Have you ever had one of those inspirational or enthusiastic moments that make you excited and energetic? You know, like the feeling right after you lose the first 15 pounds and have stuck to your New Year’s resolution and want to just keep going? Or after you aced a diagnostic test you were neervous about and you want to continue down a healthy path?
That’s called motivation, and Mr. Webster could not have defined it any better: “A force or influence that causes someone to do something; the condition of being eager to act or work.” Well, when I found out that Health Alliance was named the title sponsor of the 2018 Illinois Senior Olympics and that we would be working closely with the Senior Services of Central Illinois in Springfield to make it a success, it motivated me to write this article!
The Illinois Senior Olympics, based in Springfield, is the oldest of the State Games in the United States. The first Senior Olympics was in 1977 and hosted 122 athletes that year. Fast forward to 2018, and we are hopeful that this year’s games will host nearly 1,500 male and female athletes 50 years and older. More than 30 events along with team sports are offered. And if that doesn’t motivate you enough, Springfield is the only qualifying site in Illinois for those wishing to participate in the National Senior Games! The mission of the Senior Olympics is to give everyone an opportunity to maintain or develop their overall health and wellness. It challenges the physical as well as the mental you!
The dates run from July to October 2018 in Springfield. This gives you enough time to check with your physician, practice up, and start training! Individual sport categories range from archery to bridge, from swimming or basketball to horseshoes and Wii bowling. Or get a team sport going in basketball, softball or volleyball. Whatever you choose, there is a sport that will be to your liking and to your physical capacity. Sponsorships and volunteer opportunities are available, too. When you combine our senior participants, our sponsors, and our volunteers, it makes for a great time and something fun you can be a part of. You won’t want to miss it!
Motivated yet? Contact Justin Yuroff at Development@ssoci.org or 217-528-4035, ext. 118. Also check out the website ILSeniorOlympics.weebly.com for more information on dates and registration along with sponsorship and volunteer opportunities. Come join Senior Services of Central Illinois and Health Alliance at this year’s games. Hope to see you there!
Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.
May is Mental Health Month, and we’re talking about some important mental health issues facing Americans all week.
Being exposed to violence or trauma as a kid can have long-term effects, from derailing development to increased mental and physical issues. Long or repeated stress can be toxic for kids, especially if they’re lacking adult support in their lives.
Adverse childhood experiences can include emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, community violence, household addiction, parents divorcing, poverty, and bullying. Know the signs to help the children in your life.
Taking care of your mental health in college is especially important. 1 in 5 young adults experience a mental health condition, and 75% of those begin by 24 with many emerging in the college years.
Mental health issues affect students’ success at college. College can be difficult and isolating, and 45% have felt that things were hopeless at some point. Over 45% of those who stop attending could benefit from mental health support.
Only 1 in 3 of the people who need mental health help actually seek it out, even though treatments for the most common conditions are effective 80% of the time. It’s also the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
In the wake of the opioid crisis, it’s important to understand how it affects mental health. Over time, addiction changes brain function, inhibiting a person’s ability to control substance use.
Long-term use of opioids can cause a chronic brain disorder, which causes problems with the brain reward system, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. Encourage loved ones to see a doctor to explore treatment center options.
Relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety. When I think of relaxation, I imagine myself having no to-do list, sitting back, and watching my son play. Now that I’m raising a family, I understand the importance of taking time to just relax.
On the weekends, I tend to clean my house top to bottom. I get so focused on these tasks that by the time I’m done with my chores, I realize it’s already 5 o’clock on Saturday evening. I get so upset with myself because I spent a whole day cleaning instead of taking a stroll in the park, going on a hike with my family, or just sitting in the backyard and enjoying the nice summer weather.
Then, I rush to get myself together to go do something “fun” before night falls. This defeats the whole purpose of relaxing because I’m so tired by the end of the day, I don’t even get to enjoy the activities with my family.
I now more than ever see why it’s so important to take time to relax. Time and time again, I hear about all of the benefits of relaxation, like lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow to major muscles, improving sleep quality, and much more. I need to be the best version of me so I can be around and have a good time with my family.
This summer, I am trying something new. I’m giving myself small tasks to do at home every day after work, so when the weekend comes around, my workload isn’t so big. I’m also giving myself a set time frame to clean each Saturday morning. When I’m all done, it’s usually time for my son to take a midday nap, which gives me some dedicated “me time.” When he wakes up, I’m relaxed and ready to have some family fun.
So far, I’m really enjoying my new approach to handling my time. Sometimes, relaxing is much harder than setting up a new plan. There are a lot of reasons you might need a new plan too, like a diagnosis that requires you to try a different approach.
When that happens, our case managers are here to help you make your new plan work in lots of way. They can provide motivation, tools, and lifestyle skills to help minimize your risk of complications and share resources that are available in your community.
So get started finding a plan that works for you, and don’t forget to take some time to relax this summer.
Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.
Not every coach is as well known as Pete Carrol of the Seattle Seahawks, but Susan DeLong, our nurse case manager and health coach in our Wenatchee office, is key to our team.
She’s smart, caring, a good listener, and a compassionate advocate. You will probably never see her on TV, but in our members’ eyes, her work is just as important and meaningful as any superstar’s.
Managing a health condition can be hard, and a health coach is someone with extensive experience who can be a consistent source of support. There’s so much information that it can be hard to know what’s key. One of the benefits of a Medicare Advantage plan like ours is the free education and support a health coach can provide.
At Health Alliance, a health coach like Susan can give our members:
Answers to questions about their conditions
Tools and lifestyle skills to minimize the risk of problems
Information about self-care skills
Free educational materials and resources about managing conditions
Support on the phone at their convenience
Help keeping them, their provider, and their caregivers connected
Help making the most of their healthcare benefits
Health coaches do not replace medical care from a doctor, but instead work with their primary care physician as part of a team to make sure their management plan is working.
Compassionate nurses like Susan also help identify warning signs for possible health problems, and they make sure members have a plan, day or night, to handle those issues if they become serious.
Susan also works hard to troubleshoot these issues before they become serious health problems. For example, she helps members understand the importance of refilling prescriptions and outlines what they should do if their drugs run out too soon.
Susan even partners with community resource agencies, like Meals on Wheels and the Confluence Health Patient Service Department, to help our members overcome barriers to their care. She knows when a member has a hospital stay or ER visit, and she tracks follow-up appointments and makes sure any meds they’re sent home with will work well with their current prescriptions.
But just like famous coaches, a big part of the job is to motivate. Susan empowers our members to take an active part in their health by setting attainable goals, and we value the important role she plays in our team and in lending a helping hand to our members.
Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.
Even with an occasional 60-degree day, February isn’t exactly my favorite month for getting active (or doing anything really, except maybe watching college basketball and catching up on TV shows). I prefer to spend my winter under a warm blanket with a giant sweatshirt and my bunny slippers, remote in hand, butt on couch.
As someone who thinks the first snow of the season is magical and who saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens (chock-full of hope from crawl to credits) three times this winter, I know if I’m running a little low on hope and motivation, lots of others probably are, too. After the holiday goodies go stale, I’m kind of done with winter. The mere thought of being outside in the cold makes me cringe. (Once again, thank goodness for those rare warm February days.)
Despite the snow, ice, and occasional subzero wind chills (gross), you don’t have to hibernate for the whole season. A little rest mixed with a hobby here and there is a great recipe for a productive and satisfying winter, even if you’re like me and think stepping outside in the cold is pure torture.
In fact, relaxation is healthy, too. It not only helps refresh your mind, but it also helps lower your risk for certain diseases. Relaxation doesn’t mean lying in bed all day doing nothing. You can take some time to do something you love, catch up with a friend or family member on the phone (or in person if you’re ready to brave the cold), or try a new, relaxing hobby.
Winter is a gift-wrapped, guilt-free excuse handed to us each year (at least in the northern half of the United States), allowing us to put off our outdoor activities for about three months.
I need to cherish that gift, and here’s a short list of how I plan to do so with a mixture of stimulating and relaxing hobbies. You can customize the list and make the most of winter, too.
Nicole’s Ultimate Relaxation & At-Home Projects List
Make my dream a reality.
Although writing is literally my job, after years of writing about real-life events and health facts, I want to try my hand at fiction. I’ve dreamed of writing a novel since grade school, and it’s at the top of my bucket list (or sunshine list, as my friend aptly named it).
The verdict is still out on whether I’m any good, but this item is mostly about achieving a personal goal. Plus, writing is the perfect indoor activity for me (I can wear my bunny slippers AND make my dream come true).
Complete a major organization project.
Although it’s not quite as empowering as writing an entire novel, I would love to someday have every photo I’ve ever taken, or at least the good ones, organized both digitally and in print. (Not having printed photos makes me uneasy every time I watch a post-apocalyptic TV show or movie). Like my book, this one will take more than a season, but it’s another activity I can do inside.
I’m staying away from scrapbooking, though. I learned firsthand while creating a (very thorough) scrapbook of my senior year of high school that my perfectionism and scrapbooking don’t mix well when stress relief is my goal.
Take something old and make it new.
I spent a large chunk of last winter painting Mason jars to use as brightly colored vases in my apartment. I also started saving and painting olive, pickle, and pepper jars in the process, and suddenly, I had a winter hobby. I love olives, pickles, and peppers almost as much as candy, so my collection grew pretty quickly.
They were easy to paint (there are different techniques with varying degrees of difficulty) and reminded me of spring.
There are plenty of physical activities you can do without getting out in the nasty weather. Last winter, I started a step challenge. I got a LOT of steps, about 10,000 per day, sometimes closer to 20,000, mostly by walking around my apartment during commercial breaks, sporting events, and phone conversations. (Sorry, downstairs neighbors.)
I sometimes also do pushups, squats, crunches, and various other exercises while watching TV, and my all-time favorite exercise, dancing, is living room-friendly as well. Basically, as long as dancing and/or being able to watch TV is on the table, I’m a fan of exercise.
Channel my inner kid.
I’m somewhat of an expert at this one. For instance, I ate SpaghettiOs while writing this blog post.
Anyway, adult coloring books are a thing now. My co-workers and I have started having coloring nights after work. I use a kid coloring book, though. To me, the adult ones look too tough to be fun, and I’m a bigger fan of Disney characters than abstract designs anyway.
Spring sprang in my apartment about a week ago because, like I’ve mentioned again and again, I’m tired of the cold. Decorating helps me cut back on boredom and allows for some creativity. Once it’s done, it’s a daily reminder that spring isn’t too far away. I highly recommend this one.
Enjoy those rare warm days.
If it’s going to be 60 degrees outside (or even upper 50s), I intend to get out and enjoy the spring-like temperature. As much as my relaxation and indoor projects list motivates me, nothing is quite as motivating as being able to go outside on a sunny day in a spring jacket.
Disclaimer: While the items on this list can help you fight boredom, escape from stress, feel accomplished, and stimulate your mind, they’re not magic. Winter will still be winter.
When the relaxation and indoor hobbies aren’t masking the winter grind, just remember, jelly bean season is in full swing, and pitchers and catchers reported this week. Spring will come.
Many people who diet the first week of January binge the second, and are ready for better choices by the third week of the month. That’s why this week is Healthy Weight Week!
Stop restricting calories! Losing weight with low-calorie diets can screw up your system. Instead, eat balanced and filling meals.
Cooking at home, where you can control what is in your food and how much you eat, can be better than using expensive dieting products.
Making healthy choices while remembering that not everyone can look the same can help you focus on a healthy weight.
Not getting enough sleep can make your hormones imbalanced, actually making you hungry! So don’t skimp and you’ll fight your hunger and up your energy.
Stay active and accountable. You are the only one who can keep yourself from going back to bad habits. Find things that motivate you like a cookbook that inspires you or a friend to workout with.
Reward yourself when you reach milestones. Finally hit a new dress size? Buy that outfit you’ve been wanting. Did you go to all the workouts you committed to? Sign-up for the fun fitness class you’ve been eyeing!
This time, for the 30-Day Plank Challenge, I’m going to give you all the exercises and the schedule up front so you can follow along every day, and then I can just check in.
The plank strengthens your core, a complex series of muscles that includes your entire body, minus your legs, head, and arms. It doesn’t take equipment, machines, or special apparel. All you need is a little motivation.
Injury Prevention Tips
It’s recommended to start at level one and progress daily to ensure proper strength and form.
It’s essential that your spine stays level and that you activate your lower abs to protect your low back. If your back starts to arch, or your butt starts to dip, it’s time to call it a day.
Always make sure your wrists or elbows are directly under your shoulders to relieve any shoulder pressure.
You should not feel any joint, back, or shoulder pain during your planks. If you are, it’s probably related to your form. Have someone take a picture of you, or ask a friend to review your form. Make sure everything is in a straight line.
Remember to breath. Holding your breath makes the exercise harder and can cause an increase in your blood pressure. Focusing on your breath can actually improve your concentration and duration.
There are two different kinds of planks, in different levels, that you will use for this challenge: the front plank and the side plank.
Beginner – Static Knee Forearm Plank – Start with your knees together and on the ground. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and rest your weight on your forearms. Flatten your spine, and press through your elbows to keep your chest from falling forward. Suck your navel into your spine and tighten your abdominals. Look straight down, allowing your neck to stay aligned with your spine.
Intermediate – Static Forearm Plank – Start with your toes together and on the ground. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and rest your weight on your forearms. Flatten your spine, and press through your elbows to keep your chest from falling forward. Suck your navel into your spine and tighten your abdominals. Look straight down, allowing your neck to stay aligned with your spine.
Advanced – One Leg Forearm Plank – Start with your toes together and on the ground. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and rest your weight on your forearms. Flatten your spine, and press through your elbows to keep your chest from falling forward. Suck your navel into your spine and tighten your abdominals. Look straight down, allowing your neck to stay aligned with your spine. Lift one leg off the ground to challenge your stability. Be sure to alternate legs.
Beginner – Static Knee Forearm Side Plank – Start with your knees together and on the ground. Place your right elbow on the ground directly under your shoulder. Straighten your spine, tighten your abdominals, and look straight ahead. Hold. Repeat on the left side. Once you reach one minute on each side with little struggle, then progress to the next level.
Intermediate/Advanced – Static Side Forearm Plank – Start with your feet together and on the ground, keep your knees lifted and the body in one straight line. Place your right elbow on the ground directly under your shoulder. Straighten your spine, tighten your abdominals, and look straight ahead. Hold. Repeat on the left side. Once you reach one minute on each side with little struggle, then progress to the next level.
Once you’ve chosen a level to follow, use this tracker for how long to hold your planks each day: