10 ways to reduce stress during finals

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May StressReduceFinals (002)10 Ways to Reduce Stress During Finals

Stress is something we all experience at different points in our life. How we deal with stress can impact our mood, our self-esteem, and even our health. The end of the school year can be a stressful time for most folks. There are many things on the minds of young people like finals, prom, finding a summer job, and graduation just to name a few. It is important during stressful times we pause to take care of ourselves. myHealth’s Youth Advisory Board put together this list of stress relieving techniques a person can incorporate into their day. Coping strategies do not solve the problem or stressor, but they do calm us down and re-center our focus so we can better face our stress.

Interested in joining YAB for the 2019-2020 school year?

The myHealth Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is made up of a diverse group of young people ages 15-19 who represent myHealth in their schools and communities and are interested in teen health and leadership opportunities. YAB members give vital input and feedback on the programs and clinic at myHealth, are trained to provide education to classmates, friends, and peers, represent myHealth at community events, help raise awareness and funds for myHealth and volunteer within the local community.

Applications are accepted year-round, but interviews for admission into YAB occurs only once per year, in the summer. If you or a young person you know would like to apply or just have some questions, contact Laura Herman at [email protected].

 

April is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Month!

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Adolescents and young adults experience a disproportionately high rate of sexually transmitted infections. In 2017, adolescents ages 15-19 only accounted for 7% of the Minnesota population but accounted for 25% of all chlamydia and 18% of all gonorrhea cases.1 It is important to talk with young people about STIs and empower them to make responsible and well-informed decisions.

You have probably heard before adolescents have a sense of being invincible, and tend to have an “it will never happen to me” mind-set. This mind-set applies to STIs just as it does to driving fast. Many people don’t think they will ever contract an STI but statistics tell a different story. Talking to young people about STIs can empower them to prevent the spread of STIs, but also lets them know what they can do if they have been infected.

Talking about STIs doesn’t encourage young people to be sexually active, but it does take away the stigma of reproductive health. This stigma prevents young people from talking about STIs with partners, getting tested, and taking care of their health. When we ask young people what might prevent someone from talking about STIs with a partner, the top answers we hear are awkwardness and embarrassment. We want young people to know it’s okay to feel awkward, but there is nothing embarrassing about taking care of their health. But how do we let young people know that? Having conversations of our own.

Talking with our young people about sexuality can seem intimidating. You might feel like you don’t have all the information, don’t know the right time to bring it up, or fear young people will laugh it off or respond with an eye roll. It’s okay to feel this way! Parents don’t have to be experts to be great sexuality educators in their young people’s lives. The most important thing is to be open and available whenever your young person wants to talk.

Not sure how to start talking to your young person about STIs? We have a few tips:

  • Reassure young people that they are normal- as are their questions and thoughts.
  • Ask questions (even if they don’t)! Ask them about what they think, what they know, and what they may want to know about STIs and reproductive health.
  • Make it feel like a normal, everyday conversation, like you’re talking about what groceries you need from the store. This also helps reduce the stigma that exists around STIs and taking care of your reproductive health.
  • Leave a journal article or brochure about STIs out for your young person to see- curiosity almost always prevails. Follow up with a conversation! 
  • Share some of the rumors you heard about STIs when you were in high school and the correct information you know now.
  • Discuss that at times your teen may feel more comfortable talking with someone other than you. Together, think of other trusted adults with whom they can talk with, or resources they can access (like myHealth!).

 

Been a while since your last health class?

Click here to refresh your STI knowledge

 

E-cigarettes and Vaping: What You Should Know

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What is an e-cigarette?

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale or vape aerosolized liquid (e-juice). There are many different types of e-cigarettes, commonly referred to as “vapes” or hookah pens, e-pipes or Juuls, among others. These products are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth!

So what do you need to know? Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain is still developing until about age 25, so when young people are exposed to nicotine it can lead to addiction and disrupt attention and learning. No amount of nicotine is safe for youth. There are hundreds of flavors that can be added to these e-cigarettes to make it “taste” better. The number of flavors is one reason the market for e-cigarettes shifted from helping adults quit smoking to attracting young people to vaping.

In the 2017 Minnesota Youth Tobacco Survey, 19.2% of high school students reported using an e-cigarette within the last 30 days. According to the US Surgeon General, there has been a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students. Recent evidence suggests that, compared to youth who have never used them, youth who have tried e-cigarettes are twice as likely to start smoking in the future.

E-cigarettes are frequently marketed as being a “healthier” option than the traditional cigarette, but this is not true. E-cigarettes have been shown to be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes. The Surgeon General report on e-cigarettes states “the aerosol created by e-cigarettes can contain ingredients that are harmful to the public’s health, including: nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”

So what can we do to keep our young people healthy and not use e-cigarettes? As we say at myHealth, staying well means staying well informed. Knowing what e-cigarettes are, their potential risks, and what they look like are the first steps in helping our young people stay healthy! The Center for Disease Control gives the following tips for chatting with a young person about vaping:

Know the facts.

Be patient and ready to listen.

  • Avoid criticism and encourage an open dialogue.
  • Remember, your goal is to have a conversation, not to deliver a lecture.
  • It’s OK for your conversation to take place over time, in bits and pieces.

Set a positive example by being tobacco-free.

  • If you use tobacco, it’s never too late to quit. For free help, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

 

Check out these great resources for more information on e-cigarettes and young people.

https://www.health.state.mn.us/ecigarettes

http://clearwaymn.org/e-cigarettes/

https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/

 

Healthy Relationships

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It’s February! With Valentine’s Day in this middle month February is often called the month of love! It’s a time to celebrate our appreciation for the loved ones in our life. Did you know February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? Teen dating violence is more common than one may think. In 2016, 17% of Minnesota 11th graders reported experiencing some form of intimate partner violence, including physical, sexual and verbal (2018 Minnesota Adolescent Sexual Health Report). People ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, especially women identified folks. These stats are one of the reasons myHealth believes it is so important to talk to young people about healthy relationships.

A question we get a lot at myHealth is “How do I know if my relationship is healthy?” That is a difficult question and there is not always a straight forward answer. Our Youth Advisory Board (YAB) created this Healthy Relationship poster for Valentine’s Day/Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month to help answer this question. The poster highlights some common healthy and unhealthy behaviors. YAB members will be posting this in their schools for young people to see!

For more information check out myHealth’s tab on Healthy Relationship or visit LoveIsRespect.org.

Loving Our Bodies

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A lot of the young people we work with struggle with body image. Body image is how we view and think about our body. Positive body image occurs when a person is able to accept, appreciate and respect their body. The holiday season can be especially tough for folks who are struggling with body image. Jokes about elastic-waist pants at holiday dinners, favorite holiday foods that only come around once a year, and the overwhelming amount of New Year’s diet and fitness marketing can make this time of the year tough. 

According to Melrose Center, over 50% of Americans are unhappy with their body’s appearance. This is especially true in our young people. 53% of 13 year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17. However this doesn’t just effect women-identified folks, 30% of teen boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors. Another study found that transgender college students had over four times greater risk of being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, and two times greater risk of eating disorder symptoms such as purging compared to their cisgender female peers. Studies have found that young people who have negative body image are more likely to have lower self-esteem, be depressed, anxious, and at higher risk for eating disorders.

Learning to love our bodies is a journey and it’s not always easy. Be gentle with yourselves and your young person. Our society pressures us to always seek something “better” for our body, but give yourself permission to love your body, just the way it is! 

 

There are many ways we can help our young people (and ourselves) love our bodies and enjoy holiday celebrations!

  1. Value your body for what it can do rather than what it looks like. Remember, there is no wrong way to have a body!
  2. Be a body positive role model. Our young people take note of how we talk about ourselves. Even subtle comments and messages we may not be aware of can impact our young people. Instead of making a comment about needing larger pants for all the dinner you are about to eat, thank whoever provided all the delicious food.
  3. Watch how we talk with others. During the holidays we may be seeing family and friends we haven’t seen in a while. Instead of commenting on their appearance “you look great – you’ve lost so much weight” or “wow you have really grown a lot” ask them how they are doing or what they have accomplished this year. Focus on the person as a whole, not just their body.
  4. It is okay to indulge! Many holidays are celebrated with special foods. Have you been looking forward to grandma’s signature mashed potatoes? Then eat them!
  5. Don’t judge what others are eating! Resist the urge to say, “Are you really going to eat that second slice?” It may be said with good intentions, but its impact can be hurtful.
  6. Find a fun way to get moving! Moving our bodies reduces stress, and gives us energy; two things we need during the holidays! It can be hard to find ways to be active during a Minnesota winter. Plan family activities that are fun and get the body moving like dressing warm and finding a sledding hill, or heading to a local community center.

 

BODY IMAGE TIPS FOR EVERYDAY OF THE YEAR

Celebrate and love what your body can do for you.

Have a list of things you like about yourself. Read it regularly.

Think of yourself in entirety and as a whole person, not just a body.

Be mindful of who you surround yourself with. Positivity is contagious!

Follow a variety of profiles on social media that show different bodies.

Cancel the thoughts in your head that don’t add value.

Work with your body, not against it. Wear comfortable clothes that make you feel confident.

Take note of the advertisements and media messages that promote negative self-talk.

Do something nice for yourself.

Take the time you normally worry about food, calories, or your weight and help someone else.

Art credit: Maxine Sarah Art and Unknown