Women’s Health Week Challenge

Did you know that May 10th – May 16th is National Women’s Health week? We all either know them or are them; women who take so much time and energy caring for others, whether its a spouse, child, or parent who needs the help, often its a sister, daughter or wife who provides it.Coinciding well with Mother’s Day, May 10th is the beginning of National Women’s Health week. I challenge all women to do something to take care of themselves, and I challenge all men, and others who don’t identify their gender traditionally, to support them.

So here is the challenge for the week, select at least one of the following to do:

1) Take time to prepare a healthy and balanced meal for yourself, don’t rush through it, enjoy it, and hold onto each moment that you are taking care of yourself by doing this, then do the same as you enjoy the meal.

2) Schedule that appointment you have been skipping out on, whether its a medical appt for your doctor or gynecologist, dental appt, or an appt to see a therapist or counselor.

3) Schedule that other appt you have missed out on for either a pedicure, a manicure, or to get your hair washed and done.

4) Buy yourself flowers and place them where you will be able to enjoy the site and scent, mine are by my bed so I can fall asleep and wake up to fresh flowers.

5) Get some exercise, if you have a regular workout schedule stick with it, if not, go for a long walk or a hike where you can enjoy nature.

6) Buy some seeds and plant them, tend to your seeds and watch them bloom and grow over the next several weeks.

Whatever you decide to do, get started by or before the week of May 10th. Good emotional and physical health depends on taking time to truly care for your emotional, physical, spiritual and social needs. Take stock and take the challenge!


March is Social Work Month

March is Social Work month! Many people get confused about what social workers do. I think Social Work month is the perfect time to help clarify it. I gathered some of the common questions and misconceptions about social work and answered them.

1) What do social workers do? Social workers work to help people. They don’t just help as someone would try to help a friend talk through a problem, or assist someone in filling out a food stamp application. Social work is considered a “Helping Profession” along with doctors, nurses, psychologists and teachers. There is education and training behind their professional helping. There are bachelor, masters and doctoral level programs. There are state educational and experience mandates as well as licensing exams in order to ensure that professional social workers are qualified to help. There is ongoing training and education to promote best practice.

2) Where do social workers work? A social workers help comes in many forms. Social workers work in a wide variety of fields.Some work providing talk therapy in mental health clinics, hospitals, and private practice offices. These are often the therapists you run into when you are seeking help for an issue like depression, anxiety, or PTSD. There are social work administrators that run agency’s. They work on ensuring enough money comes into programs, balance budgets, seek out new funding streams and focus on things like staff moral and overall program and agency development. They also work in substance abuse, child welfare services like foster care and adoption, the legal field and advocacy, work with people with developmental disabilities, and in community development.

3) Who do social workers work with? They work with every age group, from programs servicing infants and toddlers from 0-3 with developmental issues, to counseling programs and groups for teens, to working with the elderly in senior programs. Social workers provide services to families living in poverty and to wealthy families and everyone in between.

4) What do you like best about being a social worker? That I get to partner with people to create better circumstances and less stressful lives for themselves and their families. This can help them in the moment, and have a long-term impact for their children and family.

Spa Day

Earlier this month I had a very rich experience. I led an experiential  workshop focused on meditation and relaxation with The Tommy Foundation NYC Chapter, for their second annual Free Spa Day. The event was extremely well organized by Katiana Harrison, President of The Tommy Foundation NYC chapter ( http://www.tommyland.org/nyc ). I was able to work with a group of women, all mothers, all parenting at least one child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or special need, some parenting multiple children with special needs. I walked away really feeling moved by this group of women who work incredibly hard to meet their children’s needs, and take care of their selves and their families in other ways as well. Some managing their own careers and their educations in addition to parenting.  All working to ensure their children’s educational needs and social needs are met. All focused and incredibly real and passionate about being good mothers. All loving mothers who enjoy their children.

This event was focused on providing mothers with a day just for themselves, they had their hair, make-up, and nails done, received massage and facials, were part of group therapy exercises, focused relaxation exercises, and chef prepared dishes all at no cost to participants.

It was a reminder for me of the importance of self-care for everyone. Not only taking care of yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, but being sure to take time to connect with others. If you’re feeling like you have started to slack off in self care consider giving yourself a personal spa day. Set a day aside that you will focus on your own needs. But overall, be sure that you’re taking care of yourself in general. See the self-care tips below.

-Get enough sleep, speak to your doctor or a therapist if you’re regularly not getting enough sleep. In general about 8 hours per night, but people may need more or less because of individual needs. How do you feel after 6, 8, or 10 hours of rest? How you feel can be a good indication of how much sleep you individually need. Your body and mind require sleep to function well. Over time, not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can contribute to health and mental health problems worsening or developing.

-Eat at least 3 meals a day, focus on changing what the meals consist of if you have health or weight concerns. A general way to keep cholesterol and calories down is to make each serving of food balanced and serve your plate so that the largest portion on your plate is a serving of fruit or vegetables, next lean protein and the smallest serving is carbohydrates. If you snack, choose healthy snacks.

-Take time each day for you, even if it’s just half an hour you set aside and wake up before the rest of the household wakes up, take that time to pray, or meditate, or sit with quiet thought.Or have your time be at the end of the day during a warm bath or quiet time alone.

-Make time to be social. Even if you have a lot of responsibility or very busy days. Find a friend in your area that you can see, speak with and connect with. If you don’t make any time to be social at all at this point, try to start with once a month and maintain that as a minimum, increasing when you are able to. If you have grown away from existing friendships, try local community centers, houses of worship, or websites like http://www.meetup.com/find/ to find local groups and people who you can connect with.

– Make sure you are getting regular dental and medical care. Make sure you are keeping your body clean, and taking care of your nails and hair when you need to.

And a Ha-a-appy New Year!

One of the top new years resolutions is the good old resolve to lose weight! 20, 50, 100 pound goals cited by many. Of the top 5 new years resolutions, this is often number one. And when one isn’t interested in shedding unwanted pounds there is often another resolution that isn’t too far from it- getting fit. Meaning exercising, toning, whatever it takes to look a little slimmer and fitter. Western society supports this idea and there is no doubt that the US has patients with ever increasing chronic health concerns due to obesity and extra weight.

But while preparing myself for this blog entry, I thought about the fact that many do want to lose weight, but culturally this can mean different things. Extra weight means different things to different people and within different communities. And while some seek to be model thin, others wear extra clothing layers and drink high caloric and high protein beverages in an attempt to put extra weight on.

In my community, I see this frequently. A good friend of mine lost about 75 pounds through diet and exercise, she did this in part to feel better and look better, but also largely to combat hypertension which she had developed that was becoming less responsive to medication. Once she hit about 130 pounds on her 5’4 frame, her boyfriend asked her to please gain some weight and stated she looked sickly. At that point she started sipping on high calorie beverages between meals. She never went back up to 200 pounds, but she has maintained an additional 10-15 pounds from her all time low.

There has been much discussion around the idea that black girls are okay with extra weight and while some of this is true some of the time, its also true that black women struggle with their weight and cultural beauty ideals. These ideals are often more broad, but trying to fit into anyone’s mold of beauty can be a painful and difficult feat. I think most people have wanted to feel thinner and healthier at times. And while there may be more flexibility in different beauty ideals, every group has them and they can be impossible to live up to.

More important things to consider are health and feeling good about how you look no matter what size you aim to be.