Speak Up – How Can You Effectively Communicate With Those You Love?

Speak Up – How Can You Effectively Communicate With Those You Love?

Communication receives a special focus in June, which is designated Effective Communication Month. How are your communication skills? Do you feel like you’re always talking, but nobody is listening? Does your advice to your spouse or family members seem to go unheeded? How about when someone is talking to you? Do you really know how to listen, or are you already coming up with your response while the other person is still talking?

If you feel seen, don’t despair. You’re not alone. While a whopping 96 percent of people think they’re good listeners, most people usually retain about half of what they hear. Another survey suggests we’re frustrated communicators. In this survey, people listed being interrupted, being talked over and having to repeat themselves as top complaints.

Effective communication is important in every area of our lives, from our workplace to our homes. People appreciate and understand each other better when communicating their feelings and their needs. When the communication stops, the relationship halts as well. Fortunately, the Healthy356 Connection Center has some effective communication tips you can start practicing this month to strengthen your communication and listening skills.

Effective communication skills

Do you struggle to make your voice heard? Are you an active talker but a passive listener? Do you forget the conversation five minutes after it ends? Consider adjusting your communication skills to strengthen your relationships and ensure that you aren’t playing a guessing game when it comes to what the other person needs you to know and hear.

Listen up

Your mother probably told you to listen when you were a kid, and Mom had some pretty good advice. Listening may seem like a passive gesture, but there’s a term called “active listening” that encompasses an intentional interest in what the other person is saying. Active listening has three components:

  • Cognitive listening – paying attention to what you’re hearing.
  • Emotional listening – staying calm while the other person is talking, even if they’re saying something that really hits one of your emotional triggers.
  • Behavioral listening – showing your interest both verbally and non-verbally. This can be a challenge in today’s society, where the siren song of our electronic devices entices us to scroll through social media while our friend is unloading his heart.

How can you actively listen without succumbing to distraction? Sometimes it’s as easy as repeating the person’s words back to them: “I’m hearing you say that you’re frustrated with your new boss because he wants to change everything that has worked for month.” Pay attention to nonverbal cues, like facial expressions or body language, and ask the necessary questions. It’s natural to start rehearsing your response before the other person is finished, but this is a habit you can break! Give the other person a few seconds of silence before you respond. Sometimes the most important communication happens when you remain silent.

Say what you mean

Relationships must be built on honesty. Don’t make communication into a guessing game. If you want something from the other person, stop dropping hints and ask for it. If someone asks for your opinion, offer the truth. Remember, though, that brutal honesty can be, well, brutal. If your BFF wants to know how she looks in her new chartreuse dress and you think she looks hideous, convey your opinion gently. It’s better to say, “I think the color is cheerful, but I really loved how you looked in that yellow dress you wore last week.” Authenticity is important, but so is kindness.

Hold off on the unwanted advice

Let’s face it. A lot of advice is unwanted. Sometimes friends and family members just need to unload on each other. They need to share their problems and move on. Ask before you advise. “Do you want to hear my thoughts, or do you just need me to listen?” Then abide by their answer.

Pay attention to your own nonverbal cues

Are your arms crossed? Are you scowling while you talk? Do you maintain eye contact, or do you gaze over the other person’s shoulder as though you’re looking for a better option in the crowd? Is your jaw clenched or relaxed? Do you find yourself speaking louder because you fear the other person is about to disagree with you? These cues can add more to the conversation than the words you’re saying. Use them wisely.

Clarify as necessary

Have you ever had a conversation where you were saying one thing and the other person was hearing something completely different? If you’re not sure where the other person is going in the conversation, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

Put away the distractions

Phones are great for staying in touch, but they can ruin a good in-person conversation. Keep your phone in your purse or pocket, and don’t grab it every time you get a notification. Give the other person the gift of your undivided attention, which is pivotal to an effective conversation.

Use this Effective Communication Month to freshen up your conversation skills. You may be surprised to discover how much your relationships improve as you deepen your understanding of each other.

World Caring Day – How Can You Show People that You Truly Care?

World Caring Day – How Can You Show People that You Truly Care?

World Caring Day was first celebrated in 2022 to commemorate the anniversary of the CaringBridge website. The website, launched in 1997 to share information about a baby born prematurely, now allows people around the world to share health updates and coordinate necessary help and support for others. On June 7, World Caring Day seeks to highlight ways we can connect and care for each other. It’s a mission that the Healthy365 Connection Center takes personally as we work to connect Hancock County residents with available caring resources.

A culture of caring lays the foundation for a strong community. Caring doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking, either. There are many ways you can exercise a caring spirit with your loved ones, friends, neighbors, or strangers. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Focus on connecting

It’s a bit of a mystery. In a world where we can connect instantly through electronics or social media, people still feel alone. Online relationships have a place and purpose. But, they they also may lack those verbal cues and physical presence that lead to stronger relationships. Old school connections, like in-person conversations, phone calls or even a letter, can tell someone that they’re worth more than a thumbs up button under their latest social media post.

Share your meals

No, we’re not telling you that you must let your friend eat off your plate. Instead, think about your widowed neighbor down the street or the family that’s dealing with a sick child. If you’re one of those families who always seems to throw away leftovers, consider making a to-go box. Send a text to your neighbor that says “Hey, I made a lot of meatloaf. Can I bring you some for your fridge?” Or, spend a day baking with your favorite family members and plan to share the goods afterwards. There’s something special about sweet treats.

Listen

Too often, we spend conversations thinking about what we’re going to say next. That’s perfectly natural – everyone wants to be able to contribute. But caring starts with being an active listener. If you’re at lunch with a coworker and you ask how her day is going, make sure you’re also listening to her response. If you have a family member who likes to go on and on (and on and on) about the old days, give him the gift of your attention.

Let them go first

Boundaries are healthy, and we encourage people to communicate their needs and advocate for themselves in their relationships. When it feels appropriate, though, consider waving the other person ahead in line for the family dinner or giving them the covered parking spot at home. You can practice this with strangers as well – let the other guy have the good parking space. In other words, focus on giving rather than winning.

Raise money for causes you believe in

The world is full of foundations and charities designed to support people who are struggling. Most of these groups rely on donations to grow and continue their work. Go ahead and enter that 5K – you’ll also enjoy increased fitness. Remember, it’s not too late to purchase your passport for the Passport to Hancock County 5K Series, which supports various local fund-raising events. Or, nurture a passion for philanthropy among your children by encouraging them to raise money through lemonade stands or dog walking duties.

Help them get the care they need

This may be one of the most challenging – and most important – ways to show you care. If you notice someone near you struggling with mental health or substance misuse issues, consider helping them find the care they need.  The Healthy365 Connection Center is designed to connect Hancock County residents with local supportive services. Our support navigators are ready with a non-judgmental, listening ear. Our services include substance misuse treatment connections, mental wellness support, suicide prevention training and personal support navigators who can remove barriers to service.

World Caring Day is June 7, but caring is timeless. How can you help?

Keeping Your Family Happy on Vacation

Keeping Your Family Happy on Vacation

Summer travel season is upon us, and you’re planning something exciting for the family. Previous experiences suggest that the best laid vacation plans can’t necessarily prevent a little family drama or tantrums that mar the memories. Mental wellness is a passion at the Healthy365 Connection Center, and we have some tips for skipping the stress and focusing on the fun this summer.

Pick an appropriate vacation destination

When it comes to traveling with children, some places are better than others. A museum vacation, for instance, might be more stressful than it’s worth if you have little ones who want to touch everything they see. On the other hand, your teens may lose their patience if every vacation activity is tailored to their preschool siblings. Do a little research to find vacation locations with activities for all ages.

Plan the vacation together

Let every family member weigh in on vacation plans. You may not be able to fulfill every wish, but you can use this planning time to find out what each person is hoping to do during the family trip. You don’t have to do everything, though. Help your family understand ahead of time that you’ll be focusing on only one or two activities each day. When you try to cram in every wish, you run the risk of overwhelming everyone.

Be ready for “I’m bored”

What parent hasn’t heard this phrase? If your family vacation plans include lengthy car trips, counter the boredom with fun road trip games. Consider packing surprise gifts – small games or toys – that can magically appear in the car each morning. Stick with things that are self-contained though. You don’t want someone to have a meltdown over a game piece that has fallen under the seat.

Arrive early to the airport

Flying with kids can be a challenge. Take a little pressure off yourselves by arriving early at the airport. Pack a carry-on goodie bag for each child with travel-appropriate snacks, books and games to amuse them while you wait for your number to be called. Download a few movies on phones or tablets before you arrive so you won’t be held hostage by the airport Wi-Fi.

Encourage physical activity during your vacation

Many adults envision an ideal vacation that involves sitting on the beach with a good book and the sound of the ocean waves crashing in the background. Younger family members don’t necessarily subscribe to the same mindset. If both parents are traveling, consider sending one of them with the kids to find a local park or playground where they can burn off their energy. Look into renting bicycles at your destination so the family can pedal their way to vacation adventures and enjoy some exercise as well.

Stick to scheduled meals

Between travel snacks and late nights, it’s easy to deviate from your normal meal schedule during a vacation. However, skipping meals and filling up on junk food can affect your overall mental health as well as your physical health. Try to stick to the same meal schedule you follow at home. Have some prepackaged protein-rich snacks available for mid-afternoon munchies, and stock your vacation condo kitchen with fresh fruit and vegetables to encourage healthy eating.

Leave your work behind

Today’s office environment can make it too easy to bring work on vacation. Talk to your coworkers ahead of time to let them know you’re going to be unreachable for the week – and stick to it. If you have to periodically check emails or voice mails, set aside a time each morning for the task. This is your vacation too. Let your focus be on the family.

Be ready to be flexible

You may be the consummate planner, but plans change, especially when you’re on vacation. Someone can wake up with a fever and need a trip to the nearest urgent care center. Flights can be delayed. Vacation accommodations may not resemble what you saw on the website. Take a step back and acknowledge that everything is going to be OK. You’re together, and that’s what counts in the end.

Moderate your alcohol intake

It may be tempting to throw away moderation and spend your vacation days in a party mode. Substance misuse, however, can ruin a good time. Consider moderate or limited alcohol consumption during your vacation. Splurge on a few tropical drinks during dinner but lay off the alcohol during the daytime.

Make mental health a priority

Mental health concerns don’t take a vacation. While mood swings and anxiety are often associated with winter months, they can occur during the summer months as well. If mental health concerns are threatening to ruin your vacation time, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center.  Our support navigators will offer a non-judgmental listening ear and connect you to appropriate available resources. Call us today at 317-468-4231 or visit the Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Rd., Suite G in Greenfield.

Find Out More About the Healthy365 Connection Center

Find Out More About the Healthy365 Connection Center

The Healthy365 Connection Center is a free and confidential service available to all Hancock County residents. We are here to help residents navigate life’s mental health and substance misuse challenges by connecting residents to available local resources. However, there are still many people who aren’t familiar with what we offer.

Frequently asked questions

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about the Healthy365 Connection Center so more people can take advantage of our services.

What does the Healthy365 Connection Center do?

The Healthy365 Connection Center is a department of Hancock Health that focuses on the whole-body wellness of Hancock County residents. We place a special focus on mental health and substance misuse issues. When you’re dealing with a mental health or substance misuse problem, you may not know where to turn. Instead of blindly searching on your own, you can work with the Healthy365 Connection Center to find local resources for healthcare, treatment, therapy, and basic needs. We also offer training and events designed to promote wellness in our community.

How can I access your services?

We’re glad you asked. You can reach the Healthy365 Connection Center at 317-468-4231. Or, stop by the office at 120 W. McKenzie Road, Suite G, Greenfield, IN during regular business hours.

Is the Healthy365 Connect Center a crisis center?

While we are capable of getting someone in crisis connected to help, we are NOT a crisis center, nor are we available 24/7. We recommend that individuals experiencing a crisis call 911, 988 or Community Fairbanks Behavior Health at 317-621-5700.

What sort of classes or support groups do you offer?

The Healthy365 Connection Center offers several classes and groups designed to support and educate residents about mental health and substance misuse concerns:

  • CRAFT Support Group is based on the Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT) model. CRAFT is a 16-week curriculum-based program that helps families of individuals struggling with substance misuse. This program helps families identify triggers, develop positive communication techniques and help their loved ones engage in recovery. If you want to know if this is the right fit for you, call our office.
  • QPR training can save someone’s life during a suicidal crisis situation. QPR stands for “Question, Persuade and Refer.” This class can help participants recognize signs of self-harm and suicidal ideation. To register, visit www.behealthy365.org/services/qpr/ .

Does the Healthy365 Connection Center offer individual therapy services?

Our support navigators will help connect individuals to appropriate local therapy providers. However, we do not provide individual therapy services.

Can you help professionals like doctors or law enforcement officers deal with stressful situations?

The Healthy365 Connection Center is the hub for the Hancock County Critical Incident Stress Management team. This team is trained to respond to traumatic events by providing supportive discussions and debriefings to groups and individuals who witness a traumatic event.

What is RISE Recovery and Wellness?

RISE stands for Resilience, Individualized care in a Safe Space, and Empowerment. RISE Recovery and Wellness is a Hancock Health program designed for individuals who are struggling with both substance misuse and co-occurring mental illnesses. Services include individual and group therapy, case management and medication-assisted treatment.

What is the Rise Above It event?

Rise Above It is different from RISE. The Healthy365 Connection Center hosts an annual Rise Above It event to help bring mental health awareness to our community. Although the event is often held at a local school, it is designed for everyone, not just the families of that school. This fun event includes self-care stations, mental health information and educational materials to help people become familiar with mental health and substance misuse concerns.

How can I find out more?

You can read all about the Healthy365 Connection Center on our website. Or, give us a call at 317-468-4231 so we can answer any questions for you. You’re not alone. Let us help you on this journey.

6 Outside-the-Box Ways to Manage Stress

6 Outside-the-Box Ways to Manage Stress

April is National Stress Awareness Month, so let’s check out some new strategies for combatting the stress in your life. Did you know that stress affects more than just your brain? Unchecked stress can lead to muscle tension, chronic pain, shortness of breath and a reduced immune response. It can also exacerbate respiratory disorders, heart disease and other ailments.

Ideally, you can relieve stress by taking care of the issue that is causing it. If you’re overscheduled, consider shedding a few commitments. If your job is a poor fit, take a deep breath and think about looking for a new position. But not every stress trigger can be eliminated, which is why you often must look at other activities that reduce the effects of stress and help you find some peace of mind. Let’s dig in.

How do activities affect your stress level?

Certain activities can play an important role in helping you slow down and manage your current stressors. Every person is different, and different stress levels call for different solutions. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider trying one of these outside-the-box stress management tools:

Ballroom dancing

Exercise in general is a great stress reliever. When you’re experiencing stressful situations, your body produces a hormone known as cortisol. This hormone causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, which can come in handy during stressful situations like being chased by a bear. However, most of us are lucky enough to avoid bears, and cortisol can build up in our bloodstreams and lead to problems like increased blood sugar, weight gain and digestive problems. Enter exercise. Exercise tells your brain to release chemicals called endorphins, which relieve pain and can help lower cortisol levels in your blood. It’s one of the best tools for combatting the physical effects of stress.

Sure, you could train for a marathon or jump on a bike, but why not consider ballroom dancing? Let the flowing motions of a waltz free your mind from today’s worries. Channel your extra energy into a passionate tango. As an added benefit, you’ll impress all your relatives at the next family wedding!

Summer concerts

Studies show that music can reduce the perception of psychological stress and increase coping abilities. Thank back to your happiest moments. You may find that music from that era triggers happy memories. Summer is the perfect time to carve out some time for outdoor summer concerts. Check out what’s happening locally, pack a picnic dinner or some fancy cheese and crackers, and treat yourself to an evening of stress relief!

Professional massage

You may believe that a professional massage is a frivolous form of indulgence. But a massage can have a profound effect on the stress levels in your body. Sure, it feels good, but did you know that a massage also helps loosen those tight muscles that have contracted over time? Massage triggers a relaxation response through the release of serotonin, a hormone that can stabilize your mood. It may even help your brain regulate its stress levels. Consider carving out part of your budget for an occasional massage, to give your body an edge against the ravages of stress.

Puzzles

Remember when the pandemic first struck, and almost everyone was inside working on jigsaw puzzles? It turns out that this boredom buster was also helping our bodies combat the effects of stress. Stress can make you feel like your brain is racing. Sitting down at a table of 500 pieces forces you to slow down and make deliberate choices. You also get an extra boost of positive reinforcement every time you find that elusive puzzle piece. If jigsaw puzzles aren’t your thing, consider crossword puzzles or number puzzles. While it’s fine to solve the problems on your phone or computer, why not go old-school and buy a puzzle book? You’ll also get to enjoy the delicious tactile sensation of pressing your pencil against the paper.

Swimming laps

Swimming is a low-impact sport that is a great option for anyone at any age. It’s also a useful tool for reducing stress. A study commissioner by the Speedo company reported that 74% of respondents said swimming helps release stress and tension. Swimming is an aerobic exercise, which means it forces your body to burn more oxygen and can have a beneficial effect on your heart. Hancock Health’s three convenient Hancock Wellness Center locations feature indoor aquatics for lap swimming in any type of weather.

Reconnect with an old friend

Life gets in the way. The people who used to be your best buddies have moved away and lost touch. You think of each other fondly, but you haven’t spoken in years. Maybe it’s time to reconnect. Reaching out is often a welcomed connection for all parties. Go online, search for your high school BFFs, and send them notes. Treat yourself to a conversation full of reminiscing over happy memories.

Are you struggling with mental health concerns related to stress? The Healthy365 Connection Center is a free and confidential service designed to connect Hancock County residents with local resources. Stop by the Healthy365 Connection Center at 120 W. McKenzie Road, Suite G, in Greenfield, or call us at 317-468-4231.

Tips for Supporting a Loved One in Recovery During the Holidays

Tips for Supporting a Loved One in Recovery During the Holidays

The holidays can be a challenge for someone who is recovering from substance misuse. Stress levels and mental health struggles can shoot up during the holiday season.  Holiday parties can feature copious amounts of alcohol and other substances. How can you support a family member who is in recovery this holiday season? The staff at the Healthy365 Connection Center has some simple suggestions for people who want to be loving and compassionate this holiday season.

Ask your loved one if they want to ride together to the event.

Walking into an event alone can be daunting. Sharing a ride means you’re enjoying extra strength in numbers when you make your entrance. It also gives you the opportunity to communicate privately with your loved one before an event. Discuss how long you want to stay at the event and commit to keeping an eye on each other during the festivities.

Rely on active listening during a conversation and reflecting on what you heard.

If your loved one trusts you enough to talk about their feelings and fears over the holiday season, consider that a compliment. Active listening is a skill that goes beyond hearing what the other person is saying. It involves strong eye contact, being aware of non-verbal cues and listening to understand, rather than to respond. Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions like “What concerns do you have about tonight’s event?” or “What do you think is your best strategy for handling pressure to drink alcohol at parties like the one we’re attending?” Listen and reflect on what you hear. Confirm that you understand what the other person is saying. You may want to say something like, “I hear you saying that you’re worried about cousin Pete and his comments about your non-alcoholic drink choices. How can I help?”

Consider hosting a sober event.

Holiday gathering don’t have to involve free-flowing alcohol or other substances. If you want to support your loved one in recovery during the holidays, consider hosting a sober event. Plan on popcorn, movies, board games, appetizers and sparkling grape juice for the midnight toast. Invite others who understand your motives and will be supportive as well. Or invite your loved one to dinner and a movie, where you won’t be surrounded by revelers.

Encourage your loved one to write out their boundaries and positive coping skills prior to the event.

Sobriety risk factors are personal. One person in recovery may need to avoid any events that feature alcohol and other substances, while another feels comfortable at those events as long as they don’t feel pressure to imbibe as well. Everyone has a personal right to their emotions and individual boundaries. Writing down coping skills helps commit them to memory and reinforces their validity.

Ask your loved one how you can support them.

This is perhaps the most important thing you can do for a loved one. Instead of offering your own list of solutions, ask them what they would like you to do. Maybe they don’t want you to ban alcohol from your holiday party, but they would appreciate some fun non-alcoholic alternatives like the ones featured here. Perhaps they want help creating an escape strategy that lets them graciously leave if they become uncomfortable during the holiday celebrations. Or, maybe they simply want to be treated like any other guest. There are no right answers, only individual answers for the person you are supporting.

The holidays can be hard for people who are in recovery. You are not alone. If you or your loved one feel like you are needing some extra support over the holidays, call Healthy365 at 317-468-4231.