Mental Wellness During The Holidays

While the holidays are a joyful time spent with loved ones, they are also a highly busy and stressful time. It may be a busy time of year at work, and running around shopping and decorating can be stressful. You could also be suffering from the Christmas blues. If you are experiencing the blues, know that you are not alone; they can afflict anyone at any age and are usually caused by a life event. Not to mention the stress of trying to impress others with gifts, attend parties, and deal with family or toxic people, all of which contribute to the blues. People also remember individuals who are no longer alive to celebrate throughout the holidays.  Here is what we do to make it past the awkward hugs, the eye-rolls, and weird, invasive questions about your love life.

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Organize and Budget Gifts

Organization will liberate you! Do you believe you have an insurmountable task list? As with the previous step, break them up. It will stress you out much more if you have this cloud of ideas flying about in your head. If your budget is limited, it is okay to decline gift exchanges. Instead of buying gifts for everyone, encourage them to give to charity, make a homemade gift, or organize a low-cost activity for you all to do. If traveling is too expensive for you, ask family or friends to contribute to the cost of the ticket rather than giving you gifts. If you are unable to attend, request to skype or FaceTime with the individual or persons so that you can still participate in the festivities. Plan your budget ahead of time so you know what you can afford. Here’s what to do:

 

  • Make your list – List out the names of people you’ll be seeing during the holidays that you want to buy gifts for.
  • Organize by priority – Once you can physically see the list, rearrange it by priority whether it be kids first, then immediate family, followed by extended family or just by the order that you plan on seeing them in.
  • Pick the presents – You can begin assigning present ideas to each person once you’ve determined who you’ll be buying things for. If the process starts to become stressful , brainstorm with some hot cocoa and/or play some soothing music like jazz or holiday-themed songs.
  • Set realistic goals – You probably have a reasonable estimate of your budget for these things, but price each item separately and sum it up. It is easier to plan when you have specific numbers to work with.
  • Finalize it – Top off the whole process by turning all of your information into a checklist, you can even put the dates you’ll be seeing each person to give yourself a little deadline. This way you can mark off the gifts as you go so you don’t forget anything.

It’s Okay To Say No

The holidays may be stressful, especially if you commit to too many gatherings or have unreasonable expectations. When you say yes when you should say no, it merely leads to a flood of overwhelming and resentful feelings. With work and limited vacation time, your schedule is already packed. Don’t try to be in too many places at once since you won’t be able to appreciate your time. You’ll be too preoccupied with getting to the next party or worrying about hosting your own. Take it at your own speed and learn to say no.

 

You can decline invitations to some gatherings in order to spend more quality time with the people you do prefer to visit. Set priorities and stick to your budget. Take the previous checklist and replace the gifts with family members you want to see. Instead of gift pricing, assign trip prices to each one. If you are unable to accommodate everyone, make plans to visit once the holiday rush has subsided. They’ll probably understand, and also appreciate the break from the hustle and bustle. Visiting after the holidays may end up being more of a gift to everyone involved. 

Don’t Overindulge

Consider all of the pastries and snacks you’ll be eating and drinking throughout the holidays! Our eating habits are tested over the holiday season, with dinners, parties, and cookie tables at every turn.  Overindulging can make you feel tired or sluggish. It can also cause you to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, adding to your mental stress. Take a brief walk to get some exercise. Allow yourself time to be active so that you can appreciate all of the delicious treats.  Attempt to maintain a healthy diet. Consuming whole grains, vegetables, and fresh fruit is the foundation for a healthy body and mind. Eating well can also aid in leveling out your mood.

Make Self-Care A Priority

This is more than just meditation. If you have a fitness routine, don’t let it slip during family visits. Try to go to the gym or perform some home exercises. Sticking to your routines (whether self-care or otherwise) not only gives you a mental lift, but it also establishes an internal norm. You’re going to dedicate your time and energy to people you care about this Christmas season, but don’t lose sight of yourself in the process. Keep your feet on the ground. Make time for activities that make you happy. It could be reading a book, going to the movies, having a massage, listening to music, or walking your dog. It is okay to prioritize alone time when you need to refuel.

mental health tips graphic

Don’t Isolate Yourself

Some people may experience loneliness during the holidays, but if you don’t want to be alone, you don’t have to be. You can join an organization, volunteer at a soup kitchen, attend community events, and meet new people. Volunteering can be a wonderful source of comfort. You can feel less lonely or isolated and more connected to your community by assisting those who are less fortunate. Start a toy or food drive and invite your neighbors, friends, and coworkers.

Be Present

Have a two-week trip planned to see relatives? Take everything one day at a time. This can work even if you are not staying for an extended period of time. One hour, one minute, one second at a time. Simply concentrate on the subject at hand and give it your undivided attention. Don’t be concerned about the rest of it. It is beneficial to employ these bite-size moments during stressful periods. Pay attention in the present moment. If you spend too much time thinking about future occurrences, you will become more stressed in the present.

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Seek Professional Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak with your mental health practitioner. They can assist you in identifying particular circumstances that trigger you and develop an action plan to modify them. Keep seeing your therapist if you’re already seeing one. If you’re not already seeing one your health insurance will actually cover some mental health services due to the Mental Health Parity Act. 

 

The Mental Health Parity Act requires insurance companies to handle coverage for mental and behavioral health and drug use problems in the same way that they treat coverage for medical and surgical care. This includes treating them equally in terms of money. For example, an insurance company cannot charge a $40 payment for a mental health professional’s office visit when most medical office visits only require a $20 copay. 

 

In addition, the Affordable Care Act also provides protection for mental health services. Mental health is covered as an essential health benefit in all ACA-compliant plans. As with other medical illnesses, your plan should cover some or all of the cost of mental health care. All ACA-compliant plans must include the following mental health services:

 

  • Outpatient individual or group counseling and therapy
  • Diagnostic services like psychological testing and evaluation
  • Ongoing outpatient treatment such as treatment programs and medication management
  • Outpatient treatment for alcohol or chemical addictions
  • Detox services
  • Substance abuse recovery treatment
  • Inpatient mental healthcare in a psychiatric facility

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Any visit has the potential to cause family turmoil. You want your parents/relatives to have a good time and enjoy your visit, but the holidays may bring a whole new level of stress to the situation. Maintaining excellent relationships with friends and family has surprising health benefits, so these trips are well worth it in the long term. Just keep these pointers in mind, and you should be okay. As for finding health insurance to cover your mental health, consider us Santa’s helpers. A licensed EZ insurance agent can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each plan, while also helping you in developing the plan that is ideal for you. 

 

Working with an agent saves you time and stress because you won’t have to decipher legal language or read fine text. Agents perform all of the heavy lifting, so you can relax knowing that your coverage is tailored to your specific financial and medical needs. Not to mention that EZ agents can save you hundreds of dollars on health insurance rates each year. We accomplish this by being able to search both on and off the market for the most cheap plans.

 

We can also locate and apply any discounts you may be eligible for. Also,we don’t simply provide you a strategy; we also aid you in maintaining it after the fact! We can assist in filing claims with your provider as well as renewing your coverage when the time comes. To get a quote, enter your zip code into the box below or call one of our qualified representatives at 877-670-3557.

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Senior Women: Have a Heart This Holiday Season and Know Your Risks

Heart disease is a scary thing. But we can certainly be thankful for something these days: we know a whole lot more about it, including that it’s absolutely not just a huge risk for men, as many people once believed. In fact, doctors have been trying to get the word out for a long time now that heart disease is actually the number one killer of women in the United States. But it’s not enough that we (hopefully) know this, we also need to know how heart disease looks different in women, so we can recognize it and combat it – and save lives.

The Number 1 Killer of Women

Be honest: what did you think the number 1 killer of women in the U.S. was? Probably breast or a type of gynecological cancer? And you wouldn’t have been alone in not realizing that heart disease is not only the number 1 killer of men in this country, but also the number 1 killer of women. In fact, according to a Cleveland Clinic survey, many people mistakenly believe breast cancer is more of a threat, and scarily, only 20% of millennials knew that heart disease was such a massive threat to women’s health! heart with a rhythm

Not only that, but according to the CDC, despite an increase in awareness over the past decades, only about half (56%) of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer. And worryingly, a 2020 report found a 10-year decline in awareness among women that heart disease is indeed their biggest health threat.

According to Leslie Cho, M.D., director of the Women’s Cardiology Center at the Cleveland Clinic, “I think most people believe that breast cancer, or gynecological cancer, tends to be the biggest killer in women, but it still continues to be heart disease. The reason why that’s so important is because 90% of heart disease comes from risk factors that you can control – blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes.”

Dr. Cho is right that this can be a very deadly mistake. After all, heart disease killed 301,280 women in 2019, meaning it caused around 1 in every 5 female deaths. And around 1 in 16 women aged 20 and older (6.2%) have coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease in the United States, meaning many more women are at risk of dying.

But knowledge is power! Knowing all this, as Dr. Cho suggested, means we can do something about it. But before we get to prevention, let’s get a little more knowledge about women and their risks. Specifically, let’s talk about what warning signs women should be looking out for.

The Subtle Signs of Heart Disease in Women

We’ve all seen depictions of men having heart attacks on TV, and many of us have been told there are certain signs to look out for. These include classic symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain in the left arm. But the signs of heart disease and resulting issues can be less well-known in women.

According to the American Heart Association journal Circulation, symptoms of heart disease might be more subtle and varied in women than in men. One of the study’s authors, Corrine Jurgens, an associate professor at the Connell School of Nursing at Boston College, says that understanding the differences in symptoms is particularly important for women, since women tend to be diagnosed with heart disease later in life than men. And when women are older, they may have other underlying conditions that could make identifying subtle symptoms of heart disease much more difficult.

So what could you be missing? Check out some of the subtle differences, or ways that diagnosis can be complicated in women:

Heart attack

heart wih lightning bolt in the middle
About 30% of women have atypical symptoms of a heart attack.

It’s true that men are twice as likely as women to have a heart attack, but women need to know how to recognize the symptoms, especially since they can experience more symptoms than men do. Their signs might be more subtle and different from (or in addition to) the classic chest pain and radiating pain in the back, arm, neck, jaw, or arm. Symptoms in women can include nausea, lightheadedness, extreme fatigue, and cold sweats. 

According to Dr. Cho, “30% of women have atypical symptoms, so they tend to have things like shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue, so if you feel these symptoms, especially with exertion, it’s really important to go and be seen by your physician.”

Heart failure 

This condition, which usually occurs after a heart attack, usually presents itself as shortness of breath, but symptoms usually build up over time and can also include upset stomach, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, mood changes, and trouble with memory. But women with heart failure have a wider variety of symptoms, such as sweating, unusual swelling, heart palpitations, and feelings of heartburn, which are often accompanied by depression and anxiety. That means it can be hard to determine whether symptoms (like fatigue) are due to depression, heart disease, or both.

Arrhythmia

An irregular heartbeat often doesn’t have any symptoms in men, but women might experience a fluttering in the chest, meaning they have a better chance of detection if they know what to look out for!

Peripheral artery disease

This condition occurs when cholesterol builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the extremities, usually the legs, and can lead to amputation and can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. There are symptoms that accompany it, including leg and foot pain or heaviness, difficulty walking, and leg heaviness. While both sexes often chalk the symptoms up to other conditions of older age, women are especially likely to confuse the symptoms with conditions that affect the bones. 

Heart valve disease 

This occurs when one or more valves in the heart doesn’t work properly, and can lead to a complication called aortic stenosis, or when the valve that allows blood to flow from the heart to the rest of the body is narrowed, restricting that blood flow. While men are more likely to experience chest pain with valve disease, women tend to report more trouble catching their breath, especially when or after exercising.

Reducing Your Risk

So now we know more about what women should be looking out for, and the dangers of mistaking symptoms of heart problems with symptoms of other conditions seen in older women. But now it’s time to look at ways of reducing your risk in the first place!  To lower your risk of developing heart disease, it’s important to:

  • Manage your stress
  • Know your blood pressure, and keep it under control
  • Get tested for diabetescigarettes with a prohibited sign over them
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit your alcohol consumption to one or fewer drinks per day
  • Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains

To all you women out there: we know you’ve got big hearts, but we also want them to be healthy hearts! That means knowing 3 things: that women are at a very big risk of dying from heart disease, that there are subtler signs of it in women than in men (or that it can be mistaken for other conditions), and that there are ways to reduce your risk. Just that little bit of knowledge can make all the difference, and save your life!

Co-written by Joanna Bowling

Poor Heart Health Is A Deadly Sin

How often do you think about your heart health? It’s not something we see on television, yet heart disease remains our number one killer.

bright heart with stethoscope
Doctors will give great advice, so make sure to pay attention to your checkups.

Yearly, 25% of American deaths are from illnesses such as coronary heart disease. Certain factors like race and age also affect your chances.

Think about reaching into a bag of four marbles. One marble is striped, and if you pick that marble, you die. Do you like those odds? 

Poor heart health is deadly and ignoring it should be a crime. Let’s look at how we can keep you from being one of the 610,000 people that die because of it.

Signs of Poor Heart Health

These are common signs that point to poor heart health. If you’re currently experiencing any of these, identify a symptom first, then talk to your doctor about them.

Bloating – This is especially dangerous if the bloating is in your extremities. It can be a sign of poor circulation because your heart can’t pump blood to all of them, and it gets backed up.

Sudden Fatigue – If you catch episodes of random weakness, then it can signal heart disease. This should only cause concern if the weakness comes from habitual activities like grocery shopping, bathing, or walking the dog.

Chest Pain – Most people find this to be the most recognizable sign. Discomfort or pain in the chest. While other causes may affect you, a prolonged feeling of pressure or burning can preempt a heart attack. One tip is to press on the painful spot. If the pain increases from pressure, it may not be heart-related.

Sporadic Heartbeats– When you’re at rest and your heartbeat climbs rapidly, first check to make sure it’s not panic-related or from something like caffeine. If you can rule those out, it could be another sign of poor health.

Spreading Pain – For this sign, it is a preliminary heart attack symptom. If it accompanies chest discomfort, then immediately seek help. The pain often is found in your jaw and neck or in your arm.

Dizziness – While it may be something that points to malnutrition or dehydration, if you’ve eaten and drank well, this could be another sign. Pay attention to if your dizziness springs from nothing or if it is accompanied by chest pain, nausea, or light-headedness.

As with every condition, you should speak to your physician. Be honest about your daily habits so that they can give you the best advice for maintaining your health. These symptoms can all point to other illnesses such as IBS or anxiety. However, assuming wrong in these cases can cost you dearly, so it pays to seek medical advice.

heart health tracked on a watch on a wrist
Utilize technology for help. Use apps to track habits or assist in daily heart health boosts.

Bad Habits to Stop

If you’ve experienced these symptoms in the past or are worried about your health, here are some clear bad habits to quit.

Ignoring Mental Health – While this is a more complicated topic, it is still a concern for heart health. The mental strain conditions like anxiety put you in can increase stress, and stress is bad news for your heart. Take care to alleviate these with meditation or medication. 

Poor Moderation of Activity – Do you sit watching TV for hours? There is a reason why Apple watches tell you to get up. Sitting for excessive periods of time negatively affects your heart’s health. Too much lethargy it bad, but strenuous activity in short bursts is also bad. Take care to stick to a moderate exercise routine and get up regularly throughout the day.

Alcohol – This is a debated view because of alcohol’s cultural status. The accepted answer is about 2 glasses of wine per day should be fine. More than this runs the risk of harming you due to weight gain and high blood pressure.

Poor Diet – We have an obesity problem with over half of America overweight. While fried foods, red meat, and processed sugars are delicious, take care to limit your consumption of them. Focus on a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables.

Don’t ignore the signs–they can lead to hospitalization or worse. As for the habits, we can support each other in working them into our schedules. Poor heart health is not just a disservice; it can be a slow suicide.