A Mixed Bag of Emotions during Christmas Time

The Christmas season is full of joy, with all of its frivolities, like gift exchanges, church bells, singing choirs, family gatherings, hoof noises on the roof, rich foods, and the real reason for the season of whom many still celebrate.  Depression, or anxiety, or irritability, or frustration just don’t fit with the holiday season… or do they?  Actually, reality hits most of us in the face as we realize that holiday cheer isn’t exactly a given; especially with high expectations, money woes, and even with the pressure to be cheerful despite not feeling that way.  So, what do we do to improve our holiday cheer with a mixed bag of emotions?

Here are some tips:

-Make plans ahead of time; figure out what needs to get done and make it a priority.  Stay on track until it’s completed before you start the next “to-do” task on your list.

-Try to get along with everyone; avoid conflicts during this time of year and instead make a time later on to disagree and work through stuff when the house isn’t full of company and stress is at its foremost.

-Focus on the good; enjoy your blessings.  Find gratitude in what you do, what you experience, the interactions you have…

-Try to relax and let the “need to be perfect” size way down to “enjoying the moment”.  No one really cares if your house is perfect or if you have one more item made for Christmas.

-Take care of your own health; don’t cut back on sleep, eat nutritiously, don’t forget exercising, and get outside a bit to get refreshed.  Your body drags along with you during this holiday season; why not take care of it.

-Focus on what matters; we all have our own significances.

-Smile anyways; it makes others feel good and it also can have a positive effect on you as well – “Fake it ‘til you make it”.

-Allow others to give to you; let someone in, especially if you are sad or grieving, or if you are stressed or frustrated, or if you feel alone and vulnerable.  We all need each other, especially during a holiday season.  Allowing someone in helps the giver and the receiver.  It is important to feel connected.  We need each other.  It is part of the human condition. 

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

St. Williams Mental Health

4 Reasons Why Assisted Living is Better Than Living Alone

Home is where the heart is.

While this statement is absolutely true, it can be tough to take the leap and leave your home behind for good. This is especially true as we age. We become set in our routines, making change difficult and overwhelming.

But sometimes change is exactly what we need to improve our lives. A little assistance can go a long way toward a more healthy and social lifestyle.

In this article, we’ll give you four good reasons why assisted living is better than living alone.

1. Maintenance? What Maintenance?

Do you love shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, repairing leaky faucets, and fixing a broken A/C in the heat of summer? Not so much!

Home maintenance can become a big burden as we age. It becomes harder to keep up with even the most minor of tasks like cooking and cleaning.

When you join an assisted living community, these chores are taken care of for you. The best part is, you can choose the level of assistance you need. There are a variety of optional amenities to add to your daily routine. They include nursing care, in-house doctor visits, bathing assistance, and personal laundry.

2. Leave Loneliness at the Door

Socialization is a wonderful way to keep your mind sharp as you age. If you spend much of your day alone, an assisted living community is just what you need to improve your social life. There are regular social functions planned on the community activity calendar.

Join in when you want to or opt to stay in your apartment for some alone time if you want to. You have the option.

3. Move It or Lose It

Regular activity is essential for your physical and mental health. Assisted living communities offer lots of extra amenities like whirlpool baths, fitness centers, and even in-house occupational therapy to help you recover from illness or surgery.

There are lots of activities planned to get your out and about. And there are plenty of indoor and outdoor common areas so you can easily take a walk to get your blood pumping.

4. Great Food? Yes, Please!

Some of us love to cook… some of us don’t love it so much. That’s okay! In an assisted living facility, you have the choice to cook for yourself or to enjoy regular breakfast, lunch, and dinner provided by the kitchen.

The meals are delicious. And the best part? You don’t have to do the dishes when you’re finished eating!

Are You Ready?

At St. William’s Living Center, we have 15 beautiful apartments in our assisted living called McCornell Court. Our goal is to provide you with the peace of mind you need and the comfort you deserve.

Call us today to find out how we can assist you!

What Every Child Wants Their Parents to Know

“Dear Parent, as you understand further about what I’m going to tell, you will know more about how to help me grow up.  Just to blurt it all out: ‘YOU’ are the most important person in my life! You may not believe it, but our relationship either shapes me or breaks me.  No matter what is going on with you, I NEED YOU to be there for me!!  MY LIFE IS AT STAKE!  I NEED you unconditionally!  I need you when I cry.  I need you when I don’t want you.  I need you when I can’t sleep.  I need you when I say, “I hate you!”.  I need you to help me when I make mistakes.  I need you to say you’re sorry.  If I scream or throw food on the floor, let me know you love me.  Help me learn to calm down so I can let you know why I’m angry.  With love and discipline, guide me as I try to figure out how to deal with my problems, don’t yell at me and tell me I’m a brat.  I need you to love me through and through – no matter what, despite my mistakes. 

Unconditional love is actually the main ingredient that helps my brain grow normally.  You see, my brain shapes and grows as it is fed through my thoughts and feelings about what happens to and you and me; and the more I feel loved, the more I feel secure and safe and more able to put the pieces together.  However, the more I feel dismissed or a problem-child, the more my brain tells me that maybe I’m not worth much. Even if you don’t mean it but I am placed in the shadows when you are struggling with adult problems, I can take it personally.  Or, if you tend to be sad a lot or angry and we don’t have that love connection, I can blame myself for your heartache. Or, if you aren’t secure, will I learn that life is uncertain and project it through a monster under my bed who gives me nightmares, or even worse some day?  My brain hasn’t fully developed so am wide open to interpretation. 

It is time for you to help me figure out how to deal with all the stuff I don’t even know about. You know, I’ve never lived before so there is everything I don’t know.  I am in your hands!  You are the one to help me grow up with confidence and loved.  Keep me in your mind.  Let me know that you ‘get me’. Stay with me and share my mind with yours.  As you enter my world, you will understand me.  As you enter my world, I will better understand you.  Let me feel loved and cherished.  As we become like one mind, we may meld into our own beautiful dance together.   I know that this, in itself, is the most important gift of all.   Then, I will know you are with me and I can trust you to care for me, no matter what; even if your crabby or sad, even if you had a bad childhood, even if we have some bad genes…I know we are connected and you will always be there to be alongside me, especially to guide me as I try to figure out who I am and what I’m all about. 

Thank you for being with me, through thick or thin.  Thank you for thinking that I’m the best thing that ever happened to you.  Thank you for dealing with your issues so that you can be the best parent in the world for me.  We set our focus on tomorrow.  Thank you.    Luv, Your young little child.”

Claudia A. Liljegren, LICSW, Clinical Psychotherapist

They Served for Us…

They fought for rights. They fought for values. They fought for freedom. They fought to defend Old Glory. They fought because someone else fought before they did. They fought for what was right.

They fought on foreign soil where they were hated. They fought against those who had no regard for human life. They fought to save women and children. They fought to free the oppressed.

They provided security to those who lived in constant fear. They gave medical care to the wounded. They brought food to the starving and water to the desperate. They gave hope to those who had lost everything.

They are men. They are women. They are young and full of life. They are aging gracefully. They come from all backgrounds. And they all have one thing in common…

They served for us.

Veterans are our nation’s greatest treasure. They protect our lives. They protect our liberties. They protect our happiness. They hold our history in their hands. 

On behalf of the St. William’s Living Center community, we thank you, veterans. 

You served us. Now we serve you. 

SAD During the Holidays

Despite the joy of the season and with all of its good cheer and merriment, most of us find only shifting spurts of jolliness here and there during the holidays.  Of course, this oftentimes is self-imposed, with the expectations of “doing it all”, like putting up the most awesome Christmas tree and lights, doing cookie and candy exchanges, sending packed Christmas letters, and buying the right presents for everyone and their brother, and making sure this Christmas is the best one for the kids.   Too much of a good thing, I suppose, sometimes.

But, how about those dear people who find this time fraught with sadness?  There are all sorts of reasons or situations that preclude some from the Christmas spirit, be it lingering loneliness with a lack of family connection or close friends, the reality of setting the table for one less person due to a loss in the recent or remote past, being paled with increased pain and suffering from surging medical issues, having no money, or dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder whose vision is shadowed by dark colored glasses.  ‘Tis the season to be joyful, with fistfuls of love and compassion thrown out to all who can grasp it, like candy at a parade; it is part of the Christmas spirit!  Yet, sadness can be spotted any which way you look during the holiday season, if we choose to see it. 

Spite our nose and off our face, most of us have “good reason” for keeping those fistfuls of love clutched in our own hands.  Oftentimes, we become discombobulated with our own list of “must do’s”, putting off the other list of “extra’s” or niceties until the end, if there is time.  And, then there are those awkward moments that keep us from reaching out to help a stranger; “What should I do?  What if my approach is wrong? What if I say or do the wrong thing? What if they think I’m nosy?  Would my effort even be worth it?  What if I offend them when I try to help?”.  So, on with our traditions; celebrate with our spurts of joy as we rejoice in the season of Christmas, and leave well enough alone, right?  Still, for many of us, there is that looming sadness underneath it all that just stays inside.

And in our silent ways, we all know that somehow, during the holiday season, giving out love and touching someone who needs it, seeing the joy in their face and feeling a little shiver inside, has to be one of the greatest gifts of all?  So, what does all this mean anyways?

And, you may wonder what this has to do with good mental health during the Christmas season.  You guessed it; it has everything to do with it!  Feeling good, doing good, feeling loved and giving love makes it all better for most.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

How to Spot the Signs of Memory Problems in a Loved One

Did you know that about 40% of people aged 65 and older have issues with memory?

For most people, this is just a sign of an aging brain and not a major health issue. But, in about 1% of these cases, the person goes on to develop dementia or other forms of advanced memory loss.

It’s important that you learn to spot the signs of memory problems in your elderly loved one. Keep reading to learn how.

They’ll Fight the War of the Words

If you’ve ever tried and failed to come up with the right word to describe something, you know how frustrating it is. People who have issues with memory experience this war of the words often and you’ll notice it happening more and more as they age.

Your loved one might have to pause longer when speaking in order to get the words out correctly. They may stop in the middle of a sentence and get lost in thought. Or they may fail to join conversations at all for fear of not being able to speak how they’d like to speak.

This applies to written words too. You may notice their handwriting becomes shakier and uneven. They also might make more spelling and grammar errors than you’re used to seeing.

You’ll See All the Emotions

As we mentioned, not being able to remember words is super frustrating. And you might notice your loved one getting angry when they can’t participate in a conversation. Someone who’s normally sweet and kind might lash out at others in situations where they can’t think of the right words.

You also might notice more frequent mood swings. They may be happy one moment and sad or withdrawn the next because they can’t remember something from their past.

Other common emotions are fear and anxiety. If they’re having issues remembering what they did in recent days, they may become anxious or even suspicious of those around them.

The Familiar Becomes Unfamiliar

Simple daily tasks, like shaving or cooking breakfast, may become more difficult for them to perform. They may forget how to turn on their oven or how to hold a razor. Or they may repeat things because they’ve forgotten they did them in the first place.

Misplacing items is common with those suffering from memory problems. You might find a cell phone sitting in the sugar bowl or other strange occurrences like that. And they’ll lose common items, like car keys and gloves, more often because they’ll lose the ability to retrace their steps.

Social Butterfly, No More

It’s often difficult for people to deal with the changes that come with memory loss. They’ll know there’s something wrong, but won’t be able to put their finger on it. A normally social person may become withdrawn and depressed.

You might notice that they have a hard time planning ahead and remembering when they need to be at certain places. They may lose interest in hobbies or attending activities because of fear that they’ll forget how to participate.

When to Seek Help for Memory Problems

There are some things that you can do to help your loved one improve their memory. You can talk to them often and make sure they’re eating a good diet and drinking plenty of water. Many times, memory problems are caused by dehydration or fatigue.

But if you notice that the issues are getting worse and memory lapses are becoming more frequent and distressing, it’s time to get some help. Make an appointment with their doctor to discuss your concerns about their memory problems.

At St. William’s Living Center, we offer a variety of care services to help our residents navigate life as they age. Call us today to talk to one of our experienced staff members.

The Commission of Farmers and the Toll it has Taken

It is December, and the onset of winter has come before us.  Usually, crops are in, farm equipment has been put away, and farmers can finally sit back and chalk it up to another year. Yet, Mother Nature has the final call – farmers see in plain sight the fear of freezing temperatures or accumulated snow in their fields.  Harvesting is a month behind already, and farmers hope and pray that their corn will soon dry sufficiently without the leering risks of foreseen elevated costs and a disappointing bottom line.

Yes, farmers either know the hazards before they take on the lifestyle, or learn all about it by living in its trenches.   Each farmer is called to determine their own risk level and their ability to manage the rollercoaster of the occupation.  There are blessings and risks abound, and the lifestyle is likely one of the primary motives to keep on keeping on.

So, why is the suicide rate among farmers more than double that of veterans and 5 times higher compared to that of the general population, reported by the 2018 Center for Disease Control (CDC).   Why is depression and anxiety rampant among this group? 

For farmers, their work is who they are, and oftentimes considered their life purpose.  To change careers is way beyond consideration as farming is a way of life.  Most difficulties are beyond the control of farmers.  Some of the challenges faced by farmers and those living in rural and remote communities include dealing with fluctuating crop and input prices, shifting interest rates on land and loans, weather changes, current politics around tariffs, trade and the farm bill, and difficulty accessing services. 

Primarily, the culture of farming takes on a number of principles that may also lead one towards increased mental health struggles or suicide. 

  1. Overall, farmers do their work alone, and they suffer with depression and anxiety alone.  Seeking help or talking to friends about their struggles goes straight against privacy and independence. A typical phrase in farm communities include; “Don’t air your dirty laundry in public”.  They simply “suck it up” and push through the emotional pain.  It is part of the culture.  It is part of that independence. 
  2. Unfortunately, the farming culture views their high rates of anxiety and depression as weaknesses, and not common conditions.  The perception of personal failure when things don’t go right feeds into the need to do it all; work harder, work longer, breathe endurance.  It’s like the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

With all this, farming does have its mental health vulnerabilities.  Suicide is an isolated decision; and with the forced winds of today’s obstacles, a culture of independence, isolation and privacy, an erroneous belief that mental health issues are not for the strong, and self-identification is determined by their success or failure, “checking in” with them once in a while could save a life.

Claudia A. Liljegren, LICSW

Thanks Giving

Usually, we look at Thanksgiving as a holiday started by the pilgrimage of our ancestors who celebrated a successful harvest in the new land.  Being grateful this day is usually the tradition.  It may also be of interest to know that if you take the words, “Thanks” and “Giving”, you also have two primary keys to improved mental health.  As is oftentimes the case, those who feel over-whelmed with negativity easily lose perspective on the part of their lives that they otherwise might feel more grateful.   

Gratitude is a choice, and it isn’t necessarily easy.  In the end, you have to choose between being thankful or remaining in the habit of reveling in negative emotions. Of course, you can remain luke-warm with gratitude by reflecting on it during special occasions, like Thanksgiving; but you may be sure that in the midst of mental health problems, negative emotions will remain dominant.

If you do indeed choose gratitude, there is increased research showing that gratitude exuberates both physical health as well as mental and emotional well-being.   According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s research and numerous other resources, gratitude expands self-esteem.   As it is difficult to blend depression or resentment with a grateful heart, bad thoughts take a back seat while gratitude takes the lead.  Similarly, gratitude expels worries and ruminations with a growing habit of thanksgiving and a focus on others.   Gratitude also helps calm down stress and improves symptoms of trauma.  It also supports and encourages resilience while fighting off the worst of times.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that with gratitude, there are no more mental health issues, but it does help to manage them better.

Gratitude opens the door to more and truer relationships through appreciation, cooperation, enhanced empathy, reduced aggression and acknowledging others’ contributions.  In addition, gratitude improves physical health with a tendency to experience fewer aches and pains, increased motivation towards a healthier self and an overall focus on feeling healthier.  Another advantage of gratitude is that it helps people sleep better, just by jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed.  Being grateful is a way we can back away from a place of lacking to a place of contentedness.

So, if gratitude spawns enhanced empathy as is implied with the word, “Thanksgiving”, giving is also a natural next step for improved mental health. Within society, many of us think well-being in terms of what we have, such as our level of comfort, or our income, or our possessions, or our status as the markers. But evidence shows that what we do and the way we think actually have a far more meaningful impact on mental health and wellbeing.  According to neuroscience, increased activation and strengthening of certain parts of the brain occur when we give to others.  So, “Thanks” and “Giving” may be the way to go to improve our mental well-being.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW< LICSW

Clinical Psychotherapist

Why Physical Therapy Is Perfect for Recurring Injury Treatment

Do you have a pesky injury? Something you may have done years ago that comes back to haunt you every few months?

Usually, these recurring injuries are caused by an underlying problem. And if we ignore the issue and “fight” through the pain and discomfort, we aren’t really doing ourselves any good.

That’s where physical therapy (PT) can help. Keep reading to learn why PT is perfect for recurring injury treatment.

Fix the Root of the Problem

Physical therapists are specially trained to assess your injury and treat it so you can get back your mobility. There are a number of factors that might cause recurring pain from an old injury.

Scar tissue can build up, affecting flexibility and range of motion. PT improves range of motion through specific exercises that target the area where the scar tissue has developed. Greater range of motion means less pain and less chance that you’ll re-injure the area in the future.

Also, injuries may cause you to favor one set of muscles over another. This lack of use can cause weakness in the muscles surrounding the injury point. A physical therapist treats this by giving you exercises that strengthen the muscles around the injury site. Strengthening these muscles will not only help heal the old injury, but it will prevent future injuries in the same area.

Get Pain Relief Without Pills

Physical pain from an injury can last for weeks or months. And it can severely limit your ability to move and interact with others. 

Pain medication is one way to limit pain, but it isn’t always the best answer. Strong medication is potentially addictive and dangerous if abused. Plus, it doesn’t actually treat an injury, but instead, only masks the pain.

PT is an excellent alternative to pain medication. Stretching is one way that physical therapists help relieve pain. Muscle and joint stretches loosen up tight tissues, giving you greater flexibility and reducing painful movements.

Also, your physical therapist will work on ways to improve blood flow to injured tissue, which reduces inflammation. Inflammation is one of the most common causes of pain in the body. They treat inflammation with heat/cold therapy, massage therapy, and ultrasound treatments. 

Heal the Injury, Avoid the Surgery

It’s true that sometimes, surgery is necessary. Especially if you’re dealing with an injury that’s been lingering for months or years. But it’s also true that giving physical therapy a try might help you avoid surgery altogether. 

There are a number of common ailments that often benefit more from PT than from surgery. Minor knee issues, like meniscal tears, improve over time with strengthening exercises performed by a physical therapist. 

A physical therapist can improve mild to moderate arthritis through weight-bearing exercises that strengthen the joints. And smaller rotator cuff tears respond really well to stretching and strengthening.

Whenever you can skip the surgery, it’s a win for you. It allows you to avoid the additional pain and recovery time it takes to heal from surgery. Plus, you avoid a hospital stay, which comes with a hefty price tag.

Injury Treatment Done the Right Way

PT is an excellent form of injury treatment. If you suffer from recurring injuries, it’s time you get to the root of the problem and treat the underlying cause. Nobody should have to live with recurring pain from injuries.
At St. William’s Living Center, we have an incredibly talented outpatient therapy team. Visit our website to learn more about the types of therapy we offer. And make your physical therapy appointment today!

Turning the Mind

Have you ever worked at “the power of positive thinking”?  Have you ever met someone who mostly felt optimistic and upbeat?  You know; the kind that easily throws out a litany of jokes and readily smiles with an easy laugh; the person that stands out in a crowd and easily makes others feel good; the one that infects others so that the happy feeling is contagious.  How do they do it?  Maybe it’s heredity, or they had a positive family or good environment while growing up. Or, maybe it’s in the genes.  Well, whatever it is, what do the rest of us do if we aren’t so lucky? 

It is a lot easier to ruminate about the negative things in life; you know, our short comings, other’s deficiencies and how they affect us, all the bad things that have happened to us or that we are currently experiencing, the money we don’t have, the fun we aren’t having, the unfairness of it all, the famine and large poverty base throughout the world, etc., etc., etc.  With all this, how then do any of us succeed at positive thinking?  Well, there are ways.

One strong restorative approach is called “Turning the Mind”, a skill learned in therapy groups to improve a client’s mood and perceptions of themselves, others and the world at large.  Turning the mind is actually a hard process to do.  It takes a lot of work.  Unfortunately, many attempts fail just because we give up when we return to our old ways.  You may not have known, but our brain motherboard bends according to how we think and feel.  So, if you are a negative thinker, your brain has developed a neural electrical system that has supported and reinforced depressing thoughts for as long as you have had them.  It becomes harder and harder to break that brain circuitry.  However, it is possible.  Learning and practicing positive ways of thinking and feeling can result in a change in how you view your life and how to move forward.

In order to change the brain, we need to become more aware of what we are doing to ourselves; how we feed and get stuck with the bad thoughts and emotions, and how we pull away or discard the positive ones.   We have to learn ways to be more mindful of our thoughts and feelings and how we can better manage them.   Oftentimes, spending time meditating or in prayer can be key factors in learning how to see yourself at a distance and guide yourself through this awareness.  As you become more aware of how you get stuck with your emotions or your negative thoughts, you then are more able to recognize that you are in charge and you can make decisions about how to regulate your emotions and thoughts.  No longer are you clutched into the grips of negativity by your thoughts and feelings.  Instead, you have the ability to learn new skills and move towards a more positive you.  With continued practice, “turning the mind” towards an optimistic outlook is indeed within reach.  It takes time and practice, but it does happen.  Just think, you may end up being the one who carries the jokes and moves the crowd with your jovial self. 

Claudia A. Liljegren, LICSW

St. Williams Mental Health Services