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Eating Disorder Recovery The Holistic Way Out

Posted By Caitlin Evans, Thursday, May 31, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Eating disorders are not about food.Here’s the thing about eating disorders: they’re not “dieting”, but an issue of deeply hindered emotional health. It’s a simple truth, but naturally, we have to understand why a person would fail to see it that way if they’d never had someone close to them suffer from an eating disorder. Nevertheless, it’s important that this simple fact becomes common knowledge, and here’s why.

Many people are affected by eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and various others. They suffer in isolation and even when they do seek help, recovery is a long and difficult process. Our collective attitude towards eating disorders as well as the way conventional medicine treats them can encourage a completely new way of healing – one that encompasses all aspects of an individual’s wellbeing. That’s the basic concept of a holistic approach to health and wellness, but let’s back up a bit and look more closely into the process of recovery.

Whether you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, know someone who is, or simply want to learn more out of compassion, I believe there are some valuable insights ahead.

Understanding the process of eating disorder recovery

An eating disorder feels like a personal prison; it’s so hard to get out of because it’s in your mind. The isolating experience brings on numerous issues — depletion of self-esteem, frustration, and a distorted perception of health and body image, among many others. All this distances you from acknowledging the things that were once important to you. The disorder is brought on by deep emotional pain in the first place, and that’s why a crucial part of recovery is acknowledging the underlying issues and dealing with them. Of course, this is painful and takes a lot of time and energy.

If you suffer from an eating disorder, the first step to recovery is acknowledging it and confiding in someone you trust. You’ll feel vulnerable, but this is only natural, and overcoming that feeling of deep discomfort will mean the world to you in the near future. When you’re in recovery, the process entails various stages, from focusing on rebuilding a healthier body through nutrition, to therapy sessions to help you deal with all that’s going on in your mind. Very often during these stages, people return to their unhealthy dieting behaviors as things get overwhelming. But this shouldn’t be perceived as a sign of failing. It’s not irreversible, and the important thing is to gather your energy to focus on positive change.

A strong support system is helpful.A strong support system and a trusted therapist to talk to about your emotional and mental state are important and helpful. But at the end of the day, the road to lasting recovery requires you to deal with the past, live in the present, and build the foundations of your future. How can you grasp all these strings and help yourself come to terms with the state you’re in? That’s where a holistic approach to treatment comes in.

What Holistic means

Quite simply, a holistic approach to health treats each unique individual as a whole, taking into consideration mental, emotional, and social factors. It suggests that health is not just the absence of a disease, but rather integrity, adaptability, and continuity of the body and mind. Health is synonymous with deeper levels of wellbeing, so all areas of life impact the functioning of your body and mind – social interactions, intellectual stimulation, emotional states, spirituality, etc.

Now, in the case of recovery from an eating disorder, this type of approach means that the whole person is treated as a unique individual. It encourages you to think about all the interconnected aspects of your life and their profound effects on you, rather than just looking at the disorder as an aspect of your life that can be treated in isolation. That way of thinking will urge you to reflect on what has influenced your condition and how it affects all areas of your life, thus enabling you to face the condition and to grasp all the strings, bit by bit. It helps you understand your circumstances, your actions, and their consequences, and most importantly, it helps you understand yourself through systematic introspection.

The holistic journey toward recovery

When you’re encouraged to “dig deep”, where do you start and how do you tackle this endeavor? Here are some aspects of your life to reflect on and communicate — both internally and with someone you trust.

Behavioral: Think about how you respond to stressful situations. Long-term stress, which many people are subject to, has grave consequences and can lead to hormonal imbalances which deeply affect you — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Think about how you relate eating and food to being stressed out. Most importantly, identify your main stress triggers and ask why some situations stress you out more than others.

Writing down your emotions is helpful.Emotional: Take a step back and write down all the emotions you can think of that you’ve been experiencing. Which experiences have caused negative emotions? Which emotions trigger eating disorder behaviors? What about your positive emotions — when do you experience them? Think about how you handle your emotions and how your eating disorder relates to them.

Cognitive and spiritual: Think about your core beliefs and belief systems — whichever kinds you have. What are your values and what do you believe in? Now, think about the belief system which has influenced your eating disorder. Also, it’s important to identify your unhealthy thinking patterns — what do they stem from, and how do they affect you?

Creative and intellectual: Talk about your dreams and aspirations. What do you like doing; what stimulates your mind? Could you benefit from a creative outlet for your emotions? How has your eating disorder affected your creative and intellectual drive?

Nutritional: Think about the role of food throughout your life. Visualize how food nourishes your internal systems. Discuss what a balanced diet means.

Social: Think about your personal relationships. Who is important to you in your journey towards recovery? Are there some relationships which might have influenced your condition? Lastly, think about how your eating disorder has affected your personal relationships and whether there are some that you would like to rebuild.

These are some aspects to think about, and they’re all closely connected to the physical — the way your eating disorder has affected your concept of a healthy body. They’re meant to encourage mindful introspection which will, in turn, help you rebuild who you are.

The most important thing about this way of thinking, or rather the holistic approach, is that it encourages you to embrace who you are by methodically exploring the various aspects of your identity. By acknowledging them without any shame or self-criticism, you give yourself space to confront your thoughts and emotions. Thus, you are guided to set goals for yourself and empowered to make changes step by step. It’s a process, one that takes a lot of mindfulness, but it helps you build a kinder attitude towards yourself. And you’ll find that being more kind to yourself and shedding the toxic self-criticism is what will guide you to long-lasting recovery.


Caitlin EvansCaitlin Evans is a bookworm, photographer and dancer. She is also a medical student in love with science. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and universe, Caitlin is researching and writing about various health-related topics. She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu, and caffeine.

 


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Where Stress Hides in the Body - And How to Release It

Posted By Trevor McDonald, Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Updated: Monday, May 21, 2018
Stress in the brain

Stress is an interesting emotion because we tend to feel it as much physically as we do mentally. Rapid heartbeat, nausea, and sweaty palms are common symptoms that most people notice. But there are other symptoms that are hiding behind the scenes whenever you start feeling anxious.

It's crucial that we find healthy ways to relieve stress because some things we think are helping are doing more harm than good. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are two good examples of things that cause more stress on the body.

Look for signs of stress in the following areas of the body.

Stress in the Brain

When you’re feeling stressed, you’re more likely to be forgetful and depressed. This is thanks to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol.

How to release it

Try to avoid stress at work whenever you can. If you’re dealing with unavoidable stress, consider taking a day off. These “mental health days” are more important than most people realize.

In fact, one study found that people were more likely to experience stress when they felt like their performance impacted the company as a whole. Pressures like these can weigh on a person over time, and it’s important to take time to recharge.

Stress in the hairStress in the Hair

Have you been having a lot of bad hair days lately? Well, we can’t be sure that stress is the cause, but we do know that cortisol hides in hair follicles. Just like they can test for signs of smoking or cocaine in your hair follicles, they can also find signs of stress. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario took follicle samples from more than 100 men and found that those who had been hospitalized for heart attacks had higher concentrations of cortisol.

How to release it

If you want to lower your stress levels, consider meditating. A 2013 Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand study found that students who practiced mindfulness meditation experienced significantly lower cortisol levels than those who didn’t meditate.

Stress in the Gut

You may feel knots in your stomach when stress levels get high, but did you know that stress can actually cause an increase in stomach acid? Excess stomach acid can loosen your bowels and send you to the restroom more often. And if your stress is chronic, it can change the way your body processes and stores fat. This will inevitably lead to a “stress belly” where you’re storing most of your fat in the gut area.

How to release it

As we learn more about the role of the gut in our overall health, many scientists have begun calling it the “second brain.” As such, it makes sense that you’d feel the stress response largely in your gut.

Fortunately, you can better handle that stress by taking regular prebiotics and probiotics. One study on the subject found that patients who received probiotics score better on tests for depression and saw the following additional benefits:

  • Decreases in systemic inflammation
  • Significantly lower insulin levels
  • Significant rise in glutathione (an antioxidant)
  • Reduced insulin resistance

Stress in the musclesStress in the Muscles

You’ve probably linked some neck and upper back tension to stress, but there may be more stress hiding in your muscles than what’s obvious. Over time, chronic stress and tension can lead to chronic pain, especially in the back and neck areas.

How to release it

If you want to keep your muscles loose, you must stretch. Try starting your day with a simple stretch. Touch your toes and hold that position for about 15 seconds. It’s okay if you can’t actually reach your toes. The act of trying is what counts. Throughout the day, take mini breaks to stretch. You can do stretches at your desk, and you can even do some in your car. For an added bonus, inhale and exhale deeply as you stretch. Not only will this relieve tension in your muscles, but it will also help slow your heart rate and promote an overall sense of calm.

If it’s left unchecked, chronic stress can lead to chronic pain and disease. It’s so much more than a mere annoyance. Because of the mind-body connection, stress is a major threat to our overall health.

Stress can hide virtually anywhere in your body, and it directly and indirectly affects many important systems. The longer you deal with chronic stress, the more symptoms you will see.

So, if you want to live a long and healthy life, find ways to release stress from your body. Stress is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you have to carry it around wherever you go.

What are your best stress-busting techniques?


Trevor McDonaldTrevor McDonald is a freelance writer and recovering addict and alcoholic who's been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

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Wellness Strategies to Support Mental Health in the Workplace

Posted By Will Williams, Friday, May 11, 2018

In the USA, approximately one in five adults experience mental illness in any given year. The personal impact, from emotional distress to stymied career development, is a significant consequence for those affected, and the broader economic burden is similarly profound. Serious mental illness costs the USA $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year, and employers are increasingly required to navigate this difficult issue in a professional, supportive and consistent way.

wellness strategyIt can be difficult to set in place an effective framework for dealing with mental health issues in the workplace, but having a coherent wellness strategy in place can make a big difference, both for the bottom line and the experiences of employees. In this, businesses and other institutions have a big responsibility.

While the monetary burden is something employers have to consider, more important is their influence on the recovery and wellbeing of their staff when they are facing difficulties; inappropriate pressure, unfair dismissal and (even inadvertent) discrimination could have far-reaching consequences for the individuals involved. Anybody which employs staff has a responsibility to assist them as far as is possible when they become unwell, and to take great care in avoiding any action that may exacerbate the issue.

So what kind of wellness strategies should employers put in place?

Understanding Mental Health Issues

The first step in any wellness strategy that focuses on mental health is creating an atmosphere of openness and compassion within the workplace. Mental health issues have been widely misunderstood for many years, and are often also an “invisible illness” which might not be immediately obvious to a casual observer. For instance, someone with anxiety may appear to be coping well while secretly struggling, or an employee who performs brilliantly one day can find they are unable to leave their bed the next.

There’s also a societal perception that people suffering from mental health issues will be more volatile, less reliable, and less capable of competently fulfilling their role. Even if this belief doesn’t actually apply within a workplace, people who have become mentally unwell may be concerned that they’ll be perceived this way, and therefore nervous about coming back to work or being open about their symptoms. There may also be situations in which a person’s mental health issues manifest themselves in overwork and perfectionism.

Employers should endeavor to understand the mental health issues they may encounter in their workforce, using resources such as the charity Mind, WebMD, and the National Wellness Institute to familiarize themselves with the symptoms, personal experiences, and challenges associated with problems like depression. Issues such as grief, stress, and burnout — which can affect anyone — are also important to consider, even if they are more the result of circumstances than a diagnosable mental illness.

Creating information packs for employees can also be extremely helpful. Firstly, it makes anyone who struggles with mental health issues aware that an organization is sympathetic and knowledgeable about mental health, and therefore more able to talk directly about the subject. Secondly, it makes other employees more understanding and less likely to place pressure on their unwell colleagues — as well as cutting down on any insensitive or misguided remarks.

Workplace flexibilityEmbracing Flexibility

Having a flexible approach to working practices can make a huge difference in the lives of people living with chronic mental health problems, and supports those who are experiencing other emotional difficulties, such as bereavement. For example, someone who suffers from anxiety may have trouble sleeping, or their medication may make them drowsy in the mornings. Shifting or temporarily shortening their hours could help to keep them in work, and retain the skills, knowledge, and input which make them so valuable to the organization.

Flexibility benefits both staff and companies in a variety of ways. It allows staff to return to work more quickly, saving organizations the money they would have spent employing cover and dealing with the shortfall in work. By supporting people back into work, the employer also saves the funds it would require to pay redundancy, as well as recruiting and training a new member of staff. Finally, they won’t miss out on the value that particular employee brings to the role — the reason why they were hired in the first place.

From an employee perspective, when organizations collaborate with them to make returning to work as seamless as possible, they can benefit from a faster recovery and reintegration into the workplace. Returning to work often improves people’s mental health, boosts their confidence, eases financial concerns and provides a social outlet. If an employer can make reasonable adjustments, such as...

  • Creating a phased return to work after a period of absence, where the employee works gradually back up to full-time hours over a few weeks or months;
  • Being mindful of an employee’s particular needs, such as those with social anxiety being excused from meetings and allowed a private workstation;
  • Having the option to work from home if facing other people feels overwhelming - for example after losing a family member;
  • Allowing employees to see their doctor or therapist within work hours and as often as needed.
  • Providing frequent breaks and the option to leave the workplace without prior notice if the employee is experiencing symptom flare-ups, like panic attacks.

...then it makes the working lives of those with mental health issues easier to cope with, and ultimately assists them in regaining their health.

Considering The Impact of Stress

Stress in itself is very damaging, but when combined with poor mental health its impact can be profound - worsening and even triggering mental illnesses in many people. All workplaces should be aware of stress levels amongst their staff, especially as too much stress directly impedes most people’s ability to perform. This lost productivity is an expensive consequence for organizations, and if they become known as a particularly stressful place to work then their reputation may also be damaged.

MeditationPeople tend to work at their optimum in demanding, yet calm, working environments - places where they are challenged, engaged and focused but still generally relaxed, enjoying the “flow” of work. This quickly disintegrates when too much stress is applied: whether that’s through aggressive management, unmanageable workloads, or systematic problems that mean they can’t effectively do their job. People also become stressed if they are constantly interrupted, micromanaged, or pressured into situations they aren’t comfortable with - such as being given sole accountability on a project they aren’t au fait with or told they have to present a pitch.

A stressful and chaotic working environment will impact the mental health of the majority of people who work within it, as burnout and panic begin to wear everyone down. Much of the solution to this lies in working practices and company policy, which will vary from organization to organization depending on the particular demands of their service or industry. However, they are other strategies which most organizations can apply which will help prevent damaging levels of stress:

  • Encouraging a good work/life balance. Organizations should make it clear that no one is expected to work outside of office hours, and that work emails shouldn’t be read or answered in an employee’s time off.
  • Pay fairly and include good employee benefits. This is something that may be easier said than done, especially in small businesses, but low wages, not enough holiday time and poor sickness pay can be hugely stressful parts of any job.
  • Providing opportunities for employees to discuss any issues they have confidentially while ensuring that their concerns are addressed and resolved.
  • Implementing a workplace well-being program where employees are supported in living happily and healthily; through meditation classes, the appointment of a wellbeing officer and distributing advice.

Providing meditation classes — as Google and Nike have done — and if possible a calming space where employees can go to meditate, is one way to help people de-stress. Studies from Harvard neuroscientists have demonstrated physical changes in the brains of meditators, where the “stress center” (known as the amygdala) decreases in volume — convincing physical evidence of meditation’s positive impact on the experience of stress.

This has further implications for mental health problems like anxiety (https://www.willwilliamsmeditation.co.uk/why-meditate/mind/anxiety/), where sufferers feel a constant sense of danger because their amygdala is in high alert, even if there is no real threat. In teaching techniques like meditation, and allowing time in the day for people to practice them, employers will be providing those who experience poor mental health with a coping mechanism that will help them to better manage their symptoms.


Will WilliamsWill Williams is one of Europe’s leading Vedic meditation experts, and a wellbeing advisor to the OECD working group on Education. He has worked with the BBC, American Express, Spotify, Uber and many others in implementing corporate wellbeing programs, and his first book, The Effortless Mind, is available on Amazon.
You can contact him at willwilliamsmeditation.co.uk.

Tags:  Meditation  Mental Health  Stress  Worksite Wellness 

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Student Chapter Corner - UWSP Student Chapter Conference

Posted By NWI, Wednesday, May 2, 2018

 

A Journey in Wellness

Once again the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) NWI Student Chapter displayed incredible foresight and organizational skills in holding this year’s Student Chapter Conference. This conference theme was "Paving the Path - A Journey in Wellness." The students spent Thursday, April 12 and Friday, April 13, 2018, at the Tundra Lodge in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The student chapter showcased three outstanding keynote speakers and an alumni panel.  Those in attendance were Matt Lund (NWI ED), Sherri Galle-Teske (NWI Membership Dir), Caroline Carlson (NWI Marketing Dir) and Dane Royer (NWI Graphic Design).  

Friday's events started with a presentation from Exec Dir. Matt Lund and Hailey Hoepner.  During the course of the day the students were shown mindful exercises, wellness tools and heard first hand worksite wellness experiences.

Are you a student considering a career in Wellness? Find out more about student chapters Here.

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National Wellness In the News—Ketchum Study

Posted By NWI, Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The National Wellness Institute was mentioned in The Holmes Report's Industry News in Brief from April 16, 2018. NWI's Six Dimensions of Wellness was included in a new Ketchum study showing that wellness is defined by emotions just as much as its physical counterpart. 


NEW YORK — While 93% of Americans report they have at least one wellness goal, a new Ketchum study reports that the definition of wellness is as much emotional as it is physical. It also reveals that today’s wellness influencer is most commonly young, male and ranks mindfulness and positive relationships among his top goals for well-being. The Influence of Wellness study, which polled 1,046 American adults, also found:

  • Emotional aspects (71% ) are considered equally as important as physical (72%) when consumers rank the six dimensions of wellness defined by the National Wellness Institute (emotional, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual).
  • Men are slightly more likely than women to rate social aspects as important (30% vs. 27% for women) and less likely to rate physical aspects (68% vs. 75% for women).
  • Both men and women equally experience such wellness barriers as putting others first (men 22%, women 25%) and lack of support from a spouse or partner (men 5%, women 5%).Young adults are less skeptical than their elders: 80% of those age 55 and older think wellness brands exaggerate the benefits of their products or services, compared to 64% of those ages 18-24.

Read the rest of Industry News in Brief Here.

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