How You Can Create a Happy, Healthy New Year in 3 Simple Steps

Life Coaching is the favorite part of my job. I love sharing personal stories and real-world experiences as I help clients overcome addictions to food and other substances. When they understand that challenges with food are just symptoms of greater core issues, often related to emotions, they begin to overcome them as I teach how to change the behaviors for good.  

I was a cake decorator for over thirty years. This was my life’s passion, but it ultimately ruined my health. Giving this dream up was a huge sacrifice but one that led to greater health, energy and joy in my life. From this experience and others, I understand what it feels like to be an addict and the behaviors associated with it. I also understand the emotions and fears that come when giving up comfort and an artificial kind of love.  

Food is meant for fuel, nutrition and energy but we take it a step further and use it for comfort, love, and numbing out so we don’t have to feel what is truly going on inside. Emotional eating creates health challenges like addiction, obesity, fatigue, mental instability, and eating disorders of all kinds. It is fine to derive pleasure from food, but that should be a secondary result of making healthy food choices. 

We know now that scientists have engineered processed food to increase our cravings and desire to keep coming back and purchasing their products. Sweet tastes, for example are what we are biologically programmed from infancy to gravitate toward. Mother’s milk is sweet and toddlers often choose fruit over vegetables. High fructose corn syrup is added to many products from ketchup to cereal to satisfy the cravings for sweets. The unfortunate consequence of eating it, however, is that it turns off the mechanism in our brain saying we are full, so we continue to eat until we are stuffed or feeling sick. Processed sugar feeds candida and causes a host of health problems if eaten regularly over time. 

So, we are not completely to blame for our addictions, but there are things we can do to change our behaviors around food and make wiser choices that will reap greater benefits. As we enter a new year, I’d like to give 3 suggestions to help you make better decisions before going into the kitchen. 

  1. CREATE A PLAN: People who fail to plan, plan to fail right? Look through your recipe books and decide what to make for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Go shopping and get the ingredients needed.  
  2. PREPARE AHEAD:Prepare your mealsahead and refrigerate or freeze them for use throughout the week to save time and money.  
  3. ASK YOURSELF QUESTIONS: Sometimes we eat because we’re bored or tired and we aren’t even hungry. Here is a series of questions you can ask yourself before going to the refrigerator or pantry for a snack.
  4. What do I want to eat?
  5. Is it something that will give my body nutrition,fuel and sustained energy?
  6. Why do I want it?
  7. What emotion istied to thisfood? 
  8. Will _____ serve me for the better or worse?
  9. What physical symptoms will I feelafter eating _______ ? 
  10. Is it worth it?

 

Asking yourself these questions will help you become conscious of your decisions and help make better ones. If you want to eat it, just because, then own that and don’t make yourself feel bad. Good habits are learned as we practice over time. Taking baby steps forward will help us see and feel the progress. Create a Happy New Year! 

 

 

Behavioral Health: Integrated Care and the Future of Whole-Person Treatment

The term behavioral health has gained exposure and popularity more recently, particularly among medical providers and those involved in healthcare reform in the United States. Burg & Oyama1 define behavioral health as, “the psychosocial care of patients that goes far beyond a focus on diagnosing mental or psychiatric illness… [encompassing] not only mental illness but also factors that contribute to mental well-being”. This is the first of a series of articles which will introduce essential concepts and goals for integrated behavioral health treatment.  Why is this important?  The correlation between comorbid mental health and medical issues has mounting evidence for impacting healthcare cost, treatment outcomes, and patient satisfaction.  Comorbidity in this sense refers to the presence of two co-occurring issues influencing the progression and prognosis of either condition.  Well researched comorbid conditions include diabetes & depression2asthma & anxiety/panic3, and chronic pain & psychosocial issues4.  The good news is we are learning innovative ways to effectively treat comorbid conditions concurrently, thereby increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes and improved quality of life for patients. 

The sustainable future of healthcare in the U.S. will likely require efforts to improve consultation/communication, cross-discipline competency, and collaboration among clinical teams.  Traditionally, mental health specialists (i.e. psychologists, LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCs, CMHCs, etc.) have operated in relative isolation from the medical community.  Aside from psychiatrists, who are primarily trained as Medical Doctors (MD), many practicing psychotherapists have minimal training in the biomedical model of treatment.  And the inverse is true as well, wherein medical practitioners often have limited understanding of psychotherapeutic theory, psychosocial problem etiology, and effective behavioral intervention.  This is exceptionally problematic for the patient because practitioners involved in treatment may have dramatically different, and often conflicting, beliefs about mental health problems and their respective solutions.  Sperry5  suggests, “the goal of health care integration is to position the behavioral health counselor to support the physician… bring more specialized knowledge… identify the problem, target treatment, and manage medical patients with psychological problems using a behavioral approach”.  The future of medicine may very well be found in systems which prioritize such supportive collaboration, encourage patient-centered policy, and deliver on whole-person treatment options.  

Hopefully this educational introduction to behavioral health integration can serve as a starting point for further interest and exploration of the topic.  While this is a relatively new concept, I predict we will see a dramatic increase of integrative efforts emerge over the next several years as clinicians, administrators, policy makers, and third-party payers (i.e. insurance companies) recognize the cost-effectiveness and clinical efficacy of interdisciplinary collaboration.  We do not live our lives in a vacuum, and our problems are rarely isolated conditions in themselves.  Therefore, we will need innovators across various disciplines to create efficient and effective systems which benefit all parties involved with the daunting task of healthcare reform.  As patients, we can empower ourselves with education about how the biopsychosocial model might positively influence our role and options in treatment.  So, the next time you are at the doctor’s office and they ask you questions about mood and/or behaviors, and you think, “What does this have to do with my medical problem?”, now you’ll know.   

References 

1.Burg, M.A., & Oyama, O. (2016).  The behavioral health specialist in primary care: Skills for integrated practice. New York, NY:  Springer Publishing Company.   

 

  1. de Groot, M., Golden, S.H., & Wagner, J. (2016).  Psychological conditions in adults with diabetes. American Psychologist, 71(7), 552-562.    

 

  1. Ritz, R.,Meuret, A., Trueba, A.F., Fritzche, A., & von Leupoldt, A. (2013).  Psychosocial factors and behavioral medicine interventions in asthma.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 81(2), 231-250.  

 

  1. Gatchel, R.J.,McGeary, D.D., McGeary, C.A., & Lippe, B., (2014).  Interdisciplinary chronic pain management.  American Psychologist, 69(2), 119-130. 

 

  1. Sperry, L. (2014). Behavioral health: Integrating individual and family interventions in the treatment of medical conditions.  New York, NY: Routledge.  

 

Every Day is a Bonus Day: How a terminal cancer patient is inspiring others to live

My name is Melanie Day. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, just a few weeks after I found out I was pregnant with my third child. I endured chemo, surgery, and too many ER visits, all while pregnant. I eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and then continued more chemo, radiation, and surgeries. After a year and a half of treatment, I had my first clear scan and was so excited to be moving on with my life, free of cancer. However, in 2015, they found cancer in my bones and I was given five years to live.

My perspective on life completely changed. Suddenly, I wanted to do all those things I said I’d do someday. I wanted to go on that Mediterranean cruise with my husband. I wanted to be more forgiving and stop judging others. I wanted to speak more freely and openly. I wanted to make sure that people knew how I really felt, and that they knew that I loved them. I wanted to stop saving my money and instead spend it on making memories with my loved ones. I wanted to stop worrying about what I looked like or what others thought of me. I wanted to instead build people up, make them happy and excited about life. I wanted to learn to enjoy the chaos of a toddler house and to stop obsessing with having a perfectly clean house. I knew I had to make a lot of changes. And I was grateful that cancer was teaching me to wake up!

I’ve always been the person who saved all my pennies and never splurged on anything. I’ve said no to so many adventures because I wanted to save my money instead, or I didn’t think I had the time, or some other excuse like that. But cancer has shown me how important it is to make the most out of life NOW. Making memories with my family and to no longer delay my dreams are top priorities for me now. My family and I have made an effort to go on adventures this past year to cross off my bucket list items. We spent Christmas making memories at a mountain resort instead of buying our kids presents. I skied in Tahoe for a weekend with the Send It Foundation. We took the kids to Disneyland for a magical week, thanks to some generous friends. In February, the BYU and Duke basketball coaches surprised me with the number one item on my bucket list. They got us tickets to the UNC at Duke men’s basketball game, my ultimate sports fantasy. In April, I spent two weeks in New Zealand playing in the World Masters Games with my former college teammates. Just last week, we witnessed thousands of lanterns in the sky at the Lantern Fest in Salt Lake City. A nonprofit organization called Inheritance of Hope is hosting us this next week in Florida at Disneyworld, Universal Studios, and Sea World. After that, we will be in Lake Tahoe for a family reunion. I plan on going to Hawaii in November, Europe the next two years, and NYC in the fall of 2018. I’m sure more opportunities for adventure will arise and we will seize them. I’ve said “no” to so many of these opportunities in the past, so going forward, I’ll mostly be saying, “yes.”

Although this terminal diagnosis drove me into depression and anxiety of my unavoidable death, I eventually realized the importance of sharing my story so that I could help others. That is now my life’s mission. I want to help others see what I see, without having a terminal disease. I want people to ponder their own death and let that motivate them to live their life how they want to NOW instead of waiting until it’s too late. I want people to realize that every day is a bonus day.

 

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness Magazine

Written by Melanie Day

4 Components of Successful Concussion Treatment

 

As a scientist who studies concussion and does research on concussion treatment, I was recently asked what I would do if I needed concussion treatment. What questions would I ask, from my perspective as an expert? To answer this, my questions would focus on what I see as the four components of successful concussion recovery—diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and maintenance.

Diagnosis

How will my concussion be diagnosed? How will my concussion symptoms be distinguished from other potential health issues that might cause similar symptoms?

I would want to know what kind of health professional is best able to find answers to these preliminary questions, and what diagnostic tests will be used. A family doctor will typically be able to help get this process started and should refer you to a neuropsychologist, in the opinion of most concussion research experts. Among the tools that neuropsychologists use, a Functional Neurocognitive Imaging (fNCI) test is ideal. This is a type of MRI brain scan that can detect problems in brain functioning caused by concussion.

Assessment

After determining what my symptoms are, I would want to know exactly which parts of my brain have been affected, how that relates to the symptoms I am currently experiencing, and how my treatment will help my particular brain injury. A neuropsychologist, especially one who can use and interpret fNCI brain scanning, is usually best suited to do this assessment. In order for an assessment to be truly useful, it needs to go beyond being simply “informative” and give you and your medical providers a clear treatment plan for your individual rehabilitation program.

Treatment

Although post-concussion symptoms can vary widely from person to person, there are four general categories that scientists and doctors use to group common symptoms:…(read the rest of the story)

Originally published on Utah Valley Health and Wellness

Written by: Dr. Mark D. Allen

Feeling Anxiety? by Garret Roundy, LMFT, MS

Anxiety in response to feared situations or experiences plays a part in everyone’s lives, but for some, calming the anxiety requires a bit more help. Let’s take a look at a few ways to invite more calm into our daily lives.

Stressed BusinesswomanNeuroscientists have identified what they call fear extinguishing circuits in the brain (Herry et al., 2008). These circuits interrupt the basic fear response, so that previously feared stimuli do not activate the physiological and behavioral sequence that you feel as fear or anxiety. In other words, activating the fear extinguishing brain in response to fears keeps you feeling calm and engaged with life. Because anxiety is a response to a perceived threat, anxiety can be calmed if the threat is addressed.
So, what experiences can activate the fear extinguishing circuits? Glenn Veenstra (2013) succinctly cites four: security, safety, tolerance, and mastery.

1. Security is our most basic, inherited form of achieving calm after encountering a fear-inducing threat. We obtain a feeling of security through connection and proximity to other people who can protect us. Sometimes, just knowing we are not alone in a trial changes how we feel about it.

MP9003854012. Safety is achieved when the probability of danger is low. If I am afraid of lightning, safety is attained when I see a blue sky and my brain senses the threat of being struck by lightning is minimal to none. Oftentimes, much of our anxiety is needlessly produced by an overestimation of the probability of danger. Furthermore, this overestimation continues because of anxiety’s chief accomplice, avoidance. As long as the feared situation is avoided, a true evaluation of the danger cannot be made. Having someone help us along (#1, security) in facing our fears can make a big difference in discovering our overestimated threats and attaining a sense of safety.

3. Tolerance of the feared outcome can activate fear extinguishing circuits because the evaluation of “threat” is changed. If I can tolerate the pain of a paper cut and know that I can take care of it properly until it heals, then my mind isn’t threatened by the outcome and will not feel anxiety about reading the newspaper. That’s fine for a paper cut, but what about really big threats, like death? When death itself is a feared outcome that can be tolerated (or accepted!), then its power over us can be transformed into calm purpose in living; we can then live life without anxiously running from an inevitable transition.
For many who carry burdens from trauma, the continual pain caused by that danger in previous experiences remains clear evidence that the danger is not tolerable. The damage, much more than a paper cut, remains a wound that warns them to avoid certain threats because the cost of the danger is too high. Extinguishing this fear through tolerance will not happen until we experience healing and know that we can handle the pain and are stronger than the injury. After healing, the danger is tolerable. That is the earned peace of many people who have reached out to qualified help and received treatment for emotional and spiritual wounds.

?????????????????????4. Mastery is achieved through knowing we have the skill to master the danger. For example, anxiety about meeting new people because of feared negative social outcomes may be extinguished by mastering the skills of social interaction in such situations. A man, we’ll call Jim, avoided social situations with new people because they provoked intense anxiety. His perceived threat was that everyone (#2 overestimation of danger) would think he was strange or awkward and reject or not like him. Jim combined #3 (tolerance) with #4 (mastery) to find calm in this once feared situation. After feeling that he would be okay if some (#2, not everyone) people did think those things about him (#3), he reversed his pattern of avoidance and set the goal of meeting someone new every day. Instead of focusing on his defects or anxiety, he began observing and experimenting in these daily experiences, noticing what he and other people did and tried out different ways of interacting. I caught up with him after he had met over 1,000 new people. With time and practice, and certainly some tolerably awkward introductions, he developed the skills needed to master the danger inherent in social introductions and ultimately became very skilled and comfortable talking with people from all walks of life about everything!

balanceWhen the bottom line answer to our questions is “I’ll be okay because I am resilient and connected with others who can help me when needed,” then calm can quiet our fears and we can enjoy the energy of being fully present in our lives (Siegel, 2012). If you wonder about this possibility in your life, I invite you to hope and choose the path of courage, because greater peace is awaiting you.

Herry, C., et al. (2008). Switching on and off fear by distinct neuronal circuits. Nature, 454, 600-606.
Siegel, D. J. (2012). The developing mind: Toward a neurobiology of interpersonal experience. New York: Guilford Press.
Veenstra, G. J. (2013). Neuroscience advances for improving anxiety therapies. Anxiety disorders and Depression Conference, La Jolla, CA.

Garret Roundy2About the Author: Garret Roundy is a licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Utah. He earned an M.S. from Brigham Young University and is currently completing his PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy. Garret has developed a specialization in the treatment of anxiety and trauma-related disorders through studying scientific research and completing advanced clinical trainings. He has also presented on these topics in professional and community settings. Garret is a therapist at the Provo Center for Couples and Families.

Can Facebook Harm Your Marriage? by Dr. Mark White Ph.D, MFT

Mature couple with laptop.Can Facebook harm your Marriage?  Although we’ve been hearing since 2009 that Facebook may be playing a role in divorce, a recent study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior1, appears to be the first to scientifically examine divorce rates, marital quality, and the use of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook.

The researchers examined two kinds of data. For each US state, they collected recent divorce rates and the proportion of persons in each state with a Facebook account. The second was an online survey of almost 1200 individuals specifically examining marital well-being and SNS use.

Across the 50 states, they found that as the proportion of Facebook users increased, there was a slight elevation in the divorce rate. While this finding is interesting, it doesn’t tell us anything about what’s going on for the individuals in that state. That’s where the individual-level data comes to play.

Attractive couple portrait.The researchers were able to control several variables in these analyses, such as income, education, race, age, and religious attendance. After removing the contribution of such factors, increased SNS use was shown to play a small role in predicting lower marital quality, less perceived happiness in the current marriage, more perceived troubles in the current marriage, and thoughts in the last year about leaving spouse.

Unfortunately, the design of this study did allow the re searchers to identify which is the cause and which is the effect (the perennial chicken and egg problem). Does SNS involvement cause marital problems, or do people in unhappy marriages spend more time on SNS? Although these data cannot answer that question, common sense would suggest that both occur.
For some, SNS detracts from the marriage and also provide an avenue for various forms of infidelity (such as wondering what your high school girlfriend is up to these days). Others seek support and contact with others to cope with an unhappy marriage.

Young Woman Sitting Looking at Laptop ScreenSo how can you prevent Facebook from harming your marriage? Here are 10 common sense suggestions:
1. Don’t hide anything on Facebook from your partner and don’t have anything to hide.
2. Have a shared understanding about how you each will use SNS. Some couples have a shared Facebook site (BradndSusan), others share the password to each other’s account, while others frequently look at Facebook together. There’s no right solution here—I just recommend you reach an agreement about the use of these sites.
3. Do not friend, or promptly unfriend, any person that makes your partner uncomfortable.
4. Analyze how you spend your time—are you spending more time with your virtual friends or your real-life partner?
5. If you discover that you’d rather post another kitten meme or play Candy Crush Saga than be intimate with your partner, it’s time to seek help.
6. Be willing to ask yourself some hard questions if you find yourself tempted to spend time perusing the pages of your ex, old flames, or people you find attractive (either on or offline). What’s going on in your life or your marriage that makes such behaviors appealing?
7. If you are unhappy about some aspect of your marriage, address your concerns with your partner rather than seeking support online.
8. If you both enjoy SNS, use them to flirt and communicate with each other. Message each other and post on each other’s page regularly. Make sure your status updates and photo albums convey that you are happily married.
9. Do not engage in any activity on an SNS (posting pictures, sending messages, etc.) that you would not participate in if your partner were sitting next to you, viewing the same screen.
10. Remember Rule #1.

1 Valenzula, S., Halpern, D., & Katz, J. E. (2014). Social network sites, marriage well-being and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 94-101.

markAbout the Author: Dr. Mark B. White is the Marriage and Family Therapy Doctoral Program Director at Northcentral University. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and AAMFT Approved Supervisor and provides therapy at the Vernal Center for Couples & Families