Marty Guthmiller, CEO of Orange City Area Health System, announces the signing of Taylor Dreise, D.O., to its Family Medicine Team. Dr. Dreise will join the health system’s medical clinics, critical access hospital, emergency medicine group, and sports medicine team in the summer of 2022 following his family medicine residency in Des Moines.
“We are obviously thrilled to have Dr. Dreise joining our health care team,” reported Guthmiller. “He and his family will be a great addition to our community, and we look forward to a long relationship of service together.”
Dr. Dreise, a native of Orange City, is a 2013 graduate of Northwestern College with a B.A. in Athletic Training, and a 2019 graduate of Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine. He will be joining Orange City Area Health System’s team of family medicine physicians and advanced level practitioners who serve in three medical clinics and a nationally-recognized critical access hospital.
“We are overjoyed that God has given us the opportunity to return home to serve the community, and continue raising our family in the place where we grew up,” commented Dreise. “I am passionate about the people and athletes of NW Iowa, and look forward to partnering with Orange City Area Health System to provide them with the best possible care.”
– by Alan D. Wolfelt, PH.D.
My first grandchild was born in early 2020, right as this pandemic was gaining momentum. I got a social-distancing, several-feet away peek at him early on, but then we were kept apart for three long months out of an abundance of caution so that his mom (my daughter), 60-something me, and the healthy-but-vulnerable newborn all stayed safe. As the shelter- in-place weeks slogged by, I found myself becoming more and more impatient to hold the little guy.
Like so many people the world over, I was becoming touch deprived. Even those who don’t consider themselves huggy, touchy people are now expressing awareness that they need the physical proximity and touch of other human beings to feel well, especially during times of uncertainty and anxiety. You may recognize this in yourself and your loved ones, and you may see this heightened need in the grieving people you are now serving.
I hope that this article helps you understand the role of touch in helping you, your family, your colleagues and the grieving people you serve feel supported during stressful times. I’ve also provided some tips for feeding touch starvation, which you can try yourself, as well as suggest to friends and family and to co-workers and mourners, when appropriate.
As a longtime grief counselor and educator, I know touch helps us feel loved and empathized with. After a significant loss, grieving people who are hugged, touched, and visited often report feeling comforted and supported. They also experience that important sense of connection that helps them continue to feel meaning and purpose in life.
Because touch is physical, it has bodily effects. When we are touched in comforting ways, our brains are flooded with dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These feel-good hormones help regulate our mood and make us feel calmer and happier. When we aren’t touched, on the other hand, our brains suffer from the lack of these chemicals.
We may feel depressed, anxious and stressed. We might also have more trouble sleeping. In addition, touch stimulates the vagus nerve, which branches throughout the entire body. Its role is to calm the nervous system, which in turn helps boost our immune system and can lower both our blood pressure and heart rate. continued next page …
During the pandemic, if you or someone you know has been feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed; has been having sleep issues; or has felt unwell physically, lack of physical touch may be one of the culprits.
Of course, even before the pandemic, our culture was becoming more and more socially distanced. Instead of face-to-face contact, we increasingly rely on technology as a main form of interface. Texting, emailing and social media have become the primary ways of “keeping in touch,” even though, ironically, they involve no touching at all.
Social distancing has only served to heighten our reliance on technology. We are grateful, of course, for the electronic means same time, we are realizing their limitations. Our high-tech, low-touch lifestyles aren’t enough. We need and crave physical human contact. We are skin hungry. We are eye contact empty. We are touch starved.
▶ Tell family and friends about your need for touch. If you’re sheltering in place with others, talk to them about touch starvation and how you’re feeling. Maybe your roommates are craving touch as well. Depending on your relationships, hugs, shoulder rubs, scalp massages, back scratches, foot rubs and handholding are possible outlets.
▶ If you’ve been isolated and need a hug, meet outdoors with loved ones and, masks on, share some safe embraces. A 20-second hug is the threshold for alleviating stress and helping you feel calm and safe. Even without hugs, simply gathering outdoors to chat and have distanced face-to-face eye contact for an hour or two can make a big difference.
▶ If you can’t be near your loved ones right now, use video calls as the next best thing. Faces and voices help us feel close and “read” one other. On the calls, tell people how much you care about and miss them. You’ll find that speaking your love out loud releases the same feel-good chemicals that touch does.
▶ Cuddle with your pets.
▶ When it’s safe to do so again, consider making an appointment for a massage, manicure, haircut or healing touch or reiki session.
▶ Massage also releases feel-good chemicals. Give yourself an arm rub by rolling a tennis ball up and down a few times daily or use a foam roller for a back rub.
▶ Try using a weighted blanket when you watch television or sleep. The 15- to 25-pound blankets press down on the skin, which triggers vagus nerve activity. Choose one that’s about 10% of your body weight.
▶ Practice yoga. Yoga poses place pressure on lots of different parts of your body, essentially “touching” you all over.
You’ll be glad to know that I finally got to hold my grandbaby recently. He’s already a grinning, wriggly 3-month-old, and boy, did it feel amazing to have him in my arms. With my new appreciation for touch starvation, I’m planning on lots of hugs and kisses in the months and years to come.
Founder and director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, Dr. Alan Wolfelt has been recognized as one of North America’s leading death educators and grief counselors. His books have sold more than a million copies worldwide and have been translated into many languages. Wolfelt speaks on grief-related topics, offers training for caregivers and has written many bestselling books and other resources on grief for both caregivers and grieving people. Learn more at centerforloss.com.
As physical therapists and occupational therapists, we are privileged to spend ample time with patients as they journey to regain and maximize their abilities after injury or illness. Every patient has an incredible story that we wish you could see, because it would inspire you to move more, which in turn would inspire those around you to move more, which has a great side effect of improved health and wellness.
Here are a few stories our department complied, that will try to capture and convey the inspiration we receive while working with patients:
I was asked to work with a gentleman following a car accident resulting in broken bones that required surgery. He came to his first physical therapy appointment in a wheelchair and with a smile. He looked forward to every session, and he gave great effort in his rehabilitation program. He did his exercises in therapy and at home and eventually reached his goal of returning to work and being able to mow his lawn without needing a break. The inspiration I received through his story is that attitude and persistence helps you progress. His story gives me an inspirational story to share as the next new patient starts their rehabilitation process and inspires me to be consistent in my own exercise program.
A patient came to me with problems of daily, severe headaches. In asking how it influenced her daily life she related that she continued to do her normal things, including working every day, but would like to do them without a headache. A few years later I had my own stretch of time with daily headaches, and I remembered my patient’s story of perseverance in the face of pain, which inspired me to continue doing things that I needed and wanted to do.
I work with multiple pediatric patients who have a hard time engaging in daily tasks without having a meltdown or negative behavior. This affects the child, the parents, home life, school life and engagement in the community. Stress is often present as frustration with not being able to complete a task, fear of being hurt, social anxiety or feeling a loss of control. These pediatric patients inspire me by the way they positively respond to movement and playful engagement, which allows them to experience joy rather than stress, let their guard down, learn to tackle new and hard tasks and build relationships with others. I learn a nugget from every therapy session and carry that forward to share stories of success with others, celebrate gains with families and provide support on the hard days. It inspires me on the days when I don’t feel at my best to apply what I have learned from my families. Movement helps me to feel better so I can engage in the things that seem hard. Creating and organizing lead to a sense of satisfaction and calm to my life to be able to tackle the next hard thing in front of me.
Patients that come in happy and excited to do their therapy, because they know how much it’s helping them, inspire me. It’s inspires me to do my best and make sure I interact with patients who are having a tough day, in a way that supports and builds them up.
An inspirational story I often see is when I work with sick and deconditioned patients in the hospital. Watching them work to regain their strength and independence to be able to return home, inspires me to encourage the next person to meet their goals as well.
So look around you for people you know, that have overcome movement problems and recognize the inspiration in their stories. Be inspired to address your challenge. If you need the help of a physical therapist, occupational therapist, personal trainer, or doctor it is readily available through the Orange City Area Health System. Then be an inspiration for the people around you.