By Keisha Jackson, MSW – April 7, 2021 –

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is ensure we are taking good care of our body, mind, and soul each and every day. Self-care is a habit we need to develop and use daily, not just when we are sick or feel it’s most convenient. 

Learning how to eat right, reduce stress, exercise regularly, and take a time-out when you need it are big components of self-care. Making a point to incorporate these habits into your life can help you stay healthy, happy, and resilient.

Practicing self-care isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s an ongoing battle I fight with year in and year out. Most of us are crazy busy. There are extracurricular activities to juggle, sporting events to attend, and of course our jobs to work around. Having a full and fast-paced life can be rewarding, but can also become burdensome from time to time.

As the pandemic continues to impact our daily lives, now is a good time to reflect on the past year and remind ourselves about the importance of self-care. Below you’ll find several different tips, ideas, and reminders to help you manage your mental health through self-care.

  1. Create a plan. Creating a self-care plan can make managing self-care easier. When life gets busy, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. Making a plan and sticking to it helps release the stress of managing another “task” on your to-do list.
  • Say “no” to others. Saying “no” is a hard thing to do for some people. However, saying “no” when you’re feeling overwhelmed or when you need a day to yourself can be a powerful way to care for yourself.  
  • Do things that spark joy. Self-care is all about doing something specifically for YOU. Do one thing daily that sparks joy in your life. Examples of this could be a simple coffee run, getting up to go for a walk around the block, or even watching an episode of your “guilty pleasure” show.
  • Soak up the sun. As the days are beginning to lengthen as summer approaches, we have more time to enjoy the sunlight after school or work. Just getting 10 minutes of sunlight or having those blinds in your bedroom window open can spunk up your mood and provide you with much-needed Vitamin D. Be sure to wear sunscreen if you’ll be outside for extended periods of time!
  • Don’t skip out on the basics. Continue to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get a healthy amount of sleep. 

Some of these tips may sound silly or obvious, but it can often be hard to prioritize that extra time to ourselves. It’s important to create time in your day to be alone with yourself, no matter how busy you are. Time alone can help you ponder the best way to move forward in life and keep you grounded, healthy, and happy.   

By Lori Powell, LCSW – March 31, 2021 –

In 1980 I was a five-year-old attending kindergarten in Evansville, Indiana. It was the year of the infamously destructive June 8th storm that brought hurricane force winds to my hometown, and it was the first time I remember having to cope with the world around me changing.

I really didn’t understand the dangerous nature of the storm at the time, but I remember all teachers and students were asked to go to the cafeteria, which was located at the lowest level of the school. We were supposed to sit under the tables in the tornado position. However, I remember sitting with my friend giggling and not following directions very well, because I did not understand the seriousness of the situation. 

The school busses were not able to take us home, so my father picked me up that day.  There was no electricity in my house for a few days. Restaurants without gas appliances couldn’t reopen due to the lack of electricity. Our favorite restaurant was closed.

My grandmother did not have electricity for over seven days in her area. I knew that I had shelter, water, food, and could depend on my parents for safety and reassurance. I swung on the swing set outside of my home, rode my bike, and played cards and board games with my family members. The lack of power, damage, and destruction caused by the storm left me largely untouched and unburdened. 

Since then I have lived through multiple storms and have lost my electricity for only a short amount of time. The Covid-19 pandemic is the first time in my life that schools and businesses have closed their doors for such an extended amount of time.  Even during most snowstorms we were still able to go to the mall when school was cancelled.  

After the pandemic lockdown, I went to the grocery store with my husband for the first time in months. The shelves were stocked minimally, but we were able to obtain all of our necessities. As I stood in the grocery aisle, I thought about the large number of people shopping in the store and realized how different this crisis felt than the one I experienced as a child. I wondered how people who were already experiencing anxiety were getting through the stress and uncertainty of a global pandemic.  

Although the world has changed drastically as the pandemic drags on, it is important to find ways to remind yourself that things will get better. Many people have found that using deep breathing techniques, positive self-talk, and positive visual imagery to stay calm can help mitigate overwhelming thoughts and worries. Exercise and getting outdoors are also very helpful in relieving anxiety.

Breathing in and out slowly, reminding yourself that this situation is only temporary, and taking extra time to relax can be helpful for lightening the burden we’ve all carried throughout this last year.

We also need to remember that there are aspects of life that we do not have control over and focus on what we are able to control, such as our attitudes and our behaviors. For example, I can choose to have a great day, stay positive, and do my best to help others do the same.

By Grace Wilson, Program Coordinator – March 17, 2021 –

I’m sure by now most parents are aware of the trendy and flavorful activity of “vaping,” but have you been able to speak with your kids about the dangers of e-cigarette (vape) products?

In order to have a productive conversation with your child about vaping, it is important that you know the facts first. While you should also do your own research, here are a few basic facts to keep in mind:

  1. E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. E-cigarettes do not produce a harmless water vapor like many believe to be the case. This aerosol contains chemicals such as nicotine (found in most vape products), formaldehyde, and acetone. This aerosol can also affect bystanders, similar to second-hand smoke from traditional cigarettes.
  1. One of the most popular vape products is JUUL. All JUUL products contain nicotine. People have since turned the word “JUUL” into an action verb, so you may have heard the term “JUUL-ing.”
  2. There are many juice flavors people can use in their e-cigarettes, and unfortunately, they are often targeted towards kids. Flavors such as bubblegum, tropical punch, grape, strawberry, and thousands of other enticing flavors are advertised. These flavors also contain chemicals that can be harmful to the lungs when inhaled.
  3. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain—which continues to develop until about the age of 25.

So how do you talk to your kids about vaping? If you follow a few simple suggestions, you can set yourself up for a meaningful and fairly easy conversation with your child.

First, as stated above, know your facts. Do your own research and understand the harmful effects of vaping before you begin. If at any time your child asks a question you do not know the answer to, be honest in your response and suggest that you research the answer together.

Find the right time to have the conversation. A more natural conversation will increase the likelihood that your child will listen. If you observe someone using e-cigarettes, see an advertisement or pass a vape shop, these situations would be a good conversation starter. The words “we need to talk” can be off-putting to a child, and they may not want to engage.

Avoid criticism and judgement, and encourage an open dialogue rather than a lecture. If your child is curious about vaping, discloses that they have tried it or have friends that vape, being critical may shut your child down and they will no longer want to talk.

It is okay to break up the conversation into smaller doses. Try to keep the conversation open. This is not a “one and done” type of conversation. If you learn something new after you have had a conversation, bring it to your child’s attention and talk about it together.

Most importantly, ask for support if you need it or have concerns that your child is vaping. Talk with your health care provider about the risks of e-cigarettes. You can also encourage your child to talk with other trusted adults to reinforce your message.

To learn more about the best strategies to address the risks of vaping with your child, check out Youth First’s video called “How to Talk to Your Child About Vaping” on our website: 

By Youth First Staff – March 3, 2021 –

Growing up can be challenging. Some stages in our lives are notoriously more difficult than others.

Most of us remember our various “awkward” phases that took place throughout our time in elementary and middle school. During those years, even the smallest failure could feel like defeat. 

Although all of us experience the struggles of discovering who we are as we grow up, the negative impacts of social pressure during adolescence are significantly higher in girls. Between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels fall by 30 percent.

At 14, when girls’ confidence is statistically at its lowest, boys’ confidence is 27 percent higher. How can we spot the signs of this confidence plunge in our daughters and what can we do to bolster their self-esteem?

This drop in self-esteem may look like fear of trying new things, reluctance to speak up in class or ask questions, people-pleasing, overthinking, or constant comparison. The good news is that confidence can be taught and encouraged if given the right atmosphere to grow during these tough years. 

The single most effective way to build confidence is by taking risks. Comfort zones inhibit growth. Bravery is like a muscle, the more you use it, the easier it is to be unafraid to express yourself.

Encourage your daughter to take risks and normalize failures. If girls start taking positive risks during adolescence, they will be better prepared to overcome failure and will have the ability to move on when things don’t go perfectly in adulthood.

Resist the urge to jump in and save your daughter from failure. It is essential for her to learn to move through tough times, bounce back, and become more resilient. Teach your daughter to become her own coach and learn from her mistakes. Positive affirmations like “I’ve got this” and “I’ve gotten through hard times like this before” are helpful. 

Rumination is the tendency to repetitively think and worry about all the details of a negative situation. Teaching your daughter to identify these toxic mindsets and create a new, more realistic and positive patterns of thinking can be helpful. For example, if she is thinking “Everyone hates me” because she didn’t get invited to a party, you can challenge that thought and create a new more realistic thought in its place.

Lastly, set an example. Let your daughter know when you are nervous about a new challenge. Talk about your past failures. Let your daughter know that messing up isn’t the end of the world. If we are obsessing about being perfect, our daughters will pick up on that unhealthy standard.