LOWER YOUR STRESS, WALK FOR WELLNESS

By Shayna Bryan, Intern & UAB Community Health & Human Services Student

Photo by Uriel Mont on Pexels.com

Managing your stress and anxiety is important for long-term health and wellness. Healthy stress management improves resiliency, especially when times are tough, but it can be tricky to put into practice. There are a lot of pressures in everyday life that demand attention so taking care of your own mental health can feel difficult to prioritize. The very pressure to manage your stress can be stressful itself, but finding healthy ways to cope with stress is good for your mind and body. Reducing your stress also reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease and supports healthy immune system functioning.  

If thinking about stress management is at all overwhelming and you just want somewhere to start, there’s a simple solution: Go for a walk. 

Walking is easy and you already know how to do it. Other common methods of stress-relief like yoga and meditation take skill and practice, but anyone can go for a walk. It gives you time to yourself away from the usual distractions and is a low-impact aerobic exercise. If you’re new to tackling your stress and feeling overwhelmed at all, walking is effective and can quickly become part of your daily routine. It’s low-stress stress relief for beginners! 

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your wellness walk: 

  1. Walk outside. Being outside among nature is good for your, mental-wellbeing, particularly if you live in a city. 
  1. Walk for at least 20-30 minutes. If you’re not sure how to plan a walking route, just pick a direction and walk for 10-15 minutes, then turn around and walk back.  
  1. Take deep calming breaths while you walk. Breathe in for 5 seconds while expanding your whole chest, then exhale slowly. 
  1. It is safe to walk outside without a mask, provided you are more than 6 feet from the nearest person. Take a mask with you anyway, for safety. 
  1. Use this time to take a break from the news and social media. Focus only on enjoying the moment. 

Sources: 

CDC. Mental health and coping during covid-19. (n.d.). Retrieved March 18, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html 

Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W., & Chen, S. Y. (2019). Urban nature experiences reduce stress in the context of daily life based on salivary biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00722 


CDC’s Commitment to Addressing Racism as an Obstacle to Health Equity

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

Commentary drawn from Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Media Statement & Website released Thursday, April 8 2021

According to the CDC (2021),…”Racism—both interpersonal and structural —negatively affects the mental and physical health of millions of people, preventing them from attaining their highest level of health, and consequently, affecting the health of our nation. A growing body of research shows that centuries of racism in this country has had a profound and negative impact on communities of color. The impact is pervasive and deeply embedded in our society—affecting where one lives, learns, works, worships and plays and creating inequities in access to a range of social and economic benefits—such as housing, education, wealth, and employment. These conditions—often referred to as social determinants of health—are key drivers of health inequities within communities of color, placing those within these populations at greater risk for poor health outcomes.”

The CDC is committed to ensuring every person has the opportunity to live a healthy life. To that end, CDC—as the nation’s leading public health agency—has established this web portal, “Racism and Health” to serve as a hub for our activities, promote a public discourse on how racism negatively affects health and communicate potential solutions. Working with the broader public health community, the CDC will serve as a catalyst to further investigate the impact of racism on health and efforts to achieve health equity for all.

As the nation’s leading public health agency, other efforts from the CDC in addressing the impact of racism on public health include:

  • Continuing to study the impact of social determinants on health outcomes, expand the body of evidence on how racism affects health, and propose and implement solutions to address this.
  • Making new and expanded investments in racial and ethnic minority communities and other disproportionately affected communities around the country, establishing a durable infrastructure that will provide the foundation and resources to address disparities related to COVID-19 and other health conditions.
  • Expanding internal agency efforts to foster greater diversity and create an inclusive and affirming environment for all.

For more information about the CDC’s efforts in addressing Racism & Health, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/racism-disparities/index.html. Also, feel free to share your thoughts and concerns regarding racism here in the comments section, or engage with us at the Wilkinson Wellness Lab on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.


#STOPAAPIHATE, Be a Good Neighbor

By Jun Wang & Shayna Bryan (Interns & UAB Community Health & Human Services Students), & Dr. Larrell L. Wilkinson

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

The United States of America is a country of great cultural diversity. People from all around the world come here and contribute to the broader American community. Asian Americans & Pacific Islander (AAPI) citizens also call the United States of American their home, about 22.6 million in number which accounts for about 5.4% of the population (US Census Bureau, 2021).

Anti-Asian sentiment is not a new problem in the United States.  Asian immigrants first came to the US in the 1850s and were instrumental in expansion and development of the western half of the country (US Census Bureau, 2020). But in response to cultural and economic objections fueled by ethnic discrimination, President Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act, which remains the first and only immigration law that targeted a specific ethnic group. The law wasn’t repealed until 1943. This type of in-group/out-group mentality threatens our strength and abilities as a country. It is in this vein and in working to affirm the humanity of all individuals that the recent rise in violent acts against the AAPI community must be addressed and stopped.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans has risen by 150% (Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, 2020). During this time when our country should unite to face down the COVID-19 pandemic, some choose dissension, violence, and hate.  But we can choose to be kind to each other, seek to live peacefully with one another, and act to care for our neighbors.

Here are some tips for all of us to combat this challenge together:

  1. Call 911 for help or to make a report to authorities if you witness a hate crime or harmful incident suspected of being racially or ethnically motivated.
  2. Use your voice within social media to speak against hate speech, while affirming support for all humanity.
  3. Do a “care check-in” with your AAPI neighbors and friends

For this on other ways to help build a more “just” and healthy society, please visit the websites of the Society of Public Health Education and the American Public Health Association.  Please continue to follow us at the Wilkinson Wellness Lab.  Join the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/wilkinsonwellnesslab.  Let’s all be better, together!

Everyone please put on masks, practice social distancing, and stay safe.

Use this image to share our message on social media

References

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: May 2020. (30 April 2020). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2020/aian.html

US Census Data. Retrieved from: https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=united%20states&g=0100000US&tid=ACSDP5Y2018.DP05&hidePreview=true

Chinese Immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute United States Department of State. Retrieved from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/chinese-immigration

FACT SHEET – Anti-Asian Hate 2020. Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism. CSUSB. Retrieved from https://www.csusb.edu/sites/default/files/FACT%20SHEET-%20Anti-Asian%20Hate%202020%203.2.21.pdf

Stop AAPI Hate 2020-2021 National Report. Retrieved from: https://stopaapihate.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Stop-AAPI-Hate-National-Report-210316.pdf

Stop AAPI Hate Resources. https://stopaapihate.org/resources/


WOMEN, BE SMART ABOUT YOUR HEART!

By Shayna Bryan (UAB Community Health & Human Services Intern) and Dr. Larrell L. Wilkinson

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Every February since 1964, Americans have celebrated American Heart Month! Why? According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death among American adults and most ethnic/racial groups. Heart disease the body’s circulatory system, i.e. your veins and arteries. There are several forms of heart disease, but some of the most common include heart attack and coronary artery disease. According to the American Heart Association , a heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is interrupted, thus the oxygen supply to the heart muscle is reduced or completely cut off. This is important because the CDC estimates that 805,000 heart attacks occur annually in the United States.

Among Americans, non-Hispanic Black (African Americans) are at great risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association reports that about half of African-American women over the age of 20 have some form of heart disease, yet only about 1 out of 3 know their heart health risk. Around 50,000 African-American women die from cardiovascular disease annually. But we can prevent the deaths and reduce the number of our families impacted by heart disease. Here is what we can do:

Step 1: Learn your risk for heart disease.

Visit your doctor and ask for diagnostic tests for coronary heart disease. If you don’t have a personal physician or access to health care, contact Jefferson County Department of Health or your local county health department for assistance.

In general, any individual who has been diagnosed with any of these conditions is at risk for heart disease:

• Overweight or obesity
• High blood pressure
• Diabetes
• Physical inactivity
• Family history (first degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has had a heart attack or stroke before age 50)

Step 2: Work to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Photo by Laura James on Pexels.com

Eat healthy
Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Five servings a day is the recommended minimum, so aim even higher by making vegetables half of your meal. Lower your sodium intake by eating more home cooked meals, instead of fast food. Drink water, not soda or juice which is high in added sugars.

Be active
Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity every week. That’s only around 20 minutes a day. You can make walking part of your routine. Try going for a walk and talking to a friend on the phone. Any activity that elevates your heart rate will improve your health and help lower your risk.

Manage stress
Stress management is important for heart health. Eating healthy and staying active can help keep your stress levels down. Learn what triggers your stress and address it by slowing down and engaging in meditation or breathing exercises.

Step 3: Always look for the signs of a heart attack

According to the American Heart Association, women are somewhat less likely than men to experience chest pain. Instead, they are more likely to experience:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Pressure or tightness in the chest
  • Stomach pain

To learn more about heart disease in women, please click on the links above. Additional resources include the following links:

https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/about-heart-disease-in-women/signs-and-symptoms-in-women/symptoms-of-a-heart-attack

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/african-americans-and-heart-disease-stroke

https://www.heart.org/-/media/phd-files-2/science-news/2/2021-heart-and-stroke-stat-update/2021_stat_update_factsheet_black_race_and_cvd.pdf?la=en

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health