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23.11.2016
Finding hope and happiness during the holidays

This time of year can be tough. If money's tight, every advertisement on TV can feel like a reminder of what you can’t have or can’t give. If you’re in recovery, other people’s parties can tempt and test. If you lack close family nearby, a sense of loneliness and isolation can creep into your thinking. Even if you do have family, others’ super-happy social media posts can magnify difficult feelings. [caption id="attachment_1581" align="alignleft" width="412"]If the holidays have you stressed, pay attention to those feelings, Chrysalis therapists say. If the holidays have you stressed, pay attention to those feelings.[/caption]

There’s so much good to see, and so much gratitude to share at this time of year, but conflicting emotions can overwhelm, too. Clients and therapists with Chrysalis Behavioral Health offer their thoughts on how to boost feelings of wellbeing during this complex season of expectation and gratitude.
A key idea? It's the importance of building connections and sharing togetherness. Chrysalis clients include many young adults and children who have suffered abuse, experienced serious mental health challenges, or grappled with substance abuse disorders. Asked about their plans for the holidays, they had much wisdom to share:
[caption id="attachment_1582" align="alignright" width="446"]The holidays are a time for strengthening connections to others. The holidays are a time for strengthening connections to others.[/caption]
  •  "I cope by helping to cook. I enjoy playing with children in my family and making them laugh."
  • "I cope by cooking, praying, and giving thanks for my family and friends."
  • "I like to give back to my community by donating food."
  • "I reminisce about the past. I think about where I came from and how much progress I have made. I focus on getting better."
  • "I like to visit family or if I can't I like to go to church to help me get through it”
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Strengthening connections with others is a key to resilience during the holidays and any time, Chrysalis therapists said. They offered this advice:

  • Having a strong support network matters more than fancy food or presents. If you don’t have a good friend or mentor, working on it can be the greatest gift you give yourself, said Tara Kellogg, Chrysalis’ director of clinical supervision. Connecting with a church or temple, finding a mentor through a group like Big Brothers-Big Sisters, joining in an Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous meeting, or working with a therapist are all ways to build positive support.

  • Kellogg says her clients typically do well through the holidays because they’ve got that support.  “It’s a huge, huge thing,” Kellogg said. “Research shows that if you have even one person in your support system, you are going to do better.”
  • [caption id="attachment_1586" align="alignleft" width="362"]Gift-pending limits can ease stress. Gift-spending limits can ease stress.[/caption]
    • Remember to put yourself first, said Elisabeth Hotchkiss, director of psychosocial rehabilitation at Chrysalis’ Broward County office. That can require setting boundaries with family and others with regard to time commitments and gift spending. Setting a gift limit, for example, can relieve financial stress. Meeting with a therapist allows you the space to process your emotions and work through them. Trying to force yourself to feel a certain way isn't likely to work for long, she adds. “Focus on the positive memories of the holidays and creating more good ones, and let the past go,” Hotchkiss says. “Take Deep Breaths when you feel yourself getting anxious.”
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      • Instead of making a list of what you want, Chrysalis Intake Coordinator Shelli Snyder likes the idea of making a list of anything and everything you’re grateful for — warm weather in winter, the smiles on babies’ faces, sparkling lights on palm trees, the slow melt of a chocolate kiss on your tongue. “List them in your head, write them down, stay completely focused on what’s good!” Snyder says. “Don’t drink or use drugs thinking they will ‘help,’ they never do." “If you have no one to be with, find someone else who has no one to be with and be with them.”
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        • Therapist Beda Rojas says many of her clients are stressed about how family will treat them, or about how poorly they’ve been treated in the past. “We have to release our own expectations we have about family members,” she says. The way people are is the way people are. By the same token, “It is important to choose who you want to be around, and that they are positive.” Therapist Camille Marsh encourages her clients to soak up what’s beautiful and good about the season. “Enjoy the decorations! Accept the invitations,” she says. “Spend time with family and enjoy lots of food, I look forward to it all year!”
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    15.11.2016
    The surprising impact of food on your mood

    By Vivian Demille We at Chrysalis Health are extremely passionate about educating clients about the connection between nutrition and emotional health. By now it is well known and accepted that food does have an impact on various chemicals in the gut and brain. By taking good care of your body, you also take good care of your mind. [caption id="attachment_1570" align="alignright" width="200"]Vivian Demille, esq. Vivian Demille, esq.[/caption] The first thing you need to know about the food-mood connection is that there are five brain signaling chemicals which are most closely linked to what you eat and drink. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are (1) serotonin, (2) dopamine, (3) norepinephrine, (4) histamine, and (5) acetylcholine. Of those, most is known about how serotonin directly affects emotional health. So how does food affect your mood? Amino acids, which we obtain from foods or supplements, are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. The right vitamins, minerals and supplements can aid in the production and enhancement of the activity of the brain’s signaling chemicals, and can protect them from injury. But our standard American diet typically doesn’t give us all that we need. As our diets have declined, so has our mental health. In fact, depression has doubled in the United States in the last decade — as has obesity. Many studies have demonstrated the link between diet and mood. One shows that people who follow the Mediterranean or Japanese diet compared to the American diet have a 25-35% lower risk of depression. That is a significant difference! Gut health is also directly linked to emotions. You may have heard of serotonin. Many types of antidepressant medications help your body hold on longer to the serotonin it makes, because the right amount of serotonin can increase a sense of well-being and lower anxiety. Did you know that about 95% of our serotonin is produced in our gastrointestinal tract? Neurons aren’t just in our brain. Our gut is actually lined with 100 million neurons. Our gut is connected to our brains and major organs by an extensive neural superhighway called the Vagus nerve, so the serotonin made in our gut can travel throughout our body. In addition to the food and drink we consume, our gut neurons are highly influenced by billions of bacteria that live in our intestines. The good bacteria can help us digest our food and draw more nutrition from what we eat. Unfortunately, these good bacteria don’t thrive in the highly processed, high-sugar standard American diet. Instead, bad, disease-causing bacteria are promoted. How to restore the right bacteria? Probiotics like Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Lactococcus are often found in yogurts with live cultures, drinks like kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, some pickles and kimchi. They can also be bought as supplements. Studies have shown that taking certain probiotics like on a regular basis improves anxiety levels, perception of stress, and mental outlook. There’s also a growing body of research on prebiotics, or encouraging the good bacteria to grow by feeding them precisely what they need to thrive. Soluble fiber like that found in bananas, berries, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, garlic, leeks, beans and leafy greens are known prebiotics. Good nutrition has a huge impact on overall health, not just mental health. Consider these statistics on Americans’ health: 37% of us will experience cardiovascular disease; 35% of us will experience hypertension and another 36% prehypertension; 11% will have diabetes; 47% will have cancer; and 50% of women and 25% of men will have osteoporosis. All of these diseases have a direct connection to diet. [caption id="attachment_1574" align="alignleft" width="228"]2011 Amanda Mills/CDC 2011
    Amanda Mills/CDC[/caption] So what does a healthy diet look like? It’s colorful! It’s fresh! It’s minimally processed or cooked. An optimal diet includes lots of whole fruits and vegetables, with an abundance of greens and sea greens; whole grains; beans; nuts; seafood; fermented foods, and a small amount of grass-fed meats. The ideal diet is limited in animal proteins, gluten, refined sugars, diary, caffeine and processed foods. Good mood foods and supplements are rich in iron, antioxidants, calcium, the B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, folate/folic acids, omegas, fiber, prebiotics and probiotics. The field of nutritional psychiatry is new but growing rapidly. We now know that proper diet, in conjunction with traditional therapies, can help improve the management of and recovery from behavioral health conditions. There are many great resources available to learn more. A few good books and sites out there on healthy diets that I am personally familiar with include The Happiness Diet by Dr. Drew Ramsey, The Blue Zone Diet by National Geographic’s Dan Buettner, and www.choosemyplate.com. There are many additional resources available on the internet, including access to nutritionists, articles, books, and research studies.  

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    07.11.2016
    Six ways to lower election stress

    For nearly a year and a half, news and social media feeds have been filled with election talk, much of it negative, nasty and fierce: Rigged elections, immigrant deportation threats, sexual assault, corruption, foreign hacking. It’s enough to make even the most well-adjusted people feel anxious. For people who have endured traumatic experiences, the talk can re-traumatize, therapists say. And for children who are absorbing and observing their parents’ tension and fears, school discussions can upset, too. [caption id="attachment_1559" align="aligncenter" width="495"]Your most important vote is for your own well-being. Your most important vote is for your own well-being.[/caption] With the election finally decided, behavioral health professionals say it’s especially important to pay attention to negative feelings that may arise. Unplugging, focusing on self-care, keeping a long-term perspective, and finding personal fulfillment offer healthy ways out of this stressful place, regardless of who won or lost. The American Psychological Association recently released early findings from its upcoming Stress in America survey. The group found significant reported feelings that the election was a somewhat or very significant source of stress, regardless of party affiliation.

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    15.02.2012
    Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

    Comprehensive report completed in 2009 of sex trafficking of minors in the United States. Cut and paste the link below for full report: http://www.sharedhope.org/Portals/0/Documents/SHI_National_Report_on_DMST_2009%28without_cover%29.pdf

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    19.09.2011
    CDC Report: Mental Illness in the United States

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a summary report detailing how the CDC measures mental illness in the U.S., and summary statistics from those measurements. The report notes that according to the World Health Organization, mental illness — that is, any mental disorder — accounts for more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. According to a rigorous health survey conducted by the CDC in 2004, an estimated 25 percent of adults in the U.S. reported having a mental illness in the previous year. Lifetime prevalence rates of mental illness in the U.S. were around 50 percent when measured back in 2004. That means in a family of four, one of you likely has a mental illness. However, mental illness is greatly weighted toward our senior years, when things start looking pretty bleak. The data collected from various CDC surveys measuring depression suggest that at any given moment, the rate of depression is somewhere between 6.8 percent and 8.7 percent. That means that in the U.S., somewhere between 1 in 11 and 1 in 14 people meet criteria for clinical depression — a lot of people. What about the possibility of getting a mental disorder diagnosis within your lifetime? Rates of reported lifetime diagnosis of depression were similar in 2006 (15.7%) and 2008 (16.1%). The prevalence of lifetime diagnosis of anxiety disorders was slightly lower, with 11.3% in 2006 and 12.3% in 2008. In 2007, NHIS [surveys found] 1.7% of participants had received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and 0.6% had received a diagnosis of schizophrenia. As you can see, the lifetime risk of anxiety disorders rank closely with depression, yet they aren’t measured as carefully or closely by the CDC: CDC surveys focus on depression, and they lack sufficient data on anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are as common in the population as depression and, like depression and severe psychological distress, can result in high levels of impairment. Moreover, the pathophysiologic characteristics of anxiety disorders are similar to those of depression and often are associated with the same chronic medical conditions. The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions [...] estimated that during 2001-2002, 14% of U.S. adults had an anxiety disorder: 7%, specific phobia; 3%, social phobia; 2%, generalized anxiety disorder; and 1%, panic disorder. Remember, just somewhere between 7 to 9 percent of adults have clinical depression. This makes anxiety disorders almost twice as common as depressive disorder. Although rarely talked about as often as depression, anxiety can be just as debilitating and just as serious a problem. Yet today, the CDC doesn’t even measure it. One last thing….The CDC is just figuring out what psychologists could’ve told them 20 or 30 years ago — that health problems are readily impacted by co-morbid mental health problems. The two are inextricably linked: Increasingly, physicians and others who treat mental illness, as well as public health experts, are recognizing the substantial overlap between mental illness and diseases traditionally considered to be matters of public health concern. The ability of certain mental illnesses to exacerbate morbidity from several chronic diseases is well-established. Recent studies have explored the causal pathways from mental illness to certain chronic diseases, highlighting the need for more accurate and timely information on the epidemiology of mental illness in the United States. This co-morbidity is a two-way street, too. Every time you see someone in a hospital bed being treated for one of those major health diseases you hear about in the news — such as heart disease or cancer — keep in mind that person also has mental health concerns. Most of the time, those mental health concerns — even it’s just anxiety related to the actual treatment or chances of recovery from the disease — are often overlooked altogether, or treated as minor, almost unrelated issues. What this report did for the CDC was to summarize all of their current reporting tools that measure mental disorders, and figure out where there was overlap and where they were missing critical measurements. None of the CDC’s survey tools today specifically were designed to measure mental illness, however — a critical oversight. They are looking into correcting this problem, but it may be years before they start to systematically measure a wider range of mental disorders (rather than just a few) across the U.S. Read the full CDC Report: Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States (PsychCentral, 9/3/11)

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