Practicing Mindfulness

We all spend time thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Spending too much time thinking about either can cause anxiety and stress, which can negatively impact your health.

Mindfulness is paying attention to what is going on at the present moment. When you are mindful of what is going on right now, you are not dwelling on the past or thinking about what could happen in the future.

Practicing mindfulness can lead to lower blood pressure, better sleep, less depression, and a better sense of well-being.

Here are three ways that you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life:

  • When you feel stress or anxiety, focus on your breathing. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply through your nose for four seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth for eight seconds. Repeat at least four times. Focus on your breathing. As you breathe, let go of any thoughts about the past or the future.
  • Take a break, pay attention to the present moment, and what is happening around you. If you are outdoors, notice the breeze, the clouds in the sky, the color of the leaves, or the sounds of nature. Focus on your senses and not on any thoughts that cross your mind. If you are inside, focus on an object in the room. Look at this object (could be a picture on a calendar or an artificial plant) as if this were the very first time that you had seen it. Relax into observing it. Notice the colors and textures of the object.
  • Find a quiet place to sit comfortably and focusing on your breathing. As various thoughts cross your mind, take note of them and name them. If you are thinking about paying bills, stop and acknowledge the thought (such as “Yes, I am worried about that.”) By labeling the thought, you interrupt the feelings of stress or anxiety that arise from the thought. Then, let the thought go and return your focus to your breathing. Start out doing this twice a day for three minutes at a time. Over time, you can build up to longer periods.

Remember that practicing mindfulness is like physical exercise: the more often that you practice, the better that you become at it.

Celebrate With Mocktails

As we all know by now, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Public health officials are advising that we scale back the number of people at our holiday gatherings in order to keep people safe and to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus in our communities.

As we plan our much-smaller dinners and holiday parties, we still need to be mindful of the fact that – for many people – holiday spirits do not come from a bottle.

Nearly half of all Americans do not drink alcohol on regular basis, according to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In 2019, 50.8 percent of Americans reported drinking alcohol in the past month (National Survey on Drug Use and Health). In other words, 49.2 percent of people do not regularly drink.

There are many reasons why people chose not to drink.

  • If you know someone in recovery from addiction or who has a substance use disorder, you know that maintaining their sobriety is very important to them.
  • There are other medical conditions that also prohibit the use of alcohol. These include pregnancy, diabetes, digestive disorders, heart issues, kidney problems, and depression.
  • For some people, they take a prescription medication that would otherwise negatively interact with alcohol. Plus, remember that alcohol does not mix well with most over-the-counter cold medicines.
  • Furthermore, many people prefer to serve as the designated drivers for those who do drink or they have made another personal choice not to drink.

Despite their sizeable numbers, these non-drinkers are often overlooked at holiday gatherings where the only truly appealing beverage choices contain alcohol. These non-drinkers want choices beyond soft drinks and bottled water.

Unfortunately, many party planners go through their guest lists determining who prefers what alcoholic beverage.

This holiday season, we ask that you consider your non-drinking guests who still want something tasty but non-alcoholic.

There are lots of festive “mocktail” drinks that will show your guests that you made a special effort to provide beverages that appeal to everyone.

Below are some suggestions for mocktails:

Orange Oasis
1 cup frozen OJ concentrate
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup ice
Blend until smooth.
Cranberry Cooler
16 oz. cranberry juice
4 oz. lemon juice
8 oz. ginger ale
Pour ingredients in a tall glass with ice and serve.
Garnish with a slice of lemon.
Sparkling Punch
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup orange juice
juice of two lemons
juice of two limes
11 oz. sparkling water
Mix all ingredients in a pitcher. Pour over ice cubes made of sparkling water.
Orange Fizz
16 oz. orange juice
4 oz. sour mix
8 oz. club soda
Mix and pour in a tall glass with ice.
Garnish with a slice of orange.
New Year's Eve Kiss
Pour 2 oz. passion fruit juice in a champagne flute.
Fill with club soda.
Designated Driver's Delight
8 oz. orange juice
4 oz. pineapple juice
4 oz. cranberry juice
3-4 scoops vanilla ice cream
3-4 frozen strawberries
Mix in a blender until smooth.
Garnish with an orange slice and a strawberry.
The Enforcer
Fresh brewed coffee
Whipped cream
Chocolate sprinkles
Sugar cubes
Cinnamon
Pour coffee into a mug and stir in 2 sugar cubes and a dash of cinnamon.
Top with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.
Mai Tai
8 oz. pineapple juice
4 oz. club soda
4 oz. orange juice
2 tbsp. grenadine
2 tbsp. cream of coconut
Stir to blend and serve over crushed ice.
Frosty Mocha
1/2 gal. chocolate ice cream, softened
8 cups coffee, chilled
1 pint half & half
1 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1 square semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Mix ice cream and 3 cups coffee until smooth.
In punch bowl, stir ice cream mixture, half & half, almond extract, salt and 5 cups coffee until blended.
Sprinkle top with grated chocolate and cinnamon.
Mistletoe Punch
1 6-oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 6-oz. can frozen orange juice concentrate
6 cups water
1/2 cup grenadine syrup
1 quart ginger ale
Combine all the ingredients, except last two, in a punch bowl.
Just before serving, add some ice cubes and gently stir in the ginger ale.
Garnish with lemon slice and maraschino cherry.

Caregiving Advice For The Holidays

Caregiving Advice For The Holidays

Many of us approach the holiday season with mixed emotions.

Some of us are mourning the loss of a family member or friend. Lots of us are lamenting the upending of family traditions by the global coronavirus pandemic. For many, we still feel the burden of creating the “perfect” holiday celebration.

And, we know that it is especially difficult for those who are also managing the challenges of a loved one’s substance use, addiction, or other mental health issues. Approximately 58 million Americans are living with mental health and/or substance use disorders, and the COVID-19 crisis will likely contribute to growth in these numbers.

Here are some suggestions from The Partnership to End Addiction (DrugFree.org) that may help you and yours manage this holiday season:

  • Decide what you can comfortably handle. Communicate this to your family and friends. Is it reasonable to take on all the planning and preparation of even a small, socially-distanced gathering? Can others help or contribute to tasks?
  • Get rest. The holidays can wear you down emotionally and physically. Self-care may be your best gift to yourself.
  • Count your blessings. It can help to write down what you are grateful for.
  • Recognize your emotions. You do not need to pretend like everything is the same or okay. It is natural to feel many emotions — sometimes all at once.

In South Carolina, 1-844-SC-HOPES (724-6737), is statewide support line for individuals in need of mental health or substance use services.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), is a confidential information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), is a network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Human connection, particularly during times of stress, is essential. People who never experienced mental illness or substance use disorders prior to COVID may find themselves in a confusing and scary place when these issues arise. Folks who live with these conditions every day may see their symptoms increase or worsen.

The need for support is greater at this time of year than almost any other season. If you are having trouble “going it alone,” we encourage you to find a way to connect with help.