Five Tips to Ease Kids’ Social Reentry

Tavyev’s strategies include:

Staying engaged at home. Tavyev, also an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai, pointed out that kids who turned 2 or 3 during the pandemic might have little experience interacting with people who don’t have masks on. “We can’t just give up masks,” Tavyev said, “so that places more impetus on the family to disconnect from their screens and interact with children face to face.”

Trying to curb screen time. Children’s own screen time can also present a challenge. “If kids’ social interaction is being replaced with screen time, you could have exponentially more work in front of you,” said Tavyev. “You’re going to have to break that addiction before they will want to go out to do social things.”

Encouraging sports and games. Organized sports and other types of play—most of which happen outdoors—can help replace screen time and ease children back into social situations. “It’s something social, but lightly social,” said Tavyev. “It isn’t two hours of intense personal interaction, like a birthday party might be.” For children who aren’t attracted to team sports, Tavyev suggested activities such as martial arts classes or swimming, which are individual pursuits but still happen in a group. Younger children might enjoy group play with balls or parachutes, she said.

Letting younger children learn from conflict. When younger kids do come together, the occasional tussle if two reach for the same toy is a learning opportunity. “If they’ve only been interacting with friends on screens, you’re at home with your Legos and they’re at home with their Legos, so no negotiation has to take place,” Tavyev said. She recommended that parents let children older than 2 or 3 work out in-person conflicts for themselves. “Tell them you believe they can figure this out, whisper ideas and encouragement, but don’t come in and be the mediator,” she said.

Putting fears into perspective for older children. “For children who are feeling awkward and afraid at school or with peers, talk through the worst-case scenario,” Tavyev said. “Encourage them to imagine what might happen. Maybe they’re going to say something foolish. Maybe people will laugh at them. Whatever it is, play it out. Then stop and ask, ‘Was that so bad? Is that something that you truly could not recover from?'”

While some conflict, awkwardness and uncertainty is to be expected, Tavyev advised parents and teachers to be on the lookout for children determined to avoid interaction with others.

“If younger children aren’t showing an interest in their peers, and that is accompanied by language delay and repetitive or ritualistic behaviors, it’s time to seek help because those are signs of autism,” she said. “Parents should also seek help for an older child who was previously interested in social activity and seems to have lost their interest, because this might be a sign of depression.”

Tavyev also encouraged parents to take heart, because everyone is in the same boat. And while the brain’s ability to grow and change is at its height during the first three years of life, neuroplasticity persists well into adulthood.

“Social interaction, comfortable distance while talking, and all kinds of subtle, nuanced things have probably changed for billions of people around the world,” said Tavyev. “So even if children have missed out on certain social things, it could be that some of those things are going to become obsolete anyway. How will that change this generation of children? I honestly have no idea, but they’re all in it together.”

The Jon Gruden Case and Why the NFL Still Isn’t Serious About Social Justice

On October 11th, the National Football League (NFL) community was shocked when news surfaced that Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden announced his resignation just five weeks into the season. Gruden was one of the most high-profile figures in the NFL over the last 20 years, serving both as a Super Bowl-winning Head Coach and Monday Night Football Commentator. His resignation came after a slew of emails sent by him were made public that included a racial trope, antigay language, and a generally wide range of hurtful and insensitive rhetoric. The news was groundbreaking and hard to fathom for many who had beloved Gruden over the years, but there’s more to the story. The focus has rightfully been exclusively on Gruden and his fall-from-grace. Still, the lens of judgment has failed to focus on the multi-billion-dollar organization that has facilitated such behavior for far too long: the NFL. In the following, we’ll break down the necessary details of the Gruden case and why his resignation was essential. But we’ll also take a look into the NFL and what this case means for an organization that has a lousy track record of failing to support social justice issues, its players, and what’s morally right.

Details of the Case

As tends to be the norm in situations like this, there are many moving parts and details that are perhaps too complex to cover for this piece. With that being said, we must understand the chain of events here to better comprehend the whole picture.

From a public perspective, the Gruden ordeal began on October 8th, just a few days before his resignation. That Friday, The Wall Street Journal published a story revealing that the NFL was investigating Gruden for using a racial trope in a 2011 email to describe the NFLPA Chief DeMaurice Smith. Additionally, WSJ also reported that the NFL had been analyzing over 650,000 emails as part of their investigation that had begun back in June of 2021. The NFL’s investigation was spawned from a separate investigation on the Washington Football Team for workplace misconduct – a perhaps even more disturbing case if you’re unfamiliar.

In part of the NFL’s investigation, they came across the initial email in question, sent to then Washington Team President Bruce Allen. At this point, the NFL stated that the investigation had been launched under NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s direction. Goodell had then received a summary of the inquiry earlier in the week the story was published. The NFL also stated that it was sharing emails related to Gruden to the Las Vegas Raiders, who then employed him as their Head Coach.

The WSJ story broke headlines and sent a shockwave throughout the league. Many instantly began calling for Gruden’s resignation and action from the NFL. However, the NFL simply stated at the time that it was reviewing Gruden’s status for potential discipline. Gruden went on to coach his team’s game that Sunday, and it seemed as if a suspension, at best, was looming in the near future for Gruden. But then Monday came around.

On October 11th, The New York Times reported that Gruden was cited using anti-transgender, antigay, and much more offensive language in additional email correspondence with Bruce Allen for several years. Once again, the story shook up the league, and it seemed inevitable that Gruden would not escape this one. By the end of the day, Gruden met with the owner of the Las Vegas Raiders and would shortly thereafter announce his resignation as Head Coach.

A Word on Gruden

Before we look at this issue in a broader scope, we must be clear on Jon Gruden and his fate. Without question, his fall-from-grace was well-deserved, and he certainly doesn’t belong on an NFL sideline, now or ever again, for that matter. Gruden was a beloved coach and personality for many years, but no resume or persona outweigh actions. If we’re serious about shifting societal norms and scales of what’s accepted and not, then individuals who engage in such behavior must be dealt with in such a fashion. But with that being said, there’s a bigger issue at play here that hasn’t gotten enough press, and that’s the continued incompetency and lack of authenticity from the NFL to take social justice issues and questions of morality seriously in favor of the bottom line.

The NFL’s Culpability

Let’s start with the case in question. For starters, it’s a bit questionable that an investigation of emails, especially once the initial one was found, took nearly five months. According to the NFL, it took from June to the second week of October for a summary of the investigation’s findings to be presented to the Commissioner, the same one who supposedly launched the investigation in the first place. Even if this is true, it shows a severe lack of legitimate and effective protocols in place at the NFL to take matters like this as seriously as possible. Five months is far too long for a multi-billion-dollar organization that claims these issues are among their top priorities.

Then there’s the inaction after the initial story. Gruden faced no discipline, not even an indefinite leave of absence when the initial racist email was made public. For a league that has recently launched a massive social justice campaign that allows players to wear decals such as “End Racism,” “Stop Hate,” “It Takes All of Us,” and more, it’s highly problematic that they let Gruden go on to coach a game just a few days later. Plus, they hadn’t even met with and briefed the team that employed Gruden as their Head Coach: the Las Vegas Raiders.

The way this whole case played out and the lack of action from the NFL is concerning, to say the least. It begs the question, what happens if the second story never came out? Better yet, what about the first? It makes one seriously wonder if this issue would’ve ever seen the light of day. When it comes to racism or any form of hate for that matter, we all know by now that it takes more than just being opposed to the actions; you have to be anti-racist, anti-hate, and do more than just launch a multi-million-dollar PR campaign. I said before, and I’ll say it again, nothing outweighs actions here. And once again, the actions, or lack thereof, show that the NFL is still miles behind in taking social justice issues seriously.

Closing Remarks

It may seem as if the criticism of the NFL is perhaps too harsh for just this one incident, but the point is, it’s not just one incident. The way the NFL handled the Colin Kaepernick situation and players kneeling during the national anthem is a perfect example of a league that has failed to evolve and support its players above all. This is the same league that has banned multiple players for over a year for Marijuana usage, yet they hesitated with Jon Gruden. This is also the same league that has repeatedly shown that they don’t take domestic violence or sexual misconduct actions seriously either. The NFL has a bad track record when it comes to how they handle social justice issues, and if this case proves anything, it’s that they haven’t seemed to learn much of a lesson. A PR campaign might inspire some change, and we can all support that, but when your actions don’t reflect your words, then words mean nothing.

How Health & Fitness Businesses Are Flexing Their Muscles For Customers Right Now

We’re all public health nerds now, and many of us have stepped up our games when it comes to washing our hands and sanitizing surfaces at home. With all the added stressors that come along with global pandemics, it can be easy to let health and fitness goals slip.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has even issued guidance encouraging people to stay on top of their physical wellness during the crisis.

Whether you’re running and walking your favorite local trails or jumping into virtual fitness classes and yoga sessions, there’s a lot you can do to take advantage of that extra time you like to have at home these days.

How Health & Fitness Companies Have Stepped Up During The Crisis

The good news about those health and fitness goals: You’re not alone.

Many health and fitness companies have pivoted and are now offering free or low-cost digital services to customers. It’s now easier than ever before to get your virtual workout on.

Here are a few of the health and fitness providers dishing out new offerings during the pandemic:

Down Dog

This very well-rounded digital fitness company has made all of its apps completely free for new users until June 1st. You don’t even need a credit card to sign-up.

If yoga is your scene, check out Down Dog and Yoga for Beginners.

If you’re in the market for a more intense workout, check out free offerings from Barre and HIIT to 7 Minute Workout.

The folks at Down Dog are even going a step further to give students and teachers (K-12 and college) free access until July 1st. Just register your school’s domain here.

Last but certainly not least, Down Dog has given free access to all healthcare professionals until July 1st as well. Healthcare workers just need to go here to register using their work domain.

Peloton

If hitting the local bike trails isn’t an option, Peloton offers a virtual option. The very popular app is now offering free 90-day subscriptions to its at-home workout app.  

Unfortunately, a fancy new bike is not included.

Balance

There’s never been a better time to find your zen. If meditation is your thing, check out the Balance app. They’re offering a 1-year free subscription right now. Sometimes finding a quiet spot and stepping away from the news is just what the doctor ordered.

The Big Brands: Under Armour, Nike, Lululemon, and REI

The bigger athletic brands are arguably a bit more resilient. They’ve got the capital to weather this storm.

How they choose to manage through the crisis speaks volumes, though. Protecting the health of customers and workers becomes paramount. Here’s how they’ve responded:

  • Under Armour has temporarily closed stores while continuing to pay employees.
  • Nike has closed stores and continues to pay workers’ full wages during closure. The company is also offering remote work for non-store employees.
  • Lululemon has closed all of its North American and European stores and their employees will continue to be paid.
  • REI has closed its stores and will continue to pay all of its employees. The REI blog also offers a wide array of DIY and #stayathome tips for families and outdoor enthusiasts to make the most of isolation.

10 Gyms And Fitness Studios With Free Offerings

While many studios and gyms that deliver on-site fitness classes and personal training have been particularly hard hit, they’re also working to keep people engaged and connected to their physical health goals.

From free classes and workouts to streaming sessions on major social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, these brands are tossing out free digital fitness deals:

  1. YMCA: 95 free virtual workouts
  2. Planet Fitness: Free, streamed Facebook classes
  3. Blink Fitness: Facebook Live sessions weekdays at 8 a.m. ET
  4. Orangetheory: New 30-minute workout video each day
  5. 305 Fitness: Cardio dance live streams twice daily on YouTube
  6. Gold’s Gym: Variety of free digital workouts
  7. Retro Fitness: Free daily Facebook Live stream classes weekdays at 6 p.m.
  8. Life Time: Free workout classes to stream for free with more added daily
  9. Barry’s Bootcamp: 20-minute bodyweight workouts live on Instagram for free
  10. CorePower Yoga: Free access to yoga and meditation classes

That’s certainly enough to keep even the fittest among us busy for a while.

Why Health & Fitness Companies Are Changing How They Operate

Along with the WHO, the American College of Sports Medicine knows a thing or two about public health.

They recommend keeping up and even bolstering physical fitness regimens to ensure that one’s immune system is performing at peak strength. Of course, a virus is a virus and this doesn’t make one immune to it. 

But at the very least staying fit and active will keep your spirits up and help you fight off the impact of stress during the crisis. The health and fitness companies listed above can help with that in many ways.

Take advantage of those offers out there and stay healthy!

Depressed Kids Do Not Have A Look – Identifying Children in Crisis

As the lead social worker in charge of the behavioral health screening protocol at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware, Jessica Williams, MSS, LCSW is responsible for educating clinicians, staff, and families about the one thing they can do to identify kids in crisis: ask them the right questions. “Kids that appear to be depressed, whatever you think that might look like, they might not actually be depressed,” she explains. “And sometimes the kid with a suicide plan has tons of friends and makes straight A’s. We can’t make assumptions based on how a child appears.” As “champion” of the behavioral health screening protocol, Williams manages and evaluates the program, working concurrently with stakeholders at the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families.

The program, which went live in November of 2017, aims to screen all patients 12 years of age and older who are admitted to the emergency room. The protocol is first triggered when a nurse receives a best practice alert (BPA) for an eligible patient in the EMR. The nurse then asks the patients to complete a behavioral health assessment on an iPad using a software program called BH-Works. The web-based survey asks patients questions to identify risk level for things like depression, trauma, substance use disorder, bullying, abuse, and suicidal ideation. Responses are automatically scored, summarized, and ready for review in the EMR, helping providers determine when a patient requires additional support. As a licensed clinical social worker, Williams is one of the team members who provides in-person clinical mental health assessments for patients who screen positive for risk.

Williams trains all staff and providers who interact with the BH-Works tool in some way. This roster includes about 150 nurses, social workers, attending physicians, fellows, residents, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. Additionally, Williams educates ancillary staff who may not interact directly with the tool, but who need to understand the screening process. This includes child life specialists, unit clerks, flow supervisors, and nursing leadership. When Williams joined the ED team in early 2019, she was tasked with reaching out individually to each associate, confirming they knew about the protocol and understood their part in the process.

In addition to reaching out to individual staff members, Williams attends huddle meetings to answer questions, listen to feedback, and share case examples. One of the cases she talks about regularly involves a patient who was put into the fast track section of the ER for a sports injury. When the teen was screened before discharge, he was flagged for critical risk. The teen was severely depressed, experiencing current suicidal ideation, and had made a suicide plan. Hearing these types of stories helped the ER team understand the importance of the protocol. “Initially, the nurses and providers were surprised by those patient stories,” she recalls. “Surprised at first that the protocol was working, and then surprised there were so many kids at risk.”

Williams wanted to help her associates through the inevitable growing pains of a new workflow, so she began troubleshooting issues with the help of an interdisciplinary team, working through a process she coined “collaborative implementation.” Her team actively involved providers and fellow associates as they worked to address kinks in the technology, workflows, and communication plan. “Sure, they know that they have to do this for their job,” she states. “But we’re asking them to do something that isn’t always the easiest or most comfortable thing, so it helps to bring them into the process.”

Based on those suggestions, the team created algorithms to guide nurses and providers through common scenarios, posting them in high-traffic areas. Williams is careful to point out that these algorithms are not hard and fast rules. She explains, “With behavioral health, we can’t always say, ‘Do a,b, and c’ every time a patient screens positive for severe depression. Sometimes that patient is on medication and working with a therapist, and the doctor doesn’t necessarily need to call down a social worker immediately.”

Although the protocol aims to screen all eligible patients, many variables can stop or slow the process. To provide an appropriate course of action in all situations, the team worked with the hospital’s Epic analyst to add buttons to categorize a nurse’s response to the BPA. Armed with that information, Williams was able to audit individual patient charts to understand issues on a case-by-case basis. She identified six common problems and worked with emergency department management to address them. For example, in order to remind providers to review the results, the team’s Epic analyst incorporated the screening report into the discharge process, a time that fit better into some of their workflows.

These collaborative efforts helped to quickly increase the number of patients being screened in the emergency room. The month before the team started their collaborative implementation plan, only 20 patients had been screened using BH-Works. After their first month of strategic efforts, that monthly screening number increased to 180. By the third month, the numbers had jumped to 507. Currently, the team consistently screens between 32-49% of clinically appropriate cases monthly, which is an above average number compared to other emergency departments with similar protocols. The department plans to improve the screening process through 2020, with a goal of screening 100% of clinically appropriate patients.

By the end of 2019, over 3,000 patients had been screened in the emergency room. Out of those patients, twenty-three percent (715 kids) reported symptoms of moderate to severe depression, twenty percent (609 kids) reported significant trauma, fifteen percent (479 kids) reported a history of suicide ideation, and 117 kids were actually contemplating suicide at the time of screening.

Williams is now educating other departments about the program, seeing potential for behavioral health screening throughout the Nemours Health System. She also urges providers across the country to consider implementing similar protocols. “Kids are literal beings,” she explains. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a kid why they hadn’t shared their feelings with someone before taking this screen, and they tell me it’s because no one had ever asked them. That’s why we have to do things like this. Because there’s no other way to know other than to ask.”

Remote Learning: Making Use of Time at Home During School Closures

State-wide school closures for an extended amount of time due to a worldwide pandemic is truly unprecedented. Families, school systems, and entire communities are now in a position like we have never known before. Aside from the logistics involving everything from last-minute childcare to methods for providing meals to local FARMS (free and reduced-price meals system) populations, many folks are left wondering about the academic ramifications of these indefinite school closures.

Similar to “summer slide,” when students are known to experience academic regression while out of school for the summer months, these sudden weeks without instruction could undoubtedly pose academic issues for students. Some districts are utilizing online platforms to deliver content digitally to students at home, while others are rushing to provide supplemental course packets that students can complete at their own pace during the extended closure. Whatever the case, families will want to ensure that certain steps are taken so that learning continues, even when school is not in session.

Set up a routine

Many students (and teachers) view this sudden shutdown as an excuse to go into vacation mode. Tempting as that is, stopping everything to “hibernate” at home is ill-advised, even during this time when we have been instructed to practice “social distancing.” Being stuck at home should not necessarily mean that children and teens grow accustomed to day-long Netflix binging in pajamas on the couch. Parents should set the expectation early on that some of this time out of school is still going to be used for learning. Some suggestions include the following:

  • Maintain the expectation that certain times of the day should be “screen-free,” meaning no smartphones, video games, television, iPads, or computer use.
  • As an alternative to technology, encourage kids to try a different hobby, like reading, journaling, coloring, yoga, knitting, baking, gardening, etc. Teen and adult coloring books, Legos, paint-by-number and toy model kits are all solid options for quiet, screen-free entertainment. In addition to revving one’s creativity, these activities help to develop fine motor skills, dexterity, patience, focus, and attention to detail.
  • Suggest that children help out with meal time and/or the cleanup after dinner. Seeing as everyone’s schedule has likely opened up, with regard to school, sports, and extracurricular activities, now is a great time to set up a routine for family meal times.
  • Imbed some physical activity into everyone’s daily routines as well. Obviously, the gym and fitness classes are ill-advised due to suggestions to practice “social distancing.” However, families can take evening strolls around the neighborhood, walk the dog each morning, jump on the trampoline, mow the lawn, etc.
  • To stave off the eventual boredom, families will want to think about organizing evening routines and activities as well. Maybe try Monday movie nights, take-out Tuesday, speed walking Wednesday, etc. The key is to have something to look forward to each day, especially since many fun events for kids, like field trips, weekend excursions, birthday gatherings, sleepovers, and team sports have been cancelled.

Foreign language study

Just because schools are closed, that doesn’t mean that students’ language acquisition should hault indefinitely. Apps like Duolingo allow students to brush up on their foreign language skills, or begin to learn a new language altogether. The app is free and easy to use due to intuitive, game-like format.

Parents can also help bolster foreign language acquisition by selecting age-appropriate foreign films or movies with subtitles for the family to watch together.

Want to ditch the screens? Plan a bilingual scavenger hunt around the house using post-it notes. Label household items incorrectly and challenge your kids to correctly place the post-its using their language skills. For instance, if el baño is posted on the basement door, kids would need to move it to the bathroom door before moving onto the next sticky note.

Social studies 

For obvious reasons, many spring field trips have had to be cancelled, leaving students disappointed. One possible solution to these cancellations is to try virtual tours of the museums, galleries, landmarks, etc. Of course, the experience will not be entirely the same, but the sense of learning through exploration is still there. In addition, many locations utilize interactive platforms for students to truly immerse themselves in the information. Engaging options include Guggenheim Museum, The MoMA, The Louvre, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, The NASA Space Center in Houston, a moon tour via Google Earth, and any number of zoo cams around the world.

Now is also a great time for indulging in some documentaries for additional explorative learning. Beyond the content itself, which will undoubtedly provide information, older children and teens can identify and discuss persuasive techniques and other specific documentary film tactics. It may be beneficial to discuss the subjectivity that often emerges within the genre and how that impacts us, the viewers.

Science at home

Simple science experiments help to pass the time while introducing kids to the many engaging aspects of science.

  • Add heavy cream to a jar, tightly seal, and shake vigorously (for a span of 10-30 minutes) until butter begins to form. Kids will be amazed to watch as the cream solidifies. They can also flavor their homemade butter with sea salt or a drizzle of honey!
  • Create your own invisible ink using lemon juice and a q-tip. Kids will be amazed to see their secret messages when they hold a paper up to a lightbulb or other heat source.
  • Take a blind taste test, but with a tricky twist! Ask your child to hold his or her nose while tasting the everyday items, such as peanut butter, honey, salsa, chocolate chips, yogurt, etc. They will be amazed at how difficult it is to identify some of their favorite foods when their sense of smell is impaired!

The COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing today’s younger generation has ever experienced. Mass school closures may initially seem like a cause for celebration for many students. Yet the fact is that this pandemic will have lasting effects which is especially true for school-aged children and teens. Please, share with us your tips for schooling your children during this crisis.

Important Things An Active Person Should Know About Feet

Most of us take thousands of steps a day by foot. An active person or someone who participates in sports will likely use their feet even more. We use our feet every day for very important reasons, but many of us still neglect to care for them. Paying more attention to our trotters can result in more attractive and healthier feet, so why do we ignore them? To learn more about your feet and the importance of foot care, read on.

The Proper Shoes Make A Difference

Ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters, bunions, and foot pain. Athletes and runners are especially prone to foot discomfort. Your shoes should always fit your foot, allowing adequate room for your toes to move, and supplying the appropriate support and cushioning. If you are a runner, investing in a good pair of running shoes is highly recommended. Basketball players, dancers, tennis players, and golf players should also wear shoes which are comfortable and suitable for their individual needs.

Foot Odor Is Caused By Sweat And Bacteria

Active people are especially prone to foot odor because they tend to sweat more. Sweating is healthy and is your body’s natural way of cooling itself, but it can lead to some nasty bodily odors. Foot odor is often characterized by a cheesy, vinegary smell. The feet are full of sweat glands and these glands can excrete up to a half-pint of moisture a day.

The best way to prevent foot odor is to keep the feet dry and clean. Washing your feet every day, changing your socks frequently, and alternating your shoes can greatly reduce unpleasant foot odors. It is important to alternate your shoes because bacteria and moisture can build up inside of footwear, which is what causes the bad odors. Letting your shoes fully dry out before wearing them again is recommended. In addition, there are various foot deodorizers available for those who suffer from foot odor.

Foot Fungus Is Preventable

Fungus loves feet because the inside of your shoes provides them with the perfect breeding ground. Damp and dark, your well-worn shoes attract the organisms which cause athlete’s foot and toenail fungus. Once fungus invades, it can be hard to get rid of. If the conditions are right, fungal infections can live on your feet for years.

Active individuals should take preventive measures against foot fungus by wearing clean socks, washing the feet often, and wearing protective shoes in public places which can harbor fungus.

If you contract nail fungus or athlete’s foot, it is important to treat it with topical creams and antifungal medications. Doing so prevents the fungus from spreading and getting worse. The sooner the condition is treated, the easier it will be to manage.

Your Feet Can Be Linked To Your Health

Certain diseases like diabetes and peripheral arterial disease can cause symptoms in your feet. Undiagnosed diabetes is known to cause dry skin because glucose levels affect sweat and oil production in your feet. Loss of feeling in the feet due to nerve damage is also a common symptom of diabetes.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) can cause thin, shiny skin on the feet. PAD causes poor blood circulation and raises your risk of heart attack and stroke. If your feet show any signs of circulation issues, consult your doctor promptly.

Taking care of your lower extremities and looking for any unusual signs and symptoms is the best way to maintain healthy feet. Keeping your feet clean and rotating your shoes is also a good idea, especially if you are active. Doing so will prevent foot odors and fungal infections. Your feet are essential to your body, so treat them as such.

Family Team Time

It will come as no shock to most parents that a significant amount of time per week is spent running children from point A to point B and back again. What may be shocking, however, are the actual statistics surrounding the average family’s carpooling and chauffeuring routine. Research shows that, by the time children reach adulthood, parents will have spent almost 200 days behind the wheel running their kids from place to place.

Now, as much as educators, parents, and students embrace the notion of extracurricular activities, there are alternative ways to shape interests, take part in cooperative learning, build relationships, and experience new things. Perhaps it is time to consider putting a halt to the daily grind with family team time.

What is Family Team Time?

Not to spoil the concept of extracurricular activities — as a teacher, I know that extracurriculars can truly change students’ lives — but there are also some factors to consider when it comes to the many activities children participate in. Clubs, sports, camps, classes — all these activities add up, both monetarily and in terms of time commitments. For families with multiple children, the desire to keep kids consistently “doing” can prove to be a costly, time-consuming, and even stressful undertaking. Family team time, substituting extracurriculars with engaging family activities could be a great alternative to try this winter. Simply put, family team time is anything the family does together for enjoyment. Below are options to try in place of signing up for another round of extracurricular activities this winter

Museums & More

Considering our proximity to D.C.’s many museums, theaters, and other cultural hubs, there are countless engaging options for your family to experience together this winter. Especially as the holidays approach, options will be plentiful: festivals, concerts, plays, ballets, and other performances. Consider taking in a show, visiting a museum, or simply touring the neighborhood’s Christmas lights. Plan ahead by checking Groupon and other sites for deals on attractions, discounted events and performances, and student rates. Museum visits are a great free option to explore art and history with the whole gang — not to mention, they are a great place to escape from the bitter winter weather while still stretching your legs.

Family Entertainment

Afternoon matinees can prove to be a wonderfully inexpensive way to get the family together for a few hours of entertainment. Another option is to have a weekly family book club, in which every member of the family reads the same book. Once a week, make some popcorn, get comfy in the living room, and discuss the recently read chapters. Once everyone has finished the book, consider renting the movie version, as many young adult and family novels have been adapted to film. After the movie, encourage a mock-film study, in which you talk about how the movie and the book are similar or different, and which one each person preferred. Then, allow someone else to choose the next novel/movie combination. Keep the weekly book talks going until everyone has had the chance to select a novel for the family. To save money, consider checking books out at the local library or purchase used books online. For struggling readers, consider an e-book or audiobook version so children can follow along while listening to the book aloud.

Physical Activity Fun

Ice skating, bowling, or an afternoon at the trampoline park can provide much-needed exercise when cabin fever starts to hit in the winter months. As opposed to chauffeuring each child from activity to activity, family team time allows for one trip, to one agreed-upon activity, all together as a family. Want to stay in? Try a competitive Top Chef-inspired cooking challenge, in which each member chooses a flavorful pancake topping, unique pizza toppings, or quesadilla fillings. An impartial blind taste-tester is all you need to settle the sibling rivalry or family food feud!

Volunteer as a Family

As opposed to hustling from a game, to a recital, to a playdate on a busy weekend, consider volunteering as a family. Clean out the toy room and closets to donate to children in need. These gestures show children the holidays are not only about receiving, but also giving. Decide as a family to demonstrate the spirit of giving by helping out at an animal shelter, soup kitchen, book drive, etc. After volunteering, discuss each family member’s favorite moment of the day — what was the best part of volunteering? What did you learn?   

This season, take a break from the constant flurry of extracurricular activity and give your family the gift of time together.

10 Healthy Snacks for Athletes

As an athlete, you aren’t going to get anywhere close to a good performance on an empty stomach. On the other hand, eating the wrong food and too much of it before a game isn’t good either. Your pre-game meal should at best be decorating your shoes because you might puke everything out what you ate.

The ideal thing to do is to consume a pre-game snack which would address your needs for energy such as easily digestible carbohydrates along with the additional goodness of essential nutrients. As far as lifestyle is concerned, athletes are sometimes tempted to steer off track and indulge in unhealthy habits. It’s a grab-and-go situation because of the feeling of hunger all the time.

If you are an athlete, the best way to abide by a healthy lifestyle is to remain focused on your goals and, of course, your diet. To avoid the temptation of unhealthy snack choices, here are 10 beneficial snacks for athletes like you irrespective of what your game is.

1. Homemade trail mix

A combination of nuts such as cashew, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts along with simple carbs like granola, pretzels and dry fruit can provide you with a good dose of protein. This combo also provides healthy omega 3 fatty acids which contribute to fat burn, energy, and muscle recovery. The benefit of these snacks is they remain fresh throughout the day.

2. Sports Nutrition Bar

Sports nutrition bars are fast and portable snacks, making it easy to grab-and-go. However, they can also be expensive. Not all sports nutrition bars can suit your purpose because they could be loaded with sugars and high calories. What you can do instead is to find out which one works best for you in terms of a healthy sportsperson’s diet.

3. Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches

Peanut butter is an all-time favorite for many, but you need to be careful of allergies. This combo snack packed with nutrients would provide your fats and proteins along with the goodness of fiber. Honey is beneficial for athletes as it also contains antioxidants and a load of vitamins and nutrients.

4. Pretzels and Hummus

As a healthy snack for athletes, this combination could as well be your favorite party food. This goes on to show that eating healthy is not boring at all. Pretzels and hummus are portable snacks that can be carried around anywhere. They are packed with protein, fiber and a variety of other essential nutrients

5. Whole Grain Bagel with Nut Butter

As a treat packed with crabs and protein the whole grain bagel with nut butter is one of the best choices for athletes. This combination is low in sugar as well. Versatile snacks like these create variety as you can choose the ingredients from different nut butters like almond, sunflower, and peanut. The combination of high protein and carb content also acts as a pre- or post-workout snack.

6. Fruit

While many think describing fruit as a sack seems weird because it is more of a food choice, you’ll be surprised how fruits can provide you a power punch of vitamins and ready electrolytes even during a game. This is why you may have noticed tennis athletes chomping on bananas in between sets. Bananas are packed with potassium and prevent cramps. Bananas also contain a ready source of electrolytes necessary for one’s game. Apples are also high in natural sugar and fiber. Popping a handful of grapes will also give you fuel to up your game.

7. Salmon Sandwich

Did you know the benefits of salmon during work-outs are that it provides you with an abundance of nutrients primarily rich in omega 3 fatty acids and promotes muscle recovery? In addition to an amazing dose of omega 3s, you get vitamin B, Selenium, antioxidants, potassium, weight maintenance, and of course, proteins.

8. Grilled Chicken Breast and Cottage Cheese Sandwich

The ingredients of the grilled chicken breast include a healthy low fat dose of excellent protein and a number of less celebrated nutrients which are extremely helpful for your body. By far one of the most important elements of chicken breast is Leucine, which in turn is one of the three main BCAAS (branch chain amino acids) highly essential for health. Leucine contributes toward healing and health of skeletal muscle tissue. Apart from these foods, there is a load of healthy snacks you can choose that are both nutrient-rich as well as pleasing in taste.

9. Non-Fat Plain or Greek Yogurt

It’s a no-brainer to conclude that athletes need strong muscles and healthy bone structure. So, yogurt is a rich source of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and also reduces the risk of osteoporosis. But did you know, as per some experts, calcium also plays a pivotal role in muscle metabolism? Since yogurt encourages the growth of good bacteria, which also help your body fight many diseases, it’s a good snack for athletes.

10. Raw Vegetables

You might not have paid a heed on the nutritious value of raw vegetables, but these are highly essential for athletes like you. You can easily get ahold of baby carrot sticks cut-up in individual packages with broccoli and cauliflower that are readily available in supermarkets. Then, just mix them and prepare a light salad dressing.

Snacks for Athletes

Since you are an athlete living in a fast-paced world, it would be difficult on concentrating more than three meals per day. Instead, nutritional experts advocate eating small healthy meals per day which can provide enough fuel for improved workouts and exceptional health. Besides nutrition, you can also abide by healthy habits that would make you a better athlete.

Service Through the Written Word

When was the last time you read a book or an article and felt like it had been written just for you? In fact, you may have caught yourself wondering if your picture was going to be on the next page as an example of someone who has lived what the author has described. I know this has happened to me more than once in my lifetime.

I have been blessed many times through a book I’ve read. Sure, we often search out reading material that is relevant to our experience or curiosity at the time, so we might come to the experience already expecting ~ or at least hoping ~ we will be enlightened, validated, or soothed on some level. And it is a gift when we find exactly what we are looking for ~ most of the time!

I believe many authors ~ especially in the world of self-help and spirituality ~ seek to serve others through their writing. In fact, I have read comments and heard interviews with well-known writers who have expressed their writing practice has first and foremost been a self-transformative process ~ one that may have begun without any consideration as to whether it would serve others or not.

The Creative Energy of Writing

Writing is a creative endeavor whether we are journaling our private thoughts, developing professional materials, or writing the next best seller in creative fiction. When writing engages us on a holistic level, it becomes a channel through which we can express our deepest musings and lay bare our souls.

As Service Providers, we are often engaged in a variety of writing activities. In the traditional sense, we write case notes and progress reports outlining the details of our engagement with the people we are serving. We may write program reviews and other more business-like materials as an element of our position. Whether providing service traditionally or alternatively, we may have opportunities to write for publication or research dissemination over the course of our careers. There are countless opportunities to express ourselves through the written word.

How we choose to do this with the energy to serve others is important. The words we choose, the dedication to writing clear observations as opposed to personal opinion, the desire to demonstrate respect for privacy and compassion for the individual who will read it are all aspects of how we serve others through our writing.

Journaling can be one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal as Service Providers ~ tools can not only provide a safe space for the venting of emotions and challenges, but also a tool that helps guide you to the deepest parts of who you are and how you show up in service to others.

Through creative writing, we can lose ourselves in a private world of fantasy and make-believe that may have some similarity to our real-life experiences. Through this practice, we can create our own alternative endings ~ the ones that light up our hearts and spark our inspiration.

Join Us

On this episode of Serving Consciously, I welcomed my guest, Joyce Sweeney.

Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her first novel, “Center Line”, won the First Annual Delacorte Press Prize for an Outstanding Young Adult Novel. Many of her books appear on the American Library Association’s Best Books List and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her novel “Shadow” won the Nevada State Reading Award in 1997. Her novel “Players” was chosen by Booklist as a Top Ten Sports Book and by Working Mother magazine as a Top Ten for Tweens. Her novel, “Headlock” (Holt 2006), won a Silver Medal in the 2006 Florida Book Awards and was chosen by the American Library Association as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.

Her first chapbook of poems, “IMPERMANENCE”, was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press. Her second chapbook, entitled “WAKE UP”, was released in February.

Joyce has also been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years, beginning with teaching five-week classes for the Florida Center for the Book, moving to ongoing invitation-only workshops and finally to online classes which reach students nationally and internationally. Developing strong bonds with the students, critiquing and instructing is her hallmark. She believes writers need emotional support as well as strong, craft-based teaching if they are to make the long, arduous, but very worthwhile journey to traditional publication. At this writing, 57 of Joyce’s students have successfully made this journey and obtained traditional publishing contracts.

In 2011, Joyce and a coalition of local playwrights, directors, and actors formed The Playgroup LLC, which conducts workshops for playwrights and actors and produces original works by local playwrights. The Playgroup currently presents three productions a year at their home base, The Willow Theatre in Boca Raton.

Joyce lives in Coral Springs with her husband, Jay and caffeine-addicted cat, Nitro. You can learn more about Joyce and her services on her website.

How has the service of writing touched your life?

Using Deliberate Practice to Improve Social Work Practice

Every field from sports and entertainment to science and politics include individuals who excel, those who are average and those that struggle. We all dream about being the top performer but it may not be obvious how we get there. If you’re familiar with the pop-psychology book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, you’ll know that he suggested 10,000 hours as the magic number for greatness. While that book de-emphasized some of the elements identified by researchers, there is a lot of research on how to be the best Social Worker you can be.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice, as defined by Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson (one of the foremost researchers in the topic of expertise) involves training or learning activities that are specifically designed to improve performance. Usually, that means having a coach or trainer who is a high-performer and working through an outcome-based curriculum to develop one’s skills. The “read it, watch it, do it” model of teaching counselling skills is one example of deliberate practice in action.

Applying Deliberate Practice to Social Work

In order to apply deliberate practice to social work, we must understand the current state of the field. Scott D. Miller and his organization, the International Center for Clinical Excellence (ICCE) has conducted research showing that much of the outcome in therapy sessions among different clinicians was the result of how much time they spent developing and refining their skills. This deliberate practice added up to 7 hours per week in the most effective clinicians and just 20 minutes per week in the least effective ones.

Clinical supervision is one opportunity to engage in deliberate practice, as is video or audio-taping your sessions (with client consent) in order to identify areas for improvement. Taking classes and other courses as part of a continuing competency program is also helpful – as long as you ensure you actually change your practice as a result of taking those classes.

Evaluation and Outcomes

In addition to engaging in deliberate practice, one must also regularly evaluate themselves to ensure they are really making progress. In the same way that we may administer a Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) tool to a client as they proceed throughout therapy, it is important that we evaluate ourselves.

The ICCE provides two tools for this purpose: the Session Rating Scale (SRS) and the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS). The SRS is used to assess the degree of therapeutic alliance (your client’s perception of their relationship with you), while the ORS allows the client to rate their level of functioning in order for the therapist to get a sense of their pre-session and post-session change.

Both the ORS and the SRS have been extensively researched. Clinicians using the ORS/SRS and engaging in deliberate practice have the opportunity to move from being an average therapist to being one of the “supershrinks” – the top 10% of performers that are known for being extremely effective with clients.

The reason this kind of evaluation is effective is because they have a true understanding from real-time data of what works and what doesn’t work in therapy with each individual client, a far cry from the generic tools used to evaluate therapy after it is completed or exit-interviews emailed or mailed to clients who have stopped showing up to sessions.

Conclusion

If you want to improve your social work practice, you can begin to put deliberate practice into use immediately. Add rating scales like the ORS/SRS to your therapy sessions. Go back to the basics and review the therapeutic modalities. Practice your empathy statements, and continue your professional development.

Busy Parenting: Spending Time With Kids Is About Quality Not Quantity

Social engagements, playdates, extra-circular activities, meal preps, homework, school drop off and pick up, bath’s, medical appointments, cleaning, washing clothes, work hours – parents face a lot of activity on a daily basis. It makes you wonder where that village is when you need it, right?

Most parents are utterly exhausted by the end of the day. Spare time on the weekends is often used to recoup and preparing to do it all again the next week. You may even try to practice self-care and soak your tired feet in some apple cider vinegar and have a glass of wine. And, it’s usually an even rarer treat if you find an unused minute on the calendar to spend one-on-one quality time with each of your children.

This conundrum of life demands conflicting with parenting desires causes many parents a tremendous amount of guilt and anxiety. As parents, we often wonder if we are spending enough time with our children to foster bonds and positive development. It turns out that it’s more about what you do than how often you do it.

Here are five ideas to help you achieve this quality time with your children:

Create Opportunity Within Everyday Activities That Already Exist

While it’s the quality, not quantity, of time that’s most important, you’ll find that the more time you share, the more opportunities will arise for that quality time. The most obvious opportunities are actually within the activities of daily living that occur each day.

We all have to eat meals, right? But, how often is that meal a grab and go your separate ways to the television or bedroom or spent with everyone on some electronic device? Seven days of meals where all family members sit down at a table without ANY distractions isn’t likely feasible for working families.

Set aside as many days as you can, making at least one night of the week family meal night at the table without electronics. Use this time to meaningfully communicate with each other and discuss the events of the day or week. Highs and Lows is a great game to play; each person tells what the best part of their day was (the high) and what the worst part was (low.)

Chores provide another opportunity for meaningful conversation as parents can team up with a child to wash dishes, fold laundry, do yard work, and such.

Even commutes can work as meaningful bonding time. As you take your child to and from activities and school, just turn the radio off and shut down electronics. Ask your child questions that aren’t a yes or no answer about wherever you’re headed.

Prepare A Meal Together

Plan ahead a day that you’ll do the meal. Give your child input on what’s to be cooked. Go to the grocery store together to acquire all the ingredients just for this special meal. Take the opportunity to teach your child about the ingredients and how to shop for them. Prepare and serve the meal together. Make them as much a part of the process as safely possible. It’s a fantastic opportunity to teach your child a life skill in cooking and make them feel productive and included through choice.

Plan Routine Special Outings For The Family

You can schedule these events routinely on your calendar as your budget allows, and it doesn’t always have to be something extravagant. It can be simple and inexpensive like a monthly trip to the park, zoo, or local museum where parents can directly engage with children about what he/she sees and take advantage of teaching and learning opportunities.

Maybe your child is a foodie? You can schedule a meal out to try new foods together. Talk about the culture behind the food and all the things you both liked and didn’t like afterward. Maybe your child likes sports. You can attend anything from a free youth game to a professional sporting event and have tons to talk about during and after the game.

Give Each Child A Date Night

Just as you would a spouse date night, schedule one night to take your child out to a place of his or her choosing. The two of you can get dressed up together and paint the town red. Write it huge on the calendar! Setting aside a day or night that’s just your child’s will strengthen your bond and make the child feel extra important, seen, and heard.

Create A Bedtime Ritual

You’re tired, but set aside 10-15 minutes each night to create a routine activity that you and your child will do every night before bedtime.

This can be as simple as reading one chapter in a book each night. You can set up a puzzle and commit to doing 10 pieces each night. Perhaps you want to say a prayer with your child or sing songs together. It can even be as simple as the two of you picking and laying out clothes for the next day.

Such rituals not only provide bonding moments, they also can help establish a healthy bedtime schedule that will serve to help your child’s concentration and immunity. Need more ideas? Author Karen Stephens, director of Illinois State University Child Care Center and instructor in child development for the ISU Family and Consumer Sciences Department, outlines some great ideas for establishing a bedtime routine in her article.

In closing, remember that these activities aren’t about how much money you spend on your child, how long the activity lasts, or where it takes place. It’s about the uninterrupted, undivided attention you give each child during each opportunity. It’s about having an open line of communication between you and the child. It’s about the substance behind the time, not the time itself. Challenge yourself to look for both and create these moments as often as you can.

Rekindle that Friendship and be Friends with your Spouse Again

Many courtships start because of attraction and lust, while genuine feelings and emotional intimacy in relationships grow over time. The passionate beginning of a relationship is filled with fireworks, but if you really want your marriage to last you and your partner need to be friends as well as lovers.

When you think about doing your favorite hobby or sharing a secret, do you think about doing these things with one of your girlfriends/the guys, or with your husband/wife?

Having a spouse as a best friend is something most partners dream about when looking for their soulmate. But, after many years of marriage, you may start to feel like you’re losing sight of the friendship you used to have.

If you want a long-lasting, healthy relationship, you need to learn how to bring friendship back in your marriage. We’re looking at 7 ways you can rekindle a friendship with your spouse.

  1. What Makes a Good Friend?

Before creating a deeper bond of friendship with your partner, you must consider what actually makes a good friend. Some common qualities people look for in friends include:

  • Having fun together
  • Showing support
  • Good communication skills
  • Shared interests
  • Ability to work as a team
  • Loyalty
  • Encouragement
  • Love
  • Enthusiasm
  • Shared Values
  • Forgiveness
  • Trustworthiness
  • Reliability

By narrowing down the most important qualities of friendship you will have a better idea of what areas you excel at and which areas you need to work on as a couple.

  1. Create Common Interests

It’s healthy to have separate hobbies and interests than your spouse. It’s what makes you unique. But, is there a point where separate hobbies become separate bedrooms?

As drastic as that sounds it drives home a strong point: relationships are about doing things with someone you love. This, of course, covers living together, sharing in your daily routines, as well as other naughty aspects of marriage. But, it also means sharing hobbies, passions, and interests.

Many couples enjoy taking classes together, be it language, cooking, or dance. Love rollercoasters? Why not get a season’s pass for a local amusement park, or head out to the local jazz club and spend a night of romance hearing some local musicians over a glass of wine?

You can help deepen your emotional intimacy in relationships by developing mutual interests with your spouse.

  1. Date Night

Have you heard enough about the importance of date night, yet? Well, here’s one more reminder. Date night can do wonders for couples communication, romance, friendship, and sexual chemistry in your marriage. If you aren’t making date night a regular part of your week, you ought to.

Scheduling a weekly date night is an excellent opportunity to work on communication, to express appreciation for one another, to woo one another, and to bring romance and friendship back together.

  1. Laugh Together

Want some romantic ideas that will deepen emotional intimacy in relationships? Laugh together! Studies show that laughter, as well as giving many health benefits, can also do wonders for your relationship.

In one study, 71 couples told the story of how they met. The couple’s laughter that occurred during the storytelling process was recorded and analyzed. The results show that the proportion of the time spent laughing simultaneously with their spouse was positively associated with the relationship quality and closeness.

Simply put: Laughing together makes for happier, closer relationships.

  1. Take an Interest in Each Other’s Passions

One of the main things that make couples friends as well as lovers is that they take an interest in each other’s passions, hobbies, and interests.

If your partner enjoys sports, why not sit down and watch a game with them or ask them to teach you about the sport? You can also attend a sporting event together or go out and play it yourself. Even if it isn’t your usual cup-of-tea, your spouse will appreciate that you took an interest in their passion.

And who knows, it may just be your new favorite hobby!

If your partner loves the water, schedule an aquatic activity together such as jet-skiing, surfing, or take scuba-diving classes as a couple. If your partner loves art, go to your local art museum. If they like outdoors, go hiking. Does your spouse love music? Learn an instrument so you can create your own musical duo.

Taking an interest in the things your partner is passionate about will make them feel special. It shows them that you both like and love them enough to spend your time doing the things they enjoy.

  1. Reminisce

Reminiscing is a fun way to spend your time together. You can look back fondly on how you met, what each of you felt during the courtship process. You can talk about your proposal or relive fantastically dirty times together. But most importantly, you can remember what it is that made you click in the first place.

Consider why you started pursuing one another. What were the common interests and hobbies that made you friends in the first place? Once you discover these you can make an effort to rekindle that friendship. Go back and recreate your first date or pick up an old shared-hobby that used to make you both happy.

  1. Be Nice

Some of the most romantic ideas are often the simplest. If you want to deepen your friendship with your spouse, be nice.

People often feel they can be more comfortable with their partners and therefore, do not use manners and niceties as much as they would when out in public or with someone new. But, why should you give your spouse less of your kindness than you would to the barista at your morning coffee house?

Don’t be overly critical of your spouse, cheer them on in their goals, compliment them, express appreciation, say “Please” and “Thank you”, and go out of your way to look for ways to be helpful, romantic, or loving to them.

Remember how excited you use to be knowing that you got to spend the rest of your life with your best friend? Don’t let that fire go out. By changing your perception, working on communicating, creating a weekly date night, and taking an interest in each other’s hobbies you can make your partner your best friend.

Eight Characteristics of the Effective Person

With increasing numbers of people being glued to their electronic devices, it is more important than ever that individuals focus on their interpersonal skills so that they can effectively interact with others when they do have a “real” encounter.

The importance of effective communication has been shown to be critical and has been researched over the years, with some qualities being shown to be particularly important. Based on a wealth of research, the following offers eight qualities which seem to be particularly important in developing successful relationships.

Empathy.

The ability to “get into the shoes” of another is probably the most important quality for building and maintaining healthy relationships. This selfless process builds trust by showing others that one is willing to place oneself second to the concerns of another and allows the listener to understand why others act the way they do. Those who are empathic are able to build strong, authentic, and lasting relationships.

Although all of us have the ability to be empathic, those who were brought up in nurturing relationships which fostered an understanding of others will have an easier time putting aside their agendas and be able to hear others. However, with effort, all of us can become better listeners.

Realness.

Although we often don’t like to admit it, we almost always can tell when people are not being real with us. It’s demonstrated by the way they look at us, talk to us, and behave with us. And, when a person is not real with another, the relationship cannot grow and deepen. Only genuine, transparent relationships can have the depth and breathe that develop mutual sharing at deep levels. Realness takes intentionality—a concerted effort at being genuine with the other person. Such conversations are often not easy, but they bring an intensity and honesty to relationships that are a cornerstone of positive mental health.

Acceptance.

Humans develop intricate webs of reality that make sense to them, but not always to others who observe their behaviors. Acceptance is acknowledging the fact that one may not understand the thoughts and behaviors of another, yet knowing that within the other person’s world, his or her thoughts and actions make sense. This knowledge allows one to be empathic and nonjudgmental, despite sometimes disagreeing with what others have done. Such acceptance builds strong, lasting relationships that can develop into mutually empathic and real relationships.

Cross-Cultural Sensitivity.

When individuals have regard for others and are empathic with others, they are naturally cross-culturally sensitive. But cross-cultural sensitivity goes beyond empathy and acceptance, as it also means actively wanting to know about the culture of others. The gaining of such knowledge, whether by asking others about their cultures or discovering about others’ cultures through various resources, allows one to understand individuals more fully. This deeper understanding of another acknowledges an individual’s unique way of living in the world and how that way is associated with the individual’s unique and vibrant culture.

Competence.

Being good at something, whatever it is, helps us feel good about ourselves and builds our self-esteem. Whether it’s academics, sports, cooking, or an obscure hobby, feeling competent helps us believe in ourselves and generally results in a constructive attitude toward life and others. Each of us has unique abilities and qualities, and understanding how those can be used to build self-efficacy is critical if we are going to feel good about ourselves and positively impact others.

Embracing Our Spirituality or Meaningfulness.

Why are we here? What is the meaning of our existence? Why do we do what we do in the world? If we live without a sense of our spirituality or meaningfulness, we will haphazardly live in the world as we have no reason or philosophy that drives us. Lack of a core meaning-making system results in narcissistic and selfish recklessness as individuals make decisions without reflecting on their core philosophical assumptions. Beliefs that drive a positive personal meaning making system, whether religiously-based or founded on some well-thought out philosophy, are always rooted in the Golden Rule—Do unto others as you might want others to do unto you.

Knowing Our “It Factor”—Being Ourselves.

Each of us has a unique way of thinking, acting, and being in the world, but not all of us readily embrace our individuality. Being ourselves means that we are willing to take risks with others—say what we really think, act like we really want to act, and be who we really are. Of course, in a civilized world we cannot do everything we think, feel, and want to do, but we can acknowledge to ourselves all aspects of self, and, in healthy ways, strive to fully be ourselves.

Social Sense.

Because our existence relies on living with civility in what can sometimes be a pretty chaotic world, it is important that each of us understand, be aware, and act in ways that are sensitive to others and the communities in which we live. This manner of co-existence allows us to live with a sense of safety and love as we strive to be ourselves while simultaneously acknowledging and monitoring how we impact others. Like the ripples in a lake that follow after a stone is thrown into it, a social sense means that we have a keen awareness that each action we take affects all others.

These eight characteristics seem to be critical in developing strong, effective relationships—whether it be with a friend, significant other, or colleague. However, one should keep in mind that relationships take work and knowing these qualities will do little if one does not practice them.

Most importantly, each of us should be intentionally empathic, real, accepting, cross-culturally sensitive, competent, have a sense of meaning, embrace our “it factor, and have a social sense if we are to get along with others and have a more peaceful and loving world.

Colin Kaepernick and How Self Care Must Go Pro

For years, permanently injured players have been left to figure out how they will financially support their families and how they will carry on with their lives after committing years to football. Currently, the NFL is settling numerous lawsuits from former players who claim that their disabilities resulted from injuries on the field. But that’s not the only controversy stirring in the NFL.

In Fall of 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem. At the time, many believed the media would quickly move on to another more trendy story. Afterall, he wasn’t chanting or picketing. He was simply kneeling. But as weeks passed, white anger slowly unveiled itself, and patriotism took the main stage. Critics saw Kaepernick’s quiet gesture as a radical protest. Yet, he still knelt game after game.

Kaepernick proved his physical ability early in his professional career by leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013. At that time the public didn’t know that Kaepernick had a metal rod placed in his left leg prior to his rookie year. Still, he attended and did well in practices. But in 2015, he injured his left shoulder and would later report injuries to his thumb and knee.

Working with such disabilities would prove challenging to most people, particularly for professional athletes who are required to demonstrate physical grit day after day. When Kaepernick’s scoring record took a hit, questions arose as to whether he was worth his contract. But Kaepernick saw himself as more than just damaged goods. He had something else to offer: a perspective on the value of black lives in America.

By kneeling, Kaepernick demonstrated ownership of his body, a black body that has been endangered for a time that is too long to measure. That is a radical act of self-care. The concept of self-care, for a long time, was viewed as a luxury accessible to an elite few. And, self-care is publicly declaring that your life matters beyond what your performance on the football field.

In a recent interview, Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy said he thinks that Kaepernick was released because he’s not a great player, not because he didn’t stand for the anthem. He added that from the perspective of a team owner, Kaepernick isn’t worth the distraction if he can’t play well. However, star quarterbacks Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton came out in support of Kaepernick. Both stated he should be starting in the NFL, but he isn’t due to his protest of the national anthem.

I’d argue that even when athletes play well, there is a general discomfort with them expressing resistance to racism. They usually are told to stick to the game, proving once again that a working, non-resistant black body is most favorable (and profitable) in this society.

The NFL has a longstanding history of utilizing bodies for financial gain, in particular, black bodies. It is a marketplace for bodies. Bodies that can be negotiated and sold and traded in the name of increasing revenue. I hear sports fans say often that certain teams don’t win because the owners ‘don’t want to spend the money’. However, Kaepernick was recently released from his contract, something for which he seemed prepared.

According to the New York Times, NFL players are becoming permanently disabled after suffering head traumas. Those injuries have caused concussions, dementia, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Now, some players’ wives have created at least one space, in the form of a private Facebook group, where they share their experiences and gain strength from each other as they become caregivers and advocates for men who once were larger than life. I believe that this generation of athletes will begin to demand more than money for play. They will demand the right to safety and self-care, and they will begin to plan for their legacies and quality of life off the field.

Athletes are human and imperfect. For many, they are heroes which must be a compliment, but it must also be a lot of pressure. This next generation of athletes will need to employ a high degree of self-care if they want to have a productive career and higher quality life after retirement.

Athletes inspire us because of their consistency and their unmatched desire to win. I’ve never met an athlete who thought second place was good enough. They want to be the best. Their drive is a metaphor for how many of us want to live our best lives.

Anxiety in Children: How Can You Help?

Mental health issues amongst children are becoming more and more common, and this is a trend that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. If you’re a parent or caregiver, it’s a good idea to become familiar with signs of mental ill-health, and think about how you might be able to help.

The first step is to recognize the symptoms. While small experiences of anxiety are a natural part of life, it’s important to recognize when it’s becoming more prevalent, and when it’s having a negative impact on a child. Symptoms might include an irrational and ongoing sense of worry, an inability to relax, general uneasiness and irritability, as well as difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating or sudden, unprovoked feelings of panic. Anxiety and depression are not always obvious in children and symptoms can vary significantly depending on the child. Because of this, it’s really important to involve professional medical help if you’re worried about someone in your care.

The second step is to work out if and how to talk about it. Simply letting them know you care can make a big difference. You might like to share a story about times you’ve experienced anxiety. This can be an avenue into a discussion around anxiety, and can provide an opportunity to ask if they have similar worries.

If you’re going to try to help a child with anxiety, there are a few key things to avoid as they can end up being accidentally unhelpful. Avoid phrases like ‘just relax’, or ‘calm down’ as they can escalate the feelings of anxiety and make the child feel like they are doing something wrong. Also consider and be aware of situations that might exacerbate your child’s anxiousness, for example being in loud, crowded places could evoke feelings of uneasiness or panic. It’s important that you can find the balance between understanding and supporting what your child might be going through and acting as a self-assigned counsellor – don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need to.

The next thing you can think about is how to empower your child to deal with particular triggers. For example, if your child is feeling anxious about a certain event – an exam, public speaking at school, or an upcoming sports game, you may be able to talk with them about whether you can help them to practice or prepare in a way that they might find helpful.

Perhaps practicing a speech in front of you could help them to pinpoint what it is about the experience that’s making them feel anxious. You can’t promise that they’ll ace their presentation or win their sports day, but you can help them practice what they’re concerned about and provide them with tools to manage the anxiety they may feel in these situations. You don’t want to create further anxiety-inducing situations though, so make sure your child is happy to try this out, and mix it up with fun activities too. Revisiting things that they are familiar with and good at can help to develop a sense of capability and foster self-esteem.

When dealing with anxiety, this three-step breathing exercise can be used as a tool to interrupt anxiety as it builds, and it is something you can practice together.

  • Step 1: When you feel tension and anxiety building, stop and close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath in through your nose for 6 seconds.
  • Step 2: Hold it for 2 seconds, then slowly breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds.
  • Step 3: Repeat this as many times as necessary, gently bringing your focus back to the breath.

If you’re worried about your child, or someone close to you, it’s important to get the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Anxiety and depression are illnesses that often benefit from a range of treatment options, and often professional support is key to management and recovery.

How Massage Can Relieve Workplace Pain And Stress

Massages are not only limited to luxury spas and health clubs. You have access to massage therapy in clinics, hospitals, and even airports. Some business centers like Google offer massages to their employees at work, so they remain energetic and fresh to perform efficiently and add to the progress of the company. Massage can do much more than relieving pains and soothe sore muscles. It is only a matter of understanding that massage therapy is just like a moment of relaxation and enhance the overall physical and emotional well-being. There are different types of massage therapies; such as:

  • Shiatsu massage therapy
  • Trigger point massage therapy
  • Swedish massage therapy
  • Deep massage therapy
  • Sports massage therapy

All of these therapies are based on different theories and are done using different techniques. But, all of them are effective and have long lasting effects.

When you are at work and have to sit in a cramped office chair with a bright computer screen at the front, you get tired and stressed. Employees with more workload have more chances to get stressed and have adverse effects on their health, but people with lesser work are prone to stress as much as the others. Remaining restricted to your work area makes you vulnerable to back, neck and shoulder pain. However, massage therapy can help you relieve all the pressure, aches, pain and stress. There are a lot of researches going on to examine the impact of massage therapy as an intervention for health care. Following are a few issues that are faced by people while they are at work; we will tell you how massage can be helpful in treating them.

Carpel tunnel syndrome

When you are sitting in one posture for long hours and continuously typing on keyboard along with operating the mouse, you are most likely to suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome. It is a musculoskeletal injury where your body’s movements are affected due to bad posture or excessive movement of one part of the body. More than a million American employees have to call in sick at work due to work-related injuries and stress. People are advised to have weekly massage therapy to deal with inflammatory injuries and discomfort.

Reduce anxiety

Swedish massage therapy is well known to be the most effective in dealing with anxiety and depression. Shorter deadlines and urgent presentations increase anxiety leading to depression in employees. According to medical science, when an individual is under stress, he is unable to perform the way he could have performed otherwise. Moreover, it is diagnosed that male workers suffer from higher intensities of depression as compared to female workers.

Blood pressure

Blood pressure was only common in the age group of 45 and above, but with the increased work and social pressures, people of younger age groups are also suffering from high blood pressure. Trigger point massage and chair massage, both are helpful in dealing with blood pressure problems. Some workplaces have massage chairs for their employees, and each employee is advised to have a 15-minute massage break each day so they can take care of their blood pressure.

Massages decrease the heart rate along with systolic and diastolic blood pressure. When the blood pressure is within a normal range, there are lesser chances of getting prone to heart issues and nervous breakdown. Individuals that opt for weekly massage sessions are reported to have a better mental state in comparison to the people who do not go for regular massages.

Massages are beneficial for everyone; irrespective of age and gender. However, there are a few things you must tell your massage therapist so he can guide you likewise and opt for an appropriate technique. Some of the major points you must discuss with your therapist are:

  • If you have or had any fractures
  • If you are on blood thinners
  • In case you have any bleeding disorders
  • If you have any deep vein thrombosis
  • In case there are any healing wounds
  • If you are a patient of thrombocytopenia
  • If you are suffering from osteoporosis

Just like you don’t hide anything from your medical health practitioner, you do not have to hide anything from your massage therapist as well.

Massage therapies are known to have a positive impact on the physical, mental and emotional state of an individual. Massages improve the blood circulation and relieve the stress that your body takes by being in the same posture for long hours at work. An employer’s life is very complicated; he has to be efficient at work and make time for his family and friends as well. Having a massage once in a while can improve his health condition and keep him fresh and energetic to meet the social and personal requirements.

Self-Care Is Easy To Fit In A Busy Schedule

Zumba Class

Every day when you wake up, you have to face the world again. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can seem never-ending from getting your kids ready for school, getting off to work, meeting deadlines or staying late, picking up your children from school, PTA’s, and extra curricular activities. Not to mention playing Superman or Superwoman at work in an effort to guide your client as they battle day-to-day difficulties.

When you finally get home tired with aching muscles, dinner still needs to be made, kids still need help with their homework, or maybe you have noisy roommates who have friends over, perfect timing Jack and Jill. Your days are like a busy highway, and you need some time where your highway has less congestion even if it is just for a few hours.

Self-care seems impossible at times with so many work and family responsibilities in our every day lives. It seems more and more people are balancing family, career, school and/or another part-time job which leaves very limited to no time to take care of themselves. Without self-care, the outcome will only result in burnout and total exhaustion. This can be avoided, but why is it so hard to fit self-care into our schedule?

According to a Huffington Post article, “Self-care refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short and longer term health and well-being.”  It’s important to understand that self-care is not always taking a vacation to a tropical island or taking a week cruise. Self-care can be simple everyday activities which can help you maintain a healthy work life balance, and here are few self-care ideas you may have never thought about:

Sleep

During the night-time our bodies need sleep, and while we are sleeping our bodies recover from being tired.  When we are tired, our body does not function as well as it should, and our mood appears different from our normal usual self. Lack of sleep can cause us to feel overworked, moody, sluggish, angry, stressed and forgetful. I recommend going to bed early three nights a week for at least 8 hours of sleep, and you will begin to feel better. Of course, there is the second option called power napping.

Exercise

I am quite sure many of you did not think of exercise as a form of self-care rather mostly to enhance appearance. However, many people go for walks, jogs, meditation and the big one known as the gym in order to help alleviate stress. You are not obligated to exercise every day, but at least three days minimum a week, although five days sounds better.  Don’t forget, you can always take a Zumba, dance or soul cycle class or two. Exercise can be your outlet to release stress.

Art

Another great way to spend quality self-care is to paint a room in your house or apartment or attend a wine and painting events. Remember, there is always the museum where the prices are right, also known as free entry.

Dinner and drinks

Book your reservation or simply grab dinner with a group of friends, or significant other at home. Play trivia night, do taco Tuesday’s at home, have a wine night with the girls, sports night with the boys or even have a mixed crowd for an evening of cooking and wine. Dinner and drinks are so easy to arrange, and it is a great way to spend time with friends or a companion with laughter and socializing.

Book a flight or cruise

OK, now you are to take a flight to the destination you have been dreaming about all year, take a cruise on the Atlantic or do both if you can afford it.  Take a break from the hustle and bustle of work and your city, and enjoy the warm weather and sandy beaches of Jamaica, the history of Cuba, skiing in Switzerland, and the delicious foods Italy has to offer.  You can go anywhere in the world that your heart desires, or maybe take a drive.

But, start giving yourself some care.

Researchers: The Land of Those Far Removed or Agents Of Change?

After 25 years of experience as a grassroots social worker in community development and mental health, I admit the world of academia seemed a million miles away. My idea of researchers were quiet folk with little idea of reality beyond the protected walls of their offices and the myriad of textbooks on their bookshelves. Often, I avoided conference presentations by researchers as they tended to lull me into some sort of a semi-sleep state that made it difficult to keep up the “interested” façade.

Reading their articles in academic journals usually meant skimming through pages of previous study references, methodology implications and strange graphs with abbreviations I couldn’t understand – when all I wanted to know was how their research related to grassroots work and what their findings and recommendations were.

There was also this kind of snobbery, where academics were considered to think of themselves as more “worthy”, “all knowing” or “the experts” in the helping profession fields – more so than those working on the front line. In fairness, this culture may well have developed out of the fact that in most of our helping profession courses, the academics are the teachers – and therefore more “knowing” than the rest of us. This perception is maintained by use of academic jargon, particularly at conferences which invite a mix of grassroots workers and academics. There’s an “us and them” divide.

So, there you have it, my previous perception of what I used to cynically call “academia land”- the land of those far removed from reality, speaking their own language and credibility reliant on the number of published journals. Then there was me: on the ground, plain speak and published only in publications which don’t fit academic guidelines.

At this point, many of my colleagues will be heard saying “at last, someone is writing what I’ve been thinking and saying behind closed doors for years: ”what makes these researchers think they know more than we who are working with these individuals/groups/communities on a daily basis?”

Wait for it…today, I bow my head in shame at having believed these stereotypes for so many years. Instead, I stand and salute researchers for their passion, determination, tenacity and endless patience. I was wrong. And if you believe, like I once did, that researchers are snobby academia nerds, please read on.

My first hint that academics might actually do more than read and write was meeting Dr Jonathon Hutchinson. Jonathon was involved in a project called ABC Pool, a semi-experimental online site which was driven by user generated content and encouraged users to “mash” their creative works. I was one of the users. Art, photography, sound production, poetry and video were just some of the mediums used. The site was closed down in 2012, but interestingly many of the core participants remain connected, albeit informally, to this day. The ongoing connection is partly due to Jonathon’s ability to negotiate effectively between users and management. He translated corporate and academic language and rationale into “plain speak”.

More recently, my partner and I connected with a team of researchers at the Black Dog Institute in NSW Australia. We had been running a preventative mental health program for emergency services, and it needed to be evaluated. Thanks to a Kickstarter grant from Black Dog Institute and the support of Department of Fire and Emergency Services in Western Australia, a pilot evaluation was made possible.

Getting ready to meet the research team at the Black Dog Institute in NSW Australia, we didn’t really know what to expect. My partner, as a firefighter with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) utilising his lived experience as part of the program wasn’t used to dealing with academia world. So together we imagined beige suits and skirts.  And the beige conversation to match. How would these very serious statistics oriented people gain a true perspective of our target audience? First responders are people with diverse personalities who are no nonsense, down to earth and renowned for their cynicism of anyone known as an academic.

All we could do was hope that someone in there would at least have a sense of humour. And pray we would not have to endure one of those conference type sessions with loads of inexplicable numbers and facts. Dozing off would not be an option for this much smaller meeting space.

If you can imagine a movie you’ve been watching in silent black and white slowly changing to colour with the addition of a soundtrack, you’re experiencing the contrast between what we thought we’d encounter, to the reality. Sounds dramatic, but let’s face it, changes in belief systems can often feel that way.

First and foremost, the whole group was passionately interested. There was a palpable energy in the room. Notably, not one textbook was seen! The only beige was the table, there were no suits and any preconceived notions of snobbery were instantly dispelled by smiles, friendly handshakes and genuine enquiries about our work to date. Later in the meeting, they each explained some of the research projects they had worked on.

Dr Simon Rosenbaum, an exercise physiologist who had conducted a world first study into exercise and PTSD. To do this, he spent months with veterans diagnosed with chronic PTSD in a rehabilitation setting, having countless conversations with them as they exercised. The conversations are research oriented as opposed to therapeutic but engagement and maintaining rapport are part of the job. This is no textbook or office based work. This is on the ground, face to face work that has taken Dr Rosenbaum to countries around the world where he inspires other cultures to consider the benefits of exercise on mental health.

Professor Katherine Boydell is a world renowned qualitative researcher who uses the creative arts as a research method and an innovative way to display the results of studies.  A fascinating area of research which has led to interactive events such as a body mapping exhibition at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts. No jargon here, it’s all about disseminating information in creative ways which the general public can understand and have the opportunity to engage with.

Associate Professor Phil Ward, clinical neuroscientist and lecturer. Forget the suits, Phil has that peaceful energy reminiscent of the hippy era which belies his scientific genius and academic repertoire. His studies have taken him around the world where he is never content with mere observation, choosing instead to fully experience the culture within which the studies take place. Cooking porridge for children in Uganda is just one example of many which contradicts stereotypical beliefs about researchers.

Dr Andrea Fogarty has been involved in studying men’s mental health for years, a challenge for any woman, but moreso one labelled an “academic”. Venturing into some of the more male dominated realms such as sports and frontline emergency services, Andrea’s ability to engender trust and facilitate open conversations about mental health as the only female in a group of men is second to none. There’s no academic snobbery here, just down to earth, genuine care and a burning desire to find out what will improve the mental health of men.

Professor Zachary Steele, one of the key contributors to the Expert Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Emergency Service Workers could very well be dubbed a typical academic judging by his international acclaim for innovative work on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. What people forget is that behind all this academic knowledge is more than 20 years of insight based on face to face practice with sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Real life, on the ground experience.  And his demeanour reflects that. A genuine, calming presence with the occasional twist of humour served to lighten the load of academic responsibility.

These are just some of the people we as “on the ground” practitioners all too often casually dismiss as academics who sit in their silo offices reading textbooks.  The responsibility these researchers have is enormous. We in the helping professions rely on them for vital objective evidence that strategies we use for our clients are safe and effective. The work they do is tedious, time consuming and often frustrating. Patience and precision are consistently required.

As a helping professional, you may have times when improved outcomes for your client are either unseen or frustratingly slow. In a world of repeated trials, peer reviewed journal articles and the enormous time lag between research and translation into action, spare a thought for those who are genuinely and actively working towards positive changes and solutions from a macro perspective. It is their work which will bring your clients’ needs to the attention of those in influence. They are as much advocates for change as you, the practitioner – they just do it from a different perspective.

So please – join me in discarding the old judgement of researchers being from the land of the far removed and embrace a generation of energetic, innovative researchers who genuinely connect with the real world.

Three Myths about Latino Immigrants That It’s Time to Bust

Photo by Monivette Cordeiro

As a counseling professor, I train my students to ask their clients: “If you succeed in making the changes we’re talking about, what will be better?” So I have to ask: Has the President thought through the consequences of his actions on immigration?

America was built on positives. We didn’t become great by preventing, arresting, and deporting. Why does the President want us to return to a past we never had? Is it even possible to build something great while focusing on tearing down or walling off?

I’ve conducted more than two decades of research on population studies, and here’s what I can tell you about Latino stereotypes: It’s time to get rid of them. The fact is, immigration is at the core of America’s greatness, and Latinos are very much a part of that greatness.

Here are some of the key facts from analyses of Census data that I’ve done with my colleague Jorge Garcia and from other sources:

First, Latinos do share our culture and do adapt.

The wall-builders say that “Latinos don’t share our culture and won’t adapt — they just aren’t like us.” But in the past, some Americans said the same thing about each wave of Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants.

Research shows that after three generations of being here, Latinos look remarkably similar to those previous immigrant groups. (Of course, most Latinos in the US aren’t immigrants but have been here for many generations – much longer than many other groups.)

Like Americans in general, Latinos are more likely to live in big cities and are more likely to be married. Like earlier generations of immigrants from Europe, they have a preference for coastal cities and their families are slightly bigger than average.

Latinos are on average younger. However, that’s a big benefit for a US population that would otherwise find it much more difficult to grow the economy and pay for programs like Social Security that are based on younger people funding older people.

Second, Latinos are not criminals.

Several studies have failed to show any relationship between immigrant presence and increased crime rates. In fact, a recent study showed that areas with the most immigrants have lower crime rates. It’s important to remember that to be here without documents is a civil violation not a crime; think of it as the equivalent of traffic tickets.

Third, Latinos are not taking your jobs.

The biggest difference between Latinos and the total US population is in their types of occupations. In both 2000 and 2010, the majority of Americans overall were employed in managerial and sales jobs. For Latinos, the majority were employed in either low-level white collar or blue collar occupations, both skilled and unskilled. So, are they taking our jobs? Not as long as these types of occupational differences persist. And yesterday’s Day Without Immigrants protest is a prime example of this fact.

When Latinos do what other immigrants did and become more educated, they’ll move up and start taking some of those white collar jobs. And that will be a very good thing for America, because we’re already looking at huge shortages of educated people as the baby boomers retire.

Are Latinos a drain on our society because they use social services? They do use services, but also contribute significantly to the tax base that pays for those services.

Other Americans, for example those in rust belt states with aging populations, use a lot more services than Latinos, and already are benefiting from younger people supporting the tax base.

Sadly, Latinos who are undocumented, provide an especially big boost to the economy – they pay the taxes but aren’t eligible for benefits. These aren’t the only myths about Latinos. Language acquisition? Same as previous immigrants. Educational attainment? If Latinos get to college they tend to major in similar disciplines as the rest of the country. Military service? Latinos have a long tradition of serving in the US military.

Even the causes of death are similar for the total US population as for Latinos – both die from the same top diseases: heart disease and cancer. Many Latinos, especially in border areas, have retained the ability to speak Spanish. But English is their primary language and American culture –from sports to movies – is the only one they know or care about.

Begging the question of whether it’s possible to build greatness by tearing things down, the obvious conclusion is that Latinos are more like other Americans than they are different. Let’s build relationships and not walls.

Super Bowl Champ Roland Williams Mentors Kids to Eat More Veggies on Meatless Monday

NEW YORK — For Super Bowl champ Roland Williams aka Big Ro (Super Bowl XXXIV champ St. Louis Rams over Tennessee Titans in 2000), inspiring disadvantaged children to move from fast food to plant food is a labor of love. Roland, a graduate of Syracuse University, founded The Champion Academy, an innovative mentoring program for at-risk middle and high school students in greater Rochester, NY. Roland is an advocate for Meatless Monday.

Meatless Monday encourages the public to cut back on meat consumption one day a week to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, and lessen the environmental impact of meat production on climate change, water and land use.

The campaign is founded on research that demonstrates Monday is the day we are most primed to start and sustain a healthy new behavior. Since its launch 13 years ago, Meatless Monday has become an international movement in more than 40 countries with support from governments, schools, celebrities, restaurants, and local and global organizations around the world.

Roland wrote this open letter to encourage everyone to be a team player after Super Bowl Sunday by participating in Meatless Monday, a global movement to find innovative ways to make meatless and vegetarian dishes part of our everyday culture, customs and cuisine.

Open Letter

“Super Monday”: The New Best Way to Celebrate The Big Game
By Roland Williams, NFL Super Bowl Champion

As we draw one day closer to Super Bowl LI, I can’t help but to smile.

This past NFL season has been such a joy to watch. All the unexpected twists and turns. The re-emergence of the Cowboys and Raiders. The high-powered Falcon offense. The grit and determination of the Patriots. I even enjoyed watching the massive disappointments of 2016. As I type this letter, I’m still scratching my head about the Cardinals, Bengals, Broncos and Panthers this season.

But now, we are on to the main event.

The entire NFL season comes down to two teams. As a true fan of football, it doesn’t even matter that I have no vested interest in either team winning this year. Yep, it doesn’t get any better than this. I can’t wait to enjoy the entire day from the pregame to post-game confetti.

But this year, when the game is over and I’ve seen my fair share of post-game coverage, I am asking that you join me in two of the biggest games of them all; your health and our environment.

On Monday after the big game, be a team player by participating in Meatless Monday, a global movement to find innovative ways to make meatless and vegetarian dishes part of our everyday culture, customs and cuisine. For those unaware, it has been scientifically proven that skipping meat at least one day a week is beneficial for our health and the environment.

This past year, I’ve been doing it weekly with my three young sons and they love it! Then a few months ago, I went crazy. I joined forces with Celebrity Chef Danny Boome and local artist Michelle Cardulla and incorporated Meatless Monday into my favorite charity, http://www.ChampionAcademyRoc.org.

I’m telling you, this is a movement that deserves your attention. If you still need a few reasons why you should add this into your life, take a look at . You can thank me later.

Enjoy the game!

Roland Williams
NFL Super Bowl Champion
Meatless Monday Supporter

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit public health initiative founded by Sid Lerner, chairman of The Monday Campaigns. The initiative is in association with the Lerner Centers for Public Health Promotion at Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse universities.

Exit mobile version