All posts by Chad Beyler

Caring for Our Mental Health

Health is more than just our physical well-being. Our emotional and psychological health impact our lives in so many ways. May is Mental Health Awareness Month – the perfect time to share some helpful resources, articles and links focused on this vital part of our overall well-being.

Our website’s wellness pages offer resources for those dealing with depression, stress, substance abuse and other mental health conditions. Visit here.

Our new podcast, Allied and Well, regularly discusses mental well-being. Listen to the inaugural episode focused on stress, and check this webpage each month as new episodes arrive.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides an abundance of information, help, guidance and resources focused on mental health, including:

Many of our partners have also created helpful resources:

  • OSF HealthCare’s blog has a variety of articles focused on mental health.
  • Sarah Bush Lincoln Health System’s podcasts frequently discuss emotional and psychological well-being. Particularly relevant are their episodes titled “Managing Anxiety” and “Therapy, What It’s All About.”
  • Learn about common signs of depression and how to seek help in this short video from Confluence Health.
  • Find information about professional therapists – and discover why therapy isn’t scary – in this article from Springfield Clinic.
  • Listen to Riverside Healthcare’s timely podcast about mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Learn how exercise can help maintain your mental well-being in this article from Memorial Health System.
  • Substance abuse and mental illnesses are sometimes intertwined. Read this piece from Carle about helping loved ones dealing with substance abuse.

Health is not just a matter of physical well-being. This month – and beyond – let’s commit to strengthening our awareness of mental health. The emotional and psychological well-being of ourselves and our loved ones is too important to ignore.

Apps for Summer Mishaps and More

We are almost there. Where’s that you ask? Summer!

We’ve seen some warmer weather, but just around the corner, it will be days full of glorious sunshine and temperatures to match.

When I was younger, my dad’s side of the family took vacations to new locations every other summer, and every 4 years, we returned to a beach house in Folly Beach, SC. It was always fun because my dad had 8 siblings, so if you can imagine, there were a lot of us!

There were unexpected accidents that happened, like kids falling off bicycles, kids getting stung by jelly fish, kids hitting other kids with things they shouldn’t. And because of that, sometimes there were trips to urgent care or the emergency room.

I can remember when my older brother fell out of a tree and came in with his arm flipped the other way. My mom just passed out on the spot. So it left my dad to pick up and rush him to the ER.

And 29 years ago, technology was not the way it is now by any means!

Back then, if my dad didn’t have his wallet or insurance card, we knew there would be a bill for the full amount coming in the mail, and then we would have to ask them to submit the bill so we wouldn’t be responsible for it.

Today, we have apps to store our insurance cards and debit/credit cards, as well as apps to view medical data, so everything is almost instant.

With Reid Health AllianceTM, our members are protected on the go with the HallyTM app and the My Reid Health app.

Hally gives members instant access to their insurance card and lets them view claims and out-of-pocket expenses so they’re always prepared. It also allows them to look up in-network providers to save the most money in unforeseen circumstances.

With the My Reid Health app, they’re able to schedule appointments with providers, ask questions, view test results, and view and pay bills all with the touch of their fingers.

So whether or not you’re traveling this summer, you can be prepared for the unexpected or the daily routine by checking out these available options.

Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.

Rediscover Lost Art of Letter Writing

How long has it been since you received an actual letter in the mail?

You know what I mean, something from a friend or family member that is handwritten and addressed with a real stamp on it? Do you even keep stamps in the house? I usually keep a few for the one or two bills I don’t have set up for online payment.

Right now, my stamp supply still features Santa Claus’ face. That’s how many letters I send these days.

I understand and appreciate the quickness of email and texting, especially for something brief and to the point. Skype is helping to keep many businesses moving as they adjust to so many employees working from home.

With all the electronic communication options available today, a letter is not only a rarity but a definite attention getter. Chances are, if you’re getting something in your mailbox with your name handwritten on it and an actual stamp attached, it’s from a parent or grandparent remembering your birthday. 

I can still remember how much I enjoyed getting letters when I was at camp. My cousin and I went to Girl Scout camp in Wisconsin when we were about 8 years old. We got postcards each day from our parents and grandparents that ended with the exact same line, “Remember to change your underwear.” It still sticks in my mind some 45 years later, so it really meant something.

Attention to all of you: It’s that time again to honor those who gave us life or those not related to us who gave us a new outlook on life, Mother’s Day!

How can we honor mothers and grandmothers in this new world where a seemingly undetectable germ for some can cause a dire illness or hospitalization for others, especially in the older population? 

After weeks of being apart, can you imagine the joy a handwritten letter could bring to our mothers (and fathers)? Handwritten letters take more time than typing, but they tend to make us more focused on what we are actually taking the time to write. Handwritten letters are straight from the heart and out through our fingertips. 

While you’ve got that pen/pencil/crayon in your hand, let’s keep the good mojo going.  Contact your local senior center or senior living facility and offer to write to someone they suggest that could use some cheering up. 

Isolation in our older population is a challenge even during the best of times. Today, thanks to that pesky virus, it’s an epidemic itself. Teach your kids to write letters and invite those you’re corresponding with to write back. 

I’m willing to bet you’ll be cheered up too. Perhaps the sight of that handwritten envelope in your mailbox will be just the lift you need.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health AllianceTM. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Rest Easy – Diagnosing Common Sleep Disorders

May is Better Sleep Month, but did you know that a third of U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep? Even one bad night can hurt our concentration and mood. Constantly missing sleep has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and other chronic conditions. Some people choose to miss sleep as work and family obligations pile up. But for those with sleep apnea and other conditions, rest-free nights are not a choice.

What exactly is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious disorder where an individual repeatedly stops and starts breathing during sleep. It is marked by loud snoring, abrupt awakenings and periodic gasping for air. Morning headaches and excessive daytime tiredness often follow restless nights. People with sleep apnea are also at an increased risk for stroke, hypertension, heart ailments and cognitive problems.

Sleep disorders can be frightening, but there are many effective treatments. The key is to get diagnosed. Once you know whether you have sleep apnea or some other condition, your doctor can point you to the proper treatment.

Do you think you have sleep apnea? Here’s what to do.

Talk to your doctor about completing an in-home sleep study, which can be ordered by providers specializing in sleep conditions. An in-home study is a convenient and cost-effective way to discover whether or not you have a sleep disorder. No need to spend the night in an unfamiliar lab hooked up to dozens of machines. Use the simple monitor at home to track your breathing and oxygen levels overnight. The results will help your doctor diagnose your condition. In-home sleep studies cannot be purchased over-the-counter, so talk with your doctor to get a prescription.

Are in-home sleep studies covered by insurance?

All of our fully-funded plans cover in-home sleep studies. There are only four exceptions: when members are younger than 18; are significantly obese; have a chronic disease such as CHF, COPD or chronic renal failure; or are unable to technically complete a home study. If you have any questions, call the number on the back of your ID card.

Are in-home sleep studies always effective?

Like all medical tests, in-home sleep studies are sometimes inconclusive. If you think the results of your in-home study are wrong, talk with your sleep clinic provider about completing an overnight sleep test in a lab. These lab tests are monitored by medical professionals and provide more in-depth measurements.

More information about sleep, from A to ZZZs

  • Read more about the importance of sleep in this blog article.
  • Want to sleep better? Find tips here.
  • How much sleep do you need? See this helpful chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information, check out this month’s episode of our Allied and Well podcast. We bust common sleep myths with Dr. Charles R. Davies, an expert in sleep health at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.
Listen here: https://www.healthalliance.org/state-of-illinois/podcast

Healthy Waffle Day Recipes

Check Out Our New Wellness Videos

Are you spending long hours at home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic? We’ve been creating more resources you can access from your own computers and mobile devices. We want to help you and your family stay healthy as you shelter in place.

Alison Jones, Registered Dietitian and Health Alliance’s Health and Wellness Coordinator, has hosted a series of new wellness videos that focus on fitness, meal planning and healthy cooking. Click the links below for some of her most recent videos:

Cooking Demo – Colorful Chopped Veggie Salad

Cooking Demo – Balsamic Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

Strategies for Successful Meal Planning

Strength Class

Balance Class

Visit our Facebook page regularly to see Alison’s latest “episodes,” and feel free to send her comments and suggestions directly below the posts. Our whole team is dedicated to keeping you and your loved ones healthy and well. We’ll continue to find more ways to connect in the weeks to come.

Fight Back Against Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Did you know that approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety? Sometimes they experience anxiety by itself, and sometimes it’s in addition to depression.

The reported rate of clinical postpartum depression for new mothers is between 10-20%, and it’s believed the numbers are actually higher than these statistics reveal. Women of every culture, age, income level and race can develop perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and for the first 12 months after childbirth.

But there’s much reason for hope. With informed care you can prevent these symptoms from worsening and can fully recover. There’s no reason to continue suffering alone. We’re here to help.

Postpartum Blues

Approximately 80% of new mothers experience “the baby blues,” which can include mood swings and weepiness. This lasts for approximately 2-3 weeks after birth and is considered a normal adjustment to being a new mother. These “blues” are resolved without medical assistance.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is more severe, intense and/or long-lasting than common “baby blues.” Symptoms can begin anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone and can include the following:

  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Appetite and sleep disturbance
  • Crying and sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself

It’s important to know the risk factors for antepartum and postpartum depression. Research has shown that the following could put you at a higher risk for developing these illnesses:

  • A personal or family history of depression, anxiety or postpartum depression
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD or PMS)
  • Inadequate support in caring for your baby
  • Financial stress
  • Marital stress
  • Complications in pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
  • A major recent life event: death of a family member or friend, house move, job loss, etc.
  • Mothers of multiples
  • Mothers whose infants are in Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU)
  • Mothers who’ve gone through infertility treatments
  • Women with a thyroid imbalance
  • Women with any form of diabetes (type 1, type 2 or gestational)

If you have any of these factors, discuss them with your medical provider so you can plan ahead for care should you need it.

Postpartum Anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:

  • Constant worry
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Disturbances of sleep and appetite
  • Inability to sit still
  • Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes and nausea

Risk factors for perinatal anxiety and panic include a personal or family history of anxiety, previous perinatal depression or anxiety, or thyroid imbalance.

What are your next steps?

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above, please reach out as soon as you can to talk with supportive and informed people. Reaching out to someone is the most important step you can take for yourself and your family. If you need immediate help, please contact the national emergency service listed below. They are available 24/7. It’s very important to reach out and find the support and information you need to be safe.

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website
    (800) 273-8255
    www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
    Free and confidential. Call for yourself or for someone you care about. They have a network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide.

Always remember to take care of yourself, in order to care of your family. Try some of these self-care tips:

  • Put on make-up or do your hair
  • Shower
  • Nap
  • Change your clothes
  • Give yourself a pep talk
  • Meditate
  • Keep a journal

Postpartum depression and anxiety are serious – but they can be overcome. You are strong and have so many reasons for happy and hope-filled times ahead!

Nicole McCoy RN, BSN is the prenatal, neonatal and pediatric care coordinator for Health Alliance.  Nicole has been a nurse for 10 years and has extensive experience working with mothers, babies and families. She provides new mothers and moms-to-be with expertise and support for their physical and mental well-being. Nicole works with our members over the phone, and also in person for those who live in the Champaign-Urbana area. If you are interested in setting up Care Coordination with Nicole, call (800) 851-3379, ext. 28947, or email Care.Coordination@healthalliance.org.

Children and Organ Donations

Thank Your Hometown Healthcare Heroes

Perhaps one of our shortest blog articles, but one of great importance. As the battle against COVID-19 continues, we again want to express our extreme gratitude to all the healthcare providers who’ve been delivering such needed care to our members and to the world.

And to our dear readers, we hope you do the same. Send a note of thanks to your doctor. A short email, a lengthy card, a hand-colored “thank you” from your child – anything works. Check out your local hospital’s website and see if they’re accepting donations of home-sewn masks. Put your sewing skills to work if so. Put notes in your windows – or colorful chalk messages on your driveway – thanking your town’s nurses, doctors and first responders.

Get creative. Healthcare workers deserve our thanks year-round, but it’s especially important now. Even while practicing social distancing, it’s easy to let them know how truly grateful we all are.