Taking A Hot Bath May Be The Workout You Need Right Now

I am often tempted to fill the tub and take a long, hot soak. But then my kids scream and remind me how naïve I am to think I can enjoy such pleasures. Taking a bubble bath with kids around is about as relaxing as trying to do anything with kids around. Even if they are asleep or out of the house, I feel guilty about wasting water in an attempt to take time for myself while sitting in my own stew. Science is helping me reframe the way I view hot baths, however. If I call it “passive heating” I can call it a supplement to healthy living. That’s right, friends: sitting in a tub of hot water offers the benefits of a gentle workout.

There is no arguing that exercise is good for us; it provides both mental and physical health benefits. Boosting our mood while reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, some cancers, and diabetes seems like a no-brainer. However, not everyone can exercise. Chronic pain and physical limitations make it difficult for some folks to move in ways that would provide the boosts they need to their brain and body. Researchers are examining the benefits of passive heating: raising the body’s core temperature through sedentary acts like soaking in a hot bath, hot tub, or sauna. The findings are cool.

A study done at Loughborough University measured and compared the body’s blood sugar control and energy expended after both an hour long soak in a hot tub or an hour long bike ride. The cycling burned more calories, but the overall blood sugar response was nearly the same. After eating, however, the peak blood sugar measurements were ten percent lower in folks who were in the hot bath vs. the folks who biked. While I am not suggesting a bath is better than a bike ride, evidence in this case is suggesting that it is better in some ways. Do what you will with that information.

Another benefit of exercise is inflammation reduction, which seems counter-intuitive. Movement actually creates inflammation, but then our body’s anti-inflammatory system kicks in. For those who don’t have a strong anti-inflammatory system, though, chronic inflammation settles in and leads to pain, arthritis, obesity, and diabetes. If exercise causes pain which contributes to more pain, I don’t think I would want to move my body much either. But folks can force their temperatures to increase with outside forces and still get some of the anti-inflammatory benefits.

Research has shown that hot water immersion treatments raise the levels of the inflammatory chemical called interleukin. Nitric oxide in the blood increased too. This improves blood flow and the movement of glucose through the body; the body’s tissues’ ability to take up glucose improves as well, which is vital for people with type 2 diabetes. Inflammation and type 2 diabetes are closely linked. People with type 2 diabetes have elevated levels of cytokine inside fat tissue which causes inflammation and reduces the body’s ability to appropriately regulate insulin. When the body becomes resistant to insulin, inflammation results and the dangerous cycle continues. While passive heating can’t cure diabetes or replace anti-inflammatory diet and exercise, it can help.

Anyone else as fascinated as I am? I am drawing a hot bath right now.

The nitric acid I mentioned earlier that causes blood vessels to dilate and blood pressure to drop is why pregnant folks are supposed to avoid hot tubs; if the body gets too hot a person can experience hyperthermia. This increases the pregnant person’s already high risk of dizziness, dehydration, and low blood pressure. But for a person at risk for high blood pressure, passive heating can improve cardiovascular health. One study compared the effects of passive heating on a body to what happens when our temperature rises while running on a treadmill; results showed that heart rate peaked at a lower rate during water immersion but femoral artery rate was higher than after treadmill use. Both signaled beneficial cardiovascular effects.

An interesting fact about hypertension in what the study called “young people” was that while exercise is a primary treatment for high blood pressure, it doesn’t have much or any effect on this population. However, studies found that heat therapy is capable of lowering blood pressure in “young, normotensive individuals” and can “prove more powerful than exercise alone as a treatment for hypertension.”

A hot bath may be just what your body needs right now. Perhaps you are too tired or sore to exercise; you don’t have the physical or emotional strength to do more than sit. That is totally okay. Passive heating shouldn’t replace that workout, walk, or bike ride all of the time, but it offers many benefits when we can’t get ourselves to move. Also, hot baths help us sleep better, relieve joint, muscle, and headache pain. Labor pain is reduced using water immersion. A bath can help us balance our hormones and improve our urinary tract and gastrointestinal health.

Put the kids in front of a movie, grab a book, some bubble bath or essential oils if that’s your thing, and enjoy the benefits of passive heating in the privacy of your bathroom. If you have a hot tub, get your money’s worth. I don’t have one, but I can call it an investment in my health if I purchase one, right? We can all benefit from lower blood pressure, improved health, and better sleep right now. Happy soaking, friends.

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Yes, Takeout And Food Delivery Is Safe — But With Guidelines

I would like to tell you that I’m settling into a new normal during this pandemic, but that would be a big fat lie. I am scared, overwhelmed, sad… I am grieving. I and so many other parents are trying to figure out how to balance our kids’ emotions and our own while trying to work and homeschool our kids. Each day is a long week, and at the end of a long week all I want to do is order dinner from our favorite local pizza or taco place.

But my state of Vermont and many others are ordering people to stay at home. People are starting to rely on food being delivered or available for curbside pick-up. But is this safe? Should I pick up takeout, or even the free meals offered through local restaurants and school programs? The answer is yes. Here’s why it is safe—and necessary—to keep indulging in comfort food from local restaurants.

COVID-19 is a virus that causes respiratory illness and is transmitted most effectively through airborne droplets passed from one person to another when an infected person sneezes or coughs into the air. While people can spread and contract the virus from a surface to themselves by touching it and then touching their mouth, nose, and eyes, that is not the main way it spreads. Here’s what you need to know about food and COVID-19.

Your Food

The CDC, USDA, and FDA have not found evidence that COVID-19 lives on food. “Foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission,” says the FDA website. Even if someone infected does cough or sneeze into your food (gross), ingesting respiratory viruses like COVID-19 will not make us sick the way inhaling the virus will. Respiratory viruses spread along the respiratory tract, not the digestive tract. Even if you eat that food by hand, say, fries or a burger, the virus has been diluted by packaging and your own touch, says Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist from North Carolina State University. You would then have to lick your fingers or pick your nose to even come close to transferring the virus. And honestly, you shouldn’t be doing that whether we are in the middle of a pandemic or not.

There is no evidence that says our food is not safe.

Your Food’s Preparer

With any food we want to eat, we have to trust that the person preparing it is following food safety guidelines. Those have been supplemented by the FDA during the pandemic with additional requirements. First of all, sick employees should stay home and follow the CDC’s guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employees preparing and packaging food are washing and sanitizing hands, wearing gloves, taking extra care to clean surfaces with EPA and FDA approved sanitizers, and are practicing social distancing in the work environment and between customers.

Theresa Bertram, owner of El Gato Cantina, a Mexican restaurant with two locations in Burlington, Vermont, says that she and her staff are going above and beyond what is being recommended by state and city protocols. Bertram says, “We know exactly how and what touches your food and the packaging. Everyone is on board and doing what is expected and more.”

Bertram uses limited staff, and one person per shift is responsible for packaging the to-go orders. Employees are on timed hand-washing schedules, with extra washes as needed. Customers place orders over the phone with a credit card and when food is picked up, they sign a receipt that has been left out with a pen that is sanitized between uses. “We wave and say hello but do not have contact with the customer. Signs are posted so people know what to do and how to keep their space.”

Your Food’s Packaging

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the coronavirus can be detected on porous surfaces like cardboard, paper, or fabrics for up to 24 hours, and on hard surfaces like plastic, glass, copper, and steel for up to 72 hours. But scientists, food safety specialists, and the CDC confirm that the virus is not easily spread via contact with contaminated surfaces. Also, the virus loses strength over time. So, even in the worst case scenario—an infected person sneezes on the packaging your food is in and then hands it to you—you would have to touch that exact spot where the virus lives and then pick your nose, put your fingers in your mouth, or touch your eyes to potentially become infected.

If you are using food delivery services, do it without contact. Pay via the phone or an app and ask your driver to leave your food on the step or at your door. Whether you picked up your food or had it delivered to you, bring it into the house and minimize the places it touches. I have read that some folks place packages in a sink or on a designated counter. Open packages, wash hands for at least 20 seconds, plate your food, and then throw away or recycle packaging. Wash and sanitize the surface that held the packaging and then wash your hands again before you eat.

Your Community

Bertram, like many small business owners, needs and relies on folks to continue to support their favorite local eateries. Restaurant owners are working together to support one another too. “Not everyone will make it through this. It has been so amazing how we have pulled together to help strategize how we can support our employees, the community and still stay viable. The community has been very supportive [by] ordering takeout and delivery; they are tipping well which really helps the staff.” Bertram encourages folks to purchase gift cards too. Even if you’re still worried about leaving your home for pick-up or don’t want to have food delivered, money spent now can be redeemed on meals later, when we aren’t under such strict social distancing rules.

To minimize crowds at grocery stores, use delivery services like Instacart or apps run by your local stores. And please, take advantage of free meals for your kids offered through schools and local organizations. Federal and state funding for these programs is typically based on the number of people who use them. More use equals more funding. Even if you don’t think you “need” a free meal, there are plenty of people who do; your participation keeps food available to the food insecure folks in your town and it reduces the stigma around the idea of needing a “handout.” Consider it a hand-up, and we all could use a hand and a break right now. It’s a relief to not worry about morning snack or lunch for my kids during the week. And it is minimizing my need to go to the grocery store.

Give yourself a break, support a local business, and order some tacos tonight. It’s safe and good for everyone.

But wash your hands. And don’t pick your nose.

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I Was Tested For COVID-19

I work full time for a consulting firm, travel for my job, and am mom to four awesome boys. Feeling worn out is an everyday feeling for me.

So last Saturday when I started feeling extra tired and “off,” I didn’t take too much notice. I had a runny nose, but it’s allergy season and I have bad allergies. My head hurt. I took ibuprofen. I watched the news about the COVID-19 virus spreading in Europe and worried about our family in Ireland and our impending trip home in May to visit. I packed for my business trip Sunday night, with one eye on the news about a few COVID positives in Denver – where I was traveling for work.

Monday morning, a sore throat was added to my list of aches and pains. I flew anyway – I had no fever and no cough. I landed in Colorado and the meeting was a “maybe” now. By Tuesday night, I felt awful and my meeting was cancelled. I flew home Wednesday, making sure to use my hand sanitizer and touch no one.

When I went to see my doctor the next morning, I tested negative for flu and strep, but she also gave me a referral for COVID-19 testing.

I woke up on Friday morning to a totally different world. Schools were closing, travel bans in place, European countries locked down.

Our state government had established a hotline, so I called it. They recommended I get tested after I listed my symptoms. They referred me to a local hospital. And then I fell down the rabbit hole. I was given no less than five different numbers to contact from Baltimore County’s Public Health hotline (they are closed on the weekends, even during a crisis), to a hospital number that kept ringing. As my husband and I were spending hours trying to get an appointment for me to get tested, my coughing fits increased exponentially.

Finally my doctor called Sunday night and told me they were going to start mobile testing at a nearby hospital. I got there at 8:30 am. I pulled right up to the sign that said “stop here” and cut the engine. A big, open sided white tent loomed in front of me, with a shipping container and orange traffic cones set up. Outside the container, various medical people roamed around – a few in full head-to-toe protective gear – straight out of the movie Outbreak. They all stopped in their tracks when I cut the engine. An older man in a brown flat cap and khaki trench coat looked like the guy in charge as he strode toward my car with purpose.

I rolled down my window, but had a coughing fit at the same time. He jumped back maybe six feet and went white. So much for his previous bravado. He asked if I had an appointment; I said no. I couldn’t figure out how to make one, I told him, but I had a doctor’s order. He instructed me to roll up the window and wait. As I did, he spun around on his heel, bravado firmly back in place, and shouted, “This is not a drill, people!” (insert LOL emoji here).

A doctor in full protective gear approached my car 20 minutes later, holding a slip of paper with a number on it against my rolled up window, and gave me instructions to call that number to make an appointment so they could register my information and test me. She was so apologetic and so kind. The line rang busy for 45 minutes. They could hear me coughing in the car, and a nurse in full protective gear came over and handed me a bottle of water. Another 20 minutes went by; I called the hotline again and they instructed me to go to the ER after listening to me cough. But… I’m sitting at the testing center. I have no fever. If I don’t have COVID-19 now, I certainly will if I go to the ER!

Fridley health workers demonstate COVID-19 drive-up testing
Star Tribune via Getty Images

I heard my Mom’s voice in my head, my beacon of tenacity mixed with grace, telling me “there’s always a way to make it possible.” So I pulled back up to the testing site. The doctor came over again, and I told her they instructed me to go the ER. She was so frustrated and apologetic about the lack of clarity in this testing process. She beckoned another woman over and instructed me to roll up my window so they could take a picture of my driver’s license. They then took my number, told me to wait, and disappeared into the shipping container. Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang.

The hotline was calling me.

They screened me, and agreed with the doctor and previous hotline people that I needed to be tested. I was passed over to registration. They took all my info, and told me to drive up and get tested. At this point, I was in tears. I’m a tough cookie, but through all the worry about my kids and feeling awful, and the uncertainty in the world, and then the confusion of the testing process … it was too much. I let it out, then dried my tears, and pulled up to the testing area.

They had me park the car, and call a number. A nurse outside the car answered, verified my details, and had me pull up another five feet. The nurse in full face mask and protective gear approached and instructed me to roll down the window and lean back my seat as much as possible. She then stuck a cotton swab so far up my nose on both sides that I swear to the heavens above – it touched my brain. More tears rolled out of my eyes.

And that was it.

Days of anxiety and nervousness were over.

A ten-second swab up the nose.

They indicated I should roll up the window and could leave. As I was pulling away, nurses on the sides made the sign of the cross, and the doctor created a heart with her hands, ala Taylor Swift. It made me smile and reminded me, yet again, how incredible our medical personnel are. There is no truer saying than “Not all heroes wear capes.”

They sent me on my way with an instruction sheet to isolate myself inside my house for the next four to five days, when results will be back.

Hopefully this story has a happy ending and we get a negative result. I want my family healthy. I’m hopeful that our government gets this figured out and helps to quell the rising panic and fears by making testing more widely available with more immediate results.

In the meantime:

Stay home.

Stay safe.

Stay healthy.

Author update: I was premature thinking the days of anxiousness were over. They had just begun with the testing. The results took much longer than anticipated. After seven days and nights of self isolation, jumping at every phone call, insomnia from stress, physically pushing my young children away from me at times to try and protect them, and denying the hugs they so desperately wanted for comfort, I’m incredibly happy to report that I am negative for COVID-19. I’ve never been so excited to have bronchitis in my life!

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.  

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Climate Change Is Making Our Kids Sick–But We Can Do Something About It

Greta Thunberg has been warning us. So has America’s favorite scientist, Bill Nye. Climate change is real and no joke. It’s responsible for some pretty freaky stuff. Some pregnant women are going into early labor because of climate change. Changes have also caused car-size wasp nests to pop up. Sound scary? You bet. Eco-anxiety is a real thing, causing some hopeful parents to reconsider how many children they want have.

If you’re concerned about climate change and its effects, you aren’t alone. We hear and read about climate change on a daily basis, with articles, memes, and videos flooding our social media feeds. Thousands of scientists are adamant that we need to sit up and pay attention. Climate change is a legitimate worry of many, but especially parents, because it’s putting the health of our children at risk.

There’s a lot of talk about climate change, but what does it really mean and how does it impact our kids? According to the World Health Organization, climate change “threatens the essential ingredients of good health — clean air, safe drinking water, nutritious food supply, and safe shelter — and has the potential to undermine decades of progress in global health.”

Yes, climate change is disrupting the quality and availability of our most basic needs. Yikes.

The statistics are grim. Between 2030 and 2050, there will be approximately 250,000 deaths due to climate change. Mainly, these deaths will result from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. You might blow these off if you live in a more developed and medically advanced country, but the reality is, we’re not out of the woods. The current pandemic has made us gravely aware of that.

Extreme heat, caused by ongoing, overall temperature increases, make cardiovascular and respiratory issues worse. This isn’t just an issue for the elderly. Because pollen and other airborne allergen levels rise in the heat, asthmatic patients—including children—are triggered. As a mom of two children with asthma, this is a terrifying reality.

Other climate change concerns include natural disasters, rainfall levels, and infection patterns. These can impact crop production, increase the spread of disease, cause mental health issues (due to forcibly moving from a disaster area), and water contamination.

Greta Thunberg Joins Hamburg Climate Protest
Adam Berry/Getty

Climate change isn’t just a physical health issue, I’m learning. The impact on physical health can create issues with emotional and mental health, too. Our children aren’t immune to these fears. My children often know far more than I think they do, and they’re always eavesdropping in on adult conversations. Furthermore, with readily available access to the internet, climate change is no secret. Our kids know that something is up, and it’s something serious.

Dr. Courtney Howard, a physician, professor, and the president of the Canadian Association of the Environment, told Scary Mommy that a range of climate change factors are impacting our children, including wildfires and tick-borne diseases. These have both made the news many times over the past several years, including wildfires in California and the scary truths about living with Lyme disease.

I admit, I didn’t know much about climate change outside of trying to make good choices because somehow, those are supposed to help save Mother Earth. We recycle and re-purpose as much as we can. We use cloth napkins and real dishes, instead of paper and plastic. We shop using reusable tote bags. Isn’t this enough? Are we not doing our part?

Dr. Howard offered some practical steps our families can take. First, she recommends we can decrease greenhouse gas emissions and improve our health by getting from point A and point B by foot, bike, or public transportation. She also recommends moving toward a more plant-based diet. When our electricity comes via clean energy sources like solar and wind, instead of coal-fired power which pollutes the air, we’re making a positive impact.

That’s not all. Most importantly, Dr. Howard says our votes matter. What we do in our day-to-day lives is valuable, but who we vote for is crucial to making more impactful changes. When leaders can influence the laws, we can drastically decrease the damaging outcomes of what’s currently being done, especially by companies, to pollute our air and water.

If you’re feeling grim, you aren’t alone. The more I dug into broadening my understanding of climate change, the more overwhelmed I felt. Are my kids totally screwed? Should I become one of those doomsday preppers, stocking up on canned food and medicine? Dr. Howard offered me some hope. She noted that change-making does work, and including our kids in the discussions gives us “a sense of companionship and empowerment.” Then she added, “Action feels better than anxiety.”

With the 2020 elections coming up in November, I feel more pressed than ever to make sure that those I vote for believe in climate change (you know, real science). And not just someone who believes that climate change is legit, but also understands its impact on us all, and especially our children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions.

Parents have to look beyond the here and now. In the midst of our day-to-day busyness, we need to remember that tomorrow matters, too. Our children deserve to live long, healthy lives, free from the toxic and preventable effects of today’s poor choices.

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Social Distancing Can Result In Harmful Loneliness Too

Life can be hard enough during “normal” times, but life is far from normal right now and will probably remain this way for a couple of months. The COVID-19 virus is attacking our physical health, medical capacity, business and education infrastructures, and travel industry. Every piece of our everyday life has been turned over and changed, including the way we interact socially. In order to reduce the number of peak cases and slow down the rate of cases demanding medical and hospital intervention, we need to socially distance ourselves from each other by practicing social distancing.

Flattening the curve means staying the fuck home. However, social distancing is creating isolation from our social support systems, and it is making us lonely. I agree that we need to make the safe and correct decision to distance ourselves from each other, but I also need us to recognize that loneliness, the loss of our people and foundations of community, is another dangerous part of this pandemic.

Humans are social creatures, and when we are taken away from each other, we feel threatened and we feel a sense of danger. This need for connection is literally built into our biology. Compared to similar-sized primates or mammals, humans have a larger neocortex, the part of the brain involved in social cognition abilities like thought, language, and behavioral and emotional regulation. Empathy and the ability to read others’ intentions and their feelings live here too. We are said to have “social brains.” Our social brains have served us well, but right now, for our own physical protection, we need to pull apart.

For some folks, hanging on the couch and watching Netflix, finally getting to that project, or reading all of the books is a welcome two-week “vacation.” Boredom may surface, and it may be an inconvenience to stay home, but for others the discomfort isolation brings is far more significant.

Some of us are really struggling in this time of social distancing. Extroverts are bouncing off of the walls, looking for their interacting fix. As much as introverts love to stay self-isolated and recharge alone, they still want and need their small groups too. And no matter what anyone’s personality profile, social isolation is consistent with depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation. For those of us who already struggle with mental health disorders, those risks increase when our social support systems are taken away.

We benefit from social interaction with our support systems. A sense of community increases our happiness, accountability, and physical health. Our social circles give us a sense of purpose, improve our self-esteem, and help us cope with stressful situations.

We are living in a very stressful situation and yet many of our coping mechanisms are gone.

I am worried about the impact that loneliness will have on people as we are socially isolated during this strange and scary time—a time when, more than ever, we need the support of friends and the feel-good hormones that come with hugging and hanging out and laughing with the ones we love. I’m a little worried about me too.

I struggle with anxiety and depression from PTSD, and I am an addict in recovery. I rely on working out with others, volunteer work, and sober groups to keep me well. I am also queer and am an advocate for other LGBTQIA+ folks. Affirming churches, Pride centers, PFLAG meetings, and LGBTQIA+ youth groups at school are gone for those of us who need them most. My heart breaks for the extra layer of loneliness that have been added to already lonely folks. Add all of the worry and losses from the pandemic (childcare, school, work, money, health), and we have a very dangerous recipe for a social recession.

But here’s the good news: support is still available. We all just need to do a better job of checking in on each other while knowing it’s okay to reach out. Netflix has created a way for us to watch a movie with a buddy while miles apart. Skype and FaceTime chats are so important right now. Up your messaging game. Send more memes and photos.

But be aware that too much time on social media can add to anxiety and depression. Mute certain words or unfollow triggering accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Fill your Instagram feed with cute animals. And to keep yourself from looking at your phone every 30 seconds, set times with friends to meet up and check in.

If you can, take advantage of online meetings of the support groups or book clubs you are in. Tonight I joined a live yoga class taught by an instructor at the heated studio I normally attend in person, and it was exactly what I needed. I was by myself in my basement, set up with my mat and a small space heater, but 40 other people were also taking the class from their home. Six states were represented, and some of the folks taking class had kids or a partner nearby. It was the connection I needed. It was a piece of my old routine done in a new way that lifted my spirits. While so much is changing, I need to know some things are still available.

Our kids look for this too. My oldest is nine and the twins are six. They don’t like not knowing when school, sports, and playdates will resume. They miss their friends, but today I made sure they had ways to chat with their buddies via a kid-friendly app. They spent a very loud two hours talking and giggling with their buds. They sent emojis and videos and called and hung up on each other so they could quickly connect with someone else. It was loud and chaotic, but it was the connection they needed. Screen time is no longer just mindlessly watching cartoons or playing a video game; it’s asking friends what they did today and taking screenshots with goofy filters. It’s keeping an open line of communication and connection with the ones we love.

Many of the people who are most impacted by this isolation — people 65 years old and older and people in nursing homes or long-term care facilities — may not have technological abilities or access to technology. Phone calls, waves from windows, and deliveries of food and care packages that can be left on the doorstep will be keys to connection.

If you are someone who is able to work from home and who doesn’t mind the solitude or is more immune to it, then do your part and self-isolate. The great news about limiting your exposure to others means that in a time of need, you will be able to check in on the most vulnerable people who are not only at risk for getting infected with COVID-19 but are also at a greater risk for the negative impact of isolation. Yes, it’s a lot to carry, but consider yourself a super hero.

If you or someone you know needs help, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can help you find counseling services where you live. Or call 800-662-HELP (4357).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a group of counselors ready to help the LGBTQIA+ population. Or call 1-800-273-8255.

AA also offers online meetings.

Loneliness is not simply a complaint; it can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. Please know that you are not truly alone and that this situation is temporary.

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Here’s How You Can Feed Your Family Healthy Meals (Without Leaving the House & Going Bananas)

Our kids, as much as we love them, are hangry little nuggets of emotion when it comes to what they will and won’t eat. One day they’re human vacuums who will eat anything and the next they’re practically on a hunger strike because a single rice kernel touched one cube of cheese.

As human moms and not robot chefs, dinner is a thing that seems to gnaw at us every single day. After all, dinner is more than just putting food on a plate — there’s the planning, shopping, putting it away, bringing it back out, cooking it, and the final hurdle of serving it. If you’re exhausted by reading about dinner, we’re all exhausted from doing it. (Even if we haven’t left the house.)

There’s Definitely An Easier Way To Make Dinner (During Regular Life and Can’t-Leave-The-House Life)

After a hectic day at work and an evening spent feeding and caring for her son, Jennifer Chow found herself up until midnight washing, chopping, prepping, and cooking her son’s meals for the next day. She knew there had to be a better way, and the idea for Nurture Life was born.

Nurture Life delivers nutritionally balanced and delicious meals for the family straight to your door — and they take less than two minutes from refrigerator to plate. Oh, did you hear that? It was you sighing with sweet relief.

With So Many Stressors Right Now, A Meal Subscription Could Really Help

A weekly Nurture Life subscription provides families with meals for all ages and stages of development. We’re talking nutritious, balanced, easy meal options straight to your door. Every meal is freshly made, and freezes easily. It’s like Nurture Life is coming straight for your heart too because, seriously, did all of our wishes just get granted or what?!

With a focus on organic produce, antibiotic-free proteins, and whole grains you can feel good about what you’re serving your family instead of shame-serving them something you hope they think is edible. Plus, Nurture Life never adds preservatives or artificial flavors, which is really like doing Salt Bae but with sprinkles on this already everything-we-ever-wanted-meal-subscription cake.

Basically, We Only Need To Show Up To The Table (YASSS!)

Tired of having a self-feeder eat Cheerios all day? For our tiniest 10-24 month humans, finger-food meals are cut to be big enough for little fingers to pick up, small enough to prevent choking, and soft enough to mush without molars. Think turkey meatloaf, broccoli, pasta fagioli, and salmon cakes, all in pea sized bites. Plus, they are brightly colored and packed with critical nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to power the rapid growth and development taking place at this age.

Older kids get meals like Chicken Meatballs with Pasta & Vegetables, Bolognese with Penne (that include a full serving of veggies) and even Teriyaki Salmon with Rainbow Veggie Rice.

Nurture Life understands concerns about allergies and diet restrictions, so all their products are peanut and tree nut-free (except coconut) and made in a nut-free facility. When you’re selecting your meals, you can use the dietary filter function to be sure your meals are free from wheat, dairy, egg, and other restrictions.

What Makes These Folks So Sure My Kids Will Like This Stuff?

Cooking for kids requires a special understanding that when a child approaches a dish, it’s with a fresh palate. They haven’t been exposed to certain flavors or textures, so each dish is an opportunity to shape their perspective. The dishes are kid and parent tested, and the registered dietitians and chefs that create the meals take feedback to heart.

Nurture Life makes it easy to get your kids the nutrients they need today, as well as teaching them to love making healthy food choices for life. And because they know how the only constant in a parent’s life is change, there’s no commitment — skip weeks or cancel anytime.

Check out all the meal plans online to learn how Nurture Life can make your life easier.

Meal planning doesn’t have to be stressful. Nurture Life provides healthy, balanced, easy meal options to feed your child at any age. Get 25% off your first two orders with the code SCARYMOMMY. New customers only, applied at checkout.

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Mindfulness To Help Families Manage Coronavirus Anxiety

When my eight-year-old came to me with a worried look and asked if she was going to get the coronavirus, I answered her truthfully: “I don’t know, but if you or anyone else in our family does, we know how to take care of you.”

I gave her a big hug and told her how we need to wash our hands, cover our coughs, and stay home if we do feel sick.

I hope I sounded calm, but inside, I too was feeling anxious. As parents, caregivers, and teachers, our natural instinct is to protect our children from difficult news, but the anxiety and panic around the coronavirus is hard to avoid. Sometimes the best way to navigate the difficult emotions is intentionally moving through the anxiety and stress together.

That night, my daughter and I did a 4-2-6 breath and sent loving-kindness wishes to ourselves, our family and friends and the world. Her fear didn’t disappear, but she did feel calm enough to fall asleep peacefully. It’s powerful what a few minutes of mindful breathing and focused, kind thoughts can do to soothe an anxious child – or adult.

Here are a few key mindfulness practices to help your family manage the overwhelming feelings that might come up around news of the coronavirus and any other stressful situations:

Breathe out longer with 4-2-6

The simple practice of breathing out longer is enough to activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down in periods of stress. Stress and anxiety often manifest as shallow, quick breathing. By taking a longer breath on the exhale, we allow the body to naturally come back to center state.

The parasympathetic nervous system is controlled by the vagus nerve. When we breathe deeply and slowly, we send a signal to the vagus nerve to put on the brakes, giving ourselves a space to find calm — a form of self-compassion. Once we regulate our breath, we can more easily clarify and manage intense feelings. Here’s how to do the 4-2-6 practice:

  1. Raise open your palm in the air to show counts
  2. Breathe in for 4 counts, putting down a finger for each count
  3. Hold breath for 2 counts
  4. Now exhale out for 6 counts, raising a finger for each count
  5. Repeat three times
  6. Ask children about to check in about their feelings with a thumbs up or down

Find an anchor in the natural world

parents consoling their sad girl at home
skynesher/Getty

When we feel anxious, we often enter into a negative feedback loop. We might experience rapid, shallow breathing or an increased heart rate. This in turn tells the brain we’re under stress and the cycle continues.

Mindful Littles advisor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Matthew Fishelder, explains that practices such as mindful breathing can break the cycle by encouraging us to become more aware of our body, which helps us calm down and in turn tells the mind we’re okay. In addition to mindful breathing, another way to reground is to focus on an element in nature. Here are some simple everyday practices to try as a family:

  1. Get fresh air
  2. Hold a rock or stone
  3. Place bare feet on the ground
  4. Take a moment to breathe in with 4-2-6 breath or another breath
  5. Try the Root to Rise Moving Meditation

Validate the feeling by naming the emotion together

One of the most important practices we can do is validate a child’s emotions and our own by allowing our bodies to accept, name and feel those emotions. To be worried about the coronavirus is a very natural human response. Instead of saying “Don’t worry” or “Nothing will happen,” when we accept a child’s feelings, we allow them to naturally work through the emotion.

Naming the emotion together allows all family members to express how they feel, which is a critical step in letting go. When we share our own vulnerability around a stressful or scary situation, it reassures children that we are human too and they’re not alone in their feelings. Giving a reassuring hug helps too. Not everything is within our control, but we can respond authentically and with courage and compassion for ourselves and our families.

Move your bodies together

The root of the word “emotion” is “motion,” which means “move out, remove, agitate.” To help manage our feelings, we can literally move our emotions out our bodies! Exercise, ride bikes, play outside or throw an impromptu dance party to physically continue the process of releasing intense emotions together.

Notice and soak in the good

Our brains are wired toward negativity bias — the tendency to notice and dwell on the negative rather than the positive in our lives. Spending extra energy proactively noticing the good and soaking it in can help decrease our negative feelings and increase the positive ones.

One way to do this is to experience awe. Research shows feeling awe can lead to increased happiness, generosity and health. Notice and share five awe-inspiring experiences with your children. Was it a walk among the Redwoods, a sweeping view of the Grand Canyon or maybe the simple glimpse of a hummingbird? Ask them to share their own experiences. Check out more fascinating facts about the science of awe.

We hope one or more of these mindfulness practices help you and your family feel grounded, present and positive no matter the situation.

Originally published on Mindful Littles

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Check On Your Friends With Anxiety, We Aren’t Okay Right Now

On a good day when everything is running smoothly, I can be a bit on edge. Maybe it’s because I have three teenagers who are pulling me in many different directions as I try to keep them little. Or perhaps there was something that happened in my childhood that causes me to be more wound up about things than some people. 

It doesn’t matter though. I’m guessing anxiety runs through my blood. I’ve always been wired that way — worrying about what will happen next — I never remember not feeling like this. I’ve come to realize I have to deal with it as best as I can. 

After I had a baby, my anxiety spiked to the point it was almost unmanageable. Having kids means you aren’t just anxious about your life, you are anxious about their life now too.

Adding big life-changing events (even if they are good) into the mix can cause someone who is always wondering when the other shoe will drop into a downward spiral.

Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming election, and trying to adjust to having kids at home and being cooped up is debilitating. And downright terrifying. 

Anxiety wants an answer. Anxiety always wants to know what’s next so it can gain some sense of control. And there are times anxiety sends us to such dark places we need help to crawl out of. Right now, there are a lot of people who are struggling with their anxiety, and we need to come together and check on each other. 

Many of us feel a bit helpless these days with all that’s happening in our world. We don’t know what’s going to come our way next, and we feel compelled to do something about it and regain a sense of normalcy.

If you’re wondering what you can do and how you can make a difference to those you love, remember to check on your friends and family who struggle with anxiety. Letting your mind wander can take you down fast, and there are those who don’t have a lot of control over the bad thoughts that come into their mind when times are hard. 

It doesn’t have to take up much of your time. A text or phone call could be all that’s needed to keep someone from spiraling further into the depths of their terrifying thoughts. They may tell you they are fine when you first reach out. They may say they don’t need anything, but there’s nothing wrong with pushing a little bit more.

Yesterday as I sat in my car, staring at the raindrops siding down my windshield, I got a call from a friend I’d been texting with earlier in the day. I was venting to her about practically homeschooling three kids while working at home and trying to manage their emotions over the coronavirus pandemic. This is the first really hard crisis I’ve had to deal with as a single mom, and I’m lost. 

She didn’t even say hello. She said, “Are you okay?”  

Had she simply sent me a text, I would have responded with “fine” and sat there and teared up for the tenth time that day before returning home to my kids and trying to help them with their damn math. But I didn’t respond with “fine;” I was honest.

Her check-in was all I needed to get a little power over my anxiety. We talked about the things we were thankful for: healthy family, work, being able to run outside, the fact that spring is coming. 

I could feel my anxiety settle a bit and was able to handle my day in a way I wouldn’t have been able to had my friend not checked on me.

We are in this together, and there is so much comfort in knowing you aren’t alone, that there are people who care about you, and they will listen to you. 

After hearing from my friend, I was thinking about the people in my life who could use a phone call or a check-in text. 

So, take the time to check in with your anxious friends and family members. If they tell you they are fine and you have a feeling they may not be, ask again. Make sure they know you are there for them to vent to and that their feelings are valid. Remind them to step away from the news for a bit if it feels like it’s making them worse. Remind them to eat. Remind them to sleep. 

We all react to situations like this in a different way. But there is no doubt that connecting with others is what’s going to get us through all the uncertainty we are facing. 

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Woman Brags About Eating Out Amid Coronavirus, Because ‘Merica

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez urged young, healthy people to stay home this weekend

A woman’s tweet about eating at a crowded Red Robin over the weekend served as a reminder to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“I just went to a crowded Red Robin and I’m 30,” Katie Williams, former Ms. Nevada State and candidate for the Clark County School Board of Trustees in Las Vegas, tweeted. “It was delicious, and I took my sweet time eating my meal. Because this is America. And I’ll do what I want.”

Williams’ tweet was in response to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tweet urging young people to stay home and avoid crowding bars, restaurants, and public spaces. “To everyone in NYC but ESPECIALLY healthy people & people under 40 (bc from what I’m observing that’s who needs to hear this again): PLEASE stop crowding bars, restaurants, and public spaces right now. Eat your meals at home. If you are healthy, you could be spreading COVID.”

Williams later tweeted “the media wants you to freak out” and “how can you spread a virus, if you’re healthy and aren’t carrying it?”

As schools close for weeks and/or switch to online classes, as companies implement work-from-home policies, as major parks such as Disney World and Disneyland close, and as sporting events suspend games and postpone their seasons, people across the country continue to flock to bars, restaurants, and other establishments.

Take, for instance, the scene in downtown Nashville this weekend:

People in Chicago also went out:

Same goes for Austin:

Why should people — particularly young, healthy people — avoid crowded places and practice social distancing?

According to evolutionary biologist Benjamin Kerr, low-risk individuals are crucial to “flattening the curve,” which means reducing how fast the virus move through the population. “Low-risk individuals are a majority & protective measures for this group can be critical for public health,” he wrote in a tweet.

Population health researcher at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia Drew Harris added that COVID-19 epidemic control measures helps “limit surge and gives hospitals time to prepare and manage.” “It’s the difference between finding an ICU bed and ventilator or being treated in the parking lot tent,” he wrote.

 

Harris told NPR: “If you think of our health care system as a subway car and it’s rush hour and everybody wants to get on the car once, they start piling up at the door. They pile up on the platform. There’s just not enough room in the car to take care of everybody, to accommodate everybody. That’s the system that is overwhelmed. It just can’t handle it, and people wind up not getting services that they need.”

 

According to the CDC, if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, stay home as much as possible.

“If a COVID-19 outbreak happens in your community, it could last for a long time. (An outbreak is when a large number of people suddenly get sick.) Depending on how severe the outbreak is, public health officials may recommend community actions to reduce people’s risk of being exposed to COVID-19. These actions can slow the spread and reduce the impact of disease,” CDC’s website states.

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My Mental Health Struggles Make Me Feel Unlovable Sometimes

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been in a pretty bad spiral of depression and anxiety. It’s probably the worst it’s been in over ten years, and when things get this bad, when I keep getting sucked back down into the misery of depression, I kind of just sit and wait for my wife to say, “I can’t live like this” and walk out.

Sure, this could all very well be in my head, let’s be real. I don’t think there is a lot of sex appeal in depression. When I get depressed, I get quiet. I mope. I avoid social situations. I stay in bed. I’m not exciting or fun or full of life. When I’m depressed, I’m doing everything I can to just keep moving. To keep functioning. To keep going from one obligation to another, smiling when I have too, and talking when it’s unavoidable.

I try not to tell my wife too much about how I’m feeling. I’m afraid to tell her how often I think about suicide, or how often I think about failure, and how often I wonder if I can keep going on those times when the depression just seems endless. I wonder if she will find me ungrateful because on the whole, we have a good life, with good kids. We make ends meet, and I have a good job and so does she. We have a good life, and yet, sometimes I just can’t find a way to enjoy it.

I think this might be one of the biggest misconceptions of living with depression. Sometimes when you are stuck in the throes of it, when you are wallowing and struggling and just trying to make it through the day, it’s hard to think that anyone could love you, particularly when you are having a difficult time loving yourself.

Of course, that’s not true. Those who struggle with depression find love, and stay in love. But it’s a common theme for those of us who struggle with mental health issues and past trauma.

I am not a physiatrist or a psychologist or a doctor. I’m just some dude who has a wonderful loving wife and three amazing kids, who has to fight every day to keep his head straight because of his depression. I have good days and I have bad days. I usually have more good than bad. But when things are really bad, I sit and wait for the person I love the most, my wife Mel, to decided that it’s too much and leave. All of it is this strange heartbreaking sub-level of depression that no one really talks about, and it only magnifies the pain of living with mental illness.

Last weekend, all of this came to a head for me. I’d been pretty low, and I knew my wife was worried about me, but I was afraid to talk to her about it because of everything I’ve just described. I was sitting on the edge of our bed, elbows on my knees, my head in my hands. She came out of our master bathroom. I didn’t know she was in there, and I didn’t really want her to see me like that.

She put her hand on my head and we talked for a bit. She asked me how I was feeling, and I was honest. And then I told her something I’d never said in the 16 years we’d been together.

“I’m just so worried that my depression…. these low times… are going to come between us. I’m worried they are going to ruin us, and that’s so difficult for me to think about because you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Mel reached for my left hand. She took off my ring. Then she pointed to what was written on the inside and read it to me. “Love you forever.”

She’s pointed this out before. Multiple times, actually, but usually for different reasons. But in that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear. And I think that’s another one of those things that people with depression often need. When I am low and I feel unloved, and my depression has twisted my mind to the point of siting and waiting for all of it to come down, what I really need is simple reassurance.

I’m not going to say that I snapped out of my depressive episode right there and then. And I’m not going to say that what Mel did solved all of my mental illness. But what I will say is that I stopped worrying so much about her giving up on me. I didn’t feel so unlovable anymore, especially when she sat next to me on our bed and wrapped her arms around me. Right there and then, that was exactly what I needed.

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