A woman walks through a Durango grocery store aisle with a wellness advocate at her side, like a culinary field guide.
The advocate examines the woman’s favorite brand of cereal and points out the added grams of sugar on the label. The woman, who has been trying to lose weight and is pre-diabetic, has an “ah-ha!” moment – right there in Aisle 6. “But I’ve been eating this ‘healthy’ cereal for years! It has been making me sick.”
Wellness is rooted in small choices: The candy bar or the apple? A Netflix binge or a workout? Drinking heavily or sharing frustration with a friend? Little nuggets of guidance around these choices can be a tremendous support. For people who choose to engage in treatment for mental-health or substance-use issues, peer groups can enhance positive growth. The Wellness Center through Axis Health System takes the group concept further by combining peer support with education in the community. The nuggets are practical skills for everyday life.
Axis Health System’s Wellness Center groups teach foundational skills of self-care, such as nutrition, exercise, interpersonal skills and stress management, and delivers them in a fun and engaging format. The center does not have a physical address; instead, a team of experts take curriculum on-site to meet the needs of different groups. Weekly sessions are offered at various locations, including St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Thursdays and Manna Soup Kitchen’s educational facility on Mondays.
The groups include mindful walks, art groups, chair yoga, nutrition, sleep habits and relaxation techniques. The Wellness Center also holds Grocery Store Tours as part of the national Cooking Matters program, which helps families learn to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget. Participants practice skills such as buying fruits and vegetables, comparing unit prices, reading food labels, identifying whole grains and sticking to a budget.
The mission of the Wellness Center is to empower individuals and families to achieve and maintain physical and mental wellness through peer interactions and education in a supportive and safe environment. The groups are available free to all people who participate in services at Axis Health System sites, including La Plata Integrated Healthcare, Columbine Behavioral Health and Crossroads at Grandview, which includes Detox and the Acute Treatment Unit.
Wellness Center groups are the glue that binds a continuum of care across a spectrum of needs. Health care services can expand into the community with great success. Sometimes, the “ah-ha!” moment can happen in a grocery store – in the middle of Aisle 6. Mind and body can be seen as one connected whole, where those small daily choices ring up to a big difference in overall health.
Karla Sluis is a spokesperson for Axis Health System, a nonprofit with nine locations in five counties of Southwest Colorado. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.