Stigma & Health during COVID-19

Stigma & Health during COVID-19

People in the U.S. may be worried or anxious about friends and relatives who are living in or visiting areas where COVID-19 is spreading. People are worried about the disease and have a lot of questions. Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma, for example, towards Chinese or other Asian Americans or people who were in quarantine [1].

Stigma is discrimination against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation. Stigma is associated with a lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads, a need to blame someone, fears about disease and death, and gossip that spreads rumors and myths [1].

Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem [1].

Anger, anxiety and fear and other feelings could lead to mental distress as well.

Some tips to take care of your mental health during this time of uncertainty:

  1. Separate what is in your control from what is notThere are things you can do, and it’s helpful to focus on those [8].
  2. Do what helpsyou feel a sense of safety. This will be different for everyone, and it’s important not to compare yourself to others.
  3. Get outside in nature–even if you are avoiding crowds.
  4. Challenge yourself to stay in the present. Perhaps your worry is compounding—you are not only thinking about what is currently happening, but also projecting into the future. When you find yourself worrying about something that hasn’t happened, gently bring yourself back to the present moment [8].
  5. Stay connected and reach out if you need more support. Talk to trusted friends about what you are feeling. If you are feeling particularly anxious or if you are struggling with your mental health, it’s ok to reach out to a mental health professional for support [8].

If you’re feeling alone and struggling, you can also reach out to The Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK [8].

What is COVID-19?

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV” [1].

There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans [1].

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction [3].

“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death [3].”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is currently one of the most reliable resources. Along with the World Health Organization (WHO). You can also find an interactive web-based dashboard hosted by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University, to visualize and track reported cases in real-time. [2]

How COVID-19 Spreads:

Person-to-person spread

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs [6].

Can someone spread the virus without being sick?

  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
  • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads [6].

Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects

  • It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads [6].

Watch for symptoms

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases [7].

The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

You should know that older people and people with chronic diseases are at higher risk.

Call your doctor if you develop symptoms, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 [3]. Call ahead: If you have a medical appointment, call the healthcare provider and tell them that you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep other people from getting infected or exposed [5].

Steps to Prevent Illness

There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) [4].
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs [4].

Take steps to protect yourself:

Clean your hands often

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands [4].

Avoid close contact

Take steps to protect others

Stay home if you’re sick

Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol [4].

Wear a facemask if you are sick

  • If you are sick:  You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
  • If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers [4].

Clean and disinfect

  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection [4].

Please use this informational piece and use the sources listed to get educational information about COVID-19. It is important to keep yourself and your loved ones aware and informed with accurate information. It is also important to avoid panic buying. For those who do need to self-isolate, they can have family and/ or friends drop off supplies rather than anticipating ahead of time and stockpiling.

 

~Jasneelam Kaur, MPH

 

Main CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.

CDC INFO: 800-232-6348

CDC EOC: 770-488-7100

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

[2]https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

[3] https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020

[4] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fabout%2Fprevention-treatment.html

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

[6] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html

[7] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html

[8] https://afsp.org/taking-care-of-your-mental-health-in-the-face-of-uncertainty/

 

 

How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder related to Mental Health?

How is Body Dysmorphic Disorder related to Mental Health?

We live in a world covered in filters. Filters of the perfect high cheek bones and the flawless complexion. We also live in a world where “body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population- about 1 in 50 people [1].”

What is BDD?

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also known as dysmorphophobia, is a body-image disorder characterized by persistent and intrusive preoccupations with an imagined or slight defect in one’s appearance [1]. With BDD, people think hours about their perceived or real flaws. Their thoughts often lead to severe emotional distress and interfere with daily life. People may stop socializing and become housebound, and even commit suicide. Because of which, BDD is associated with poor quality of life [2].

There are no known causes of BDD. Research shows that is usually begins in the adolescence or teenage years and both genders are equally affected. There are a few factors that may contribute to BDD: abnormal levels of brain chemicals, family history of BDD or a similar mental disorder, personality type and certain life experiences [3].

BDD is sometimes considered a “female disorder” because it is a body-image disorder that involves appearance but BDD appears, as common or nearly as common in males as in females [5].

Signs and Symptoms of BDD

BDD sufferers may perform some type of compulsive or repetitive behavior to try to hide or improve their flaws although these behaviors usually give only temporary relief.

Examples are listed below [1]:

  • camouflaging (with body position, clothing, makeup, hair, hats, etc.)
  • comparing body part to others’ appearance
  • seeking surgery
  • checking in a mirror
  • avoiding mirrors
  • skin picking
  • excessive grooming
  • excessive exercise
  • changing clothes excessively

BDD and Mental Health 

Currently there is a lack of research on BDD when compared with other psychiatric disorders [4]. This could be due to the reluctance of BDD patients to seek mental health support due to shame and embarrassment about symptoms, poor insight and a desire for non-mental health treatment such as cosmetic surgery. However, even though those going through BDD do seek mental health services, they are unlikely to spontaneously disclose their appearance concerns due to embarrassment.

So therefore, lack of spontaneous symptom disclosure combined with limited awareness of BDD among clinicians may result in misdiagnosis, with BDD symptoms being misclassified into other disorders that are common comorbidities, such as depression and social anxiety disorder (see table 1 [4] for more information on differential diagnosis). Furthermore, among adolescents in particular, there may be difficulty differentiating mild BDD symptoms from normative appearance concerns [4].

BDD is associated with substantial impairment in psychosocial functioning and markedly poor quality of life [6]. In a sample of 200 individuals with BDD (n=200), 36% did not work for at least one week in the past month because of psychopathology, and 11% had permanently dropped out of school because of BDD symptoms [6].

BDD and Suicidality

 Suicidality appears very common in patients with BDD. Studies have found that 78% of BDD patients have experienced suicidal ideation, 45% to 71% have had suicidal ideation attributed primarily to BDD, and 24% to 28% have attempted suicide [5]. The rates of suicidality in the United States population are very high and especially higher than for many other mental disorders.

Those with BDD have different levels of functioning but overall have poor levels. Some have functional impairment, but others manage to function fairly well while others are completely disabled [5]. One study found that 36% of 176 individuals with BDD were currently unemployed due to psychopathology, and 32% were unable to be in school or do schoolwork because of psychopathology (BDD was the primary diagnosis for most subjects) [5]. In the same study, 27% of subjects had been completely housebound for at least a week because of BDD.

Treatment

 A majority of individuals with BDD seek (71% to 76%) and receive (64% to 66%) cosmetic treatment (e.g., surgical, dermatologic, or dental) for their perceived appearance flaws [6]. Research shows that such treatment appears to only rarely improve overall BDD symptoms. In a study of 200 individuals with BDD, subjects retrospectively reported that only 3.6% of all treatments resulted in overall improvement in BDD [6]. 

Other effective treatments are available to help BDD sufferers live full, productive lives [1].

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches patients to recognize irrational thoughts and change negative thinking patterns. Patients learn to identify unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving and replace them with positive ones.
  • Antidepressant medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can help relieve the obsessive and compulsive symptoms of BDD.

Treatment is tailored to each patient, so it is important to talk with your doctor to determine the best individual approach. Many doctors recommend using a combination of treatments for best results. This article is meant as an educational and informative piece. It is not meant to serve as a diagnosis. You should talk to your doctor or mental health professional if you have specific concerns regarding yourself specifically children and teens.

 Despite BDD’s prevalence and severity, this disorder remains underdiagnosed in clinical settings. Given the markedly poor functioning and quality of life, and high rates of suicidality, among these patients, it is important that BDD is recognized and accurately diagnosed [6].

~ Jasneelam Kaur, MPH

 

 

Resources:

[1] https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1414653/

[3] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/body-dysmorphic-disorder

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5566091/

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1712667/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181960/

 

When Seasons Change, Emotions Change

When Seasons Change, Emotions Change

Going into March, the start of springtime, we at Breaking Taboo would love to talk about how the changing seasons can affect our mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is characterized as bouts of depression that occur when the season changes, typically happening in winter and coming back in the following spring or summer [1]. As the seasons change, our moods can shift and sometimes, we don’t know why. Symptoms of SAD include episodes of depression which can involve weight gain, increased sleep, and less motivation for activities [2]. SAD occurs in ~10% of the general population, and is 3 times more prevalent in females than it is in males [3].

Research shows that circadian rhythms play a role in SAD. Circadian rhythm is your 24-hour biological clock which regulates your sleep/wake cycle and is controlled by part of your hypothalamus [4]. Your circadian rhythm is set through external stimuli such as light and dark that gets transmitted to the pineal gland and let’s our brains know when we should  be getting sleepy . You tend to feel sleepy when it’s dark, and not through your daily habits. As the seasons change, the amount of light during the day fluctuates, causing disruption to circadian rhythms. Interestingly, circadian rhythms can change as you get older and SAD becomes rare after the age of 50 [4 & 5].

Since light plays such a large role in setting circadian rhythms, there has been research on the effectiveness on treating SAD with light therapy during winter depression [5]! During light therapy, the patient sits in front of a light box and will be exposed to blue wavelengths for a set period of time [1]. This allows for the patient to receive a new light source they aren’t able to get naturally, especially during the wintertime when the sun doesn’t come out as frequently.

There have also been additional studies focusing on the correlation between vitamin D and depression [6]. Links have been found connecting depression and anxiety with vitamin D deficiency. As seasons change, there’s also a change in natural light. Spring is approaching, which means more sunlight, but what about those of us that can’t get out during the day due to things like school and work? I believe that for those of us that can’t get outside when the suns out, it can make us more prone to seeing symptoms of SAD. It’s important to get a chance to take a walk or catch some fresh air as much as your days allow you to.  

Even though blue light therapy has been found to be very effective for combating SAD, regular blue light that emits from our digital screens, lights, etc. can actually be disruptive for our circadian rhythms [7]. It adds too much additional light that gets sent to the pineal gland and disrupts the processes in your brain that lets you know when you should start getting tired. Additionally, looking at screens for a prolonged period of time can cause strain in your eyes and make you more fatigued. Even though many of us are so accustomed to using our phones or looking at other types of screens, it would be good to take a break from it when you can and focus some more time outside in the natural light. It wouldn’t be far fetched to say that taking breaks as much as we can and just being outside for a few minutes can make such a large impact on our overall mental well being.

~ Lucy Li

 

 

[1] https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1081/CBI-120019310

[2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/481869 

[3] https://europepmc.org/article/MED/9522484

[4] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm

[5] https://europepmc.org/article/MED/9522484 

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030698770700240X

[7] https://lowbluelights.com/blue-light-glasses-can-help-fight-seasonal-depression/

 

How Does Mental Health Affect the Heart? Heart Health and Mental Health

How Does Mental Health Affect the Heart? Heart Health and Mental Health

February is American Heart Month, it is a time to raise awareness about heart health and urge those around you to prevent heart disease [1]. Here at Breaking Taboo, we would like to take a moment and discuss the connection between mental health and heart health. Previously, the connection was seen as strictly behavioral. Behavioral in the sense that people were turning to binge eating, drinking and smoking when feeling down [3].

But currently, research is showing that aside from behavioral there could be physiological connections too [3]. “The biological and chemical factors that trigger mental health issues also could influence heart disease [3].”

The statistics are showing that “people with depression have a 40% higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases than the general population. People with serious mental illness are nearly twice as likely to develop these conditions [4].”

Recently, there was an article in Harvard Health that discussed the head-heart connection [2]. According to this article, new research suggests that, people with depression or anxiety are more prone to developing cardiovascular disease.

Harvard Health conducted a research study where 221,000 people ages 45 and older without any history of heart disease were included [2]. They were given a short mental health questionnaire to assess their distress. There was an average follow-up of more than four-and-a-half years were “people who had reported high or very high levels of depression and anxiety were more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than people without those symptoms.”

 

The following is the Kessler psychological distress test that was used in the previously mentioned study:

Assess your distress

The Kessler psychological distress scale is a list of 10 questions used to identify people who need further assessment for anxiety or depression. People can select answers ranging from 1 to 5: 1 (none of the time); 2 (a little of the time); 3 (some of the time); 4 (most of the time); 5 (all of the time).

During the past four weeks, about how often did you feel

___ depressed?
___ nervous?
___ so nervous that nothing could calm you down?
___ restless or fidgety?
___ so restless that you could not sit still?
___ tired out for no good reason?
___ that everything was an effort?
___ so sad that nothing could cheer you up?
___ hopeless?
___ worthless?

Scoring: 15 or lower = low; 16–21= moderate; 22–29 = high; 30–50 = very high

 

So what does this study conclude? “These findings do not necessarily mean that psychological distress causes heart disease. Instead, both may arise (at least in part) from the same underlying mechanisms, says Dr. Jill Goldstein, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at Harvard Medical School and Executive Director of the Women, Heart and Brain Global Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital [2].”

Psychological distress not only accelerates the onset of heart disease but it also gets in the way of practicing prevention [5]. So, the bottom line is while we are trying to increase our physical activity and changing our diets, we must also learn to take into consideration what our emotions and thoughts are.
Preventative Practices:

 

Recommendations from the American Psychological Association:

Although heart disease is a serious condition that requires constant monitoring, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk for cardiovascular problems and live a full, active life, even if you should suffer a heart attack [5].

• Talk to your doctor. No two people are alike, and some treatment or risk reduction strategies may be inappropriate or even harmful if you attempt to do too much too quickly [5].

 

o Key screening tests for monitoring cardiovascular health [6]:

 Blood pressure- Each regular healthcare visit or at least once per year if blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
 Fasting Lipoprotein Profile (cholesterol)- Every 4-6 years for normal-risk adults; more often if anyone has elevated risk for heart disease and stroke.
 Body Weight- During your regular healthcare visit.
 Blood Glucose- At least every 3 years.
 Smoking, physical activity, diet- Each regular healthcare visit.

• Avoid trying to fix every problem at once, if possible. Focus instead on changing one existing habit (e.g., eating habits, inactive lifestyle). Set a reasonable initial goal and work toward meeting it [5].

 

o Set “SMART goals [7]:
 Specific- What do you want to happen?
 Measurable- How will you know that you accomplished what you wanted to do?
 Attainable- Is this goal something you can really accomplish?
 Realistic- Is your goal too hard or too easy to achieve?
Timely- Do you have a definite time frame to complete your goal?

 

• Don’t ignore the symptoms of depression. Feelings of sadness or emptiness, loss of interest in ordinary or pleasurable activities, reduced energy, and eating and sleep disorders are just a few of depression’s many warning signs. If they persist for more than two weeks, discuss these issues with your heart doctor. It may be that a psychologist working in collaboration with your physician would be beneficial [5]. Depression is not the end of the world, even if it may sometimes feel like it. Here at Breaking Taboo, we encourage people to be open and authentic about their feelings while providing the education necessary to move forward. We encourage you to get help if the below signs and symptoms resonate with you.

 

o If, you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression [8]:

 Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
 Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
 Irritability
 Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
 Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
 Decreased energy or fatigue
 Moving or talking more slowly
 Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
 Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
 Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
 Appetite and/or weight changes
 Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
 Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

 

• It is important to note that learning how to manage stress effectively is most important. In life, we will always have stressors, and so trying to avoid stress can be a maladaptive coping mechanism. Identify the sources of stress in your life and look for ways to reduce and manage them. Seeing a professional like a psychologist to learn to manage stress is helpful not only for preventing heart disease, but also for speeding recovery from heart attacks when used along with structured exercise programs and other intensive lifestyle changes [5].

 

o How to identify stress: there can be psychological signs, emotions signs, physical signs and behavioral signs [9]:

Psychological signs:
 Inability to concentrate or make simple decisions
 Memory lapses
 Becoming rather vague
 Easily distracted
 Less intuitive & creative
 Worrying
 Negative thinking
 Depression & anxiety

Emotional signs:
 Tearful
 Irritable
 Mood swings
 Extra sensitive to criticism
 Defensive
 Feeling out of control
 Lack of motivation
 Angry
 Frustrated
 Lack of confidence
 Lack of self-esteem

Physical signs
Aches/pains & muscle tension/grinding teeth
 Frequent colds/infections
 Allergies/rashes/skin irritations
 Constipation/diarrhea/ IBS
 Weight loss or gain
 Indigestion/heartburn/ulcers
 Hyperventilating/lump in the throat/pins & needles
 Dizziness/palpitations
 Panic attacks/nausea
 Physical tiredness
 Menstrual changes/loss of libido/sexual problems
 Heart problems/high blood pressure

Behavioral signs
 No time for relaxation or pleasurable activities
 Prone to accidents, forgetfulness
 Increased reliance on alcohol, smoking, caffeine, recreational or illegal drugs
 Becoming a workaholic
 Poor time management and/or poor standards of work
 Absenteeism
 Self-neglect/change in appearance
 Social withdrawal
 Relationship problems
 Insomnia or waking tired
 Reckless
 Aggressive/anger outbursts
 Nervous
 Uncharacteristically lying

 

• Enlist the support of friends, family, and work associates. Talk with them about your condition and what they can do to help. Social support is particularly critical for overcoming feelings of depression and isolation during recovery from a heart attack [5].

• If you feel overwhelmed by the challenge of managing the behaviors associated with heart disease, consult a qualified psychologist. He or she can help develop personal strategies for setting and achieving reasonable health improvement goals, as well as building on these successes to accomplish other more ambitious objectives. A psychologist can also help clarify the diagnosis of depression and work with the physician to devise a suitable treatment program [5].

 

This article is meant to be an educational and informational piece. If you are concerned about your health, you should discuss with your healthcare provider. Discuss how you are feeling both emotionally (mentally) and physically. Your primary care provider may refer you to a mental health professional for medication and/ or therapy.

You should monitor heart health not only during this month but every day, especially for those who are dealing with already existing heart health.

 

~ Jasneelam Kaur, MPH

Edited by ~ Serena Sun, Founder

Sources:

[1] https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-month
[2] https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-head-heart-connection-mental-health-and-heart-disease
[3] https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/mental-health-and-heart-health
[4] https://www.nami.org/learn-more/mental-health-by-the-numbers
[5] https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/heart-disease
[6] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/heart-health-screenings
[7] http://breaking-taboo.org/general-posts/new-year-new-you-lets-break-the-taboo/
[8] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

Tips for Being Single And Happy on Valentines Day! Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue….

Tips for Being Single And Happy on Valentines Day! Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue….

Toward the end of the winter holidays, I remember running to my local grocery story to grab some last moment holiday baking items and I remember being surprised to see pink and red holiday candy and décor already out. February was still two months away, yet people were already planning to start celebrating the next holiday while there were still Christmas presents under their trees!

Maybe it’s the fact that January tends to last a whole 31 long cold days with little sun and plenty of brrr from the breeze and frost. Maybe that’s why grocery stores, retail stores and supermarkets try to help us out by reminding us of the next upcoming festivities. By displaying ginormous bears and hearts and candies and cupcakes.

Taking a look back into history St. Valentine’s Day is a holiday with Roman origins, [1] where lovers showed displays of affection with gifts and greetings. Overtime, I think we can all agree it has become a Hallmark holiday.

As if the pressure to be paired up during the winter holiday months of Thanksgiving and Christmas wasn’t enough here is yet another holiday where people often feel the pressure of being in a relationship. But, here is a gentle reminder that it’s okay. You do not have to be in a relationship to be happy this February 14th. There are many other ways you can share displays of affection with gifts and/ or greetings with family, friends or even yourself.

Before we go any further, I want to state that if you are in a relationship or have a romantic interest that is perfect and there is nothing wrong with doing so. Maybe you can relate to this blog, maybe you can’t. But we must go on for those who are curious as to how to solve their predicament.

First, here is a short list of people who you can chose to celebrate with:
– YOURSELF
– Mother
– Father
– Brother
– Sister
– Grandpa
– Grandma
– Uncle
– Aunt
– Best friend
– Cousin
– Niece
– Nephew
– Dog
– Cat
– Neighbor

Second, chose an activity to celebrate instead of focusing on buying generic cards and chocolates:
– Bake heart shaped goodies
– Capture a sunrise and sunset
– Cook a home-made meal for yourself and/ or your important person
– Dress up and go do a photoshoot around town
– Go for a hike
– Go on a picnic
– Go on a roadtrip
– Go to the gym
– Go watch a local sports game
– Hand make cards and write letters to your loved ones
– Learn to play golf or at least start with mini-golfing
– Play some boardgames
– Sign up for a painting or sculpting class
– Take a dance or workout class together
– Take a walk around your neighborhood
– Visit a local museum or two
– Volunteer at the local homeless shelter

Hopefully you were able to get some ideas of what you can do whether you chose to do it by yourself or with someone. But, just remember to give yourself time to rest and unwind from all the pressure and stress of the holidays. Maybe you read all the above ideas and end up ordering food in and binge watching your favorite shows on Netflix and that is absolutely okay!

There are no right or wrong answers with what you chose but just don’t forget to choose yourself. Take a moment to reflect. Write a letter to yourself, record a blog about your day, create a Q & A podcast about yourself. Just remember to love yourself 

Remember to focus on your heart health after all February is also American Heart Month.

~ Jasneelam Kaur