Mary Holtrop Mental Health

Finding the Hug We Need

by Mary Holtrop

During these past few months I was not feeling the stress of COVID-19. I was going about my business, going to work most days, getting caught up on projects that I have been meaning to complete for several years, organizing my work space and taking care of long overdue work issues. 

At the library where I work we were having some major building projects completed and I had some of my own projects to work on as well.  Most days it would just be myself and whatever workers that were here.  I didn’t mind coming to work and I felt good about my accomplishments.  I live alone and I am new to my area so I don’t know many people. At home I was feeling an emptiness, but nothing that significant. For exercise, I walked daily, and with extra time on my hands I added yoga and stretching to my routines. I started to pray and meditate more. I felt all this helped.

By mid-May my library started talking about opening our library book drops for returns and starting curbside services. But with the return of the rest of the library employees came many discussions about Covid-19; what we should do, what should we not do, what is right, what is wrong. Everything we addressed started to become a lengthy discussion with so many different opinions.  It was then I started to feel anxious and depressed. I can feel myself being irritated, angry, and frustrated. I know I am testy and I do not know why.  So I decided to change my personal goals for May and I told myself no tv during the week, add another walk, read a book, do a crossword because anything is better than just sitting and festering all these feelings.  

Then I got sick. Not the Covid-19 virus but something else. I still had to get tested for Covid-19 and I was scared and stressed until the results came back negative. My brother invited me down for the weekend. I talked myself into going and told myself a relaxing weekend is what I needed. Where parts of the weekend were relaxing, I felt every single conversation came back to Covid-19. By the time I left I told myself I am just so done with this. 

And here is the thing. I should feel blessed. My family is healthy, I still have my job and getting paid and I have no reason to feel the way I do. Many people have it much worse than me and I feel so deeply sad and sorry for them.  I started to ask myself why I was feeling the way I do. I think it’s because of all the conflict. All the difference of opinion and endless discussions about this and we still know very little. I knew I wasn’t alone in my feelings but rather than we all just address the elephant in the room we continue to pretend we are ok. 


And then George Floyd happened. I am just so despondent about this situation. But more than that I am just so sad and angry over all the reactions that are just hurting all of us even more. We as a country are trying to recover. We are bringing businesses back and making attempts to recover from this pandemic and now all this immense anger. I understand and accept the anger and the feeling is justified but what I don’t understand is why people are making all this worse rather than coming together and try to make things better? I don’t have the answers. I have to remember to be kind and soft to others because we really need each other. After I got home my sister in law wrote me and said “I feel awful, I just wanted to give you a hug.” And I realized, I really need one right now.

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Cassandra McCoy Mental Health Physical Health Sophia Pollalis

Stress: How We Can Use Recovery, Sleep and Breathing to Overcome and Heal

By Sophia Pollalis and Cassandra McCoy

In today’s society, stress is a commonly occurring factor in our lives. Join by Be HEaRd contributor Sophia Pollalis and Positively Balanced founder Cassandra McCoy as they discuss a few things everyone can do to manage, overcome and heal during times of stress! Be sure to leave us a comment below about what your favorite stress management tip is!

Show notes:

Key focal point: Stress

Stress can be physical, mental, emotional


  • It’s not always about over-training(stressing), but about under-recovery
  • Has a lot to do with the autonomic nervous system
    • Which can be influenced by sleep and breathing
    • ANS is SNS and PNS, both “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”
    • Can think about stress and recovery as opposites, which we need to balance out


  • Every system in your body is influenced by sleep
  • Life enhancer for any goal
  • Sleep is the low hanging fruit in terms of recovery, performance, etc. To improve performance, we always try and reach for the high fruit like supplements, specific techniques or trainings, expensive equipment, but sleep is the first, easiest, and CHEAPEST step we can try
  • Most sleep issues are behavioral, meaning we can change our behavior and get better sleep (and better our lives)
  • Circadian rhythm – cued from our biological clock that comes from light/dark cycles. Influences with wake/sleep cycles along with exercise and food timing.


  • Pelvis is included in respiration, not just the ribcage
  • Creates pumping motion throughout the entire abdominal cavity and thoracic cage. Creates cerebrospinal flow, organ movement
  • Meditation/breathing/yoga can help increase PNS response and decrease SNS response
    • For our anatomy nerds out there, stimulates the vagus nerve by activating the diaphragm.
Jayme Taylor Mental Health Physical Health

Does this crazy make my butt look big?


Does this crazy make my butt look big?

Mood disorders are increasingly common and even more so in women. One of the things that I continue to see in my family practice is the hesitancy of women to admit when they are stressed or have a mood disorder but the truth remains; depression and anxiety are the single most common disease processes that affect women. It is 2020, which means it is about time that we talk like sisters, openly and honestly, about our mood. So, with that said, my goal with this article is to not only increase awareness about mood disorders in women; but also explain how your mood may be affecting your weight. That’s right! Your mood can affect your weight, but we will get to that in a minute. 

The “I am not depressed” depressed person 

Maybe you don’t struggle with mood. Congratulations you are a minority. LIFE IS HARD! Life is hard for people that have all the luxuries that life could ever offer. Add stress, responsibilities, children, HUSBANDS, jobs, unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, and suddenly life gets much harder. Also, mood fluctuates with hormone levels, primarily the reason why it affects women of all ages, premenstrual and postmenopausal. Yet, even though it is so NORMAL we are still so hesitant to admit when we struggle. 

It’s often a superwoman complex. We can do everything and handle everything life throws at us. That may be true but it doesn’t always mean you are happy about it. Some of the things that I hear the most from my patients are; “I don’t have depression, I just don’t have motivation or desire to do anything”, “my mood is good, I am just tired all the time”, or “I have a little anxiety but no depression”.

 I like to explain it like this; Depression and Anxiety are like a couple of girl friends who decide to show up to the party. Anxiety is the in your face friend. She is wild and loud! You always know when Anxiety has arrived! Because she doesn’t go anywhere and NOT make her presence known. She often demands you take notice! Unsurprisingly, most people really don’t like her and wish she would leave. 

Depression, not so much. She’s pretty chill. She likes to hang back and watch Anxiety do her thing. If you weren’t looking for her, you may not even know she’s there; but they do almost everything together. Where there is one, the other is usually not too far behind. 

Sometimes Depression does like to go it alone, but she may not initially catch your eye. Depression can be subtle and show up dressed as fatigue, lack of motivation, sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, loss of interest in people or things that you used to enjoy. She doesn’t always come dressed in tears and sadness. So, before you say you are not struggling with mood ask yourself if maybe you are having symptoms that aren’t so obvious to see. 

“Okay, so maybe my mood is off. Now what?”

Despite our quick fix mentality, there is no magic pill for depression and anxiety. There are medications that can help but some of the best treatments are nonpharmacologic. What does that mean? It means that there is no magic pill for depression and anxiety! The best treatments can be in the form of stress reduction, counseling, support groups, diet, exercise and sleep! That’s right, SLEEP! We will talk about that more in another article. However, I will say that getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for mood and we do not prioritize that enough. 

Neither do we prioritize self-care. We have the responsibility of keeping other humans alive, getting them to their activities, housework, jobs… all kinds of things that we think we SHOULD be doing. We even berate ourselves when we don’t feel like it, or just “want time to ourselves”. You absolutely need a day off from being a wife and mother. Get away from your kids for an evening. Leave them with the hubs. Get away from him, too! Studies show that husbands make us crazy! I don’t know that there are actual studies but there are articles out there that seem legit. I know I like to blame mine. What I am getting at is… it’s okay to call in for a mental health day from your family. A little louder for those in the back… FROM (clap) YOUR (clap) FAMILY (clap)!! 

Women love to take care of everyone else, neglecting themselves. Its our favorite thing to do, but the old saying “you can’t take care of anyone else, if you don’t take care of yourself” is 100% true. So just do it, it will make you feel and perform your roles better. With that said, if you are struggling with mood don’t hesitate to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. 

Won’t do it for yourself, do it for your figure

Alleviating stress and treating mood disorders will also help with weight. It seems that sometimes we are more worried about how our bodies look than how we feel in them, so I sometimes like to use this little pearl to get women to practice stress management. Sneaky? Yes. I don’t feel bad about it though as, regardless of the why, it is another important reason to focus on your mental health. Weight gain can lead to obesity which is a leading cause of disease. This weight gain is for various reasons. 

First, because a lot of food behaviors are linked to mood. I am a feeder; this is something I have had to really work on. That old saying, “feed a fever, starve a cold”? Yeah… I don’t do that. I feed a fever, a cold, anxiety, depression, boredom. If it can be fed, I feed it and I am not alone in that. This is something that we (as a whole) struggle with. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. Food is central to a lot of our daily activities. However, food is supposed to be fuel for our bodies. Food is medicine. You wouldn’t skip a dose of a three time a day medicine, neither would you take it 5-6 times a day. Why? Because you would overdose and die. Now diet is a universal hot topic, and some will say, “small more frequent meals are better”. I am not arguing that, all I am saying is overeating is bad and mood disorders often lead to overeating. 

Another reason is stress affects hormones in our bodies. Cortisol and Ghrelin being a couple of them. Everyone knows cortisol. It is our stress hormone and long-term increased cortisol levels can increase our weight. Also, other factors that increase cortisol are things like consumption of high glycemic index foods. Namely simple sugars and carbs, which have become a staple in a lot of diets. I like to remember Ghrelin by thinking of a stomach “growlin”. Corny? Yes, but stay with me. This is the hormone in the body that increases appetite. Those days that we are hungry, and we just don’t know why? Ghrelin is probably high on those days. With increased stress and lack of sleep this hormone increases and in turn we become hungrier, eat more and gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle. All you really need to know is stress = weight gain and de-stressing can help you in your 2020 weight loss goals, so add it in to your diet. 

Get to the point already

As you can see, treating stress and mood disorders are important for more reasons than just so you can be happy. There are far too many to include in this article. This will likely be a topic that we will discuss many times in this platform as this is a REAL issue for women. We are biologically more likely to suffer from mood disorders. 50% more likely if you want a little factoid to throw at people. I like to throw factoids, because throwing other things at people is usually frowned upon. All joking aside, I want you to know that you are not alone in this. We all struggle in the same ways. Not always to the same degree but we struggle and THAT IS OKAY! So, make your mood a priority this year. If you are struggling, seek out a friend that you feel comfortable speaking with or visit your healthcare provider to see what you can do to make yourself healthier both mentally and physically.

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