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How To Help Your Brain Recover From Grief

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grief

What does it really take to be resilient? Emily Rapp Black finds out.

In early 2013, my son, Ronan, died of Tay-Sachs disease, a rare neurological disorder with no treatment or cure that slowly destroys the brain. He was diagnosed at 9 months old and lived for another two years. During the last six weeks of his life, no longer able to swallow liquids, he received Pedialyte through a skinny tube in his nose. Two years later, I stood in a drugstore, staring at a shelf of Pedialyte, unable to reach for a bottle even though my young daughter, Charlotte, needed extra hydration during a nasty flu. I felt dizzy and disoriented. I had a vivid memory of Ronan: the warmth of his chubby body…and then, after he died, heavy as the newly dead. Taking a few deep breaths, I reminded myself: Charlotte is not dying. This is a different baby, a different life. You are safe and loved.

Somehow I pulled it together, made my purchase and drove home. I felt uneasy, ridiculous. When would I get over the trauma of losing Ronan? “You’re the most resilient person I’ve ever met,” a friend once told me. Was I? I’d always thought resilience was a kind of strength, but my episode in the pharmacy was one of many in which I felt anything but strong. What is resilience, really and truly? I wondered. And as I started to dig for answers, I found that it’s more dynamic—and collaborative—than I had expected.

I contact licensed marriage and family therapist Linda Graham, author of Bouncing Back and an expert on the neuroscience of human relationships. When I tell Graham about the drugstore incident, she’s not surprised. She describes it as a classic post-traumatic stress response. “Will it always be like this?” I ask. No, she assures me. “We’re learning how to work with the plasticity of the brain to rewire memories of traumatizing experiences,” she says.

Graham’s clinical work reflects a paradigm shift in how we think about recovering from trauma. From birth, feelings of confidence and stability (as we bask in praise for taking our first steps, as we’re comforted after making a mistake) translate, over time, into resilience—a belief in ourselves and our ability to succeed. But even if such early confidence wasn’t instilled, and even if our resilience is later challenged, we can change. “Our brains are trainable,” Graham explains. “At any stage of life, we can create new pathways with every thought and emotion.”

In her practice, Graham encourages people to choose exercises that will help heal the psyche and the soul, thereby training themselves to transform a moment of criticism into one of self-acceptance. You can reframe a distressing event by remembering a time when you were confident and open. Say you mess up royally at work and are chastised by your boss. Rather than obsess over it, you should recall the praise you’ve received in the past and how good it made you feel, then remind yourself that this one error is not a testament to the sum of your skills. Graham refers to these as “Sure I can!” moments that replicate the feeling a child has when attempting a new skill.

Without realizing it, I had done this during my panicky moment at the drugstore. Yes, I had stood there frozen, recalling the dread and helplessness of caring for a terminally ill child, but I also thought of my current life and its many joys. Graham tells me that I had reconditioned the feeling of collapse into one of security. Of course, it hadn’t felt like that. I had always thought I would get to a point where I was “over” the trauma. Turns out, I was wrong. Cultivating resilience is unrelated to the clichéd notion of time healing all wounds; overcoming is not the end goal. Instead of moving on, it’s about living with what has happened. A resilient person is emotionally and psychologically flexible enough to allow the effects of a traumatic episode into her life, to “receive the shattering,” as Graham puts it, and use those effects for healing. This means accepting the feelings of despair, but also remaining open to the possibility of love and connection.

Graham believes that finding someone—a partner, a sibling, a parent, a friend—who unconditionally loves you and asking that person for support is essential to developing the secure attachment necessary for recovery. While Ronan was dying and my marriage to his father was ending, I sometimes felt that I might die, too, of sadness. I experienced what Michaela Haas, PhD, author of Bouncing Forward,calls “the rattling of one’s core beliefs,” a deeply uncomfortable part of trauma that can build resilience. Although I had always known that life could be unfair, I never thought it would be so cruel as to rob my child of his life. I was adrift; I taught my college classes in an almost hypermanic state, wrote constantly, and exercised compulsively. I pushed hard at my life as if it would save Ronan’s, and it was when I became exhausted that I finally reached out for help from friends, from family, from a therapist. I talked and cried and raged with them, and they listened to me and held me and wept with me. Only then did I feel as though my life would continue after Ronan’s had ended—and that I might even be happy again. This shift mirrors the one Graham encourages her patients to consider: “Instead of ‘You can do this,’ the thinking shifts to ‘You are big enough to hold this.’” I grew to believe that Ronan’s death would not undo me.

Now, three years after the death of my son, I am madly in love and relishing every moment of parenting a budding little girl. I am often surprised by this big life, and yet I was ready for it. I tell Graham that just moments after Ronan died, I felt a shameful sense of elation: Nothing will ever be this hard again, I thought. Not the death of my parents, not my own death. I’m heartened to hear her say that this is normal, and, in fact, a sign of resilience itself.

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Effects of Hot baths on inflammation, glucose metabolism

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According to new research, a hot bath could have effects that extend way beyond mental relaxation. According to the authors, regular hot baths might reduce inflammation and improve metabolism.

Over recent years, hot baths, saunas, and other so-called passive heating therapies have received growing attention from scientists.

Scientists now believe they offer some potential benefits, including improved vascular function and sleep.

Because hot baths are low cost and unlikely to cause significant side effects, understanding any benefits that a hot bath might have could be a quick win for medical science.



Recently, researchers set out to understand whether hot bath immersion could have an impact on metabolic disorders, such as diabetes.

 Almost 20 years ago, a paper concluded that hot water immersion of individuals with type 2 diabetes enhanced insulin sensitivity. However, it is still unclear how this might occur.

In the most recent study, the researchers dug a little deeper into the mechanisms at work. They theorized that the influence of a hot bath over glucose metabolism might revolve around the inflammatory response.

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Inflammation and insulin resistance

There is some evidence that chronic, low-level inflammation increases insulin resistance. In other words, inflammation reduces a cell’s ability to respond to insulin, potentially contributing to the development of diabetes.

Conversely, exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity — meaning that the body has better control over glucose levels.

Although doctors often recommend exercise to reduce the risk of developing metabolic disorders, not everyone can exercise — perhaps due to health conditions or physical capacity. It is, therefore, essential to find alternative ways to improve insulin sensitivity for these people.

Exercise, as with other physical stressors, sparks a brief inflammatory response, followed by a more extended anti-inflammatory response. The researchers wanted to see if a different type of physical stressor — a hot bath — might have a similar effect on the immune system.

For this study, the researchers investigated the impact of a hot bath on overweight, mostly sedentary men. The findings were published recently in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

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Hot bath intervention

Each participant immersed themselves in a water bath set at 102°F (39°C) for 1 hour. Scientists took blood just before and after the bath, and then 2 hours later.

Also, the researchers charted the participants’ blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate every 15 minutes.

 Over the following 2 weeks, the participants had a further 10 hot water immersions.

The researchers found that a single hot water immersion caused a spike of interleukin — a marker of inflammation. Similarly, there was an increase in nitric oxide (NO) production.

The spike in NO is important because it causes blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure. NO also improves glucose intake into tissues, and scientists think it has anti-inflammatory properties.



As expected, the 2-week intervention saw a reduction in fasting blood sugar and inflammation. In the same way that exercise influences inflammation, the researchers saw an initial increase followed by a long-term decrease in inflammation.

The researchers also write that it “might have implications for improving metabolic health in populations unable to meet the current physical activity recommendations.”

It is important to note that the people who took part in the study did report some discomfort. This was either due to the length of time that they were required to stay in the bath or the high temperature. Future research might investigate whether shorter periods or lower temperatures might have similar benefits.

Of course, hot baths alone cannot treat metabolic disorders, but they may be a simple, cost-effective intervention that can run alongside other treatments.

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Experts recommend natural remedies to Diabetes.

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Medical practitioners have recommended some natural remedies that could curb the increasing rate of diabetes in the country.

The practitioners offered the remedies in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.

They spoke against the backdrop of this year’s World Diabetes Day, which is celebrated globally on November 14.



The practitioners said the awareness had become imperative because diabetes is a condition that impairs the body’s ability to process blood glucose.

“Diabetes usually is prevalent in middle aged and older adults but now becoming common in children. Adults are still at the highest risk than children,’’ Dr. Iorwuese Charles told NAN on phone.

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He said that diabetes has to do with an increase sugar level in the blood caused by an absolute deficiency of insulin that affects one out of three adults.

Charles, a medical practitioner at Police Hospital Ado, Ekiti State, said that diabetes is a group of diseases that usually ends up in too much amount of sugar in the blood.

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He advised families to always maintain good lifestyle habits to curb diabetes in their homes.

Charles said the symptoms in diabetes include increased frequency of urination, increase thirst, dry mouth, increase in eating with weight loss.

Other signs, he said, are: “Blurring of vision, tiredness, fatigue, mood swings, irritability, frequent urination at night and headaches.”

According to him, the symptoms of diabetes are endless with no permanent cure but with proper maintenance one could live a healthy life.

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