January 2017 E-Newsletter

Monday, January 30, 2017

Thank You ... for helping to make this world a better place

 In 2016, generous donors like you brought independence and hope to so many. Continuum served over 2,400 people, and your support was invaluable. 

Your gifts provided:

  • Apartment security deposits to help clients move from homelessness to independence….You made home a possibility rather than a hopeless dream
  • Home goods and furnishings for those new apartment renters transitioning from homelessness or institutionalization…You converted emptiness into hominess
  • Training and intern program…..You created financial independence and brighter futures
  • A Summer Enrichment Camp for 70 inner-city youths which kept them engaged in educational, positive, and fun activities…..You diverted the risk for at-risk children
  • Wellness programs that enabled people to learn how to take control of their physical and emotional wellbeing…..You built wholeness and health from brokenness and illness

Thank you for your generosity and partnership

Thank you for saving and rebuilding lives

Charlotte's Rebirth

"It's alright to have mental health help.
Once you accept it, life continues and it does get better."

Two years ago, Charlotte Burch’s world shattered. Aggravating a 30-year-old workplace injury had landed her in a care facility, unable to walk.

The anguish of losing her independence, rental assistance, apartment and belongings significantly deepened the depression that initially surfaced during her youth as a result of several traumatic life events. She was kidnapped from her mother as a two-year-old, an age when separation anxiety is already heightened. As an adult working in a male-dominated field, Charlotte's life was further disrupted by emotional abuse that led to life-altering physical harm. Constant bullying on the job escalated to a coworker purposely letting a tailgate land on her. Her muscles were severely damaged and she was bedridden for a very long time. She even lost her worker's compensation during this devastating period in her life.

Since 1990, the Dixwell-Newhallville Community Health Services had been helping Charlotte work through her psychiatric challenges. But with the recent added losses, she knew she needed additional emotional grounding and support. 

Timing is everything. Dixwell-Newhallville Community Health Services had just merged with Continuum of Care, and Continuum’s Health and Wellness Department offered wellness classes, including a guided meditation and deep breathing class to help individuals cope and take control of their emotional wellness.

Charlotte instantly fell in love with the clarity she felt.  “With meditation – that moment of having no thoughts is the most wonderful feeling.  It helps me to stay in the moment and calm myself within.” 

That experience inspired her to commit to enhancing her own wellness and self-care practices. She participated in more classes and support groups. She reveals, “I read a lot now. I do breathing exercises and meditation every day. I have a sound machine. I use adult coloring books and I write in my journal. I keep myself busy. I keep myself at peace.” 

Her art piece Thoughts of Change is displayed in
Dixwell-Newhallville Director Marguerite Thorpe's office

Charlotte also attends art therapy classes as a form of meditation. “It’s my spirit, my inner self that does my art. I don’t do art from my thoughts. I just allow.”  Dixwell-Newhallville’s Women’s Group gives her the opportunity to open up to other people, and she says, “Knowing that you’re not the only one who goes through stuff helps a great deal.” 

Charlotte, and many others like her, are finding that expanding wellness and mindfulness practices are essential components of keeping it together when the world around you seems to fall apart.

Charlotte benefits from other services that Continuum’s Health and Wellness Department provides. She recognizes that what you eat affects your mental health, so she meets with staff for consultations on her nutrition. She finds their yoga classes to be helpful with easing the daily pain she suffers from due to her injury, especially since physical therapy was cut at another program to which she belongs. And, of course, she continues to see her clinician and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor and does the step work – she’s 11 years sober.

All of her wellness efforts have done wonders for her mindset. She’s now focused on acceptance, self-love, letting go of the past, finding the good and solution in every situation and problem, and coping in a constructive manner when she feels depressed and overwhelmed. For example, she began to cry during the interview for this story as she reflected on past trauma. She got even more emotional as she speculated on the uncertainty of her future, noting the limitations she still faces due to her injury and the possibility of Medicare and Medicaid cuts. 

Then she stopped herself – “I’ve got to stay in the moment” – and promised to do a breathing meditation after the interview to calm herself down. That’s her wellness work in action.

Now, Charlotte is grateful for the positive changes happening in her life and looking forward to all that she can accomplish. 

Her two kids – their relationship suffered due to her drug addiction – are back in her life. She recently applied for an apartment and is so excited to live on her own again. Most of all, she’s looking forward to helping others “that have been and still are where [she] was” through doing mental health advocacy work at Dixwell-Newhallville and eventually becoming a Recovery Support Specialist at Continuum’s South Central Peer Services.

Charlotte just wants her story to encourage somebody. Even if it’s only one person. 

“It’s alright to have mental health help. It’s a good thing because so many people have mental health issues. Once they accept it, life continues. There’s no more shame. There are no more secrets in your life. Life continues and it does get better. If you want it. I’m a living person that knows. There really is awesome care here, but it’s up to the person to want to receive it. I know being connected with Dixwell-Newhallville and Continuum will carry me where I’m supposed to be. I thought that my life had ended, but, no, I’m being reborn.” 

Will 2017 be Your Year of Purpose?

What did you resolve to do more of, less of, or change in 2017? Research shows that approximately half of you have made New Year's resolutions. We consulted research institute Statistic Brain's recent survey on the "Top 10 New Year's Resolutions for 2017." Following are three of the top ten resolutions, along with suggestions on how to apply them to your life.

Do More Good Deeds for Others (Generosity)

Research shows that living a lifestyle of generosity can make you healthier and happier, raise self-esteem, lower stress levels, improve relationships,  and give a greater sense of purpose and meaning in your life. There are a variety of ways to be generous, from practicing small acts of kindness like sharing a smile with someone to volunteering in the community at a local food bank or senior center. There are many organizations that need your time, talent and financial assistance. A simple way to donate to an organization in need is to commit to a recurring gift. Instead of feeling the strain on your pockets by making a large donation, a monthly gift of $5 to $10 makes your commitment more manageable and your financial impact on the organization will spread across an entire year.

Get Healthy

Staying fit and losing weight tend to be the most common resolutions, but exercise should also be paired with a non-physical mental health activity. Practice mindfulness, the state of being fully present and aware in each moment. You're simply aware of what is instead of ruminating over your present circumstance or your future, which can lead to anxiety, stress, and loss of concentration. Mindful breathing is a simple way to cultivate mindfulness. For just five minutes, focus on each inhalation and exhalation as you breathe deeply into the belly to calm yourself down when stressed. For exercise, do at least 10 minutes of physical activity each day. A little something is better than nothing, and the endorphins prevent or reduce mental health problems.  


Learn Something New

According to research, learning throughout your life can improve and maintain your mental wellbeing. Learning helps build a sense of purpose and fulfillment, creates positive feelings of achievement that boost self-confidence and self-esteem, can advance your career, and keeps you connected with people. Getting absorbed in whatever you are learning helps distract your brain from life's minor and major stressors, and the process of learning itself, not just the end result, is enjoyable and rewarding. Being a lifelong learner keeps your mind sharp as you are constantly challenging yourself and breaking out of the rut of stagnation. Learning something new or exploring a new interest doesn't have to be complicated or through a formal course, and you can make it part of your everyday. Here are some ideas: take a one-day class in a subject, watch a TED Talk, visit your local library to check out books or attend a free course, attend a free lecture at a local college or university,  go to a museum, take on a new responsibility at work, watch video tutorials, learn a new recipe, and pick up or revisit a hobby.


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