Tag Archives: mental health

No Sick Days Allowed

February 24, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A badly congested and bleary-eyed man pokes his head through a door and intones, “Dave, I’m sorry to interrupt. I’ve got to take a sick day tomorrow.”

The recipient of the man’s pronouncement isn’t his boss, but a brown-eyed toddler standing in his crib with a quizzical look on his little face.

This TV commercial for a cold medicine elicits chuckles, but the underlying message is nothing to sneeze at: Moms and dads who care for their children can’t take days off.

As germs begin to outnumber snowflakes, take comfort. Several basic, commonsense, and proactive approaches to keep bugs at bay exist, as outlined by a medical doctor, a registered dietitian, and a mental health expert.

For The Body

Wash Your Hands

Good hand hygiene ranks No. 1 on the prevention list of Dr. Emily Hill Bowman, a physician at Boys Town Internal Medicine. That means frequently washing your hands with soap and water, or, in their absence, using a hand sanitizer.

“Contact with hands is a frequent cause of transmission for viral infections,” says Hill Bowman, and that includes touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Medical guidelines recommend a good scrubbing for 20 seconds, or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Cover Your Mouth

Viral illnesses can spread through respiratory secretions. “Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, then wash your hands,” cautions the internist.

Get a Flu Shot

Because influenza can lead to serious consequences, especially for younger children and the elderly, Hill Bowman recommends everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot to prevent the spread of the virus. ”Typically, the influenza vaccine is an inactive vaccine so it does not cause influenza,” reassures Hill Bowman, allaying concerns a flu shot might do more harm than good.

Take Vitamin D

Healthy habits make your immune system fight infection. That means eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. “But we don’t get enough vitamin D in our diet and we don’t get enough [vitamin D] from the sun after September, which is why vitamin D is always my starting point with people,” says registered dietician and exercise physiologist Rebecca Mohning, owner of Expert Nutrition in Omaha. “It boosts the immune system and it’s naturally occurring in mushrooms and egg yolks, but not in the amount we need on a daily basis.”

Eat Fiber

Mohning says fiber, particularly that found in oats, barley, and nuts, has protective compounds that boost the immune system.

Probiotics—the Friendly Bacteria

Those good live cultures found in yogurt or in the fermented milk drink kefir also boost your body’s ability to fight infection, as do fermented foods like sauerkraut. Not a fan? Take a probiotic supplement, says Mohning.

Drink Water

Getting enough water during the winter months can be more difficult because you may not feel as thirsty. But nothing beats water for flushing toxins from your body. Try drinking a 12-oz. mug of hot water with one teaspoon of lemon juice for a healthy way to warm up.

For The Mind

Does anyone in your family turn on all the lights in the house as soon as the sun makes an early exit during the winter? Seasonal affective disorder, also called the winter blues, affects about 15 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The depressive disorder can sap your energy and bring on moodiness. Treatment for SAD can include a light box and, in extreme cases, talking with a mental health practitioner.

Plan Activities and Stick to the Plan

Heading off the blues before they arrive can be as simple as marking a calendar, says Jennifer Harsh, Ph.D., director of behavioral medicine for General Internal Medicine at UNMC. “If we know the cold weather season can be difficult for us mentally, we can plan ahead,” she says.

As a family therapist, Harsh believes strongly that keeping the mind and the body active can help your physical, emotional, and social well-being.

“Plan activities as a family or with a partner, whether they include games indoors or physical exercise elsewhere. Put them on a schedule or calendar and hold it with the same importance as you would hold going to work every day,” she says. “That way you act according to the schedule instead of according to your mood.”

Harsh says you can stave off emotional difficulties when you have something planned ahead of time that you value.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Maintaining good mental health should hold fast to the commonsense, basic, proactive approach that characterizes a healthy body discipline.

“Make your goals specific, attainable, and measureable,” says Harsh. “When you engage your family or a partner, you’re more likely to follow through.”

This article was originally printed in the Winter 2018 edition of Family Guide.

Kamrin Baker

January 27, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The common trajectory for aspiring journalists is that you work at the school newspaper, get into college, work at that college paper, graduate, then take a lowly entry-level job somewhere and work your way up from there. Then, after years of amassing a portfolio, maybe, just maybe, you can get a gig at a place like The Huffington Post

But thanks to a quick reply to a call for contributors on The Huffington Post’s Twitter feed, Kamrin Baker, 18, pole-vaulted past all those traditional, dues-paying markers and landed a spot as a contributor for the popular news site…all while still working on the high school yearbook at Millard West, where she’s a senior. She co-edits the yearbook with Keegan Holmes (also a senior).

The first major news story Baker remembered was the September 11 terrorist attacks. She was a pre-schooler in 2001. In kindergarten, Baker said she wrote a picture book, and in third grade, she brought stories to her Georgia Wheeler Elementary class.

Kamrin-Baker-2Now sitting with her mother, Grace, at Stories Coffeehouse, Baker says she originally thought about being an English teacher.

“Then, I started realizing I was really impatient. And don’t love children. Or ignorance,” Baker says.

Baker has written blogs both serious (a call for schools to better handle mental health issues) and not (a eulogy to Parks and Recreation). Like many Huffington Post bloggers, she is an unpaid contributor. However, the freedom to write about the topics she wants, and the site’s flexibility with her busy schedule, were worthy trade-offs for her.

“I’m not super keen on the politics and the economy of The Huffington Post,” she says, “but I like what they’re doing.”

Stirring a strawberry Italian soda, Baker recalls one of her most popular posts, one about living with anxiety.

Though Baker and her mother went back-and-forth trying to figure out when her first panic attack occurred, Baker definitely remembered the first one that sent her to the school nurse. It was during an intro to behavioral sciences class. She was watching the movie Mockingbird Don’t Sing.

“I was watching it…and then I couldn’t breath. I thought I was just sick,” says Baker.

She went to her teacher, who quickly sent her to the nurse.

“I sat there for an hour, and I just shook,” she recalls. “I had no idea what was going on.”

Baker was diagnosed with panic disorder. She used her position at The Huffington Post to unveil her Joy is Genius campaign, which is an online resource on Tumblr for teenagers struggling with anxiety.

“I’m at a point where I don’t think it’s smart or cool to ignore it,” Baker explains.

In our post-newspaper media landscape, the mode you select is almost as important as the content. Like many savvy journalists, Baker quickly toggles between Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and, yes, even print.

“I usually use Pinterest for yearbook design and dog pictures. I’ll post more comedy-based things (on Twitter). I like Instagram because I can tell more of a story with it. The caption content is longer.”

Baker is currently weighing going to UNL or UNO to study journalism. She’s sure to find new role models in college, but for now, she explains, ”The two people that inspire me the most, and are not on the same spectrum whatsoever, are Diane Sawyer and  Taylor Swift.”

Visit huffingtonpost.com/kamrin-baker to read her work.

Kamrin-Baker-1

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

May 25, 2013 by

Q: We had to give one of our dogs to another family because we’re moving, and my daughter is not handling it very well. What should I do? She is 9.

A: Losing a pet, for any reason, is often hard for kids. Pets become part of the family, so expect your daughter to go through a grieving process. Anger, tears, irritability, sadness…any of these might show up, so be patient as she works through them.

If your daughter is one who likes to talk at bedtime, hang out with her a little longer than usual. Even if neither of you says anything, your presence can be comforting. Share your feelings, but chances are there isn’t anything you can say that will change the situation, so let her do most of the talking. Also, take her lead on discussing the possibility of a new pet in the future. Be cautious not to convey the message that her pet is easily replaceable, and don’t make promises you might not be able to keep.

Will the new family send pictures? Your daughter might not want to see them right away, but it’s helpful to have them if this changes. Pictures also help hold onto good memories, so try putting together a photo album or scrapbook of the pet if it’s something she would enjoy. Working with her on the project provides another opportunity for her to talk to you about whatever’s on her mind.

As she adjusts to life without her pet, keep her busy. If you can make it work, trying letting her spend some extra time with friends or family. Having fun is a great way to keep her mind off feeling sad.

Deb Fuller is a mental health therapist with Real Life Counseling in Omaha.