Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law

Ep. 8 - Maintaining Health and Wellness During Divorce with Dr. Susan Darrah

April 01, 2021 Ryan Kalamaya & Amy Goscha Season 1 Episode 8
Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law
Ep. 8 - Maintaining Health and Wellness During Divorce with Dr. Susan Darrah
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Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law
Ep. 8 - Maintaining Health and Wellness During Divorce with Dr. Susan Darrah
Apr 01, 2021 Season 1 Episode 8
Ryan Kalamaya & Amy Goscha

The stress and grief that comes with experiencing a life altering event such as divorce, can affect someone both physically and emotionally. In episode 8 of Divorce at Altitude, Dr. Susan Harrah joins Amy Goscha to discuss the main areas of your health that you should focus on during the divorce process.

In This Episode

-       How sleep can affect mood, your body’s ability to react to stress, and overall wellbeing 

-       Why a good sleep routine is important 

-       Recommendations for not being able to fall asleep

-       Importance of exercise when dealing with stress

-       How inflammation affects your body and brain

-       Importance of nutrition in dealing with stress

-       How nutrition can affect your energy levels

-       Importance of getting sunshine and spending time in nature to deal with stress

Make sure to follow us to continue the conversation on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

 

What is Divorce at Altitude? 

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado. 

To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here

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DISCLAIMER: THE COMMENTARY AND OPINIONS ON THIS PODCAST IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND NOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE OR AREA TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE ON ANY OF THESE ISSUES.

Show Notes Transcript

The stress and grief that comes with experiencing a life altering event such as divorce, can affect someone both physically and emotionally. In episode 8 of Divorce at Altitude, Dr. Susan Harrah joins Amy Goscha to discuss the main areas of your health that you should focus on during the divorce process.

In This Episode

-       How sleep can affect mood, your body’s ability to react to stress, and overall wellbeing 

-       Why a good sleep routine is important 

-       Recommendations for not being able to fall asleep

-       Importance of exercise when dealing with stress

-       How inflammation affects your body and brain

-       Importance of nutrition in dealing with stress

-       How nutrition can affect your energy levels

-       Importance of getting sunshine and spending time in nature to deal with stress

Make sure to follow us to continue the conversation on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. 

 

What is Divorce at Altitude? 

Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado. 

To subscribe to Divorce at Altitude, click here and select your favorite podcast player. To subscribe to Kalamaya | Goscha's YouTube channel where many of the episodes will be posted as videos, click here

************************************************************************

DISCLAIMER: THE COMMENTARY AND OPINIONS ON THIS PODCAST IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND NOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE OR AREA TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE ON ANY OF THESE ISSUES.

Ryan Kalamaya:
Hey everyone, I'm Ryan Kalamaya.

Amy Goscha:
And I am Amy Goscha.

Ryan Kalamaya:
Welcome to the Divorce at Altitude, a podcast on Colorado Family Law.

Amy Goscha:
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me I know, besides being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a divorce client. 

Ryan Kalamaya:
Whether you are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney, listen in for weekly tips and insight into topics related to divorce, co-parenting, and separation in Colorado.

Amy Goscha:
Hello and welcome to another episode of Divorce at Altitude, I'm Amy Goscha and my co-host Ryan Kalamaya is not with us today, but I am here and I'm very privileged to be interviewing one of my really good, close friends, soon to be family members, Dr. Susan Dara. And today we're going to be talking about Health and Wellness and how to deal with that. When you're going through a divorce. I've mentioned this before on our podcast, I've gone through divorce. My divorce was final recently. I think there's a lot of things I could do to manage the stress and health aspects. So we're going to go through those today with professional. Welcome, Susan, how are you doing today?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I'm doing good. How are you?

Amy Goscha:
Good. Are you excited about talking about wellness on podcast? 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I love talking about wellness and usually people don't like to listen to me. So [inaudible 00:01:28]. 

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. And you're also like a big podcast listener, aren't you?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. All the time. Almost everything I do, I listen to podcasts while I'm doing it. So this is my first time on one and I'm pretty excited.

Amy Goscha:
Oh, we're really excited to have you. So I just wanted to give everyone a background as to who you are. So you recently moved to Colorado, is that correct? 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yes.

Amy Goscha:
When did you move back here? 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I moved here just before for the holidays. My partner and I, your brother moved to be closer to family and friends and we moved right before the Christmas holidays. 

Amy Goscha:
Oh, great. Where did you move from?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
We were living in Boston for the five years prior, but we did take a little interim between Boston and Denver.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. So we'll get into what you did, for those few months it's really exciting, what you guys did. Can you just tell me a little bit of background about your training and where you went to medical school and what you've done as an anesthesiologist? 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Sure. So I'm originally from Colorado, I'm a native, but I left to go to undergraduate school in Richmond, Virginia, where I played division one soccer. I had a year off and did AmeriCorps in California. I went to medical school in New York for four years, and then went to residency at USC in Southern California. Got my first job in Southern California, and then moved to date your brother. So I moved to Boston where I worked for the five years at Massachusets Eye and Ear, which is part of a big conglomerate called MGH and Brigham. And a couple of years into working there, they asked me to be the medical director of the surgery center, which was a pretty big promotion, pretty early in my career. And I had a great time working there, but then John and I decided that it was a good time to move and be closer to family and settle down our roots. So we moved back home to Colorado.

Amy Goscha:
So tell me about your big excursion that you took for a few months prior to coming and moving back to Colorado.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
As a physician, it's really hard to take a long period of time off. So between transitioning from my Boston jobs and the Colorado job, I took a sabbatical for two months. Then John and I sailed down the coast on the East coast from Boston to Florida and then through The Bahamas. So we had a bit of an adventure.

Amy Goscha:
That's great. So what was that like for you physically and mentally?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I have to say that my first time sailing was this trip. We had captains with us for the first month as we sailed down the coast, and they left us in Florida and then we were on our own in The Bahamas. And it was extremely stressful. I was doing a new activity with pretty high stakes. There's a big, expensive vessel you're on and two human lives. So it was pretty stressful. I woke up in the middle of the night, multiple nights, worrying that I hadn't calculated the tide's right or the weather had changed. And it was, I would say one of the more stressful periods of my life, but also an amazing experience.

Amy Goscha:
That's great. And you became essentially the captain of the boat, is that correct?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah, so my partner was working full-time while we were there, and I became the sailor. So I went from zero experience and knowledge, to full captain of a 55/SL boat. And it was a pretty steep learning curve and also an amazing experience at the same time. It's not often in our adult lives that we actually get to learn new skills. So I thought that was pretty special.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah, that's really cool. So today, as we talked about, we're going to be discussing wellness and divorced and as you know, I just recently completed my divorce. I have a two year old. And my experience so far as a single parent is, it is hard to eat healthy and to find time to exercise. Usually I'll take Hunter, put him in the stroller and like do my run. So everything that I do is around my child and who doesn't like small food, that's cut up in pieces. So I love snacks. It's really easy to eat what he's eating and it's not always the healthiest. I joke with people how they talk about the divorce diet, which means you're going through stress, you might not be able to eat, so you end up losing weight. And I just joke how that didn't happen to me. And one of my previous clients told me, "Well, Amy that's because you're a divorce attorney and you already know what to expect." I wish I would have gone through that divorce diet to get that extra, baby weight off. But, I say that jokingly, but it is a real thing that people go through divorces, a major life changing event, as it in a super stressful. 

Amy Goscha:
So today we're going to get your expert advice as to what are the things that we can do and the four core areas, sleep, exercise, diet, and [inaudible 00:06:37] nature to really balance out your life going through a major stressful event. So we're really excited to have you today. And I'd like to start out with, we have Eric Wolf who I'm going to give you a scenario where he just came out and he's embarking on the divorce. He came to you and he's asking about, what's some advice that you have regarding sleep. So if you could talk to us, Dr. Dara about, what you would recommend regarding sleep when someone's going through a stressful period, such as a divorce.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Of course, so sleep is extremely important for everyone. And then particular, when you're going through a stressful time, having a normal sleep schedule and getting good sleep every night can really improve your mood, and your body's ability to react to stress and in overall wellbeing. There's a ton of studies about the lack of sleep and many things that you can see with decreased sleep or a poor sleep schedule, increased inflammation, mood disorders, cognitive and memory deficits, health problems, like hypertension, dyslipidemia, which is having a lot of fat in your blood, coronary artery disease, waking and type two diabetes. These things are all really detrimental to your health. When you get poor sleep, you get increased activity of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. It's a big, fancy name. Sometimes they we'll call it the HPA access, for short. And we're going to come back to this access a lot because it's a whole cycle that gets into how your body relates to stress.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
So when this access is getting overworked, your body's going to react really poorly to stress. It find that release a ton of these hormones when you get stressed, as opposed to when you can calm it down, it will release fewer and your body will be able to react to stress a little bit better. So one really fun fact about sleep is that it's one of the biggest contributors to our health. And it's one of the things that people think about the least. There's an interesting fact that daylight savings time, when we lose one hour of sleep, there's actually a significantly increased risk of heart attacks on that one day.

Amy Goscha:
Oh, wow.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
That one hour of sleep actually impacts people pretty significantly. So it's just like a little fun fact, or not that fun. You guys will get to know that I'm a bit of a nerd and I like science facts. So sorry. So to have good sleep, there's a lot of things that you can do. And they're not that hard. There are things that are free, so that's good. And they're reasonably accessible to everyone. So the most important thing, number one is to have a routine. Every night and every morning you want to go to sleep and get up at the exact same time. It doesn't matter if it's a weekend or if you go on vacation. It doesn't matter if you drank too much last night or your kids kept you up, or you were stressed from anxiety of all these changes going on in your life. You always want to attempt to go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time. The next one you really want to do, is use your bed only for sleep. So your bed should be kind of a shrine to sleep.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
You should have no electronics in there. It should be kept at a nice temperature. There's a lot of studies about this. So, 65 degrees is actually the optimal temperature. I'm always cold. So that sounds freezing to me. You do have a range from about 60 to 67, and if you keep that temperature, it's actually statistically supposed to improve your sleep. So that's pretty easy. You can just set the thermostat. It's hard to remove all the electronics from the room that has many flashing lights and chargers, computers and things like that that you can get out of your room. That will really help create this sleep shrine that you really want to have, so that you can get your best sleep possible. The next thing is that around evening time, about an hour before bed, you'll want to decrease your exposure to bright light and blue light. So if you really have to work late at night, you do need blue light glasses that filter out that light, and you can also get lights in your house that will still throw out that blue light, if you want to have bright lights and not be effected by the blue light, which is what really minimizes your melatonin production. And that melatonin is really important for helping you go to sleep and stay asleep.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
You can also try to create a bedtime routine, whether that includes, having a cup of tea before you brush your teeth and maybe reading a little bit in a chair, as long as you're avoiding blue screens, bright lights, and it's a good bedtime routine. It's perfect. And it can teach your body that this is what I do when it's time to go to sleep. I'm pretty sure that's probably hard with a two year old.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. And so one question I keep thinking about is, sleep routine, like for an adult, what would be like a typical routine that would be helpful? You mentioned sipping on tea, like for instance, what is your nightly routine?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I have to say that my best nightly routine would probably be a cup of tea and an actual physical book as opposed via a [inaudible 00:11:33] screen-

Amy Goscha:
Yeah.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Although you can set your electronics to not expose you to that blue light, that decreases your melatonin production, just something calming and a nice calm evening is probably [inaudible 00:11:48].

Amy Goscha:
Great. And the other question I have is you said you try to sleep, go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. What would your recommendation be for if you just can't seem to get to sleep?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
So if you cannot seem to get to sleep, there's some things you can do, you can get up and get actually out of bed maybe for 20 minutes or so, and do a calmness of low light, away from any kind of stimulating things. Good activities would be reading a book, you can have coloring for coloring books where you color. Anything that's a reasonably calming activity, and do that for just about 20 minutes and then get back into bed. And there's likely you're having sleep disorder. There's going to be a period of time when you have trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep. But if you continue to get up in the morning the same time, and then do a couple of the other steps we're going to talk about, over time, you should start to get into a routine where you can actually fall asleep at night. So, and some other things you could do are avoid eating large [inaudible 00:12:52] right before bed. And that can be hard, I know I get really hungry right at night. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
And that doesn't mean you can't eat anything, but tea is a good [inaudible 00:13:00] a low-calorie, easy to digest food. And another one is to avoid packing and alcohol at least four to six hours before bed. And I know that's really hard for a lot of people, a lot would like to have a glass of wine with dinner. And I think that's okay. But if you notice that it's affecting your sleep habits, your ability to fall asleep, or with alcohol, more likely your ability to stay asleep, you may want to avoid alcohol when you can. So it doesn't mean you never drink. It just means that you're conscious that that may affect your sleep cycle.

Amy Goscha:
And does the alcohol affect your sleep cycle because of how it metabolizes or?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. You basically get this rebound effect and it affects a lot of people needing six hours to eight hours after they drink. And then they may get this racing heart, running mind, and it also changes your ability to get into REM sleep. So then you're in your lighter scoop where you're able to wake up a little bit easier. And so those are the things you want to avoid. So I know for myself, when I have a couple of drinks before bed, I almost always wake up in the middle of the night, it's something I know. It doesn't mean I never drink. It's just that I'm very conscious about it. And if I have a big day, the next day, I'm probably not gonna have anything to drink because I want a good night's sleep.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah, and I'm sure that someone going through a divorce, a lot of times you hear people say, Oh, I just need that glass of wine. But so that's probably something that could be contributing to a sleep issue or difficulty.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah, a hundred percent. And alcohol helps you fall asleep, but staying asleep is where it's really a trigger.

Amy Goscha:
Interesting. That's good to know. Great. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Some other things you could do are, exercise daily. So that actually could improve your sleep at night, although some studies suggest that really strenuous exercise within an hour or two before your bedtime may not help you fall asleep. It may get you a little wired up, so you can exercise but try to do it a little bit, maybe an hour or two before bedtime, at least. 

Amy Goscha:
Okay. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
And, if sleep continues to be a problem. You can always start to keep a sleep diary, that'll help you maybe track what things trigger you. So I know for me, alcohol is a big trigger. I'm also pretty affected by caffeine. So I suggest take four to six hours, but for me, I avoid caffeine after noon because it will really keep me up all night. I'm pretty sensitive to it.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. And then what about, do some people need more sleep than others? Do you start figuring out how much sleep you really need if you put yourself on a schedule?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. If you put yourself on a schedule at some point in time, you'll start to just wake up naturally in the morning, even maybe before your alarm clock. So the average is around eight hours, which is what we think, but it's from seven hours to nine hours for most adults between the age of around 23 and 64. So that's our big window of diverse, as I would say. And it's also very variable. I swear your mom and my brother, or your brother and your mom only need like four hours of sleep and they're highly functional. I'm close to nine. So everyone's got their own individual on how they sleep.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah, I'm definitely closer to that, probably eight. And I definitely know my law partner, Ryan, he doesn't require as much sleep. So it is interesting how different people require different amounts of sleep. Well, did you have any other suggestions related to sleep or should we segue into exercise?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
No, that's everything I have about sleep.

Amy Goscha:
Okay, great. So, one thing that we hear all the time, not just going through divorce, but, you need to exercise. Can you talk about how exercise can help with stress?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Sure. So exercise and stress are very tightly correlated. So there's some thoughts about why this is, and there's a ton of studies on how correlated they are. So increased exercise. And we're talking about aerobic exercise, which is when you get your heart racing a little bit and can decrease anxiety, decrease depression, decrease a negative mood, and also decrease some social withdrawal that some people experience it also boosts self-esteem and improves cognitive function, both your memory, and also sharper thinking. These are all good things. That's probably why everyone tells you to exercise. They say exercise is actually the best antidepressant on the market. It's just free. So it doesn't get quite the pharmaceutical dollars that the medications get. There's a lot of reasons why they think that exercise might help us with our mood. One, is increased blood circulation to the brain. So as you exercise, you're getting extra blood circulation everywhere, it circulates to get it to your heart, but it's going to go everywhere as well. When you get this increased blood circulation to the brain, there's couple of effects that happen. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
And I'm going to go back to that hypothalamic, pituitary adrenal axis that I talked about before. And so basically this is your whole stress system in your brain and your hypothalamus triggers the release of CRH, which is corticotropin releasing hormone, which you never need to know the name of. And that activates your pituitary gland, which then releases ACTH which is carried by the blood to the adrenal gland. And the ultimate thing is that you get all these stress hormones and they get released in your body. So when you do things like get good sleep that we talked about and exercise, what happens is when you get stressed, that whole system is dampened. And instead of releasing a ton of hormones, it's a more moderate number of hormones. And so when you're stressed, you're able to handle it a lot better. And there's a ton of studies that show that when you exercise, you can control the system a little bit better.

Amy Goscha:
One question I have Dr. Dara, is if you have a choice with, in the hierarchy of sleep versus exercise, is there one that's more important or no?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
No, there's not really. I mean, exercise was in our list of things to really help you with good sleep. So I think that you could argue for both. And when we're talking about exercise, you don't need to go out for hours a day. It's just 20 to 30 minutes of really getting your heart racing. 

Amy Goscha:
Oh, wow. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. So the truth is most of us have that amount of time. The motivation to go get the heart racing. That's the harder thing to find. 

Amy Goscha:
That's the harder part of it. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
There's some other things that you can see with exercise. There's also increased neural growth. So your brain is able to make these new connections and also decreased inflammation, which is maybe a little bit counterintuitive, could think of exercise, potentially causing inflammation. But locally, there's less inflammation in your body when you're working out. And all of these things lead you to feel better. And then the last thing is I got to say, I know people hate working out, but if you ever get to the point where you're in shape enough to like working out, you will get this huge benefit of these endorphins that get released. And that's the so-called runner's high. So, it's going to take a little while to get there, but if you ever get there, then working out actually physically makes you feel better because you have all these feel good little hormones floating around your bloodstream.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah, and that can make you feel better about yourself and more confident and probably clear your mind to think more clearly about the daunting situation, that a person would be in for divorce.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
A hundred percent. I mean, so when I said just maybe 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and there's a definition of what aerobic exercise is. So aerobic by the textbook just means that it requires free oxygen. And when your body needs more oxygen, basically what it will do is pump more blood around and you'll potentially breathe faster. So you want to get your heart racing and you want to have to do a little extra work breathing. And if you're doing those two things, then you have aerobic exercise. You can also quantify it if you're a numbers person, like I am, I'm a science and math kid. I've got a fitness tracker. So you want to aim for about 70 to 80% of your maximum heart rate. And there's a bunch of calculations that go into that. The easiest one is 220 minus your age is your maximum heart rate. And then you have to do a little math to get to 70 to 80% of that. We do live in Colorado. We live in altitude. So when you live at altitude, you actually, your maximum heart rate will be lower. So goal might be, it might be a little bit harder to get to the numbers that you see in the textbooks, just because we live at this low altitude. And then you'll try to acclimate there.

Amy Goscha:
I think the thing that really resonated with me was when you said that, it's the number one way to reduce depression. And is that just because it gets rid of those stress hormones?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. So it gets rid of those stress hormones and it gives you those feel good things that you might be a little bit low on, if you're having depression, either from a real cause that should cause maybe you to feel sad. Or, a little bit of a chemical change in your brain, which is also something that a lot of people suffer from in the world these days.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah, you also mentioned decrease in inflammation. Can you talk a little bit about why it's important for decrease in inflammation? What kind of physical benefits is there?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
So inflammation is this big buzz word and health community these days, Tom Brady's always trying to decrease inflammation. Plenty of people are on the anti-inflammatory alkaline diet. There's a lot of people who want to decrease inflammation and they're probably more or less on the right track. So your inflammation can affect every part of your body. So it can infect your joints and make you feel pain. It can cause just [inaudible 00:22:44], it can make you more tired. Inflammation is very closely correlated with a brain fog, and over time leads to increased incidences of early onset dementia and Alzheimer's. And it's like an overarching thing that inflammation is our body's ability to fight disease. And you want your body to be able to do that, but not when there's no disease, then it's just fighting itself.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. That makes sense. Well, did you have any further comments on exercise before we move to diet? Because I know that that's the third really important area.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah, we can move to diet. 

Amy Goscha:
Okay. So what are your recommendations to Eric Wolf regarding his diet? What can he do to improve his diet during this daunting divorce process?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
So there's no perfect diet. And I think a lot of people who do research into how to eat actually hate the word diet, in terms of it being an activity, I'm on a diet. Diet as a descriptor of what you're eating is a great word. And I've read a fair number of books about the best way to eat. And I'm not going to tell you that there's one way to eat. If you love to follow the Atkins diet and eat bacon, and that's what's going to make you feel good, then I think you should do that, especially in this period of stress. But I have done a bit of research in, so I'll just tell you my summary, one of my favorite authors on ways to eat and the reasons why we eat the we do, is Michael Pollan. He has written a number of books and I'll pretty much read anything he writes, because he's an excellent author.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
He takes scientific, jargon and boring facts and makes them sound interesting. So if you ever want to read about nutrition, pick up anything. Or if you want to read about psychedelics and LSD, he has a book on that. He's got books on everything, but he has a saying that a lot of people know and it's, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." And if you eat that way, you'll eat healthy. It's not easy. It's actually harder than it sounds. But I think it's really some of the best advice that you can get about eating and some of these things can be hard to do. That's why I got to this later in our conversation, because I think some of the active changes about choosing to do exercise and choosing to sleep can be a little bit easier. Eating real food, not too much, mostly plants is actually pretty time-intensive.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
And a lot of people going through divorce may not have this time to devote. So I'll break it down. So the first part says, eat food. And that sounds simple, right Amy?

Amy Goscha:
Yes it does.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
But when we say food, we don't mean anything. We mean real food. And there's a lot of ways to think about it, but mostly it's just non-processed food, not from a factory, real food. So as close to its natural state as possible. And there's a couple of ways to think about it. If your grandma, or your great-grandma maybe would recognize that it's food, it's food. And if she would say, "I don't know what a cheesy gordita crunches, or what Cheetos are," then that's probably not food. She knew what an apple was. She knew what an orange was. She knew what [inaudible 00:25:50] was, these are food.

Amy Goscha:
So with shopping, you don't need to read every labels because it probably shouldn't be in a package.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah, if you can avoid a package then that's amazing. Now some people can't go to the grocery store and get fresh food all the time. And if you do need to get packaged food, then you may want to look at the label. And it's good to try to aim for foods of less than five ingredients. And those aren't ingredients that you have to look up the name, or they sound like some sort of a chemical, they're like real foods that you have heard of. So if you can name things that are packaged like that, then those are good choices, I think.

Amy Goscha:
I like that where it's, buy foods, not in a package, but if it's in a package less than five ingredients that you actually know what it is.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah, exactly. So that's what you want to like think of when you think of food. And if you want two books that really go into this from Michael Pollan, there's some book called, "The Omnivore's Dilemma." And that really breaks down the different kinds of foods from your fast food, to your local sustainable farm, or, "In Defense of Food." And these are really good books that I've read. And I think a lot of people have read, probably many of you listening have already read, but I think they're really good and they break it down for you.

Amy Goscha:
That's great. Yeah, great suggestion.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
The next step is not too much. This part's a lot harder, I think. So evolutionarily, we're primed to eat. We had hunter and gatherer ancestors and they maybe need didn't know when their next meal was gonna come, whether they were gonna catch an animal or find more berries. And as a result, over generations and generations, our bodies have developed to want to eat and to want to eat constantly. And it's only been this modern abundance of food is a relatively short part of our human historical evolution. And so what we have now is not actually very, our evolution is not very beneficial for our current society. So I have a funny anecdote about a child about your son's age. His parents were pretty strict. I don't if strict is the right word, very health conscious, knits kid a just fruits and vegetables for the first year and a half of his life.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. So really helped, that kid ate better than everyone I know. And they went on vacation and when they went on vacation, they bought some cereal puffs, something that they could bring that when the kid was hungry, they would have something available to give right away. And we all went out to lunch shortly after they came back from vacation and the kid was happily eating his mashed avocado and sweet potato and all the nice, healthy foods that his parents that provided. And the mom got something out of her bag and then getting something out of her bag. She took out this little can of cereal puffs and this kid who couldn't talk and couldn't communicate and wasn't influenced by all of our diet society stopped eating everything in front of him. And you know, all this kid wanted was those cereal puffs.

Amy Goscha:
Oh my gosh.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. So these simple sugars, our bodies are obsessed with them. So, it's not your fault if you love crackers and chips, cookies, whatever your thing is, our bodies are designed to crave that simple sugar. But then they have a problem because when you eat simple sugars, then your blood sugar goes super high. And then your insulin goes super high, which causes your blood sugar to crash, which tells your brain, I need more food. So it's this kind of cycle. So when you live in a society where all of these simple carbs are so easy to come by, it makes it feel almost impossible to eat, not too much food.

Amy Goscha:
Well, and that's what I was going to ask you is it probably really affects energy. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. So what you eat completely affects your energy. The sugar crash is not just a thing you see in kids after their Halloween candy bag. It's a real thing. I get it, if I have a cookie, I just crash. But, it happens to everyone and diabetics know this more than anyone else because their insulin response is it over time, but there are things that we can do to help it and to keep our energy at a more stable level and to avoid this sugar roller coaster that a lot of us get stuck on when we eat the modern American diet. And what you really want to do is just have protein in every meal. And then if you're going to have carbs, which I love cards, you want to avoid the simple carbs, like your white bread and crackers, and you want to eat complex carbs and whole grains. So if you do that, instead of, you'll still go up and now that'll be a much more casual rollercoaster and not this frightening one where you feel like you're not wearing a seatbelt and you're fully not in charge. 

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. And when you are going through divorce, you need that energy to not only maintain your life if you have kids, but yeah. To keep that, even that would be really helpful.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I mean, you have so much going on when you're stressed from a divorce, on top of all the stress, you actually just have paperwork, all sorts of extra things that have gotten added into your schedule. So you can make the eating thing a little bit easier. I think that can help. 

Amy Goscha:
Yeah.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
And then the last part is mostly plants and I'm not going to tell you, not to eat any meat. I need, I like meat, but plants are our most nutrient dense foods. So those are the foods that are really going to give you the most bang for your buck. And they're also going to give you all these nutrients that we need and we're not getting from our processed food. It's like a fun fact, but broccoli actually contains more protein or calorie than steak. I mean, you'd have to get a ton of broccoli and you'd be super gassy, but technically, you could really get there. And spinach per calorie, again, as equivalent to chicken or fish. So really getting a lot of vegetables into your diet, green leafy vegetables in particular, and then having a rainbow on your plate, we'll get you all of these like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and things that are really important. And you could go and take supplements and you can take a multivitamin that'll help, but there are actually differences in the way our body digest a meal. So if you take an Omega versus eating a fish, you're actually going to get a totally different benefit from the fish, as opposed to the Omega supplement. Now if you hate fish and you need Omega, take an Omega all day.

Amy Goscha:
Does it matter if you take a bunch of spinach and put it into a blender and do a smoothie, or is that okay?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
No, that's exactly how I get a lot of my greens. Sometimes I try to challenge myself to have two meals of leafy greens. And it's actually really hard, but if you can get one in with breakfast and get a whole salad with spinach in your smoothie and hide it under a banana and some berries, that's like a super smart way. And I know you make smoothies for a Hunter all the time. I'm always a little jealous of his smoothies, but that's an awesome way to get vegetables in. You can sneak it in for your kids or for you. So I think that's an awesome way to do it.

Amy Goscha:
Or even for myself, because, hard.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I think, it's almost harder for adults to use these green leafy than children.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah, I agree. Well, that's great. I think let's turn to the last big pillar topic, sunshine and nature. Can you talk to us about what we can do with sunshine and nature to get less stressed.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Of course, so we live in Colorado and we are blessed because we have so much sunshine here and we have easy access to nature. This is a great place for this. And it's mostly free. I get that not everyone's schedule can accommodate getting into nature and sunshine, but has a super big impact on your wellbeing. So it increases mood. There's a reason we call it a sunny disposition. It's not necessarily just that you seem right and sunshiny. It's actually, when the weather's better, people are in better moods. And that also increases your vitamin D absorption. So a lot of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which is free. You just have to go outside for about five to 10 minutes of sunlight a couple of times a week. And, I'm not saying go out and get a sunburn or expose yourself to too many harmful rays, but you can go out and get vitamin D.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
And that decreases your inflammation, which we talked about before. Increase the cell growth. So it's actually good for your skin and it increases strong bones. It's an important part of your bone process. And then you can decrease your blood pressure. So a lot of times when you're stressed, your blood pressure can rise. When the sun rays touch the skin, it releases something called nitric oxide that these are dilates and it lowers your blood pressure a little bit.

Amy Goscha:
Wow. I didn't know that. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. That's probably why we're all a little bit happier when it's sunny out. And then it's one of those things that we said can help with sleep. So when you go outside and get sunlight and increases your serotonin, and that's you're happy, I feel good, chemical that floats around your body and that can improve your melatonin production at night. So getting that can also help with your sleep. So if you go and run outside in the sun, boom, you got a couple of the things ticked off your list already.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
So yeah, just going out in nature 30 minutes, a couple of times a week can really improve your stress, your anxiety and your depression. And they've done a ton of studies and they really don't know why, but they did some imaging of the brain. And after you go out into nature. So they did people walking in an urban setting and people walking in a nature setting and they had decreased activity in the frontal cortex after they'd been outside, as opposed to being in the urban setting. And that's associated with the part of the brain that malfunctions, when you get stressed and leads to continuous negative thoughts or rumination.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
And I can imagine that if you were going through divorce would just be having all of these thoughts going over and over again in your brain. And so going outside and just being in nature for a little while, can help. It's free, so why not get out there and just go get a little sunshine and a little birds chirping and green leaves or whatever. And then if you're inside you can put nature sounds on and it's not quite as effective, I'm guessing, but it has an improved effects compared to not listening to that nature sound. 

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. I know, that's so interesting. Because I can be prone to the rumination. So that's good to know.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. It's super hard not to be so yeah. Sunshine and getting out to nature is super helpful.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. And like you said, Colorado has the highest, I think we're the highest state in the US that has the most sunshine days.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
[inaudible 00:36:15] Way more than where I came from the Boston.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. I bet you're looking forward to that and I know you get outside and run a lot.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. And I think there's so much stuff that we talked about Amy, and I think it can be overwhelming to try to do all of these things at once. And so one thing that I do that I could suggest to your listeners is instead of trying to change my whole life in one day, I have done this for a little while. Now, I do a little one month challenges. And so it's just 30 days. It's long enough that you start to make a habit of your activity and it's a limited amount of time. So it's doable. So if you really commit to yourself to do something for 30 days, it's a lot easier than saying I'm going to do all of these healthy things for the rest of my life. And that's a little bit harder, for me to wrap my head around. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
So each month I pick a new thing to go after, and that's the thing I do. So this month I'm exercising and I exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes every day. And that might be as little as some yoga and it might be a big run, or going skiing, but it's just something every single day. And my hope is that by the end of the month, I'm back in exercise mode because I wasn't in it when we moved, we had the holidays, it was hard. So this is my challenge for this month. And next month, that will be something else.

Amy Goscha:
Well, and I know there's a lot of research on habit changing or habit forming. And isn't the magic number like 30 days?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
28 days is how long it takes to habit. So our shortest month has 28 days. And for me, it's just easy to start on the first because then I don't have to think too much about where I am in the month.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. Do you notice that after you've done your challenge for 30 days, that you're more likely to stick with it?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
A hundred percent and I don't stick with it, but it puts this activity or life-changing beneficial thing closer to the forefront of my brain and it creates the habits that will stay with me. So, one month I may try to avoid plastic silverware and some of these items. And now all of a sudden I'm really good about bringing my reusable silverware to work every day so that I'm not throwing a bunch of plastic away. And now I'm in the habit of working out every day and it actually has gotten to the point where it feels good getting some of those endorphins again, which was not the case when I first moved to Colorado. And it felt like I was running through sand with a sack of potatoes over my shoulder. Because I was not used to this altitude, but I think it's a good way to break down this bigger overarching challenge that is improved health. And, I think when you go through stress and I bet divorce is very similar, time moves very fast and very slow. 

Amy Goscha:
Yes.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
A year you could have 12 new habits added to your life by doing one thing every month and it may feel like you're not making a lot of progress, but you probably are. And over a year you make a huge impact on your life.

Amy Goscha:
Well, I think the thing that resonates with me as a lot of times, it's too daunting during a point of stress, you're just like, oh my God, I can't add one more thing. But it just feels a little bit more palatable to just commit to one thing, to say, okay, I'm going to set my sleep schedule.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
[inaudible 00:39:32] or one month. 

Amy Goscha:
Yeah, that's super helpful. And I've seen you in action doing that and it's super empowering. And I think, probably helps with confidence and just those positive habit formations. So that's really good. Well, I think, did you have anything else that you wanted to talk about related to sunshine and nature, before I segue into my last topic? 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
No, that's it.

Amy Goscha:
Okay, so I wanted to talk just a little bit about, I know that you're a doctor, you're not a mental health professional, but say that Eric, he's sitting in your office, he's talked to you about, he did joint counseling with his wife, or soon to be ex-wife Melanie and he walked out of that counseling session. What if anything, would you like tell him related to seeking a therapist or just mental health professional in general?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
I think we're really lucky that we live in current society where the taboo of mental health is significantly decreased to what it's been historically, but there's still this stigma around mental health and seeking help. And, it sounds like he at least was already open to the idea of seeking help because he was going to a couple's counselor. And it sounds like he could potentially benefit from more therapy. And if that's something that he's interested in, then he should go and get his own individual therapist. Because when you're looking to repair a relationship, it's good to have a couple's counselor. But when you're looking to work on yourself, whether that's in conjunction with your relationship or independent of it, after a failed relationship, or the conclusion of it. You're going to want to have your own person. That's tailored to just you and isn't treating you in the context of your relationship. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
They're just treating you yourself. And most therapists I think would recommend finding someone separate, not from the couple's therapy. So I think that that would be something that he should honestly and seriously look into, especially if he's open to it. So, for therapy, you have to be a willing participant, but it's really important. And there's a lot of ways to do therapy. You can go and do it in-person and there's online things where you can text and video chat. If, there's COVID right now, or you just don't have the time. You have all these things on your plate, adding therapy, especially if you're adding in addition to your couple's therapy seems daunting and overwhelming, but creating that little space and time to just talk about yourself with someone who's devoted to just you can be really helpful.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. And I know that, as a divorce attorney, a lot of times people will talk to me related to their health or mental health, other areas. I'm sure that happens to you as a doctor. So, if Eric went on and said, I have children, but I want to continue dating. And you knew that he was going through a divorce. Do you have any recommendations for him in that regard?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Yeah. That's a really hard question to answer. I think bringing new people into a child's life, whether they're young or old can be a little bit impactful on their life and the way they see relationships. So I would potentially, from no sort of actual training, because I'm not a psychologist, advise against, bringing a lot of different women or new relationships into the children's life. And then I think that's something that he would probably want to work with his therapist to see, when's the right time to move on. Am I moving on appropriately? Are these rebounds, are these real relationships? And then working from that basis to know when the right time is to start to get into a real relationship and to expose their children to those new partners.

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. It probably does happen to you. And for me it happens where I do have to tell people like you might want to check with a mental health professional, because that's not really my area of expertise, but that's exactly what I would be telling a client if Eric came to me and said, "I want to start dating." I would talk to him about not introducing a new relationship to the children, how that impacts the children and then, talk to your therapist about those things. So yeah, I think your advice would be the same as mine would be. So I wanted to also wrap up with, I read a recent article in US news that essentially a sociology professor from the University of Texas in Austin, he did recent research. It says that there's long-term health impacts on divorce. He found that the stress of a divorce can accelerate the biological processes that cause, or can lead to cardiovascular disease. And he also found in his sample study that mid-aged women who are going through divorce, they're more likely to develop heart disease versus non-divorced, middle aged, married women. Listening to that kind of study, what resonates with you. Do you think that that is something that probably would be, I don't know viable, that divorce has long-term health effects on people?

Dr. Susan Darrah:
A hundred percent. So divorce is in its most basic measure. It's a big stressor in your life. And I think, as we touched on stress can really increase a lot of things that are unhealthy. So this inflammatory response it can lead to some poor habits which may lead to increased coronary artery disease, hypertension, and all of these things can lead to heart attack. There's also an interesting study on longevity, and you could do a million different things to try to increase your life span. But the one most impactful thing is to lead a non-stressed life. And they looked at telomeres, which are these little tails on the end of your DNA. And over time as we age those shorten, and the more stress you're exposed to, the more your telomeres shorten over time. And these impacts are that they could find if everything they studied. And they said a ton of things eating unhealthy, being happy, but stress was really the one thing that definitively caused a decrease in your telomere length over time. So, and then also, which is an indicator of increased aging.

Dr. Susan Darrah:
So I think that this person's study was a hundred percent correct and there's probably more studies they could do to find even more weird sciency facts if they wanted to get into some of the pathways in the body. But I think that that's a hundred percent true. So it's such a stressful thing to go through. And I think that it's important to recognize that it's going to be stressful and have a big impact on your life, and do as much as you can to minimize that for you, for your family and for your longevity. 

Amy Goscha:
Yeah. And it is really, I think, important to even just, myself going through it to normalize it and to maybe pick one thing that I could do on a daily basis to just improve my sleep or my eating, I think that's really helpful. So thank you Dr. Dara for your time today. I really appreciate your expert advice on health and wellness, especially when people are impacted by divorce and I will just close with, thank you for listening to our podcast. If you want to find more about Ryan Kalamaya or myself, Amy Goscha, you can look on our website at kalamaya.law, or you can email me at [email protected], K-A-L-A-M-A-Y-A.law. Thank you, Dr. Darrah. 

Dr. Susan Darrah:
Of course, that was a pleasure.

Ryan Kalamaya:
Hey everyone, this is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast. For show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode. Visit [email protected] Follow us on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and me at kalamaya.law or (970) 315-2365, that's K-A-L-A-M-A-Y-A.law.