L Is For Laughter Therapy

By: Lisa Philippart
As early as the 13th century, physicians used humor in medicine to alleviate pain. Often, stories were told using dark comedy or “gallows” humor to distract patients from their physical pain. But by the 20th century, researchers began to study the science behind laughter’s visible healing benefits. Norman Cousins, a political journalist and editor of the New York Evening Post discovered that watching funny movies helped decrease his pain and helped him eventually recover from a life-threatening illness. In 1979, Cousins’ book, Anatomy of an Illness, described his experience and laid the groundwork for laughter therapy and its power to heal.

Today, we know that laughter therapy can provide physical, mental, and social benefits. Physically, laughter increases your oxygen intake, relaxes muscles throughout the body, stimulates your heart and lungs, and even boosts your immunity. Research also shows that laughter produces melatonin, which helps you sleep. A good hearty laugh releases endorphins in your body, the natural feel-good chemicals, which can promote an overall sense of wellbeing and relieve pain. Mentally, laughter can reduce stress and anxiety, improve overall attitude, promote relaxation, and even lower depression levels. Need to lighten anger’s heavy load? Nothing diffuses anger and frustration faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on. Laughter may even help you to live longer through strengthening your resilience. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who didn’t laugh as much.

Socially, laughter can strengthen relationships, attract others to us and us to others, enhance teamwork, and help diffuse conflict. Laughter makes you feel good, and that good feeling stays with you even after the laughter subsides. So, what exactly is laughter therapy? Laughter or humor therapy is the use of humor to promote overall health and wellness by using the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort. Mental health therapists can receive training to learn specific techniques to use laughter as a healing tool. But you can learn how to practice laughter therapy on your own. Here are some ways to start:

1. Spend time with fun/playful people. Have you noticed that some people are just naturally funny? These people laugh easily, both at themselves and at life’s silliness. Even if you don’t consider yourself lighthearted, you can still seek out people who like to laugh and to make others laugh.

2. Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, is contagious. When you look at someone or see something pleasing, practice smiling. Then notice the effect it has on you and on others.

3. Create a laughter file. Either electronically or hard copy, collect items that make you laugh. I keep a file folder of funny stories, photos, comics, and letters that I know will cheer me up and make me laugh over and over again.

4. Play with a pet. Your pet just naturally loves to play and have fun. And dog owners laugh more frequently!

5. Watch a funny movie, TV show, or YouTube video. I’ll bet you have a movie that you watch over and over again, and you laugh just as hard every time. Or you can subscribe to your favorite comedian on YouTube, to receive the latest episodes.

6. Count your blessings. Make a list. Simply considering the good things in your life will distance you from those negative thoughts that create a barrier to laughter. When you are sad, you have further to travel to get to humor.

The ability to laugh, play, and have fun with others will not only make life more enjoyable, but also help you to be more creative and connect with others. Laughter raises you up to a place where your perspective becomes more relaxed, positive, and joyful. Have a good laugh!……Lisa

By: Lisa Philippart
Wearables have made the transition from technical innovations to fitness trackers within the past few years. So it seems that the most likely next step would be wearables that address the unseen level of well-being known as mental health. Many fitness trackers already monitor blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and skin temperature. Most trackers can collect data in real time, and over a period of time, to then be used to offer behavioral interventions. For example, when you breathe in a rapid, shallow manner, that is often a sign of anxiety. As this information is collected, your wearable could offer breathing exercises, guided meditations, or even just a nudge. The very act of checking your breathing patterns can help you lower your heart rate and reduce tension.

I would like to share with you some brief descriptions of a few wearables on the market that are designed specifically to help you become more mindful of your mental and emotional states. As with any product, you will need to do your research to determine which would work best for you.

Spire Stone
The Spire Stone continuously monitors breathing, and can remind you to relax through alerts from a connected app. The Spire website states that Stanford researchers who tested LinkedIn employees wearing Spire, reported 37% greater daily calm, 27% fewer anxious days, and 25% more time spent physiologically focused. The Stone clips to your clothing and measures your breath via the expansion and contraction of your torso. The information is sent to your app where it is categorized as calm, tense, or focused. A notification on your phone and to the Stone alerts you to changes, so you can be more mindful of your breathing. (Cost is about $130.)

Feel Wristband
The Feel Wristband has multiple bio-sensors that monitor physiological signals, such as electrical energy, skin temperature, and heart rate. This information is transmitted to an app, which assesses your mental state through recognition of emotional patterns. The app then provides real-time CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) coaching techniques. The Feel Wristband website purports to help you become more aware of your emotions, which can lead to a deeper understanding of your internal and external triggers. The Feel app combines the information collected from the wristband with your input to provide guidance on how to better regulate and improve your emotional responses throughout the day. (Cost is about $150.)

Leaf Nature

Leaf Nature is a health tracker specifically designed for women, to be worn on your waist band or as a bracelet or necklace. Leaf turns breathing data into real-time advice for meditation exercises or guided breath work. The synchronized app is called Bellabeat, and it provides a simple, visual snapshot of your daily activity levels, sleep patterns, and meditative vs. stress periods. Information provided is designed to inspire and remind you of your daily goals and to motivate you to track your improvement over time. The Leaf Nature runs 24 hours a day on a battery that lasts up to six months. You can also set inactivity alerts and be notified of important events through a vibration in the Leaf. (Cost is about $140.)

WellBe proclaims to be the world’s first stress-balancing bracelet. The WellBe bracelet monitors your heart rate and uses that information to determine your stress and calmness levels, based on the time of day, your location, and the people with whom you have scheduled appointments. Over time, the app recognizes stress-producing events/people in your calendar and will provide guided meditations, focused breathing, and even personalized playlists to help you de-stress. The WellBe also records the changes in your stress/calmness levels while using the various stress release exercises, allowing you to see the before and after effects of each program you practice. The bracelet is made of cork, which is both a strong, durable material and feels soothing to the skin. (Cost is about $120.)
These devices all have the potential to ease common mental health problems and maybe even change the stigma surrounding mental health in the process. Until next time…..Lisa
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
As you may be able to tell from my writing style, I am not from around here! I was actually trained to become a mental health counselor in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. I had the unbelievable opportunity to intern and then work for a mental health center that served adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses. As part of my experience there, I learned how to effectively use dialectical behavior therapy as a treatment for many of my clients. But, what I truly liked about DBT was that the skills that were taught could be used by everyone in everyday life. The word dialectic actually means finding a balance between two things that may be quite different. So, according to the founder of DBT, Marsha Linehan, the balance in a therapy session is for the therapist to accept who you are AND to expect you to change.

The basic components of DBT are as follows:

Mindfulness is the foundation of DBT. And the core of mindfulness is to BE in the Wise Mind. As you might imagine, not many of us truly achieve Wise Mind…that perfect balance between the emotional and rational sides of our brains. However, there are 3 “what” skills and 3 “how” skills that can help us work toward that goal. These are actually some of the life skills I was talking about earlier – observe, describe, participate; non-judgmentally, one-mindfully, effectively. By remembering to focus on the what and how skills, we can find ourselves in that place called the present moment.

Distress Tolerance is the ability to use stress survival techniques that our Wise Mind has allowed us to accept. These strategies include the use of distraction, self-soothing through the senses, and improving the moment. One distress tolerance skill I use quite often with many of my clients is pros and cons. The chart goes beyond simply the positives and negatives of a behavior or situation. It includes looking at both sides of making and not making changes in your life. Another distress tolerance skill I use in my practice is called radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is the ability to acknowledge what is, to allow you to move on. The key concept emphasized is that acceptance does not mean approval.

Emotion Regulation is the effective management of our feelings. Dr. Linehan uses acronyms quite often to assist clients in remembering the strategies taught in each area. For example, one emotion regulation skill is called PLEASE, used to remind you to take care of yourself by reducing vulnerability. P and L stand for: Treat Physical Illness, E is Balanced Eating, A is Avoid Mood Altering Drugs, S is Balanced Sleep, and E is Get Exercise. Another commonly used ER skill is called Opposite to Emotion Action, which encourages you to alter your emotions by altering your actions. For example, if you are feeling depressed and just want to spend the day in bed, you can choose to challenge the emotion by going for a walk, or visiting with a friend.

Interpersonal Effectiveness brings all the previously learned skills together to improve your ability to interact with others. The acronyms for this skill set are DEARMAN, GIVE, and FAST. I often use GIVE to teach relationship effectiveness with my clients who are struggling in their marriages. GIVE stands for Gentle, Interested, Validate, and Easy Manner. I encourage you to do an internet search for the meanings of some other interpersonal effectiveness acronyms such as DEARMAN and FAST. I believe that most of us need reminders on how to communicate with our fellow human beings.

As you might imagine, DBT training required a year-long commitment to learning and using these techniques in the group settings, as well as providing a continuity of care through individual counseling support. Understanding and using DBT has proven to be an effective tool in my counseling toolbox. Until next time…
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
Narcissus was a very handsome hunter in Greek mythology. Many nymphs fell in love with him, but he showed them only contempt, including Echo, who tried to hug him. Narcissus pushed her away and told her never to disturb him. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, upon learning what had happened, led Narcissus to a pool, where he saw his reflection in the water. He immediately fell in love with it. When time passed, he realized that it was just his reflection and he fell into despair.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. (DSM-V), narcissism is a pathological condition in which the individual experiences pervasive patterns of “grandiosity,” a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy. Often, narcissists present with an exaggerated sense of self-importance and are preoccupied with their own fantasies of power or beauty. Narcissists believe that they are “special” and often require excessive admiration. Their lack of empathy leads to a sense of entitlement and a desire to exploit others. In my private practice, I have learned that the narcissists themselves are challenging to engage because they believe that everyone else is the problem! By about 2:1, I meet with those individuals who are living or working with the narcissist. Many books have been written about dealing with narcissists, but I have been able to compress my experiences into five suggestions. So here we go…how to deal with a narcissist:

1. Encourage the narcissist to redirect his/her impulses to do things that benefit other people. Narcissists struggle with empathy, but love to nurture their egos. So, maybe point them toward aligning their need for praise and admiration with positive behaviors that help the community. I’ll bet there are a lot of narcissists who run charities. We all have a little bit of me, me, me tendencies in us. But if we can channel these inclinations into doing something for other people, then maybe this self-absorption can produce some positive results.

2. Ask the narcissist, “What would people think?” My experience has been that narcissists don’t feel guilt, but they do feel shame. Appearances are important to them. While they rarely consider others’ feelings, they might be willing to act on ideas, especially ideas they think they thought up themselves! So, if you can emphasize community, you can use potential disappointment instead of anger, to keep them in line.

3. Know what you want and get paid up front. Don’t expect fairness. It’s okay for you to get whatever it is that you need before they get what they need. To narcissists, everything is quid pro quo. So, keep a record in your mind, and make sure that whatever they dangle in front of you, you get before you give. Dealing with narcissists tends to be unpredictable, so reward behavior, NEVER words. When narcissists do what you want, they get what they want.

4. Pretend to agree or say nothing. Now hear me out. If you want to effectively communicate with narcissists, you have to admire them as much as they do. And usually this isn’t too difficult. All you have to do is listen. There is a term called “narcissistic injury.” This means pointing out to narcissists that they aren’t all they think they are, can be like pulling the pin on a grenade. Alternatives just don’t work…reject them and they will freak; act weak and you’ll become a victim; uncover them and they will hate you forever.

5. Just stay away. Narcissists have the ability to make those around them miserable. So if you have the option, get out! The question becomes, SHOULD I even make the attempt, instead of HOW do I make the attempt? Narcissism is very hard to change, so run the first chance you get. Otherwise, you will be victimized by them, or worse, become one of them. I suggest that in every opportunity, you surround yourself with people who are good to you. I would rather see the spread of goodness than meanness.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
Wait! Come back! I know what you are thinking…you have absolutely no interest in yoga…it’s a fad that won’t go away…you tried it before and it didn’t do anything. I get it. I’ve said the same things. Please, just take five minutes tops (I know this is supposed to be a mental health minute) to learn how and why yoga can be the key to psychological and emotional healing. When practiced effectively, yoga is a mind-body-spirit exercise that can help decrease anxiety and depression, improve memory and focus, and even resolve issues with relationships and self-confidence.

Fundamentally, yoga is a practice of poses and breathing techniques designed to strengthen and balance the body and the mind. But as a psychology, yoga helps us work with the nature of the mind, the framework of being a human, and the understanding of how emotions live in our bodies and affect our behavior and our minds. So let’s get specific:

1.When you practice yoga, you are moving from your sympathetic nervous system to your parasympathetic nervous system. Simply paying attention to breathing deeply, and moving with intention, can take you from fight or flight status to resting and calming your nervous system.
2.Yoga allows you to connect to your self. Your true self. By developing a more non-judgmental relationship through your unconscious mind, you are telling your self that you are worthy of the “me” time. And really, doesn’t everything come down to your relationship with yourself? Yoga can provide that grounding in your sense of self, which develops into a healthy, balanced center. Nothing to prove and nothing to hide.

3.Believe it or not, yoga improves your romantic relationships! When you are more at peace with yourself, you are more likely to be that way with your partner. Yoga teaches compassion and love for who you truly are, which transfers to the way you treat those you love.

4.Yoga helps you to become aware of where in your body you hold certain types of energy. For example, when you are anxious or stressed, where do you hold that tension or tightness? This emotional energy can be released through various poses and movements. You are healing from the inside out.

5.Stick with me, because this may be a bit esoteric. (Love that word!) Yoga can often guide you in dealing with your family-of-origin issues. You were born with gifts and challenges over which you have no control. Have you owned who you are? You are the only one who can change your actions and behaviors. Yoga embraces the authentic you.

So, if you prefer yoga as a social activity, commit to a class. Or if you tend to be more solitary, learn a few poses and commit to making meditation time daily. Either way, the physicality of yoga will boost your mind and spirit in surprisingly positive ways.

E Is For Essential Oils

By: Lisa Philippart
Several years ago, I had no clue about essential oils. When a friend introduced them to me, I will admit that I was a scoffer… until I noticed some changes. So let me share with you some basic information about essential oils and how they can be effective in addressing a variety of mental health issues. Essential oils are natural extracts from the seeds, stems, roots, flowers, bark, and other parts of plants. When you smell a rose or a freshly peeled orange, you are experiencing the aromatic qualities of essential oils. As we inhale aromatic compounds from the EOs, they travel to the olfactory bulb or the emotional part of our brains. The odor triggers a series of brain chemicals. For example, the scent of lavender triggers serotonin, which has a relaxing effect on the mind as well as the body. The olfactory bulb is the only place in our bodies where the central nervous system is directly exposed to the environment. So this makes perfect “scents” (sorry!) that the brain is designed to use aroma to soothe and protect itself.

When I started with EOs, I was concerned with how to use them. The three most common ways to use oils are aromatically, topically, and internally. Aromatically means that a diffuser is used to spread the EO particles into the air; or one or two drops can be placed on the palms and inhaled. For example, I diffuse peppermint in the mornings as an energy booster and to help clear my mind in preparation for the day. I may use orange in the afternoon to give me an energy boost. And at night, I diffuse lavender to help me to relax and wind down from the day so I can sleep more soundly. Topical application involves applying a few drops of oil directly on the skin, rubbing it in to quickly absorb into the body. My daughter puts a drop of eucalyptus, diluted with fractionated coconut oil, on the bottoms of her daughter’s feet for respiratory support. I love the smell of melaleuca, so I place a few drops on my pulse points.

You can also place one or two drops of certain EOs under your tongue or in an empty capsule and swallow just like any other pill. Taking oils internally can support the digestive system and boost immunity. For example, I like to add a couple of drops of lemon oil to my water to freshen my drink, or a drop of peppermint on my tongue can give me a lift in the afternoon or help if I have an upset stomach. I have found that adding 2-5 drops of oils to my shower or bath can have a powerful effect, depending on the time of day. If you shower or bathe at night, eucalyptus, lavender, or frankincense can be relaxing. If you are a morning bather, peppermint, orange, grapefruit, or lemon can be invigorating and elevating.

As a mental health professional, I am often asked about which oils to use for specific moods to help manage symptoms. For example, lavender can ease sadness, calm anxiousness, and decrease stress. In my office, I often diffuse rosemary because it can relieve fatigue, comfort sadness, and promote concentration. Vetiver can relax nervous energy, reduce anger, and soothe anxiousness. Frankincense, while expensive, is a wonderful all-around oil often used to lessen mental fatigue, provide grounding, and improve mood. Essential oils have so many applications, I encourage you to explore which ones work best for you. When purchasing EOs make sure you research the oils’ sources, purity, and therapeutic grade, as all oils are not created equal. So next time you feel down, take a whiff of lemon and see what happens!

By: Lisa Philippart
As a counselor, I make an attempt to be familiar with many forms of therapies. The more tools I have in my toolbox, the better chance I have of matching helpful techniques to the individual. So, today I would like to introduce you to an amazing healing technique that is easy to learn and can have profound effects. EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques, is based on the belief that the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the body’s energy system. EFT works by tapping with the fingertips on various body locations. The tapping works to balance energy points, which become disrupted when the client thinks about or experiences an emotionally disturbing event. The memory stays the same, but the charge is gone. The proponents of EFT believe that a negative emotion is caused by a distressing memory creating a disruption in the body’s energy system, which then produces a negative emotion.

EFT is sometimes referred to as EEFT because it is a meridian energy therapy, like acupuncture. But instead of needles, we stimulate the major energy points by tapping on them. Tapping then sends kinetic energy through the energy system, clearing blockages, and allowing energy to flow again, removing negative emotions. To begin, take a rating of the intensity of your distress on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extreme distress. Now let’s take a look at the process in 5 stages:

1.The Set Up: In this stage, you will either rub the lymphatic drainage point or tap the “karate chop point,” while saying your set-up phrase out loud three times. The set-up phrase is a description of your issue in this format – “Even though (problem), I deeply and completely accept myself.”

2.The Sequence: While holding the problem in mind, you’ll tap 7 times in succession on each of the meridian points, and at each point, you’ll repeat a shortened reminder phrase of the problem.

3.The Gamut Point:
The gamut point is located on the back of the hand between the knuckle of the ring and little finger. Tapping continuously on this point engages the two hemispheres of the brain and sets your system to working on the problem.

4.The Sequence (again)

5.Adjustment Rounds: If you do not achieve complete relief in a single round, you can repeat the process, adjusting as follows – “Even though I still have some of this (problem) I deeply and completely accept myself.”

At the end of the process, scale the problem again. Has its intensity reduced? For EFT to be effective, you have to learn the correct location of the tapping points. Rather than describe them here, I recommend doing a search for EFT tapping points’ diagrams. Try to keep in mind that your issues are like puzzles. A problem may have many different aspects attached to it. So in some cases, collapsing just a few of these pieces can resolve the entire problem, by discovering the core issue.

The information on EFT is extensive, but I hope I have piqued your interest to further explore this technique on your own.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
Welcome to 2018! I am excited about a brand new year full of possiblities, challenges, and successes. (I am a realistic optimist.) Even if you are a spontaneous-type person, I hope you are thinking about what you want for yourself, your family, and your community this year. I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions that you will forget about by February 1. I’m talking about life goals. If you don’t have a destination, how will you know when you get there? So, here is my plan for us for this year: every two weeks, we will be exploring the ABC’s of mental health. With 26 letters in the alphabet, and 26 issues published a year, you can see how perfectly this will work. Today we will take a look at ANXIETY, but from my perspective as a holistic therapist and human being. (I will not be going in alphabetical order…that’s too predictable!)

I have always had anxious-tendencies. But for most of my life, I was able to manage my anxiety through a variety of coping skills: positive self-talk, affirmations, reframing, and grounding. I even decided to become a mental health counselor mid-life because I felt like I was an expert at managing my own stress, so why not share what has worked for me with others? About 5 years ago, I was under a lot of stress. I remember thinking my anxiety level was constantly riding around a 9-10, with 10 being unbearable. I noticed I was periodically short of breath and constantly battling fatigue. One night I came home and just felt “off.” I went to bed and woke up at about 5 in the morning with my head spinning. I felt my eyes moving back and forth as I stuggled to focus and stand up. I thought I was having a stroke. At the hospital, the doctors ran every kind of test from an MRI to CT scan to blood work. The good news, everything came back normal. The bad news, the doctors believed I had stress-induced vertigo.

I tell you this story because as a holistic healer, I believe that our bodies, minds, and spirits form interconnected circles. What affects one area affects all areas. The stress of my mental health finally spilled over in to my physical health. So after this vertigo event, I made some changes. If you suffer from anxiety that is becoming harder and harder to manage, this is what I recommend. Physically, listen to your body. Ignoring pains or body changes is not helpful. Can you make one small dietary modification…cut out diet Coke? How about walking 20 minutes a day? Maybe take a supplement? Get more sleep? Pick one thing and do it. Mentally, are you your own worst critic? Do you wake up every day worrying about everything? See a therapist for some effective coping skills. Find work that challenges your mind. Read. Listen to self-help podcasts. Volunteer.

And finally, spiritually…what is your source of strength? Most of my clients believe in a higher power, but have forgotten that this belief allows for them to have a purpose. Your spiritual side can be nourished through gratitude, prayer, worship, and meditation. We all need a direction, guided by our morals and values and faith, which brings me back to: Where are you going this year? Write it down. And don’t allow anxiety to interfere with discovering the best you that you can be.

In conclusion, I want to share with you a book I am reading by Andrea Petersen called, On Edge A Journey Through Anxiety. My number one take-away from this book was her definition of anxiety. According to Andrea, anxiety is the anticipation of pain – emotional pain, mental pain, physical pain, and spiritual pain – which is why anxiety can affect more than one area of the self. So, as you prepare your course for the year, include specific plans for growth of the mind, body, and spirit.
By: Lisa Philippart
Lisa Philippart is a Licensed Professional Counselor, who divides her time between her own private practice in
and providing personal counseling services at Athens State University./strong>

By: Lisa Philippart
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) used to be considered an anxiety disorder, but because of its complexity, it is now considered to be a unique condition. Do you double-check the locks at night or worry about the safety of a family member? This is “normal.” But for those with OCD, these types of thoughts and behaviors become so extreme that they interfere with daily routines, work, and even relationships. For example, people with OCD have been known to wash their hands for eight hours in a day. (Think Jack Nicholson in the movie, “As Good As It Gets.”)

OCD does not just go away by itself. And in my opinion, it takes more than willpower to try to manage it. I have seen people with OCD who are trapped in patterns of thoughts and behaviors that are beyond their control. The obsessive part involves ideas or thoughts that continuously intrude on a person’s mind, such as fear, worry, dread, or perfectionism. The compulsive piece is repetitive actions driven by these obsessions, such as hand washing, checking, and hoarding. For some people, OCD actions like counting, aren’t as obvious, so they continue to suffer in silence.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may develop gradually, moving from thoughts to actions, which will eventually produce symptoms that affect daily life. People with OCD often feel embarrassed and will avoid talking to anyone about what is going on…even to their healthcare provider. OCD can develop at any age, but the research indicates that it often begins in adolescence, with the average age being 19. If you or someone you know is suffering with OCD or OCD-like indicators, what can you do? Because OCD is chronic, it is important to understand that you can learn to handle it and be in recovery, but there is no cure.

I believe that the concept of doubt is what an OCD-sufferer struggles with daily. Doubt can override even the most intelligent person. It causes the person to check things hundreds of times or ask endless questions. And only when the OCD-sufferer recognizes the challenge of trying to resolve this doubt, can he or she make progress. You can resist acting out a compulsion, but it is extremely difficult to refuse to think an obsessive thought. This is where cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) comes in. CBT will help you to confront fearful thoughts and situations, while resisting the carrying out of your compulsions. Once you start questioning the likelihood of your fears actually coming true, you can challenge that logic. But this can take time as there is no quick and easy fix….and no partial recovery.

As with most of life, balance is the key. And achieving balance is the result of being healthy and choosing a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting enough sleep, a proper diet, exercise, positive social relationships, and purposeful work. So take care of yourself. Start now in this season of hope and joy! Merry Christmas!
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor

By: Lisa Philippart
“It may seem pointless, but you should always talk to us—we’re still in there.” (Harry Urban, someone who has lived with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis for 7 years)

In my last article, we discussed the most recent statistics and facts concerning the reality of Alzheimer’s disease, and recognition of November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. Today, I would like to share with you the more personal and emotional aspects of Alzheimer’s, from my perspective as a mental health clinician, having worked in nursing homes for over 8 years.

1. Be educated about the disease. The more you know about Alzheimer’s, the more you can understand and empathize with your loved one.

2. Develop routines and schedules. While most of us do better with agendas anyway, those with Alzheimer’s will appreciate knowing what happens when and where. Writing out a calendar of activities weekly can reduce confusion and frustration.

3. Don’t argue or criticize! This is a big one. The person with Alzheimer’s will become upset, and you will become frustrated. Please be willing to let most things go. “Join the journey.”

4. Non-verbals are now truly important. Do not be condescending or express heightened emotion. I am asking you to stop treating your loved one like a child! It is embarrassing for both of you. Use a calm voice and warm tone. Keep eye contact and smile. This can help your loved one stay at ease and know that you are someone familiar, even if she doesn’t recognize or remember exactly who you are. It always made me sad when someone with Alzheimer’s wanted me to be their daughter, simply because I was nice to her.

5. Use names and relationships in conversations. “Hi Mom, it’s your daughter, Lisa. I’ve missed you.” Your loved one won’t have to struggle to remember who she is or who you are. This helps to create a comfortable atmosphere and allows your loved one to focus all their mental energy on the conversation.

6. Meet your loved one in the now. Please don’t try to change your loved one back into the person they used to be. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the one you knew, and then love who she is right now.

7. Don’t assume that mental challenges translate into physical challenges. As tempting as it might be to do everything for your loved one, it is important for her to do as many things as possible by and for herself. You may either need to ask if help is needed or start the activity.

8. Use every method of communication. Experiment to determine effective ways to connect with your loved one…art, music, singing, and reading may open that door to who she once was. Even a simple touch on the arm can help communicate that she is loved.

9. We all remember emotions. Your loved one will remember how she felt even after she forgets the actual event. So, your words and actions matter!

10. And lastly, it can be hard to watch a loved one change before your eyes. Remember that she is not changing, but the disease is progressing. When someone is diagnosed with dementia, it is devastating to the loved one as well as the family members and friends. Hold on to who you know she was before the diagnosis, and take advantage of the time you have together.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor