World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day. First celebrated in 1993, this day is meant to increase public awareness about the importance of mental health, mental health services, and mental health workers worldwide.

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Now is the time to take care of you… you deserve it.

Human Resources’ Fitness and Wellness Division health coaches are your personal advocates for living an energized life. We work with employees to help create happy, healthy lives in a way that is flexible, fun and free of denial. By working together, the health coach and the employee can discover the lifestyle choices that best support you to reach your current and future health goals.

Our group health coaching is designed to address weight loss, better nutrition, becoming more active and finding balance. Our health coaches understand that getting on the right path toward your health goals is a process that requires support, adjustment, and taking small steps to make lasting and positive changes. Whether you want to lose weight, eat better, be more active or you just want to feel better overall, you have a team of qualified health coaches who are ready to help.

Joey Pacelli is currently leading a group of three individuals working to lose weight and had this to say about the success of the group:  “{They} have become very close and are using each other for accountability measures in multiple aspects of their weight loss journey – this includes keeping each other honest with goals, meal planning recipes, being workout partners, and supporters when someone is having a rough day/week. Through our group and individual meetings, I have challenged each of them to keep a measure of multiple things as a way for us to measure progress. This group is really coming together and forming a tight bond which has visually helped them stay motivated and focused!”

“I joined the health coaching series because I had completely lost all my healthy habits over the last year. While my main goal was to lose weight, I really needed to re-learn healthier habits.  I knew I needed a higher level of accountability if I was going to get back on track.” Recalls Ty Parr, one of the group participants.

“This group has really helped me focus on healthier habits, redefine my relationship with food, and set reasonable goals for my health journey.  It’s easy for me to stay focused on the scale, and struggle with my thought process. This has helped me recommit to a healthier lifestyle.  The social networking and coaching check-ins are encouraging, educational, and motivating. Working with our coach alongside friends pushes me to stay committed and keep the big health picture in mind.”

 

The next session of health coaching groups begins the first week of October. If you are interested in learning more visit the Fitness and Wellness SharePoint Site

Now is your time! Talk with someone about your health and received the personal attention you deserve!

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Say ‘Good Night’ to Improve Health

A good night’s sleep is just as important to your health as dieting and exercising. Unfortunately, there is a lot that can interfere with natural sleep patterns and quality. Here are 10 reasons why good sleep is so important.

1. Poor sleep is linked to higher body weight.

Adults that do not get enough sleep tend to weigh significantly more than those who get adequate sleep. In fact, short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity. The effect of sleep on weight gain is believed to be mediated by hormones and motivation to exercise. If you’re trying to lose weight, getting quality sleep is crucial.

2. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories.

Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuation in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation.

3. Good sleep can improve concentration and productivity.

Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function, including cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. Good sleep improves problem-solving skills and enhances memory performance in both children and adults.

4. Good sleep can maximize athletic performance.

Longer sleep is shown to significantly improve speed, accuracy, reaction times, and mental well-being – just a few aspects of athletic and physical performance.

5. Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

Sleep quality and duration can have a major effect on many health risk factors such as an increased risk of chronic diseases. For example, sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to a heightened possibility of heart disease and stroke.

6. Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk.

Poor sleep habits are strongly linked to adverse effects on blood sugar in the general population. Those sleeping less than 6 hours per night have repeatedly been shown to be at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

7. Poor sleep is linked to depression.

Mental health issues, like depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without.

8. Sleep improves your immune function.

Even a small loss of sleep has been shown to impair immune function. Those who sleep less than 7 hours a night are 3 times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept 8 hours or more.

9. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation.

Sleep loss is known to activate undesirable markers of inflammation and cell damage. In fact, poor sleep has been strongly linked to long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, in disorders knows as inflammatory bowel disease.

10. Sleep affects emotions and social interactions.

Researchers believe that poor sleep affects the ability to recognize important social cues and process emotional information.

 

The bottom line… along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the pillars of health. You simply cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of your sleep.

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Water and Nutrition

Drinking water every day is vital to your health. It prevents dehydration, when your body loses more fluid than it takes in, a condition that can cause unclear thinking, mood changes, temperature changes, constipation, and kidney stones. Regular consumption of water helps to keep a normal body temperature, lubricates and cushions joints, protects sensitive tissue including the spinal cord, and rids the body of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel moments.

As we move into the hottest and most humid months of the year, try to drink water throughout your day to prevent becoming dehydrated. Here are a few tips to help meet your daily water intake needs.

  • Carry a water bottle with you and refill it throughout the day.
  • Freeze water bottles and take them with you for ice-cold water all day long.
  • Opt for water when eating out. (Bonus – you’ll save money and reduce calorie intake).
  • Add a wedge of lemon or lime to your water to improve the taste.

Remember, the goal is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. And the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine suggests that women consume 92 ounces of water per day and men consume 125 ounces per day in the form of fluids and food to maintain desired hydration levels.

The exact amount you need depends on factors including age, gender, activity level, pregnancy, and breastfeeding status. The good news for those who have a hard time sipping water all day is that the foods you eat play a big role in keeping you hydrated. Water-dense foods are not just hydrating to the body, they also provide various nutrients including vitamins and fiber. Keep in mind that these water-dense foods will lose water if they are cooked. To optimize the hydration potential, it’s best to eat them raw or minimally cooked.

Here are the eight most hydrating foods and some ideas on how to enjoy them.

  1. Cucumbers (95% water-dense) – Get creative about incorporating cucumbers into your diet. Try dipping cucumber slices into dip or humus in place of chips.
  2. Celery Sticks – With only 15 calories in 4 sticks of celery, there is not much to them except water, vitamins, and minerals. Try stuffing them with peanut butter or tuna salad, which can help reduce your carbohydrate intake if you use celery in place of bread.
  3. Watermelon – This refreshing summertime fruit has water built into its name – and that is not a coincidence. Watermelon is high in water, low in calories, and a welcome addition to many summer dishes.
  4. Cantaloupe – This summer melon packs 427 milligrams of potassium, making it a decent source of the nutrient. Potassium is important to hydration – it’s an electrolyte, which means it helps the body balance water content. You can eat cantaloupe solo, or in a fruit salad, or pair it with prosciutto for a sweet and savory snack.
  5. Strawberries – The sweet, red fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and incredibly hydrating – with 91% water. Get your fix by serving a strawberry and basil salad or dipping the fruit in melted chocolate for a nutritious dessert.
  6. Iceberg lettuce – All types of lettuce and greens, like kale and spinach, have high water content, but iceberg lettuce wins as the most hydrating at 95% water by weight. The most obvious way to enjoy it is chopped in a salad, but you can use it in place of a bun on your next burger.
  7. Tomatoes – With 94% water content and like cantaloupe, they’re a source of potassium, offering 292 milligrams in one medium tomato, they are versatile and delicious. You can enjoy them in pasta sauce, fresh salsa, gazpacho, or simple sliced and sprinkled with a touch of salt and pepper.
  8. Bell peppers – A low-carbohydrate hydrating food that can be diced to add a crunch to salads, cut into slices as an alternative to chips for scooping hummus or dip, and stuffed for a dinner entrée.

When it comes to water intake, you don’t have to overthink it. If you are eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, hitting the hydration mark should not be hard. Follow tried-and-true nutrition advice by aiming for two to three servings of fruit and five or more servings of veggies daily.

If you feel you can benefit from increasing your water intake this month, join the Fitness and Wellness Hydration Intake Challenge.

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Employee Focus Groups: Reflections on Well-Being & Inclusion

As part of the County’s ongoing commitment to providing an inclusive workplace for all, we hosted seven virtual well-being focus groups in March 2021 to provide an opportunity for open dialogue, to strengthen connections across the county, assess employee needs, and offer support and partnership. With the establishment of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Specialist role, we also welcomed conversations on how the county is growing as an organization and solicited feedback to achieve an inclusive workforce.  Fifty-three employees from across the organization attended the sessions where they openly expressed thoughts in a safe environment and offered supportive conversations with peers on the global pandemic, mental health, wellness, and inclusion topics.  Employees also shared recommendations to guide the county forward in county-wide DEI efforts.

The key findings from the focus groups were centered around two major themes: COVID-19 and DEI.   Participants reported experiencing challenges with mental health and wellness due to the global pandemic, and challenges in moving forward through the pandemic. The County’s virtual Employee Town Hall meeting on May 13, addressed several of these concerns to help employees understand how the County is responding to their needs in these areas. Leaders at all levels were also encouraged to have conversations about their well-being and concerns related to the global pandemic.

Participants also openly expressed their thoughts and feelings on current events, race, equity, and inclusion. The major themes centered around national politics and civil unrest associated with violence towards people of color and marginalized communities; the desire for employees to have open dialogue with colleagues on topics of race and inclusion in the workplace; a need for psychological safety to be able to speak up and openly express their thoughts and ideas on any topic; a need for inclusive skillsets and behaviors across the organization.

We met with County leadership to share a high-level overview of the groups, including the following recommendations for the next steps:

  1. Establish a DEI organizational strategy.
  2. Continue professional development for all staff to focus on equity, skill-building, and development around inclusion.
  3. Engage the organization at all levels on DEI, mental health, and wellness topics.
  4. Potentially add additional check-in sessions with employees to assess well-being and needs.

As we look ahead, we will continue to create opportunities to have open conversations and invite diverse voices and perspectives to help the county be strategic and intentional about countywide DEI efforts and goals. If you have questions or feedback regarding DEI and the County, please contact our DEI Specialist, Shanone Sport at spo001@henrico.us.

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Every Day is a “SUN” Day – as Long as You Remember the Sunscreen

The unofficial start of summer has arrived and while the sun is shining bright and our thoughts are on spending fun-filled days poolside or at the beach, it is a golden time to focus on Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Awareness.

Most of us love to soak in those warm summer rays of sunshine, so we MUST remember to protect our skin and eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. The sun emits radiation known as UV light. Two types of UV light are proven to contribute to the risk of skin damage. Ultraviolet A (UV-A) is associated with skin aging and Ultraviolet B (UV-B) is associated with skin burning.  By learning the risks associated with too much sun exposure and acting on the right precautions to protect you and your family from UV rays, everyone can enjoy the sun and outdoors safely.

Unprotected sun exposure can damage your eyes resulting in vision problems, cause premature aging of the skin, and result in skin cancer. Fortunately, there are simple actions you can practice to minimize the negative risks associated with sun over-exposure:

Cover-Up: Wearing a hat with a wide-brim and other shade-protective clothing can shield your skin from harmful UV ray exposure. Proper clothing may include long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats, and sunglasses.

 

Stay in the Shade: The sun’s glare is most intense at midday. Staying in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. will further protect your skin. It is important to note that the sun can still damage your skin on overcast days and/ or in the winter so be sure to stay protected throughout the year.

 

Choose the Right Sunscreen: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen that shields against both UV-A and UV-B rays, has a sun protection factor (SPF) 15 for occasional exposure or SPF 30+ for extended outdoor activities, and is water-resistant.

 

Use the Right Amount of Sunscreen: When out in the sun apply at least one ounce (about a palmful) of sunscreen every 2 hours. Apply more often if you are sweating or swimming; even if the sunscreen is waterproof.

Additional Sunscreen Tips:

  • Not all sunscreens have the same ingredients. Try a brand that is PABA Free if you are sensitive to the chemical Para-aminobenzoic Acid.
  • Be aware of the expiration date – over time sunscreens may lose their effectiveness.
  • Price does not indicate the quality – the more expensive brand is not necessarily better at protecting the skin.
  • Shake well before use – this will help to mix the ingredients.
  • Apply sunscreen to ALL parts of your skin that will be exposed to the sun – this includes the ears, feet, and toes.
  • Apply sunscreen about 20-30 minutes before going out in the sun – this allows for your skin to absorb the sunscreen.

Remember – No sunscreen offers 100% protection. Use sunscreen on every day that ends with a “Y”, and practice sun safety this summer.

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Transformation starts with YOU… and the support of a Health Coach

Just as a sports coach can help an athlete develop and excel at a specific sport, a Health Coach can assist you in achieving your fitness and wellness goals. Employees looking to be healthier by losing weight, reducing stress, improving diet and nutrition, or creating a more active lifestyle, can now utilize health coaching services offered through the Human Resources’ Fitness and Wellness Division.

Each employee has unique nutrition, fitness, and wellness goals driven by personal history and experiences. There is often a need for guidance and accountability to create a sustainable behavior change, and that is where a Health Coach can assist. The Health Coach can educate employees on their health risk factors, how certain habits or choices may augment those risks, and offer tools to help employees make healthier dietary and lifestyle changes all while providing accountability and motivation to meet their goals.

It is a partnership between the employee and their coach that guides the employee toward the changes they want to make. Together, they will create goals and action plans to achieve those goals. Coaches use their intuition, compassion, and empathy to develop a rapport with employees to make the process productive and successful. Then, the coach will motivate and push the employee to reflect on themselves and see their health in ways they never have before.

To learn more about Health Coaching offered through the Fitness and Wellness Division, visit the Fitness and Wellness SharePoint Health Coaching page.

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April is National Cancer Control Month

As of 1983, the month of April is dedicated to raising awareness for cancer prevention and treatment throughout the United States. Since then, cancer related death tolls have steadily declined due to better education and heightened awareness of how to prevent certain types of cancer, how to recognize the signs and symptoms of cancer, and how to seek proper treatment. Even with all the knowledge available, it is vital to get regular preventative screenings. Screenings are one of the most effective ways to detect precancerous cells and provide early treatment for cancers such as skin, breast, cervical, colon, testicular, prostate, and rectal. 

Vaccinations are also available to help prevent and treat certain types of cancers. Cancer prevention vaccinations work to target certain viruses, like the human papillomavirus (HPV) or the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), that can increase a person’s risk of developing certain cancers. Cancer treatment vaccines try to get the immune system to mount an attack against cancer cells in the body. These are used in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer and advanced melanoma skin cancer.1

In conjunction with medical prevention, the most effective way to prevent some types of cancer involves adopting these simple lifestyle habits:

  • Choosing not to use tobacco products.
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation.
  • Eating a healthy diet rich in plant-based foods that are high in fiber.
  • Being physically active every day for at least 30 minutes.
  • Avoiding exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

Although cancer is one of the leading causes of death for all Americans, it is also the most preventable. Protecting your body and utilizing the available resources can help prevent a future cancer diagnosis. Become your own personal cancer prevention advocate by checking to see if you are due for a cancer screening by visiting the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Screening Guidelines by Age webpage.

1 Vaccinations are also available to help treat and prevent certain types of cancers

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A healthy boost to your day in less than 5 minutes

Start your day with this green smoothie packed with a variety of fruits, like pineapple and banana, in each serving and a nutrient-rich combination of fiber, vitamins and minerals in each sip. The healthy boost comes from the 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables in this smoothie recipe meeting the American Heart Associations’ daily intake recommendations to prevent Cancer and disease.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spinach
  • ½ medium banana, frozen
  • ½ cup pineapple, frozen
  • 4 ounces orange juice (can substitute coconut water to lessen sugar grams and calories)
  • 4 ounces water
  • 1 cup ice

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients into the blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Spinach is packed with nutrients and antioxidants and it is low in calories. The leaves have a very mild flavor making is an easy option for green smoothies. You can barely taste the spinach when its combined with frozen bananas and pineapple.

Spinach Benefits:

  • Nutrient dense food packed with magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, vitamins A, C and K.
  • Great source of antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin to promote eye health by protecting the eyes from UV light.

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