A New Year — A New You?

January is Mental Wellness Month, which is an excellent place to start.

The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” The clean slate that the new year offers makes it the perfect time to evaluate how we are holding up mentally and emotionally–and what we need to do in order to feel even better. 

 In the field of psychiatric treatment, research points to the effectiveness of mind-body practices to foster psychiatric recovery. Research-based evidence also indicates the value of a more integrated and comprehensive approach to psychosocial rehabilitation.

 At Ellenhorn, our wellness clinicians are an integral part of each client’s PACT team and work hard to create a personalized program that integrates all the factors that influence health and wellness, whether mind, body, spirit or community.

 Some clients are ready, able and willing to dive into integrative wellness practices–and some are not. Since each client’s lifestyle, nutrition and resiliency affects their ability to partner with their team in clarifying and working toward their psychosocial goals, we meet each client where they are, assess their ability, find their best starting points and build from there. 

  Below are some tips from Ellenhorn’s wellness team on ways to boost your mental wellness this January—and far beyond. 

Mindfulness: Noticing the five senses can be powerful, so get out those aromatherapy oils, some incense or maybe a candle–and take a nice deep breath. Buy yourself some flowers. Take time to eat mindfully by focusing on what tastes you are experiencing and how it actually feels to nourish your body. Get cozy under a soft blanket–or head outside to take a walk and feel the sun on your skin, even on the cold days. Put on some music, or simply be still–what sounds do you notice most?  

Hydration: Drink that water! Yes, it can be hard to drink when it’s so cold out, but in the dry winter it is just as important to stay hydrated as it is in summer. For a warm alternative, add some lemon and honey to some warm water or consider a cup of herbal tea.  

Movement: When you’re feeling down, lounging around and doing nothing might feel like the preferable option, but inactivity can actually increase negative emotions. Physical activity, on the other hand, engages both your brain and body, and can increase the feel-good chemicals in your brain. The idea of physical activity might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t always need to push yourself to get in a long run or head to the gym to lift weights. It can be as simple as doing some light stretching, going for a walk around the block or even cleaning your home.

Spirituality: Remember to look for opportunities to develop your spiritual well-being in every-day life. Taking time in the morning (or even before bed) to breathe deeply (in and out, in and out) for even a few minutes will help you build a sense of balance in both body and spirit–and allow time for self-reflection. Consider which rituals ground you, what you do to make yourself laugh, what your dreams are like lately or the ways you enjoy moving your body–

thinking of spirituality can mean many things! 

Meditation: Meditation does not necessarily have to be a sedentary activity. Mix it up by taking a quiet walk (no talking) and try to use all five senses to engage with the world around you. Meditate without a guide, and try some music playlists that you’ve never tried before. (Consider, perhaps, tunes by Alucidnation, Benn Jordan or Shpongle.) Set the stage with an invocation of your choice, i.e., clear the energy by lighting sage or incense or consider using an eye mask, pillow and/or blanket. Stretch or shake out any tension before meditation begins in order to encourage fluidity in your mind. Set an intention or pick a mantra to use as an anchor.

If you find yourself feeling more stressed than relieved by your chosen self-care activities, don’t beat yourself up. Mental wellness is a long, nonlinear journey. Be patient with yourself, and don’t let a “failed” self-care attempt dissuade you from continuing to prioritize your mental wellness–even if that means trying multiple self-care activities in order to find what works best for you. 

Remember: If you are struggling with a substance-use disorder, addiction or mental-health disorder, simply improving your overall mental wellness is not always enough, and it may be a good idea to seek treatment.

 Ellenhorn’s multifaceted assessment approach to treatment provides a stable, thoughtful and holistic picture of where each client is as they begin. It reflects a person so thoroughly that it provides a base from which they can seek and receive the right kinds of interventions throughout their lives. Our assessments are living documents focused on creating both a diagnostic picture and a highly personalized plan for recovery. Once an assessment is complete, the client and their PACT team meet to develop a comprehensive, multidisciplinary treatment plan. 

Our treatment plans are made for each individual and include traditional therapies as well as mindfulness, yoga, nutrition and music therapy. We believe in integrating mind, body and spirit in our approach to recovery. 

Photo by Alysha Rosly on Unsplash

Self-Care: Being a Caregiver During the Holiday Season

It’s December and the holiday season is swinging into full gear. While we are racing against time to prepare for holiday gatherings and buying gifts for everyone on our lists, it is easy, even sometimes natural, to put aside our own self-care in order for the holidays to run smoothly. At the same time, many of us are providing care to others, either as parents with children of our own or as caregivers to other adults. About 1 in 3 adults in the United States, or approximately 8.4 million adults, provides care to other adults as informal caregivers. There are many of you out there and this blog post is especially for you.

Some of the contributors of caregiver stress are: emotional and physical distress, overall health, financial concerns and caring for others before caring for oneself, resulting in feeling like one does not have the resources left for self-care.

Here at Ellenhorn we work with our clients to find creative yet doable ways to care for themselves, manage stress and nurture themselves. We also want to support families who are sharing in the caregiving and may have done so for many years. For the mental health community many caregivers have taken on that role for 8.7 years on average compared to 4 years for those caring for those living with any kind of illness.

We reached out to the professionals. The practitioners in our community who we consult with and asked them, “How do you care for yourself while helping others? And how do you do so during the busy holiday season”? Here is what they said:

“Ayurveda recognizes how seasonal changes impact our health. For example, as we transition to colder, drier weather, our diets should include warm moist foods like stews and healthy fats, cooked with warming spices (many of my go-to recipes are in The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook). These serve to lubricate our digestive tracts and can reduce gas, bloating, and constipation, which for some, can be more prevalent in the colder seasons.” – Marni Chanoff, MD, Wellness Program Senior Advisor, Psychiatrist and Ayurvedic Consultant

“Having a way to enjoy the outdoors is a major factor for thriving in winter. Snowshoeing, cross country or alpine skiing, or just layering up and embracing long walks outside- find a way to embrace the season rather than hunkering down to wait it out. Movement, fresh air and especially contact with nature are the good medicine we all need. Finally, be mindful of how you think and talk about winter weather. Are snowstorms “terrible” or “awe-inspiring”? It depends on how you look at them”. – Douglas Baker, Psychotherapist, Mindfulness Coach, Yoga Instructor

“During the Fall/Winter/Holiday Season you’ll usually see me wearing a scarf. According to Chinese medical theory, wind penetrates the back of the neck making it easy for you to “catch a cold or flu”. This is called “invasion of wind”. It’s also a good time to eat warming foods. With the cooler weather your body needs to generate extra warmth in order to function optimally. A good winter diet consists of whole grains, root vegetables and hearty soups & stews”. – Sharon Levy, Acupuncturist

“Self-care is one of the most essential, yet often most ignored, necessities of being a caregiver of any sort. I am passionate about teaching healers to learn to tune into their own energy for mental and emotional well-being, so that they can develop self-awareness and take personal responsibility for when they need to step back and refill their tank. I try and give myself self-Reiki when I am feeling overwhelmed, and make sure and ask my family for time to myself if I need it.” – Vanessa Vlahakis, Reiki Practitioner

“No matter how busy I am, I try to maintain my routines around sleep, exercise and drinking enough water every day. I also like to keep peppermint and eucalyptus oils close by (peppermint is especially good for modulating the immune system, calming the digestive system and is antibacterial; eucalyptus oil is antimicrobial and can help to reduce the symptoms of coughs, colds or congestion). I like to add a few drops to my diffuser at home or put a few drops of the oils on my scarf if I’m on the go.” – Diana Cosmas, PACT clinician, Aromatherapist and Wellness Coordinator at Ellenhorn

“Generally, I have the very flexible daily yoga practice at home. During the holidays when things pick up and people are visiting I have to schedule. I find scheduling a special yoga class at a studio helps me to preserve that time, it gives me space (physical and mental) and can set the tone for the rest of the day”. – Lisa Carabuena, PACT Clinician and Director of the Wellness Program at Ellenhorn.

We hope these ideas inspire you to gift yourself time during this holiday season. To try something new or to rekindle an old routine. As caregivers it may come natural to think, “caring for myself will allow me to have the energy to continue being a better caregiver to my loved one”. We encourage you to consider the thought, “caring for myself is a personal right. I have the human need to take time for myself to rest, to replenish and to be well ”.

All stats are from the article: Weber-Raley, L. (2016, February 23). On Pins and Needles: Caregivers of Adults with Mental Illness (Rep.).