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

Senior Nutrition: Tips to Keep You Healthier as You Age

Senior Nutrition: Tips to Keep You Healthier as You Age

Age is just a number. Right?

It’s true that we should never let our age, a simple number, get in the way of how we live our lives.  But it’s also true that, as we age, our relationship with food becomes more important than ever. 

Aches, pains, and stiffness ambush our bones and joints the older we get. And one of the ways we can combat this attack is to follow a few basic rules regarding nutrition.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at senior nutrition. And give you some tips to keep you healthier as you age.

Water, Water, and More Water

You’ve probably heard that hydration is one of the keys to a healthy body. But the idea of hydration is even more important for senior nutrition.

Water is essential to keep your joints in good working order. There is a little sac of fluid that fills the space inside your joints. This fluid helps lubricate the working parts of the joint and brings nutrients to the cartilage.

Dehydration causes these fluid sacs to shrink, like a dry sponge. And this, in turn, causes you more pain as you move. Your joints lack the lubrication they need to work properly. Drink plenty of water every day to prevent this from happening. 

Read the Labels

In an ideal world, we’d only eat fresh foods like fruits, nuts, vegetables, and meat. But we all know that it’s not so easy to stick to such a strict diet. That’s why it’s important to read the labels on your food before you purchase. 

Avoid foods with very few nutrients and lots of calories. As we age, we tend to lose our appetites. So it’s really important to eat foods that are nutrient-dense so we can get the most bang for our buck when it comes to calories.

Watch for sodium levels in the foods you buy. Salt causes high blood pressure. Try to get no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. 

Stick to foods that are lower in saturated fats. These are fats that are solid at room temperature like butter and lard. They contribute to poor arterial health and heart disease.

But don’t avoid fat altogether! Fat is an essential ingredient to healthy senior nutrition. Instead, opt for foods rich in unsaturated fats.

Also, be on the lookout for vitamins like B12 and Vitamin D. B12 helps with blood and brain health. While Vitamin D makes your bones stronger. 

Try Spices, Not Salt

Keep an open mind to new ways of cooking. As we mentioned before, salt is no good when it comes to heart health. So instead of adding salt to your food to season it, try adding spices instead. You’ll get the added bonus of some of the great health benefits of spices.

Turmeric is a great option to flavor food because it has lots of anti-inflammatory properties. Basil tastes great with tomato dishes and it helps build immunity at the same time. Add ginger to tea or other foods to help settle a rocky stomach. 

Cook your meat with a mix of rosemary and garlic. It’s delicious, and it helps fight infections and keep allergies at bay. And add cinnamon to sweeter dishes instead of adding an extra teaspoon of sugar.

The Importance of Senior Nutrition

Remember that you need your body just as much as it needs you. So treat it well by incorporating a few of our senior nutrition tips into your daily life. Your body will thank you for it!

At St. William’s Living Center, we’re dedicated to improving the lives of our residents through daily activities, morning coffee, and, of course, delicious food! Call us today to find out more about the services we offer.

Relationship with Food

Do you have an Unhealthy Relationship with Food?

Eating is a required action we all share as a means to maintain our health.  There are those who struggle with eating due to a medical condition, but there are others who struggle with a medical condition due to their eating disorder. 

General statistics indicate that at least 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S., and at least one person dies every 62 minutes as a direct result from an eating disorder. Eating disorders are a serious medical problem that can have long-term health consequences if left untreated.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness of which adolescents and women over 50 are more prevalent.  

There are several types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa or a focus on weight loss in which the individual has a poor body image and believes they are never thin enough, prompting excessive dieting, exercise, purging or use of laxatives.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder or restrictive eating or avoiding certain foods because of its texture or odor.  These symptoms usually begin early in childhood.
  • Bulimia Nervosa or the cycling of extreme overeating or binging to purging or other behaviors to compensate for overeating. 
  • Binge Eating Disorder or excessive overeating

An unhealthy relationship with food is oftentimes a symptom of an underlying problem.  Usually, it is prompted by various life stressors combined with psychological struggles, such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and/or overall difficulty coping with emotions.  Overuse of substances, genetic traits or a having a family pre-disposition can also be contributors. Oftentimes, those with an eating disorder initially use eating, or lack thereof, as a way to control at least one aspect of their lives.  However, their eating behavior progressively spirals out of control and they end up not being able to manage their own eating. 

Treatment is complicated.  You may have a friend or relative that has an eating disorder, but do not even know it.  Oftentimes, those with eating problems hide their behaviors and deny having a problem, interfering in their first step in treatment; admitting they have a problem.  Mostly, individual or group out-patient or in-patient psychotherapy and possibly psychotropic medications are required to work through the denial, comply with a food monitoring plan, and deal with secondary symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc., through stress management, modification of unhealthy relationship patterns and learning adaptive ways to feel in control of their eating and other aspects of their lives.  Unfortunately, symptoms of an eating disorder can last for many years and return during times of stress, despite previous treatment.  Catch yourself if you have an unhealthy relationship with food.  There is too much at stake.

Claudia A. Liljegren, MSW, LICSW

St. Williams Mental Health 

4 Undeniable Reasons St. William’s Living Center is the Long-Term Care Facility for You

Have you planned for your future? If not, it’s time to start!

You’ll want to consider creating a detailed long-term care plan. And that plan should include what facility you’d like to live in if the time comes when you need full-time nursing care.

St. William’s Living Center in Parkers Prairie, MN should be at the top of your list. And we’re about to tell you why!

Keep reading to learn four undeniable reasons that St. William’s is the long-term care facility for you.

State-Of-the-Art Therapy Clinic

In our recent remodel, we revamped our therapy clinic. With our new, expanded facility, we can now support a wide variety of therapies right here on our main campus.

The trained physical therapy staff works with residents to improve range of motion, increase strength, and manage pain. And the therapy clinic isn’t only for residents. We offer injury treatment services to a wide variety of patients, including student-athletes.

Our occupational therapists work with residents on day-to-day living activities like cooking and cleaning. And our speech pathologists help residents communicate more effectively and work on memory skills.

Private Rooms and Private Bathrooms

The new, remodeled campus offers private rooms to all incoming residents. Private rooms are an important part of making your new home feel more like your old home.

Most private rooms have their own private bathroom. Many rooms have a handicap accessible-shower with your own space for toiletries and personal items. These rooms have a more modern feel and improve privacy for our residents.

Incredible Food and Fun Activities

If you love delicious food, St. William’s has you covered! In fact, resident satisfaction surveys consistently rate our food as top-notch. When you choose St. William’s for your long-term care needs, you’ll get a variety of food options for each meal.

We also have an all-star activities staff. Every month, a new activities calendar comes out so you can plan your activity time in advance. We treat our residents to live music, regular bingo sessions, weekly happy hour, and weekend church services.

5-Star Rating on Nursing Home Compare

At St. William’s, we’re very proud to have a consistent history of 5-star ratings from’s Nursing Home Compare program. This means that we rank above the state and national average in all of the following categories:

  • Health inspections
  • Fire safety inspections
  • Staffing
  • Quality of resident care
  • Zero fines or penalties in the last three years

Resident care is our top priority and these excellent ratings are a testament to the dedication of our amazing staff.

The Perfect Long-Term Care Facility for You

When creating a long-term care plan, it’s important to do your research. Discuss the options with your family members and make sure they have a copy of your plan. This is the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out when the time comes for long-term care.

And part of your research should be to visit the facility you’re interested in. St. William’s would love to show you everything we have to offer! Contact us today to schedule a visit to our campus.