Crow Wing Energized

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Sexual abuse of children

LJohnsonBy Lowell Johnson is a member of the ACEs and Resiliency Coalition (ARC), Crow Wing Energized Mental Fitness Goal Group, and the Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition.

 

The sexual abuse of children is one of the most harmful of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), resulting in a sense of powerlessness, mistrust and betrayal. According to the ACE study, 21% of adults reported being sexually abused as children.

 

Sexual abuse is defined as when an adult, or someone five years or more older, uses a child for sexual gratification. Sexual abuse can take the form of touching or fondling a child’s genitals; having a child touch or fondle an adult’s genitals; attempting to or having oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse; using a child for pornography or prostitution; or rape.

 

It is important to understand that sex play among children is common and considered developmentally normal. Sex play is not sexual abuse.

 

Most sexual abuse occurs with family members or someone the child already knows, NOT with strangers. Abusers target non-assertive children and develop a relationship with them. They then start the abuse, and use secrecy or threats of harm to continue the abuse.

 

As adults, we need to protect our children. It is important that anyone who sees indications that an adult may be intending to hurt a child intervene by speaking up about the concerning behavior. It can be difficult, or even scary, to start a conversation about someone else’s behavior. Enlist help from family, friends, or professionals. Practice what you might say if a situation arises that makes you uncomfortable.

 

Signs of sexual abuse.

A child may report sexual abuse with words. A direct report is considered to be a child reporting incidents directly to a parent, teacher, non-offending adult or other person in authority. In an indirect report, a child may tell a friend or classmate, hoping they will tell an adult for them.

 

There are also behavioral signs that may indicate sexual abuse. These include

– Sudden reluctance to go somewhere or to be with someone

– Excessive fear of touching

– Excessive fear of a certain gender

– An adult or teen spending a lot of time with a child

– Sudden accumulation of gifts or money

– Expressing affection inappropriately for age

– Overly seductive/adult sexual behavior

– Unexpected sexual knowledge or fixation, use of sexual words

– Fear of affection, fear of any remotely sexual behavior

– Withdrawal from being friendly, doesn’t make eye contact, and decreased attention/focus at school.

– Pain in genital area, rashes, infections

– Constipation or pain in anal area, uncontrollable bowel movements

 

Building Resilience

Prevent the sexual abuse of children by using the following strategies. Men, if you believe part of your traditional role as a man is to be a protector of children, consider these suggestions.

– Teach and use the proper names of ALL body parts

– Talk to your kids about “gut feelings” or instincts

– Explain the difference between a secret and a surprise

– Give your child permission to break promises or tell a lie if they need to in order to stay safe

– Talk with your child about who they can tell if something or someone makes them feel bad or scared

– Set and respect clear family boundaries around privacy and personal space

– Teach kids that it is okay to say “No” or “I don’t like that” – even to an adult. Practice ways to say no with them in various scenarios.

– Show your kids that “NO” and “STOP” are important words and should be honored

– Teach kids that they have control over their body and the right to feel comfortable. No one (even family and friends) should touch them in a way that makes them feel icky or yucky.

– Children should not be forced to have physical contact they do not want (like kissing or hugging relatives). Offer other options like shaking hands or blowing a kiss.

– Clearly explain to your child WHO is allowed to touch the private areas of their body and WHY – Parents, doctors, and caregivers to keep them clean and healthy

 

The content for this article was drawn largely from materials from Sexual Assault Services in Brainerd. Contact them at 218-828-0494 or 888-458-0494 with any concerns or for more information.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Divorce or Separation of a Parent

This article is one of a series aimed at exploring the problem of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their harmful effects on the physical, emotional and mental health of our community. Substantial public health research confirms that mistreatment of children results in a variety of problems for them as they grow into adulthood. Although the problems that result from ACEs create ripple effects throughout our communities, research shows that we can build resilience to the trauma caused by ACEs. Resilience trumps ACEs!

LJohnsonBy Lowell Johnson is a member of the ACEs and Resiliency Coalition (ARC), Crow Wing Energized Mental Fitness Goal Group, and the Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Coalition.

 

One of the most common Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is the divorce or separation of parents. The effect of divorce on children varies widely, but with proper support, children can adjust to this difficult transition. However, according to the website of FamilyMeans, there are a number of possible negative consequences for children experiencing divorce or separation.

 

Feelings of guilt. Children often blame themselves for their parents divorce, and these feelings of guilt can lead to stress and depression.

 

Poor performance in school. The changing family dynamics of divorce may cause children to be distracted and less able to focus on academic performance.

 

Social problems with peers. Children may have a harder time relating to others, have fewer social connections, or feel insecure socially.

 

Problems adapting to change. Learning to adapt to a new home, school, friends, and changing family dynamics can prove difficult for children.

 

Emotional sensitivity. Feelings of confusion, loss, anxiety, and anger can produce both emotional roller coasters and emotional sensitivity in children.

 

Destructive behavior. Children who have experienced divorce may rebel through destructive behaviors such as smoking, alcohol or drug use, and criminal behavior.

 

Physical health problems. The stress associated with divorcing families can lead to poor physical health in children.

 

Loss of faith in marriage and family systems. Children of divorcing families want to grow up and have stable relationships, but research shows they have divorce rates up to two to three times higher than children from non-divorcing families.

 

Resilience Building

 

While the impact on children of divorcing families can result in serious consequences, parental separation DOES NOT absolutely predict these consequences. Children who successfully navigate the problems presented by divorce have had resiliency building experiences in their lives. According to the article Building Resilience in Children of Divorce, (CHVBV website), the following factors increase child resiliency.

 

Freedom from exposure to extreme conflict. As parents dissolve their relationship, their personal experiences of anger and other intense emotions need to be dealt with in a safe environment where children are not exposed to intense conflict. Children should not be exposed to the extreme angry feelings of one parent towards the other parent.

 

Parent education. When parents participate in educational and support programs aimed at understanding divorce from a child’s perspective, their children benefit greatly. Parents Forever is one Minnesota program that provides this service. Other programs aimed at helping with co-parenting after divorce are also helpful.

 

Therapeutic support. Children and parents can benefit from counseling services by professionals trained in navigating the dynamics of divorce.

 

Routines and stability. Maintaining familiar routines provides reassurance and stability to children undergoing any form of stress.

 

Preservation of holiday traditions or development of new traditions. Keeping holiday traditions intact helps minimize the sense of loss commonly felt by children. As new family systems develop after divorce, the opportunity and necessity for new holiday traditions emerge. Especially when children are involved in the creation of these new traditions, positive feelings of attachment and belonging can develop.

 

Contact with extended family support. Grandparents and other members of extended families can provide needed stability in children’s lives. Opportunities for regular and positive contact with extended family should be part of post divorce planning.

 

Establish non-conflicted ways for transferring children between homes. Especially if parents are unwilling or unable to be civil to each other for the well-being of the children, third parties may need to be enlisted to insure physically and emotionally safe and consistent transfer procedures. The Alex and Brandon Child Safety Center in Brainerd provides this service.

 

Protect and preserve children’s time with peers and for extra-curricular activities. As children grow, their world of extra-curricular activities and peer relationships takes on more importance, and offers another source of stability and positive belonging.

 

Spend time with, and get to know children as individuals. While quality family time and sibling relationships are important for family dynamics, children benefit from one on one time with each parent. Challenging as this may be to implement, healthy families figure out how to plan this time into family life.

Healthy Snacks for Kids…

At School

By Dave Baloga, Physical Education Teacher at Garfield Elementary in Brainerd, and Crow Wing Energized Healthy Choices Grant Application and Goal Group Members
Healthy snacks in the classroom are an important part of creating a healthy school environment. Nutritious snacks can contribute to a healthy diet for children, help them perform better in academics, and provide an opportunity for students to practice making good choices.

 

This year Garfield Elementary School, with the help of a grant from Crow Wing Energized and assistance from the University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed Educator, Carolyn McQueen, will provide a Healthy Snack Cart Program.

 

Carolyn McQueen2016 “There are many children who bring nutritious snacks from home and we hope that they will continue to do this, as it shows, these students how to make healthy choices,” explains McQueen. “However, some students come to school without a snack. Sometimes the snacks are forgotten or there were no snacks available that day at home.  Every child needs a healthy snack to during the day to reenergize.”

 

According to Principal, Jodi Kennedy, “one of the areas of concern identified by the School Health Index (SHI) that the team members completed is in the area of nutrition services. This project is multifaceted in that it will incorporate policy change for birthday treats, snacks, and classroom rewards as well as create healthier snack options for students. The project will create a healthy snack cart for students to be able to select healthy options that they may not be able to otherwise.”

 

DaveBalogaDave Baloga, Physical Education Teacher at Garfield Elementary, goes on to explain that because of the great partnership Garfield Elementary has built with Crow Wing Energized, we have been able to purchase and begin a healthy snack cart. In the initial phase this year, the cart will provide healthy snack options, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and grains. To help guide the choices on the cart, we are using nationally approved guidelines that provide recommendations on the number of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium content appropriate for children’s snacks. The options available will take into consideration the budget, ease of eating in the classroom, allergies, and other diet considerations.

 

The reality is that many of our students do not have access to those types of healthy snacks, so this snack cart will provide those opportunities, which will help them have the energy to better focus and learn in the classroom.

 

It is our hope that in the next phase we will be able to provide snacks to a broader range of students. A huge thanks is owed to Carolyn McQueen, who works with the University of Minnesota-Extension and teaches nutrition education to third graders at Garfield. She has been instrumental in helping Garfield launch this opportunity for our students!

 

 

After School

Teresa FarrellBy Teresa Farrell, Essentia Health Registered Dietitian

With school starting, so does the after school snacking! By mid-afternoon when most children are getting home they are truly hungry. The big question is what kinds of snacks to have on hand for them.

 

Snacking is a great opportunity to boost your nutrition intake. Snack foods can be easy or more complicated depending on your time and preference.

 

Fruits and veggies are quick and easy and always a good choice. If your child doesn’t like them, plain fruits can be dipped in yogurt or eaten with peanut butter or reduced fat cheese. A fun option is to make a fruit and yogurt parfait from fat free yogurt, fruit and low fat granola or crushed graham crackers. Kids can have fun layering the ingredients and if you have a clear glass it looks pretty as well!

 

A smoothie is another good option with fat free yogurt, frozen fruit and fat free milk or a little fruit juice to thin it. Yum! Greens can also be added to your smoothie, such as spinach. Try it you might like it!

 

Veggies can be dipped in a reduced fat dressing or other reduced fat dip. A salad with reduced fat dressing is a good option.

 

String cheese, low fat cottage cheese, low fat popcorn, yogurt are more quick and easy ideas.

 

How about some whole grain cereal and fat free or low fat milk or whole grain crackers and reduced fat cheese, PB&J on whole grain bread is always a popular snack! Sandwiches made from lean turkey, ham or other lean meat is a satisfying snack. A few more ideas would be a quesadilla with fat free refried beans and reduced fat cheese, graham crackers with peanut butter or dipped in fat free yogurt, grilled cheese anyone? Or even an English muffin pizza made with toasted English muffins, pizza sauce, reduced fat cheese and any veggie additions you’d like, pop in the microwave to melt the cheese and enjoy. The choices are endless!

 

If your child is home alone after school or as a reminder for yourself you may want to write a list of healthy snack ideas for your family. This will help with keeping ingredients on hand as well.

 

One quick reminder, a snack should be a snack or a “mini meal” and not so large that it’s an additional meal or so large that it curbs your child’s appetite for dinner.

 

Encourage your kids to stop and focus and enjoy their snack vs rushing though it or doing other things while eating. When we rush through what we’re eating we may not be as satisfied as when we eat slower and enjoy the look, flavor, smell and texture of the food, we also tend to have a better awareness of the amount of food we are eating.

 

Happy snacking then outside to play!

Crow Wing Energized – August 2016 newsletter

This month we are celebrating the nearly 300 lives changed by increased activity, eating healthier and being supported! Good news is, there are more opportunities to participate in a lifestyle change classes starting this fall. Additional information includes how to prevent falls in our community, prepare healthy fruits and vegetables, getting moving with others, and build your resilience. Please share this newsletter with all in your sphere of influence…employees, coworkers and friends.

Cassie Carey

Crow Wing Energized August 2016 newsletter page 1

Crow Wing Energized August 2016 newsletter page 2

Crow Wing Energized – July 2016 newsletter

Words can’t explain how grateful I am to have the pleasure of leading Crow Wing Energized, our grassroots community health and wellness movement; it rings even more true how amazing our community is.

If you have ever wanted to make a lifestyle change, get energized, or just be a change agent in the health and wellness realm, now is your time! I love to work along side people in the community and welcome new partnerships, and relish in the numerous connections in which have been made to this point!

This month we are starting an email newsletter to keep you informed of the work taking place in our community to make the easy.
Cassie Carey

Crow Wing Energized July 2016 newsletter page 1

Crow Wing Energized July 2016 newsletter page 2

 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Emotional Neglect

BeckyStadem

By Becky Stadem who coordinates the Collaborative Service Team, providing early intervention and prevention services to schools in the Crosby, Pequot Lakes and Brainerd school districts.

 

The normal stressors in life affect our emotional state. For instance you’re late and have to get your kids off to the bus. One child wants to show you something they wrote, but you are too busy to look. Or maybe your boss calls while you’re waiting to pick up your kids from school. They’re excited to tell you about their day, but you have to tell them to quiet down so you can hear your boss on the phone. Or you decide to take a minute to check out Facebook and get engrossed. When you look up, it’s bedtime for the kids. You say goodnight without hearing about their day or finding out why they were excited. Sound familiar? With everyone’s busy schedules, there are bound to be times when you are distracted from your children. But, if those patterns persist over time, you may be neglecting their emotional needs.

 

According to resiliencetrumpsaces.org, “Emotional neglect is the failure of a parent to provide needed emotional attention, support, recognition, love and empathy so that the child’s emotional health and development are built on a solid foundation. Parents who neglect their children are often struggling with their own need – their own ‘cup’ is often nearly empty, and they find it challenging to give their children what they need (and what they didn’t receive themselves).”

Emotional neglect is particularly harmful during infancy and the early years of a child’s life. This is when the brain’s circuitry around emotional health is largely being built. Having adult caregivers who are tuned into and responsive to the child’s needs builds a sense of being able to trust others into the child’s brain. Trust is the basis of all positive human relationships.

 

Unlike emotional abuse, where an adult is actively engaged in shaming or blaming children, emotional neglect results from what a parent doesn’t do – pay focused attention to children’s emotional lives.

 

A child whose emotional life is neglected feels that they are invisible, that their feelings don’t matter, or aren’t important to the people who are most important to them: their parents. People who have experienced an emotionally neglected childhood have a harder time understanding their own emotions, can often feel detached from those around them, have feelings that they’re unworthy, difficulty with self-discipline, and may use food or substances as a way to regulate their emotions.

There are many situations that can affect one’s ability to notice, attend to, or respond appropriately to a child’s feelings. You may be working too much, be the only parent in your child’s life, or have stressful relationships at work or in your extended family. These situations do not mean that a parent definitely is emotionally neglectful of their children, but they do increase the likelihood of not having the energy and emotional state necessary to be attuned to a child. How a child is treated, how their emotions are responded to in childhood, lays the foundation for how they see themselves in the present, and into the future.

 

Building Resilience

– Become an emotion coach to your children by 1) being aware of your child’s emotions, 2) recognizing that emotions are an opportunity to connect, 3) listening with empathy, 4) naming the emotions, and 5) setting limits and finding good solutions to emotional issues (John Gottman)

– Books, movies, and real life situations all provide opportunities for recognizing and naming emotions.

– Accept and validate emotional expression. Emotional reactions to life situations are normal. Accept all emotions and teach about appropriate behavioral responses to emotions.

– Teach about soothing intense emotions. Taking a break, physical activity, and self-talk strategies can all be helpful. If taking a break from an intense emotional situation is necessary, be sure to make time later to talk about what happened once the emotional intensity of the situation has decreased.

– Help children develop friendships and a sense of belonging to a group. Positive emotional relationships with others is the foundation of emotional health.

– Take care of yourself. Seek out people who will listen to and support you in your own emotional life and growth.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Physical Abuse

KaraGriffinBy Kara Griffin, MSW, LGSW is the Manager for the Social and Health Programs at Crow Wing County Community Services and co-chair of Crow Wing Energized.

 

Did you know that physically abusing children is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE)? Physical abuse comes in many forms. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), “physical abuse is when a caregiver causes any physical injury, or threatens harm or substantial injury, on a child other than by accident. Physical abuse can range from minor bruises to severe internal injuries and death.” The website resiliencetrumpsaces.org defines physical abuse “as any non-accidental physical injury to the child including striking, kicking, burning, or biting the child, or any action that results in a physical impairment or harms the child’s health and welfare.”

 

Physical abuse can result in damage to the brain, resulting in developmental delays and lack of growth in vital areas. Physical abuse has an overall long-term impact on the child’s health and wellbeing. Child abuse victims are more likely to exhibit mental health symptoms, struggle academically and display poor physical health.

 

According to the Center for Disease Control -Kaiser ACE study, 28 percent of adult participants experienced physical abuse as a child. Experiencing physical abuse as a child increases one’s risk for depression and anxiety, along with aggression, delinquency, and antisocial behavior. Physical abuse can have a lifelong impact on health and quality of life for victims.

 

It is important to realize that while we may think abusive caregivers are bad people, there are reasons that adults act abusively toward children. Adult caregivers may have experienced abuse as a child themselves, and are acting out what they saw as children. Many of the caregivers involved in the child welfare system grew up in unhealthy, chaotic, stressful, and abusive homes. Their early environment lacked nurturing, caring or developmentally appropriate activities. These childhood experiences often lead to mental health symptoms, chemical dependency, inability to control and express emotions, anger, and lack of ability to be self-sufficient. Physical abuse, along with the other ACEs, tends to be repeated in the next generation unless some form of healing intervention takes place.

 

Much of society sees ACEs children and adults as problems. These are the people who keep getting in trouble, and don’t seem to ever really change their behaviors. Society gives the message of “What is wrong with you!” When this message is internalized, ACEs individuals start to believe that something is wrong with them, that they have character flaws that cause their antisocial behaviors. This internalized negative self-talk becomes a downward spiral and self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

A more productive perspective on ACEs individuals is to ask the question “What happened to you?” rather than “What is wrong with you?” This question allows individuals to use the best thinking part of their brains, the prefrontal cortex, to analyze and understand how adversity has shaped their lives. It also sets the foundation for the development of an individualized healing plan for overcoming the negative effects of childhood adversity. The good news of resiliency building is that our brains emotional, thinking and behavioral patterns can be re-wired away from past negative experiences to positive and healthier patterns.

 

Building Resilience

 

According to the Center for the Study of Social Policy Strategies, communities can do the following to prevent ACEs from developing and heal those people who have already lived ACEs situations.

  • Facilitate friendships and mutual support among parents
  • Strengthen parenting skills, resources and education
  • Value and support all parents through culturally competent practices
  • Promote child’s social and emotional development
  • Provide resources for family crisis
  • Identify and respond to early warnings signs of child abuse and neglect

 

On a daily basis, this resiliency building takes the form of engaging our community’s youth and families in healthy activities, and removing barriers that prevent them from participating, such as fees or transportation. We can provide healthy and safe entertainment and recreation for families to attend, and build support among parents. As a community, we can break the cycle of abuse and neglect by supporting and educating caregivers and their families.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Domestic Violence

20160504_155724By LaDonna Scott is the owner of Destiny By Choice, LLC.  LaDonna is a State Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and belongs to the National Anger Management Association (NAMA).  She is certified through NAMA and the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth as a facilitator and has an extensive history working in the substance abuse and domestic violence field.

 

“Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors resulting in power and control over an intimate partner. Witnessing family violence creates significant emotional and psychological issues due to the high stress experienced by the child. Domestic violence is a major predictor of child abuse and neglect fatalities in this country.” (www.resiliencetrumpsaces.org)

 

The term “domestic violence” holds a connotation of physical abuse. Unfortunately, this is far from accurate. Domestic violence is about power and control of another person. Although the legal definition refers to infliction of physical harm, bodily injury or assault, it is the infliction of fear that is a key component of domestic abuse. This can occur with a look, gesture or action that does not involve hitting someone. The “unspoken message” is the implication that someone could be injured or be subjected to a variety of repercussions.

 

A misperception of domestic abuse is that someone has “anger” issues. Anger is an emotion. Abuse is a behavior. Within the realm of domestic violence, perpetrators don’t lose control because they are angry, they are angry because they lose control. As a result, tactics associated with fear and intimidation are used to gain control and get what they want. Additionally, offenders often present themselves well publicly, yet, privately, are hurtful.

 

Families and loved one’s often feel helpless and at a loss as to how to address their concerns. Those who have been subjected to domestic abuse have often endured a long history of self-esteem assassination and have legitimate concerns for their safety, and for the safety of their family, children, and pets. It’s not as easy as “just leave”, especially when children are involved.  Access to finances is another factor that limits the ability of families to “just leave”.

 

Children are often the hidden victims of abuse. Although the abuse may not be directed at the child, they absorb the hostility, fear and helplessness that is present within the relationship.  This often manifests into physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral issues for the child. It is important to hold the offender, not the victim, responsible for this dynamic.  While victims often require support and assistance to address what is happening, they should not experience consequences or be the focus of the dynamics that were created by an abuser.

 

Fortunately, there are programs available to address the beliefs that support the use of abuse tactics. This requires a commitment to learning about the dynamics of abuse and violence, assuming personal accountability for thoughts and actions, and a commitment to replacing destructive beliefs and behaviors with healthy, equal, supportive and empathetic behaviors.

 

Many participants enter believing they are not abusive because they do not “physically” harm loved ones. Clarification is provided regarding the multitude of tactics (verbal, emotional, sexual) used to illicit fear and intimidation or to control others.  Addressing what they have done rather than focusing on what they haven’t done and the impact of their behaviors on their loved ones is a step towards personal accountability.  There are also advocacy programs for victims and resources for children to assist with the healing process.

 

Building Resilience

We need to challenge cultural ideas of gender roles and establish belief systems that do not tolerate abuse and violence.

We need to provide environments free from fear and intimidation so children can grow up feeling safe and comfortable being who they are. This will reduce the potential that they will grow up to be a victim or perpetrator of violence.

If you suspect someone is experiencing domestic abuse, call 1-800-462-5525 or 1-218-828-4357.

The Key to Independent Success

CWE_YEY_Lifestyle_Coach_Banner_ThurlowBy Jackie Thurlow who is from the area and has a Bachelors of Science in Community Health Education and within the next year will be receiving her minor in Nonprofit Leadership. Over the fall semester of her final year in her program, Jackie interned for Crow Wing Energized and became certified as a lifestyle coach for the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP). She now is the Coordinator for the NDPP classes within the central region for Essentia Health and works as a community health specialist for Crow Wing Energized. 

 

I cannot believe it but the end of the 16-weeks of Your Energized Year Lifestyle Change Challenge is here! Over the course of the last couple months you have heard from many different professionals over a variety of topics whether it was about healthy eating, physical activity, stress management, problem solving, or even making mistakes. As I always tell my participants: these components are what truly make-up a lifestyle change. All components focus on the body and the mind, because we need to have a healthy balance of both for everything to work together. Now, you have the keys to success and should be set for life. The problem is—this is easier said than done.

 

It’s not always easy maintaining certain parts to an overall lifestyle change. One slip can easily send you spiraling back into old habits and eventually reverse all of the hard work that you have invested into yourself. Behaviors are never something that are easy to change because it took years to formulate those old, unhealthy habits. But, now you are in the beginning stages of discovering how to better take care of yourself. For those in the Your Energized Year program you have had a weekly lifestyle coach there to guide you through any tough times, however soon you will be on your own. I promise the end of the world isn’t coming just because the classes are monthly. Instead think of it as another step towards an independent, healthy lifestyle.

 

There are a variety of ways to stay motivated:

- Focus on is being aware of and recognizing accomplishments. Whether those accomplishments are big or small they are still something that had to be worked on and overcame in order to make a change. This can be as simple as the fact that you were able to increase your vegetable consumption, or that you now go for walks four-days a week. These simple changes really add up to affect the big picture of a lifestyle change. If this becomes too difficult to always remind yourself to celebrate your successes, make something visual for you to remind yourself every day. For the participants in the classes they have a graph where they had charted their weights throughout the course over the program. This is a great example of a visual cue that can stimulate the good feeling of success and could easily be placed on the fridge as a daily reminder. Otherwise, everyone loves the classic “before and after” pictures. Taking a photo from before beginning to make lifestyle changes and having that on the fridge or on your mirror is an excellent reminder of the progress you have made.

- Continue to use the tracker for food and activity. Although this tool can be time consuming sometimes, it can also be a reality check for many. By having something to constantly write down what you are eating and what you are doing physically can personally hold you accountable. Sometimes we will go blind to what is reality and what we think we are doing is correct. I have heard way too often from participants the harsh reality that they are eating too many calories in a day, or they are not even getting a single vegetable in their day. Accountability is the key here.

- Change things up. Having grilled chicken and steamed broccoli every night may not be the most enjoyable thing and it can easily make you want to steer away from healthy choices. By adding variety into your diet and physical activity it can make life more exciting and enjoyable as you are making the healthy choice. Perhaps you decide to try a new workout class or you want to try a strange new vegetable at the farmers market. Regardless of what you pick—trying something new will make yourself move out of your comfortable zone and make things exciting.

- Celebrate in a healthy way. We as Midwesterner’s highly believe in the reward method of celebrating with food. However, there are a variety of ways to celebrate that are “non-food” rewards. For example: treating yourself to a manicure, going to a game, taking a bubble bath, and taking time for yourself. They don’t have to be huge, but it can be something that you have always wanted to have time for.

- Finally, find a cheerleader. Just as I stated two-weeks ago in my article about social cues, people can make a huge influence on your choices in life. They can act as a reminder of how to act or eat. It’s these individuals who can be your “cheerleaders” in life and push you to continue what you are doing and support you in the small ways to work towards overall success.

 

You Can Manage Stress

CWE_YEY_Lifestyle_Coach_Banner_BeaubienBy Donn Beaubien is a recently retired mental health therapist.  She was a former social worker and retail buyer.  Currently, Donn serves on three non-profit boards and is secretary of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) Brainerd Chapter.  Donn is actively involved in Crow Wing Energized and is a National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle change coach.

 

Stress is a natural part of life. Stress can result from both negative changes as well as changes that are seen as positive.

 

Regardless, stress disrupts the status quo of life. Research indicates there are four basic sources of stress: 1) the environment that demands ongoing adjustments to conditions such as weather, pollens, noise, traffic; 2) social stressors – deadlines, job interviews, work demands, job promotions, interpersonal relationships – marriage, children, divorce, financial issues, illness, death; 3) physiological – poor nutrition, poor quality of sleep, aging, injuries, lack of exercise; and 4) our own thoughts – misinterpreting another person’s body language, perfectionism, pessimism – all  can be very anxiety provoking.

 

Our reactions to these changes can lead to stressful symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, anxiety and depression. Typically, people tend to seek an escape from these stressors through various means, such as a defense mechanism, avoidance, withdrawal from the situation, rituals, alcohol and drugs, or constructive physical activity. The way we manage stress contributes to how we feel about our quality of life.

 

Although we each respond differently in our perception to change, there are some ways in which we all can prevent stress. Pace yourself – don’t rush; it will get done. Take time in making decisions. Acknowledge what you can control and choose what changes you can take on, and then learn to say “NO.” Try to anticipate changes and use problem solving techniques. Take time to appreciate your successes.  Maintain a regular exercise program.

 

Because stress is a natural part of life there are times when it simply cannot be avoided.  Fortunately, we can change or manage the way we respond to stress. However, we first must become aware of our body’s reaction to the stressor, e.g., muscle tension, irritability, and headache. The body inevitably becomes tense when we are stressed; and once the stress is removed, the tension also goes away. Therefore, catch the stress as early as possible.  First, consciously stop yourself once you realize you are stressed. Breathe deeply and relax; go for a walk or bike ride – change your environment, if possible; hydrate yourself.

 

As part of a long-term strategy to manage stress and improve self-care, consider implementing these well recognized strategies:

  • Satisfactory quality and quantity of sleep (7 to 8 hours/day); 6 hours or less triples your risk of a car accident. To obtain more health benefits from sleep, avoid caffeine after 3pm.
  • Maintain proper nutrition. Spread your calories out through the day. Focus on eating whole grains, a variety of vegetables and fruits, and lean protein. Stay hydrated with the goal of drinking enough water to equal ½ your weight in ounces. (e.g. an individual who weighs 160 lbs. should drink 80 ounces or 10 glasses of water each day ).
  • Exercise regularly.  Exercise reduces feelings of tension. It helps your body to release endorphins that will increase your feelings of wellbeing. Set a distance or time goal that is achievable and proceed from there. Walk with a friend or use an activity tracker to help with motivation and accountability.
  • Maintain healthy relationships.  Healthy relationships can be a buffer against stress.  Although it is easy to text or email, embrace the opportunity for face-to-face or phone conversations where your true feelings can be better expressed and properly understood.
  • Find hobbies or recreational activities that you enjoy. Hobbies and activities help to re-direct stress. They should be fun and also offer the opportunity for growth.  Hobbies that use the hands, such as gardening or needle work, can be great stress relievers.
  • Pamper yourself. Pamper yourself on regular basis, if possible – massage, manicure/pedicure. Looking good on the outside has a positive impact on your internal/mental state.
  • Keep your mind sharp. Consider stress a challenge rather than a threat. Keep your mind sharp by doing puzzles or brain teasers that are fun, yet help you take on a challenge.
  • Process your emotions. It is ideal to address your concerns as they arise. A good way to process your feelings is journaling. When you write down your feelings, and potential solutions, you can reduce stress and even experience some health benefits.
  • Maintain a spiritual connection or meditate. Studies show that people who incorporate religion or spirituality in their lives generally have a healthier lifestyle. Spiritual practice is very personal, but should nurture the soul. Meditation can help you focus on one thing at a time and create a distance between your emotions and your thoughts. Regular meditation can help you feel more focused and calm, able to make better choices, and less prone to reactive responses.
  • Have the right attitude. Think positively – the glass half-full rather than half-empty.  Schedule time for yourself. Read or listen to a joke every day. Humor can help put things in a different light. Having an optimistic outlook can not only decrease your stress level, but possibly bring you more success in life!