Heart to Heart with Anna

Embracing Healing: The Synergy of Functional Medicine, Aromatherapy, and Spirituality

January 09, 2024 Valerie Chavez, MD and Ryan Hunter Season 19 Episode 432
Embracing Healing: The Synergy of Functional Medicine, Aromatherapy, and Spirituality
Heart to Heart with Anna
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Heart to Heart with Anna
Embracing Healing: The Synergy of Functional Medicine, Aromatherapy, and Spirituality
Jan 09, 2024 Season 19 Episode 432
Valerie Chavez, MD and Ryan Hunter

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Have you ever felt the tug of curiosity towards an approach to mental health that strays from the conventional path? Today, I'm thrilled to welcome Valerie Chavez MD and Ryan Hunter to share their insights on functional medicine's transformative role in mental health care, especially for those touched by congenital heart defects. Together, we unpack the personalized care that functional medicine offers, emphasizing the power of lifestyle changes and stress reduction to unleash the body's remarkable healing abilities. Our conversation reveals how addressing the unique underlying causes of health issues leads to profound improvements in emotional and physical well-being.

A brush with the serene world of aromatherapy during our discussion spotlights the soothing properties of essential oils, proving invaluable within the high-tension walls of an ICU. We recall how the scent of chamomile provided a tranquil harbor for anxious parents navigating the stormy seas of a child's hospital stay. Through anecdotes and expert advice, we navigate the practicalities of integrating these calming fragrances into stressful environments, while also honoring the deeply rooted emotional connections our sense of smell can evoke. It's a sensory journey that underscores the link between our olfactory experiences and our mental landscape.

As our heartfelt dialogue draws to a close, we explore the interplay between spirituality and mental health. Discover how HeartMath's biofeedback tools bring peace and coherence to both adults and children and delve into the ancient wisdom of the Four Agreements, discussing its potential to shape our mental health practices. We also confront the theme of forgiveness, its role in our lives, and the catharsis of releasing resentment. As I bid you farewell until our next conversation, I invite you to continue exploring these topics on the CHC Podcast – Congenital Heart Conversations, where we unite, inspire, and empower the Congenital Heart Disease community through stories and support.

Websites You May Find Helpful:

Valerie Chavez’ website: https://gutmend.com/

Ryan Hunter’s website: https://functionalcoachingtx.com/

HeartMath website: https://www.heartmath.com/

Book Mentioned in the Episode which may interest you:

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel A. van der Kolk

When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stres

& so much more
A bi-monthly podcast where we share the stories of our Caregivers, patients and...

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Anna's Buzzsprout Affiliate Link

Baby Blue Sound Collective

Social Media Pages:

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Twitter
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Website

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Have you ever felt the tug of curiosity towards an approach to mental health that strays from the conventional path? Today, I'm thrilled to welcome Valerie Chavez MD and Ryan Hunter to share their insights on functional medicine's transformative role in mental health care, especially for those touched by congenital heart defects. Together, we unpack the personalized care that functional medicine offers, emphasizing the power of lifestyle changes and stress reduction to unleash the body's remarkable healing abilities. Our conversation reveals how addressing the unique underlying causes of health issues leads to profound improvements in emotional and physical well-being.

A brush with the serene world of aromatherapy during our discussion spotlights the soothing properties of essential oils, proving invaluable within the high-tension walls of an ICU. We recall how the scent of chamomile provided a tranquil harbor for anxious parents navigating the stormy seas of a child's hospital stay. Through anecdotes and expert advice, we navigate the practicalities of integrating these calming fragrances into stressful environments, while also honoring the deeply rooted emotional connections our sense of smell can evoke. It's a sensory journey that underscores the link between our olfactory experiences and our mental landscape.

As our heartfelt dialogue draws to a close, we explore the interplay between spirituality and mental health. Discover how HeartMath's biofeedback tools bring peace and coherence to both adults and children and delve into the ancient wisdom of the Four Agreements, discussing its potential to shape our mental health practices. We also confront the theme of forgiveness, its role in our lives, and the catharsis of releasing resentment. As I bid you farewell until our next conversation, I invite you to continue exploring these topics on the CHC Podcast – Congenital Heart Conversations, where we unite, inspire, and empower the Congenital Heart Disease community through stories and support.

Websites You May Find Helpful:

Valerie Chavez’ website: https://gutmend.com/

Ryan Hunter’s website: https://functionalcoachingtx.com/

HeartMath website: https://www.heartmath.com/

Book Mentioned in the Episode which may interest you:

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel A. van der Kolk

When the Body Says No: Understanding the Stres

& so much more
A bi-monthly podcast where we share the stories of our Caregivers, patients and...

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Anna's Buzzsprout Affiliate Link

Baby Blue Sound Collective

Social Media Pages:

Apple Podcasts
Facebook
Instagram
MeWe
Twitter
YouTube
Website

Speaker 1:

the body can heal itself, and some of the answers that we have when it comes to emotions can be accessed through the subconscious, and that's one way that oil, one way that prayer and meditation also has it. Is it accessing part of our subconscious?

Speaker 3:

Welcome to Heart to Heart with Anna. I am Anna Jaworski and the mother of a daughter with a critical congenital heart defect. She has had three open heart surgeries and is my inspiration. Today's show is about functional medicine information and our guests are Ryan Hunter and Valerie Chavez MD. Valerie Chavez is a board certified internal medicine physician and functional medicine practitioner and the founder of VETMEND. She started her company after she learned to alleviate her own debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms. At her lowest point she was walking into walls and had to leave work. The stress that she was too sick to help her patients. Valerie started on a journey for heart cancers. She discovered the concept of functional medicine, which allowed her to get to the great causes of her illness and eliminate them.

Speaker 3:

Ryan Hunter has a background in psychology and his Valerie's husband. He was inspired by his wife's journey and began to invest in his own health. Starting with cooking, he began to learn about healthy substitutions in food, which progressed to other lifestyle changes, including stress reduction. Ryan also had some health issues of his own which had not been helped by conventional medicine. He found that he's separate from non-ciliac gluten sensitivity and avoiding gluten allowed him to become free from allergy medications. How awesome is that. That's great. So today, Ryan and Valerie will be talking to us about functional medicine and how it can help people living with congenital heart disease. My loyal listeners will remember Ryan and Valerie from when they were on the program entitled functional medicine 101. Welcome back to Heart to Heart with Anna Ryan.

Speaker 4:

Great to be back.

Speaker 3:

Welcome back to Heart to Heart with Anna Valerie.

Speaker 4:

Thank you, anna, great to be here.

Speaker 3:

I'm so happy to talk to the two of you because I'm curious to learn more about what we can do to feel better all the time. So maybe not everyone had a chance to listen to that first episode, but, friends, you can go to Spotify, apple Podcast or whatever platform you use to listen to the episodes, to pick it up at any time, and I'll put a link in the show notes. But let's go ahead and just start Valerie by telling us exactly what functional medicine is and how it differs from traditional western medicine.

Speaker 4:

Absolutely. Just to give you an idea of my background, I am an internal medicine physician, meaning I've went to four years of medical school as well as three years of internal medicine residency, and so that is the typical western medicine that everybody knows. When you go to medical school, go to a residency and you practice as a medical doctor or a doctor of osteopathic medicine and, in general, we focus a lot on pharmaceuticals and surgery in western medicine. What's different about functional medicine is just really throwing in the lifestyle aspects and getting to the originating cause of what the problem is. It means that we need to look at people more as an individual who is unique, who may have different issues, and treating them differently, treating them with their own set of unique issues, as opposed to maybe just putting a band-aid approach on patients with the exact same condition.

Speaker 4:

What I found is that not everything works for everybody, just like diets, for instance. You have so many different diets. Some people do well on plant-based, other people do well in carnivore, other people do well on ketogenic. You can't really do a one-size-fits-all when you think about functional medicine, because if you're going to treat the originating causes and exacerbating factors, then those characteristics need to be handled carefully and a lot of times differently than other people. Basically it's just a personalized care approach where we get to get to originating causes and exacerbating factors and we focus a lot on lifestyle aspects.

Speaker 3:

I find this is really helpful, especially for our members of the congelator heart defect community, because their originating baseline is going to be so different than most individuals, wouldn't you think, valerie?

Speaker 4:

Anytime somebody has gone through something stressful whether it's emotionally stressful or physically stressful then the body can be unsettled in certain ways, and anytime the body is unsettled that means that it has less time to repair itself or at least less energy because it is focusing on surviving. I would say a lot of folks listening to this podcast may consider just thinking of some techniques that might help them settle their body, their mind, their emotional side a little bit more, and I know we're going to talk about some of these tactics.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely, and I think what you said is really important because our children, especially the ones who were born with critical congenital heart defects requiring surgery that first year of life, their bodies have been stressed in ways that babies whose hearts are healthy do not have to be stressed. And I think that stresses the parents tremendously as well, speaking as the parent of a child who in the first year of life had to have two open heart surgeries and I never really thought about what kind of stress that did emotionally to my baby because, like you said, it was all about survival and I guess we kind of thought I don't think we were thinking it was just a matter of survival and anything that came later we would deal with it as it came up. But mental health is so very important, so let's talk about what functional medicine can do to help us improve and maintain good mental health. Absolutely.

Speaker 4:

Anna, in general, I think it's important to keep the idea that the body can heal itself in mind. Basically, it's meant to take care of infections, get rid of toxins, overall, heal itself on a regular basis. And the question is why isn't it? Well, if somebody is unsettled or in survival mode, it doesn't heal as well. And that's where some of these healthy stress relievers can really come into play. And I say this in thinking about mental health because obviously in most people have a lot of stress right now. Emotional stress can really play a number on the body and can prevent you from healing yourself.

Speaker 4:

But there's some simple things to do in order to settle the body a little bit more. Things like praying, meditating, singing I love singing in the shower. I think it's a great opportunity to start the day. In addition to anything that you enjoy, maybe puts you in a creative mode, like playing a musical instrument or painting or something you just get lost in. There are times when I know people will work on projects and get lost in the projects and just enjoy it and don't think about their problems and relax a lot more.

Speaker 3:

I'm like that with puzzles. Yeah puzzle, I can be lost in it for hours, isn't?

Speaker 4:

it. That's actually a great option as well, kind of like crocheting. My mom crochets and she gets lost in it and enjoys it very much. She loves to work on things and she's always said, well, if I accept money then it wouldn't be as fun for me. So anything you can do to just really enjoy yourself, get lost in it and not have to think about the other issues. Plus, the other part of really helping your mental health is just trying to recognize those triggers, triggers that make you feel stressed, that unsettled you, whether it has to do with a certain person or listening to the news or being on social media, certain social media avenues, whatever triggers you. You may want to think about how maybe you can have that trigger you less, if you need to decrease the time that you spend with that activity or if you need to modify it in some other way.

Speaker 3:

Okay, so let's talk about that because it's funny. Some of the things that you mentioned I found when I was in the ICU with my baby. I sang to him every day. I feel sorry for all the other babies in the base nearby because they had to listen to me singing to a baby as well, but it was something I did every day when we were home and I was trying to normalize a very abnormal situation and it was being in the ICU. I also had my Bible with me and I prayed every day because I was worried about my child's survival. Being in the ICU is a very stressful situation and so many members of our community are in the hospital with their kids. What can they do to help, I say, normalize? It's not normal to be in the ICU, but it is our baby's normal, or sometimes days, weeks or even months. Valerie, what can we do to maintain a good sense of mental health when we're in the ICU with our babies?

Speaker 4:

One important thing is to do these things with a lack of judgment. You mentioned singing. It's okay to sing. We're not auditioning for any show.

Speaker 3:

Thank goodness.

Speaker 4:

At least most people aren't. It's okay to just enjoy it, because the intention is there, the intention to soothe. When thinking about different things that you can do in a hospital, think about the intention. The intention is going to be to comfort somebody, to maybe comfort your loved one and yourself. What would really do that? What I think would really comfort somebody is the basic human aspects that we need to create, say, human touch. Just holding somebody's hand or massaging their hand or their feet, that is something that is so important. We don't talk enough about it, but the human touch is so essential and it's so comforting to life. When we're born, we get put on our mother's chest because that touch yes, we are also listening to the heartbeat, but the touch to know that we're a part of something besides ourselves Holding onto somebody's hand if that's all you do is so valuable. The singing, I think, is great. The praying, I think, is great, but I really think that every individual has to decide what is best for them and their family.

Speaker 3:

I agree. I remember when my baby was in the hospital for that first surgery, there used to be a nurse at a station in the center of the pediatric intensive care unit and all around were these open bays that were only separated by a curtain so you could see all the babies in the round. The little baby that was next to my baby had two teenage parents and the parents would come in and they would cry over their baby and then they would leave. They were only there for about five or ten minutes a day, and so one time I went up to the mother and I was talking to her and I told her exactly what she said. I said you can touch your baby. I said you can rub your baby's head, you can sing or talk to your baby. And she said to me I don't even feel like a mother. My baby was born.

Speaker 3:

They knew something was wrong. Right away they snatched her away from me. I never got to hold her, I didn't get to put her on my chest, like what you were saying, valerie. She said I've never, ever held my baby, and then she left. So I told the nurses you have to let this woman hold her baby. She doesn't even feel like a mother. But the baby had lots of tubes and things connected to her and I said, even if you just let her slide her arms underneath the baby just to feel the baby in her arms and I don't know if they ever did or not, but I agree with you, I feel that human touch is so important. I was always rubbing my baby's head and they have all these IVs and tubes and little warming devices and all kinds of things on them. It's sometimes scary to know where you can touch the baby.

Speaker 4:

And in those instances sometimes we have to rely on the words, even though we know maybe the baby doesn't understand. It's great to let them know that you love them, that they're doing great, keep doing the best that they can to just cheer them on. It's okay to have emotions. I think there can be some tears and there's nothing wrong with that. I think it's okay to show emotions but also maybe explain hey, I know we can't be together right now, but I look forward to being with you and holding you and hugging you when you get better.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think that's so important. A lot of times our babies don't have surgeries only as infants. A lot of times our children need surgery again when they're two or three or four, Once they're a little bit older. What kind of activities can we do in the hospital with those children, Valerie, to help their mental health be stronger?

Speaker 4:

I think being near them whenever you can is really the most important thing, just because when you're young and you're not self-sufficient yet or fully self-sufficient, it can be concerning and even scary to be in a strange place with strange people that you don't know. Having things put in you is unsettling.

Speaker 3:

It is absolutely. I've heard people tell me they felt violated.

Speaker 4:

Yes, I think that's when just the presence of somebody that you love as a child, that presence of somebody you love and trust, having them there, is going to help them get through this. And answering tough questions in an understanding that if you need to modify the technical language, I think that's okay and just reassuring that you're there. And it's okay if we don't know what's going to happen. It's okay if we don't know the outcome, but given some words of encouragement, having some touch, maybe praying, singing, whatever calls to you, but even if it's just the presence, I think that is huge.

Speaker 3:

One of the things that I did was I brought the quilt that my mother had made my baby that we used every day. I brought that because I felt that the hospital sheets and blankets felt alien and I wanted to bring some color and some hominess to this alien environment. What do you think about that? I know that there's always some concern that we're bringing germs from home, and that's critically important when we're talking about a child having open heart surgery. But what do you think about us potentially bringing some things from home stepped animals or blankets, that kind of thing?

Speaker 4:

I think it's a great idea. I would ask the medical team first, just because you don't want to introduce it only to have it yanked away, right.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that would be traumatic.

Speaker 4:

Yes. But, please talk with the medical team and ask about that. Maybe if it's a baby blanket or some kind of stuffed animal or a toy, I do think that that's helpful, Something that they can recognize and hold on to and maybe even Hold on to in times when they don't have a family member presence.

Speaker 3:

That can still be comforting. Yeah yeah, this content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The opinions expressed in the podcast are not those of Hearts Unite the Globe, but of the hosts and guests, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to congenital heart disease or bereavement.

Speaker 5:

Anna Jaworski has written several books to empower the congenital heart defect, or CHD, community. These books can be found at Amazoncom or at her website, wwwbabyheartspresscom. Her best seller is the Heart of a Mother, an anthology of stories written by women for women in the CHD community, and as other books, my Brother Needs an Operation, the Heart of a Father and Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. A handbook for parents will help you understand that you are not alone. Visit babyheartspresscom to find out more.

Speaker 2:

You are listening to Heart to Heart with Anna. If you have a question or comment that you would like to address on our show, please send an email to Anna Jaworski at Anna at hearttoheartwithannacom. That's Anna at hearttoheartwithannacom. Now back to Heart to Heart with Anna.

Speaker 3:

Ryan, you're a functional medicine health coach. First of all, can you tell us how essential oils and aromatherapy can help us improve or maintain our own mental health? And I'm even wondering, since I was talking so much to Valerie, about parents being in the ICU. I'm sure this is something we would have to clear with the medical doctors and nurses first, but that might be something simple that we could introduce that might bring some comfort. Can you tell us more about that?

Speaker 1:

Yes, wonderful. First, I'm enjoying listening to your conversation and you were asking about the mental health aspect and the emotional aspect of how oils can support us, and that's one of the greatest things about them, and there have been studies done on the calming effects. It's basically about how our brain works and how quickly the sense of snow can get to the brain. That's where the oils can come in and you can kind of work from the body upwards. You can get your body relaxed by smelling calming oils, like a chamomile, for example, and then it crosses the blood drain barrier. The molecules and essential oil compounds are very small and it affects your entire body in different systems in a way where you tell your brain everything is calm and relaxed. It helps with that.

Speaker 1:

So we're mentioning puzzles, your enjoyment of that, and Valerie was talking about getting lost in an activity and losing time, because that's another way to improve your emotions is to be what is called flow and engagement activity, and that can look like anything for different people. It's not a one-sided fits all, but by incorporating that, maybe some good smell, a type of flow activity, you're already putting yourself in a place such as a hospital's environment. That's not so fun, but you're putting yourself in a more of an insulated emotional state in that environment by using the ones.

Speaker 3:

It's funny what you said about smell, because there are very distinct smells when you're in a hospital. Sure, valerie could attest to that too, having been a doctor and spent so much time in hospitals and unfortunately there are certain smells, certain cleaning smells especially. That will take me right back to being in the hospital. I'm wondering if we can't use smell in a more calming way, to not make it such a stark and scary experience.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. You're touching on one of my favorite areas, what I would call using the oil to reprogram the brain. From what I've learned about how it will get to the brain and affect us and our systems, I think that we could also create new habits with them and then later on, when you're exposed to the tension of this ICU unit, you might have a passive diffuser in your pocket and put an oil in your hand and smell it just to help you. Kind of recenter in the situation.

Speaker 3:

Right, take some deep breaths. Yeah, exactly Now the fragrance that settles.

Speaker 1:

That's how I use them. Yeah, before I see a client or have the clone store session, I've been working with myself and smelled some good oils that help me relax or be centered and more focused, and that's how I would see them being used as far as sporting, and especially in the cotton environment.

Speaker 3:

So now I kind of feel bad because when Jelly was a baby I used to do massage on him every night before bedtime. He would eat his dinner and then I would give him a bath and then we did baby massage and we always had particular fragrances that were associated with. That was very, very calming. But you know, he was on his tummy and I would massage his back and I would rub the lotion on his arms and his legs and just talk very soothingly when help is a baby. Since she had her chest cut open, I couldn't put her on her tummy and I didn't even think to bring the baby lotion to do a massage every night, like I did with Joey. And now that makes me feel bad because that probably really would have been welcome, Gosh, I think about the catheters and all of the tubes and wires that came off of my baby. If that would have even been something possible.

Speaker 1:

Are you asking it possible that you use the lotion on the baby with the tubes?

Speaker 3:

Well, the lotion, or even, like we were saying, essential oils. Can we do something like that when our baby is in the ICU? I don't know. I mean, I guess something we'd have to ask the doctor.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and I'm just going to defer back to what Valerie said with the blanket and talking to the staff. That would be first and foremost, for sure, I do know there are things like fractionated coconut oil that dilute the oils and there are roll-ons that are already diluted and that is a way to. Maybe I would keep the bottom of the baby's feet with some calming, like a lavender, and just soothe them. So that would be my idea as bottom to the feet.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that's true. Yeah, that's not.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it's the roll-ons are highly diluted and some of the oils are sensitive, spicy and burn a little to the touch, but most of the coming ones don't. But you can still dilute it with the coconut oil and roll it on the bottom of the baby's foot and I've seen colony babies being calmed by that.

Speaker 3:

One of the big concerns for our population is anything that will contraindicate healing in the heart or the pulmonary system, because our children's pulmonary systems have been violated. Being put on the heart lung machine is really taxing to the human body. So are there any oils or anything that we should stay away from that might compromise the health of the pulmonary or heart systems?

Speaker 1:

There are two types of heart-related oils that I would call basal dilators and basal constrictors, meaning some of them can open the blood vessels up more, like rosemary and thyme or some that would tend to be basal constrictors and tightening up the blood vessels, and that is more of your mints and furs. So you would want to know a little bit about that before you're going to try to address an infant with the sygna oils.

Speaker 3:

Right, wow, and you said mint, and that's definitely my go-to fragrance.

Speaker 1:

Nice. Yeah, that's very uplifting. I didn't know that the insperbations had constrictors.

Speaker 1:

That's the nice thing about the plant constituent is they have so many different kinds of effects. Mints tend to be uplifting and energizing as well. So yeah, that's just sort of an area I would look towards. When it is the oils, frost to blood brain barrier, they wear absorbent mineral skin and so it gets into our bloodstream. I would want to go into it, knowing, especially with the genital heart issues. You see, the basal constrictors, maybe the vagal dilator and the relaxants, those kind of things. Some oils like Roe Chamomile have a very nice sedative kind of quality and, like I mentioned, mint can be energizing, you know, with the maybe you know.

Speaker 3:

That's why we drink chamomile tea before we go to bed.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. Why yes? Roe and chamomile is very powerful sedative in my opinion, and it's a great example for how the knowns go straight to the brain For me, how you don't even have to like them when something smells. I personally am not a fan of the long chamomile, but I like the way it works. I have this kind of controversial relationship. That's very interesting.

Speaker 3:

It's funny how you associate certain things. I drink a lot of chamomile tea when I'm sick, it seems to be my go to tea to calm me, and I always put a lot of local honey in my tea and that usually helps as well, or at least I think it does. Tell me how it seems that sometimes our body just knows what oils or teas or fragrances it needs to get healthier or to feel better.

Speaker 1:

I love this question because I believe you're speaking about our subconscious knowns. There's applied kinesiology, which is also known as muscle testy, but there are different ways that I think our subconscious can try to reach out to our ego which is running the show and say, hey, this is good for me, and possibly the fact that our smell is 10 times stronger than even our sense of taste due to survival reason, it's a very powerful way to access the limbic system, where the emotions are housed, and the on and on nervous system and the amygdala and the center of the brain Quick way, direct route to affect systems. So smelling something, and maybe smelling good to you, means you might be finding some emotions or connect. The body can heal itself and some of the answers that we have when it comes to emotions can be accessed through the subconscious and that's one way that oil, one way that prayer and meditation also has it. Is it accessing part of our subconscious that is telling our entire system to be affected in a different way?

Speaker 2:

Heart to Heart with Anna is a presentation of Hearts Unite the Globe and is part of the Hugg Podcast Network. Hearts Unite the Globe is a non-profit organization devoted to providing resources to the congenital heart defect community to uplift, empower and enrich the lives of our community members. If you would like access to free resources pertaining to the CHD community, please visit our website at wwwcongenitalheartdefectscom for information about CHD, the hospitals that treat children with CHD, summer camps for CHD survivors and much, much more.

Speaker 3:

And Tonight Forever by the Baby Blue Sound Collective. I think what I love so much about this CD is that some of the songs were inspired by the patients.

Speaker 5:

Many listeners will understand many of the different songs and what they've been inspired by. Our new album will be available on iTunes, Amazoncom, Spotify.

Speaker 3:

I love the fact that the proceeds from this CD are actually going to help those with congenital heart defects.

Speaker 5:

Enjoy the music.

Speaker 3:

Home Tonight Forever. So now Valerie and Ryan are both in the studio with me and I want to start talking about heart math, heart math is a great tool to help people settle themselves down.

Speaker 4:

Sometimes we can feel anxious or just unsettled within the body and heart math is something that we can actually use and get data from in order to understand where we're at and how we need to improve our feelings.

Speaker 4:

Basically, what happens is that you are looking to have more heart coherence. You connect a little tool to either your earlobe or your finger and basically it tracks your heart rate variability, which indicates how your emotional states affect your nervous system. You will see a sine wave and you will hear somebody talking to you, telling you to breathe in when the line goes up, breathe out when the line goes down, to think about breathing from your heart and to imagine a very comforting image. It's a great way to really have the line body and soul sink in together, to check in with yourself while looking at data on a page. They have them for cell phones, they have them for computers. I myself have one at work and there are times when I will use this with patience, but it's a great way to understand how we can settle down our bodies, maybe get it out of the fight or flight stress response, and it's great for those people who love. Data say, there are certain engineers or highly left brain thinkers where this works very well.

Speaker 3:

I have teachers like me. As soon as I saw that, I was like heart bath. That sounds like something that I would totally be into. Where do you buy this? I've never heard of it until you introduced the concept to me, Valerie.

Speaker 4:

There are a lot of different sites that you can buy this from. I know the HeartMath site sells some of their products. There I have an online dispensary called Get Healthy which sells it, but there are multiple sources you can get it from. Just look at HeartMath and I'm sure you can find more information that way.

Speaker 3:

So it's basically a biofeedback device slash app, is that right?

Speaker 4:

I don't know if it qualifies under biofeedback. I know it kind of in more general terms and when I use it I feel better. I think that's the bottom line. You are able to check in with yourself in a different way by using data, and it helps guide you to a more peaceful state.

Speaker 3:

Is this something that you think you could use with children?

Speaker 4:

I believe you can use it with children as well.

Speaker 3:

Yes, and it's not invasive so that's less scary, correct and it kind of allows the child to have a little bit of control. Absolutely, I think that's the thing that is lacking in the ICU, don't you?

Speaker 4:

Absolutely, and they do have some fun games that you can play. One of the games that I play is trying to make a nature scene appear where you have different animals and you have different flowers. But there are multiple games that you can use and I do think that those would be very helpful for kids, especially in stressful situations. Now I would recommend that they also be used, maybe before that time, just to get them used to understanding what the goal is. So when you get to those more stressful situations then they're used to using part math and can do it with ease.

Speaker 3:

Right. It's kind of like giving them a tool in their toolbox that gives them a little bit of control at a time when they may feel powerless. Absolutely. I really like that idea. Okay, can we put a link to your website where people can order these materials? Absolutely, absolutely, okay. Well, what I respect of our lives at Traditional Medicine doesn't often address the spirituality, and I believe spirituality is a vital importance to our mental health. So can you tell us some techniques we can use to help us get in touch with our higher selves? And I'm going to address that question to you, ryan.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I just wanted to mention heart math myself as a health coach is something I was trained early on with and she knew her point about children. I remember one of the famous studies about heart coherence was from the. I believe he was one of the leading scientists or creators of part math. He used his own son and their family dog, and so they do an experiment using the family dog and the boys.

Speaker 3:

Well, that's amazing. They used it with the dog.

Speaker 1:

Yes, the son and the family dog were part of the experiment and they were able to show how the heart coherence affected each other's heart. Where the dog and the boys were, both were drawn and intrigued into coherence once the boy was using the heart math technique. I love that.

Speaker 3:

I need to learn more about this, ryan.

Speaker 1:

Oh, yeah, just yeah, so I had to mention it because of the comment about children. Yeah, it is noninvasive also. Yeah, but your question?

Speaker 1:

was about spirituality, was it so?

Speaker 1:

Oils have been used for spirituality for thousands of years, as far back as Egypt. Frankincense and sandalwood, or some of the oldest, even in digit. Populations also would burn plant materials, for example, to help honor and recognize the spiritual state of humanity. And some of my favorite things to do with people are myself to activate something that's bigger than we are is to use the oils, diffuse them in the environment and set some intention and set some time to do perhaps a heart coherence technique, like heart math, or you can put your hand over your own heart and start incorporating a measured breath in basically creating and working on your own heart coherence while addressing prayer, or an honoring of your ancestors, that spiritual makeup of us. With the oils in the atmosphere, maybe you could put them on your forehead, on the back of your neck, your pulse point, so you'll smell them, and for me it helps induce that more spiritual state of mind. So that's how I personally find them, but I also know that historically they've been used in temples for rituals and ceremonial reasons for so long.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I was raised in the Catholic faith and we frequently use different sense at different times. And they even have an incense burner that they would go through and bless the congregation at different times of the year and the priest would be swinging this big metal box that he would swing and you could smell it as he was going by blessing the people.

Speaker 1:

Correct, I remember that. And so I went to Catholic school and I'm not sure what it was. I want to say probably break and sing but, yes, I do recall, Wait, wait what if they still do that.

Speaker 3:

Right. Haven't looked at the Catholic Church in a while, so I'm not sure. But that just shows you the power of the sense and both of us remember that from our childhood. And yeah, I think you're right. I think most churches are most religious gatherings, spiritual gatherings. They like candles or they, like you were saying, they will burn certain herbs.

Speaker 3:

Yeah yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So, before this show, we talked about something that we aspire to, and I talked about this with you, valerie, and that was the four agreements. And I know that not everybody knows what the four agreements are, but can you talk to me about the four agreements and how people can use those to improve their mental health?

Speaker 4:

Absolutely the four agreements. It's a book by Don Miguel Ruiz and it has information on how to live, basically four agreements based on ancient Toltec wisdom. Those four agreements include being impeccable with your word, not taking anything personally, not making assumptions and always doing your best. And they sound simple but they can be very challenging to live by, and I talk about this book and these practices in my own clinical practice on a regular basis, because I think it's another way to be able to get us out of that stress mode.

Speaker 4:

For instance, not taking things personally. How often have we done that ourselves where we've gotten upset, whether it was somebody who cut us off and we really got upset and took it personally, but maybe that person was rushing off because their wife was in the car, in pregnant and they had to get to the hospital. There are a lot of different reasons that maybe somebody is not driving or doing things the way that you would like them, but often it's not personal. And by practicing even just one of these agreements, it can help us to settle ourselves down and understand that I don't know any perfect people, or at least I will do things perfectly. I certainly don't do that and sometimes I have to give grace to others and myself with what's going on in line and reminding us about these simple ways to live by can do just that.

Speaker 3:

I found when I first read about the four agreements, it totally resonated with me, to the point that I found a meme that had the four agreements on it and I printed it and taped it to my desk so I could look at it and refer to it often, because I do think you're right, it does sound simple, but a lot of times, the things that sound the most simple or the hardest to do to me, just looking at that and remembering that these are states to aspire to, to not take things personally, to be aware of your words, because words have the ability to heal or to hurt, and I don't want anyone to ever remember me as a person who said something hurtful. And especially in the hospital, when you're stressed, you're not getting enough sleep, you're scared it's very easy to be reactive instead of being kind, and I think that maybe having those four agreements in the hallways or in different places just to remind us of the best way we can behave would reduce the stress in some situations. Don't you think, valerie, right?

Speaker 4:

We even use mantras to help get us through things like surgery.

Speaker 4:

Yes, I can do it, yes, things are going to go well, for instance, as opposed to, maybe, negative statements and I do hear negative statements every once in a while and the important thing to know is that the body hears you. So if you say you can't do something, well, your body is going to listen to you and it's not going to do it for you. Even if you need to maybe add in a little word, say like we can't do this yet, that makes such a huge difference and you still have that potential to be able to do it. And in my clinic I sometimes hear people saying that they don't think that they can get a whole lot better and until they're able to change that mindset and believe then they stay the same because the body listens to that statement, as it's true. So there can be underlying themes to work on, like, say, unworthiness, which I do see as well can be a source of why people don't think they can do things. But that's a whole other subject to work on and discuss at a future time.

Speaker 3:

That's a whole show all by itself. Let's talk about one other thing that I think we can do for our own mental health and this can be anywhere and that is forgiveness. How can the concept of forgiveness affect our mental health? Valerie, I'll start with you.

Speaker 4:

You bring up a great question, and forgiveness is something that I think we could all practice more of. In fact, I usually ask every patient would they still need to forgive in my practice? Because it's just something else that can leave you unsettled. When you're unsettled, you're stressed. When you're stressed, you don't repair yourself as much or as well, and forgiveness is something that we're here to do, whether it's forgiving somebody else, but most of the time, we do need to focus on ourselves. What is it that we need to forgive ourselves for?

Speaker 4:

I see a lot of people who strive for perfection, and that's really striving for failure, because you can't really do anything perfectly. We're not supposed to, but maybe we need to understand and give ourselves grace and forgive ourselves for trying to think that we could do things perfectly before, or even ever. Forgiveness I think we can build up resentments. It can build up negative feelings that we hold within ourselves, pretending that we shouldn't done things perfectly before, but really we do things in a way so that we can learn from them, and just shifting the mindset can really make a difference, not just how we feel, but also with our health outcomes as well.

Speaker 3:

I love that. And Roya says I know you were raised Catholic like me. Forgiveness is actually a big part of the Catholic religion. That's a big part of confession, Wouldn't you agree?

Speaker 1:

I would agree. It's definitely a big part of the Catholic tradition. But when it comes to forgiveness, it speaks to me in a way where the first thing you need to do it's absolutely check in on yourself, because that's where I find a lot of people need to start forgiving yourself, but it's in the concept of where we're putting energy into. For me, I think, what's the alternative? So let's not forgive? Well, what are you doing when you choose that, if you choose not to forgive?

Speaker 1:

In my opinion, sort of giving energy towards things that is only going to keep a negative, silly or emotional life just feeding into. Probably in the past and the past has shown it has strong connections to depression when people are taking other paths. And so for me, I would rather make the choice of moving forward to forgive, and, though it's not easy, I feel that for our health and health standpoint, it's definitely obvious choice to work on that moving forward if you want to improve. So, starting with yourself, you're realizing what is the alternative. That probably suboptimal or unhealthy for me. If I choose to tap into this feeling of resentment and not forgiving, I'm probably hurting myself more than even the person I'm upset with.

Speaker 3:

While I'm listening to you and Valerie talk about forgiveness, I'm drawn back to that ICU. Sorry, I seem to keep getting drawn back to the ICU. And I remember sitting there and being so upset with some of the procedures that my child had to go through. And it's like you said just now, Ryan there wasn't a choice. There had to be a catheter put in, IVs had to be put into the skin, but it was painful. And I wonder if at that point I could have consciously said I forgive you for hurting my child, because I know my child needs us to get better. And I wonder if children who are having things done to them, if their parents could coach them and say this is going to hurt, but we have to go through this so you can get better and you have the ability to forgive those who are harming you because they really only want to help you. I wonder if giving them those words and giving them that ability to forgive would, in the long run, help them with their mental health.

Speaker 4:

I think that goes back to one of the agreements that always do your best and if you can think about certain folks who have maybe seemed like they wronged you, like, say, in the hospital, certain practitioners, healthcare workers, who may hurt but are also trying to do their best for you, that can help. And I agree that it can be helpful to ask children to see if they can forgive them, because I do see a lot of people who have resentment against the healthcare system because they were hurt by either specific people or procedures or they didn't feel like people cared, and sometimes it has to do with, say, a physician being sobered out, that they're just trying to hang on each day and do their jobs. Or maybe there are other circumstances that we don't know, that we can't necessarily make assumptions about, but at the end of the day, understanding that we do have that power to forgive and teaching children early about forgiveness, I definitely think is the way to go, with there there's a hospital setting or not.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think so too. I think there's power in forgiveness and one of the worst parts about being a patient is feeling powerless. You look up to this authority figure usually a doctor, sometimes it's a nurse, sometimes it's a therapist and it feels like they are the ones with the power and you are powerless. You're lesser of a person than they are, and I think that's one of the scary things. We have less knowledge, we have less capability, especially if we're sick or hurting, and knowing that you have a little bit of control, you can control forgiving somebody especially.

Speaker 3:

I remember I remember one time that my baby was very stressed and crying because she was hurt and them having to poke over and over trying to get some blood and because my baby was distressed. I'm sure that just made everything worse. And at one point I just pulled my baby away and I said you're not touching her again, somebody else needs to come. And I felt like I needed to calm her down and try and get to a more serene place before they would try and poke her again. And I wish now that I had thought to say I forgive you for what you're doing, but we just need a moment. I don't think I was very kind. I think at that time I was Mama Tiger and I was pulling my child away and being very defensive. But I think forgiveness is one of those things that we just forget about when we're in a very stressful situation.

Speaker 4:

Later as well, I often ask patients to write a letter to whoever they need to forgive, whether it's somebody else or themselves. Write down all those feelings, everything they want to say, even if they don't understand what happened. And, if they choose, they can write down that they forgive that person and shred the paper afterwards.

Speaker 3:

It's interesting that you say that for a while, after we left the Catholic Church, we went into the Unitarian Universalist Church and because I had been a teacher, they asked me to teach the children, which I found interesting because I was just learning about the UU principles myself. But there's no better way to learn it than to have to teach it to children. And the one year that I was teaching we decided to focus on different religious traditions, introducing our children to all different concepts. The Jewish religion has a tradition where they write down parts like that once a year. They write it on a piece of paper and then they throw it into the river.

Speaker 3:

So in my classroom we put some blue construction paper on the floor. That was our river and we wrote down those hurts for which we wanted to forgive somebody. And then we crumbled up the paper and we threw it in the river and it was very cleansing. That's a great practice and now that I think about it, I think we should all do that at least once a year. And it's like you said you don't even have to send it, you don't have to confront somebody, and sometimes you may not be able to because it may have happened so many years ago. You may not be in the same place, but just to give it up to the universe that, yes, this wrong was done to you or you weren't brave enough to say something.

Speaker 1:

I'm just agreeing because forgiving is free. That sounds like it's forgiveness to free.

Speaker 3:

It is. It is, and I think for our mental health, that is one of the most important things that we can do is to free ourselves from the power someone may have over us, with us not forgiving Right. This has been most enjoyable, and I hope that all of these different concepts will be embraced by my listeners. I hope there's something that you found that we talked about today, whether it's the essential oils or the spiritual practice of forgiveness, or talking or singing, or even making a puzzle. I love it. We talked about so many different ways that we can try and introduce a sense of peace into our hearts that will allow us to heal ourselves. So thank you so much for coming on the program today, ryan.

Speaker 1:

My pleasure, absolutely my pleasure.

Speaker 3:

And Valerie. I loved talking with you about so many things Heart math. I'm never going to forget that that is so awesome. Thank you for coming on the program today. Thank you.

Speaker 4:

Anna.

Speaker 3:

That does conclude this episode of Heart to Heart with Anna. Thanks for listening today. Did you all know that I started a new podcast? It's us so new by now We've completed our first year, but check it out. It's called the CHC Podcast Congenital Heart Conversations and we would love for you to join us. Remember my friends, you are not alone.

Speaker 2:

Thank you again for joining us this week. We hope you have become inspired and empowered to become an advocate for the Congenital Heart community. Heart to Heart with Anna, with your host, anna Jaworski, can be heard at any time, wherever you get your podcasts. A new episode is released every Tuesday from Noon Eastern Time.

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