Meet Dr. Chris Bjorndal author of Beyond The Label
Hi everyone, Robindra here, I wanted to personally introduce you to Dr. Chris Bjorndal who was a big part of BLOOM Festival 2017 this year as a speaker and partner of the event. In just a few conversations with Dr. Chris I knew that we had a lifelong journey ahead of us as we shared so many life experiences, both my daughter Soleil and wife Myrah see her as a physician. Dr. Chris is a naturopathic doctor, which I am learning all about right now. They have the same education as any western doctor however they just use natural prescriptions and offer lifestyle changes as a part of their wellness plans. Anyways, I will let you read all about her below. She is hosting a book launch November 30th at Audrey's Books at 7pm. It's a free event and great chance to meet her and ask questions, she is very generous with her time and knowledge. Here is a link to the event page.
What are 5 words to describe yourself?
Compassionate, caring, sensitive, loving, intelligent
Where did your passion for wellness begin?
My passion for wellness began with my own health journey.
While I was doing my undergraduate degree at UBC in the late 1980’s, I experienced a debilitating depression and anxiety which was very difficult to treat. I also had an eating disorder and was not coping with the stress I was under at that time. Like most people, I had not heard about Naturopathic medicine or Orthomolecular medicine, so I was treated with medications that were not effective. Six months after starting an antidepressant for the very first time to help my depression and anxiety, I spun into a delusion, psychotic, manic episode. It took six people – my mom, boyfriend, two paramedics and two firemen to wrestle me into a straight jacket. I was taken to the hospital, injected with haloperidol and left in a rubber room to come back to reality. When I did, I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder type 1. Since that time, I have lived in shame because of the label of bipolar disorder. I just wanted to be “normal”.
After surviving a suicide attempt (which left me in a coma, on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant), I finally began the healing process after reading a book called “ A Return to Love” by Marianne Williamson. Up until this point I was living with the shame and stigma of the labels I had been given and I had not accepted myself. Since reading that book, I have spent over 25 years learning to accept and understand myself & my diagnosis with the help of many types of practitioners. I have come to realize that there are 10 steps to mental wellness and there are more natural ways to treat mental “dis-ease” as I outline in my book "Beyond the Label: 10 Steps to Improve your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine".
The sole reason I became a Naturopathic Doctor was because when I was struggling with my illness there weren’t many natural experts in the field. After attending the Orthomolecular Medicine Society’s Mental Health Regained Public Forum in 1999, I became a patient of Dr. Abram Hoffer’s and experienced my first depression free year in 13 years. I also made some major life changes, such as resigning from my job as Head of Marketing in a global investment management firm where I reported to the CEO and travelled frequently. I also began the process of inquiry into what I really wanted to be doing with my life. After sitting with the question “If money didn’t matter, what would I be doing?” the answer revealed itself to me in a tiny whisper “ Become a Naturopathic Doctor and help people heal from anxiety, depression , anorexia, bulimia, bipolar disorder (types 1 or 2), addiction, ADD/ADHD, OCD, etc using natural therapies and orthomolecular medicine.
I have many areas of interest when it comes to health and have expanded my expertise into balancing hormones for women when it comes to PMS, menopause, fertility and pregnancy – especially since becoming a mom myself. Nothing gives me greater joy than helping a woman conceive, seeing her birth her baby naturally and being the primary care physician for her and her newborn baby.
If you are recently diagnosed with a mental illness or you are struggling in your life, please accept my helping hand and let me guide you to optimum health as outlined in my books "Beyond the Label: 10 Steps to Improve your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine: and "The Essential Diet: Eating for Mental Health". Have faith that you can get well. I believe you can and I wish you all the joy there is to be found on the healing journey. Let love for yourself always be your guide.
“As we discover a more compassionate relationship with both our strengths and our weaknesses, the storms of struggle will calm down enough for us to hear the voices of wisdom inside of us that know the path to the healing we are longing for.”
What does ‘living with intention’ mean to you, and how do you practice it?
To me, living with intention means being authentic to your purpose and truth. How that looks for me is after I wake up each morning, I have a practice of meditation, prayer and gratitude. Once that is done, I then set an intention for the day. I relate intention setting to my work, for example, based on the patients I will be seeing that day, I set the intention that spirit is working in their life, they are moving to inner peace, health and healing. I may set the intention that I want to meet one person that day who needs to hear the message of hope and healing as it relates to mental health. Or I may simply set the intention that my family is safe until I see them again.
What are 3 simple everyday practices that anyone can do, to promote overall wellness?
The foundation of health includes diet, sleep and stress management.
Conditions like depression and anxiety are commonly seen as a neurotransmitter deficiency. Yet, taking a drug doesn’t fix the root cause of why these chemicals are out of balance. Your body may not be supporting the pathway to make healthy amounts of neurotransmitters in the first place because it may be missing the building blocks or other key biochemical co-factors.
If your diet is poor (highly processed and full of caffeine and sugar) you simply cannot make enough serotonin or other neurotransmitters to feel balanced. Environmental toxins (heavy metals, pesticides and endocrine disruptors) also block nutrient absorption. Key pathways in the brain require proper amounts of essential nutrients. Nutrients such as, tryptophan, vitamin C, B6, B3, iron, magnesium, riboflavin, folate, and zinc.
While diet components are extremely important, so is the eating environment. Creating habits like cooking at home, eating with others, chewing thoroughly, and eating mindfully will make a big difference. Blood sugar levels also affect mood significantly. It is important to eat regularly. There is so much to say about diet that I have written a guide book on this subject: The Essential Diet: Eating for Mental Health.
A consistent and regular sleep routine is critical to our mental health. It allows us to rest, detoxify and process what happens to us during the day. Being deprived of sleep decreases energy, increases stress, cortisol, and emotional reactivity, suppresses the immune system, and promotes weight gain. More importantly, doctors now recognize lack of sleep as a direct contributory factor for many chronic and acute mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and episodes of psychosis.
It’s not just about quantity; it’s about quality.
Are you sleeping through the night or waking several times? Are you stressed and grinding your teeth or having terrible dreams? Stress increases cortisol in your body, which decreases your body’s ability to produce the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, making it harder to get a good nights sleep.
In the end, getting a good sleep is multi-factorial and requires you to work with your lifestyle, thoughts, eating and exercising habits, hormones, and coping mechanisms for stress. Supplements and medications can only take you so far; getting to the root cause of poor sleep is the goal.
3. Stress management
Stress is a psychological experience of feeling like your resources (internal or external) are almost exhausted (or are fully used up), and you are struggling to cope with demands of life.
No matter what the stressful event is, if the mind experiences psychological stress, the body experiences physiological stress. This physiological stress is an ancient survival mechanism built in to our bodies to help us flee harmful situations, but today’s world, it’s less helpful.
This“fight-or-flight” reactivity, suppresses the immune system, halts digestion, affects hormone production which affects our sleep and impacts adrenal energy stores. Long-term, this can lead to adrenal exhaustion, muscle tension, digestive complaints, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
The first step in stress management is becoming aware of triggers.
With awareness, you can then work to reduce or eliminate them. If you can’t reduce stressors, you must learn to manage your reactivity given your current life situation. Working with psychotherapeutic techniques, such as the seven Rs of working with problematic thoughts (that I discuss in my book: Beyond the Label) or systematic relaxation tools you can manage your response to stress.
What services do you offer?
I specialize in mental health and hormone balancing. I am a Naturopathic Doctor that follows the principles of Naturopathic Medicine:
· 1- First, Do No Harm
· 2- The Healing Power of Nature
· 3- Identify and Treat the Causes
· 4- Doctor as Teacher
· 5- Treat the Whole Person
· 6- Prevention
The treatment methods include: diet, nutrition & supplementation, homeopathy, botanical medicine, acupuncture & TCM and hydrotherapy. I also have additional training in five types of counselling: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Compassion focussed therapy, Integrative reprogramming technique, Gestalt psychotherapy and Mindfulness based therapy. Aspects of all these forms of counselling are what I teach my patients to help them regain their mental health.
Which of these services would you recommend someone dealing with a high stress job or situation?
I would recommend a combination of botanical medicine, homeopathy and counselling.
What do you hope people feel and experience your services and products?
It is my hope that people will find peace in the present moment. I teach patients to regain their mental health by following the 10 steps that I outline in my book: “Beyond the Label: 10 Steps to Improve your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine”
Whats your website address and social media handles so everyone can find you?
Facebook: Dr. Christina Bjorndal
YouTube: Christina Bjorndal