Different Kinds of Meditation

We live in a world of choice; 50 shades of grey, 150 flavors of ice cream, 50 styles of yoga, and over 300 various mind/body practices of meditation. It’s oh so easy to get frozen in the decision-making process and then not choose anything! Below is a summary of the different kinds of meditation to help you find the technique that resonates with you, so you can exercise your mind to be more potent and free.

First, let’s back up and discuss the benefits of meditation, and specifically, the practice of mindfulness, which is one of the most researched topics in psychology and neuroscience these days. Unequivocally, as exercises, it shows positive results in both brain and mental/emotional health. Though we tend to think of meditation as only something to bring mental benefits like increased attention span, heightened concentration, improved focus capabilities, peace, and tranquility, all the various techniques also have a somatic, or body-centric, benefit by invoking the parasympathetic nervous system. The result is lowered stress hormone levels, relaxed muscles, oxygenated blood cells, and ultimately, a deeper mind-body connection.

Current researchers have been cataloging the various practices, and have synthesized them down to the 20 most common, which can then be subdivided into 3 primary themes; Focused Attention, Open Monitoring, and Ethical Enhancement. Though there are the various flavors imbued from the original religious or spiritual wellspring that these techniques are associated with—whether Christian, Sufi, Buddhist, Judaic, Taoist, or Hindu—they are all, at their core, techniques to train our mind to be in present moment awareness, a mental state called consciousness.

Focused Attention Meditation

Focused Attention Meditation (FA) uses a vast array of internal or external phenomena to concentrate the mind on. From the sensations of the breath rising and falling or passing the tip of the nostrils; to gazing at a candle flame; the sounds of singing bowls, word phrases, mantras or, chants; or the details of each foot landing in slow motion while mindfully walking, focusing is the focus. When we notice our attention drift to thoughts, feelings or, body sensations, all schools of this form of meditation encourage a non-judgemental “letting go” followed by a return to concentrating the awareness on the stimuli. Brain scans show increased neuron activity in the centers responsible for cognitive control, thought regulation, and sensory information processing. Try this 8-minute breathing meditation:

Open Monitoring Practices

Open Monitoring Practices (OM) do not use an object of focus. Instead, they center on moment-to-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations also without judgment or preference. Again, with this practice, certain areas of the brain show improvements in action and thought regulation, cognitive control, and sensory information processing. These schools of meditation practice noticing and letting go of anything and everything to foster awareness of our thought tendencies, from a place of present moment witnessing without attachment.

Ethical Enhancement

Ethical Enhancement forms of meditation (EE) include contemplative, gratitude, and compassion centric exercises. They tend to focus thoughts and feelings towards higher states of acceptance and loving-kindness. The improvements noticed through neuroscience are related to areas in the brain associated with ’empathy’, ‘pain perception’ and, ‘body sensation processing’.

Whether you choose to start a meditation practice from any one of these channels, the results are beneficial for the mind, heart, and body. Besides becoming practiced in being focused, aware, or more compassionate for self and others, you’ll notice how your interpersonal presence increases, your ability to stay on task at work increases, and how anxious thoughts can be simply noticed and let go. All of these benefits bring more peace, and joy to our lives.

How To Start A Meditation Practice

Here is a simple starting formula:

  • Pick a time of day that you can own as consistently yours; before getting into bed, or after your morning shower and smoothie.
  • Create a place that invites you to feel calm and relaxed; a chair or cushion in corner of a quiet room, perhaps a serene piece of art or houseplant nearby.
  • Start gently, set a pleasant bell or gong timer for just 5 minutes.
  • Lightly close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply from the bottom of your belly to the top of your ribs through your nostrils.
  • Invoke your mind’s focus on either the movement/sensation of your breath; the light awareness of the thoughts, feelings, sensations that arise; or focused thoughts or images of gratitude or compassion.
  • Be kind to yourself if you notice a constant stream of thoughts interrupting your practice, this is a normal occurrence for all of us—be patient and, over time your concentration will increase and so too will the space between thoughts.
  • Keep a journal to track your experience and insights.

We hope this helps you on your journey to balanced health. If you would like a kickstart, including guided meditations, please join us for an upcoming Basecamp Weekend Retreat, an online retreat where our expert team brings our award-winning program to you.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health program, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: I am over working from home. What should I do?

Q: I am really struggling with working from home. What should I do?

A: The world has learned a lot from the past 10 months of Covid. One of the unforeseen outcomes was a mass migration of office workers from downtown to their dens. A variety of research on the phenomena has found both positive and negative ramifications, however, one thing all university and corporate research has pointed out is that for the foreseeable future—even after Covid—work will be remote or from a hybrid of locations, and mostly virtual. How do we as managers and employees prepare for this change?

With 40% of the workforce able to work from home, and 80% of their employers planning to permit them to work part-time or full-time from home post-Covid, strategies are going to be required that build employee satisfaction and productivity for the new reality. The main struggle for homebound employees is work-life balance, distractions, and loneliness from isolation, while corporations struggle to maintain the inter-employee relationships that are so vital to trust, team collaboration, and creative synergy.

For many, the honeymoon phase of working from home is over with some 55% of employees struggling from distractions such as family-shared workspace, children and pets needing attention and support, and negative world news affecting their fear of the future. But even with more flexibility to manage work hours than ever before, 66% of 2000 office workers surveyed are working more nights and weekends than they did before, and 49% find it difficult to keep boundaries, while 59% feel less effective. The blurring of work-life balance is showing up in degradation of physical, mental, and emotional health. Lack of gym and studio access, proximity to the fridge, and the ease for interruptions from the virtual world to pop up are having a negative effect on healthy lifestyle habits as well as productivity. Physical isolation is also taking its toll. The post-grad 20 to 30-year-olds who moved to a new city for employment were counting on coworkers for friendships. Zoom fatigue is setting in and many meeting participants stay blank screened (don’t turn on video), allowing the few extroverts to carry meetings. The “heartbeat” of the office where serendipitous encounters in the hall or spontaneous collaboration at the coffee machine which build trust and relationships through countless unscheduled gestures and interactions has gone missing.

The managers of the future will need to be savvy on technology and off-site work efficiency practices, but also be able to leverage virtual relationships, trust, and team synergy if they want to be leaders in maximizing employee happiness, creativity, effectiveness, and longevity. Though many surveyed employees appreciate the trust from their managers to work from home, and the freedom to customize their day, they are often complaining of boredom and loneliness. It’s too easy for distance workgroups to lose a sense of belonging, feel disconnected from the culture of the organization, and lose sight and commitment to the corporation’s aims and objectives. This can lead to withdrawal and apathy.

Now is the time to realize we are not just coping with a singular crisis. The way we work is going to change forever. So here are some considerations for both employees and management to build the healthiest and effective virtual teams:

  • Create strategies and protocols that schedule work and life separation, while allowing for some freedom and flexibility
  • Utilize the old commute time for personal health resourcing and stress reduction
  • Invest in virtual team-building activities that transmit the corporate culture of health, connection, and co-creation
  • Utilize technologies and protocols that foster face to face small group communication for relationship and trust-building which are foundational for effective brainstorming and collaborative solution finding
  • Transfer office equipment (stand up desks) and gym pass memberships to home and virtual outlets to support physical health
  • Provide workplace and health coaching as well as counseling therapeutic support for individuals who are feeling anxious or depressed from the chronic stress of Covid, but also afterward as we empower a new way of working more virtually

We hope this article helps you with ideas on how to build a sustainable approach to long-term working from home.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How To Stay Healthy During The Holidays

While the holidays are supposed to be a time to recharge, reset, and rejuvenate with friends and family, they often feel more like a drain on our energy. Maintaining a balance between your holiday traditions and indulgences and your health goals is the best way to stay healthy during the holidays. Below are our top tips for how to stay healthy during the holidays. We’ve picked only a few so you aren’t overwhelmed!

1) Take a 20-min “turkey burner” walk after-dinner.

Get outside, get some fresh air, some movement, and enjoy your neighborhood’s lights. It’s inevitable that we all indulge during the holidays. Taking a nice walk after large meals will balance your blood sugar levels and lessen the impact of over-eating, improving your digestion and sleep.

2) Savor your indulgent moments.

We all know these moments too well—they are inevitable during the holiday season, and they typically come with an internal struggle. This year,  try something different. Rather than allowing these indulgences to bring up feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety, or stress—go the complete opposite direction. Really enjoy the sweetness of your favorite treat on your tongue, bite by bite, or the warmth of your favorite holiday drink, sip by sip. You may find you actually indulge less.

3) Stay hydrated

Keeping your urine a pale apple juice color. Being well-hydrated can help prevent the diuretic effects of alcohol. Drink clean, filtered water to hydrate. Pro-tip:  Stop drinking 20 minutes prior to eating and resume 20-minutes after eating (sans enjoying a glass of wine with dinner). Drinking lots of water while eating prevents your saliva (an alkalizer) from neutralizing the acid in your stomach.

4) Put your fork down between each bite.

This tip will slow you down and help you savor your food more. It will also allow your stomach ample time to tell your brain when it’s full.

From our family to yours, we wish you the best of health, happiness, and balance this holiday season!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

The four pillars of mental health

Neuroscientists continue to discover that our well-being can actually be trained, just like our muscles. Our brain is the key component in this endeavor, and it’s all possible thanks to a principle called neuroplasticity, which states that our brains are constantly changing in response to our experiences and our lifestyle. Just like riding your bicycle every day will inevitably lead to bigger, stronger leg muscles, applying effort in the right direction will also cause your brain to change, for the better.

Dr. Richard Davidson is the leading neuroscientist in this field and the founder and director of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He often likens the importance of nourishing our mind to the importance of brushing our teeth—both are learned habits that are not hardwired into our genome yet are essential to our overall well-being. Just like we all have adopted the habit of brushing our teeth, so too must we adopt habits that improve and strengthen our mental health.

Meditation and other forms of mental training are the habits that train our minds and change the way our brain functions. The changes aren’t trivial, either. Dr. Richard Davidson is proving that meditation and mental training reduce inflammation and can subsequently alter gene expression. Chronic inflammation itself has been proven by the Cleveland Clinic to be the root cause of 75-90% of today’s major illnesses. What this means is that these practices can work in tandem with other healthy lifestyle choices to measurably reduce our chances of cancer, heart disease, and dementia.

To helps focus our efforts and maximize benefits, The Center for Healthy Minds has created a framework. They have found that focusing on four areas in particular will rewire our brains and help our health and happiness flourish; meta-awareness, connection, insight (or your own narrative), and purpose. If we can improve in these four areas, our well-being and mental health will improve. Mindfulness, compassion meditation, and loving-kindness meditation (aka “metta meditation”) are three forms of meditation that work well for most of the pillars, but they aren’t the only practices that help. Dr. Davidson often notes that “mediation and mind training” is akin to “sports”. It’s broad, and there are many subsets that do different things for your brain, just as cycling may increase your leg strength and running your endurance. Our recommendation is to start by being curious about the four-pillar framework and to explore various forms of meditation and mind-training to see which practices work best for you.

The four pillars of a healthy and happy mind

Meta-Awareness

Witness our thoughts, feelings, and sensations when we are doing anything before we become mindlessly habituated so that we can make a free choice about our actions and how we are performing them, and what our goals are.

Connection

Lifting our heads up from self striving to notice our connection to other beings and life allows us to savor everything and everyone, and naturally fills us with appreciation and gratitude countering the deep sense of loneliness most of us feel

Insight/Narrative

Negative self-talk is one of the biggest causes of depression! Changing our relationship to our internal negative thoughts (doubts, fears, self-criticism) to self-compassion and conscious focus on our attributes and strengths creates a positive attitude. Davidson explains this pillar is “just about getting curious about your own preconceived thoughts and opinions. Your brain is not set. You can question your own assumptions and biases, and this has tremendous potential to heal the division and ‘othering’ that we see in today’s society.”

Purpose

Aligning our actions to our core values gives us a reason to do everything. It takes us beyond our self-centered unconscious actions moving us towards a meaningful life that is centered on our true self’s needs.

Focusing our mind on noticing, curiosity, compassion, connection, and inner alignment enriches our life, gives us true ongoing happiness, and rewires our brain to be more present, peaceful, and joyful, as well as effective.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

18 Ways To Improve Your Mental Health When Working From Home

While working from home certainly has its perks; no commute, no dress code, a more flexible schedule—it also blurs the line between work and personal life, disrupting the sensitive balance that exists between the two. Incidences of depression due to working from home are on the rise. So is anxiety. We haven’t yet been taught how to maintain our mental health as our work and personal lives inexorably intertwine. As more companies continue to move their workforce remote, it’s time we learn this newly important skill.

Below are 18 ways you can improve your mental health while working from home, listed in chronological order so you can follow along as your day progresses.

Gift Yourself Your Old Commute Time

Stick to your old routine where you had to commute to work. Only now, instead of spending that 30-45 minutes in your car or in transit, use your “commute time” just for you. The next few tips will give you ideas about what to do with this new-found self-care time.

Break Your Fast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for our physical and mental health. Skipping breakfast mimics famine which increases our stress levels. Inversely, eating breakfast will reduce cortisol (stress hormone) production. Additionally, eating breakfast sets up our energy levels for the day and has been proven to boost anabolic hormone levels by 15%. Make a smoothie or simple sprouted grain avocado tahini toast and eat within 30 minutes of getting up to break your intermittent fast from the night before. Not hungry when you wake up? Make sure to eat your last calorie at least 12 hours before you plan to wake up. This allows our body’s autophagy process for cellular recycling and reducing inflammation to occur, and ensures we will be hungry when we wake up.

Take a Morning (Sun) Bath

In the correct situation, the cortisol hormone we mentioned above can be your friend as it’s what perks you up like a natural cup of coffee. Eat your breakfast near a window to allow the early morning light to set your circadian clock for a productive morning. Encourage other family members to join you.

Own Your Morning

It’s too easy to immediately turn to watching the news or checking emails upon waking. However, this starts our minds spinning. Instead, consider reading something inspiring or pleasurable immediately upon waking, or go for a 20-minute walk outdoors, noticing as much of the natural world from as many of your senses as possible (the sky, the snow or rain, the breeze, space between branches, the sound of a bird). This practice of presence will bathe your brain in neurotransmitter feel-good hormones. Paying attention to the details and richness of the world we live in adds more beauty and gratefulness to our day.

Get A Pre-Work Fat Flush

If you can wake up 90 minutes before work, consider walking briskly (between 6.5 and 8.5 perceived rate of exertion out of 10) for 40 minutes to get a cardio fat flush, or alternate walk days with online HIIT workouts, or an online yoga class. Getting a full workout in before has been proven to significantly reduce anxiety and the effects of depression, starting your day on the right foot, literally.

Channel Your Inner Wim Hof

Take a hot shower and end with a cold rinse to increase your circulation and support your elimination system in its ongoing detoxification process.

Dress For Success

Dress for work not sleep to boost your commitment and confidence.

Setup Your Workspace for Success

Situate your computer in front of a window for natural light (if possible, use an adjustable standing desk and alternate between sitting and standing to promote circulation). Consider some greenery, house plants, fresh flowers, and photos of nature all of which help balance constant screen time. Quiet background music (classical, meditative instrumentals, or binaural beats) can help promote calm and concentration and override sounds coming from family members in the house.

Optimize Your Concentration

Too often our productivity is sabotaged at home by distractions. This can lead to a sense of failure for the day. Instead, check your daily calendar for the priority list you set at the end of yesterday’s workday—ask yourself if the items are still relevant. Then organize your day into 90-minute concentrated segments where you work on just one thing. Give yourself 10 minutes between these concentrated work sessions to resource yourself while giving your eyes a break from the screen. After experimenting in 90/10 time segments you may wish to try the Pomodoro Method of 25/5 and notice which time period works best with your concentration levels. You will accomplish more while still giving yourself necessary breaks, resulting in a satisfying day of work.

Reboot 10 Minutes At A Time

Our happiness is intrinsically tied to our productivity. Creating feels good. It gives us confidence and purpose. In order to be as productive as possible, we must take breaks to recharge and refocus, but a longer lunch is not the solution. We’re better off working hard for 90 minutes then taking 10-minute breaks. Consider these 10 min reboot sessions:

Posture stretches to avoid rounded computer shoulders, text neck, and lower back pain.

8-minute guided mindfulness meditation

Keep Your Blood Sugar Level

Blood sugar spikes and plummets contribute immensely to our mood. Leveling out your blood sugar by eating the right food in the right portions at the right time will avoid any “hanger” or the need for an afternoon jolt of caffeine, which for more than a third of the population causes cortisol levels (that pesky stress hormone) to increase. Spread your calories across your day, eating 6 times; break-the-fast morning smoothie or toast, breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner. For your mid-morning snack, have a piece of fruit and 2 tablespoons of nuts or seeds, and for a mid-afternoon snack, a few veggie slices with 2 tablespoons of golden almond butter protein dip. Remember to stay hydrated throughout your day, as well!

Batch Cook Lunch Ahead Of Time

Take the stress out of eating lunch at home by premaking a couple of soups on the weekend. This ensures you don’t stress over lunch prep or cleanup. Here are some of our favorite easy “warm-up” soup recipes:

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Greek Chicken & Feta Soup

Black Bean Soup

Wrap It Up

Don’t just up and leave when the whistle blows. Save the last 30 minutes of your workday to review the day with a dedicated work journal, and then plan and calendar your priorities for tomorrow. Finally, clean and clear your workspace so you can start tomorrow fresh. We can never finish all of our work, but by segmenting your day into periods of resourced and fueled concentration we can be confident in our efficacy. Bonus: end your workday at the same time every day to introduce consistency.

Reward Yourself For A Hard Day’s Work

At the end of a hard, stressful workday, we are craving release. Too often, however, we seek release in the form of wine or salty, fatty, carby snacks. Instead, lower your stress hormones at the end of the day and bathe your hard-working brain with serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine with a more productive option. Try a 5-minute meditation, petting your pet, or 20 minutes of yoga, Tai Chi, creativity, or forest bathing. These are all healthy ‘happy hour’ alternatives that will still satiate our need to feel good.

Go For A Post-Dinner Walk

After eating a healthy dinner, get up from the table and go for a 20-minute walk with yourself, family or pet around the neighborhood to use those calories, rather than store them. This will help set you up for a good night’s sleep and prevent you from waking up groggy.

Power Down 1 Hour before Bed

Power down all electronics at least 1 hour before bed to physically reduce exposure to stimulating blue-light and emotionally reduce exposure to stimulating content like social media, news, and work email. Consider soft lighting, a warm bath (add Epsom salts for an added detox), 10 minutes of gentle and slow yoga stretches, a 5-minute breathing meditation, trading a shoulder massage with your mate, or reading a novel all to invoke the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system to prepare for deep sleep.

Reflect and review

Review your day in a journal. Bring your awareness into noticing how any of these tips are affecting your mental clarity, positive emotions and moods, energy levels, productivity, sense of owning your day and life, and feelings of gratitude. Finally, write down and thoughts bouncing around in your head. Simply putting them down on paper allows us to rest assured that we won’t forget them.

Sleep

Easier said than done, but this last tip is just as important as the rest. Sleep is when we heal, physically and mentally, and recharge our batteries for the next day. Ensure you’re fully charged by following our comprehensive Guide To Great Sleep.

Your mental health and resiliency are vital to a long and happy life. Do your best not to try and implement all of the above at one time. Instead, start by choosing two that interest you and try to implement them just twice this coming week. Once you’ve had success with that seemingly easy task, increase the frequency to three times a week, and then eventually add a third and fourth action. Trying to do it all right off the bat is one of our most common pitfalls when trying to accomplish goals. Read our article How To Build A Healthy Habit in 6 Steps.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How Stress Contributes To Diabetes

older woman with diabetes checking blood sugar levels

While it’s widely known that a poor diet and low levels of exercise increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, we are now learning that chronic stress also contributes to the disease that affects 1 in 10 Americans. Today’s fast-paced lifestyles, which feature modern medical syndromes like burnout, are even more prone to stress, and it’s causing a domino effect not only on our emotional and mental health but our physical health as well.

Understanding Diabetes

Terms like “diabetes”, “type 2 diabetes”, and “adult-onset diabetes” are now common in our vocabulary, but the fundamentals of the disease are confusing, and therefore often overlooked.

If we know nothing else, we need to understand that our bodies run off a sugar molecule called glucose—the gasoline to our combustion engine. The food we eat is broken down into glucose, which is then carried off by our blood to the places that need energy, such as our brain, muscles, and organs. We refer to the amount of glucose in our bloodstream at any given time as our blood-sugar level (remember, glucose is sugar).

Once at its destination, glucose isn’t able to enter our cells without the help of a hormone called insulin. Insulin binds to glucose and allows it to actually cross the cell wall. Insulin is like the nozzle of the fuel pump. Without the nozzle, gas can’t actually enter your fuel tank. Instead, it just sits in the hose. Without insulin, sugar cannot enter our cells. Instead, it just sits in our bloodstream.

The problem with our bodies, unlike a fuel pump, is that if extra gas sits in our hose for too long, aka extra sugar in our bloodstream, all sorts of issues occur, such as slowed healing, hearing loss, nerve damage, sleep apnea, heart and blood vessel disease, kidney damage, eye damage, and Alzheimer’s.

This permanent state of elevated blood sugar is diabetes. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes is caused by a genetic condition developed primarily during childhood or adolescence where your pancreas naturally produces little or no insulin, and it cannot be avoided; Type 2 diabetes, however, occurs when our blood sugar levels are so frequently elevated due to our lifestyle that either our pancreas begins to slow down the production of insulin, or our cells begin to resist insulin. In either case, the result is permanently elevated blood sugar levels.

It’s easy to believe this resistance is due to overuse, but think about Olympic athletes for a second. They typically consume between 3,000 and 5,000 calories per day, constantly adding sugar to their blood. The difference is, they use up this sugar through their rigorous, all-day training, preventing their blood sugar levels from ever getting too high. It’s extremely rare that an Olympic athlete, someone who cycles through an enormous amount of sugar, gets type 2 diabetes. So something else is going on.

While the very science of why our cells begin to refuse insulin in type 2 diabetes is still being fully developed, the leading assumption is that an increased level of fat in our blood and chronic inflammation are the two primary culprits.

Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent insulin resistance. The key lies in stopping ourselves from too frequently entering a state of elevated blood sugar—a state known as hyperglycemia. What’s widely obvious, today, is that reducing the amount of sugar we take in and increasing the amount of sugar we burn is a great way to accomplish this. In other words, eating healthier (the correct portions at the correct times) and moving more. What’s less known, however, but quickly coming into the spotlight as a contributing factor to our elevated blood sugar levels, is that stress contributes to insulin resistance.

Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

The short answer is that chronic stress does contribute to type 2 diabetes. Whether or not stress outright causes diabetes is still to be discovered, but we started understanding how stress plays a role in the development of the disease back in 2010, with a review from the European Depression in Diabetes Research Consortium. They discovered, “Depression, general emotional stress and anxiety, sleeping problems, anger, and hostility are associated with an increased risk for the development of Type 2 Diabetes.”

Now, more than a decade later, we continue to understand how chronic stress disrupts our pancreas and liver from managing blood sugar levels properly, leading to periods of hyperglycemia, which ultimately leads to diabetes.

Stress and Blood Sugar Levels

When under physical, mental, or emotional stress, blood sugar levels naturally rise to supply energy to our muscles. Physiologically, this occurs to support our primitive fight-or-flight response, which once allowed us to survive stressful situations, such as an attack from a saber-tooth tiger. In an instant, our liver dumps stored glucose, aka sugar, into our bloodstream. Simultaneously, our pancreas produces insulin which allows that sugar to be used by our muscles. Running away from the tiger or fighting uses up the sugar in our bloodstream, and, after a short while, levels return to normal.

Today, however, our situation has evolved, and we rarely utilize the increased sugar in our bloodstream immediately following a stressful event. Think back to the last time you got cut off in traffic or got into an argument with a colleague. Or even the last time you felt a spell of anxiety. Did you go “walk it off”? Most likely not. More realistically, following a stressful event, we stay stagnant in our seats or on our couch. Even worse, we may decide to eat something salty, fatty, or sugary to settle our emotions.

Stress Eating Leads to Increased Blood Sugar Levels

Coping with chronic stressors—whether mental, emotional, or physical—often leads to feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Our natural instinct is to then make choices that evoke our “feel-good hormones” to avoid the weight of these feelings. Unfortunately, we are genetically wired to crave certain foods to elicit the brain’s soothing hormones serotonin, and dopamine, so we often head for the pantry or the freezer when feeling bad.

Consuming any of the three main cravings—salt, fat, and carbs—will make us feel better momentarily, but it won’t support the lowering of blood sugar. Stress eating and alcohol drinking are common coping mechanisms, and, unfortunately, they both spike our blood sugar levels.

Additionally, research has shown that under chronic stress we sleep less. Less sleep stimulates our hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite, causing us to subconsciously eat even more.

Stress Affects Insulin Resistance

Stress contributes to elevated blood sugar levels by both dumping stored glucose into our bloodstream due to our natural flight or fight response, and by us turning to food as a stress-coping mechanism. While these chronically elevated blood sugar levels have been proven to contribute to insulin resistance, this is not the only way stress plays a role in affecting insulin resistance.

Thanks to a research team led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen, we now know that chronic psychological stress also prevents our body from being able to regulate inflammation levels. Their findings state, “When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and, consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease.

Stress-induced inflammation is also a major contributing factor to our cells becoming insulin resistant.

A healthy lifestyle will prevent diabetes

It’s more important than ever to achieve balance in our health. A healthy diet and plenty of movement are a good foundation, but now, more than ever, stress management is vital to hormone balance, healthy blood sugar levels, sleep depth, maintaining an active anabolic metabolism, and lowering inflammation. Focus on balancing all aspects of physical, mental, and emotional health to lessen the proclivity of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, as well as minimize the effects if diagnosed with the disease.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you detox, unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

Q&A: What is Burnout & How Do I Prevent It

Q: What is burnout, and how do I prevent and/or manage it?

A: Burnout is a psychological state of physical and emotional exhaustion specifically related to occupational stress. Besides being characterized by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, it includes increased negative or cynical feelings towards one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. The term “burnout” has been recognized by the World Health Organization and is now a legitimate medical syndrome.

A Gallup survey found 76% of employees have experienced some form of burnout, and those affected are 63% more likely to take sick days, 23% more likely to visit an emergency room, and 250% more likely to look for a new job!

Burnout is caused by a long list of things, including; a lack of social support at work (especially for remote workers and even more so during periods of isolation), unclear or undefined job expectations, too much digital inundation and interruption, a corporate culture where working evenings and weekends is rewarded, and underlying all else, work-life imbalance, or “burning the candle at both ends”.

Our society tends to think of burnout as an individual problem, solvable by yoga, breathing practices, learning to say “no”, or taking self-resilience workshops. However, more research supported by the WHO is showing that it’s also an employer’s responsibility to build anti-burnout strategies. Employees still need to make intelligent decisions; eating healthfully and regularly, moving their bodies daily, exercising appropriately, sleeping deeply for 7-9 hrs, incorporating stress-reducing activities, and maintaining satisfying relationships for support—but it’s becoming clear there is a cyclical relationship between the work environment and personal health choices. When a work environment nurtures an employee’s wellness, that employee will further invest in self-care practices that rejuvenate and charge them back up for another day of work. The opposite also happens, where a work environment is so depleting that an employee is left with zero energy at the end of the day and self-care practices fall to the wayside—instead of engaging in energy-producing, healthy activities, burnt-out employees usually resort to energy-depleting activities like drinking a glass of wine (or two or three), eating unhealthy food, and sitting on the couch watching TV (after a full day of sitting for their job).

If you find yourself feeling depleted, physically, and emotionally, at the end of your workday, you may be burning out.

How To Prevent & Manage Burnout

Try this mix of personal and managerial strategies to counter burnout for yourself and your employees:

Focus on efficacy, not hours

According to Parkinson’s law, “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. Unfortunately, time worked does not have a great correlation with productivity. Encourage yourself and your staff to redefine performance as something based on results, not hours worked. Consider some of these questions during the workday to facilitate this shift:

— Is this task still important or has the situation changed?

— Am I really the only person who can do this?

— Is this the most important thing right now, or am I doing it to avoid something else?

— If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my work when I leave?

Prioritize tasks

Avoid the misnomer of multi-tasking by concentrating on one prioritized task at a time. Jumping from one task to another is not an efficient use of your energy and has been proven to increase the completion time for both tasks by 25%.

Limit distractions

Avoid multi-platform and device interruptions when focusing on a project or task. It takes significant time and energy to return to a concentrated state.

Take breaks

Take regular breaks to rejuvenate the mind and move the body before, during, and after work. This is a necessary investment in your overall productivity.

Minimize communication

The average manager is spending 8 hours per week on email communication (avg 200 emails per day) and another 1 to 2 days a week in meetings. Try to encourage only essential emails and meetings from being sent and scheduled.

Empower your team

Empower your employees to set their own schedules and make decisions. Too much deliberation around meetings and back-and-forth decision making steal productive time from individuals.

Support your tribe

Offer positive communication and rewards, and go to bat for them when deadlines and workloads are unreasonable.

Preventing burnout is both a corporate cultural problem and a personal energy management problem. It’s important to not feel shame if we are suffering from burnout, but instead become curious about our relationship with work and examine our efficacy vs hours work ratio, our commitment to establishing boundaries, and the culture our company promotes…and then initiate change.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

5 Wellness Questions To Ask Yourself

 

Lonely woman standing absent minded and looking at the river

Taking a moment to pause, reflect, and ask yourself a series of wellness questions is a great habit to include in your routine. As our comprehension of health evolves, we must continue to survey our wellness to ensure we are headed in the right direction.

Today, understanding your health and wellness means asking yourself a vast range of questions on topics that we are only just beginning to understand.  Twenty years ago, health and wellness focused exclusively on nutrition and exercise, and on a societal level, weight loss was the only concrete measure of our health. After almost a century of diet crazes and a mass movement to gym classes starting in the early 1980s (remember Richard Simmons television workouts?), we now know there is so much more to understanding our personal, uniquely individual health.

Being healthy still includes maintaining the percentage of body fat that prevents inflammation, hormonal imbalance, and elevated blood pressure, but those measures alone are not enough to ensure our overall wellness. Our bodies are a series of complex integrated systems that do not stand alone. Science has opened the door to a greater understanding of the importance of stress management, hormonal balance, depth of sleep, food choices, and mental and emotional health. Singular approaches to health do not work. So we need to ask ourselves questions from multiple angles to determine if we are in balance, and therefore, truly well. (if you want an in-depth framework for surveying which areas of your health are strong and which need nurturing, take our wellness questionnaire)

To kick-start your self-reflection, consider the following 5 thought-provoking wellness questions:

1) Do you ever stop and take a moment to reflect?

Do you ever just stop what you are doing, take a breath, and scan your body and mind to notice what emotions you are feeling? What thoughts are bubbling up? What is your energy level? How is your posture? How is your body doing?

Do you ever stop to ask yourself what you need?

In our fast paced world of “doing”, it’s easy to forget to check in with ourselves. Our minds are hardwired to create routines and habitual behaviors as a form of energy management. It’s how we used to survive, but now that energy (food) is no longer scarce, we have repurposed this mental process in our quest to achieve optimal efficiency (think Steve Jobs wearing the same clothes every day). While this does eliminate decisions and save time, it also causes us to mindlessly perform tasks. This state of mind is a perfect stage to get lost in thought and let your to-do list, calendar, or even doubt, anxiety, and regret rule the show.

We do have a choice, though. We can break the spell by mindfully invoking pauses and curiosity. This will allow us to savor moments.

This does not come naturally, however. Remember, we’re hard wired for the opposite. But that is why we practice mindfulness and integrate it as a foundational principle in our award-winning program.

2) Are you happy with your life at this very moment?

Is there anything about your physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual well being that you need to attend to in order to be more fulfilled, peaceful, and joyous?

The word happiness is often associated with fleeting moments of pleasure. We reach a milestone, experience a rush of our reward and pleasure hormone dopamine, and then come down… hard. Or, we feel happy when we think about some future version of ourselves that has accomplished what we seek, only to be brought back to reality with a financial hardship, death in the family, or any one of life’s many curveballs.

To get beyond the ups and downs that come with the pursuit of happiness, we can instead orient to an alternate perspective on life, one that doesn’t depend on the fleeting moments of success. A perspective that focuses on the quality of our journey, rather than our ultimate destination. A journey that is filled with the richness of peace, flow, joy, presence, and heartfelt connection.

A deep and stable state of happiness comes when we decide what is more important; the quality of our journey or the destination?

3) Does your energy-in match your energy-out?

Think of yourself as a rechargeable battery. Every day, you perform actions that both charge you and drain you. Eating the right foods at the right times, exercising and moving for circulation and inflammation prevention, sleeping for recovery and repair, releasing stressors, and avoiding and eliminating toxins are all actions that charge you. On the other hand, poor health habits, work stress, family stress, anxiety, doubt, and a long list of other things, drain you.

Do you have enough energy-charging habits to balance out your energy-draining habits?

In other words, are you burning out?

Finding ourselves out of balance with the energetic cycle of life is becoming the new normal, but it’s not sustainable. You can, however, reclaim balance by attending to how you eat, move, sleep, manage stress and avoid toxin load, while creating boundaries for how much, when, and to who you give energy to. Journaling is a good tool to pause, reflect, and become curious about the different energy aspects of your life and can give you the insight you need to make the changes required for harmony and balance.

4) Are you working towards a better version of yourself?

Do you have any actions you are focusing on in an attempt to create a healthier lifestyle? Are you rewarding yourself for the efforts you are applying towards these goals? Are you enjoying the process of accomplishing these goals or just counting the days until you succeed (see #2)?

The path towards balanced health, happiness, and longevity is paved with small, incremental improvements, not one big massive accomplishment. Once you’ve decided which of your physical, mental, emotional or spiritual needs you want to address, you need to take action. Start with small, seemingly trivial improvements. Repetition of these actions over time will result in sustainable habits that support the life we truly deserve to live. And rewarding ourselves for our efforts keeps our subconscious supporting our conscious goals and actions. Learn how to build healthy habits in 6 easy steps.

5) Do you have support?

Are you supported by a trainer, coach, nutritionist, naturopathic doctor, counseling therapist, or balanced health program?

We all need support. The very best performers, athletes, and CEOs all have coaches—why don’t you?

After realizing why you need to make a change, and learning how and when to make a new action, you need support in making it part of your healthy lifestyle. From tracking apps to trainers and nutritionists to counseling therapists, we are fortunate in this era of individualism to have support resources that accelerate the success of our unique goals.

Align yourself with allies, you deserve it!


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below:

How to detox daily weekly and annually

Clean water pouring into the glass next to the stones on the old wooden table

Q: How should I detox daily, weekly, and annually?

A: Before we just give you a list of “to do’s”, let’s look at the “why” we should detox.

From Mountain Trek’s perspective, detox practices are focused on supporting our natural eliminatory system in removing unwanted substances that put our cells and organs under stress. When certain chemical compounds (plastics, petrochemical substances, etc) or heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, barium, thallium, lead, etc) enter our body through the air we breathe, food we eat, liquids we drink, or by absorption through our semipermeable skin, our liver and kidneys work to filter them out of our blood and expel them by our breath, urine, feces, and sweat. This is a normal bodily function. However, we are currently taking in more toxins than ever before in our human evolution, and it’s taxing our systems to a point where we see hormonal disruption, inflammation, immune system disruption, allergies, and diseases like cancer, and dementia. A recent study by Harvard just proved that 18% of all global deaths can now be attributed to air pollution, specifically the burning of fossil fuels. This is significantly higher than predicted. Our natural systems cannot possibly keep up—we need to do everything we can to support the natural elimination systems.

Here are some ways we can detox daily, weekly, and yearly to support the release of these damaging substances:

Daily Detox Habits:

  • Avoid or do your best to minimize contact and use of pesticides like glyphosate, plastics containing BPA and PFAS (Teflon), petroleum-based cosmetics, and cleaning products.
  • Choose plant-based products over petroleum-based products, and purchase hypoallergenic unscented cleaners. Visit the Environmental Working Group’s website to learn more.
  • The air in our homes is 2-5 times more polluted than outdoors (from chemical off-gassing of paints, carpets, building products). Go for an after-dinner walk and breathe deeply.
  • Drink 8 x 10oz glasses of plain filtered water (more if sweating) to help flush the kidneys and keep the bowels moving. Maintain urine color that is pale apple juice.
  • Eat fiber-rich foods and as organic as possible (veggies, fruit, complex carbs) to feed the gut biome and sweep the bowels clean targeting a minimum of 1 bowel movement per day.
  • Include pre and probiotics to keep up a healthy functioning intestinal tract ecosystem.
  • Choose animal protein sources that are wild or organically grass-fed and minimize large and aqua farmed fish to avoid mercury and grain-fed pesticides.
  • Eat natural chelators like cilantro, garlic, wild blueberries, chlorella or spirulina algae, and Atlantic dulse seaweed. Chelators bind to heavy metals and take them out of the intestinal tract.
  • Intermittent Fast (no food for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast) to aid cells in the anti-inflammatory function of recycling and energy production rest called autophagy.
  • Exercise daily to increase blood, lymph, and digestive/eliminatory movement, targeting enough movement to equate to 10,000 steps.
  • Yoga stretches, twists, and inversions help squeeze and bring circulation into our organs and increase the flow of lymph drainage.
  • Soak in a hot tub with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfates, but not from China) to draw toxins out through the pores in your skin and rinse with a cold shower to increase blood circulation.
  • Take a daily Omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are able to modulate PM2.5 induced oxidative stress by increasing the activity of antioxidants in the fluid lining our respiratory tract.

Weekly Detox Habits:

  • Be “alcohol-free” for a day or two to give the liver an anti-inflammatory break from metabolizing it from ethanol to acetic acid.
  • Get a full body massage and include lymphatic drainage techniques to support your immune system’s removal of biotoxins and waste.
  • Dry brush your skin to unplug sweat glands and sebaceous glands from dead skin and skin lotion accumulation to aid sweatings release of toxins.
  • Sauna, steam, or mineral spring soak to support toxin elimination through sweating and osmosis. Don’t forget the cold plunge or rinse for added circulation benefits.
  • Exercise in nature with a walk or fitness hike to breathe fresh highly oxygenated air for 90 or more minutes.

Annual Detox Habits:

  • In concert with a Naturopathic Doctor and your MD (found at Functional Medicine or Integrated Health Clinics), consider a water or vegetable juice fast or herbal cleanse to tone liver and kidneys and deeply clean the intestines.
  • Again, if tested by a doctor for heavy metal toxicity, one could do a deeper chelation protocol with an intravenous ‘push’ of vitamin C.

We hope these tips help you on your journey to a healthier, less toxified, self.


What is Mountain Trek?

Mountain Trek is the health reset you’ve been looking for. Our award-winning hiking-based health retreat, immersed in the lush nature of British Columbia, will help you unplug, recharge, and roll back years of stress, anxiety, and unhealthy habits. To learn more about the retreat, and how we can help you reset your health, please email us at info@mountaintrek.com or reach out below: