Mindfulness in motion: Stay in the moment on the go
When your body is on autopilot, your mind may wander. Dwelling on the past or future is fertile ground for stress to arise, advises OHSU researcher Jeffrey Proulx, Ph.D.
Instead, Proulx encourages mindfulness, a pause from the whirlwind of our lives and minds.
“Being mindful can be as simple as asking yourself, ‘What am I thinking about? Is my mind somewhere else?’” he says. “I encourage people to consciously engage in whatever it is they are doing, even if it is just sitting on the bus. Sit on that bus fully and do it well, with awareness of your posture and breathing. Do the next activity with continued awareness of inner and outer posture.”
Simple ways to be mindful include settling your mind on bodily sensations, but not identifying the sensations as your own. Listen to the universe of sounds all around. Experience 10 deep breaths from beginning to end. Allow yourself to relax in body and mind and concentrate on what is happening now. Whatever you were worried about will still be there two minutes or two hours later. “The weight of doing stuff all the time is heavy; so non-doing, being still and quiet and opening ourselves to the present moment without judgment, is a recipe for resilience,” Proulx says. “Life can be stressful; mindfulness is a lovely way to realize that underneath our busy thoughts, we are already free.”
Summer Safety: Here comes the sun — tips and tricks for the best (and safest) summer ever
Sunburns, bug bites, dehydration — all are common pitfalls that can quickly derail your family’s summertime fun. As you gear up for lazy days by the pool and long walks in the woods, keep these health and safety tips in mind.
Choosing a high-SPF sunscreen is the best way to protect your children from the damaging effects of the sun, right?
“Sunscreen is important but it is actually my second line of defense in sun protection,” says Dr. Tracy Funk, a pediatric dermatologist at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “Sun-protective clothing is foolproof and doesn’t wear off over time, unlike sunscreen.”
Funk recommends clothes with UPF (UV protection provided by fabric) ratings — including rash guards or swim shirts for water activities — but regular clothing might work in a pinch. “Hold up clothing to a light,” she explains. “If it has a tight weave and not a lot of light goes through, then it’s got pretty good sun protection.”
Consider a sunshade over outdoor play areas, and don’t forget hats and sunglasses. “It can be difficult to keep these on kids,” admits Funk, “but just keep trying. Straps are useful.”
Of course, sunscreen is still essential for protecting the face and other exposed skin. Regardless of SPF, you still must reapply it every one to two hours. In fact, spending more on high-SPF sunscreen is generally a waste. “SPF 50 is almost as effective as SPF 100,” says Funk. “What’s more important is that the sunscreen is broad spectrum, which means it protects against UVA and UVB light.” If your kids will be swimming or playing in water, look for “very water resistant” varieties, which will last through 80 minutes of water activities.
Recently, rumors have circulated about the potentially harmful effects of chemical UV filters, such as oxybenzone. “I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” says Funk. “All the sunscreens that are available are safe and effective.” The mineral sunscreens, which contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are great options for people that have concerns about sunscreen safety. Sunscreens to avoid are the spray-on variety, which often are inadequately applied and are easy to accidentally inhale.
But won’t sunscreen lead to low vitamin D? In short, no. People get vitamin D from their diet as well. More importantly, sun damage has a cumulative effect, which means the exposure your kids get now will affect them in adulthood. “Sunlight is a powerful carcinogen, and exposure can lead to skin cancer,” Funk says. “It’s easy to supplement the diet with vitamin D if necessary.”
Itchy and scratchy
Sunburns can surprise even the most vigilant parents, and according to Funk, sunburned kids should stay out of the sun until any redness is gone. In the meantime, a lukewarm bath can offer some relief, as can ibuprofen and topical hydrocortisone cream. Usually, though, it’s bug bites that have us begging for itch relief. What’s the best way to keep mosquitoes from treating our children like an all-you-can-eat buffet?
“DEET is the most effective insect repellent,” says Funk. “It has been shown to be safe even for kids as young as two months of age.” Products with 10 to 30 percent DEET are plenty effective, and last for between two to five hours.
Dr. Funk recommends repellents with DEET if you’re in an area with insect-transmitted disease. There are several more natural insect repellents on the market, and these may be reasonable options when insect-related diseases are not a concern.
If you’re tempted to get one of those bug repellent/sunscreen combo products, resist. Sunscreen must be applied every two hours, which would be far too much repellent.
Beat the heat
Children are experts at playing outside. Staying hydrated? Not so much. “Pay attention when it’s hot out,” says Dr. Sarah Green, a pediatrician at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “Make sure your kids are taking breaks to drink water.”
With some children, though, that’s easier said than done. “Having their own water bottle with special straw can be helpful,” says Green. “Putting ice in it can be appealing.” If all else fails, try DIY juice Popsicles. (At that point, juice is preferable to nothing.)
When it’s very hot out, Green recommends seeking shade and avoiding the outdoors during peak sun hours. “One dangerous situation can be sports practices, when children don’t feel well and are asked to perform,” she warns.
Signs of dehydration include dry, cracked lips, decreased urine, darker urine and low levels of sweat despite the heat. For babies, watch out for unusually dry diapers or less wet diapers in a day. If you see any of these signs, it’s time to “get out of the sun, get in a cooler spot, and work on drinking fluids,” says Green.
If your child seems disoriented, sleepy, confused or nauseated, it could mean a dangerous rise in core temperature, which warrants a trip to the emergency room. “While we want to keep babies out of the sun, be careful about covering strollers as it can make the baby even warmer,” Green says.