Beth Jones Mental Health

Combatting Overwhelm in Teen Athletes

by Beth Jones ATC, LMT, RES

Our teens athletes have more on their plate than just about any previous generation. Youth are specializing in sports at younger and younger ages, which means not only an increase in the number of chronic use injuries and recurring pain, but also in the amount of pressure our teens are under to perform well in their chosen sport.

Gone are the days of multisport participation in school and the three-season athlete. More and more, our teens are competing for spots on both their school and club teams, with pressure from all directions to be great.

In addition to the demands of their sport training, our teens are also having to prove themselves academically. There is a rise for being the well-rounded student-athlete, with high performance being asked for in both the classroom and on the field. Enrolling in AP class beginning their Freshman year is the norm. Applying for Ivy League and Division I programs, with the hope of recruitment to a sports team, as well as acceptance to the college is the goal.


Our teens are rising at dawn for pre-school training, transitioning from after school practice to club practice, grabbing a bite on the run and burning the midnight oil to get their schoolwork done. Add to this other extracurricular activities, such as Youth Group and volunteering, and it’s a wonder many of our teens are still upright!

It isn’t surprising that increasingly teens are struggling with burnout and overwhelm these days. We are asking a lot, and if we think about it, we’re asking our teens to take on much more than many adults would be willing to. As parents, we do our best to support them, but in reality we’re struggling with our own bouts of overwhelm and may not fully understand what our teens are going through in our own attempts to keep it together.

So, what’s to be done? As parents, our number one focus needs to be monitoring how our teen athletes are handling the loads that they are juggling. Are we seeing any signs of burnout or distress? If we do, are we helping them learn how to manage their time and priorities, and advocating for their health by connecting them to counselors, or running interference with overbearing coaches? We have great goals for our kids and will do anything to support their dreams, but just as we would throw ourselves in front of a bus to save them, we have to help them protect their physical and mental health as well.


Burnout affects the athlete in various stages:

  • The athlete is placed in a situation that involves new or varying demands on their physical ability and time management
  • The athlete at some point – usually early on as a young athlete, or later if a more experienced athlete – views the demands as excessive or non-productive
  • The athlete feels as if their performance is being hampered by the demands of participation and the inability to rest and recover
  • The athlete starts experiencing subtle signs and symptoms of physical and mental burnout
  • Burnout takes place and the physical and mental toll on the athlete impacts their lives and performance on and off the field, perhaps even discontinuing sports participation

Signs and symptoms of burnout include:

  • Leveling off or diminished performance or conditioning, including strength and stamina losses, chronic fatigue, and recurring pain & injury.
  • Physiological signs such as having a higher resting heart rate and blood pressure
  • Cognitive issues such as difficulty in concentration or diminished work in school, forgetfulness
  • Illnesses as a result of suppressed immune system
  • Emotional issues such as disinterest, moodiness, irritability
  • Low self-esteem, increased anxiety and depression as a result of falling short of sport demands

As parents, it’s important that we’re aware of the signs and symptoms of burnout in our kids. When we notice some of the signs above, we must be their advocates to take action. This means gathering the team around – the coaches, athletic trainer, teachers, counselors, and of course the athlete themselves. This is the time to start assessing the situation and make sure that her training aligns with her future goals. 

This may mean taking yourself out of the dreaming stage and truly listening to what your teen wants. What are their goals? What do they feel like they can handle right now? There’s a good chance that they want to make you and their coaches happy, and they need to be assured that their wants are being heard and the team is working in their best interests now – even if the long-term plan has changed.

If you don’t have a mental health professional or teen coach who works with athletes as a part of your team, this is the time to bring one in. Often our teens just need an outside adult to help them craft a plan and work on shifting their mindset a bit. Letting go is a key for many teens who have that athletic-mindset. Many teen athletes feel a need to be perfect and set the bar much higher than what can be achieved in the current situation. Teen coaches and therapists can help teens start letting go of the unrealistic goals that others have put on them, and begin to adopt new habits and mindset shifts that are manageable and aligned to their goals. Similarly, teens also need to learn to work through and let go of negative emotions that come up when feeling stressed. Once they tap into the root of those emotions, teens can learn to step back and look at them with a neutral eye and better address the underlying triggers. Often, the act of simply letting go of the idea that you are not enough or have to do more, can greatly reduce overwhelm and allow for clearer focus on the things that matter.

The demands on our teens aren’t going away anytime soon, but if we, as parents, begin to notice the signs of overwhelm and burnout when they begin to creep up, those demands become more manageable. There may be tears, there may be hurt feelings (for us), but part of our roles as parents is to protect our teens health – physical and mental. Recognizing the signs of burnout is one of the best forms of protection we can give.

Find out more about Beth and what she does at

Lisa Mildon Physical Health

Denial Could Have Been the Death of Me

by Lisa Mildon

My life of denial began when I was nearly nine years old. After a routine checkup, the doctor noticed I had high blood pressure. Pretty unusual for an 8-year-old. After further testing, the doctor discovered I had a non-functioning kidney. It had to come out as it was damaging my remaining kidney. So, at the ripe old age of 9, I had my left kidney removed.

My parents were told that I could live a relatively normal life, but no contact sports. I think their fear of losing me made them shelter me like a glass figurine.  Often, I would sneak off outside, climb trees, wrestle with my brother, and other rough and tumble activities. I suppose, even at that age, I was in denial. But heck, at that age, I really didn’t know any better.

My indestructible mentality carried through to my college years. I partied several nights a week, not even thinking twice that I could have any condition that would affect my social life, much less health. Thankfully, I outgrew those wild moments mostly and began taking better care of myself, but my diet was in shambles.

four person standing at top of grassy mountain
Photo by Helena Lopes on

Since puberty, I had always been “fluffy.” I’ve dieted all of my adult life with varying amounts of success. To my recollection, I never had a doctor tell me that my weight was a factor in kidney health. (Denial again, I’m sure.) That was until in 1999, my regular physician sent me to a nephrologist (kidney disease doctor) who said I either lose weight or die young.

This bit of news scared the living sh** out of me. I did a very drastic thing and had gastric bypass surgery. (Basically, a stomach stapling.) It worked. I lost nearly 100 pounds. The downside, I had so many nutritional issues. I could only eat small amounts. Eating protein was painful to digest. Food that swells, like rice, caused me severe pain. I vomited often. My hair started falling out. I was a wreck… but hey, I was thinner.

Despite my surgeon stating that the procedure he did would “never” stretch out, it did. Those painful moments were actually my stomach stretching. Almost 20 years later, I had gained all but 20 pounds back.

Then I found out I had a gluten allergy. Bingo! I changed my diet, eliminated wheat and gluten products. My weight started dropping again. I had lost over 40 pounds and felt terrific. My numbers on my kidney seemed to stabilize. Yet, according to my doctor, not once did she ever mention kidney disease. Just talked about how efficient it worked and the lack of gout.

medical stethoscope with red paper heart on white surface
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

I wish she had been more upfront with me about my kidney. Perhaps she thought I had already had a talk with a previous doctor. Unfortunately, he failed to tell me anything other than send me to a nephrologist. She had, at one point, asked me if I wanted to go to a nephrologist. As the only one in the area was the same quack who advised me to get stomach surgery, I politely and firmly said no.

Seeing as she was giving me a choice, I thought this was just a suggestion for future care as I aged and unnecessary for my current situation. So, I blindly followed her advice, much to the detriment of my current health situation.

Then, as luck would have it, I moved out of state and changed careers. While all of this may sound exciting (which it has been.), those changes may have aided in my further health decline. I became a freelance editor and writer, so insurance became my responsibility. I couldn’t afford that insurance for about a year. Once I got insurance established, the pandemic hit hard. 

Trying to play it safe, I waited, thinking that this would be over in a few weeks. Oh, how wrong I was. Out of a considerable dose of precaution, I made an appointment to establish a new physician. My hope was I would find someone who would listen to me and even want my health to improve.

blue and silver stetoscope
Photo by Pixabay on

I lucked out big time. My new doctor listened closely to my health history, asked tons of questions, and even offered to get my old records (My old doctor was very unhelpful.). She tested my blood and urine with an expanded set of tests. I thought, “Hey, I might actually get some help with my weight loss.” The weight loss problem was the actual issue I wanted solved.

So, when I received a call to make a nephrologist appointment, it shocked me. Nephrologists are for “those” people who have kidney disease or are in failure, not me. I was in complete denial. I looked at the test results as soon as I hung up the phone. It was pretty grim. It looked like my kidney was on a downward spiral to dialysis.


“How could it be this bad?” I asked myself. Then thoughts rolled in, images flashed. All those different doctors I had over the years all assumed that someone taught me about kidney care, what things I should eat, what I should avoid, you know, necessary information to extend my life, and the functioning of my remaining kidney.

I realized that even the quack doctor was trying to tell me I had kidney disease. God, it’s even hard to type it out, much less say, “I have kidney disease.” It scares me to be quite honest. My entire life has been about me having one kidney. Not about my intelligence, not about my sense of humor, just that damned organ in my body.

I had to face the truth. It was time to take action for my health. No more toughing it out with the pain or suffering in silence with an illness. No more sucking it up! It is time I love myself enough to take care of myself.


I won’t lie. Depression had its clutches on me for a week. All I could think about was how I wouldn’t live to old age. That I would die and leave my loving husband alone, as he has always feared. It was his determination that shook me back to reality. I could still take action.

With his doting care and research, I began tweaking my diet to be more kidney disease friendly. I trimmed back the amount of meat I ate in a day. I increased the amount of water by twenty ounces. Gone are the “woe is me” thoughts only to be replaced with determination.

peaceful lake with residential cottages and lush trees on shore in autumn
Photo by Marta Wave on

No matter what type of illness or adversity you might face, don’t be like I was and hide from the truth. Dig deep down from within and find that courage and determination. Take action on the care of your body and your mental health. Even from the depths of despair, I chose to live rather than wallow in self-pity.

Look at your situation. You might be surprised by making tiny changes that improvement can be attained. I tweaked my diet by reducing the amount of meat protein I ate a day. I increased my water and even started adding in 10 minutes of cycling on my exercise bike. In two weeks, my kidney numbers improved. I went from stage 4 kidney disease to stage 3. By breaking up this daunting task into small manageable chunks, I took what seemed like an impossible situation and made it something I could handle. 

You can do this too! Believe me, if someone like me who tries to ignore bad news can face adversity head on, so can you. Find your tribe of supporters; they’ll help lift you up when you’re flailing. It’s ok to ask someone for help, even for moral support.

I’m looking at my health with open, honest eyes. No more denial or me shirking away from the truth. It’s time I stop ignoring the obvious and take charge of my life. Because denial was nearly the death of me.

Amanda Sterczyk Physical Health

The Heart of the Matter: Developing a Heart Condition During a Global Pandemic

by Amanda Sterczyk, MA, CPT


It happened late on a Monday night. After sleeping very soundly for an hour, I woke up and could not fall back asleep. It seemed to be my latest disordered sleep pattern. And, just like other nights when sleep eludes me, I was roaming the house. As is often the case, that night’s roaming found me in the kitchen, engaging in poor choices with a late-night ice cream snack. 

As I was standing at the sink, I gasped suddenly. It felt like my heart had been dropped into a very deep tunnel, and it was struggling to stay connected to my body. This struggle caused it to begin racing; I felt like I’d just run a 100-metre sprint, all while standing still. 

I headed to the couch, laid down, and tried to get my body under control, thinking if I fell asleep, I might feel better. I had a fairly strong inkling as to what was going on, as well as what I needed to do to resolve my racing heart, but for the moment, I wanted to stay put. 

After 30 minutes or so, I gave up and went upstairs to try lying in bed. I ran into my teenage daughter in the hall, and filled her in on the situation. She suggested I check my heart rate on my Apple Watch. It was registering a heart rate of 110 beats per minute—normal resting heart rate is 60 to 80 beats per minute. As I suspected, my heart wasn’t working properly. It was around this time (duh!) that I remembered my watch also had an ECG (electrocardiogram) app. Thirty seconds later, and my husband, who had since woken up, was getting dressed. I was in atrial fibrillation (afib) and I needed to go to the hospital. I knew that’s what it was earlier, when I was standing in our darkened kitchen, but denial is not just a river in Egypt.

By 12:15 am, my husband was dropping me off at our local hospital—COVID-19 restrictions meant it was a solo visit for me—and I promised to text him with updates. When it comes to heart issues, they don’t mess around, and I was in a bed in emergent care, hooked up to a heart-rate monitor in half an hour. Before I got dressed and headed home the next morning, I spent a total of seven hours with my heart racing, not being able to return to a normal rhythm. It would take some aggressive interventions to reset my heart, and I’ll tell you how that unfolded. First, though, let’s back up a bit and I’ll explain why I wasn’t surprised about the afib diagnosis.

What is afib? Atrial fibrillation, or afib, is an irregular, chaotic heart beat, where the upper chambers of the heart—the atria—beat out of rhythm with the lower chambers—the ventricles. Left untreated, afib can lead to strokes, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. I know all about afib, because we have a family history of it, which increases your risk of developing afib by 40%. 

About four years ago, I had landed in the same hospital, with symptoms of a potential heart attack. Thankfully, it wasn’t, but the subsequent follow-up at the Ottawa Heart Institute discovered an atrial flutter, which is often a precursor to atrial fibrillation. The cardiologist indicated that, as long as a flutter resolved itself within a minute or two, there was no reason to seek medical attention. If it lasted longer, he advised me to go to the emergency department immediately.

For the next four years, I only noticed my fluttering heart from time to time. Until I started noticing it every single day. It coincided, unsurprisingly, with the unfolding of the global pandemic now known as COVID-19. In addition to palpitations, shortness of breath, weakness, and fatigue, anxiety is a symptom of atrial flutter and fibrillation. I can unequivocally state that I am not the only person that was experiencing anxiety as a result of the spread of COVID and the ensuing lockdown measures. When lockdown began, doctors’ offices were closed. I thought about calling my doctor, after a month of shortness of breath, constant fluttering, and heightened anxiety, but I didn’t. Since the office was closed, the most I could hope for was an appointment over the phone. I knew they’d be unlikely to prescribe any medication in this situation—instead advising me to go to the hospital—but it didn’t feel urgent enough to use up vital health-care resources during a pandemic. I chalked up my symptoms to the current state of affairs, and figured my heart would sort itself out in due time.

But it didn’t, and I now found myself lying in the hospital, heart racing, hooked up to multiple machines, awaiting my blood test results and a visit from the ER doctor. The treatment for afib involves cardioversion, wherein your irregular heart beat is converted to a regular rhythm, either with chemical or electric means. As you can imagine, the chemical—i.e., medication—option is the preferred first avenue, as it’s less harsh than delivering an electrical shock to your body. And that’s what the doctor suggested, though he did advise me that the medications only work for 50% of people. 

Two hours later, we had discovered that I wasn’t one of the lucky half who respond to the meds. So, the prep began for an electric cardioversion. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen how COVID has changed everything, including hospital protocols. For a procedure like electric cardioversion, that meant transferring me to an enclosed room and waiting for all members of the medical team to don appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).

The first thing I felt when I woke up after the procedure was a normal heart beat. Although I was wiped out—from a night of no sleep in the hospital, an hours’-long racing heart, and the after-effects of being shocked—I was also relieved and happy that my ordeal would soon be over. The doctor explained to me that he didn’t feel I needed anticoagulants (to prevent a possible stroke), because I didn’t have any of the standard risk factors for afib. 

In the days following my hospital visit, I spent time researching atrial fibrillation and talking to my father, who shares the same diagnosis. Other than family history, the only other risk factors I had were stress and poor sleep. Well, I’ll be. Stress and poor sleep during a global pandemic. Again, I can say that, without a doubt, I wasn’t the only person experiencing stress and poor sleep.

But I had to address it, if I was going to prevent a relapse and another hospital visit. The job was mine, and only mine. I’m working on it every day, putting myself first, and awaiting a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist. I feel better because I know I have the power to keep myself healthy, not to mention the motivation. And I’ve made a pact with myself to listen to my body and act on what it’s telling me. 

As women, we tend to put our needs behind others, often to the detriment of our health. We all need to take charge of our own health and well-being, here are some suggestions that I’m planning to implement in my own life. I hope this list will help you too.

1. Make the call.

Don’t put your own health on the back burner. If something feels off, call your health-care provider and book an appointment. 

2. Take charge of your body.

Address the little things before they become big things. I knew at the beginning of lockdown that something wasn’t right with my heart, but I hoped it would go away on its own.

3. Track your symptoms.

Telling a doctor you feel “off” doesn’t really help them help you. Be specific, descriptive, and methodical. If you can share with them a timeline of symptoms, they’ll have a better understanding of the severity and progression of your condition. 

4. Be your own advocate.

You know your body better than anyone else, so be firm if someone tells you, “it’s nothing, I’m sure.”


About the author: Amanda Sterczyk is an independent author, certified personal trainer, and fitness advocate based in Ottawa, Canada. She has researched, written, and published six books, including two fitness self-help guides and two fall prevention exercise guides. You can find all her books on Amazon:

Physical Health Sophia Pollalis

4 Tips to Improve Your Sleep Health Tonight for FREE

by Sophia Pollalis ATC, CSCS

Did you know that many sleep problems can be influenced by changing habits? As the world we
live in became more industrialized, there were suddenly more hours in a day to be productive. It
was possible to work later in the evening and earlier in the morning, even overnight. We also
had more hours in a day to be entertained. Fast forward to the technological advancements of
modern times and we have 24/7 access to whatever you could need at the tips of your fingers.
While the improvement in productivity and “life” as we know it has been drastic and we couldn’t
imagine going to bed because the sun disappeared, we cannot continue to ignore the health
deficits that have come about because our natural sleeping process has been disturbed.

Here are 4 simple and FREE options that you could try tonight to improve your sleep health.

Habit change can be complex and takes time to solidify into new habits. I am personally working on
incorporating this list into my nightly routine. Some nights are more successful than others.
Make your changes as you can handle them, and if you’re going through a difficult time or major
transition (like a new baby) be gentle with yourself and take care of your priorities first and

  1. Lower lights and put down the phone

  1. Your body’s natural wake drive is influenced by light. It helps wake us up and keep us awake.
    This is just as true in the morning as it is at night. Our ancestors were limited in activity by the
    sun going down; now, we just turn on the lights and keep going. Light inhibits our body’s natural
    production of melatonin. Melatonin levels in the brain start rising about 2 hours before bedtime
    and help to put us in a state of quiet restfulness. The later we expose our eyes to bright lights
    like cell phones and overhead lights, the later melatonin production starts, and the more sleep is
    delayed. Studies have also found that the quality of sleep is also diminished without the proper
    levels of melatonin because it allows us to go through all the stages of sleep for the full amount
    of time.
    What to do:
    · Set up your nightly routine so you get at least 30 minutes with no screens before sleep.
    · After dark, turn on blue light filters on your phone, computer, and tablet
    · Dim lights, decrease number of lights, or switch out blue hued bulbs for yellow
    · Use blackout curtains to keep your room dark until you need to get up

  1. Lower the temperature of your room

  1. Before we had reliable sources of heat to warm our homes, nights would be very cold. The
    temperature of your room affects your core body temperature, and we want it to drop by 2-3
    degrees while we sleep. The part of your brain that senses your body temperature is right next
    to the area that controls your internal clock. At night when your temperature naturally lowers,
    they communicate and the part that controls your clock adds that information to the lack of light.
    Lower temperature and less light both stimulate the release of melatonin. Our bodies are not
    passive in lowering temperature; it uses the surface of our skin to reduce core body
    temperature, just like when we sweat. Our face, feet, and hands are most efficient at this. When
    you get really warm at night, what’s the first thing you do? Poke a foot out or bring your hands
    above the covers. This allows us to keep the core temperature lower, helping us fall and stay
    asleep. 65°F is about ideal given standard bedding and clothing. If this is a drastic drop from
    your current holding temperature at night, adjust 3-5 degrees at a time. It can get too cold,
    though. Unless you have clothing and/or bedding to compensate, 55°F can be harmful rather
    than helpful to sleep.
    What to do:
    · About 30 minutes before sleep, decrease the temperature of your sleeping area
    · Splash some water on you face using your hands to cool your face
    · Use layers of bedding so you can adjust nightly if needed.

  1. Avoid coffee late in the day
  1. Caffeine is the most used psychoactive stimulant in the world. It has a half life of five to seven
    hours. That’s right, the coffee that has 80 mg of caffeine you had at 8 am is still circulating 40
    mg of caffeine circulating in your system around 2 pm. Then you have another cup to beat the
    afternoon slump so when you get home and finish dinner at 7 pm, there’s still 60 mg floating
    around, preventing sleep hormones from binding to receptors and giving us a desire to sleep.
    So you stay up later, which makes you more tired in the morning because you didn’t meet your
    sleep needs so you have another coffee. Rinse and repeat. While caffeine can definitely reduce
    our sleep drive or we just like the taste, if timed incorrectly it can impede our sleep health.
    What to do:

· Avoid caffeine within 10 hours of sleep
· Create good health hygiene to prevent the feeling of needing caffeine
· Remember, de-caffeinated is not the same as non-caffeinated.

  1. Skip the nightcap

  1. While alcohol is a sedative, it does not enhance your sleep experience. Yes, it can make you
    sleepy. But alcohol sedates your brain and its necessary processes, not just you being awake.
    The brainwaves observed under the influence of alcohol are more similar to being under light
    anesthesia, not of getting adequate sleep. In fact, it can keep you from the stage of sleep called
    REM (rapid eye movement) when you dream and your brain processes things. Alcohol also
    prevents you from staying asleep, sprinkling the night with bouts of wakefulness that you don’t
    remember. Like caffeine, alcohol can take several hours to be removed from your system, so it’s
    best to avoid it late at night.
  2. What to do:
    · Use good sleep hygiene as a tool to fall asleep, not alcohol
    · Avoid a regular schedule of alcohol in the late afternoon and early evening
    · The occasional drink is ok; understand that alcohol will affect sleep.


Walker, Matthew P. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. Scribner, an
Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2018.
Littlehales, Nick. Sleep. Penguin, 2017.

Jessica Wilkerson Mental Health

Loving Every Bit Of Yourself

by Jessica Wilkerson CPT, PN-1

Me walking past a mirror in the mall… 

“Oh heyyyyyyy! I’m totally feeling myself today!”

The hair is laying just right, the outfit I chose is giving me vibes of love for myself!
I can tell the work I’ve been putting in in the gym and in the kitchen are paying off, and I know that I can hit that goal if I just stick to it!

I feel light and bouncy amidst the world’s craziness. Sometimes I even get funny looks because I am smiling for no reason. 


And because I take the time to love every bit of myself, I feel like I have a slight advantage… not in a cocky or arrogant sense, but in the fact that I can pour into others. I can take care of my family, of my friends and even those I may not know very well.

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others. 

You say, well I take care of myself! But here are some things to consider when it comes to that self care, and taking the time to do the self care really implements that loving yourself aspect!


Am I getting enough sleep at night? Is it a restful sleep?

How has my nutrition and exercise been? Do I need to sweat it out or stretch it out?

Am I taking time to reflect in a positive way on my day and ask myself what I can learn?

Am I saying yes to too many people/commitments?

When was the last time I laughed, I mean really belly laughed?

Do I need to have some time socializing? Or some quiet time by myself?

What actions/ tasks could I possibly delegate to someone else for a while?

Is it time to ask for help? (This could be at home, medically, spiritually, psychologically, etc.)

Do I need a change of pace or change of scenery? 

Are there unresolved issues that could be getting in the way of me living my best life?

If by chance you answered yes to any one of these, it might be time to pause and look at what you need to do in order to love yourself the best.

When I feel like I need a pause, I take some time to sit in my thoughts. I realize this may be hard for some of you, but give it a chance. 

Sit with nature if possible and just close your eyes. Start by tuning into your breath. Notice that audible inhale and exhale… feel your chest rise and fall and maybe even start to count your breath. Inhale, 1. Exhale, 2. Inhale, 3. Exhale, 4… all the way to ten and then start over if you need to. But if you get to ten and you feel calm and your thoughts feel free then this is where you want to be.

Once you get to your calm, take time to think about the questions above. If one particularly resonates with you, then stay there a while. Work through the feelings that come up, give yourself permission to FEEL the emotions to their depth.

Then ask yourself, “If I could resolve this issue and have the outcome be exactly what I desire, what would that look like? How would it feel? What things would I hear from others about this new outcome?” And then envision it happening. Not just once, but feel it and see it over and over again until it’s ingrained in your mind.

The very first step to loving yourself is to recognize that there is something that can be improved upon. It doesn’t mean you are flawed, no not by any means! It means you see that you have weaknesses. It means you can learn to use those weaknesses to your advantage. I encourage you, if you don’t know much about your personality to take the time to get to know yourself a little deeper. 

I know finding out my weaknesses helped me to also realize that there were a couple of places I needed to make changes in my life! It’s so important to spend time alone. It’s so important to love yourself, because most of all it will help you pour into others and allow you to guide those you love most into loving you at their best as well! 

Physical Health Sophia Pollalis

Have you taken a nap today? You need it.

by Sophia Pollalis ATC, LAT, CSCS

The prospect of a nap has always sounded great to me. Maybe not when I was a small child, but my parents could tell you more about that than me. I took naps after soccer practice before dinner. I took naps between classes in college (and consequently missed a few). I take naps on the couch with my dogs before I go to work. Napping can be very beneficial to both your sleep schedule and your productivity. Our busy schedules often don’t allow for them, especially if you’re at work when you need one the most. In many areas, such as South America and the Mediterranean, siestas are a normal part of life and are expected during the afternoon.

I have started a course on sleep and recovery as part of my quarantine education. In my readings, I have come across the topic of naps. We are nap masters in my house, and I wanted to share some of the benefits to napping as well as best timing techniques. What does a successful nap look like? At the right time of day for the right amount of time, you will wake feeling refreshed, recharged, and ready to perform. You can probably think of a few naps that fit into this category. I can also think of a few naps that have resulted in feeling groggy and even more run down than before my head hit my desk.

Time of Day

Our circadian rhythms, or internal biological clocks, create a continuous sine wave dictating when we should sleep and when we should be awake. This varies slightly based on whether you’re more comfortable waking up at 5 am or 7 am. This is called a chronotype. Yes, this is a thing and I was relieved to find out that it’s totally normal for me to not be bright eyed and bushy tailed before the sun comes up. You can take a quiz to find out what your chronotype is at I am personally a bear. In the early afternoon, our bodies experience a small drop in core body temperature, which releases melatonin, a sleep hormone. Our bodies want to shut all its systems down for a quick battery charge. That meeting after lunch you’re dreading because you always nod off? It’s right in that timeline. It’s not your fault that you’re super tired, your body wants and needs a few minutes to collect itself. Studies have shown that taking a brief nap in the afternoon can help the brain function just as well as it does in the morning. Timing also has to do with when you woke up. The ideal time to nap is at least 7 hours after being awake. So, if you woke up at 6am, you shouldn’t take a nap before 1pm. You should also avoid taking naps within 4 hours of going to bed. If you can’t nap between 1 and 3, don’t fret. You could also sneak a nap in when you get home from work between 5 and 7. I had been known to take a snooze or two in that time frame when I was working more traditional hours.

Length of nap

We’ve all heard of and probably taken a power nap. Exactly how long is a power nap? A study looked at the effects of 5, 10, 20, and 30 minute naps in terms of performance gains. They found that a 5 minute nap might as well not have been taken, a 10 minute nap provides immediate, long lasting, and the most performance improvement, and 20 to 30 minute naps take longer for the benefits to appear and they don’t last as long as the 10 minute nap. These differences are assumed to be caused by the type of brain waves you experience during each of these time periods. In 10 minutes you experience restorative waves, while any longer you are getting further into the sleep cycle which makes it harder to wake up. Any college student that has pulled an all nighter can tell you firsthand that those 10 minute naps are key to making it happen. And yes, I’m speaking from LOTS of experience.

Alternatively, you can also sleep for a full cycle, which is approximately 90 minutes. This allows your brain to go through the full cycle. It will be relatively easy to wake up from with minimal grogginess. This length of time is great for an alternative title to nap: Controlled recovery period. Athletes often use this time period for restorative rest after a hard workout. I also think telling your coworkers you went home and had an awesome controlled recovery period sounds way cooler than “I took a nap.”

I also learned some fun facts about naps. In the 60’s and 70’s, people would take what they called a “disco” nap, where they would prepare for a night of dancing by taking a 90 minute nap later in the evening before they got ready to go out. While I never went to any discos, I have frequently taken a 90 min nap before a late night. Even recently when I worked a few midnight shifts, I would sleep for at least 90 min before I would get ready for work. I also learned a quick tidbit about napping and caffeine. This is a trick I used fairly frequently in grad school, but now I’ve read the research. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to get into your system. So, if you take caffeine supplements or drink a coffee very quickly before taking a nap, by the time you wake up from your power nap it will be ready for your use.

I’ll be writing more articles about sleep in the coming months, but if you want to learn more about sleep on your own, check out The Power of When by Michael Breus. It’s about timing the things you do every day for best results. Finally, if you haven’t seen the YouTube video of the toddler that hasn’t taken a nap and is super cranky then her brother tells her she needs a nap, you should go search for it after you finish reading this article. You will relate to it, I promise.

Intellectual Health Keli Kirwin

The Choices that could Transform your Child’s Life

by Keli Kirwin

Is there more to health than sex, drugs, and rock and roll?

Is there more to life than diet and exercise? 

Lifestyle choices are sometimes overlooked as the choices that they are. Local customs influence laws by setting a social standard. Some choices are effectively eliminated whenever the social norms become so ingrained that anything counter causes fear or distrust in the larger public. The restriction might then become prohibitive at the legal level. 

Recently, schools nationwide moved to online distance learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Some parents are using this experience as verification that they cannot homeschool. Others are choosing to leave public education and become home educators (pointing out that distance learning with a public school is not homeschool). Private school families have also been impacted. Online charter schools were already established with home learning via online distance learning so the epidemic has not been as large a disruption for those families. 

The way in which our children are educated directly impacts our daily life. Each day is a building block of health. The things we do every day build up our wellbeing, or chisel it away.  We know that cardio is good for heart health, even if we ignore it and choose to be sedentary instead. What about the lifestyle choices beyond diet, exercise, and vice? Health is multidimensional and multifaceted. Overall wellbeing is not dominated by physical health alone. For many, it has become clear that their children’s education is a lifestyle choice far too important to be made by established social norms.

It is a misconception that the average parent is not smart enough to teach their child well. Some believe that it might be ok for a teacher to become a homeschool parent because that teacher spent so much time learning to manage a classroom that they will be better prepared to educate their own children. On the contrary, many homeschooling parents consider themselves to be reclaiming their education. They find the process of teaching their own children to be empowering. Their intellectual health is nurtured and strengthened.

Living on one income while one parent stays home full time may be a financial challenge. That does not necessarily mean that home education will be the downfall of a parent’s financial health. Many homeschool parents are self-employed, work odd shifts, or otherwise have flexible hours which allow them to be home during school hours. Adjustments often can be made to accommodate financial needs. Financial sacrifices such as long term opportunity loss should be carefully weighed  whenever choosing to step away from the workforce. 


Health and safety in the workplace absolutely applies to homeschooling families. A safe learning environment is beneficial to parents as well as children. Homeschooling families may participate in weekly co-ops or meet for social outings and those locations must be safe in addition to the home. Co-ops may require minimum commitment or be more formal and include a board of directors and act nearly as a private school. Some are academic focused and others are formed for social gatherings and field trips. Group hikes and sports teams add a social aspect to physical health. One homeschooling method or philosophy even encourages swedish drills throughout the day to maintain the level of activity necessary for focused lessons. Participating in the right co-op, or choosing not to join, is individual to each homeschool family. They can be a fun contribution to the social and even mental health of the family. But, being part of a community regardless of schooling choice is important for every person.

 A common myth is that homeschool is dangerous for a child’s social health and that homeschooled children will turn out ‘weird’ and unable to socialize with their peers.Some critics of homeschool believe that children will inherently be in danger without the checks of mandatory reporters, specifically public school teachers. A recent essay published by Harvard asserted the very thing. An upcoming symposium invites only those with traumatic family experiences who were schooled at home and those who are fearful of homeschooling. Renowned homeschool leaders and other experts were not invited to the discussion. 

Many families choose home education as a part of their home culture. Parents feel that being together as a family and being in charge of their children’s education is part of who they are, an aspect of their identity.It certainly is a lifestyle choice that every dimension of health is built upon every day.

Cassandra McCoy Mental Health Physical Health Social Health

My Unplanned Quarantine

by Cassandra McCoy MAT, ATC, LAT

I had a plan.

The last two weeks of March and the first few weeks of April I would be making some changes and would also develop what I wanted to share with others. So I moved forward, plans were formulated, with announcements to the contributors beginning to roll out. My dad was coming down and I was really excited to see him the first time since Christmas time. There was more but hey, you know what they say about plans right?

At the start of the COVID-19 panic, I was thinking I would be fine. I was actually looking forward to shifting to a slower pace. I have been busy lately. Working a lot and trying to build back up our savings after school. I had been getting sick recently due to some underlying medical problems, but was feeling a bit better. I was even thinking about the potential quarantine as a possible blessing for many to slow down, just as I wanted to.

I began to plan ways to help women at home with my fellow contributors over at Positively Balanced. I had worked with a few of them to set up conversations. I began to formulate the membership I had been sitting on and was ready to launch, coming in April. I was preparing and consolidating content. My goal was to help other women navigate this new challenge we were all about to face.

Work was steady for awhile, everyone was feeling good. Then it started to change to less and less patients around the 18th. Everyone was feeling fine, yours truly included. I had been tired from stress and other health concerns but it was going well. I even did my best workout in MONTHS on the 19th. Boy, did that change fast.

March 20: I started to get extremely tired and fuzzy. I thought it was because I was up every half hour with my son. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But I started getting spacey for sure here and there.

March 22: morning time, I feel good, tired from waking up and taking care of a sick baby. Evening time, sneezing starts then sore throat after I go to bed at 8pm. No fever.

Match 23: morning time, check my temperature no fever, still some sneezing and sore throat. Head to work. Feel progressively more tired throughout the day, practice distancing myself from those around me, disinfecting lots, bleach, etc. No hands on manual therapy, no direct facing patients or coworkers. 4:30pm, I start getting chills. Head and temp is now 100.1. I call my boss, tell him I’m hoping it’s a 24 hr bug, tell him what’s going on, he tells me to stay home tomorrow just in case. I tell him I’ll get a flu/strep test, just to be cautious.

March 24: Nyquil helped me sleep on and off 8pm to 8:30am. I sweated through 2 pairs of clothes. 100.2 temp. In the morning I’m sneezing more now with a headache, lots of sinus pressure, sore throat making me sound an octave lower. I notice decreased appetite. In the afternoon, I’m reading a temp of 98.8. I get a curbside flu and strep test from a local Utica park clinic. They are negative.  She says go home and stay there, they can’t give me a COVID test as my symptoms aren’t bad enough. I tell my boss. Ok, I’m home until the end of the week with the rest of my PTO. Then we’ll see what’s progressed or if it was just a random sickness that’s gone for good by Tuesday night.   That evening,  another dose of Nyquil that puts me out by 8pm. I wake up at 940pm, let out a few congestion filled coughs and find I’m soaked with sweat again. I change clothes, go back to sleep.

Match 25: 4am, wake up and change soaked clothes.  630am wake up with upset/ ear infection ill son. Temp is 98.6. I try to talk, and well, now I sound like a 30 year smoker. Sneezing is a bit less, headache is less, coughing every now and then just feeling the drainage. Noon: temp 99.1.

Did laundry and dishes. Evening: I can’t talk much. I’m coughing more. Somewhere in the afternoon my smoker voice turns into Darth Vader with faulty wiring. Temp 100.2. If I force myself to speak it feels like nails in my throat and it is at a very low deep volume. Go to bed with Nyquil falling asleep around 8pm, wake up at 11pm to change clothes.

March 26th: up on and off all night. Nyquil didn’t work.  Sneezing, increase in coughing. No voice. What so ever. Temp 98.6. No more wardrobe change, just lots of drainage. Up at 6am, can’t sleep, so I start to record my experience as it is pretty clear I won’t be returning to work anytime soon. I can’t get a test because I’m not severe enough to stop breathing but I also don’t wanna go to work, even if I suddenly felt better (not going to happen, I know), because I don’t want to even chance putting others at risk.

So I’m .2 under the 100.4 necessary for testing. I naturally run lower so even a 100.2 is feverish to me. However, that doesn’t qualify.

March 27th. So, still no voice this morning. Coughing was intense and so is the sneezing. My body aches have diminished as has the intensity of headache. My husband woke up with a cough, sneezing and losing his voice. Fantastic.  By noon he’s super fatigued, I’m sneezing and coughing.

March 28th: Coughing, sneezing, sore throat. On repeat. I am super tired. And then around 4pm, the migraine hit. Probably was up until about 1:30am trying to fight the migraine and fall asleep.

So I’m still in it! Today is the 29th. I’m sure a few more days to go. Migraine, sneezing, coughing, sore throat. Yes, it has sucked. I am pretty exhausted.

But let me tell you the amazing things.

The women I planned on helping, giving to and supporting, ended up supporting, giving and helping me and my family. Instead of providing my planned support to other women, I have received support. Instead of giving, I am allowing myself to receive.

My friend brought me cough drops and popsicles to my front door. Several friends have texted me daily to check in. Another friend from anther country sent me a live video of the ocean. I video chat with my dad at least twice per day.

My husband went to the store twice to get me electrolyte and groceries.

I have been able to spend more time with my family then I have since before grad school.

I got to watch my baby eat his first popsicle (he loved it).

I got to help him put together his first block puzzle.

I got to talk (or text after I lost my voice) to my husband for more than just a few seconds at night.

I got to think about how I was to help other women moving forward.

I have the chance to sit in silence (in between sneezes and coughs) for a few minutes each day while my son napped and just be.

I was able to evaluate what I wanted to do moving forward, who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life.

I was able to realize just how unhappy I have been with what I’ve been spending hours on in my life.

I was able to take the time needed to realize the effect stress has been making on all the dimensions of my own life.

By no means have I figured it all out. I’m not sure if anyone ever does. But hey, I have another week of quarantine right?

Why does it take a quarantine to take us back to what matters? Why does it take a pandemic to realize who we are or could be?

Society? Culture? Religion? 

I don’t have the answer but I’d love to start a conversation with you. Just like this article: raw, honest and pure conversation.

Jayme Taylor Physical Health Social Health Sophia Pollalis

The Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020: What it is and how you can do your part to stop the spread.

Written by Sophia Pollalis ATC, LAT and Jayme Taylor MSN, APRN-CNP, FNP-BC, CSOWM, DIPACLM

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19, which stands for Corona Virus Disease 2019, is a strain of coronavirus that was discovered in late 2019 not previously identified in humans. The coronavirus is a family of viruses that were first discovered in 1965 when it was noted that the corona virus had a similar structure to viruses seen in animals1. They had a crown-like structure, hence “corona.”

Coronaviruses are common and generally present as upper respiratory tract infections. There are seven known strains of coronaviruses that can infect humans. Four are very common and have not produced worldwide panic and precaution; three of them, including the most recent COVID-19, have produced significant response in recent years2. These include SARS3 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in the early 2000’s and the MERS4 (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2012. In the cases of SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, the source of the coronavirus were animals5. Coronaviruses are also common in different species of animals, such as camels, cattle, cats, and bats; in rare cases they can infect humans.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is characterized by fever, cough, and shortness of breath as it is an upper respiratory tract infection5. These symptoms can show up as early as 2 days after exposure, running up to 14 days based on the previous outbreaks of MERS and current trends, however we don’t know how long the actual incubation period is because it is new5,6.

 How does it spread?

While COVID-19 originally came from an animal-human contact, the pandemic risk spreads very easily from person-to-person5. Transmission can occur through droplets in the air, like if someone sneezes and you happen to inhale the droplets, or by touching the same surfaces as someone else, like shaking hands or touching doorknobs. Because we don’t know a whole lot about COVID-19, experts are referring to the known infection transmission of MERS, SARS, and animal coronaviruses7. These experts postulate that, at room temperature, human coronaviruses can survive up to 9 days on inanimate surfaces. A preliminary study led by researchers at Princeton, UCLA, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the virus can survive up to 3 days on non-pourous surfaces, up to 24 hours on pourous surfaces like cardboard, and possibly be able to survive suspended in a mist for 3 hours8. This information does have to be taken with a grain of salt, as these are just preliminary tests in a laboratory setting and won’t be the same as conditions in your home, on the bus, or in a store5,8.

How can I protect myself and others from the virus?

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, especially after being in public places, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or if your hands are physically dirty. Hand sanitizer can also be used, but washing your hands is king5. Check out our article here on how hand washing gets rid of bacteria and viruses.
  • Avoid touching your face5. If you weren’t before, you are going to be so aware of how many times you touch your face. Your skin is a protective barrier to the body, but germs can get in through the useful openings we have in them, like our eyes, nose, and mouth. We can also take germs from our faces and transmit them to others by touching our faces.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces likely to transmit the disease, especially doorknobs, light switches, your steering wheel, keyboards, and sinks5. If surfaces are physically dirty, clean them with soap and water or another detergent first, then sanitize after. Bleach and alcohol solutions work well. Make sure your disinfectant is appropriate for the surface your are cleaning and your follow manufacturer instructions. If it says leave on the surface for 5 minutes, they really mean that.
  • Stay home from work and other social gatherings if you feel sick EXCEPT to get medical care.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your elbow when you sneeze or cough. Your droplets can travel almost 20 feet when you cough and 26 feet when you sneeze9!
  • If you are sick and going to be sharing a space with another person, wear a face mask. If you are NOT sick, there is no reason for you to wear a face mask unless you are caring for someone who is sick, or the person that is sick can’t wear one5.

Why is social distancing important?

On March 11, 2020, the WHO characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic10. This is the first coronavirus to spark a pandemic, as we typically see pandemics with the flu or other diseases. What that means for the US is widespread transmission in the coming months5. Most of the population will be exposed to the virus, but not all will show symptoms and some will only show minimal symptoms. If we compare COVID-19 to the yearly flu, its current hospitalization rate is significantly lower. According to the CDC, the United State sees between 9 million and 45 million cases of influenza each year, resulting in 1.5 to 2% hospitalizations11.  The current trend in China and Italy shows a 15% or greater rate of hospitalization12. This is a problem for the US because we have about 2.8 hospital beds per 1000 people and around 100,000 ventilators total in the country13. If the coronavirus follows the trajectory of what has happened in China and Italy, healthcare workers would be forced to choose which patient gets a bed or which patient gets a ventilator. Our healthcare system would not be able to handle the strain of a mass outbreak. Limiting our exposure by closing schools, cancelling sporting events and seasons, not going to birthday parties, and not running to the store unless you have to, we can flatten the curve and allow our healthcare system to do its job, preserving lives that don’t have to be lost.

A note from Jayme Taylor, Positively Balanced contributor and Nurse Practitioner on the front lines:

“The symptoms of the coronavirus are very similar to influenza, and because we are in the middle of the flu season right now our only real way to distinguish risk of coronavirus vs flu is to assess for potential exposure. We triage every patient that calls with “flu-like symptoms” to see if they have been out of the country or in contact with someone who has recently been out of the country, traveled to a high risk state, etc. So not taking adequate precautions to limit community spread and exposure actually complicates the diagnostic process. It is also a burden on the healthcare system to be seeing mild cases of upper respiratory illnesses in healthy people because they are afraid it could be the coronavirus. It is important to stress that like flu, the coronavirus is a virus and treatment is supportive. Those at risk like elderly, young children, and the immunocompromised should take extra precautions to limit risk of exposure. However, mild cases in otherwise healthy people will likely resolve on their own without complication. Limiting spread of this virus protects those high risk patients from exposure. So if someone is sick they should stay home, regardless of viral cause; if symptoms worsen and they have uncontrollable fever, shortness of breath or other severe symptoms then they should seek medical attention.”















Guest Contributor Mental Health Physical Health


by Mona Turrell, NC, D PSc

Turn and face the strange

—David Bowie

As women, it seems our bodies and hormones are in flux almost our whole lives. The ebb and flow (pun intended) of menstrual cycles, pregnancy and delivery, breastfeeding, then finally perimenopause and menopause.

We live in a culture that speaks of these changes and shifts as awful. I believe it’s time to reconsider and understand that the design of our bodies is, instead, “awe-ful” and powerful. I spent 40+ childbearing years capable of growing a baby and producing milk to feed the baby without ever having to consciously give it a thought. I never once had to decide which hormone to release or which hormone to inhibit to make any of that happen. I was in awe of what my body could do (yes, even though things didn’t always go perfectly, and though I had four cesareans), and I celebrated and appreciated that season. Then perimenopause began…

I had heard horror stories from my friends. I expected wild mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, heart palpitations, weight gain, and loss of interest in sex.That’s all I had ever heard about menopause, even though women in cultures that value aging and celebrate menopause do not report extreme symptoms. I wondered if I could make it different somehow. I did.

But let’s back up a bit. In my early forties, I began to see a chiropractor for a muscle spasm. Besides chiropractic adjustments, he began teaching me how I should be eating. It changed my health head to toe, inside and out. It changed my career path.  It changed my life. For ten years prior to perimenopause, I was eating organic whole foods without restriction, eliminating or reducing toxins in my home and health and beauty products, and I was physically active. One of the benefits of this lifestyle change is my hormones became balanced. No more PMS, just a regular gentle cycle of rising and falling estrogen and progesterone doing their graceful dance along with other complementary hormones. This set the stage for how I would transition through menopause.

I remember the first time my cycle was late. Here I was, in my early 50s buying a home pregnancy test, both hoping it would be positive and hoping it would be negative. It was negative. For the next few years, my cycles were regularly spaced three months apart (perimenopause) and eventually stopped (menopause). To support my body during this stage, I supplemented my healthy diet with hormone balancing herbs. This was going to be easy-peasy!

Then it happened. I was driving home from a seminar in Dallas in a blinding rain storm and I had just received a phone call telling me of a family emergency. I pulled to the side of the highway with my heart racing and I was warm through my whole body, and I was shaking with anxiety. I was reminded what hormone pathways could cause this sudden onset of symptoms and knew what I needed to do.

The adrenal glands are very small and sit atop the kidneys, and have a mighty effect on the body. They produce stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, but since they also produce an estrogen precursor, they are one of your body’s main sources of estrogen after menopause. Your body uses estrogen for many processes, including bone repair and remodeling and regulating cholesterol, and once your ovaries slow estrogen production your body will convert the precursor provided by the adrenal glands for use. (Fat cells also produce an estrogen precursor, in case you were wondering.) Periods of high stress cause your adrenal glands to produce more stress hormones and less estrogen precursor.

During periods of intense stress, I have experienced heart palpitations and “warm hugs” as I call them since they are not as extreme as the hot flashes others have described. Recognizing this, I have learned to manage stress and take care not to become overwhelmed. I am deliberate in nourishing my body as during times of stress the adrenal glands require more C and B vitamins, so I consume more foods rich in these nutrients and supplement with organic whole food vitamins focused for adrenal support, a high quality wheat germ oil as a whole food source for Vitamin E, and Ashwaghanda which is an herb that has been traditionally used for adrenal support. In my practice I utilize BioScan SRT (Stress Relief Therapy) and Reflexology, and I regularly use these on myself. 

One other vitally important therapy that is free and can be practiced anywhere is deep belly breathing. The intra-abdominal pressure created by core breathing gives the adrenal glands a little massage with every breath. It also engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the “rest and digest” state, instead of staying in a constant state of “fight or flight”.

Menopause doesn’t have to be miserable. Use this season to take care of yourself and celebrate the new freedom

Mona Turrell, NC, D PSc serves as Nutritional Consultant at ProActive Sport and Spine in Broken Arrow, OK. She also offers comprehensive Holistic Health Assessments, Reflexology, and Lifestyle Counseling. Mona has been active in promoting natural health in the Tulsa area since 2008, even appearing on all four network affiliates promoting real food recipes and community health initiatives. Her passion is helping others feel their best by developing strategies for eating well, moving well, and thinking well.