The Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy

College of DuPage Nursing Student Camille Volkening shared that Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is an interaction between a person and a trained animal, supervised by the animal’s trainer. AAT should not be confused with animal-assisted activities (AAA). AAT is a formal set of sessions that help people reach specific goals, whereas AAA includes more casual visits at places like high schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc.  AAT is used to help people of all ages cope and recover from health problems or mental disorders, and ultimately get back to feeling better again. People undergoing chemotherapy, residents in nursing homes, veterans, children having surgery, stroke victims, and people with mental health disorders, among many others, are great candidates for pet therapy. The most common animals used in AAT are cats and dogs, but other animals including horses, pigs, and fish may be used. The type of animal selected and pet therapy used depends on the desired goal(s) listed in the treatment plan by your doctor or therapist.

Some benefits of AAT include:

  • Reduction in blood pressure and heart rate
  • The release of endorphins (oxytocin) that produce a calming effect; In turn, this can ease pain and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Improvement in fine motor skills, wheelchair skills, balance, and coordination
  • Improvement in recovery time
  • The decrease in feeling lonely or isolated

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Stand against bullying

College of DuPage Nursing Student Janett Barrera shared that Bullying has become a national problem. Thinking back to my childhood I realize that bullying has always existed, although perhaps not as nasty as it is today. Bullying is not something that has popped up within the last few years, but it was not talked about as much as it is today. Bullying is not a game, it can have serious consequences such as death. Just the other day I was reading a news article about a boy who committed suicide because his classmates were making fun of the odors of his colostomy bag.

The National Centre Against bullying talks about four different types of bullying which include verbal bullying, social bullying, physical bullying and cyberbullying. With the advances in technology and the easy availability of it, children can very negatively impact someone else’s life through cyberbullying. Millions of people miles away can read and add to negative posts online. There is such a thing online as “trolls”. These people hide their faces on the internet and majority of the time make nasty remarks on an already existing post, adding to the bullying being done online (cyberbullying). These four types of bullying can be done at school and sometimes the faculty is not aware that it is going on.

I will admit; when I think about bullying I think about children bullying other children. The truth is that bullying can affect adults as well. It can happen in the workplace as well as within a friend group. Emily A Kuhl wrote an article for the American Psychiatric Association Foundation where she talks about workplace bullying. This kind of bullying does not only affect the involved persons, but it also affects the company for which they work for. It reduces productivity, therefore, increasing monetary losses. Anyone in the workplace can be the bully, but according to Kohl, it is often a male or someone in a supervisory position. A supervisor has the power to bully because employees are often afraid of what that may entail. From experience, I can say that the constant torment and humiliation from bullying makes the workplace absolutely horrible. According to some research, adult bullies are often those who were bullies or were bullied as children. Read more

Healthy Ways to Combat Caregiver Exhaustion

College Of DuPage Nursing Student Silvia Fernandez shared that it is no secret that anyone who is a caregiver is someone who commits lots of energy to their work. They are selfless of their time, compassion, and caring. A caregiver, time and time again, put so much focus on their client that they are often negligent to themselves. Unfortunately, the caregiver may eventually experience “caregiver exhaustion”; feeling depleted with symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, stress, or frustration. For those who experience these symptoms, it is time to take a step back and reenergize by taking time for stress relieving activities.

Engaging in;

  • Taking part in a favorite hobby (e.g. gardening, painting, reading, nature walks)
  • Meditation
  • Physical exercise or fitness class
  • Journaling
  • Talking to a loved one
  • Sharing experiences with colleagues
  • Taking a break to catch up on rest

…are only a few of the ways you can relax and improve physical health at the same time. Self-care is essential to be able to care for others on an ongoing basis.

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The effects of chronic stress can damage your body

Dr. Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D.,  medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, shared with the Daily Herald Newspaper that almost all of his adult patients mention that their stress and fatigue are significant.

Given the current state of stress in our lives, who could blame them? Many are diagnosed with some degree of adrenal fatigue.

The World Health Organization recognizes adrenal fatigue syndrome as a real, clinical entity. It is believed to be caused by unrelenting stress and is characterized by profound fatigue, non-restorative sleep, afternoon sleepiness and a need for caffeine and energy drinks.

There is often a craving for salty, sugary and starchy foods accompanied by weight gain, a low sex drive, and a feeling of overwhelming, undying stress.

Most American endocrinologists do not believe that adrenal insufficiency is a real condition. The Endocrine Society has stated that adrenal fatigue is not consistent with adrenal gland pathophysiology.

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Soothing tones: Music therapy may help ease anxiety of mothers-to-be

Juli Fraga wrote in a Special To The Washington Post that before she became a mother, Elizabeth Larsen, 42, of Huntley, Illinois, endured four miscarriages. The losses were devastating and complicated her feelings about her future pregnancies.

“I was always worried, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I felt broken and depressed,” Larsen says.

Looking for ways to soothe her anxiety, her yoga teacher recommended music therapy. Larsen tried it and loved it.

“I wanted to find wellness tools to ensure that my baby and I would have a safe and wonderful birth. Music therapy opened up my bodily senses and helped me to relax,” Larsen says.

It might sound unconventional, but recent research suggests that music therapy may lessen symptoms of prenatal anxiety for some women, which in turn may benefit the health of her child.

Unlike traditional psychotherapy where people talk about their problems, music and other expressive arts therapies seem to help people dealing with mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder, several studies suggest.

Music’s role in healing has been promoted for quite some time: In 1948, a study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association recommended that physicians incorporate music therapy as a part of routine patient care. By the 1950s, music was being used as a complementary therapy to treat mental-health concerns. Read more

How to break a bad habit

Edwards-Elmhurst Health shared that we all have some not-so-good habits. What’s yours? Are you a junk food fanatic? Do you often skimp on sleep? Are you a couch potato? A smoker?

Habits are a normal part of life. Some are more serious or harder to break than others. About 70 percent of smokers say they would like to quit. Why is it so hard to break a habit, especially if you know it’s not good for you?

Habits are patterns of behavior that arise through repetition. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have studied what happens in our brains as habits form.

Habits are deeply wired into our brains by constant repetition. Some habits are helpful. When behaviors become automatic, it frees up our brains to focus on different things. We wake up, brush our teeth, shower and get dressed without having to think much about it. We can drive to a familiar destination without even realizing how we got there.

Habits can also develop when enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centers. The pleasure-based habits are much harder to break. When you enjoy doing something, it prompts your brain to release a chemical called dopamine, which strengthens the habit even more and creates the craving to do it again. Read more


Ashley Brewer shared with Healthy Lombard that the holidays can be an extremely happy time of the year for most everyone, but for those in recovery from substance abuse and/or alcoholism, it can be a time of high stress and fear of relapse triggers. It is not uncommon for addicts/alcoholics to relapse during this time of year for a multitude of reasons, but generally, a relapse is linked to three main reasons:

  1. Complacency
  2. Lack of a plan/exit plan
  3. Overwhelming Emotions

In this article, I will share tips to help those in recovery from addiction not only understand the importance of maintaining their recovery programs but also, ways to be mindful of the ever-present triggers that surround us on a daily basis, not just around the holidays.

What is an Addiction Trigger?

“A “trigger” of addiction involves any high-risk situation or stressor that sparks off a thought, feeling or action to use drugs/alcohol. This spark, which is experienced as a temptation or desire to use, is called a “craving” or “urge”. So in short, triggers lead to cravings and urges to use.” – Dr. Chad Coren PsyD CAADC

With that being said, one can see how important it is to have specific tools in play, as pretty much anything can be a trigger depending on the person and can affect each individual differently. Whether it is external such as people, places, things, or situations, or internal such as thoughts, emotions, or physical issues, it is imperative for each addict/alcoholic to narrow down what triggers them specifically. I have outlined some of the tools below that will assist you in guarding yourself and your recovery program. I’m not an addiction professional, but I am a recovering addict and have definitely had my share of stumbles along the way. My hopes are that you won’t have to learn the hard way like I did, as we are never guaranteed another shot at recovery if we choose to go “back out there.”

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It Could all be so Simple

College of Dupage Nursing Student   Kenia Chamorro shared that she is guilty of it and she thinks we all are. Kenia relates that most of the time, she goes about her day without truly pausing. Next thing she knows, she is in bed exhausted and ready to sleep, only to wake and let another day pass by like nothing. It’s time to break the cycle. Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. There are simple things you can do to practice mindfulness so that you can feel like you are truly living instead of feeling like a robot while life flies by.

You can start at this very moment by simply pausing. Take a deep breath right now and realize what you are doing. You are reading a blog on a topic that you found interesting and would like to know more about it; think about how lucky you are to have the life you have and to be able to educate yourself on whatever topic you desire at the click of a button. This should make you realize that you can do anything you want to do. You can even make a wish list of all the things you wish to learn about and all the new things you are curious to try out.

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The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Confidence – November 14

Come and hear (for FREE) at noon at the Marquardt District 15 Administration Center,  1860 Glen Ellyn Road  Glendale Heights,

or at 7 pm at  Glenbard West High School, Ned Johnson and Dr. William Stixrud’s presentation on “Self-Driven: The Science and Sense  of Giving Your Kids More Confidence, Purpose and Control.” 

From different vantage points, William Stixrud Ph.D. and Ned Johnson saw kids struggling with a lack of motivation, a lack of ambition, and toxic stress. Dr. Stixrud is a clinical neuropsychologist, a member of the Adjunct Faculty of the Children’s National Medical Center, and an  Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the George Washington School of Medicine who assists kids gripped by anxiety or struggling to learn.

Johnson is a motivational and educational coach, founder of the elite tutoring company PrepMatters, and author of “Conquering the SAT.”

He is considered by many to be the most sought-after instructor in the Washington, DC metropolitan area,

In this groundbreaking presentation, parents will learn compassionate, concrete solutions to help students deal with competitive academics, extracurriculars, and feelings of hopelessness. Parents and educators will learn how to best instill joy in their students and the skills of self- direction.   Read more

Help kids manage their holiday expectations

The holiday season seems to start earlier every year. By the time Thanksgiving arrives, many kids will have worked themselves into a frenzy that often is followed by disappointment and tears.
So what can you do to help your children manage holiday expectations?

According to experts with the Amita Health Pediatrics Institute, the first step is to manage your own. Often children are reacting to the signals they are picking up from parents who are increasingly stressed as they try to juggle planning parties, buying gifts, decorating the house, sending cards and all the rest.
If you want your kids to slow down and appreciate the season, try doing it yourself.

Wishlists. For most kids, gifts are a huge focus on the holidays. When it comes to gifts, be honest. With older children, you can have a frank discussion about how your family chooses to spend money. Talk about the relative value of purchases. Even with younger children, you can explain that having a few meaningful gifts can be better than having piles of things that will break or get lost.

Amita Health experts also suggest that you give your children a limit — either a general dollar amount or a number of gifts — and ask them to suggest gifts for themselves within that limit. Then ask them to rank the gifts according to which they want most. Have them revisit their list and their rankings several times — that can encourage them to take a more thoughtful look at their choices.

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