In this issue:
A Year in Review and Things to Come
CHAD MORRIS, Ph.D., Director
As we approach the close of 2016, I want to send my appreciation to all the individuals we have had the opportunity to train this year and also provide a sneak peek of trainings coming soon as well as an innovative program serving the healthcare needs of individuals who are homeless.
- Trained 264 people through the DIMENSIONS: Tobacco Free Program in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Utah, and Virginia.
- Having nearly 100 people trained and credentialed through the Rocky Mountain Tobacco Treatment Specialist Certification Program.
- Providing webinars to nearly 250 people participating in the Build a Clinic Program, as well as assisting 9 integrated care organizations to add or augment tobacco cessation services.
- We will be assisting up to 15 agencies integrate tobacco cessation into daily practices through the Build a Clinic program.
- Our new Motivational Interviewing Training Institute will be holding its inaugural training February 27-28, 2017 at the Denver Metro area. Register here.
- The updated DIMENSIONS: Well Body Program is now being offered for 2017 trainings.
We will host our bi-annual RMTTS-C Program trainings in May 2017 and October 2017.
In Other News:
Please take a look at our new webpage for the Collective Impact for High Public Service Utilizers Project. Sponsored by the Office of Health Equity at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), BHWP and our community partners seek to provide individuals who are homeless with support through disease screening, education, and service navigation for four chronic diseases: cancer, diabetes, respiratory conditions, and cardiovascular disease.
From the BHWP team, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season! We look forward to many more opportunities to promote health and wellness in the new year.
A Study in Wellness
Stress and Coping in the Aftermath of Election 2016
MARY MANCUSO, M.A., Clinical Associate
A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association,1 revealed that 52% of adult Americans reported that the 2016 presidential election is either a “very” or “somewhat significant” source of stress. While this stress does not appear to adhere to party lines, gender, or generation, 51% of men, 52% of women; 55% of registered Democrats, 59% of Republicans; 56% of Millennials and 59% of “matures” noted “very” or “significant” election-related stress.
The 24-hour news cycle and social media only exacerbates this stress; 38% of adults are feeling stress resulting from social media political and cultural discussions.1 It seems our point of unity during this divisive election season is the anxiety we are all experiencing!
While the election results have left some individuals elated and hopeful and others despondent and discouraged, the psychological literature on stress and coping does provide insight on ways to manage our post-election reaction. From Lazarus’ Transactional Model of Stress and Coping,2 we have a framework to conceptualize stress and coping.
When first exposed to a stressor, an individual assesses susceptibility to and severity of a stressor; this is primary appraisal. Then, the individual considers available options and resources for managing the stressor, which is secondary appraisal.3
At this point, the individual looks for coping strategies, behaviors and thoughts to manage the external (situational) and internal (emotional) demands of the stressor. According to the Transactional Model,4 there are three types of coping strategies:
- Problem-focused – strategies that change the situation with information gathering and decision-making;
- Emotion-focused – strategies that alter one’s emotions about a situation by seeking social support, reframing a situation, and using emotional regulation; and
- Meaning-focused – strategies informed by underlying values and goals.
Ideally, individuals will make accurate primary appraisals, skillfully manage secondary appraisals, and use coping strategies effectively in healthy ways.
In the case of the election, depending on one’s political views, the outcome may be perceived as a severe threat, a challenge, or as benign (primary appraisal). While we are not able to alter the election results, we can change our emotional reaction to it (secondary appraisal). We can also effectively cope with the situation using problem-focused efforts (e.g., volunteering with an organization supporting an election issue that is important to you); emotion-focused efforts (e.g., avoiding catastrophizing, practicing acceptance, and reframing a situation as challenging verses calamitous); and meaning-focused efforts (e.g., engaging in behaviors aligned with your values, such as treating people with kindness and empathy).
Dr. Hans Selye, noted expert on stress and organisms once remarked, “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” No matter the election outcome for you, you still retain the power of choice.
1American Psychological Association. (2016). APA Survey Reveals 2016 Presidential Election Source of Significant Stress for More Than Half of Americans.
2Lazarus, R S, (1966). Psychological Stress and the Coping Process. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
3Lerman, C. & Glanz, K. (1997). Stress, coping, and health behavior. In K. Glanz, F. M. Lewis, and B. K. Rimer (Eds). Health behavior and health education: Theory, research, and practice, (2nd ed), (113-138). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.
4Folkman, S. (2010). Stress, coping, and hope. Psycho-Oncology, 19, 901-908.
Wellness in Practice
CINDY MORRIS, Psy.D., Clinical Director
Play a game with me. Take a moment and consider your physical wellness. Okay—are you done? What came to your mind first? Was it something you want to change or improve about your physical body? Or, more likely, was it something that you don’t like? Even hate? Did you think about the things you should be doing (but aren’t) so you could be more physically well?
Isn’t it interesting the way in which our desire to feel, be, or do better can backfire on us? That our striving can focus us on how we fall short rather than our perfection or all of the positive aspects of ourselves—our bodies, our relationships, our work, our society. And then, once we’re on that negative track, it gains a life of its own, attracting one thought, then another, and another, fixated on all of the problems, flaws, and limitations?
I know that it’s easy to go down that path. The path has been well worn. Habitual even. And I also know that I have a choice. You have a choice. I can choose to focus on the things I am doing well to support my physical wellness. The times I choose not to eat the simple carbohydrates that I have sworn off. Or the times I go for a run. Or take a moment to focus on my breath. Or laugh out loud. I can choose to appreciate my body for all of the things it does well, really well. Like the fact that I don’t question whether I can go for a walk, experience my environment, or savor the taste of delicious meal I made with my own hands.
For those of you who didn’t have any trouble with the negative thoughts, good for you! For those of us who need to refocus a little, good for us! Let’s appreciate the wonder of our physical bodies together.
Work It Out
JAMIE PFAHL, B.A., Community Liaison
Growth is hard. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life trying to escape any potential for humiliation, pain, or failure by avoiding things I’m not already reasonably good at. But lately, reflecting on my physical wellness journey, I realize how grateful I am to my previous self for having the courage to begin. And the tenacity and resilience to keep trying.
After my first yoga class a few years ago, I vowed to never go back. I hated the feeling of awkwardly trying to keep up while the instructor hovered nearby to correct me. As the entire class of limber and graceful ladies around me moved with ease, my internal voice was shouting, “I’m too inflexible! I’m not strong enough! This isn’t for me.” In college, a friend convinced me to try Zumba. I almost died of embarrassment at how terrible I was. But at the very least, I got a great ab workout from laughing at myself in the mirror.
It wasn’t easy to go back, but little by little, I built up my courage. I realized that everyone around me was on their own journey with their own struggles and that no one was judging mine. I began to fumble my way through other activities – stepping on toes in swing dance, tripping my partner in tango, and dropping my partner in acro-yoga (whoops, sorry Dave!). Many of these experiences have been frustrating and have left me thinking, “This is hard. I hate this. I can’t do it.” But the times when I finally find my groove, at least for a moment, it feels incredibly rewarding. I’m still a terrible dancer, but the act of trying and sticking with it well beyond my comfort zone is incredibly liberating.
Looking back at my Instagram photos from the past year, I see my successes represented in a deceptively awesome highlights reel of wonderful experiences and adventures. But sadly, the pictures don’t do justice to my tremendous process of growth. What these photos don’t show is how scared I was clinging to the side of that mountain, or how much I wanted to quit, or how many days I laid in bed and watched Netflix because I just couldn’t motivate myself. It doesn’t reflect the time, money, energy, blood, sweat, tears, and stress that lead up to the picture-perfect moment.
This year, I hope I’ll continue to push myself. My journey has been equally full of adventures and misadventures, which leads me to feeling stronger, more confident, and incredibly proud of myself for even trying. I hope that when I hit those inevitable lows, I’ll remember the highs, and when I look back on the highs, I won’t dismiss the effort I put in to get there. After all, the stumbles, bruises, and fear that I’ve worked through are far more meaningful and precious than any highlights captured on Instagram.
In the Flow
KATHIE GARRETT, M.A., Clinical Associate
Autumn is by far my favorite season of the year. For a few short months I step off the beaten path to enjoy long thoughts and personal reflection. I am enchanted by the faint autumn light, beckoned by the mystery inherent in transition. It is the time of year when I am ripe for what is known in positive psychology as flow experiences, those exceptional moments when we feel so completely immersed in an activity or occurrence that we lose our sense of self. And it is when I’m in the flow that I’m most content and feeling well in the deepest sense of that word.
This past summer staying physically active was a real struggle for me. It seemed that my inner parent and child were at war. The parent shouted, “You should be out there walking and moving!” While the lethargic child wanted no more than to pass the hot summer days with a few good books and the shade of a tree. When I was idle, I felt guilty, and when I was active, I felt irritated. What I did not feel was a sense of harmony, contentment, or wonder.
We’re having an Indian summer here in Colorado and the days are still unusually warm for this time of year but the footprints of autumn are everywhere. One does not have to be a well-honed season tracker to spot the tell-tale signs of frost on the grass at dawn or the brilliance of the mountain fields in the distance or to hear the crackling laughter of dry leaves in free-fall.
It is said that we are most likely to enter the flow when we are doing something we love. I genuinely love to walk but getting myself out to walk during the heat of the summer was a persistent challenge. It felt more a chore to be ticked off a list than anything special. In fact, it was not until last week that I rediscovered the bliss of walking.
On one recent October evening, I was enticed outside by a feathery light in the sky just as the sun touched the mountains. I drove down to my favorite walking path in Golden, one that ambles along Clear Creek before gradually snaking up into the foothills. I was initially conscious of myself and my surroundings, smiling at children, nodding to the people passing by. Then, after a short while, I became totally immersed in the act of moving, acutely aware of the rhythm of my heart beat, breath and steps. The people faded and thoughts of the day seemed to just melt away. It was two hours and three miles later when I suddenly realized how far I had walked and that I would be walking home in the dark.
Afterward, I reflected upon my experience. I realized that it is not only the act of walking but full engagement in this ephemeral season that is conducive to presence in the moment. It is an important reminder that each precious moment is all I really ever have—something I will try to remember throughout the year.
The mission of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program is to improve quality of life by facilitating evidence-based health behavior change for communities, organizations, and individuals.