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May Is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Did You Know?! May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Help Raise Awareness! And be the voice for change!

Feeling sad or down or a lost of interest in things once enjoyed? Take a depression screen by going to the following URL: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screen/patient-health

Please note: 
Our screens are only for adults. By clicking on a screen, you acknowledge that the screen is not a diagnostic instrument and is only to be used by you if you are 18 years or older. You are encouraged to share your results with a physician, psychologist, or healthcare provider. Mental Health America Inc., sponsors, partners, and advertisers disclaim any liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from the use and application of these screens.
(taken from: http://www.mhaindy.net/)

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Health & Wellness

Health & Wellness: Tips for Everyday Living 

undefinedBrrr is a common expression from Hoosiers around town this winter! Although we haven’t had a lot of snowfall thankfully, it’s been brutally cold and we’ve reached record lows this winter season. What has this meant for residents of the state of Indiana?  It means we’re in a state of emergency for health and wellness!

It’s likely on some level you’ve neglected your health and wellness this winter and it’s time to get it back on track with spring and summer just around the corner. Because of the cold temperatures, many of you’ve probably found yourself spending more time indoors parked on the couch eating your favorite snacks and watching television. It’s also likely that you’ve spent enough time with Netflix and Amazon Prime that you’ve forgotten you were even in a relationship; I promise I won’t tell...your secret is safe with me!

If you’ve found yourself neglecting your health and wellness this winter, then I would encourage you to keep reading to gain awareness on the tips to keep in mind when addressing your health and wellness. By the end, you should have some tools on how to recognize health and wellness pitfalls and how to solve them.

Health and wellness are multidimensional. When I think of these concepts, I think of the whole person encompassing the physical, mental, social, behavioral, sexual, intellectual, occupational, and spiritual. Because health and wellness are multidimensional, if you’re not careful, yours can easily become neglected.

To avoid neglecting your health and wellness, think of prevention. What is prevention?  Prevention is the idea that you can address issues with your physical, mental, social, behavioral, sexual, intellectual, occupational, and spiritual health before they go awry. With this in mind, below is a list of health and wellness tips to keep in mind when thinking about preventative maintenance. Remember that you’re responsible for your health and wellness and that you have the ability to affect change in your life to impact the way you feel.

1. If you don’t already have a primary care physician, find one! You’d be surprised how many people don’t have a primary care physician. This is imperative for preventative maintenance.  See your doctor on a regular basis, especially for physical examinations, and to have your blood work, thyroid and hormones checked yearly. Building a relationship with your doctor means your doctor gets to know you, your body, and your health, which makes it easier for both you and your doctor to realize when any part of your health and wellness is at risk. These simple tests can make your life more manageable and can even save your life. I typically recommend my patients get an updated physical examination etc., when I see them to make sure their psychiatric symptoms aren’t part of a larger medical problem. Importantly, re-evaluate behaviors that take a toll on your life such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

2. Manage your stress and emotional health! I can’t say this enough: Stress will wreak havoc in your life if it isn’t managed appropriately.  Stress can be confusing because sometimes it can affect the multidimensional aspects of your health and wellness. If you’re used to being under high levels of stress or you often overlook how your body feels, you could be in trouble. One way to decrease stress is to perceive the stressful situations in your life differently. If this is easier said than done for you, please take note of the following health and wellness tips. These can all help reduce the stress you experience.  

3. Eat a healthy diet! Make sure your food choices are healthy. If you’re unsure what this looks like or what “healthy” is, reach out to your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian or take a look at the USDA Food Pyramid. Eating throughout the day will sustain your energy and will keep your metabolism moving. One way to de-stress is to take the time throughout the day to eat something healthy and tasty. Your body and mind will thank you! Oh, and make sure to hydrate throughout the day with water; forgo the soda and caffeinated beverages when possible.

4. Exercise on a regular basis! That means exercise more days than not, if possible. If you haven’t exercised in a year or longer, talk with your doctor and make sure you’re cleared to begin an exercise regimen. When you begin, take small steps and build from there. It’s usually recommended to exercise from 30 to 60 minutes three to six days a week; the most important thing is to make sure it fits within your lifestyle. If it doesn’t, your chances of maintaining your regimen will be low. There are a ton of benefits from exercise, and most importantly it can help prevent a variety of medical conditions and can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression.  

5. Make sure to get enough sleep! The amount of time of sleep you need varies from person to person and sometimes it can take a trial and error before you hit upon the amount of time you need to feel refreshed, restored and ready to face your day. Usually six to eight hours a night is sufficient, but again this depends on all sorts of factors such as your age, when you last ate, how much alcohol you’ve consumed prior to falling asleep, and how much stress is in your life and how much physical activity you’ve had for the day. Whatever you do, create a boundary and make a deal with yourself on the time you want to go to bed in order to get the amount of sleep that you need. Make sure to use your bed only for sleep and sexual intimacy. This means no television in bed! Hard to commit to, I know, but worth it in the end because your sleep will be so much more refreshing. That way your body and mind doesn’t confuse the purpose of the bed and create difficulty in triggering a sleep onset.

6. Take time out for yourself! Don’t forget to get involved in things that make you happy and fulfilled. Find hobbies, reach out to family and friends, volunteer, or participate in faith-related activities that lift your spirit. There’s so much to do and get involved in Indianapolis so do yourself a favor and get connected. Finding time for yourself is crucial in renewing yourself and decreasing stress.

7. Do some deep breathing! To do this, find a relaxing place free of distractions and get into a comfortable position. Once you’re ready, inhale through your nose for four to six counts, pause, and then release the air through your mouth for four to six counts, then pause again, and repeat. Do this for 10 to 30 minutes each day. We know that deep breathing decreases stress, anxiety, and tension. It also relieves pain, decreases blood pressure, and re-centers your mind. Deep breathing exercises are restorative for the mind and body. Check it out and see for yourself!  

Health and wellness is an intricate network of layers consisting of the physical, mental, social, behavioral, sexual, intellectual, occupational, and spiritual dimensions.  It’s difficult to find a good balance and take care of yourself, especially during long winter months but it’s necessary and the tips above can help. Take some time to re-evaluate these dimensions and get yourself back on track!  

Art Therapy & Mental Health

Art + Therapy = Ex2    

The Art Therapy Alliance says that “Art therapy is the deliberate use of art-making to address psychological and emotional needs. Art therapy uses art media and the creative process to help in areas such as, but not limited to: fostering self-expression, enhancing coping skills, managing stress, and strengthening a sense of self.” Art therapy has been around for a very long time and was initially integrated into adult inpatient psychiatric units with nonverbal patients or patients diagnosed with a type of schizophrenia. Nowadays, art therapy is utilized with a wide variety of patient populations and found in a variety of treatment settings. And to participate in art therapy, a mental illness of course isn't a requirement.

I’d like to think the formula [Art + Therapy =Ex2]  is a powerful way to think about the conceptualization of art therapy and how it’s employed. undefinedArt therapy allows for the powerful expression (i.e. Ex2) of one’s internal world that can be even more powerful than words alone. Think for a minute if you felt something you had difficulty explaining or expressing, or if something tragic happened to you and speaking about it created a great deal of anxiety, or even yet, you couldn’t speak or had difficulty speaking. In these instances, Art + Therapy = Ex2 can be life changing.

I connected with a friend and colleague, Mr. Ken Cox, a local art therapist in Indianapolis, Indiana and asked him a few questions about art therapy. What I found intriguing about art therapy from his perspective is its flexibility and freedom in creating and being. I believe that art therapy allows the patient to suspend, at least for a while, any type of self-imposed boundaries on the therapeutic process. This, I feel, gives the therapeutic process a much more authentic experience for the patient and psychotherapist. What I’ve learned in doing art therapy with my own patients is the ability of this format to bring about insight and introspection in a way that’s safe and opens the door for a lot of reflection. Typically, my patients have responded well and love taking their creation home. What’s really fun for me is when the patient returns for their next session and has more thoughts about what they created and what it means for them. I think Aristotle says it best when he says, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”

From your perspective, what is art therapy? Art therapy is the utilization of art (e.g. painting, sculpture, music, a piece of writing, a dance or movement, or mixed media) as a way to express one’s internal world and conflicts (i.e. perceptions of self, others, and the world) that might be difficult to express in words otherwise.

What is it about art therapy that you’re drawn to? What I like about art therapy is that it allows what’s out of our awareness to then be realized in our awareness; verbal communication alone might not be sufficient, especially for those who might have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. The art therapy process tends to soften one’s defense mechanisms (e.g., denial, rationalization, repression etc.), allowing one’s internal experience to become more known or felt.  

How do you use art therapy in your clinical practice? Art making, no matter what the medium, can allow for the expression of difficult emotions. The art work itself allows for some distance from the client who created the art to be able to talk about it and its possible meaning(s). Once the client develops some hypotheses as to what the art means, I like to use it as a way to revisit for possible new revelations, which could deepen its meaning and provide more insights into the client’s internal world and conflicts.

What is one of your favorite things about doing art therapy? I’m partial to group dynamics and am continuously blown away on how an art therapy group supports itself through the images created; it’s exciting to see participants making meaning out of experiences that may have been buried or only partially understood. In addition, the group may be shocked to find similar imagery in others’ art, thus, creating universality within an experience.

Is there a specific art supply you utilize more often with your clients? I tend to utilize fluid mediums such as oil pastels, particularly with adults and teenagers. This material has the fluidity of paint, but is less intimidating. This art form along with the vibrant color allows for safe expressions and regressions of emotional and early childhood states. I also like utilizing collage; using pre-made symbols to create something new is very empowering, and employs the use of Universal Symbols within art making for challenging belief systems in therapy. For instance, Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, believed that there are symbols which are passed down from generation to generation such as that of the Wise Old Owl, the Great Mother, and the Wise father. There are many symbols in our subconscious that are recognized when we utilize media such as collage (i.e. using images from books or magazines which can be reorganized and put into an art image). This image taps into our subconscious and allows us to reach new levels of understanding about ourselves and our internal conflict(s).

What is something profound that you learned either about yourself or your client(s) in doing art therapy? I have learned to always expect the unexpected when using art therapy, especially in the understanding of internal conflicts. This is a journey I am privileged to take with my clients and the journey is constantly surprising.

If you were to refer a client to a well-known book/resource what would it be? My favorite book and movie happens to be Orlando, by Virginia Woolf. The story depicts a young man of great privilege in England starting in the 15th century. Over the course of one hundred years, Orlando experiences life as male as well as a female and learns to let go and accept things in life. Orlando learns to respect the ever changing personas that become part of our living experience while still living in truth to who we are and what we have to offer.

What types of clients seek out or are interested in art therapy? Is there a certain population that responds well to art therapy? Any population responds well to art therapy. Of course children do, as their language abilities are still developing. I find grief work excellent for art therapy. I also love the challenge of adults who may fear the process initially, but find themselves lost within the process. For trauma victims, art therapy aids in the processing of the traumatic event, which aids in the reduction of the trauma symptom presentation.

Does a client need to be creative in order to participate in art therapy? It’s not necessary to have ever taken art to find the benefit in art therapy. Art therapy is about expressing oneself—not creating a Picasso. Art therapy is a process driven modality and encourages the client to get lost in the process. It’s not about rushing to a finished product, but about finding aspects of oneself that need and deserve a voice.  

For more information on art therapy, please contact Mr. Ken Cox at the following: Ken Cox, MPS,  Art Therapist, at  kenarttherapy @yahoo.com

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NorthStar Psychological + Consultation Services, LLC
429 E. Vermont Street
Suite 307
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Phone:
317-572-7847 (ST4R)
Fax:
317-632-3253
eMail:
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Hours:
Monday 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm & Tuesday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Closed all other days.