INTEGRATIVE + ONLINE PSYCHIATRY + HOLISTIC HEALTH

Category: Integrative Therapies

Planet in a hand with ocean and a butterfly

Pandemic LifeSavers

To ensure a safe journey through the present hazardous times of the COVID-19 pandemic, make wise choices.

Be vigilant to protect yourself and others from one of the most virulent and destructive viruses of the century. Keep tuned to the latest news and recommendation from reputable sources, but be careful to avoid any politically motivated misinformation. The COVID-19 infections and spread will continue until effective anti-viral drugs, vaccines, adequate testing, and contact tracing are available.

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fear and anxiety in a senior women

Pandemic Fear and Anxiety

Recognition and management of fear and anxiety are essential to maintain healthy emotions and mood. Cascading anxiety can contribute to emotional collapse and severe depression.

Fear can paralyze a person with a loss of productivity, effectiveness, and quality of life. Unchecked fear with worry can build to loss of confidence, insecurity, and significant emotional states like anxiety, panic, and depression. Today’s unique atmosphere of a viral COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming for many. Our nation is experiencing a collapsing economy, with the devastating effect of an enormous number of people dying from the viral illness.

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Rooster crow morning wakeup

COVID-19 Wake Up Call

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call to understand all the contributing factors, and steps needed to protect ourselves and future generations from recurrences and the devastation.

Hopefully, soon, COVID-19 will peak and subsides. Its rapid spread and lethality have had a devastating and tragic effect on the most vulnerable people and the vital infrastructure of our society. 

When the final analysis is done, what will be learned and taken away as practical ideas or as more profound wisdom? Some useful areas of interest and inquiry may focus on

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Steps to Health

Coronavirus Holistic Health Steps

Coronavirus, infections, and its rapid spread globally and now in the U.S., is causing fear and some near-panic. I proposed holistic health steps for Coronavirus, as well as for other health issues.

If you are not already compromised by other mental or physical illness as lung and airway disease, a weakened immune system, or other chronic diseases, there are steps you can take.

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Promise of Light on other side of a Wood Bridge of wood bridge in deep forest crossing water stream and glowing light at the end of wooden ways; Copyright: khunaspix / 123RF Stock Photo

Expert Mentoring – A Key to Restoring Mental & Emotional Health

Escalating mental health, emotional or related health issues may signal the need for mentoring or guidance.

When help is needed, it can be difficult to find the outside expert support you need. Developing your own personal self as a resource can also be a challenge.

A person in distress often recognizes that their customary coping mechanism and level of support are inadequate. The dependence on learned ways of dealing with adverse life events often does not help for an overload of stressors and emotional turmoil. The experience for some is like being entrapped in a swirl of thoughts, painful emotions and images. Before distress reaches too high a level, is the time to reach out to others for help and guidance.

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Meditation, mindfulness, happiness - zen garden with massage stones and waterlily

Meditation – Mental Health Essential

Meditation, Mindfulness, or Introspective Practices

have well proven their value in holistic mental health work for mood, anxiety, addiction, and health issues. Meditation can be an essential tool for happiness and mental health. Enhancement of longevity and decrease in brain aging has also been demonstrated as an added benefit. In many other areas, there are proven benefits as in work, school, athletic performance, sleep, and creativity. The mere awareness in meditation – that thoughts and emotion are of a changing and transient nature – is enlightening for those felt imprisoned by harsh negative thoughts and emotions.

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huge hurricane over florida - hurricanes, depression, and recovery

Hurricanes, Depression, and Recovery

“Hurricanes, Depression, and Recovery” article is a story of one person’s tragedy from severe depression and hurricane losses. Experiencing a larger force of nature brought him not only to a deeper understanding of his life but to healing and recovery. The hurricane calamity also affected the multitude of people living in the same destructive path. The devastating hurricane or a storm can be compared to depressive illness: both need a path to recovery. A story presents one man’s journey of despair and loss, to redemption and healing.

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Steps to Health

Ten Holistic Steps for Mental Health

Ten Holistic Steps for Mental Health

by Ron Parks, MD & edited by Shan Parks

Steps to HealthTake the steps for your emotional, mental, and physical health.

The failure to get positive results can be from following an inappropriate program for your needs. Consider exploring some complementary or alternative options that can bring positive improvement. The goals of broadening your personal program would be for you to regain optimal health, fitness, and well-being.

The following 10 step can begin your journey:

  1. Review available information on holistic or integrative strategies for health improvement or illness recovery.

I encourage you to seek more information. Participate in making choices in any areas concerning your health, especially when there are needs for treatment or intervention. Being proactively involved is essential to improving your health.

Find educational materials or services that may be available from either your current health care providers or in your community. Other sources of information may be from trusted and reliable media sources as the Internet, blog sites, or from printed materials.

  1. Choose preferably Integrative Medicine, Psychology, Psychiatry, or Holistic Therapy Programs.

Get the help you need. Consultations with other medical or health care practitioners especially those with a more holistic and integrative orientation are recommended.

Rather than a narrow focus, addressing only a few symptoms or one aspect of the entire person— an active, validating, caring, and holistic approach helps the whole person. Selection of a broader, integrative program is essential, in my opinion, for optimal progress and improvement.  Click on the following:  Integrative psychiatry, medicine, and holistic therapies

refuge, journey to fullfilment, health

  1. Be open and receptive to integrative care that looks at underlying causes, triggers, and risk factors.

The goal would be to eliminate or reduce any contributors that interfere with you being successful with your health and well-being goals.

Significant, “co-occurring” problems in your current life or from unresolved past issues, if unrecognized, may interfere with your health recovery or with your ability to make progress towards your health goals.Some areas that may be missed or ignored, in your health care evaluations or program, that may need attention, are:

  • interpersonal conflicts, recent divorce, or failed relationships
  • stress overload
  • lack of skills as with planning and time management
  • job, career loss, or a financial crisis
  • a move or loss of home
  • the death of a significant other or loved one
  • auto accidents, recent surgery, or hospitalization for a serious illness or injury history, history of other traumas, traumatic stress disorder symptoms, traumatic brain injuries
  • early life abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, rape
  • emotional or mental health issues as anxiety, panic, fatigue, depression, bipolarity, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive problems, developmental issues, Asperger’s
  • drug, alcohol abuse, or addictions
  • eating disorders and obesity
  • unrecognized health and illness related problems
  1. Choose natural alternatives and a healthier lifestyle, as this is often the better and safer choice for you to reach your goals.

Embracing a healthy lifestyle will decrease health problems and offers you the opportunity for improved health and longevity. Awareness and support of the mind, body and spiritual dimensions are essential for wellness, healing, and prevention of illness.

Receive the benefit of support from a holistic practitioner, a group, an educational program, a teacher, or a coach. You are entitled to have the guidance and services needed to feel better and to do better!

  1. Begin a healthy diet and nutrition. Choose:
  • more whole and plant-based foods
  • organic foods when possible
  • avoid process foods with sugar and chemical additives
  • eat vegetables, beans, whole grains (preferably gluten free), greens, fruits, nuts, healthy fats (as avocado, olive oil, fats in nuts and seeds)
  • if not vegetarian, when possible, choose organic, free range chicken, beef, or fish from a healthy ocean or natural unpolluted water source

Get advice from a holistically oriented nutritionist or health coach. Instead of using prescription and over-the-counter medications which are frequently used to treat symptoms – when drugs are not indicated (check with your holistic health care provider first) – consider natural alternatives and the taking of nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and herbs. Research first and get good advice from a trusted resource or a holistic health care provider.

 

assorted vegables

  1. Exercise is crucial in maintaining health and promoting wellness and illness recovery.

Different types of exercise are encouraged per preferences and ability. Extensive research on exercise has confirmed its value in reducing risks of:

  • heart disease
  • hypertension
  • mood disturbance
  • cancer
  • dementia
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • stress and sleep related illness

Only exercise to your capacity. If you are just not sure where to start or if there is any potential for stroke, heart attack, or other adverse consequences — get an exercise prescription or advice from a health care provider or a personal trainer.

swimmer, exercise

A variety of exercises in your program will give you the best overall training effect and prevent boredom:

  • biking
  • walking, running, biking, and hiking
  • weight training
  • dancing, aerobic classes
  • swimming
  • yoga
  • qigong
  • tennis and other individual or team sports

Any active movement is helpful and beneficial. There are calming, stress reducing, focusing exercises — like meditation, which can be a fantastic addition to you and your program.

  1. Optimize and improve your poor sleep or insomnia.

Avoid getting into sleep debt or sleep deprivation (not getting enough sleep). Sleep disturbances have been associated with significant medical problems:

  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • accidents
  • poor work, and school performance
  • mood disturbances

Sleeping dogA good start is to reduce stress, over-stimulation, and activity overload. Do meditative or deep relaxation exercises. Improve moods, reduce anxiety and worry. If there is significant mood or anxiety problems, see an appropriate healthcare professional or therapist for assessment and treatment if indicated. See Dr. Parks’ articles at http://ronparksmd.com/ on related topics. If daytime sleepiness or history of loud snoring occurs, see a sleep specialist — as a sleep disorder as sleep apnea may need to be recognized and treated. See, Sleep Disorder article.

  1. Have a thorough evaluation by an integrative healthcare provider if there is any possibility of other hidden health issues.

These may compromise your recovery or interfere with reaching your health goals. Sometimes imbalances in the body can result in illness or health compromise. Lab work or testing may be indicated as diagnostic tests for:

  • allergies, anemia, diabetes, heart disease, infection
  • hormonal imbalances as found in thyroid, adrenal, ovarian, or testicular problems
  • auto-immune or inflammatory illness
  • early cancer
  • nutritional status tests for deficiencies in vitamins minerals
  • elimination diets or digestion function tests
  1. Check out for environmental factors that may play a role in health and disease.

Overload, sensitivities, or reactivity, to or with toxic environmental substances and chemicals can impair health or hinder recovery. These may be present in air, chemical fumes (perfumes, pesticides, industrial chemicals), soil contamination, or in use of certain pesticides or food additives. There is a growing concern about the use of genetically modified foods.  Visit American Academy of Environmental Medicine.

landscape, fullfilment, completion, wellbeingToxicity in the environment can include “toxic” or irritating relationships, excessive noise, intrusiveness, or disruptions by others as in your workplace or where you live.

Other toxic situations may be the lack of a quiet sleep or rest place, excessive electronic or radio-frequency disturbances and exposure (TV, radios, cell phones, microwave).

Consult with reliable sources of information and with an integrative health care provider who has expertise in the areas of environmental health.

  1. Recognize the importance of spirituality in your life.

Study, reflect and apply the wisdom from the great world spiritual, religious philosophies, and practices. Allow your personal faith to be an important part of your transformation into a more positive state of health, well-being, and illness recovery.

Water Lilly SpiritualityWhen stuck, for example, in states of depression or despondency — when traditional mental health service used alone have not helped — surrounding oneself with an inspirational support group can bring about a release from stifling patterns of personal thoughts and beliefs. Shifts can occur towards a better emotional and spiritual attunement and adjustment to life’s demands and conflicts.

Positive outcomes happen in many different types of religious or spiritually oriented support or practice groups. Finding healthy activities – that bring joy, purpose, fulfillment, meaning, and gratification to your daily lives – can open the doors of the spirit and promote health.

QUESTION – COMMENTS:

What would your first step be to improve your health or recovery?

Pondering a Pond, saltwater flotation

The Saltwater Flotation Experience

Pondering a Pond

Are you unhappy with the results of your current too narrow focused physical or mental health care program? The failure to resolve your problems or to get optimal results might be from a program that has a too narrow or conventional focus. Considering exploring some complementary or alternative options that may help or enlarge your current healthcare work. The goals of doing so would be for regaining optimal health and well-being. The following is an article, looking at one of the potentially beneficial interventions or therapies that could support you in reaching your health and wellness goals.

The Invitation for Saltwater Flotation

A friend and colleague invited me to experience saltwater flotation in his Asheville program called Still Point Wellness. “Still Point” not only has a saltwater flotation tank but highly skilled massage therapists, which includes Esalen Massage, yoga therapy, massage workshops and a Somatic Psychologist. I had experienced a saltwater flotation tank session many years ago when visiting a yoga retreat center earlier in my career as an integrative internist and psychiatrist. My memory of it was pleasant and very relaxing. I was eager to give it another try, especially with my interest in integrative strategies for health and well-being.

Over the years I have had rich experiences in many different integrative approaches to mind, body and spiritual therapies like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. Water has always conveyed to me a meaning of cleansing, flow, flexibility, and consciousness. In Taoism – the Way – the represented symbol is water (see Existence – A Story, by David Hinton).  In yoga, both in prayer and song, the representation of consciousness is often the ocean. When I was nine years old and hospitalized with post-polio meningitis, I was treated with soaks in a hot tub and hyperthermia treatments (being wrapped in warm wet blankets). Years later, my father had come to visit after he had broken several ribs; he hadn’t slept well for weeks. When he rested on the waterbed I had at the time, his pain was relieved, and he slept like a “baby.” I was in the water a lot growing up as I had learned to swim with the “dead man’s float,” which is floating stretched out on my stomach. I even got to float in the Dead Sea during a visit to Israel.  I know now as an ardent swimmer that swimming is about being one with the water, learning the art of flow, technique, breath control, and streamlining. So, when I got the chance, I gladly accepted the invitation to return to a salt water float experience.

Saltwater Flotation Tank Details

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons (benefits) on his (her) fellow (people).”  — Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949, p. 30.

Before I take you on my “Hero’s Journey” – as I describe my three 90-minute float session experience –  in the salt water flotation tank, there are some interesting details about flotation.

Saltwater flotation tank sessions typically are either 60 or 90 minutes.  The flotation space is like a sacred sanctuary with minimal noise, darkness, and a marked reduction in the usual bombardment of stressful stimulation emanating from the outside world. The body floats on top of the comfortable, warm water that is supersaturated with Epsom Salt. The nervous system and brain settle down from its more active brain waves – from beta to the more relaxed Alpha – as it then drifts to the even more relaxed Theta, which appears near sleep or when coming out of sleep.  Enhancement of creativity, learning, problem solving, spiritual attunement and the gaining of a more enlightened perspective have been associated with these more relaxed brain states. Flotation research came to public attention through the research work of John Lilly and others who were interested in the effect of sensory deprivation on people’s bodies, brains, and nervous systems. Studies in the States and worldwide have supported the positive benefits of sensory deprivation and use of float tanks for various mental and physical health benefits: as pain reduction, stress reduction, anxiety and mood improvement.

One can experience saltwater flotation for relaxation as this can be a clearing for the mind and senses from outside stresses. Floating can help one go deeper into a more meditative and spiritual state of mindfulness, awareness, and being. In the state of deep relaxation and heightened receptivity, techniques or programs to foster change as self-hypnosis, other self-improvements or educational programs can be utilized. Floating in the Saltwater Flotation Tank allows better brain learning as this reinforces the integration of new learning material, which can improve performance skills for artists and athletes. Flotation also complements other therapy work, body work, and other healing methods. There are now flotation centers offering flotation therapy around the world with a continuing growth since the 1980’s. Several professional athletic teams utilize float tanks in their training facilities.

In Frank Lawson’s book, Psychoneuroplasticity Protocol for Addiction, he discusses the use of sensory deprivation in his addiction treatment program.  As stimuli, can have an addictive nature, whether drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, or any of the other readily available stimuli that our minds seek for entertainment, gratification, escape or stimulation. And it is easy to become not only addicted but a slave to the stimuli of choice, which can take over one’s life. This can lead to a loss of spontaneity, awareness, responsiveness, creativity, and focus on what is important or essential. Some flotation sessions in a therapy context may be a helpful tool for “stimulation addiction.” See Neuroplasticity article.

Flowing River, saltwater flotationStudies have shown that saltwater flotation sessions reduce elevated levels of stress hormones and increase beneficial hormones like dopamine and endorphin levels. Some of the benefits reported are lowering blood pressure, and aiding in the reduction of stress-driven illnesses and degenerative diseases, as well as improvement in day to day performance, longevity, memory, awareness, and well-being (see Awareness article) .

The positive effects of saltwater flotation can be achieved in other ways, but this could take longer periods of dedicated training, practice, and skill development just as it does with the Zen Monks in their years of monastery training. The use of meditation, yoga or other ways of gaining sensory deprivation and isolation, can also bring some of the similar benefits as floating.  Salt Water Flotation is ultimately a unique experience for each person and has the potential to have positive benefits for each and every one according to their needs.

For more detail and discussion about the salt water flotation tank, see the Still Point website and blog and an article there by Michael Hutchison who wrote a comprehensive book about salt water flotation. I enjoyed reading Hutchison’s excellent detailed book about floating and all the facts, history, scientific research, etc., The Book of Floating.

My experience in the Saltwater Flotation Tank

My float experience is similar to the Hero’s Journey, (see an article by William B. Hart – Hero’s Journey)  a theme Joseph Campbell develops in his book, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”  The hero’s journey per Campbell has three stages as typically found in mythology – the departure, the initiation, and the return. As I had scheduled three floats, I felt the number three rang true for my anticipated “hero’s journey”.

“The Cave you Fear to enter Holds the Treasure you Seek” – Joseph Campbell – found on the wall of Asheville’s fabulous Elements restaurant.

The “Hero’s Departure” stage

according to Campbell, is the preliminary period before actually going into a new adventure. In my situation, this stage would be the planning and preparation for my anticipated salt water flotation. I become enticed or beckoned by a trusted friend and the call for adventure – to explore the unknown, expand personal growth and spirituality. I had the willingness to enter the portal into another world or space (the Float Tank) as the hero of myth goes on a quest. This departure period for me also was a time of recall of prior experiences with flotation and water-related experiences (some pleasant and some traumatic). My anxiety and ambivalence had to be overcome to follow through with the planned float.  A friend and an owner of Still Point Wellness helped to get me past any personal fears and reluctance. He gave me an overview of what to expect with Salt Water Flotation and some practical tips on participating in the process.

The final step in the initial departure stage of the “hero’s journey” is to pass the “thresh-hold guardian,” which enabled me to enter (the door into the float tank) the unknown entry way into the unfamiliar experience and the darkness. Still Point made all this pleasant with its well-trained staff. Complete guidance was given on how to enter, use the flotation tank, and about how the session would run: as the knock you would hear on the outside of the tank when your time was up, how to use the showers, ear plugs, towels if you got salt water in your eyes, how to exit the tank when needed, and of course much more.

The “Hero’s Initiation” stage

is the second of the three stages in the “Hero’s Journey” per Campbell. My initiation began at the point I entered the flotation tank for the first time and closed the door into the silent darkness, and pleasant softness of floating in the warm (near body temperature) Epsom salt saturated water. Rapidly, the unfamiliar becomes familiar with the onset of a soothing deep relaxation. My inquisitive mind became more and more active with general wonderment about the physical experience. I focused on some discomfort in my body, which led to some experimentation with body position. I then began to wonder about how much time had passed or when the session would be over. My general awareness then shifted toward observing just how active my mind had become out of the depth of silence. Specific residues of the content of my prior day’s activity and thoughts or worries came up. I found my mind looking for purposeful mental activities to do during the float, such as doing some periods of meditation and mantra, or observing for visual images to come out of my mind or from the darkness.
Swimming Hole, saltwater flotation

In my second float, I was much more relaxed with less mental activity as well as having some periods of being in and out of light sleep, which is called in the literature the “hypnogogic state.”  This is where deeper states of learning or the potential for making deep change in habits can occur. Awareness of time seemed to disappear. As I was preparing for a swimming competition, I spent a little time reviewing or rehearsing the sequence of events I would be doing. Flotation is used by performers and athletes and is reported to be helpful. After the float, I improved my swimming time in all five events in which I had participated.

The third float was very pleasant and seemed to go by quickly as I went into a deeper state of relaxation and meditation. There was an awakening of consciousness to the transient nature of thought and mind, from the silence and emptiness to the arising of a rich landscape of thoughts, ideas, and insights. The experience is as varied as individual differences and life experiences. There exists the potential benefit of new learning and perspective change.

The “Hero’s Return Stage”

is the third of the three stages in the “Hero’s Journey” per Campbell. When I exited the flotation tank, I began the task of integration of the float experience.  The difference in the body’s level of relaxation, the mind’s level of heightened awareness and sharper sensory acuity, and the new insights and learning – needed reflection and processing. Also, there was the new challenge of encountering the once familiar world through the changed mental, physical and spiritual perspective arising from the recent journey (float tank experiences). This process of reintegration is also helped by experienced helpers, teachers or mentors (as helpful staff at Still Point) and by reading and study with the books and the references noted in this article.

Water-lilly floatingAs floating is a process, there is a benefit to continuing the journey with more floats and processing, which is also true with other positive conventional and alternative learning, adventures, and therapies. If one becomes more aware, open, accepting, compassionate, restored, transformed, spiritually attuned, or enlightened, there is more potential not only to be helpful to one’s self but to others.

Ron Parks, MD, writer and Shan Parks, editor

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