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

Better Health through Kindness

To me, May is a reminder of kindness. My favorite part of May has always been “May Day,” celebrated on May 1st. To celebrate, my family would create a little basket of goodies for each of our neighbors. Then, the fun: ding the neighbor’s doorbell, leave the basket, and RUN. This always felt amazing! Not only was I doing something fun with my mom and my sister, I also loved to imagine my surprised neighbors, overjoyed by finding a surprise of flowers, fruit, or cookies in a lovely basket on their doorstep. (I’m sure they knew it was us, but it felt like such a secret to me as a kid.)

To this day, I get excited about May Day, because it represents something wholesome, kind, and caring. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I still yearn for those happy little things that make my heart feel full to bursting, and this memory is one of those things.

As it turns out, that “heart full of joy” feeling you get from kind and generous activities does more than just make you happy – it’s also great for your health! (I’m sure you knew I’d get around to this eventually.) Check out these benefits of sharing a bit of kindness, and stick around for a few simple ideas to spread the warm, fuzzy feelings around! At the end of this post, you’ll also find a bunch of links that support the positive impact a little kindness can have on your health and well-being.

A kind heart is a healthy heart!

Studies have shown that when we complete an act of kindness, we receive a boost in the hormone Oxytocin. According to Dr. David Hamilton, “Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure).”

Is it enough of a reduction to negate the extra salt in my diet? Well, I’m no doctor, but I am an expert in wishful thinking. Maybe if I share those French fries, the kindness boost might just evaporate some of the “bad stuff” about the fries themselves. Plus, by sharing, I’m only eating half as many as I would have if I’d been selfish. That’s a win, win situation!


Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.

Albert Schweitzer

Oxytocin has also been called a “love hormone” because it is produced by nursing moms and helps them bond (and fall absolutely in love) with their new babies. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that this same hormone helps us bond with others in social situations as well! It can help reduce anxiety and keep depression at bay. When you couple this benefit with the next, the cumulative effect is a great mood boost!

More endorphins? Yes, please!

Acts of kindness can also repay you in the form of serotonin release and endorphin production. Most of us have heard that serotonin “makes you feel good.” It is commonly believed that low serotonin levels can lead to depression, anxiety disorder, and other mood disorders. On the flip side, a little boost in serotonin supports feelings of happiness and enhances the “good mood” feeling.

Add the endorphin release, and you’ve really got a good thing going! Endorphins increase the feeling of well-being, help relieve stress, and even decrease pain in a similar way to opioid drugs, but without any of those nasty side-effects! Together, the increases in oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins create an unstoppable mood-and-body-boosting trio. The kindness effect combats everything from depression and anxiety to aches and pains. Speaking of aches and pains, that brings us to…

What about inflammation?

Chronic inflammation is of great interest to researchers as a potential underlying contributor to many illnesses. According to this study, “Regularly engaging in volunteering has a special way of getting ‘under the skin,’ resulting in what appears as a younger biological profile for inflammation.” Volunteering gave a greater health benefit, in terms of reduced overall inflammation, than other types of “productive activity,” possibly because of the health boost received based on the generosity and kindness involved in the act of volunteering.

Reducing inflammation may help the body avoid many kinds of health issues, including Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, cancer – and these are just the big names. Everyday ailments like joint pain and arthritis can also seem lighter after an act of kindness. If we thought of kindness as medicine, how much more of it could we create?

Wow, kindness is strong stuff!

But wait – there’s more! In addition to all the benefits we’ve already discussed, let me throw in one more tidbit. This one is my favorite. Kindness begets kindness. It’s the ripple effect – an act of kindness can spread from one person to many, and it happens with so little effort!

Put kindness in action:

Maybe you buy a coffee for the guy behind you in the drive-through today. The person working the window gets to be a part of your kindness, which benefits him or her. The guy getting the free coffee doesn’t know you to thank you, so hopefully he’ll pass on the kindness to another stranger, or maybe even two. Each of those people, in turn, commit their own acts of kindness, spreading your single act to a positive health impact on a whole bunch of people, all for the cost of a single cup of coffee.


I like to pay for the coffee of the other folks behind me in line. It typically costs me less than $10, and makes the other people feel good, but more importantly, it makes me feel so good, and random acts of kindness change the world one person at a time.

Robert Kraft

It’s easy for me to see the benefit of a single act, but really, who does only one kind thing in a day? How many kindnesses can you spread around today? If we all take a few minutes to plan something generous and selfless, just imagine the impact we can have! Here are some ideas to get you started:

Our first day being kind

Everyone is new at something, some time. The good news is, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of dishing out kindness. A smile at a stranger, a compliment or a helping hand – these are all free. Here’s one of my secrets, and I don’t mind sharing it with you: lots of times, when I see someone is having a tough day, I will go out of my way to find something nice to say about that person.

Look at what he or she is wearing, the hairstyle or the accessories. There’s always something that took a little extra time to do, or something that maybe he’s insecure about or she wasn’t so sure if she could pull off that day. What if you’re the one to say “hey, I really like your scarf, where did you get it?” or “you look great today, what did you do differently?” Such a simple thing can really go a long way to making someone feel noticed.

A few more freebies

Donate your unwanted stuff to a women’s shelter or volunteer for an outreach organization in your area. These are fabulous causes, and of course, you’ll get the health benefit from the act of generosity. Help load someone’s groceries, open the door for a stranger, or help your neighbor with yard work if you happen to be outside at the same time.

And, of course, there’s that “pay for the guy behind me” trick in the drive-through. It’s a game of chance – he or she might be buying for the whole office! It sure does feel good though, when you can surprise someone with a free order; even though you don’t see the reaction, you know what you’d feel like if it happened to you!

We’re not done yet!

I’m lucky to work at HealthStar, because we have whole offices full of kindness. There is something to be said for working with people who truly care about people. I feel it every day, surrounded by nurses and support staff who would drop everything to help a person in need. But even for those who find it easy to spread kindness, a reminder might be needed. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own little world sometimes! Here are some of my favorite workplace examples of sharing kindness – maybe you can start small in your office today!

Share your lunch with someone who doesn’t have much that day – I know I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this one, and both are amazing. Give a few minutes of your time to a co-worker who needs a listening ear. Leave a “love note” to tell your co-workers what you admire most about them. Bring a treat to share, or if you’re on a health kick, bring some fruit or veggies and hummus. Recognize the contribution of a team member, or just send a little email to tell someone you’re thinking of her. And don’t forget the May Day basket – I’d love to see this tradition revitalized, in or out of the office setting!

Go forth and be kind!

I challenge you to come up with your own creative ways to spread kindness, and I promise you’ll enjoy these wonderful benefits to your own health and wellness in return. I think this is nature’s way of telling us that this is how we should be doing things – give to someone else, and in return, you get something that maybe even money can’t buy. A heart full of joy, and a body full of health!

And as always, contact HealthStar if you’re looking for staff who know how to put kindness into action to help you reach your health and wellness goals!

Please check out these links for more information:

Understanding Inflammation

The Science of Kindness

6 Science-Backed Ways Being Kind is Good for Your Health

How Sharing Kindness Can Make You Healthier, Happier

Why Random Acts of Kindness Matter

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?

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/

Spotlight: Jessica Downs, Clinical Operations

HealthStar’s Corporate team is a very diverse mix of all walks of life. Today, we are nurses (like Jessica), medical billers, and office support staff. But many winding paths have converged to bring this team together. With history in auto maintenance, real estate, finance, marketing, teaching, and even some folks who moved to the continental US from abroad, we really keep things interesting!

We are all problem solvers in one way or another, but the thing that really brings us together is our love of caring for others. We may not be direct, hands-on care staff, but we show our helping hands in other ways. There are lots of treats and shared meals, plenty of “feelings Friday” discussions where we show our support for each other, and lots of inside jokes. There are no cliques – we all get along. No, seriously! It’s not always easy, but because we truly care about each other, we give each other grace and try to understand where others are in their own unique battles.

As awesome as Corporate is, if you really want to see what makes HealthStar shine, what sets us apart, and what we are all working for every day – you’ll need to look outside our colorful and multi-angled Corporate walls. Look out into “the field,” where the rubber meets the road. Can you see our clinicians, our practitioners, and our front-line caregiving staff? Maybe you also see our service office locations and some of our Clients – they’re the reason Corporate exists! We work to serve, and we work hard to make sure that we serve well!

Who else do you see?

While you’re looking out there, do you see a blonde? Not just any blonde, but a blonde who really OWNS IT? Maybe you see her climbing out of a big pickup truck with her hair flowing in the wind. Her broad, radiant, feel-good smile touches everyone she walks past. That blonde hair is a statement, and the shoes and smile are the exclamation point. Her red shoes reflect her true passion – love for all people, and a strong desire to take care of those who need it. Watch out, now – she’s a hugger, but her hug melts your worries away and leaves you feeling lighter. Just who is this happy, high-heeled hugger, you ask? I’m proud to say, this bright and bubbly blonde is Jessica “Jess” Downs, HealthStar’s Director of Clinical Operations.

Talk about winding roads to HealthStar Corporate – prior to her decision to become an RN, Jessica had worked as a CNA in HealthStar’s Duluth office. Jess even once considered becoming an attorney! We’re sure glad she didn’t go that route. Instead, while working as a CNA in a nursing home, Jess was encouraged by a mentor to pursue a career in nursing and decided to give it a try.

What a great fit for her caring personality! After getting her degree, Jessica’s career in nursing kicked off in her home town of Duluth, MN, working in a surgical center and hospital. She later worked in Wisconsin, Nevada, California, and Arizona, in a variety of clinical roles including corrections nurse, hospice case manager, and Director of Nursing. Then, in 2014, Jessica’s winding road led her full-circle right back to HealthStar. Some things are just meant to be! Because we are in the “month of love,” we thought it would be a great time to tell you a little more about Jessica and her big-hearted ways. Jessica Downs, the HealthStar spotlight is on you!

Happiness is contagious

One of the first things that I noticed about Jessica is that she always seems So Happy. It’s an overwhelming happiness, like I imagine it would be if everyone’s Facebook self was real. She projects positivity and happiness into the world in front of her, like a blinding pink tractor beam, daring sadness to cross its path. If ethereal auras were visible, Jessica’s would be pink and fuzzy, and it would probably sparkle in the sunlight.

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Barb J, Michelle C, Julie S, Jessica D, Jean B.

Her happiness is wonderful in meetings, which are otherwise often dull and boring. Jess has a great laugh, bursting straight out of her heart; it is the glorious sound of freedom, a bird’s song of warm sunshine and wind ruffling his feathers as he soars through the open sky. Try to be stressed and frustrated in front of Jessica, I dare you. When you start to explain your problems, they suddenly won’t seem so bad any more. She’ll tell you “it’s OK, we’ll get through it.” And, poof – she’s right. It’s that simple. We will get through it.

Shine on, Jessica!

It’s easy to understand Jessica’s success in hospice, and as a nurse in general. A ray of sunshine in a cloudy and often difficult time, she’s exactly the type of personality to lift everyone’s spirits. Picture her sweet-talking her patients and showing them there’s nothing else that matters in the world. To Jessica, that’s the truth! She loves our HealthStar clients and pours her heart and soul into making sure that our team has the tools to deliver the best possible care!

While similar care is provided in both hospice and home care, there is a much more personal aspect to home care, because of the need for service to be provided in the Client’s living space. Jess has a great understanding of what this means to Clients. She expresses gratitude and compassion toward HealthStar’s Clients and says that she is honored to be invited into their homes. Her humility and friendliness help set Clients at ease.

Flexibility, much?

Some things are critical to a successful career at HealthStar. A sense of humor, I say. A love of food? Probably. The gift of patience? Can’t hurt. How about the ability to roll with the punches, to re-prioritize when a target shifts, or to “be the willow,” as our long-time employee Cathy Rivas-Carballo says. In my opinion, this is critical. HealthStar staff have an informal motto: “Give it a minute, things will change!”

Cass Lake 2018 Holiday Party.
Left to Right: Michelle C, Karen M, Jean B, Jessica D, Julie S.

Why is flexibility important? Take Jessica’s HealthStar history as an example. In her RN role, she started at HealthStar shortly after our transition from PCA/HMK agency to Medicare-certified agency. In the time Jess has been with us, the layout, structure, and focus of HealthStar’s branch offices, the organizational chart, and even our office addresses have changed. We have added and subtracted service offerings, and we have changed software programs many, many times. Staff have come and gone, sometimes more than once. (We joke about a revolving door. In a good way!) Throughout all these changes, Jess and the rest of our Corporate staff have flexed and sometimes flailed in the wind, but with flexibility on our side, we haven’t broken. We almost never make jokes about having a new priority. Instead, we come together as a team, again and again, and figure out how to continue.

But wait, there’s more…

Jess has also ridden the wave of change in her personal journey at HealthStar. Not including her time as CNA, Jessica first worked at Corporate, transferred to Duluth, transferred back to Corporate, and now lives in the Duluth/Cloquet area but still represents the Corporate office. Wait, what? Don’t worry about the details; the moral of the story is, she’s plenty flexible, and she goes with the flow. Jessica’s humility and “true to your roots” attitude make her approachable, and she always talks us down off the branches when things get a little too windy in that willow tree.

Open heart, open mind

Something that not everyone may know about Jessica is that, in addition to being an RN, she embraces a very unique skill set of healing. She is a Certified Level II Reiki Practitioner and says that blending western medicine and alternative medicine helps her to treat people holistically. Reiki has been around for thousands of years and is sometimes called “the laying of hands.” In practice, Reiki focuses on the transfer of healing energy from practitioner to patient, to revitalize the healing energy in the patient.

Maybe this explains why Jess has such grace and love for all of us – by sensing the energy around her, she sees more than just a single facet of a person, giving her a greater understanding of what makes us all tick. By keeping an open mind, and trying something different, Jessica is bringing a new perspective to HealthStar. There is something different about Jessica, and maybe this explains a little bit of that difference. There’s a lot that we can’t fully understand, but instead of dismissing those things, Jessica has embraced possibility and puts healing energy to great use.

But what about those shoes?

Yes, Jessica has some of the cutest shoes that I’ve ever seen. With my big clompers, I won’t be wearing anything like her shoe wardrobe. She’s not shoe crazy, she just has good taste. I know, this is four things, and usually I only do three, but this one is short. Great shoes. Hardly counts as a fourth.

By the way, Jess – how do you drive that big pickup truck with those fashion forward shoes on? And do you still wear heels when you go ice fishing?

Thanks for the positivity!

Corporate is lucky to have Jessica’s happiness, positivity, flexibility, and open mind on our side. Her love of HealthStar’s Clients shines through in every meeting. She is absolutely a strong advocate and spokesperson for the Client’s perspective and needs in receiving care. Jessica has brought a wonderful attitude of love and acceptance to HealthStar Corporate, and she has extended that attitude to the branch offices and to all of our Clients. We can’t wait to show you the benefits of this sense of love and caring!

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

Spotlight: Cristina Hernandez, TC Skilled

Checking her list

Turn the computer on, then check in with “the boss,” Deb Allen in Twin Cities Skilled. Another check-in with “the other boss,” Donna Smith in HR. Pull up Outlook and check Tim’s schedule. Check Barb’s schedule. Make sure there’s enough paper, water, plastic silverware, pens, and post-its. Check the main fax. Sit down and check Corporate voicemail. Check email. Look for IT inventory to check in or check out. How much checking can one person do in a day! And it’s only been 15 minutes.

This is the beginning of a typical weekday for Cristina Hernandez, Office Assistant at HealthStar’s Corporate and Twin Cities Skilled office. She keeps us all organized, on-time, and well-stocked with legal pads. She has a great sense of humor and loves practical jokes, but be warned; if you pick on her way of eating fried rice, one grain at a time while picking all of the vegetables out, you might upset her. She does have her sensitive side.

A little history

Cristina started at HealthStar in June of 2015. She worked as a HMK/HHA/PCA for the Minneapolis South office on Franklin, and she provided administrative support to the office between visits. In October of the same year, she applied for a position at the Corporate office. Corporate snapped her up before the ink dried on her application.

Cristina has been a great addition to the Corporate team, and is now working most often with the Twin Cities Skilled team. There is a lot to love about Cristina; just ask her. She’s not shy about her talents and will tell you the same. She has three unique and special talents, though, that make her really stand out from the crowd. Cristina, the HealthStar Spotlight’s on you! Let’s see what makes you shine!

Love yourself, first!

Cristina is very confident and self-assured. This makes her a great fit at the front desk, because she doesn’t shy away from meeting new people, and she is very comfortable in new situations. Cristina easily befriends any person in her path. She is charismatic and speaks her mind, but her sense of humor and kindness help to temper her strong personality.

Cristina can liven up a dark day, and she uses that skill to help motivate the Corporate and Skilled teams, from the lowest member right up to the very top. We have all witnessed the effect of her motivational skills on Tim Lively (owner/CEO). Only Barb Jezorski, Executive Director, can compete with Cristina when it comes to motivating power. When Barb and Cristina combine forces, Tim stays on schedule, on time, and on target! Corporate staff love it, because without Cristina, we wind up playing “oh where oh where has my boss’s boss gone.” It’s a lovely tune, but when you’re trying to plan your day, it can be a challenge. We like Cristina’s way much better.

Tell us a story

My personal favorite thing about Cristina is that she is an amazing source of information about Latino culture, and she’s a captivating storyteller. It is fun to learn about her Puerto-Rican background! I love when she tells us about the sights, the smells, and the sounds of Puerto Rico. I especially like learning about the food that Cristina’s family used to cook for her when she was growing up. Cristina is also willing to give me tips about speaking Spanish. She’s not afraid to correct my grammar or pronunciation (she’s brutally honest, have I mentioned that?). I have also learned this very important lesson from Cristina: just because two people might both speak Spanish, they don’t necessarily speak it the same way, or share the same cultural background. It is very interesting to learn of the many differences between Spanish-speaking cultures!

Cristina sometimes provides backup to the lovely and talented Nilda Garcia, Program Manager of Sagrado Corazón. Thank goodness for them both, because according to Cristina, my Spanish skills are not quite ready for prime time. HealthStar’s Spanish-speaking Clients might not be as patient as Nilda and Cristina when I take 5 minutes to think of the right word for Cucumber. (By the way, Concombre is French, not Spanish. You can guess who corrected me on that…)

But how are you feeling, really?

This is a special skill that I really admire in Cristina. She knows how to read people. She can be the most caring and patient person, if that’s what you need her to be. But in a heartbeat, she can turn on a fiery personality and liven things up with her high energy and flair. She takes the time to really listen to our Clients’ needs, making each Client feel like there is nothing else going on in the world. Clients would never know that she is also being pulled by multiple departments to help with their workloads. Cristina’s honest and open communication style sets people at ease in difficult situations. Most of all, she is passionate about meeting our Clients’ needs, whether it means translating at visits, providing direct care with grace and a gentle touch, or just listening and being compassionate when someone calls with an issue.

Family Connections

Some fun facts about Cristina’s family: Cristina’s mom, Marisol, has also worked at HealthStar. She provided HHA service out of the Minneapolis South office starting in 2011, and she reigned supreme as temporary queen of Corporate file retention in 2018. She is our favorite employee mom, because she makes the most amazing cakes. We miss you, Marisol – please come and visit soon!

There is another family connection, too. Cristina’s first experience with home care was when her brother, Jomar, received home care services through another agency. This was several years before Cristina joined HealthStar, and showed Cristina the impact that home care services make! Growing up with Jomar, with her family supporting his unique needs, Cristina developed the patience and compassion that make her such a great fit at HealthStar. Jomar is doing great and now lives in his own place. We all joined Cristina in celebrating his increasing independence, and we always enjoy hearing about his progress!

HealthStar Needs You, Cristina!

Corporate wouldn’t be the same without Cristina. I know, because I was here before she joined the team. It was a dark time, and we certainly don’t want to go back! Cristina has big shoes to fill, but the great thing is, she has big feet, so we never have to worry. She handles all her tasks with determination, and she keeps her sense of humor handy when things get tough. She’s a critical piece of the Corporate team!

Want to know more about what it’s like to work at Corporate? Check out our other articles and see which positions we’re hiring for today!

Footnote:

After reviewing this article, Cristina was disappointed that I didn’t discuss her amazing video editing skills. This is a unique talent, but it doesn’t seem to fit into any of the three very personal talent areas that I have clearly outlined above. Instead of adding a fourth talent category just for video editing, I told her that I would add a footnote. Cristina, I sincerely hope that you are now satisfied with this article. I don’t want to upset you, like that time I picked on your rice eating style.

Spotlight: Holly Eide, AZ/NM

It’s that time of year again. I sit at my desk, surrounded by white noise and plagued by static cling. My humidifier is straining to compete with the drying effect of my space heater, and I’m caught in the middle, coated in a thick layer of chap-stick and hand lotion, like an electrically-charged paper maché statue of myself. Yes, there are great things about winter. Sledding, holiday decorations, warm apple cider, and a cozy fire in the fireplace are all wonderful at times. But this is also the time of year when a few sneaky jealous thoughts might creep in toward Holly Eide, Area Manager of our HealthStar/Circle of Life Home Care offices to the south (WAY south) in Gallup, New Mexico and in Casa Grande, Arizona. Our Circle of Life Home Care snowbird manager is lucky to find herself in the land where weather-wise Northland retirees find gentler temperatures for their winter months.

Holly knows what the weather is like up north and down south. She started with HealthStar in MN in 2010, and then transplanted down to AZ in fall of 2016. This holiday season, as we celebrate Holly’s 8th year with HealthStar, we thought it would be a great time to learn a little bit more about her!

A little history

Holly has seen so many changes at HealthStar since she first started, and her background is as full of changes as her time with HealthStar has been. From court reporter, to stock market, to owner of an indoor park – which do you think gave Holly the most applicable experience for HealthStar? If you’ve guessed indoor park, you are correct! HealthStar is a lot like an indoor park some days, which is why we must remember to slow down in the corners and keep our chins tucked – we don’t want any bonked heads!

Holly Eide and Daniel Roebuck at the His Neighbor Phil premier party

After testing the waters in the billing department, Holly sprang into action mode when HealthStar needed a manager for its second Minneapolis office. From there, Holly made a bold and daring move to Arizona, where she is currently watching another new office take flight. She is our official HealthStar/AZ Circle of Life snow bird, although she is much younger than the traditional snow bird, and she rarely returns to the land of 10,000 lakes these days. Holly also watches over the Gallup Circle of Life office, so between those two warm states, she keeps plenty busy! Let’s find out more about what makes Holly tick – here are three things that I’d love to share about Holly. Holly, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

Sense of humor

Holly has been known to pull a prank now and then. Her signature move is the “gift of condiment” where she’ll sneak a salt or pepper shaker into your purse when you’re not looking. Really, I think she’s just being considerate – who couldn’t use a little extra spice? There’s less opportunity for these “gifts” with Holly several states south of Corporate, but she knows how to use the mail! Every package has a special item to give Corporate a laugh. Corporate knows how to use the mail, too – sometimes Holly gets a package full of glitter, or a box of 500 stress balls when things get really tough.

Holly Eide presenting Normal Aging vs. Dementia

Holly has been around long enough to have a bunch of tales to tell about “the old days” at HealthStar – if you ask her, you’re sure to have a chuckle! Ask her about the “just fired” car wrapped in saran wrap, or the Motel 8 ice bucket shipped lovingly to Katie Wagner at Corporate. She can tell you about the HealthStar Harlem Shake, ripped pants, eating doughnuts off strings, and the great 24ECC glitterbomb of 2017. Together, we took the Corporate office by storm during the office Olympics in 2012, and we witnessed the yoga planking craze later that year. Even from afar, Holly continues to make things a little lighter in our offices, helping us remember not to take things too seriously, and giving us plenty of memories to smile about.

Positivity

Ever need someone to help you look at the bright side of things when you’re feeling down? Holly is the one for the job! She sees the best in people and isn’t afraid to say it. Her optimism is contagious and helps to keep everyone around her moving! Holly doesn’t get bogged down when things are frustrating – she keeps on pushing toward the goal and has the vision of success in mind. Determination is key for Holly! Knowing it will be tough just makes her drive even harder for success. Competitive? You bet, but it’s all for a good cause. Well, I suppose for fun, too. Can’t forget about fun.

Holly Eide, Connie Stone, and Shannon Mackenzie at the MN State Fair one year later after discovering a lemon-sized brain tumor

One of the highlights that Holly has had with HealthStar was the time she spent working on HealthStar’s MN State Fair memory screenings. It was a huge undertaking, planning a booth and getting everything in place to complete memory screenings there. But Holly’s determination, and her belief in the project, got the team on board. The high point of the screenings was in 2016, with a very special visit from a woman who had failed a screen in 2015. It turned out that she had a lemon-sized brain tumor! Luckily, after the failed screen, she was instructed to see her doctor and followed through on that advice! Holly is still driven by this story today – she knows that this is the difference HealthStar can make in the lives of those we touch.

A Rolling Stone

If there’s one absolute truth I have learned about Holly over these years, it is that she Never. Stops. Moving. She is a true rolling stone, and she has gathered no moss. She thrives in an ever-changing environment, and she doesn’t back down from a challenge. Remember all the twists and turns from her business-life? Well, she doesn’t just take those corners at work – she’s also a wild and crazy careening force in her home life. She’s got 2 kiddos, both busy in sports (ask her about her hockey daughter and the Olympics!). At 34, she decided to take up BMX biking. She once competed in a bodybuilding event with her husband (remember the tan?).

What will Holly do next?

After 8 years of wild and crazy HealthStar adventures, Holly is still going strong in Arizona. During the winter months, she gets to watch the great migration of the northern SnowBird! How many retirees spend winter in Arizona each year? Thousands, and Holly wants to know how HealthStar can help! A busy Holly is a happy Holly, so let her know what she can do for your better health if you’re visiting the southern states during these cold winter months. You might just inspire the next great Holly Eide adventure!

Spotlight: Julie Swedberg, Cass Lake

It’s easy to mistake HealthStar as just a Metro-Area agency, with Corporate, Twin Cities Skilled, and Inver Grove Heights all being around the metro. But we have more offices outside the metropolis than in it! Looking north, you’ll find some of HealthStar’s craftiest and thriftiest “family members” in the Cass and Bemidji offices. Julie Swedberg, Branch Manager (aka Thrift Master) brings many talents to HealthStar’s Cass Lake office. She’s dedicated to serving HealthStar’s unique Client base and spends her time spreading warm, fuzzy feelings all through the land of Cass!

Inspired by her sister’s experiences as a CNA, Julie got her CNA certification and worked in a nursing home early in her health care career, and later became an LPN. Julie says that to feel the love and trust that patients have towards her as a nurse has been priceless. Her studies continued with a 2-year business degree, and in 2015 she found herself with multiple job offers (of course!). Lucky for us, HealthStar won the dangerous duel for Julie’s heart, and she joined our team as Branch Manager.

A Running Start

Oh boy, did Julie hit the ground running! Julie started during a period of great stress and transition for HealthStar. The Cass Lake office was going through some changes, to put it mildly. Things have settled down since then, thanks to Julie’s “special touch.” She knows how to take things in stride, and she doesn’t get too riled up during difficult times. Julie says that her love of gardening helps her stay calm – she loves to take photos of her flower gardens and often spends time thinking through her current challenges and stresses while walking through the flowers.

Keeping herself grounded and stress-free sure comes in handy when our HealthStar family gets together. Julie’s calm and matter-of-fact ways help keep us all on track and on time! But don’t let her “down to business” routine fool you – Julie has a great sense of humor and loves to stir up some fun. Her laugh comes up from her toes! And if you want to see her soft side, just ask about her sons. We’ve all met the little one, Ryker – he’s a Corporate Meeting Regular! Without further ado – please allow me to share with you my three favorite things about Julie. Julie Swedberg, the HealthStar spotlight’s on you!

An “old school” master chef

Julie’s mastery in the kitchen is appreciated by many mouths and stomachs across the land. In between office hours, community events, sports with the kids, and family time, Julie somehow finds time to preserve her own jellies and jams. She does this in large enough quantity that she sells them at the community farmers’ market! I can say as a personal recipient of Julie’s “jam variety pack” that this stuff is DELICIOUS! I would eat it with a fox, in a box, on a train, in the rain, and anywhere else for that matter. Yum!

Canning isn’t her only kitchen specialty, though – Julie can bake, sauté, steam, sear, and roast, too. She’s like a human instant pot, so many functions that you just can’t get enough! She’s not afraid of a little chopping – it lets her exercise her aggressive side. Yeah, she can get tough when she needs to, but most of the time she doesn’t. She gets pretty far with honey.

Julie’s love of cooking has a family history; her mom is also an awesome cook. Sometimes, they team up for community events – I know Julie’s mom makes a killer fry-bread taco! Why, oh why couldn’t Julie have grown up in the Metro so that I can have a fry-bread taco? It’s so true that life just isn’t fair.

Oh, so thrifty!

Julie pretends to come down to Corporate for meetings, but we’re pretty sure she actually comes down for the thrift store shopping. She makes a great round of the local thrift stores when she’s in town. Sometimes, she goes with Chasidy Myhrer, Bemidji Operations Manager (aka “hammer of the north”). They are a sight to behold, with so much treasure for so little cost! Great taste, great value – if Julie had a personal motto, that might just be it. I’m so jealous of her saving ways. I’ve never seen a dollar stretched so thin.

This special thrifting ability doesn’t just apply to shopping for Julie’s family, though. She also puts her special thrifty talents to work for her office, squeezing every penny out of her dollars. She considers her office budget with every decision she makes, going so far as to do her own cooking for events – lucky for the guests!

We didn’t know it when we hired Julie, but she’s a package deal, and we are so lucky for it! She gets her family involved in planning and hosting duties, which helps keep down the cost of extra help. Aside from helping out with community events on several occasions, Julie’s mom has also become our official “Corporate Meetings Mom,” always stopping in to say hello with Ryker when they’re in town. We’ve decided to make Ryker our official Corporate Meeting Mascot. It’s always nice for our HealthStar family to see the Swedberg family!

Heart full of love!

No one asks Julie to come to community events. They just put her on the schedule and tell her she’s coming! She’s made a name for herself in the community, and she and HealthStar are so proud of this! We’ve seen (and posted) photos of her spectacular booth setup at events; she really makes it look homey and comfortable. Julie doesn’t need much of an arm twist to help in the community – she gets involved because she loves it! She makes community events a priority for herself and her family because she wants to see the Cass Lake community thrive. Her energy and enthusiasm help get others going at events, which is why she is always invited back! The warmth and kindness that Julie brings with her to work is the same warmth and kindness that she pours into every event she attends.

Julie doesn’t save all of her love for community events, though. She also likes to know all about the people she works with, so that she can show us some love, too! At the recent Corporate meetings, Julie was spotted taking notes about everything, from Corporate updates down to each person’s personality type and conflict resolution style. “You never know when this kind of thing might come in handy,” she says.

Julie’s love for her community also translates to love for her Clients and staff. Julie is friendly and caring, and she expects her team to follow her example (which they do very well!). Call the Cass Lake office, and you’ll probably talk to Michelle Colliflower or Jean Bartell, two of the nicest and funniest ladies in Cass Lake! Karen rounds out the group with plenty of experience, wisdom, and patience. Julie puts a lot of love into this team, and it shows! This great group offers PCA, HMK, and skilled services in the Cass Lake area, and they are determined to show the love of their office to all of their Clients and field staff!

Julie, all wrapped up

Julie is like a pioneer woman, mixed with a kindergarten teacher, mixed with a ferocious lion – she has amazing kitchen skills, she loves to show her kind side, but when she needs to, she bares those teeth and gets things done! She represents HealthStar just the way we like it – leading with kindness and support, delicious with a touch of spice and a whole lot of love. Visit the HealthStar booth at the next Cass Lake health fair and find out what you’ve been missing!

And Julie – thanks for the jam, I’ve finished most of it and I’ll be patiently waiting for another shipment. 😊