Are you really going to do it?

Are You Really Going to Improve Yourself This Year?

Happy New Year from all of us at The Wellness Institute of Florida!

Historically ‘New Years’ have always been reminders of fresh starts and making traditional “New Year’s Resolutions.”  But how often do we REALLY carry out our resolutions long term? When has a New Year’s resolution actually changed your life in a positive way? Research has shown that about 50% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions and only about 8% end up achieving them, much like fad diets (which don’t work by the way)...  These numbers are not very encouraging are they?  So how can we become our best in 2019?

The Wellness Institute of Florida is grounded in a philosophy of lifelong wellness.  We want to suggest looking at 2019 a bit differently than past New Year’s. At Wellness, we believe that 2019 is an opportunity for an improved you.  We recognize that most of us desire change, but do we REALLY commit to change?  It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Real change requires action and includes both failures and victories.  Lifelong wellness means that we celebrate small achievements in the same way as substantial milestones. 

Having said that, here are a few suggestions for making 2019 THE year… make it the year of an improved you, here’s how: Lifelong wellness begins with discovering your “why.”  In short, you need to discover what motivates YOU (consider this your homework assignment #1).  It is understanding that everything we choose to do and invest our time in has meaning.  “Why” reveals your purpose that aligns with your individual values, strengths and passion.  Frederick Nietzsche, a German philosopher, once said, “He who has a why can endure any how.”  Discovering your “why” is the first step in making a lifelong wellness plan that will create an improved you in this New Year.  

Now that you have discovered your “why” you are ready to identify your SMART goals.  We use SMART goals because they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.  You can write down or create a vision board of the individualized goals that you have for one or more major areas (physical, spiritual, emotional, relational and mental) of your life (you knew this was coming, homework assignment #2).  

Once you have your goals defined, find (in the words of Robert DeNiro) a “circle of trust” (homework assignment #3, phew!). This circle is for accountability, one to share your goals with.  It is important that your circle of trust will encourage you along your journey, give you honest feedback (you’ll need it) and keep you focused on your “why” question. Everyday ask yourself, “Is my thinking and behavior moving me closer to or further away from my goals?” Celebrate even the teensiest victories and use your disappointments or back-slides as opportunities for change. 

Remember the wise words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal:  it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Don’t let 2019 pass you by without exploring your “why” and setting SMART goals that will lead you towards an improved YOU and lifelong wellness.  We plan on doing our homework, will you? At Wellness we believe in you; we trust that you WILL make 2019 your best year yet! Please email us with your successes, even the teeny tiny ones…

Good luck and God speed!

Tell Me, Why Horses and Therapy?

Our Equine Psychotherapist shared with us why she chooses to incorporate horses and therapy.

Angie began loving horses at a very young age. If there was a horse anywhere in her vicinity, that’s where you would find her. It was a passion that ignited from her first encounter. Horses have been a part of her life since early childhood. The barn has always served as a sanctuary for her to be herself and not worry about the stressors of life.  It is an understatement to say that Angie was ecstatic when she discovered her daughter shares her passion for horses. After purchasing their daughter her first horse in 2012, it was blatantly clear to her that horses and humans have an incredible relational connection. The experience of their growing relationship with each other and interactions really touched her spirit.  Angie experienced first hand and by witnessing her daughter’s experience that horses were non-judgmental, relational and acutely aware of their surroundings. Horses are always present and mindful. All of which she recognized were perfect ingredients for facilitating therapy.

During her extensive research Angie learned how much horses had to offer any of her clients - and not just her horse loving ones. As prey animals, horses were biologically created to have very sensitive senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste) as well as a auto flight response which allows them to survive in nature. All very closely related to a human brain’s ANS (automatic nervous system).  Because the limbic system of the brain of the horse and the human brain are so similar, it makes them amazing members of the therapeutic team. Horses can reveal and reflect emotions and behaviors that allow humans to engage in self discovery, change and ultimately healing.

Angie coupled being a Licensed Mental Health Therapist with her affinity for horses through pursuing training and certification in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. After reviewing the multiple equine therapy certifications, she discovered the organization, EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association.) EAGALA’s model is: ground-based, solution focused, client centered and utilizes horses as members of the therapeutic team.  Aligning with the fundamental aspects of the model, Angie was elated that she could combine her passion for horses with her passion of being a Therapist. She completed the EAGALA mental health counselor training certification and became certified as an Equine Assisted Psychotherapist in 2014.

The natural yet powerful environment of creating a space for clients to be able to embark on their personal wellness journeys with the accompaniment of horses (1,200 lb animals) create experiences that are so unique and beautiful.  Equine Assisted Psychotherapy is an experiential therapy meaning it is a “hands on” emotionally “live” experience. Research has shown that experiential therapy allows for actual shifts in the nervous system of the brain which creates change.

The horses are always true to themselves and always reveal honest feedback. Angie believes that horses and therapy are synergistic and synonymous - they just connect!

Angie is one of the Founders of Promises Growth & Healing Center, a non profit whose mission is to foster growth and healing through the unspoken truth of the equine spirit.

Help I can’t Breathe!!

I was in the car driving, trying to imagine myself in a field out in the country with abundant space surrounding me. For a minute I was able to keep the image in my head, but in a flash the field was gone and I became hyper-aware that I was in fact in the city, with a mass of cars and people all around. When this occurred everything began to compress, suffocating me, as life itself seemed to condense to a finite point.

It was a panic attack but I didn’t know it at the time. I pulled off the road and into the parking lot of a storage unit facility. I got out of the car because I had to escape the constriction of the inside of my car, which felt like it was engulfing me at that moment. My breath came out in short quick bursts and I was certain that I was going to pass out or throw up…it felt like I was going to die. I knew at that moment I had two choices: I could go inside the storage unit place, lay on the floor and ask them to call an ambulance, or I could call my friend and see if he could talk me down.

My buddy had experiences with panic attacks in the past, and because of this he was able to immediately talk me down, tell me that I was going to be okay, but that I should walk around and try to slow down my breath because I was hyperventilating. I walked over to the nearby drainage ditch and began to walk in circles as I felt the tingling and numbness in my extremities recede.

However, I wasn’t out of the woods yet and over the next hour and a half I made a number of failed attempts to get back in my car and drive the ten miles home to my apartment. Each time I was unable to make it out of the parking lot without lapsing back into another panic attack. I was stuck!

Why Did My Panic Attack Occur in My Early 30’s?

It was genuinely one of the worst experiences of my life, because I had no control over my body, my mind, or anything that was occuring. For years I had suffered from elevated anxiety but for the most part I was able to keep it under control. I could talk myself through it, or at the very least compartmentalize my feelings (which is not good), but what I had experienced over the months leading to my panic attack, was a total failure of my coping mechanisms. I could feel something bad coming on as I began to feel myself unravel, and I began to feel as if I could no longer function normally in my day to day life. While this was probably enough to ensure the onset of a panic attack, the whole situation was accelerated when I went through a traumatic experience that involved a severe betrayal by a good friend that just pushed me over the edge.

Later on I discovered that my experience was not atypical and that for the most part panic attacks occur in men somewhere between late adolescents and their early 30’s. In fact looking back now it makes sense that I had a panic attack, and in turn was diagnosed with a panic disorder because an individual can only live with elevated levels of anxiety for so long, without doing anything about it, before that anxiety boils over.

I remember times in the past when I would go to the mall and be unable to walk around because my anxiety got so bad. Or when I was in college, everyday that I walked through the campus I felt as if all eyes were on me, watching and judging me, so I always carried with me a tremendous amount of stress, that interestingly enough I believed others experienced as well. It turns out that these feelings are indicative of a panic disorder and not everyone experienced life with such a tense and anxious lense as I did. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Surviving the Attack

When I was finally able to make it out of the parking lot, I drove home and experienced 3 days of cycling panic attacks— to the point where by the end of the week I was catatonic and unable to speak. By this point I was truly scared because I couldn’t even reach out to call my psychiatrist and ask for help.  Every time I picked up the phone and dialed, I’d have to hang up because it was just too much for me. Luckily, that same friend who talked me through the first day came and picked me up and drove me to the psychiatrist where I was prescribed medication that would halt the panic attack and allow my body to reset.

That was a year ago today, and the last year has been a time of tremendous growth in my life as well as a time of some significant pain. I have lived with the fear of having more panic attacks, which can be debilitating at times, but I am learning to cope. I have realized that I was essentially laid bare by the panic attack. It broke down every mechanism I had for handling life and brought me to my knees, and while this was not a particularly fun experience, it caused me to reevaluate my life and even how I viewed myself.

I found that at the core of my anxieties were childhood traumas, coupled with a tremendous fear of not being in control in public. What I mean by this is that I learned that one of the triggers of my panic was possibly showing weakness in front of others, which for years caused me to have to strive to be perfect. This perfectionism drove me mad and when I finally couldn’t handle it anymore I the panic attacks began.

Through working with my therapist and my psychiatrist, and through implementing some major changes in my life, I have, for the most part, gotten my panic attacks under control. There are times still where I can feel myself spiraling but I am now able to pull myself out of it, and I am glad to say that I have not had a full blown panic attack like the one I experienced a year ago.

This is not to say that the road ahead does not involve me continuing to put in work, because I know that I am not in the clear, but with that said, as long as I continue to do the work, and continue to try to live a life that is conducive to my own growth and happiness, I know that I will be more than fine in the long run. I know that these experiences will help shape me into the person I am supposed to become and that I will not, for the rest of my life, live under the fear of having a panic attack.

There is Hope!

Having a panic attack can be an incredibly terrifying experience. If you have ever experienced one, then you know what I mean. If you have just started experiencing them then you may be afraid to leave your house, or you may be afraid to participate in the things you love because you think that you could have a panic attack at any moment. You may feel all alone in your struggle and be unaware of where to turn, but what I hope to impress upon you is this—there is help out there for you. Understand that with the right emotional support, holistic therapies, meditation, and a healthy lifestyle you can overcome a panic disorder. You no longer have to be alone in your fight because help is just a phone call away.