News/Blog

Taking Steps to a Calming Routine

Patients from all walks of life come through the doors of SIACH, and we get the extreme privilege of experiencing their varying personalities, hopes, fears, and knowledge. While the differences are always distinct, we have noticed that there is at least one factor that is common among the lot: stress.

Whether the stress is minor or extreme, it’s a feeling we see written on the faces of team members and patients alike. Last week we talked about Healthy Ways to Handle Your Stress, and one of our tips was creating a calming routine. The following tips can be incorporated into anyone’s routine, and may help relieve a stressful schedule.

Nourish Your Body

“Stress-eating” is a term that gets heard more and more these days, and is a sneaky pitfall when it comes to taking care of yourself. A recent study by food scientists at Cornell University has shown that, when experiencing a period of negative emotion, pleasurable foods become even more appealing than usual, and unappealing foods become exponentially more distasteful.

This information makes it even more important to adopt a healthy diet. By planning ahead and making nourishing foods easily accessible, you’ll be better prepared for those times when you’ve had a rough morning, and a box of doughnuts shows up in the hospitality room. The simple act of eating a satisfying, nutrient-packed breakfast can set the atmosphere of your whole day, removing the need to reach for an unhealthy snack.

Making an impulse-eating decision can often cause guilt or physical discomfort later on—which will only further contribute to your stress levels.

Go for a Walk

One of the best ways to ease your mind is to get moving. Exercise triggers the production of endorphins, which are the neurotransmitters in your brain associated with “feeling good.” By focusing your mind on the movement of your body, you’ll be able to give yourself a break from your worries, creating a small, meditative escape from stress. Walking, specifically, is an ideal form of stress relief, as it is more accessible to people of differing athletic abilities. In addition to endorphin production, regular exercise promotes better health and self-esteem, which can drastically decrease stress levels.

Any exercise is an effective way to cope with stress, but it seems to be especially so when it is taken outdoors. Being able to remove yourself from your typical environment and take a few moments to connect with the outside world can be a good way to hit the reset button.

Talk to Someone

Stress can be very overwhelming when faced alone. Finding a close friend, support group, or therapist to share your feelings and fears with can help put your stress in perspective. Whether it’s the very basic act of hearing your feelings out loud or the relief of discovering that you’re not alone, finding a person or group to talk to is a powerful way to bring about some emotional relief.

Find a Healthy Distraction

While analyzing your stress is important and helpful, it’s equally important to give your mind a break. When feelings of anxiety and burden become too overwhelming, a brief, pleasurable escape can allow your body and mind to relax.

In addition to exercise, there are many ways to do this. Finding a new book to read or carving out some time to listen to your favorite music can help release some more of those endorphins and better prepare you to tackle your stress later on.

Be careful, however, to avoid distractions that are harmful, such as drugs, alcohol, or stress-eating. These are deceptive escapes that ultimately result in more stress for you.

Just Breathe

A tried-and-true method of stress relief and relaxation is the practice of deep breathing. While causing extreme emotional strain, stress can also affect a person physically. Practicing deep breathing exercises can help reverse some of the effects that stress has on the body by relaxing your heartbeat, increasing oxygen to your brain, and even lowering your blood pressure. We encourage you to visit this link for a fantastic resource on deep breathing information and exercises.

Cross Things off Your List

While all of the above activities can help reduce your stress, sometimes the only way to find relief is to remove your stressors. Make a list of factors that you can change, control, or accomplish, such as necessary duties and overwhelming tasks that need to be finished. You’ll find your relief grow dramatically as you remove these stressful items from your list, allowing more room for the things that bring you happiness.

Those on the team here at SIACH are no strangers to stress. We want to provide a source of comfort and knowledge so that our patients and their families receive the best possible care. Adding just one of these tips to your everyday routine may seem like too small a task to make a difference, but being more aware of being stressed helps you make a step in the right direction.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150709093313.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/reduce-stress-journaling

 

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Healthy Ways to Handle Your Stress

It’s important to give yourself the permission to relax every once in awhile, whether that quiet moment is spent with a steaming cup of tea or an indulgent massage. Stress and exhaustion can cause long-term health issues if allowed to remain severe for too long. We’d like to share a few tips for relaxation to help you take care of yourself.

PUT ON THE KETTLE.

We’ll start with a cup of hot tea. Some studies suggest that an amino acid found in tea, L-theanine, causes the brain to relax. While this statement is still mildly debated, the fact remains that tea is the second-most-consumed liquid in the world, next to water. Many people attribute the simple ritual of sipping a cup of tea to a calming, familiar feeling that is brought on simply by the action of drinking it.

Other herbal teas, such as chamomile and lavender, are said to have calming properties as well. When dealing with herbs, it’s important to check with your doctor if you have any conditions or take medicines that react badly with the herb blends… but if you’re in the clear, what’s to lose? Put on the kettle and see if those shoulders loosen up.

CREATE A COMFORTING ROUTINE.

If you find yourself regularly feeling stressed out, you might benefit from a calming routine. It can be something small-scale to help you calm down in a pinch, or a longer ritual to help you wind down before bed. Either way, it’s important to examine your needs and feelings to establish a routine that will be right for you. Do breathing exercises help? Do you enjoy reading? Is a long, hot bath a surefire way to ease your worries and turn down the thoughts in your head?

Routine provides something to look forward to and creates a consistent set of actions that you can depend on. You can always add a nice cup of tea to that ritual, of course!

EXERCISE

For some people, the act of movement allows the body to burn off energy and the mind to find focus. While more strenuous activities like running and weight-lifting provide a release for some, it’s often the case that a more gentle form of exercise allows a stressed-out individual to calm both their mind and body. Long walks, yoga class, and low-impact swimming are all ideal examples of using exercise to release stress.

JOURNALING

Stress often results from a buildup of responsibilities and negative emotions. Keeping a journal can provide a much-needed space into which you can release some of those fears and concerns. According to a 1986 study on expressive writing, students who wrote about traumatic and stressful events reported an almost immediate decrease in distress. Those who continued the practice over time reported an increase in the quality of their physical health as well.

Bottling up your feelings can lead to stress. Releasing those feelings can relieve that stress. A journal is a wonderful way to disclose your emotions and thoughts in a safe, controlled environment.

MAKE IT ABOUT YOU.

Whether you love tea or hate it… whether you’d rather run a mile than get a massage, the point of this post is to encourage relaxation that works for you. A mind that carries stress and tension for a prolonged period is also a body carrying that stress and tension. Finding techniques that help ease both physical and mental stress will allow you to focus on the things that you love.

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How to Combat Your Anxiety

In our last post, we detailed how important it is for people to get help with anxiety disorders, especially because they can negatively impact overall physical and mental health. However, it’s often difficult to know where to start. In our second post on anxiety, we will focus on how to combat anxiety and what to expect when seeking treatment.

How do I ask for help?

If you think you may be suffering from anxiety, you should share your concerns with your primary care physician. A physician can help determine if the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, a medical condition, or both. If your physician diagnoses an anxiety disorder, the next step is to see a mental health care professional. You and your doctor will then work as a team to develop the best treatment plan.

What are my treatment options?

Treatment for anxiety can involve medication, therapy, stress reduction, coping skills, family involvement, or a combination of these. A mental health care provider can determine what type of disorder or combination of disorders you have, and if any other conditions, such as grief, depression, substance abuse, or dementia are present.

If you have been treated before for an anxiety disorder, you should tell your provider about the previous treatment. Be sure to detail what medication was used, dosage, side effects, and whether the treatment was helpful. If you attended therapy sessions, you should describe the type, how many sessions, and whether it helped. Sometimes individuals need to try several different treatments or combinations of treatments before they find the one that works best for them. It is important to be patient and committed to treatment efforts until you find what is best for you.

Medication

Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while you receive therapy. Medication must be prescribed by physicians, often psychiatrists or geriatric psychiatrists, who can also offer therapy or work as a team with psychologists, social workers, or counselors who provide therapy. The main medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers, which control some of the physical symptoms. Below are several points to remember when beginning these types of medications.

  • Learn about the effects and side effects. For example, ask when the medication should begin to help and in what way. Also ask about what negative effects you should look out for.
  • Tell your doctor about any other drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter), herbal supplements, or alternative therapies you are taking.
  • Find out when and how the medication should be stopped. Some cannot be stopped abruptly and must be tapered down under a doctor’s supervision.
  • Some medications are only effective if taken regularly. Be sure to ask what you should do if you accidentally miss a dose.

Therapy

Therapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor, to discover what caused the anxiety disorder and how to deal with its symptoms. Therapists can help people change the thinking patterns that contribute to their fears and the ways they react to anxiety-provoking situations. A therapist can also teach new coping and relaxation skills and help resolve problems that cause anxiety.

What else can I do to help relieve my anxiety?

  1. Acknowledge worries and address any fears that can be handled. For example, if an individual is worried about finances, a visit to a financial planner may be helpful.
  2. Talk with family, a friend, or spiritual leader about your worries. Sometimes voicing them can be a big relief.
  3. Adopt stress management techniques, meditation, prayer, and deep breathing. Because anxiety is so tied to a physical response, relaxation techniques can be very helpful.
  4. Exercise regularly and when stress builds up. Even a short walk can help alleviate tension and anxiety symptoms.
  5. Avoid things that can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders:
    • Caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate)
    • Nicotine (smoking)
    • Over-the-counter cold medications
    • Illegal drugs
    • Certain herbal supplements
    • Alcohol
  6. Limit news of current events. It is important to stay current, but too much negative news can contribute to anxiety.
  7. Allow time for treatment to work. Treatment is not a quick fix. It takes time, patience, and perseverance.
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Caregiver’s Guide to Brain Injury Rehabilitation

The goal of rehabilitation is to help your loved one live and function as independently as possible. Rehabilitation helps the body heal and assists the brain in relearning processes so that an individual recovers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rehabilitation will also help the person with Brain Injuries learn new ways to do things if any previous abilities have been lost.

After your loved one’s initial life-saving treatment at the time of the injury, he or she will most likely start a rehabilitation program and will work with a team of specialists. The person with an injury and his or her family are the most important members of the rehabilitation team. Family members should be included in the rehabilitation and treatment as much as possible. Some of the other professionals who may be part of this team include:

  • Neurologists – doctors who are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles.
  • Occupational, physical, speech and language therapists – therapists that help the person regain thinking skills, communication skills, physical abilities and behavioral skills.
  • Neuropsychologists – specialized psychologists who focus on thinking skills and behavior problems.
  • Vocational rehabilitation experts – employment coaches who help with regaining job skills.

Some of the different types of rehabilitation facilities include:

  • Acute rehabilitation – an intensive rehabilitation program.
  • Coma treatment centers – provide coma-specific medical care.
  • Transitional living programs – nonmedical residential programs that teach skills for community living.
  • Long-term care and supervised living programs – residential facilities that provide care and
  • rehabilitation to people with brain injuries who are not able to live independently.
  • Behavior management programs – typically community-based (i.e., not residential) programs that teach self-control and appropriate social behaviors.
  • Day treatment programs – provide rehabilitation during the day so the person can return home at night.

Recovering from a brain injury is a process and is individual to each person and family. One of the major impacts that stroke has on quality of life is the way that it affects a person’s emotions and relationships. There are hardships that immediately come to mind – communication problems, mobility limitations, cognitive impairment – but there are also complex social and emotional stressors that impact well-being. Stroke affects emotions, and in turn, relationships and social functioning among stroke victims and family, friends, and/or caregivers. It is important to remember that rehabilitation may last weeks or even years and that your loved one will benefit from the ability to receive rehabilitation services throughout this time. Appropriate programs and treatments will also change as your family member’s needs change. Choosing Ernest Health is a huge step forward on the road to recovery!

References:

www.biausa.org  

www.caregiver.org

 

 

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What to Expect from Rehabilitation

Last week we covered identifying and understanding brain injuries. If you or a loved one you know has had a brain injury or are at risk for a brain injury, knowing what rehabilitation will consist of can be comforting during a stressful time. There are many physical and emotional challenges that can discourage both the patient and the caregiver.

Brain injury is a broad category that refers to any injury to the brain which impairs functioning. The injury may be mild, severe, traumatic, or caused by associated medical problems; however, the goal of rehabilitation is the same – help patients gain the most independent level of functioning possible. Whether the brain was injured during a stroke, a fall, or even an electric shock, the goal of Ernest Health is to get our patients back to a place where they can manage and hopefully flourish in daily life. Rehabilitation therapists form a team, together with the patient and family/caregiver(s), to achieve the best possible outcome.

REHABILITATION AFTER BRAIN INJURY:

Rehabilitation after a brain injury is more likely to involve several types of therapists and practitioners on our staff because of the effect that a brain injury can have on multiple parts of the body. A physical therapist would help the individual regain range of movement and strength, like in the case of a patient who has had a stroke and subsequent paralysis. An occupational therapist caring for the same patient might work with him or her on dressing, eating, and completing household chores. A speech pathologist might work with the patient on swallowing and communication. Still other practitioners such as psychologists and social workers would aid in psychological, emotional, and social assessment and care.

Just as with any type of rehabilitation, a patient’s treatment plan is highly individualized. A patient who has experienced a stroke may need different types and degrees of therapy than a person who was in a car accident. It all depends on the extent and impact of the injury. Likewise, one’s treatment may vary according to life stage, age, and daily needs. This individualization greatly benefits our patients and their families.

However, Brain Injuries are so much more than a series of physical consequences. One of the major impacts that brain injuries have on the quality of life is the way that they affect a person’s emotions and relationships. There are hardships that immediately come to mind – communication problems, mobility limitations, cognitive impairment – but there are also complex social and emotional stressors that impact well-being.

 

Knowing what to expect from brain injuries can be especially useful for the caregiver. Being a caregiver requires constant encouraging and optimism, but that can be wearying. Next week we cover brain injury rehabilitation for the caregiver.

For more information on brain injury, go to www.biausa.gov.

 

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Choose a Nationally Recognized Hospital – It Matters!

Southwest Idaho Advanced Care Hospital is among 700 hospitals – or 15% – recognized nationwide for our respiratory care services by the American Association for Respiratory Care.

Meet the pulmonologists:
Our physicians who specialize in lung conditions and diseases, who help guide our medical team:

Dr. Ravi Kumar
Dr. Kumar strives to provide excellence in his care – one patient at a time. Dr. Kumar has been actively involved in caring for patients with pulmonary, critical care, and sleeping disorders for more than 25 years. He is triple board-certified in pulmonary, critical care, and internal medicine.

Dr. David Frankl
Dr. Frankl has a profound interest in achieving the best results for patients and their families. He has been a member of the medical profession for more than 25 years and is board-certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in both pulmonary and critical care medicine. Dr. Frankl is a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians through the American Thoracic Society.

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Understanding Brain Injuries

Brain injury is unpredictable in its consequences. Brain injury affects who we are, the way we think, act and feel. It can change everything about us in a matter of seconds. The most important things to remember include:

  • A person with a brain injury is a person first.
  • No two brain injuries are exactly the same.
  • The effects of a brain injury are complex and vary greatly from person to person.
  • The effects of a brain injury depend on such factors as cause, location, and severity.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

2.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention, the leading causes of TBI are:

  • Falls (35.2%)
  • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (17.3%)
  • Struck by/against events (16.5%)
  • Assaults (10%)

Acquired Brain Injury

An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain, which is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth.

There is sometimes confusion about what is considered an acquired brain injury. By definition, any traumatic brain injury (e.g., from a motor vehicle accident, or assault) could be considered an acquired brain injury. In the field of brain injury, acquired brain injuries are typically considered any injury that is nontraumatic. Examples of acquired brain injury include stroke, near drowning, lack of oxygen to the brain, tumor, neurotoxins, electric shock or lightening strike.

An Injured Brain

When a brain injury occurs, the functions of the neurons, nerve tracts, or sections of the brain can be affected. If the neurons and nerve tracts are affected, they can be unable or have difficulty carrying the messages that tell the brain what to do. This can change the way a person thinks, acts, feels, and moves the body. Brain injury can also change the complex internal functions of the body, such as regulating body temperature; blood pressure; bowel and bladder control. These changes can be temporary or permanent. They may cause impairment or a complete inability to perform a function.

www.biausa.org

 

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Eating Out and Staying Healthy

There are many facets to living a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the obvious ones. A healthy diet is easiest when you do the cooking yourself. You can control what goes into the dish which controls the calories and nutrition of the whole meal.

But sometimes, a person just needs a break from their daily routine. A chance to recharge and regroup before starting all over again the next day. The solution can be as simple as a meal outside the house.

We know that when you’re watching what you eat, staying healthy when eating out can cause stress or guilt which are not relaxing feelings. Luckily, more restaurants are evolving their menus to fit the demand for healthier, calorie friendly options. We’ve got a satisfying selection of restaurants in the Boise area that are offering healthier menu options:

RESTAURANTS WITH HEALTHY OPTIONS

These restaurants provide a simple way to indulge without derailing your weight loss and fitness goals. They are also a great way to beat the heat of the stove without all the guilt.

WHEN THERE’S NO LIGHT MENU

What about those times, though, when a healthy menu isn’t available? It can be pretty easy to give yourself a free pass for the night and feel bad about it later. You can’t always control where you eat, either. We’ve got some tips you can use to achieve satisfaction and avoid over-indulgence:

  • Choose water or unsweetened tea to go with your meal. Allow your food to provide your calories for you, rather than a sugary drink.
  • Keep the dressing on the side. By starting your meal with a serving of vegetables, you’ll satisfy your body’s needs for nutrients and set the stage for a healthier meal. Putting the dressing on the side allows you to use the amount you need, rather than the amount you’re given.
  • Order the “small” or “half” portion. Many restaurants offer a “half size” of their entrees, which will help you indulge without overeating.
  • Pack leftovers right away. Ask for a to-go box as soon as your food is delivered. Immediately packing half of your meal removes the excess food from your vision and ensures a delicious meal for tomorrow.
  • Share an entrée and appetizer. Appetizers, unfortunately, often lead to overeating. Many people end up eating enough for a meal before their entrees even reach the table. If you must have those bacon-wrapped shrimp, try sharing them with your dining partner. You could also choose to split your entrée, which would result in a satisfying meal that doesn’t hurt your wallet.

Here at Southwest Idaho Advanced Care Hospital, we love being able to share with our patients the healthy lifestyle options Boise has to offer. If you have more tips or another favorite restaurant that offers light options, we’d be thrilled to hear from you.

Sources:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/tips-for-eating-out.html

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Online Information You Can Trust

If you know how to use the Internet, chances are you’ve done a random search for health information. You’ve searched “cardiac rehabilitation” or “stroke outcomes” or “spinal injury” and you were met with thousands of results that ranged from logical to terrifying and everything in between. But how do you know what information is correct? What sites should you trust? While talking with your physician is always the best source of information, doing your own research can give you a good foundation for understanding basic medical terms and processes as well as helping to form a language for asking questions.

When looking for health information, you should look to websites that present the same researched, peer-reviewed, and up-to-date information that your physicians are getting. These websites take scholarly results, like your physicians read in medical journals and hear at conferences, and make them accessible to the public. For this type of reliable information we suggest turning to one of these websites:

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) – Most people associate the CDC with infectious diseases, but their research and website covers much more than the flu and Ebola. Their site has valuable information on our nation’s most pervasive conditions – heart disease, cancer, diabetes — as well as just about any other condition you might search for. The website also contains information on healthy living, traveler health, emergency preparedness, and much more.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) – The National Institutes of Health is a clearinghouse for up-to-date health research and information. What’s presented on their website (and through their branch institutes’ sites) is reader-friendly, cutting edge health news. The NIH funds medical research across the country and is a top-tier source for reliable health information.
  • National Associations, such as American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Stroke Association, just to name a few. These sites not only present helpful, practical information but they also have stories of success and encouragement.
  • But what if you still have the urge to type things into a search engine and see what comes up?
  • The National Institute on Aging, a branch of the NIH, gives this helpful checklist to help you determine if the health information you are reading can be trusted.

A QUICK CHECKLIST

  1. Can you easily see who sponsors the website?
  2. Is the sponsor a Federal agency or a medical school, or is it related to one of these?
  3. Can you find the mission or goal of the sponsor of the website?
  4. Can you see who works for the agency or organization and who is the author? Is there contact information?
  5. Can you tell when the information was written?
  6. Is your privacy protected?
  7. Does the website make claims that seem too good to be true? Are quick, miraculous cures promised?

The most important advice that we can give you regarding online health information is this: If you are experiencing troubling health symptoms, always see a physician. And certainly, if it seems like an emergency, as in the case of a stroke, heart attack, fall, etc., call 911. Online health information can help us understand our diagnosis or that of a loved one, but it takes a health professional to diagnosis and treat disease or injury.

Resources
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/online-health-information

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Starting a Health Journal

There is an importance of compiling a medical history, and while a record of your medical history is essential to your doctor-patient relationship, there are even more ways to improve on it.

One of those ways is by keeping a health journal, which is a very detailed record of your daily activities, diet, medications, and feelings.

Reasons to keep a health journal:

A health journal can be a great way to keep track of the general state of your body, the effectiveness of your current lifestyle, and weight loss progress. The ability to look back on your previous activities and food consumption provides an accurate and expansive window through which you can assess your habits, and make decisions based off of the information you’ve collected.

Many people with chronic pain or concerning symptoms rely on a health journal to stay on top of their medical issues and improve communication with their physicians. Cross-referencing flare-ups and symptomatic occurrences with activities and foods can shed light on triggers.

What to record in your health journal:

Sleep: How did you sleep the night before? How long did you sleep? What time did you go to bed, and what did you do before you fell asleep?

Medications: If you take any medications, vitamins, or supplements, record what they are and when you take them.
Physical Activity: Any exercise or out-of-the-ordinary strenuous activity can have a significant impact on your health, and should definitely be included.

Symptoms: Any physical symptoms you experience should be recorded in detail. What time you experience them and the level of severity and length should be noted.

Food/Drink: Record anything you consume throughout the day, and be as detailed as possible. What did you eat, and how much? Where did you eat? Who prepared the food?

Emotions: Health is about more than simply the physical aspects. Being aware of your mood and recording any drastic changes is essential to health tracking.

 Helpful hints/how to get started:

Talk to your doctor. Even if you are starting a journal simply for general health observation, it can be very helpful to ask your doctor what to include. Based on your medical history, he or she might have specific concerns or insight that will aid in accuracy and effectiveness.

Find a journal that works for you. The options for a health journal are endless. Even something as simple as a one subject notebook with each day’s date at the top of the page can work if that’s a format that you favor. There are also options for printable journal pages, and even apps that keep all of your information on your smart device.

Keep your journal in an easily-accessible place. Whether it’s your kitchen, purse, or bathroom, keep your health journal in a place that you frequently visit or use. The kitchen is usually ideal, because foods, beverages, and medicines are often found there. Recording what you eat is much easier when the diary is close to the refrigerator.

Be honest. Recording false or altered information, for whatever reason, will only deter your efforts as you try to assess your health. Remember that your doctor is on your side, and that open communication is essential to the doctor/patient relationship.

We hope you’ll find these tips useful in enhancing your health care experience. We deeply value honesty between our patients and team members, and a health journal can be an incredible tool in that line of communication.

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