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Whole Health Program Provides Ways To Relieve Stress

Wellness Wednesday graphic which shows a photo of Washington DC VA Medical Center's Employee Whole Health Coordinator, Jan Tortarella, who breaks down the whole health approach to managing stress in the accompanying article.
On this week's Wellness Wednesday, Washington DC VA Medical Center Employee Whole Health Coordinator, Jan Tortarella, breaks down the Whole Health approach to helping Veterans and employees manage stress.

Washington DC VA Medical Center's Whole Health Program provides Veterans and employees with resources to combat stress through a holistic approach to caring for the mind, body and spirit of the individual.

Stress is a defined by the World Health Organization as any type of change, internal or external, that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. In stressful moments, the brain releases hormones, like adrenaline, that help you to focus, react and evade dangerous situations. While stress is natural and can be good for you, too much stress over a prolonged amount of time can wreak havoc on your mental, emotional, and physical health.

To help Veterans and employees at the Washington DC VA Medical Center develop skills to manage stress and improve their overall sense of well-being, VA offers the Whole Health Program. Jan Tortarella, the Employee Whole Health Coordinator, said VA’s Whole Health Initiative is a comprehensive program designed to reach Veterans and employees on an individual level.

“Whole Health focuses on what matters to you, not what is the matter with you. Once we know what you want your health for, we can partner with you to develop a personalized health plan to improve your health and well-being,” said Tortarella.  

The Whole Health and Integrative Health and Wellness Program takes a holistic approach to care for the mind, body and spirit through prevention, education, and skill building. It provides services designed to empower you with knowledge and skills to support you in taking charge of your own life and health.  One area that they focus on is reducing stress and its negative side effects.

Washington DC VA Medical Center’s Whole Health Team is constantly adding new activities to their line-up of classes. Currently, the following classes are available to Veterans registered with the Whole Health and Integrated Health and Wellness Program:

  • Acupuncture/Acupressure
  • Meditation/Mindfulness
  • Biofeedback (Biofeedback is a process that uses your body’s own signals like heart rate and body temperature to bring about healthy changes. Biofeedback can improve health issues that are caused or worsened by stress.)
  • Guided Imagery
  • Integrative Nutrition
  • I-Rest Yoga Nidra
  • Tai Chi/Qigong
  • Gentle Mat Yoga
  • Chair Yoga

“We have something to offer everyone. Whether you are looking to connect with others in a group setting or find an activity you can do on your own, we can help you discover what works best for you, and we want to assist you on your journey to being the best version of yourself,” said Tortarella.

Veterans interested in the Whole Health Program can also take advantage of the Whole Health App to gain access to resources like activity suggestions, meditation and relaxation techniques, and virtual coaching. The LiveWholeHealth blog also offers on-demand experiential opportunities. However you prefer to connect, Tortarella encourages all Veterans enrolled in VA Health Care to talk to their primary care provider about the Whole Health Program.

“In our busy world, we are accustomed to reacting to stress whether it’s real or perceived. This is a natural human response. What we know is that over time, too much unmanaged stress can impair our immune systems, deplete our energy levels, and negatively impact our moods and overall sense of well-being. A Whole Health approach supports taking a pro-active, not reactive, approach to stress with tools, techniques, and skills to live a healthier lifestyle,” said Tortarella.

Veterans interested in joining Whole Health can participate in an Introduction to Whole Health Orientation with a provider referral to the program. Once the orientation is completed, Veterans will have access to all Whole Health/IHW classes and opportunities including health coaching. They may also dive deeper into their personal health with Taking Charge of My Life and Health, an 8-week session which promotes self-exploration, self-care, and goal creation around what really matters to the Veteran. Through these Whole Health offerings, Veterans explore their mission, aspiration, and purpose, learn about the Whole Health Circle of Health, and begin to create an overarching personal health plan. 

To learn more about Whole Health at the Washington DC VA Medical Center, visit: Whole Health | VA Washington DC Health Care | Veterans Affairs

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