kids-guide-staying-awesome-controlA wonderful resource for children, caregivers, teachers, and practitioners, The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate their Emotions and Senses is remarkable and even life-changing. Author Lauren Brukner knows how to keep things real and simple and sincere and children and emotions are two topics that go together and need to be talked about more, especially in the frank and charming way that Brukner does. Though it is specifically designed for children (and it is children who need it the most), I think there is something here for adults too. There’s something we ALL can learn from as we daily navigate the sometimes rocky road of emotions.

When Lauren Brukner was a child she had difficulty paying attention in class. She couldn’t express what was bothering her, and calming down after she she got sad, mad, or frustrated was nearly impossible. She would often struggle with feeling she had little control over her life. These experiences inspired her desire to help children identify not only “what” or “how” they were feeling, but ways for them to control or change (or at least improve) those feelings. She introduces us to “anywhere body breaks.” These are small body exercises to bring calm and focus.

“Anywhere body breaks” is based on proprioceptive input which is letting your body know where you are in space and which, in turn, can help stabilize you emotionally and keep you more centered and focused. To first understand what is going on, it is important to label that feeling as physical (in your body) or emotional (in your mind or heart) . Then, within those two categories, whether those feelings are: slow and tired, fast and emotional, or fast and wiggly. Brukner uses simple language and pleasing, welcoming visuals in a manner that never talks down to the reader. Truly, this could only have been written by someone who has been there herself.

Robin F. of Savage Branch & STEM Education Center

Robin F. models the “arm pretzel.”

One of the simplest “body breaks” (that has worked, even for me) is called the “arm-pretzel.” In doing this exercise a child should cross her arms with her palm touching as she interlaces her fingers. Then she should twist her arms, bringing them in close to the chest. This is designed for when children feel slow and tired or fast and wiggly.

Full of insightful and easy-to-grasp examples so that children can learn to self-regulate their emotions and senses, Brukner’s guide helps them face difficult feelings head on and feel calm, cool and collected. The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control gives children self-control, direction, and ownership of their emotions and ways to feel and function better anywhere and at any time.

It also helps children understand and truly recognize what they are feeling, whether those feelings are slow and tired, fast and emotional or fast and wiggly, and empowers them with coping techniques they can use to feel just right. In a world where even the most basic of emotions can be trying on both adults and children, a book like this is invaluable and not soon to be forgotten.

Another terrific book for children and their parents is Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindful Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents). This book takes on feelings by developing attention and awareness of our surroundings and ourselves, in what is better known as mindfulness. Author Eline Snel also advocates for what she calls “heartfulness,” which includes being kind toward oneself and others. In one instance, she has readers imagine channeling a frog because it is capable of enormous leaps yet it can also remain very still and not react right away, even though it is aware of everything going on around it. The frog sits still and breathes, preserving its energy instead of getting carried away by all the ideas that keep popping into its head. By painting this very vivid picture, Eline Snel gives the reader a model on which to try and best attain their emotional state. With 189 reviews (70% of which are 5 star) on Amazon, Sitting Still Like A Frog is extremely well-received and the perfect companion for The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control.

Additional resources regarding children and the self regulation of their emotions:

sitting-still-like-a-frog i-have-feelings superheroselfcontrol parenting-a-child-who-has-intense-emotions

How to Be a
Self Regulation, Promoting Self Regulation, Learning Self Regulation

Angie Engles has been with the Howard County Library System for 22 years, 14 of which were at the Savage Branch. She works at the Central Branch primarily in the Fiction and Audio-visual departments. Her interests include music, books, old movies, and cats.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is more dangerous than the common cold for children. Children younger than 5 years old typically need medical care, and severe cases are more common in children younger than 2 years old. Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and brain and nervous system disorders are especially at high risk of developing serious complications from the flu.

The CDC recommends flu vaccinations for children as being the single best way to protect them from the flu. Common vaccination methods have included the nasal mist and shot. However, recent research has found the nasal mist to be ineffective, and because of this the CDC is only recommending the shot as an effective vaccination method.

Convincing children to get the shot is likely to be a hurdle for parents, but parents can make the experience less stressful with these tips from Laura Hagan, Howard County General Hospital Pediatric Emergency Room nurse manager, and her little helpers.

Parents may also find it helpful to try these following tips:

  • Taking slow, deep breaths – Deep breathing can help children relax and concentrate on something other than the shot. For this reason, parents should ask their children to breathe all the way down to their belly.
  • Focusing on something in the room – Parents can distract their children by getting them to concentrate on the details of a poster, picture or sign in the room. For example, if there’s a picture, they can count the number of flowers, animals or other images in the picture. In the case of a sign, they can try to think of new words from the same letters that are in the sign.
  • Coughing – Encouraging children to cough as the needle goes in may help them feel less pain during the process.
  • Relaxing the arm – A tense arm can make a shot hurt more, so parents should try to get their children to relax their arm.

For more information, view Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s Five Tips for Surviving Shots.

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Editor’s Note: Please consult your physician before starting an exercise program.

alive-low-impactDo you feel like you’ve spent quite a bit of time over the years “restarting” your fitness program? Are you discouraged with a lack of results? Have you repeatedly told yourself you will work out more, only to continue with the same habits? This article will require a little doing on your part but, in the end, you will design a program that fits your schedule, gives you options, and builds opportunities for a lifetime of health.

The biggest struggles with physical activity in our society come from the idea of movement for weight loss and many people view it as a negative. Before starting your routine, be clear with your “why?” Why is exercising important to you (not why scientific research says!) and what do you want to accomplish or be able to do? Be very honest with what makes this important. Think through all the reasons way beyond losing weight. Is it more travel, kids, grandkids, chronic pain, preventing illness, etc. Also, what stopped you in the past? Was it an injury or vacation or frustration? What do you see as you take this journey? How do you visualize your life changing? These answers guide your journey.

lift-to-get-leanNow the action steps. Write down the days of the week, starting with Sunday (or whatever day begins your “week”). Then, fill in activities that you do regularly such as work, school, meetings, kids practices, date night, Church, etc. Using this as a framework, figure out your unscheduled time where you can fit in exercise. Busy days where you know exercise would be pretty much unrealistic and don’t schedule a workout! Be realistic in how many days you will actually exercise and for how long each day. For example, 4 days per week for 30-45 minutes total.

step-and-dance-beginnersNow you know your personal “why?” for exercising, your schedule for availability and the frequency and duration. Now, what physical activities do you enjoy? It can be anything such as aerobics, walking, square dancing, swimming, lifting weights, biking, etc. Look at your schedule and see where specific activities fit. Is there a class you can take, a friend you can do things with, or an available fitness center. Start plugging in specifics and leave room for flexibility.

method-for-beginnersAs with any well laid out plan, things happen – LIFE as we call it! Two big things that derail fitness programs are vacation/missed week and injury. How do you work around these? Starting with vacation, plan unstructured, planned active movement time while you’re away and schedule your workouts for when you return before you leave. Sometimes life gets super busy and we miss a week – it’s okay, pick right back up and revisit your WHY? from earlier. Use friends and family to help you stay accountable.

Injuries prove to be more challenging. Differentiate between injury and hurt. If something just hurts, move your body anyway. Try something less intense or change things around for what feels best. If you end up with a real true injury, many times you can work around it. For instance, if your knee hurts, switch to exercises that strengthen the upper body and work from the floor. Make changes and seek a professional to help you figure this out.

Exercise is something you will do for the rest of your life. Ultimately you only answer to yourself, make it a priority. Don’t accept excuses. Take responsibility for your actions. Seek help from positive influences in your life throughout your journey. Positive encouragement helps! Find your formula and realize that it is a continuous process that constantly changes. Start now!


Lisa Martin founded the Girls on the Run program in Howard County in 2009. Lisa is AFAA & NSCA certified, has more than 15 years of personal training experience, and practices a multidimensional wellness approach at her studio, Salvere Health & Fitness. Lisa says that one of the best things about being in the health and fitness industry is watching people accomplish things they never thought possible.

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Back Pain Caused by Arthritis [Credit: Robert Kneschke]/[]

Back Pain Caused by Arthritis
[Credit: Robert Kneschke]/[]

Many forms of arthritis that affect the joints, muscles and/or bones can cause problems like pain, stiffness and swelling in the back. While any part of the back can be affected, the lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain.

To help you better understand back pain caused by arthritis, we sat down with Steven Levin, M.D., a Johns Hopkins Pain Management specialist on staff at HCGH, for a Q&A session.

Q: What is spinal arthritis?
Spinal arthritis is the breakdown of cartilage in the facet joints—the joints that connect the vertebrae together and enable the spine to move. As the joints deteriorate, the vertebrae impact each other, creating friction during movement. This can result in mild to severe pain and potentially lead to the development of other degenerative spine conditions including osteoarthritis—an abnormal bone formation in the joints.

Q: What causes spinal arthritis?
It is most commonly caused by the natural aging process, but other factors, such as lifestyle, obesity, gender, heredity and injury, can increase a person’s risk.

Q: How do I know if my back pain is from arthritis?
If you are experiencing recurring pain that does not subside with conservative treatment after two to three weeks, visit your family doctor for an evaluation. Sometimes arthritis can be seen on an X-ray and often is strongly inferred by palpating your spine during a physical exam. While any part of the back can be affected, the lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain. Typically we see back pain caused by arthritis in patients over the age of 50.

Q: How can spinal arthritis be prevented?
While spinal arthritis is not always avoidable, it might be possible to delay its development by avoiding some of the controllable risk factors. Good posture and body mechanics as well as maintaining a healthy weight and diet, having strong core muscles, and being flexible are important to back health. Exercise is in many ways like medicine— you should do the right exercise in the right amounts at the right time.

Q: How is spinal arthritis treated?
Many patients find relief through conservative, nonsurgical treatment that lengthens the spine and removes pressure from the compressed nerve that is causing pain. Physical therapy can improve motion and teach you proper body mechanics which will lessen the strain on your spine. Other conservative treatments include heat, over-the-counter pain medication, exercises and stretching.

Q: What if spinal arthritis does not respond to conservative treatment?
When conservative treatment doesn’t work, many patients benefit from specialized interventional techniques such as facet nerve blocks which involves the injection of an anesthetic to the area surrounding a nerve to help identify the pain and possibly to treat it and, sometimes, minimally invasive procedures such as radiofrequency ablation – a specialized technique that decreases pain signals from a specific area of nerve tissue and can reduce the severity of pain that arthritis can cause.

Q: Is there a cure?
While there is no cure for arthritis, a comprehensive treatment plan can be very helpful at managing symptoms and maintaining function. Effective treatments are available to enable a healthy quality of life.

Steven Levin, M.D., is a pain management specialist with Johns Hopkins Pain Medicine Center at Howard County General Hospital. For an appointment, call 410-955-7246.

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Child Getting a Flu Shot

Child Getting a Flu Shot
[Credit: Monkey Business Images, Ltd.]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

The flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent getting the flu, which causes approximately 250,000 illnesses and 36,000 deaths each year.

We contacted Maura J. Rossman, M.D., health officer at the Howard County Health Department, to provide you with the latest changes in vaccine options and tips for making your child comfortable when getting a flu shot.

Read what she shared with us.

The Nasal Spray and Shot 

Recent studies found from 2013 until 2016 the nasal spray showed “poor or relatively lower effectiveness” at only three percent, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Based on these findings, the CDC voted that the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) nasal spray should not be used during the 2016 – 2017 flu season.

Generally, vaccines containing a live virus cause a stronger immune response in our bodies. The nasal spray was thought to be comparable or better than the flu shot; it was not. To date, there is no explanation for its poor performance.

The flu shot performed well during last year’s flu season, at 65% effectiveness, indicating that millions were protected from the flu. “Based on manufacturer projections, health officials expect that the supply of the vaccine for the 2016 – 2017 season should be sufficient to meet any increase in demand,” according to a written statement from the CDC in June 2016. The flu shot is available in good supply and safe for most people ages six months and up.

Tips for Getting Your Child Vaccinated

Parents who are having a young child vaccinated should consider following the CDC’s tips for making the experience less traumatic:

• Distract and comfort the child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
• Smile and make eye contact with the child. Let him/her know everything is OK.
• Comfort the child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar helps him/her feel more comfortable.
• Firmly hold the child when he/she is sitting on their lap, whenever possible.

For older children:

• Take deep breaths with the child to help “blow out” the pain.
• Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
• Tell or read stories.
• Support the child if he/she cries. Never scold the child for not “being brave.”

Parents can help keep their child healthy this flu season by having them vaccinated, and getting themselves vaccinated as well.

Maura J. Rossman, M.D. is the health officer at Howard County Department of Health.

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bipolar disorderSeveral weeks ago I was hospitalized for severe depression. I’d been dealing with a stressful project at work, my father’s terminal illness, and just getting over a painful breakup. For weeks it felt like I was drowning in my own head. I constantly felt exhausted. Simple tasks, like showering and getting something to eat, felt like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro without oxygen. Crying for no reason became the new norm. I went through my normal routine, numb and almost robot-like and could not find it within me to feel any pleasure in what I did. My range of emotion was limited to sad, hopeless, and angry. I’d suffered from depression and anxiety most of my adult life, but I realized how bad it was getting when I started to have recurring suicidal ideations.

These ideations were what scared me the most. I had no control over my mind. It didn’t matter what I was doing, thoughts of ending my life became persistent. In a sick way, the thought of dying provided comfort in finally putting an end to my misery.

One morning, I had an extremely difficult time getting out of bed. I slowly showered, dressed for work, drove to the office, and told my boss that I was afraid I was going hurt myself. He knew about my struggle with depression and I explained my life was so unbearable that I wanted to end it. I cannot remember much, but I do know I was brought to the psych unit of the ER. I cried hysterically several times, begging the hospital staff not to admit me to the psych ward.

I was admitted to another hospital for short-term hospitalization where I was stabilized with medication and group therapy. I am currently in outpatient therapy to learn coping skills, stress management, and recognize behaviors that I need to work on.

living with bipolarHIGH FUNCTIONING
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a chronic brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

I am Bipolar II which means I have patterns of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes, which involve elevated, high-energy moods. When I am hypomanic, I feel extremely energetic, talkative, and overly confident. For example, I’ll take on dozens of tasks at work and insist I do them on my own. Most of the time, I’m unable to complete the unrealistic goal I’d set for myself.

My psychiatrist said I am a high functioning bipolar. I’d been misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder all these years. Everyone that knows me thinks I’m a workaholic overachiever with a sweet, bubbly, outgoing personality. They think I have this tank of never-ending energy when I am up until 3:00 a.m. baking batches upon batches of cookies for no reason. Or when I can take care of a sick family member at the hospital all day and then answer work emails until 4:00 a.m. night after night for a week and not feel exhausted. I learned that this was also my hypomania.

No one ever saw the depression because I have mastered the art of hiding it from everyone, including most of my family and exes (even the last guy, who also had bipolar). When I am agitated or what I now know is an unstable mood, I always make a deliberate effort to be kind to those I interact with because I’m a firm believer that you never know what kind of day they’re having. It was only when I was alone that I allowed the dark depression to devour me and keeping up this act of normalcy took its toll.

The key to leading a happy, functional life is managing my disorder to the best of my abilities. Thanks to my ex boyfriend (also bipolar), I have a huge head start in educating myself about the disorder. I am fortunate to have a strong support system to help me cope and finally adjust to my new reality.

I am doggedly determined to maintain my stability and health not just for myself, but the people in my life. I am working out a plan with my doctor and therapist to make sure I stay on track. I am learning to manage my stress and look out for triggers. And most of all, I am holding myself accountable for how I manage my disorder moving forward.

I’ve seen so many negative things in the media about people struggling with bipolar. Not one bipolar person is the same -and to negatively label all of us is ignorant and requires more education about the disorder. We, with bipolar, also ask for empathy and understanding. I know good people who struggle with this disorder; who work incredibly hard every day to maintain their stability for themselves and their families.

I did not choose to be bipolar. No one with this disorder did.

[Editor’s Note: This post is a personal account of one of our contributors who asked their name be kept private. If you or someone you know is suffering with depression and feels unsafe, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.]

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After learning you’re pregnant you’ll likely find yourself feeling excited and joyful while at the same time feeling overwhelmed with learning how to have a healthy pregnancy and the changes that are occurring in your body.

Watch Francisco Rojas, M.D., gynecology and obstetrics physician at Howard County General Hospital, briefly describe what you can expect during pregnancy including doctor visits, ultrasounds and health screenings.

Changes to Your Body
During pregnancy, your body experiences many changes that help nourish and protect your baby. In the first trimester, you can expect the following changes and symptoms.

  • Breasts swell and become tender as the mammary glands enlarge, in preparation for breast feeding. A supportive bra should be worn.
  • Areolas enlarge and darken, and veins on the surface of your breasts become more noticeable.
  • As the uterus grows and it presses on the bladder, causing frequent urination, and rectum and intestines, causing constipation.
  • Mood swings, similar to premenstrual syndrome, are partly due to surges in hormones.
  • Morning sickness, nausea and vomiting, occurs from increased levels of hormones to sustain the pregnancy. Though, nausea and vomiting do not only happen in the morning and rarely interfere with proper nutrition.
  • Heartburn, indigestion, constipation and gas may be experienced as muscular contractions in the intestines, which help to move food through the digestive tract, are slowed due to high levels of progesterone.
  • Clothes may feel tighter around the breasts and waist, as the size of the stomach begins to increase to accommodate the growing fetus.
  • Extreme tiredness is likely to be felt because of the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy.
  • An increased pulse rate occurs because cardiac volume increases by about 40 to 50 percent from the beginning to the end of the pregnancy. The increase in blood volume is needed for extra blood flow to the uterus.

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