Alternatives from "Words of Wellness"

NYAPRS Note: “Words of Wellness” is a recovery newsletter brought to us by the Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey. This monthly publication features information and resources to help people to achieve and maintain wellness. You can read related content, or access previous editions on their website,


Table of Contents

Don’t Give up: Keep Trying................................. 1

Wellness Talents.................................................... 1

Reiki...................................................................... 2

Regaining my Physical Fitness.............................. 4


Don’t Give up: Keep Trying

by Lauren Dick 


“It is time,” said my dad. He was taking me to learn how to ride a bike. I was so nervous that I cried the whole trip there!  We went inside to get ready. Several minutes later we went outside.  I got on the bike. My dad held the bike. When he let go I fell and the bike fell on top on me!  The tire scraped, the brake hit, and the wheel squeaked!  I was screaming and crying. It was like the tornado in the Wizard of Oz! Afterwards my dad said “Come on Lauren, try again!”  I refused and quoted “I can’t!” 


I was furious!  I went into his house and angrily poured a glass of water into the cup. I was so angry. When my father tried talking to me I screamed “ AH!  to be alone and angry.”  After that I grabbed a fiber bar and started to jump rope.  I was no longer stressed or angry, but I was still scared.


My dad and I went back outside. I got on the bike. I rode slowly at first with dad holding onto the back. Surprising, he let go.  I rode like the wind.  I road as fast as a roadrunner!  I felt awesome!!!!!!  I was so proud of myself.  My dad was so proud that he took me for Rita’s !!!! Now I love riding my bike. 


That day I learned that if you just keep on trying you will eventually get it. Next time you do something you don’t get the first time, don’t give up, just keep on trying. Once you get it you will feel great!  It did for me!!   Now when I ride my bike I feel free!!! On hot days the breeze feels great!  Sometimes my friend and I go to the park and we ride our bikes with my mom. Now I’m getting a new bike.  I have to get used to it, but I’m sure it will be as good.   Hey, it might even be even better.  Lauren is a 9 year old October 2013 Author of the Month at Washington Elementary.


Wellness Talents

by Christina Serrano, Wellness Trainer


How many of you have a hidden talent you would like to share? Sometimes, the work we do requires us to have talents in many different areas. Many times, those talents have positive effects on the services we provide. We reached out to the support services department of CSPNJ and invited them to share a hidden talent. This is one of a series of articles on those hidden talents, found among all of the staff in all of the departments of CSPNJ.


Rachel is a support worker based out of the Eatontown office in the central region of New Jersey; she has worked in supported housing with the agency for two years. As we sat down with Rachel a few weeks ago, we learned the story of her talent, playing the guitar. Rachel has had a love for music for most of her life. She was introduced to the skill of playing the guitar at the young age of 6 and picked up the talent at the age of 15. She initially learned how to play guitar from a family friend and fell in love with it. At age 15, Rachel began taking lessons, stopped for a while, and then picked up again six years ago. The evolution of Rachel’s guitar playing has included both electric and acoustic guitars and both classical and rock music.


Rachel described the valued roles guitar playing has held in her life.  Having a consistent role of guitarist in addition to other valued roles she holds as worker, daughter, and partner have provided her with purpose and inspiration. In addition to providing a valued role, Rachel’s guitar playing has offered many additional benefits. She sees a strong overlap between the benefits of her guitar playing and the different wellness dimensions.


Intellectually, guitar playing keeps her mind busy, and she enjoys challenging herself by memorizing guitar songs, one measure at a time. Emotionally, she says, guitar playing “puts me in another space,” and she explains that it is a way for her to de-stress. Rachel also added that she can play any style of song on the guitar and it can help to inspire different emotions throughout the day. Rachel usually plays classical music on her guitar before work and likes to “rock out” at night.


Socially, she finds that her guitar opens doors to conversations with others. People react to her music, and this can lead to a conversation, often inspiring others to think of their own hobbies. She explained that the usual small talk and asking questions about the weather are often bypassed for deeper conversations about more meaningful topics. Rachel also shared how she uses the guitar as a barometer for her wellness--if she not feeling well, she usually forgets songs and, when she can successfully memorize songs, she knows she is doing well.


Rachel has found ways to integrate her talent into the services she provides. Rachel has found that she is not the only one with a musical talent. She described that she brought her guitar to the enhanced services house and learned that many people there have either played guitar or wish to play guitar. She found that integrating her talent for music into her job was a way to open doors, inspire others, and build relationships. The positive effect music has had on Rachel’s life, and on the lives of those who use her services, is apparent. As Rachel says, when asked about playing the guitar, “It helps me do what I love most, to help others.”

If you are interested in learning how to play guitar, offers a beginner’s how-to for basic guitar playing skills. If you are interested in learning more about the basics of reading music, there is a 5-minute video introduction to music at If you want a more in depth introduction to reading music, try; they give free music “lessons” on reading music and understanding rhythm.


Coursera, a site that offers free courses provides an introductory guitar course through the Berklee College of Music. This course is a 6-lesson introduction to guitar series, including descriptions of guitar skills such as “picking,” tuning your guitar, and learning which accessories are needed. Whatever route of learning you choose you could become one of the many people who find a sense of accomplishment, comfort, and peace through making music. We wish you luck on your journey.



by Judy Cicora, Reiki Master,


My Reiki journey began well before my journey as a “consumer.” Although I had received a BA in Psychology, I was experiencing depression, emotional pain, trauma symptoms, and anxiety for many years. I knew about counseling, because I took a graduate course in counseling but burned out before the first semester ended, at a time of extremely stressful family issues. Over the years, thanks to health insurance from a full-time job, I did receive some counseling and therapy.


When I lost my health coverage, I sought help from no-cost or sliding scale counseling programs. I was still, however, chronically experiencing depression, emotional pain, trauma flashbacks, and extreme anxiety.  Along the way, I was fortunate to stumble upon a 12-Step program for people whose relatives or friends have an addiction issue. This fellowship was a life-saver and taught me about mutual support and tools to improve my coping skills.

And then I discovered Reiki. It was at a free Reiki demo similar to the one I offered at the CSPNJ 2013 Fall Fest. My brief experience at the hands of the practitioner was profound. In about 10 minutes, I went from having a very rough day mentally and emotionally to feeling a new sense of balance, peacefulness, and well-being! I was sold on Reiki, and jumped in with both feet. I attended every Reiki clinic session possible (mini-treatments are often available for a free-will offering) and made a commitment to start on the path to becoming a Reiki practitioner myself.


Reiki is a form of hands-on energy work that helps the body find its natural balance and helps clear the mind through the release of stress. Pronounced “ray-key,” the name is a generic Japanese term loosely translated as Universal Life-Force Energy. Reiki is similar to massage as far as relaxation goes. However, while massage works with the unclad but draped body, people receiving Reiki treatment remain fully clothed. Another difference is that the Reiki practitioner lightly lays hands on the body, as opposed to the more intense working of the muscles and tissues that occurs in most massage therapy.


I received my First Degree initiation to Reiki in 1994, in the Traditional Usui System of Natural Healing. Since my Second Degree initiation in 1995, I have been a professional Practitioner of Reiki and have continued my training to the level of Reiki Master. I regularly participate in continuing education classes and workshops for Reiki Practitioners and Masters.


In addition to treating clients in private practice, I was honored to take part in the Haven for Healing project at Falmouth Hospital on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in which practitioners of Reiki and other therapeutic bodywork modalities offered treatments at no cost to women diagnosed with breast cancer. More recently, I have offered mini-treatments of Reiki at no cost at the Brighter Days Self-Help Center in Jackson, NJ.

When getting treatment, a person is invited to lie comfortably on the Reiki table or sit in a chair. Pillows can be adjusted for comfort, and a light blanket can be used if the person prefers. The Reiki Practitioner invites the person to keep his or her eyes open or closed, as preferred, and asks if there are any questions or issues the person wishes to address. For example, someone may have had an injury and would prefer not to have contact in that area. The person getting treatment may ask to stop the session at any time, in case of a need to use the rest room, or due to any possible concerns, questions, or discomfort.


The process of sharing Reiki energy occurs by lightly laying the practitioner's hands on the person, usually beginning with the top of the head or the shoulders, especially when the treatment is done with a chair. At no time is physical contact made with private areas of the body. An alternative method of sharing the Reiki energy is by holding the hands about 7 to 12 inches away from the body and directing the Reiki energy to the person's energy field, sometimes referred to as the “aura.” The practitioner may direct the Reiki energy to the person’s seven major energy centers (often referred to as “Chakras”). These are at the crown, forehead, throat, heart, abdomen, and root. Addressing these areas can be effective in supporting energy balance for the whole person.


Reiki is not a cure or quick fix, nor is it a substitute for professional medical care. The practitioner does not diagnose or treat any medical condition. Reiki benefits may include relaxation, release of stress, and energy balance, all of which can encourage and support the natural wellness and healing of body, mind, and spirit.


Through self-treatment as well as treatment by fellow practitioners over the years, I have experienced first-hand the benefits of Reiki in body, mind, and spirit. Some of these benefits have included a decrease in anxiety, relief from depression, relief from PTSD-triggered symptoms, support for general stress management, spiritual growth, an increased sense of well-being and self-esteem.


These are my words to describe both Reiki itself and the intention I hold in thought as I share Reiki with someone: “Begin in PEACE, and go forth in JOY.”


Regaining my Physical Fitness

by Erin Caccavale-Boyle, Wellness Specialist CSPNJ Central Region


I was sitting at home, feeling utterly miserable about what my body had become.  It felt natural for me to think that I needed to get up off the couch and lose weight. It was that simple, right? Wrong. I soon realized that I didn’t need to change just one or two things about my lifestyle, but rather a laundry list of things. My body had become a dumping ground for highly processed, high-calorie, nutrient-less food. When I thought back about what my body had been capable of in the past, I wanted to cry.


My body used to be that of an athlete: fit, trim and muscular. I wasn’t short of breath climbing a small staircase, and I could run around with my dog all day long. I just couldn’t do those things with ease anymore. I couldn’t sit down without feeling so uncomfortable because my jeans were digging so deep into my skin. I couldn’t lie down on my back without feeling the extra weight on my body pushing down on me.


So, I finally stepped on the scale…the number it showed me was nearly thirty-five pounds heavier than what it used to show me in my athletic days. This time, I really did cry.


That was back in November 2012, but my journey to regain my fitness started about two years before that. I had just moved in with my fiancé (now husband), and we were struggling to make it on our own. We tried to conserve our money as much as possible, which meant buying the cheapest food at the grocery store. This was just the beginning of the weight gain. My job at the time had me sitting down a lot, and I had not exercised in quite a while. My work schedule made it difficult for me to fit any extra routines into my day.

My first attempt to change my ways came when, a month before my wedding, my wedding dress no longer fit because I had gained too much weight. I panicked, and had to buy a completely new dress. I looked and felt beautiful and happy on my wedding day in June of 2011 but, looking back at some of those photos, I sometimes grimace at how my body looked in certain positions. Around that time I made an attempt at eating right and working out.


I had some success, but was sidelined with a knee injury, which kept me out of the gym for about three months. I never went back to the gym, and eventually cancelled my membership. I gained even more weight during this time, because I was literally stuck sitting on the couch all day, every day, resting my knee.  Last summer, I felt the need to cover-up more at the beach than I ever had. I had never felt embarrassed about my body until then.


There was just something different in my approach and thought process about creating these same big changes in my life in November of 2012. I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions, but I felt determined that 2013 would be a new, different year in my life. I made a promise to myself that this was the last time I was going to try to change my lifestyle, so I really had to put all of my effort into it. I started doing some research online to find things to help me on my journey, and developed a plan that would work for me and my busy life.


I invested in a FitBit, which is a small device a person wears all day to track their steps taken, miles traveled, staircases climbed, calories burned and overall activity level.  It also tracks sleep patterns.  Using the FitBit website also allows you to log information daily about your sleep, food intake, exercise, metabolic information, and to keep a journal. 


I also began to use the iPhone App “Pinterest” for ideas on exercise, healthy (and easy) recipes to try, nutritional information, and motivational quotes. I even took this a step further and made a “scrapbook” of workout ideas that I had gathered and motivational quotes/pictures. I kept it near my workout DVDs, and flipped through it on days when I was not feeling motivated to work out, or when I just didn’t feel like doing a workout DVD that day. This has helped me to stick with it, and to see that I was not just limited to one or two exercise routines.


The nicer, warmer spring weather also inspired me to take my workouts outside. My husband and I have recently discovered a love for hiking, and our dog is not complaining! We are now choosing more active date ideas, such as: hiking, walking around the neighborhood, walking to/from downtown for dinner, bowling, playing Wii Sports, etc.


My diet was also underwent a major change. I was definitely overeating at every meal and, well, in between meals, too. This may have been the hardest part for me throughout this journey. My family is all about food, and it is hard to escape that. I began to plan out weekly dinners, create a shopping list based on this menu, and shop for only those food items. This helped me to stay out of the snack aisles. I also started to measure out portions during mealtime. It was so surprising to see what the actual portion size of something was supposed to be, and it was definitely a lot less than I was eating! It took me some time to feel okay with only eating the recommended portion, but I just kept reminding myself of the initial promise that I had made: this would be the last time I would try to make these changes. I stuck with it.


I soon became very interested in the fit and healthy lifestyle, and began to watch several documentaries regarding these types of lifestyle changes. Several of the movies really changed my views on diet and nutrition, which led me to make even more dietary changes. “Forks over Knives” inspired me to follow a whole food, plant-based diet. I have cut meat out of my diet, but I still include some yogurt and cheese currently. I also began buying only foods with a small ingredient list, and with ingredients that I could pronounce.


It is important to note that I did a lot of research about proper nutrition for people who choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle; it was important to me not to deprive my body of the nutrients that it does need. I make sure to take supplements every day, and to eat a variety of foods every day. I still enjoy food, and go out to eat from time-to-time, but I try to eat smaller portions (it’s okay to bring home leftovers!), choose healthier options, and only eat out once or twice per month.


So where am I now? Currently, I have lost 16 pounds and lost over 6% of my body fat. I dropped four pants sizes. I am able to climb staircases with ease, and to romp around with my dog more and more. Simple physical activities that I struggled with before are now a breeze for me to do. I am working out six days per week, and fitting more physical activity into my every day (walking more, simple chair exercises when I am stuck at my desk all day, etc.). It is important for me to acknowledge these successes, as they keep me interested in seeing what else I can do with my body.


My hard work, determination and trial-and-error in finding what works best for me have gotten me where I am today. I also had tremendous support from my husband, parents, and friends who celebrated my successes with me, no matter how small or big they were. My journey is not over, and I can’t wait to see where else it leads me.


Words of Wellness

As part of our vision to foster wellness and recovery, the CSPNJ Institute for Wellness and Recovery Initiatives offers this newsletter, Words of Wellness. This monthly publication features information and resources to help people to achieve and maintain wellness. You can read related content, or access previous editions on our website, We are eager to share the information in Words of Wellness, and we’re very happy when you share copies of the newsletter with your friends and colleagues. Feel free to photocopy the newsletter as is, or forward it to interested parties.  You might also want to recommend that others subscribe directly or access the newsletter online. However, we put a lot of effort into this newsletter, and we would like to get credit. Please cite the work correctly or contact me (Peggy Swarbrick) if you have questions (