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Local Sports Medicine Specialist: Small Changes Lead to Healthier, Pain-Free Lives PDF Print Email


By Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital

Mar. 13, 2019:  Dr. Elan Goldwaser, a sports medicine specialist at NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, delivered the opening keynote address at the Annual Westchester County Parks Staff Conference earlier this month. Dr. Goldwaser gave a talk to over 300 parks and recreation employees titled Masters of Our Own Health.

In his speech and the brief Q&A that followed, Goldwaser explained that daily exercise and good meal management can keep you living happier, healthier, and longer, with less pain. Here are some of the key recommendations from his speech.

  • Just get up and walk: 20 total minutes a day of walking boosts more than just your fitness level; heart, brain, lung, and almost all other organs benefit from exercise.  

  • With 150 minutes of weekly exercise, memory improves, digestive health speeds up, and you’ll start feeling better in all your joints. 

  • 5% weight loss is all it takes to stop the progression of arthritis and reduce pain in your joints. 

  • To help lose weight, aside from exercise, cutting out 500 calories a day will lead to a loss of 1 pound a week. That’s as easy as eliminating a couple of cans of soda or bags of chips. 

  • By cutting out the junk food and doing small daily walks, not only can we start reversing serious illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, but we will live longer, healthier, and pain-free lives.

Photo courtesy Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

New Year’s Resolutions: Why They Often Fail and How To Make Them Succeed PDF Print Email


By Jane Benjamin, PhD, The Counseling Center

Mar. 6, 2019:  Ask any fitness club manager or “regular” at a gym, and you’ll learn that mid-February is generally the time when the folks who joined on January 1 start to fade away. They may have initially come to work out on a daily basis, but now they’re nowhere to be found. They may have started 2019 with absolute resolve and commitment only to lose momentum a month later.     

New year’s resolutions can focus on any area of life but are most often aimed at exercise, weight loss, poor money management, or the habitual use of a substance (cigarettes, coffee, sugar, alcohol, drugs). Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list; sometimes resolutions focus on relationships: “I want to spend more quality time with my family”; “I want to focus more on my marital relationship”; “I want to see my good friends more often”; “I want to yell at my teenager less often.” But more often than not, new year’s resolutions involve summoning the self-discipline to relinquish a bad habit or start a healthy one. What tends to make new year’s resolutions so short-lived? And how can we increase the possibility of success?

The fact that the holiday season is the lead-up to the new year and that over-indulgence is such a common practice during this season can make people all the more focused and absolute about setting on a new course come January 1. But this ramping up of determination may not be as helpful as it sounds. Experiencing a huge surge of motivation may begin as a good thing, but it can cause people to set goals too high or to attempt to change too much at once.    

If you decide that early 2019 is the time to stop eating sweets, stop drinking, and exercise five days a week, there’s a good chance you’ll fail. Some people are able to revamp their lives in one fell swoop, but most cannot alter three major habits at once. It makes us feel good to set the bar high and decide to make major changes, but we’re much more likely to succeed if we divide these goals into much smaller increments. So, for example, rather than telling yourself, “I will be at the gym every weekday,” begin with, “I will take a 15-minute walk near my house four days each week,” and see how that goes. Instead of saying, “No more dessert ever,” begin with “no dessert on weekdays, but yes, on weekends.” 

It’s important to remember that it’s very difficult to maintain a state of deprivation for the long haul. Pure will power can start us off, but it won’t be enough to keep us going. Much like holding one’s breath, at some point the urge to inhale becomes overwhelming. Therefore, you may find it especially helpful to figure out what you will be getting, not just giving up. If you’re trying to quit smoking, you might think about what will become possible once cigarettes are out of the picture. Perhaps you’ve wanted to take a Zumba class or run a 3K race. Maybe after a few months without smoking, you’ll have the lung capacity to actually accomplish one of these physical challenges. If you’re trying to manage your money more responsibly and spend less on frivolous items, remind yourself that each month, you can pay down that credit card debt and put away some of that saved money towards the trip you’ve always dreamed of taking. In other words, think about what changing this habit opens up for you. What is possible now that was not before?  

Try not to over-think a resolution. Often people look for the “perfect” time to start, justifying the delay by saying, “I can’t start a diet this weekend; I’ve had a stressful week” or “My life is difficult enough without trying to rein in my spending, too.” All of us find ways to explain and justify the continuation of habitual behavior. Rather than pondering the process, just begin in some small way--take a short walk, skip dessert tonight, don’t hit the “buy” button on Amazon. Action will beget action and begin the momentum that can lead to sustained change.

Finally, when changing any habit, expect lapses and mistakes. When they happen, take note and continue on without drawing erroneous conclusions. Don’t despair. The natural tendency is to tell yourself that a single failure means that this is just too hard or that now is not the right time to be tackling this resolution. In fact, a lapse just means that change is a rocky, non-linear process and that forging ahead is the best course of action.

Pictured here: Jane Benjamin.

Photo courtesy The Counseling Center.

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

Tips for Handling the Empty Nest PDF Print Email


By James Ellis, PhD, The Counseling Center

Feb. 13, 2019:  For those of us who are parents, the “empty nest” is the period of life when our children come of age and leave home, usually to go to college or work. This period of life transition may leave us with a good deal of pride as we witness our children’s independence, but it is often accompanied by feelings of sadness, loneliness, and sometimes depression. Child-rearing is an all-out prodigal investment that can never truly be repaid. When we launch our children, we may feel like bystanders at best and no longer needed at worst. So, as with any loss of this magnitude, we need to give ourselves the time and space to grieve and heal.

Some parents find the empty nest harder than others. For example, people who have had painful experiences of separations in the past may bring high anxiety to the looming separation of the empty nest, while people living in enmeshed family systems may not have learned how to differentiate from their children and may find themselves clinging rather than letting go. In both situations, parents may benefit from guidance about healthy ways to support their children’s transition to adulthood. It is normal for the empty nest to bring heightened emotions to the surface, including loss and uncertainty, as our role as a parent changes from one of overseeing children’s lives to becoming a consultant to them. Whatever the root causes of our anxieties, parents should be encouraged during this launching phase to work toward seeing their children not just as extensions of themselves but as separate individuals in their own right who have their own hopes and dreams.

While it is important to claim our experience of sadness, it is also important to realize that the empty nest does not mark the end of the relationship with our children but rather the end of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of a new one. Now is the time to engage in new activities that establish meaning and purpose for the road ahead. It’s a time to develop friendships and hobbies, pursue career and educational opportunities, or embark on long-postponed vacations. It’s a time to enter into a new role with our children.

Perhaps the following ideas can help parents cope with their empty nest experience:

Stay in touch with your children when they leave home – that’s one of the great advantages of modern technology: texting and Facetime make it easier to keep an emotional connection over long distances.

Accept your new role – remember your children have their own lives to live and you do, too.

Seek support – don’t isolate yourself with your feelings of loneliness. Get involved. Get involved in your faith community and in community activities. Create new structures of importance for this new chapter of your life. If you need help, remember that therapy and other supports are available.

Practice gratitude – try to focus on the things you are grateful for instead of pining after things that are no longer available to you.

The empty nest is one of life’s milestones. Like any other transition in life, it’s important to acknowledge its sadness, move through the mourning, and choose new adventures that pave the way for our future self and life. And, if transitioning through this time is difficult, reach out for support or counseling. What we do with our feelings about the empty nest is like so much else in life: this time of life will become what we make of it! 

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

Flu on Rise in New York: NYP-Lawrence Has New 15-Minute Test PDF Print Email


By Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital

Feb. 6, 2019:  The flu season is officially here. If it is like last year, 49 million Americans could soon come down with the illness. NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital is preparing for the uptick in cases with a new and faster #flutest it just implemented for patients visiting the emergency department. Now, rather than sending a specimen to the hospital’s lab, nurses can swab a patient at the bedside and immediately process the test in fifteen minutes or less.

Dr. Andrew Amaranto, the new site director for the NYP-Lawrence Emergency Department, urges Westchester residents to be on the lookout for influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms, including fever, cough, headache, and body aches. In children, parents should take notice of abdominal pain in addition to the above.

The CDC estimated that so far this season, between about six million and seven million people have been sick with flu; up to half of those people have sought medical care for their illness; and between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized with flu. Cases are on the rise in the greater NYC area.  For the first weeks of December, there were under 200 cases reported by the CDC in the NYC area compared with over 1,300 cases the second week of January. 

Photo courtesy Josefa Paganuzzi, Thompson & Bender, for NewYork-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 
Teen Anxiety--Tips for Staying Calm in a Changing World PDF Print Email


By Jennifer Naparstek Klein, Psy. D., The Counseling Center

Jan. 30, 2019:  Anxiety is a basic function of survival--humans and other animals depend on this natural warning system to alert them to danger so they can protect themselves from potential harm. Usually, this alarm system becomes activated in legitimately stressful situations. For people living in current-day Westchester County, that might include making a public presentation, going on a first date, being called on in class by an intimidating teacher, receiving a stern warning from a boss, or enduring a parent saying something “totally embarrassing” in front of “all of my friends!” For a mouse, the sight of a snake approaching for a tasty snack would constitute a stressful situation, and, in fact, snakes and other predators can be pretty alarming to humans as well. But most often what we experience as a stressor is not what happens to us in the woods but what occurs in the office, the classroom, and, for teens, at the lunch table or at a party.

The parts of the brain that manage our anxiety responses are the amygdala, often thought of as the emotional center in the brain; two parts of the frontal lobe, cognitive centers that help us decide if the threat is real and manageable; and finally, the hippocampus, our memory center for threatening events and trauma. Whenever we experience a stressful situation, these three areas have little conversations with each other and collaborate to create our response, releasing neurotransmitters to effect a behavioral reaction. For many people--an estimated 40 million or more in the U.S.--the anxiety centers are overactive. Their systems operate on high alert most of the time. As you can imagine, this is not a comfortable way to live, and therefore attention to anxiety disorders is a major part of mental health care in the U.S.

Several kinds of disorders fall within the category of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, social phobia, panic disorders/agoraphobia, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Often teenagers’ symptoms do not rise to the level of these disorders, but many struggle to deal with unease, nervousness, worry, dread, and even fear. As their brains develop, and as they grow from children into young adults, their daily lives can be fraught with very palpable anxiety.

In my seventeen years as a psychotherapist here in Bronxville, during which a good portion of my practice has focused on teens, I’ve noticed some trends in terms of what teens are most worried about. Of course, in treating school-aged teens spanning ages 13 to 18, I see a lot of growth and development and therefore shifts in what my clients worry about and what they prioritize. Their most common concerns are: 

1. Fitting in socially, or, alternatively, feeling left out. This encompasses pressures associated with conforming to a group versus defining their individuality.

2. Relationships at home--how they get along with parents and siblings.

3. Performance--struggles to meet academic and extra-curricular expectations/college goals.

4. Sexuality--worries associated with sexual exploration, expectations, and identity.

5. Independence versus dependence--this concern can overlap with worries about relationships at home, but it’s significant enough to deserve its own category.

6. Other stressors in the home, such as chronic disability or illness, death of loved ones, divorce and marital discord, etc.

How teens handle these stressors while going through puberty, with its hormonal upheavals and continued brain development, are influenced by heredity, learned coping mechanisms, natural and learned resilience, peer influences, substance use, exercise, and the ability to care for oneself.

Of course, what will relieve the anxiety is unique for each person, and special goals must be tailored to the person who is struggling. A good starting place might involve talking with others: sharing one’s stress with loved ones, friends, school counselors, grandparents--any trusted person. Freud coined the term “the talking cure,” and when dealing with anxiety, having conversations, working through problems and finding solutions, can be enormously cathartic. Once an anxious teen gains some perspective, he/she can begin to learn to use “self-talk,” a skill that involves talking oneself down--chipping away at the anxiety to get to a calmer place. When a teen is dealing with deeply distressing moments, feeling even a little bit calmer can bring substantial relief. 

Since anxiety has such a strong impact on our bodies, and our minds work much better when our bodies are calm, it’s always a good idea to try to counter the physiological reactions associated with stress. Taking slow, deep breaths lying down, and even doing some calming yoga poses or stretches until breathing and heart rate return to normal can be soothing. Some people like to listen to music, take long baths, or practice meditation or mindfulness exercises. Physical exercise also contributes to psychological wellbeing by helping us expend excess energy. Perhaps most important, sleep deprivation or unhealthy eating run counter to psychological wellness. When we sleep well and eat well, we prepare ourselves to handle stress more effectively. 

If you’re a parent or other trusted adult who has made these suggestions and your teen has seemed to reject them all, take heart--they might be secretly listening! However, sometimes teens can feel so overwhelmed with anxiety that they don’t believe that anything could possibly help. In such high-stress moments, it can be difficult to put strategies to use. But in my experience, those who try--taking small steps and being persistent--often begin to see positive results at managing stressful moments. Each success builds a teen’s confidence, and one achievement adds to another.      

Finally, don't be afraid to reach out to a professional. Even a short stint in psychotherapy can help an anxious person, especially during the teen years when things change so rapidly and new demands arise regularly. 

Pictured here: Jennifer Naparstek Klein.

Photo courtesy The Counseling Center of Bronxville

Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff. 

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