Healthy Tips – March/April 2020
Topics This Issue:
- Helping teens in the time of COVID-19
- Get the most from your doctor visits
- Recipe: Sweet potato, sage and fried egg tacos
- Nutrition: Fantastic fiber
- Refocus parenting
- Living Well Alliance spotlight
NOVEL CORONAVIRUS: Helping teens in the time of COVID-19
By Chuck Potrykus, MA, LMHC, Behavioral Medicine provider at PacMed Canyon Park
As we parents and caregivers seek to find answers about living with COVID-19, we also may find ourselves needing help with the teens in our lives. They likely have questions and concerns that are unique to their stage in life, and we want to support them in ways that connect with where they are at.
More than big children, not quite small adults
It’s important to first distinguish that teens are unique from children in several ways. For starters, teens have awareness of what is happening in the world—and seek and exchange information with their friends, the Internet and other media. It’s vital to be factual and honest with them about what they’re hearing and seeing, not pretend it doesn’t exist.
At the same time, we need to begin treating them as equals: Ask questions and be curious about their views, rather than projecting our own fears or judgements onto them. They have independent minds and points of view. It’s important to not assume that we know what they’re thinking. Engaging in this way can help guide critical thinking for teens, which is essential to their emotional processing.
Let’s tackle this together
Be willing to say, “I don’t know, but let’s look for the answer together.” Similarly, rethink the idea of being “a rock,” that stable, reliable, in-control person for them. A position of constant strength may seem like the right way to create stability for our children, but for teens this can make you seem distant. We need to be human to validate the uncomfortable emotions your teens are having. When you are transparent about how you’re feeling, your kids take that as permission to express themselves too. Practicing vulnerability actually creates the kind of stability kids need from authority figures.
Be sure to validate your teen’s thoughts and emotions by listening closely, nodding your head and saying things like, “I can see how that would feel” or “That makes sense” and “Yeah, I hear what you’re saying.” By using validating affirmations, we get away from changing our kids’ minds and move alongside them, admitting that it’s tough and that’s ok. When kids are afraid, they need to be heard more than corrected.
Help teens seek emotional balance
During this time, we all may feel our emotional balance veering off center. In your household, try to walk the middle path between the two sides of “It feels scary/our world is so different right now” and “There are good things happening, things that are working and growing.” Acknowledging both emotional realms of fear and hope helps steer the conversation toward reality, rather than propaganda.
End and begin each day with each member of the family sharing a few things they can be grateful for, something they learned. Studies show spoken gratitude creates resiliency, especially during a crisis.
Help teens stick with social distancing
Adolescence is the perfect storm when it comes to social distancing. Teens are differentiating from parents, forming important face-to-face social and romantic connections and coming up with unique ideas and beliefs. Teens feel invincible. And because their brains are still developing, logical judgement often takes a backseat to emotional and impulsive behavior.
All of this is normal, and yet at odds with what’s going on in our world today. A few things we parents can do to help them stick with social distancing measures:
- Put yourself in their shoes, be sympathetic and express your sympathy to your child. Allow them to grieve the loss of connections and real-life social experiences.
- Collaborate with your teen as they find ways to bridge the gap between what is possible and what is impossible during this time. Brainstorm creative ways to be connected with friends while being physically distant. Lean on their adept knowledge of technology.
- Help them learn empathy, a desired trait in a healthy adult. Feeling empathy and taking action helps teens feel empowered. Show them that they’re potential “delivery systems” of the virus to older people like grandparents or teachers. Help them practice empathy by calling their grandparents more often or writing favorite quotes to residents of nursing homes. The more real that vulnerable populations become to younger people, the more likely they can see their role in “saving the world.”
Create a home field advantage
Watch your own media consumption so you can guide your kids to turn off their devices. Constant exposure to news of doom and gloom inevitably creates more anxiety and depression for yourself and them. Try turning off your phone and placing it in a shoebox in the middle of the room along with their phones. Turn on music, not the radio, filling the space with the different emotional experiences of a home, instead of a newsroom.
Focus on the aspects of your lives you do have control over and de-emphasize the aspects of the world where there is no control. Explore these ideas:
- Create a daily schedule that includes exercise, outside time and jobs, even if the jobs are not essential. Also make sure bedtime and when you get up are as consistent as possible. Studies show that consistent tasks, routines and daily maintenance help people cope through a long, slow crisis much better than rumination, excessive sleep and boredom.
- Ease up on academic growth and teach life skills: budgeting, cooking, sewing, gardening, music, construction, auto maintenance, art. Teens need these essential life skills, and they’re not usually taught in school. Right now is the perfect time to fill in their “educational gaps.”
Surviving something like this doesn’t just mean avoiding the virus, washing hands and social distancing. The real battle is in our minds and hearts. The choice exists for us to live in constant fear and anxiety or to see this as an opportunity to build inward with our families and ourselves—to not miss the greatest opportunity we’ve ever had to try something new, to live differently, more slowly, more simply.
“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” —Haruki Murakami, author
Get the Most from Your Doctor Visits
Did you know doctors can have up to 2,000 patients under their care? That’s a lot to keep track of for any human being.
Rather than assuming your doctor will think of everything, it pays to drive your own care. Successful patients work with their doctors as partners in their health care.
We’ve seen successful patients do some creative things to take ownership of their care. See if any of these can improve your trips to the doctor.
Note: In light of the novel coronavirus, be sure to check with your doctor’s office on the best way to seek care—whether for flu-like symptoms or another concern. At PacMed, we offer virtual visits and tools specific to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Keep track of symptoms or questions you have. Note the date, time and situation where symptoms show up. Take pictures if needed, and note temperatures or pain levels.
Use a notepad or an app like Evernote to record everything, including your medications. If something seems urgent, use this information when calling your clinic or nurse helpline to see if you should make an appointment, go to an urgent care clinic or visit the emergency room.
As you prepare to see the doctor, organize your most important questions at the top of your list. Tell your scheduler or care team what you want to discuss. This will help them schedule the right type of appointment so you have enough time.
Bring two typed copies of your questions to your appointment. Give the first to your MA or nurse when they show you to the exam room. Ask them to give it to the doctor, to help them get oriented before coming in to see you.
The other copy is for you to consult during your appointment. Go down the list, making sure to cover all your items. Take notes there too, since it’s hard to remember everything. You can invite a friend or family member along to help if needed.
After your visit, you may have specialist visits, tests or follow-ups to schedule. Make these before you leave the clinic, while it’s fresh in your mind.
Ask how long test results will take and set a reminder to check MyChart. Message your doctor if you need help understanding results when they come in and to find out follow-up steps to take.
Navigating the medical system can be complicated. Taking ownership of your doctor visits is one thing you can do to have a better experience—and better health outcomes.
Sweet Potato, Sage and Fried Egg Tacos
A hearty, savory start to or end of the day, with the classic Mexican combination of tortillas, fried eggs and crema. Enjoy!
Serves 2. Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 large sweet potato, cut into ¼ inch dice
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 4 large eggs
- Fresh corn tortillas, heated
- Sliced radishes
- Chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons Mexican crema*
- Hot sauce
- Lime wedges
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add sweet potato and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until sweet potato is softened with a browned exterior, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sage. Stir constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl to keep warm.
Fry eggs: Wipe out skillet, place over medium-low heat and add remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Crack eggs into pan, season with salt and pepper, and fry until whites are set, leaving yolks runny, about 2 minutes.
While the eggs cook, warm the tortillas, and spoon sweet potato mixture onto four tortillas. Top with cooked egg, sliced radishes, cilantro and a drizzle of crema and hot sauce, if desired. Serve with lime wedges and enjoy!
*If you do not have Mexican crema, mix a couple spoonfuls of yogurt with a squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of onion powder, salt and pepper.
Nutrition Information per serving (one-half of recipe, two tacos):
Calories: 370 Total Fat: 25g Saturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 370mg Sodium: 300mg Total Carbohydrate: 23g Fiber: 4g Sugars: 2g Protein: 14g
Adapted by Sydney Carroll from Serious Eats, author J. Kenji López-Alt, August 2018.
NUTRITION CORNER: The Fantastic Benefits of Fiber
Looking for a new spin on meal prep? One way is to focus on fiber. You’ll suddenly find your plate crowded with colorful vegetables, new grains and tasty spices!
Besides turning your approach to dinner upside-down, increasing your dietary fiber has positive effects on the prevention of many health complications like high cholesterol, high blood sugars, colorectal cancers and poor digestive health. A high-fiber diet is also often lower in calories and can increase feelings of fullness after meals—meaning, your new high-fiber cuisine also can promote a healthy weight!
What is fiber?
Fiber is a type of indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole-grain products. Fiber helps to bind dietary cholesterol before absorption and excrete it from the body, assisting in lowering overall cholesterol levels in the body. Also, in the large intestine, some fiber is fermented and transformed into a short-chain fatty acid, which then communicates with the liver to halt further production of cholesterol internally. A double win for your cholesterol numbers!
Lastly—and in honor of March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month—know that fiber feeds your gut’s beneficial bacteria that facilitate with proper digestion and immunity, thus reducing your risk for colon cancer and diverticulitis.
How much should I eat?
The recommended amount of fiber is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men (or for those over the age of 51, 21 and 30 grams per day, respectively). Unfortunately, most Americans are falling far short of the recommended amount.
How do I add fiber to my diet?
When increasing your fiber intake, start slow and drink plenty of fluids, especially if taking any supplemental forms of fiber.
Here are some simple substitutions that can easily add more fiber into your diet:
- Snack on fruits and vegetables during the day.
- Have steel cut or rolled oats with nuts and berries for breakfast instead of cereal.
- Try avocado toast on whole-grain bread.
- For lunch, use whole-grain bread products and add veggies such as tomatoes, cucumber and spinach to sandwiches or wraps.
- Try vegetable-spiralized “noodles” as your lunch or dinner base (either pre-packaged or make your own) using butternut squash, zucchini or sweet potatoes.
- Toss an extra handful of vegetables or beans into casseroles and stews.
- Try brown rice, quinoa or lentil-based pasta instead of refined grains.
- Add oat bran or flour to home-baked items such as cookies and muffins and to savory dishes like meatloaf.
Any shopping tips?
Look for Dietary Fiber content on the Nutrition Facts label. It’s listed under Total Carbohydrates. A great source of fiber provides typically 5 grams or more per serving, while a good source provides 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving.
Submitted by a PacMed team member
One of the most challenging roles I’ve held as an adult is being a mother to my sons. I take it seriously, thanks to the example set by my mother. She was loving, attentive and committed, which taught me to value parenting my little people.
I believe focused, uninterrupted time is key. In the midst of the daily routine, build in connecting “moments.” These can be in the mornings before day care, over family dinner or throughout the weekend. Our family is fortunate to have a yard, and the kids have a couple of small plants they must water every day—a perfect reason for us to explore and play outside. In these moments, my husband and I allow our sons to open up and share from their perspective.
We unplug so we can fully engage with our sons. We ask probing questions about emotions and check in on the day’s highlights and challenges. By listening, we encourage and model positive behaviors. Conversations with kids can be surprisingly rich—they just need space to share themselves with us.
Remember, each child is an individual. They vary in interests, strengths, opportunities, emotions and how they respond to environments and people. As kids explore and find their way, set guidelines and boundaries that are appropriate. As kids grow and their worldview expands, do community outreach together (garbage cleanups, fundraisers, walks for a cause, volunteering, etc.) to teach them about social issues in a relational way.
In my humble opinion, you cannot show children enough love and encouragement. We are an affectionate family. We tell our children how important they are to us and that we will always have their backs—no matter what. The reward is seeing our children become strong contributors to life and the world around them.
IDEAS TO EXPLORE…
- Build focused, uninterrupted family time into each day
- Listen attentively and openly when your child shares
- Buy a small plant for your child to water each day
- Find support in a parent’s group
- Take time to talk with your child’s doctor
Hear how the Living Well Alliance supports employee wellness programs. Christy Goff, registered dietitian, talks with iHeart Radio host Lee Callahan about many nutrition myths and heart-healthy recommendations. Click to listen to this iHeart Radio podcast!
Eating Right With PacMed • 28 min
See what LWA is up to this spring. We host monthly webinars that companies can join, offer popular “Yoga at Work” classes, plus have nutrition classes focused on specific topics, like bone health. Learn more about Living Well Alliance classes, webinars, screenings and other services and how we’ve adapted to COVID-19 stay home orders.
PacMed and Living Well Alliance are trademarks of Pacific Medical Centers.