Spotlight: Magan Olson, Clinical Supervisor

Here I am, hoping to write a great blog post about Magan, one of HealthStar’s Mental Health department superstar Clinical Supervisors. She has this great HealthStar history that goes back to the beginning of the Mental Health program (spoiler alert – she was one of our first interns!). But I keep catching myself looking out the window and thinking about, well, lots of other stuff. It’s not that I don’t like what I’m doing, I just sometimes can’t get myself to buckle down and do one task at a time. My brain wants me to think about grocery shipping, what my kids are doing while I work, and a whole list of “other duties as assigned” when I’m trying to complete a task. Please tell me I’m not alone in this?

While writing the post that was published earlier this month, I talked with Magan about health and wellness ideas (she is a great resource for mental health wellness!). My conversation with Magan reintroduced me to mindfulness, which is basically paying more attention to where you are in the moment, instead of splitting your attention with all those other distractions. For me, this is a true exercise – it is very difficult at times. Some days, I swear my brain tries to purposely stop me from checking off my list. I’m still able to accomplish a lot, but just think of what I could do if this wasn’t happening!

Wait, what was that again?

Truth is, this distraction is normal to some degree. While it’s hard to overcome, we can learn to make peace with our distracted nature. Magan says that a focus on mindfulness has made a big difference for her – just taking those few minutes to breathe and be present has helped her to stay grounded. Magan also says that exercise has helped her with her personal health and wellness journey. A little extra energy and a boost in serotonin can go a long way to improving your mood and state of mind, especially in this long and snowy MN winter!

Here’s the thing – if I can learn these things from Magan by asking a few general questions, just imagine how amazing it could be if we knew all her secrets! Oh, OK, maybe not all of them, but at least a few? Well, I am lucky enough to tell you three amazing things about Magan right now! Magan, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

Responsibility, much?

Magan is one of those people who you just know will get back to you. Maybe it’ll take a day or two, but you never question that the response will be coming your way. She knows how to prioritize, and she absolutely understands responsibility and attentiveness. I assume that this comes at some cost to her, personally, because there are times when all of us are overwhelmed… but I don’t see her letting things go. To Magan, it is clearly important to meet the needs of others and to follow through on her commitments.

Her focus on responsibility makes Magan an amazing resource for her team. She has been a go-to on many projects, going back to her days as an intern! I won’t bore you with the details, but there are plenty of good reasons why Magan was hired as our first Mental Health Practitioner. We just couldn’t let her escape after her internship here! Tim Plant, former Executive Director at HealthStar, may not be here today, but his good hiring judgment still hangs around wherever Magan gets assigned. I’m sure Sherry Fridlund, current Director of Mental Health Services, would agree that this was one of Tim’s greatest decisions.

The eyes!

It happens so quickly – you might think you’re just shooting the breeze, and then, all the sudden, you get the look. If you’ve talked to Magan, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all in the eyes. It’s the look that says “I’m here for you, I’m listening to you, there is nothing else that matters right now, and I will help you fix all of your problems.” If you’ve never experienced this before, let me tell you, it’s quite the feeling. She listens like no one else I have ever known. No judgment, no unwanted advice, no interruptions. Just listening. It’s a kind of being heard that you might not realize you need until it happens. The kind that just validates you as a person and says “it will all work out OK.”

Honestly, this is the look that I want to see when I just have that “I want my mommy” feeling. Yes, I still get that even though I’m a mom, myself. I just want someone to calmly validate that my feelings are my own, and to tell me, in a soothing voice, that things will work out. I’ve never been Magan’s clinical patient, but I think this is exactly how it would feel.

Magan says that she feels honored to have someone tell her their story and to support them through whatever it is they’re going through. She considers it a privilege to connect with people and help them to find their strengths, whether they’re HealthStar team members or Clients in the field. I feel Magan’s honest commitment to as her co-worker, and I know the staff at the St. Paul office all feel it, too! If Magan is also serving warm milk to the Mental Health staff and Clients, I wouldn’t be surprised.

An object in motion

The rules of motion tell us that an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. In Magan’s case, she can be both the moving object and the outside force, depending on the situation. If you need help getting motivated, Magan can apply a little force. But when Magan herself gets moving, she’s a force all her own. Magan says that she loves running, walking, hiking, and just generally being outdoors. It’s not hard to guess that she’s an active person – she looks great, and always has pep in her step!

Keeping physically active is just one of the ways that Magan stays healthy. I also mentioned earlier that she has a personal focus on mindfulness. Magan says that for her, this means concentrating on just being present in the moment throughout the day. She expressed the need for mindfulness really well:

“It’s easy to feel like you’re missing your own life… Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself to be present.”

Magan Olson

I know that feeling! Going home after a busy day, I just don’t want to engage. The problem is, the evening is the only time I have with my family. If I disengage, I’m missing out on that little bit of time which is the most important part of my day. Learning a little more about mindfulness from Magan has helped me to find that if I spend a “mindful moment” on the car ride home, I can re-center and be more present by the time I get back to my loved ones.

Each of us has different obstacles to wellness, but the goal is the same – continue moving towards our personal goals. This is why Magan is just the ticket – she can help you identify your unique obstacles and show you just the right force to apply to get those obstacles moving out of your way!

Magan, all wrapped up

There you have it – Magan Olson, in three parts. Responsible, attentive, engaged – she’s a triple threat! She’s a go-to when you’re in need, on so many levels! If you know someone who could use a little wellness help, check in with us and find out for yourself what Magan and the St. Paul staff have to offer!

March! I thought you’d never come!

I know I can’t be alone in wishing for spring. The vernal equinox is around the corner, and with it, days that finally stretch longer than nights. The arrival of March signals the first breath of beautiful and snow-melting spring, when we can finally begin the long thaw. Winter has taken a toll on both my physical and mental health, so as part of my “spring cleaning,” I have been looking for ways to energize and refresh myself, inside and out. While the weather slowly warms February’s heaping snow piles, I’ll be taking baby steps toward a happier, healthier me. I’d love to share some of the ideas I’ve found – maybe we can work together on a few small changes. Here are 4 areas that I’m working on, and plenty of little tips to work them into both of our schedules:

1. Shake up mealtime!

There is a lot of bang in the buck when it comes to changing your eating habits. But you don’t have to make drastic changes to see positive results. I love the idea of just adding an extra fruit or vegetable to every meal – sneaking in a smoothie here and there is an easy way that I’ve found to trick myself into eating more spinach. Even my kids love the smoothies! Including a probiotic in or out of your smoothie, like yogurt, kefir, or kombucha, can also improve digestive health and restore some of the important gut flora to help keep your system moving.

Add a little “good fat” to your diet for a big health boost!

Also, think about this – are you including “good fats” in your diet? Found in avocado, nuts, eggs, and other sources, these fats can help you feel satisfied and help to lower LDL cholesterol. You’re looking for unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. The extra fat is the good news, but now I’m getting to the tough stuff – limiting added sugar and refined white flour is a great way to cut out “empty” calories. Yes, sugar and white flour like the stuff found in brownies, cookies, ice cream, and most of the other things that I dream of when I start trying to “eat healthier.” But don’t stress about this – if you’re working in the other tips here, you’ll feel less cravings, and a little indulgence here or there isn’t all bad.

Speaking of “do as I say, not as I do” advice… here’s my favorite tip. Pack your own lunch every day. It’s really tough to get a healthy meal if you’re eating out! Even a salad can be loaded with calories depending on the dressing and toppings. You’ll be much more likely to eat healthy if you only pack healthy foods. You’ve had time to think about the ingredients, the portions, and the balance of the meal. And maybe a little snack once in a while wouldn’t hurt, either.

If you’re struggling for lunch ideas, here’s a fabulous one – work with a buddy to create lunches together! It keeps a little mystery in your lunch, and together, you can stay motivated and healthy. Two lunch eaters are much more creative than one! For example, at HealthStar, we’ve had a salad club in the past. It’s easier in summer, when produce is cheaper, but the idea can be modified for any season. You don’t have to do salads – you can get creative with different recipes. With a partner or two, sandwiches, wraps, or any number of side dishes can be converted to a delicious, nutritious, and surprisingly crave-able lunch menu!

2. Get moving!

Keep it moving!

For those of us who sit a lot (HealthStar office staff, this one’s for you!), hip openers can be done when you wake up and right before bed, to help keep your hips and waist refreshed. Yoga and Pilates are a couple of great low-impact workout types that can be done by all different ability levels. Even just a few simple stretches a day can help get you moving easier and give you a serotonin boost!

This can be a really tough one for so many of us. I sit at a desk all day, so for me, a reminder to get up and move around every so often is really helpful. I’ve known friends who swear by doing squats every time they go to the bathroom. 5 minutes of fast walking per hour can get you near the recommended weekly exercise recommendations, if you add a bit of workout time on the weekends (mayo clinic recommends 75 to 150-minutes per week). When I’m stuck on a project, just taking a walk around the office can help clear my mind and give me a spark of energy to finish strong.

The point is, you don’t have to do a P90x workout to see health and wellness benefits – any of these ideas can get your blood moving, boost your energy level, and lift your mood! Just pick a realistic goal that you can feel successful at, and stick with it. Once you’ve incorporated some simple exercise in your daily routine, maybe it won’t seem so daunting to add something more vigorous!

3. A smile a day keeps the doctor away!

There is plenty of research to show that our interpersonal relationships have a great impact in our physical and mental well-being. When you connect with someone, you both benefit! So in this very early spring, take some time out and spend it with an old friend, or maybe even make a new friend. You might also do something active together, like taking a nice walk through the Como Conservatory (it’s free!). Exercising with a buddy can be great for motivation!

Smile! It’s contagious 🙂

Another great way to add some warm, fuzzy feelings, is to get involved in your community. HealthStar’s caregivers are already part of something greater than themselves, becoming a part of a Client’s life and working together towards the Client’s health-related goals.

The joy that comes from helping others can be very rewarding. There are lots of ways to get involved at all levels of commitment. Maybe you want to start a book club, volunteer at an animal shelter, or plan a game night with your neighbors – anything you can do to connect with others on a meaningful level will give you plenty of “feel-good” energy!

4. zzzzzzzz (shh, I’m “health” sleeping)

This one speaks to me on a very deep level. I am not myself if I don’t get enough sleep! It’s harder to concentrate, I’m irritable, my body aches, and all I can think about is crawling back into bed. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep is critical for all of these reasons. (For me, it’s more toward the 9 hour mark.)

If you were looking for an excuse to take a nap today…

Sleep alone isn’t going to bring all of your body and mind to perfect health. Quality of sleep is also important. Taking a few minutes before bed to meditate, do deep breathing, or go through a relaxation technique can help you to fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. Mindfulness activities can also help you reduce stress and re-center yourself throughout the day – if you find a technique that works, try adding it at lunch time. A short mental break might be just what you need to keep going through the afternoon slump!

Put it all together

It’s not realistic to think that we can do all of these things. But we can do a little bit today, and see what feels right. Adding little bits of change over a long time will slowly ease us into bigger changes. If you need some ideas built just for you, HealthStar’s mental health department and therapies department are great places to start! Between those two departments, you can find great experience to put the pep back in your step. Anything from help with mental health struggles to post-surgical range of motion exercises.

And what will I be doing different, you ask? Little things, for sure! For example, today, I have split pea soup for lunch. (Yes, I brought it from home) Tomorrow, maybe I’ll remember to do the 5 minutes of walking per hour. And that brings us to Wednesday… maybe I can work in a breathing exercise that day for my mental health. Little by little, I’ll work my way up to P90x.

Or, maybe not…

https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/changes-health-reduce-diabetes-risk/

https://chuzefitness.com/2018/01/small-changes-make-big-impact-health/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/7-ways-to-jumpstart-healthy-change-in-your-life

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

https://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/how-to-sneak-in-fitness/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201504/4-lifestyle-changes-will-boost-your-mental-health

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/201410/9-lifestyle-factors-can-affect-your-mental

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509074114.htm

https://consumer.healthday.com/mental-health-information-25/anxiety-news-33/quitting-smoking-linked-to-better-mental-health-in-study-684786.html

https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/18/lifestyle-changes-as-treatment-for-mental-health-concerns-depression-anxiety/23670.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916

https://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20477647,00.html

https://yurielkaim.com/yoga-hip-openers/

A Little Love Makes a Big Difference

While Hallmark concentrates on sales of greeting cards and florists work their fingers raw arranging bouquets, we thought it would be interesting to learn how love can help improve our health. It’s something that we often overlook when choosing to “be healthy.” We think about our diet, how much exercise we can squeeze into our schedules, how much water we drink. But we rarely consider our social relationships and interactions when thinking about New Year’s resolutions or healthier lifestyles. Many studies have shown, however, that healthy personal relationships are just as important to good health as are exercise and good eating habits.

Why isn’t everyone talking about this?

The conspiracy theorist in me says it’s because no one makes money off of my making a new friend or my relationship with a loved one. There’s no way to make that into a pill, a vitamin, or a quick fix. Our relationships are something that we have to develop for ourselves. Sometimes, maintaining a relationship can even be harder than breaking it off. But after you hear about all the health benefits of healthy social interaction, maybe you’ll be the first one to start talking about the benefits!

Where science meets those warm, fuzzy feelings

Several studies have shown that the support system involved with our personal relationships helps to build better physical and mental health. It makes sense – you feel good when you have the support of people who care about you. And it feels good to support them in return. But even a small gesture, like a smile from a passing stranger, or the “good morning” you say to that guy who works on the floor below you, can have a ripple effect that leads to improved health and well-being.

These interactions remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves; a community, a town, and a whole world full of other people. Maybe that stranger will smile at someone else and pass on the good feeling. Maybe the guy downstairs was having a tough week, but now he feels just a little better.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

John Watson

The good kind of contagious

This quote is more than 100-years old, but still speaks as a reminder that we are surrounded by people who are, like us, struggling in some way. By supporting each other, we make those burdens feel a bit lighter. Sometimes we forget our trouble, if only for a minute. Even when remembered, a burden shared is far easier to carry than burdens borne alone.

Each time you smile or wave, you silently tell the person you smiled at, “you matter.” You’re signaling that the person is worth your time. And that feels good, too – we all need a reminder sometimes that we matter. I’m telling you right now – you matter to me. If I see you on the street, I will smile and wave at you, and I hope you do the same back. I’m smiling at you right now, in fact. And I bet you just smiled back. Isn’t that just the coolest!

Put it into action!

So much of our time is spent in solitude; driving alone in the car, sitting at a desk, waiting for appointments. Even when we’re together, sometimes it still feels like we’re alone. The supercomputers in the palms of our hands lead us to a paradox. We spend so much time communicating that we have no time to communicate.

This month, put your newfound knowledge about the importance of relationships to use. I challenge you to notice the difference that a smile, a wave, or a good conversation with an old friend might have on your health. If we all make an effort to show someone how much they matter, maybe we can even painlessly shed those extra holiday pounds… Hey, a girl can dream, right?

For more information about how love and relationships can help you build a healthier future, check out these resources and studies:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3150158/

https://academic.oup.com/aje/article-abstract/109/2/186/74197

The Benefits of Senior Exercise

We all know the importance and the benefits of routine exercise and healthy eating habits, but for some of our aging loved ones, that part of their daily routine tends to slip. The benefits of a healthier heart, stronger bones, improved flexibility, sharper mind and overall feeling definitely outweigh not exercising, but it is still easy to develop poor habits as we age. Here in Minnesota our winters can get long and this can lead to being lackadaisical with our exercise routine, but with some health reminders and a little encouragement we can get our senior loved ones sweatin’ to the oldies once again.

John Medina, an affiliate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington School of Medicine and author of Brain Rules says that aerobic exercise “keeps cognitive abilities sharp and slashes your lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s in half”. That is an incredible statistic and something we all could benefit from, no matter what the age. Alzheimer’s is not just a disease that affects older people. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can affect people who are younger than 65 years of age and close to 5% of the more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s disease have younger-onset.

Scientists strongly believe that regular exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, which in turn releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein some scientists have dubbed as Miracle-Gro for the brain. BDNF stimulates the formation of new neurons in an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which involves memory, learning, and the ability to plan and make decisions.

SeniorExercise

 

Seniors benefit greatly from routine exercise. This topic seems to be one thing that all health professionals unequivocally agree on – hands down, exercise is the single best thing you can do for the body and brain. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that seniors have even more to gain in becoming active than younger people since the older a person is the higher the risk of health problems physical activity can reduce or even prevent. Some of the benefits of senior exercise include:

  • Immune System: a strong healthy body can fight off infections and diseases more quickly
  • Healthy Brain: studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias
  • Heart Health: exercise lowers the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure
  • Sleep Better: you’ll fall asleep quicker and sleep better throughout the night
  • Bone Density: exercise helps prevent bone loss, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis and accidental falls
  • Digestion: exercise aids in waste elimination and the functioning of your gastro-intestinal tract

According to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), 40 percent of people between the ages of 45 and 64 are considered sedentary. For those over 64 years of age, that number jumps to 60 percent. These are troubling numbers, but can easily be reversed. Begin by making a new year’s resolution to have a weekly exercise date with a senior loved one. Set a day and time each week to go for a walk in the neighborhood, walk laps in a local shopping mall or walk around a favorite Minneapolis or St. Paul lake – there are over 10,000 to choose from! Even register together for an exercise class through the community. Many communities have various classes that are geared toward seniors, such as aerobic, yoga, meditation, dance and others. It’s never too late to start exercising your brain and body!

At HealthStar Home Health, we serve individuals and health care professionals in a number of cities in Minnesota, including the Duluth area, as well as New Mexico. Our home health professionals provide unparalleled public healthcare services through stewardship, honor-driven values, and a genuine desire to serve our communities. Our clients benefit from the range of healthcare services that we provide, from Alzheimer’s and dementia care, to behavioral nursinghome health care nursing, respite care and more. Call HealthStar Home Health today at 651-633-7300 for more information or to schedule a no-charge consultation. Or visit our website www.healthstarhomehealth.net to complete the online contact form.