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Got stress? New program teaches coping techniques

By Staff | Sep 30, 2016

Renovo counseling center in Kearneysville is beginning an innovative 9 week de-stress clinic entitled, Moving Forward. This program is an integrative health initiative sponsored by the Jefferson County Health Department, focusing on helping participants alleviate stress-related symptoms or conditions, such as substance abuse, chronic pain, addictions and grief.

Ardyth Gilbertson is the program coordinator for the de-stress clinic.

“We can’t eliminate stress, but what we can do is act and react differently to it and learn ways of coping and responding to it in more healthy and positive ways,” said Gilbertson.

The program is three hours a week for nine weeks, and incorporates various methods of stress relief including meditation, guided imagery, visualization, and other techniques to help reprogram unhealthy coping methods-things like overeating, drinking, angry outbursts or substance abuse-into more productive methods. Additionally, too much stress can manifest into physical symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach and of course, heart disease.

“We can help people engage their parasympathic nervous system,” said Renovo counselor, Melissa Swartz. “That is the system that is all about rest, digest, relax, restore-it’s our nervous system in peace time. We’re designed to live there. And the sympathetic nervous system, which is where many people spend the bulk of their time is ‘war time.’ It’s the fight or flight system and it’s very taxing to the body. We see a lot of issues that come out, like mental and physical health issues that come from being stuck in that place.”

Auricular acupuncture (acupuncture in the ear) is another key component to this stress management program. The acupuncturist will use what’s called a NADA protocol.

NADA is an acronym for the National Auricular Detoxification Association, and was established in 1974 as a not-for-profit organization. NADA spent 10 years developing the five basic ear point acupuncture protocol for the treatment of addictions, but also use this method to treat other behavioral issues related to mental health, trauma and disaster. The NADA protocol is standardized nationally and helps to calm down the central nervous system, and will be administered by Andrea Brown and Erika Weshinskey, both practitioners in Harpers Ferry.

“These auricular points help get you to that relaxed state , but also they help to counteract the imbalance that’s happened,” said Gilbertson, “it helps to release those stress hormones and helps eliminate that toxic buildup in the body.”

Swartz says that a sense of community is critically important when dealing with stress, and it’s typical for people to keep themselves in isolation and not seek support.

“This practice of coming together each week will create community in a safe way,” said Swartz. “The process naturally creates community. They (clients) eat together for nine weeks. They breathe together. They meditate together. It’s a bonding time for them, and that’s exciting.”

Gilbertson added, “Isolation is at the core of so many of the mental health concerns-definitely addiction, depression, auto-immune disorders, chronic pain.” This Moving Forward clinic will be the 5th time it’s been offered and both Gilbertson and Swartz are hopeful the program will continue to expand and reach more people who need help. At this time, the program is mostly grant-funded, but a nominal fee of $10 per session is asked of participants to help offset costs.

Potential participants can go to www.jchealthdept.org under the Clinical Services tab to download the questionnaire and register for the program. Once there are enough people registered, the starting class date will be announced.

“People filling out the questionnaire for the class will be asked to list some areas that they’d like to work on, but they don’t have to share or disclose anything they don’t want to during class time,” said Gilbertson.

She added, “We’ve had some great feedback from people who have completed this program. We’re looking forward to this next session.”