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Klein ChrisTherapist’s Corner...
Being Mindful in Nature

     On a recent day trip I stopped at one of my favorite shops and found a small sign that reads “Nature—cheaper than therapy.” Chuckling, I shared with the clerk as I made my purchase that I work as a therapist and this would be a perfect addition to my office décor, and a visual reminder. Being in nature is definitely therapy for this therapist! Wandering aimlessly in my yard pulling weeds, picking beans, and tending to the chickens is so much more than just actions—it’s breathing the fresh air, listening to the birds, feeling the warmth of the sun, and being still within my soul. 
     Spending time in nature nourishes us emotionally, spiritually, and physically. By being in nature, whether it’s hiking in the mountains, traveling down a country road, sitting on a porch or patio, or wandering aimlessly in our back yards, we’re reminded of the natural rhythm of life and resilience of nature—planting and harvest, the cycle of life, the flow of the seasons, night and day. There is comfort in this consistency.
     For many of us, it can be challenging to maintain perspective in our technology dominated, news available 24 hours a day lives, and the never ending “to-do” lists. With our schedules we often forget to look out the window much less go for a hike or bike ride. In Awake in the Wild, meditation teacher Mark Coleman writes that immersing ourselves in nature is a way to “awaken to life: to wake up from confusion and suffering and live a life imbued with awareness, compassion and freedom.” 
     Research shows that spending time in nature can be psychologically healing. Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, pioneering environmental psychologists at the University of Michigan, theorize that the “soft fascination” we experience when spending time in nature helps us recover from the mental fatigue caused by periods of overstimulation. (Miller, Jake; Outdoor Education-A Trail Guide to Mindfulness). 
     In the 1980’s, in response to the stress of modern life, the science-based practice of Shinrin-yoku was born in Japan. Shinrin-yoku literally means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It has become a cornerstone of healing and preventive health care in Japanese medicine and is recognized around the world as having health benefits. Of course, people have been strolling, hiking and walking through wooded areas for as long as humans and forests have been around. Now research supports what we’ve known intuitively. So, go ahead! Step outside. Look up. Look around. Take a deep breath. Take time to smell the roses. You’ll be glad you did.

~ Chris Klein, Therapist

 

Jordan

Therapist’s Corner…
PTSD: Past & Present, Male & Female

     Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, is a diagnosis commonly associated with veterans who have been exposed to war. PTSD has a history that goes back to 1887 when first conceptualized by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot as he was studying subjects suffering from “hysterical attacks.”.During the same time psychologist Pierre Janet was studying the nature of traumatic memory and dissociation. In 1895, an Austrian physician reported benefits to patients after asking them to recount traumatic experiences in great detail.
     This form of treatment was known as “talking cure.” Wars of the early 1900s saw many soldiers suffering from a condition known as “shell shock.” The 1970s brought recognition of the condition in Vietnam veterans, Holocaust survivors and women subject to domestic and sexual abuse, experiencing lifelong consequences. The 1990s discovered, through the technology of neurological imaging, physical changes that occur in the brain as a result of experiencing trauma.
     Throughout the history of PTSD, talk therapy has remained a consistent form of treatment. Helpful research has been conducted to better recognize symptoms and effects. However, the diagnosis continues to be thought of as a mental health issue experienced by veterans, mostly likely male. Researchers studying the effects of sexual assault have found similar reactions as male combat veterans. Studies show that among the general population women are less likely to experience trauma, however data by the National Center for PTSD reports that half of all women will experience trauma in their lifetime. Women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than men (10% for women and 4% for men). Factors that heightening a women’s risk for PTSD include:
     • Having a past mental health problem (for example depression or anxiety)
     • Experienced a very severe or life-threatening trauma
     • Were sexually assaulted
     • Were injured during the event
     • Had a severe reaction at the time of the event
     • Experienced other stressful events afterwards
     • Do not have good social support
     Women with PTSD present differently from their male counterparts. Symptoms more prevalent in women include increased startled response, depression, anxiety and difficulty feeling emotions and avoidance of things that remind them of the trauma. Men are more likely to experience increased levels of anger and problems with drugs and alcohol.
     Many individuals suffering from PTSD have found relief through treatment. Data shows women to be more likely to seek and respond to treatment as well or better than men. Those suffering from anxiety and depression may benefit from a PTSD screening by a mental health professional. With proper diagnosis and treatment, individuals with PTSD can improve their quality of life.

~ Jordan Allen, Therapist

 

LenzTips from Our EAP...
Dealing with Workplace Stress

     Going back to school can be a tough transition, particularly after the relative ease of summer. Whether you’re a family with a college bound student or grade school trekker, taking a few hours to prepare can make a big difference in how you begin your school year.

     1. (Both) Get organized: Put together a checklist of needed supplies and have them ready before school starts. Prepare and label all notebooks and folders ahead of time. Copy class schedules and tape them inside of folders along with maps and directions to classrooms and buildings.
     2. (Both) Do a walk through: Visiting the school ahead of time and doing a practice run is a good way to ensure a smooth first day. Take a notebook and jot down important locations and rehearse your routine.
     3. (Both) Don’t over schedule: If extracurricular activities begin to be more of a chore than a fun break, then you’re probably overdoing things. Back off and reprioritize.
     4. (Both) Keep the focus on learning: Don’t make getting good grades your end goal. Instead, treat them as a way of measuring progress. Understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Struggling with schoolwork does not make you stupid. Try to find real world applications for everything you’re taught.
     5. (Grade School) Start with structure early: An earlier wakeup may leave your kids tired and sluggish. Help them be at their best by reestablishing structure a few weeks before the school year begins. Eat meals at the same approximate time each day and enforce bed and wakeup times. The more closely you can mimic your school’s schedule, the better.
     6. (Grade school) Address fears and anxiety: Returning to school is stressful for some children. Encour- age your kids to express any negative emotions they may have. Treat their concerns with respect while pointing out some of the more positive aspects of the new school year like being reunited with old friends.
     7. (Grade School) Bone up on bullying: Bullying occurs across all age ranges and can happen to both boys and girls. Bullying isn’t always physical. It can also include gossip, taunts, and malicious exclusion. Children sometimes don’t report bullying out of fear and embarrassment.Arm your child with information and resources by visiting http://www.bullying.org.
     8. (College) Avoid dangerous party rituals: Research links excessive alcohol consumption among college students to lower grades and higher incidences of assault and rape. Avoid events and people that are likely to expose you to negative peer pressure.
     9. (College) Use college counseling resources: Moving to campus often means leaving a good part of your social safety net behind. A change in environment can magnify problems. Almost all colleges offer free or low cost mental health resources. Take advantage of them if you feel overwhelmed, out of control, depressed or isolated.
     10. (College) Practice time management: Cramming for tests is less effective than studying in smaller chunks over time. Begin developing good time management skills by planning and sticking to a study schedule. Treating your schoolwork like an 8 hour a day job will make you more effective and help you prepare for life after college.

~ Lana Lenz, EAP Coordinator

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