) can lead to all sorts of physical ailments. I have seen people worry themselves into an ulcer and even heart attacks.

So, if you had a stressful week or even a stressful month (maybe even a lifetime of stress), I have some simple solutions to improve your attitude. These solutions are so simple they seem almost silly. The only side effect is happiness or less stress. This is not better living through chemistry! No medication is involved.

A few years ago, there was a study that took clinically depressed patients through a treatment for 30 days and at the end, they had a 100 percent cure rate. They had clinically depressed patients stand in front of a mirror and smile for twenty minutes a day for 30 days in a row. Now it had to be a big smile, but that was all they did. (Sounds crazy or too good to be true!)

The key takeaway is “motion can lead to emotion.” Think about it for a few seconds. If I asked you to describe someone who looked depressed, what would they look like? Chances are they are slouched over slightly, face downcast, and not slow moving. We have all experienced this state of emotion. Now, consider someone who is excited or happy. What do they look like?

Try a little experiment. Make yourself looked depressed for a minute or two and see how it makes you feel. Now, try making yourself look happy or excited. How did you feel? Could you notice any difference even slightly? So, something as simple as paying attention to your body can change your mental state.

I have a challenge for you this week. Simply stand in front of a mirror and smile—a big smile—for about three minutes a day. If you have a big meeting, maybe before you go into it, smile for a while. I know it sounds crazy, but what do you have to lose? Let me know how you do!

If you want to take a deeper dive into this subject and other ideas for healthy living, take a look at my e-book, The Caleb Journey. Here’s what people are saying:

This was a productive, useable, comfortable plan for me to follow. This plan is obviously based on successful personal and professional experience and knowledge in the medical, nutritional and sports fields, as well as in the spiritual well-being realm.” —Harry Brewer

This 3-week challenge focuses on your spiritual walk, teaches you about your own body, and offers recipes and actionable tips to help you not only lose weight, but also find true happiness again.” —Shayla Eaton

Wishing You an Amazing Life,

Dr. Curtis Brown

Low on Energy? A Few Thoughts on Fatigue

One of the most common complaints I hear in my office is, “I have no energy. I just shouldn’t be this tired all the time.”

This seems to be pervasive in our culture.

If you simply search fatigue, you will get over 11 million results. There are also as many cures for fatigue as there are variations of this complaint. If you search for information on cures for fatigue, you will get over 9 million results. Clearly, this is an issue for many people.

There are many causes of fatigue. Most patients are convinced that their thyroid, blood sugar, iron levels, or hormones are low or not right. All you have to do these days is turn on your radio or TV and within fifteen minutes, you will probably hear a commercial for men about low T.

I do believe it is important to check on these things when appropriate, but rarely are these the cure for fatigue. Certainly, if you have low T or hypothyroidism, replacing these hormones can help with your energy, but most people have normal results.

Over the years, I have found the quickest fix for low energy for most people is to start an exercise program. “Motion is lotion.” You will simply feel better and have more energy. On the other extreme, if you are working out 7 days a week, taking a true Sabbath from your workouts will help.

I am also amazed at how little sleep many people get. We need to consistently get around 8 hours of sleep. Some people seem to do okay with 7 while other may need 9 hours of sleep. Those patients that routinely sleep less than 7 hours will usually push back against my suggestion for more sleep. They will usually say they have always only needed 5–6 hours of sleep. Of course, when asked how long they have been tired, they reject the association to lack of sleep to their fatigue even though they have been tired all those years.

Sometimes, the cure is more water. If you are chronically mildly dehydrated, it can cause fatigue. Our bodies are around 60% water. We need water!

Over the long haul, sugar is a zapper of energy. It will give you a quick burst of energy but usually leads to low levels of motivation and/or energy after the initial surge. Eliminate sugar and things that turn to sugar as much as you can.

I take a B-complex vitamin from Thorne Research called Methyl-Guard. It has B12, B6, and folate. I think it helps me. Whether it actually helps or if it is simply all in my mind, it works for me.

But the most common cause for fatigue that I have found in my 25 years of being a family doctor is stress. Stress comes disguised in many forms. Most people do not believe they are stressed. I think it is the “boiling frog” theory. They are so used to low levels of stress and as their lives get more complicated and stressful, they do not see the increase temperature of the water as they are slowly coming to a “boiling” point in their lives.

Our culture promotes stress. We have a tendency to get over involved in all sorts of things. Mostly, these are good things. Look at little league games these days. There was a time when a T-ball team would play 8–12 games in a season. Usually the kids would have the same hat and maybe T-shirt. Now, these kids are in $200 uniforms, and playing tournaments on weekends. It is nothing for an active T-ball team to play 35–50 games.

There is nothing wrong with T-ball. It is great for kids to be active and compete. What I see happening in our lives is lack of any margin. We cram as much as we can in our 24-hour day. When something unplanned occurs (and it always does), we have no margin, no breathing room, and that puts added stress to complete our scheduled activities such as work.

This often leads to stress in our relationships. Isn’t it true that we seem to take it out on those we love the most? Keeping our relationships healthy will dramatically improve our energy level. It will take energy to invest in those relationships, but we will get more back than we put in.

Another drain of our energy is the constant distractions that keep our minds buzzing with information. When was the last time you allowed your mind to be bored? With all of the technology that keeps us connected to our stressed-out world, we seemingly never disconnect. I believe one of the best “fixes” for fatigue is to disconnect and recharge your emotional batteries.

Disconnecting looks different from one person to another, but one of the keys is to allow your mind to get bored or at least not be distracted with all of the information we have available to us today. Take time to meditate. “Dwell on what is pure and noble.”

I have found exercise is one of the best ways for me to disconnect from the chaos and to recharge my emotional energy. Sometimes reading a good book will do the same thing. Take some time to figure out what it is for you that will help you stay emotionally energized. Plan for it and invest in it.

When your emotional energy is good, you will find your physical energy will follow. It may not happen simultaneously, but it will correlate. Allow your mind to occasionally be disconnected from all of the chaos we live in every day. The world will not stop rotating if you do not check in on Facebook or Instagram every day!

Wishing You an Amazing Life,

Curtis Brown, MD