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 Focusing on Wellness: Summer is the Ideal
Time to Start

by Liya Moges

 

Since 1949, August has been established as National Wellness Month. This month, with recent health events like COVID-19 and political events such as the presidential elections and overturning of state rulings like Roe v. Wade, it can be very hard to remember to focus on your own wellness during this month. Events like these and more can take a toll on our bodies, mentally and physically, so it’s important that we all take time to ensure that we are taking care of ourselves by being proactive in our Wellness.

What is National Wellness month about?

National Wellness Month is a time in which you focus on practicing self-care by reducing your stress by promoting happiness through different activities. This month is entirely devoted to reminding every one of us to take care of our mental/physical health and overall well-being. During this month it’s important to explore different activities that can help you set healthy routines while managing stressors in your life.

How can I be Proactive about my Wellbeing?

There are plenty of ways to become active in your overall wellbeing! Some ways to get involved and engaged in your wellbeing are:

  • Take part in a Self-care Routine

  • Download some apps to monitor your mental and physical needs

  • Get some exercise

  • Spend time with Family & Friends

The most used option to engage in wellbeing is a self-care routine! Taking part of a self-care routine can allow you to tend to your body’s needs that may have been neglected in your everyday life. Try setting yourself a warm bath, try out some new face masks, or do a hair mask! Self-care doesn’t always have to do with pampering your body either and can even take forms of reading your favorite book or sitting down with your favorite takeout and watching your favorite show. The point of self-care is to promote relaxation by taking the time to slow down and let your body rest. 

Another way, albeit very new in this day and age, to promote your overall wellbeing is by taking the time to download some apps to monitor your mental and physical needs! With new technological developments, there’s an app for everything, and one of the most largest growing app developments are all centered around mental and physical health! By downloading an app, you can journal your feelings and moods, build a healthy routine, keep track of how your body feels, and so much more! Some great apps that I personally find to be very effective (with brief descriptions):

Amaha: Mental Health Self Care : This is a wonderful app that can help you deal with stress and anxiety. This app provides you with a multitude of self-help tools all designed to help you and improve your overall wellbeing. It has self-care centered activities, mental health tracking and journaliing, and has 6 different self-care resources to help you cope with anxiety and other mental health concerns! 

 

Attentive – Digital Wellbeing: This app is great for reducing mindless screen time and can allow you to track different stressors and observe and analyze habits you want to improve on. It has a friendly and doable interface can help with productivity, mindfulness, reduce stress and so much more!

Fabulous: Daily Habit Tracker: This is another great app that can help you build a personalized routine for different priorities you may have! This is a habit tracker, self-improvement/coaching and mental health improving platform all put into one.

Routinery: Self – Care/Routine: This app is a great app to help you build a healthy routine in a simple and effective way! You can add a variety of habits you want to work on and it does a great job of recommending and analyzing routines

All these apps can help you manage stress, increase mindfulness, and help you improve your mental and physical health all with a click of a button! Other methods like getting some light exercise by taking a stroll around your neighborhood or the park, can help improve your overall wellbeing as well. Many websites and articles stress that exercise is good for the body, and while running a mile a day or doing 100 jumping jacks may be a way to do so, you do not have to get involved in any extreme workout sessions just to get your blood pumping. Doing simple tasks over a long period of time is a very tangible goal, so take that extra staircase when at work, or do 5 jumping jacks during a commercial break! Participating in any of these over a stretch of time will have your body thanking you.

One last way to help improve your wellbeing that I will mention is by taking time out of your day to socialize and spend time with family and friends! It has been scientifically proven to improve your psychological well-being, so taking time out of your day to visit a family member or set up time to hang out with some friends. The emotional support provided by your friends and family can strengthen your overall well-being and help you cope with things like stress and anxiety and can lead to good cardiovascular health as well as increase the longevity of your life. In cases of promoting health safety for the sake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, even calling, texting, or even facetiming family friends is a good way to get in touch and can help you on your journey to self-care.

It's important that during this time of month that you really take the time to improve on any negative habits you may have cultivated over the past year and replace them with healthier habits and routines. While August may be National Wellness month, that does not mean this is the only month you engage in your wellbeing. Make sure to keep your mental and physical health in mind throughout the year, and use the tips mentioned above to remind yourself to be kind to yourself!

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Liya Moges is a passionate and dedicated junior studying Biomedical Science, Business, and Law at Georgia State University. She works at Emory University Hospital supporting nurses and physicians on a Complex Medicine floor and uses this opportunity to shadow different physicians in different specialties. She has an interest in health equity which plays a role in Liya’s desire to spread awareness on diversity/inclusion and health equity within healthcare.  

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Girls with Autism- An Underdiagnosed and Undertreated Population 

by Elizabeth Linden

 

Do only males have autism?

As a special education teacher of 26 years, I had the opportunity to teach dozens of students with autism. I also have a 58-year-old brother with autism. In all of my years of teaching, I have never met a female student who was diagnosed to have autism. With that said, that doesn’t mean I haven’t met any females with autism. According to Autism Speaks, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism. Girls are an underdiagnosed population and that presents a serious problem in the treatment and prognosis of those with the disorder.

 

Why is early identification important for all people with autism?

My brother displayed many of the classic signs of autism such as deficits in social communication, repetitive movements, hypersensitivity to sensory input, distress in changes, and echolalia (among other things). He was not diagnosed until he was 21 which seems odd in retrospect because when I look at the diagnostic criteria, he has all the symptoms. It is my belief that many people, like my brother, just slipped through the cracks. He may have been misdiagnosed because he is 58 years old now and not much was known about the disorder when he was a child. My brother attended a school for students with what was called “mental retardation” at the time. He didn’t fit in with the rest of the kids in his class and was always getting into trouble. It was a great challenge for my parents (and the rest of the kids in our family) who didn’t know how to predict or handle his outbursts that were due his sensitivity to disruptions in his schedule. Nor did we know how to soothe his hypersensitivity to sights, sounds and other environmental stimuli. Knowing that early education at school and in the home is extremely important for life-long development and well-being, I believe my brother (and my parents) would have had a healthier and happier family life if they knew the correct diagnosis as well as strategies on how to help my brother. 

 

Identification of autism

Now that male students are being identified earlier and educated appropriately, their future is looking brighter than boys diagnosed decades ago. However, there are many people that are not receiving services and that is because they have slipped through the cracks. These are older women with autism who were never diagnosed as children.  Fortunately, younger girls are now starting to be identified with autism, but it is difficult to identify them.

 

So why are females being missed in the diagnosis of autism? 

Many girls have unfortunately escaped proper diagnosis because autism presents itself differently in girls than it does in boys. Previous research was conducted using white males and the diagnostic criteria was made using this population thus creating gender and perhaps racial bias. There are differences between the genders in regards to their presentation of repetitive behaviors, imaginative play, restricted interests as well as their ability to form social relationships. 

 

Most autistic people display repetitive behaviors. Boys are often seen flapping their hands, but a female will be more likely to twirl their hair, pick their skin, or gallop. While clinicians may think people with autism don’t often engage in imaginative play, it is seen more often in autistic females. Like males, females have restricted interests, but their interests may go unnoticed because they are socially relatable. For example, my brother has always been interested in memorizing phone numbers and street maps. Not many peers could relate to these peculiar interests, and he really didn’t seem to care. However, females may obsess about their favorite Disney movie or a favorite animal. As it turns out, it is not the peculiarity of the interest that is important in identification. It is how the person engages in the activity that matters. The difference between an autistic girl and a neurotypical girl is that they will play the same movie scene hundreds of times and may believe the characters are real. In regards to social relationships, we see a difference between male and female autistic people as well. While some males may seem more detached or disinterested in forming social relationships, females are more likely and more motivated to engage in social relationships but in a restricted way. They may have just one friend at a time and they may become possessive of them. While males may have a harder time understanding social conventions, females may have an easier time, but they also may just be imitating others’ behaviors to fit in. Unfortunately, these girls may be incorrect at interpreting the emotions of others which may lead to misunderstandings and later rejection. Although they might be able to make friends, they can become an easy target for bullies.

 

Why is the diagnosis important?

Missing a diagnosis for any autistic individual can result in the development of mental and physical health issues and greater impairment across domains and across a patient’s lifespan. Managing stress and regulating emotions is difficult for both genders on the autistic spectrum. In my experience, I have seen quite a few angry emotional outbursts from autistic males. They can happen quickly, but if the source is identified and calming strategy put in place, they can be calmed down quickly and their male peers seem to forget outbursts easily. For a female, angry emotional outbursts are less socially acceptable (especially when trying to form friendships). Because they are more socially inclined, autistic females often become people pleasers which can set them up for a life of being taken advantage of and possible abuse. In adulthood, autistic women are found to have comorbid disorders such as anxiety, depression, mood disorders, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and OCD. In the home, these women may find themselves struggling with organizational tasks because they have not developed strategies to overcome executive functioning deficits. If not identified and taught compensatory skills, autistic women may suffer from lowered self-esteem because they are missing the explicit explanation of how to do things.  Women who receive a diagnosis, however, have a better prognosis and greater self-esteem. Getting the diagnosis early can mean getting the right support in place at an early age. Proper support is crucial not only for the family of autistic girls and boys but also for their development of positive self-esteem and life-long stress management. 

For more information on autism, visit https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-statistics-asd

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Elizabeth Linden is a retired special education teacher with 25 years of experience. She has a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Health Psychology. Liz has been an advocate for the educational needs of special education students throughout her career as well as an advocate for her own medical needs as a person with a rare headache disorder.  Liz is also a Senior Anchor with The Power of the Patient Project, and her interviews are featured throughout our digital library.

August 2022  page 2