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Ethical Holiday Shopping

Emily Wegenke, MSW Intern

When the holiday season rolls around, we often rush to big box stores to purchase gifts or turn to Amazon for the quick gift. This holiday season let’s try to support companies that are dedicated to making the world a better place. The provided list included companies who create products that support non-profits or leave a small carbon footprint. 

Thinx

Looking for a stocking stuffer that gives back? This company’s mission is to breakdown shame around bodies and reproductive health. Each purchase works towards equity for bodies who have periods. The company works to address discriminatory policies for menstruation. 

https://www.shethinx.com/pages/thinx-giverise

Happy Earth 

Has someone in your life expressed interest in helping the environment? As a Certified B company, they meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact. They put the earth first and donate back their profits to fight climate change, planting trees, and cleaning up trash from the ocean. You can purchase reusable silverware and straws! 

https://www.happyearthapparel.com/pages/our-impact

EVERLANE

This is a great place to shop for the fashion lover in your life. A clothing company that is dedicated to utilizing safe factories that pay their workers living wages. The company only occupies factories that receive a 90% rating or higher for safety. Avoiding fast fashion is their goal which is why they include a cost breakdown of their products on the website. 

https://www.everlane.com/about

Bombas 

This is a perfect gift to someone who enjoys comfy clothes and giving back. As a Certified B company, they are dedicated to upholding their one-to-one policy. This means that for every product purchased a product is donated. The company has created 3,5000+ partnerships across the country. This has led them to donate over 50 million items for people facing homelessness. 

https://bombas.com/

Patagonia 

For the person in your life who is always cold or loves to be outside. A luxury brand that is committed to protecting the earth. This company made numerous pledges to support the environment and has openly objected politicians who support the use of fossil fuels. On their website they have a section where shoppers can purchase previously owned clothes to reduce clothing waste. They have also made videos to explain how to repair different products to prolong their life. 

https://www.patagonia.com/home/

Steeped Coffee

The perfect gift for the coffee lover in your life. A simple cup of coffee just needs a hot cup of water, and the coffee bag is added to the cup. Their products are created so the next generation of coffee drinkers won’t see the effects on the planet. Biodegradable coffee bags and no additional appliances simplifies the morning routine for coffee lovers. They ethically source their coffee products using the minimum Fair-Trade minimums. 

https://steepedcoffee.com/pages/ethos

Self-Care is for Everyone

This is a great gift for the person in your life who needs a reminder to take time for themselves. Self-care isn’t selfish, but often hard to do in our society. The company does not keep back stock of their products. To reduce their footprint, they make the product when it is ordered online. Their website also has ideas for self-care and journal prompts. 10% of net profits are donated to prevent suicide. When purchasing products from their suicide line, 100% of net profits are donated to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

https://selfcareisforeveryone.com/

This post is not sponsored by any of the above companies.

Coping with the holidays

The holidays are an exciting time of good cheer, warm family traditions, and spending time with friends. Or, are they?

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays often present a dizzying array of demands — cooking meals, shopping, baking, grief, being with family who have differing beliefs, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. And with COVID-19, you may be feeling additional stress, or you may be worrying about your and your loved ones’ health. You may also feel stressed, sad or anxious because your holiday plans may look different during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Something sets you off, and before long, you feel stuck in an endless loop of intrusive thoughts, anger, or being overwhelmed. Your body tenses, your breathing quickens, and you can hear your heartbeat pounding in your ears.

When you feel anxiety kick in like this, it’s time to calm yourself down. The first step is awareness. It’s a good idea to learn to recognize the first signs of anxiety and get to work right away before experiencing an episode.

Some of these strategies may feel difficult the first few times you try them, but with some practice, they can offer a quick path to relief from your feelings of anxiety.

Breathe

One of the best things you can do when you start to feel that familiar panicky feeling is to breathe. It may sound basic, but basic is great when managing anxiety symptoms.

Breathing deeply and slowly is key to experiencing the full benefits of it. It’s also a good idea to focus your thoughts on breathing and nothing else.

When we draw our attention to our breathing and really focus on it, the thoughts that trigger the anxiety start to become more distant, our heart rate slows, and we start to calm.

Some people find 4-6-8 breathing particularly effective.

  • Breathe in for 4 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for 6 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly for 8 seconds.
  • Repeat until you feel calmer.

Name what you’re feeling

When you’re experiencing an anxious episode, you may not realize what’s going on until you’re really in the thick of it.

Recognizing anxiety for what it is may help you calm down quicker.

Name that this is anxiety — not reality — and that it will pass. When you are in a heightened state of anxiety, you want to disrupt that cycle, and for some people, thought-stopping techniques are effective and as simple as saying ‘stop’ to the internalized messaging that heightens anxiety.

In other words, consider recognizing that what you’re feeling is anxiety and talking yourself through it.

Embrace absolute truths. Tell yourself “I will get through this — one way or another.”

Naming your sensations and feelings may help you step away from them. This is anxiety, it is not you and it won’t last forever.

Try the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique

When you’re overwhelmed with anxiety, the 5-4-3-2-1 coping technique could help calm your thoughts down.

Here’s how it works:

  • Five. Look around the room, then name five things you see around you. These can be objects, spots on the wall, or a bird flying outside. The key is to count down those five things.
  • Four. Next, name four things you can touch. This can be the ground beneath your feet, the chair you’re sitting in, or your hair that you run your fingers through.
  • Three. Listen quietly, then acknowledge three things you can hear. These can be external sounds, like a fan in the room, or internal sounds, like the sound of your breathing.
  • Two. Note two things you can smell. Maybe that’s the perfume you’re wearing or the pencil you’re holding.
  • One. Notice something you can taste inside your mouth. Maybe that’s the lipgloss you’re wearing.

This technique works best if you pair it with deep, slow breathing.

Try the “File It” mind exercise

The “File It” technique works particularly well if you’re lying awake at night thinking of all the things you have to do or haven’t done, or if you’re rehashing something that happened during the day.

These are the steps for performing this exercise:

  1. Close your eyes and imagine a table with file folders and a file cabinet on it.
  2. Imagine yourself picking up each file and writing down the name of a thought that’s racing through your mind — for example, the fight you had with your spouse, the presentation you have to give tomorrow at work, or the fear you have of getting sick with COVID-19.
  3. Once the name is on the file, take a moment to acknowledge the thought and how important it is to you. Then, file it away.
  4. Repeat this process with every thought that pops into your head until you start to feel calmer (or sleepy.)

The idea with this exercise is that you’re taking a moment to name your triggers, examine them, and then consciously put them aside with a deadline to tackle them later. In other words, you’re validating your own feelings and making a plan to deal with them, one by one, when it’s a better time.

Hopefully these tips will help you through the upcoming holiday season!

As always, counseling is available at the Women’s Center. Please call 517-372-9163 to schedule an appointment.

Proven Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

October 25, 2021

Chocolate is something we all crave and love, but just like most things in life, it comes with a price. This tasty treat is highly calorific, making it something we must eat in moderation to avoid any health concerns.

If you’re looking for an excuse to enjoy a sweet snack today, you’re in the right place. Although still highly calorific, dark chocolate is considered the ‘healthier’ type of chocolate. Read on to discover a few proven health benefits of dark chocolate.  

1. It May Improve Blood Circulation

In a study reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), it has been found that the consumption of dark chocolate may improve blood circulation. This is because the cocoa flavanols found in dark chocolate help to maintain endothelium-dependent vasodilation, which contributes to normal blood flow.

Although studies show that cocoa flavanols may improve blood circulation, the effects are usually mild, so don’t expect life-changing results after eating some dark chocolate. As great as that would be, the process is unfortunately a whole lot more complicated.

2. It Contains Magnesium

Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which is a mineral that your body needs for various different functions. Magnesium is most commonly known for contributing to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and helping to maintain normal bones. It also plays an important role in metabolism, making it good for muscle function.

As you can see, magnesium is an essential mineral that your body needs. You can meet your magnesium intake through a variety of different foods including leafy greens and fruit, but when you fancy a treat, dark chocolate provides the solution.

Some people choose to take magnesium supplements alongside a balanced diet to ensure they are reaching their daily magnesium intake. In the EU, the recommended daily intake for magnesium is 375mg, but this may differ outside of the EU.

3. Many Other Nutrients!

There’s a reason as to why dark chocolate is labelled ‘healthier’, and that’s because it contains quite a few different nutrients. As well as magnesium, dark chocolate contains zinc. Zinc is required for the normal functioning of your immune system. It also supports normal skin, hair and nails, which is why it is found in many cosmetic products.

Eat Dark Chocolate!

Extensive research has shown that dark chocolate has more health benefits than alternative sweet treats. But, while it does contain some health positives, it’s important to remember that dark chocolate should be eaten in moderation. Dark chocolate sold on the market is stacked with sugar, making it just as unhealthy as other chocolate treats. It’s wise to limit yourself to a small bit of chocolate every now and then, rather than over-indulging every single day.

To end this guide, here’s a top tip for you. When shopping for dark chocolate, look out for the cocoa content. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar it will contain. We recommend looking for anything above 70% cocoa content. Although it might be slightly more expensive, you can take comfort in knowing its chocolate of the best quality.

Inclusion Matters in Breast Cancer

By Emily Wegenke, MSW Intern

All people are at risk for being diagnosed with breast cancer, that is why an inclusive breast cancer awareness month is critical. Women of color have a heightened risk for being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer (Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, n.d.). Although white women are diagnosed at higher rates than women in the BIPOC community, Black women have a 31% mortality rate, this is the highest mortality rate of any racial group (Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, n.d.). Why you may be asking? One reason is that BIPOC women are not screened as early as white women. This may be a result of lack of access to quality insurance or not knowing family history.

When a patient has a family history of breast cancer it is recommended that preventative screening starts five to ten years prior to the cancer diagnosis of a family member (Azu, 2019). For people who were adopted or do not know members of their family are unable to voice this concern to their medical team. Leading to women being diagnosed with breast cancer at later stages making treatment options more difficult. Utilizing universal screening earlier than the recommended age of 40 is a step to ensure that individuals malignant tumors are found at a treatable stage.

It can feel overwhelming to read about the barriers the BIPOC community faces for breast cancer. Take a deep breath. Advocating for yourself within a medical setting is the first step to ensuring early prevention for a possible cancer diagnosis. If your doctor is not willing to hear your concerns, it’s okay to ask to be referred to someone knew. Ultimately, you must feel comfortable when working with your oncology team.

For more information about the impacts of breast cancer on black women check out the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners website: https://www.bcpp.org/resource/african-american-women-and-breast-cancer/

Pinkwashing: What is it?

Written by Emily Wegenke, MSW Intern

Cancer has become so pervasive within our lives that it is not uncommon for someone to have a personal connection to the disease. This has led many of us to know October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A month where everything around us turns pink in support of those living with cancer. For some, this is a triggering month as they continue to grieve loved ones who died too soon because of this vicious disease. For others, it’s continuing to process the emotional and physical impact of the invasive rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgeries. This month has become lost in the pink spewed by marketing campaigns to lure shoppers into their stores. Overlooking the many scars those living with breast cancer carry with them every day.

Pinkwashing is a term used to describe a company that implements campaign slogans and pink ribbons into their marketing for the month without donating to the cause or creating products that in turn cause breast cancer (More, 2019; Think Before You Pink, 2002). The billions of dollars that are used for marketing this month could directly support breast cancer by donating the money to research labs, nonprofits or cancer centers that specialize in breast cancer (More, 2019). Ensuring that those who are diagnosed see the benefits of the donations. 

The breast cancer community doesn’t need to see businesses lined with pink ribbons. They need to see improvements in their care. There needs to be change in better access to healthcare to ensure individuals with hereditary mutations have access to preventive measures. They need to have a quality team of oncologists overlooking their care. They need to be prepared to address roadblocks because the healing process is not linear. 

This isn’t to say that all people diagnosed with breast cancer hate pink. It’s a reminder to really listen to those living with cancer. Ask them what pink means to them. Do your research on companies during the month to see how much of their actual profit is being donated to breast cancer research. It’s up to us to create a society in which thrivers can heal from their diagnosis.

Check out Everyday Health or Breast Cancer Action for more about Pinkwashing or head to this link for a video on how to do a self-breast exam.

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