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Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Keeping it real: How to make lasting change

This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of the Livewell® Newsletterof the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

When resolving to change a habit, take it one step at a time. Set a goal and break it down into smaller goals that are more sustainable.

If your New Year’s resolutions have already begun to wane, maybe it’s time to rethink your approach.

Sometimes New Year’s resolutions are set for the wrong reasons. Are you trying to make changes for yourself, or because of society’s or someone else’s expectations of you? “If we don’t take time to reflect on where we are in life, what is working and what is not, the goals we set can reflect more of a superficial layer than our authentic self,” explained Lana Abboud, integrative psychologist and acupuncturist with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. “This is the time to think about what you are ready to let go of and what you want to step in to.”

If you are trying to change habits, think about what is contributing to the behavior you want to change. Unhealthy habits can sometimes be a reflection of something deeper.

For example, if your goal is to rein in poor eating habits, Abboud suggests taking some time to consider what makes you eat unwisely. “Maybe it’s because of loneliness, stress or because your relationships are not going well,” she said. Accessing and addressing the root cause will help you make lasting change.

“It’s kind of like trying to fill a void in your life with buying new clothes or a red Mercedes. You buy those things thinking they will make you happy, but you still feel like something’s not quite right. That’s because you are trying to fill the void with external things when the work is more internal.”

Another reason that resolutions don’t stick is because we take on too much all at once. “What you want to focus on is building mastery,” said Abboud. “Think about it like steps on a staircase.”

Instead of making a resolution to lose 50 pounds, break it down into smaller goals that are more sustainable. Skip sweets during the week and enjoy a small treat during the weekend. If exercising every day proves impossible, walk three times a week. As you achieve these smaller goals, move on to the next level.

As you build mastery, your self-confidence and sense of empowerment will increase. That means you’ll be less likely to give up when you experience minor set-backs.

Tips to make resolutions stick

  • Focus on adding positives rather than removing negatives. For example, instead of eliminating all sweets from your diet, find ways to add more protein, or choose more foods with naturally occurring simple sugars (fruits, vegetables and dairy products) instead of processed sugars.
  • Choose resolutions better tailored to your own environment and capacities. Don’t commit to going to the gym six times a week when the nearest gym is an hour away.
  • Surround yourself with circumstances, people and images that support you and that feel good to be around.
  • Provide yourself with gentle reminders of the benefits of accomplishing your resolutions to boost your motivation.
  • Remember, New Year’s resolutions offer an opportunity for change. You are not broken, yet what is an area that could use more refinement in your life? What potential have you yet to evoke? Even if you’ve been locked into the same pattern for years, begin to welcome change.

Lana Abboud, PsyD, MA, LP, Mac, L.Ac, sees patients at Penny George Institute – WestHealth in Plymouth. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.


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Passions and priorities – avoiding being overwhelmed

185421595.OverscheduledCalendarBy Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, massage therapist, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

It was my junior year of college, and I had big plans. On the slate for fall term were 16 credit hours, a campus job, two volunteer positions, a romantic interest, and spots in at least two performing choirs. On the side, I also was to teach a weekly yoga class, tutor Italian language students, and participate in a twice weekly science internship.

Several friends told me that it seemed a bit much. But I was excited and confident that my passion and drive would see me through.

It was an impressive juggling act for the first few weeks, and ultimately my passion did carry me through, just not to my planned destination. I scraped through the term with 11 academic credits, many frayed nerve endings, and an application for academic leave.

The job, volunteerism, romance, choirs, additional credits, and much of my social life disappeared by November.  My attempt to “get it all done” had run me into a nervous breakdown.  I remember feeling confused about why it hadn’t worked out.

Reflecting back, I see that I had talent, inspiration, youth, intelligence and energy on my side. I set goals that seemed reasonable, and planned my time accordingly. The trouble was that I gave equal importance to everything. When things got hairy with my classwork, I didn’t let other responsibilities go — I just stayed up later. Things started to slip and that didn’t fit my self-expectations, so my emotional stress hit the roof.

Years later, the number of responsibilities, passions, and demands on my time hasn’t decreased—quite the contrary. The lesson of that semester, though, has stuck with me: Many things can be important, but only a few can be central. I took spring semester off, and came back with three clear priorities ― school, yoga, and music. Once those were taken care of, my remaining time would be unstructured.

In truth, there was little unstructured time and focusing on three things was almost boring in comparison to my fall semester. But at the year’s end, I was a happy, healthy biology major on top of things. I felt successful, and I had found a new way to approach my passions and priorities.

As you consider resolutions, goals, and plans, what are your top priorities? What is filling your time but not supporting your values? What people, ideas, or activities excite you? Acting on your values provides what I call the “second paycheck.” These are things that money can’t buy, but that have immeasurable worth –  like time spent with the kids, painting, hiking in the woods, or close friendships.

Here is my challenge to you in four easy steps:

  1. Buy a stack of 3 x 5 index cards. Each night this month, draw a blank card before going to bed.
  2. On the front, write down three core values and/or important goals.
  3. On the back, note three small things you will do the next day to meet those values or goals.
  4. The next day, do those three things again.

Repeat these steps until you can’t think of anything else that is important to do. Sound easy? Let me know how it goes!

Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, is a massage therapist with the Penny George Institute. He works with hospitalized patients.


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The scent of sweet marjoram, and the power of integrative therapies

Aromatherapy

by Vicky Grossman, NCTM, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

I work for the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing as an integrative health practitioner at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Certified in massage therapy, I offer hospitalized patients massage therapy , aromatherapy, reflexology, relaxation techniques, guided imagery, and energy work such as healing touch or Reiki,.

I am at times struck by how these therapies and approaches help different people heal in different, and sometimes powerful, ways. One moment like this occurred with a patient who was hospitalized with a form of an inflammatory bowel disease.

The patient, who ultimately needed surgery, experienced a great deal of pain and anxiety prior to that. I treated this patient several times. Our first encounter included reflexology, using pressure points and massage on the feet, and aromatherapy. I used the essential oil sweet marjoram to address the pain.

The patient’s response to the inhalation of sweet marjoram was nothing less than an amazing surprise, even to me!  The patient enjoyed the scent immensely and found it not only helped with the pain, but also with the anxiety. Following these treatments, the pain was reduced, and the anxiety dropped to almost nothing.

At one point, the patient was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in an emergent situation. While there, the patient was sedated and not particularly interactive.  When I visited the ICU, I left sweet marjoram with a family member of the patient to use once the patient became more alert.

I was told that periodically the patient’s blood pressure or respiration would become elevated, and the patient’s family member would administer the sweet marjoram for inhalation. He was astounded at how the blood pressure and respiration would return to a normal range.

I feel honored to treat patients with what can be a powerful combination of healing therapies and approaches. There is such great potential for gain in using these non-invasive, non-pharmacological approaches to pain managment, anxiety and healing.

If you want to learn more about integrative health approaches to help with pain, stress management, cancer care, or even just health and wellness improvement, visit the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing Web site. If pain is an issue for you, visit our online pain education tool, which introduces integrative approaches for pain management.


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Exercise – getting started and sticking with it

by Gail Ericson, MS, PT, Physical Therapist

LiveWellPhoto BlogWe all know the benefits of exercise, like feeling good, and warding off disease and weight gain. So why is it so hard to do it? It’s not about information – there are thousands of publications, online resources and professionals to turn to for exercise recommendations. Even a health scare or a warning by a doctor doesn’t always do the trick.

So, where does one go for motivation? You have to look within yourself. You need to find an exercise program that resonates with, motivates, and has long-term meaning for you. How do you do that? It’s not a cookie-cutter approach, but there is a process to go through to develop an exercise program customized to motivate you.

You can follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate your readiness for exercise. Do you ever say, “I won’t exercise” or “I can’t exercise?” Do you constantly make excuses for not exercising? Then it’s time for some thinking-and-feeling prep work.
  2. Consider your “barriers to exercise” and evaluate what is real and what is an excuse. Brainstorm with friends or family on ways to get around the real barriers. Research movement activities available in your area. Once you start making plans about when, where or with whom you will exercise, you are ready for real change.
  3. Create a personal wellness vision statement by answering in writing the questions below.

    If I had optimal health and wellness:
    – What would that look like? Talk about why these things are of value to you.
    – How would you feel?
    – What would you look like and sound like?
    – What would you be doing for fun, work, with family, and for exercise.

    Write your statement as though it is already happening, such as, “I am energetic and focused. I am less stressed, and I exercise most days of the week because I love it …”
  4. Set long-term goals you’d like to achieve in three to six months or more. Be specific, time sensitive and measurable. Instead of simply having a goal of “I want to be stronger,” consider how you would measure stronger. Try: “I want to do 15 push-ups on my knees without stopping.”
  5. Set short-term goals, such as “I will do five push-ups three times per week.”
  6. Rate your confidence level in meeting your goals on a scale of 0-10. If your answer is seven or below, you might want to rework your goal to something you rate as an eight or higher.
  7. Execute your plan. Reward yourself for meeting your short-term goals with incentives, like a special coffee or new music. Remember, any movement is better than none!
  8. Revisit these goals weekly and adjust them as necessary. Ask yourself: What worked? How can you change a goal so you can achieve it? If you don’t meet some goals, don’t consider it a failure. Learn from it. Remember, change is a process, not an event.
  9. Read your vision statement often to remind yourself of why you are exercising.

If you feel you need more support to get motivated or make a health change, consider integrative health and wellness coaching at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center.

Gail Ericson, PT
Physical Therapist
LiveWell Fitness Center