awareness

Don’t Just Stand There. Get Moving

By: Jen Champion

We have the power to heal and transform from the challenges we encounter. However, when our physical and mental patterns and habits do not support whole quality health, we can feel out of balance and ill. Our bodies develop grooves of anxiety, pain, and beliefs that keep us stuck in our dramas and traumas. If we do not take the time and steps to heal, prolonged stress creates chronic activation of the fight/flight response.

There are many places where we can feel tension. Often the head, neck, shoulders, and back alert us. The muscles, connective tissue, and nerves are intertwined, and at times, it’s hard to tell precisely where the pain originates. One section in the body, often unnoticed and holding tension, is called the psoas (so as) muscles. The psoas has many intricate details. I will speak briefly about them and list a few excellent resources for you to investigate.

The psoas are a group of deep muscles that often contract during times of stress, and they are like to stay contracted for some time once energized. They originate in the middle of the back and run down each side of the low back, pelvis, inner thighs, and hips. 

 

The psoas are continuously in use. The muscles participate in our daily actions, including standing, walking, running, and sitting. When they tighten and shorten, it leads to discomfort in various body parts. Pain can be present in the hips, groin, abdomen, and low back if the lumbar spine curve is too big or small.

Don’t just stand there, get moving. Gentle movements and releasing tensions in the psoas help eliminate the stress and pain. One way to lengthen the psoas is to walk with a short conscious gait. A constructive rest pose is a restorative approach. Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor hip-width apart and parallel. Place your heels at a comfortable distance from your buttocks. Breathe and Rest. Lifting the sternum, relaxing the shoulders, and taking deep breaths can also affect the relaxation response in the psoas.

A yoga practice will assist people in gaining presence and patience to move tension out of the body and open to a more fulfilling life.

Yoga improves the core stability in the torso and pelvis and helps the psoas function optimally. Balance in the psoas and abdominal core muscles helps maintain the natural curve of the lumbar spine, neutral pelvic alignment, and good posture. When we are in a stable comfortable position, our breathing capacity improves. With optimal breathing (deep, smooth, even, continuous and quiet), we gain a more profound recognition of how to move with comfort and ease on and off the yoga mat. We feel better physically and enhance our self-esteem. Good physical and mental health make life more enjoyable.

When we move and shape our bodies with patience and awareness, we can change our breath, thoughts, and patterns and live a more fulfilling life.

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Social Media Day

June 30th is Social Media Day – which is a time when we can recognize both the positive and negative impact it has made on our world. 

This day was first launched by Mashable on June 30, 2010, and it was meant to show how social media has been used all across the world to connect us.

Over the years, social media has become a form of communication and has been a platform that family, friends, and peers have used. Whether they share posts, photos, and videos about their lives. 

It has been a useful tool where we can share opinions with others, stay informed about news or trending topics, and keep up to date with one another. And teens as well as younger kids are increasingly participating on social media platforms.

For teens, social media can have the same benefits of connection, community involvement, finding like-minded people, and enhancing creativity through sharing art or music.  As most teens will tell you, they feel left out if they cannot participate in this arena with their friends. 

However, it is also important to acknowledge how social media can affect mental health and wellbeing and to be aware of some of the dangers.  This includes self-esteem issues, anxiety, depression, cyberbullying, social media addiction, and low-quality sleep. It can also result in feeling left out or feeling inadequate.  Very few people, teens or adults, put their worst life moments out for all to see.  We share the highlights.  And constantly viewing people’s good times can lead us to forget that these posts are just one facet of life, that also has sadness, pain, and stress.  It can create an unrealistic expectation for what their everyday life should be like.

We can help children and teens to understand the issues associated with social media and to approach it with an understanding of how it works behind the scenes.  Teaching our kids positive social media use is an important skill.  But if anyone has ever tried to have these conversations with their children, you quite likely were met with defensiveness, anger or denial.  Social media and connection to friends become so powerful that they do not want to hear anything negative or are scared you will take it away.

Psychology Today had a recent article by Sophia Choukas-Bradley Ph.D. that offered some suggestions for starting the conversation with your child.  Read her full suggestions here

Don’t lecture–it puts them immediately on the defensive and they may just tune you out.  

Ask open-ended questions.  Use the questions to find out more about what they like about social media.  Let them be the experts and help them explore their thoughts through open-ended follow-up questions.

Practice active listening, instead of proving your own point.  You aren’t really listening if you are planning what you will say next and your child will feel that.

Validate their feelings, don’t dismiss their concerns.  Don’t reassure them or discount their feelings.  They feel them even if it doesn’t make sense to you.  Try reflecting back on what they said in slightly different words.  Validating their feelings will help make them feel safe to open up more. 

Keep talking, don’t give up.  Sometimes the talks will go well, but they won’t always go smoothly.  Addressing these issues is an ever-evolving process.

Another idea is to watch movies or documentaries about social media and then discuss it with your kids. 

The Social Dilemma A shocking look at the inner workings of social media companies as well as the algorithms they use to keep us engaged and scrolling.

Screened Out  The film addresses tech addiction in the modern age. Filmmaker Jon Hyatt and his family take the viewer on a journey through the life-changing effects of screen addiction, how the tech industry hooked global consumers and its impact on our lives. See the trailer here

For more resources, check out the links below. 

Just How Harmful Is Social Media? Our Experts Weigh-In

The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?

The Power of Social Media

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Juneteenth

By: Tanya Kramer

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas.  

They delivered the message that all enslaved black individuals were free by executive decree.  At the time, it was believed that there were about 250,000 enslaved people in this area who were informed of their freedom.  

This message of freedom came to Galveston almost two years after President Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the Civil War ended.  

Juneteenth, considered the oldest African American Holiday, is a blend of two words, “June” and “nineteenth”.

Opal Lee, who is 95, is considered the “grandmother of Juneteenth” because of her lifelong mission to bring national awareness to this important date with the desire for it to be a federal holiday.

On June 17, 2021, she completed this mission when President Biden signed into law Senate Bill 475 (S 475) making “Juneteenth” a federal holiday.

For more information, you can visit the following links: 

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Embracing The Present Moment

Do you ever catch yourself thinking about something you wish you had done differently years ago?

Or what may or may not happen at work 3 weeks from now?

Reflecting on events that have happened in the past or that may happen in the future isn’t uncommon. 

Those types of thoughts can often pull us away from the present moment.

Embracing living in the moment can help us focus on what matters most and make the most out of every experience. 

Notice The World Around You

How often do you take in your surroundings and appreciate the little things?

Taking the opportunity to look at the world around us can show us the beauty of life. 

Who knows – you may end up seeing something beautiful you never noticed before in your own backyard.  

Do One Thing at a Time

When we have so much on our plate, it’s easy to want to knock everything off the list as fast as possible.

However, doing too many things at once can be very distracting and take us away from the enjoyment of each task.

Here’s an example. Have you ever attempted to study for a test or catch up with a friend on the phone while making dinner?

Doing two or more tasks at once that require a good amount of concentration is not easy.

Every activity or task we do matters and should be enjoyed.

Accept Things As They Are

Learning to let go of what has happened and accepting who we are today can get you one step closer to embracing the present moment. 

We may not be able to know where life will take us – but we can learn to accept things as they are today and enjoy life.

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Mastering The Art Of Conversation

Do you ever feel intimidated in social situations?

Have you ever wanted to walk up to someone new but didn’t know what to say?

Do you ever have a tough time holding a conversation? 

Mastering the art of conversation is possible. 

The following steps can help you feel more confident and comfortable during your next social interaction.

Get Ready

Not all of us can jump right into a conversation, and that’s okay! 

Sometimes all we need is a little mental preparation.

Before diving in, you can practice deep breathing or repeat positive affirmations. 

Instead of worrying about what the other person may say, you can think about what you may learn or gain from the conversation. 

Keep It Light

When meeting someone new, keeping topics light can be a lot less intimidating. 

Starting simple is the way to go. 

You can ask the other person where they are from, compliment their outfit or ask how they know the event organizer. As time goes on, you can dive into deeper topics when/if you feel comfortable. 

Listen And Learn

We can get to know others through active listening and taking an interest in their opinions. 

We may not agree with everything other people say, but we can listen and learn from their perspectives.

Don’t be afraid to dive in and ask them how they feel about certain topics. Their answers may surprise you. 

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Jewish American Heritage Month

By: Christina Bein – LCSW 

When honoring Jewish American Heritage Month, it includes the consideration of the resilience and fortitude that is held to exist as people and practice their religion and culture without conviction. 

According to National Today, Jews arrived in what is now known as the U.S. in 1654, New Amsterdam. 

They sought to escape racism and start a new life, like many who have immigrated to the Americas, where they can freely celebrate their culture and traditions. Throughout history, this has been a challenge this community has faced, especially with the most well-known atrocity of the Holocaust between 1941-1945. 

There is a continued effort to fight against antisemitism, and they have built strong roots in the U.S. to promote awareness and a life that is full. 

One of the best ways to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month has been to celebrate their achievements and uplift the names of several Jewish influences and contributors to society within realms such as science, film, theatre, and literature. 

A few famous Jewish people include Albert Einstein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sarah Silverman, and Adam Sandler. There are many Jewish people as the face or behind the scenes in the media which also means they have a big role in cultivating the American culture.

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Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

By: Christina Bein – LCSW 

“Stop Asian Hate.” This phrase has become more present in our society since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of this pandemic, the world went through trying to understand the origin of the virus and how it came about. 

Prominent figures in society went on to nickname covid-19 as the “China Virus”. Whether it was purposeful or not, it caused violent consequences for a whole race. News stories popped up of Asian people being targeted with racial slurs and being condemned in association due to the coronavirus. It took the stereotype of “they all look the same” to a dangerous level for many people in this community. 

What would it look like to practice what is preached when the saying goes, “Be kind to your neighbor?” It would be to celebrate and open our mind to the different rich cultures that exist within a vast array of different peoples. Beyond the delicious cuisine, things that can be noted include tea and Chess originating from India, paper and fireworks being invented by ancient China, LED lights from Japan, and who doesn’t know about the globally famous K-Pop (South Korea) group BTS by now? 

Just as it has become mainstream to know about and tell the difference between the people and what they’re known for–like the confections from France, the architecture of Italy, the bespoke fashion from England – so too can we open ourselves to know the beautiful differences of the many countries, ethnicities, and cultures of Asia and how we have been experiencing these aspects since the great migration during the Gold Rush in the 1800s. 

We can often look to movies to get better insights into the intricacies of cultures. In the U.S. it is a beloved pastime to sit down in front of a television screen with a bowl of popcorn and explore other experiences. So why not add some of these titles to your next movie night? 

There are virtual and in-person events happening through the month of May to learn and celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month. 

Check out the links below for more information.

Asian Pacific Heritage

AARP

APANO

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration 2020

Asian Celebration

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International Day Against Homophobia

The annual number of anti-LGTBQ bills has grown alarmingly in the past few years, going from 41 in 2018 to 238 in the first three months of 2022. This includes restricting the discussion of LGBTQ issues in school curriculums, permitting religious exemptions to discriminate against LGBTQ people and limiting trans people’s ability to play sports or receive gender-affirming health care. 

Political experts say the increase in state bills is more about lobbying on behalf of conservative groups and politicians looking to score support with their base than it is about public sentiment. The reality is, according to a Public Religion Research Institute survey, nearly 8 in 10 Americans support laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in jobs, housing and public accommodations.  Additionally, nearly 70 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage.

But despite the public support, these bills serve to make those in the LGTBQ+ community feel unsafe in their communities and feel like their own states and communities do not want them or accept them.  These feelings of alienation result in an increased incidence of suicidal ideation.  According to The Trevor Project, their “ 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. “

On May 17th we observe the International Day Against Homophobia, which is a time to recognize the violence and discrimination experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. 

This date was chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. 

A positive way to recognize this day is to learn about being an ally to LGTBQ+ friends and community members.  A very helpful resource for information and ideas is The Trevor Project.  They provide guides for being an ally to transgender and non binary youth and bisexual youth, how to have conversations about intersectional issues for those with multiple marginalized identities, and many more resources.  You can also volunteer your time or make a donation.

For more resources, you can check out the links below:

Resources for LGBT Youth and Friends/Supporters

Get Support | Anti-Violence Project

Stories | Out & Equal

Online Resources | LGBT Youthline

Reach A Counselor | The Trevor Project

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Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood.  It can significantly impact the activities of daily living and may also affect the ability to relate to others.  Mental illness is no one’s fault or the result of weakness.  It is the result of a confluence of factors including genetics, brain structure, biochemical processes (such as how your body produces or is able to use dopamine), environment and lifestyle influences (high stress, trauma experiences).   Mental health conditions are very common and nothing to be ashamed of.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
  • 1 in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  • 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year
  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24

Unfortunately in many communities, the stigma of having a mental illness persists and discourages people from getting treatment because they are ashamed. The stigma around mental illness and treatment prevents 40% of people from reaching out and can create serious barriers to finding a diagnosis or treatment. 

At Vista, we view going to therapy as a general self-care task that everyone can benefit from, similar to getting a massage or going to the doctor to make sure your body stays healthy.  As there is a strong correlation between mental health and physical health, working on your mental health can benefit you in more than one way.  For example, people with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population.

During May, we recognize Mental Health Awareness Month. It is a time to bring awareness to mental health issues and help to decrease the stigma around mental illness and treatment in our communities. 

Mental Health Awareness Month was first established in 1949 to highlight the importance of mental wellness and effective treatments that help people live full lives.

To reduce the stigma and emphasize the importance of treatment and recovery, we can educate ourselves about mental health and mental disorders. Being aware of our actions towards others allows us to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

This month’s goal is to provide a foundation for knowledge about mental health and give those the resources needed to seek help. 

Check out more resources below:

People Seeking Help | CDC Mental Health Resources

People Matter, Words Matter

Help For Mental Illnesses | National Institute of Mental Health

We All Have Mental Health | YouTube

Talk About Mental Health

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Understanding and Embracing The Highly Sensitive Person

Have you heard of the term “Highly Sensitive Person” or HSP? 

Those who are HSPs are thought to have an increased central nervous system and have a sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli. These people are attuned to their inner state of mind and usually to the feeling or behaviors of those around them, 

HSPs can often feel overwhelmed by noises, colors, or temperatures. 

Here are some ways we can understand this term further and embrace ourselves or someone we may know who is an HSP.

The Thought Process

Have you ever felt rushed or that you had a short period of time?

Do you feel sensitive to bright lights?

Can you tell what someone is feeling from the tone of their voice?

These are just some scenarios that highlight what HSPs commonly experience. 

By acknowledging these traits and knowing what to look out for, we can get a sense of the thought process of an HSP and approach everyone with more empathy!

Acknowledging Strengths 

It’s important to also highlight the strengths of HSPs.

Highly sensitive people are able to be deeply moved by beauty and can feel strongly connected to themselves and others. 

Embracing these strengths, especially in our society, shows that there we can accept ourselves fully for who we are.

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