Santa Barbara Wellness Network

Holistic & Alternative Health

Create Lasting Resolve to Reach Your Goals with Acupuncture

The start of the new year is a time of looking back at what we have achieved in the past year and looking forward to the future. This period of remembrance and resolution may be challenging but it is both productive and rewarding. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help achieve the change you seek as it assists in illness prevention, stress relief, minimizes aches and pains, improves energy and nurtures balance. This calm and clarity strengthens your resolve as you take the next step in achieving your goals.

Here are a few ways that Acupuncture can help you achieve your goals:

Lose Weight

Losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you reach your goal weight and maintain it by promoting better digestion, smoothing emotions, reducing appetite, improving metabolism, and eliminating food cravings–all of which can help energize the body, maximize absorption of nutrients, regulate elimination, control overeating, suppress the appetite and reduce anxiety.

Get in Shape

Renewed enthusiasm to exercise in order to enhance fitness levels, train for a competition, or lose weight can come at a painful price for those who try to do too much too quickly. Recent studies show that acupuncture effectively treats sports injuries such as strains, sprains, musculoskeletal pain, swollen muscles and shin splints.

Eliminate Stress

Stress reduction is always on the top ten list for New Year’s resolutions and for a good reason; it is often the cause of illness and deterioration of health. Numerous studies have demonstrated the substantial benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of stress, anxiety and lowering blood pressure. In addition to acupuncture, Oriental medicine offers a whole range of tools that can be integrated into your life to keep stress in check.

Improved Quality of Life

If pain is keeping you from living life to the fullest, acupuncture can help as it has no side effects and can be helpful for all types of pain, regardless of the cause or where it is located. Increasingly, people are looking for more natural approaches to help relieve painful conditions instead of relying on medication. In addition to reducing pain, acupuncture also hastens the healing process by increasing circulation and attracting white blood cells to an injured area.

Call today to see how Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can help you keep your resolutions and prepare for the year ahead!

Alleviate Your Stress with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

As a normal part of life, stress enables us to get things done. If left unmanaged, stress can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems. Stress causes a disruption in the flow of vital energy, or Qi, through the body. These energetic imbalances can throw off the immune system or cause symptoms of pain, sleep disturbances, abnormal digestion, headaches, menstrual irregularities, aggravation of already troublesome health conditions and, over time, more serious illnesses can develop.

Stressful situations that last over a long period of time can create an ongoing low-level stress that puts continual pressure on the nervous system, increasing activity, and can cause the overproduction of hormones. The extra stress hormones over an extended period of time may wear out the body’s reserves, lead to fatigue, depression, a weakened immune system, and a host of serious physical and psychological ailments.

Some signs of stress overload include:

  • anxiety or panic attacks
  • feelings of constant pressure, hassled and hurried
  • irritability and moodiness
  • physical symptoms such as stomach problems, headaches, or even chest pain
  • allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma
  • problems sleeping
  • overindulgence in food, alcohol, smoking, or drugs
  • sadness or depression

Stress is often the cause of illness and the deterioration of health. Finding a release valve for your stress can help you stay healthy. According to Oriental medicine, stress, frustration, and unresolved anger can play an important part in throwing the immune system off and allowing pathogens to affect the body. Through acupuncture, these energy blockages can be addressed. Acupuncture points can help energy flow smoothly, and alleviate not only the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but the stress and anxiety itself.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the substantial benefits of acupuncture in the treatment of stress. Acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals. The calming nature of acupuncture also decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure and relaxes the muscles.

In addition to acupuncture, Oriental medicine offers a wide range of tools and techniques that can be integrated into your wellness plan to keep stress in check. These tools include Tui Na, Qi Gong exercises, dietary therapy, meditations and acupressure that you can administer at home.

While it isn’t always possible to remove the external forces causing stress, the ability to effectively deal with stress is a choice. Take time for yourself to cultivate the energy you need to handle your stress more skillfully and effectively.

If you or someone you know is experiencing stress or a stress related disorder, contact us for more information about how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help you regain peace of mind, regulate your immune system and stay healthy and schedule an appointment today!

Coping with Seasonal Stress

The holiday season can be filled with a dizzying array of demands, visitors, travel and frantic shopping trips. For many people, it is also a time filled with sadness, self-reflection, loneliness and anxiety. Compound the usual seasonal pressures with economic strain and you many find this to be one of the most emotionally trying times of the year.

Boost your overall ability to handle seasonal stress by replenishing the nutrients that stress hormones deplete by including the following foods in your meals:

Blackberries – Blackberries are jam packed with vitamin C, calcium and magnesium. Vitamin C has shown to be a powerful stress reducer that can lower blood pressure and return cortisol levels to normal faster when taken during periods of stress.

Cruciferous Vegetables – Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and kale are full of stress-relieving B vitamins. Cauliflower is also one of the very best sources of vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid. Pantothenic acid helps turn carbohydrates and fats into usable energy and improves your ability to respond to stress by supporting your adrenal glands.

Salmon – Salmon is a healthy and delicious way to get your dose of B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. Among the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, a 2003 study published in Diabetes & Metabolism found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduced the stress response and kept the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine in check.

Tools to Effectively Manage Stress

Increase your ability to effectively manage stress by including these five tools in your wellness plan!

Eat Healthily – More than 1400 chemical changes occur as stress hormones, such as cortisone, deplete important nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium from the body. A balanced, varied diet provides your body with the nutrients it needs to handle stress.

Exercise – Exercise stimulates the body to release endorphins, which are brain chemicals that improve mood and relieve stress.

Outlook – Your outlook influences the way you see things. Change is a healthy, normal part of life. Think of challenges as opportunities.

Relax – Relaxing is a release valve for stress. Relaxation methods vary by individual and can include meditation, yoga and exercise.

Restorative Sleep – Practicing good sleep hygiene will give your body an opportunity to recover from everyday stress.

Rediscover Joy

Question:

The holidays are here. I just wish there was less tension in my relationship. We have a big house, lots of activity with our kids, high overhead, and little time. Although, we live in a beautiful house, we are hardly home to enjoy it. When we are together we feel stressed out and unappreciated for the burden that we each bare, which fuels quite a bit of fighting. All the pressure is hurting our relationship. How do we get out of this pattern?

Answer:

I understand your concern. No emotional connection during the holidays is like a birthday without cake. Something is obviously missing.

It’s always sad to realize you have so much of everything, but the main thing is not there. Too bad getting genuine connection is not as easy as running to the store, grabbing a pastry off the shelf, and checking out.

Keeping the hearts open requires a real intention, a shared desire, and a decision between partners to prioritize it.

And there is no doubt about it, pressures from a fast pace life with no time and high overhead can kill the romance, close the hearts, and make every day life together feel like drudgery.

In addition, since the holidays are all about relationships, they have the side effect of magnifying the obvious lacking in them. If this is the case for you, take advantage of your “deficit awareness” to reconsider your lifestyle and relationship habits, especially before you get swamped with seasonal activities and spending.

Sometimes our life gets too driven by the societal pressures of how you “should” live, as well as exaggerated desires to have and be more, so much so, that you miss out on the richness of quality interactions.

So this holiday season treat yourself to an emotional upgrade.

Start by having a conversation with your partner and letting them know you would love to give and receive the gift of an improved connection.

Is that something they would like too? If the answer is YES:

Redefine your priorities. Redefine the way you wish to engage with each other. Redefine how you want to live life.

Decide to get your needs for appreciation met by becoming each other’s biggest fan, in thought, actions, and words.

Then follow through by breathing life into the mundane.

Making dinner can be romantic if you chose. For it is simply a loving thought, a romantic gaze, a light touch that transforms a mundane process into something fulfilling and dynamic.

So, if no time or high overhead is poisoning your relationship, take action to eliminate these common romance killers by:

– Re evaluating your lifestyle priorities.

– Make romance a priority.

– Cut back on careless spending and replace it with being frivolous together: Dress up for no reason. Dance in the kitchen.

– Make the most of the time you do have with your loved ones. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

– Up the appreciation levels and compliment each other often.

– Remind yourselves that you’re on the same team, sharing mutual goals and interests.

– Find the opportunities to create rich connection.

Rediscover joy this holiday season. Just remember the next time you pass the salt, it’s a perfect moment to connect with your life partner.

The Stigma of Mental Illness – Will It Ever Go Away?

“Psycho.” “Loco.” “Insane.” These are the words that we all grew up with to describe someone that was—well, perhaps, a little off. Not only that. When we talked about one of these people, we said it with contempt: “He’s totally crazy!”

Tom Wootton heard playground taunts in his head when he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 45. He flashed on a memory of everyone jeering at one of his classmates. “I thought: If I am bipolar, then I must be crazy. I just couldn’t accept that for a long time.”

Wootton is not alone. “This self-stigmatization, the internalizing of stigma, is one of the most significant barriers keeping people from accessing mental health treatment,” suggests Patrick W. Corrigan, Psy.D., professor, Institute of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, principal investigator of the Chicago Consortium for Stigma Research and executive director of the Joint Research Programs in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. Fifty-four million Americans, nearly one in five, have a mental health disorder and nearly two-thirds of them won’t seek treatment1 because of stigma. That means that the playground stereotypes that affect our attitudes have consequences. Often fatal consequences.

“An indication of how strongly held these beliefs are, is that many people would rather tell employers that they committed a petty crime and served time in jail than admit to being in a psychiatric hospital,” according to Amy Watson, MSW, PhD, previously the program director of the Chicago Consortium for Stigma Research and presently assistant professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

What is Stigma?

“Stigma involves setting apart a group in society and associating particular characteristics with them, which we think of as stereotypes,” says Beth Angell, MSW, Ph.D., assistant professor of the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. “In the mind of the public, having a mental illness seems to be associated with some undesirable attribute, for example the belief that people with mental illness are more violent than others or that they lack the competence to be able to negotiate social roles, such as working.

“It is difficult to know exactly how those stereotypes come about; they can be caused by lots of factors. For many years people with mental illness were sequestered in institutions and hidden from society, having minimal contact with the public. During the 1950’s – 1960’s we slowly began a process where we deinstitutionalized people with mental illness and they began living in the community. As a result of that, a much more visible group of people with mental illness who needed help contributed to the public developing negative stereotypes about mental illness, such as violence or bizarre behavior.”

Not In My Backyard

The Santa Barbara, California woman who recently went on a killing spree is the type of image we often have fixed in our minds about people with mental illness. These images don’t just come from the nightly news; they also come from popular dramas on TV. The cameo that opens Law and Order, for example, is often a scene of a violence committed by a person with mental illness.

“We know that people with mental illness are statistically no more likely to be violent than persons without mental illness,” says Jack K. Martin, Ph.D., executive director of the Karl F. Schuessler Institute for Social Research and professor of Sociology at the University of Indiana. “Unfortunately, the overwhelming perception about people with mental illness is that they are very likely to become violent.”

Martin recently completed, along with his colleagues at the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, the second of four studies on the impact stigma has on people with mental health problems.

The first study, completed in 1996, evaluated whether American’s attitudes about mental illness had changed, since they were last studied in 1950. “What we found was encouraging and discouraging at the same time,” says Martin. “People used to see the cause of the problem as something about the individual’s character. It used to be that people would say: ‘This was God’s will.’ ‘These are bad people.’ ‘This was their punishment.’ They don’t say that anymore. People now have an ability to explain mental illness accurately, defining it as a chemical imbalance or a genetic predisposition to mental illness, often triggered by stress; they have basically adapted a medical model. A real common point of view used to be that mental health problems weren’t treatable; people no longer believe that.

“At the same time, people unquestionably have high levels of willingness to shun people with mental illness and in particular, they don’t want to work with them and they don’t want someone who is mentally ill to join their family by marriage. So while they have more clarity about where mental illness comes from, they really want to avoid any contact.”
Stigma Sticks

Why are the stigmas associated with mental illness so sticky–especially when people are more educated about mental illness? More understanding should lead to acceptance, but “in fact there is evidence that people know much more about mental illness and that the stigma seems to be worse,” says Corrigan.

“Our work suggests that the biggest factor changing stigma is contact between people with mental illness and the rest of the population,” says Corrigan. He is trying to understand how to get consumers to go public with their mental health problems. The public needs to understand that many people with mental illness are functioning, fully contributing members of society. To better understand how to do this, Corrigan has studied the gay movement, since they have been so successful in coming out. “Just as the gay community had to realize that their power was increased as they came out of the closet, a similar realization needs to occur with people with mental illness. They are reluctant to do it, for understandable reasons, but nonetheless that is what needs to happen.”

Wootton is someone who has come out. He has written a book about his experience living with Bipolar Disorder, The Bipolar Advantage, is the president of his local Bipolar Disorder support group, has established a workshop program for people diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and talks to groups several times a week about his mental health issues—both the pain and the progress. He says that other people with Bipolar Disorder appreciate what he is doing—so that they don’t have to do it. They feel too vulnerable. They fear the stigma.

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) realizes what an impediment stigma is to people in mental health treatment and have launched a “StigmaBusters” campaign. One initiative is to get people with mental illness to speak out and they have provided the support and structure through their In Our Own Voice program. (See Sidebar.)

Just Like Anyone Else

Most people with mental health problems would not wish them on anyone. But more and more we are beginning to recognize that people with mental health problems don’t just have problems—they also have talents that make real contributions to society. Just like anyone else.

Wootton views his Bipolar Disorder as an “advantage.” Before his diagnosis he was a successful software programmer and earned millions by working feverishly at a highly creative pitch—for months on end–thanks to his uncontained Bipolar Disorder. Of course, he couldn’t sustain this and eventually hit a bipolar wall. Now he strikes a balance between controlling his bipolar disorder while still benefiting from his creative talents. This is a result of a combination of medication, therapy groups and what he describes as “ a lot of hard work.” He also works with his doctors to calibrate his medication so that he is still able to tap into his Bipolar capabilities. This means that he is somewhat outside what they consider his ideal range of functioning, but still within acceptable limits for him.

Or think of Monk, the endearing TV detective who is able to discern things beyond the reach of others on his police unit. He makes no bones about the fact that his compulsive cleanliness can be a hindrance, but the good outweighs the bad. He too, works on his issues in therapy, but he rejects medication. With medication he feels good, but he loses his special talents.

John Nash, portrayed in The Beautiful Mind, won the Nobel Prize for the work he did in the field of mathematics all the while struggling with the delusions and paranoia of schizophrenia. He learns to live with and control his delusional friends, which releases the power of his intellect to change the world.

Examples like these are introducing the public to a broader view of the attributes of mental illness; a view that people with mental illness may bring gifts—not just problems. Wootton adds that the message for treatment providers is that recovery is not overcoming mental illness, but harnessing it to preserve positive attributes.

Watson cautions that people with mental illness should be valued for who they are, including those that make everyday contributions like the rest of us. “People with mental illness are mostly like everyone else with similar ranges of intelligence and talents and they should not have to be extraordinary achievers to be appreciated.”

“Many professionals are the bastions of stigma,” says Corrigan. “Part of that might be because they tend to see people only when they are acutely ill. When they are in recovery and acting in a way to challenge a stigma they are not with them.

“People with mental illness can and do recover. It is contrary to what we all learned in graduate school, which is ‘once a schizophrenic always a schizophrenic.’ The long term follow up research suggests that 2/3 of people with intense schizophrenia can live successful lives; perhaps half of them will need job coaches or housing coaches for much of their life, but still people when they receive reasonable accommodation live pretty well with schizophrenia.”

Social Justice Challenge

The social cost of stigma associated with mental illness is high, because it translates into huge numbers of people with treatable mental illness not getting help. In Martin’s research, 45% of people said that if they had a mental illness they would not take medication for it, even though they believe that the medication would work. They are not worried about side effects. “They are worried that if they do take medication that someone is going to find out and then they will have to suffer the consequences, including the disruptions of marital relationships and work productivity,” says Martin.

Is a society without debilitating mental illness out of reach? It turns out it is not. There is a pilot program in Norway, being led by Thomas McGlashan, director of the Yale Psychiatric Institute that reportedly has been so successful that people with schizophrenia are not living on the streets. The key seems to be eliminating stigma. When stigma is reduced and people feel safe coming out they get treated at the early onset of the illness, which greatly improves their outcomes. The destigmatization campaign includes the education of students, primary care physicians and the general public.

So it is possible. The Norway experience shows us that when stigma is substantially eliminated and a supportive health care system is in place, the rights of people with mental illness are protected. When their rights are protected, people with mental illness can experience the full benefit of the progress that has been made in treatment without constraining their potential to contribute to our society.

Will the stereotypes of “psycho” and “loco” ever totally go away? Probably not. But we can reduce the impact of stigma and bring people to life-restoring treatment. Everyone wins when people with mental illness are not just tolerated but appreciated for who they are and can be full participants in society.

1 Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, 1999.

Got Cigarettes? Hypnosis To The Rescue!

Within 24 hours of your last cigarette your chances of a heart attack decreases. Within 72 hours your bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier and your lung capacity increases. Soon after, in the next two weeks to two months your circulation improves so that walking and exercising becomes easier. You increase your lung function up to 30%!

Your body is an amazing healer. Every day you are cigarette free you become symptom free. Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, shortness of breath all decrease and subside. Cilia re-grows in lungs, increasing ability to handle mucous, clean the lungs and reduce infection. Your energy level increases steadily.

Most smokers hate the habit, hate the smell, and are embarrassed by how others react to them. They know the cancer statistics. You would think that is enough to make someone stop. For most smokers it isn’t that easy. This insidious habit actually has many components to it. The approach used to stop smoking with the help of hypnosis varies depending upon the type of smoker you are.

The first type of smoker is the one that started because all their friends were doing it. It became a habit as they associated smoking with all aspects of their daily routine. They smoke purely because it is habit. Quitting is pretty easy for them. Through hypnosis, they release cigarettes from their daily routine and create new rituals. They don’t miss the smoking and any withdrawal symptoms are minor and tolerable.

The second type of smoker is the one who grew up with it. Parents are smokers, as well as friends and siblings. They may have been exposed to smoke all of their life. They smoke because it is a part of what they know and it becomes part of who they are. They have seen family members struggle with smoking and even die from cancer or emphysema. Quitting can be challenging if the people they live with smoke or family members smoke. They risk others trying to sabotage them back into the habit. On the bright side when these smokers are motivated to quit, nothing will stop them. They have to release the ‘friend’ that the cigarette has become. Luckily smoker relatives and friends tend to be very respectful of those that choose to quit. If this smoker believes they will suffer from withdrawal symptoms, they usually will. However, that can be minimized or eliminated with hypnosis.

The third type of smoker is the one who smokes because they think it relaxes them. Often times they are high strung and suffer from some anxiety. The reality is that there is not one chemical in a cigarette that is a relaxant. The chemicals constrict blood vessels and make the heart work harder. What they really need to do is to ‘get away from it all’ which is what they do when they take a smoking break. They also use cigarettes as a reward for completing tasks. The fix is easy. They continue to take their breaks, but use replacement relaxation techniques. They get replacement rewards too for a job well done. Hypnosis reduces stress which helps makes the transition to non smoking smooth.

The fourth type of smoker is the addict who has been involved with drugs as well as smoking. Typically they have a family history of addiction. Usually they beat the drug habit and keep the smoking habit because it “isn’t as bad”. It is the last hold out of their addictive behavior, but eventually they realize they need to quit. This type of smoker does well with hypnosis but needs replacements for the habit. They sip on water to replace the oral habit. They use a finger rub/release for something to do with their hands. They learn how to breathe deeply, as smokers usually tend to have shallow breathing. They expect to withdraw, but are usually pleasantly surprised to find that they tolerate it pretty well. A piece of cake, when they use hypnosis, compared to withdrawal from drugs and rehab.

When my clients come in for a session I ask if they think they will have withdrawal symptoms (anxiety, irritability, urges). I did a study with my clients over a period of a few years. The clients who said yes, did have symptoms. The ones who answered no, didn’t have any symptoms at all! So to solve the problem, I have them experience the symptoms they believe they will suffer from during the hypnosis session. Because the mind does not differentiate between what is real or imagined, they experience the symptoms and then let them go. They know then that the symptoms are manageable and in most cases they are eliminated completely.

The habit of smoking is a subconscious habit attached to the daily routine, attached to socialization, and to emotions like an old friend. It makes sense to go to the subconscious mind to quit the habit. In 85% to 90% of the cases, people can stop in just one hypnosis session. A reinforcement CD makes it even more powerful and many people are delighted with how easy it is to quit!

© 2011, Hypnosis Concepts. Publication rights granted so long as article and byline are reprinted intact, with all links made live.

Depression and Anxiety…Too Costly for Employers to Ignore

Known for his balanced, engaging personality, Jackson seems to handle everything that comes his way without any undue stress. When Jackson started to have difficulty sleeping, a loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating, no one knew what to make of it, but the last thing they suspected was depression. Unfortunately, Jackson was not treated for his depression until he had suffered needlessly and his department lost many of the gains that they had attained under his leadership.

Prevalence of Depression and Anxiety

Jackson’s story is not atypical in today’s workplace. In fact, mental health issues related to anxiety and depression are so prevalent that they should be considered more critical concerns than work-related injuries such as carpal tunnel and back strain or health issues such as asthma and diabetes, which are more commonly on the radar screen of employers, according to Alan M. Langlieb, MD, MPH, MBA. Langlieb who has recently co-authored a study, How Much Does Quality Mental Health Care Profit Employers?[1] has been investigating workforce and mental health issues for the last 30 years. It is Langlieb’s passionate hope that more employers will come to understand that screening their employees for depression and anxiety along with providing high quality treatment is a proactive measure that translates to profits on the bottom line.

Statistical data about the prevalence of depression and anxiety among Americans is alarming. A recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 1 in 20 American adults will be depressed in any given year.[2] The World Health Organization predicts that major depression will be the second leading cause of disability by the year 2020.2 Depression has been estimated to affect 18.8 million Americans each year.[3] Anxiety has been estimated to affect 29% of Americans in their lifetime.[4] Depression and anxiety cross all social strata and all organization levels. Employers can safely assume that the experience of the general population with depression and anxiety will apply to their organizations, and therefore is something they shouldn’t ignore.

High Cost to Employers

How much does failing to pay attention to depression and anxiety in the workforce cost employers? A 1998 study of more than 46,000 employees by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) estimated that each employee with depression generated $3189 annually in health care costs, compared with $1679 annually for nondepressed employees. If the depressed employees also were under high stress, then the costs skyrocketed and 147% more was spent on health care costs for those employees than on those with depression alone.[5] Clearly, the cost associated with treating these illnesses is significant.

So what dollar savings can employers expect to realize if they treat their employees with depression and anxiety beyond having a healthier workforce? Langlieb suggests that “if you look at the savings, in terms of increased time at work, less time out on disability, improved productivity and some of the other indirect measures of job satisfaction, it is quite evident that the savings outweigh the costs. Obviously there is a cost to treat and provide quality care, but the savings more than pay for themselves.”

It has been estimated that United States employers spend $33 billion per year as a result of work and productivity loss from depression.[6] The cost of treating depression is only $1 out of $4—with $3 dollars resulting from lost productivity, earnings and workdays. A recent study compared the cost of lost earnings from employees with depression with the cost of treating employees with depression and concluded that the cost of treatment for depression was fully offset by the savings from the reduction of lost workdays alone. When measured in regained earnings, depression treatment actually provided a net annual profit of $877 per patient.[7] Says Langlieb, “So when you factor in the number of days depressed people stay out of work, and the fact that when they are at work they are not functioning up to speed, there is an enormous cost to the organization.”

Opportunities for Social Workers

These data make a compelling argument that every organization should both screen and identify depressed and anxious employees and provide quality treatment from a professional. By doing so, the organization will be supporting the health of its employees, improving productivity and generating profit that goes to the bottom line.

Understanding the value of treating depressed and anxious employees in the general workforce creates important opportunities for social workers. Social workers have a critical role in getting the word out about the prevalence of depression and anxiety in the workforce as well as the benefits of treatment. Social workers also have a role to play in developing and administering screening tools for employees in the workplace and participating in the treatment of these employees.

Best Practices in Organizations

Langlieb suggests that there are many organizations that are doing a better and better job addressing mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. Activities that these organizations have found helpful, include: holding mental health awareness days; making employee assistance programs available to do some initial evaluations on site; accessing on-line resources to support the organization becoming better educated on these issues; employing screening tools that can be done at an office desk. All of these activities are feasible without excessive effort and with only minimal cost. They help break down barriers resulting from stigma and create a culture where employees feel comfortable coming forward to identify a fellow worker who may be suffering from depression or anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are facts of life for a significant percent of the workforce in America. The good news is that these mental health problems do not need to be devastating for either the individual or the organization. Early identification and quality treatment of depression and anxiety turn out to be a win-win–cost effective for the organization and supportive of the employee’s mental health.

[1] Langlieb A M, Kahn JP. How much does quality mental health care profit employers? Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2005; 47: 1099-1109.

[2] Depression can break your heart. NIMH 2001. Available at: www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/heartbreak.cfrm#5; Internet accessed July 7, 2005.

[3] Depression. NIMH 2004. Available at http://www.nimh.nih.gov.publicat/depression.cfm; Internet; accessed July 7, 2005.

[4] Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Walters EE. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005; 62: 593-602.

[5] Goetzel RZ, Ozminkowski RJ, Sederer LI, Mark TL. The business case for quality mental health services: why employers should care about the mental health and well-being of their employees. J Occup Environ Med. 2002;44:320-330.

[6] Greenberg PE, Kessler RC, Nells TL, Finkelstein SN, Berndt ER. Depression in the workplace: an economic perspective. In: Feighner JP, Boyer WF, eds. Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors: Advances in Basic Research and Clinical Practice. New York: Wiley & Sons; 1996:327-363.

[7] Zhang M, Rost KM, Fortney JC. Earnings changes for depressed individuals treated by mental health specialists. Am J Psychiatry. 1999; 156:108-114.

Is Anyone Out There Cooking?

My private nutrition coaching practice has no shortage of people who desperately want or need to lose weight. Everyone knows the health risks of obesity, yet many people do not know how start changing their lifestyle in order to achieve weight loss. One troubling observation I have made is that many people don’t cook or eat at home anymore.

For many, home cooked meals have been replaced with fast food and take-out foods. Some of my clients cite lack of time to cook, and many do not know how to prepare simple meals. I have met clients who literally consume ALL of their meals out, on the run, and never prepare a meal at home. With so many sources of food available everywhere, at anytime, and in endless varieties, it’s easy to see how this could happen. Yet, there are reasons why you should rethink how you get your meals.

Cooking or at least planning simple prepared foods at home could help you get healthier, lighter and have a bit more cash to spend on other things. Home prepared food generally means that meals will have less calories and fat overall. You are in control of how the food is made, what goes into it, and most importantly, how much is served. Have you ever gone to a restaurant and been served a very large portion? How many times have you consumed the entire portion? Large portions mean more calories. Unless you are taking half of that portion home, you are getting far more calories than you may realize. Depending on how a dish is prepared, even a half portion can mean lots of extra calories.

When you eat out are you treating the meal as though it’s a special occasion? A lot of people do. Sometimes dining out is a special occasion and a chance to order something that you may not normally eat. People who eat out need to ditch the special occasion mentality or weight gain may be inevitable. The temptation to sample the bread basket, add fried foods, large drinks or high calorie appetizers to the meal is just too easy when you order out.

A side benefit of eating at home: more family time together and the chance to teach your children healthy eating habits. Families who eat on the run all of the time lose out on quality time to communicate with one another about school, work or the day’s events. Eating meals together as a family is an opportunity to set a positive example and educate your children about healthy eating.

You don’t need to have special cooking skills to put together healthier meals at home. Here are a few examples of how to start:

  • Have breakfast at home instead of the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich out. A bowl of cereal with low fat milk, fresh fruit and perhaps a yogurt can help you start your day.
  • Brown bag your lunch instead of getting fast food or take-out every day.
  • For dinner, prepare simple meals once and make enough to have leftovers at another meal. Grilled or broiled chicken, fish or lean meat with a potato or whole grain pasta and steamed vegetables, takes less than 30 minutes.
  • Cook and plan meals ahead for the week to save time.

A little bit of time and a few simple changes can make a difference in your weight, your calorie intake and ultimately help you succeed with weight loss!

© 2011, Gretchen S, RD, CDE. Publication rights granted to all venues so long as article and by-line are reprinted intact and all links are made live.

World Laughter Day is Everyday!

We love to laugh. I love to laugh. Laughing is now regarded as beneficial to our physical health as well as mental health. We expel stale air from our lungs. We increase oxygen flow by taking in gulps of air when we laugh. It massages the spleen, the liver, the heart. We often feel a glow after a bout of laughter. All our worries seem to fall away and oftentimes those feelings, those wonderful feelings often stay with us for a while. And if one is laughing, we often discover many of our problems don’t seem to be that important. It’s almost as if the human being simply prefers laughing.

So how come we don’t do it very often? According to Albert Nerenberg, the director of a current documentary called Laughology, seriousness has become a serious problem in the West. And many people have lost their laugh and have become almost obsessively serious. In fact it happened to him (and me) and this why he decided to make a film about it. His film investigates in detail the history of laughter as compared to humor. Robert Provine, author of the book called Laughter, in an interview in Albert’s film, says that humor is tens of thousands years old while laughter is millions of years old; and he goes on to say that our laugh is related to animals who pant as they play. He says their panting is very similar to the sound of our “ha ha ha” laughter. Try it out for yourself and use the words “ha ha ha” as if you’re panting and you’ll get the gist.

What is most interesting is that most laughter comes from no joking material according to the scientists who have researched our laughter in normal everyday conversations. They estimate only about 15% of what we laugh at is considered to be jokey.

And so where does laughter yoga come into play here and what about this World Laughter Day that’s coming up on May 1? Dr. Madan Kataria was a medical doctor in India who started researching the benefits of laughter for a newsletter he was publishing. In 1995 he got so excited about the research that he decided to start the very first Laughter Club. The clubs became so prolific in Mumbai that he eventually retired from his medical practice to take laughter yoga globally. It is now in over 65 countries where millions of people are laughing in parks, studios, churches, and offices throughout the world.

Laughter yoga is basically working with two different sets of assumptions. It asserts that we can laugh for no reason, meaning that we can fake it and get the same health results as real laughter. And, he discovered that laughter can become an exercise so that we can get our regular dose of laughter. The laughter yoga exercises include some yogic exercises as well as other types of playful exercises to promote laughter.

So what does all this have to do with World Laughter Day? Because Dr. Kataria created it! Not only to have a day where people can focus on laughter and enjoy the wonderful benefits but also indirectly to spread the word of this new movement of laughter yoga.

He planned it to be the first Sunday in May and has allowed all his teachers and students and followers to do something special on that day, whether it’s laughing while walking down the streets of a busy city, laughing inside a building at a designated time, letting people experience an hour-long laughter yoga session, or some people are even using the new flash mob games to include laughter in restaurants, outdoors, in parks, in shopping malls. And because laughter yoga hasn’t been branded yet, people are free to be creative using all sorts of various exercises, indigenous rituals, acting games, so that people can simply laugh.

If you go to India you’ll most likely find elderly people in outdoor parks clapping and shouting “ho ho ha ha ha” or pretending they are laughing into their cell phones as they mingle and mill around while laughing away. There are numerous videos of various laughter yoga exercises on YouTube. In some cultures they will use singing as a way to promote and simulate laughter. In the US where independence reigns there are more juicy and creative exercises that have been emerging; and because it naturally is a spontaneous event there has been an explosion of various forms of laughter that include laughter games, laughter parties, some indigenous rituals that were created and designed to use laughter to keep their tribes alive and spirited… and often times laughter yoga exercises are included with dancing, shaking and other forms of movement. One will likely see forms of laughter now in workshops, classes, yoga studios, dance halls, acting workshops. And the classes are sprouting up in senior housing facilities, cancer groups, men’s groups, Alzheimer’s groups, hospice support groups, corporate boardrooms, nonprofit staff meetings…. and the list goes on… since we all love to laugh and seriousness has become the new epidemic… hahahhaha.

We love to laugh. Laughing is not only physically healthy for us but mentally as well. Laughter can immediately halt our judgments of others. Laughter can smooth out our negative outlook or viewpoints. Wouldn’t it be great if there was more laughter in the world and in our own lives? Well, now we don’t have to have a reason to laugh. We can simply laugh… and whether we use it as an exercise or not we can get all sorts of benefits from it. You can do it right now… You can even laugh at me if you dare, hahhahha just to get you to laugh.

In Santa Barbara there have been 14 people trained as laughter yoga leaders. In San Luis Obispo there are about 10 people who have been trained. Some are incorporating the new laughter yoga skills and exercises into their own workshops and some are leading the more traditional laughter yoga sessions at yoga studios, churches, parks, and nonprofit offices, etc. Being a laughter yoga teacher, I can simply attest that it is so much fun to see and experience people laughing and because not only is laughing contagious but there is such a strong desire in people to simply want to laugh, want to shift our consciousness into having and experiencing more fun and laughter. I mean why were we put onto this glorious planet, spinning endlessly through vast expanses of the universe? to be slaves? to be grumpy serious bipeds?… or to enjoy the fruits all around us with a smile and a laugh? and to taste that universal love and peace that we say we want so much!!

World Laughter Day is May 1, this year. To see video samples of laughter yoga simply go to youtube and type in laughter yoga.

Power Animal of Balance and Happiness: Dragon Fly

“Make space in your garden for the Faeries to Dance”

Kaleidoscope wings skipping on water is a sacred sight granted only to those who take the time to venture out to magical places, or create such balanced spaces of sun and water in their own back yards. Dragon flies are powerful symbols of elemental forces. As creatures that ride the changing winds, they are associated with the qualities of transformation and adaptability.

Dragon flies also spend their lives around water, the symbol of psyche, dreams and deep feelings. When we combine water and air in a conscious way, hidden emotions and passions rise to the surface and can be confronted, released and harnessed. To ride the dragon fly of our own beings, we must first release ourselves from the bondage of heavy thoughts and weighty beliefs. This can be done by noticing what is hidden in the depths, but not lingering there for long or getting attached to it: this would cause any dragon fly to drown. Instead, skim or dart over the pond and delight in the fact that you have wings.

Dragon flies lead brief but exuberant lives. As Carlos Castaneda once said, “Because the path leads nowhere, make the best of it.” Dragon fly is the ultimate symbol of happiness and balance. If life on Earth is getting you down, go ask a dragon to teach you how to fly.

Depression in Late Life – Proven to Have a High Risk For Suicide and a High Focus For Hope

Gerald Johnson* has no regrets about his life. At 90, he has lived a long, and for the most part, a happy life, rich with friendship and blessed with good health. He is spry and still drives his vintage Jaguar. The problem is that he doesn’t want to go out anymore-not even on a crisp fall day with the sunroof open. “I can’t bear to drive around my neighborhood anymore. Everywhere I go I pass a house where one of my friends lived and they are gone. I am the only one left.”

Diagnosed with Major Depression, Mr. Johnson is at risk for suicide. And he is not alone. Suicide is five times more common in late life than other ages, and the highest subgroup for suicide in late life adults is white males, according to Mark D. Miller, M.D. Miller, a geriatric psychiatrist is the medical director of Late-Life Depression Prevention Clinic at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh and is also associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He has recently co-authored a book, Living Longer Depression Free: A Family Guide to Recognizing, Treating, and Preventing Depression in Later Life. Miller’s passion for working with late life adults developed as a child. He grew up in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. His parents were killed in a car accident when he was 10 and he went to live with his grandparents. The town’s young adults had all left to find work and so he found himself being raised by older people in a community of older people. “I took a shine to them,” he says.

Suicide in Late Life

Why are white males at the highest risk for suicide in late life? According to Miller, when males think about suicide they use lethal means, such as jumping from a bridge or using firearms and, therefore, they are more likely to succeed. Women are more likely to overdose and they often fail. Among the factors related to suicide, a sense of hopelessness is critical. For someone who is hopeless in late life, often the support network is inadequate. Today, children move away from home; they try to bridge this distance by connecting by telephone, but this does not fill the void created by the losses of spouse, friends and coworkers. Health concerns also tend to accumulate with age. People who are less able to walk are less able to do what they like and less able to take care of themselves. Sometimes oncoming dementia is depressing as older people realize they are losing their mental abilities. The medical burden only increases with time.

Risk Factors for Depression in Late Life

At any age, suicide is directly correlated with depression. A psychotic may be suicidal, but for the vast majority of cases, suicide comes secondary to depression. This means that we can prevent suicide if we treat the person adequately. According to Miller, people who are suicidal in late life are more likely to have had a depression before, more likely to have had suicidal ideation before and even to have made a suicide attempt before. “So, if you had one in your lifetime, it puts you at risk to have more later. Depression is a risk factor and prior suicidality is a risk factor.” The other big risk factors are a history of certain personality characteristics or personality disorders, especially Borderline Personality Disorder, and alcohol and drug use.

But late life people who do not have a history of those risk factors are not home free. They still have the potential to become depressed because of their life circumstances. Miller suggests, “One of the things that we have found out over the last 10 years is that people that have their first onset of depression over age 60 are more likely to have had small strokes accumulating in their brains. When we look at MRI scans and we see the so-called white matter hyperintensities (WMH). We see more of them for people who are depressed for the first time after 60. They also correlate with other risk factors, like smoking, hyperepidemia, and other factors that give you cardiac disease or cerebral vascular disease. We believe that the more ‘hits’ the aging brain takes from small vascular changes, that there is an increased risk for depression, because it disrupts some of the neural circuitry needed for maintaining mood in the brain.” Late life people often suffer from an accumulation of risk factors that add up to more severe risk for depression than any one risk factor by itself. Aging increases the likelihood of such risk factors as losses, diabetes, little strokes and thyroid dysfunction that potentially add up to a Major Depression.

Red Flag-Watch for Changes

“A red flag is if you meet someone for the first time and the caretaker says that the patient was fine two days ago and now seems to be confused. That patient may be in delirium.” That is a medical emergency, cautions Miller. ” That patient is at risk from something that is really awry and has caused abject confusion. It could be something metabolic or a drug reaction, or withdrawal from a drug that was stopped. Oftentimes, there is an underlying dementia that may not have been recognized before, that needs to be recognized because this person is obviously at risk for self-injury, making bad judgements, or perhaps driving and wrecking the car.Clearly if you get someone who is confused but it is short term, within the last couple of days or hours, that patient needs to be evaluated by a doctor or in an emergency room-quickly–that day. The electrolytes need to be checked to make sure that something isn’t really wrong. It could even be a harbinger of mortality–it could indicate that the brain is shutting down. If you work with geriatric patients you learn to watch for those things. You watch for changes.”

Hope for Late Life Boomers

As boomers age their experience in late life is likely to be different, suggests Miller. As a cohort, they are better educated than the current late life cohort. For that reason, they should be better able to recognize the signs of depression and be more attuned to getting depression treated. Boomers have moved around more. This should create resilience in late life and help protect them from social isolation. They have been required to develop better skills at making new friends. They are more technologically savvy and have the potential to be more creative in staying connected with loved ones. In short, Miller says, “I’m optimistic about boomers as they enter late life.”