Whole Minds: We Are What we ‘Eat’

What we consume daily in thought, word and deed affects every aspect of our lives

In this crazy COVID world, the greatest key to regaining normalcy is taking care of ourselves.

Oh, sure, it’s a time when we’d prefer to hunker in (and down), perhaps with a party-sized bag of chips on our burgeoning bellies. But the fact is that being true to ourselves comes in the form of discipline.

In this èBella èXtra chapter, we present expert tips to regaining some of the control we believe we might have lost, and that includes committing to asking for help when we realize we need it.

From positive self-talk to turning assaults into times of growth — from accepting compassion from ourselves to that of others in a new mental health initiative— we present information to help you walk toward your best “new normal.”

Wellness depends largely on what we ingest, from the foods we eat to the social media platforms that may or may not nourish our minds. We hear from a dermatologist who offers insight on taking care of our skin, the largest organ of the human body. As we explore the benefits of certain superfoods, we also take a look at Netflix’s popular documentary/drama hybrid, “The Social Dilemma,” which emphasizes the addictive nature of a steady diet of screen time.

We hope this Whole Minds chapter lends a compelling understanding that being judicious about everything we take in affects the sanctity of our whole minds.


Turn Crisis into Personal Growth

5 tips to thrive through difficult times

by Julia Browning

If there is one thing that most people have in common these last few months, it is that the pandemic has made life more difficult, creating extra stress.

In fact, a study published recently in the journal, Science Advances, found that acute stress and depressive symptoms increased significantly over time as COVID-19 news took center stage. Without a doubt, it has been a difficult time for most people, but personal development and corporate impact coach Katie Sandler says that challenging times are the perfect time to grow.

“A crisis always offers opportunity for growth and meaning,” explains Sandler. “Many people don’t realize the potential that difficult times bring, in terms of helping them to further develop, both personally and in their careers.” 

Here are some of the things she believes are crucial to thriving:


1. Stop and ask

We are now living in a daily situation in which we have to be more mindful of our thoughts, actions, feelings and behaviors. Disconnection breeds discontentment, and at some point, we must stop to ask, “What is happening, why is this happening and what can I do to make it better?”

2. Test new ways

It’s during these times that it is important to start testing out new ways of thinking, feeling and being. This process inevitably brings growth. Now is the time to get off autopilot and become more cognizant of your personal wants and needs.

3. Become more resilient

Far too often today, people have difficulty being able to bounce back from even the smallest of setbacks. Yet we’re being forced to face adversity in every way, shape and form. This has become an obstacle to overcome, one we all share, making this the most globally collective experience. We must become more resilient to what the world throws our way.


4. Slow down and simplify

When we try to take on too much at once, it can become stressful and overwhelming. Taking things at a slower and simpler pace will help you get where you want to be in a more peaceful manner.

5. Confront challenges head on

We tend to want to hide under the covers when adversity comes our way, but that won’t stop it from coming. We can be more successful overcoming challenges if we adopt an attitude that we will address issues head on, so we can come out ahead.

“Clarity, attitude and connection are going to make a major impact in one’s life when they are faced with difficult times,” adds Sandler. “I’ve helped countless people make the connection and essentially get out of their own way, so they can go on to grow and succeed.”

Dealing with Fear

Internal training tips can help you deal with pandemic anxiety


by Joey Klein

To thrive through times of intense change, one must learn to manage emotions — particularly fear and related feelings, such as anxiety — that can short-circuit one’s ability to make good decisions and take positive action.

In a fear-based state, people think differently. Neurologically speaking, the brain loses access to critical and creative thinking — resources we need to access to come up with effective strategies.    


Here is an exercise I teach to CEO clients to manage emotions and reengage higher level thinking:


1. Feel Triggered? Stop.

Wherever you are, just take two to three minutes and stop whatever you’re doing. Don’t send an email, don’t pick up the phone, don’t watch TV and look at your Facebook. Just stop. Sometimes it’s helpful to close your eyes, because you eliminate distractions from the outside, making it a little easier to sense what’s occurring inside.


2. Name What You’re Feeling.

Ask yourself, “How do I feel? Do I feel agitated or overwhelmed? Do I feel anxious or sad?” If you are not able to name the emotion you feel, ask, “Do I feel expanded? Do I feel contracted?”


3. Breathe Deeply.

Breathe three deep, relaxed breaths, five to 10 seconds in through the nose, five to 10 seconds out through the mouth, relaxing your body.

4. Name the Result You Want to Achieve.

When you feel yourself a bit more relaxed, acknowledge the outcome you want to create and then name what you can do to move toward that outcome.

You can use this method to stimulate the vagus nerve, getting the brain out of that fight-or-flight response and into a more love-based response, based on emotions such as optimism, passion, a sense of centeredness and peace.

Joey Klein is an internationally known personal transformation expert and author of the book, “The Inner Matrix: A Guide to Transforming Your Life and Awakening Your Spirit.”


Want to Change Your Life? Do a Thought Audit

Tips to focus on positivity that will help you feel better in this moment

by Diana Cole

Are you feeling stressed, trapped, lonely or helpless? Are you ready to get honest about the struggles you’re facing and change direction?

It took me a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, to finally say, “OK, this is not for me.”

What in your life would you like to change?

• Are you happy when you wake up?

• Are you fulfilled in your job?

• Do your relationships feel good?

• Do you believe you are living in your purpose?

If you said no to any of these questions, then guess what? It’s time for a change. I believe you have the power to change your life for the better — right now.

Have you done a thought audit by looking at the thoughts you’re thinking, then auditing out the negative ones?

Here are three quick steps to do a thought audit:

Step No. 1  
Write down as many thoughts as possible on a piece of paper. Don’t read them or force thoughts. It needs to be organic.

Step No. 2  
When you’re done, review what you wrote. 


Here is what my thought audit looked like while I was cooking dinner one night at the end of a bad day:

This kitchen is a mess. I wish I had a housekeeper.

I have to make dinner, but no one will like it.

The dogs are hungry.

I can’t find anything around here.

My daughter used up the last of the pasta sauce and didn’t tell me.

It’s getting late. I should have started this earlier.

I need to go the grocery store again.

My car needs gas.

This is only a small sample of some of the best gems from my list. Wow! No wonder I was having a bad day. Now, here is the magic: you can turn your bad day around by focusing on the positives.


Step No. 3  

Spend 10 minutes writing some “positive truths,” then read them over three times.

Here are some examples from my positive truth list:

I have the prettiest kitchen.

My dogs are so cute.

I love having a sweet daughter.

I can’t wait for my husband to come home and have a glass of wine with me.

It’s so fun to cook and make whatever I want.

I feel so blessed in this moment.

Can you feel how much better that sounds? The key word here is “feel.” It feels better to hear words of positivity — even if you are only hearing your own thoughts.

I use this practice almost every day. When I am feeling off about something, I do a thought audit and heal myself with words that feel good. And you know what? It works. I feel better right away. Give it a try!

Diana Cole is a spirit translator, thought leader and author. She is committed to teaching people how to access spirit guidance for themselves so they may live a life of abundance, fun and inspiration. www.DianaCole.com


To Thine Own Self be Kind

Your first act of compassion starts with yourself

by Francesca Donlan

Francesca Donlan bekindbeach.jpg

Francesca Donlan


t’s hard to be kind sometimes. It’s even harder to be kind to yourself. For most people, self-compassion appears to be the last thing on their to-do list.

I learned that in a profound way while teaching a kindness class at Florida Gulf Coast University. When I started teaching the class last semester, I thought I would focus on acts of kindness the students would expand into the community.

But that was before I learned something important about the students.

In the beginning of class, they took a survey. Some of the questions include: How often are you kind to others? How often are you kind to yourself?

The answers surprised me. These students were often kind to others, but rarely, if ever, kind to themselves.

So, I reversed course. These young adults needed to learn about self-compassion before they could bring kindness into their community.

Self-compassion, in its simplest form, means treating ourselves the same way we would treat someone we love. As the story goes, we have to put on our own oxygen mask first, before we can help others.


The reason self-compassion is so important is not just that it makes us feel better. For the past decade, psychologists have been studying its impact on mental and physical health. Numerous studies have shown that self-compassion is strongly linked to overall well-being.

The simple act of being kind to yourself can reduce depression, stress, performance anxiety and body dissatisfaction. It can lead to increases in happiness, self-confidence and even immune function. Who doesn’t want that? And all you have to do is be nice to yourself.

The students spent a week practicing self-compassion and experienced what some of the researchers found to be true.

One learned that her day was more enjoyable and pleasant if she spoke to herself “in this uplifting manner.”

Another said that talking to yourself in a kind way “makes you feel better about yourself, but also helps you gain confidence … It changes the whole perspective on how you feel and behave toward your own self.”

Kristen Neff, one of the leading self-compassion researchers in the country, has shown that those who have endured tough times — having fought in a war, been divorced or experiencing illness, for example — have better and longer lasting mental health outcomes if they treat themselves with self-compassion.

During this difficult pandemic period, with the added stressors of economic uncertainty and political divide, people feel they have little control. And that may be true. But the one thing you can control is the way you treat yourself. You can cultivate self-compassion. You can speak to yourself with the same tone of voice you would use if a friend asked you for advice.

Give yourself a break. You deserve it.


When Francesca Donlan is not teaching a kindness class at Florida Gulf Coast University, she serves as the communications director for the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau in Fort Myers. 

Five Myths of Self-Compassion

A growing body of research is demonstrating conclusively that self-compassion is not only central to mental health, but can be enriched through learning and practice, just like so many other good habits, says Kristin Neff, associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas and one of the leading researchers in self-compassion.

Here are Neff’s five myths about self-compassion:

Myth 1: Self-compassion is a form of self-pity

One of the biggest myths about self-compassion is that it means feeling sorry for yourself.

Research shows that self-compassionate people are less likely to get swallowed up by self-pitying thoughts about how bad things are. That’s one of the reasons self-compassionate people have better mental health.

A study by Filip Raes at the University of Leuven found that participants with higher levels of self-compassion tended to brood less about their misfortune. Moreover, he found that their reduced tendency to ruminate helped explain why self-compassionate participants reported fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Myth 2: Self-compassion means weakness

Researchers are discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience available to us. When we go through major life crises, self-compassion appears to make all the difference in our ability to survive and even thrive. 

David Sbarra and his colleagues at the University of Arizona examined whether self-compassion helps determine how well people adjust to a divorce. The researchers found that participants who displayed more self-compassion when talking about their breakup, evidenced better psychological adjustment to the divorce at the time, and that this effect persisted nine months later.

Studies like this one suggest that it’s not just what you face in life, but how you relate to yourself when the going gets tough — as an inner ally or enemy — that determines your ability to cope successfully.

Myth 3:  Self-compassion will make me complacent

Perhaps the biggest block to self-compassion is the belief that it’ll undermine our motivation to push ourselves to do better. The idea is that if we don’t criticize ourselves for failing to live up to our standards, we’ll automatically succumb to slothful defeatism. But there’s now a good deal of research clearly showing that self-compassion is a far more effective force for personal motivation than self-punishment.

Self-compassion, far from being a way to evade personal accountability, actually strengthens it. If we can acknowledge our failures and misdeeds with kindness— “I really messed up when I got so mad at her, but I was stressed, and I guess all people overreact sometimes” — rather than judgment — “I can’t believe I said that; I’m such a horrible, mean person” — it’s much safer to see ourselves clearly.

When we can see beyond the distorting lens of harsh self-judgment, we get in touch with other parts of ourselves, the parts that care and want everyone, including ourselves, to be as healthy and happy as possible. This provides the encouragement and support needed to do our best and try again.


Myth 4:  Self-compassion is narcissistic

In American culture, high self-esteem requires standing out in a crowd — being special and above average. But self-compassion is different from self-esteem.

Although they’re both strongly linked to psychological well-being, self-esteem is a positive evaluation of self-worth, while self-compassion isn’t a judgment or an evaluation at all. Instead, self-compassion is a way of relating to the ever-changing landscape of who we are with kindness and acceptance — especially when we fail or feel inadequate. In other words, self-esteem requires feeling better than others, whereas self-compassion requires acknowledging that we share the human condition of imperfection.

There’s solid research for the idea that self-compassion helps us in good times and bad.

Myth 5:  Self-compassion is selfish

Many people are suspicious of self-compassion because they conflate it with selfishness. Most people find that they actually have little bandwidth left to think about anything other than their inadequate, worthless selves when they’re absorbed in self-judgment. In fact, beating yourself up can be a paradoxical form of self-centeredness. When we can be kind and nurturing to ourselves, however, many of our emotional needs are met, leaving us in a better position to focus on others. Unfortunately, the ideal of being modest, self-effacing and caring for the welfare of others often comes with the corollary that we must treat ourselves badly.

When we witness the suffering of others on a daily basis, we can experience personal distress to the point of burning out. Caregivers who are especially sensitive and empathetic may be most at risk. At the same time, when we give ourselves compassion, we create a protective buffer, allowing us to understand and feel for the suffering person without being drained by his or her suffering.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D., is the author of “Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” To take her self-compassion test, visit https://self-compassion.org.


Battling the Mental Health Epidemic

Community partners launch Healthy Minds initiative for Collier and Lee counties, offering free educational events and screenings

by Julia Browning

The effects of COVID-19 are impacting mental and emotional health in significant ways, with 40% of U.S. adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, in addition to increases in substance use and suicidal thoughts, according to the Healthy Lee initiative.

To address this urgent and increased need for support on a local level, 17 behavioral health organizations across Collier and Lee counties partnered to launch Healthy Minds, a new community initiative.

Healthy Minds offers free educational events and complimentary screenings across both counties to provide accessible, convenient tips and resources for adults who are experiencing new or increased feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, substance use and more.

From financial strain, due to changes in employment, to the demand of juggling jobs while homeschooling young children, many are feeling more isolated and less in control of their lives. For anyone who is overwhelmed or struggling, seeking help now can address concerns before they become crises.

Healthy Minds events and mental health screenings will take place across Collier and Lee counties for the next few months, with the next Naples area events set for 9-11 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, at East Naples Community Park, 3500 Thomasson Dr., Naples.

The Healthy Minds Resilience Toolkit, which offers additional tips for navigating life’s twists and turns, will be handed out to all guests at the events. Offered in English, Spanish and Creole, the toolkit is also available for download at HealthyLee.com/HealthyMinds.


“The need for mental health support is greater than ever, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our families, livelihoods and communities, yet data has shown that nearly half of Florida adults with an unmet need for mental health treatment are deterred from seeking care because of cost,” says Dr. Paul Simeone, vice president and medical director of behavioral health at Lee Health.

For a full list of upcoming events and resources, or to sign up for volunteer opportunities, visit www.HealthyLee.com/HealthyMinds. No reservation is necessary.


Committed to the Caregivers

Deana Levesque formed and facilitates Naples’ Lewy Body Dementia Support Group

by Julia Browning

Deana Levesque Hometown Her.jpg

Deana Levesque


If you haven’t heard of Lewy body dementia, you’re not alone. Despite making headlines in 2014, after it was linked to actor/comedian Robin Williams’ death, Lewy body dementia, which presents as a combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, is often shrouded in mystery.

The diagnosis is unfavorable, with a life expectancy of five to seven years, and symptoms, both physical and cognitive, including tremors, memory loss, mobility issues, neuroses, hallucinations and sleep disorders.

For those reasons, Deana Levesque implemented a Lewy body-specific support group, something that’s been a lifesaver for caregivers.

A Specialized Community

As a client care coordinator with McKenney Home Care, Levesque was aware of the special needs of caregivers coping with Lewy body dementia. A Naples native, Levesque has worked with local seniors for the past eight years. She cherishes memories of her father working in a nursing home, and has always had great compassion for the senior population. She came to realize that assisting seniors was her passion.

“I get so much joy working with our senior community, and I want to be known as a resource to all,” Levesque says.

Realizing there was a gap in specialized support services, she liaised with the Lewy Body Dementia Association in Athens, Georgia, and became a certified support group facilitator. She teamed with the Parkinson’s Association of Southwest Florida and the Alzheimer’s Support Network to launch the Lewy Body Dementia Support Group, which meets monthly (now over Zoom) for people caring for victims of the disorder.


The Need to Know

In the newly released documentary, “Robin’s Wish,” Robin Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider Williams, expresses how critical a diagnosis might have been for the late comedian, who had unknowingly suffered from Lewy body dementia months before his passing. He died by suicide in 2014.

As it is for many, Robin Williams’ Lewy body diagnosis was not evident on brain scans as he sought treatment. Despite having multiple symptoms congruent with the disease — depression, paranoia, debilitating anxiety, insomnia and memory fog — his diagnosis was only pronounced at autopsy.

Levesque says the recent influx of attention about the disorder has helped caregivers, patients and health professionals. And yet, six years later, diagnosis continues to be elusive. Even as symptoms point to Lewy body dementia, it is often the second diagnosis after Parkinson’s or generalized dementia, Levesque says.


Although an accurate diagnosis is vital to doctors and caregivers, Levesque says that about half of her support group members choose to spare patients the gravity of the news. But it is in their understanding of Lewy body dementia’s insidious consequences that caregivers in Levesque’s group — often wives of patients, as it affects more men than women — make a concerted effort to get on their loved one’s plane of reality.

Hallucinations — watching a childhood pet play in the backyard, for instance — are not real, Levesque says, but they are very real to the patient. And REM sleep disorder is common in Lewy body patients, who often act out their dreams, sometimes posing danger to the person sleeping in the same room.

These are things that are brought up in the Lewy Body Dementia Support Group Levesque created and facilitates.

“Everyone is so different, but they all have similar struggles, so the support group has been amazing … people open up,” Levesque says. “The biggest thing is for them to realize they are not alone. These people meet once a month in my support group, but they also schedule meetings among themselves.”

The support group meetings always have an educational component, she says, “But overall, it’s an hour-and-a-half of people asking questions and learning from one another — because those caregivers know best.”



Food for Thought

Can pickle juice or a pickle a day ease your anxiety and more?

by Kathy Grey

The connection between gut health and healthier brains has received much press in recent years, and even more so now, due to the stressful times we’re in.

Most of us realize that one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to view food as medicine, knowing that what we ingest has a profound effect on our overall health.

Let’s take a look at pickle juice, which, according to the website www.DHerbs.com, has been touted to soothe muscle and menstrual cramps, cure hangovers, relieve sunburn pain, boost the immune system with antioxidants, control blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and assuage heartburn.


Who knew pickles could be a superfood?


But according to a Psychiatry Research article and study, probiotics, the healthy bacteria in fermented foods — such as sauerkraut, yogurt and, yes, pickles — can ease social anxiety and neuroticism, something Psychology Today identifies as a tendency toward anxiety, depression, self-doubt and other negative traits.


“…if you’re socially challenged, a pickle might not be a cure-all, but there’s a chance it could help calm your fears,” Smithsonian magazine has reported.

As is the case with overindulgence of any kind, www.DHerbs.com warns that drinking excessive amounts of pickle juice can cause digestive discomfort and potentially put a strain on the kidneys if the liquid has a high salt content.

èBella èXtra doesn’t advocate pickles and their juice as a panacea, and we always urge readers to do their research and consult with a physician.

We’re just offering a little èXtra food for thought.


Neighborhood Bash!

Clinic’s festival salutes caring for the community

At a time when upbeat, safe and socially distant events are scarce and craved by community members, Neighborhood Health Clinic’s Neighborhood Bash will be there to deliver.

Featuring live music, games, drinks and sweets, the outdoor event is set for Friday, Nov. 6, at Neighborhood Health Clinic. The band, Limited Edition, will provide music that appeals to the soul of every guest.

Limited Edition in action.jpg

“We are a variety band,” says Limited Edition’s lead singer Marsha Jamison. “We’re not all Motown, not all rock, not all country. We do a little bit of everything,” she says.

From Patsy Cline to P!nk, Jamison and her band members tailor Limited Edition’s set list to the audience, providing the music genre guests want to move to.

Jamison has a particular love for the Neighborhood Health Clinic, which developed when she served as a public relations counsel for the clinic through her business, Timely Concierge.

That’s when she met people whose health issues had been treated at the clinic, and who attest to the fact that its health care model improved their lives.

“I would do anything for the Neighborhood Health Clinic,” Jamison says. “I’ll never forget how kind they were to me. It’s a great organization.”

Tickets for the event are $100 and include food truck fare, wine, beer and sweets. Proceeds benefit the clinic.

Learn more at www.NeighborhoodHealthClinic.org/neighborhood-bash.

As the story goes, we have to put on our own oxygen mask first before we can help others



Dermatology Meets Luxury

New Naples dermatology office provides a range of procedures within a boutique-inspired environment

by Julia Browning


Dr. Paul Graham


Things are stressful enough right now, especially in the world of medical care. So much so, people are looking for a doctor’s office experience to provide an oasis that offers high-end patient care and expert medical service.

Academic Alliance in Dermatology recently opened a branch in Naples led by Dr. Paul M. Graham, a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologic surgeon, to bring that oasis to the Naples community.

“For every patient that walks through the door, the goal is to make them feel like they’re the only patient in our practice,” Dr. Graham says, adding that the practice’s philosophy is to give each patient personalized care and ensure their experience is the No. 1 priority.

Upon entering the state-of-the-art, boutique-style dermatology office, being greeted warmly and taking in the modern, cheerful style of the waiting room, one is not immediately aware that they are in a medical office.

But the stylish wood floors and granite countertops, paired with abstract art and modern light fixtures, are merely the backdrop for the high-end medical office, now going above and beyond to be safe in the COVID-19 environment, where many are wary of public, enclosed spaces.

“We’re taking the extra step to keep our patients safe and keep our facility germ-free,” Dr. Graham says. “Patients and staff are required to wear masks. We limit patients in the waiting room to one family at a time. All communal services and handles are routinely wiped down throughout the day, and we’ve put hand sanitizer throughout the office in convenient places for patients and staff.”

With Dr. Graham’s high level of training in both traditional and cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical dermatology, the practice provides a wide array of services that leave patients feeling expertly treated within a luxurious, spa-like atmosphere.

Having a hand in both the medical and the aesthetic allows Dr. Graham to provide patients with the best possible final outcomes, he says, adding that there is virtually no dermatology service that they aren’t able to provide, from skin cancer screenings and surgeries to injectables like Botox and fillers and laser treatments.

When it comes to managing all the procedures offered, innovation is key, Dr. Graham says.

His treatment of skin cancer sets him apart. He relies mostly on noninvasive surgeries to both treat and prevent skin cancer, using prophylactic or preventative methods, including topical chemotherapy creams and chemical peels.

The office is also unique in its cosmetic procedure offerings, many of which are non-invasive, able to be performed during a lunch break, Dr. Graham says.

“Our practice does procedures that can accommodate patients who have an event coming up in a day or two, or wedding in the next week,” Graham says, referring to procedures that require little down time and minimal discomfort.

Some of those procedures include injectables, such as filler, botulinum toxin, sclerotherapy for refining leg veins, and laser procedures for fine lines and wrinkles.

“Our innovative and state-of-the-art, boutique-style practice is here to serve the Naples community Monday through Friday in all aspects in the field of dermatology… we’re very all-encompassing here,” Dr. Graham says. “Let us show you what a modern dermatology practice can offer you!”


Academic Alliance in Dermatology is located at 870 111th Ave. N., Suite 4, Naples. For more information,
call 239-649-3090 or visit www.academicallderm.com/naples-dermatology for a full list of services.