Taking a Break for Better Health

By Myra Bennett

I heard a story from African folklore about a caravan of traders traveling on foot through Africa. After several days, their African assistants stopped and took a break. When the traders asked why, the Africans explained, “We have been traveling so long and so fast that we need to wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies.”

In this fast-paced world we live in, there are times when we all feel mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted. We may have lost our sense of balance in our work and personal lives. At these times, we need to stop and allow our bodies and souls time to repair.

According to the World Health Organization, “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” When any one of these components is out of balance, we are at risk for emotional conflict, burnout and disease.

Studies show that there is a relationship between the mind and emotions to a person’s overall state of health. Dr. Candace Pert’s research draws a direct correlation between the immune system and the health of body/mind/spirit. Talking to a professional counselor is an opportunity to experience a rest stop in life’s stressful journey. It is a place to refresh your soul, gain new awareness about your overall health, rediscover your strengths, and create a plan of positive action for your life.

If you have been pushing too hard, moving too fast or traveling life’s journey too long without taking a break, call the Living Well Network at 901-762-8558 and request a referral to a counselor. It could change your health.

Myra Bennett has a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Faith and Health.


Work, Stress and Health

By Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP

Surprise – Americans are stressed at work.

2007 nationwide poll by the American Psychological Association shows that three quarters of Americans list work as a significant source of stress. More than half of those surveyed point out that they have suffered a decrease in their work productivity because of stress. Here are more statistics that illustrate the financial, physical and emotional toll of stress on the employee and the workplace:

• Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress. -Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
• Workers who must take time off work because of stress, anxiety, or a related disorder will be off the job for about 20 days. -Bureau of Labor Statistics
• Mental disease, including stress-related disorders, will be the second leading cause of disabilities by the year 2020. -The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease Survey
• Stress is the cause of 80 to 85 percent of all human illness and disease. Each week, more than 90 million Americans suffer some kind of stress-related symptom for which they take medication. -The American Medical Association

If you are experiencing stress at work, here’s the good news – clearly you are not alone. And the better news is that there are ways to increase your resilience so you are feeling stronger and happier. Resilience is the ability to successfully adapt to changes and events. Being resilient means staying emotionally healthy during the ups and downs of daily life.

Here are steps you can take right now to increase your resilience and reduce stress:

1. Nurture your Health and Well Being
Exercise at least 3 times per week for 20 minutes
Eat a balanced diet; limit alcohol and caffeine
Sleep (at least 6-8 hours per night)
Engage in activities that you find enjoyable
Get up and walk around your work place – are you able to take ten minutes and go outside?

2. Positive Self Talk and Behavior
Focus on the things you can control
Manage your exposure to negative experiences/negative people
Remember that events are neutral – it is our internal response that induces stress
Reduce your internal catastrophic messages, i.e. “Is this day EVER GOING TO END?” Instead say – “The day will end, as does every day and I will be just fine.”

3. Make Healthy Connections
Maintain healthy relationships in all areas of your life
Identify 3 things you are grateful for at the end of each day
Keep a written list of your personal strengths to remind yourself of your unique gifts
Keep a positive connection with your religious practices

4. Active Approach to Problem Solving
Define the real problem based on what you can control
Identify the outcome you’d like and generate options to reach the outcome
Select the option that seems best and act to make it happen

Remember – things will not change unless we change something! If you would like support in building your resilience and following the plan outlined above, give the Living Well Network a call at 901-762-8558. We provide free, confidential telephone assessment and will connect you to existing resources in the community. You can reduce your stress and increase your resilience today!

Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP is the Director of the Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network and the Methodist Healthcare Employee Assistance Program.


Remaining Resilient During Change

By Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP

Change in our personal and professional lives can take its toll. There are many events that can increase stress in our lives; even positive events such as marriage, the birth of a child, starting a new job, and having a child leave home. It’s not uncommon for people to become anxious during these times, but if we learn how to build our resilience we can minimize the negative physical and emotional effects. A diversified approach to increasing resilience uses different strategies before, during and after the event.


• Nourish a supportive network of family and friends
• Practice relaxation techniques regularly such as exercise, deep breathing, prayer
• Give yourself permission to have fun and be creative
• Take care of yourself with proper nutrition, regular movement and adequate rest
• Understand that stress is a normal part of life


• Challenge beliefs that increase your stress
• Stop before your thoughts escalate into “worst case scenarios”
• Know what you can control
• Establish a plan of action
• Use positive self-talk


• Continue to connect with your support network
• Continue to take good care of you
• Congratulate yourself for being resilient

We’ve all heard the phrase, “the only thing constant is change,” so start preparing today. You can use the 12 Pathways on the Living Well website to learn other ways to increase your resilience during change. You can also call the Living Well Network at 901-762-8558 to talk to a counselor. We can direct you to resources in the community that can help. Be treated well!

Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP is the Director of the Living Well Network and the Employee Assistance Program at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.


Only Have a Moment – Try these Quick Stress Relievers

by Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP

In honor of April as National Stress Awareness Month – here are some quick stress relievers. We may not always have the ability to schedule a full body massage – but there are quick, no cost ways to get immediate relief from stress. Try some of these listed below –

THE SCALP SOOTHER. Place thumbs behind our ears and spread fingers on top of your head. Move your scalp back and forth gently making circles with your fingertips for 15-20 seconds.

THE EYE EASER. Close your eyes and place your ring fingers directly under your eyebrows near the bridge of your nose. Slowly increase gentle pressure for five seconds, then slowly release. Repeat 2-3 times.

THE SHOULDER SAVER. Place your left hand on the right side of your neck by your shoulder. Press fingers firmly into the muscle while tucking your chin in toward your chest. Exhale and hold for 10 seconds, release, then repeat on the left side.

THE PALM PLEASER. Lace your fingers together, leaving thumbs free. Slowly knead your left thumb into the palm of your right hand for 20-30 seconds. Then repeat on your left hand.

MEDITATION/DEEP BREATHING. Close your eyes and slowly take a deep, long breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Think of a peaceful word or phrase you can say to yourself as you are breathing in deeply through your nose and out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this breathing pattern 4 more times.

MINI WALK. Nicer weather is upon us in the Mid South. Take ten minutes away from your busy day and go outside. Look up to the sky, walk around for ten minutes, and soak in warmth and sunlight. Return to your tasks more refreshed and focused. Look forward to the next mini break and repeat.

Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP is the Director of the Dennis H. Jones Living Well network and the Methodist Healthcare Employee Assistance Program.


Spring 2014

By Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP

It is never too late to become what you might have been.
George Eliot

A new season is underway! And, what a welcome relief from the unrelenting winter – even for those of us in the Mid-South!

In the months ahead, look to hear from the Dennis H. Jones Living Well Network in new and exciting ways. We will be posting more blogs, continuing to build our Facebook community and reaching deeper into the community to advocate for mental health. We will offer you more tools and information that can help you live the life you desire.

A new season, especially Spring, is a great opportunity to begin again. How do you want to renew? It is a perfect time to set a personal or professional goal – no matter how big or small. Perhaps it is time to declutter your home; learn positive techniques to reduce stress; take control of your finances; improve communication in your families; learn to get along better with co-workers and physical movement into your daily routine. This can be the time to become what you want to be.

Let us help you begin anew. Here at the Living Well Network, we can partner with you as you seek these opportunities. Call us at 901-762-8558 and speak to a counselor who can help connect you to resources in the community.

Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP is the Director of the Living Well Network and the Employee Assistance Program at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.


Sleep Awareness Week; March 2-9, 2014 – What is Your Sleep IQ

By  Susan Erdman

The Dalai Lama said, “Sleep is the best medicine.” How well do you sleep? Are you aware of all the health benefits of a good night’s sleep? Or are you yawning as you read this?

Our 21st century lives are busy with many items on our daily “to do lists.” Sleep is often the last thing we plan and the most overlooked part of our day and night.

Most people spend a third of their life sleeping and yet it remains somewhat of a mystery.
Years ago I remember seeing a poster for a presentation on stress reduction titled “I Am Woman. Hear Me Snore.” We can all laugh because it is common knowledge that we don’t get enough sleep. Getting the right amount of sleep is a key factor in our overall health and well being. There are many health consequences if we deprive ourselves of quality sleep. Here are a few:

  • If we skimp on sleep the consequences can lead to an increased risk for the development of Type 2 diabetes and increased risk for a number of cardiovascular diseases. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • According to a new study published online 1/21/2014 in the journal Cancer Research, “poor quality sleep can speed cancer growth, increase tumor aggressiveness and dampen the immune system’s ability to control or eradicate early cancers.”
  • Too much or too little sleep can increase the risk of depression, according to a new study. In the Feb. 1 issue of the journal “Sleep”, researchers studied over 1700 adult twins. They found that among those who got normal amounts of sleep (seven to nine hours a night), the genetic influence on symptoms of depression was 27 percent versus 53 percent for those who slept only five hours and 49 percent among those who slept 10 hours a night.
  • Dr. Eve Van Cauter, PhD, termed sleep deprivation “the royal road to obesity.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, her research shows that people who don’t sleep adequately have physiologic abnormalities that may increase appetite and calorie intake. “The level of leptin (an appetite stimulating hormone) falls in subjects who are sleep deprived, which promotes appetite. It suggests that at least one factor in obesity can be sleep deprivation. Because the psychological manifestations of fatigue, sleep and hunger are similar, as adults, we sometimes confuse them – we tend to eat when we’re actually sleepy, because we think fatigue is a sign of hunger.”
  • In his latest book Eat Move Sleep, best selling author Tom Rath writes that “one way to shed pounds is to replace an hour of television with an hour of sleep. This simple change could result in substantial weight loss over time.” Rath makes the important connection between eating, moving and sleeping well. “These three ingredients for a good day build on one another. When these elements are working together, they create an upward spiral and progressively better days.”

People in good health tend to sleep well, whereas those suffering from repeated sleep problems might have an underlying medical or mental health problem. It is important to discuss any major sleep changes with your physician to rule out a possible sleep disorder. If you do have problems with sleep due to an overscheduled life or stressors that lead you to worry, sleeplessness and lack of energy call The Living Well Network and talk with a counselor. You can also visit our website at www.livingwellfrontporch.org to learn the many pathways that can improve your sleep.

Susan Erdman is counselor for the Methodist Healthcare Employee Assistance Program, Memphis, Tennessee. She has a Masters Degree in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University in New Orleans and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Tennessee – Memphis. She has worked as an EAP counselor for the past 20 years.


A Happy Heart Is a Healthier Heart

St. Valentine’s Day is the 14th, so let’s get to the heart of the matter. I need to tell you something important about your health.

No doubt, you are familiar with the stylized symbol of the red heart, the universal symbol for Valentine’s Day and romantic love. The shape of the heart can be seen on Valentine’s Day cards, on candy boxes, and other symbols of love representing passion and strong emotion.  The heart is, in some cultures, considered the seat of human emotions, or the seat of the soul. Click for full article


Let There Be Light*

Here in the Mid-South, winter is almost here. With the recent frigid temperatures and threats of ice storms, you probably thought winter had arrived. But technically, the Winter Solstice occurs on the night of December 21st, which is the longest night of the year. Click for full article