Mental Health

Eating with the Dead

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“Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) is approaching and for some people this may be a difficult time of the year due to the lack of a proper resolution regarding the departure of their love ones from this world. It can be challenging and painful for some to remember that their family members are not here anymore. Some individuals may still have the need to grieve and mourn their love ones especially if they did not have the opportunity to attend their funerals. Anxiety and depression may be experienced by some. On the other hand, other people may see this celebration as an opportunity to come to a peace about their losses.

Growing up in Mexico City, “Día de los Muertos” was an exciting holiday (on November 1st deceased children are remembered, and the following day is adults turn) because we used to carve pumpkins, placed a candle inside of them, and went into the neighborhood to ask for money, “un veinte a la calavera”(a coin for the skull) is what we  used to say (the equivalent to trick or treat). Besides that and the special treats including “pan de muerto” (special bread), and “calaveritas de dulce y chocolate” (small skulls made of candy and chocolate) was all children cared for. Children were not fully aware of their parent’s or relatives’ emotional pain and distress.    

Many Mexican people express their love, respect, and honor to their deceased family by preparing their favorite food and drinks, and by putting them on tables along with flowers, candles, and pictures; this is a way to keep them alive in their minds. Some of them go to the cemetery and on the tombs, they put deceased’s favorite food, alcoholic drinks, flowers, candles, and even some bring a mariachi band to sing their dead’s favorite songs. They talk to them as if they were right there listening. For some, this celebration may signify a way to be in peace with their deceased specially if they did not have the opportunity to do so when they were alive. In some cases, people may be afraid of the unknown or the death itself, and may also believe that through following this rituals and celebration, they can save their love ones from eternal punishment.

Día de los Muertos also offers individuals the opportunity to openly process their losses without feeling criticized or rejected; expressing unresolved emotions are encouraged and understood, thus a sense of relief may be experienced. By  remembering their love ones people may feel a sense of connection, however, going through a process of grieving and mourning with the help of professional therapists is encouraged for those who have experienced not only traumatic losses, but those who feel distressed and depressed for the departure of their love ones.

Khesed Wellness profoundly understands people’s emotional struggles, and offers affordable professional counseling services for those who are dealing not only with grief and loss, but trauma, anxiety, depression, addictions, and more. Our therapists are more than happy to help you with kindness, love, and respect. Please visit our website at khesedwellness.com for more information and locations near you.  Spanish speaking services are also now available.

Comiendo con los Muertos

El Día de los Muertos se acerca y para algunas personas ésto puede ser un tiempo difícil debido a la falta de un proceso apropiado de resolución con respecto a la partida de sus seres queridos de éste mundo. Para algunas personas puede ser desafiente y doloroso el saber que sus seres queridos ya no estan aquí. Algunos individuos pueden tener todavia la necesidad de pasar por el procesos de duelo especialmente si no tuvieron la oportunidad de asistir al funeral de sus familiares. Algunos pudieran estar experimentando ansiedad y depresión. Por otro lado, otras personas pudieran ver esta celebración como una oportunidad para ponerse en paz con la pérdida de sus familiares.

Habiendo crecido en la Ciudad de México, el Día de los Muertos era una festividad con mucha emoción (el 1o. de Noviembre los niños que han muerto son recordados y el siguiente día es el turno de los adultos) porque le dabamos figura a nuestra calabaza, le colocabamos una vela adentro y nos ibamos a las casa de los vecinos a pedirles un veinte a la calavera. A los niños lo único que nos importaba era ir a pedir dinero con nuestra calavera y la comida, incluyendo el pan de muerto y las calaveritas de dulce y chocolate. Los niños no estan completamente conscientes de la agonía y dolor emocional de sus papás o familiares por la pérdida de sus seres queridos.  

Muchos mexicanos expresan su amor, respeto, y honor hacia sus familiares muertos al preparar su comida y bebidas favoritas, y colocando flores y fotos; esta es una manera de mantenerlos vivos en su mente. Algunas personas van al cementerio y colocan sobre la tumba de sus seres queridos su comida favorita, bebidas alcholicas, flores, e inlcuso algunos llevan un mariachi para que canten las canciones que le gustaban al difunto. Le hablan a sus muertos como si estuvieran ahí escuchando. Para algunos, esta celebración puede significar una manera de estar en paz con el difunto especialmente si no tuvieron la oportunidad de hacerlo en vida. En algunos casos, la gente puede tener temor a los desconocido o a la muerte misma, y creen que al hacer estos rituales y celebraciones pueden salvar a sus seres queridos del castigo eterno.

El Día de los Muertos es una oportunidad para algunas personas de procesar abiertamente sus pérdidas sin sentirse criticados o rechazados; también son animados a expresar las emociones no resueltas de tal manera que puedan experimentar alivio. Al recordar a sus seres queridos, las personas pudieran sentir una sensación de conección con ellos, sin embargo, para aquellos que han experimentado una pérdida traumatica, o para aquellos que se sienten atormentados o depresivos por la partida de sus seres queridos es muy recomedable que pasen por un proceso de duelo con la ayuda de terapistas profesionales.    

Khesed Wellness entiende profundamente las luchas emocionales que las personas experiementan, y ofrece servicios profesionales de consejería accesible para aquellos que no solo estan sufriendo con el luto y la pérdida, sino también con trauma, ansiedad, depression, adicciones, y otras cosas más. Nuestros terapistas estan más que felices en ayudarte con amabilidad, amor, y respeto. Para más información y localidades por favor visita nuestra página de internet en khesedwellnes.com

About the Author:

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Francisca Alvarez

Francisca Alvarez RP, Apprentice is earning her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Economy from Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico, City. She is Prepare/Enrich certified in working with couples to heal and strengthen their relationship. Francisca is passionate in helping people to become healthy in a holistic way and is willing to incorporate faith into sessions if clients bring this subject up. She is open in serving the Hispanic community including teenagers, young adults, adults, and couples. Francisca was born and raised in Mexico State and moved to Colorado two decades ago. She spends some of her free time traveling with her husband and their teenage daughter, and also enjoys watching movies, and eating Mexican and Italian food with family and friends. 


When Body Positivity Doesn’t Feel So Positive

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When it comes to the topic of body image and eating disorder recovery, much conversation occurs around the concept of body positivity. In recent years, a movement has erupted from beneath the rigid body image expectations perpetuated by our culture to declare that “health” should no longer be automatically synonymized with “thin,” and we have begun to see a greater celebration of the various ways that bodies take size and shape. Instead of enslaving our bodies to harsh diets and punishing workout routines, an alternative approach has been offered to tell us that we can indeed celebrate the feats our bodies are capable of and honor them with nourishing foods and movement that we enjoy.

Many of the leaders in this movement are women who have been brave enough to push back against the unreasonable body image standards to which they have long been held hostage, and often in my work in the field of eating disorder treatment, I have suggested that the rest of us must join the work our sisters have started and begin to cultivate body positivity movements for men, racial minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community, as well.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge, however, that for those of us who have spent significant amounts of time at war with our bodies, the idea of such personal body positivity can seem nearly impossible. The notion may be good in theory, but after years of wrestling with body disgust and hatred, the concept of celebrating and loving our physical selves can feel like nothing more than a pipe dream. To you, my friend, I simply say: I get it. Body positivity does not always feel good and positive, and I know well that the way we feel about our physical selves does not always consist of celebration, warmth, or acceptance. If anything, the expectation that body positivity must be defined by these experiences can lead us into deeper guilt and shame about the actual, darker emotions we sometimes feel when we look in the mirror. The truth is, for some of us, practicing body positivity will at times be the most difficult, and least positive-feeling, thing we ever do.

I recently went through a difficult season in my life, and honestly, I did not feel very positive about my body during any of it. It was a season of hardship, filled with struggle, scarcity, hurt, and grief, and in an attempt to alleviate some of the pain, I turned back to a few of my most reliable and damaging numbing techniques. My body, in turn, adjusted with them.

I am well-practiced at criticizing my body for not being good enough and for changing in ways that I deem to be undesirable and unacceptable, and during this season, it took a lot of my energy to refrain from berating my body and myself for being human and imperfect every time I got dressed in the morning. It took additional energy to then refrain from engaging in even more damaging practices to compensate for its changes. The only body positivity I could muster during that time was an acknowledgement of the ways my body had agreed to hold my pain when the rest of me could not and choose not to actively criticize it or punish it for the way it had done so.      

In reality, body positivity doesn’t always, or sometimes ever, look like a celebration for all of the wonderful things our bodies allow us to do. Some days, body positivity instead looks like whispering to our physical selves through gritted teeth and tear-stained cheeks that despite the pain, the fear, or the disgust, we will choose not to do anything we know will cause them harm. Some days, it looks like nothing more than putting in the fight to ride out the wave of body distress without engaging in destructive, quick-fix ways out of the emotion, even if we know those ways will temporarily dull the pain. Some days, body positivity is desperately seeking out a glimmer of gratitude, no matter how small, that our bodies have endured our mistreatment, made space for our pain, and have kept us alive. And on those days, my friend, that is enough. 

Body positivity, in its truest form, is not always pretty, and it is certainly not always connected to any actual positive feeling. For some of us, loving our physical selves may feel futile or impossible, and yet, if there is even one small act of physical kindness that can get us through the difficult days, if there is even one time we can show our bodies appreciation instead of harm, the hope that inspires body positivity remains.

My dear friend, if you are afraid that celebrating your physical self is out of reach, I feel you. However, if you are also tired of waging a constant war against your body, I am with you. Let us begin the hard work of making peace with our flesh and bones together, and in doing so, discover that in the moments when we feel like celebrating our bodies least, even the smallest acts of physical kindness are cause for celebration, too.           

 

About the Author:

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Zach Verwey, MA, LPC, NCC holds a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from a CACREP accredited program and is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Colorado. In his clinical practice, Zach has worked extensively with LGBTQ+ concerns, eating disorders, holistic sexual health, values and identity, and grief and loss, and he is Prepare/Enrich certified in working with couples. He is especially passionate about addressing the ways in which body image difficulties impact the LGBTQ+ community and regularly works with clients and provides education through writing and public speaking on this topic. Zach believes deeply in the power of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship work in the therapeutic process, and offers a holistic and integrative approach that honors the mind, body, and spirit. In his spare time, Zach enjoys reading the memoirs of comedians who also happen to be women, experimenting with new bread recipes, and exploring Denver’s latest hot spots with a friend or two. 

 

Is “Fitspiration” Worthy of Aspiration?

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Are you constantly looking in the mirror to see if you have lost that five pounds yet? Or always thinking about your next meal and whether it will fit in your diet regimen? Do you feel anxious if you haven’t completed your exercise routine? You are certainly not alone. Many women everyday wrestle with body image and obsessive patterns concerning food and exercise. Disordered eating is a very common issue for women.

There is a new trend on social media called “Fitspiration.” Many women will tag themselves after their workout or eating a healthy meal and tag #fitspiration on sites like Instagram and Facebook. Studies have shown that there are over 5.2 million pictures on Instagram with this hashtag (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). This hashtag highlights women with a certain body type, which is unattainable for lots of women. It also does not highlight the health benefits of diet and exercise, but rather obtaining a certain appearance. This can lead to discouragement for women who don’t feel like they match these women's images and it can send them spiraling into unhealthy eating behaviors.

One study compared a group of women who posted photos of fitspiration with a group of women who posted pictures of travel who were both tested for behaviors of disordered eating and compulsive exercise. Even though the women who posted fitness pictures appeared healthier, they scored higher for patterns of disordered eating (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). The women posting fitspiration photos also scored higher for compulsive exercise, which is associated with more extreme levels of exercise that can lead to fatigue, injury proneness and social withdrawal (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). It appears that the women posting about fitness are motivated more by perfectionism (Goodwin, Haycraft, Willis, & Meyer, 2011) and the drive to obtain the ‘socially acceptable’ body image  rather for the benefits of health (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017).

Images like these and many other factors in life can encourage unhealthy behaviors of eating and working out. Changing these behaviors is not as simple as finding the will power. There are multiple levels of thought, will, and heart all at play. It takes time to determine where the depths of insecurity have originated and how to work through it. Please check in again as we continue to unpack this complex topic of disordered eating and ways that lead towards true healing and freedom.

 

continuing the conversation

 

There is a much needed conversation around women and disordered eating, where the questions of “how do I know when I am falling into patterns of disordered eating?” or “what drives me to habits of disorder eating?

If you or someone you know would like more help to navigate through your relationship with food, I would encourage you to check out our group called “Navigating Your Relationship with Food: From Disordered Eating Towards Recovery.” There will also be a part two of this blog that will delve deeper into the underlying dynamics behind eating disorders.

About The Author:

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Amy McCann, RP, Apprentice, is earning her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. She is open to seeing many types of clients of all age ranges. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and desires to help couples strengthen their relationship. Amy earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Vermont, and desires to help her clients in a holistic way. She is passionate about people finding true freedom and healing in every area of life. Amy also has rich cultural experiences with living overseas and enjoys cross-cultural work with clients. Amy is originally from Boston, but loves living in Colorado with her husband. They enjoy hiking, fly fishing, playing games with friends, and eating ice cream. 

 

A Guided Meditation

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Feeling overwhelmed? Take a few minutes to breathe and rest with this four minute guided meditation. Click below to play. 

Interested in mindfulness and holistic wellness? Schedule a free intake to learn more about our offerings. 

 

- Jenni Kay Long, RYT, LCSW, ADS {Learn more about the author}

Befriending Anxiety

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For many of us, the idea of befriending our anxiety would be akin to befriending the quicksand that we feel ourselves sinking into. How can we ever learn to accept and appreciate something like anxiety when all it has ever done is make us feel miserable and out of control?

In my opinion, the first step towards befriending anxiety begins with understanding it. Have you ever wondered why human beings experience anxiety? While anxiety does have a bad reputation it is also a universal human experience that is hardwired into our DNA. Whether we like it or not, our anxiety has a purpose.

Anxiety, at its core, is a biological alarm system designed to notify us of a perceived threat. When we are extremely anxious our brain descends into fight or flight mode. As a part of instinctual survival, when we perceive a threat our best possible options are to fight the danger or to run away from it as fast as possible.  

This would all be perfectly fine if human beings were still living in an era where survival was literally dependent on your ability to fight or run. In the modern era however, we are more likely to experience threats like midterm exams or uncomfortable conversations with coworkers. Anxiety has evolved over millennia so that it can be triggered by emotional and existential threats as well as threats of physical danger.

This may seem like a malfunction of evolution, an obsolete system of alarm that is now causing chaos and havoc in our modern lives. However, I believe that anxiety has adapted to the new modern standards of survival and at its best functions to keep us in alignment with our values and beliefs.

This theory of anxiety operates under the assumption that there are at least three unique types of anxiety:

1. Existential Anxiety- This is the anxiety associated with being alive. Our fear of death, our questioning of reality and why things happen. This type of anxiety plays an essential role in our pursuit of meaning in life because without questions we would never seek answers.

2. Motivational/Moral Anxiety- This anxiety identifies when we are behaving in a way that is inconsistent with our values. If being truthful is important to us, this anxiety will arise when we tell a lie. The theory of conscience could be attributed to this type of anxiety as it is foundational the development of our moral code and idealized sense of self.

3. Neurotic Anxiety- This is the type of anxiety that gets the most attention. Neurotic anxiety is attributed to anxiety disorders. This anxiety can develop due to several factors: genetic predispositions, imbalances in brain chemistry, trauma, etc. Unlike the two previous types of anxiety, the anxiety is purely symptomatic and indicates that there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.

Understanding which type of anxiety we are experiencing means that we can respond to them appropriately. Each of the three types expresses a specific and essential need to resolve the anxious feelings and grow from the experience.

  • The essential need for Existential Anxiety is to pursue answers and meaning.
  • The essential need for Motivational/Moral Anxiety is to change either our values or our behaviors until they are in alignment.
  • The essential need for Neurotic Anxiety is to address the underlying causes and to develop healthy coping strategies.

The key to befriending our anxiety lies in our ability to respond to these essential needs. When we give our anxiety what it is asking for we accomplish more than an end to anxious feelings. We grow closer to our idealized selves, we mature and develop resiliency each time we come out on the other side.

To be able to identify which type of anxiety we are experiencing we must learn to listen to what it is telling us. Awareness will follow a willingness to view our anxiety as the messenger rather than the enemy.

Imagine anxiety as the check engine light on a car. If we ignore the light, cover it up, or continue driving we risk causing even more danger to our vehicle. The same is true of our anxiety, if all of our effort is placed on turning off the feeling without discovering the cause, we not only deny ourselves the opportunity for growth, but we risk causing ourselves more damage in the long run.

My hope is that you would be willing to give your anxiety a voice. Allow it the opportunity to express its needs so that you can respond in kind.

The path to friendship can be difficult, but well worth the effort.