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?

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

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.

The Mayo Clinic defines seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as a type of depression that is related to the changes in seasons. A person with SAD will feel the effects of this disorder about the same time each year, feeling moody with very low levels of energy. For many individuals living with SAD, the symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter months. For some, seasonal affective disorder can cause depression in the spring and summer months, but that is not as common.

Experts believe it is caused by a lack of sunlight which can upset a person’s biological clock which controls the sleep/wake patterns and circadian rhythms as well as the balance of serotonin. Serotonin is the natural brain chemical that affects mood. Although much more common in women, anyone can get seasonal affective disorder, especially people who live far from the equator where daylight is short and those who have a close relative with it. Read more on the risk factors here. At HealthStar Home Health, our caregivers are educated in seasonal affective disorder as well as depression and offers 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, including seasonal affective disorder, as well as other mental health disorders. When serving individuals with depression, we understand that coping with this illness 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 depression and mental health illnesses, it will go a long way for those who suffer daily.

Symptoms of SAD typically start out mild and progressively get more severe as the season goes on. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling depressed much of every day
  • Low energy
  • Experiencing sleep issues
  • Feeling sluggish and agitated

To learn more about each of these symptoms and others visit: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

It can be difficult to diagnose seasonal affective disorder because the symptoms are similar to depression and other mental health conditions. Once diagnosed, treatments include but are not limited to:

  • Light therapy
  • Medication
  • Psychotherapy
  • Lifestyle remedies

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, or schizophrenia, 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.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder and the Extreme Mood Swings

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.

Once termed as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes dramatic mood swings that include emotional highs, referred to as mania or hypomania, and lows, known as depression. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience time periods, referred to as “mood episodes”, that are unusually intense and affect the person’s emotions, sleep pattern and activity levels, including risky behavior.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), bipolar disorder affects men and women equally, with approximately 2.6% of the United States population having been diagnosed with the condition and nearly 83% of these cases are considered severe. The average age-of-onset is 25 years, but it can occur earlier in the teenage years.

Society has misconceptions about what bipolar disorder actually is. Many people believe the disorder is characterized by fluctuations between being happy and sad, but individuals in a manic state do not feel “happy”. Another common misconception is that individuals with bipolar disorder are constantly shifting between being up and down. Some do fluctuate between being manic and depressed quickly, this is called rapid-cycling, however this is not the norm. Typically, people slowly become more depressed, return to their baseline, and then slowly become manic. At HealthStar Home Health, our clients with bipolar disorder usually notice when they are manic, but may not always realize how depressed they have gradually become.

Here at HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals in our adult and children’s mental health programs that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When serving individuals with bipolar disorder, we understand that each person with bipolar disorder has a different experience with their mental illness. Some clients tell us they feel a strong sense of dichotomy, that they tend to view the world in terms of black and white and it can be difficult to “live in the gray area”. We have learned that our bipolar clients tend to have great insight into their mental health symptoms and we support and use that insight when caring for them.

Symptoms and the severity can widely vary. Severe episodes of mania or depression can include psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusional thoughts. Individuals with bipolar disorder who are psychotic may be wrongly diagnosed as having schizophrenia. Some may cycle rapidly or some may experience extended periods with no symptoms at all.

Four Types of Bipolar Disorder:

  • Bipolar I Disorder
  • Bipolar II Disorder
  • Cyclothymic Disorder, or Cyclothymia
  • Other Types

To learn more about each type of bipolar disorder and the symptoms, visit:  https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Bipolar-Disorder

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, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and schizophrenia, 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.

Common Causes of Depression in Older Adults

Are you or an older adult you care for suffering from more than a case of the winter blues? Winters in Minnesota can have an effect on some as well as the lack of sunlight, but if you or a loved one are experiencing loss of appetite, low energy, feelings of hopelessness, amongst other symptoms, then you may be experiencing depression. You are not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports an estimated 16 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode last year. That is over 7% of the US population.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Depression_Causes

As a person ages, various life events such as the death of a loved one, retirement, or medical problems are experienced. It is common to be stressed or sad when managing these types of changes. When a person is suffering from depression, the feelings of stress and sadness do not go away after a normal adjustment period. The feelings are ongoing, worsen and interfere with daily life and normal functioning. As a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH identifies 5 Common Causes of Depression in Older Adults:

  • Genes – People with a family history of depression are more likely to develop it. In older adults, those who had depression when they were younger are more at risk to develop depression later in life.
  • Brain Chemistry – People who have depression may have a different brain chemistry than those without the illness, leading them to be more likely to develop it.
  • Stress – the loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation can trigger depression.
  • Changes to the Body – Changes to the body and brain as we age can cause depression. Older adults who suffer from restricted blood flow may have blood vessels stiffen, which prevents blood from flowing correctly to the brain.
  • Other Illnesses – Depression can co-occur with other serious illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Sometimes medications taken for other illnesses may cause side effects that can contribute to depression.

Since many people think the various signs of depression is a normal part of the aging process and a natural reaction to illness or social transition, depression often goes untreated in seniors. Medication and psychotherapy are common treatment options for depression, but there are other options as well. People over the age of 65 must be careful when taking medications. Oftentimes seniors may be more sensitive to medications or are taking various prescriptions for other health conditions when they add a medication for depression. This can lead to several issues, including forgetting to take a dose, overdosing and even a bad drug interaction.

Psychotherapy is also a very effective way of treating depression and other forms of mental illness. Often referred to as talk therapy, psychotherapy teaches a person new ways of thinking, behaving and helps to change habits that are contributing to the depression. Many seniors would prefer psychotherapy rather than add more medications to take each day and studies show that for older adults, psychotherapy is as effective as taking an antidepressant.

At HealthStar Home Health, we understand that mental health disorders begin in the early years – for many as young as childhood or early teenage years. We recognize the alarming statistics surrounding mental health conditions and offer Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) for the adolescent age. Services through our CTSS program include, but are not limited to, specialized skills training, behavioral aid services and individual, family and group psychotherapy. For those suffering from depression or other form of mental illness in the adult years, HealthStar Home Health offers services through the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) program. The clients we support are struggling with disorders such as:

  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Agoraphobia

Becoming educated and helping to raise awareness of mental health conditions can break down obstacles and improve the recovery of millions of Americans who suffer from a mental disorder. If you’re concerned about a senior loved one showing signs of depression, don’t wait to get help. HealthStar Home Health offers 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.

Spending quality time with family, friends and being active in your Minneapolis, Minnesota community will help you stay healthy, but sometimes you may need a little more support. Contact HealthStar Home Health directly by calling 651-293-1000 and ask to speak to a professional in the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) department or the Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) department.

Mental Health and Depression

With the holiday season fast approaching, the first thing that comes to mind are the joys the holidays bring. Time with friends, family traditions and the wonders of the season all bring great joy to many. But for an estimated 16 million American adults that had at least one major depressive episode last year, the holidays are not so joyous. The added stress and expectations at this time of year can throw anyone into a funk, but when you also consider a variety of factors including the fact that there is less daylight causing a decrease in the body’s ability to produce vitamin D, it really opens up the doors for a flood of emotions.

According the the Mayo Clinic website, depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Depression is more than just the blues or a rough patch in life. It is a serious mental health condition requiring treatment, a recovery plan and most of all, understanding and support from those around you.

If you or your senior loved one is feeling symptoms such as feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, or feelings of failure, worthlessness or guilt most of the day, nearly everyday, then it may be time to seek help.

Since many people think that it is a normal part of the aging process and a natural reaction to illness or social transition, depression often goes untreated in seniors. Symptoms to watch for might be vague complaints of pain, memory problems and can also be a side effect of commonly prescribed medications.

Depression may show itself in different ways with different age groups. Children and teenagers are experiencing life’s emotional ups and downs as a part of growing up, but for those with depression the downs are more severe. Children and teens with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are at a higher risk for depression, as well as someone who has experienced considerable stress or trauma.

Depression is a devastating and debilitating mental health disorder for the millions of Americans who suffer from it. With an early detection, diagnosis and treatment plan, many people can get better and have good control of their depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) lists several options for treatment plans on their website, here is a sampling:

  • Medications including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic medications
  • Psychotherapy which includes cognitive behavioral therapy, family-focused therapy and interpersonal therapy
  • Light therapy, using a light box to expose a person to full spectrum light and regulate their melatonin levels
  • Mind, body and spiritual approaches such as prayer, faith, and meditation

HealthStar Home Health offers 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. Our Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) offers assistance and support to adults 18 years of age and older who have a qualifying mental illness and are eligible for medical assistance who want to improve their life. Our ARMHS program is not case management or traditional therapy, but instead is mental health services aimed at teaching you skills for managing your mental health symptoms and can get you through the busy, unpredictable holiday season.

We also offer mental health services to children through our Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) which features cultural sensitivity and empathy to the underserved people in our communities and regions.

Don’t let the Minnesota winter or upcoming holiday season get you down. If you need support, get it! Don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. If we all do our part to help remove the stigma associated with depression and mental health illnesses, it will go a long way for those who suffer daily. Spending quality time with family, friends and being active in your community is helpful in staying healthy, but sometimes you need a little more support. Contact HealthStar Home Health directly by calling 612-871-3700 and ask for a professional in the Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) department or the Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS) department.

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.