Addiction, PSH and Hope


This week’s passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman struck a chord with many. We lost a very talented actor who obviously filled many of our hearts and lives with so much joy and entertainment. While he certainly shared his unique gifts with the world, he was also apparently struggling with his own demons.

We can never assume. Anything.

Upon the announcement of Hoffman's death, it was saddening for me to see the judgment, hatred, and criticism surrounding addiction. Having worked for years in mental health (and having known friends, family members and colleagues with addiction problems), I can tell you with certainty that mental health issues are not signs of weakness.

While in mental and behavioral health, I never wanted to take on “addiction” as one of my areas of expertise. Honestly, it probably took the passing of my friend Shan in 2010 for me to feel really strongly about the topic. A kind-hearted, talented and passionate guy, Shan struggled until the day he passed at the age of 37, in spite of having received treatment in rehab facilities and having progressed on his own spiritual journey. It’s not that he didn’t want to get better, which is often the case.

We all have “stuff” to work through. We all have pasts. We don’t really know what other people’s daily lives are like, what struggles they may be going through, or what their backgrounds are. Having conducted thousands of in-depth interviews over the years, I think that many people would be surprised at the amount of folks who have shared that they were sexually abused as a child or experienced a major trauma, for example.

It takes a lot to work through these issues and to heal.

I’m not saying everyone struggling with addiction has had a traumatic experience; it’s just that we often don’t know the bigger picture and it’s easy to say what we would do in a certain situation...when in fact there are biological, social, psychological and even environmental factors that effect us all.

The truth is that the mind and body are inseparable, and bigger systems issues exist with more attention being paid to physical health in our culture and society. With that being said, it is harmful to sweep our mental, emotional and spiritual health under the proverbial rug. These aspects of our lives are JUST as important for our overall health and well-being. If we don’t take good care of our mental / behavioral health, the effects can lead to poor physical health.

In any case, I encourage you to take a view of compassion, which doesn’t mean to feel sorry for someone, but rather to take more of a stepping-into-their-shoes kind of view.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or addiction, remember that there’s hope and so much to live for. Your story can help others. Often times we come out of the other side of challenging times so much stronger.

Addiction is a disease, and like any other health issue, has root causes that require so much deep healing rather than just treating the symptoms.

Just a few thoughts if you have a friend or loved one struggling:

  • Do not turn the other cheek and assume friends are okay.
  • If you feel in your gut something is wrong with someone, ask him or her.
  • Listen. Do not judge or even try to give the person advice.
  • Don’t say to them, “I don’t understand why you can’t stop.”
  • Encourage the person to seek help.

Behavior change is soooo complex.  Let a professional help.

I’ve included resources below. You can also seek local mental health professionals, such as licensed clinical social workers, licensed counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, or a treatment centers for help. There are also many amazing integrative approaches, and twelve-step programs have also been shown quite effective. Professionals, groups and treatment modalities exist for your support and healing.

Recovery is possible.

Lots of love,




Mental Health America:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association:

National Suicide Prevention Line

Screening for Mental Health:

National Alliance on Mental Illness:

Getting back to basics: How to naturally improve your sense of well-being

Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness. ~ Eckhart Tolle

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Are you stressed at work? Try these helpful tips to manage it well - PART 3 of 3

 How’s it going?

I’ve really enjoyed hearing from folks who have been implementing some of the tips to reduce work stress!

I hear about work stress so often that I felt the need to do my part to help squash this epidemic (yes, I said epidemic!). :) So many people are working so much - and under high pressure - that their results are leading to feeling super drained after work, which runs into the quality of your personal life.

As previously mentioned, the high level of stress occurring CHRONICALLY causes wear and tear on our bodies and puts us at risk for illness. I review a ton of hospital medical records for my work at the Atlanta Regional Commission and the adverse health effects resulting from behavior, lifestyle and chronic stress are astounding. The prevalence of heart disease and hypertension (among other conditions) is though the roof. I don’t want this to be fear-based post or focus on that; what I would like to focus on is prevention and what we can do for ourselves to improve our overall well-being. With anything, we can make the decision to be responsible for ourselves and make healthy choices. That being said, here are a few more tips to reduce work stress:

~ Focus on what is going WELL and what you are grateful for. There are a lot of positives, and they will become apparent if you choose to look for them. When you find yourself down about your work, creating a list of these items will help you shift your perspective.

~ Honor your energy. Schedule the tasks that you feel take more focus and concentration during the times of the day when you feel you have the most energy. Schedule the lighter tasks during times when you generally feel less energetic. (As mentioned in other posts, of course do what you can to get to any root cause for low energy, too :). There is no need to fight or resist what you&rsquo ;re feeling as that can lead to feeling more drained and frustrated. You’ll find yourself more productive when you honor how your body feels.

~ Focus on one thing at a time. Yup, I know this is a tough one and I know that we’re always juggling multiple tasks. Give it a shot if you don’t do this already: block out a time for email only instead of responding to every email all day long as they come in. When you’re working on a project that requires focus, close all other windows if you’re working on a computer. I find that I’m more productive this way. Set a timer on your phone or computer and make an effort to focus in order to complete your project during that set period of time.

Final note: Be sure to take care of yourself outside of work and remember that you teach people how to treat you. If you answer a work email that arrives at 10pm - unless you’re on call or it’s absolutely necessary for your job - then people will come to expect that from you. You don’t have to put other people’s priorities before yours or your well-being. The email can usually wait for a response until the next day. So I chose the tips from this series from a bigger list I created as I feel they are some of the most effective.

What other mechanisms do you have in place for self-care in the workplace? Please share your ideas by commenting below!

Want personalized support with this or other areas of your life? I'm here to HELP you! All you have to do is hit the contact link above to say hello and we'll set up a get acquainted call. :)

Are you stressed at work? Three (more) helpful tips to manage it well - PART 2

Walk outside for a work break
Walk outside for a work break

As promised, I’m following through on my “stress at work” series with a few more tips. I’m making this short and concise because I know you’re busy and again so you can have time to implement!

As one of the main concerns that I hear on a daily basis is feeling stress at work, whether the location is an office environment, at home or elsewhere. Given that most people have their plates full and seem to work long hours, self-care is especially critical for your health and well-being. The following are three more ways to decrease your stress level at work:

  • Let go of what you cannot control. Remember that you have control over your own actions and behavior. You do not have control over other forces or over others’ behavior. And how other people react to you is their reality. Do your best to excel at what you can control and make a decision to let go of everything else.
  • Get physical, especially if you work a desk job. Take short walks. Stretch. Get some fresh air. Research (and implement) desk yoga poses and stretches you can do. Making a conscious effort to do this will do get the oxygen flowing to your brain and also wonders for your mind, body and soul.
  • Create uplifting self-care rituals throughout the day. Treat yourself to your favorite hot tea and use peppermint essential oil for a boost in focus and concentration. Some people listen to their favorite music. Make a list of “mood boosters” that you can pull out at any given moment at work so you have them handy when you feel you could use them.

Sometimes we forget about self-care and get in the same routines every day. When you make a conscious effort to decrease your stress level, you health and well-being will thank you!

Please feel free to share insights and next steps below!

Are you stressed at work? 3 helpful tips to manage it well - PART 1


To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life. ~ Jill Bolte Taylor


One of the main concerns that clients come to me with is being stressed out at work.


When we continually over-extend ourselves, it can lead to physical and mental exhaustion. We are expected to do more with less. When we sacrifice our own well-being, it creates a ripple effect that can lead to illness and compromised relationships with others.


I’ve compiled a list of tips to help with work stress. This is the first part of a series of three which I’m providing as a gift to you.


I’m breaking up the tips into a series for several reasons. We tend to have short attention spans these days and I know you’re busy. (It’s all about prioritizing though. :)) Another reason is so that you can have time to implement the ideas.


Note: Many of my clients, readers and followers do not work traditional 9 – 5 (or sometimes more like 7-7) jobs. The tips still apply, just tweak as you see fit!


take a break1. TAKE BREAKS. Ok, it's in all caps because this is an important one. For some reason we have become a culture of eating lunch at our desks, or not eating lunch at all. Honor yourself and take a lunch break and / or smaller breaks through out the day. Schedule them in. Use a timer as a reminder to stop and breathe.


2. Remember what’s really important to you. Think of your values. Do you feel you constantly put work before your own life? Sit down and create a list of ways you can make changes, for example, committing to leaving work on time in order to honor your values.


3. Get to the root cause. I’m a big advocate for preventing stress, not just coping and managing. Do what you can to explore the root of what’s causing you stress and brainstorm solutions. Do you need to get to bed earlier to prevent irritability and sluggishness? Can you delegate? What are ways you can be more efficient? Could you utilize better communication when it comes to your needs?


I love to hear from you!  Please be sure to comment blow to share your insights and self-care plan.


Guided imagery and healing = an excellent form of self-care

Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. – Lucille Ball

Guided imagery and healing = an excellent form of self-care

By Nancie Vito, MPH, CHES

My clients often ask me for guidance on relaxation and stress reduction techniques, and I wanted to share one with you that has been in my toolbox for several years, since my days of leading workshops for people with chronic health conditions. Participants would absolutely love being "walked" through a peaceful country garden, for example.

Guided imagery is one of many different types of relaxation techniques that can produce a relaxation response. All relaxation techniques have a common goal: to produce physiological changes in the body order to lower blood pressure, decrease pain and reduce effects of stress or illness. Basically, with guided imagery, individuals visualize pleasant images in their mind in order to replace negative, stressful or unwanted thoughts and feelings. This process and “reprogramming” of the subconscious mind often results in an overall sense of calm. Imagery combines all senses, not only “seeing” or creating images in the mind, but truly feeling, smelling, etc. When we create images that we find pleasant in our “mind’s eye,” the process can also be meditative in nature since it goes deeper than the level of consciousness in which we operate in our daily activities. Memory is one example of a form of imagery. Dreams are also a good example of images being created in the mind, as the subconscious and unconscious are communicating with our conscious mind. (A main difference with guided imagery is that individuals are purposefully and consciously creating desired behaviors or situations in their mind.)

Individuals can learn guided imagery a self-directed exercise, with a “live” facilitator, or by using CDs, DVDs, MP3s, phone applications, and online programs. Fortunately, guided imagery is much more accessible in recent years that it once was.

Research has come a long way in developing evidence for the effects of guided imagery as in last few decades, as thousands of studies have shown guided imagery to have positive effects on cancer, depression, anxiety, pain, asthma, PTSD, chronic tension-type headaches, addictive behaviors, menopausal symptoms, and host of other conditions. It has been shown strengthen the immune system and even have positive effects on pregnancy. Some hospitals are starting to use it to help patients relax before surgery.

So here’s the deal: guided imagery can be beneficial for just about anyone and any situation where positive outcomes are desired. The bottom line of how it works? It helps to decrease stress as you can turn your focus towards something that is pleasing to you.

Some people use imagery to help make a personal goal a reality. This is also super duper helpful, for example, before public speaking. Really FEEL how you want to feel upon reaching the goal. The key to visualizing the desired outcome of a goal is to be sure to take action along with it. :)

SO…for positive outcomes for your health and overall well-being, this week why not check out some of the tools out there that are available to us online or via apps? Let me know how it goes by posting your insights below! I love to hear from my dear readers.