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Constituency and Making Your Voice Heard

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More times than not, people tend to feel powerless. It can be easier to think of the government as something large and beyond us. However, I tend to think differently. While at the end of the day, it is the government who can make legislative decisions, policy changes, and overall impact the way the country functions and prospers, there are individual steps that lie in the hands of constituents, that is the voters who elect the representatives both on a local and national level. 

It can be difficult to know where to start. How do you become an active participant in the decisions of the lives around you? How do you find a way to make your small but mighty voice heard amidst the major news outlets and sources? How can you educate yourself on your own community and the immediate issues around you? 

These are questions I don’t have all the answers to because I am learning too. Politics were never something on my radar, but during the past year, I have learned just how essential it is to understand what is going on today. Though much of what goes on within the world of politics can be foreign and completely unrelated to me individually, understanding politics and the division that exists in the United States today allows me to shape my belief systems. I have learned how valuable the vote is and that staying silent is never the answer to change. 

A great place to start is to ask this question: What are the causes and subjects that matter to me? In high school I knew I was passionate about accessible reproductive healthcare. Since I attended private school, the education I received in the classroom was insufficient in many ways. I became deeply passionate about ways in which healthcare can and ought to be more accessible to everyone. When I read current news, I keep an eye out for articles related to legislation and/or opinion pieces on healthcare, so I can better understand what is happening in different states and better establish my own stance and belief.

There is so much that remains deeply puzzling to me regarding politics. It seems like everytime I scroll through recent articles or turn on a news channel, I hear about an event or a topic that is new to me. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the volumes of information available by a single click, but I think there is encouragement in that as well. With such a wide variety of concerns pressing our nation, there is bound to be something of interest to you. There is a cause out there with your name on it, and once you find it, you will feel the call to change. The things we care about are the things we fight for. 

So, where do you start? My first piece of advice to be an active constituent and voice in your community and/or on a federal level is to educate yourself. It sounds simple, but it can be extremely difficult to navigate the hundreds of news sources just for a little information on current events. When it comes to reading the news, I suggest reading multiple sources. No single source has it all, and there is a bias in most new outlets. 

Outside of understanding the day to day pressing concerns, it is equally important to understand current legislation. For the state of Minnesota, you can access this link to view all of the bills moving through both the House of Representatives and the Senate. To see what is happening in Washington D.C, you can view active legislation here. Progress can feel slow, but it is happening. Every day representatives, senators, and passionate individuals are working to make change happen, even if it is behind what seems to be closed doors. 

Pay attention to your own representatives. If you are unsure who your local legislators are, you can find out here. It is important to remember that the government is much more than a federal organization. It is a local body at work, influencing your everyday life. 

In high school, I cared deeply about making reproductive healthcare both accessible and safe. From that interest, I began to volunteer on the Youth Advisory Board for myHealth. It was an opportunity to stimulate my passions and work alongside similarly minded youth. In college, I am a part of a school organization that works to promote sexual health education on campus. 

Once you know what you are passionate about, the next step is to get involved and be outspoken. Knowing what you care about is important, but action is where things will change. Volunteer at organizations with the same passions as you, use your social media platform to raise awareness, and most importantly, take an interest because everyone is affected. 

Guest post by Morgan Hausback

People with Penises’ Health Blog

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Let’s talk about health care! It’s recommended that people schedule a visit to the doctors once a year, usually this is called an annual exam. At this visit they can talk about any concerns they have about their body, health, or activities. It is a chance for a doctor to provide preventative services and check to see if there are any concerns developing. There are a few things that happen during an annual, so let’s look into it!

The nurse will measure a person’s height and weight. In the office they will ask about medications to see if there are any changes. There will be a depression screening, and there will be questions about a person’s activities such as substance use and sexual activity. The nurse will also ask if the person has any questions or concerns they want addressed that day.

When it comes to the exam the nurse or doctor will ask to check various parts of a person’s body. They will typically check blood pressure, pulse, the heart, lungs, nose, ears, and, mouth. At myHealth, someone will have a physical exam of their genitals if the patient requests it or if there are things to address such as rashes, bumps, or other irregularities. 

Advocacy

This relationship between a doctor and their patient can be vulnerable and it is important a person feels comfortable with the doctor performing exams, asking about a person’s activities, and having conversations about a person’s health. A patient has the right to ask their doctor questions about the exam, treatment, recommendations, and any other part of the visit. If a person feels uncomfortable with their doctor it could be helpful to search for another provider. Many times clinics will have a small bio on the doctors that a person can use to see if they are a good fit. Doctors will list their focuses, passions, groups they have experiences with, and many times some identities are present in their pictures. Some might mention they are LGBTQ+ comprehensive, sports focused, and so much more.

Identity

A person can let their healthcare provider know how they would like to be addressed and what name they prefer. This can be added to the chart. A patient deserves to have their pronouns and name correctly used during their visit.

*Check out our blog on what happens at annuals for people with vulvas

People with Vulvas’ Health Blog

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Let’s talk about health care! It’s recommended that people schedule a visit to the doctors once a year, usually this is called an annual exam. At this visit they can talk about any concerns they have about their body, health, or activities. It is a chance for a doctor to provide preventative services and check to see if there are any concerns developing. There are a few things that happen during an annual, so let’s look into it!

The nurse will measure a person’s height and weight. In the office they will ask about medications to see if there are any changes. There will be a depression screening, and there will be questions about a person’s activities such as substance use and sexual activity. The nurse will also ask if the person has any questions or concerns they want addressed that day. During this visit there may be a discussion on contraception depending on the answers a person has about their sexual experiences. This is a great opportunity to ask about different types and the effects it could have on a person. 

When it comes to the exam the nurse or doctor will ask to check various parts of a person’s body. They will typically check blood pressure, pulse, the heart, lungs, nose, ears, and, mouth. At myHealth, someone will have a physical exam of their genitals if the patient requests it or if there are things to address such as rashes, discharge, or other irregularities. 

Pap Smears 

A doctor may recommend a breast exam and a vaginal exam (pap smear). Pap smears should be completed starting at age 21 and continue every 3 years if results are normal*. Sometimes a person is given a hospital gown to wear or a person will remove their bottoms and underwear, a paper cloth is given to place over a person’s lap. During a pap smear, a person will lay on the exam table and the doctor will sit on a stool for the exam. Usually, the doctor will let the patient know what they are doing and state when they are going to go into the vagina. A speculum and lubrication are used to go into the vagina. Sometimes it might feel slightly cold and there might be some pressure. There are different size speculums that a doctor can use so if there is some discomfort with the exam a person can ask for a smaller speculum.

For a pap smear, a small sample of tissue will be taken from the cervix. The doctor will look to check for cysts, discharge, and any other concerns a person might ask about. If a person has a history of trauma or anxiety around vaginal exams they can inform the doctor or nurse and different processes can be utilized to make sure the person feels safe and comfortable during the exam.

Advocacy

This relationship between a doctor and their patient can be vulnerable and it is important a person feels comfortable with the doctor performing exams, asking about a person’s activities, and having conversations about a person’s health. A patient has the right to ask their doctor questions about the exam, treatment, recommendations, and any other part of the visit. 

If a person feels uncomfortable with their doctor it could be helpful to search for another provider. Many times clinics will have a small bio on the doctors that a person can use to see if they are a good fit. Doctors will list their focuses, passions, groups they have experiences with, and many times some identities are present in their pictures. Some might mention they are LGBTQ+ comprehensive, sports focused, and so much more. 

Identity

A person can let their healthcare provider know how they would like to be addressed and what name they prefer. This can be added to the chart. A patient deserves to have their pronouns and name correctly used during their visit.

*If results are abnormal, the person should have a repeat pap in one year, not any earlier. Their doctor can explain the process more in-depth. 

**Check out our blog on what happens at annuals for people with penises

Navigating Sensitive Conversations with Your Doctor

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“Why me? Why now?” 

No matter how many revolutions happen in health care, the thought of visiting the doctor can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be an obstacle to seeking the care that you need — and the care you deserve!

Our bodies are unique, ever-changing organisms. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you are exactly like someone else, or like the worst-case scenario that pops up when you search for your symptoms.

Nothing they haven’t seen before

You may feel anxious, but remember you are one of many people who have felt just like you feel right now! There isn’t a question that hasn’t been asked before. 

Maybe you fear an HPV infection, and you’ve just booked your first cervical screening. Your doctor is only there to help, and it’s probably their 1875th screening (or so!). Doctors are people who understand what you’re feeling and how to help.

Addressing uncomfortable topics with your doctor

Anxiety-inducing questions vary by person. Here are some common ones:

  • Sex-related topics such as libido, erectile dysfunction, sexually transmitted infections
  • Poop stuff: IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), constipation
  • Mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and relationship struggles
  • Gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Bad breath
  • Body odor

You may be describing something that feels like a flaw, but health struggles do not determine your self-worth. No matter how silly or awkward the problem appears to be, dealing with it head-on prevents it from growing into something potentially more serious.

Let’s look at an example.

Bring your notes

Let’s say you need counseling, but you don’t know how to verbalize what and how you’re feeling. Just the thought of being asked what you need help with may conjure up scenes of awkward silence as you try to figure out what to say.

Write down your concerns down beforehand. Conduct a case study of your own. Don’t worry about your literary style—we’re not in school, and there are no grades. Make a note of your symptoms, whatever the problem may be. Your notes will spark a conversation with your doctor, who is trained to guide you and ask helpful followup questions. 

Try reading your notes out loud before your appointment to ease your nerves. No method is too silly when your health is at stake.

Fellowship hour

You and your doctor have the same goal and share the same interest: making you healthy and happy. Addressing uncomfortable topics with your doctor doesn’t have to be distressing. Give yourself space to establish a rapport with your doctor. 

Once you trust them, it becomes so much easier to open up about sensitive, private concerns about your body. Health care workers want you to be well; they just need you to give them information so they know how to help.

Honesty is your shield

Building trust with your doctor may start with blunt honesty. It can be as little as: “Hi, I’m nervous,” or “I’ve never shared this with anyone.”

This admission is your doctor’s cue to slow down and do everything in their power to make you feel comfortable before asking questions. It’s important to remember that they’ve seen, heard, and touched things beyond our wildest imagination. They are eager to help, and they will work around shyness and uncertainty to work toward a good outcome.

Tell it plainly

Sex, addiction, and mental health issues are common in adolescents and younger people. No matter how embarrassing or bad it feels to admit, you’re there because your problem needs fixing and you want to fix it. Sharing details about painful sex with your doctor sounds frightening, but it is a necessary step. Google isn’t a doctor; always remember that. 

Schools can support students going through recovery, too, so learning to be open and talking about it is the first step to getting better. If you’re struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out. Your whole future depends on whether you’re open to receiving the help you need. 

There is no shame in asking questions

As the conversation unfolds, you may feel overwhelmed by the exam, the advice, or the medical terms. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or write things down on some paper or on your phone. If you’re there to get help regarding stress management, for example, just nodding through their advice won’t be nearly as beneficial!

Always remember that you’re not bothering your health care providers when you ask questions about your care. They want you to understand everything they are telling you. They want you to be able to take charge of your health. This is a partnership, not just the doctor curing you, or you wandering off on your own.

Don’t sweep it under the rug

You’d be surprised how easily some health issues can be fixed. Not addressing uncomfortable topics with your doctor and keeping it a secret will only prolong your discomfort and worry. Gather the courage and get help today!

pride flag

Pride in 2022

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Pride Month brings a celebratory atmosphere every year, but in 2022, Pride also reminds us that the fight for equality is ongoing. In the past year, over a dozen states have restricted the rights of trans youth, including unwarranted sports restrictions, bans on gender-affirming care, and the endorsement of Child Protective Services investigating families with trans minors.

The concerns felt by many in the LGBTQIA+ community in the United States are legitimate, and myHealth stands with the LGBTQIA+ community in calling for human rights for everyone. We are grateful that the Minnesota government has upheld rights for LGBTQIA+ people and we will continue to advocate for those rights.

Our education team, clinic staff, and counselors are proud to support LGBTQIA+ young people in their journeys, whether it’s by providing counseling, education, reproductive health care, insurance assistance, or referrals for gender-affirming care. We are always thinking of ways to keep myHealth a place where LGBTQIA+ people can feel accepted, safe, and free to be themselves.

Taking Pride

The term “Gay Pride” was coined just miles away from myHealth! In the early 70s, Minneapolis residents Michael McConnell and Jack Baker popularized the term after becoming the first gay couple to successfully apply for a marriage license in the United States.

Since the 70s, the idea of Gay Pride or LGBT Pride has come to cover a multitude of marginalized identities. All people deserve to take pride in who they are, and in their role in their community. 

This June, myHealth wishes you a Pride full of joy, love, and the defiance of hatred. Know that no matter what happens in the United States, there are countless people who support you and will fight for your right to be you. Together, we are stronger and happier.

Resources

Are you concerned about your general, mental, or sexual health? Call myHealth at 952-474-3251.

Are you seeking gender-affirming care? Our trusted community partner, Family Tree Clinic, can help you! 

Are you a young person ages 14 to 19 in need of emergency shelter? Contact our trusted community partner Hope House.

Celebrating 50 Years of myHealth!

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Please join us for an open house celebrating 50 years of myHealth! Since 1972, myHealth has sought to bring easily accessible high-quality care to the young people in the west metro. For our 50th anniversary, we want to celebrate our partnership with our wonderful community:

What Day: Saturday, June 4, 2022

What Time: 10am to 2pm

Where: 8th Avenue S, Hopkins, MN 55343

Celebration Details

Spread the word! Send people to myHealth’s website, or to the press release below.

View Press Release

Stress Management

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While feeling stress is normal and expected, constantly battling worry, anxiety, and excessive levels of stress can be draining and negatively impact your health. Eliminating all stress isn’t possible, but it is possible to begin ridding yourself of unnecessary stress and building tools to better manage unavoidable stress. 

What’s Causing You Stress?

Start by identifying your stressors. One approach is to keep a record of things that are causing your stress. Check in with yourself throughout the day, noting the time, your level of stress, and what the root cause is or what you believe it to be. It could be a person, a situation, or your own thoughts and actions. Keeping track of these stressors will help you identify patterns and better understand why you feel stress as well as what you can do to change them or better manage them. 

Importance of Prevention

Set yourself up for success by building healthy habits. 

  • Aim to eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day 
  • Make time for movement! Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Remember that you can split the 30 minutes, if necessary, and exercise for 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 minutes later in the day. 
  • Set a goal to sleep about 8 hours every night and keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. 

Stress Management Techniques

While some stress may be preventable, it is also important to have tools to manage stress that is unavoidable. Let’s explore six stress management techniques to help keep you grounded and some tools that can get you started. 

Meditation

Meditation is a skill which is continuously built by training your mind and thoughts in order to raise your awareness and sense of perspective. There is a misconception that meditation is emptying your mind, but it’s actually about learning to let thoughts come and go, observing them without judgment. 

If you are new to meditation, remember to be kind and patient with yourself. It’s normal for your mind to wander. No one is bad at meditation, it just takes time and practice to learn to quiet your thoughts. It is counterproductive to let your stress management methods cause you greater stress!

Tools

  • Body Scan

    • Start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position and taking a few deep breaths, feeling the sides of your abdomen expand and collapse
    • Let your breathing return to normal and bring your attention to your feet
    • Observe any sensations such as the feeling of your socks on your skin or points of contact between feet and the floor
    • Breathe through any tension, itchiness, or pain. Acknowledge these sensations and gently breathe through them or visual them leaving your body through your breath
    • Once your feet are relaxed, continue up to your ankles and repeat.
    • Continue slowly bringing your awareness to each part of your body until you’ve reached the top of your head
    • Take a few deep breaths to let go of any remaining stress or tension
  • Visualization

    • Being by sitting in a comfortable position
    • Close your eyes and take three deep breaths
    • Visualize a setting that is calming, it can be imagined or a real place you have visited such as a bench overlooking a stream or lake
    • Add as much detail as possible to immerse yourself in your visualization. What season is it? What sounds do you hear? What smells surround you? What’s the weather like? What time of day is it? 
    • Continue to slow your breath and building your mental image
    • If your mind begins to wander, gently bring it back to your breath and add more detail to your visualization, such as another plant or object in sight
    • When you feel calm, return to your focus to your breath and let your visualization fade before opening your eyes
  • Guided Meditation

    • Guided meditations are led by a narrator who helps you find your focus and walks you through steps to meditate
    • This technique can be especially helpful for those who are new to meditation or would like some additional guidance to stay mindful and in the present
    • There are many guided meditations available for free. The Youtube Channel Goodful has several 5- or 10-minute guided meditation videos. There are also apps that you can download to your phone such as Insight Timer or Calm with plenty of free content to help you get started

Affirmations

Positive affirmations are short, motivational statements that help build self-esteem, ground you in the present, promote mindfulness, and combat negative thoughts and harmful self-talk. 

Examples: 

I love myself unconditionally.

I accept myself as I am.

I am enough.

Tools

  • Leave small notes or post-its in areas you frequently walk past with a meaningful affirmation on it and say it aloud each time it catches your eye
  • Take a video or audio recording of yourself repeating your favorite affirmations and play it in the morning to start your day
  • The Daily Shine podcast has guided meditations and affirmations          
  • I Am is an app that provides affirmations as well as notifications throughout the day to remind you of your affirmations

Journaling

Journaling can be a great place to start on your mindfulness journey. Simply grab a diary, notebook, or paper try out the methods below!

Tools

  • Regrets/Gratitude/For Today
    • Start by sitting down with your journal, closing your eyes and taking three deep breaths
    • When you feel calm and grounded, open your eyes, pick up your pen, and write three regrets from the day before, followed by three things you are grateful for, and then goals for the day or your affirmations
  • Find prompts for guided journaling here

Prevention and practice are both essential parts of stress management. Rather than trying to get rid of all stress in your life, instead focus on building healthier responses to stress.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’ve taken steps to manage your stress but it continues to interfere with your daily life, it may be time to schedule a visit with your healthcare provider. myHealth staff are here to support you! Visit myhealthmn.org/counseling/ to learn more.

Woman in Winter

Winter Asthma Control

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It’s that time of year! Enjoy these asthma control tips for winter complements of the Minnesota Department of Health.

The winter months can be difficult for Minnesotans with asthma because of triggers associated with winter and the holidays.

Take steps to control your asthma.

  • Cold, dry air can trigger asthma but you can avoid this by wearing a scarf around your nose and mouth to keep the air you breathe warm and damp.
  • All kinds of smoke can trigger asthma, so it’s best to avoid wood smoke, e-cigarette vapor, and cigarette smoke.
  • Avoid using scented products such as candles, incense, and cleaning products.
  • Live holiday trees and wreaths can contain mold and dust to build up. Consider allergy-friendly alternatives.
  • Vacuum dusty holiday or winter decorations to avoid allergens.

Continue to take your medications, follow your asthma action plan, and remember your inhaler technique.

  • Take your controller medication as prescribed, carry your rescue medication with you, and follow your asthma action plan (AAP).
  • Schedule a visit with your health care provider.
  • Get your annual flu vaccine.
  • Pack smart. If you’re traveling across country or just for an overnight with friends or family, make sure all asthma medications are packed, inhalers are full (check the expiration date) and that the medications will last the length of the trip.
  • Remember your inhaler technique.

For more information for patients, families, and caregivers on different types of triggers and how to avoid exposures to specific individual triggers, a MDH trigger information sheet is available in both English and Spanish.

Learn more about improving your asthma during the winter season by visiting the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s article, 5 Asthma and Allergy Tips for a Healthier Home for the Holidays.

Make sure you know how to use your inhaler.

Improper inhaler technique can negatively impact asthma control. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American, up to 92% of people with asthma use their device incorrectly.

The National Jewish Health inhaler technique videos or CDC asthma inhaler videos are great resources to review your technique.

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