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12 Ways to Gift Family Connection

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  • By Hanna Nee

Every year I say the same thing, “I’m not going to go crazy, I’m going to keep it simple. After all, the holiday isn’t about presents, it’s about being together, celebrating our spiritual tradition, and practicing love, generosity, mercy, and gratitude.” And every year I do it…I over do it, that is. I blame the fact that both my daughter’s love language and mine is gifts. I LOVE giving gifts. I love picking them out, wrapping them, watching her open them. So when people talk about non-toy/non-traditional gifts, I may agree in theory, but resist in practice. I mean, sure, my daughter doesn’t really need another Lego set, and donating to the animal shelter in her name is a really great thing to do, but what can I wrap?!


I think we all want to shower our kids with gifts as a way of showing love, and maybe, just a little bit, to meet social expectations. But what we can end up doing is showing them that love and approval can be measured by the volume of gifts around the tree, and in so doing, instill the seeds of a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. And, if you’re a parent or caregiver of a child from a hard place (e.g. history of trauma, adoption, divorce, etc), your child is at greater risk of attachment issues that can be compounded by a focus on things rather than relationships. Some children who have experienced inconsistent, absent, or frightening caregivers in their past learn to attach to material things rather than people, and a focus on material things representing love can inadvertently encourage this maladaptive attachment pattern. I think we can all agree that that is NOT the goal! In an effort to counter-act this outcome, I’ve put together a list of gifts that are at their core relational and bonding, but with all the trappings of a traditional gift.


So with no further ado, and in no particular order:


  • Books

If you are a story loving family, give your child(ren) the gift of a read aloud tradition. My father read to my siblings and me at least once a week from classics like Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, and Treasure Island. I can still remember the feelings of closeness, belonging, and family identity that tradition instilled in me. Choose a story that fits you child’s interests and developmental level and include a promise to start a daily/weekly/monthly read aloud tradition with them. Don’t forget to do the voices!


  • Games

Games are such a fantastic way to bond as a family and there are games to fit

practically every developmental level and interest. Nothing builds connection and

trust quicker than laughing and having fun together. Some of my family’s favorites in

the card game genre include Pit, Wizard, Spot It, Apples to Apples, and Uno. We also

love Catan, Beyond Balderdash, Monopoly, and The New Yorker Game. Some newer

games that we’re wanting to try are Forbidden Island, Castle Panic, One Night Ultimate Werewolf, and Mysterium.


  • Classes you can take together

Whether your family is into physical play and exercise, or crafting and arts, (or all of

the above) there are tons of local classes going on in the community around you. Try

martial arts, photography, pottery, coding, quilting, a new language, dance, guitar, or

fencing – this kind, not this kind.) If you can think of it, it’s probably out there!


  • Tickets

Check out what’s going on in your area and then get out of the house together and

see a play, symphony, concert, or movie.


  • Subscription Boxes

What’s better than someone else pre-gathering everything you need for craft time?

Subscription boxes haven’t gotten very popular and it’s not surprising. Pre-curated

boxes of projects that free you up to spend less time planning, gathering, and

shopping, and more time making things together! Try littleBits, Tinker Box,

Little Passports, Hello Fresh, or whole host of other options.


  • Bespoke coupon book

A classic option, but take it up a notch and let one of these companies make your

personalized “coupon” book look polished and professional. Make sure its chock

full of offerings of quality time together.


  • Gift Cards

Choose a restaurant or two your child(ren) like to go to – Starbucks, Chick-fil-a,

Chipotle, Yogurt Land – and include a few dates on the calendar to use them

together for a special date.


  • Passes

Passes are a great option if you’re fortunate to live close to museums, a science

center, state parks, or theme parks.


  • Stationary Set with Promise of Mail

Everybody loves to get mail, especially kids! Give them a unique stationary set and

fun writing pens or pencils and create a schedule that works for you (weekly, bi-

weekly, monthly) to send letters or postcards to each other.


  • Recipe Box with Recipes/Kitchen Tools

Put together a collection of your child’s favorite dishes and desserts, and along with

a few special kitchen tools just for him or her (and maybe matching personalized

aprons and chefs’ hats), you and your co-chef can act out your own version of

Master Chef Junior or The Great British Baking Show and create beautiful and

delicious creations to share as a family. Don’t forget to include your promise of

(weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) cooking/baking with the gift.


  • Tool Box with Tools

Maybe you and your kids would rather be in the garage than the kitchen. Put

together a special collection of tools with a planned project to work on – build a dog

house, tree house, shelves for their books, or anything tailored to their interests, be it

mechanical, carpentry, robotics, whatever!


  • Fishing Gear/Camping Gear (w/ planned trips)

The absolute most connecting and bonding times of my life were during yearly

camping trips I went on with my family and church. It felt so special to have my own

gear and I still remember getting my first pocket knife in my stocking for Christmas

when I was 10 years old – Best Christmas Ever!



I hope this list has given you some helpful ideas that will work for your family. When you begin to substitute these kinds of gifts into the holiday gifting routine, you may not have as many toys to sell in the yearly garage sale purge, but you will have greater family connection, improved attunement, and the much welcome side-effect of more empathetic, cooperative children. This year, give the gift of connection.


2 Final Tips:

1) It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, commitment to following through on the connecting portion is key. Make these connecting moments a priority – put them on the calendar, write them on the bathroom mirror, tattoo them on your forehead… or just set a reminder on your phone, but make it happen!


2) Don’t ever make connection time a consequence – the last message we want to send to

our kids is that they can do something that makes them unacceptable as a person. As a parent, you are their example of healthy love (no pressure or anything) – if Wednesday night is “family game night” then family game night happens whether your little one has been naughty or nice that day. Take away their iPod, but keep game night. This helps your kids learn that your love and acceptance can be trusted and relied on, no matter what!

7 Easy Steps for Creating a Daily Gratitude List

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Each year, when November comes around, we meet up to celebrate family, fun, and food.  Thanksgiving is a major holiday, and though the original intention of the day may have been diluted over the years by our society’s focus on excess – MORE food, MORE shopping hours, MORE sales – it is nonetheless a day when we come together to give thanks for the people and things we are grateful for in our lives.  It’s all in the name, “Thanks-giving”!

But what if we did not isolate our feelings of gratitude to only a single day each year?  What if we made time to cultivate gratitude and appreciation on a daily basis?

How could this minor change in perspective impact our lives?

As it turns out, setting aside just a few minutes each day to note what we are grateful for, and allowing ourselves to truly feel the sensation of gratitude that comes along with such an activity, can have incredible and far-reaching effects.  Using the concepts behind Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, a major theory of psychology that suggests our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions are all connected, we can see how such a practice can help us to be happier, healthier, and more prepared to face the day.  CBT states that, by focusing on changing one of these aspects of ourselves (a behavior, the way we think, or how we handle emotions), we can bring about change in the others as well.  In this article, we will look at how making time each day to create a “gratitude list” (in other words, a change in behavior) can positively affect our thoughts and emotions.

Now, some of you may be thinking that you already show gratitude on a daily basis.  After all, many of us say “thank you” multiple times per day in our interactions with family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers.  But politeness does not necessarily equate to gratitude.  Gratitude is a complex emotion that requires self-reflection, humility, and empathy for others.  By cultivating gratitude beyond simple politeness, we can take our appreciation a step further and reap the life-changing benefits of this dynamic emotion.

One simple method for harnessing the power of gratitude is by creating a daily “gratitude list”.  If you are interested in improving your mood and perspective through gratitude practices, this is a great place to start.  We will review some of the steps required to begin incorporating this simple and powerful practice into your daily routine.


  1. Commit to Gratitude Practice – The first few times you sit down to create your gratitude list, you may find that the benefits of doing so are not immediately clear. But don’t become discouraged!  This is a spiritual practice that will become more effective with time and practice.  Even if you have to force yourself to stick with it at first, the practice will likely pull you in once you begin to see the long-term benefits.
  2. Choose a Specific Time of Day – When attempting to add a new habit to your routine, it can be especially helpful to practice it at the same time each day. The same holds true when creating your gratitude list.  You will want to set aside 5 – 10 minutes in order to complete your daily list.  Many people choose to create their lists first thing in the morning, claiming it helps them to start their day on a positive note.  Others may choose to create their lists in the evening, before bed, as this allows them to reflect on the day and what they were grateful for.  There is no wrong time to practice gratitude, but do your best to stick to the same time each day!
  3. Write Down a List – Now comes the actual list. Sit down with a pen or pencil and a piece of paper, and write the words “I am grateful for…” at the top of the paper.  For what are you grateful?  To whom in the past and present are you grateful?  Reflect on these questions, and allow the words to flow onto your paper.
  4. Feel It – Remember, gratitude is a complex emotion that requires humility, self-reflection, and empathy for others. When you can summon up the feeling of gratitude in your heart, allow it to flow through every part of your being.  The goal is to carry that gratitude with you throughout your day, until it is time to create tomorrow’s list.
  5. Keep It Up – Some days, you can write your list without feeling an ounce of gratitude. That’s OK.  In fact, these may be the days when you are most in need of a reminder.  Stick with your routine, and make an extra effort to add new people or things you are grateful for that you may not have considered before.
  6. Share It – Share your gratitude list with family or friends. Some people may choose to find an “accountability buddy” who also wants to make gratitude a part of their daily routines.  This can help to keep you on track, and give you a positive support for difficult days.
  7. Start From The Beginning!

by DJ Spigener, MA, LMHC

The Mask We Wear

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DJ Spigener, LMHC

With Halloween fast approaching, the traditions associated with this holiday are on many people’s minds.  Carving pumpkins, passing out candy to neighborhood children dressed up as their favorite characters, observing the change of seasons and harvest time, and getting together with friends in celebration are all common traditions.  Another Halloween tradition that many of us have practiced, at one time or another, is the wearing of masks.  When used for festive purposes, masks are typically worn in order to conceal our identities, or perhaps as part of a larger costume designed to present ourselves as a specific character/celebrity/person.  These masks are physical items that disguise us and make for new and unique interactions with the other participants around us.  But after the celebrations end, we remove these masks, and we return to our day-to-day lives.  Our masks get shoved into a closet, or a box, and are forgotten until next year’s Halloween.


If someone was to continue wearing their mask on the 1st of November, it might seem a little strange, but perhaps could be rationalized as just an overzealous fan of the spooky holiday who had a hard time letting it go.  Wearing it in the middle of July, though?  That would just be bizarre.  Right…?


In truth, we all wear masks, nearly every day, in any number of situations and settings.  The key difference is that these everyday masks are not visible to the naked eye, and as such, are not typically noticed or mentioned.  This phe

nomenon is not uncommon.  We all do it.  Whether done to impress potential employers, hide aspects of ourselves we deem inappropriate, or just to “fit in” with a certain social group, most people will attempt to alter their personality at one time or another.  But when taken to an extreme, the figurative donning of these masks can lead to a disconnection from our true identities – from the real “you” under the masks – and can result in all manner of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral difficulties.  In extreme cases, we may even louse touch with our own identity and become confused and uncertain of ourselves.  Fortunately, there are steps we can take to begin removing our masks and learning to embrace our authentic selves in the process.


The first step is awareness.  By taking the time to read this and being willing to engage in some self-reflection, you have already begun this step!


In our follow-up article, we will take a closer look at the other steps that can be taken to learn how to recognize and remove these masks, as well as how we can begin to embrace our authentic selves in social situations, leading to increased self-esteem, improved mood, and a better quality of life.

5 Tips for Dealing with Hurricane Related Anxiety

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Categories: Emotional

5 Tips for Dealing with Hurricane Related Anxiety

By John Stiteler, MA, LCCT (Owner of Total Health Guidance)


Most people are experiencing some level of stress related to Hurricane Irma. In fact, if you live in Florida, increased stress at this time is normal and even healthy. That’s right, some level of stress is actually healthy because it produces the hormone cortisol which provides extra motivation and energy to prepare for emergency situations. However, there is a difference between appropriate levels of stress and significant anxiety.


If cortisol levels become too elevated it can result in panic attacks, nightmares, intrusive images, intense fear, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and other physical illnesses. Here are five tips to help manage the excess stress caused by Irma:

  1. Limit media exposure. Obviously everyone needs to stay informed about the progress of the storm, evacuation orders, etc. However, that does not mean that you should be watching and listening to storm coverage 24 hours a day. Tune in periodically to get the latest information and then take a break. Too much exposure can lead to trauma producing reactions.
  2. Exercise. Exercise helps to reduce cortisol levels. If you find yourself not being able to avoid constant media coverage, at least try to do some exercise while you are watching it. For example: rotate between jumping jacks, sit-ups, and push-ups during every commercial break. Or, take a 15-minute walk (when it is safe to do so) for every 15 minutes of coverage you watch.
  3. Find time for activities you enjoy. Read a book, work on a puzzle, knit, or do something else you enjoy. These healthy activities can give your mind a temporary break from thinking about the devastation and keep stress in check. Your mind and your body will need these temporary breaks to remain sharp.
  4. Avoid drugs and excessive drinking. Drugs and alcohol may temporarily seem to remove stress, but in the long run they will only make it worse. If you smoke or drink coffee, try to limit your intake since nicotine and caffeine can both exasperate stress
  5. Ask for help when you need it. If your feelings do not go away or are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function in daily life – ask for help. Friends, family, and places of worship can all be good sources of relational, spiritual, emotional, and physical support. Don’t try to cope alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

The staff at Total Health Guidance is available if professional help is needed. If you continue to experience significant anxiety once the storm has passed, please give us a call for a free over-the-phone anxiety evaluation. You can contact us at 321-332-6984 for this FREE consultation or take it online.


Emotional Preparation for Hurricane Irma

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We are obviously hearing a lot right now about how to prepare for Hurricane Irma. Long gas lines, no parking spots available at the super stores, and water flying off the shelves at your neighborhood grocer are all indications of how people are preparing for the storm. With that said, not much is being discussed about emotional preparation which is equally as important.

During stressful times, our bodies produce extra cortisol which is known as the stress hormone. Stress is not always a bad thing. In fact, this extra stress can be beneficial as it helps to provide energy to tackle all of our hurricane preparedness activities. However, when too much stress can have devastating effects on our physical and emotional health.

One way to limit the negative impact of excess stress is to “emotionally breathe.” When we breathe physically we exhale the carbon dioxide (poison) and inhale the life-giving oxygen. How often do we need to breathe physically? A lot! Emotional breathing is similar. We exhale the things that we cannot control (poison) and we inhale serenity and the courage to handle the things that we can control. How often do we need to breathe emotionally? A lot!

Emotional breathing can take the form of the “Serenity Prayer” for those with a Higher Power or can simply be an affirmation. Here is an example of how that might look.

“God, give me (or, “I have”…) the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change” (Name them: the direction of the storm, other people, traffic, etc.) and imagine yourself exhaling those things. “God, give me the courage to change the things I can” (Name them: physical preparation, emotionally breathing, self-care, etc.) and imagine yourself inhaling the courage to accomplish those tasks. Repeat this exercise often and especially when you notice yourself feeling stressed or anxious.

We don’t want to spend any energy, effort, money, etc. on trying to change things that we have no control over. While things may be flying round us physically, focusing on the things that we can change will help keep us emotionally grounded.


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Categories: Emotional Physical

Whether you have been diagnosed with ADHD or not, many people have issues with staying focused especially in this fast-paced world in which we now live. We at Total Health Guidance look for natural, non-invasive ways to help boost focus and promote clarity. There are a number of natural ways to treat focus and attention issues, but one specific item that has helped many of our clients recently is a specific essential oil blend crafted to help target attention issues.
The blend of oil is called “InTune” and it is a proprietary blend of essential oils carefully selected for their ability to enhance and sustain a sense of focus. No matter your age, staying focused on the task at hand is sometimes difficult. This is especially critical during the formative years when learning and growing create habits and a foundation for life. The carefully selected essential oils in “InTune” work together, supporting efforts of those who have difficulty paying attention and staying on task.

• Sandalwood, Frankincense, and Lime promote a sense of clarity,
• Patchouli, Ylang Ylang, and Roman Chamomile are calming and soothing.

The pleasing aroma of “InTune” makes this essential oil blend an easy and delightful one to use. The cost of “InTune” is $46 and the bottle usually lasts 2 months. For more information or to order “InTune,” contact Total Health Guidance at 321-332-6984. We can also provide services to diagnose ADHD along with other natural treatment options for attention and focus issues.

“My ADHD hindered my work significantly, especially when I was traveling and had to multi-task. I started using “InTune” about 6 months ago and my productivity has increased dramatically since then.” – E.L. Orlando

Acupuncture and Stress

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3 Ways Acupuncture Can Help with Stress!

 – Christian Disla



  • In Chinese medicine we view stress as a sign of stagnation for both energy and blood. This is why exercise is recommended in order to relieve stress; by taking the body through a certain degree of movements and rigor you are increasing the flow of blood and energy. Through acupuncture we correct this flow to its natural state by using specific points to calm the mind, promote deep breathing, and boost energy.


  • When you experience stress the body secretes certain hormones into the bloodstream in order to relieve that stress. These hormones are released through the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. This trifecta is known as the HPA axis. Another factor that is involved with stress is our “fight or flight” response which is induced by the increase of neuropeptide y (NPY) co-transmitter. Through acupuncture, we block the stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones with the sympathetic NPY pathway while normalizing stress hormone levels.


  • During an acupuncture treatment you are given 20-30min on the treatment table, during this time patients usually fall asleep due to the calming effects of each point and soothing music that is often played in a treatment room. This is a good time to turn off the brain, forget about your worries, and allow yourself to take a moment to rest.


3 Ways Acupuncture Works

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Acupuncture is a system of medicine that has existed for 2000 years and it works by activating the body’s own healing mechanism to promote self-healing.


As Acupuncture Physicians, we are only a tool in helping to correct an imbalance within the body. Acupuncture can be used to treat a wide range of conditions including physical and emotional pain.  Despite its ability to effectively treat certain conditions, it is often categorized as a placebo effect. I assure you – it’s not. There’s scientific reasoning as to why acupuncture works.





Here are 3 ways that acupuncture works:


1. Acupuncture stimulates the release of powerful pain-killing and anti-inflammatory substances from the brain. Each treatment stimulates the release of enkephalin which is involved with regulating the nervous system’s response to harmful or potentially harmful stimuli. By creating this reaction we improve the body’s circulation of blood and energy to the affected area, thus promoting healing.


2. Acupuncture changes the way your brain responds to pain and can modify internal organ function to treat many complex diseases. The brain views areas of the body as according to the “cortical homunculus” – which is a distorted view of the body. Areas such as the head and fingers are viewed as a much larger image in comparison to other areas of the body. When we needle these larger images, we create a powerful reaction in the brain that allows for healing to occur. Needling these larger images can be described as distal acupuncture since we are needling far from the site of pain or the affected area. By doing so, the body releases beta-endorphins which are described to be much stronger than morphine. Beta-endorphins help numb and dull the pain. Each point has a nerve reaction. For example, the cardiac nerve is located within the deltoid, so when we needle this area we can stimulate the heart.


3. Acupuncture has many local effects including relaxation of contracted muscles and increase in blood circulation. When certain ailments arise, we believe that it’s due to a lack of circulation of blood and energy. So, by improving circulation we bring in new nutrients thus decreasing the symptoms of the disease at hand. When a patient is needled in the area in which the symptoms occur, it is enriched with new blood and nutrients. This causes a reduction in pain and inflammation along with relaxation of nerves and muscles.


Acupuncture works through a wide range of approaches, theories, and techniques in order to provide patients with an effective treatment. There are multiple ways of tackling a condition when it comes to acupuncture, and all with little side effects. If you’re interested in receiving acupuncture treatments, call 321-332-6984 to schedule an appointment. If you are curious but still not sure if this modality of healthcare can help you, call us to schedule a free consultation and learn more with no obligation.

Spot On – 4 reasons Everyone Should Try Cupping

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Earn your spots just like Olympic champion Michael Phelps

– Tony Ambush


The Olympic Games are an amazing gathering of athletes from all over the world.  During the Olympic season I feel connected to the world through sport.  That feeling is amplified when a member of our home team does exceptional work in their sport of choice. While watching Phelps during these 2016 games I have been excited to see all the spots on his body.  I have been a proponent of Traditional Chines Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture for many years.


4 Benefits of Cupping

  1. Increases blood flow and circulation
  2. Reduces of tension in muscles
  3. Improves muscle tone
  4. Removes toxins in body by activating the lymphatic system

Cupping is an ancient form of medicine that has been used to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being and as a type of deep-tissue massage. Cupping therapy is typically practiced by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. The theory behind cupping is that it moves or stimulates the body’s natural energy (Qi).


Cupping therapy involves heating the air inside a glass cup which creates a vacuum. The cup is then quickly placed on the skin resulting in the skin being pulled into the cup.   When removed the cup leaves behind a red, circular welt


Here are two common cupping techniques:

  1. Dry – (Fixed/Stationary) – The cups are placed on the skin in various locations, for varying periods of time. Location, cup size & length treatment will vary based on the focus of the treatment for that session.
  2. Wet – (Moving/ Gliding) – A lubricant such as massage lotion or oil is placed on the skin before the cups are set in place. After the cups have been placed they are pulled along the skin. This technique offers benefits similar to that of a deep tissue massage.

Cupping therapy may also be done with cups designed to work with a pump instead of heat.  This can allow an individual to apply cupping techniques on their own.

Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to have a professional practitioner work on your body. It is important that you seek advice from your medical doctor or an acupuncture physician before applying any cupping techniques.  Anjanette Mojica, our resident Acupuncture Physician, can help steer you toward a gold medal in your personal health. You might not win an Olympic gold medal, but you’ll feel like a winner when you add cupping therapy to your self-care plan. If you would like to know more about cupping, contact our office at (321) 332-6984.


Back to School Nutrition

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How 3 Colors Can Help Your Kids Steer Clear of Unhealthy Foods


It’s back to school for everyone!  Summer is over and kids are heading off to school.  The jam packed school year has begun.  Traffic Light Eating can show you how 3 simple colors can help you and your kids work towards better food choices.  Nutrition is the key to help students produce Olympic size growth, academically.  We’ve all heard, “Knowledge is power;” give your family the advantage. Help them stay on track and achieve their goals as they work towards the finish line.


Help your family stay healthy while on the go. This is a simple & fun way to help your kids learn about making better food choices.

RED, YELLOW and GREEN are a fun simple way to help you family stay health while on the go. Through the Traffic Light Eating model we help you identify which foods are best (GREEN); which foods to cut back on (YELLOW), and which are best to eliminate altogether (RED).  Our philosophy is; a diet isn’t something you do. Your diet is what you eat.  Through Traffic Light Eating we help explain why it is important to steer clear of food colorings, artificial sweeteners, and other food additives. We also increase understanding as to why fruits, vegetables and natural food sources are best for nutritional health.

Traffic Light Eating was developed by the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.  We offer classes in Traffic Light Eating to individuals, families, schools, corporate offices, and other groups.  To find out more about nutrition and Traffic Light Eating call our office or fill out the information request to the right on this page.

Happy Health Eating!








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