Grounded in Health 2023
Kern County Public Health and Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services invite you to join our Grounded in Health initiative as we embark on a yearlong effort to help Kern County residents improve their physical and mental health as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Staying healthy is a goal in many people’s lives and parents want to promote good health for their children in any way they can.
Mental and physical health are interconnected. Both can be impacted, both positively and negatively, by how our bodies are cared for. Understanding how our bodies and minds work together or against each other strengthens one’s ability to make positive choices for your own health and the health of your children.
Each month during 2023, a new health topic will be released that includes strategies, resources, and guidance on how to improve both your physical and mental health in relation to the monthly theme.
Make 2023 the year to get your physical and mental health back on track.
February is Exercise Month! Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits. Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity.
Everyone can experience the health benefits of physical activity!
Learn more by visiting: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm
March is Nutrition Month! Proper nutrition and diet is paramount to our physical health. A nutritious diet is comprised of a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains and limiting foods and drinks that are high in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet will give you more energy to complete your everyday tasks and will help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, which reduces your risk of the development of a chronic disease. A diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables can decrease your risk of cancer by as much as 50% and strengthen your immune system.
EAT HEALTHY – EAT LOCAL!
Eating fruits and vegetables is great for your health. An essential part of eating fruits and vegetables is making sure they are fresh and one of the best ways to assure this is to eat locally grown produce. In addition to health benefits, eating local is also good for your community. Kern County is the #1 agriculture producing county in the nation and we feed the world!
Benefits of Eating Local
Benefits of Healthy Eating
Local Food Resources
Waste Hunger Not Food https://kernpublichealth.com/waste-hunger/
Resources for Seniors
April is Sleep Month!
A third of US adults report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep according to the CDC. Not getting enough sleep is linked with many chronic diseases and conditions—such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression—that threaten our nation’s health. Getting enough sleep is not a luxury—it is something people need for good health.
Understanding how lack of sleep affects your health can allow you to make healthier decisions for you and your family. The following links share information about common sleep disorders and how lack of sleep can affect the health of someone living with a chronic disease. You can find out how much sleep is recommended for different age groups and read tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep. This section ends with recommendations on what to do if you are still having trouble sleeping.
May is Seek Help Month!
When you seek help for a mental health issue, you are also helping improve your overall physical health and well-being. Mental and physical health are equally important components of overall health. For example, depression increases the risk for many types of physical health problems, particularly long-lasting conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
You are not alone. Call 988 – Suicide and Crisis LIFELINE. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. The Lifeline is comprised of a national network of over 200 local crisis centers, combining custom local care and resources with national standards and best practices.
Learn more about 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: https://988lifeline.org/
June is Healthy Children Month. Promoting healthy habits early on sets the foundation for a lifetime of wellness. Establishing healthy behaviors to prevent chronic disease is easier and more effective during childhood and adolescence than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. We urge our communities and families to work together and strive to be Grounded in Health!
Regular physical activity can help children and adolescents improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
Learn more about the benefits of physical activity
Healthy eating in childhood and adolescence is important for proper growth and development and to prevent various health conditions. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 recommend that people aged 2 years or older follow a healthy eating pattern that includes the following:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy products
- A variety of protein foods
Healthy eating can help individuals achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, consume important nutrients, and reduce the risk of developing health conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Iron deficiency
- Dental caries (cavities)
Learn more about childhood nutrition facts
July is Healthy Caregivers Month! Informal or unpaid caregivers (family members or friends) are the backbone of long-term care provided in people’s homes. While some aspects of caregiving may be rewarding, caregivers can also be at increased risk for negative health consequences. These may include stress, depression, difficulty maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and staying up to date on recommended clinical preventive services.
Being a caregiver can take a physical and emotional toll. But there are things that can help. Make wellness a priority. You may feel like you have to do it all. You must care for yourself too. This keeps you healthy so you can help others. Things you can do include:
- Eat healthy. Don’t rush through the day with fast food and packaged food. Cook healthy meals for you and your loved one to share. If you don’t have time to cook for yourself, keep healthy snacks around. This includes nuts, peanut butter, whole grains, fresh fruits, and snackable vegetables.
- Get plenty of sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well, take naps when you can. This might be something you can do when your loved one is napping. If your loved one doesn’t sleep or wanders (common in people who have dementia), read Caring for a Relative Who Has Dementia. Avoid using caffeine or energy drinks to combat being tired. Rest is the best way to recharge.
- Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes 4 to 6 times per week. This will give you energy, reduce stress, and improve your mood. Include your loved one if they are able. Look for a substitute caregiver to free you up for exercise.
- Manage stress. Stress can lead to physical illness. For tips on managing stress, read Caregiver Stress.
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. These substances may seem to offer relief. But it is short-lived. They are harmful to your health if you use them regularly and to excess. If you have trouble eliminating these things from your life, talk to your doctor.
- Seek treatment. If you are having emotional difficulties, talk to your doctor, a counselor, a clergy person, or another person trained to help.
- Get regular checkups. Even if you don’t feel sick, it’s important to see your doctor regularly. This will include health tests and screenings, vaccinations, and health advice appropriate for your age, sex, and medical and family history. This helps prevent disease and catch any medical conditions you do have early.
- Take breaks from caregiving. Recognize your limits. Ask others to help regularly or for a period of time. This includes family members, friends, temporary care workers, and church members. Consider other resources, such as in-home health care, adult day service, respite care, meal delivery, transportation services, and hospice or palliative care.
August is Put Down Devices Month! Smartphones, gaming systems and screens are everywhere. They are in our homes, bedrooms, offices, vehicles, pockets and purses. Have you ever considered how much time you or your family members spend on a screen? While these electronics are helpful or entertaining, the amount of time we spend on them can become a problem.
When you are using a device, you are disengaging with something else. Is that something else important to you? Perhaps it's a child, a significant other, exercise, your job, chores or hobbies.
Many people feel like something is missing in life. Perhaps it's an unidentified desire to live life more fully. Reducing screen time frees up more time to connect with family and friends. Feeling connections with others can help ward off symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. We often miss out on the fun and beauty that is happening all around us because of screens. By being present and in the moment — perhaps by setting aside a device — you may find what you need to fill that void.
There are many wellness benefits to cutting down on screen time.
Improve your physical health.
You know that physical activity is good for your health, but devices could be cutting into your exercise time. Maintaining healthy habits can be hard when you spend lots of time using screens.
It can affect your physical health by:
- Preventing obesity and conditions related to excess weight,
Such conditions include Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- Freeing more time for exercise and play.
You may find that you can use physical activity to fill new gaps in your schedule.
- Getting less sleep.
Children who watch more TV tend to have a harder time falling or staying asleep. They can feel tired and snack more often to make up for lost hours of sleep.
- Causing weight gain.
Snacking or eating meals in front of the TV can cause mindless eating, causing you to eat larger portions. When you eliminate distractions, you pay more attention to your body and its signals when it's full.
Boost your mood.
Putting down your phone and going outside or doing an activity you enjoy can be a mood booster. It can make you feel more accomplished and improve your well-being. Depression and anxiety can cause a person to withdraw and isolate themselves from others. Engaging in social activities helps you connect with others and improve symptoms of these conditions. Children who spend more time looking at a screen are more likely to have behavioral problems and divided attention, because decreasing screen time can improve focus. Violence in media may cause kids to feel anxious and depressed, and lead them to think that violence is an acceptable way to deal with problems.
Consider these ways to get connected:
- Families who eat meals together tend to be healthier. Turning off electronics during meals or family time eliminates distractions. Children from families who eat together also show better academic scores.
- Find events in your community. Time spent using devices can instead be used for volunteering, joining a sports team or connecting time with a spiritual group.
- Feeling a sense of belonging and being social is a good way to manage stress. Having support and feeling that you are not alone can help you cope with difficult times.
While technology is a great tool, it also can hinder your wellness and make you feel disconnected from those around you. Taking a break from devices frees up more time to be active and enjoy time with loved ones. Why not give it a try?
September is Preventative Care Month!
Making healthy choices can reduce your chances of getting a chronic disease and improve your quality of life. Avoiding chronic conditions, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, can also lower your risk of severe illness from some infectious diseases, such as the flu and COVID-19.
But healthy behaviors are only part of the picture. Getting routine preventive care can help you stay well and catch problems early, helping you live a longer, healthier life.
Get Regular Medical and Dental Checkups.
Regular checkups are separate from any other doctor’s visit for sickness or injury. In addition to physical exams, these visits focus on preventive care, such as:
- Screening tests, which are medical tests to check for diseases early, when they may be easier to treat.
- Vaccines that improve your health by preventing diseases and other health problems.
- Dental cleanings.
- Education and counseling to help you make informed health decisions.
Know Your Family Health History.
Family health history is a record of the diseases and health conditions in your family. You and your family members share genes. You may also have behaviors in common, like what you do for physical activity and what you like to eat. You may live in the same area and come into contact with similar harmful things in the environment. Family history includes all of these factors, any of which can affect your health.
If you have a family history of a chronic disease, like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis, you’re more likely to get that disease yourself.
Talk to your family. Write down the names of close relatives from both sides of your family—parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Include information on major medical conditions, causes of death, age at disease diagnosis, age at death, and ethnic background.
Stay Up to Date on Cancer Screenings.
Cancer screening means checking your body for cancer before you have symptoms. Getting screening tests regularly may find breast, cervical, and colorectal (colon) cancers early, when treatment is likely to work best. Lung cancer screening is recommended for some people who are at high risk. Learn more about CDC-recommended screening tests.
Vaccination is one of the safest and most convenient ways to protect your health. Vaccines offer protection in different ways, but they all help your body remember how to fight a specific infection in the future. It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to build up that protection.
October is Get Outside Month!
Mother Nature may find the indoor world pretty tough to compete with sometimes. After all, she can’t offer flat-screen TVs, air conditioning, or WiFi. But she might potentially offer something even more important: improved health, by way of a stronger immune system, better sleep, and reduced stress.
Spending time outdoors can boost physical and mental health in a range of ways. You don’t have to spend hours at a time outside before those benefits kick in, either.
Below, you’ll find several health benefits of spending time outside.
Typically, your body’s internal clock follows the sun, making you feel awake during the daytime and sleepy at night. Although artificial illumination can mimic natural light, direct sunlight has 200 times the intensity of office lights in a closed room. As a result, sunlight affects your circadian rhythm more than electric light.
Exposing yourself to sunlight can improve your sleep by:
- helping you feel more tired at night
- shortening the time it takes to fall asleep
- improving the quality of your rest
The nice thing about sunlight? It doesn’t cost a thing. To get a daily dose, you only need to step outdoors.
Just keep in mind that sunlight needs to enter your eyes to affect your circadian rhythm. If you’re hoping to improve your sleep, picnicking at the beach may help more than napping in a shady wooded area.
Reduced depression symptoms
Sunlight can often help ease depression symptoms like low mood and fatigue. Light therapy can help treat both major depression and seasonal depression. If you have seasonal depression, you may notice improvement after a few days. If you have major depression, it may take up to 2 to 5 weeks before you notice improvement. Experts still aren’t completely sure how sunlight affects depression.
Some people believe sunlight has a protective effect since it can help your body produce vitamin D. It’s also possible that sunlight improves sleep, which in turn reduces the severity of depression symptoms.
If depression has sapped your energy, you can still get sunlight fairly easily. Try absorbing your daily dose while eating lunch, reading a book, or doing some good, old-fashioned sun-bathing — just don’t forget the sunscreen.
More motivation to exercise
Working out in green spaces could help boost your motivation to exercise in the future, in part because outdoor exercise can:
- offer a nice change of pace from gyms and make physical activity more interesting and enjoyable
- make it easier to socialize, as many gyms have unspoken rules about not chatting to the person on the treadmill next to yours.
- feel easier and less strenuous.
You don’t have to bike a triathlon or ski down a mountain to enjoy exercise in nature. Any activity that gets your body moving in a way that’s doable for you, like gardening, playing with your dog at the park, or washing your car, can offer some health benefits.
The modern world contains plenty of intrusive stimuli — flashing screens, vibrating phones, rumbling roadways — that compete for our limited attention. This ongoing overstimulation may raise your stress levels without you even realizing it. The natural world, on the other hand, can offer a mental and emotional refuge when you need to unwind and recharge. In nature, soothing attractions for your senses, from the perfume of flowers to the music of bird song, can hold your attention without draining your mental energy.
Boosted immune function
Spending time outdoors can still help your immune system function optimally. Microorganisms found in nature that aren’t dangerous can run practice drills with your immune system, in a manner of speaking, to help prepare it for more serious infections. If you live your life in a completely sterile environment, your immune system can lose its ability to recognize what is and isn’t dangerous. It may then set off a red alert for any microorganism it comes across, which can lead to chronic inflammation. So, while soap is a wonderful invention, getting muddy once in a while can be good for you, too.
Improved emotional well-being
November is Find Balance Month! While the holiday season is joyous, it typically makes it hard for people to find appropriate balance in their lives. Neglecting balance can cause stress to overrun your life and makes it difficult to eat healthy and exercise when you are always on the run. Too much stress can lead to increased cortisol levels, which causes high blood pressure, type 2 Diabetes, osteoporosis, fatigue, disrupted sleep patterns, increased appetite, weight gain, impaired brain function, and lowered immunity. In order to reduce stress, you need to take a break. Try going for a walk, meditate, do yoga or art.
Exercise throughout the day
When scheduled exercise or block sessions are impossible to achieve, you can try these tips to squeeze in 5 to 30 minute blocks without messing up your day.
- Combine physical activity with something you already do, such as walking the dog, shopping or doing household chores.
- When you unload your shopping, strengthen your arms by lifting the milk bottle a few times before you put it away.
- When you go shopping, park at the far end of the carpark and walk briskly to the shops.
- Think about whether you need the car, or whether you could walk or ride your bike instead.
- Instead of calling or emailing a colleague at work, walk to their workstation.
- If you’re stuck at your work desk, stretch your legs out in front of you, raise your arms, roll those shoulders and try some trunk rotations.
- Organize to have standing or walking meetings instead of sitting down.
- Take the stairs whenever you can, instead of the lift or escalator.
- While waiting in line, balance on one foot for a few seconds, then the other. Gradually build up the length of time you can balance.
- While talking on the phone, stand up and do a few leg raises or toe stands to strengthen your legs.
- While waiting for the kettle to boil, do a few wall push-ups or calf stretches.
- When you brush your teeth, do 10 squats.
- While watching television, do stretches and core exercises, or pedal a stationary bike. Or maybe try to do 20 star jumps and 20 couch push-ups.
- When walking, do it briskly and include a few hills if you can.
- Stretch to reach items in high places and squat to look at items at floor level.
You can also eat healthy during the busy holiday season by choosing one of our Certified Healthy restaurants. Download our Safe Diner app to find Certified Healthy restaurants near you while you are out and about.
December is Just Breathe Month! Breathing, deep breaths in particular, have been medically shown to: reduce anxiety, depression, lower/stabilize blood pressure, increase energy levels, improve muscle relaxation, and decrease feelings of stress. During the holiday season, the build-up of getting your list of to do’s done before Christmas Day, the logistics of traveling home to see family, or even getting ready to take time off work can stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. This system triggers your body’s ancient fight-or-flight response, giving you a burst of energy to respond to get everything done. So basically around the holidays people are walking around in a state of panic. The idea of it is almost comical, but there is nothing funny about your breathing becoming shallow and rapid, and experiencing a shortage of breath. In this state you primarily breathe from the chest and not the lower lungs.
Breathing to reduce stress
Breathing is an automatic function of the body that is controlled by the respiratory center of the brain. When we feel stressed, our breathing rate and pattern changes as part of the ‘fight-or-flight response’. Fortunately, we also have the power to deliberately change our own breathing. Scientific studies have shown that controlling your breath can help to manage stress and stress-related conditions. Breath control is also used in practices such as yoga, tai chi and some forms of meditation. Many people use their breathing to help promote relaxation and reduce stress.
Breathing and stress
The primary role of breathing is to absorb oxygen and to expel carbon dioxide through the movement of the lungs. Muscles that control the movement of the lungs are the diaphragm (a sheet of muscle underneath the lungs) and the muscles between the ribs. When a person is under stress, their breathing pattern changes. Typically, an anxious person takes small, shallow breaths, using their shoulders rather than their diaphragm to move air in and out of their lungs. This style of breathing disrupts the balance of gases in the body. Shallow over-breathing, or hyperventilation, can prolong feelings of anxiety by making the physical symptoms of stress worse. Controlling your breathing can help to improve some of these symptoms.
When a person is relaxed, they breathe through their nose in a slow, even and gentle way. Deliberately copying a relaxed breathing pattern seems to calm the nervous system that controls the body’s involuntary functions.
Controlled breathing can cause physiological changes that include:
- Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduced levels of stress hormones in the blood
- Reduced lactic acid build-up in muscle tissue
- Balanced levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood
- Improved immune system functioning
- Increased physical energy
- Increased feelings of calm and wellbeing.
Resources and Breathing Tips