Supporting Positive Mental Health in Your Child

Supporting Positive Mental Health in Your Child

Recent data released from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) shows that one in four high school students are feeling persistently sad and hopeless, and nearly one third are struggling with poor mental health.

As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I am seeing an increase in mental health issues like depression and anxiety in youth of all ages. My goal is to share information and resources to help parents and their children. This can help families identify proactive measures and know when to seek help.

5 Ways You Can Promote Good Mental Health

It’s important for parents, caregivers and our youth to know there is hope, there is help, and there absolutely can be healing. Here’s what you can do to encourage healthy mental wellbeing.

Focus on Lifestyle

Positive lifestyle practices are incredibly important in development and general health of our youth. Good physical health promotes good mental health and vice versa. Encouraging good sleep habits, exercise and well-balanced meals is a great way to promote physical and mental wellbeing.

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise

During periods of anxiety or panic, this strategy can help your mind focus in the present. This is especially helpful when your mind may be bouncing from thought to thought. To do this exercise, focus on:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can touch
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

Encourage the Arts

Listening to music, creating crafts, drawing, coloring and painting are positive for our mental health.

Practice Relaxation & Meditation

Relaxation techniques and meditation can make teens feel calmer, reduce stress and build self-awareness. By creating time for self-reflection and self care, these practices can help people struggling with mental health manage their feelings.

4-7-8 Breathing Technique

This creates calmness by regulating your heartbeat and breathing. Here’s how you do it:

  • Close your mouth, inhale through nose, counting to 4
  • Hold breath, counting to 7
  • Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, counting to 8
  • Repeat process three more times

Know Your Child & Look For Changes

Symptoms of depression and anxiety can vary from person to person and even day to day, so how do we distinguish “normal development” from potential mental health concerns? The first step is to know your child well enough to understand what their “baseline” is. This will give you a comparative perspective when trying to discern if there is a reason to be concerned. Things to look for include:

  • Decline in grades
  • Change in sleep habits, eating habits or friend groups
  • Increase in oppositional behaviors
  • Concern of substance use
  • Changes in level of isolation or withdrawal tendencies

Talk With Your Teen

Communication is the best way to strengthen the trust and connectedness between you and your child. As you open the lines of communication with your teen:

  • Show support
  • Be compassionate
  • Seek to understand
  • Avoid questioning or suggesting that your child’s concern could be a personality flaw or character trait issue
  • If your child is unwilling to open up to you, offer them help in finding a trusted person to share their struggles with instead
  • Be prepared to talk about possible next steps, which may or may not include treatment

Sometimes it can be had to start a conversation. You might be afraid of saying the wrong thing or just having trouble getting more than a one-word response. If you find yourself in this situation, here is a suggestion to open the conversation:

  • “I’ve noticed you haven’t seemed like yourself lately. How can I help?”
  • “I care about you and am here to listen. Do you want to talk about what’s going on?”

When to Seek Help

If you find yourself in a situation where communication and other resources you try are not effective, your child may benefit from a mental health evaluation and treatment. Treatment may include counseling sessions, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medication, coping strategies and more. The most important aspect is that the plan be specific to your child and their needs.

If you are concerned about suicidal thoughts, it’s okay to ask if they are having these thoughts. Asking the question doesn’t give someone those thoughts. Rather, it gives them an opening to express feelings they may be having.

If you have an immediate concern for your child’s safety, do not leave them alone. Warning signs indicating an immediate concern include:

  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Thinking about or threatening self-harm or suicide
  • Seeking access to means of suicide, such as gathering pills or weapons
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless or trapped

In these situations, it’s best to call 988, a suicide prevention lifeline, and lock up any potentially lethal objects. Children who are actively trying to harm themselves should be taken to the closest emergency room. Police and rescue personnel can assist with this if they are unwilling.

Additional Resources

At Bryan Health, we have a wide array of resources available to you. Visit our teen resources website to learn about self-confidence tools, suicide prevention, community resources, substance abuse, finding a mental health provider and more!

Learn more about Bryan Psychiatry services and available resources, or take an online screening today.

Matt Wittry, DO

Matt Wittry, DO

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Bryan Psychiatry

As a child and adolescent psychiatrist, Dr. Wittry’s focus is working with youth and their families to help create positive change. The most important part of this process is building relationships and trust with you. This includes actively listening to you and your child and knowing the right questions to ask to fully understand and evaluate areas of concern. Through this evaluation, a diagnosis is made. Then, you will work together with Matt to develop a treatment plan to meet the unique needs of your child and family.

Dr. Wittry’s approach includes working with your child and you as the parent. He will also include any other individuals you feel would be helpful such as teachers, caregivers, etc. Depending on the child and situation, he will meet with you as a group and also with the parents and child individually.

His specialty is working with children and teens, and their families, to help in areas such as:

  • Depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder
  • Anger management/defiant, oppositional behaviors
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum and intellectual/developmental concerns
  • Abuse and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavior and school problems
  • Pattern of mood swings
  • Significant life changes and relationship difficulties

Treatment involves evidence-based care and a holistic approach. This may include a combination of medication management, coordination of care with other therapies, and learning and developing new skills.

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Exercise Is the Best Way to Manage Arthritis Pain

Exercise Is the Best Way to Manage Arthritis Pain

Your knees, hips or back are stiff and sore and sometimes hurt with certain movements, so why would you want to strength train or do other types of exercise? Simple: Exercise is crucial for people with arthritis of all kinds because it:

  • Increases strength and range of motion
  • Reduces join pain
  • Helps to combat fatigue
  • Keeps your muscles and surrounding tissue strong to support your bones
  • Helps with weight management, which puts less stress on your joints
  • Improves balance
  • Improves sleep
  • Eases depression

If you don’t exercise, your supporting muscles weaken, creating more stress on your joints. Alternatively, when you move more throughout the day, you increase the lubrication in your joints so everything is easier to do!

Useful Exercise Tips to Get the Relief You Need

  • Start slowly and warm up with some range of motion exercises for your joints.
  • Stay within a pain-free range of motion and progress as your strength increases.
  • Use a supportive sleeve or elastic wrap around your affected joint to keep swelling down and make exercise more comfortable.
  • Plan light, moderate and heavier exercise days throughout the week to help with recovery and progression.
  • Wear proper footwear with support and cushion when doing weight-bearing exercises.
  • Strength train two times a week with an exercise for every major muscle group. Just don’t do this two days in a row. Give your body a recovery day.
  • Keep impact activities low.
  • Train at a time of day when your symptoms are better.
  • Use heat prior to exercise and ice afterwards.
  • Progress slowly in intensity and/or duration. This is key!

It is very common to have muscle soreness as you adapt to the exercise, but you should not experience sharp pain. If you have a flare up, take a rest day, do an activity that is low impact or shorten your duration and/or intensity.

Benefits of Exercise for Arthritis

Exercise is one of the best treatments for arthritis. Starting with light cardiovascular activity and easing into strength training will help reduce inflammation that causes pain. You may think exercise will aggravate your joint pain, but that is not the case. It is the lack of exercise that can make your joints even more stiff and painful.

For best results, attend a class specific for arthritis. A warm water class can be a great way to start. Ideally, find a qualified trainer to create a program for your specific needs.

Personalized Arthritis Care at Bryan LifePointe

Our certified exercise professionals will create a training and exercise program that can help you transition into regular physical activity. Making activity a routine in your lifestyle is the best way to manage arthritis. We can help you create a program that is specialized to you. Below are services specific to arthritis plus much more.

To learn more about Bryan LifePointe services and how we can help with your arthritis pain, give our team a call at 402-481-6300 or visit our office in Lincoln today!

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy Kugler, MS, Bryan LifePointe

Cindy is a certified exercise physiologist and certified strength and conditioning coach.

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How to Be Your Own Best Advocate at a Doctor’s Appointment

How to Be Your Own Best Advocate at a Doctor’s Appointment

Have you ever gone to your doctor’s office and thought, “I have several questions I want to ask” and then gone home and realized you forgot to ask them? This happens to many people for multiple reasons. You may feel anxious during your appointment. You may feel uncomfortable asking a question. Or you may feel overwhelmed, answering so many questions about your health that you may simply forget the questions you wanted to ask. Whatever your reason is, here is what you can do to better self-advocate at your next appointment.

Prepare to Answer Basic Questions First

Knowing what to expect up front can help alleviate some anxieties. So, this is the basic process to expect during a doctor’s visit.

  1. In today’s world, you’ll start with COVID-19 questions, insurance information, emergency contacts and verifying your address.
  2. You’ll go to the scale. This part always makes me nervous because I don’t want to look.
  3. Your vitals are taken—blood pressure, temperature and pulse.
  4. You’ll review your medications and how you take them. It’s very important that you also share information on vitamins, natural supplements and any over-the-counter items you take. This helps your doctor make sure nothing interacts.

It’s a lot to go through, and all of this can occur before you get to the reason for your visit. While it may feel overwhelming now, there are steps you can take to be more confident and get the most out of your visit.

You & Your Doctor Are a Team

You both have a common goal—to take care of your health. To achieve that goal, you have to work together. This starts with being honest and sharing information with your healthcare provider. By being forthcoming, it helps them examine, diagnose and treat the problem. If you feel too uncomfortable sharing information, the doctor can’t do their job, let alone offer you optimal care.

Here’s what to do to avoid “losing your voice” when the white coat walks into the room:

  1. Prepare a list of questions before your visit. Write them down and bring that list with you to the doctor’s office. Having that list to reference will make sure you get all of your questions answered.
  2. Bring a friend or family member with you if you know you’re going to be overwhelmed. They can help you listen and ask the questions. Having a support person with you can be very comforting during a doctor’s visit.
  3. Be patient while the receptionist and nurse ask you questions. Your answers will be passed along to the doctor. This information also helps correctly pay for your bill so you don’t have to worry about it later.
  4. Write down the information you receive during the appointment. You can bring a notepad or use the notes app on your phone. Taking notes will help you remember everything that was said during the visit, including instructions for a treatment plan.
  5. Call back or send a message through your patient portal if you have questions after your visit. We want you to follow your care plan, so we’re happy to clear up any confusion. You can only follow our recommendations if you fully understand what we suggested.

These tips will help to make you feel empowered the next time you step into a doctor’s office. After all, you are your best advocate! If you or someone you know could benefit from a professional consultation, take our free, confidential mental health screening online from the comfort of your home today.

Stacy Waldron, PhD

Stacy Waldron, PhD

Licensed Psychologist, Bryan Medical Center Counseling Center

Dr. Stacy Waldron provides treatment for individuals of all ages across the lifespan and specializes with adolescents and adults. She offers individual and family therapy to help clients with stress, anxiety, mood disorders, life transitions and chronic pain. This includes helping individuals with stress management, assertiveness training, communication and problem solving skills as well as relaxation training. She also provides psychological assessments that include bariatric surgery evaluations, spine surgery, and spinal cord stimulator evaluations.

Waldron earned her doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She serves on the Board of Psychology for the State of Nebraska, the Board of Directors for the Midwest Pain Society, and the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

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What’s Weighing Heavy on Your Heart? How Weight Impacts Your Heart Health

What’s Weighing Heavy on Your Heart? How Weight Impacts Your Heart Health

Obesity in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate and is a primary cause of our country’s current health crisis. More than 40% of Americans are now obese, rising from 23% in 1990. Many times the terms “overweight” and “obese” seem interchangeable. However, the CDC has specific definitions for each depending on a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI):

  • Overweight = BMI of 25.0 to < 30
  • Obese = BMI of 30.0 or higher

About three out of four adults in America are presently overweight, and the trend is only expected to increase. Obesity promotes buildup of cholesterol in your arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. It also gives way to high blood pressure, sleep apnea, depression, poor physical health and diabetes. As a heart doctor, the majority of diseases that I treat every day are partially due to obesity.

3 Steps to a Healthy Weight and Happy Heart

  1. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI): Use this BMI Calculator. It’s a quick and easy way to assess if your weight could cause health issues. It assesses your weight-to-height ratio. A healthy BMI is less than 25.
  2. Measure your waist circumference: This is measured just above your hip bones after exhaling. A waist circumference measuring over 35 inches for women or over 40 inches for men places a person at a higher risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  3. Increase exercise and reduce calorie intake: Increasing exercise and reducing calorie intake are great ways to lose weight. In general, we recommend the Mediterranean Diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans. It includes fish, poultry and dairy products with only limited red meat. This diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, strokes and several cancers.

Losing weight can be difficult for many. If you find yourself in need of a healthy change and are discouraged by the lack of results you’re seeing, know that you’re not alone. Bryan Health is here to support you along your journey.

Resources Available to Take Control of Your Weight

Bryan Health offers a multitude of resources and support when it comes to weight loss. Our team of professionals will provide education and lifestyle changes to embrace healthy eating habits, increase activity and promote positive behavior patterns you can live with for the rest of your life. We’re here to assist you in exploring which weight loss option is right for you.

Online Risk Assessment

A great first step towards a healthy weight is to take Bryan’s free WeightAware Risk Assessment. This assessment will only take seven minutes to complete, and at the end, you will receive personalized, confidential information that will help you:

  • Learn your current health status
  • Assess and identify your potential risk for conditions impacted by weight
  • Identify medical and lifestyle factors to reduce your risk of developing certain health conditions
  • Take action to reduce your level of risk through the many services available at Bryan Health

Bryan Bariatric Services

Bryan Health offers weight loss surgery, along with the education and support for your success. Call us at 402-481-5454 to schedule a consultation today.

Bryan LifePointe

Bryan LifePointe offers many services to help you on your weight loss journey. Wellness Revolution, our newest program, provides exercise, nutrition and health coaching for your overall success. Learn more at Wellness Revolution by calling 402-481-6300.

Joseph Kummer, MD, FACC

Joseph Kummer, MD, FACC

Bryan Heart Cardiologist

Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Dr. Joseph Kummer attended Creighton Prep High School and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. After subsequent training in Chicago and Detroit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Henry Ford Hospital, Kummer became a diagnostic cardiologist at Bryan Heart. He specializes in heart catheterizations to find blockages in arteries and cardiovascular clinical work like treating hospital patients for rhythm disorders, heart failure, chest pain, and more. Kummer finds his work deeply rewarding because he can help people resolve their problems with the best quality cardiology care in Nebraska.

Learn More About Joseph Kummer, MD, FACC

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When Should You Start Screening for Colon Cancer? 50? 45? Never?!

When Should You Start Screening for Colon Cancer? 50? 45? Never?!

When Should You Start Screening for Colon Cancer? 50? 45? Never?!

If you answered 45 – good for you! Most people don’t realize that the recommended age by the American Cancer Society (ACS) to begin these screenings has been lowered from 50 to 45—and sooner if you have an increased risk or family history.

Here are some other questions you may have:

  • Why was the age to start screening changed from 50 to 45? Studies show colorectal cancer among people younger than 50 is on the rise. The ACS determined that screening starting at age 45 could help save more lives.
  • Why is screening important? The earlier cancer is found, the more treatable it is. A significant number of people with colon cancer, especially early in their disease, don’t have symptoms. One screening method, a colonoscopy, not only detects cancer, but can prevent it by removing precancerous growths before they become cancer.
  • How could this benefit me? If found early, colon cancer can be easier to treat. But colon cancer can also be prevented through screening. That means you don’t have to undergo treatment to beat it; you can prevent it from happening and go on living your life.

If you answered never – you’re probably in good company because many people don’t want to think about this or take the time to do it. But I refer you to the above facts and hope you’ll reconsider your answer.

As an oncology (cancer) nurse navigator and mother of three, I understand that life gets busy and our own wellness is easy to put off for a later time! Whether we are busy with work, carting kids to activities, attending social events or our ongoing daily to-do lists, the one thing we all have in common is the need to keep ourselves and our families healthy and safe.

This can start with regular checkups with our doctors, which should include screening for colorectal cancer if you are 45 or older, and sooner if you have a family history of colon cancer.

Answers to Common Colon Cancer/Colonoscopy Questions & Misperceptions

The following information is provided by David Newton, MD, a gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology Specialties, through a recent podcast. We encourage you to listen to the entire 10-minute podcast to get more detailed information.

How can you screen for colon cancer?
There are two ways to do this:

  • A sensitive test that looks for signs of cancer in a person’s stool (a stool-based test)
  • An exam that looks at the colon and rectum (a visual exam)

What is the benefit of a colonoscopy (a type of visual exam)?
A colonoscopy is the single most important tool we have for the detection of polyps or tumors. During a colonoscopy, a gastroenterologist screens your colon looking for any growths or polyps. If a polyp is found early, it can be removed before it has a chance to become cancerous.

What about the home-based stool kits; how do they work and are they effective at detecting cancer?
These tests can detect if cancer is present. FIT DNA testing is widely available now, and studies show they will catch 93% of cancers, which is a good number. But when looking at it closer, the test missed one in 13 colon cancers, and about 60% of larger precancerous polyps in the right colon, which we know through studies contributes to 20-30% of overall cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

One of the big differences between these tests and a colonoscopy is that with a colonoscopy, you can not only detect cancer but prevent it by removing precancerous growths.

Many people consider a home test (FIT or FIT DNA test) to avoid a colonoscopy. However, if the home test is positive, the next step is a colonoscopy.

Does insurance cover colon cancer screening?
Colon cancer screening is covered at 100% in Affordable Care Act compliant health plans.

  • If you choose a colonoscopy for screening, it is covered at 100%.
  • If you first choose a FIT or FIT DNA test, that test is covered under your screening benefit. But, if the home test is positive, you will then need a colonoscopy and that colonoscopy would be considered diagnostic and would not be covered 100% by the insurance carrier. This would be subject to both co-pay and deductibles toward the maximum out-of-pocket amount.

Note: At this time insurers are not required to (and some might not) cover the cost of colorectal cancer screening before age 50.

What about the ‘prep’ you have to do for a colonoscopy?
Times have changed! You no longer have to drink a gallon of salty water. There are many small volume prep products on the market. The one we use is only about 25 ounces of a solution that you mix with the clear liquid of your choice. In fact, many of our patients are amazed at how easy it is. So, don’t let misconceptions about what the prep was like in the past affect your future. The preps now are much easier and shouldn’t discourage you from getting a colonoscopy.

You Have the Power to Prevent Colon Cancer

Screening is a way to help find colorectal cancer early or help prevent it altogether. Being an oncology nurse navigator, I have walked alongside many patients during their journeys with colorectal cancer and feel passionate about this topic.

I hope you will go home, talk with your family and add regular screenings to your calendar—so we can stay strong and healthy for ourselves and families.

To learn more, visit the American Cancer Society.

Breanna Nedved, RN

Breanna Nedved, RN

Breanna Nedved, RN, is an oncology nurse navigator at Bryan Medical Center. This is a specially trained nurse who helps patients and their families through each step of cancer treatment.

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Beating the Winter Blues

Beating the Winter Blues

I’ll admit, winter has never been my favorite season. I would gladly trade cold weather, less sunlight and getting sick more often for sunny days at the beach. The “winter blues” is a common term used to describe the increased sadness, lower energy and reduced interest in enjoyable activities many people feel during the winter months. For many people, these symptoms are minor and manageable with a few lifestyle changes, but for others, they become more intense and may develop into seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. Most often, symptoms are prominent in winter months but can follow other patterns as well. Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Less interest in activities
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Being more fidgety and restless or more slowed down than usual
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced ability to think or concentrate
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation

One or several of these symptoms may occur for short periods of time. If you notice these symptoms becoming more persistent and affecting your relationships, work or school activities, you will want to actively take steps to manage them.

Ways to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder

The cold weather and shorter days of winter are inevitable. The effects of seasonal affective disorder do not have to be. Take steps today to manage symptoms and allow yourself to thrive during all seasons of the year.

Get Moving

Physical exercise is one of the best ways to tackle depressive symptoms. It releases endorphins, improves physical health and can provide a sense of accomplishment.

Reach for Healthy Foods

Foods that are high in whole grains, protein and healthy fats provide energy and boost your mood. Sometimes this can be challenging. Some indulgence is okay (maybe even needed), but allowing large portions or high-sugar foods to become the basis of your diet will only worsen symptoms of SAD.

Stay Connected

When depression sets in, reaching out to friends and family can be daunting. Ironically, it is also one of the best ways to improve your symptoms. Having lunch with a friend, texting a family member or joining a book club are all ways to stay connected when sunlight and outdoor activities may be limited.

Try Bright Light Therapy (BLT)

BLT involves sitting in front of a light box for 30-60 minutes a day to mimic exposure to sunlight. Light boxes can be found for as little as $70 and do not require any special training to use.

Consider Professional Help

Both medication and mental health therapy have been shown to be effective at reducing the intensity of SAD symptoms.

Be Proactive

Because SAD follows a regular pattern, it is easier to anticipate the onset of symptoms than it is for other types of depression. While this pattern may not be exact, beginning these management strategies during the months leading up to the typical onset of symptoms will reduce the intensity and distress caused by symptoms.

Take an Online Screening

If you or someone you care about are concerned about Seasonal Affective Disorder or other mental health conditions, take our online screening now. Many screenings are available. All screenings are confidential and provide information to help you determine your next steps.

Nate Christensen, MS, LIMHP

Nate Christensen, MS, LIMHP

Mental Health Therapist, Bryan Counseling Center

Nate Christensen (he/him) provides therapy to adults with a wide variety of presenting concerns. He has experience working with individuals diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and personality disorders utilizing Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy, and solution-focused techniques. Nate earned his master’s of counseling degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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Grieving During the Holidays

Grieving During the Holidays

The grief bubbles up unbidden. I never know when or where it will surface, but inevitably it comes when I least want it. My mom contracted COVID-19 six months ago. She nearly died of complications from the virus. The anticipatory grief I experienced was different from the residual grief I feel now — grief over the many losses that came as a result of Mom’s sudden change in health.

As a hospital chaplain, I regularly interact with patients, family members, and staff who are experiencing dying, death, and grief. The process of grieving often strips away the surface layers of a person’s life, revealing new depth and meaning, as well as flaws. And most people don’t like that last bit.

Giving Ourselves Grace

We struggle with imperfection, just like we struggle with loss and injustice and the profound sense of “missing” that grief brings. I think the holidays often highlight those feelings. We want to feel a thrill of hope and joyful anticipation of good to come. Instead, we might be wondering if we are biologically related to the Grinch. The simple answer? No, we are just grieving.

I have found it helpful to be honest with myself about loss this year. Instead of “shoulding” on myself — thinking I should feel this or that emotion, then working to replace what I really feel with said emotion — I take a step back from the emotion. I name it for what it is and then ask myself, “What is this connected to in your life?” Often, the source was a memory that needed to be acknowledged before I could accept the loss and let go of the grief.

Experiencing New Joy

Letting go of grief doesn’t mean getting over the loss. Rather, thinking about the loss no longer causes pain. There is now room for new experiences and the making of happy memories even while remembering the past. Through the years, people have shared the following strategies that have helped them balance the two:

  • Remember and acknowledge your loved one in meaningful ways.
  • Take good care of yourself by eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, getting moderate exercise and choosing activities that nourish your soul.
  • Limit social gatherings to what brings you joy and helps lift your spirits.
  • Limit the extraneous stuff — decorations, cards, gifts, shopping — and delegate tasks that seem overwhelming or too emotional. Family and friends are often eager to help with these things.
  • Start a new tradition or new variation on an old tradition. For instance, if you always opened presents after church on Christmas Eve, try having a family brunch and opening presents on Christmas morning.

Connecting with Others

Every person’s experience of grief is different. Sometimes, it can feel as though grief has isolated us from the support of our family, friends or faith community. If you or someone you care about is struggling with grief and loss, resources are available to help you reconnect. Please reach out.

Grief and Loss Resources

Here are a few resources you may want to consider:

Trisha Wiscombe

Trisha Wiscombe

Chaplain, Bryan Pastoral Care

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Foolish Mistakes, Calculated Risks and Taking a Leap of Faith

Foolish Mistakes, Calculated Risks and Taking a Leap of Faith

Growing up, I made my share of foolish mistakes.

As a kid, I remember being on a skateboard and holding on to a rope tied to a bike that a friend was riding. We got going pretty fast, and then I fell face forward on the pavement. My face was OK, but I skinned up my right wrist pretty badly, and still have the noticeable scar to prove it.

Another time, I climbed a backyard tree and jumped from one branch to another, planning to grab it with both hands. I grabbed it, lost my grip and landed flat on my back – falling about 10 feet. It knocked the wind out of me enough that my mom took me to the ER. A few months later, I did it again – the same stunt – causing a second trip to the hospital.

I could go on; as I’m sure we all can when we look back on our life. These are just a few lighter examples of foolish behavior to illustrate how sometimes we get lucky (or not) in situations where the outcome could have been much worse.

Calculated Risks

Calculated risks are different. They involve decisions we make to try something new or novel. It is putting concerted energy towards something that will improve our life satisfaction – a conscious decision to improve ourselves through self-exploration, learning, or perfecting a skill or craft, etc.

Calculated risks aren’t foolish but the hoped-for outcomes aren’t guaranteed. My favorite example is going back to school. I once worked at a community college where one of my roles was to help displaced workers find new jobs or careers. It was scary and challenging for them; often they were middle-aged and had only known one job.

With encouragement, some went back to school and pursued a completely new and often quite challenging career. By taking a calculated risk, they discovered meaningful work that was satisfying personally, professionally and financially. Some commented that in retrospect they had never been happier. Losing their employment led them to pursue more meaningful work for perhaps the first time in their lives.

Taking a Leap of Faith

Perhaps it’s time for you to take a calculated risk. Maybe your life could be enriched by learning a second language, trying out for a community theater production, ending a dismal relationship, or having the courage to be vulnerable and start a new relationship.

It can be scary to think about doing something new, but it can also be rewarding. If you’re thinking about it, take the next step. Talk to a friend, do some research or consider visiting with a counselor to help sort things out. Taking that leap of faith just might be the best thing you do in life.

How are you feeling?

If you’re feeling anxious, concerned or stressed about your current life situation, take this confidential online screening to help determine the next steps.

Take Online Screening Now

Tom Cardwell, PhD

Tom Cardwell, PhD

Licensed Psychologist, Bryan Counseling Center

Dr. Tom Cardwell provides treatment for people of all ages. He offers individual and family therapy to help with stress, anxiety, mood and adjustment disorders. Dr. Cardwell has expertise in gerontology and the assessment and treatment of substance abuse and addictions. He enjoys helping people work through life transitions of all kinds. He is interested in helping people improve their lives by learning to be as mentally and physically healthy as possible at every age.

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Mindful Eating vs. Emotional Eating: 6 Steps for Success

Mindful Eating vs. Emotional Eating: 6 Steps for Success

What is emotional eating? Emotional eating is generally when we eat as a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. When we work to reduce emotional eating, it is important to be aware of behaviors we can change to allow our food to be more useful to our bodies and to gain emotional control over food.

Here are six pointers that I have found effective in my practice as a clinical psychologist at Bryan Counseling Center.

1. Slow Down so Your Body and Brain can Communicate

Eating more slowly is one of the best ways you can get your mind and body to communicate what is really needed for nutrition. The amount of time it takes your brain to register that your stomach is full is about 20 minutes. This is why we often unconsciously overeat. Eating more slowly allows enough time to receive the signal from your brain that you are full. This in turn helps us eat the right amount of food. Simple ways to slow down might include many of your grandmother’s manners like sitting down to eat, chewing each bite 25 times (or more) and setting down your fork between bites.

2. Know Your Body’s Personal Hunger Signals

Are you responding to an emotional want or responding to your body’s needs? Often we listen first to our minds, but like many mindfulness practices, we might discover more wisdom by tuning into our bodies first. Rather than just eating when we get emotional signals, which may be different for each of us – stress, sadness, frustration, loneliness, boredom – try to listen to your body. Is your stomach growling, your energy low or are you feeling lightheaded? Too often, we eat when our mind tells us to, rather than our bodies. True mindful eating is listening deeply to our body’s signals for hunger. Ask yourself: What are your body’s hunger signals, and what are your emotional hunger triggers?

3. Cultivate a Mindful Kitchen

Do you eat alone and randomly or do you eat with others or at set times? Another way that we eat mindlessly is by wandering around looking through cabinets and eating at random times and places rather than thinking proactively about our meals and snacks. This prevents us from developing healthy environmental cues about what and how much to eat, and wires our brains with new cues for eating that are not always ideal. (For example, do you really want to create a habit of eating every time you get in the car?)

Sure, we all snack from time to time, but eating at consistent times and places can boost both your mind and body’s health, not to mention greatly helping your mood and sleep schedule. Yes, that means sitting down (at a table!), putting food on a plate or bowl, not eating it out of the container and using actual utensils. It also helps to eat with others if that is possible – not only are you sharing and getting some healthy connection, but you will also slow down and enjoy the food and conversation more.

Having a mindful kitchen means organizing and caring for your kitchen space so it encourages healthy eating and nourishing gatherings. Consider what you bring into your kitchen and where you put things away. Are healthy foods handy? What kinds of foods are in sight? When food is around, we eat it.

You don’t have to plan your food down to each bite, and it’s important to be flexible, especially on special occasions, but just be aware of the fact that you might be changing your eating habits at different times of the year or for different occasions. And when you do plan ahead, you are more likely to eat the amount your body needs at that moment rather than undereating and indulging later, or overeating and regretting it later.

4. Understand Your Motivations

Eating foods that are emotionally comforting vs. eating foods that are nutritionally healthy is a tricky balance. Ideally, we can find nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting. When we slow down and think about the healthy foods in our mouths we often enjoy them more than the story we want to tell ourselves about healthy food.

As we practice eating healthier and a greater variety of foods, we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods, and more inclined to actually enjoy healthy foods. Ultimately we can find many foods mentally and physically satisfying as opposed to just a few.

5. Connect More Deeply with Your Food

Outside of hunter-gatherers or sustenance farmers, most of us have become disconnected from our food in recent years. Many of us don’t even consider where a meal comes from beyond the supermarket packaging. This is a loss because eating offers an incredible opportunity to connect us more deeply to the natural world, the elements and to each other.

When you pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal on your plate: from the loved ones (and yourself) who prepared it, to those who stocked the shelves, to those who planted and harvested the raw ingredients, to those who supported them, it is hard to not feel both grateful and interconnected. Be mindful of the water, soil and other elements that were part of its creation as you sit down to eat whatever you are eating. You can reflect on the cultural traditions that brought you this food and the recipes generously shared by friends or brought from a distant place and time to be handed down in the family.

As you consider everything that went into the meal, it becomes effortless to experience and express gratitude to all of the people who gave their time and effort, the elements of the universe that contributed their share, our friends or ancestors who shared recipes, and even the beings who may have given their lives to a part of creating this meal. With just a little more mindfulness like this, we may begin to make wiser choices about sustainability and health in our food, not just for us but for the whole planet.

6. Attend to your Plate

Multitasking and eating is a recipe for not being able to listen deeply to our body’s needs and wants. We’ve all had the experience of going to the movies with our bag full of popcorn, and before the coming attractions are over, we are asking who ate all of our popcorn. When we are distracted, it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about food and other needs. With your next meal, try single-tasking and just eating, with no screens or distractions besides enjoying the company you are sharing a meal and conversation with, even if it’s just your own.

While formal mindful eating practices may be what we think of when we look back on a mindfulness course or retreat we attended, the reality is that we do live – and eat – in the real world, which is a busy place. But we can take the insights gained from our formal practice – slowing down, listening to our bodies, doing one thing at a time, making even small rituals, and considering all that went into our meal on a more regular basis – and bring more informal mindfulness to our daily meals.

Finally, remind yourself each day that food is fuel for your body, not for comfort. By using mindful eating practices, you just may find the food you eat more enjoyable and nutritious.

Stacy Waldron, PhD

Stacy Waldron, PhD

Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Bryan Counseling Center

Dr. Stacy Waldron provides treatment for individuals of all ages across the lifespan and specializes with adolescents and adults. She offers individual and family therapy to help clients with stress , anxiety, mood disorders, life transitions and chronic pain. This includes helping individuals with stress management, assertiveness training, communication and problem solving skills as well as relaxation training.

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8 Great Reasons to Try Acupuncture

8 Great Reasons to Try Acupuncture

Over my 19 years of practicing complementary medicine, since earning a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine, the most common question I hear from people is:

“Will acupuncture treat my _________?” Fill in the blank.

About 90% of the time the answer is YES! Acupuncture is a 3,500+-year-old body of knowledge that has treated over a quarter of the world’s population as the main form of medicine. It is part of the ancient practice of Traditional Chinese medicine.

I’ve seen many people benefit from acupuncture for a vast array of conditions, too many to list in a short blog. So, I will give you the eight most common reasons people use acupuncture.

8 Most Common Reasons People Use Acupuncture

  1. Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: The research continues to increase on using acupuncture to treat chronic pain. In many cases, acupuncture can reduce the need for medications. NSAIDs and over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol, Advil, Motrin or Excedrin can be hard on your kidneys and liver. Opioids can cause unwanted side effects and dependence. Acupuncture can greatly reduce your need to use these pain medications.
  2. Migraine and Chronic Headaches: Surveys show that 1 in 6 Americans (1 in 5 women) suffer from migraine and chronic headaches. Western medicine relies almost exclusively on medications, either oral or injectable, to tackle this common problem. Chinese medicine has been used to treat headaches for thousands of years. The reason it works so well for headaches is because Chinese medicine or acupuncture is designed to treat the individual, not the symptoms. For example, two people with a migraine may be treated in two different ways depending on the person.
  3. Autoimmune and Chronic Illness: One of the best reasons to try acupuncture is for illnesses that may be chronic and persistent, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune illnesses. It’s also very effective for neurological diseases like Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, etc. Acupuncture has been shown to relieve symptoms, decrease the need for medications and slow the progression of the disease.
  4. Women’s Health: There is a huge body of knowledge in Chinese medicine related to women’s health issues. Many ancient texts are written specifically for this branch of medicine. Acupuncture is wonderful for regulating menstruation, helping menstrual pain, assisting with fertility and ovulation, treating menopausal symptoms, PMS, endometriosis and more.
  5. Anxiety and Stress: It may seem counterintuitive that inserting needles in the body would bring about deep relaxation, but it does! In fact, it is common to fall into a peaceful sleep while the needles are inserted into your body. The scientific reason for this is that acupuncture releases brain chemicals called “endorphins” – the feel-good hormones that we get from meditation, exercise and falling in love. Chinese medicine takes into account that emotions can cause illness just as much as the environment. By balancing the body with acupuncture, the mood becomes level and the mind becomes at ease.
  6. Addiction, Smoking Cessation and Weight Loss: Much like anxiety and stress-related problems, our entire society struggles with addictive behaviors of one kind or another. Acupuncture has a sub-category called auricular acupuncture, which is done by stimulating specific points on the ear. In New York City in 1978, a physician named Michael Smith discovered what is now called the NADA protocol, or sometimes called “battlefield acupuncture”. He used five points on the ear to effectively treat heroin and cocaine addictions. This method is now being used for PTSD, depression, addiction and more.
  7. Boosting Your Immune System: If you are susceptible to illness and seem to catch whatever bug is going around, consider boosting your immune system with ongoing acupuncture. Acupuncture is most effective when it is used to prevent illness. Unfortunately, many people only try acupuncture after everything else has failed. Although acupuncture can help in those instances, it can have a powerful effect on keeping you healthy!
  8. Cancer Care: Acupuncture can be beneficial to people living with cancer in many ways. It reduces nausea related to chemotherapy, aids in post-surgical pain and speeds up the healing process. It jump-starts the immune system, which is much needed after chemotherapy. It has been helpful in neuropathy, which can occur after chemotherapy. It is wonderful to aid to increase energy levels as well as sleep and digestion.

I hope this blog gives you an understanding of just some of the ways acupuncture can benefit you or those you love to improve your health and how you feel.

You can learn more about acupuncture, including what to expect at an appointment, how it feels, and more.

Vicki Black

Vicki Black

Massage Therapist, Bryan LifePointe Spa & MedSpa

Vicki has been in the people professions since her early 20s. After obtaining a BA in psychology and working in the mental health/social services field, Vicki changed paths and began studying complementary medicine. She obtained her massage therapy license at the Minnesota Center for Shiatsu and Massage in Minneapolis in 1997, and her master’s degree in Oriental Medicine at Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado in 2003. Vicki specializes in combining massage and acupuncture for powerful, result-oriented treatments. She provides thorough, individualized treatments for a variety of health issues and preventative care.

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How to Break a Sugar Habit

How to Break a Sugar Habit

Have you ever wondered why once you eat something sweet, you keep craving more sugar? It’s not a coincidence; sugar addiction is real! If sweets are getting in your way of achieving your health goals, you CAN break the habit!

In today’s society, we eat ‘dessert’ several times a day and don’t even bat an eye. What’s now considered normal, shouldn’t be. Think about it – sugary cereal for breakfast, donuts at the office, chocolate from the candy dish and ice cream after dinner. Has your day ever looked like that?

Treats can have their place in a healthy diet; that’s called balance. But treats need to be truly considered treats, meaning you only have them on rare occasions. It’s no secret that sugar is detrimental to our health in many ways, but it’s hard to say no!

Why is it so Hard to Avoid Sugar?

Humans are hardwired to enjoy sugar. It tastes good, sometimes makes us feel good, and it’s addictive. When we eat sugar, the pleasure centers in our brains release feel-good chemicals. This is the same effect that drugs, like cocaine, have on our brains. The brain likes that feeling, and wants more – which is why we crave more sugar.

How Can You Stop that Vicious Cycle?

  • Try totally eliminating all forms of sugar for two weeks. It will be difficult for the first few days, but once you’ve broken the cycle, the cravings should decrease.
  • Change your environment. If you’re constantly surrounded by sugary treats, how long can you really avoid them? If they’re not easily accessible, you’re less likely to eat them. That may mean throwing away the leftover Halloween candy. But honestly, do you really need it?
  • Limit the artificial sweeteners. Even though a sugar-free cookie might be a lighter alternative, it’s still a treat. Artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, are many times sweeter than sugar; so sometimes they only perpetuate the craving for sweets.
  • Find other ways to cope with stress. Many times on a stressful day, nothing sounds better than getting lost in a pint of ice cream. Finding other ways to manage stress will serve your emotional health and your waistline. Jot down some ideas of activities you could do instead such as going for a walk, playing with your pet, calling a friend or listening to music.

You CAN do it, and You’ll Feel Better

I encourage you to look for ways to reduce the amount of sugar you eat to improve your health and how you feel. As someone who loves sweets, I know it can seem daunting. If this is the case, have a friend or family member join you for support and encouragement.

Kinzy Krafka

Kinzy Krafka

Bryan Registered Dietitian

Bryan Registered Dietitian

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What Can I Do to Improve My Sleep?

What Can I Do to Improve My Sleep?

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

  • It’s Sunday afternoon and while sitting in my recliner watching television, I end up taking a nap over two hours. Why am I not able to fall asleep at my normal bedtime hour?
  • I had to work late and ended up eating later than normal, then watched TV and browsed on my iPhone. Why am I not able to fall asleep?
  • I had a cup of coffee or a caffeinated product during an evening meeting. Why am I not able to sleep?

It can be very frustrating when you can’t get sleep. And often, the more you worry about not being able to get to sleep the worse it is! Most people don’t realize that simple changes in your daily habits can have a big impact on your sleep.

3 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

Sleep is a vital human function just as important as the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Here are some helpful hints on how to improve your sleep:

Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule and Make Sleep a Priority

    • Find the amount of sleep you need to help you feel refreshed and energized during the day. Sleep needs vary for each person; there is no magic number.
    • Get up at the same time each day.
    • Avoid naps if possible. If you need a nap, limit the nap to less than an hour and no napping after 3 p.m. A nap longer than an hour or after 3 p.m. will alter your sleep-wake schedule and make it more difficult to fall asleep at night.

Develop Healthy Habits

    • Exercising regularly will help you sleep more soundly.
    • Eat regular meals and do not go to bed hungry. If you are hungry before you go to bed, eat something that is easily digestible, such as a piece of toast (carbohydrate).
    • Avoid excessive liquids before bedtime. This will reduce the number of times you wake up to go the bathroom at night.
    • Decrease caffeine products. Caffeinated beverages and foods (such as coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate) can make it difficult to fall asleep. Caffeine will affect your sleep for up to eight hours after consumption.
    • Avoid alcohol, especially before bedtime. Alcohol may help you fall asleep more easily but will wear off, causing you to wake up more.
    • Smoking may disturb sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant that could interfere with falling asleep.

Create the Right Sleep Environment

    • Make your bedroom comfortable and free from light and noise. Room-darkening shades, earplugs, and/or white noise may help.
    • Have a comfortable mattress and pillow.
    • Find a bedroom temperature that works for you. Cooler rooms often promote better sleep.
    • Stop using your electronic devices 30-60 minutes before your bedtime. The screens on the devices emit a blue light that suppresses the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced to regulate our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Think of it this way: lights off=melatonin on, lights on=melatonin off
    • Do not take your problems to bed. Plan time earlier in the day to work on problems or plan your next day activities.

Take Steps for a Good Night’s Sleep – ZZZs, please!

When you get a good night’s sleep, it’s amazing how much better you feel the next day. It also improves your overall health.

In some cases, there are health conditions that can prevent you from getting the sleep you need, even when you adjust your daily habits to improve your sleep. If this is the case for you, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine what might be impacting your sleep.

Cindy Dahl

Cindy Dahl

Registered Sleep Technologist

Registered Sleep Technologist, Bryan Center for Sleep Medicine

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