May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is the perfect time to discuss something that hits very close to home for me.
We traditionally celebrate Older Americans Month (OAM) each May. OAM is a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons in our country, in particular those who defended our country. Every President since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities. OAM is celebrated across the country through ceremonies, events, fairs, and other activities.
Winter is upon us and those longer hours of darkness coupled with the colder temperatures can make many people experience those “winter blues.” Add the complications of COVID like continued distancing from others and the mental fatigue experienced by the longevity of the pandemic, and I’m afraid we are going to see more people experiencing those blues this season.
Natural disasters, such as the recent tornadoes, wildfires, and floods along with other traumatic events like mass shootings and even the pandemic can be devastating for everyone. For children, just watching the news and listening to parents talk can make life’s events seem like they are out of control. This would be magnified for children who experienced direct loss and may need help understanding what happened to their world. Most children look to adults for guidance and understanding on how to react and deal with life’s events.
As a new year is upon us, sometimes we say that we hope the new year is better than the last. As the saying goes, are you looking at your glass half-full or half-empty? Our outlook may be grim, or it could be positive. If your tendency is to find the less optimistic view, then you might want to explore ways to add a little happiness or attain some strategies to find an optimistic future.
The holiday season is fast approaching and given the loss, turmoil, and uncertainty that we have recently experienced, I thought it would be helpful to revisit this post from a few years ago.
In a previous article I emphasized how ongoing stress can cause negative physical and mental effects on the body and how practicing self-care or stress management techniques can reduce or maybe prevent those negative effects from happening. Many strategies were suggested, but how do we make the time to do them? There are many ways to stay on track and help you stay accountable.
Anxiety can be described as persistent and excessive fears about everyday situations. There can be many signs of anxiety. Some of the most common anxiety symptoms can include having trouble sleeping, feeling nervous or irritable, increased heart rate, and difficulty concentrating. If anyone is experiencing any of these symptoms, there are multiple treatment options for reducing anxiety.
“If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.”
This was an anonymous quote that I recently reshared on Facebook since it truly resonated with me. I had been experiencing months of heavy stress and was not making the time for self-care – and was starting to physically feel the negative effects.
On Friday, July 23, 2021, the Olympic Games begin in Tokyo, Japan. There are 11,091 athletes estimated or expected to compete. My image of an athlete is an individual who is passionate, dedicated, determined, goal orientated, healthy, confident, motivated, and much more. Being prepared for the Olympics doesn’t happen overnight. These athletes had to have such a positive and strong mindset to be motivated to train during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us are not Olympic athletes, but may struggle with being motivated at times.
Since we are still acknowledging Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to share a little bit about mindful movement. Mindfulness is defined as an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness can happen in many ways including types of breathing, visualization, using our senses, practicing gratitude and even through movement! Mindful movement is an effective way to reduce stress and its physical consequences.
“Decide what your priorities are and how much time you’ll spend on them. If you don’t, someone else will.” - Harvey Mackay
“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are you busy about?” - Henry David Thoreau
The conversation of taking care of one’s mental health has come up often over the past 11 months. Whether we’re experiencing a pandemic or trying to survive in the world, caring for one another makes a difference. This past month I had the opportunity to attend Mental Health First Aid Training to become a facilitator. This program was developed by Betty Kitchener and Anthony Jorm from Australia, and they gave the National Council for Behavioral Health permission to update the material. As a trainer, I encourage others to attend a Mental Health First Aid training, and I will explain why:
Winter is upon us and those longer hours of darkness coupled with the colder temperatures can make many people experience those “winter blues.” Throw in a pandemic where we are isolating from others, and I’m afraid we are going to see more people experiencing those blues and maybe worse this season.
Thanksgiving celebrations may look different in 2020 for many people. I have had many conversations with friends and family about whether to gather.
This year our attitude needs to be centered on giving people grace about their decisions and focus on expressing gratitude and thankfulness in a variety of ways, even if the holiday looks a little different this year.
Impulse control involves knowing how and when to express emotions like excitement, frustration, joy, disappointment, and anger. It is a process that develops as children mature and is critical for their success in making and keeping friends, which in turn boosts their self-esteem and school success.
The Illinois Early Learning Project has a great tip sheet that includes tips on how to help young children to develop impulse control. For infants to older preschool children they suggest:
I am concerned for the older population right now. Data has shown that older adults are more vulnerable in this pandemic due to their weaker immune systems and higher likelihood of having chronic conditions including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, kidney disease and many others. The CDC reports 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths have been adults 65 years of age and older. This has prompted the encouragement of older adults to self-quarantine, or physical distance from others - family, friends, social circles - to protect their health.
In the last article I shared with you many characteristics of people who manage well during difficult times. I would like to highlight several more for you in this article. Again, when faced with adversity, resilient people:
The World Health Organization identifies stress as the global health epidemic of the 21st Century – and that was BEFORE the current pandemic! Everyone experiences stress and sometimes it can be perceived as positive by helping to motivate us to get things accomplished. However, if we accumulate stress and do not manage it effectively, it can become chronic and result in negative effects on our minds and bodies.
Things have not been easy for any of us during these past few months – or “unprecedented times.” We may feel like we’ve had many losses: loss of security, loss of contact with others, loss of freedom to come and go where we would like, maybe even loss of health and loved ones, among many more. Many of our blog posts over this time have focused on stress reduction, mindfulness, and finding balance in our lives. I would like to focus this week more on gratitude and looking at the positives that are also going on right now.
Reoccurring and distressing memories, flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding specific places or activities, feeling hopeless, memory loss, feeling detached from family or friends, always being on guard, trouble sleeping, and irritability are only a few of the extensive list of symptoms individuals with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) face on a daily basis.
I just love the Illinois Early Learning Project (IELP) website, which is a valuable source of evidence-based, reliable information on early childcare and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois. It is funded by the Illinois State Board of Education and is housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the College of Education.
Since summer is almost here, I thought it would be a good idea to re-post this article about unplugging from our devices and enjoying our surroundings - especially our children! This is especially important lately with the shelter-at-home guidelines, which has created more screen time for many of us by working, homeschooling and socializing virtually.
Since mindfulness can also mean being intentional, we should have the conversation about whether we practice being mindful with our families. Most of us say that family is most important to us and that we put them first – but do we? A 2018 Nielsen report stated that American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media.
Another practice that goes along with being mindful is being grateful. Living life with an "attitude of gratitude" not only helps your current mood, but research shows that it helps you age well.
It goes without saying that life as we know it has changed. The demands from working remotely, pressures from homeschooling, worries about finances, family, health, jobs, and security have caused us to experience an incredibly stressful period of time. Seemingly endless demands and concerns can put additional stress on our time and resources.
Extension educator Kristin Bogdonas says mindfulness is usually associated with meditation and stress relief, but it can also be a powerful tool when choosing what we eat, how we're eating, and how our choices affect our health. She suggests we take a closer look at how we can apply mindfulness to our everyday eating behaviors.
I have always been an outdoorsy nature person. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time outside – my parents had the hardest time getting me to come back inside at the end of the day. My love of nature continues, and I share my passion for it with anyone who will listen! I always drag my family to state parks, zoos, and botanical gardens. However, times have changed drastically, with the popularization of technology, along with urbanization, and people spend way less time outdoors and around nature.
Nearly 50 million adults in the United States face the reality of Americans managing a mental illness every day. During the month of May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) joins a national movement to raise awareness about mental health. May is officially National Mental Health Month, and highlights mental health issues and provides a time for our nation to acknowledge mental illness.
In today’s world, especially now, no one is immune to feeling stressed. Eustress or positive stress can help motivate us to do well and get things accomplished. However, according to University of Illinois Extension educators, if stress accumulates and is not managed effectively or there is no outlet for it – stress can become chronic and have adverse effects on our minds and bodie