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Staying Mentally Healthy Online


August 03, 2020

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Written by: Bekah Read, Health Educator

Social Media can be the best of times and the worst of times. If you are like me, you may have logged onto Facebook today out of boredom and scrolled through updates on your nephew's 3rd birthday party, a coworker’s dream vacation, or the latest political controversy. When I check the time, whoops, two hours have gone by. There have been many arguments about the potential benefits and harms of social media, but new research has shed light on the effect it can have on mental health. Intentionality seems to be the key to staying mentally healthy while online.

Since 2005, social media use has increased by more than 15 times. But for the last two years social media use across the U.S has stabilized. Today, over 68% of U.S. adults say they use Facebook and 74% of those users log on once a day or more. Instagram follows behind with 37% of adults having an account and 42% of users checking the site multiple times a day. The average adult spends about 2.5 hours every day on social media platforms (sounds about right considering my experience today). Since the surge in social media use, researchers have been concerned with the effects it would have on our mental health. In a recent study, University Professor Dr. Sarah Coyne surprisingly found that there was no correlation between the amount of time spent on social media and rates of depression or anxiety. Instead, the contributing factor was the way people used their time on social media. Interaction and intentional activity, such as posting meaningful and kind comments, was the difference between feeling happy and rejuvenated after an Instagram session, rather than drained and depressed. Based on her research, Coyne gave three tips to stay healthy online:

  • Be an active user instead of a passive user. Instead of just scrolling, actively comment, post and like other content.
  • Limit social media use at least an hour before falling asleep. Getting enough sleep is one of the most protective factors for mental health.
  • Be intentional. Look at your motivations for engaging with social media in the first place.

Researchers at Harvard echo this advice and add that emotional use of social media for reasons such as fear of missing out can trigger negative health outcomes. So before deleting your accounts, it is a good idea to assess how you’re currently spending time online. Structured and proactive use can be protective factors when navigating Instagram stories and Facebook posts. Similarly, cultivating an environment of kindness goes miles in the virtual world.

Social media provides an opportunity to connect and interact with friends and family members even when we may be physically separated (#Covid-19). So, the next time you decide to use social media and you land on a post about your coworker’s dream vacation, maybe comment on how beautiful the sunset looks before scrolling down to the next picture. It may be good for your health.


Coping in a Crisis


July 06, 2020

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Written by Odalys Leyva, Health Educator

The plans we had for the beginning of 2020 have been put on hold, graduations were cancelled, trips and vacations are being postponed, and we are all being encouraged to stay together by staying apart. But, how do we learn to cope with all the changes? How do we learn to adapt to our new normal?

The crisis that we are experiencing in 2020 has brought forth many uncertainties and many people may not understand how to adequately cope with that. To understand how to cope, we must first understand the various types of responses and reactions that accompany a crisis. According to Cabrini University, there are three main types of responses: emotional, behavioral, and cognitive. An emotional response includes shock or denial, anger, depression, fear, and various mood changes. A behavioral response includes changes in activity level, being socially withdrawn or isolating, changes in eating and sleeping habits, and increase in alcohol or drug use. A cognitive response includes forgetfulness, headaches or back pain, muscle tension, rapid heart rate, and weakness. It is safe to say that at any point you will experience one or more of these reactions in response to the ongoing crisis. Now, how do we cope with those reactions?

The COVID-19 crisis has proven to be very different in terms of how people can cope. It seems that many of the things usually associated with coping and self-care are frowned upon when it comes to this crisis. But that does not mean we should not try, instead we must adapt. Below are a few strategies to cope and practice self-care for yourself.

Reach out to others: Stay connected to friends, family, and others through video chats, emails, text messages, and even handwritten notes! Make it fun and exciting and make it something you look forward to every day or every couple of days.

Accept your feelings as normal and express your feelings: It is important to know that your feelings are valid and very real. Do not try to minimize your feelings, no matter how silly they may seem to you. Learn to express your feelings, whether that is verbally or in written; keep a journal, use sticky-notes, or write yourself a letter or an email. Understand that we all feel things and react to things differently and it is all very normal.

Various other tips for self-care and coping in a crisis have been previously discussed in other Health Hubs and include: eating balanced meals, making time to engage in physical activity, structuring your routine/maintaining your usual schedule and avoiding excessive use of alcohol or drugs. For more information check out CDC’s tips for taking care of your emotional health.  

 Along with learning to cope for yourself, you may have to help and support others.

Make time to talk: Although we may not be out doing our usual daily life activities, we are still busy and may not always have time to talk. When it comes to supporting others, make time to listen and encourage others to share their feelings. As mentioned above this will not only help them but you as well.

Respect others need to spend time alone: Even though we should be reaching out to others, we must also understand and accept other’s need to spend time alone. Be patient if someone is not ready to talk.

Help with everyday tasks: Offer to help run errands, make a meal, pick up mail, etc. The smallest gestures can make someone’s day and help them know that they are not alone, and someone is always willing to help.

Do not try to offer false cheer: As much as you want to be able to fix everyone’s problems, offering to “fix things” or saying unrealistic things can make things worse. Only offer your advice and often listening is the most powerful form of support anyone can get.

Coping in times of crisis can be very scary and often stressful. Be mindful, be patient, and understand that we are all experiencing this together and we will all come out of this together.


A Tribute to Men in Our Lives


May 31, 2020

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Written By: Jayne Hansen, Health Educator, BS

June is Men’s Health Month, and here at Healthy Lifestyles, we know how important the men are in our lives. This year, we are celebrating men’s SuperP.O.W.E.R.s.  We all have men in our lives that encourage us, strengthen us, and empower us to be who we are meant to be. Whether his title is spouse, partner, father, grandfather, brother, or friend, we each have a man to pay tribute and honor this month.

Ask yourself, “How can I pay tribute and honor the men in my life?” When I asked myself this question, I instantly thought of living up to my father’s advice to “just do your best. You can never regret doing your best.” As a teenager, I thought this only applied to the soccer field or on the track. Although his advice encouraged me in my athletic pursuits, I realized it had a much deeper meaning in other areas of my life, my relationships, my education, and, most importantly, my personal development. Now that I am older, I reflect on his advice daily. I have come to understand that my best varies from day to day.

Each of us has been encouraged, strengthened, or influenced by a male figure. This individual has picked us up, dusted us off, and helped us keep going when we have felt too weak to continue forward. They have also kept us laughing, smiling, and entertained along the way!

Whoever the man is you have in mind, during Healthy Lifestyles Men’s Health Month, you will find ways to honor, pay tribute, and encourage them throughout our superP.O.W.E.R. program. This year, we are putting the focus on becoming a better protector of your health and community safety, developing an open heart, improving your overall wellness, being an exemplar, and building resilience. Throughout the program, there will be weekly newsletters, video discussions biweekly, and activities to earn points. These point opportunities will be sent to you through email and can be accessed later through your WellSteps account.

This month connect with the men who are special to you. Find ways to encourage them, strengthen them, and empower them to be who they are meant to be. This can be done in a variety of different ways, and Healthy Lifestyles superP.O.W.E.R. program will provide activities, regardless of what the activity is, it is important to show individualized appreciation. My favorite way to honor the men in my life is through an encouraging note, spending one on one time, or simply sending a text telling them how important they are. When we honor the men in our life, we are letting them know they are valued, appreciated, and their hard work does not go unnoticed.

Another way we honor the men in our lives is by encouraging them to take charge of their health. This is more than just improving their physical health through a regular movement and balanced eating routine; this includes their mental health, emotional health, financial health, and even their occupational health. Our health is interconnected. It is central to our overall feeling of purpose and fulfillment in life. We can honor the men in our life by creating a non-judgmental space to set SMART health goals, encouraging them to have a primary care provider and go in for check-ups regularly, communicating openly about setting a budget, and helping them find career fulfillment and development.

Take time to connect. Take time to be present. Take time to invest.


Finding Calm Amongst COVID


April 30, 2020

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Written by: Brooke Avei, Health Educator

It seems like just the other day we were sitting at work chatting with our colleagues and planning a fun night out with friends. Little did we know a pandemic was on the rise that would turn all of our worlds upside down. With extensive social distancing measures in place, closures of gyms, restaurants, and schools as well as the loss of jobs and loved ones— we are living in unprecedented times. If you are experiencing fear, anxiety, confusion, and wondering when things will get better, you are not alone! A recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that 45% of adults say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. As the virus continues to impede our day-to-day lives, this number will likely continue to increase.

Now more than ever it is essential that we evaluate our mental health, not only for our benefit but also for those around us. Let's take a look at a few strategies that can boost our mental well-being all from the comfort and safety of our homes:

  • Be aware and conscious of your news and media intake. The more time you spend reading news about the pandemic the more likely you are to feel anxious and concerned. That is especially true when you can access news media 24/7.Try doing a body check each time you access one of these platforms asking yourself “how is this article/post making me feel?” Or set a media curfew an hour before bed to decrease sleep disturbances.
  • Be as faithful as possible to a routine. Keep consistent with meals, bedtime, bathing and getting dressed, work schedules, and exercise. Don’t forget to make time for activities that you enjoy! Maintaining a sense of normalcy can be a way to alleviate uncertainty in one’s daily life and make you feel more in control.
  • Be “other-oriented” Research has shown that spending time, money, etc. on others rather than yourself boosts your overall well-being more than it would have had you spent it on yourself. So send a friend a gift card to your favorite local restaurant or take the time to mow the neighbors lawn. If you’re looking for some more inspiration check out the #COVIDkindness hashtag on your favorite social media site and see what others around the world are doing.
  • Maintain social networks. Using tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Facetime can help you to feel connected socially with colleagues, family, and friends, as well as maintain a sense of belonging. Set up a time with your co-workers to meet up virtually for some “water-cooler” talk or plan with family members to have a virtual dinner. Check out these ‘how-to’ guides for operating Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Facetime, if you’re still not quite sure how to use them.
  • Begin each day by writing down 3-5 things that you’re grateful for. This will help you take your mind off of all of the negativity and refocus on the positive things you have going for yourself. It allows you to savor and appreciate all that you have now.
  • Take care of your body. Strive to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Fuel your body with nutrient dense foods and avoid loading up on junk food and caffeine as it can aggravate stress levels. Lastly get moving! Regular physical activity and exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve your mood. So find an activity you enjoy doing and move that body of yours. If you’re in need of some ideas, check out these great at-home exercise routines for those at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels!

Everyone reacts differently to difficult situations and despite your best efforts you may still find yourself in a depleted mental state. If signs and symptoms of poor mental health continue to last it may be time to ask for help. Below are some great resources available to you:

  • Salt Lake County’s HR Benefits offer an Employee Assistance Program through Deer Oaks. They can provide you with 6 free short-term counseling visits via telephone or video. They also offer, In My Hands, a computerized cognitive behavioral therapy. They can be contacted at 888-993-7650 or eap@deeroaks.com.
  • The ‘IConnectYou App’ allows you to engage with a counselor via phone, video, instant messaging, or SMS text, serving as both an access and delivery tool. Download the app for free in the app store and access it using the company passcode: 111458.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a free 24/7 helpline which provides confidential treatment referral and information about mental disorders, prevention, and recovery in both English and Spanish. They can be contacted at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or via SMS text by sending ‘talkwithus’ to 66746.

 


Spring BREAK


April 01, 2020

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Written by Sadie May, Wellness Coordinator

Time is money. Grab ‘n go. You can sleep when you are dead. These phrases describe American workforce philosophy. We label those who consistently work overtime or rarely step away from their desks as dedicated go getters. The average American employee works 9.2 hours a day without a break, and nearly 20% of employees in North America worry that supervisors will think they are not working hard if they take a lunch break. The U.S. workforce tends to associate high performance with the quantity of time put in rather than the quality of time put in at work. It simply isn’t true. Researchers are discovering a correlation between employee performance and taking breaks. Employees who are glued to their desk all day and skip lunch breaks have decreased productivity and increased stress levels compared to employees who take regular pauses.  We have been told time and again that sitting at our desks and skipping breaks is not beneficial to our health, yet it is common to see employees starring at their computer screens while mindlessly biting into a delicious hoagie during lunch.

Discover the benefits of stepping away from your desk and taking an actual break:

  1. Health First – Sitting for hours increases risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. Moving throughout the day enhances overall health and wellness, so opt for walking meetings when possible or grab your March Into May team for a couple of laps around the building.
  2. Brain Boosting Breaks – The brain loses focus and performance decays after engaging in a continuous sight, sound, or emotion. Walking breaks can enhance blood flow to the brain and boost creative thought. If you don’t have time for a lengthy break, microbreaks (30 seconds to 5 minutes) can improve mental sharpness by 13%.
  3. Digestion Lesson – Eating at your desk while concentrating on your work diverts the blood supply from your digestive system to your brain and heart. This can cause bloating, heart burn, and indigestion. Stepping away from your desk and eating mindfully allows the body to better absorb nutrients and help you feel full longer.
  4. Decrease Pain – Staying seated for long stretches of time can cause tense muscles, sore joints, and pain. Movement breaks can counteract the effects of sitting all day. At minimum, take a 2-minute break every hour to eliminate pain, increase oxygen to the brain, and relieve eye strain. Discover 33 Ways to Deskercise.
  5. Find Your Balance – Remaining in work mode without breaks is a recipe for burnout. Set reminders or choose milestones for certain points in the day to allow yourself a break and prevent burnout. For example, once I finish answering emails, I will take a lap around the building or every hour I will stretch for 2 minutes.

Want a Healthier You Overnight?


March 02, 2020

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Aseeya Grant-Aitahmad, Health Educator 

          Do you want to increase your energy levels, reduce stress, and become a more productive person? Try sleep! Since you’re alive and reading this, chances are you have experienced sleep in your life. With your previous sleep experiences, you likely have a diverse portfolio: you’ve had enough sleep, too much sleep, too little sleep, and/or way too little sleep. With each of these experiences you are the best judge to know just how much sleep is “enough” sleep for you, and how you feel the next day. Getting a good night’s rest and the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep seems like a foreign subject to some. Let me tell you, you are not alone! The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America® poll, found that less than 50% of the public wakes up and feels extremely or very well-rested. Though “only 10% of individuals reported sleep as a priority over other health goals like physical activity and nutrition”. What’s the deal with sleep and why are we not prioritizing it? 

        Now, I am no expert on sleep, but Johns Hopkins sleep expert and neurologist Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D. is! The Science of Sleep: Understanding What Happens When You Sleep, reviews what many researchers, including Wu, are finding out about sleep research and how sleep and health are correlated. A lot more is going on in our bodies while we are sleeping than we might think. You might know the feeling of nodding off while you are on your lunch break, trying to conceal your yawns at an early morning meeting, or fighting a 6 PM nap because you won’t sleep through the night if you fall asleep now. So, what is sleep? National Institute of Neurological Disorders (NINDS) states, “there are two basic types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep”. Explaining we cycle through all stages of non-REM and REM multiple times throughout the night. Sleep regulation is also an important concept to better understand sleep. Mark Wu, M.D., Ph.D. explains there are a couple key words to know when thinking of sleep regulation: sleep drive and circadian rhythms. Sleep drive is the body’s way to communicate the need or “desire” for sleep. This article compares sleep drive to hunger drive. The biggest difference being that our body can’t force us to eat, but it can force us to fall asleep, even when it’s the least convenient! Circadian rhythms are like our biological clock, located in the brain. This clock helps with “responding to light cues, ramping up production of the hormone melatonin at night, then switching it off when it senses light”. There are many important things going on in our body and brain while we are sleeping, if we are getting too little sleep our body isn’t able to fully recharge for the next day. 

        Need an extra push on why you should focus on your sleep today? The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute identifies sleep as a critical part of overall health, stating “getting enough quality sleep at the right times can protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety”. They also discuss that continuing sleep deficiency can increase your risk for long-term health concerns.  Unfortunately, just understanding what sleep is and its importance won’t help everyone get a good night’s rest. There are a lot of external factors that contribute to how well we sleep: family, pets, work, temperature, screen time, etc. Along with external components, there are many internal parts that can influence how well an individual sleeps. Around 70 million Americans have sleeping disorders. Some types of sleeping disorders include insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. There are many local resources like University of Utah Health’s Sleep Wake Center and LDS Hospital’s Sleep Disorder Center for those who are seeking outside help. Whether the things that are keeping you from getting a good night’s rest are internal or external make a small change today to focus more on your sleep!


Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat


January 31, 2020

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Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat 

Written By: Melissa Yates, Health Educator

During the month of February, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) encourages people to reflect on the positive steps they have taken toward accepting themselves and others. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week runs from February 24th to March 1st, making now a great time to bring awareness to this subject and highlight the importance of having a healthy relationship with food. Promoting awareness is important because almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by an eating disorder or has struggled with body image expectations.

There is a stereotype that eating disorders only impact specific types people, but that is simply not true. In fact, this myth about eating disorders creates barriers for people and makes it even harder to reach out for help. People of all ages, genders, sizes, races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses struggle with eating disorders. According to NEDA, as many as twenty million women and ten million men experience an eating disorder at some point in their lives. It is also crucial to understand that eating disorders are not a choice, and there is no single cause of an eating disorder. They may develop as the result of a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and social factors. Several decades of genetic research show that biological factors are an important influence in who develops an eating disorder, as reported by NEDA. However, it is important to remember that your biology does not equal your destiny. There is always hope for recovery!

Media today is filled with misleading images that skew the definition of a “healthy” body. The American Psychological Association has suggested that children as young as three years old recognized that the unhealthy images of thinness in mass media are portrayed as ideal. A societal factor, like the media-driven thin body ideal, is an example of an environmental factor that has been linked to an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. Environmental factors also include physical illnesses, childhood teasing and bullying, and other life stressors.

Not having a healthy relationship with food can not only make someone unhappy, but it can also negatively affect their mental health. Changing disordered eating habits is both possible and important; everyone can benefit from developing the awareness necessary for creating a healthier relationship with food. We all have our own attitudes and patterns of behavior around food, whether this is due to genetics, circumstances, or family conditioning. Being aware of where those attitudes and behaviors come from provides the basis for mindful eating, but the only way to understand our relationship with food is to spend time with that relationship.

It is important to understand that food inherently is not good or bad. Unfortunately, people use the words “good” or “bad” to describe food as if you are good or bad for eating them, which is just not true. Doing this only leads to guilt and stress about eating. Guilt should never play a role in food choices. Guilt robs you of the pleasure of eating and makes you feel bad afterward, which can start a downward spiral of shame that prevents you from learning to make better eating choices while still honoring your cravings and allowing yourself to eat things you enjoy. Mindful eating seeks to undo negative emotions around eating and encourages you to let go of the traditional all-or-nothing mindset. Instead, eat according to your natural body, not the body prescribed by magazine images and media-fueled pressures.

Bringing mindfulness to the table will lead to a kinder, gentler approach to eating. The focus is not necessarily on changing the food you eat, although it can be. The focus is on changing your thinking around food. Once you are able to acknowledge your attitudes and behaviors about food, you are better equipped to put down any belief that some foods are good, and others are bad. Food is just food. In viewing food this way, you can free yourself from emotions that fuel your habits. You do not have to eat your feelings, and on the occasions that you do, you learn that you do not have to beat yourself up for doing so!

The bottom line is that much of the talk around food and nutrition today traps us into an all-or-nothing way of thinking that prevents us from achieving true well-being. Traditional diet culture causes much of our stress around eating, and often leads to false or unrealistic expectations. The next time you catch yourself feeling guilty for enjoying a tasty treat, take a moment and reconsider those feelings. As you step away from all the unhealthy thinking and language surrounding food, you get to enjoy food again. Imagine instead having a more balanced and carefree attitude, freed from the shackles of poor eating habits. It is with this kind of perspective and awareness that you can discover renewed confidence, freedom, and self-acceptance.

Helpful Resources:

  • National Eating Disorders Association website: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
  • Eating disorder screening tool to help determine if it's time to seek professional help: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/screening-tool
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline: (800) 931-2237
    • Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM ET
    • Friday from 9AM to 5PM ET
  • For crisis situations, text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at the Crisis Text Line.