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Self-Care Strategies for Families

Empower Mental Wellbeing With These Family-Centered Self-Care Solutions

In an era where the hustle of daily life often overshadows our well-being, prioritizing mental and physical health within the family unit is essential. Embracing a lifestyle that incorporates physical activity and informed food choices can significantly enhance the mental wellbeing and overall health of each family member. This comprehensive guide explores practical strategies for families to foster an environment conducive to health, happiness, and strong familial bonds. 

Creating a Peaceful Home Environment 

Decluttering and smart storage in living areas not only organize the space but also clear the mind, fostering a calm environment vital for mental health. This practice reveals the deep link between our environment and mental state, showing how orderliness can uplift our thoughts and feelings, and it’s easy to get the kids involved when working on areas such as playrooms or the den. A neat space, along with healthy eating and regular physical activity, plays a key role in improving overall health and emotional balance for everyone in the family. 

Choosing Nutritious Snacks

Opting for nutritious snacks over processed ones helps regulate hunger and maintain energy, underlining the importance of informed food choices for both mental and physical health. This choice highlights how diet impacts our overall well-being, connecting what we eat with how we think and feel. It underscores the vital role of dietary habits in shaping our cognitive and emotional states, affirming the link between physical and mental wellness. 

Choosing Nutritious Snacks
Fostering Open Communication 

Carving out weekly moments for family meetings fosters a nurturing environment where members can express their needs and emotions and plan collectively, reinforcing the bonds of understanding and mutual care. These sessions are vital for acknowledging each person's needs, significantly uplifting the group's emotional health. Integrating conversations about nutritious eating and the benefits of physical activity into these gatherings enriches family wellness, laying the foundation for a holistic approach to well-being. 

Encouraging Family Fitness 

Incorporating shared physical activities such as evening strolls, bike rides, or yoga into daily routines is crucial for boosting both physical and mental wellness. This strategy illuminates the profound influence of exercise on our mental and emotional well-being, emphasizing its importance in cultivating a healthier lifestyle. 

Embracing these activities, along with making informed food choices, enables families to significantly enhance their overall health.

Engaging in Collaborative Meal Prep 

Involving the entire family in meal planning and cooking highlights the benefits of nutritious eating and turns meals into engaging, awaited experiences. This united effort boosts understanding of healthy eating's impact on overall health. It exemplifies how mindful food choices and physical activity enrich our mental state and well-being while integrating real-life learning moments, making mealtime a chance for both education and connection. 

Setting Tech-Free Zones
Setting Tech-Free Zones 

Establishing technology-free zones encourages face-to-face interaction and engagement in physical activities, strengthening family ties. This initiative supports mental well-being by facilitating meaningful communication outside of digital distractions. It underscores the significance of personal connections and emphasizes the holistic advantages of incorporating these practices into our everyday routines.

 Exploring Shared Interests 

Exploring shared hobbies such as gardening or hiking fosters unity and creativity within the family. These joint activities promote collaboration and mutual support, contributing to overall family well-being. Not only that, but depending on the activity, you might be able to use these interests as a way to get the kids outdoors for some exercise. 

Practicing Mindfulness Together 

Simple mindfulness practices like deep breathing, meditation, or gratitude journaling are essential for stress management and emotional well-being. They offer a peaceful retreat from daily challenges, strengthening the family's resilience and composure in facing adversity. By embracing these techniques together, families can cultivate a shared sense of emotional well-being, navigating life's obstacles with stability and harmony. 

The journey towards mental wellbeing is a shared endeavor that requires the active participation of each family member. By adopting these strategies, families not only improve their physical and mental health but also reinforce their bonds, paving the way for a more fulfilled and health-conscious existence. This guide serves as a foundation for families to embark on a journey towards a lifestyle where wellbeing is not just an aspiration but a daily reality. 

Acenda Integrated Health offers a variety of services for families, from crisis support to mental health care. Reach out today to learn more.

Guest Author Bio

Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression.  A single mom, she writes about the ups and downs of her mental illness on SpiritFinder.org The blog serves as both a source of information for people with mental illness and a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can come together to discuss their experiences

Sources

https://cleanerdigs.com

https://www.zenbusiness.com

http://www.beactivekids.org

https://www.eatright.org

https://www.notquitezen.co

Healthy Habits for a Healthier You

National Women's Health Week is a time to prioritize your well-being. But let's be honest, busy lives often push health to the back burner. This week is your chance to refocus and adopt simple habits that can last a lifetime.

1. Schedule Regular Checkups:

Don't wait until you feel unwell. Regular checkups with your doctor are crucial for catching health problems early and maintaining optimal health. These visits allow doctors to assess various aspects of your health, including reproductive health, heart health, and overall wellness.

They can also discuss family history, lifestyle factors, and any concerns you may have. Early detection of issues like high blood pressure or abnormal cells can significantly improve treatment outcomes.

If cost or access to healthcare is a concern, explore free or low-cost clinics or financial assistance programs. Remember, preventive care often falls under insurance coverage, so check with your provider. Scheduling a well-woman visit is one of the best things a woman can do for her health. It's an opportunity to take proactive steps toward preventing illness, detecting problems early, and promoting overall wellness.

2. Embrace Healthy Eating:

Nutrition is key! Make fruits and vegetables your allies this season. They're packed with essential nutrients and delicious.

Follow the principles of Myplate.gov by aiming for a balanced diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Include a variety of colors on your plate to ensure a well-rounded intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Salads, stir-fries, and smoothies are creative ways to incorporate more greens into your diet. Snack on sliced veggies with hummus or add fresh berries to your morning cereal.

Woman Eating Healthy

Be mindful of added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats often found in processed foods. These can contribute to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Focus on whole, unprocessed foods and maintain proper portion sizes.

While occasional drinks are okay, excessive alcohol consumption can harm your health. Women are advised to limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day. Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of liver disease, breast cancer, and other serious health conditions. Remember, healthy eating isn't about deprivation; it's about nourishing your body for optimal health.

3. Prioritize Safety:

Safety is paramount for overall well-being. Here are key practices:

Quit Smoking: Smoking is a leading cause of preventable death. If you smoke or vape, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health. Nicotine can “worsen anxiety symptoms and intensify feelings of depression”. Talk to your doctor about resources and support to help you quit for good.

Wear Your Seatbelt: This simple act can save your life in the event of a crash. Make it a habit to buckle up every time you get in a car.

Avoid Texting and Driving: Distracted driving is dangerous. Keep your phone out of reach while driving and wait until you've reached your destination to respond to messages.

Be proactive about your safety. Wear appropriate gear during physical activities and sunscreen outdoors. By being vigilant, you can minimize risks and enjoy greater peace of mind.

4. Nurture Your Mental Health:

Mental health is just as important as physical health. National Women's Health Week is a perfect time to explore self-care strategies:

Manage Stress: Chronic stress can impact your physical and mental health. Identify stressors and develop healthy coping mechanisms like mindfulness, relaxation techniques, or seeking support from loved ones or a therapist. Consider mindful photography as a way to slow down and appreciate the present moment.

Prioritize Sleep: Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night) is crucial for cognitive function, mood regulation, and overall well-being. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine and avoid caffeine, electronic devices, and stimulating activities before bed.

Seek Help When Needed: Don't hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional if you experience persistent sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore your feelings, develop coping skills, and make positive changes. Prioritizing self-care and mental health empowers you to live a happier, more fulfilling life.

woman in therapy
5. Embrace Physical Activity:

Regular exercise offers a multitude of benefits for women, including improved heart health, weight management, better mood, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.  National Women’s Health Week is the perfect time to explore different forms of exercise and find activities that you enjoy and that work for your lifestyle.

Engaging in regular exercise is not only beneficial for your physical health but also for your mental well-being. According to our blog "Exercise: A Powerful Tool for Mental Health," exercise releases endorphins, reduces stress, improves sleep, increases mood, and boosts self-confidence.

Find activities that you enjoy and that align with your interests, preferences, and fitness goals. Aim for a mix of aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling, and strength training exercises to build muscle strength and endurance. Your daily tasks, including gardening, can serve as excellent forms of exercise. Explore the Benefits of Gardening blog to learn more.

These steps are the foundation for a lifetime of good health. By practicing them this week, they can become daily habits and help you be as healthy as possible.

Reach out for support when you need it most.

Find an Adult Program that works for you today.

Social Media May be More Harmful Than Helpful for Teens

The pros and cons of social media for teenagers have been a hot topic for years. While it's great to stay connected, often certain aspects of social media can impact teens negatively.

Woman on her phone
What are teens feeling when scrolling through social media?

Whether it's Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok, social media users are likely to feel a rollercoaster of emotions as they scroll through their newsfeeds. Social media can be a great escape to have a laugh or check in on friends, but along with the positives come negative feelings.

Exclusion: Imagine a teen checking their social media and they see a Snapchat story of all of their friends at a party that they weren't invited to. It's not a great feeling. Not being included in certain activities can hurt as it is, but having to see how much fun others are having certainly doesn't help.

Comparison to others: One major drawback of social media is the constant comparison to others. Whether physically, financially, or socially, a teen will immediately compare their lives to others. This can lead to body dysmorphia and eating disorders, acting out or substance abuse, depressive episodes, and more. Photo editing software and filters create a false sense of reality on social media, and that in turn, lessens teens' confidence as they compare themselves to an unrealistic standard. It's not only comparing lives on social media, but it's also measuring someone's worth through the number of likes they receive.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): According to studies, teens can average 2 to 9 hours of screen time a day. It's the first thing they do when they wake up and the last thing they do before bed. Social media has ingrained itself into teenage culture, and it often feels like you're missing out if you're not constantly checking your accounts. Teens may be distracted or rush through homework to regain access to their devices.

How can parents/guardians help protect teens?

It's natural for caretakers to immediately want to jump in and shield their child from the world, but coming on too strong or strict may be harmful in the long run. Here are 3 suggestions to protect your teens from the cons of social media:

  1. Set reasonable limits: Encourage your teen to turn their devices off completely before bed and make a rule that there are no phones at the dinner table. A recent statement from the US surgeon general states research has shown that adolescents age 12-15 who spent more than three hours per day on social media face a heightened risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes compared to those who spent less time online.
  2. Monitor their accounts: Check in to see what your teen is posting on social media. Check in often to see how they're feeling and make sure their posts are appropriate.
  3. Have open conversations: Having an open dialogue about the pros and cons with your child is essential for your teen to have a healthy relationship with social media. Make sure they know that many images and profiles are unrealistic and share your own social media habits.
Acenda's Mental Health Library has many resources to help get the conversation started about social media and teens:

3 Tips for Managing Teenage Screen Time

What should I do if my child is being cyberbullied?

Building Healthy Habits with Social Media

What is Digital Self Harm?

It is important to note that a lot of the pressure to keep kids off social media or to regulate what they are consuming falls into the responsibility of the parents and/or guardians. U.S. Surgeon General Murphy also said, "This is not going to be an issue that we solve with one sector alone," and policymakers and technology companies hold much of the responsibility. We hope that we can simply provide some guidance on how to establish healthy technology boundaries at home.

If you are concerned about your child's mental health, clinicians at Acenda's Child & Teen Counseling Services are here to help.

Call our access center's number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 X9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment. 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org

https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org

In our fast-paced world, it's easy to feel constantly overwhelmed and distracted. We scroll through endless feeds, flitting from one thought to the next. But what if there was a way to slow down, appreciate the present moment, and boost your mental health at the same time?

If you’re feeling stressed and looking for a way to calm your mind, there's a hidden gem waiting to be discovered called mindful photography. It's a straightforward, easy, no cost practice with a profound impact on your mental well-being.

What is Mindful Photography?

Mindful photography is more than just aiming your camera and snapping photos. It’s about being fully present in the moment, engaging all your senses, and noticing the beauty that surrounds you.

Imagine it as a real-life "stop and smell the roses" experience. This practice gently pushes you to slow down, to truly appreciate the details you might otherwise miss, fostering a deeper connection to your surroundings.

How Does Mindful Photography Help Mental Health?

Promotes Mindfulness: Mindful photography encourages you to cultivate mindfulness, the practice of being fully present and engaged in the moment without judgment. By focusing your attention on the sights, sounds, and sensations around you, you can quiet the noise of the mind and find refuge in the present moment.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety: Engaging in mindful photography is like meditation in motion. As you immerse yourself in the act of capturing images, you naturally let go of worries and anxieties. The simple act of observing and creating can be deeply calming, helping to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Encourages Gratitude and Appreciation: Mindful photography allows you to see the world with a focused lens and to notice the beauty that often goes unnoticed in the rush of daily life. By actively seeking out moments of wonder and delight, you grow a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the world around you, helping to foster a more positive outlook.

Fosters Creativity and Self-Expression: Photography and art is a form of creative expression, allowing you to capture your unique view and share it with others. Engaging in mindful photography can ignite your creativity, inspiring you to see the world in new ways.

Improves Mood:  Research from the Mental Health Foundation suggests that individuals who maintain a strong connection with nature tend to experience greater happiness and fulfillment in their lives.

Nature has the remarkable ability to promote a wide range of positive emotions, including serenity, delight, and inspiration, while also helping concentration. It's important to acknowledge that nature encompasses diverse environments.

While some may envision remote, untouched landscapes, it extends far beyond that. Nature can be found almost everywhere, from parks and woodlands to rivers, lakes, beaches, or even urban greenery like street trees, house plants, and window gardens.

Getting Started with Mindful Photography

Slow Down: Take your time and move through the world at a leisurely pace. Notice the details and textures that you might otherwise overlook.

Engage Your Senses: Use all your senses to fully experience the moment. Notice the lighting and different shadows, listen to the sounds of the birds singing, feel the breeze on your skin, and smell the fragrances of the plants around you.

Focus on the Present Moment: Let go of distractions and worries. Bring your attention back to the present moment and be mindful that you will have to refocus your attention again and again, as you capture images.

Embrace Imperfection: Photography is not about capturing the perfect image. It’s about capturing moments of beauty and authenticity. Embrace imperfection and allow your unique perspective to shine through in your photos.

Practice Non-Judgment: Approach your photography with a spirit of curiosity and openness. Release any judgments or preconceived notions about what makes a “good” or “bad” photo, and simply allow yourself to explore and experiment.

Find Inspiration in the Ordinary: Look for beauty in everyday things – a puddle reflecting the sky, the intricate pattern of a leaf, or the way a butterfly is perched on a blade of grass.

Acenda's Spring Mindful Photography Challenge

Acenda recently took on a unique challenge for spring – a mindful photography experience for their staff! The results? Simply stunning.

Take a moment to view this video, highlighting the captivating images captured during this journey of mindfulness and self-discovery.

In Conclusion

Mindful photography is more than just a hobby. It’s a powerful tool for promoting mental health and well-being. By immersing yourself in the present moment, cultivating gratitude and appreciation, and fostering creativity and self-expression, you can harness the transformative power of photography to nourish your mind, body, and spirit.

So, grab your camera (or smartphone) and embark on a journey of discovery and self-expression through the lens of mindful photography. You never know what wonders you might discover along the way.

Mindful photography is just one tool in your mental wellness toolbox! Explore more tips and resources to nurture your mental health by visiting our Mental Health Resource Center.

Sometimes you need to just stop and smell the roses. As you tilt your head down towards the buds and deeply inhale, you may notice that some of your anxieties and worries have been released from your body and mind – even if only for a moment.

While floral scents may have their own slew of positive mental health benefits, did you know that the actual practice of gardening and growing your own flowers (or vegetables and fruits) can have similar effects?

Mental Health Benefits of Gardening

Research has shown that gardening may lead to the following health benefits:

1. Improving your mood. Studies have shown that interacting with nature can increase self-esteem, improve your mood, reduce anger, and boost an individual’s overall psychological well-being. Additionally, Vitamin D has been shown to decrease levels of depression.

2. Developing a growth mindset. According to the Harvard Business Review, a growth mindset is one in which individuals believe that their talents can be continually worked on through hard work, efficient strategies, and even positive criticism. Additionally, you may discover that you need to be flexible, patient and resilient in your new hobby.

3. Engaging in physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies 30 minutes or more of gardening as exercise. In fact, some studies have shown that gardening between 30 to 45 minutes per day can burn up to 300 calories between the digging of holes, yanking of weeds, and raking of topsoil.

4. Eating healthier. Many gardeners choose to grow their own fresh fruits or vegetables which become staples in their own at-home dishes. By indulging in a diet that’s higher in whole foods – like fruits and vegetables – research has found that individuals are 35% less likely to develop depression than others who eat less of these foods. The foods that we eat have a significant impact on not just our physical body, but our overall mental health, too.

5. Developing a better self-care routine. You may be so accustomed to multitasking and being plugged-in during usual day to day tasks. Gardening will help you to keep your focus on one thing at a time, making you more fully present and in the moment.

How to Start Gardening

If you’re ready to begin gardening, the following steps may help:

Cultivate healthy soil.

The first step for success is preparing your soil. You can either dig straight into the ground or build raised garden beds. If you are choosing to dig, first clear out rocks and debris and dig up the grass. Then, loosen the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches so the roots can reach down. Lastly, add 2 to 3 inches of organic matter, such as compost or aged manure, onto your soil.

Aim for a loamy soil texture. It will consist of equal parts sand, silt, and clay. Loamy soil holds moisture but also drains well, allowing oxygen to reach your plants’ roots. It’s the perfect balance!

Choose your plants.

Start with understanding your Plant Hardiness Zone. New Jersey ranges from zones 6-7.

Once you know your zone, it will be easier to choose what plants you would like to work with and when to plant them. Remember, don’t overwhelm yourself with too many plants. Grow what you like and you will thoroughly enjoy watching it bloom. Consider researching “starter” plants that are typically easy for beginners, such as seasonal petunias.

Research your plants’ needs.

Once you know what plants you will be planting, be sure to research their needs.  Pay attention to the amount of sun, moisture and overall environments your plants will need to thrive.

Pay attention to the progress.

You can also use your phone to set reminders to create a watering schedule or try using one of the many helpful gardening apps available.

If you're looking to beautify your communities, business, or home while also promoting mental health awareness, start with our butterflies. Check out our blog, "How Can I Promote Mental Health Awareness," to learn more.

Visit our Mental Health Resource Center for more ways to to maintain and improve your mental health.

Congratulations on graduating! You have officially entered your post-grad era.

How are you feeling? Excited? Hopeful? Scared out your mind?

Transitioning from the structured environment of college to the unpredictable landscape of the workforce is a significant life shift. Recent graduates should prioritize mental health to navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

college students taking graduation photos
Understanding the Transition

Transitioning from college to the workforce can feel like a lot to handle. You might feel a mix of emotions, from being thrilled about your newfound freedom to feeling nervous about taking on new responsibilities. The key is to understand that things are changing – your daily life, what you're responsible for, and what's expected of you. Recognizing this shift is the first step toward adjusting to your new post-grad life.

Managing Expectations

Let’s start with managing our expectations. While some individuals may seamlessly transition into their dream job, others might encounter hurdles and setbacks along the way. Remember, not everyone's career journey follows a straight line, and it's normal to face setbacks along the way. Start by setting realistic goals and remaining adaptable to unexpected twists and turns.

Building a Support System

Talking with trusted loved ones about this transition can help ease the load of the college-to-work transition. Building a support system is crucial for maintaining mental well-being during this transition. Connecting with friends, family, alumni, and mentors can provide valuable guidance, reassurance, and perspective. Talking to people who have been in your shoes before and reaching out to friends and family for support can help you feel better when things are uncertain.

Starting Each Day with Positive Affirmations

Start each day with positive affirmations to set a productive tone for managing the challenges of this transition. By consciously choosing uplifting thoughts and beliefs, you are fostering resilience and a sense of empowerment for yourself. Simply being kinder to yourself and using positive affirmations has been shown to ease stress, allow you to face difficulty more courageously, and feel more content and confident. They help individuals navigate the ups and downs of starting a new job and adapting to unfamiliar environments.

Prioritizing Self-Care

Amidst the demands of starting a new job and adjusting to a different lifestyle, prioritizing self-care is paramount. Making time for activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with loved ones, can help alleviate stress and promote overall well-being. Making sure you have a good balance between your work life and your personal life right from the beginning is important. It can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and content in your job long-term.

college students applying to jobs
Navigating Professional Dynamics

Feedback Paradigm Shift:

In college, students receive feedback that is clear, consistent, and often quantitative. In the professional world, it can be more qualitative and intermittent. Recent graduates may struggle to adapt to this change, particularly in understanding how to improve without clear and immediate feedback.

Relationship Building:

Relationships in the professional world are more strategic, involving a diverse range of individuals, including superiors, peers, and clients. Unlike in college, where one can avoid those they don't like, navigating professional relationships often requires dealing with people one may not necessarily get along with.

Accountability:

Unlike in college, where accountability is primarily to oneself, in the professional world, individuals are accountable to various stakeholders, including colleagues, bosses, and the organization as a whole. Mistakes can have serious consequences for one's career, adding pressure and responsibility to young professionals.

Seeking Help When Needed

If mental health challenges arise during the transition, seeking help is essential. Many workplaces offer employee assistance programs and mental health resources to support staff members facing personal difficulties. Additionally, reaching out to a therapist or counselor can provide professional guidance and coping strategies for managing stress and anxiety. You can find support through many of our adult programs.

recent college graduate starting a new job
Embracing Change for Growth

Seeing change as a chance to grow and learn is what helps you do well as you move from college to the workforce. Adapting to new routines, expectations, and responsibilities requires flexibility and resilience. Every challenge you face is a chance to learn new skills and become stronger. This helps you succeed in your career in the long run.

Navigating life transitions like college to the workforce requires a proactive approach to maintaining mental health and well-being. Recent graduates like you can confidently navigate the challenges of starting a new job and embark on a fulfilling career journey ahead by prioritizing self-care, seeking support from peers and mentors, and embracing change with resilience and optimism.

Remember that it's okay to seek help when needed and to view setbacks as opportunities for growth and development. With the right mindset and support system in place, individuals can thrive in their new roles and build a rewarding career path ahead.

For additional support and resources for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and navigating successful transitions, explore our Adult Mental Health Programs.

About the Author

Mariana Heyel, Communications Coordinator at Acenda, is a South Jersey native who ventured to the University of South Carolina for her undergraduate degree, where she studied Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management. Passionate about connection, good stories, and the importance of mental health in her life.

Sources:

https://www.indeed.com

https://hbr.org

The sun is going down, nighttime is settling in, and a long night of rest is upon you. But sometimes, it isn't always guaranteed. In this blog, we will go over how to get better sleep.

Getting a good night's rest is essential for our overall well-being and productivity. Unfortunately, many people struggle with sleep-related issues, leading to fatigue and reduced quality of life.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to enhance your rest and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. So what can you do to improve or enhance your experience?

eye mask, lavender, and silk sheets, allowing you to sleep better
Recommendations For a Good Night's Sleep

Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule:
Our bodies thrive on routine, and establishing a regular schedule can work wonders for our sleep quality. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body's internal clock and promotes better patterns. Consistency is key when it comes to aligning your sleep-wake cycle, so try to stick to your schedule as much as possible.

Create a Sleep-Friendly Environment:
Your environment plays a significant role in determining the quality of your sleep. Make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark. Invest in comfortable bedding, pillows, and a mattress that adequately supports your body. Choosing a mattress that is both supportive and comforting, in addition to finding equally relaxing pillows and bedsheets, can be a game-changer. Consider using blackout curtains, earplugs, or a white noise machine to block out any disturbing sounds or light. Creating a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere will signal to your brain that it's time to unwind and prepare for sleep.

Limit Exposure to Blue Light Before Bed:
The blue light emitted by electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, can interfere with your rest. The blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. To enhance your rest, establish a digital curfew at least an hour before bedtime. Instead of scrolling through your phone or watching TV, engage in calming activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises. If you must use electronic devices, consider using blue light filters or wearing blue light-blocking glasses to minimize its effects.

Practice a Relaxing Bedtime Routine:
Creating a calming bedtime routine can signal your body and mind that it's time to wind down. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, such as taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or practicing gentle stretching or yoga. Avoid stimulating activities or discussions that can elevate your heart rate and increase mental alertness. Find what works best for you and make it a regular part of your nightly routine.

Watch Your Diet and Exercise:
Your daytime habits can significantly impact your sleep quality. Avoid consuming large meals, caffeine, and nicotine close to bedtime, as they can disrupt your rest. Instead, opt for lighter meals and herbal teas that promote relaxation. You can find our suggestions on maintaining a healthy diet in our “Eat Well, Stay Healthy” blog post. Engaging in regular exercise, preferably in the morning or afternoon, can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle and promote deeper, more restful sleep at night. However, avoid vigorous exercise too close to bedtime, as it can increase alertness and make it harder to fall asleep.

In addition to these recommendations, try out the “Sleep Mode” features available on iPhones and Androids. These are designed to help you use your phone less by reminding you when it’s time to wind down, placing your phone on do-not-disturb for you.

Enhancing your rest doesn't have to be a daunting task. By implementing these simple strategies into your daily routine, you can significantly improve the quality of your sleep and reap the benefits of feeling well-rested and energized throughout the day. Remember, consistency and creating a sleep-friendly environment are key factors in optimizing your sleep. Prioritize your sleep health, and you'll experience the transformative power of a good night's rest. For more resources on how to improve your sleep, check out the CDC’s “Basics About Sleep” page.

Visit our Mental Health Resource Center for more ways to maintain and improve your mental health.

How Can I Promote Mental Health Awareness? 

We all know the importance of physical health. We eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep to keep our bodies functioning optimally. But what about our mental health? Just as crucial, mental well-being significantly impacts our daily lives, influencing our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Jennifer Kugler, our Senior Program Director of Behavioral Health Services says, “Developing a wellness plan, as part of our daily lives, can help to promote our mental health. Wellness is not a destination, but a journey that we can modify and adjust as our needs change.”  

Think of mental health as the foundation for a thriving life. When our mental health is strong, we can:  

Manage stress effectively. Feeling overwhelmed by work or personal issues is a normal part of life. With positive mental health, we can develop healthy coping mechanisms to navigate these challenges.  

Maintain positive relationships. Strong mental well-being allows us to connect with others in healthy ways, fostering supportive and meaningful friendships.  

Achieve our goals. When we feel positive mentally, we're more focused, productive, and equipped to persevere through setbacks.  

Enjoy life. Positive mental health allows us to experience joy, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose in our daily lives.  

Cultivating Mental Wellness: From Work to Play

So how can we actively promote positive mental health in different aspects of our lives?  

In the Workplace

Open Communication. Talk openly about mental health in the workplace. Encourage colleagues to seek help if needed and normalize prioritizing it by taking days off.  

Healthy Work-Life Balance. Set boundaries between work and personal life. Disconnect after work hours and prioritize activities that recharge you.  

Promote Camaraderie. Foster a positive work environment with team-building activities and recognition programs. Strong social connections at work can significantly boost mental well-being.  

In Your Friendships

Be a Good Listener. Actively listen to your friends and offer support without judgment. 

Encourage Healthy Habits. Participate in activities that benefit everyone's mental health. Spend time in nature or engage in hobbies together.  

Practice Empathy. Try to see things from your friend's perspective and offer understanding and compassion.  

In Your Day-to-Day Life

Prioritize Self-Care. Schedule time for activities you enjoy. It could be reading, spending time with loved ones, or pursuing a creative outlet.  

Mindfulness Practices. Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can cultivate calmness and reduce stress.  

Seek Professional Help. Don't hesitate to seek professional help if you're struggling. Therapists can provide valuable guidance and tools to improve your mental health.  

How to Take Action to Spread Mental Health Awareness  

Become a Butterfly Advocate with Us!  

This May, during Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re on a mission to plant butterfly gardens across our communities! At Acenda, we're committed to breaking the stigma surrounding mental health and providing unwavering support to those navigating their emotional well-being.  These gardens represent transformation, acceptance, and our collective commitment to positive mental health.  

These butterfly gardens will symbolize your commitment to positive mental health advocacy, beautifying your space while sparking conversations within your community. 

If you are interested in becoming a Butterfly Advocate, Transformation Champion, or Mental Health Ambassador with Acenda, please click the button below to learn more.  

Spread Awareness on Social Media

Use relevant hashtags like #MentalHealthAwareness, #MentalHealthMatters, or #EndStigma.  

Share informative posts about mental health topics, self-care tips, or resources available in your community.   

Repost and share our Butterfly Garden Campaign! Use the hashtag #AcendaButterflyGarden so we can see them. 

Advocate and Educate

Contact your local representatives and express your support for mental health initiatives.  

Start conversations about mental health in your everyday life, normalizing open discussions.  

Educate yourself about mental health conditions and encourage others to do the same. Learn about the most common mental health myths here.  

Promote Self-Care

Share self-care tips and resources on relaxation techniques, healthy habits, or managing stress. Start by writing yourself a self-care list 

Organize group activities like yoga sessions or meditation walks.  

The Power of Prioritizing Mental Wellness  

Life throws us curveballs – unexpected events, daily stressors, and even the weather can impact our overall well-being. In today's world, taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health.  

One of the most impactful things I've done for myself is prioritize therapy. Therapy offers a safe space to talk through challenges, process emotions, and gain valuable tools for managing stress. Therapy serves not only to address significant challenges, but also to enhance resilience and adeptly manage everyday difficulties. 

For me, therapy has been transformative. I've developed a deeper understanding of my feelings and learned to express them more effectively. This self-awareness allows me to set goals with confidence and feel empowered to achieve them.  

Let's keep the conversation about mental health going! By talking about mental health and taking action, we can create a world that values and supports mental well-being. 

Enjoy more mental health resources by visiting our

About the Author

Mariana Heyel, Communications Coordinator at Acenda, is a South Jersey native who ventured to the University of South Carolina for her undergraduate degree, where she studied Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management. Passionate about connection, good stories, and the importance of mental health in her life.

Sources

https://www.samhsa.gov

https://riiroo.com

Gen Z and health consciousness individuals are shaping the non-drinking movement and new ways of socializing are becoming popular, leaving behind old traditions like endless mimosas and Thursday parties. 

In 2024, more people are choosing not to drink alcohol, and it's becoming a big thing. New words like "no-lo" and "sober-curios" are showing up. NielsenIQ says non-alcoholic drink sales went up by 20.6% from August 2021 to August 2022. This trend started in 2020 and is getting bigger. 

Young people, especially Gen Z, are leading this trend. They care more about feeling good and being productive than drinking alcohol. They worry about how alcohol affects their bodies. Gen Z also spends less money on alcohol than Millennials, about 40% less, according to the Food Institute.

Why Ditch the Drinks? 

Consider these potential health risks linked with alcohol consumption: 

Negative Effects on Physical Health:
  1. Elevated blood pressure 
  2. Increased risk of heart attacks or strokes 
  3. Heightened probability of developing cancer 
  4. Compromised immune system and heightened vulnerability to illnesses
person denying an alcoholic drink because they are choosing their sobriety and mental health
Negative Effects on Your Mental Health:
  1. Impaired cognitive abilities leading to learning and memory difficulties 
  2. Reduced ability to concentrate 
  3. Challenges in social interactions, including familial and employment-related issues
  4. Potential negative social consequences including legal troubles, violence within relationships, and impaired driving incidents 
  5. Elevated risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and alcohol-related disorders

 

Now let’s look at the advantages of refraining from alcohol consumption.

Health Benefits of Abstaining from Alcohol:
  1. Improved functioning of bodily organs 
  2. Extended lifespan 
  3. Decreased likelihood of developing chronic ailments 
  4. Enhanced mental clarity and cognitive abilities 
  5. Better quality of sleep

 

Navigating social situations without alcohol can be challenging. Here are some strategies: 

  1. Inform friends in advance of your choice: Before going out with friends, let them know of your choice to abstain from alcohol so they will be supportive and not pressure you into drinking. 
  2. Explore non-alcoholic beverage options: Many places have drinks without alcohol that are an alternative to soda or water, such as mocktails and alcohol-free beer. 
  3. Seek out alcohol-free activities: Instead of focusing solely on events or places where alcohol is the main attraction, seek out activities and gatherings that don't revolve around drinking. This could include attending live performances, art exhibitions, sports events, outdoor adventures, or hobby-related meetups. Engaging in activities that don't center on alcohol can broaden your social circle and provide fulfilling experiences. Websites such as soberfun.info is a good resource for events
  4. Prepare for peer pressure and reactions: It's important to be ready for peer pressure or reactions from others if you choose not to drink. Some might be surprised or try to convince you to drink. Speaking calmly about your decision and why you've made it can help you handle these situations confidently. 
  5. Have an exit plan: If you're in a social situation where you feel uncomfortable or pushed to drink, having a plan to leave can make you feel safer. 

 

Remember, fun doesn't have to involve alcohol. Embrace sobriety as a path to mindfulness and overall well-being. Activities like meditation, yoga, or exercise can complement a sober lifestyle perfectly. 

Abstinence from alcohol is propelled by an emphasis on health, financial considerations, and shifts in generational attitudes. 

With sharper minds, healthier bodies, and richer relationships, the advantages of abstaining from alcohol are unmistakable. Let's strive for a world where individuals are empowered in their decisions, whether they opt for a glass of sparkling water or not. 

For more information on Acenda’s supportive programs

to help you in your journey to mental wellness, visit our website.

About the author:

Stephanie Taylor is the Communications and Development Manager at Acenda, where she uses her passion for helping others to create compelling content that raises awareness about behavioral health and hopes to inspire others. She has a BA in psychology and over 25 years of experience in the behavioral health field. She is also a mom to three young men and enjoys spending time with her family and friends, gardening, and reading.

Sources:  

Axios.com 

Nielsenig.com 

CDC.gov 

TheGuardian.com 

Imagine this: You open your windows and inhale the fresh, cool air while the birds outside are simultaneously singing a beautiful symphony as they dance amongst the newly blooming flowers. Spring is most certainly in the air.

As nature officially marks the beginning of this new season, most of us like to do the same with our own ritual: spring cleaning.

When we hear the term “spring cleaning,” we think of packing up our winter coats until next season, decluttering messes that have accumulated over the last few months, organizing projects, deep cleaning tasks, and preparing the yards for outdoor living in warmer weather. Basically, a MOUNTAIN of tasks.

“Though it’s mostly a physical act, most people don’t realize that they are actually refreshing and renewing their mental spaces, too,” shares Bridget DeFiccio LPC, Senior Vice President of Integrated Health at Acenda.

But these tasks can be seen as big and impossible at time.

So what do we do?

Tips for Effective Spring Cleaning

To tackle your spring cleaning a bit more effectively, Acenda Integrated Health recommends the following tips:

Start small. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to complete your entire house in one day. Instead, start with just one area or room. “Maybe start by first reorganizing your closet,” suggests Ms. DeFiccio, “and then slowly make your way over to your dressers. Once you go room by room, you will have reorganized and decluttered your entire living space before you even realize it over a rather short period of time.”

mother with her two kids spring cleaning

Involve others. If you share a living space with family or friends, you can utilize this as an opportunity to build better relationships. Together, you can brainstorm creative ideas to “spruce up” your area or even identify objects that are maybe taking up space that can be gifted or donated. “And if you live alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help,” shares Ms. DeFiccio. “It’s a lot easier to go after a bigger task, like spring cleaning, with some assistance.”

Set a timer. You don’t have to dedicate entire days to the laborious task of cleaning. Instead, you can create time blocks of, say, 30 minutes per day, where your only focus is on cleaning – null of distractions such as texting. When you fully dedicate your attention to the task at-hand, you’ll be surprised to see how much cleaning or organizing you may actually accomplish.

Make it fun. Have you ever considered blasting your favorite music across your speakers and dancing while you wash the dishes? Or how about playing your favorite movie in the background so that you can recite the lines while you clean the living room? It is important to remember that doing chores doesn’t have to be such a chore if you incorporate tools that you enjoy into the task!

Positive Impacts of Spring Cleaning

According to Ms. DeFiccio, some of our spring-cleaning tasks can actually improve our mental health:

1. You can increase your focus. By removing any potential distractions, your mind can better focus on specific tasks at-hand – especially if you work from home. “Surrounding yourself in chaos, like clutter or actual mess, can actually impact your brain’s ability to process information,” shares Ms. DeFiccio. By organizing and cleaning your environment, research has shown that you can actually become more productive, increase your ability to retain information, boost your concentration and improve your critical thinking skills.

2. You can boost your mood. Studies have shown that clean sheets and an organized room can lead to a better night of sleep, which ultimately leads to a handful of mental and emotional health benefits including a better overall mood. Additionally, The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has noted that the actual physical activity of cleaning – when coupled with a cleaner house – can lead to a reduction in anxiety and overall depressive symptoms.

3. You can reduce your stress. “By constantly looking at everything that needs to be cleaned, you can induce stress without even realizing it,” Ms. DeFiccio. “So, if you minimize those visual cues, you can alleviate some stress.” Reducing stress in your life is important, as it can potentially lead to other health conditions such as high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, anxiety, and depression. “Too many items can not only take over your home, but your mind and body, too,” she adds.

4. You can benefit your physical health – which impacts your mental health, too. Experts have explained that not only can cleaning remove potential allergens such as dust, pollen, mildew and pet dander, but it can rid your environment of pollutants, too, which can impact your immune health. In fact, studies have shown that people living in tidier homes tend to be in better health than those who live in messier environments. “The mind-body connection is ever-present,” comments Ms. DeFiccio.

Visit our Mental Health Resource Center

to access more helpful blogs on Mental Health.

As we delve into National Nutrition Month, let's recognize the impact of nutrition on cognitive function and mental health. Our brains require essential nutrients to thrive. A well-nourished body enhances cognitive function and promotes mental well-being, fostering resilience, and clarity of thought.

The Science Behind Nutritious Eating and Cognitive Function

Prioritizing nutritious foods isn't just about filling our bellies; it's about fueling our minds. Essential nutrients found in a balanced diet support brain health, optimize neurotransmitter function, and maintain psychological equilibrium. Imagine your brain as a finely tuned machine—nutrient-rich foods are the premium fuel that keeps it running smoothly.

Moreover, the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in these foods help in the growth and repair of neurons. This enhances memory, focus, and emotional resilience.

A healthy diet not only enhances physical vitality but also supports clear thinking, improved concentration, and heightened alertness. Conversely, an inadequate diet can lead to fatigue, impaired decision-making, and heightened stress levels, potentially intensifying conditions like depression and anxiety. What you put into your body not only affects your physical well-being but also your mental health.

Practical Steps for Enhancing Cognitive Function and Mental Health through Nutrition

Here are practical tips to incorporate into your daily routine this spring. Try to include 1-2 of these suggestions. Remember, even small changes can make a big difference to your well-being.

Stick to a Meal Schedule: Establish a set schedule for meals to maintain consistency. Stock up on healthy snacks like popcorn, protein bars, and fresh fruits and vegetables to curb cravings and keep your energy levels steady.

Plan a Nutrient-Rich Menu: Taking inspiration from the Mediterranean lifestyle, prioritize meals abundant in lean meats, whole grains, and a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. Embracing this approach not only reduces the risk of chronic diseases but also supports cognitive function and overall well-being.

Introduce Foods for Your Gut Microbiome: Did you know that your gut contains a community of tiny organisms called the gut microbiome? The good bacteria in your gut produce substances that play a role in regulation of both your physical and mental well-being, including your mood. To support a healthy gut, try eating foods that contain probiotics and prebiotics

Probiotic foods (contains live microorganisms): Yogurt, certain cheeses, kombucha, kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut.

Prebiotic foods (food for the microorganisms): Apples, bananas, berries, carrots, flaxseed, garlic, oats, and sweet potatoes.

nutrition for cognitive function and better mental health

Mind Your Macros: Ensure you're consuming adequate protein, healthy fats like olive oil, and plenty of leafy greens. Limit caffeine intake and prioritize whole, unprocessed foods to nourish your body and mind.

Hydrate for Brain Health: Drink water consistently throughout the day to stay hydrated. Consider using apps like Plant Nanny Water Tracker to track your intake and reach the recommended goal of two liters per day.

Practice Mindful Eating: Monitor your eating habits and energy levels by maintaining a food journal. Take notice of any patterns related to food cravings and energy fluctuations. This will allow you to make informed choices that support cognitive function.

Opt for Healthier Takeout: When dining out, choose healthier options and be mindful of portion sizes. Opt for steamed dishes over fried ones, and consider portioning meals to enjoy leftovers for future lunches.

Remember, nourishing your brain goes beyond just what's on your plate.

Incorporate regular exercise into your routine and prioritize quality sleep to support overall physical and mental health. Aim for daily movement and strive for around eight hours of sleep each night to rejuvenate your mind and body.

Focus on the power of food to fuel cognitive function and elevate mental well-being. Make mindful food choices, stay hydrated, and adopt a holistic approach to health. This allows us to nourish our brains and thrive in every aspect of our lives.

For more tips on improving your mental well-being,

visit Acenda's Mental Health Resource Center

About the Author

Mariana Heyel, Communications Coordinator at Acenda, is a South Jersey native who ventured to the University of South Carolina for her undergraduate degree, where she studied Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management. Passionate about connection, good stories, and the importance of mental health in her life.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

https://www.eatright.org

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org

https://www.aetna.com

https://www.sutterhealth.org

March is a month for understanding, empathy, and inclusion, not just a bridge between winter and spring. This month is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (DDAM), where we celebrate individuals' uniqueness and bring attention to the challenges they face.  

During March, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) and its partners collaborate to lead this campaign. They promote understanding and the recognition of people with developmental disabilities. 

First off, what are developmental disabilities?   

Developmental disabilities are conditions caused by problems in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas, as stated by the CDC 

Developmental disabilities encompass a range of conditions affecting physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Each person's experience is unique. We need to recognize that diversity extends beyond what meets the eye.  

About one in six children in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays. Acknowledging the hurdles the individuals face daily is critical. By understanding their challenges, we can work towards creating a society that accommodates and celebrates their differences.   

blue bear with puzzle piece heart representing developmental disabilities month
Breaking Stereotypes/Removing barriers   

We need to challenge stereotypes and remove barriers for those with developmental disabilities. Individuals with developmental disabilities define themselves not by their conditions but by their abilities, strengths, and potential.  

Inclusion is the heart of acceptance. As we strive for a society that values diversity, let's explore initiatives and campaigns that champion inclusion. We all must actively create environments that value and include everyone, from education to workplaces.  

One of my favorite stories is that of the local Inclusion Cafe, nestled in Elmer, NJ. This cafe “offers employment and volunteer opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”  

Inclusion Cafe started following the birth of Amanda's son, Rome, who has Down Syndrome. Her and her family are passionate about spreading awareness for “inclusion and the beauty of Down Syndrome.”  

Their coffee and breakfast are excellent. I particularly love their homemade spicy vegetable cream cheese on a poppy seed bagel! You can find out more about their story and operating hours listed on their website.  

Inclusion in media is also very impactful. Netflix's popular show, Love on the Spectrum, follows young adults with autism as they navigate dating. It can be challenging but shows like this help shine light on the challenges these individuals face, highlighting the myths and misbeliefs about autism. 

Advocacy and Support

As advocates, it's crucial to lend our voices to the cause. Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month is a perfect time to explore advocacy efforts and support networks. Together, we can increase awareness, promote policy changes, and ensure that everyone has equal opportunities to thrive.   

ALSO is a nonprofit that operates as one of Oregon's disability support service providers in the Portland Metro area. It presents eight effective ways to advocate for individuals with disabilities.  

  • See the individual and the disability 
  • Engage in active listening
  • Respect rights in decision-making
  • Promote accessibility in your home and local community 
  • Respect needs for autonomy and self-determination
  • Support self-direction
  • Celebrate and support self-advocacy
  • Advocate for disability inclusivity and fights against discrimination
Mental Health and Maternal Wellbeing

We also need to extend our focus to the intersection of mental health, maternal health, and developmental disabilities. Nurturing mental health is a key component of creating a supportive environment for mothers and their children.  

Research consistently emphasizes the profound impact of maternal mental health on child development. For mothers navigating parenthood with children with developmental disabilities, the need for support is even more necessary. The stresses and challenges faced by mothers in such situations highlight the importance of mental health support.  

Do you suspect your child might have developmental delays? Talking to your pediatrician is the first step. Additionally, resources like Acenda's Connecting NJ access center can help families access the support they need. At Acenda, our programs play a vital role in early detection, intervention, and ongoing support.  

Here's how Acenda is helping families in New Jersey:

Early detection: We utilize the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) in our Home Visiting programs. This screening tool helps identify potential developmental concerns and prompts further discussion with your pediatrician.

Connecting to resources: If delays are identified, Acenda can facilitate referrals to Early Intervention Services.

Supporting development beyond our clientele: Our Early Childhood Specialist Program offers free ASQ screenings to the public. If your child isn't meeting certain milestones, our specialists provide developmental coaching and connect families with relevant resources. We're dedicated to ensuring every child gets the help they need, from Early Intervention to local school Special Needs Programs.

Seamless support for families: When families come to our Maternal Health Programs from Connecting NJ, we ensure they know about all available services in their community. Our goal is to empower families with the knowledge and resources they need to thrive.

Get Involved   

From community gatherings to awareness campaigns, there are numerous ways to get involved. Whether it's volunteering your time or attending an event, your participation contributes to a more inclusive and compassionate society.   

As Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month unfolds, let's commit to being advocates of understanding, empathy, and inclusion. Celebrate diversity, challenge stereotypes, and share success stories to create a world where everyone can thrive. Share this message, join the conversation, and let's make March a month of meaningful change. Together, we can create a world that truly embraces diversity in all its beautiful forms.

Don't wait to get the support your need and deserve.

About the Author

Mariana Heyel, Communications Coordinator at Acenda, is a South Jersey native who ventured to the University of South Carolina for her undergraduate degree, where she studied Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management. Passionate about connection, good stories, and the importance of mental health in her life.

Guest Author

Christina Reiss is the Program Director of Infant and Early Childhood Health at Acenda and works closely with the Maternal Health Home Visiting Programs and Connecting NJ. Christina is a South Jersey native who received her Bachelors in Social Work from Rutgers University in Camden. She is passionate about working with people, especially the Maternal Health population, and ensuring everyone has access to the necessary resources to ensure they can live to the fullest!

Sources

https://alsoweb.org

https://www.cdc.gov

https://acl.gov

https://www.cdc.gov

https://www.goodtherapy.org

https://abacentersfl.com