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Health

Why You Can’t Afford to Wait for Your Ship to Come In and 7 Steps to Take Instead

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Recently, my father had a heart attack. But get this, it was evidently his second one. We found out he had a smaller one prior because the doctors discovered some additional veins that had grown to try to compensate for the loss of an artery that had died at some point in the past .

And that dizzy spell he had 2 weeks ago? A small stroke. Not news you like to receive about your loved-one.

‘ISH HAPPENS

The reality is that at 77 none of these events are uncommon or even surprising. My dad is a little on the heavy side, has high blood pressure, and doesn’t engage in any routine aerobic activity – prime risk factors for coronary health issues. So based on the statistics (here are some alarming ones for you), he’s extremely fortunate to be alive.

But what has bothered me most of all about this scenario is not that he could have died, but that maybe he hadn’t fully lived.

Hear me out…

THE COST OF DREAMS DEFERRED

See, even at 77 (he’ll be 78 in July) my dad still has a full-time job and pays rent on a house that isn’t his, not because he wants to, because he has to.

He’s got brothers and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and cousins and friends that he’d love to spend time with, but he can’t afford the cost to visit (and it’s not like they live in other countries, just in other states).

Even I hope to get married some day, but I know for a fact that as far as help goes for the expenses I’m on my own – and while I am totally fine with that, what daughter wouldn’t want to know that she could call on her parents for some financial support if she needed to?

THE SAD TRUTH

I think it’s fair to say that being his age and still having to work was not my dad’s plan. He thought he would have become rich and live off of his retirement like the story books said he would. He thought he would have traveled the world and left a big fat inheritance for his children and his grand children. He was sure that his ship would have come in by now. 

Let’s face it, my dad’s situation is, unfortunately, not unique. In fact it could be nearly anybody’s story in America today. Check almost any crowd funding platform around and you’re sure to find headlines like this: Family of Man Who Suffered Heart Attack Requesting Donations for Mounting Medical Costs. 

The  sad truth is that my dad’s proverbial ‘ship’ has yet to come in – at least in the way that would allow him to eliminate money as a concern. And while, of course, his health is the most important thing right now, not having to worry about money could sure help to speed up the recovery process.

THE PROBLEM WITH SHIPS

marine_insurance

See, there’s a problem with ships; sometimes they sink, and at the end of the day the opportunity, lucky break, or winning streak you were waiting for may never show up.

And besides that the bigger truth is this:“It is no use waiting for your ship to come in unless you have sent one out. Belgian Proverb

Look, here’s the bottom line: someday we’re all gonna die.

I’m gonna die, you’re gonna die, and my dad – bless his heart – is gonna die. That’s the realest ‘ish there is. Once you can grasp that then the next question is, ‘if that death came today, could you honestly say that you’d lived your life on purpose’?

For each one of us the answer to that question hinges on the opportunities that we’ve taken or the choices that we’ve made to create those opportunities for ourselves. As my man Tony Robbins says, your destiny is determined by 3 things: what you choose to focus on, the meaning you give to it, and what you do based on that meaning. 

So with this ultimate end in mind, if you haven’t already determined to experience your life fully, YOU’RE the guy sitting on the dock waiting for a ship that’s never coming in because it’s never really been launched.  

...but the good news is, you don’t have to be.

MAN OVERBOARD

As social workers we’re good for giving this sort of advice to our clients and even to our friends, but truth be told, we’re horrible at taking it ourselves. And while I would never discourage any social worker from giving of themselves (in fact, that’s our entire job), I did write a whole book on the crucial importance of caring for one’s self first – and in my book (pun intended) that includes, not negates, your personal dreams and deepest passions. 

SETTING SAIL

So what do you need to do to make sure that your ship arrives safely at port and with all its bells and whistles?

  1. Do a self assessment: Ask yourself those important life questions like, What would I change or improve if resources were no concern? If I knew I was dying soon, what would I regret not completing? What is my soul’s deepest desire and am I being true to it?’ Questions like these should ignite a sense of urgency that you’ll need if you’re ever going to leave the port.
  2. Write it down: Brainstorm your loftiest dreams and desires and write them down! Don’t erase anything, just let your creative juices flow. Writing things down has a way of lodging them into your consciousness and bringing them closer to your reality. It will also help you to get clear on what you’ll create in your life from this point on. 
  3. Vision it: If you can dream it, you can do it. It almost doesn’t matter what it is. Use the power of your imagination to see your ideas come to fruition. You’ll know you’ve done it right when you start to feel as excited just thinking about it as you will when it arrives. 
  4. Make a plan: It doesn’t even matter if you have 1 cent or a million bucks, write down the steps that it would take to turn your dream into reality. Make these steps so simple that a 5 year old could follow them – that means with details. And don’t forget to add emotion to it. How will you feel at each step of the way? Now feel your feelings deeper. You’ve got it!
  5. Start working on your plan. This is where we put your plan into action and enlist the help of others to move forward. A coach or mentor who has successfully walked the path before you is usually a good starting point. They’ll help you with your strategy and techniques that will save you time and energy to reach your dreams that much faster.
  6. Feel deep gratitude in advance for the thing(s) you’ve imagined. This works on two levels: first on an emotional level because it feels good, and then on a universal level because it brings more gifts to you. The more grateful you are, the more you will receive to be grateful for. So if you want more to be grateful for, don’t skip this part!
  7. Act as if you’ve already achieved your goals and pretty soon you will. Just think “Form Follows Fashion” and you win!

I’ve talked to enough social workers to know that we have big dreams and desires just like our clients do, but that often money (or the lack thereof) plays a major role in whether or not we achieve them. Personally I believe that our loftiest desires come from God (or whatever you choose to call that Higher Power) and that if you’ve got a desire within you then it must mean that you also have Divine ability to achieve it, so you owe it to your Divine self to build that ship and set sail!

ALL ABOARD

Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. I know this, you know this, and now my dad definitely knows this. It’s so easy to get swallowed up in the day-to-day responsibilities and realities of life that before you know it you’re watching the sun set on the docks wondering where the time went. But there’s something about being faced with your own mortality or that of a loved one that has a way of reminding us of how fleeting time really is and of what life is truly about. 

Thankfully my dad is still here in the land of the living, and I’m headed home this weekend to check in on the old man. Of course I also plan to get in some serious time on my business goals,  catch up with dear friends, and eat some of my god-mother’s great cooking. Who knows? We may even go to the docks and see what comes ashore…

YOUR TURN

And what about you? You’ve got this life right now. What will you plan to do with the opportunities you have in front of you? Let me know in the comments. And remember, the only ships that come back are the ones that get sent out in the first place.

…and let me know if you need any company. I’m always up for a good sail.

Eva Forde, MSSW, is a social work leader, trainer, and entrepreneur. She currently serves as President of the Jamaica Association of Social Workers and is the author of How NOT to Practice Social Work: Saving Good People From Bad Practice One Step at a Time. Get a mash-up of insight, strategy and motivation at Evaforde.com - the blog for social workers who want to be rich.

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Health

Self Help Tips and Advice For Social Workers

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There is no denying the positive impact social workers have on hundreds of families and individuals throughout their career. They will tell you about the rewarding experiences they have helping others in need. Unfortunately, for every success, there is at least one case in which they could not help. Social workers see the best and the worst of society every day, and even the strongest among us can crack under the pressure. That is why self-care is so important. Being mindfully aware of your needs as well as the needs of those around you can keep you healthy and able to be there when you’re needed.

What is Self Care and How Can You Do It Every day?

Self-care is a practice that becomes a lifestyle. Understand and commit to the idea that it is not something you do once, it is something you do every day. The key is to be mindful and aware.

It is important to be mindful of where you are and what you are doing as you go about your day. Whether you are in a meeting or at the grocery store, notice how you are feeling in the moment. This can range from listening to your body and noticing your state of health to recognizing an emotional situation in your life.

Become aware of your breathing. When we are feeling stressed, emotional, or run down, we forget how to breathe. Our breath can become fast and shallow which deprives our bodies of the oxygen it needs. Pay attention to your breathing and focus on slowing it down. Allow the air to fill your abdomen, not just your lungs. You will find that mindful breathing exercises calms your thoughts, allows for greater clarity, and lessens your anxiety.

Now That You Are Aware, How Do You Improve?

It’s one thing to be mindful and aware of how you are feeling, but doing something about it is another matter. Improving your physical and emotional state requires some life changes as well.

Many social workers have the stress relieving habit of smoking or grabbing an unhealthy snack from the vending machine. It makes us feel like we’re taking a moment for ourselves. Instead of grabbing a cigarette or a bag of chips, try an e-cigarette starter kit or grab a granola bar. This gives you a moment away while making healthier choices through controlling the nicotine and sugar you intake. The idea is not to deprive yourself but to make small changes that will make you feel better over time.

Changing the way you approach daily tasks is another life change that will give you some added peace of mind. For decades we have been taught to multitask but all we’ve learned is how to start tasks but not finish them in a timely manner. By focusing on one task at a time you’ll allow yourself to finish a job before moving onto something else. This creates a sense of accomplishment and boosts your confidence at the job you are doing.

Maintaining Your New Found Awareness

Creating a support system is important when attempting to care for yourself. By relying on your friends and family you are willingly accepting love and nurturing that you simply cannot give to yourself. When meditating on an issue in your life doesn’t result in answers, one of the best things we can do is turn to our support system for help. It’s not necessary to face every challenge alone and often times, they can see from a perspective that you cannot. You may also find that the more willing you are to receive care from others, the easier it becomes for you to provide care for the people you’re working to help.

Self-care is difficult for those who spend their lives taking care of others. By allowing yourself the care you need you will find that it not only feeds your soul but it will improve your ability to care for the people around you.

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Food

SNAP Benefits Aren’t Enough to Afford a Healthy Diet

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A new study from North Carolina State University and the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, only covers 43-60 percent of what it costs to consume a diet consistent with federal dietary guidelines for what constitutes a healthy diet. The study highlights the challenges lower-income households face in trying to eat a healthy diet.

“The federal government has defined what constitutes a healthy diet, and we wanted to know how financially feasible it was for low-income households, who qualify for SNAP benefits, to follow these guidelines,” says Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, co-author of a paper on the study and an assistant professor of agricultural and human sciences at NC State.

This can be a tricky question to answer, as federal dietary guidelines vary based on age and gender. SNAP benefits also vary, based on household income and the number of adults and children living in the household. For the purposes of this study, the researchers used average monthly SNAP benefits for 2015.

To address their research question, the researchers looked at the cost to follow federal dietary guidelines based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly retail price data from 2015 for fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. They calculated costs under a variety of scenarios. For example, what would it cost to comply with dietary guidelines if one only ate produce that was fresh, not frozen? What if one only consumed fruits and vegetables that were frozen? What if a household followed a vegetarian diet? The researchers also included labor costs associated with shopping and preparing meals, based on 2010 estimates produced by other economics researchers.

“We found significant variability in the costs associated with following federal dietary guidelines,” Haynes-Maslow says. “For example, it was most expensive to consume only fresh produce, and it was least expensive to consume a vegetarian diet.”

To place this in context, consider a four-person household that has one adult male, one adult female, one child aged 8-11 and one child aged 12-17 – all of whom qualify for SNAP benefits. They would need to spend $626.95 per month in addition to their SNAP benefits if they ate only fresh produce as part of their diet. That same household would need to spend $487.39, in addition, to SNAP benefits if they ate a vegetarian diet.

“Many low-income households simply don’t have an additional $500 or $600 to spend on food in their monthly budget,” Haynes-Maslow says.

The researchers did find that SNAP is sufficient to meet the healthy dietary needs of two groups: children under the age of 8 and women over the age of 51. However, SNAP was insufficient to meet the needs of older children, younger women, or men of any age.

“Even though SNAP is not designed to cover all of the cost of food – it’s meant to be a supplemental food program – this study makes it clear that there would be many low-income households that would not be able to cover the gap needed to eat a diet consistent with federal dietary guidelines,” Haynes Maslow says. “Even without including labor costs, a household of four would need to spend approximately $200-$300 in addition to their SNAP benefits to follow the dietary guidelines.”

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Health

12 Years After Fleeing Katrina, Family Displaced by Harvey Seeks New Life in Dallas

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Ashley Aples, left, speaks with his 8-year-old son Zion at an evacuee shelter at Kay Baily Hutchison Convention Center. Mr. Aples fled to Dallas with his family as flood waters from Hurricane Harvey rose around their apartment in Houston.

Flooded homes. People stranded on roofs. Rescue boats patrolling neighborhoods.

Ashley Aples saw the chaos and panic engulf Houston in just a few days, and he knew from experience it was time to flee. He did so 12 years ago when Hurricane Katrina ravaged his hometown of New Orleans and forced him to rebuild his life in Texas.

Now he and his family are rebuilding their lives again – this time in Dallas, with no plans to return to an area facing years of painful recovery from Hurricane Harvey’s historic wrath.

“We’ve seen it before; we know what this means,” Mr. Aples said from the Dallas Mega-Shelter at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, where UT Southwestern faculty are coordinating and providing medical care to Harvey evacuees.

By Friday, the medical unit there had treated nearly 200 people like the Aples family, while still awaiting a potential influx of evacuees struggling to escape the floods.

The 35-year-old forklift operator sat on a green cot next to his wife and 8-year-old son, who along with other relatives packed into two cars as floodwaters began to rise around their apartment. They headed north, not sure what they would find.

“My family got what they needed,” Mr. Aples said with a smile, looking across the multitude of volunteer groups spread across the sprawling shelter.

“Some of the worst times bring out the best in us and show us who we really are,” Mr. Aples said of the physicians and volunteers helping at the shelter. “We have individuals here of different faiths and races, all helping their fellow man.”

The Aples family was among the first of a few thousand evacuees expected to seek refuge at the shelter this week after torrential rains from Harvey left much of the Texas Gulf Coast submerged, destroying thousands of homes and killing more than three dozen people.

Inside the medical unit

UT Southwestern faculty, fellows, residents, and students from UT Southwestern Medical School who are spearheading the medical response at the shelter include a wide range of specialties from Emergency Medicine, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry. Caregivers are checking on blood-pressure levels, helping control potential issues such as diabetes, and ensuring evacuees are able to acquire the medications they may have left behind.

Dr. Raymond Fowler, who is directing the medical response at the convention center, said the team has plenty of experience dealing with such situations. He has overseen several similar medical responses to major disasters, including Hurricane Katrina, though he notes this operation is twice as large.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at this,” said Dr. Fowler, Division Chief for Emergency Medical Services at UT Southwestern, who holds the James M. Atkins, M.D. Professorship in Emergency Medical Services. “As soon as we can get them here, we’re ready for our friends in the South.”

The shelter has about 5,000 beds available if needed, and the initial evacuees seeking shelter in Dallas provided an opportunity to test the processes and ready the medical unit, said Dr. Raymond Swienton, Professor of Emergency Medicine, Chief of the Emergency and Disaster Global Health Program at UT Southwestern, and long-standing senior adviser to the state of Texas.

“We are now gaining access to large numbers of people who have been stranded for days in this unprecedented disaster impacting our entire Texas coastal area,” Dr. Swienton said. “We stand ready to provide shelter and medical care to our fellow Texans who arrive in Dallas.”

The medical wing has been bustling this week with volunteers and emergency response crews unpacking food and going over final plans. A pediatrics section decorated with walls of colorful birds and clouds was stocked with formula, diapers, and a box of stuffed animals. One mother sat on a cot in a corner, bouncing a laughing toddler on her knee.

UT Southwestern Pediatrics faculty physicians are staffing and providing support to the pediatric clinic daily to help treat the evacuated children.

“We will provide services as long as they are needed,” said Dr. Maeve Sheehan, Associate Professor of Pediatrics who is overseeing the shelter’s pediatric care with Dr. Halim Hennes, Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine. “We will also be providing telehealth services throughout the night in conjunction with Children’s Health.”

UT Southwestern pediatric neonatologists aided with the evacuation of neonatal patients as the flooding began, and UT Southwestern pediatric nephrologists are providing dialysis to several displaced children.

Next steps

Outside the medical wing, Mr. Aples sat with his wife and son, listing his next steps: getting a job, finding a home, enrolling his son in school.

“Kids don’t have the same coping mechanisms as adults,” he said, noting one reason why he won’t bring his son back to Houston for anything beyond gathering belongings from their apartment.

“Every time we went back to New Orleans, we saw places from our childhood destroyed. Your mind is fighting itself, looking at the devastation. You have to fight your way out of that box, because that box will put you in a depression.”

Mr. Aples said he has explained the situation to his son but is trying to keep the mood lighthearted.

Mental health experts at UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute say that’s generally a good approach to take with children dealing with such traumatic events.

In addition, they recommend showing a calm demeanor around the children. Parents should offer but not force them to talk about the incident. They should also filter some of the news updates children may receive from television or social media.

“This can be overwhelming and scary for kids,” said Dr. James Norcross, Professor of Psychiatry. “But the good news is that kids are remarkably resilient. If you can reassure them, keep them in a routine as much as possible, they will be able to overcome and manage this.”

Mr. Aples is keeping his family’s thoughts positive. He is hoping to get a job as soon as he can and perhaps have the family out of the center in the next few days.

Until then, he wants to spread his message of hope to anyone who needs it.

“I want everyone to really, really just love on their families and be optimistic about the change,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at his son. “We’re going to figure out what we have to do, and the whole family will come together.”

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