Christina Liparini, PhD, LPC - It’s Not All in Your Head! - Effects of Inflammation on Mood
Patient Awareness Day 2019: HEALTHY MIND & HAPPY PELVIS
Living Your Best Life With Endo
March 10, 2019 (8am - 5pm)
Einhorn Auditorium, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City
I'm Dr. Chris Liparini, and as was mentioned, I am a patient, an endo patient as well, of about 10 or 12 years diagnosed, but realistically suffering for 25 years. So, typical statistic, right, of long-term sufferer. The relief that came with diagnosis did help my mental health, I will say, of at least knowing what was going on.
To kind of add to my street cred, in addition to endometriosis, I've dealt with infertility, I have Hashimoto's disease. I wrote them all down, because sometimes I forget. I have ITP, which is a platelet disorder. I had papillary thyroid cancer, and I also had, and still have major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, with a touch of OCD. Sometimes that can be helpful, like preparing for a presentation.
So, not uncommon for us to have more than one condition. Right? We kinda have this constellation, which can all be driven by inflammation. That's kinda the message today, is it can get really overwhelming when you think about having all these different things, whether they're mood disorders, mood symptoms even, and then these physical illnesses. But, it kinda helps sometimes to think that there's this common underlying thing, which is inflammation.
And we used to think these were two separate things. Like, well you have endometriosis. Of course you feel depressed, because you're dealing with endometriosis. But the reality is, the inflammation that's causing the endometriosis, or fueling it, is also getting up into your brain. We used to think that there was like this Berlin Wall in your brain, and I'm nervous talking about anything medical, like Daphne here. But it used to be like this impenetrable barrier, this wall in your brain, that nothing could get in there. But the reality is, there's cracks, and these inflammatory particles get in there, and they mess with our mood.
So, the good news is, even though they mess with your mood, we can fight back. And really, if there's one thing I wanna talk with you all about today, it's some hope. Right? We could all use a dose of that. Some hope and some sense of control over things. Yes, there are some things we can do. It's kind of like the snowflake comparison, too. It's not gonna be one size fits all, because your symptoms and your needs are all different. But the reality is, you gotta try a bunch of tools until you find what works for you. Some of the tools that I'm gonna be talking about today, it's more of do as I say, not as I do, 'cause I don't do them as regularly as I should. But this is also a motivator for me today, of really getting back on track with my self-care too.
My most recent surgery was back in September. I had a hysterectomy and excision surgery, and the recovery was ... You know, it was mentally also tough, to have to sit still for a while and not be as active as I usually was. But the bright side of that was, these coping tools that I'm gonna talk briefly about, I had no excuse not to try because I couldn't do a lot of things for a little while. So I got to trying them, and delving into this a little bit more.
I'm gonna have available at the table outside, where you had the registration materials, I have cheat sheets that you'll get, of a little laminated bookmark with the tools that you can get started with. We're limited on time, so I wanna make sure you have a chance to dive more deeply.
One of them, Daphne I think started to touch on too, was self-compassion. It's one of the things that actually, research shows, if we use self-compassion, which is being kind to yourself, being mindful. And also, one thing that I think we're showing here today, which is recognizing that we're part of a shared experience. We're here together because we share something. Or we share something with a loved one. We're trying to understand better. So that sense of shared and common humanity here today, we're all in the room for the same reason, that can help us be kind to ourselves, and be kinder, just a gentler approach to everything.
But if you look up self-compassion, and Dr. Kristin Neff is really the guru in this area, we know that it actually, if you practice it, will reduce inflammation. So, what a beautiful thing, right? You might be able to reduce the inflammation in your body, and even if it's not going down significantly, you might just feel better. And isn't that still worth something, to mentally/emotionally feel better? So self-compassion is one great tool you can use. I have her website listed here for you, if you wanna take that away.
The next thing we also touched upon were those gremlins in your mind. Right? The way that we talk to ourselves. And one of the ways we do that, are the shoulds. I should do this, I should do that. Dr. David Burns has done a lot of work in what we call cognitive distortions, and he calls it, "Should-ing all over yourself." Right? We do that often. Especially when I'm having a flair of some sort, I would say, "I really should go out tonight." Or, "I have a son who's in school, and there's PTA things, and activities, and I should go, and I should be having fun, and show him that I can do it." Well sometimes, I can't. Or heaven forbid, I just don't wanna go. That's okay.
So, challenging those type of thoughts. Or, how many you here have labeled it a bad day? Right? It's a bad day. It's a good day, it's a bad day. It's black, or it's white. All or nothing. And the reality is, probably in that bad day, there were some redeeming moments, or something positive could have happened. Again, it's not radical, all at once it's gonna happen. But if you can start to catch yourself when you're having those thoughts, it can be really helpful to retrain yourself to have a more realistic thought.
Often, we treat feelings like they're facts. I'm scared, I'm terrified. Arnold's gonna talk a bit about panic. I'm feeling terrified, that must mean that something's really wrong, I have cancer, I have this. And the reality might just be you're feeling scared. Feelings are not facts. So learning to recognize your thoughts can be really helpful.
Thirdly, meditation. Meditation does not have to be a totally clear mind, sitting in the lotus position. That's just not gonna work for some of us. The good news is, there are a lot of active forms of meditation. You could be walking. You can even do it while you're eating, which is great. There's lots of things you can do. Body stance. I find for myself, guided meditation works, because that extra voice brings me back.
One of the great analogies with meditation is, it's like having a puppy. Your mind is this puppy. Right? And you kinda always have to keep bringing it back onto the newspaper as it's training. You've gotta do that with your mind in a loving way, like bring it back. And it's not about judging the thoughts. But there are a lot of great, free guided meditations you can use, so that'll be listed on the sheet as well, so give it a try. Research shows even 20 minutes of a guided meditation over time can reduce inflammation. So, definitely worth a shot.
Sleep. It sounds so easy. It sounds great. And if I look at my sleep tracker, last night was not a great example for me, especially with the time change, and thinking about being here. But sleep, also inflammation driven. When we get good sleep, it helps with inflammation. It helps with our mood too. You get a lot of great bang for your buck with sleep. Women are more prone to the consequences with inflammation, even from one night of poor sleep. So if you can make sleep a priority, you'll see a difference in your mood, and even physically over time. And even that next day. You can feel the difference, right? Between good sleep and bad sleep.
There's a lot of great tools you can use for sleep. You know, you've got ... I have my ... I'm not a paid spokesperson, but Fitbit, things like that, that'll track your sleep. My husband and I are competitive about who got more deep sleep, more REM. So there are ways to track it. And for me, the external accountability of seeing numbers is helpful, of okay, I've really gotta work on this. So using things like that with sleep.
Arianna Huffington has done great work with sleep that's really accessible. She's written a book about sleep, she has a website about it. She makes sleep a priority. At like 10:00 at night, if she's somewhere, she has a timer 10 minutes before that, and she ... It's like a game. She rushes out, because sleep is so important. So staying on that routine and making sleep a priority is really the foundation for a lot of your mental and physical health.
Gratitude. Also something that was touched upon. Gratitude practice is a tremendous benefit, mentally and physically. We found that even eight weeks of a five minute a day gratitude practice can reduce inflammation. And plus side benefit, you feel good. Even if you don't have an organized practice of gratitude, just keeping that frame of mind can help you mentally and physically.
So it's small things, being grateful for what's going on in your life. Sometimes you're gonna have to look a little more deeply than other times. But that practice, and also going outside of yourself, being of service, that helps us with gratitude. So, I'm happy that I get to exercise that today, and not just feel only in the role of patient, but in the role of giving back in some way is empowering. So don't forget the importance of gratitude.
And last, but also not least, is quality support. We talk a lot about getting support, but I think it's also really important that our support be quality. There's so many forums that you can get lost on online. Who's ever gone down the wormhole of some forum, where they've diagnosed themselves with three more things? And they've gotten ahead of themselves, and they're picturing their life without being able to work and do all these things, because the people that sometimes post are the extremes. Right? People that are doing reasonably well aren't on there posting, "Here's what happened to me next," and, "Then I ended up here." So, keep in mind who's posting, and what information you want to use for yourself, what's helpful.
And then in person, who are the people in your life that are gonna give you quality support? And get it, or at least try. Sometimes in my life, it's at least the people who are trying to understand. They can't fully understand. So again, looking for that quality support, even on EFA's website. Being here. I know there are patients here today that are gonna be talking. These are great people to connect with, that can help you with your own journey.
What else did I wanna say? There was something else about support. Mental health support. There are great hotlines, so even if you haven't connected with mental health support, there are easy ways to get in touch with that as well. So, think about your quality support. Women, we tend to tend and befriend. We wanna reach out when we're struggling. So keeping that in mind, that that's a great way to connect. So take advantage of all these people here today.
After the presentation and at the next break, I'm going to have, in addition to the handouts, I brought my technology petting zoo of different products that can be used for meditation. Biofeedback, which is really fun. You get that instantaneous zing if you're in the right zone. And also, the Fisher Wallace Stimulator, which helps with mood. My husband's into technology, so he gives me all these as gifts. But all great tools that can supplement all these other great things you're doing and learning about here today.
So, thanks for the time, and I wish you luck on your journey.