Many paths lead to health and wellness

Participants in special week share their insights on approaches to feeling your best

Many different things might come to mind when people hear the phrase "health and wellness" - as evidenced by the variety of participants in Hinsdale's Health and Wellness Week next week.

For Rogers Behavioral Health, any discussion of well-being needs to include mental health. The good news is the virtual options that arose during the pandemic have made treatment more accessible for some, according to Krystyna Olejnyik, outreach representative.

"I think people are more willing to look into mental health treatment than before because there is broader availability," she said.

Brandon DeJong, clinical director of Rogers sites in Hinsdale and Skokie, said he would like that trend to continue.

"My hope is that mental health can be more destigmatized," he said, noting that education is an important component. "I really see us as not only an organization that is there to help treat folks with good, empirically supported treatments, but also a place that can serve as an education resource for people who are looking to learn a little more about (a mental health issue) and understand how it develops and how we can best treat it so they can get a little relief at the end of the day."

Rogers Behavioral Health is best known for its anxiety treatments, DeJong said, but staff also treat people with mood disorders, depression and chemical dependency. Free assessments are available for those who think they might need help.

"If you or a loved one is or know somebody who is suffering, they can educate themselves," DeJong said. "They can reach out to professionals who are there to help."

Many times people who are struggling with mental health issues feel isolated and alone and believe the problems they face are unique.

"There are people out there who understand them, that understand what they are going through," DeJong said.

Olejnyik will be at the Hinsdale Farmers Market Monday morning to kick off the week (see Page 22 for details), answering questions and sharing information.

"If anybody is seeking any type of help, even if I can't provide it directly, I can always help or lead you in the right direction," she said.

She emphasized that mental health is health.

"That's something that isn't always seen that way," she said. "Hopefully one day everybody does."

Keeping the body moving

While yoga focuses on breathing and physical movement, its benefits aren't limited to improved flexibility and strength.

Katya Sidelnik, owner of Inner Jasmine Yoga and Wellness in Hinsdale, said practicing yoga has changed how she sees the world.

"It has really taught me this way of living through compassion and being able to understand different people's points of view, perspectives, thoughts and feelings and being able to respect everyone for who they are, where they're at, without any desire for change or fixing, but just being."

Sidelnik finds her clients are interested in yoga for a variety of reasons.

"People coming in right now are looking for a combination of everything," she said. "They are looking for a reset in their lifestyle - how they move, how they breathe, how they eat, how they think - to try to make their lives better during their day to day, not just (while they are) here."

The physical movement in yoga is focused on moving energy in the body and releasing stress, she said. Just two minutes of diaphragmatic breathing allows the vagus nerve, the main nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system, to reset. The nerve helps the body rest, digest and calm down.

While yoga can be practiced at home, Sidelnik said working with an instructor is useful.

"To receive the most optimal benefits of yoga, it would be important to have access to an instructor that can create a home program and work with a person in devising that goal," she said.

"I have some clients that come three times a week because they are working on very specific things, and I have some that are once a month and I give them the next thing they are working on."

Sidelnik is in the process of earning credentials from Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York for a new program for individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer and for caregivers.

She appreciates the meaning of the phrase "lifestyle yoga"

"I truly try to live with faith, hope and love," she said.

Choosing the right fuel

With endless recommendations on the Internet of the latest and greatest superfood to eat or diet to follow, people are making nutrition more complicated than it needs to be.

That's the opinion of Kathy Napleton, owner of Nourished in Hinsdale, which offers wellness workshops, nutrition coaching classes and detox kits.

"What we find is that most of these avenues that people take are simply not sustainable in the long term," Napleton said. "What we try to do is get back to the basics. We want to teach you about balance and how the body requires a balance and a variety of nutrients in order to maintain health long-term."

Generic recommendations on what to eat or not eat fail to take into account a person's unique health factors and lifestyle behaviors.

"When we go on these fad diets or these one-size-fits-all diets in America, we're really affecting our health," she said.

A focus on eating right to lose weight also sets people up to practice good nutrition in the short run, to lose 10 pounds for a wedding or vacation, rather than making diet and lifestyle adjustments that will be permanent.

That doesn't mean people can't ever have a piece of cake or glass of wine.

"There is no problem having some indulgences. We're human," Napleton said.

People should practice eating healthy 80 percent of time.

"Most Americans are practicing the 20/80 instead of the 80/20," she noted, as reflected in the high rates of cancer, heart disease and obesity in America.

A paradigm shift does seem to be underway, Napleton observed, which is good news.

"We must make a shift, especially for the next generations, and teach them what this beautiful human body actually needs in order for it to thrive," she said.

And that is a lot of vegetables (in all colors of the rainbow), some fruit and some healthy animal protein. Napleton also recommends periodic cleansing and detoxing to clean out the liver and kidney.

She points to the simple advice of Michael Pollen of the University of California at Berkeley, which boils down to the following: "Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much," she said. "That's it in a nutshell."