Stress Strategies

From coping with the holidays, to dealing with the darker and shorter winter days, to the ongoing stress that results from care-giving, many of us experience stress on a regular basis and have different ways to cope with it.

Today, the Office on Women’s Health and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine hosted a live conversation on Twitter about stress – they called it a #stresschat. Want to catch up on the conversation? Go here. Many different people and organizations have been participating in today’s conversation on Twitter. Here are some resources people shared that I am finding helpful.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) helps us understand what stress actually is:

Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life. Stress is a normal feeling. However, long-term stress may contribute to or worsen a range of health problems including digestive disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, and other symptoms. Stress may worsen asthma and has been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

NCCAM also talks about relaxation techniques we can all use to reduce tension and address the stress we are experiencing. Different techniques include deep breathing, guided imagery and meditation. Want to learn more? Check out these five things to know about relaxation techniques for stress.

The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health says, “If you’re alive, you experience stress.” How true that is.

A little bit of stress is ok, but chronic stress can have long-lasting impacts on our health. Dr. Susan Lord, a Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member and expert in mind-body medicine, says we can “transform stress by intentionally activating the relaxation response, which increases blood flow to the brain and releases chemicals that make your organs slow down.” And that’ a good thing.

There are seven steps she suggests to activating our relaxation response and increase our mindful living:

  1. Develop self-awareness via yoga and meditation.
  2. Express yourself creatively.
  3. Be here now. Live in the present moment – not too much in the past or the future.
  4. Find community.
  5. Identify stressful thoughts and beliefs. Eavesdrop on your internal dialogue. Just noticing will prepare you to start shifting stressful thoughts and beliefs to more positive ones.
  6. Do experiments: “Identify one concern you have about your life or health, and come up with a new way to deal with it.”
  7. Avoid judgment. Notice when you start to criticize yourself and others, and be kind instead.

These are all great tips that you can use to care for yourself. But what about when you have someone else to care for, as well? AARP talks about when caregivers experience a lot of stress – and what to do to take care of yourself and the other person you’re caring for.

AARP has their own list of 10 tips. Here are just a few!

  • Put your physical needs first. If you’re not caring for yourself (eating well, getting enough sleep, getting regular medical check-ups…), you wont’ be in any shape to care for others.
  • Ask for help.
  • Get organized. Develop a system with calendars and to-do lists to help you stay on top of it all.
  • Take a break. You deserve it. Really.

We all experience significant stress at some point in our lives. It is so important that we take care of ourselves, model self-care to others, and be there for others who may be going through a tough time. What are some strategies that work for you? What is one new thing you plan to try to manage the stress in your life?

Join us at tonight’s World AIDS Day concert!

Every year, December 1st is World AIDS Day – a day when all us around the world unite together in the fight against HIV, show our support for people living with HIV and commemorate those who have died. Learn more about World AIDS Day and how you can get involved here.

Tonight, BABES Network-YWCA will be attending Wo’Pop World AIDS Day Concert – a free KEXP concert – at the EMP Museum. From 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM, join Wo’ Pop host Darek Mazzone for this free, all ages event complete with art, snacks, education, culture, and music provided by Chimurenga Rennaissance, and Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited.

We hope you will join us! RSVP here.


Participating Wo’ Pop World AIDS Day partners: Lifelong, EMP Museum, East African Community Services, Fred Hutchinson, One Vibe Africa, BABES Network YWCATheo Chocolates, and with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Time of Thanks!

It is really early in the morning and once again the phone alarm clock is ringing. It has been cold lately and your warm bed with fluffy pillows probably feel quite nice. You would love to snuggle deep under the covers and go back to sleep. Yet like many of us, you have to go to work!

Have you ever taken time to stop and consider how many lives the work you do really affect? Come on, pause for a minute and think about it!

As I prepared to write this post, I instinctively thought of Thanksgiving. No, I didn’t think of the meal I would eat or whether or not the Seattle Seahawks will beat the San Francisco 49ers this week! My mind drifted to the women we serve through Women’s Health Outreach at the YWCA!

Between July 2013 and June 2014, our team of three  provided 7,658 individuals – mostly women – with educational information and materials  regarding breast cancer and the importance of cancer screenings! Of this number, 445 women attended one of our monthly community mobile mammogram events in King County and had a mammogram. As a result of these mammogram events, breast cancer was found and treated in two women! Imagine the sighs of relief and the depths of appreciation from these women and their families.

Even though the people represented above entrusted Women’s Health Outreach with their health care and health education, we could never have done any of it without the Breast, Cervical, and Colon Health Program of Washington State, the Puget Sound Susan G. Komen Foundation, Swedish Medical Center, or the many donors who contribute dollars to help offset the cost of services provided.

In addition, we are grateful for the churches, schools, mosques, temples, stores, businesses and community centers that allow us to use space in their facilities to work with our patrons. And of course we can never forget our volunteers: Mrs. Etta, Mom Emma Guiterrez, Agnes, Gabby, Jenn and Letitia for supporting the cause, our work and the women we serve.

Finally, we would like to thank our co-workers at the YWCA,  friends, and families for everything done to give our careers a sense of purpose!

Although Women’s Health Outreach is a small program of Health Access within the YWCA of Seattle, we are grateful this Thanksgiving! Please take a few moments and share the things you are thankful for with us and others.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Winter Weather

winterweatherCan you believe it? It’s nearly wintertime. In the past, snowstorms and extreme weather have caught us off guard – and this year, we can all plan ahead to be better prepared.

To be safe on the roads, consult the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Winter Weather Response Map. The map will show you where snow plows have been and you can view road conditions via traffic cameras. For those of us who get around by bus, King County Metro will show you your planned Snow Route – just type in your bus route number in the search bar and click Enter on your keyboard. Learn more about what the Seattle Department of Transportation does to prepare for winter weather and who to contact for information by reading SDOT’s incredibly helpful Winter Weather 2013-2014 brochure. And if you’re concerned about other hazards and threats that might threaten your transportation – like flooding – sign up for an email or phone notification from the Regional Public Information & Notification emergency alert system.

On top of being safe while in transit, there are ways we can be safe in our homes. Thanks to Public Health of Seattle & King County for the tips below.

Be careful what you burn. Burning fuels like gasoline, propane, oil, kerosene, natural gas, coal or wood can let off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. To be safe and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Only use a generator outside and away from windows and vents
  • Don’t use a generator or portable propane heater indoors, in a garage or in a car port
  • Don’t cook or head indoors by using a charcoal or gas grill

Carbon monoxide poisoning can feel like a splitting headache, nausea and vomiting, and lethargy and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get fresh air immediately and call for medical help from a neighbor’s home.

If you lose power, use different ways to stay warm. Try to stay with friends and family who still have power. Or, go to a city location set up for people without power. To find out where these locations are, visit when there’s bad weather – they’ll have the location information listed. If you do stay at home, close all curtains and cover windows and doors with blankets. Everyone should stay together in one room with the door closed to warm each other and the room with body heat. Wear multiple layers of lightweight clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. And don’t forget to put on those hats and mittens!

And please do what you can to help others!

  • Check on elderly friends, family members, and neighbors to make sure they are alright.
  • Warn others about carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Invite friends and family over if you know they have lost power.

What other tips do you have on how to stay safe and warm this winter?

Breast Cancer Awareness Year-Round!

Another Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come and gone, now my questions as a health educator are these!

How many women over 40 actually went to have a mammogram or scheduled an appointment this month?

How many actually perform self-breast exams?

How many encouraged other women to do these things?

How many talked with their teen daughter about the importance of regular mammography screenings once they’re 40?

How many women encourage the men in their lives to perform self-chest and testicular exams?

With the American Cancer Society predicting 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer this year and 40,000 of those findings ending in death, the fact remains there are risk factors that cannot be changed. Many YWCAs and other organizations across the country spend their time and talents educating women about the importance of being screened. Those of us working in YWCA Women’s Health Outreach in Seattle also encourage people to be screened and know your personal risk factors.

The American Cancer Society says,

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer.

Watch this video and see how one woman and her family are addressing their risk factors!

After you have learned what your personal risk factors are, take charge of your health, learn everything you can about the impact of the risk factor on your chance of getting breast cancer and become involve in finding a cure!

Volunteer with an organization working to eradicate the disease, participate in research, consider financial contributions, manage the risk factors you can control and communicate with others in your social networks on the topic of breast cancer – not just in October!  If you need to schedule a mammogram or connect with a speaker for your women’s group, book club, community event or church gathering – contact me at 206-461-4489. I can assist you throughout the year!

Enrolling in health insurance for 2015

Open Enrollment is on its way! Starting on Saturday, November 15th, we’ll be able to apply for, renew, or change our health insurance plans through the Washington state Health Benefit Exchange. This year, enrollment runs from November 15, 2014 – February 15, 2015. Here are some important dates to keep in mind:

  • November 15, 2014. This is your first day to apply for, keep, or change your coverage.
  • December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by December 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.
  • December 31, 2014. The day all 2014 Marketplace [also known as Health Benefit Exchange] coverage ends, no matter when you enrolled. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.
  • February 15, 2015. The last day you can enroll in 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.

There will be double the number of plans available for 2015 coverage as there were for 2014 – so make sure to take some time to review the plans to find the best one for you and your family. If you signed up for a 2014 plan through the Exchange, you will most likely be eligible to automatically renew for 2015. However, it’s possible that your plan may be one of the few not available for 2015 – so best to double-check. Regardless of which plan you chose in 2014, you will be able to update your application and shop for new plan options.

If you want coverage from a new plan to start January 1, 2015, be sure to enroll by December 23, 2014, at 4:59pm. Also, keep an eye out for “Open Enrollment Renewal” notices from Washington HealthPlanFinder – this letter will give you more information about 2015 coverage, the renewal process, and any steps you might need to take.

Don’t forget that, if you’re eligible, you can enroll in Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) throughout the year. There is no enrollment period for this health coverage. If you are enrolled in Apple Health now, you will receive a notice 60 days before the month you enrolled or renewed your coverage last year.

If you would like any assistance at all during the enrollment period, please reach out to a certified Navigator in your area. You can do a search here. Navigators will assist you at no cost to you, and they are committed to helping you find, compare, and select a health plan that’s best for you and your family.

Breast Health Education & Teens!

Parents are a child’s first teachers! We spend countless hours assisting young people in acquiring skills that we hope will enable them to make wise decisions over the course of their lives. Yet many parents find it difficult to have conversations with their children about physical anatomy and human sexuality. Is it discomfort that keeps parents from addressing these topics? Perhaps it is because  many parents are not prepared, while still others simply fear having these vital conversations and believe this information will fuel the flame of curiosity.

Marilyn @ Naam 2012

Marilyn Calbert at a mobile screening event

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as a YWCA Wellness Advocate, I have been leading many conversations around breast health and supporting community mammography screening events. At one event in particular, I noticed a teen with her mother staring intently at the prosthetic teaching device as I demonstrated how to perform a breast self exam to the woman. The look on the teen’s face displayed mixed emotions. I could see fear as I talked about breast cancer, and I could see curiosity as she moved in closer to the model and crept her finger to the edge of it as she discretely tried to touch it. I also watched her mother squirm with discomfort as she watched her daughter. The mother shared that she brought her daughter to the event to teach her the importance of having a mammogram.

The mother also told me how her daughter had been asking her about the purpose behind the pink ribbon campaign. She had asked, “Do you get mammograms, Mom?”  The mother had replied yes, had explained the process of a mammogram to her daughter, and had asked if she would like to come with her to the appointment. Having come to the mammography event together, they both looked at me with smiles of relief as I continued sharing information about breast health with both of them!

Since that interaction, I have looked more closely at information on the importance of explaining mammograms and gynecological exams to teens:

Helping teens gain this awareness is giving them a boost up to being healthy adults. Every teenage girl should have had at least one pelvic exam by the time she graduates from high school. This exam should come sooner if she is sexually active. During the visit for the pelvic exam, the doctor will also perform a clinical breast exam, palpitating both breasts and under the arms to check for lumps and other signs (such as dimpling of the skin and unusual discharge from the nipple) of breast cancer.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month continues and I continue educating women and their families about the importance of mammograms, I am reminded of this teen and her mom. I am also reminded of my very first mammogram at the age of 18. My mom hadn’t talked to me about self breast exams, nor had she taken me to a mammogram appointment with her  – even though she went to them faithfully. And I don’t remember there being such wide-spread media coverage or public information in my community about breast health and breast cancer.

At 18 years old, I discovered a lump! I immediately told my mom and we made an appointment to have things checked out. After having a clinical breast exam by the doctor, I had my very first mammogram. I remember being afraid, crying and praying! Many thoughts went through my mind and I didn’t understand what was going on with my body. For the next few days, I read everything I could on the breast and breast cancer.

At that time – in the 1970s – the recommendation was to have surgery and have the lump removed. These days, doctors often perform an ultrasound or biopsy to learn more about what’s going before talking about surgery. After my surgery, I awoke in recovery and the first thing I did was touch my breast. I cannot began to tell you the relief and joy I felt when it was just a benign cyst! Everything was ok.

From that day till this one, I have always examined my breasts, had mammograms, and encouraged others to do monthly self breast exams on the 7th day after their cycle starts or on the date of their birth if they are no longer having menstrual cycles.

If you don’t have health insurance or are in need of a mammogram, call  206-461-4489 and I can assist you!

Health Fair @ KeyArena – Free Dental, Medical, Vision Care

The Seattle Center Foundation is hosting a free dental, vision and medical care health fair – and YOU are invited! The health fair will go take place on October 23-26 at the Seattle Center. See below for the flyer and very important logistical information. For additional information, visit the health fair’s website.



How Do I Get Into the Clinic?

  • No registration necessary – first come, first served!
  • Both the parking garage (1st Ave N) and the building (NW Rooms) where people line up to get admission numbers open at 12 Midnight each day (Click here for map)
  • Limited admission numbers, for that day only, will be distributed starting at 3:30am.
  • The first patients will be admitted to the clinic by number starting at 5:30am.

How Should I Prepare for the Clinic?
Please be advised that this will be a long day and you are responsible for your needs.

  • ALL WELCOME. Patients DO NOT need identification or proof of citizenship.
  • Bring some food and beverages including breakfast, lunch, snacks and water.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Minors need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
  • When your number is called and you enter KeyArena, you will stay inside until you have received all the services you are seeking for the day. If you leave KeyArena, you cannot return that day. Be prepared for a long day at the clinic.

Will Someone Speak My Language?

  • Interpretation services will be available to assist patients throughout the clinic.

What Happens Once I Enter the Clinic?

  • Because of the large number of patients, you can only seek care in either vision or dental, in addition to medical care, in one day.
  • Patients can wait in line for an admission number on another day for additional services.
  • We will collect basic personal information including name, age, height, weight, and medical history.
  • In each service area (dental, vision, or medical) you will wait your turn in line and will be seen on a first come, first served basis.

What Not to Bring:

  • No drugs, alcohol, or weapons are allowed on the premises.
  • Pets, except service animals.

NOTE: Narcotics will not be used or prescribed. Authorization for medical marijuana will not be provided.

Find out more in Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Patient Parking & Admission Line Map

Violence: Learn more, Do more

Where have you experienced or witnessed violence in your life?

Futures_Share_Graphic_650px-3Futures Without Violence has found that about 1 in 3 teenagers report some kind of abuse – including emotional and verbal abuse – in a romantic relationship.

Every day, an average of 483 women are raped or sexually assaulted in the United States.

In the past year, more than 5 million children were exposed to physical intimate partner violence – 6.6% of children in our country. Of these children, 1 in 3 reported being physically abused themselves.

With statistics like these, we could say that we have all been exposed to violence somewhere and at some point in our lives – whether we’ve experienced it ourselves or someone close to us has. We see the consequences to exposure to violence all around us. Violence leads to more violence and our exposure to it impacts our health and the health of our loved ones. For example:

  • Women victimized by abuse are more likely to be diagnosed with serious health problems including depression, panic attacks, high risk behaviors such as tobacco and substance abuse and sexual risk taking, as well as migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, inconsistent use of birth control, and delayed entry into prenatal care.

  • Pregnant women are frequent targets of abuse and, as a result, are placed at risk for low birth weight babies, pre-term labor — pregnant and parenting teens are especially vulnerable.

  • Abused children and those exposed to adult violence in their homes may have short and long term physical, emotional and learning problems, including: increased aggression, decreased responsiveness to adults, failure to thrive, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, hyper vigilance and hyperactivity, eating and sleeping problems, and developmental delays.

It’s one thing to know more about violence in our communities and in our country – and another to be able to do something about it. When I stop and think – Ok, how, then, do we stop violence? – I get stuck. It’s such a BIG issue and incredibly complex. But it seems a few groups of people have some ideas. Here are a few ideas from the Coalition to End Violence Against Women in Sudbury, Canada:

  1. Recognize that it’s a men’s issue: Violence against women is not just a woman’s issue, it’s also a men’s issue that involves men of all ages, socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  2. Break the silence: When you are ready, tell others your stories about survival; this can help others share their stories thus reducing the shame associated with abuse.
  3. Listen to women: When a woman discloses about violence in her life, listen and believe her.Futures_Share_Graphic_650px-1
  4. Heal the violence in your own life: Many of us are survivors of abuse in some way and many of us fear becoming a victim of violence.  If you are emotionally, psychologically, physically or sexually abused, get help. Get counselling or join a support groupIf you are abusive to women, in any way, get help now.
  5. Make violence your business: Some of us tend to have this belief that violence is a private thing and we should not be asking questions about other people’s business or relationships – especially when there is trouble. If you suspect violence in a home or if someone is being abused, ask them. Looking the other way will not help end violence against women. They may not tell you right away but your concern may show them you are someone they can trust. If you need extra support in support someone who is being abused, call your local women’s shelter or crisis line.
  6. Raise non-violent children: Talk to your children about abuse and violence. Help them find non-violent ways to solve conflicts and encourage co-operative and non-violent play. Don’t use violence as punishments.
  7. Support initiatives that promote women’s equality: Women make up the majority of victims of abuse. Get involved in your community’s rallies or awareness campaigns on ending violence. Help raise money so we can continue to our prevention work or volunteer in an organization working to end violence against women.
  8. Challenge sexism: Media often portray women as sexual objects and often use images of violence against women to sell products.  Websites, music, movies, even books often describe and portray women in a sexual degrading or abusive manner. This is not OK. Challenge those statements by talking about the realities of women. Challenge gender roles.

Next week is the YWCA’s Week without Violence – a signature initiative created by YWCA USA nearly 20 years ago to mobilize people in communities across the United States to take action against all forms of violence, wherever it occurs. What will you do to take a stand, interrupt violence, and promote peace, health and wellness? What will you do to get involved?

Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.

-Martin Luther King, Jr. 


For support around domestic violence, contact Doris O’Neal in Seattle at 206.280.9961 or JoJo Goan in South King County at 425.226.1266, ext.1017 or Learn more about YWCA services available for individuals and families experiencing domestic violence. To speak with a counselor to talk through something you’re experiencing, call us at 425.922.6192.

Know Your Body

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the time of year when we all strengthen our focus on breast health for women and men. If you don’t know how to examine your own breasts, take a moment to learn. If you haven’t had your mammogram yet this year, take a moment to schedule that appointment. And if you want to talk to someone about joining one of our mobile screening events, call Ingrid Berkhout at 206.461.4493, Marilyn Calbert at 206.461.4489, or Karly Garcia at 425.226.1266 x1006.



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