dr. jenny holland

Art therapy can be beneficial for stressed caregivers of cancer patients

Art therapy can be beneficial for stressed caregivers of cancer patients

Creative activities like art-making are mindful practices, allowing patients and caregivers to stay in the moment, which by definition can free them from the stress that cancer brings. Caregivers experience stress, which can affect their own health and the patient’s outcome. A recent study showed coloring and open-studio art therapy benefits stressed caregivers of cancer patients.

Offering kindness to others reduces anxiety and increases happiness

Offering kindness to others reduces anxiety and increases happiness

Several studies reported in the 1990s and early 2000s that mindfulness based treatments can be effective for a range of psychological problems, particularly those associated with anxiety and mood disorders. A study Published by NCBI found that Loving Kindness exercises were effective for self-critical individuals for reducing self-criticism and depression and improving self-compassion along with positive emotions.

Physical activity improves symptoms of depression, making change possible

Physical activity improves symptoms of depression, making change possible

People with depression often withdraw and are physically inactive. To investigate the effect of physical activity, researchers enlisted 41 people, who were undergoing treatment at the hospital, for the study. The participants were each assigned to one of two groups, one of which completed a three-week exercise program. The program, which was developed by a sports science team, was varied, included fun elements, and did not come across as a competition or test, but instead employed teamwork from the participants. The other group took part in a control program without physical activity.

Patient Comment – June 2021

“Our teen has been meeting with Dr. Jenny Holland for a couple of years. She took time to reach out to us as parents to ensure that we were getting support too as we navigated not just a transitioning child but the emotional ups and downs of a teenager, too. She gave us permission to be strong parents without giving in to our kid. Reach out, it is worth it.”

Living with uncertainty, pain and compromised physical ability

Living with uncertainty, pain and compromised physical ability

Living with a chronic or life-threatening illness or injury takes a cumulative toll on a person’s emotional and mental health, whether it is lifelong asthma, diabetes, a cancer diagnosis, a disability, or organ failure. Similarly, a sudden injury can leave in its wake life-altering changes and daily struggles that permanently challenges a person’s sense of well-being. Emotional adjustment to life altering changes such as these can cause coping problems due to the chronic stress and uncertainty presented by facing the unknown or having to live with a chronic illness.

Dr. Jenny Holland PsyD was once diagnosed with Neuroendocrine cancer and is now a cancer survivor. She has lived with chronic pain her whole life due to Cerebral Palsy. These experiences give Dr. Holland a unique perspective and a deep understanding of what it is like to live with chronic illness and a life-threatening diagnosis. “As a cancer survivor, I enjoy working with others with cancer to improve quality-of-life while going through treatment, by addressing symptoms that may arise practically and imaginatively,”

Facing a serious diagnosis

When someone undergoes a life-altering health challenge, the immediate reaction can include tears, emotional outbursts, reaching out to loved ones for comfort, or perhaps denial as the newly diagnosed patient chooses to pretend that nothing has changed. Some people may feel emotionally numbed or feel ‘stuck’ as they are unable to process that life has suddenly changed beyond recognition. Some people take the opposite route and leap into action to tackle the health problem head on.

No matter what the reaction, it is important to remember there are no rules for how to respond, nor is there an expectation to what one might feel. Every person’s experience is unique so it is important to allow the process to unfold, and allow yourself to adjust to the situation. A serious health complication is disruptive by nature, and all aspects of what we may consider to be a ‘normal life’ may become challenged. Feelings associated with chronic or life-threatening illness such as cancer, or a major health event such as a stroke, heart attack, long-haul COVID symptoms, or a debilitating injury present challenges, and every individual’s reaction is unique.

You are not alone

There are steps that can be taken to support emotional health during times of crisis and therapies that are designed to help patients cope, and eventually thrive. These therapies can help to ease the stress and anxiety that often accompany serious illness. Working with a trained therapist can help you discover ways to navigate a challenging life situation.

“Living with uncertainty, pain, and compromised physical ability takes a cumulative toll. My practice is process and solution-focused with outcomes aimed at symptom reduction and increased joy,” explains Dr. Holland. “I use a combination of therapeutic approaches and techniques to help patients successfully make the changes they most want to see in themselves. I am here to help.”

Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline. She is available for Teletherapy – Online Video Counseling Services — Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support as well as in-person appointment for fully vaccinated clients. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.

Study examines benefits of social connectedness

New study seeks to understand how much we feel connected to others we have never met and how that predicts people’s sense of selfless concern for the well-being of others.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people who recognize the connections they share with others are more likely to wear a mask, follow health guidelines and help people, even at a potential cost to themselves, a new University of Washington study shows. Indeed, an identification with all humanity, as opposed to identification with a geographic area like a country or town, predicts whether someone will engage in “prosocial” behaviors particular to the pandemic, such as donating their own masks to a hospital or coming to the aid of a sick person.

The study, published March 10 in PLOS ONE, is drawn from about 2,500 responses, from more than 80 countries, to an online, international study launched last April. Researchers say the findings could have implications for public health messaging during the pandemic: Appealing to individuals’ deep sense of connectedness to others could, for example, encourage some people to get vaccinated, wear masks or follow other public health guidelines.

“We want to understand to what extent people feel connected with and identify with all humanity, and how that can be used to explain the individual differences in how people respond during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said author Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, or I-LABS, who co-led the study with postdoctoral researcher Nigini Oliveira at the Paul G. Allen School for Computer Science and Engineering.

In psychology, “identification with all humanity” is a belief that can be measured and utilized in predicting behavior or informing policy or decision-making. Last spring, as governments around the world were imposing pandemic restrictions, a multidisciplinary team of UW researchers came together to study the implications of how people would respond to pandemic-related ethical dilemmas, and how those responses might be associated with various psychological beliefs.

Researchers designed an online study, providing different scenarios based in social psychology and game theory, for participants to consider. The team then made the study available in English and five other languages on the virtual lab LabintheWild, which co-author Katharina Reinecke, an associate professor in the Allen School, created for conducting behavioral studies with people around the world.

The scenarios presented participants with situations that could arise during the pandemic and asked people to what extent they would:

  • Follow the list of World Health Organization health guidelines (which mostly focused on social distancing and hygiene when the study was run between mid-April to mid-June)
  • Donate masks of their family’s to a hospital short on masks
  • Drive a person exhibiting obvious symptoms of COVID-19 to the hospital
  • Go to a grocery store to buy food for a neighboring family
  • Call an ambulance and wait with a sick person for it to arrive

In addition to demographic details and information about their local pandemic restrictions, such as stay-at-home orders, participants were asked questions to get at the psychology behind their responses: about their own felt identification with their local community, their nation and humanity, in general. For instance, participants were asked, “How much would you say you care (feel upset, want to help) when bad things happen to people all over the world?”

Researchers found that an identification with “all humanity” significantly predicted answers to the five scenarios, well above identifying with country or community, and after controlling for other variables such as gender, age or education level. Its effect was stronger than any other factor, said Barragan, and popped out as a highly significant predictor of people’s tendency to want to help others.

The authors noted that identifying with one’s country, in fact, came in a distant third, behind identification with humanity in general and one’s local community. Strong feelings toward one’s nation, nationalism, can lead to behavior and policies that favor some groups of people over others.

“There is variability in how people respond to the social aspects of the pandemic. Our research reveals that a crucial aspect of one’s world view — how much people feel connected to others they have never met — predicts people’s cooperation with public health measures and the altruism they feel toward others during the pandemic,” said co-author Andrew Meltzoff, who is co-director of I-LABS and holds the Job and Gertrud Tamaki Endowed Chair in psychology.

Since last spring, of course, much has changed. More than 2.5 million people worldwide have died of COVID-19, vaccines are being administered, and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, especially regarding masks, has evolved. If a new survey was launched today, Barragan said, the research group would like to include scenarios tuned to the current demands of the pandemic and the way it challenges us to care for others even while we maintain physical distancing.

For COVID-19 and future humanitarian crises, the ethical dilemmas presented in the study can offer insight into what propels people to help, which can, in turn, inform policy and outreach.

“While it is true that many people don’t seem to be exhibiting helpful behaviors during this pandemic, what our study shows is that there are specific characteristics that predict who is especially likely to engage in such behavior,” Barragan said. “Future work could help people to feel a stronger connection to others, and this could promote more helpful behavior during pandemics.”


Read this article on Science Daily: University of Washington. “Helpful behavior during pandemic tied to recognizing common humanity.” ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/03/210310204202.htm.