Trinity Equestrian Center to Partner with Veterans Administration for New Pilot Program

Trinity Equestrian Center, near Eau Claire, has offered mentoring programs for youth, horse-therapy-based programs for veterans, and leadership programs for organizations for several years now. Their programs seek to heal physical, spiritual, emotional, and cognitive injuries and disabilities, as well as building social skills, communication skills, and problem-solving skills.

One of the center’s main programs is its Veteran Horse Therapy, a wellness program for vets designed around equine-assisted therapy. This program is free to qualified vets and their families. They note on their website (www.trinity-ec.com/index.phtml), “Understanding the strategies for combat survival, as well as what symptoms might be exhibited in postwar veterans upon re-introduction to civilian life, is what makes our program so effective. We’ve seen great results with veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, addictions, guilt, grief, anger, panic attacks, sleep disorders, and spiritual injuries.”

As an expansion of their successful program, the center will soon be offering a pilot program in conjunction with the Veterans Administration in Tomah. Recently we asked Toni Mattson, co-owner and director of programs, a few questions about the new program.

A Second Opinion: What are your hopes for the program?  

Toni Mattson: Since 2009, we at Trinity Equestrian Center have provided thousands of free therapy hours for hundreds of veterans and their families struggling with PTSD and other service-related injuries. Additionally, for years we have extended an offer to the Tomah Veterans Administration to join in a therapeutic collaboration and provide a pilot program featuring our equine-assisted psychotherapy for some of their clients experiencing PTSD. We are thrilled to share that we have been given the green light to go ahead with the pilot program!

My hope for this relationship is not only to help many, many more veterans, but also to model a desperately needed alliance between government institutions and non-profits that shows collectively we can accomplish far more than what we all individually can do.

ASO: What do you envision for the program?

TM: I envision a multi-month series of weekly, 50-minute, equine-based therapy sessions. I expect it will be a blend of individual and group sessions with four veterans per group. The Tomah VA will determine who participates in the program, and our therapy team will design the format and approach. This level of collaboration and co-creation will be unprecedented in Wisconsin for this type of program.

ASO: Why have you and Trinity Equestrian Center decided to try it?

TM: I’m so confident with the work we do and immensely eager to expand the community of veterans we can and do serve. I also respect and admire organizations like the Tomah VA that look at things a little differently and embrace the concept of being willing do something different in order to get a different result. I love that!

ASO: How can people help support your work with veterans?

TM: You can help support the work the center does with veterans by participating in the 7th Annual Trinity Equestrian Center Horsepower for Veterans motorcycle ride. It will be held on Saturday, June 24, at the center, located at 5300 State Highway 37, southwest of Eau Claire. Besides the bike run to the Highground in Neillsville and back, there will be a continental breakfast, silent auction, veterans stories, an opening ceremony, a raffle, bike show awards, and, after working up quite an appetite with all of that, a BBQ chicken meal. For more information visit trinity-ec.com or call 715-835-4530.

Service Dogs and PTSD: Dogs Can Help Address Stress

An Interview with Heather Mishefske, emBARK

A Second Opinion: Do you feel having a dog in general (not specifically trained) can be helpful to a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? If so, why? In what ways? Are they especially helpful to veterans?
Heather Mishefske:
Absolutely a dog is helpful to anyone with PTSD. A dog does not need to be specifically trained to provide benefits to people with PTSD. Dogs meet us in the moment, and for people who struggle with traumatic events of the past, this is an amazing trait. Dogs give unconditional love to their people, and support them via multiple senses. While they support our emotional and tactile senses, they are a constant in our life. They do not ask us to explain, they do not ask us to talk, nor do they ask for emotional support back to them. They simply are there. Dogs also are able to create new routines for exercise, provide a first contact in social settings (which may otherwise be avoided), and allow for accountability in keeping the dog’s schedule for eating/letting out/walking.

ASO: In some cases would it be better for a person with PTSD to go through the process of acquiring a trained and certified service dog? Why or why not?
HM: If a person feels they need support while out in public and needs more than just emotional support, it is imperative that a dog be trained to support that person in public settings. Being out in public brings with it extreme distractions, difficult environments, loud sounds, unusual surfaces, and unique settings. A dog needs to have stealth focus to maintain his/her job in supporting its person under all of these circumstances. Some dogs are obtained via service dog organizations, and some are self-trained.  These dogs are trained to be able to provide mobility assistance, physically interrupt and redirect panic attacks, retrieve medications, alert help, provide nighttime support in the event of nightmares, redirect emotional upsets, provide mobility support, and remind the handler of daily tasks. A well-trained dog can work in a public setting around heavy distractions and provide support while ignoring these distractions.

ASO: You have found sometimes people claim their dogs are service dogs, but they really aren’t trained to be. Why do you think people do that? How does that create issues for people whose dogs ARE trained and certified?
HM: There is an alarming amount of dogs out in public who are not truly service dogs but whose owners claim they are. A service dog is defined as a dog who provides a task for the handler that the handler cannot do himself or herself. For many, a service dog is absolutely crucial in allowing these handlers to be able to survive in public. With many claiming that their pet is a service animal, this is hurting legislation allowing real service dogs to come into public settings. There have been examples in the press where seeing-eye dogs have been denied access in public settings due to businesses having had bad previous experiences with “fake” service dogs in that facility.

A service dog in public should be an invisible extension of its handler. They are not there to be petted, to be social, or to interact with anyone other than their person. They should have superb manners, stealth focus, and be completely attentive to their handler. Touting your pet as a service dog under false pretenses is hurting those who really rely on their service dogs, and this is hugely unethical. There is no national certification, no government regulations, or no “vest” requirements for service dogs. Dogs that are trained to perform tasks for disabled people qualify as service animals under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They are generally allowed to accompany their owners wherever the public can go. There is also something called an emotional support dog. These dogs support a person emotionally but are not allowed to accompany them in public places under the ADA laws. Emotional support dogs do not need the advanced training that service dogs do, as they do not have public access rights other than travel and housing rights.

ASO: How are dogs beneficial to their humans even if they don’t have PTSD? What are the benefits of having a dog?
HM:
There are SO many benefits!  Research has proven that being present around dogs or owning a dog can lower blood pressure, raise levels of feel-good hormones, get people out exercising, create social opportunities, help prevent children from developing allergies later in life, provide companionship, and many other amazing things!

Living with a dog requires you to be accountable. They require to us to be responsible for another life other than our own. In return they provide unwavering loyalty, nonjudgmental relationships, and a constant support. They simply walk side by side with us accompanying us through the web that life throws at us.

Adrenal Health: A Direct Link to PTSD

By Heidi Toy, Educated Nutrition      

Psychological trauma can cause both acute and long-term issues in individuals. Acute impact can include things such as panic, anxiety, confusion, and heightened cortisol levels due to this response. Some individuals will develop acute stress disorder (ASD), and 80 percent of those individuals will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The psychological trauma brought about by the experience of profound threat leads to a longer-term syndrome that has been defined, validated, and termed PTSD in the clinical literature. PTSD is often accompanied by devastating functional impairment. PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder that can be triggered by the smallest things. PTSD victims suffer from hyper-arousal, reliving traumatic events, and avoidance.

Most individuals are aware of trauma’s effects on our mental states, but not the physical effects it has on our bodies. During times of trauma and the PTSD that may follow, an individual’s adrenal glands take a terrible toll. When the brain perceives a threat, the adrenal glands flood the body with adrenaline and cortisol; our body’s natural reaction being “fight or flight.” In individuals with PTSD, quite often military personnel or first responders, the persistent state of hyper-arousal can even lead to permanent neurological changes.

The brain monitors the amount of cortisol our bodies require. Cortisol helps regulate the immune system, blood sugar, and tendencies toward depression. The adrenal system is responsible for processing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can be severely affected after significant trauma leading to PTSD. A variety of symptoms can occur, such as fatigue, exhaustion, and stress overload.

The adrenal glands not only help regulate the body’s reaction to stress, but also produce hormones that regulate reproduction. The major stress hormones are cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones help increase energy, increase blood sugar levels, and speed up circulation and respiration to help the body survive through fight or flight. The major sex hormones produced by the adrenals are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These are all critical for growth, metabolism, strength, endurance, mental drive, menstrual function, and reproductive ability.

Depending on how long an individual with PTSD suffers from adrenal fatigue, they can suffer from both hyper-adrenal issues, as well as hypo-adrenal issues. Individuals with current on-set PTSD are stuck in a state of stress producing stress hormones at higher than normal levels. Individuals who have suffered from PTSD for a longer period have lower cortisol levels than normal, like with advanced adrenal fatigue where energy levels crash from reduced adrenal function.

Most Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospitals are now being staffed with individuals that are well-versed in PTSD; however, many still do not understand the role the adrenal glands play as the Western medical community does not recognize adrenal fatigue as an accepted diagnosis, although, the symptoms are significant enough to impair a person’s life following the experience or trauma.

Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include: slow morning starter, insomnia, crave salty foods, tendency to need sunglasses, bright lights at night bother eyes, tend to be keyed up/trouble calming down, become dizzy when standing up suddenly, experience “hangry” hungry and/or angry if meals are missed (hypoglycemia). If you experience any of these symptoms, lab-based adrenal testing via saliva or DUTCH urine by a practitioner who is versed in reading these tests and writing adequate healing protocols using supplementation, diet, and lifestyle changes should be considered. For the months of May/June 2017, any military or first responder personnel who presents this article to our office will receive $50 off an adrenal saliva index test (not redeemable for cash).

Adrenal Restoration Tips:

Stress management   • Get adequate sleep. 7 to 8 hours of sleep beginning at 10:00 p.m. is much more restoring to the adrenals than 8 hours beginning at 1:00 a.m. Nap, if needed, but not enough to interfere with night sleep • Relaxation: Breathing or skilled relaxation exercises, listen to relaxation tapes, meditate, biofeedback • Accept nurturing and affection • Laughter • Counseling

Diet • Whole foods • Avoid refined sugar • Avoid alcohol • Adequate protein • Eliminate/Reduce caffeine • Avoid all allergic foods such as gluten, soy, corn, which can weaken the system and can be an adrenal stressor • Fasting and detoxification/cleansing diets should be avoided, at least initially

Heidi Toy is a functional medicine practitioner, and the owner of Educated Nutrition, located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Her focus is helping people heal holistically, with an emphasis on digestion, weight loss, depression, female hormone issues, and fatigue. 

Applying Emotional Freedom Technique

By Lynn Buske

The applications for Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which was introduced in the previous issue, are extremely vast, but the “basic recipe” is very simple. This article will help you learn to do EFT and understand how to apply it to the various issues in your own life.

To get a general feel for it, spend a little time tapping on your body. Drum on your lap, tap on your head or face, tap your fingers together—and notice how it feels. Tapping typically feels good, satisfying, and calming. Tapping brings mental awareness to your body, sends sensory awareness to localized nerves, and sends blood/oxygen to that area of the body.

The specific acupressure points that are tapped on in EFT (and their corresponding meridian), in order you’ll be tapping, and where they are (see graphic: you’ll know you are in the right spot when you find it by how it feels), are:

  1. “Sore spot”: Neuro-lymphatic point (soft indent down from clavicle next to sternum) OR Side of hand: Small Intestine (fleshy part, pinkie-side of hand–not shown)
  2. Inside eyebrow: Bladder
  3. Outside eye: Gall Bladder
  4. Under eye: Stomach
  5. Under nose: Governing Meridian
  6. Chin: Central Meridian and Large Intestine
  7. Collarbone: Kidney
  8. Under arm: Spleen (tender spot below armpit)
  9. Rib: Liver (tender space between ribs under breast–not shown)

Before you begin tapping on a specific issue, there are a couple of things you need to do:

  1. Drink some water, especially if you have eaten sugar. This helps energy flow easier and thus increases the success of the process.
  2. Center yourself. Sit comfortably, become aware of the present moment, take a couple of cleansing breaths, and choose to have an open mind. Do not become attached to “getting rid” of your symptom or controlling where the exercise leads you. This is extremely important.
  3. Choose what you will be tapping on. Whatever symptom is most prominent in the present moment—pain or discomfort, worries, or current frustration/emotion—is the best place to start. You can also simply tap while you meditate or tap in a positive mantra (e.g., “I allow healing into my body,” “I will have an awesome day,” “I receive abundance willingly”). Wait to do more specific painful issues or memories with a practitioner (more on that below).
  4. Rate the current intensity of that symptom on a scale of 1 to 10 so that you can keep track of its progress. You will rate your symptom after every round.

(Note that it does not matter which hand or which side of the body you use, or if you switch sides in the middle of a round.)

The set-up statement: The set-up phrase focuses the mind, validates the negative issue, and connects a sense of self-acceptance to that issue. You will feel how potent this is immediately. If you are using a positive mantra, you do not need the set-up statement.

  1. Tap the karate chop point or rub your sore spot and say “Even though I have this feeling (insert issue here), I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
  2. Then tap, about seven times, on each acupressure point while saying “this feeling.
  3. Take a deep breath and check your intensity on your symptom.
  4. Repeat with “Even though I have this remaining feeling, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.”
  5. Repeat this cycle until the intensity is a 1 or 0 or you are ready to stop. When the brain wanders away from the set-up phrase (after a round or two), follow it. At this point forget about what to say and just say whatever comes out—even if it seems illogical.

You can do EFT anywhere: waiting in line, at the airport, on a crowded elevator. You can think the words instead of saying them. You can rub the points or you can think of tapping the points instead of actually tapping them, and people won’t know you are doing it, but you will still get the benefits. I find these incognito versions most helpful when I am feeling anxious.

Again, EFT is safe and gentle, but, as sometimes just thinking about a particular issue can dredge up difficult feelings that no one should have to deal with alone, a practitioner can help you navigate through them, neutralize strong feelings (there are more EFT tactics not covered here), and offer support.

How to Find a Practitioner

As you are looking for support for more complicated issues, you will want someone who can best support that particular issue. Look for licensed counselors or family doctors who use EFT in their practice (you can ask reception or look at the doctor’s bio page). For general help with all sorts of issues, check an accredited EFT directory site for certified EFT practitioners. If you find someone you connect to, and they are not local to you, EFT is easy to do over the phone! You can also do a web search for “emotional freedom technique Eau Claire,” ask around, or even post an ad. You want someone you are comfy with who respects what you are looking for and won’t push you but is supportive.

Trust and honor yourself. I hope that you find freedom, healing, peace, and positivity by utilizing EFT.

Aging Gracefully

By Margaret Meier Jones

Have you begun to notice that your pet is starting to slow down, play less, move cautiously, or be easily irritated? Does it hesitate before jumping onto the bed, couch, or into the car? Have you observed that its legs seem to shake when trying to lie down or after daily walks? Has it become part of your pet’s routine to circle for quite some time before lying down on their bed or having their bowel movements while walking, rather than easily arching their back and squatting? Is your aging cat having difficulty always using their litter box? If you answered yes to ANY of these questions, your pet may be suffering from osteoarthritis (OA) and not just “old age.” Together, with just a few easy changes to our daily routine, we truly can help manage the chronic pain of OA and assist them to age with grace and dignity.

The first, and easiest, thing to do is increase the amount of essential fatty acids in the diet. The most important fatty acid to supplement is Omega 3, which helps the brain, the skin, the heart, and the joints. It is important to realize that the trend of adding coconut oil to the diet does NOT provide our pets with any Omega 3, but rather mid-chain fatty acids. The best source of Omega 3 for our cats and dogs is fish oil. Cats, as carnivores, cannot convert the oils in plants, such as flax or chia seeds into Omega 3; and dogs can only convert a very small portion. As a result, if we use anything but fish oil, we unwittingly increase the inflammatory Omega 6. When comparing fish oil, it is important to look for “nordic,” or cold, processing. This ensures that your pet will not be exposed to the harsh chemicals (i.e., acetone) that are used conventionally. Give us a call if you’re not certain of the fish oil you have, or the amount to administer to your pet, and we can help!

Exercise and weight control are also a key element that can easily be incorporated to help our pets age with grace. “Move it or lose it” applies to all of us but becomes even more important with age. Having three short 10-minute walks can be much easier, and even more effective, than one 30-minute walk. As the pet gets out and moves, endorphins are produced that help eliminate pain; and shorter walks put less strain on muscles and joints. Watching portion sizes of a good quality senior diet and overall caloric intake (including treats) helps to maintain a healthy weight thereby preventing increased stress on joints. Having your pet sit and then stand, for three repetitions, before giving them their meals provides a mini yoga session that helps strengthen their core muscle groups.

Finally, taking a fresh look at your home from the eyes of our aging pet and making a few small changes can make a world of difference to them. Can we eliminate the stairs up and down on the way outside by going out a different door? If not, can we construct a ramp that is wide and has a nonslip surface to eliminate the steps? Is there an “under the bed” storage container with lower sides that we could use as a litter box? Can we help provide all of our pet’s needs on one level of our home? Asking these simple questions, and taking action on their answers, can provide the perspective our aging pets need us to consider for their comfort.