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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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ADA Breakfast and MINES Health Champion Designation

MINES Team receiving ADA HEalth Champion designation.

American Diabetes Association 2017 State of Diabetes Breakfast

Last week, MINES attended the annual American Diabetes Association 2017 State of Diabetes Breakfast. While we were there, a few exciting things were happening. One of the best things that was going on was the conversation between local and national companies discussing the state of diabetes, wellness initiatives, employee support programs, and next steps in the fight against diabetes. After a bit of networking, the breakfast opened with a great talk from both the State of Diabetes Committee Chair, Joel Krzan, and the Colorado Lt. Governor, Donna Lynne. HUGE thanks to them and the ADA for all the critical work they do in helping fight Diabetes and fostering awareness and support across the country, not to mention hosting the event!

Lt. Governor Donna Lynne at 2017 ADA Breakfast


As you all probably are familiar with, the American Diabetes Association is the 2nd largest employer in Colorado, second only to the federal government. They lead initiatives across the state ranging from awareness campaigns, fundraising events, community service delivery, research funding, and advocacy for those suffering from the disease. You can find out more about the ADA and how you can support their efforts on their website,

Health Champion

MINES Health Champion Award

MINES was also one of a few companies this year to receive the designation of Health Champion from the ADA. This designation recognizes that MINES as a company has met the ADA’s “Healthy Living Criteria.” These criteria cover three distinct but interconnected areas of healthy living including Nutrition and Weight Management, Physical Activity, and Organizational Wellbeing.

MINES is very proud of this designation and recognition of our efforts as we strive to practice what we preach. As an Employee Assistance provider, we are constantly working with our clients to help support the wellbeing of their employees so it was only natural that we strive to create the same focus of employee and organizational wellbeing within our company. Some ways we support these areas include:

Nutrition and Weight Management

  • Access to nutrition coaches
  • Healthy employee culture encouraging healthy habits and eating
  • Access to on-site exercise room

Physical Activity

  • Healthy MINES employee events including rock climbing and hiking
  • Healthy Lunch events such as Yoga and Zumba activities
  • Access to fitness coaches

Organizational Wellbeing

  • Wellbeing and resilience training
  • Corporate culture focused on work/life balance
  • Employee check-ins to gauge stress levels and other issues

The Mind/Body Connection

Patrick Heister talking about the high cost of mental illness and diabetes in the workplace

While we were there our very own COO, Patrick Hiester, had the opportunity to speak. He talked about the often co-occurrence of diabetes and mental health issues including depression and anxiety. He then went on to explain how these conditions can often have a huge cost for individual and an employer in terms of health care costs, lower productivity and work/life imbalance. The key takeaway from Patrick’s presentation was that employers can go a long way in supporting their employees that may have a co-morbid condition by approaching their healthcare in a fully integrated modality and support the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees equally. This could mean having wellbeing programs in place as well as an EAP to help support behavioral wellbeing and also identify systemic issues that may be magnifying any issues that employees may be dealing with in their lives.

Next Steps

Where do we go from here? MINES plans to continue to support both the physical and mental wellbeing of our employees just like we coach our clients to do. We will also continue to support the efforts of the ADA and other great companies and initiatives that mirror our own core wellbeing values.

If you would like to learn more about what you can do to support the ADA, take a look at two of the ADA’s current initiatives; Wellness Lives Here and the upcoming fundraising/awareness event, Tour de Cure.

Wellness Lives Here

As the ADA’s website states “This powerful initiative is designed to inspire and fuel our nation’s healthful habits at work and beyond. With year-round opportunities, Wellness Lives Here™ helps companies, organizations and communities educate and motivate people to adopt healthful habits to reduce the impact of type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related illnesses. For some, it means fewer sick days and higher productivity. For others, it means looking and feeling better. For everyone, the result is empowerment—Americans who are better able to control, delay or prevent Diabetes and related health problems.”

Find out more here:

Tour de Cure

This is a run, ride, walk, or be an “Xtreme Ninja” (obstacle course) event designed to raise awareness in the community, provide research support, and increase advocacy for those suffering from diabetes that may be discriminated against.

Find out more here:

Thank you!

Finally, another huge thank you to the ADA and everyone that made this event possible. Together we can continue to fight the good fight and spread awareness of these critical wellbeing initiatives to help millions of people across the US and the world. And if you are a company that is looking for a way to support your own employees, please call MINES at 1-800-873-7138 and see how we can work together to make your workforce happier, healthier and more productive.



To your wellbeing,

The MINES Team

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Through Imagination and Exploration, Find Joy at Work

This March compiles three events that are all based on children and the importance of remembering to explore the world, use your imaginative side, and have fun. Children demonstrate all you need to know to have good work/life balance. From the re-imagined Disney® classic Beauty and the Beast coming out to celebrating Little Red Wagon Day, we are reminded that we can (and should) use the same lessons that we teach the younger generation. We’re also reminded of the importance of looking at problems from all sides and discovering new avenues to work through everything.

From the original to Disney®

This month Disney® released the reimagined Beauty and the Beast in a live-action retelling of a story that was originally written by a French novelist in the 1740s to audiences ( Disney’s® 1991 version brought a variation of the original story that wowed audiences. Disney® captured the story of a beast, a magical castle with a magical rose, and the love between a father and daughter and transformed it into a story of love and exploration with plenty of imagination thrown in with talking furniture and accessories. However, even with adding some elements to the original story, Disney® honed in on life principles that can be applied to everyone. Both the original story and the 1991 movie focus on the love between a father and selfless child, and about giving up something precious to discover more. It is about looking beyond the veil and not accepting the status quo.

Takeaways from the new Beauty and the Beast

The new rendition that debuted this month focuses on a girl trying to find her place in the world and includes plenty of imagination and laughter. Bringing together elements from the original story, the Broadway musical, and the 1991 Disney version, this story centers on looking past first impressions and addressing the pain and hurt each character dealt with in the past. (Spoiler alert! The remainder of this paragraph contains minor spoilers for the new movie. Please skip to the next section if you wish to avoid this.) This version hones in on the explanation of why the rose is important to Belle to why the Beast reacts to everyone around him, along with closing the other characters’ stories. Belle discovers the truth of her past and the Beast realizes he is stuck in the past. Maurice is a grief-stricken father who struggles providing for his daughter and feeling guilty of his past actions. However, both Maurice and Belle allow their imagination to rule and accept magic which in turn allowed them to explore their past so they could succeed in their future. The movie concludes with all the characters being reunited with their loved ones and they all, well almost all, lived happily ever after.

Are you a Beast, Belle, or Maurice at work?

No matter which version you watch or read, these characters appear as a prince turned into a beast due to his arrogance and self-focus, a young lady who loves knowledge and sees past initial impressions, and a father who loves his daughter and will do anything to see her succeed. Each character makes good and bad choices along the adventure and it isn’t until they learn to get along that they can reverse the bad situation they are in.

Everyone has bad days and it can be hard to let go of the past. However, if you take the time to look deeper, you will see that not everything is the way it appears. When you are feeling frustrated by a co-worker’s actions, take the time to review the situation and check in with your co-worker to see if there is something going on in their lives that may have caused them to react other than you were expecting. Review your past and see what is holding you back from building relationships with your co-workers or seeking to improve your work-life balance. Each Beauty and the Beast character drives home another point about not accepting things at face value and using the talents of those around you.

Imagination is key to all ages

The imagination that Disney® brings to the screen helps provide a formula that makes the movie a success. Imagination is a great tool, whether it is with inventing something that can take you where you need to go or helping you find solutions to problems at work. We all go through changes at work and at home and struggle with how those changes affect us. Next time you are struggling, think outside the box to find solutions. You will be amazed how a little imagination will help you achieve your goal. If you struggle with staying engaged with your work or with your team, find a creative team-building activity to do or use your imagination to find new ways to stay engaged. Sometimes you need to explore new avenues to find joy in your job.

Exploration is essential

Let your imagination take you places so you can continue to succeed and grow both professionally and personally. Take time to explore and enjoy the world you live in – both at home and at work. Spending time in nature is known to help reduce anxiety and stress. Whether it is taking five minutes see what is outside your work building or taking the time to look at your company’s website, take the time to explore what new things you can find and appreciate. You never know what new possibilities you might find or new ideas that will come through exploration. When Belle showed the beauty that surrounded Beast’s castle, the Beast’s eyes were opened and his heart began to heal. Without exploring what can be, it is easy to become disillusioned with your job and lose that joy of working for a great company.

Take action

Using these key things, do something. Don’t sit and complain. Be like Belle’s dad, Maurice, and take action. Don’t sit back when you see something isn’t going right. Stand up for what is right even if you co-workers think you are “odd”.  Do something to make work even better! Does your company have a Wellness committee? Would this help you be more successful? Your “happily ever after” is possible only if you act to secure it.

From work to your community

March 30th celebrates Little Red Wagon Day and provides a chance to celebrate imagination and to encourage kids to get outside and be active.  Radio Flyer, which is perhaps one of the most well-known red wagon producers, states that “The majority of Americans have owned a red wagon, and a majority of those people will pass their wagon down to the next generation.” For almost 100 years, Radio Flyer has been creating warm memories that last a lifetime and support unstructured outdoor play.

Use this day to see how you can use your imagination and explore ways to help your community live up to the spirit of this day. Check out Radio Flyer’s website here for more information and suggestions on how you can do this.


To your wellbeing,

Raena Chatwin,

The MINES Team

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month


October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. While breast cancer is a year around killer, October is a crucial month for fundraising, information distribution, community support, and many other crucial functions that help keep research and the search for better treatment, and one day a cure, possible. With this post I hope to give a brief snapshot of what a diagnosis of this terrible disease can mean from both a patient’s and caregiver’s view, as well as provide resources that you can use this month and onward to provide support, gather information, and help yourself or others that may be dealing with cancer in their lives.

Resilience in the Face of Diagnosis

A serious diagnosis brings with it life-changing implications both for the person receiving the diagnosis as well as their loved ones. This beginning phase that starts at the diagnosis is commonly known as the “crisis phase.” This is where emotions like fear and anxiety are most prevalent and panic can ensue. But time is of the essence here as it is often necessary to move fast as doctors plan and prepare your treatment options. Therefore it is imperative to remain resilient in the face of diagnosis so that you can think clearly and react quickly. During this initial time the best thing you can do is ask questions and remove unknowns so that you can start to generate realistic expectations of the treatment process and the disease itself. If you are the loved one or caregiver of someone that is facing cancer or some other serious diagnosis then this responsibility may fall on you.


Of course the person who receives the diagnosis is hit the hardest by cancer, but the impact does not end there. Spouses, friends, family, and co-workers are all affected as well. Some of these people may find themselves in the role of caretaker in some capacity or another.  Caretaking can be an extremely hard job in both a physical and psychological sense, and in order to keep up their own wellbeing caregivers need to make sure they are practicing good self-care as well or else they can face adverse health effects and may find themselves suffering from burnout. Around this time last year we discussed self-care tips for caregivers who are caring for a loved one that has been diagnosed. If you or a loved one is currently in this tough, but crucial, caregiver role please take a look at our post here.

Knowledge is Power

Regardless of whether you are in the patient or caregiver role, knowledge is power. One of the best things you can do to prepare for dealing with a deadly disease is know your options and become familiar with those that can help you. Below we have tried to give a good balance of resources that are a great start if you are looking for information, support, or are looking to get involved with the cause. This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are tons of great resources out there. On that note please keep in mind that an Employee Assistance Program, like MINES provides, is a great source of support that is easy to access and free if your employer offers it. If you are not sure if you have an EAP, make sure to ask Human Resources for information.


American Cancer Society


Family Caregiver Alliance

Cancer Care

Support Events

Making Strides Events

The Rest of the Year

This October is sure to be filled with fundraisers, awareness campaigns, charity contributions, and screening reminders. As for the rest of the year please make sure to remain vigilant and proactive. Do the standard self-checks on a regular basis, make those screening appointments with your doctor, and be mindful of your wellbeing year-round, early detection can make all the difference for many potentially terminal diseases. With that said here’s to all the women and men out there fighting the good fight for themselves or their loved ones, and here is to an October full of support, hope, and progress.


To Your Wellbeing,

– Nic Mckane

The MINES Team



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A Hard Day(off)’s Work

Relaxing is Hard Work, Be Mindful During Your Off Time


Time to relax

The weekend, the start of a vacation, the morning of a day off. These are all times when we often find ourselves asking the question, “What should I do today?” It’s the beginning of our hard earned time off and we want to make the most of it, though for most of us, coming up with something to do is only half the battle. Plans are set but having them go off without a hitch is another story. How you handle these ”hitches” can be the difference between having a fun and satisfying time, and spending the day frustrated at the little things that didn’t go quite right and wondering what could have been.

The ideal day/night off

What does your ideal day off look like? When a day off, a free evening, or even a vacation is on the horizon we want it to be perfect, filled with all the things that we want to do with that time. It might be fun with friends, a night on the town at your favorite restaurant, or even some quiet relaxation time with a book at home. So we make plans, it’s in our nature as humans living in a modern world full of things we want to do and enjoy when we have the chance. Plans give us something to look forward to and offer us structure in the process.

I know that when I have an evening during the week free of appointments and other obligations that life tends to throw my way, I think about the best way to spend that time. I think about how I will go straight home from work and try and maximize my time, and then I might make a nice dinner with the girlfriend and watch the next episode of “Stranger Things.” I think about how it will be the perfect opportunity to get to the next area in whatever video game I am currently in the middle of. Ah yes, that night will be awesome! But what if it doesn’t go as planned? If these things that I want to do don’t end up happening, or if my time with them is cut short, is my awesome time ruined, my chance for fun gone? It could be if I let it.

When your expectations are shattered the day is ruined

We can plan our time as carefully and as hopefully as we want, but that doesn’t mean that something won’t come up before we are able to realize our plans. I don’t know how many times I have been ready for a night like I was just describing and traffic causes me to get home late, a family member needs help with something when I get home, and dinner takes way longer to cook than planned. Next thing I know I look at the clock and my night is half over and I’ve barely touched the things that I wanted to do that night. This starts to put me in a bad mood. A bad mood! On my free night! How could this happen!? I finally get a chance to sit down with a game, but now all I can think about how my time is cut short and I begin to wonder how I could even enjoy the little time I have left. But we can’t think this way, time is a precious resource we can’t afford to waste it worrying about things that turn out differently than we expected them to. Whether it’s a free night or a 2 week vacation more full with planned activities and hopeful expectations, there are bound to be snags, things that pop up unexpectedly, that force us to take a right turn when this is not the route we planned. So what can you do to make sure that you still enjoy your time?

Go With the flow

There are enough uncontrollable variables throughout life without us sabotaging ourselves. When plans go awry it is important to not make things worse by being your own worst enemy. Salvage your time by being mindful of the moment, letting go of the things that you can’t control, and make the best of the situation. Even if you end up doing something other than what you planned at least you are enjoying your time to the best of your ability and by letting go of your expectations and going with the flow you prevent the inner animosity that comes with the frustration of well-laid plans going out the window. Don’t get me wrong, plans are nice and all, as is getting to do your favorite activities when those plans manifest successfully. But when life gets in the way and skewers those plans of yours, focus on making the situation the best it can be. It may not be what you had in mind, but you just might end up enjoying your off-time after all.


To Your Wellbeing,

Nic Mckane

The MINES Team

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Total Wellbeing: June 2016


 Total Wellbeing Icon

June 2016: Occupational Wellbeing

Get Involved!

Death_to_Stock_Photography_BodyTruths_9Welcome to the June issue of TotalWellbeing! This month we discuss Occupational Wellbeing. We’ve all heard the concept of work/life balance before, but when you think about it, isn’t work part of life? In fact, many of us spend a substantial amount of our lives at work. This way of looking at it highlights the importance of supporting ourselves and our goals while at work rather than just putting our lives on hold when we clock in every morning, or night depending on your schedule. Maintaining perspective on your ambitions and goals while at work is critical to maintaining occupational wellbeing and avoiding burning out. Look for opportunities at your job to grow and support your mind and body. For a closer look at this month’s topic and helpful resources please check out The Path and The Connection below.

MINESblog saw some interesting posts last month, it being Mental Health Awareness Month and all. We looked at the mentality and systemic causes of bullying and why it is important to treat even bullies with empathy. Next in our latest Psychology of Performance post we explored the critical interplay between innovation and maintenance within an organization and how our assumptions on these concepts need to be updated. Finally, we discussed the importance of family involvement in the therapy of children with a mental health diagnosis.

As always, for more information please check out the links to the left or hit the share button to send us a message. See you next month!

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

The Path: Environmental Wellbeing and the Future

Occupational Wellbeing is about balance, usually between work and life, but life doesn’t stop when you arrive at work and start again when you go home. To properly support occupational wellbeing many of us can’t afford to put our life on hold while at work. Think about ways to develop yourself while on the job. Ask yourself in what ways your job can help you learn new skills, how you might be able to connect better with co-workers, and identify opportunities to support your health and wellness in other areas while at work. Stay connected with co-workers to avoid working in a secluded environment if possible, set goals you can achieve at the workplace to work towards in order to give yourself something to strive for both personally and professionally. Stay connected with the outside world as well. While on break, check in on family members or take a moment to yourself to read, play a quick game, or study something new you are learning. Make the most of your time while at work as well as at home and you will be more satisfied with both.

Tips for you:

Making work/life balance work for you is important. No two people have the same set of circumstances and demands, so figuring out what works best for you is crucial. Work-life balance, says Nigel Marsh, is too important to be left in the hands of your employer. Marsh lays out an ideal day balanced between family time, personal time, and productivity — and offers some stirring encouragement to make it happen.

Watch Talk Here!

The Connection: Get Involved

Wellbeing does not simply start and stop at the individual. Our community is connected to each of our own individual wellbeing in a huge way. When we are well we can better function within our community.  We can help our fellow humans thrive, and in turn, when our community is prospering, it helps each of us reach our goals as individuals. So why not help our community so we can all thrive together? Each month we will strive to bring you resources that can help you enhance the wellbeing of those around you or get involved with important causes.

Community Wellbeing Resources:

If you are successful and happy that is a great thing. You know what else is great, when those who know what it takes to be happy and successful share their knowledge and help others achieve. A great way to do that is through mentoring. Did you know that through you can sign up to help mentor young professionals and help them get a leg up in their careers? If you’re a young professional, you can find a mentor here, too! Check it out!

See how you can help!

 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.
 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: May 2016


 Total Wellbeing Icon

May 2016: Environmental Wellbeing

Get Involved!

photo-1428604467652-115d9d71a7f1Welcome to the May issue of TotalWellbeing! This month we set our sights on Environmental Wellbeing. Most of the time we ask you to be mindful of the present, to be in the here and now. While the present is important it is also imperative to consider the downstream consequences of our choices. Never is this truer than with our environment. When we talk about environmental wellbeing we are talking about the wellbeing of all the places we live and function in. This can include our homes all the way up the Earth itself. We feed back into these environments in negative and positive ways. For instance we cut down trees for materials but we also plant trees to help rebuild forests or make our neighborhoods beautiful. It’s more than balance because we need to be doing more good than harm. We all need to look at how we can live greener and ensure our environments remain healthy places for us to work, play, and live. For a closer look at this month’s topic and helpful resources please check out The Path and The Connection below.

Head over to MINESblog and check out MINES’ tribute to National Stress Awareness and National Poetry Month. We posted some poems that are sure to help you de-stress and maybe even help you get some creative energy flowing while you’re at it.

As always, for more information please check out the links to the left or hit the share button to send us a message. See you next month!

To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

The Path: Environmental Wellbeing and the Future

Environmental Wellbeing is interesting in that when thinking about the environment it is critical to not only think about the present but to focus on the future as well. We always preach about being mindful and in the moment but our environments don’t change moment to moment based on our moods, thoughts, and behaviors. Our environments — ranging from our immediate surroundings such as work or home, to our bigger environments like our cities, national parks, and oceans — take years to make significant changes. So it is with this forward-thinking mindset that we must treat our environments with the respect and care necessary to cultivate happy, healthy environments for ourselves and for future generations. Pick up trash where you see it, support legislation that focuses on sustainable food and energy sources, and just be mindful of the personal impact that you make every day. It’s not easy but if we all practice this sort of care we will all be healthier, happier, and better off in the long run and so will our environments.

Tips for you:

How can we live lightly on the Earth and save money at the same time? Staff members at the Worldwatch Institute, a global environmental organization, share ideas on how to go green and save green at home and at work. Check out the 10 great ideas has to help you live a little greener one step at a time.

See list here!

The Connection: Get Involved

Wellbeing does not simply start and stop at the individual. Our community is connected to each of our own individual wellbeing in a huge way. When we are well we can better function within our community.  We can help our fellow humans thrive, and in turn, when our community is prospering, it helps each of us reach our goals as individuals. So why not help our community so we can all thrive together? Each month we will strive to bring you resources that can help you enhance the wellbeing of those around you or get involved with important causes.

Community Wellbeing Resources:

If you haven’t heard of the Litterati movement you should check it out. Litterati is a global social media movement that utilizes an app and hashtags (#litterati) to identify, map, and collect litter around the world as users photograph themselves picking up litter around their communities. Anyone can do it, it’s fun, easy, and a great way to get involved with a global cleanup effort.

See how you can help!

 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.
 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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Psychology of Performance #55: The Role of ADA, FMLA, Mental Health Accommodations and Employee Performance

Employee work performance can be impacted and/or affected by numerous variables. This blog focuses specifically on the Americans with Disabilities Act and the implications for employer accommodations for those with mental health diagnoses. There is still stigma and urban myth regarding employees with mental health diagnoses which lead to a number of problems for employees and employers alike.  Employers may not understand that an employee with a mental health diagnosis needs an accommodation, much less what that accommodation might be. Whether the employer understands this or not, the employer is legally obligated, unless it poses an undue hardship, to accommodate the employee so the employee can perform optimally. This blog does not address the myriad legal issues associated with the ADA and mental health accommodations. It focuses on providing a context for the complexity of mental health diagnoses and the need for understanding each employee’s needs and how the accommodation will enhance their work performance.

How does the employer determine what is a reasonable accommodation for a mental health ADA request?

This is particularly difficult given the variance in a diagnosis, much less across diagnoses. There are cognitive considerations, interpersonal considerations, physical space considerations, energy restoration elements, work group dynamics, HIPAA privacy concerns, employer limits on what can be requested and asked, threat to the individual’s health as well as to others.

In addition, how does the employer manage FMLA requests related to mental health illnesses?

  • What amounts of time are appropriate to be out of work?
  • What is the treatment plan to get back to work?
  • Does the employer have the expertise to even begin to evaluate the requests?

Psychological Assessment of Functioning and Performance

The array of broad psychological diagnostic categories that may require accommodations is large. The following broad categories include: depressive disorders, bipolar disorders, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive spectrum, trauma and stressor-related disorders, sleep wake disorders, dissociative disorders, mood disorders, neurocognitive disorders, personality and personality disorders, schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders, eating disorders, substance related disorders, and a number of others. Each of these may have specific symptoms of a particular intensity, frequency, or duration that may require an accommodation. For the purpose of this blog, depressive disorders will be the focus of discussion.

  • Depressive Disorders “include disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, major depressive disorder (including major depressive episode), persistent depressive disorder, (dysthymia), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, substance/medication-induced depressive disorder, depressive disorder due to another medical condition, other specified depressive disorder, and unspecified depressive disorder” (p. 155, DSM-5)
  • The assessment must be related to job function. For example, in the case of depression, accommodations could be coming in later due to the impact of medication or because an early morning depressive feature gets better throughout the day; a nap that is medication related or sleep related; tools to improve cognitive functioning, which can be affected by depression (such as memory, concentration, complex problem solving) such as memory aids, quality assurance reviews. An accommodation may also be needed for time to see a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist.
  • Second opinions for ADA accommodation requests. It may be the case that a mental health professional signs a letter asking for an accommodation without any idea of the specific job functions that the employee is asking to be accommodated for. An employer should send the accommodation request back to the mental health professional with the job description and ask what accommodations may allow the employee to do the essential functions of the job. Accommodations may need to be permanent or just temporary while the employee heals.

Intense and/or Complex Case Management for Absence Management

Human Resources and management in all likelihood do not have the time or expertise to manage these types of accommodation requests or absence requests. Providing case management expertise to support the employee in getting good care and returning to work can expedite the entire process. The following are considerations for case management.

  • Intensive case management for all cases that have either a primary psychological diagnosis or co-morbid psychological diagnosis.
  • Adherence and relapse considerations related to treatment and return to work are central to this approach.
  • Communication among all providers, the employer, and the employee/employee’s family is essential for a timely return to work.
  • When the employee returns to work, what, if any, accommodations will be needed? In the area of psychological diagnosis, each case stands on its own merits related to frequency, intensity, and duration of symptoms. For example, a diagnosis of depression can range from mild to severe/treatment resistant. There are no cookie cutter accommodations that can be applied across the board. This is where consultation with the case manager, the provider, and the employer is crucial for the success of the employee and the department the employee is returning to.

Psychological Considerations in ADA and FMLA Accommodation Requests

  • What psychological functioning needs accommodation?
  • How many ways can this accommodation occur?
  • What is the impact of the accommodation on the work group/coworkers?
  • How best can this be addressed with the work group so everyone understands and is on the same page without violating the employee’s privacy?
  • Who best can assess the accommodation needs?

Psychologists, Psychiatrists & Other Mental Health Professionals

  • What are their methods?
  • What is the validity and reliability of their methods?
  • Do they assess the workplace as well or just rely on employee self-report?

Common barriers to carrying out this type of intense/complex case management and accommodation process

  • Timeliness of communication between the professional parties.
  • Assessment methodology of treating professional.
  • Adequacy of the treatment plan.
  • Vested interest by the employee not to get better if it is possible with their condition. Getting the releases of information in a timely manner.

Ways to overcome barriers

  • Have HR get the releases of information signed when the accommodation request or leave request comes in.
  • The case manager needs to join with the provider in a collaborative manner rather than an adversarial manner with the best interests of the employee and employer in mind. This can be communicated up front with the provider to ensure timely communication.
  • The case manager can ask for skill based assessment information. If the provider is not able to do so, second opinions should be sought out to allow for a more informed decision process related to the accommodation. The point of the accommodation is to optimize the employee’s success on the job.
  • If the condition is one that should show improvement with treatment and the employee is not getting better, the case manager needs to address this with the provider and determine if it is the correct treatment. Are there secondary gains for the employee to maintain the accommodations (e.g., working from home rather than commuting in when everyone else in the work group works at the office)?
  • If the case manager reviews the treatment plan and it does not look adequate, the case manager needs to confer with the provider to determine if the provider is able to enhance the treatment plans in a manner that more objectively show improvement and return the employee to work in a timely manner. The guideline is the longer employees are out of work, the lower the probability they will return to work.

The ADA allows employers to retain employees who work for them and can perform at high levels with some accommodations. There are several elements that need to be taken into account that when put into place help the employee to perform well, be self-sufficient, and contribute to the prosperity of the employer organization as well as their community.


Have a day filled with loving kindness and compassion,


Robert A. Mines, Ph.D., CEO & Psychologist

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TotalWellbeing: December 2015

 Total Wellbeing Icon

December 2015:  Be Aware of Your Occupational Wellbeing

Wellness through Awareness!

Welcome to the December issue of TotalWellbeing, the last issue of 2015! This month we wanted to talk about work/life balance around the holidays and how it relates to occupational wellbeing. Occupational Wellbeing is a tough one this time of year, mainly because the holidays truly put our work/life balancing skills to the test as we strive to meet end of year goals and deadlines at work while also managing social holiday events with friends and family. Relatives coming into town, social gatherings, shopping, and whatever else you have going on during the holidays can be fun but can also add on heaps of stress to your already busy schedule. This is why it is imperative to manage stress and time wisely to get the most out of your time at home, while maintaining your drive at work, all without pulling your hair out. For a closer look at occupational wellbeing and how it relates to our topics this month please read The Path, below.

You may remember us mentioning last month that it was Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. If you kept your eye on MINESblog you would have seen our expert associate JJ Jordan’s post about Alzheimer’s and what it means to be diagnosed with the terrible disease and warning signs that you should watch for if you have aging loved ones and as you age yourself. It’s important information you don’t want to miss. Check it out!

As we head into 2016 continue to watch the MINESblog to see the latest discussions about wellbeing topics and tips on staying healthy and living a life in balance. Next year, involvement will be the focus as we keep you involved with MINES and involved with the world around you. MINES will be packing our information with ways for you to support yourself as well as others and get involved with topics that matter most to you – can’t wait to see what you think. For now, check out the links to the left for more important resources such as our LinkedIn showcase pages and Balanced Living Magazine. We look forward to seeing you next year!


To your total wellbeing,

The MINES Team

The Path

A major factor contributing to your level of occupational wellbeing is how well you are able to balance your priorities between work and home. Work obligations can often interfere or distract you from personal time, and in turn the needs of your personal life can distract you at work. This is exacerbated during the holidays as end of year needs and increased customer activity can make for longer hours than normal, which often clashes with your family needs at home. A lot of this is out of your control. The answer? Practice healthy stress relieving techniques and focus on the things that you can control and don’t worry about what you can’t. Practice mindfulness to help keep work at work and home at home to help ensure that you stay focused when you need to be productive, and when you are at home that you are truly able to be present and relaxed with your loved ones.

Occupational Wellbeing resources:

Whether at home or at work, the holiday season can be stressful.  But don’t worry, there are things that you can do to lessen the stress that you feel during the busy times. Check out what the Mayo Clinic has to say about minimizing your stress levels this December.

Read the full article here!


Another important factor to your occupational wellbeing this month will be your ability to juggle work and home needs. If you’re finding it more challenging than ever to juggle the demands of your job and the rest of your life, you’re not alone. WebMD has some great tips to keep the work/life scale balanced this holiday season.

Read the full article here!

 Chakra To Your Senses

Many cultures believe in Chakras (shock-ras) which are, simply put, energy centers in your body that govern various aspects of your physiology. We will stay away from any religious aspects of these, such as their Buddhist symbolism, and instead focus on the general concept behind them to bring you more ways to nurture your body as well as mind. Click here to see a complete list of the 7 chakras and their properties.

Chakras to nurture this month: Crown and Solar Plexus

In order to support your occupational wellbeing it will be important to be aware of, and nurture, your Crown and Solar Plexus. The Crown Chakra, located at the top of your head, is the location of your center for conscious awareness and intelligence. Your Solar Plexus Chakra, located at the bottom of your sternum, embodies your will, motivation, and self-esteem. It’s easy to see why these factors might be impacted by your level of occupational wellbeing and work/life balance. Support your centers of motivation and self-esteem by setting achievable goals for yourself and making it a priority to reach those goals. Hitting your goals will instill a sense of accomplishment which will snow-ball, building confidence as well as your drive for success and happiness. Now get out there and have fun and be 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.
 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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Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

You may not know it, but November is the month to go purple!  You will see buildings lit with the color purple and lots of publicity regarding Alzheimer’s disease, all to highlight November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Caregiver Month.  The tradition started back in 1983 when President Reagan (who died of Alzheimer’s disease) proclaimed the awareness month to call attention to this tragic disease.   Back then, fewer than 2 million Americans had the disease, today that number is 5.4 million.  Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US and the only one in the top ten that cannot be prevented, treated, or cured.  If the trajectory of the disease is not changed, by 2050, nearly 14 million Americans will be affected by Alzheimer’s.

So what exactly is Alzheimer’s disease?  I have been working in the field of cognitive impairment for over 15 years and the number one question I am asked is “What’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?”  The best answer I can give is that dementia is an “umbrella” term much like the term cancer.  There are many types of cancer and there are many types of dementia as well.  Perhaps the easiest explanation is this….everyone who has Alzheimer’s disease has dementia, but not everyone who has dementia has Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is, however, the most common type of dementia, accounting for around 70% of all cases.  The hallmark symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss, particularly short-term memory loss in the early stages.  Vascular dementia (strokes that impair the blood supply to the brain) accounts for around 10% of dementia cases, and then there are other forms of dementia you may have heard of like Lewy Body or Frontotemporal dementia.  Dementia is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities severe enough to interfere with daily functioning.  It is important to note that Alzheimer’s disease is not a mental illness.  It is a disease just as we know cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer to be physical illnesses.   And while there is a certain extent of memory loss that is a normal part of aging, the memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are not a part of normal aging.   Toward the end of this blog, I will list the ten warning signs for Alzheimer’s disease and attempt to differentiate between what is normal and what could be a red flag.

Why is this subject important to me?  Aside from the huge public health and expense issue this presents for our country (and every other country in the world by the way), it affected my family personally.  Three of our four parents in my immediate family were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within a two year period.  The disease changed everything for my parents, my family, and of course, for me and my priorities.  My loved ones have now been gone for a few years, having lived for 16 years, 14 years, and 11 years with the disease.  People ask me if I am relieved to be out from under the burdens of the disease.   I tell them I am just warming up and will not rest until we find an end to Alzheimer’s.   In the meantime, my quest is to help as many other families as possible who are dealing with this cruel disease.

A brief history of the disease

It might be a good time to switch gears and pause for a brief history lesson regarding Alzheimer’s.  The disease was discovered in 1906 by a German doctor named Alois Alzheimer.  He was presented with a 51 year old female we respectfully refer to simply as “Frau Auguste D.”  Her husband brought her to Dr. Alzheimer’s clinic when she displayed irrational behaviors.  Back then, it was usually, “off to Belleview for you” but Dr. Alzheimer was not buying it.  He cared for her at his clinic until her death three years later and then discovered the disease during her autopsy. Without going into “Brain 101” too deeply in this blog, excess build-ups of two proteins (amyloid beta and tau) are present in Alzheimer’s patients.  Now you may have the same reaction I have every time I tell the story of Frau August D…1906!!!!! What? It is 2015, why has this not been cured by now?

The disease is very complicated and it was only in the late 1980s that the scientific community realized that younger onset (diagnosis under 65) and regular onset (over 65) were the same disease.  Several research and diagnosis breakthroughs have occurred in the past decade and while there is no treatment or cure that stops the disease as of today, I have never been more optimistic that a breakthrough is possible.  Thousands of doctors and scientists around the world are working on the issue as we speak.

The high cost of the disease

You may not know that Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in our nation.  This year, the cost of caring for Alzheimer’s patients will be $226 billion (yes, with a “b”).  $153 billion of that will be Medicare and Medicaid costs for care of Alzheimer’s patients.   With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 everyday, we must put an end to Alzheimer’s.  1 in 9 of us will develop the disease past the age of 65.  Nearly half of us will have the disease at age 85.

The workplace stats are equally disturbing.  85% of caregivers under 65 are employed.  Alzheimer’s disease costs American business more than $60 billion annually, both in costs related to care and in lost productivity.  60% of working Alzheimer’s caregivers report that they have had to come in late, leave early, or take time off.  20% had to take a leave of absence.  13% had to go from full time to part time and 15% had to give up working entirely.

The caregivers

So I mentioned that November is Alzheimer’s Awareness and Caregiver month.  Who are these caregivers exactly?  There are over 15 million of us in the US.  This year we will provide more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care.  You History Channel buffs might think that ice road trucking is the most dangerous profession on earth, but I would submit that caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia is the most challenging.  Caregivers must navigate between making sure their loved one is protected from a variety of dangers (60% of Alzheimer’s patients will wander during their journey with the disease) and preserving their dignity.  These are our parents, our spouses, our friends, and treating them like children is never appropriate although their behaviors may certainly test our patience.

As the person moves through Early, Middle, and Late Stage Alzheimer’s, behaviors can become more and more challenging.  Just as we caregivers learn to handle one behavior, it disappears and another one emerges.  Caregivers take lousy care of themselves due to stress and worry.  They balance medical, legal, financial, and family dynamic issues that are complicated and emotional.  74% of caregivers report being somewhat to very concerned about their own health.  So…if you know a caregiver of a person with dementia, give them a hug in November, better yet, offer to help them pick up groceries, rake leaves, or treat them to a spa day; they will be eternally grateful.

The patients

You also may not know that women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease.  2/3 of Alzheimer’s patients are women.  The prevailing thought has been that this is because women live longer than men and the number one risk factor is age.  New studies are underway to further investigate whether there are other factors that may make women more predisposed to the disease.  Over 60% of Alzheimer’s caregivers are women as well.  Perhaps the most startling statistic is that a woman over 60 is twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as breast cancer.

10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s

So now…as promised and if you are still reading this!… what are the common symptoms or early warning signs of Alzheimer’s?  The Alzheimer’s Association lists ten of them.  I will mention them all briefly and give a few examples from my own family experiences.

  1. Memory loss – not just forgetting the name of some movie star in an old film, but the type of memory loss that disrupts daily life and causes people to live in “sticky-note-ville.” Alzheimer’s erases short-term memory first so recently learned information may not be maintained like it was before.
  2. Changes in planning and problem solving – We all mess up a detail now and then but we are able to adjust and work through the issue. Many early-stage Alzheimer’s patients do very well as long as they stick to a routine.  When problems arise, however, their ability to compensate is limited.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks – We’re not talking about forgetting how to reprogram the thermostat and having to refer to the manual, we are talking about commonly performed tasks. An example would be my Mom who started taking 30 minutes to unload the dishwasher due to confusion.
  4. Confusion with time or place – We all forget what day it is occasionally but get ourselves back on track quickly. An Alzheimer’s symptom example might be someone who goes to the same activity each week but now cannot remember the route to take to get there.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships – In other words, Alzheimer’s patients do not see things the way we do. They may suffer from a lack of peripheral vision (which is why driving becomes an issue) and may not be able to identify how close an object is to them.
  6. Problems with speaking or writing words – We all forget a word occasionally but we are quick to substitute another one that makes sense in the context of our conversation. My Dad, however, would become very frustrated when he couldn’t think of any words to describe his watch or wallet.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps – We all lose things and if you find your lost keys in the pocket of the jacket you wore two days ago, that makes sense. If you find them in the freezer, that could be a sign that something is wrong.
  8. Decreased or poor judgment – We all make stupid decisions from time to time – to err is human as they say. But Alzheimer’s patients may lose the basic judgment to know when a scammer is taking advantage of them or they may buy an expensive item they simply can’t afford.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities – The person may be “hiding out” to avoid family, friends or work associates from noticing that they are having cognitive issues. We all “check out” occasionally but a noticeable difference in someone’s social interaction may be a cause for concern.
  10. Changes in mood and personality – We are not talking about the typical “set in my ways” or “you kids get off my lawn” type crankiness. We are talking about changes in a person’s demeanor that are significantly different and unusual compared to their baseline behavior.

It’s time to lift the veil on Alzheimer’s

I could write for hours on this subject (in case you can’t tell by now) but I want to close by urging anyone reading this who has a friend or loved one with warning signs to see a doctor immediately to discuss symptoms in the context of their overall health.  Many people are hesitant to discuss the subject but there are three reasons to do so.  First, it might not be Alzheimer’s at all, there are many other conditions that present symptoms that may be similar.  Secondly, if it is Alzheimer’s, perhaps a clinical trial would be appropriate; the care during these trials is excellent and the scientific community really needs participants.  And finally, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s allows the patient to express their wishes while they still can and it also allows family members to become knowledgeable about the disease, plan for the future, and learn the valuable caregiving skills they will need to maintain the highest quality of life for all involved throughout the journey.  In other words, you want and need to know…no matter what.

I hope this information and my story helps draw attention to this disease and an appreciation for caregivers during the month of November.  Please help spread the word during National Alzheimer’s Awareness and Caregiver month.   And please know that we here at MINES and Associates recognize the family and workplace pressures of having a loved one with Alzheimer’s.  Help, education, and coaching is available for employees who are balancing their responsibilities at home and at work.

And, oh yea, ski and snowboard season is upon us….be sure you and your friends and family wear helmets – your brain is your most precious and irreplaceable asset!


JJ Jordan

Associate, MINES and Associates

Family Caregiver

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