Despite the recent weather, October is the perfect time to get outside and celebrate Maryland’s official state exercise — walking! Officially, yesterday was Walk Maryland Day with events planned across the state, but all month offers opportunities to get outside and enjoy the fall.
Walking offers many health benefits, and among them getting out in nature can improve your mental health. According to the American Psychological Association, spending time outdoors can lead to improved attention, lowered stress, better moods, and even increased empathy and cooperation.
Maryland offers ample places to get out and spend time in nature, from state parks to local trails, and we’ve collected a list of localities where everyone can work on improving their physical, mental and emotional health, just by taking a walk amongst the trees.
To find the list of walking trails by county, go to https://extension.umd.edu/resource/walktober and click on “County Walking Opportunities.” Also find more information about Walktober, how you can become a walk leader, or join in next year’s celebration.
Here at Breathing Room, we are all about helping people find ways to improve their lives and reach their goals, whether they are physical, nutritional, mental, financial, or any other type of goal. One way to work on both the physical and mental or spiritual side of wellness is through the practice of yoga. Yoga, which has been gaining popularity in the U.S. lately, focuses on movement, breathing, and often meditation. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, yoga can help:
I got into yoga in high school because I was having a hard time getting to sleep at night and my doctor suggested it as a way to relax before bed. I bought a book that came with a DVD (I know, its been awhile since I was in high school. We had DVDs then) and started practicing some basic yoga movements before bed. For me, slowing down my breathing to match the movements helped me to relax my body and calm my mind. I still find it to be an effective way to get to sleep if I’m having a hard time.
After college, I would occasionally go to yoga classes at a local gym with my mom and sister. I really enjoyed exercising with them and felt my balance really improving from the exercises we did in class. But as life got busier, it became more and more difficult to get to the gym for the in-person classes. My sister then introduced me to some online resources where you can find free videos to guide you through many different types of yoga practices. One of these YouTube channels, Yoga With Adriene, has become very popular. The channel currently has 11.4 million subscribers!
For me, yoga has been an on and off journey. Some months, I will do several classes or workouts and some months I might not do any at all. While doing it more consistently is a goal of mine, I really appreciate that I can always find a way to jump back in when I’m ready. There are so many different options out there, so I always feel like I can jump back in without it being too difficult to get started again.
So, if you’re interested in seeing if yoga might be a tool you can use for reaching your wellness goals, give it a shot and check out some of these resources to help you get started!
https://www.doyogawithme.com/ – Do Yoga with Me is a website where you can sort yoga videos by length, type, and level of difficulty. It is really helpful for finding something that meets you where you are.
https://www.youtube.com/c/yogawithadriene – Yoga with Adriene has a ton of different videos and options, but I like her monthly playlists. There is a different video for each day of the month which range in length and focus. They are a great way to get started with building a habit of practicing yoga.
Senior Centers and Recreation Centers – If you check with your county or city, you might have a local center with free or low-cost classes available. They are usually led by a professional who can help you learn the movements. Also, it can be fun to workout with others in your community!
Local Gyms – Many gyms offer yoga classes similar to those offered at Senior Centers and Recreation Centers. But you might even have a local gym or studio that focuses exclusively on yoga. This can be great if you are looking for something more advanced or specific to your needs.
As with any exercise, it is a good idea to check in with your doctor before jumping in to a new exercise program (especially if you have any health concerns). But even if you are a total yoga beginner, there are some great benefits to incorporating yoga into your life. So, roll out the mat and see what yoga can do for you!
Have you ever found yourself struggling to complete tasks on the farm, coping with grief/loss/illness, managing anxiety around unpredictable weather events, or even maintaining relationships with family members? You may, at times, have tried managing these struggles by yourself, and that can be extremely exhausting. If you feel like you need a boost in your overall well-being and mental health, then psychotherapy may be a great option for you. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is a method of helping people with mental illness and emotional challenges (psychiatry.org, 2022). With some time, psychotherapy can help people eliminate or control troubling thoughts/feelings/behaviors so that they can function better and manage the stressors that life brings.
Research shows that about 75% of people who enter psychotherapy see benefits and an increase in their overall well-being and mental health (apa.org, 2022). Going to therapy can be a huge leap and involves a lot of courage, but the benefits are so worth it.
While most therapy can come in the forms of individual sessions, couple and family therapy is also an option. If you are having relationship difficulties with your partner, experiencing stress when trying to parent your children, or just want an overall healthier family, these options may be the best for you. In couple and family therapy, you may be in the room with your partner and the therapist, or even your family and the therapist. Your therapeutic journey can be unique to you has the potential to be curated towards your needs.
What to expect from therapy?
Prior to entering the therapy space, you will most likely complete an intake which oftentimes involves demographic information as well as questions around your mental health. Once you complete an intake, you will set up your first appointment. After gaining the courage to enter the therapy space for your first session, the work begins. In the first session, the therapist will get to know you, and you will get to know your therapist. You will have the opportunity to share your life story, as well as the current challenges you are faced with in your life. If things are not working in the therapy space, or if you are not comfortable talking about certain topics, feel free to let your therapist know. They are there to help you and want you to be as comfortable as possible.
Steps to set up your first appointment
Go to https://go.umd.edu/farmtherapy to complete an intake for 6 free therapy sessions. This intake is a google form that asks you for demographic questions, as well as questions about your mental health. Make sure to list on the end some dates and times you are available to talk with someone on our team to set up your first appointment. All of your information on the intake will remain confidential and will be deleted once you are paired with a therapist. If you have any questions regarding your intake, feel free to email email@example.com.
Once you have completed the intake, one of our team members will contact you on a date and time you had listed, and verify the information listed on your intake. Depending on your session preference (virtual or in-person), our team will pair you with a therapy clinic closest to you.
Once you are paired with a therapy clinic, our team will reach out to them, and with your consent, will give them your information so they can contact you.
Once in contact with the therapy clinic, they will assist you in setting up your first appointment, and the appointment will most likely happen on a weekly basis. After the 6 free sessions are up, you may continue sessions but at a price set by the provider and your insurance if you are insured. The provider will assist you in this process so therapy will not become a financial burden.
As high school seniors are making their way across the graduation stage, their minds are turning to thoughts of leaving for college in the fall. Making the transition from living at home to living on campus can be exciting but also overwhelming.
During this shift, it is important for students to check in with themselves and regulate their mental health. Being away from home can lead to additional stress and strain on students because living on campus often means taking on more responsibilities. Freshmen must learn how to coordinate their schedules to attend class, study, show up to social events, and bear the responsibility of caring for themselves.
Since we all struggle with this balance, here are some resources and tips for improving and maintaining good mental health.
One of the most important resources available to students on campus is the counseling center. Students can visit the counseling center for mental health care including individual counseling, group counseling, couples counseling, career counseling, drop in hours, and referral services. The counseling center or the disability support center can also provide accessibility and disability services in order to accommodate students in their classes. It is important for students to keep in mind that professional mental health experts are available on campus because a busy semester could mean that students may not have time to seek these resources outside of campus.
Listed below are some mindful tips for taking care of your mental health during the semester.
Staying active. Physical exercise is a key component of good mental health. Taking time to go to the gym or going for a walk can be a good way to improve your mental health.
Reaching out. Maintaining regular social engagement whether it be with family or friends can be extremely beneficial to your mental health. Isolating during stressful times can lead to even more stress, so it is important to stay connected to your loved ones throughout the semester.
Eating and sleeping. Many college students skip meals and avoid sleep in order to get their work done, but a consistent diet and enough sleep is essential to maintaining good mental health. Eating and sleeping keeps our brains and bodies functioning as well as possible.
Meditation. During the rush of classes and assignments, meditation can be a simple practice to keep your thoughts focused and your mind at ease. A few minutes of meditation and quiet time on a daily basis can reduce stress and improve mental performance.
Seeking resources. Even when you’re trying your best to keep up with yourself and school, it can still be tough to deal with certain issues. Knowing what resources are available to you and seeking them out during times of crisis can help you solve a problem much easier.
This blog written by Mumtahina Tabassum, FCS senior intern, class of ’22
As an agricultural small business owner, I struggle with being on top of my business and employee needs. My family and I own the 7-acre Turkey Point Vineyard and the Tasting Room/Gift Shop retail space in the local town of North East, Maryland. So on top of being a county agent, a working mother and wife, I also own a small farm and I operate a retail business off the farm. My immediate family is a farming family, where all of us have employment off the farm, and my two employees are older retired females that have their own individual needs.
Running a farm, you experience many variables over time due to changes in regulations, weather, technology, and product demand. With the present economic pressures of labor shortages, supply shortages, wage increases, and price hikes, life on the farm has gotten even harder. Everyone experiences stress, but when stress overwhelms you, it can make you physically ill.
Farm and farm family stress is more accurately a form of distress, which is brought on by pressures experienced by members of the farming population, farming systems, and farming as a business. Extraordinary stresses experienced by farming families can threaten the future of their farm. In addition, as a small business owner, research has proven that small business owners have reported experiencing common symptoms of poor mental health at least a few times a year on average, and the COVID-19 crisis appears to have exacerbated the problem.
How does one navigate these stressors?
How individuals, families and businesses handle stress demands and changes, will determine the outcome and the impact in the near future. In some cases, many will change their business, its product or processes, or even their family functioning. No matter what change occurs on the farm or in the business, the concept of resilience is the ability to recover from, or adjust to, change with its accompanying stress.
I once heard the saying that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do about it! When stress gets to be too much for me, I remember this saying and I try to live by this motto. The motto helps to keep me sane.
For more information on farm stress and how the University of Maryland Extension is working to assist farm families in managing mental health, check out our Farm Stress Management page.
This blog contributed by special guest blogger Doris Behnke, principle agent associate in Cecil County.
Stress impacts many of us to varying degrees. Sometimes we are equipped to handle the stress, but sometimes the stress is persistent and it begins to impact our lives including our physical health. Our culture leads us to believe that we should be able to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and resolve our issues entirely on our own. However, this overreliance on ourselves can lead to not receiving the help we need to feel better.
The Stigma Around Mental Health
Have you ever thought these things? Seeking therapy will mean that you are crazy, weak, dependent, or inadequate because you cannot resolve your own problems.
Going along with this narrative can be dangerous — it can prevent someone from seeking help and improving their wellbeing. In other words, stigma can lead to avoidable delays in receiving treatment. Worrying about not being able to resolve the problems can lead to more stress. People can judge themselves and feel ashamed for no reason.
Continuous stress can lead to physical problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, a weakened immune system, and many other issues. When stress mounts and is left unattended, it can lead to problem behavior such as drinking, family tension, and even suicide. The stigma surrounding mental health and its treatment is a hazard and needs to be challenged. Check out this fact sheet for strategies to overcome internalized stigma.
Seeking Professional Help
There are various forms of professional help that you can seek such as individual talk therapy. You can choose the one that works best for you. Therapy can help you and your family manage conflict, stress, communication challenges and other difficulties. When you meet with a professional, you can expect to share your story, set goals that are meaningful to you, become aware of your strengths, understand underlying challenges, and learn skills to overcome challenges and break unhelpful habits.
Individual therapy includes meetings between an adult and a therapist. Family therapy includes meetings with a spouse, parents, children or other family members involved in the adult’s life. Group therapy includes meetings involving a group of adults with similar diagnoses and one or two therapists. Rehabilitation programs help people regain skills and confidence to live and work more successfully in their communities.
Free Therapy Opportunity
If you work in the agricultural industry or one of your immediate family members works in agriculture, you can reach out to us for six free therapy sessions! The sessions can be in person or virtual. We will help you set up your appointment, connect with the provider and access your session. Complete the intake form at go.umd.edu/farmtherapy and we will reach out to you.
This blog written by special guest blogger Alla Tafaghodi, graduate Family & Consumer Sciences intern.
May is mental health awareness month. The association between poor mental health and problem gambling is not frequently addressed, so let’s talk about it.
First of all, not all gambling is problematic. Controlled gambling can be a source of entertainment or social activity. However, gambling can become an addiction that requires professional intervention with a focus on recovery. Millions of Americans, and their loved ones, are impacted by problem gambling. The good news is that recovery resources are plentiful and widely available.
What are mental health risk factors for problem gambling? Mental health challenges such as depression, substance abuse, and anxiety are often associated with problem gambling. Additionally, those people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are also at elevated risk of developing a gambling addiction.
On the other hand,problem gambling can worsen or complicate mental health challenges. Complications of problem gambling increase levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and even thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
How do I know if I, or someone I care about, has problem gambling challenges? Gambling can be an addiction, and those who suffer from it often attempt to hide the addiction. Signs include preoccupation with gambling, irritability or restlessness when cutting down on gambling, chasing losses, asking for bailouts, and resorting to theft or fraud for gambling money. Similarly to those with substance addictions, people with a gambling addiction have difficulty cutting back or stopping.
How can I help? Problem gambling addiction can happen to anyone. It is not a financial issue, so providing funds or paying off debts will not aid in recovery. A gambler must WANT help. Assistance and resources are available on the web from the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling and mdproblemgambling.com, and by phone at 1-800-GAMBLER. These sites provide help for gamblers themselves, loved ones, treatment professionals, and clergy.
Gambling becomes problematic when it compromises personal relationships, work, and resource management. Problem gambling can result in severe financial and personal loss. If you or someone you know faces gambling challenges, know that help is available and recovery is achievable.
This blog post written by Samantha Benner, Family Science Major and Human Development Minor, Graduating May 2022
Some students play on sports teams, but during my sophomore year, I joined a club on campus that raises service dogs in training (SDiTs) for the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs. Our club consists of puppy sitters and puppy raisers who are dedicated to helping the visually impaired and veterans with PTSD.
As a dog lover, I joined the club because I loved their mission, and as a full-time college student it would be a positive experience for my own mental health. I began sitting a few dogs for raisers who either needed a break or needed to study, which was great for me because what’s better than spending time with adorable dogs? I absolutely loved watching the dogs and heavily considered raising my own, but I didn’t know if I could handle it.
Flash forward to now, I’m a senior and I’m helping to raise a SDiT. Raising a SDiT is the most rewarding feeling because I know that I am helping someone in the future with a bigger goal either to walk safely or to comfort and help them during times of stressful events.
While I will be helping someone in the future, raising a dog is also helping me. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s lives and has caused heightened stress to families, but having a companion by my side is a protective factor to my mental health. Not only do I love working with my SDiT, but I’ve met incredible and inspiring individuals in the club who have the same passion as me.
Joining a club or participating in volunteer work are great ways to meet new people and to de-stress from school, work, or other responsibilities. Some common questions people might have are:
How do I know if I want to commit to raising a dog?
It is a big responsibility, be realistic and honest with yourself if you can manage it.
Can I afford it?
The only expense is food, however raisers like to buy toys and beds.
How long will I have the dog for?
Raisers typically have a co-raiser so time will be split 50/50. However, the dog will be in training for a little over a year.
Where do I go if I need help?
Reach out to area coordinators and the puppy program managers in your area.
Yes, but it depends on the other obligations. If other obligations have a big time commitment, it might be difficult.
I have other pets, can I still raise a SDiT?
I can’t raise, however I still want to volunteer. How can I help?
Become a sitter!
Can anyone raise a SDiT at UMD?
Freshman can’t because they live in dorms, but they can be a sitter!
Are there puppy class requirements to become a sitter or a raiser?
Yes! Both must attend at least 3 classes a month, attend an information session, and schedule a home visit.
Those interested in raising a service dog in training do not have to be students at the University of Maryland or a student at all. In fact, anyone over the age of 18 years old can raise a SDiT. The benefits of raising a SDiT are endless, but to name a few it is extremely rewarding, it’s for a good cause, it’s a great way to give back, and last but certainly not least there is unconditional love between you and your pup. This is a great opportunity for college students because they’re able to spend time with adorable dogs and help change someone’s life for the better! If you’re interested in raising or sitting a dog, visit the club Terps Raising Pup’s website.