mental health · play · work

If You Can’t Find Your Inspiration to Play, Stop.

I haven’t written in awhile.

My apologies.

Quite frankly, I had lost my play drive.

I had to take two weeks off of work – including some time totally unplugged from civilization – to even see glimmers of it returning.

Before I wanted to explore, to create, to ponder.

To take pictures. To go hiking. To sew. To sculpt. To craft.

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I had gotten so bogged down with reacting to life and trying to keep up with it all, I couldn’t find the room to play, let alone sleep enough, eat as healthy as I’d like, exercise, or even spend time with my husband and kids.

That’s not a healthy place to be, and I don’t wish it on anyone.

Sometimes we have to buckle down and get the work done. No doubt. Sometimes pushing ourselves past our limits is needed, and can be exciting and helps us grow. And yes we must make sacrifices, we simply cannot do it all. Some professions (performers, fire fighters, doctors, airline employees, consultants, CEO’s, etc.) require travel and/or late nights that take us away from our friends and families, but it is worth the short-term sacrifice.

But too much of that sacrifice is physically and mentally draining, period. It literally wears us down – our brains stop working as well and we feel physically exhausted all the time (because we are!) – until we are so depleted it takes a long time to get back to where we can actually function as members of our respective tribes, whether that is work, home, or friends and other social obligations. In the worst case scenarios it can kill us.

We can all find great pleasure in devoting ourselves to one main “thing” and for some of us that is our professional work or as caregivers to our children. But even those who are dedicated to their one passion need to take breaks. Sometimes we get so bogged down in keeping up we don’t even realize just how much of a toll it has taken on us. Until we break.

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Thankfully I did not reach the breaking point, but I did reach the point of exhaustion. You know those pictures of runners that have collapsed after a particularly grueling marathon? That was me. I was able to walk myself off the finish line, but as soon as I did I just sat down and it took a long time before I was ready to stand up, and even longer before I even wanted to think about running again (both metaphorically and literally).

It almost feels melodramatic the way I’m describing it, but just like so many other things related to the mind and body, it is an invisible but real problem we need to deal with. Unfortunately overwork and exhaustion are all too common a phenomenon in our modern world, almost a badge of honor, that is instead contributing to the leading causes of death – heart disease, obesity, unhealthy coping mechanisms, others  – and it needs to be taken seriously. You need to know the signs in yourself before you get so far down the path of exhaustion and overwork – whether you’re a SAHM or an unattached traveling salesman – that it takes much longer to get back.

But it doesn’t have to take long. After my relatively short break – 2 weeks – I am slowly getting back into my play training regimen. I am taking pictures. I am walking/hiking. I am sewing. I am crafting. I am looking for play opportunities.

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And I am trying to fit play and adventure in wherever I can. I have the benefit of having my kids to help me.

On my first day back to work, I took a half hour out of my morning to watch the eclipse. That wasn’t a lot of time out of my day, and I know some neighbors who drove the four hours south to get a better view, but it was enough. (And, side note: for a once in a lifetime experience I didn’t see as many of my coworkers out on the sidewalk with me as I would have expected.)

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Bottom line, including mostly for myself: Please take time to play. Everyone will thank you. Especially yourself.

behavior · brain · community · health · mental health · Nature

Vermont Physicians Will be Prescribing Day Passes to State Parks – Champlain Valley News

Healthcare providers already recommend this in Japan and Korea, so glad to see it getting picked up in North America too.

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Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine writes a prescription for exercise for a patient at Northwestern Medical Center. Photo: Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

This summer, Vermont physicians will be prescribing active play in Vermont State Parks to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues.

The Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports along with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation gave doctors free day passes to state parks to give to patients.

These “prescriptions” follow the principles of Exercise in Medicine (EiM), a global health initiative to promote physical activity.

In some ways this is just a promotion for Vermont’s state parks, but so what?! In an era when we are taking less vacation, park budgets are being slashed and use is being restricted in other ways, including parks potentially being shut down permanently, this is a great way to encourage people to get out into nature and just breathe fresh air, stretch their bodies, and move!

“Studies have demonstrated that outdoor exercise is associated with increased energy and revitalization and decreased depression and tension,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, a physician at Northwestern Medical Center and a member of the VT Governor’s Council.

“The sun also helps to create through your skin Vitamin D3, which is important for bone health and metabolic function,” Dr. Fontaine continued.

In addition to handing out state park pass prescriptions, the VT Governor’s Council is also encouraging doctors to talk with patients about the importance of exercise.

“The Park Prescription program is a perfect way to highlight the connection between outdoor recreation and personal health. Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active all help keep us strong in both body and spirit,” said Director of Vermont State Parks Craig Whipple.

“And state parks offer the ideal settings for valuable outdoor time,” Whipple added.

For more information, visit www.vtstateparks.com.

health · learning · mental health · Social

How the cost of daycare and ineffective regulations are bad for businesses

Preface to anyone who has children in a corporate-owned daycare that could be encompassed in the below description: I in no way mean to critique you or your child-rearing decisions, I am criticizing the system that has built up around these behemoth corporations that are more interested in making money rather than caring for kids.

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In Washington State, small in-home day-cares are getting pushed out of business.

The push for large corporate, academics-based daycare and preschools in the U.S. to monopolize the industry and childhood development practices has gone too far!

My daycare provider this month had to bump up her prices 150% due to new regulations passed by legislators that were pushed through by big daycare corporations; supported with the sole intention of driving smaller in-home daycares like my provider’s out of business.

This kind of “pay to play” legislation is not only unethical, this particular one is supporting a system of large, low-personalization, academics-driven style of daycare that is not only inappropriate for children but downright HARMFUL to their development. Eight-month-olds do not need to be studying the alphabet! They need to be playing blocks with their friends and learning colors and counting through unstructured play time, not forced circle time and flash cards!

It is better for children to have smaller groups of kids to play together, with regular, consistent caretakers that can provide personal touch and unstructured play time.

This kind of system is also a HUGE burden on working parents. This kind of price increase – $100’s of dollars in my daycare’s case – is unmanageable for so many working families, and the high prices of childcare means that it pushes hundreds of thousands of well-educated, highly motivated parents out of the workforce during their prime working years. In-home daycares are also more flexible on hours and more understanding if a parent is 5 minutes late with pick-up.

This is also incredibly anti-small business; my daycare provider is strongly considering retirement after this last batch of legislation and required price increases, not to mention potential loss of revenue due to parents pulling their kids out of her daycare because they can’t afford it. I can only imagine other daycare providers are struggling with the same dilemma.

I support paying higher prices for higher quality child care, but this price increase is purely due to new legislations, fees, and bureaucracy that can be absorbed by larger corporations but not smaller businesses. I support safety and regulations of childcare, but not to the point where businesses are required to feed children  only cow or soy milk (yes, that is a rule in Washington State).

If the government is really interested in creating a strong, resilient, competitive workforce, AND/OR is really interested in supporting small businesses, this is NOT the way to do it!

As soon as I figure out which congress person to write to I will do it and share it here! If there is specific regulations you are aware of that are impacting costs or food options, or even play time, please comment and post them below, so when we write our emails, postcards, or angry YouTube video rants we’ll know exactly which regulations to call out as unjust.

In the meantime, please give your daycare provider a hug, no matter who they are, and let them know we care.

behavior · emotion · mental health · Nature · psychology

Trees are like friends

My husband recently posted an ode to one of his favorite trees that sadly caught a root fungus and finally died after 4 years and was cut down slowly this winter.

He was not the only one moved by the loss of the tree. Neighbors of the park, visitors, and other movers also expressed their sadness over the loss of the tree.

It seems strange at first of mourning a tree, but this phenomenon of bonding with and becoming fond of a tree, or multiple trees, is very common, and very human. Trees provide humans food, shelter from the elements, landmarks during travel, and safety from (most) animals. But they also provide us a level of consistency and reliability in our world – that tree doesn’t go anywhere – while also marking the changing of the seasons and change over time. It provides enjoyment whether you are climbing the tree or just resting at its base. Being in or near nature, even a single tree, has profound, positive effects on our physical and mental states.

In Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago people started using the park system’s email alert system to express their fondness for some of their favorite trees.

At my daughter’s  outdoor preschool the kids have slowly been naming the trees in the park during their daily hikes – grandfather tree, silly tree, spaceship tree, and others. These names help the kids orient where they are in the park, but they also represent a kinship with the tree, a familiarity and reliability that provides consistency and joy for the kids.

When a tree dies or is cut down, we feel its loss and we mourn. It is only human.

brain · disease · health · mental health · play

Why I support doll therapy for Alzheimers

I heard an interesting story on NPR today: the increase in doll therapy for patients with dementia:

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Guzofsky, who has Alzheimer’s disease [pictured above], lives on a secure memory floor at a home for seniors in Beverly Hills, Calif. She visits the dolls in the home’s pretend nursery nearly every day. Sometimes Guzofsky changes their clothes or lays them down for a nap. One morning in August, she sings to them: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray.”

No one knows whether she believes she is holding a doll or a real baby. What the staff at Sunrise Senior Living do know is that Guzofsky, who can get agitated and aggressive, is always calm when caring for the dolls.

Doll therapy is catching on at nursing homes and other senior facilities across the country. It’s used to help ease anxiety among residents with dementia, who can experience personality changes, agitation and aggression. But the therapy is controversial.

Supporters say the dolls can lessen distress, improve communication and reduce the need for psychotropic medication. Critics say the dolls are demeaning and infantilize seniors.

Full story here.

I understand the concern that critics may find this kind of treatment demeaning to seniors who now need care to do basic everyday tasks.

However, let’s think of this as something else: Play Therapy.

It’s true that it can be hard to tell if the patients realize this is a toy doll or real baby. However this could potentially be very similar to a child’s imaginary play with dolls or an imaginary friend: kids know it’s pretend, but also get very invested in their pretend world, taking care of their babies, feeding them, changing them, snuggling them for comfort.

I also agree that the positive results – reduced stress, increased verbalization, and more – without the use of medication, make it worth more exploration rather than outright rejection because of its use of toys and play. Maybe the nay-sayers should give it a try.

brain · health · mental health · youtube

The Importance of Staring Out Of The Window

THIS!

Staring out the window is often associated with a lack of attention or productivity, but in this film from The School of Life, we examine the activity (or lack of activity) as a highly productive pursuit that we might rarely make time for anymore: Discovering the contents of our own minds.

Source: The Importance of Staring Out Of The Window | The Kid Should See This

behavior · community · happiness · health · mental health · play · work

Six Ideas For Those Who Need to Laugh More (which is everyone)

stressed hamsterI wanted to share a great list from full time mom/worker/author/etc. Katrina Alcorn about how to fit in some play and laughs into a busy schedule.

 

Whether or not laughter is the best medicine, it’s certainly a great coping technique. It may not make you less busy, but it will boost your immune system, protect your heart, help you handle stress, lower your blood pressure, and improve your intake of oxygen. Also, it has zero calories, zero negative side effects, and it’s free.

read her six ideas on how to get more laughter into your busy life quickly, cheaply, and effectively at Because Working Moms Need to Laugh — 6 Ideas | Maybrooks.

Katrina also wrote a great book about her experience being Maxed Out and ways that we can all fight for more time and space to play and be balanced in our lives. It is a wonderful, fast, engaging read. Go check it out.

behavior · children · culture · environment · happiness · health · mental health · Nature · play

Nature Valley shows chilling faces of children addicted to technology

Okay, ignore that this is a granola company’s commercial.

And they may have cherry-picked to prove a point.

YET…

The fact that even these kids exist is terrifying.

Just watch the video. And cringe. Mourn. Cry. Then go do something about it!

Children are obsessed with technology, and Nature Valley wants us to be afraid. Very afraid.

That seems to be the message of this new ad for the granola bar company, which asks three generations of families: “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun?”

The elder two generations share memories of blueberry picking, sledding, fishing trips, and playing baseball as airy music plays in the background.

But then it’s the younger generation’s turn, and ominous music suggests these kids aren’t exactly frolicking in the grass and soaking in the sunshine. The kids detail that they spend five hours a day texting, emailing, tweeting, browsing the computer, or playing video games as the parents cry or lament the death of the good old days.

h/t via Nature Valley shows chilling faces of children addicted to technology (Mashable).

This is not okay people. So, so, the opposite of okay!

Go volunteer to take your niece or nephew to the park, or go hunt for cool leaves and flowers in the park. Grow a flower or even spider plant and give it to a kid! Take action!

behavior · community · emotion · happiness · mental health · play · work

London Bridge Transformed Into Rainbow Walkway in Spark Of Creativity That Banished Mondayitis

Fantastic! As a fellow resident of a gray and gloomy city, a little splash of surprise color can do wonders!

The grey weather was no match for a new art installation on London Bridge, which transformed the crossing into a rainbow walkway for one day only.

The project was created by Spark Your City, a global movement “dedicated to spark joy in everyday life”.

According to the group’s Facebook page, they are “travelling the world from city to city”, and London was the first major centre to get the spark makeover.

check out all the pictures of the bridge and more via London Bridge Transformed Into Rainbow Walkway in Spark Of Creativity That Banished Mondayitis.

behavior · community · culture · environment · happiness · health · mental health · Nature

Scientists have discovered that living near trees is good for your health – The Washington Post

While it may be better for you to take a walk in the woods than on an urban block, living near trees, even in an urban environment, has been found repeatedly to improve people’s health, even making them feel younger.

In a new paper published Thursday, a team of researchers present a compelling case for why urban neighborhoods filled with trees are better for your physical health. The research appeared in the open access journal Scientific Reports.

The large study builds on a body of prior research showing the cognitive and psychological benefits of nature scenery — but also goes farther in actually beginning to quantify just how much an addition of trees in a neighborhood enhances health outcomes. The researchers, led by psychologist Omid Kardan of the University of Chicago, were able to do so because they were working with a vast dataset of public, urban trees kept by the city of Toronto — some 530,000 of them, categorized by species, location, and tree diameter — supplemented by satellite measurements of non-public green space (for instance, trees in a person’s back yard).

They also had the health records for over 30,000 Toronto residents, reporting not only individual self-perceptions of health but also heart conditions, prevalence of cancer, diabetes, mental health problems and much more.

more via Scientists have discovered that living near trees is good for your health – The Washington Post.

I live in a fairly verdant neighborhood in a very green city, and this report still makes me want to go out and plant some more trees!