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Today is April 6

Library Day

How parents can utilize their local library

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone. As the world adjusted to lockdowns, school closures and remote working, parents have been faced with especially unique challenges, and many of those challenges were still present a year after lockdowns began.

Finding productive ways for their children to fill their time has been an ongoing issue for parents since the pandemic began. School-age children may not be going to school for full days, and many virtual learning programs also end around lunchtime. But a familiar local resource may be just what parents need to keep their kids occupied at home on weekday afternoons.

Local libraries are invaluable community resources, and that value has become even more apparent during the pandemic. Parents can utilize local libraries in various ways, each of which can help fill youngsters’ time during those hours when school is not in session.

· Online story time: In normal times, many libraries host in person story time sessions for young children. Many libraries have been unable to host in person story time since the start of the pandemic. But those same libraries may have transitioned to online story time. For example, the New York Public Library in New York City hosts weekday story times through its website. During such sessions, librarians read books, sing songs and even share literacy tips. An archive of story times is available at https://www.nypl.org/education/kids/storytime, and many local libraries offer similar services.

· Craft sessions: Some libraries even offer free craft projects to members. Supplies can be picked up at the library on predetermined days of the week, and then families can work on the projects together at home or with other families through Zoom calls hosted by library employees. Parents can inquire with their local libraries to see if such programs are available in their communities.

· Academic support: Some local libraries even offer academic support, which can be especially valuable in the era of virtual learning when kids have little one-on-one time with their teachers. Tutoring services may be available via a local library, which also may supply supplemental materials like interactive learning tools that can bring lessons to life.

Local libraries can help families confront the academic and social challenges posed by the pandemic.

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Stress Awareness Month

Simple Stress Relief Techniques

Teresa Christian, PsyD

Stress is an inevitable part of life. Despite our best efforts to plan ahead, there will always be work deadlines, traffic jams, and bills to pay on time. However, too much stress can impact our physical, mental and emotional functioning.

Sometimes there is very little we can do to change the stressful situations that life sends our way, so the most proactive way to handle stress is to practice easy coping mechanisms that help us manage these situations. Below are some simple steps that I recommend to reduce your current levels of stress and to help you respond more productively to stressful situations in the future.

Get Moving

Any type of physical activity is good for stress management. Stress can cause significant strain on your physical health. Regular physical activity not only manages physical health naturally but has numerous psychological benefits for relieving tension.

Take a walk for fun, join a gym or go to a yoga class. Physical activity can improve your physical health, mood and sleep. Struggling to stay motivated with your workout routine? Here are some great recommendations for how to maintain your goals and follow your fitness plan this year.

Breathe Deeply

Deep breathing throughout the day increases the supply of oxygen to your brain which can promote calmness, mindfulness and focus. It’s an effective tool to practice both for short term stress relief as well as longer term stress and anxiety management.

Relaxation techniques assist your body in learning how to become physically and emotionally calm. Rather than mentally willing yourself to relax, a few deep breaths will automatically send your brain and body a message that it’s time to slow down. When first starting out, I recommend trying a guided imagery exercise which you can access by downloading a relaxation app like Calm or Headspace on your phone.

Take Five

Did you know there is such a thing as a stress reaction cycle? This is the series of responses your body automatically launches into when faced with a threatening or stressful situation. Intermittent breaks from high stress environments can help disrupt this stress response cycle and help you return to a de-stressed state more quickly.

Try scheduling short breaks throughout your day. These pauses can be anything from a 5-minute meditation, a short stretch at your desk, or a brief head-clearing walk around your office. The idea is to focus on something other than the situation or task at hand, to give your mind and body a chance to reset.

Tune In

Music can help us manage stress and positively impact our health in so many ways. While most people think of listening to music as a passive activity, it can have a tangible impact on certain bodily responses like reducing the number of stress hormones in your body.

Implementing music into your daily routine is a fun way to reduce stress throughout your day. Put together some playlists with different speeds, styles, and tempos that correspond with your daily routines and enjoy! Popular streaming services like Pandora and Spotify also have pre-populated meditation or concentration playlists, which are perfect for background music at work or when you don’t know what you want to listen to.

Reach Out

Some stressful situations are unavoidable but reaching out for support and guidance from a friend or trusted loved one will almost always make you feel better and less alone. Your audience may not be able to make your stressors disappear but talking through your troubles with friends helps to foster a sense of support and can serve as a welcome mental distraction from the problems at hand.

Sharing your burden with another person can help you process your situation in a different way. It can also have the additional advantage of bringing you closer together as you confide in one another.

Dr. Teresa Christian is a member of the Ochsner North Shore Department of Psychiatry, supporting the primary care team as an integrated behavioral health consultant. An upstate New York native, Dr. Christian most recently relocated from Jackson, Mississippi to Louisiana to reside with her husband, Matt. There, she served as a clinical psychologist within the Department of Surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, working in areas including organ transplantation, bariatrics and women’s health.

Prior to her time in Mississippi, Dr. Christian worked as an integrated behavioral health consultant at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico as well as an integrated psychologist with the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department and Psychiatric ICU at Rutland Regional Medical Center in Rutland, Vermont.

Dr. Christian completed a post-doctoral health psychology fellowship with the Henry Ford Hospital Transplant Institute, in affiliation with Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan. She obtained a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies, a Master of Science in Education in Community Mental Health Counseling from The College of Saint Rose, and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Canisius College.

Dr. Christian’s primary clinical interests include studying adjustments to chronic medical conditions, promoting healthy lifestyle changes to reduce health risk, improving prognosis and treatment adherence, and pre-surgical evaluations as well as programmatic development to enhance overall patient care.