Wellness Resources for Congregations

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Though Spirited Life has focused primarily on the health of individual pastors, we have heard some inspiring stories about wellness initiatives popping up in health fairmany UMC congregations across the state.  Some that come to mind are: blood pressure screenings after Sunday worship services, walking and running clubs, weekly centering prayer gatherings, support groups for dieters, community health fairs, and church-wide efforts to make communal meals healthier.

For pastors and congregations wanting to implement health programming or to develop a health ministry at their church, here are 3 great resources:

Partners in Health & Wholeness, an initiative of the NC Council of Churches: “provides people of faith with the tools necessary to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives” through:

Church Health Reader, an offering of the Church Health Center: “produces innovative resources on health and healing for lay leaders and clergy.” Some resources include:

 Eat Smart, Move More NC: “a statewide movement that promotes increased opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity wherever people live, learn, earn, play and pray.”  Examples include:

We hope you’ll let us know what your church is doing to promote wellness among your congregants and in your community!

-Katie Huffman

Photo by Flickr user Greater Louisville Medical Society, via CC

Doctor’s Orders: Laugh!

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We’ve all heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine,” but there really is research showing that humor and laughter can improve physical and emotional health.  Here are some of the ways that laughter is good for your health:

  • Relaxes the whole body and even leaves your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes (after a good, hearty laugh)
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone
  • Increases blood flow and can help protect your heart from cardiovascular disease
  • Decreases pain
  • Reduces anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood- how can you feel anxious, angry or sad when you’re laughing?

Shared laughter is even more powerful than 1205px-Laughter_2_by_David_Shankbonelaughing alone.  It helps build strong and lasting bonds, and it can help heal resentments and disagreements as well as reduce tension in awkward moments.  Laughter also brings people together during painful and challenging situations.

Here are some tips for creating opportunities to laugh:

  • Keep a book of jokes or cartoons on your office shelf.
  • Pull up a funny movie or TV clip on YouTube.
  • Display pictures of you and your loved ones having fun.
  • Pick a screen saver and desktop background that make you smile.
  • Attend a laughter yoga class.
  • Play with a pet.
  • Do something silly with children.

How do you incorporate laughter into your day?

-Katie Huffman

Information from National Humor Month; Image by Frank Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons

Fiscal Fitness

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April is full of so many events and deadlines! Tax Day! End of the semester papers! Holy Week services! And for some pastors, late April and May also will include long overdue vacations and respite.

April is also Financial Awareness Month. Through our research with United Methodist pastors across North Carolina, we know that finances are an incredible stressor for clergy. Factors contributing to this stress include out-of-pocket moving expenses, expenses for the ordination process and the repayment of student loans, just to name a few. Whether pastors are single or married, caring for elderly parents and/or children, the call to ministry is likely to create moments where they feel emotionally AND financially depleted. It’s not just on a Hand Putting Deposit Into Piggy Bankpersonal level either; as church members move or lose jobs and church offerings dwindle, church expenses (and sometimes apportionments) typically remain the same.

There are lots of resources out there to help reduce the strain. One of these is the Society for Financial Awareness, otherwise known as SOFA. This California-based non-profit organization works throughout the country with a single mission: “to end financial illiteracy across America, one community at a time.” The SOFA website is user-friendly and includes short YouTube videos that further outline the organization’s purpose and the services it offers.

While many of you have no doubt taken steps to ensure your fiscal fitness, SOFA is equipped with financial professionals who work pro bono and conduct seminars nationwide to enhance financial awareness. Seminar topics include “Getting fiscally fit,” “Financial blunders: Lessons we never learn,” and “Exploring your options for a quality retirement,” among many others.

If this sounds like it would be a helpful tool for you to try with church members or a peer group, take a look at the SOFA seminars offered near your home or church.  A list of nearby speakers is available here.

Additional Financial Health resources can be found here:

A Baby Step in Saving

Total Money Makeover

Minty Fresh Financials

Free Financial Planning for UMC Clergy

– Angela M. MacDonald

Image by Flickr user Ken Teegarden, via CC

Bracket Redemption

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Lent Madness 2014

My interest in the NCAA basketball tournament has nosedived.  All of the ACC teams are eliminated — men and women — plus my brackets crashed and burned the first weekend. Thankfully, I have discovered a replacement pastime, which I hereby share with you.

Lent Madness was conceived by an Episcopal priest in Massachusetts. Lent Madness allows you to vote online for your favorites out of pairs of great Christian figures from history. The exercise is fun and educational: there are short profiles of each entrant, including many inspiring men and women with whom I was unfamiliar.

The competition continues through Easter. Even if, like me, you missed the beginning of the contest, you can still vote in the later rounds. Winners advance to the Saintly 16, the Elate 8, and the Faithful 4, in pursuit of ultimate glory, the Golden Halo.

Sadly for United Methodist fans, John Wesley and Charles Wesley faced off against each other in the opening round!  (Charles won, in a mild upset.)  Talk about your unfortunate seedings.  Complaints have been lodged with the Selection Committee.

nla.pic-an24433007-v-John James

Top image courtesy of Lent Madness.  Nuns Playing Basketball is from the National Library of Australia, shared via Flickr.

 

Caregiver Support

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Last week, the Alzheimer’s Association announced new research that indicates Alzheimer’s disease affects more women than men. The reason is two-fold: more women suffer from the disease themselves, and more women serve as caregivers to loved ones with the disease. With more than 5 million Americans already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and new diagnoses predicted to triple by 2050, it is becoming increasingly important to raise awareness about the disease and to provide support to the families and caregivers of Holding Hands with Elderly PatientAlzheimer’s patients.

Regardless of your gender, or whether you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or you know someone who is, here are 10 tips for family caregivers (from Caregiver Action Network):

  • Seek support from other caregivers.  You are not alone!  Click here to find a support group near you.
  • Take care of your own health so that you can be strong enough to take care of your loved one.
  • Accept (and request) offers of help; suggest specific things people can do to help you.
  • Learn how to communicate effectively with doctors.
  • Take respite breaks often — care-giving is hard work!
  • Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay in getting professional help when you need it.
  • Be open to new technologies that can help you care for your loved one.
  • Organize medical information so that it’s up to date and easy to find.
  • Make sure legal and financial documents are in order.
  • Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is!

Many more resources for caregivers are available through the Alzheimer’s Association.

-Katie Huffman

To do, or not to do….a To-Do List

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to do list--redSo here we are a couple of months into 2014, and my wife and I are still discussing our goals, our vision and our plans for the year. We have talked about finding more ways to keep ourselves and each other on track.

As parents who both work full time, the To-Do-List is an important tool for getting things done in our home. If you ask my wife, she might say that the Honey-Do-List is the only way things get done in our home. Sometimes The List is an actual list written on a notepad or on the dry erase board, or even a post it note. Other times, it involves her leaving me a voicemail message, sending a text or an email, or just telling me.

Without task or to-do lists, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to do, and it is also far more likely that you will forget things. Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “There’s an app for that.”  Recently Forbes magazine released its list of The 9 Best To-Do List Apps For 2014. When it comes to managing, scheduling, prioritizing, sharing, and completing tasks on a To-Do-List, taking advantage of these digital apps can help you organize and juggle multiple to-do-lists, meet tight deadlines, and make better use of your valuable time. By being creative with your To-Do-List, you can provide yourself a healthy framework for accountability, affirmation, improved focus, motivation, organization, prioritizing, time keeping, and increased productivity or efficiency.

One example, Wunderlist, is a free app that I have really grown to like. Wunderlist syncs across iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Windows and the Web to keep you on top of your to-do’s from just about any device. It has several options and features that allow users to customize their experience, maximizing the app’s usefulness:

  • Share your list with a colleague, a friend, your spouse
  • Include a note, a photo, or web content
  • Add recurrences to capture your daily, weekly and monthly tasks
  • Break big tasks into smaller achievable goals through sub-tasks
  • Print your list with just one click
  • Assign To-Do’s, start conversations, or attach spreadsheets, PDFs, videos and sound files to a task (requires an upgrade to Wunderlist Pro, $4.99/month)

Developing a daily routine is one of the most powerful ways to become better at keeping and completing To-Do-Lists. You might find some inspiration from these seven famous entrepreneurs and their routines. When you flip your perspective by reflecting on what you actually got done at the end of the day, you’re looking at real, concrete evidence of productivity rather than thinking about all the should’ve, could’ve, would’ves. At that point, the To-Do-List, becomes the Done List.

What is your relationship with To-Do-Lists? Share what works for you in the comments below.

-Dwight Tucker

Image courtesy of Straighten Your Paths.com via Creative Commons

February Wellness Calendar

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Back at the beginning of January, I came across a new kind of calendar where you focus on a different wellness goal every day of the month.  For each day, a healthy activity is suggested and you customize it by setting a goal that makes sense for you.  The daily goals can be very simple and include things like hydration, having fun, eating healthy, staying active, and self-care… good habits that many of us in Spirited Life are striving for.

The blogger who creates these calendars says, “A healthy lifestyle is made up of a whole collection of small daily decisions… and when spread out over a week, month or year, it adds up to a healthy, happy you.”  I found that even though I might only focus on hydration for one day, those actions I set up carry over into the following days and without meaning to, I’ve started a habit of drinking more water every day.

I enjoyed this exercise and plan on trying it again in February.  Click here or on the image below to download a copy for yourself.  And the good news is that this is for YOU, so if you don’t like one of the recommended activities, replace it with something of your choosing!

feb2014-Katie Huffman

(Find more calendars and healthy recipes at back to her roots)

Keeping germs at bay

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As pastors, I can imagine that you’re exposed to more than your fair share of germs each and every day: you regularly make visits to sick people in their homes and in hospitals; you shake countless hands on Sunday mornings; you enter and exit the same doors that the church preschoolers use; you rub shoulders with other community leaders at breakfast meetings; you simply go to the grocery store!

You’ve no doubt heard these tips before, so consider this a reminder to ramp up your efforts to stay well this winter:no-germ-zone-md

  • Wash your hands: This is a no-brainer, but it’s one of the best ways to stay healthy.  Click here to see the science of washing of your hands.  No access to soap and water?  Keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse, briefcase, or car.
  • Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated: Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet, and cut down on sugar to help booster the immune system.  How much water should you drink?  One doctor suggests dividing your weight by 3; this is how many ounces of fluid you should drink a day (plus one glass of water for every caffeinated or alcoholic beverage).
  • Stay back: If you can, keep about 6 feet between yourself and someone who’s sick.
  • Rest well: It’s recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep every day, but you probably have found your own magic number.
  • Exercise: Keeping your body strong is another immune-booster.  And don’t forget about taking care of your mind through meditation, a gratitude journal, taking time off, reading, yoga, or your own favorite stress-reducing activity.
  • Get a flu shot: According to the CDC, January is not too late to get yours!

Let us hear how you try to keep those germs at bay.

-Katie Huffman

Based on “How the fit stay healthy in cold-and flu-season,” by Gabriella Boston at Washington Post Wellness; image by Laurel Holland via Creative Commons and Clker.com

meQuilibrium: An Innovative Stress-Management Program

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The Duke Clergy Health initiative has been talking to pastors about their wellness for nearly six years now. One theme that comes up regularly in these conversations is stress. We know that pastors juggle many responsibilities and expectations and are often asked to be present with people during their most trying moments. But what IS stress? Is it a feeling? Is it measurable? We know that stress is not experienced in the same way by every person: the circumstances that trigger the stress response in you are likely different from those that cause stress in those around you.

Earlier this year, we added a new tool for understanding and managing stress to our Spirited Life wellness program. It’s an interactive coaching system called meQuilibrium. This program caught our attention because of its highly-customizable, holistic, insightful approach and practical tools. Over the past few months, many clergy in Spirited Life have had the opportunity to take part, and we’re pleased to have negotiated a special rate that will enable any friend of Spirited Life to use the program at the highly reduced rate of only $10/year.

why_meq_banner1

meQuilibrium starts with a comprehensive meQ assessment designed to evaluate your individual personality type, thinking patterns, habits, and lifestyle, and pinpoint the areas that create the most stress for you.

Based on your responses, you’ll instantly receive your stress profile – an in-depth analysis of not only where your stress is most pronounced, but how your unique thinking and lifestyle habits led you there.  The meQ program will then give you a personalized prescription of skills that will help you change your stress response.

To learn more about meQuilibrium and to sign up at a reduced rate, visit: www.mequilibrium.com/duke-friends.

Caren Swanson

Healthy Autumn Snacks

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1291439_10152248326317576_1520576390_nWith mornings here in Durham positively chilly, my cravings have turned toward fall. Being a native New England-er, autumn is my favorite season. I love taking long walks in the woods and finding fall treasures, and I love coming home to cook and bake with fall flavors.  Here are two healthy and tasty recipes to inspire you on this beautiful fall day.  Both of the recipes come from a list of 36 healthy snack recipes for fall from the website Greatist, a great source of holistic health tips. Happy baking (and snacking)!

Healthier Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies by Perry Santanachote

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature (or 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour (or a half white flour, half whole-wheat mix)
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal (optional — if you omit, add an extra 1/2 cup of flour!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 cup  dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

What to Do: 

  1. Set oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt (if using) together in medium size bowl. Set aside.
  3. Mix the sugar and butter together with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 4 or 5 minutes).
  4. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla to the sugar and butter and mix at low speed until thoroughly blended. Mixture will look curdled. (Don’t panic.)
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients at low-medium speed until just combined.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Use a large cookie scoop (or ice-cream scoop) to form cookies. Space them two inches apart on baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 22-24 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Let sit for a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.Pumpkin-Cookies_PS_604_2
Cranberry Granola by Rachel Ray
Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup natural almonds, chopped
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
Directions

  1. Toss oats, almonds, syrup, oil and cinnamon together. Spread on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool; stir in cranberries.

Caren Swanson

Images by Caren Swanson (top) and Perry Santanachote.