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National Alzheimer’s Awareness Update

It’s November and of course that means that the holidays are just around the corner, but it also means that it is once again National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.  You may see familiar buildings in the greater Denver area lit in purple to remind people that the quest for a world without Alzheimer’s is more determined than ever.

Much has happened since my blog entry last November.  All very positive, by the way.  I appreciate this opportunity to update you on many things that are happening in the field of Alzheimer’s/Dementia.  As a reminder, the reason for my passion and commitment around this subject is that three of our four parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within a year and a half of each other, and they lived for 16, 14, and 11 years with the disease.  Although we lost our last “Lovie” four years ago, I remember vividly those many years of caregiving and how challenging it was to juggle work/life balance issues.

I have been with MINES and Associates for six years now and present a lunch and learn session called Alzheimer’s/Dementia A to Z to our client groups.  I am seeing attendees of all ages in the sessions and because we always end the presentation with an explanation of the twelve things we can all do at any age to reduce our risk for dementia or delay its onset. I am seeing more and more young people taking an interest in brain health.  I am also seeing an uptick in employees seeking coaching on the topic of Alzheimer’s/Dementia through the Employee Assistance Plan benefits that their employers provide.

One thing is for sure.  Going it alone while trying to care for someone with dementia is never recommended.  Our community offers a variety of resources to family care partners and I will talk about some of them in this posting.

But first, a quick update on promising research!  I continue to be the most optimistic I have been in years that a breakthrough is on the horizon.  So much going on!  One of the most interesting clinical trials is happening right here in the Denver area at the Rocky Mountain Alzheimer’s Research Center on the Anschutz campus.  My good friends and renowned neurologists Dr. Huntington Potter and Dr. Jonathan Woodcock are now in Phase III of the Leukine trial.  Leukine is a compound already approved by the FDA for bone marrow stimulation.  The Anschutz clinic team discovered that it might have possible benefits for Alzheimer’s as well.  Stay tuned – you may be seeing updates on the evening news about the great work being done here in our area.  There are also other promising angles on how to tackle Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  Current thinking is definitely outside the box – many new cause and effect theories are now being explored by the medical and scientific community.

I spent a week in Washington DC in June this summer, representing the Alzheimer’s Association at our annual Public Policy Forum.  Our group spoke with every member of Congress and I am pleased to report that we got the $425 million in additional research funding we requested.  That will put the National Institute of Health’s Alzheimer’s research budget at $2.3 billion annually beginning in 2019. The National Alzheimer’s Plan that was written into law in 2010 calls for a prevention, treatment, and cure by 2025.  Hope has never been stronger that we are going to meet that goal and get this fixed.  By the way, when that finally happens, I will be throwing a party for the world so you will all be invited!

In the meantime, there is much work to do to educate, help, and support families who are living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.  The number one question I am asked is what is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia.  A good way to explain it is to say that everyone with Alzheimer’s has dementia but not everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s.  Vascular dementia from strokes, Lewy Body dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia are other forms of the most common dementias.  While Alzheimer’s accounts for approximately 65% of all cases of dementia, many primary care physicians may not be prepared to provide a specific diagnosis.  Asking them for a referral to a neurologist or geriatrician can help a family learn what type of dementia they are facing with their loved one.

While there are no treatments that stop the progress of dementia at this time, there are some drug therapies that may help with symptoms in some cases to some extent for some period of time.  Asking your specialist about these options can get a conversation started about what might be beneficial for your loved one.

Aside from the dementia coaching provided through the MINES EAP program, The Alzheimer’s Association provides a 24/7 helpline (800.272.3900) that family members can call regardless of what type of dementia their family is dealing with.  This is a powerful resource tool for caregivers who have questions or simply need to chat with someone about behaviors, etc.

Another organization that I am involved with is also at the forefront of trying to improve the quality of life for those living with all forms of dementia and their family care partners.  Dementia Friendly Denver is part of Dementia Friendly America, a not for profit, grassroots, all-volunteer initiative that was introduced at the White House Conference on Aging in 2015.  Our volunteer team is working on eight projects in the greater Denver area and you can check them all out at  The goal of the projects is to make our community more dementia-friendly and to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic of dementia.

And please remember that you can still enjoy the holidays with family members with dementia.  The key is to practice the “Holiday Lite” approach.  Things don’t need to be extravagant or perfect.  Make sure holiday activities and outings are short in length.  Our Lovies wear out faster than we do.  An hour for us is like five hours for them.  And make sure holiday decorations that look like candy or food are out of the reach of those with dementia.  Be prepared for upsets due to the disruption of routines during the festivities and provide rest periods for everyone!

So in closing, as we enter November and National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, remember that you are not alone.  Utilizing the dementia resources available throughout our city can help you get organized and knowledgeable.  And most importantly, don’t forget to take care of yourselves.  Respite care is available in our community and the Alzheimer’s Association can help you investigate options.  Exercising, taking walks, meditation, and outings with friends can help alleviate the stress associated with being a dementia caregiver.  Best wishes for a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season!  – JJ


JJ Jordan


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Total Wellbeing: October 2018

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Environmental Wellbeing and Investing

Welcome to the October edition of TotalWellbeing, your guide to the 8 dimensions of wellbeing. This month’s focus is going to be on environmental wellbeing which involves looking at how your surroundings impact your health. This can be your home, workplace, or city that you live in or the types of environments such as city, desert, mountains and so on. Environmental traits that can affect your health include air quality, noise levels, access to resources, and more. We will also be looking at investing basics and providing resources around tax tips and financial advice. If you missed us last month you can catch up on our newsletters page. As a reminder, this newsletter is aimed at providing helpful information about various aspects of your wellbeing and then connecting it all back to important and relevant parts of our everyday life. As we make it through the year we will continue to emphasize the concept of community and look at how our actions affect our community, country, and in some cases the rest of the world.

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

Environmental Wellbeing and Motivation

Environmental wellbeing and motivation can be very closely tied to one another. Think about your workspace. No matter what type of environment you work in, whether it be an office, a warehouse, or even outdoors, you work the best, are most productive, and have the most energy when everything is organized or to your preference. Likewise, clutter, loud noises, interruptions, and other things that contribute to a bad work environment can bog you down and make work less enjoyable and productive. Therefore it is important to do what you can to make sure that your work environment is set up for success. What this means is going to be different depending on where you work and how you prefer to work. While one person may like an impeccably clean workstation, another might actually prefer to have some clutter and things like decorations. To determine what environment works best for you ask yourself what feeds you energy and try and fill your environment with those aspects while removing what you think distracts or you or drains your energy and motivation. This translates to your free time as well. What kind of environments give you energy. Are you a person who thrives in the outdoors? Do you prefer an urban setting? Maybe quiet solitude at home is where you prefer. Try to identify the environments that you thrive in and make them your go-to for when you need to recharge your batteries.

If you would like to talk to a counselor or wellness coach about these topics, please call us at 1-800-873-7138 to get connected right away. Also, PersonalAdvantage has some great investment tips and webinars this month to improve your knowledge around a wide variety of financial topics and elder care. For more be sure to check out our “Investment Taxes” infographic.

Question of the Month

What are your key sources of motivation that inspire you day to day?

Quote of the Month

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’.”

– Aubrey Hepburn

MINES Updates/Community World View

People and communities thrive when the environments they live and work in are clean, safe, and sustainable. The saying “Think Global, Act Local” is a great way to connect the concept of environmental wellbeing with the larger scale of things. To keep our environments clean and safe it takes everyone working together. From simply cleaning up after ourselves, not littering, and recycling where possible, all the way to volunteering for cleanup crews or even organizing one yourself, everyone can take part in making sure us humans are responsible for the environment in a way that will keep our world safe and habitable for generations to come. Find out ways you can help by visiting the following sites depending on where you live, and we promise your environmental wellbeing will all the better for it!

Denver areas initiatives

River cleanup initiatives

Ocean cleanup initiatives

If you or a member of your household needs assistance or guidance on any of these wellbeing topics, please call MINES & Associates, your EAP, today for free, confidential, 24/7 assistance at 800.873.7138.

This Month’s Focus

Check out this month’s webinar on Investments 101

MINESblog Review:

MINES Archive 2017: Mental Health Awareness Resources 

Check out this Month’s Infographic

Important Links

Visit our BLOG

MINES and Associates

2018 Training Catalog

Balanced Living Magazine


MINEs Archives

Contact Us


mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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Total Wellbeing: September 2018

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Financial Wellbeing, Elder Care, and Community


Welcome to the September edition of TotalWellbeing, your guide to the 8 dimensions of wellbeing. This month we are going to take a look at your Financial wellbeing, as well as community support, and eldercare. Check out the segments below to see how your financial wellbeing is connected to your community and how the overall wellbeing of your community is tied to the support that community members put in. Community is a big pie, we all have to help cook it! If you missed us last month you can catch up on our newsletters page. As a reminder, this newsletter is aimed at providing helpful information about various aspects of your wellbeing and then connecting it all back to important and relevant parts of our everyday life. As we make it through the year we will continue to emphasize the concept of community and look at how our actions affect our community, country, and in some cases the rest of the world.

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

Financial Wellbeing and Supporting Others in Your Community

The communities that we live in are only as good, as safe, and as supportive as the members of the community make them. Therefore, it is imperative that each member of a community strive to make a contribution in their own way. Whether it’s a neighborhood, a school, or even an entire city, every little part matters and adds to the greater whole in some way. As a member of your own communities, you should always be looking for opportunities to give back in meaningful ways. It can be something like working at a local homeless shelter or organizing a clothing drive. It can be something as simple as taking time out of your day to talk with or play a game with a lonely elderly neighbor. It can even be a financial act such as donating to a local charity or supporting l­­ocal businesses that you believe bring value to the people they serve. Providing support like this will help you make a bigger impact as well as enhance your own sense of community.

Financial wellbeing has a big connection to your surrounding community as well. The type of community in which you live affects the types of goods, services, and prices that are in the marketplace. Additionally, the ways in which you spend your money within the community affects how you live. For a community to thrive it is important that its members provide financial activity to keep it going. This includes the buying of goods and services, business investments, employees being paid, and even friends and family helping each other out with money problems from time to time.

Your financial wellbeing is made of many categories and it is just as important to give back to causes close to your heart as it is to make sure you are saving money for retirement.

If you would like to talk to a financial counselor about these topics, please call us at 1-800-873-7138 to get connected right away or you can use your coaching sessions to work on your financial goals. Also, PersonalAdvantage has some great planning tips and webinars this month to improve your knowledge around a wide variety of financial topics and elder care. For more be sure to check out our “Elder Communication” infographic.

Question of the Month

Do you have an estate plan set up for yourself? What about any aging loved ones?

Quote of the Month

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

– Mother Theresa

MINES Updates/Community World View

From the information above it is easy to see that financial wellbeing is one of the most scalable areas of wellbeing. From your personal bank account to the global economy, everything is connected. The more income you have the more you can buy, save, and invest. In turn this supports your community and affects the health of your local economy. From there the financial actions of your local businesses, service organizations, and bigger corporations make up the larger state and national economies. These along with the national economies from around the world make up the global market that is reflected in the stock market. The performance of these entities directly affects all of us in the form of pay rates, job markets, returns on investments and retirement plans, tax spending, and so on. This makes the old saying “every penny counts” take on a whole new perspective. So, the next time you are thinking of spending your hard-earned money, make sure you consider the down/upstream consequences on both a personal and community level.

If you or a member of your household needs assistance or guidance on any of these wellbeing topics, please call MINES & Associates, your EAP, today for free, confidential, 24/7 assistance at 800.873.7138.

This Month’s Focus

Check out this month’s webinar on Managing Toxic People

MINESblog Review:

The Importance of Walking and Talking

Break Free from Shoulda Woulda Coulda

Check out this Month’s Infographic

Important Links

Visit our BLOG

MINES and Associates

2018 Training Catalog

Balanced Living Magazine


MINEs Archives

Contact Us


mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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Total Wellbeing: July 2018

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Social Media, Family, and Your Intellectual Wellbeing

Welcome to the July edition of TotalWellbeing, your guide to the 8 dimensions of wellbeing. This month we are going to take a look at intellectual wellbeing with a focus on social media and your family. If you missed us last month you can catch up on our newsletters page. As we make it through the year we will continue to emphasize the concept of community and look at how our actions affect our community, country, and in some cases the rest of the world.


To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

The impact of social media on your family and intellectual wellbeing

Social media is a key part of our culture, our expression, and our connectivity. From using social media as a platform for expressing opinions to sharing pictures with family and friends, social media has many applications. Your intellectual wellbeing can be improved by social media by giving you access to information and topics of interest to you. It also allows you to look at things differently and to explore topics that pique your interest you may not have investigated otherwise. Using social media with your family allows you to connect in different ways, stay close if you are far apart, and to keep up with their new adventures or read about their experiences. It is also important to remember that Social Media can impact your intellectual wellbeing negatively. As we have been reminded in the last several months, your preferences are tracked throughout social media and the articles you choose to read may influence the other articles that show up in your news feed or advertisements in your apps. This can help shift your perspective one way or another and unless you are vigilant to check out information outside of your readily available feed to find out the whole story. It is also important to take time away from social media or using the internet to engage in good old-fashioned face to face time with your friends and family members. Don’t forget that these people in your life can engage your intellect as well. Learn new and amazing things from the children in your life. They can have a fresh perspective or may be studying something new and cool in school they can share. Or take advantage of one of the most popular knowledge sharing methods of human history and tap into the vast life experience of your older family members. It doesn’t always have to be about shares and likes!

If you would like to talk to a counselor about these topics, please call us at 1-800-873-7138 to get connected right away. Also, PersonalAdvantage has some great tools and webinars this month to improve your knowledge around dealing with stress and maximizing your life by reducing worry. For more be sure to check out our “Internet Mindfulness” infographic.

Question of the Month

When was the last time you asked a family member how they would handle a situation?

Quote of the Month

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

– Benjamin Franklin

MINES Updates/Community World View

There is so much knowledge that each culture and community has to share, from tricks to make the best pasta to how to clean off stains from clothing, to traditions around how to engage your family. Take time this month to talk to a co-worker, friend, or family member and see what you can learn from them to help improve your intellectual wellbeing and what tidbits you can impart on them as well.

If you or a member of your household needs assistance or guidance on any of these wellbeing topics, please call MINES & Associates, your EAP, today for free, confidential, 24/7 assistance at 800.873.7138.

This Month’s Focus

Check out this month’s webinar on Harnessing the Power of Social Media

MINESblog Review:

Foster Families and Mental Health

John Oliver: Rehab, Last Week Tonight Psychology of Performance

Check out this Month’s Infographic

Important Links

Visit our BLOG

MINES and Associates

2018 Training Catalog

Balanced Living Magazine


MINEs Archives

Contact Us


mines_logo_blue MINES does not warrant the materials (Audio, Video, Text, Applications, or any other form of media or links) included in this communication have any connection to MINES & Associates, nor does MINES seek to endorse any entity by including these materials in this communication.  MINES accepts no liability for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided herein, nor any additional content that may be made available through any third-party site. We found them helpful, and hope you do too!

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John Oliver: Rehab, Last Week Tonight Psychology of Performance #63

Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Psychology Officer

Thank you John Oliver and your staff for a significant public service on your show this week! Your commentary and excellent coverage of a major problem in substance use disorder and alcohol treatment will have an impact far beyond what the insurance and professional communities have been able to do.

MINES has patients who have gone out of network, received poor care, the payors have received outrageous bills, the patients are stuck with bills that can only result in medical bankruptcy and as you noted, people die in these disreputable facilities.  A major component that you pointed out is patient brokering. When people Google substance abuse/use treatment, the top 20-30 are facilities, mostly in Florida and California, or are patient brokers. Reputable facilities in the person’s community do not even make the list. Then the facilities sometimes even pay the airfare to fly the patient to their facility and if the patient does not meet medical necessity for that level of care, the facility turns them out on the street to find their own way back to the state/community they live in.

You mentioned addictionologists as a resource for finding reputable care. In addition, Employee Assistance Programs as well as managed behavioral health services (insurance) are knowledgeable and informed about substance use and alcohol treatment. They know which facilities and programs are in network with the insurance and which ones do a good job.

Evidence-based treatment supports the use of a continuum of care from outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, residential and detox (medical and social detox). There are medications that also contribute to sobriety and health.

These are chronic illnesses/conditions that require the patients to cope with all their lives. Learning relapse prevention and adherence skills are essential.

If you decide to delve into this national problem further in a future episode, I would be happy to consult with you and your team.

The following clip may be not suitable for some work environments:


This is a link to a pdf of an article published by the Self Insurance Institute of America on predatory treatment facilities and managed behavioral healthcare strategies for helping the patients and the payors.

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Foster Families and Mental Health

Happy National Foster Care Month

Several important subjects are tackled in the month of May. Two of them I will be addressing here. May marks National Foster Care Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. Those that work within the foster system are well aware of the issues and concerns around mental health in this subset. Between the abandonment that the majority of these kids feel, to the oversaturation of kids in the system and lack of foster families, all parties are susceptible lack of resources, energy, resilience, and understanding about how to handle the emotional situations that are bound to happen.

Personal Perspective on Foster Care

My husband and I have been working with foster families for five years. Since we do not have kids of our own, we have found a way to work with a group of kids that are severely in need of love, understanding, patience, and support. We work with those who have their own biological kids and yet have opened their home to others in need. We have found that these foster parents lack the support and sometimes understanding of how to give themselves self-care or how to support the emotional needs of the kids in their home. The first family we started working with had a set of siblings who brought forth a lot of complications, concerns, and opened their eyes to how little they really were prepared for this change in their lives. This brought into focus various ways how we can help families traverse this experience.

Examples of Mental Health Concerns within the Foster Family

Lack of Basic Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence comes in many forms and levels of understanding. Just type in that term and thousands of articles will come up on it and how you can improve your “emotional intelligence.” Most people have some level of understanding emotions and how to differentiate how between various emotions and can recognize those emotions in others. However, most children coming into the foster care system do not understand mad, sad, glad, and the variations that come from these basic feelings. They can’t describe how they feel, and the most can’t express their feelings without throwing a tantrum as that was the only way they could get attention at home.

Foster parents often are uncertain the best way to deal with the lack of emotional understanding of the foster kids. Another dynamic happens when the foster children leave the foster home to be reunited with their biological family. Foster families aren’t often shown how to express their feelings around this with their own kids or their foster children. Teaching families that grief is natural and it is ok to feel various emotions is vital and sorely lacking in my opinion. I think that the movie, InsideOut, was a blessing as we use those characters all the time when we are teaching parents and kids how to express different emotions and talk to each other about what they are feeling in a way that the whole family can understand.

Consequences around Lack of Information

We worked with a family who was fostering 3 kids between the ages of 7-11. The oldest witnessed horrible things his younger siblings went through with trusted family members. Due to this, this child’s emotional age was stunted at 5 years old. The 11-year-old also came from another family that had placed this child on psychotropic drugs to help control their mood swings and poor sleeping habits. This medication variant added another layer that the foster family was unprepared for and was unsure the best action-whether the child should stay in the home or not. The sibling group had an unspoken history and acted as a team against the foster family. These siblings struggled to share anything in therapy and since foster parents do not generally have the rights to hear about what happens in therapy, there was a wall between these kids and the foster family.

The foster family ended up making the hard decision to have the 11-year-old leave their home, but they kept the other two. Due to the lack of knowledge of what happened and the limited access to Medicare therapists, the whole family suffered. The remaining foster kids grieved losing their sibling, and the foster parents were unsure if they made the right decision or to remove the child.

The Effects of Extreme Emotional Turmoil

Another case we have seen revolves around a 12-year-old child went to a home with other kids in it. This child had been in the foster system for 10 years and had a history of being moved around the system, along with going through the adoption process.  This child was on ten different medications and labeled as ODD, RAD, and ADHD. Although the system readily accepted these medications and diagnoses, the foster system restricted access to therapy, support at school, and tools to help this child process their past. This began a 1.5-year cycle of the child threatening suicide, attempting suicide, and threatening the other kids in the home.

Once theft and continual lying was added to the mix, the foster parents had to make the difficult decision to remove this child from the home. The bio-children in the home were devastated, angry, confused, and totally unprepared on how to handle this turmoil. The foster parents struggled with guilt, grief, and burn out between the drawn-out hospital stays, the having to drop everything, and the effort to have this not affect the other children in the home. The relief they felt when the child wasn’t in the home made them feel guilty, the emotions of seeing what he put himself through strained their relationship about how to handle it, and the destruction and stealing of property put them in a difficult situation of deciding what was best for the child and the family. Again, lack of training by the foster system or support to the whole family system around resilience, becoming trauma-informed, and how to give yourself a break as parents was all very hard to witness.

The Need for Training in Foster Families

Although the foster system has access to legal, financial, medical, educational, and mental health services, generally foster parents aren’t told how to access these. In the age of focusing on emotional resilience and work/life balance, these foster families aren’t taught how to do this within the confines of having foster kids. We need to find ways to support our foster families better and give them better access to mental healthcare for the whole family. We need to find ways to give them access to training on emotional resilience and how to do self-care.

Emotional Resiliency

You don’t get to go home and escape the stressors when you are a foster family. You don’t get to take time off when you need it to restore your energy. It is a 24/7 job and unless you have others who tell you to pace yourself or offer you resources, you will burnout as a foster parent. We see this in all the horrible stories of the poor conditions of foster homes or the additional trauma and lack of supportive care the foster children receive in some foster homes. We need to teach those who are foster families (yes the bio-children and foster children too) about resiliency and how to thrive through whatever life throws at you. Here is a great resource around resilience strategies. Also, if you are a MINES client, you have access to a great online resilience program.

Compassion Fatigue/Secondary Trauma/Vicarious Trauma/Burnout

When a child is suicidal or has severe attachment issues, it can be draining to deal with the continual manipulation or the dynamics these mental health conditions can bring into a home and it is easy for families to experience compassion fatigue. When a child finally breaks down and expresses they don’t know how to read and that is why they ditch school or when they share their story of seeing their family die in a fire, foster families need to learn how to recognize secondary or vicarious trauma as they take these stories to heart and want to help these kids out. When the school system says the child doesn’t qualify for assistance or the medical system says the child has maxed out their allotted therapy sessions and hospital stays for the year, burnout can be high. By recognizing these terms and having others close to you keep an eye out for the symptoms, foster families can prepare themselves for the inevitable.


The biggest thing we see lacking is self-care amongst foster parents. Respite Care is an important option for all foster families to take advantage of. Some don’t want to use the respite system as it disrupts the schedule of the foster children and family in general. Some don’t use it as then they still have their bio-children who want their undivided attention while the other children are out of the house. Some use it but don’t know what to do with their time once the children are temporarily out of the home. The web has some great resources on ways to do self-care and there are plenty of articles on it. Two of the easiest things to do is to practice mindfulness and taking time to do things for yourself/loving yourself.

What can you do?

As an Outsider

If you know someone who is a foster parent, thank them. Offer to babysit the whole crew for an evening so they can go have a night out. Offer to make them dinner one night. See if they are connected to a foster support group, and if they aren’t, offer them a list of some, and even offer to go with them. We all need to talk to someone who understands what you are going through. Or help do laundry- extra kids means extra laundry and less time for family time.

And the same goes for the foster kids. Some of these kids have been through literal hell. Some have been abused in ways they don’t even recognize. Some struggle with why they are being removed and whether or not they are loved. The best thing you can do is find ways to connect and support these kids. It isn’t their fault their parents are unable to have them. Regardless of their behaviors or struggles, there is something you can do for them- show them unconditional kindness and love. If they are involved in sports, go see their games. If they are selling chocolate for school, buy some. Find ways to give foster kids a special experience or memory. One thing we do is take them to an ethnic grocery store and let them try various fruits and foods that they have never been exposed to. If all of us can share a bit of ourselves with these kids, then these kids have a better chance of thriving wherever they end up. This website is a great resource and there are plenty of other blogs and stories how you can help those who are in the foster care system. As an outsider, be that person foster kids can come to, feel loved, and help them find good outlets for their anger, frustration, and hurt.

As a Foster Care Provider

If you have time and can become a respite provider, do. If you become a foster parent, take time for self-care, take time to do training and prepare yourself, and consider all the things that can come along with a child before you make the commitment. If you are interested in being a CASA or a GAL, do the research and use your skills. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister or with another support type groups to help kids through the trauma and struggles of growing up without a bio-family or changing home situations. In whatever function you are in, find a support group, get connected with others, and give yourself a break when you falter or struggle. Be prepared to struggle and have a good support team that you see regularly to help you recognize when you start to show signs of secondary trauma or compassion fatigue as it will happen.

Personally, even though we do make sure that we take care of ourselves and our needs so that we don’t suffer from burnout/compassion fatigue, we have found at times to have certain memories burned into our brains and have experienced secondary trauma. We have seen a child draw a dead tree because trees don’t deserve to live and a house with a danger room. We have seen babies stagnate developmentally due to what their mother did while they were pregnant. We have been with families as they received the news of what happened in the biological home and watch it tear them apart. Through it all, we have had to come up with strategies to move past these tragic events and not let those traumatic memories affect our daily lives or interactions with kids.

Final Thoughts

Not all foster care agencies falter when it comes time to prepare foster families and not all foster kids suffer severe mental health conditions. Not all stories are tragic or heartbreaking. We have seen parents truly change their lifestyle or other relatives step up and bring the family back together. Some of these stories are wonderful and heart-warming. However, not all re-unifications result in a positive outcome. Regardless of what you do or how you choose to interact with the foster care system, resiliency, training, and self-care are important.

If you are financially able to support agencies or support groups, please do. There are some great agencies out there are trying to supply the resources needed for foster children and foster families. If you are able to provide free trainings or webinars, find a group to do that for.

MINES would be happy to talk to you more about how you can support your employees who may be foster parents and how EAP services can assist them through the journey they have decided to take. If you are interested in learning more about MINES EAP and PPO program, feel free to contact us at 1-800-873-7138 or at

To Your Wellbeing,

Raena Chatwin

The MINES Team



References and Suggested Reading

Joanne Riebschleger, Angelique Day & Amy Damashek (2015) Foster Care Youth Share Stories of Trauma Before, During, and After Placement: Youth Voices for Building Trauma-Informed Systems of Care, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 24:4, 339-360, DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2015.1009603

Barbell, K., Wright, L. (2001). Family Foster Care in the Next Century. New York: Routledge.

Erum Nadeem, PhD, Jill Waterman, PhD, Jared Foster, PhD, Emilie Paczkowski, PhD, Thomas R. Belin, PhD, and Jeanne Miranda, PhD. (2016) Long-Term Effects of Pre-Placement Risk Factors on Children’s Psychological Symptoms and Parenting Stress Among Families Adopting Children From Foster Care . Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 25:2, 67 – 81,

Moira A. Szilagyi, David S. Rosen, David Rubin, Sarah Zlotnik. Health Care Issues for Children and Adolescents in Foster Care and Kinship Care. The Council on Foster Care, Adoption, And Kinship Care, The Committee On Adolescence And The Council On Early Childhood Pediatrics, Oct 2015, 136 (4) e1142-e1166; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-2656

Great Websites to check out

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MINES & Associates’ Cutting-Edge Opioid Complex Case Management Program

MINES & Associates innovative opioid complex case management program helps manage treatment, control costs, and combat predatory facilities amid growing opioid crisis

MINES & Associates (MINES), a nationally recognized business psychology firm, helps self-insured organizations with its innovative Opioid Complex Case Management Program aimed at improving treatment and reducing costs of opioid abuse treatment cases. The program counters the egregious exploitation of clients by predatory treatment facilities.

MINES has been at the forefront of managed care services, providing complex case management services that produce cost-effective care in the least restrictive settings. MINES has saved its self-insured clients tens of millions of dollars while ensuring that the patient has received appropriate care.

MINES accomplishes this through an aggressive complex case management protocol designed to communicate directly with the patient and their family regarding costs, treatment, expectations for the facility regarding pre-certification, concurrent review, discharge planning, and long-term aftercare. MINES limits the number of UAs, mitigates costs to usual and customary or Medicare percentages, requires immediate discussion of discharge planning and family involvement, and re-integration into the patient’s community. These patients require long-term aftercare and support from case management.

MINES complex case management protocol functions as a patient advocate service to help patients navigate the treacherous array of predatory facilities, where, in some cases, case rates can run from $100,000 to over $1,000,000when care costs should be in the $9,000 to $30,000 range at a credible facility. The patient is often compromised by their drug use and cannot make informed choices regarding their own care. The patient’s family often does not understand the patient’s in network/out of network benefits and may just “google” treatment without precertifying care. MINES helps them cut through all the lies, misinformation, and noise to get the appropriate level of care needed.

About MINES & Associates

For over 37 years MINES & Associates has been a nationally recognized, award-winning business psychology firm that provides a variety of services to employers including employee assistance programs (EAP), managed mental healthcare, organizational development services, wellness programs, behavioral risk management, disease management, PPO services, and other behavioral health programs serving a diverse portfolio of clients nationwide.

Please visit for more information on MINES.

To Your Wellbeing,

The MINES Team

For full press release visit:

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Mental Health Awareness Month 2018

It is time once again in 2018 to refocus, converse, reevaluate, plan, and take action around mental health issues and substance abuse. While this battle rages all year, Mental Health Awareness month (every May) is a time where organizations, healthcare providers, and individuals can share their story to highlight how they fight on the front lines against these issues and for those that those who struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse every day to share their story to help spread awareness and inspire hope in those who may need it most. To look at this issue(s) objectively it is important to look at the data behind it all. Who is affected? How many are seeking care? What programs are there that exist to help those in need? These questions are not new, we ask them every day, but for those that don’t work at an organization that provides mental health services or those that may not suffer from a mental health issue themselves, the problem is a little less visible and these questions are a little more foreign. So, let’s look at, and answer, some of those questions now.

Who is affected

US General Stats:

  • 1 in 25 adults are currently diagnosed with a serious mental illness; 1 in 5 are currently diagnosed with some sort mental illness
  • There are a wide variety of anxiety disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and specific phobias to name a few. Collectively they are among the most common mental disorders experienced by Americans.
  • Approximately 10.2 million adults in the U.S. have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.
  • Serious mental health illnesses cost people $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year in the U.S.
  • Nearly 60% of adults with a mental illness did not receive care in the previous year.


  • 3% are currently diagnosed with a serious mental illness; 14.3% are currently diagnosed with some sort mental illness.
  • Men die from suicide at twice the rate as women.
  • 6 milling men are affected by depression per year in the U.S.
  • The Top 5 major mental health problems affecting men in the U.S. include Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Psychosis and Schizophrenia, and Eating Disorders.
  • Men are significantly less likely to seek help for mental health issues than women. Causes for this include reluctance to talk, social norms, and downplaying symptoms.


  • 5% are currently diagnosed with a serious mental illness; 21.2% are currently diagnosed with some sort mental illness.
  • 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year. Roughly twice the rate of men.
  • Although men are more likely than women to die by suicide, women report attempting suicide approximately twice as often as men.
  • Many factors in women may contribute to depression, such as developmental, reproductive, hormonal, genetic and other biological differences (e.g. premenstrual syndrome, childbirth, infertility, and menopause).
  • Fewer than half of the women who experience clinical depression will ever seek care. And Depression in women is misdiagnosed approximately 30 to 50 percent of the time.


  • 50% of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; 75% by the age of 24.
  • 20% of 8 to 13 year of age in the U.S. will be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Girls 14-18 years of age have consistently higher rates of depression than boys in this age group.
  • Nearly 50% of kids with a mental illness did not receive care in the previous year.
  • LGBTQ adolescents are twice as likely to attempt suicide than non-LGBTQ youths.
  • More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.


Sources: click the links for more stats and infographics.

How many are seeking care?

The short answer to this one is “not enough.” A recent report from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) state that only 1 in 5 adults with a mental illness are receiving treatment. This statistic combined with an uncertain future for Medicare and mental health funding means that employers are often the only path to access help for those in need through health insurance benefits, employee assistance programs, and wellness programs.  These alarming statistics also bring to light how common it is for these issues to affect the workforce, and simultaneously its productivity. So, whether someone is directly suffering from a mental health issue or not, this is a problem that affects every last person in one way or another.

Why we do what we do

If you found the above statistics surprising, you must be new to the mental health conversation because these are nothing new. Mental health is an area that struggles to retain consistent support and funding from public and private sources. Mental health programs, care providers, facilities, non-profit organizations, and even programs like MINES’ Employee Assistance Program have to constantly justify themselves and (re)prove the value it what they/we do. A combination of the invisible nature of many mental health conditions and the stigma behind talking about these issues and seeking care makes it difficult to see just how pervasive of a problem these are in the US as well as the much of the rest of the world. In some areas of the world, mental health disorders can land you in jail or worse.  It is not a “sexy” topic so the media only really rallies around the topic when something happens like a mass shooting, celebrity rehab incident, or some other sensation worthy event. This is a tragedy in and of itself because if we as a nation could just remain committed to improving the support system, communication, and available resources around mental health, so much of this loss of life could be prevented. This is why we, MINES and every other care provider, organization, and individual fights this all too silent war every day.

The relationship between mental health and substance abuse

This month is also about a very closely related issue to mental health,  substance abuse. A large percentage of people with mental health disorders also experience issues with substance abuse, and vise versa. In fact, according to a SAMSHA study, nearly 27% of people with a mental health disorder use illicit drugs, which is over twice as much as the rate of the general population. And of the approximately 8.7 million people that suffer from both mental health issues and substance abuse, only about 7% receive treatment for both issues and a staggering 56% don’t receive treatment for either issue at all. With these numbers, it’s easy to see that there is a huge correlation that links these devastating nationwide issues. Enter prevention week.

Prevention week

This year SAMHSA is spearheading Prevention Week, May 13-19, to help spread awareness of both mental health issues, as they do year around, as well as the prevailing substance use issues that are running rampant without any sign of slowing down. We encourage you to check out their site for more information on prevention week and to see how you can support them and your community in the fight. Check out these links for information on all of the above:

Below is a list of other important resources that can help you if you or someone you care about is suffering from a mental health issue, depression, substance abuse, or if you just need someone to talk to. Many are free, community-based resources that won’t cost you anything but your time. And of course, as MINES and Associates provides Employee Assistance Programs, we encourage you to use one if your employer offers one. EAPs are a great free and confidential resource that can help you, and in many cases, your family/household members, get in touch with a counselor and start the journey to better mental wellbeing. EAPs can also help with a large variety of other work/life issues that may be affecting you like work/life balance, financial issues, fitness, nutrition, and more.


  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline
    • 1-800-662-HELP
  • National Institute for Mental Health –
  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) –
  • Mental Health America –
  • Mental Health America of Colorado –
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America –
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance –
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline –
    • 1-800-273-8255
  • First Responder Crisis Text Line
    • Text “Badge” to 741741
  • Military/Veterans Crisis Line/Resources
  • National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention –
  • United Way-


  • Help and Treatment
  • Child mental health resources

Going forward

What can we do going forward? Stay loud. Keep talking. Keep writing congress about mental issues that affect you and those you love. Don’t let them wait for there to be a tragic event before the issues get put on their desk. Continue to vote for people that believe in what we do and what needs to be done. Continue to support organizations that are making strides in the right direction. Continue to demand benefits from employers that do more than just the bare minimum to support our mental health. Change is possible but it going to take more than an awareness month. It’s going to take people, all of us, coming together and making this an issue that’s bigger than a month, an issue that cannot be ignored or scapegoated. So, take the rest of this month help spread awareness, and then use next month keep marching, keep shouting, and continue to come together to push change forward because no one is going to do it for us.


To your wellbeing,

Nic Mckane

The MINES Team

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Stress Awareness: How to be proactive with your stress management

The Importance of Stress Awareness

For those of you that did not know, April is stress awareness month. While stress awareness month is an important opportunity to highlight and talk about data, resources, and services around stress, anxiety, and related issues, stress is not something any of us can afford to think about only once a year. For many of us, stress is something that affects us day to day, maybe even hour by hour. Stress can be caused by so many things and sometimes nothing at all. Likewise, symptoms of stress can manifest themselves in a variety of ways including both physically and non-physically. Because of these oftentimes ambiguous causes/symptoms of stress, it is critical to our wellbeing that we are able to recognize and manage stress levels effectively on a day to day basis and to be proactive with stress management.

Proactive Stress Management

So, what is proactive stress management? Being proactive with stress management means taking time to learn the various sources of stress in your life. Some sources like stressful occupations, financial issues, or a significant loss are obvious. Others may not be so obvious, and it is also possible to feel stress for no reason at all, which is why the next part is crucial, recognizing the symptoms of stress and how they affect you. Once you learn to recognize how stress manifests itself in your mind and body, you can begin to figure out what the most effective ways for you to manage your stress are. Here’s where the proactive part comes in. Once you know how to manage your stress don’t wait for stress to get overwhelming to practice stress management. Instead, build these anti-stress practices into your daily life so that you are consistently practicing good habits and mindfulness to provide a constant outlet to relieve the effects of stress. It is this proactive approach that keeps stress to a minimum and helps mitigate much of the impact that stress and its various side effects have on your wellbeing. First, let’s delve a bit more into the various sources of stress that you may encounter.

Factors and Sources

There are a lot of stressors that may be very unique and personal to you though chances are, many, if not all, stressors in life can be categorized into some common buckets; environmental, social, physiological, and psychological. Let’s talk a little about these. Recognizing these categories can help you think about stress systemically to help analyze primary causes of stress in your own life.

  • Environmental stressors come from all around you and can include things like noise, traffic, pollution, bad weather, and negative or excessive media consumption. These stressors come from the world around us and there is very little we can do to change them. Some environments like our homes, and in some case our work environment, we have a little more control over. For the most part, though our best bet is to adapt to our environment rather than try and change that which we cannot.
  • Social stressors come from other people as well as pressure from roles we hold in our lives. These include job pressures and deadlines, arguments or fights, relationship issues, parenting, loss of loved ones, and demands for your time and attention. These are a very personal set of stressors and can involve those we love making them very important to navigate in a thoughtful and measured way.
  • Physiological stressors come from your own body. These can include things like adolescence, illness, aging, injuries, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, menopause in women, and inadequate sleep. Again, these stressors can be minimized by changing those we can and accepting what we cannot. Examples of this may be accepting that you are getting older but at the same time striving to eat good nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep every night. More on this later.
  • Psychological stressors are very tricky because they come from your own mind. These come down to how your brain processes internal and external stimulus. When our minds interpret something as a threat, such as changes to our environment, job issues, or family troubles, it turns on the “flight or fight” response which not only causes stressful thoughts but releases adrenaline and other stress hormones into our systems. This response has many side effects in the body and can present itself in a few different ways such as anxiety, sleeplessness, and anxiety.

How Stress Can Present Itself

Symptoms of stress can manifest in many different ways, and a single stressor can cause multiple symptoms. The areas where stress-based symptoms can pop up include physically, emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally. Let’s take a closer look at these areas by examining some common issues that can pop up in each area.

  • Physical symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, teeth grinding, perspiration, and digestive issues.
  • Emotional symptoms can include anxiety, guilt, fear, depression, anger and irritability, and depression.
  • Cognitive symptoms can include confusion, a decrease in attention span, memory issues, trouble making decisions, and obsessive thinking.
  • Behavioral symptoms can include changes in activities, withdrawal, decrease in appetite, insomnia, nightmares, and suppressed sex drive.

A tricky aspect to keep in mind is that almost all of these symptoms can be caused by other issues as well such as various health conditions, environmental factors, and normal biological cycles, so it’s important to be on top of things and see a doctor if are experiencing any severe or chronic issues.


There are several misconceptions about stress that can lead to downplaying the effects of stress or even that you are stressed at all. Misconceptions like “people always know when they are stressed,” or “stress only affects those with high-pressure lives” can lead to not seeking help. Other misconceptions can include thoughts that emotions cannot be controlled and that the only thing that may help is medication. These are also not true and are dangerous thoughts. Medication can help in the right circumstances for certain individuals, but others may benefit greatly from some simple self-care, elimination of bad habits, or some counseling. Make sure to approach your stress, and the treatment of it, in an honest and unassuming manner.

Ways to Combat Stress

As we said earlier, the best ways to combat stress are proactive ones. The key here is to stay aware of yourself and how you are reacting to stressors in your life. Here are several areas to be aware of and techniques to help keep your stress from reaching unhealthy levels.

Be Aware of Important Factors

To help discern how you are reacting to stress pay attention to your feelings and emotions on a constant basis. A good way to do this is to stop and perform periodic self-checks by asking yourself questions. Look at your level of anxiety. Do you worry about money, or what may go wrong with certain things in your life? We all worry about these things but are they causing you more anxiety than normal? What about your anger levels? Are you getting more irritated at work or becoming impatient with people easier than usual? How is your self-confidence? Do you wonder if you are doing a good job? Do you worry a lot about what others think? How are your relationships going? Do you spend more time alone than you want to? Is it hard to get close to people? Are you too tired to devote time to your relationships? If you find that you are answering “yes” to any of these questions it may be a sign of moderate to high stress levels.

Change Bad Habits

There are stressors in our lives that we can’t change. However, there are many things that we can do to make sure that we are not contributing unnecessarily to our own stress levels. Take time to evaluate your habits both good and bad, and think about how they may impact your wellbeing for better or worse. These habits are going to be particular to each individual and their lifestyle but for the purpose of this blog let’s look at 5 critical areas where replacing bad habits with good ones can make a huge impact.

  • Exercise: Despite what some people may think, habits like smoking and drinking can increase stress on the mind and body even if it provides a temporary illusion of relief in the moment. Instead, support your body through movement and exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever in many ways. Exercise helps regulate your hormones and neurotransmitters that may be contributing to stress if they are unbalanced and helps increase blood flow to the brain. Exercise helps mitigate stress causing diseases and conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. It helps maintain a positive body image boosting self-confidence and helps boost energy levels helping you be more productive. Also, just the physical exertion of exercise is a great outlet for stress and negative feelings. Making exercise a habit can be tough at first but if you stick with it and workout regularly for at least 90 days your mind will begin to normalize the activity and you will eventually begin to crave working out, especially if you focus on picking exercise activities that you enjoy.
  • Nutrition: This one is a big deal too. Try and replace any bad nutrition habits like eating junk food and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol with good consumption habits. Make sure to always strive to eat a variety of whole, nutritious foods and stay away from processed and surgery food. It is also important to limit caffeine intake as it can potentially induce a stress response in the body and act as a catalyst for anxiety in some people. We talked about nicotine and alcohol but remember there are many drugs, both legal and illegal, that can have a negative influence on your wellbeing and it is up to you to keep potentially hazardous substances like these in check. Or better yet stay away from them altogether unless they are medically necessary. Before making any changes be sure to talk to your doctor as they are your best source of information around your health and medical needs.
  • Relaxation and sleep: It is very easy to underestimate the importance of making time for yourself to relax. It’s critical to take it easy sometimes and occupy your mind with something you enjoy doing. This may be walking outdoors, building crafts, drawing, writing and journaling, watching a movie, playing a game, or spending time with friends or family. These types of activities allow you to get your mind off whatever may be causing you stress and provides opportunities for positive stimulus. Sleep is another prime component. Getting adequate sleep (7 to 8 hours per night) is critical to maintaining energy levels, supporting mind and body functions, regulating your bodies chemicals, and repairing your body from exercise and activity. For more information about sleep check out our recent blog for Sleep Awareness Day.
  • Time Management: Are you happy with the ways you use your time? Time management can be a huge source of frustration if you always feel like there’s never enough time in the day. Building a schedule and sticking to it can go a long way in helping you spend your time wisely. Try keeping a day calendar on paper or on your computer or mobile device. Don’t just schedule in the things you have to do, schedule things you want to do as well such as time with friends or family, hobbies, or simply free time where you have no obligations. Running late can be another huge stressor, make sure you are waking up on time in the morning, avoid distractions, and give yourself enough time to get where you need to go so you don’t have to rush.
  • Self-Talk: It’s all too easy to be hard on yourself and become negative when things are going wrong or stressful. Interrupt this habit by practicing positive self-talk. When you feel your thoughts slipping in a negative direction make a mindful effort to think constructively, not only just about yourself but others as well. Tell yourself things like “I can do this!” and “everything will be okay.” Doing this consistently will help minimize your tendency to interpret events or yourself in a negative light.

Square breathing and other ways to reduce stress

While the ultimate goal is to focus on long-term habits and thought patterns that will help you throughout your entire life, there are many things that you can do in the moment to help bring you back to center and regain composure in a stressful situation. One such exercise is a simple mindful breathing technique called “Square Breathing.” Square breathing is a simple mindful breathing technique that you can do almost anywhere and anytime. By practicing square breathing, you can slow your heart rate, focus your mind, and ease anxiety helping you to become more calm, present, and able to focus on the current moment. One of the great things about square breathing is that it is quick and easy, meaning you can do a quick session in between phone calls or other daily tasks, while you drive (or are stuck in traffic), or practice it for longer as part of a larger meditation or relaxation session. It goes something like this:

Inhale… Begin by slowing inhaling while counting slowly and steadily to 4.

Hold… Once you’ve finished inhaling, hold your breath for another steady count to 4. Seeing a pattern yet?

Exhale… Next, exhale slowly again counting to 4 as you do so.

Hold… Once you’ve exhaled you want to “hold out” your breath for another 4-count.

Repeat… Simple right? Feel free to repeat the cycle, or square, as many times as you’d like. We suggest doing the full cycle at least 4 times.

For more (25) ideas you can click here to view and download a PDF guide of 25 ways to reduce stress.


Stress Awareness Month may be over, but I hope the information presented here shows the importance of always being mindful and aware of how stressors in your life may be affecting you. I also hope that this information has equipped you with some helpful tools to use to help keep your stress levels in check and maintain a positive outlook even when life gets a little intense.

And remember if MINES is your Employee Assistance Program we are always here to help. If you need a little boost call us 24 hours a day at 1-800-873-7138 to talk to someone or hop online at and login to your PersonalAdvantage for helpful information on stress, resilience, fitness, nutrition, and tons of other topics and wellbeing resources.

To your wellbeing,

Nic Mckane

The MINES Team

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Sleep – The Luxury You Can’t Live Without

Happy National Sleep Awareness Week, we certainly hope you slept great last night. Setting up good sleeping habits and getting a solid 7-10 hours of sleep per night is critical to lasting wellbeing but it can be tough to do. To help we called in an expert. This week’s blog has been graciously written by our friend and wellness partner Michelle Zellner, owner and founder of Better Beings. Michelle has been a trainer, coach, and facilitator for over 20 years. Seeking to inform, influence, and inspire, Michelle’s experience allows her to deliver on a wide variety of topics, including exercise, nutrition, weight loss, stress management, sleep, preventing and managing chronic disease, and work-life balance just to name a few.

Sleep – The Luxury You Can’t Live Without

How did you sleep last night?  No, really, HOW did you sleep?  I’ve spent years asking this question to those around me who always seem to get a good night’s sleep.  What’s the secret?  People who have no trouble sleeping don’t give it a second thought, but there are so many things needing to go right to get that good night of sleep, I think it’s amazing anyone does!  I have come to believe sleep is like most other things—some people are naturally better at it than others.

As a kid, I was the one at the slumber parties who was up, ready to go, at 6am.  Let me tell you, parents were not so thrilled!  Growing up, I remember lying awake, unable to fall asleep, for what seemed like forever. I was certain I was missing out on some kind of fun!  I always wondered how my sister could sleep sooooo late, even on Christmas morning.  She would tell me—”just wait until you get older and you’ll be sleeping in too.”  Nope, never happened.  By the time I moved away for college, things were getting especially interesting.  Sleep talking and sleepwalking became regular occurrences.  Japanese was my foreign language of choice and my roommate would tell me I’d sit straight up in the middle of the night and start speaking Japanese (more fluently than when I was awake).  I would often find my way to the stairwell at the opposite end of our dorm hall and have conversations with friends as they were coming home from a fun night out. On several occasions, I woke up to find myself sleeping on the floor outside my friend’s door.  I had no recollection of any of these events, but it turns out I was a pretty social, conversational person, while completely asleep.

At the time, I thought this was funny, odd, weird.  It made for great stories but was definitely a bit scary.  I wish I had been more interested in figuring out WHY this was happening, but eventually it became less frequent and then ceased altogether.  I now know that change, stress, irregular sleep patterns, and chronic sleep deprivation are triggers for this type of nighttime activity.

These are just a few of the challenges I’ve had with sleep.  For a period of time, I battled severe insomnia.  It would take hours for me to fall asleep and then would wake at 1:00 or 2:00am, unable to fall back to sleep.  This would happen several nights in a row and led to anxiety about going to bed.  My journey on the quest for the magic answer to blissful sleep has led me to discover I am far from alone in this struggle. While your challenges may be different, the root causes of sleep issues, and the consequences of sleep deprivation, are the same.  When we are young, we can get away with a lot.  I did well in school, had energy for gymnastics (as a kid), work and fun.  I was a generally pleasant person and any moodiness could be attributed to A) being a teenager or B) being hungry.  As with many things, the older we get, the less resilient we become.

Unfortunately, societal norms including schedule patterns (school, work, activities, and dietary habits) and the overuse of technology, are making it increasingly difficult for children, teenagers, and adults to get the quality sleep necessary for optimal human functioning and performance.  The side effect of not being tired the next day is just one small piece of why we need anywhere from 7-10 hours of quality sleep per night.  This should be the time for rest, repair, and hormonal reset.  Parts of the brain and body get to relax, while other parts of the brain and body get busy. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the increased risk for every single physical and mental health issue, because the critical functions designed to take place during various phases of our sleep cycle are either cut short or not happening at all.  Sleep is actually a necessity—not a luxury!

There are many reasons why we are sleep deprived, and identifying your obstacles to healthy, quality sleep is the first step.  I have come to realize that a good night’s sleep starts in the morning.  The behaviors we engage in throughout the day will either promote or obstruct our sleep that night.  Let me outline a few of the basics.

Back in the day, we operated on a natural day/night cycle…hunting and gathering during the day and, as darkness approached, we got quiet and hid from all the dangers that lurk. With that darkness, the pineal gland produced and released melatonin—one of our sleep-inducing hormones.  Our movement throughout the day allowed the body to produce adenosine triphosphate—a byproduct of the glucose burned as fuel in the body.  Adenosine is a brain chemical that also signals it is time for sleep.  Upon rising with the sun, the body released adrenaline and cortisol—two hormones that help get us going by releasing glucose and triglycerides into the bloodstream for fuel and circulating that fuel by increasing heart rate and blood pressure.

We ate real food (in appropriate amounts), which provided nutrients that enabled the body to produce adequate amounts of melatonin (think Omega-3 fatty acids), we did not eat fake food that the body had to work really hard to get rid of (think excess sugar), and we were not overconsuming stimulants (which trigger a release of cortisol, keeping you alert!).

We had the occasional big stressor (a big beast that wanted to eat you) and we did not have artificial light and physiologically and cognitively stimulating media devices.

For most people today, life looks nothing like that!  In fact, it may be quite the opposite.  The environment in which we live is not the one the human brain and body were designed for, so we need to do the best we can to simulate or create such an environment.  To set ourselves up for quality sleep (and a quality life!) we need to:

  1. Eat real food more often than not—consuming most calories early and often during the day and fewer as bedtime approaches.
  2. Minimize caffeine intake (no more than 200mg/day) and make sure you cut off consumption at least 10 hours prior to going to bed. In addition, avoid alcohol at least 4 hours prior to going to bed.
  3. Move your body as much as you can, as hard as you can, as often as you can.
  4. Manage your stressors during the day (meaning do not allow cortisol to be released unless it is really a threat to your existence).
  5. Have an evening winding down routine, allowing the house, the body, and the mind to get ready for sleep. The house gets dark, the body gets relaxed, the mind gets quiet.  Turn off the devices!
  6. Listen to your body and brain! If you find yourself snacking at night, it may be because you are ignoring the signals that it is time for bed.  When you override the messages from adenosine and melatonin and force yourself to stay awake, you reach for some form of sugar.  Instead—GO TO BED.

If you struggle with getting quality sleep, here is my suggestion.

  1. Identify the obstacle to sleep (check all that apply)
    1. Busy Mind
    2. Stress (cortisol released throughout the day)
    3. Inactivity
    4. Eating too late/types of food/amount of food
    5. Caffeine consumption
    6. Technology
    7. Interruptions (kids, animals, full bladder, significant other)
    8. Other?
  2. Create a real strategy to modify a behavior that could be impeding quality sleep.
  3. Recognize that it is the cumulative effect of all the things we do consistently over time that have the largest impact on the outcome. Multiple behaviors may need modification, and they have to become your habits to really reap the benefits.

Through analyzing my own tendencies, and acknowledging which ones were potentially impacting my sleep, I have been able to restructure and modify many of those habits.  While I occasionally have a difficult night of sleep, I am happy to say that insomnia is no longer a regular part of my life.  I also know, that even though that I am doing all I can right now to set myself up for quality sleep, it is not always in my control.  I try to make really healthy choices in every other area—what I put in my body, how much I move my body, and how I manage my stress triggers—to hopefully minimize the damage that inadequate sleep may be causing.  The healthy choice is usually the harder choice, but ultimately, I believe those healthy choices will produce a healthy, happy, productive human being.  So far, I have found it worth the effort—and I believe you will too!


To your wellbeing,

Michelle Zellner, Owner/Founder of Better Beings


instagram:  @betterbeingsus

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