Moving the Body and Calming the Mind
Veteran Larry Reese says, “Motion is lotion,” which is a saying he picked up in a pain management class at the James A. Haley, VA Medical Center in Tampa, Florida. “If you’re sitting still, you’re feeling the pain, but if you keep moving, it helps you to deal with it,” he says. “It also helps if you understand pain, then you can learn to deal with it.”
Reese has gained a better understanding of his pain and overall health through Whole Health services including the THRIVE Program, the Mind Body Medicine Skills Group, and services such as acupuncture and Whole Health Coaching.
Reese served in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 1999 as a Legal Specialist at Ft. Hood, Texas after spending time at Wiesbaden, Germany, and eventually ending up at MacDill AFB in Tampa.
A 2013 knee surgery and chronic back pain led Reese to VA Pain Management classes; eventually finding his way to the 12-week THRIVE program. THRIVE stands for Transforming Health and Resilience through Integration of Values-based Experiences. Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences with the group and each session also includes discussions on topics ranging from work-life purpose, spiritual and financial health, to sleep and restoration, healthy relationships and stress reduction. Reese also participated in the 8-week Mind-Body Medicine which offers participants a variety of practices and techniques to manage stress and live a healthier lifestyle.
Because of his work, Reese has learned a lot more than pain management and he credits Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Renae Fordyce with helping him to understand how to manage emotions and interactions with others. “Everyone’s situation is different,” he says, “but it’s nice to know that you’re not the only one dealing with certain feelings. Putting some light on the feelings helps you more than holding it all in.”
Reese said that one of the exercises that helps him manage both his physical and emotional feelings is a meditation on water, “We picture leaves on a body of water and we just learn how to watch them float by, and let them go, and then we imagined that our feelings were just like those leaves.” Reese finds this kind of guided imagery very helpful in dealing with life in general.
Since working with his coach, Reese has lost 25 pounds, and is continuing to go to the gym and is now learning some new cooking skills. “I want to better myself, and Renae is helping me to do that and she’s always there for me.”
He says his sleep has improved as he has been using the breathing and meditation skills he has learned, and he has even taught his twin granddaughters how to use these techniques.
Whole Health Coach, Renae Fordyce believes that it was Reese’s commitment to the work of Whole Health that has made the difference for Reese. She says, “Mr. Reese approaches everyday with determination to live a better life. For every decision we make, there is always an option, it is up to us to choose which option to follow; the one that makes us stronger or the one that will leave us in a time of despair. Mr. Reese chooses the option that will help him to achieve his goals. Determination is not always reaching a goal in one step but moving closer to it one successful step at a time.”
VA has trained close to 2,000 staff to be Whole Health coaches across the VA Health Care System. Coaches work with Veterans one on one and sometimes in groups to help them in the following ways:
- Develop a personalized health plan that is based on what matters most to the Veteran; the plan is based on the Veteran’s own goals, values, preferences, and lifestyle.
- Partner with the Veteran with proactively taking action toward behavior change that is present and future-oriented.
- Recognize that health is much broader than the absence of disease. The emphasis is on health enhancements/strengths rather than disorders/weaknesses.
- Seek to support the Veteran in achieving his/her standard of optimal health that takes into account the mental, physical, and social well-being of the Veteran.
For more information on Whole Health and how you can get started on your journey, visit www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTH/index.asp.