15 Free and Low-Cost Ways to Reduce Stress

April 24, 2014
De-stress by spending time with pets, people you love, and enjoying nature!

You can reduce your stress by spending time with animals, people you love, and enjoying nature!

If left untreated, stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, or other serious health conditions. But fear not—beating stress doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. In honor of Stress Awareness Month, try these fun, simple, and low-cost ways to reduce your stress level and improve your health:

  1. Get outdoors. Light physical activity can be a mood-booster. Not up for exercising? Go hang out at your favorite beach or park—just getting outside to enjoy nature may take some stress away.
  2. Laugh! Laughing is an easy and enjoyable stress reliever. Invite friends over to watch a comedy movie, or surf the web to enjoy your favorite humor sites.
  3. Connect with friends. Talking or spending time with your favorite people can improve your mood. Host a potluck dinner or tapas party where everyone brings a dish, or call a friend just to see what’s up.
  4. Write it down. Feeling worried about something? Write it down in a journal. Or write a note to your future self, to open at a time you really need some inspiration, reminding yourself of what you find meaningful and that you shouldn’t sweat sweat the small stuff.
  5. Try something new. Try a new hobby or learn a new skill—check out YouTube for instructional videos or look online for how-to websites so that you can learn for free.
  6. Lose yourself in a good book. Reading is a great way to take your mind off your worries—plus, reading can even benefit your health. Need something new to read? Visit your local library, where you can check out books for free.
  7. Be creative. Painting, writing, singing, crocheting, knitting, and dancing are just a few of the many creative activities that can provide great stress relief.
  8. Just breathe. Rhythmic, slow breathing can relieve stress. Get into a comfortable position, close your eyes, and allow yourself to just breathe for a few minutes.
  9. Spend some time with animals. Research indicates that pets can help reduce stress-related increases in blood pressure. Just another great reason to take your dog for a walk or engage in playtime with the cat! Don’t have a pet of your own? Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog, or volunteer at a local animal shelter.
  10. Volunteer. Helping someone else can also help you feel satisfied. Volunteer at a local shelter, soup kitchen, or church. Offer to do a gratis chore (like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or babysitting) for your neighbor. The possibilities are endless!
  11. Unplug and unwind. Being “always on” can contribute to stress. So put your smartphone down, step away from the TV or computer, and spend some time relaxing.
  12. Declutter your space. A messy home or desk can increase your stress level. Doing a little spring cleaning can distract you from any worries, and the end result—a tidier space—can leave you feeling less stressed, too.
  13. Be grateful. Remind yourself of a few things you’re grateful for—it can help you be optimistic and focus on the positive, non-stressful aspects of your life. Consider keeping a gratitude journal, where every day you write down one thing you’re grateful for.
  14. Cut it out. Are you stressed out because you have too much to do? Take a step back—evaluate the things you must do and the things that are most meaningful to you. For the tasks that aren’t “musts” or meaningful, brainstorm ways to delegate them, shorten the time and energy they take, and become comfortable saying “no, thank you” to requests you can’t accommodate.
  15. Snooze the stress away. Getting proper sleep can reduce stress. Adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly for optimal well-being. If stress is causing you to sleep poorly, read Ten Steps to Better Sleep for some helpful tips!

If you feel that stress is affecting your life, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional for help. Find out if your company offers an employee assistance program (EAP) as one of your benefits; these programs offer free, confidential counseling. If that isn’t an option for you, click here to learn more about some free and low-cost behavioral health resources you can use.

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Free and Low-Cost Help for Alcohol Addiction

March 31, 2014

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD). The theme of this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month is “Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow,” which highlights the impact that alcoholism has on young people and their friends, families, and communities. NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month also aims to address underage drinking, an important topic to talk about as prom and graduation season approaches.

Eye-opening statistics from the NCADD:

  • Over 18 million Americans (8.5% of the population) suffer from alcohol-use disorders, with countless others experiencing the effects of another person’s alcohol problem.
  • 25% of children in the United States have been exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family.
  • Each day, 7,000 kids in the United States under the age of 16 take their first drink.
  • Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21.
  • More than 1,700 college students in the U.S. are killed each year—over 4 each day—as a result of alcohol-related injuries.
  • Underage alcohol use costs the nation an estimated $62 billion annually.

 

Resources for help

Education and prevention are crucial to reducing alcohol-related problems. However, many people mistakenly believe that resources for help are out of their price range. Check into these free and low-cost places and organizations that you or a loved one can turn to for support and help regarding alcohol addiction and recovery.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) resources:

Support groups:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous–For alcoholics and recovering alcoholics who are seeking support.  Includes a meeting finder to locate AA meetings in your area.
  • Al-Anon and Alateen–For those whose lives have been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism.  Learn what to expect at your first meeting, and find meetings in your area.
  • Narcotics Anonymous–For those who are addicted to narcotics.  Includes a meeting finder as well as links to recovery literature.

Other helpful information:

  • The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence–includes resources for people in recovery, for parents, for youths, and news articles regarding addiction and recovery.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism–includes articles about how alcohol affects your health, how alcohol affects teens, college drinking prevention, and more.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse–features addiction and recovery resources for young adults, parents, teachers, and medical professionals.  Also offers information on clinical trials.

For more free and low-cost health resources, visit www.HealthcareSurvivalGuide.com.  Also, check with your employer to see if your employee benefits package includes an advocacy service such as Health Advocate (if not, you can check out Health Advocate’s consumer division, Health Proponent).  An advocacy service can help connect you to medical providers, such as primary care physicians or mental health specialists, who can help with addiction-related issues.


Preventive dental care can stave off painful problems

February 14, 2014

In general, you should only visit the emergency room (ER) if you’re having a true medical emergency, such as chest pain or pressure, difficulty breathing, uncontrolled bleeding, persistent vomiting, or a severe allergic reaction. But sometimes people show up at the ER for another reason: dental problems. According to a recent National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, in 2010 more than 2.1 million people (most of whom were adults) went to the ER because of dental pain.

It’s never a good idea to visit the emergency room for dental problems. Very few hospitals are equipped to handle dental issues—they may be able to prescribe an antibiotic to treat an infection or pain medication to help you feel a little better, but the underlying issue causing the discomfort won’t be fixed. Plus, emergency room visits can be very costly. And finally, remember that when ER staff is trying to treat people who come in with preventable problems like cavity pain, it takes medical staff and resources away from patients who truly need immediate medical care.

Instead of waiting until a dental issue becomes incredibly painful, focus on making sure you and your family regularly get proper preventive dental care. Many routine problems like cavities and abscesses can be prevented by regular dental checkups and cleanings. If you don’t have dental insurance, there are still ways you can get preventive dental care. These free and low-cost resources can help.

Need dental care?

  • National Association of Free Clinics: The National Association of Free Clinics is the only national non-profit that provides a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, and/or behavioral health services to economically disadvantaged individuals who are predominately uninsured. Their website allows you to search by state to find free clinics in your area. Click here to check out The National Association of Free Clinics.
  • Bureau of Primary Healthcare: This is a searchable database of clinics that provide low-cost or free care (including dental care) to people without health insurance. Users can enter an address or zip code, or state and county for a list of clinics in their area. Click here to check out The Bureau of Primary Healthcare.
  • Local dental schools: Dental schools have clinics that allow students to gain experience by providing treatment at reduced costs to the patients. Licensed dentists closely supervise students as they treat patients. Additionally, post-graduate clinics are also available at most schools and offer services for people who are seeking an endodontist, orthodontist, periodontist, oral surgeon, etc. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers a complete list of dental schools in your area.

Need a prescription for a dental issue?

  • CVS. Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 888-616-2273 or visit http://www.cvs.com/healthsavingspass.
  • PatientAssistance.com, Inc. PatientAssistance.com is a free resource designed to help connect patients who can’t afford their prescription medications with patient assistance programs. We believe that medication should be affordable for all Americans, including low-income families and the uninsured, and our database features over 1000 programs that help make that possible. Call (888) 788-7921 or visit  http://www.patientassistance.com/
  • Rite Aid.  Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 800-748-3243 or visit  http://www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/rx_savings.jsf
  • Walgreens. Some pharmacies offer prescription memberships which provide the benefit of discounted prescription medications. Some may require a small annual fee. Call 866-922-7312 or visit http://www.walgreens.com/pharmacy

For more tips on locating free or low-cost dental or medical care, visit www.HealthcareSurvivalGuide.com.


Eating Disorders: Finding a Road to Recovery

August 9, 2013

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, help is available. Generally, treatment for an eating disorder requires counseling, eating coaching, and support.

The first step to a full recovery is admitting that there is a problem and asking for help.  Unfortunately, even when family members confront the ill person about his or her behavior, or physicians make a diagnosis, individuals with eating disorders may deny that they have a problem. Thus, people with anorexia may not receive medical or psychological attention until they have already become dangerously thin and malnourished. People with bulimia are often normal weight and are able to hide their illness from others for years.  Eating disorders are most successfully treated when diagnosed early.

Luckily, once someone understands that help is needed, there is an abundance of inexpensive resources dedicated to helping people recover from eating disorders. Read on to learn about some available resources for help with eating disorders.

Online Tools

The following websites are dedicated to preventing and alleviating eating disorders.  They also offer a multitude of resources for help:

ANADThe National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Eating Disorders is a non-profit organization that specializes in getting people help, getting involved, or just providing information about eating disorders. They offer access to a helpline and email address you can use to contact someone from their organization. They also offer a list of treatment centers and support groups they are partnered with by state and region.

The ANAD Eating Disorders Helpline, 630-577-1330, takes calls Monday-Friday, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Central Time.

NEDANational Eating Disorders Association is another non-profit dedicated to battling eating disorders. They offer tons of informational material covering each eating disorder, contributing factors and ways to prevent eating disorders, and treatment and recovery options. They also include educator and coach training kits on how to help people who work with students or athletes who may be struggling with an ED.

Call their toll-free, confidential helpline, Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (EST): 1-800-931-2237

Other Resources

If you or someone you love are suffering from an eating disorder, the following professionals can serve as resources for help:

  • Your doctor
  • A licensed counselor
  • Your Employee Assistance Program

Remember, the first step to recovery is often the hardest, but once you say that you need help, other people’s support can help you move forward.


Teen Smoking – Get Them to Kick Their (Cigarette) Butts

August 7, 2013

The number of teens and young adults who use tobacco products remains surprisingly high in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3.6 million middle and high school students smoke cigarettes. In fact, for every person who dies due to smoking-related illnesses—more than 1,200 people each day—at least two teens or young adults become regular smokers. Nearly 90% of these “replacement” smokers try their first cigarette by age 18.

So what can you do?

The Mayo Clinic advises the best way to get your teens to quit smoking is by helping them avoid ever taking that first puff. Here are some tips to help you with this challenge:

  • Set a good example. If your kids see you smoking, how can you expect them to listen to you?
  • Say no to teen smoking. Tell them smoking isn’t allowed. Firm smoking restrictions may sway them not to try in the first place.
  • Appeal to your teen’s vanity. Remind your teen that smoking is dirty, smelly, gives them bad breath, wrinkles, makes their teeth yellow, and gives them less energy for sports.
  • Do the math. Sit down with your teen and calculate how expensive a smoking habit can really be. Chances are they will already be thinking about spending that money elsewhere, like saving up for a car.
  • Expect peer pressure. Rehearse with your teen on how to respond to peer pressure from friends and other teens.
  • Take addiction seriously. Tell them how hard it is to quit smoking, and that most adults who have died from smoking started when they were teenagers.
  • Predict the future. Teens tend to think they’ll live forever. Use loved ones, friends, or celebrities who’ve gotten smoking-related diseases as real-life examples.
  • Think beyond cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes, and hookahs are not safer than smoking cigarettes. They all carry health risks; don’t let your teen be fooled.

Consider supplementing the above tips with resources from the following organizations:

  • SmokeFreeTeen.gov is dedicated to helping teens and young adults quit smoking. They offer the Smokefree TXT text messaging service that provides your teen with 24/7 encouragement. Also, their QuitSTART app allows teens to track their mood, cravings, triggers, and overall smoke-free progress. Just sign up!  Please note, these resources are free from SmokeFreeteen.gov, but standard messaging and data rates apply.
  • Lung.org is sponsored by the American Lung Association and offers a lot of information about how to quit tobacco, why you should quit, and where you can find more help. They also offer information regarding federal, state, and community programs to help with tobacco cessation.
  • Kidshealth.org is a great resource for helping your kids quit smoking.  Plus, it also offers a lot of advice for other issues and risks that may impact your teens, such as drugs and alcohol, driving safety, and food and fitness!

Free and Low-Cost Help for Addiction

July 25, 2013

If you or someone you love are battling a drug or alcohol addiction, you are not alone.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there are roughly 20 million Americans currently suffering from behavioral or addictive disorders. Of these people, less than 10 percent are actively in treatment.

When dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, the road is never easy—especially if you’re concerned about costs. For those who have health insurance, many health insurance plans offer drug and alcohol treatment provisions, but coverage and details vary from one insurance company and policy to the next. If you have health insurance, you need to be informed about what is and is not covered under your specific plan.  But what about people who don’t have health insurance? Luckily, there are many state- and privately-funded organizations dedicated to helping people overcome their fight with addiction. Read on to find out more about resources and other free and low-cost places and organizations that you or a loved one can turn to for support and help regarding recovery.

Resources from The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD):

  • NCADD: Get Help—Learn how seeking help is not only the first step, but the most important step.
  • If you are looking for help or information but don’t know where to turn locally, use the NCADD affiliate finder.
  • The NCADD also has a lot of information about both confronting and coping with drug and alcohol addictions.

Support groups:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous–For alcoholics and recovering alcoholics who are seeking support. Includes a meeting finder to locate AA meetings in your area.
  • Al-Anon and Alateen–For those whose lives have been affected by a loved one’s alcoholism.  Learn what to expect at your first meeting, and find meetings in your area.
  • Narcotics Anonymous–For those who are addicted to narcotics.  Includes a meeting finder as well as links to recovery literature.

Other places to turn for help:

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse–includes resources for people in recovery, parents, and youths, plus news articles regarding addiction and recovery.
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism–includes articles about how alcohol affects your health, how alcohol affects teens, college drinking prevention, and more.
  • Your employer—ask your Human Resources team if you have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through your company.  If so, you may be able to receive telephonic counseling that can help you with addiction-related issues.

For more free and low-cost health resources, visit www.HealthcareSurvivalGuide.com.  Also, check with your employer to see if your employee benefits package includes an advocacy service such as Health Advocate (if not, you can check out Health Advocate’s consumer division, Health Proponent).  An advocacy service can help connect you to medical providers, such as primary care physicians or mental health specialists, who can help with addiction-related issues.


Finding Transportation for Long-Distance Medical Care

July 16, 2013

If you or someone you love is seriously ill and needs to be transported to a medical center for treatment that’s not close by, what are your options? There are several organizations that offer free or low-cost travel for patients, through charitable donations such as:

  • Angel Flight West arranges free, non-emergency air travel for children and adults with serious medical conditions and other compelling needs.  The organization consist of 1,600 pilots throughout 13 western states who donate their aircraft, piloting skills and all flying costs to help families in need.
  • Air Charity Network is an organization that provides access for people who are seeking no-cost air transportation to specialized healthcare facilities or distant destinations due to family, community, or national crises. Air Charity Network serves all 50 states and its volunteer pilots utilize their own aircraft, fuel and time to provide free air transportation to medical facilities for people who are financially distressed or otherwise unable to travel on public transportation.  
  • Corporate Angel Network helps cancer patients access the best possible treatment by arranging free travel to treatment across the country using empty seats on corporate jets. Eligibility to participate in the program is open to all cancer patients, bone marrow donors and bone marrow recipients who are ambulatory and not in need of medical support while traveling. Eligibility is not based on financial need, and patients may travel as often as necessary.  
  • Miracle Flights for Kids helps families overcome financial obstacles by flying their seriously ill children to receive proper medical care and to get second opinions.
  • Mercy Medical Airlift helps those in need of medical access transportation.
  • National Patient Travel Center provides information about all forms of charitable, long-distance medical transportation and provides referrals to all appropriate sources of help available in the national charitable medical transportation network. The purpose of the National Patient Travel Center is to ensure that no financially needy patient is denied access to distant specialized medical evaluation, diagnosis or treatment simply because they lack a means of traveling long-distance.
  • The Volunteer Pilots Association (VPA) provides flights to people in need who must travel to receive necessary medical treatment. 

For more free and low-cost health resources, visit The Healthcare Survival Guide website.