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Healthy Relationships & Relationship Violence

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During the month of February, advertisements for heart shaped jewelry, oversized teddy bears, and chocolates flood the media. For some Valentine’s Day is a special time to spend with a partner, for others an annoying reminder of our society’s heteronormative tendencies. However you celebrate (or don’t), it can be a good time to reflect on the relationships in your life, and not just the romantic ones.

For many, this year created a lot of challenges in staying connected. Whether it was spending too much time together with family at home or going months without seeing friends in person, our relationships have been tested in many ways. Let Valentine’s Day serve as a reminder of the importance of staying connected and how crucial healthy relationships are to our wellbeing. A healthy relationship, whether romantic, family or friendship isn’t about getting everything perfect, having all the same interests, or seeing each other every day. It’s about feeling connected and supported; being loved and appreciated for who you are.  It also does not mean there is never conflict but rather when conflict happens, it’s handled with mutual respect and understanding. It’s not about winning an argument or tearing the other down, it’s about listening, balance, and building each other up.

Unfortunately, many folks, especially young people, find themselves dealing with unhealthy relationships. The Hotline, a national organization that provides support to victims of domestic violence, reports as many as 1 in 4 women, 1 in 7 men and 1 in 3 teens will experience dating abuse. What does an unhealthy relationship look like? That is a tough question to answer. Maybe a partner or friend never considers your needs or feelings. Maybe the relationship feels like all the work is left up to you. Maybe your partner threatens you but tries to play if off as a joke. According to LoveisRespect “All relationships exist on a spectrum from healthy to abusive, with unhealthy relationships somewhere in the middle.”

A lot of the young people we work with come to the realization their relationships may not be a healthy as they thought. This can be really confusing and scary, but a person doesn’t have to navigate an unhealthy relationship alone. There are a lot of amazing resources that can help a person navigate relationships, break ups, and creating a safety plan. It can also be helpful to lean on other supportive people in someone’s life like a friend, family member, or trusted adult. If you are in an unhealthy relationship and need support, please check out the resources below:

LoveisRespect

The Hotline

Teen Dating Violence

Break the Cycle

Sexual Violence Center (local)

Cornerstone (local)

Want myHealth to talk about healthy relationships in your classroom, organization or other community group? Reach out to our Community Education Manager, Gabby Fitzgerald, to learn more: [email protected].

Tips to Quit Vaping for Teens

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1. Know Why You’re Quitting

There are many good reasons to stop vaping. Do you want to feel healthier? Save money? Knowing why you want to quit vaping can help you stay motivated and focused on your goal to become vape-free.

Think about the things in your life that are important to you. Does vaping get in the way of what’s important? If you’re not sure, try asking yourself these questions:

  • Is vaping affecting my health?
  • Is vaping controlling my life?
  • How does vaping affect the way I think and feel?
  • How does vaping affect my relationships with my friends, parents, boyfriend/girlfriend, or other people important to me?
  • How does vaping or thinking about vaping interfere with my schoolwork or grades?
  • Are there activities that I used to enjoy that I don’t enjoy anymore because of vaping?
  • Am I spending a lot of money to keep vaping?
  • What am I looking forward to the most after quitting?

2. Commit to Your Quit

The first step to giving up vaping is to choose a date to quit. Here are some tips to help you pick a quit date:

  • Give yourself time to get ready. Getting ready can help you feel confident and give you the skills you’ll need to stay quit.
  • Don’t put it off for too long. Picking a date too far away gives you time to change your mind or become less interested in quitting. Choose a date that is no more than a week or two away.
  • Set yourself up for success. Try not to pick a quit date that will be stressful, like the day before a big test.

Have you picked your quit date? Circle it on your calendar or set an alert on your phone, and make sure you have a plan for what you will do on the big day.

3. Know What Challenges to Expect

The first few weeks of quitting vaping are usually the hardest. Take it one day at a time. You may face some challenges along the way, but knowing what to expect and being prepared can help.

Learn your triggers. Certain people, feelings, or situations can cause you to want to vape. It’s important to know your triggers. It may be best to avoid situations that can trigger you to vape when you’re in the early stages of your quit.

Prepare for cravings and withdrawal. Think about how you will fight cravings and deal with withdrawal symptoms. Knowing what to expect and having strategies for handling thoughts about vaping or uncomfortable feelings will help you succeed and stay with your quit in those tough moments.

Resist temptations. Avoid places and situations where others are vaping. If you can’t avoid being around vaping, plan for how you will handle these situations. Maybe that means you take a temporary break from friends you vape with and think about what you will say if somebody offers you a vape.

4. Imagine Your Vape-Free Self

It might be hard to imagine your life without e-cigarettes – especially if vaping is something you do a lot throughout the day. You might feel like a piece of yourself is missing when you first quit. It can take time to get used to the new vape-free you, but over time this will become your new normal. Here are some strategies that can help:

  • Make the mental shift. Start thinking of yourself as someone who doesn’t vape. This will help separate you from vaping and give you the confidence to quit and stay quit.
  • Focus on the positive. Make a list of all the positive things about yourself that don’t involve vaping and put it somewhere you can see often, like on your bedroom wall or phone. It will remind you that vaping does not define who you are.

Picture the future you. Think about who you want to be in the future. Compare that with who you are now. Ask yourself: How are they different? How does vaping get in the way of what you want for the future? The answer to this can help motivate you to stick to your decision to quit.

5. Build Your Team

Surrounding yourself with supportive people can make it easier to quit vaping. Friends, family, co-workers, and others can be there to listen, boost your mood, and distract you from using your vape.

Ask for help. You don’t have to do it alone. If you feel comfortable, tell your friends and family that you’re quitting vaping and that you will need their support. Here are some ways to ask for the support you need.

  • Be specific. Whether you need tough love or something softer, tell your friends and family what type of support you want, and how often you want their help. For example, if you are feeling stressed or anxious after school, ask a friend to help keep you distracted.
  • Say thank you. Tell your support team you appreciate them. A thank-you can go a long way – and it doesn’t take much time. Research also shows that being grateful can improve physical health, mental health, and self-esteem.
  • Support others. Support is a two-way street. Check-in with your friends and ask them what you can do to help them. Or, do something to brighten someone’s day.

Talk to a doctor. Talk to your doctor or another health care professional about how to quit vaping. Ask how they might be able to help you. They can offer support and resources.

Talk to a tobacco cessation counselor. Get free, personalized support from an expert. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-877-44U-QUIT to talk with a tobacco cessation counselor. You can also chat online using the National Cancer Institute’s LiveHelp service.

Dealing with people who don’t get it. Some important people in your life may not understand your decision to quit. It can be frustrating or discouraging when someone in your life is not as supportive as you’d like. Try one of these strategies:

  • Distance yourself. You may need to take a break from unsupportive people when you first quit. Let them know that you need to make quitting vaping your priority right now.
  • Recommit to quitting. Remind yourself why you are quitting and why being vape-free is important to you.
  • Ask them to respect your decision. Not everyone will know how to be supportive, and that’s okay. Ask them not to vape around you or offer you to use their vape.
  • Lean on positive people. Spend time with people who make you feel good about your decision and who want you to quit.

Set a date to quit vaping and make a plan that works for you. You’ll be healthier and happier in the long run.

At first, putting down the vape may seem impossible, but you CAN do it, and it will get easier with time.

Nicotine addiction can make you feel like you can’t go a minute without vaping. Quitting can help you feel more in control of your life.

Avoid reminders of vaping by changing your routine. Small changes—like taking a different route to school—can help.

https://teen.smokefree.gov/quit-vaping/how-to-quit-vaping

Forming Positive Habits

Forming Positive Habits

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It’s that time of year. Time for the inevitable New Year’s resolution. Ugh. Who needs this kind of stress to start out the new year? Not me. Especially after the truly awful events of 2020. But honestly, I do it every year anyhow. So here we go, again.

I have a piece of paper taped to my door that lists all the ways to ‘Find Your Happy Place.’ In fact, I placed several of them around my office in the hopes of encouraging others to find their happy place. Some of the things listed are a little unrealistic, but a few make sense to me and might help you find a way to start off the new year.

Take small steps towards your goal but do these steps every day. Habits are formed because you do them all the time. Maybe the small step towards being present is to meditate a few times a week, or for five minutes a day. Start small and work up to big. For instance, don’t scroll through social media when you’re with friends/family. Daydreaming during class or a zoom meeting? Make note of it and bring yourself back to what your teachers, classmates and peers are saying. Stay present.

Make a list of what you want to accomplish and mark off the accomplishments each day. I take pleasure in using a big black Sharpie to cross off to-do items on my list. When my list is mostly a sheet with lots of black lines on it, I start a new to-do list. It is cathartic. Also, a great way to stay organized and not ignore things that you know you need to do. Finishing things on a list will make you feel good about yourself and your activities.

Ask a friend to work on your new habit too. Telling someone about your goals will help you be accountable. Better yet, get your friend to work on a goal too. Having a partner to talk to and check-in with about what you want and how you are doing can be very rewarding. Knowing that the other person is looking for support from you and expecting to give you support back can help you both accomplish something big.

Give yourself love. Celebrate your accomplishments. Remind yourself that you are good enough and you are making a difference. Even if the steps feel small, a small win is still a win! Change takes time. Know that bad habits took time to develop and so will good habits. Track your progress and forgive yourself when you don’t accomplish everything the first week.

New Year’s resolutions often fail because we try to set our goals too high. Let’s be realistic, after 2020, accomplishing anything in 2021 that makes us feel good should be cause for applause! Good luck.

Gerilyn Hausback, myHealth Executive Director

Talk to your parents about sex

Let’s Talk

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Guest Blog Post

myHealth for Teens and Young Adults wants to help foster a culture that allows young people to discuss their sexuality candidly. While it can be awkward or cumbersome to talk about sex, contraception, and dating, it is incredibly essential that teens have these conversations with their parents and other trusted adults.

The prospect of discussing sexual health and contraceptives with your parents can seem mortifying, but it is imperative in order to ensure that you are making responsible choices. Talking to your parents about sex can help you access critical resources for your sexual health, such as contraceptives, the HPV vaccine, and STD testing. Moreover, your parents may be a guiding force when it comes to sexual health, dating, and relationships. There are many tactics you can use to begin a discussion with your parents about these topics. For instance, you can brainstorm questions that you have to prepare for the conversation and let them know that you want to talk about something personal. Furthermore, it is entirely acceptable to immediately disclose that you don’t feel altogether comfortable discussing these topics but understand how it will benefit you. The Planned Parenthood organization also suggests using a reference to an article or show to bring up the subject. This strategy may help you transition into your specific questions more naturally.

Many of you may remain unconvinced, inwardly cringing at the thought of broaching such a topic with your mom and dad. While you may think that they will react negatively or with shock, it is more likely that your parents are willing to endure a little initial embarrassment to gain some insight into your life. After all, your parents care about you immensely, and they want you to feel comfortable coming to them for support. As odd as it may feel to consider, your parents were once in your shoes and had experience  navigating sexual health and relationships in their youth as well. Openly having a conversation with them about topics related to sex and dating will not only strengthen your relationship, but it will also allow you both to gauge each other’s thoughts on the topics. Doing this will ensure that you are on the same page. Above all, having a conversation with your parents will equip you with the ability to make safe choices about your health by showing you that you have someone to turn to for guidance.

Devna Panda, Youth Advisory Board (YAB) member

Isabel Mercado | Self-Care Blog for myHealth by Morgan Hausback

Why I Care

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Guest Blog Post (get out and vote)

The morning after I graduated from high school, I received a congratulatory call from my grandparents. My grandpa spoke first. In his ever so endearing voice that only made my heart hurt more at the fact that he wasn’t celebrating with me in person, he relayed these words to me: “you are a lady of the world now”. He asked me if I felt any different. I did not. The only difference from the me now and the me 16 hours ago was the diploma laying on my desk.

A few days later, I was finishing up my second re-watch of “The West Wing” (more on that later) and suddenly, his words had some meaning. What does it mean to be a “lady of the world”? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows or ever will know. But as I let the words sit with me, I gathered and decided on this much: being a lady of the world, being of the world, means to be present, active and aware.

Present in the fact that I have been experiencing history through this pandemic and that one day when history is retold, I can say I remember where I was, what I heard and how I was changed. Active in my future as a college student because there is no time like now to take control over my own life and act on what I want to do with it. And finally, aware that the future is dependent on me and my ability to speak out, be passionate and be involved in the changing of the world.

That is a pretty big responsibility I realize. But this is a responsibility that I am so honored to take on. And I think you should be just as ecstatic as me.

In about a month, I get to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election. Just typing that phrase makes me giddy because it is something I have thought and read about enough to the point where I can honestly admit to excitement. Now, without getting politically deep or specific, I mention the vote. It is a basic constitutional right, and that alone is why I am excited for this chance. Let me repeat that. The vote is a basic constitutional right. There are so many ways in which a young person’s voice can be silenced. Despite lack of experience, lack of a following and lack of the legitimate power to induce change, by the age of 18, there is a clear way to contribute to change. That way is through the vote.

A year and a half ago, I had little to no interest in politics. Political agenda was not on my radar. While the events happening in the political climate made me react, I felt like nothing more than a bystander to the United States government.

It was then that my mom suggested I watch the show “The West Wing. A year and a half later, I have watched “The West Wing” twice through. My heart is warmed at simply thinking about Aaron Sorkin’s captivating drama. Perhaps, it is dramatic to say that this show is a necessity for everyone to watch. Although, my suggestion is that you should watch “The West Wing” if you are interested in politics or you wish to be inspired. The drama is not about the big picture items (though they do come up) but is about the constant work and effort being put into the United States to make it a better nation.

Highlighting a variety of characters in the White House, doing mostly side jobs and still ignoring thousands of other individuals with equally important tasks in the United States government, Aaron Sorkin instills in viewers the belief that good is possible. Good can be and will be achieved. But the task alone is never one man’s job. It is the work of young people, of educated people, of passionate people and more.

“The West Wing” taught me that when you feel obsolete, there are people working to make you feel worthy. While results can be daunting and take time, I choose to trust that work is being done. I choose to believe that the world never truly does stop to improve the lives of people.

We are members of a world that makes hopelessness far too easily accomplished. Far too many days, I find myself waking up feeling powerless, as if the entire world spins just to be out of my control. As the generation that has been cited as apathetic, I am beginning to realize this apathy is in fact a great weight that we do not know how to conquer or carry.

But what does this mean for you individually? You can be present, active and aware in your own community. Be mindful. Be compassionate. Believe that you are a huge role in this nation’s future. It all starts with one thought.

Young adults everywhere have the privilege to represent something bigger than themselves. According to National Public Radio (NPR), “Millennials and some members of Gen Z comprise 37% of eligible voters,” perpetuating this importance of voting. Instead of feeling despondent or finding flaws in politics to become furious about, you can do something. Educate yourselves about the candidates, and when November 3 rolls around, make a conscious decision that may seem miniscule but can be one small step towards change.

In the pilot of “The West Wing”, President Josiah Bartlet asks: “What’s next?”

What is next for us as college students? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few steps to take as November comes at us full speed:

  1. Register to vote!
  2. Educate yourself on the election and all the platforms.
  3. Finally, make an educated decision.

No one can tell you what to believe. Now is the time to start figuring it out for yourself. This is our future, after all. Today and every day pushing forward, I am a lady of the world. I am a citizen who has a responsibility to care and to work towards something greater than myself.

What are you today and every day? But more importantly, what do you stand for?

Morgan Hausback, student at St. Louis University

An English major and certified coffee addict who just wants to write her heart out.

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