Working from home: Unique hospital program says solution to related stress usually isn't pain medication

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
The physical toll of COVID-19 has been devastating, but the pandemic is also having a severe impact on America's collective mental health.

A new CDC study finds U.S. adults experienced anxiety and depression from August of last year to February.

Experts say the effects of working from home can lead to physical pain too.

Now one local hospital is helping people reboot with a unique whole-body approach.

Blurred boundaries between work and home life left Kirk Hunter stressed and concerned with his health. He knew he had to eat better and exercise but Hunter realized the problem was much deeper than that.

"I wasn't present in the moment. I was overthinking things," Hunter said, "I was maybe critically thinking things to exhaustion."

Hunter found relief through a unique Loma Linda University Behaviorial Medicine program called MEND.

Program director Brian Distilberg said he's seen a jump in patient enrollment due to people inundated with stress hormones during lockdown.

Distilberg said, "They actually start to have physical effects on the body. Stress can make your nerves more sensitive. There are studies that show that you can gain weight if there are too many of these chemicals in your body."

MEND also helps patients examine relationships and spirituality. The program involves 8 to 12 weeks of single and group therapy sessions

"We have to consider both the physical side and the needs of the patient with the emotional, psychological, and family systems around these patients because they're all interdependent," Distilberg said.

Hunter began to understand his conflicted emotions and learned how to share those feelings with his family. He created clear work-life boundaries.

"I don't feel guilty if I get up from the computer and walk away at 5:00," Hunter said, "You have to find that balance and it's a commitment to oneself."

The coping skills Hunter learned helped him make healthier choices. He eats better and takes more walks.

"I committed to at least 30 minutes a day," he said.

Experts say reaching out doesn't mean you're weak, it means you're ready for change.

Distilberg said, "You can actually remove pain and stress by looking at the whole person and not at medical treatment."

Hunter said, "The more open and honest you are with yourself in the group, the more you're going to benefit from it."

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