It’s Time For Your Flu Shot

By Dr. Nikita Mathew, DO PGY1

“Every year, 10 to 40 million people are affected by the influenza virus, resulting in 140,000 to 960,000 hospitalizations annually.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As Halloween decorations come up and pumpkin spice lattes are around every corner, the other hallmark of fall also emerges—the flu vaccine. Symptoms typically include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • sore throat
  • body aches

5 common questions about the flu vaccine

  1. Can I get the flu shot? Everyone over the age of 6 months is eligible for the flu vaccine. This includes special populations such as pregnant women, adults with chronic health conditions, and those over 65 years old. Exceptions to the flu vaccine are very limited, and include children less than 6 months old and those who had severe allergic reactions to the flu vaccine. You may have heard that those with egg allergies cannot get the flu shot, but the CDC recommends that these individuals still get the vaccine, but they may need to be monitored briefly afterward in a healthcare setting for allergic symptoms. There are also egg-free vaccines available.
  2. Why do I have to get the flu shot every year? The influenza virus changes year to year, so the flu vaccine you got last year likely will not protect you from the specific strain that is widespread this year. Researchers develop vaccines that will fight this year’s particular strain of the virus to maximize your protection. In addition, your immunity decreases over time so getting the vaccine annually helps build up your immunity again.
  3. When should I get the vaccine? The influenza virus is seasonal, typically starting in mid-October and peaking in winter. Your body will produce sufficient antibodies within two weeks after getting the vaccine. This is why the CDC recommends getting your flu shot sometime between September and late October. However, it’s never too late to get one, even past October. Flu shots will continue to be available well into winter and can protect you from the remainder of the flu season.
  4. Why do I feel like I have the flu after getting the shot? The flu vaccine contains an inactivated strain of the virus, meaning it cannot cause the flu but it does trigger your body’s immune response. This can result in body aches or a low-grade fever, but these symptoms are significantly less severe than those caused by the actual flu virus and resolve in 1-2 days, if present at all.
  5. How will the flu season be affected by COVID-19? Getting the flu shot is important every year, but especially this year in light of COVID-19. The pandemic has already stretched hospitals and healthcare resources pretty thin. Being vaccinated against the flu and reducing the risk of hospitalization is essential to help avoid an overlapping peak of influenza and coronavirus this winter. The flu shot will not make you more or less susceptible to COVID-19 since the viruses are completely separate.

Getting vaccinated not only helps protect you, but also helps protect your community and eases the burden on hospitals and the healthcare industry. Flu shots are currently available at NOAH clinics, so schedule an appointment today!

Physical and Mental Benefits of Being Kind

By Jessica Heintz, DO

In a world focused on getting ahead and moving faster, perhaps the solution to many problems is to simply slow down and be nice to someone – including ourselves! Kindness is a trait that everyone is capable of but far fewer demonstrate. At the same time, people stop and take notice when they see a truly kind act demonstrated by another. Described as a “habit of giving,” kindness can produce physical, social, and psychological benefits. It puts a smile on our faces while at the same time making the world a better, brighter place. Learn about the “why” and “how” of practicing kindness in our everyday lives.

 “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” 

Mr. Rogers

The physical and mental benefits of kindness are tangible. Kind actions signal our brains to release the natural chemicals of serotonin and dopamine. Essentially, these are the “feel good” hormones. When they are low, people can experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. Helping increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine by practicing kindness can help lessen these feelings and create a “helper’s high”. Positive emotions can subsequently help reduce stress. Depending on the action, kindness can even encourage physical activity. Raking your neighbor’s leaves will not only make your neighbor smile, but it will also help you burn a few extra calories!

Kindness produces psychological benefits as well. Practicing kindness often provides perspective on life and distracts us from our own problems. It helps foster gratitude, empathy, and compassion in our minds and hearts. Kindness helps form a positive and supportive environment as well as bonds with others, thus reducing isolation and loneliness. For those struggling with mental health, as many of us do, this is an invaluable part of any mental health recovery journey. Finally, kindness allows us to engage in meaningful activities, and it can provide a sense of purpose and context in the world.

How can you start to develop this habit of giving in in your own life? It is easy. Start with yourself, then move on to others. We cannot give of ourselves if there is no excess to draw from. Always begin with self care and being kind to yourself. Do something you enjoy and learn to set limits in your life. Keep a gratitude journal, take a bubble bath, practice your golf game, watch the sunset, exercise, enjoy a glass of good wine, sleep in late (or at the very least, go to bed early). Then, try to be kind to others. The opportunities are endless. You can volunteer, mentor, or become involved in supporting a charitable cause. Practice random acts of kindness by holding a door for someone, buying a stranger’s coffee, or even simply making eye contact with another person and smiling as they walk by.

These sorts of actions may seem trickier to do in our current COVID world, but I challenge you to get creative. Write a letter to a friend, call a grandparent, leave snacks out for delivery drivers, or cook a meal for a neighbor in need to drop off at the door. Kindness to animals counts too – consider taking your dog for an extra walk. Remember, it is the intention behind an action that matters rather than the size of the gesture. When the world slowly emerges from COVID quarantine, refocusing on the value of connection to and interaction with our fellow man through kindness cannot be understated- even if it is from 6 feet apart! It feels good to do good. Now, go out and be kind!

6 Anxiety and Panic Coping Skills by Katelyn Millinor, LPC

Now more than ever, our world as we know it has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. For many, coping with change is hard enough, let alone the emotions many may face such as fear and anxiety due changes in daily routines. Added stress from job loss and inability to cover expenses, illness, and/or loss of a loved due to COVID-19 may cause anxiety and panic. Learn 6 tips to help you cope with these emotions and check out some of our highly recommended apps that may help decrease your anxiety during this uncertain time.

Breathing slowly and deeply. Anxiety can cause you to breathe very quickly, which makes both the mental and physical symptoms of a panic attack or generalized anxiety even worse. When you start to feel panicky, be sure to take slow, deep breaths to soothe your mind and body. Be sure to breathe using “belly breathing” also known as diaphragmatic breathing.

Stop and think. When your thoughts start spinning out of control, simply tell yourself to stop. Organize your thoughts and decide what you need to do to get yourself calm again. This is a way to interrupt thoughts and refocus.

Think positively. Push negative thoughts out of your mind, and remind yourself that you are in control. Think about times when you’ve been able to manage situations successfully and reduce anxiety. Stay in the present moment.

Take a break. If you need to leave a situation, do so or tell someone you need to leave. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Allowing yourself to become more upset will not help if what you really need is to take a walk and blow off some steam. Allow yourself to have space as needed.

Relax your muscles. Anxiety causes your entire body to tense up, so make a conscious effort to relax each muscle from your toes all the way up to your neck and face. This will alleviate feeling tense.

Get physical. Exercise can combat stress and anxiety. It can also improve your overall health and immune system. Even a brisk walk can help.

Tips to remember:

  • Deep breaths.
  • Self-care.
  • Adequate sleep.
  • Exercise.
  • Talk to yourself.
  • Acknowledge your feeling.
  • Mindfulness.
  • Lavender hot baths.
  • Cut back caffeine/nicotine/alcohol.
  • Stay present.
  • Good nutrition.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Slow down.
  • Picture your ‘safe place.’
  • HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, tired).
  • Close your eyes

Apps to help with anxiety:

  1. Calm.
  2. Worry Kit.
  3. Breathe2Relax.
  4. Panic Relief.
  5. MoodFit.
  6. Headspace.
  7. What’s Up.
  8. Happify.

Mother’s Day Celebration Tips During A Global Pandemic by Katelyn Millinor, LPC

“All women are mothers because all women bring life to the world in some way.”

Holley Gerth

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the mothers of the family as well as those with whom we share a maternal bond. These people can include our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, role-models, teachers, care-givers, or others. We can also honor those that face the challenge of not being able to have their own children.

Most of the world has a special day or celebration for mothers. In Japan, carnations are a popular gift and considered a symbol of a mother due to their sweetness, purity, and endurance. In Ethiopia, mothers are celebrated with a three day festival which also marks the end of the rainy season. In Peru, celebrants also make special effort to remember mother’s who are no longer with them by gathering at cemeteries.

So, how do we celebrate our maternal figures while experiencing a global pandemic? There are still excellent ways to honor and celebrate even if you are social distancing, in quarantine, or unable to travel to see your mothers.

  • Play a virtual card game.
  • Interview her about her childhood.
  • Make a hand made card.
  • Write a thoughtful letter.
  • Put together a photo album.
  • Sing a song together.
  • Pick wild flowers.
  • Bake a cake or cupcakes together.
  • Use Skype or FaceTime to have a meal together.

NOAH wishes all our maternal figures a happy and healthy Mother’s Day!

How to Stretch Your Food Dollars on a Budget

Tips for keeping to a budget and making your food dollars go even further.

Pandemic School Meal Replacement

The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) will provide Arizona P-EBT Pandemic School Meal Replacement Benefits to households
with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

5 Tips for Practicing Empathy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With the current coronavirus pandemic going on around the world there have been many changes and disruptions in nearly every aspect of daily life. For many, change is difficult and with the added stresses of the economy, whether you have a job or not, are able to put food on the table and preventing you/others from getting sick, you may be feeling overwhelmed with anxiety and stress. The thought of the unknown and what’s going to happen next can affect your mental health as well.

One way in which we can combat the unknown is to show empathy towards others. There are many benefits to empathizing with others which may help you feel less alone and more connected with your loved ones and your community. Im times of uncertainty, empathy allows us to reach out and help others that need it most.

Empathy allows us to:

  • Boost our social connectedness in our communities so that we may increase helping behaviors.
  • Improve our ability to regulate our emotions during times of stress.
  • Better manage our anxieties and stress without feeling overwhelmed.

Some people are naturally empathetic in nature, but many need a little help to remember what empathy means and how they can cultivate their own empathy skills. The good news is this emotional skill can be learned – here are some ways to build empathy:

  • Listening to others.
  • Engage in acts of service.
  • Put yourself in another person’s shoes.

Tips for Practicing Empathy in Your Community

Staying connected – one of the best ways to fight feelings of isolation is to reach out to others. Showing empathy and engaging in helpful actions can increase your feelings of social connectedness. While practicing social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine, you may consider writing a note to a special friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in a while. You may also use your skills such as sewing for example, to help make masks for those in need. Maybe you can reach out to your neighbors, friends or family members that are unable to go out and buy groceries and offer to buy them and place them on their doorstep.

Be aware – how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your life? Are your kids now being home schooled? Do you have food and other necessities to sustain healthy living during this uncertain time? How do you think your friends, family, neighbors or complete strangers would answer these questions? It is important to remember that while you may be doing okay, others are not. Many have lost their jobs, cannot feed their families and are unable to make healthy lifestyle choices. Some can’t afford childcare so they can continue to work and many are suffering from anxiety and depression due to their situation and circumstances.

“Empathy and the willingness to understand are a critical part of compassion which leads to action. Think of others and look for ways you can help in your community.”

Be kind – It’s okay if your routine is ever changing and what your ‘normal’ was is no longer possible. If your kids are watching too much television or are playing video games longer than you’d like, that’s okay. Everyone, all ages, are trying to cope with the unknown. This is a lot to deal with and everyone copes with fear, stress and anxiety differently. Focus on being kind to one another. Seek the positives in your new ‘normal’ and practice self-compassion by becoming emotionally flexible, navigate through your emotions and give yourself and your family a break.

Be considerate – sometimes we are quick to criticize others without knowing their circumstances or understand their situation that may impact their choices. Some people may feel overwhelmed with an overload of conflicting information from various outlets. While you cannot control how others behave, you can control your own actions by sharing only the facts by reliable sources. You can also gently remind others to kindly wash their hands, practice social distancing and stay home if they show any symptoms of COVID-19.

Help others – when the world feels unpredictable, find tangible ways to do good and make things better for others. This may provide comfort and a sense of control and empowerment.

Some ways to practice empathy:

  • If you are financially stable, look for ways you can support others who may be struggling.
  • Support your local businesses by buying food or gift cards from them and encouraging others to do the same.
  • Only buy what you need for the week, don’t overbuy.
  • Make care packages for healthcare workers, elderly neighbors or those who may have lost their jobs.
  • STAY HOME – follow the guidelines outlined by the CDC. Practice social distancing.

At NOAH, we practice empathy for our patients, staff and community daily. This is especially important during a public health crisis. Practicing empathy during COVID-19 not only opens your mind to what others are experiencing, but it also reminds us that we are in this together. Our behavioral health consulting and traditional outpatient counseling behavioral health staff work alongside our medical and dental teams to assess, diagnose and effectively treat the core-symptoms of our patients.

Food Safety Tips During COVID-19

Food safety tips during COVID-19 for grocery shopping, takeout and delivery and meal delivery kits.

COVID-19 Tips for Caregivers

Home care tips for caregivers tending to people with suspected or confirmed cases.

Coping Tips During the Coronavirus Pandemic

For the first time ever, we’ve been asked to practice social distancing, self-quarantine and even shelter in place. These changes affect the way we work, socialize and live. Until our circumstances return to “normal” we have a few tips to help you cope with these temporary changes.