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Maggie DeMellier

Maggie DeMellier

Maggie DeMellier has been Health Journeys go-to customer service representative and marketing associate since March 2012. She worked as a surgical technician and pharmacy technician before she earned a BA in Mass Media Communication at The University of Akron. She operates a freelance writing business, specializing in medical ads, news articles, police blotters, features and business writing.  She was a teacher at a career college for six years, and earned a MA in Forensic Psychology in 2010. Maggie is the co-author of Parenting by Law or Grace, published by Synchronisity Press, in 2004.

Carolyn Daitch, PhD, author of Managing the Distress of Cancer and its Treatment, wrote to Belleruth to generously share her travel tips. Belleruth generously shared them with us and all the happy Health Journeys travelers.

"As we approach the month of August when many of my clients schedule their summer getaways," Daitch wrote, "The topic of travel-related anxiety comes up frequently.

Some of her recommendations:

  • Calm your nervous system with a relaxation technique. It's hard to think reasonably when your body is anxious. Listen to a meditation CD, or practice slow breathing to lower your baseline anxiety level.

  • Write down your worries. The mere act of writing creates some detachment from your concerns and helps you achieve some objectivity.

  • Remember that there are stores where you are going. It's not a disaster if you forget to pack everything.

  • Embrace uncertainty. Let's face it: life is uncertain and travel is even more so. Say a self-statement, "I accept uncertainty. I may not like it, but I can handle it."

With summer in full swing, I wanted to remind everyone about our great new day and night audio programs to encourage a healthy body image. As I sipped my Yogi tea, I saw the perfect beginning quotation right on the back of my tea bag, "Live with reverence for yourself and others."

It's so simple, but it clearly defines the concept of having a healthy body image. If you have reverence for yourself, you respect your body and naturally give it what it needs to be the best it can be. If you have reverence for others, you see the beauty in them and you don't hold them to ridiculous standards either.

Summer is a great time to focus on appreciation of your hard-working body, your oldest friend and steadiest companion. If you are interested in improving your body and body image, and you haven't tried Dr. Traci Stein's new audio programs, Healthy Weight & Body Image and Healthy Weight & Body Image during Sleep now is an excellent time.

If you're planning to start or return to college in the fall, summer is an excellent time to try some self-soothing techniques that might come in handy when back-to-school time rolls around.

Anxiety has surpassed depression as the most prevalent mental health issue among college students, according to organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI on Campus) the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA) and the American College Health Association (ACHA).

Mounting academic pressure, financial concerns, compulsive interaction with social media, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and a lack of self-soothing skills are some of the factors that have contributed to an increase in mental health issues (particularly anxiety) among college students.

Symptoms might be mild and resolve on their own, such as experiencing jittery or queasy feelings before tests and social events. Symptoms that don't resolve can get worse, leading to insomnia, social isolation and physical complaints. Some students experience severe anxiety, including panic attacks and an inability to carry out simple tasks, leading to missed classes and failed courses.

Fireworks: You can find a safe, public fireworks display in a nearby community, no matter where you live. If you're not a fan of crowds or loud noise, find a parking lot where you get a good view from your car, or go to a hillside where you can spread a blanket, sit or lie down and take in the splendor of the night sky, with or without fireworks.
Please don't use fireworks at home. I worked as a surgical technician in three states and I have stories from all three. Please don't allow your festivities to end in tragedy.

Friends & Family: Thich Nhat Hanh said it best, "The greatest gift you can give someone is your presence." Summer holidays offer excellent opportunities to connect with loved ones. Take the kids for a walk in the woods, have a picnic, back-yard barbecue or go someplace fun for dinner. Spend some alone time with a loved one or reach out to someone who would love to hear from you. Outdoor concerts and celebrations offer great ways to enjoy or re-connect with old friends and make new ones.

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Free Time: For most of us, summer holidays offer more time to savor the season, kick back and just be. Whether you choose to begin or deepen a meditation practice or just spend an hour looking at nature or snoozing in a hammock. Enjoy.

To those hearty souls who work on the holiday, or over the holiday weekend, our hats are off to you. Without you, we could not celebrate, and we appreciate your efforts. Be sure to take some time to reward yourselves for a job well done.

Furry and Feathered Friends: Don't forget to make allowances for pets, who often need human companions nearby when their overly-sensitive ears pick up on the sound of fireworks, no matter how far away. Depending on your pet's level of discomfort, it might be prudent to have a pet-sitter (someone with whom the animal is comfortable) rather than leaving a treasured pet home alone. For tips on helping firework-phobic pets, go to http://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_multi_fireworks_and_pets_dont_mix

Freedom: No matter how you celebrate it or what kind of freedom stirs your heart, the Fourth of July--Independence Day—is all about gratitude for living in the land of the free. Let freedom ring!

As always, we love hearing from you. How do you spend your July 4th holiday? No matter how you choose to celebrate, have a safe, happy and fun-filled Fourth of July from your friends at Health Journeys.

"Post-traumatic stress produces legions of heroes, whose every day is a test of their mettle," writes Belleruth Naparstek, in Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal. "PTSD is far more common than most of us think. All of us know several trauma survivors who've suffered from it, and very likely someone very close to us has been in its nasty grip."

This year, in order to bring greater awareness to the issue of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how many people are affected by it, the United States Senate designated June 27th as National PTSD Awareness Day. In addition, June has been designated as PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD).

The National Center for PTSD has adopted the theme, Learn, Connect, Share to raise awareness that PTSD touches us all. If we don't have PTSD, we are almost certain to know someone who does. We might not know they suffer symptoms of this debilitating condition, because they are often reluctant to share their stories out of guilt, shame or fear of re-visiting the trauma.

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Organized sports offer an excellent way to combine physical activity with camaraderie. Check out the availability of athletic activities through your school or community. Parents are also advised to look for summer camps and free programs offered through parks and libraries, and be sure to visit the website of your local YMCA.

A few years ago, I taught an all-day, six-week summer drama workshop for pre-teens. There were to be no more than 8 students and I had 15 and a waiting list of about 30. I separated them into groups and gave them assignments, so I could work one-on-one with each student on things like voice projection, blocking and auditioning. I wanted to be sure their parents got enough bang for their bucks.

What I learned was that they were not interested in acting-they just wanted something to do all summer.

Pictured above is the 'before' photo of Operation Waist Management, a group of professional medical guys, who had some weight to lose and decided to join a national competition through Western Reserve Hospital, where they work. They came in first among the hospital's teams and 16th out of 380 teams in the nation.

This is one example of how men are getting the message about taking charge of their health. Another indication of this trend is an increase in the number of men who place phone and online orders for audio programs on mindfulness meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and stress relief.

Men are getting the message, but according to organizations like the Men's Health Network and the CDC there is a need for more awareness. More men than women are dying from preventable conditions and women still outlive their male counterparts by five years.

Superman and cancer survivors are both celebrated in the month of June.

June 1 is Superman's birthday, so it is fitting that we celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day on the first Sunday in June. Every cancer survivor is a superhero, and the day is designated to honor their courage.

National Cancer Survivors Day also provides an opportunity to raise awareness that, though survivors are living longer and more productive lives than ever before, they continue to face challenges that can last for years after treatment ends.

Giving your body its summertime tune-up should begin with your head, and you can start by fostering an attitude of compassionate acceptance.

According to Dr. Traci Stein, whose body of work on issues involving self-esteem and body image is nothing short of amazing, "Your healthiest weight is the one that honors your inherent worth and keeps your body strong, mind sharp, and emotions balanced."

You will notice that nowhere in this statement does she say that body must have a 22-inch waist, weigh no more than 100 pounds or fit into a size 6. We are the ones who attach numbers to everything. "I will open myself to a relationship after I lose 20 pounds," or "I will look for a better career opportunity once I fit into a size 6."

Cast from shackles which bound them, this bell shall ring out hope for the mentally ill and victory over mental illness.”—inscription on Mental Health America’s Mental Health Bell

During the early days of mental health treatment, the mentally ill were often institutionalized in asylums, where they were restrained with iron chains and shackles. As understanding and treatment improved and new modalities were implemented, this cruel practice ended. Mental Health America had these inhumane shackles melted down and recast into the 300-pound Mental Health Bell, that rings out a sign of hope and healing. To learn more, go to Mental Health America.

The theme for this year's Mental Health Awareness Month is B4Stage4, which encourages us to 'get informed, get screened and get help' before mental illness reaches the serious Stage 4, which often involves loss of jobs and families, inability to undertake daily activities, institutionalization or incarceration.

When people first experience symptoms of diseases like cancer or diabetes, they are encouraged to seek treatment. The warning signs of those diseases are published frequently in numerous sources. Posters bearing the warning signs of heart attack and stroke are visible in many public places, but how many of us are aware of the signs of mental illness?

If we don't ignore the symptoms of other illnesses, why do we wait so long to seek treatment for symptoms of potentially serious mental illness? Mental Health Awareness Month encourages us to change the way we think about mental illness and treat it as any serious illness, with screening and early intervention. The Mental Health Bell also reminds us that the chains of discrimination still bind people with mental illness.

"Although the medical community now approaches depression as a disease, many depressed people still feel a sense of shame and judge themselves as weak or self-indulgent for not being able to "will" themselves out of their sadness. When you're in the throes of depression, it's hard to escape the feeling that you are a failure and that the future is hopeless." Deepak Chopra, from Healing Depression.

Anxiety is another aspect of mental illness that is often misunderstood. For more information on dealing with anxiety read Belleruth's blog post, BR' Tips for Beating Anxiety.

To find guided imagery resources to support mental and emotional health, check out our website.

Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by telling us your stories. As always, we love hearing from you. Happy Spring from your friends at Health Journeys.