Posts filed under Mental Wellness

Understanding and Protecting Yourself From the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is at an all-time high. People suffering from chronic pain, especially, are at risk for addiction to drugs such as Vicodin, oxycodone, morphine, and Percocet, among others. But while these drugs may initially address acute pain, are they safe for long-term use in chronic pain patients?

How Opiates Affect the Brain

Everyone's brain contains opiate receptors. The reason is that your internal neurotransmitters act on these receptors and naturally produce effects that are nearly the same as opiate drugs. When you introduce an opiate drug into your brain, it binds to these receptors and acts like these naturally occurring pain-relieving chemicals. While these drugs can block pain, they can also produce unpleasant side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and confusion.

These drugs can also cause feelings of euphoria. And, while they are effective in treating pain, many patients quickly develop a tolerance, even when taking them exactly as prescribed, which leads to addiction. If the drugs are suddenly stopped, symptoms of withdrawal occur, including abdominal cramping, anxiety, vomiting, muscle aches, and irritability.

But there are other ways to control chronic pain. Talk to your doctor about opiate alternatives. Here are some of the things you can do to alleviate your pain, without risk of addiction.

Acupuncture

Practiced for thousands of years in China, acupuncture is defined as "a body of procedures and techniques for stimulating specific points on the body." There have been many scientific studies showing that acupuncture can help ease chronic pain, as well as chronic headaches and migraine.

Mindfulness

It would seem like the very last thing we want to do when we're in pain is to pay more attention to what hurts. But that's what's behind mindfulness, which is an effective tool for chronic pain and other issues. Instead of wishing the pain would go away, we focus on the pain with curiosity and without judgment. This leads to an acceptance of the pain and, in turn, helps the patient to deal with it. Discuss this with your doctor to see if mindfulness is an appropriate practice for your chronic pain.

Nutrition

Sounds like a drag, right? But changing your diet and adding more of the right nutrients can go a long way towards alleviating your chronic pain. An anti-inflammatory diet, especially, can help alleviate pain without the use of opiate or opioid medications. See a nutritionist to discuss an anti-inflammatory diet.

Along with other natural alternatives, such as yoga and ecotourism, you can manage your pain naturally. If you're concerned about managing your pain without opiates, talk to your doctor about opiate alternatives.

 

Sources

WebMD

Freedom Treatment Center of California

Everyday Health

Posted on June 20, 2018 and filed under Mental Wellness.

Developing a Healthy Body Image through Bodywork

Body Image

Learning to Love Who We Are

The statistics are alarming. The majority of U.S. women–some estimate more than 80 percent–are unhappy with their appearance. At least 10 million young women, and 1 million young men have an eating disorder. Girls as young as 6 and 7 are expressing disapproval of their looks, and most fourth-grade girls are already diet veterans. Most unsettling is the fact that more women, and girls, fear becoming fat than they do dying.

Combating the Images

How do you see yourself?

Are you content with the person looking back at you from the mirror each morning or do you frown in frustration? Unfortunately, many of us are unhappy with the person looking back. Whether it’s lamenting about having a pear-shaped figure instead of an hourglass, or exhibiting more serious, self-hating body dysmorphic disorders, body image is under siege in our celebrity-fixated society. While Madison Avenue continues to airbrush photos of svelte, 120-pound supermodels for magazine covers, others are trying to teach young girls to love their bodies, beautiful imperfections and all. One way to combat the Hollywood hype and to create an appreciation for the bodies we have is through hands-on massage and bodywork.

Why Massage Affects Body Perception

Being unhappy with our bodies has serious, and sometimes lifelong, ramifications. Feelings of unworthiness and self-loathing can set up a lifetime of self-deprecating behaviors. What regularly scheduled massage allows us to do is “get back” into our bodies and reconnect with ourselves. Massage can help us release physical and mental patterns of tension, enhancing our ability to experience our bodies (regardless of their shape and size) in a more positive way. Just as it facilitates our ability to relax, massage also encourages an awareness of the body, often allowing us to more clearly see and identify destructive behaviors, including overeating or purging.Massage also creates a sense of nurturing that is especially powerful when it comes to poor body image. Accepting the nonjudgmental touch of a trained therapist goes a long way toward rebuilding an appreciation and respect for your own body. If we find acceptance for who we are and how we look, we are giving ourselves permission to live comfortably in the skin we have.The Value of Massage

Research shows that touch is a powerful ally in the quest for physical and mental health. Not only does it help us be more in tune with our bodies, it can also helps restore a sense of “wholeness” that is often lost in our segmented, over scheduled lives. When we regain that connection, it’s much easier to remember that our bodies are something to be cherished, nurtured, and loved, not belittled, betrayed, and forgotten.Valuable for every age and every body type, massage and bodywork have innumerable benefits. Here are a few:

– Alleviates low-back pain and improves range of motion.
– Decreases medication dependence.
– Eases anxiety and depression.
– Enhances immunity by stimulating lymph flow.
– Exercises and stretches weak, tight, or atrophied muscles.
– Increases joint flexibility.
– Improves circulation by pumping oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
– Releases endorphins–the body’s natural painkiller.

Every Shape and Size

No matter what a client weighs, massage and bodywork therapists are trained to appreciate all bodies, without judgment, and to deliver the best care possible. As in any session, a therapist’s goal is to create an environment that feels safe and nurturing for clients, all while delivering much needed therapeutic touch. For heavier clients, some minor adjustments might be needed in the delivery of the bodywork, but its nurturing, therapeutic, nonjudgmental role will remain unchanged.

Through the Scars

We also have to remember that a negative body image is not necessarily about those few extra pounds on the hips. It might instead be tied to the scars of past injuries and surgeries. Massage can help here, too. For burn victims, research has shown massage can help in the healing process, while for post-surgery breast cancer patients, massage and bodywork can reintegrate a battered body and spirit. In addition to softening scar tissue and speeding post-surgery recovery, massage and bodywork for these clients is about respect, reverence, and learning to look at, and beyond, the scars.

Finding the Stillness

Experts say that when the tissues start to let go and relax under a massage therapist’s hands, profound shifts occur emotionally and physically. A softening happens, and the brain and body begin to integrate again. The chasm between body and mind that created the eating disorder, or fueled the negative body image, begins to narrow. In her book, “Molecules of Emotion,” Georgetown University Medical School professor Candace Pert explains that the body is the “actual outward manifestation, in physical space, of the mind.” She says that if we generate negative energy in response to our appearance, it can eventually find its way into reality. Self-acceptance, then, is paramount for living well, and massage/bodywork is a healthy path to get you there. Finding the stillness in a massage session allows you to just “be,” without judgment. Partner that with the comfort that comes from allowing your body to be nurtured by someone else, and we begin to remember our value, regardless of our outward appearance, or what we perceive it to be.

Posted on December 22, 2017 and filed under Self-care, Mental Wellness.

3 Tips For Supporting Friends In Difficult Times

I recently had some dear friends go through something really terrible. It's not my place to talk about their tragedy, and I won't, but it has made me dig deep and think about how I can support and encourage these sweet souls while they go through their challenging time. 

How do we best "show up" for someone who is suffering? Do we call?  Give space? Avoid the subject? Bring food? All good questions. I have walked hand in hand with many clients and friends as they face serious health concerns, big uncertainty, death of a loved one, and various other heavy hitting issues. For me, it was an honor and a pleasure to "step up to the plate" and offer love and support.

If you are finding yourself at the helm of a loved one in need, here are some things to take to heart;

#1-SOMETIMES IT'S WHAT NOT TO SAY; 

Be mindful with your words. Thankfully the interwebs are incredibly helpful here! If someone dies, or is sick, or really scared,  there are probably 50 websites the say, "Things you shouldn't say to a grieving person...or sick friend...." Google it! Sometimes silence is better than putting your foot in your mouth. Mindfulness with our words is key, especially when we are facing delicate situations. 

#2-Help With Chores

When the walls feel like they are closing in, and life is overwhelming it is easy to get behind on daily tasks. A hot meal or some grocery shopping can be powerful. Running an errand, walking their dog, taking their kids to the park, washing their car....scratching a To-Do off the list may prove very helpful. Always do a little feeling out of the situation first. Try not to smother someone with love. With email and texts being so common place, its easy to drop a line in a non-obtrusive way noting that you want to help with errands, if they are interested....and spell it out....say you're interested in making and delivering a meal, or washing their car, or helping with animal, and ASK whether or not that sounds good to them.

#3-Listen

Sometimes the best gift we have is an open heart, listening ears, and a quiet mouth. I believe in checking in with loved ones as they face difficulty. Yes, it can feel uncomfortable. Yes, it can feel hard. But it's important to feel validated and heard when life is at it's toughest. Tact, once again, is key. Take diplomatic steps at appropriate times to reach out and ask how their process is going. Prefacing with, " I want to check in with you and what you're going through...if you want to talk...If you DON'T want to talk about it, that's OK, too." If you get a green light and they want to talk, you can simply say, "May I ask you about your grieving?' "Is it OK if i ask about how your health is?"....etc... Then sit back, and use your best present listening ears that you've got!

We cannot take pain away. We cannot fix big problem for others. We can offer our love. We can  hug. We can listen. We can be there with them as they suffer and help them through. May you  and yours be well. And may this help you care for those you love.

May You Be Well,

Lily 

*Images compliments of Creative Commons*

The Life-Changing Magic of Perspective

Life is a funny thing. It seems that all our lives we are told that pursuit of happiness should be our life’s purpose. That finding joy, elation, and contentment are the things that will bring us satisfaction in our lives, but as we look back over our own individual histories, I think we often find that the times that formed us the most…the times that caused us to grow most as people…the times that left the most lasting impressions on us weren’t the times of joy and happiness, but the times of difficulty and struggle. 

Difficulty works in an interesting way. While it is within our happiness that we may get to just sit back and enjoy, it is not within happiness that we forge ourselves. It isn’t within joy that the strength of our character rises up to meet the challenge. It often takes our adversities to get us to stand and say “No. This is who I am, and this is what I stand for.” And for that, I am truly thankful for all my difficulties. While ease makes almost no impression on us, struggle forces us to grow in ways that last well beyond our experiences of it. 

Though I am a white male and have had a relatively easy life, growing up as a gay man I have certainly been no stranger to discrimination. I have experienced what it’s like to be “other.” What it’s like to be called names—to be excluded. I’ve known what it’s like to feel that I would never be able to have a normal life. I’ve known what it’s like to be trapped by fear. Fear that my parents wouldn’t accept me. Fear that my friends would no longer be my friends. Fear that I would never be able to enjoy the life that I wanted. A life with a family. A life with a partner. A life with kids of my own….the most basic things that the majority of people so quickly take for granted.

Our challenges in life have the tendency to divide us. Someone is dealing with cancer. Someone is struggling with the death of their child. Someone is attempting to overcome the emotional abuse of a parent. Someone has just been diagnosed with a mental disorder. Or a thousand other circumstances that all make us feel like we are unique in our struggle. And while each of us does experience these things in our own way, there’s a time when we must realize that our struggle absolutely unifies us. No being on the face of this earth exists without difficulty. And here we can begin to find a sense of community. Of connectedness. Of comfort in knowing that whether we are brown, black, man, old, young, woman, white, christian, or buddhist… we all encounter pain and difficulty. The longer we keep our stories of struggle to ourselves, the longer we must carry their burden, and the longer we let them have power in our lives. In sharing our stories, we lighten our load, and when we refuse to feel shameful about them, we can allow them to positively affect us. As we come around to the idea of this sort of "community," we begin not just to discover our truth, but to forge it--to create it as we make meaning out of difficulty. With a deep opening of our hearts we courageously step toward vulnerability, and we can let that vulnerability empower us to take what is difficult, turn it around, and use it to create a sense of humanity. 

That isn't to say vulnerability is easy. To be vulnerable is to admit that we don’t have it all right. To be vulnerable is to admit that we have been hurt, and that we can still be hurt in the future—to admit that we have hurt others. It is to be unashamed of our emotions. To be vulnerable is to admit we’ve made mistakes. It is to open ourselves at the deepest level, stand there in front of someone in the full rawness of our life experience, and have no apologies about it. So while vulnerability is one of the scariest leaps one can take, it gives us the ability to look at another human being and know that they, too, have known pain. It allows us to look at one another and say “It’s ok. I’ve been there, too.” 

This experience can truly transform us as people. It transforms our relationships and our outlook on life. It lets us turn things upside down so we can stop saying “I am here DESPITE my struggles” and instead say “I am here BECAUSE of them.” With that, we take the first steps on a long journey toward the discovery of our identities, and we realize it isn't the ease of life but the misfortunes that create the power of our stories. It is within our story of struggle that we find community; from this sense of community we can look for the meaning in difficulty, and I, for one, am thankful for my difficulty. I hope you are, too. 

In health,

Sean