Social Distancing While Parenting and Being a Social Worker

How many of us are feeling the effects of trying to balance our lives while social distancing? In this post a good friend of mine outlines her experience parenting, while working from home, while worrying about the effects of the global pandemic on her children. I think many of us can relate on all sorts of levels – parents or not.

Guest Post By: Megan Murphy, LCSW

I begin writing some scattered thoughts after the third night of tossing and turning and waking up with a sore jaw and neck, from all of the things my brain must be trying to work out at night.  I notice that mornings, I tend to feel strong and hopeful.  I am noticing that afternoons are really hard, and my mind truly wishes it could download or shut down, sleep or reset.

I am familiar with anxiety and depression.  I have dealt with these emotions at many different times in my life, and overall, I have been able to overcome them, or at least survive, cope with, and accept them in my life. 

This has been a very confusing time for my mind, like it is, for so many others.  My career as a Social Worker, who works with many vulnerable populations, including the severely and persistently mentally ill, has given me more strength and hope than I could ever explain in words.  I have seen people survive and thrive in circumstances, I am quite sure I would never survive.  I’ve seen the communities of the homeless, helping one another, and caring for one another.  I’ve seen families doing their best to support their own, with limited resources, sometimes limited intellectual capacities, and very often, with judgment from the outside world.  My career has taught me so much about resilience.  I am so grateful for these clients and to so many people I have worked with along the way, who put their hearts, souls, and brains into this work.  I have no doubt that the clients I work with, have taught me so much more than I could ever teach them.  I THANK them to no end!

It has been heartbreaking not to be able to support these people face to face, to help get them the resources that they need now more than ever.  However, I am grateful for a job that knows that keeping all of us (clients included) healthy in the short term, will only help, not hurt our mission, to help them in the long term.  Or, as a wise man (thanks Dad) told me, “sometimes you have to stay in the fight, to win the fight”. 

Parenting has been a whole different level of anxiety, acceptance, and resilience during this time.  I have two sons, ages 14 and 9.  We are beginning to work on schooling from home.  I have so many worries about this time in life for them.  For my 14-year-old, I worry about this time in his life.  He is supposed to be working on independence, separating himself from his parents and working on finding himself.  Peers are also such a huge part of learning and growing at his age.  It’s so hard to tell him that we don’t have answers about when life may be “normal” again.  It is so hard to say “no” to so many requests.  I am so proud of him.  I can tell he is frustrated and worried.  It always seems that right when it’s needed, he invites his brother into his room to play games with him.  He is an amazing human being.  I worry about my skills to work and teach him from home, while also paying attention to emotional needs.  

For my 9-year-old, I worry about his enthusiastic, open view of the world and an absolute need to connect, move, and be excited about life!  Lately, he has denied every request to go outside on a walk.  At first, I didn’t think much of it, but then I noticed he is anxious about it.  “Is it safe”, “what if I see a friend on a walk”, “Can we talk to each other”, “am I sick”, “are you sick”, “will we all get sick”.  “Are we safe”.  While my husband and I do our best to reassure him, we don’t have the answers.  He seems to feel best when saying, “family first, right mom”?  

While these things worry me, I am reminded of how much gratitude I have.  I do not have to parent without a partner.  We are able to do this as a team and take turns when the other is feeling overwhelmed.  So many do not have this and they are HEROES!  Sometimes, I get frustrated with my own anxieties and worries because I am SO aware of the hard times others have and are experiencing.  My life has been so easy overall.  I have never needed for a thing, and have always had an abundance of love in my life.  I feel guilty and ashamed sometimes that I have so much fear. 

I have parents who give me strength.  My father, a Vietnam marine, has this way of saying just the right things, to keep me focused and strong, during hard times.  My mom, an independent woman, who has been a caretaker of many kinds, keeps me sane with love and constant communication and ideas of ways to keep myself busy.  My brothers are both amazing and show me love and support, and I hope I do the same for them.

I have an extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins, who check-in, send me love, and inspire me.  

I have friends that keep me grounded, strong, and grateful.  Each of them gives me something so special and unique and I cannot imagine life, or this crisis, without them.  We send each other videos, love, and ideas.  Let me tell you, these are amazing women!

The lack of answers is what continues to be the hardest.  I told my friend Jamie the other day, that while I am so aware that I am not alone, I “feel” alone.  She said, “yes, we are trying to accept and process something we have no answers to, and only fear.  We feel alone because we are not allowed to be around others”.  That felt so validating.  

So, for the moment, I plan to give myself grace.  I plan to accept that some moments I will feel strong, and others I may not.  I will do my best to show up for my family, friends, children, husband, and clients, with love, and understanding, that they too, will have good moments and not so good moments.

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Here’s How You Can Sleep Well Even if You Have Back Pain

Getting to sleep is hard for many of us. Let alone trying to get to sleep with pain. Here are some ideas to help you get to sleep and stay asleep if you suffer with back pain.

Guest Post by: Cheryl Conklin of WellnessCentral.info

Back pain is one of the leading causes of sleep issues. You can’t get comfortable, don’t get restful sleep, and have problems that carry over into the morning. It can make you fatigued and lead to other health issues. Whether you wake up with back pain or you’re heading to bed in pain from a long day of working your muscles, there are many things that can help you manage your back pain. These include medicine, physical therapy, and surgery. However, there’s also one surprising way that’s been proven in a study to be of potential benefit.

Apps May Be the Answer

The study was conducted in early 2019 and showed that participants with back pain that used a management app for 12 weeks found more relief than those that didn’t. Does this mean apps are the answer? It couldn’t hurt. With that in mind, here are a few apps to start with to see if they can help with your back pain and related issues. 

Stretching Before Bed

Stretching before bed is one of the best things you can do to release any pent up tension or aches and pains you’re feeling in your back. It will help relax the muscles so you’ll sleep better. With apps like 6 Minute Back Pain Relief, which is a gentle workout program that helps to reduce your back pain or Yoga for Back Pain, which uses yoga poses made specifically to reduce back pain, improve flexibility, and stretch your muscles. 

Relaxation Apps 

One way to reduce your pain is to reduce your tension. That can be achieved by relaxing your mind and body before falling asleep. Just like stretching and yoga are meant to help, so is meditation. With Headspace, you can learn to meditate, live mindfully, get expert advice from a former monk, and enjoy themed sessions, including stress reduction, sleep-enhancing, focus improvement, and anxiety relief.

Diary Apps

Recording how you’re feeling will help you better track your back pain so that you can determine any patterns and share results with your doctor. With CatchMyPain, an intelligent pain diary app that helps you track your pain, you can even connect to similar patients and trade tips. The app also provides a body model that lets you draw where your pain is and label the intensity of your pain. You can also track your happiness, stress, and fatigue, record your medication intake, and much more. It’s the perfect way to help you track what’s happening with your pain. 

iTens Device

TENS devices are made to provide pain relief stimulation to areas that are experiencing pain. TENS devices work by sending tiny electrical signals through your skin, which intercept pain signals and keep them from reaching your brain. They’re used by athletes for pain relief and faster recovery. iTENS is an app-controlled version of this device that can help you get over your back pain. With customizable settings, you can use it on various body parts and pain levels. With the app, you can control these settings and even be able to track your results after each session. iTENS can be used on your ankle, knee, wrist, back, and shoulders. 

One Last Thing

Using apps on your phone overnight (or even your smartwatch) can run the battery down. In addition, some apps require the use of your plan’s data. Running them overnight could eat up your data and lead to overage charges. You can avoid this by looking into unlimited phone service plans, which will give you more data to explore apps that will bring you a better night’s sleep. Either way, giving yourself the tools you need to overcome sleep issues is a good start. 

Although back pain can disrupt your life, there are steps you can take to help alleviate some of that pain. And while you might not be able to eliminate it altogether, you can find ways to give yourself some reprieve to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Image provided by guest author, Cherly Conklin via Pixabay

4 Health Tweaks You Can Easily Introduce to Your Daily Routine

Are you looking at 2020 wondering how you will implement changes to your health goals? Feeling overwhelmed already? This year look to simplify changes by making small tweaks in your current routines and add little increments to your health behaviors for maximum success.

Guest Post By: Jennifer McGregor

Well-intentioned health goals are a dime a dozen. Everyone always has something that they want to achieve, whether it’s losing 20 pounds or running a 5K. For many, reducing stress is also a compelling objective, especially those in high-stress occupations like caregivers. Regardless of what your goals are, know that it takes more than just good intentions to meet them; you need action, too. Thankfully, with strategic tweaks here and there, you, too, can incorporate solid health practices into your daily routine. Here are a few to get you started.

Choose the good.

The fulfillment of any health goal invariably starts with one thing—making good choices. In fact, mindfulness is known to not just improve your physical health, but also your mental well-being, too. 

No doubt, the thing that particularly benefits from this is your diet. The practice of mindful eating means listening to your body’s signals—that is to say, eating when you’re hungry as opposed to bored and knowing when to stop. Not only that, but it also means consciously choosing to consume food that’s healthy and nourishing, cutting back on processed food rich in sodium and sugar, which would be particularly beneficial to caregivers prone to stress and conditions like hypertension. Another way to eat healthier (and less) is to order healthy options from a meal delivery service because with pre-measured ingredients, you can control portion sizes

Beyond just your diet, being mindful means making choices that truly serve you and your body, too. This can be as simple as going to bed an hour earlier to get more quality shut-eye, or even taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Move with intention.

Of course, regular physical activity is a must for just about any health goal. And it’s hard not to see why with the many known benefits of movement. Its physical perks such as weight loss and improved immune and lymphatic systems—to name just a few—are common knowledge, but even more interestingly, movement also enhances brain health, elevates your mood, and reduces stress.

While the idea of movement inevitably brings to mind exercise, there are other ways to go about it, too. This could be anything from stretching to dancing to gardening. Indeed, simply being on your feet will already do wonders to your well-being holistically, so it’s great practice, therefore, to always make it a point to move.

Prioritize relaxation.

As rewarding a vocation as caregiving is, it also leaves you vulnerable to feelings of overwhelm and frustration, making caregiver stress a real problem. This is why it’s doubly important for caregivers to make relaxation and stress management a priority. 

Doubtless, the easiest way to go about this is to introduce relaxation techniques to your routine, such as meditation and deep breathing. It’s also a good idea to make it a point to go on a break and take time to do something you love, like reading or pursuing a hobby. Going on vacation is another way to relax. Even a staycation in your own city will do wonders for your overall well-being. 

Allow indulgence.

In the same vein as taking downtime, you should also give yourself a license to indulge from time to time, as long as you make it worthwhile. For example, partaking in your daily red wine is one indulgence that’s really good for you as red wine is chock full of antioxidants that protect you from a plethora of diseases, as well as anxiety and depression. Hiring a health and lifestyle coach is another, as you could certainly benefit from a customized health plan, plus it helps to have someone hold you accountable.

Suffice it to say, health goals are just ideals when you don’t have concrete steps to follow through on them. Thankfully, being healthier need not be earth-shattering. So start making small changes and see the difference.

Photo Provided by Author: Jennifer McGregor via Upslpash.com. Image URL: https://unsplash.com/photos/VKnjdEesFxw ~ Image Credit: Photo via Unsplash.com

Five Self-Care Tips for Optimum Mental Health

Here’s a great reminder about why self care is so important, along with some great ideas about how to make sure you are getting enough self care for yourself.

Guest Post By: Brad Krause at selfcaring.info

Having good mental health has never been more challenging in this age of information overload. You’ve got bills to pay, work deadlines to meet, a home to maintain, and a to-do list longer than the list of bus routes in NYC. You’re told that the key to good mental health can be found in self-care, but what does that mean? Life is complicated enough without figuring out a self-care regime, especially if it means signing up for Pilates and making your own kombucha. The good news is that self-care doesn’t have to be stressful. Read on to discover how a few simple practices can be a game changer when it comes to building optimum mental health. 

Focus on Your Sleep and Diet

Without sleep and nutritious food, you can’t function. This is why good self-care practices start with these two basics. Sleep and mental health are closely connected — you’ve got to get enough sleep for your brain. Your sleep can improve by following these 17 evidence-based tips. And while you might think that reaching for a chocolate brownie or a bowl of ice cream will help your mood, research suggests that this habit leads to poor mental health (not to mention a thicker waistline). According to research published in the medical journal the Lancet, “Diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.” Foods shown to improve mental health include fatty fish, whole grains, lean proteins, leafy greens, and fermented foods such as yogurt with active cultures. 

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Get Moving

Find a form of exercise you enjoy. Moving your body not only helps your physical health, but it also greatly improves your brain function and well-being. Research shows that it helps you reduce stress, boost happy chemicals such as endorphins, and improve self-confidence.

Find Time to Relax 

Take time to relax every day. Only you know what helps you unwind. For some, it might be indulging in a luxurious candlelit bath, for others, it might be taking a walk in nature. The important thing is to take some time out of each day to do something that gives you that “ahhhhh” feeling. One relaxation technique that benefits everyone is meditation or deep-breathing exercises. It’s as simple as finding a quiet place, clearing your mind, and focusing only on your breath. Inhale deeply through your nose so your belly expands. Exhale deeply through your mouth or nose, counting slowly to five as you exhale. Repeat. Do this every day for at least five minutes, and you’ll feel a positive difference. 

Clean Up Around the House

Declutter your life, as living among clutter and having too much stuff can lead to stress. Creating a serene environment in your home goes a long way in reducing your stress levels. Begin to rid yourself of anything that does not serve a necessary function or bring you joy. 

Decluttering not only refers to the out-of-control messes in our homes and cars, but it also refers to all the excess baggage in our lives — from our 1,483 unread emails to our relationships. As inspirational author Patti Digh says, “Sometimes our stop-doing list needs to be bigger than our to-do list.” Saying “no” to others is saying “yes” to ourselves and to our mental health.

Don’t forget to clean up the air around you, too. Studies have demonstrated that poor air quality can have a negative impact on your cognitive health and happiness. An ideal solution is to buy a quality air purifier. It will reduce the amount of pollutants and allergens that you breathe, and as a result, the cleaner air can make you feel happier and healthier. Shop around for the right one that fits your needs.

Foster Friendships

Build relationships. Overwhelming research suggests that people with supportive relationships are happier and healthier. Make regular plans with friends or family members. Reach out to a friend you’ve lost contact with, or join an organization, club, or sports team that interests you. 

You can neglect self-care for only so long before anxiety, moodiness, anger, and social withdrawal begin to kick in. In time, your sense of feeling overwhelmed can lead to a total sense of hopelessness. By practicing the self-care tips above, however, you’ll be well on your way to taking your life back and building strong mental health. 

Hormones Help Our Mood

Looking for some ideas on balancing or boosting testosterone? Last week we were discussing how testosterone and estrogen can impact our ability to manage and discern our and others’ emotional states. Here’s a guest post from the folks over at www.testosteronerd.com

Looking for some ideas on balancing or boosting testosterone? Last week we were discussing how testosterone and estrogen can impact our ability to manage and discern our and others’ emotional states. Here’s a guest post from the folks over at www.testosteronerd.com