How to Heal the Humbug in your Happy Holidays

As far as the holiday season is concerned, there seem to be two types of people. Type 1 is excited, cheerful, and can’t turn that Christmas music on soon enough. Type 2 already feels the anxiety and winter SADness creeping in. Do you love listening to White Christmas and eagerly await the holiday greetings that pop up in your mail to say “here’s my perfect family and all that we have been up to this year!” If so – you’re Type 1. If you couldn’t read that sentence without a grimace, wince, and the promise of an adult beverage, then you’re probably Type 2.

So, what happens when you’ve got a couple of cheerful Type 1’s, and a few grinchy Type 2’s, and you all work in the same office? For the answer to this hard-hitting question, we turn to Jane Bauer, Payroll Extraordinaire at HealthStar’s Corporate HQ. Jane says:

It’s not about the music, or the decorations, or even the food. It’s all about the feeling of joy that surrounds the holidays, and about sharing that joy with the people you care about!

(But the music is pretty important.)

Jane Bauer, excessive “early Christmas Music” player

Weeeeell, maybe I’m paraphrasing, but I think this is what Jane would say. And technically speaking, she’s correct. But it doesn’t stop the Type 2’s from complaining, does it, Jane?

Holiday Cheer!

At HealthStar, we have a good mix of both kinds of holiday people. But the Type 1 is easier to spot than the elusive Type 2. Type 1’s can’t help but shout it from the rooftops – they love the scents and sounds of all that is related to “the holidays.” Cinnamon spice, Bing Crosby, and some festive decor to really set things off. Garlands, sparkles, twinkly lights – nothing is too over the top.

And it is fun to look at. It’s like when mommy and daddy get dressed up for an ugly sweater and the kids ooh and aah, like “you guys look so fancy.” The kids don’t know there’s sarcasm behind those sweaters, they just see something bright and colorful, and it makes them feel special.

On the other hand…

The Type 2’s are a little less obvious. You might spot a hard eye-roll when the Holiday Music gets turned up just a little too high. Or maybe they mention they’re not that into pumpkin spice on everything. The signs can be very subtle – even as subtle as hiding in the supply closet every time someone mentions doing an office gift exchange. See some of these signs? You may have spotted an elusive Type 2 “holi-grouch” in the wild.

Sometimes, when a cheerful Type 1 encounters a curmudgeonly Type 2, the Type 1 will try to “cheer up” his neighbor by saying things like, “Can’t wait for that family get-together,” or “what are you giving your spouse/kids/other loved ones this season?” Type 1 is so innocent and full of joy, it’s a shocking surprise when Type 2 goes pale and has to breathe into a paper bag after hearing the questions.

Mental Health and Holiday Mania

If you’re a Type 2, you might be facing this holiday season like you would face any other difficult task – “I can do this. I can do this.” The family, the shopping, and the desire to be “as happy as everyone else” can all combine to create a Mental Health Minefield during the stress and chaos of these otherwise cheery months. From November until mid-January, after the fruitcake has been “disposed of,” and the holiday glitter dust has settled, Type 2’s may find their only solace in the knowledge that “this, too, shall pass.”

The Perfect Holiday?

Is there hope for a Type 2 to turn all of this holiday anxiety into a little more enjoyment? Well, before we can start healing, we have to ask ourselves what makes the holidays so stressful. More and more, it seems, we aspire to an unrealistic standard. We’re comparing ourselves to Dick and Jane, the early readers of the 1950’s. Dick and Jane played outside with their father, helped mother in the kitchen, and laughed with the neighbor kids. Dick and Jane weren’t worried about war, or food shortages, or any other “real world” problems. They were the “perfect family” Facebook of the 50’s.

So, what if we toss out today’s unrealistic expectations along with our hammer-tough fruitcake? That might help a little, right? It’s a good start, and here’s a few other tips that might help put a skip back in those holiday steps!

Start the Holiday Humbug Healing

First off – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the stress and pressure of the holidays, you’re NOT alone. There are plenty of people who feel the same way! But don’t suffer through this alone. If you are bothered by persistent feelings of depression or anxiety, or you just don’t feel like yourself, talk to your doctor or another trusted health care contact. HealthStar Clients, of course you can always talk to HealthStar staff for some advice! You could be dealing with more than just holiday stress.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way – we can work on harnessing the joy of the holidays for all of these troublesome Type 2’s. There’s plenty of advice “on the internet” about how to ditch the crab and embrace the holiday fab. Here are my favorite three suggestions.

1: Volunteer

There are SO MANY causes during this time of year. People are hungry, cold, and lonely. Helping someone else is just about the most wholesome way to help yourself. I challenge you to feel sad after spending a day in service. You will feel GREAT knowing that you’ve made a difference to someone else.

Maybe you take a Salvation Army shift, ringing that tinkling bell outside your favorite store. Or find a homeless shelter and take a turn in the kitchen. Look around your neighborhood, too. This is a fabulous time to connect with someone in your town who doesn’t have much support. If you’re struggling to find a volunteer idea, Google is here to help! Check out this Google search to find volunteer opportunities near you. There are plenty of ideas, just pick something and get out there!

2: Give Up on the “should” and enjoy the “is.”

If you’re like me, you’re constantly thinking about the next thing, or how you could have done something better. Instead of burning yourself out on worries that don’t accomplish anything, give up on some of the “perfect-itis” and rejoice in mediocrity. It’s OK not to be the best at things! You don’t have to search all day/week for the perfect this or that.

To help remind yourself: Make a list of the things that you’re most thankful for. When you’re stressing out about something that you wish you had, or could, or should – take a look at your gratefulness list. Does the wish/could/should really matter as much as those things? If it does, then make a plan to work on it. If it doesn’t, then move on to something that does matter.

3: Scale back and say no!

Do you feel like you can’t skip a family event? Don’t want to be “the one” who doesn’t go to the office party? I’m not saying to skip the most important time with your loved ones, let’s be clear. But if you can say “no” to one thing in order to say “yes” to something restorative, then sometimes that’s a healthy choice.

For example – maybe this year, you don’t have to go to every single big, wild, extended family get-together (or at least you can just drop by for a short visit), and instead you’ll plan a special night in with just your spouse and your kids. Or maybe, instead of going to the office party, you want to spend that night volunteering at a local animal shelter. As long as you’re trading out for something that’s good for you, and not just to sit at home and mope, then I’ve got your back.

Relax. You’ve got this.

So if you’re a Type 2, don’t get all worked up and wacky just yet. There’s hope for a great holiday season, if you can set aside some of your “shoulds” and make time to do something wholesome. You might even find yourself hanging up garland or humming “little drummer boy.”

No, not little drummer boy. Anything but little drummer boy.

Wrapping it all up

There’s not a lot left to say, I just wanted to work in the wrapping pun. Happy Holidays, from a Type 2 who is working toward Type 1 level enthusiasm! One note – if you really want to up your Type 1 game, take up Cross-Stitching. I have it on good authority that you could be cranking out a Christmas Stocking as quickly as one every 19-years. Again, Jane Bauer is the resident expert:

Beth, it did NOT take me 19-years.

Jane Bauer, Cross-Stitch Expert

For more information, and to see a few other articles with the same general idea, check these out:

NAMI Holiday Blues

Embracing Mediocrity

Beat Holiday Stress

Let’s go OUTSIDE!

I love it when I start looking for blog ideas and I hit something that has millions of articles published. It tells me that I am on to something. When I went looking for “health benefits of time outdoors,” Google blew up with so many articles explaining what I already know from personal experience – being outdoors is fabulous for our health, and most of us aren’t spending nearly enough time out there!

The following is a collection of my personal top 5 reasons to get outside. Now that this long, snowy, and ridiculous winter has finally come to a close (you heard me, winter – COME TO A CLOSE), I hope you’ll join me in getting back out into nature! (yes, you can still go outside in winter. But it’s so much easier to get outside in spring!!)

1. Pure Joy

I feel a special something when I walk outside – smelling the fresh air, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, and looking up into the skyline. It’s a feeling of freedom, hope, and happiness. Even just thinking about a warm summer breeze can bring a smile to my face. I’m guessing you have the same feeling, at least sometimes, when you step outside!

We spend so much time indoors. Some studies estimate as much as 90% of our time is spent inside. Whether you’re in your house, in the office, in your car, or even in a shopping center, there is a feeling of being enclosed that you may not realize is there until you step out into the wide-open spaces. Stepping outside on a day with great weather, I am like Maria in the Sound of Music (Julie Andrews), singing in the grassy meadows, arms outstretched, surrounded by beautiful, gently rolling hills covered by soft greens and framed by a clear blue sky.

Even what some would consider mediocre weather has its moments – the wonderful pitter patter and that amazing smell when it rains; the beauty of a fresh snowfall; the crisp chill of a fall day – I appreciate the joy in all of the seasons, and I know I need to be better at finding ways to get outside no matter the perfection of the skies! What’s your favorite season? Think about how you feel when you’re outside on your perfect day. Pretty great, right? You can’t buy that joy, it’s free just for stepping outside!

2. Burn off Stress

No, we’re not just talking about the angry walk around the block, but maybe this helps explain even that. Walking it off is a great way to burn off anger and frustration, but why? Well, the exercise helps burn off some of those pesky “fight or flight” endorphins, but also, I think the time outside helps put things in perspective. I am one person in one home on one street, surrounded by a town, a State, a Country, and all that before we even get to the size of the whole planet. Walking outside, I see my neighbors and their families. I have even walked outside to find that a neighbor is also “rage walking.” Talk about solidarity – none of us is alone in our experience, whether it’s a celebration or a challenge!

We are also connected with each other by nature. We use the same water, absorb the same sun, and smell the same fresh air. Getting outside is important, because it reminds us that there is something greater than ourselves – something that has been here far longer than we have, and will continue to be here after we are gone. It reminds us that we are not permanent, and neither are the things that can cause us stress and frustration. Even when you don’t feel stress building up, it’s still great to get outside and enjoy the peace and calm that comes from being in nature. It helps you re-center and tackle your responsibilities and challenges with new energy!

3. Oh, the health benefits!

Folks who struggle with mobility, mental health, and other barriers which make it more difficult to enjoy time outside – we are working for you! Many HealthStar clients already have help with improving outdoor mobility, whether it be a PCA who accompanies Clients on walks or nature outings, the Mental Health team helping get Clients motivated and setting goals for time or activities outdoors (we’re looking at you, Magan!), or the Physical Therapy team working on skills that make it easier to get outside independently (and with Nissa in charge, you know you’re in good hands), there are plenty of ways that HealthStar builds additional time outside into your plans for better health! We want to make sure that everyone can enjoy the health benefits that can be gained from spending time outdoors.

The potential health benefits from getting outside are numerous enough to fill several individual top 5’s all on their own. Here, in rapid fire, are just some of the health conditions that can be treated by spending time in the great outdoors – maybe it’s not a full cure, but for these diseases or disorders, at least a reduction in symptoms, severity, or a decrease in prevalence has been linked to more outdoor time.

Addiction, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, common cold, dementia, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, insomnia, mental health disorders, mobility, nearsightedness, obesity, osteoporosis, pain, preterm birth, restless legs.

Phew. That’s quite the list, and just scratches the surface of how healthy it is to get outside. Please look into the links provided below, or Google for yourself for more information about all these health benefits. I would love to go into each, but this is only a 5-item blog post, not a dissertation. If I start getting even longer-winded than I already am, no one will read my posts!

4. Build outdoor skills with your kids

This one is my personal favorite. I love the look on the kids’ faces when we get outside for a nature walk. Maybe there is a nature preserve near you? We live near Tamarack Nature Center, which is a fabulous (and free) preserve in White Bear Lake. There are walking and hiking trails, there is a nature center for kids to explore, and there is even a sand and water area for the warm weather months. It is awesome to see the kids’ joyful faces when they get to run in the field and play in the mud. Playing outside is also a great time to learn survival skills, like which berries are toxic and what poison ivy or poison oak look like. Fishing, hunting, camping and hiking are all inexpensive ways to spend more outdoor time with your kiddos, and each presents a unique learning experience!

5. Screen-free time!

There are different viewpoints about screen time. Some people say “it’s no big deal,” and others believe that any TV is bad TV. As with most things, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. For me, personally, it is important to disconnect from the screen at times. As a mom, I also think that it is important for my kids to have plenty of “hands-on” interests. Getting out in “the wilderness” is an awesome way for our family to forget all about phones, tablets, TV, and computers. As long as I remember to put my phone on silent. 😊

My kids love being outside. I have never had them ask “can I go inside and watch TV?” We often go for a “family walk” after dinner, with the little one in the wagon and the 5-year-old on her bike. There are so many good things about this time. It is a true family connection for us – time that we spend actively together, not just staring at a device while we’re in the same room. It’s time that we exercise together without thinking of it as exercise. And it’s time when we can look at the world around us – learn about trees, grass, birds, and all kinds of other wildlife, just by being exposed to it together.

Can’t you Google that?

Yes, you can learn about these things by looking them up on Google (and sometimes we do, when we get home). But the hands-on experience of touching a leaf and feeling its bumpy veins, running your hands over the rough bark of a tree, or watching a bunny speed through a field, its little white tail just peeking over the tall grass, until it hears you and poof becomes still, blending into the scenery except for its shiny eyes and its soft and twitchy little nose – Google, even in 4k, just can’t compete.

A little wisdom from Grandma Alma

I’ll close with a tribute to my grandma. Grandma Alma is a wise woman – she says “the more often kids eat dirt, the healthier they’ll be.” She still lives on the farm where my dad was born and raised, on the same dirt that I’m sure he ate as a child. She spends plenty of time getting outside, whether it’s mowing the grass, checking the garden, or just enjoying the warm sun. She’s in her nineties now, and still going strong, so I know she’s onto something… not that I’m going to eat a fistful of dirt now, but I hope you’ll agree, there is plenty of immune-boosting power in the outdoors. Maybe we just don’t all have to do the dirt eating part, OK, grandma?

Anxiety Disorders: What You Need to Know

HealthStar Home Health is presenting a series on various mental health and behavioral health topics. In this series of articles, we take a look at different subjects and provide information to help you know how best to care for your loved one.

We’ve all been there before. Feeling anxious about a job interview or speaking in public. When facing a big decision regarding your children will make a parent worry and stress. Our children may have feelings of anxiety knowing finals are coming up. Even driving in heavy traffic or at night may cause some to have issues. All this is normal and everyone feels anxious now and then over certain situations. But anxiety disorders are more than the normal emotions of common anxiety. Anxiety disorders are a type of mental illness and a person living with one feels intense fear, distress and worry that is constant and overwhelming. Disabling, even.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many different types of anxiety disorders and an individual can suffer from more than one type. Examples include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder – persistent, intense anxiety and worry about ordinary activities or events
  • Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) – an extreme fear and avoidance of social situations which is caused by feelings of embarrassment or self-consciousness of being viewed negatively by others
  • Agoraphobia – a individual fears, and often avoids, places which may cause feelings of panic, embarrassment or being trapped
  • Separation anxiety disorder – a childhood disorder related to separation from parents or parental figure that causes excessive anxiety for the child’s developmental age

These are just a few examples. To learn more, including when you should involve a professional, visit this website.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness report that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the US, with an estimated 40 million adults (18%) suffering every day. In addition to that, 8% of children and teens report experiencing an anxiety disorder of one form or another.

Experts believe combined factors, such as genetics and brain or environmental changes, can trigger anxiety symptoms. Some families have higher than normal numbers of anxiety issues amongst relatives and studies support the evidence that anxiety disorders run in the family. Additionally, traumatic situations or events such as violence, abuse, illness, or death can be contributing factors and cause anxiety disorders. At HealthStar Home Health, our caregivers are educated in the various anxiety disorders as well as other mental and behavioral illnesses and offer support to families dealing with mental health disorders, whether it is an adult in the family, a senior loved one you are caring for, or children and teenagers, we have a program to help you.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, as well as other mental health issues. When serving individuals with severe anxiety, we understand that coping with this daily is difficult. If you need support, get it! Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. If we all do our part to remove the stigma associated with anxiety and any mental health illness, it will go a long way for those who suffer daily.

Symptoms of each type of disorder are unique, however there is one common thread with all and that is exaggerated and persistent fear in situations that are considered normal and should not be threatening. General symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Feelings of panic, fear, stress or uneasiness
  • Sleep issues
  • Sweaty palms

Just as the symptoms are unique to each type of anxiety disorder, treatment options are unique and distinct for each type also. Some common treatments available include medication, stress management or relaxation techniques, and support groups, counseling or psychotherapy to name a few. It is important to work closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that works best for your situation.

We invite you to learn more about the mental health services offered by HealthStar Home Health. Both our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) and Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) feature cultural sensitivity and are provided with empathy to the underserved members of the communities and regions we serve.

Our highly trained and culturally competent multi-disciplinary team of mental health professionals, practitioners and behavioral aides provide CTSS and ARMHS services in the home, school, and in the community.

HealthStar Home Health understands how overwhelming and challenging it can be to care for a loved one at home and also offer a variety of home health care services to help support your loved one to live a more independent and fulfilling life at home. To learn more about the various mental health and behavioral health topics being presented in this series, such as autism, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or seasonal affective disorder visit our blog.

With cultural care values as the foundation, our caregivers are able to provide quality service, delivering it with increased awareness and perspective. As we serve our clients and communities, we are motivated by our desire to bring services to everyone in need. Call us today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation.

Feeling a Little Anxious?

We all feel anxious at times. In fact, occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. People may feel anxious when dealing with a problem at work or home; students feel anxious when preparing for a big test or interacting in a new social situation, and when important life decisions need to be made the anxiety level can grow for just about anyone. But for people who suffer from an anxiety disorder, their extreme feelings are not temporary and cause such distress that daily activities and the ability to lead a normal life is difficult to manage. This level of anxiety disorder is a serious mental illness. The constant and overwhelming worry and fear is disabling, but with proper treatment, people who struggle with this learn to manage their feelings and live a fulfilling life.

There are many different types of anxiety disorders, including the following:

Panic Disorder: recurrent, unexpected panic attacks including sudden feelings of terror. Common symptoms of a panic attack are heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, and a feeling of choking or difficulty breathing. Symptoms usually strike suddenly and without warning.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: a person with this type of disorder will display excessive anxiety or worry for long periods of time and face symptoms such as muscle tension, problems sleeping (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless sleep), and constant restlessness or being on edge. This excessive, unrealistic worry and tension can go on for months, even if there is nothing to provoke the anxiety.

Social Anxiety Disorder: this worry centers around a fear of being judged by others and social situations where you may be embarrassed, rejected or ridiculed. Also known as social phobia, common symptoms include feeling highly anxious and self-conscious, feeling nauseous or sick to the stomach, blushing and sweating when around other people. This type of anxiety disorder involves extreme worry about everyday social situations and tends to make the person stay home instead of go in public.

Specific Phobias: these are extreme, intense fears of a particular thing or situation. Typically, the fear level is not proportionate to the situation and will cause a person to completely avoid everyday situations. Depending on the specific phobia, the symptoms will be similar to previously listed symptoms, such as heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and difficulty breathing.

If you or a loved one have a mental health condition, such as anxiety disorder, you are not alone. 1 in 5 Americans experience a form of mental illness in any given year, and world-wide 1 in every 20 adults is living with a serious mental health condition. Mental illness is not your fault, but there is still a widespread stigma surrounding mental illness largely due to misunderstandings or lack of education. Unfortunately, many people suffering from mental illness do not get help or seek treatment, but there is help available!

HealthStar Home Health offers therapeutic services to young people through our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) program. We also have a program focused on adults and their needs with our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) program. HealthStar Home Health is sensitive to the cultural needs of each person in our care and we offer culturally-relevant services to those suffering from mental health issues and teach a variety of skills that will help with independent living and social situations. We serve individuals and health care professionals in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, as well as Duluth, Minnesota, Arizona and New Mexico.

At HealthStar Home Health, we believe if we join together as a society, people living with mental illnesses will be treated with respect and acceptance. We are here to help – contact us today!

Mental Health – How Can We Remove The Stigma?

The numbers are staggering. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in every 5 adults in America live with a mental health condition. Approximately 13.6 million adults in America live with a serious mental illness, and one-half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14; three-quarters by the age of 24. Recently, Yahoo News reported a study from 2014 by the American College Health Association finding there is an epidemic of depression and anxiety among college students. Almost 30% of college students reported feeling depressed at some point over the past year and 54% of students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety.

For those who live with mental illnesses, their conditions have been kept secret and often go untreated for fear of embarrassment. There is a stigma associated with mental illness that is furthered when one takes medication to treat the illness. Whether it is depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or another form of mental illness, it can be debilitating and should not go untreated. Help those suffering by learning what a mental illness is, the causes, and what you can do to ease the stigma surrounding this.

HealthStar posed this question on Facebook: “What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about mental illness?” Here are some of the top answers from our followers:

  • that it affects everyone differently and it comes in all forms and begins at any age
  • people don’t realize it can be treated
  • mentally ill people are potentially violent
  • society’s lack of information and education on mental illnesses cause the stigma to grow
  • talking about mental illness and being available to listen goes a long way – remove the awkward silence

“Make it OK” is a local campaign created to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Their mission is to get people to stop the silence, share stories, and dispel the myths surrounding mental illness. The people behind makeitok.org are changing the hearts and minds about the misconceptions of mental illness by encouraging open conversations and education on the topic, along with encouraging people to seek support when needed. Treatments for mental illnesses are available. The more everyone knows about mental illness, the more understanding and supportive we, as a society, can be.

The Make it OK website offers good, basic, information like what a mental illness is and is not, and what a mental illness can be caused by. They also offer great tips for talking to someone who struggles with mental illness. If a loved-one has told you they are suffering, ask questions, show concern, and most importantly, listen. Mental illnesses are treatable health conditions but people are still afraid to talk about it due to shame, misunderstanding and negativity, amongst other reasons. Help remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and its treatment by learning, listening and keeping the conversation moving.

At HealthStar Home Health, we recognize the alarming numbers of adolescent and young adult depression and offer Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) that focuses on cultural sensitivity and we provide these services with empathy to the underserved people in the communities and regions we serve. Some of the services we offer through this program are:

  • Individual, family and group psychotherapy
  • Specialized skills training
  • Crisis assistance
  • Behavioral aide services

For the adult years, we offer services through our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) program. The clients we support are dealing with these and other issues and disorders:

  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Agoraphobia

HealthStar looks at how the individual’s mental illness affects their functioning in various aspects of their lives. They may have depressive symptoms that interfere with independent living, self-care, school, housing and even transportation. The services we provide are community based. This allows our caregivers to go out into the community and meet the individual where they are so they can be as independent and functional as possible within their communities. HealthStar strives to remove the stigma by teaching those living with mental illnesses and their family members a variety of skills that can help with independent living and social situations.

Getting educated and helping to raise awareness of mental health conditions can break down obstacles and improve the recovery for the millions of Americans who suffer from a mental illness. If we join together as a society, people living with mental illnesses will be treated with respect and acceptance.