Since COVID-19 swept through the United States and the world, our collective mental health has languished. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 2 in 5 Americans say they’re struggling with mental health concerns as a result of the pandemic. And research suggests that stay-at-home orders took a particular toll, with people experiencing greater anxiety and getting less restorative sleep.
Unfortunately, as COVID-19 cases hit historic highs, states are beginning to reinstate restrictions, and millions of Americans are being urged to once again hunker down. We may even see lockdowns again in some areas.
But new research suggests there may be an antidote to the emotional strain of pandemic fatigue: “flow.”
How ‘Flow’ Can Help With Lockdown Stress
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first coined the concept of mental “flow” to refer to stretches of time when a person is completely focused on whatever they’re doing.
When you’re in a state of flow, you may lose track of time, you are active, and you may feel aware of yourself only in relation to the task at hand.
The new study on flow, published in the scientific journal PLOS One last week, included more than 5,000 individuals who were quarantined in China in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic. They answered online survey questions about how many times in the prior week they’d felt utterly absorbed by whatever they were doing, and to what extent they’d felt simultaneously stimulated and challenged — all elements of flow.
After analyzing the responses, researchers found that flow was linked to decreased loneliness and higher levels of positive emotion among people who were stuck at home during COVID-19.
And while generally, the longer people were under lockdown, the greater the negative emotional impact, people who experienced flow tended to fare better over time.
“No one can tell you what brings you flow; you have to discover and experience [it] yourself.”
– Claire Nicogossian, clinical psychologist and author
The findings are still fairly new and the researchers only established an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship, between flow and better mental health.
But outside experts agree that flow may be a powerful buffer against the emotional strain of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.
“Flow is a brilliant skill and strategy to incorporate into an individual’s routine and life — especially now,” said Claire Nicogossian, a clinical psychologist and author of “Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood.”
“You’re so engaged in something you enjoy, [that makes] you feel purposeful, connected, and sharing your gifts with others or learning something new or something you love, that you lose sense of time and experience the positive benefits from being engaged in this activity,” she added.
How To Cultivate Flow
So what puts a person in a state of flow? Experts tend to point to hobbies like playing music, knitting, cooking, gardening or doing something athletic such as playing a sport, going for a run or doing yoga. Some people find themselves in a flow state while doing their work.
But if you’re not, say, an avid yogi, or you hate to cook, that’s OK.
“There are individual differences in how we experience flow,” Nicogossian said. “And, no one can tell you what brings you flow; you have to discover and experience [it] yourself.”
If you’re stumped about what might help you cultivate mental flow, Nicogossian suggests thinking back to your childhood or teenage years. Ask yourself: “What were the activities you did when you were growing up or before life became focused on productivity and responsibilities when you experienced flow?”
(One note: Being totally immersed in a movie or TV show is not the same thing as being in a state of flow, because it’s not active. In general, experts say there’s a difference between pure leisure activities and more active, flow-inducing ones.)
If nothing springs to mind when you think back on old hobbies and interests, then maybe take this time to be “curious” about yourself, Nicogossian added. What do you daydream about? What do you think you might be drawn to? Now could be the time to give it a try.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wildly challenging time for millions of Americans, many of whom are balancing economic stress, illness, the loss of loved ones and unrelenting child care demands — all on top of social isolation. Finding small ways to tap into “flow” might just be one small way to push back against all of that stress as we head into what public health experts warn will be a long, hard winter. Time for more bread-baking, anyone?
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Can Decorating For Fall Make You Happier? Experts Weigh In.
Have you ever just looked at a display of pumpkins, gourds and Halloween lights at a neighbor’s house (or even in your own home) and felt instantly happier? Well, there’s a scientific explanation for that.
Joy doesn’t have to come from big gestures or monumental days; it can come from little moments, too. It’s important to have things that we find pleasurable incorporated into our lives throughout the year, said Dr. Elaina DellaCava, a psychiatrist at New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
For many people, one of those pleasures is the simple act of decorating for fall. Experts told HuffPost why decorating for the season may benefit your mental health.
The colors of fall can evoke happy feelings.
“Colors can influence our mood and can actually create a surge of dopamine, which is our happiness hormone,” DellaCava said.
A 2020 study found that the color orange ― often seen in popular fall decorations like pumpkins, autumn leaves and Halloween string lights ― is more associated with joy and overall positive feelings. So, those pumpkins on your table may actually make you happier when you catch a glimpse of them.
The same research also showed that yellow, another popular color for fall home decor, is associated with feelings of joy and amusement.
Traditions can remind us of good times and give us something to look forward to.
Whether you realize it or not, decorating for fall every year means that you officially have a decorating tradition. And this is a good thing for your mental health.
“Traditions give us something to look forward to,” DellaCava said.
In general, she noted, traditions are often associated with feeling close to family or friends. (Examples might include your Friendsgiving celebration or apple picking with your kids.) Annual decorating may connect you with neighbors who are doing it as well, or it may even be a fun yearly activity for your family or roommates.
These traditions can also be something that you’ve carried on from your childhood and call up memories of an innocent, fun time in your life, when you would go trick-or-treating with friends or carving pumpkins with siblings.
“Decorating for fall is a way to reconnect us with that part of ourselves,” DellaCava said.
And traditions can create some predictability in an unpredictable world.
The point of a tradition is that it happens at the same time every year. So, traditions give us a sense of predictability in our lives — but in an exciting way, DellaCava said.
Kim Gorgens, a clinical professor in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver, added that humans are habitual creatures who thrive on control.
“The illusions we have about having control over every controllable aspect of our lives really fuels mental stability,” Gorgens said.
Ultimately, we have very little control of our lives, she added — you can’t dictate major things like health issues or layoffs — but our physical environment plays a large part in our perception of control. In other words, we can control the organization of our kitchen cabinets or, in this case, the decorations we put on the windowsill.
Additionally, when we decorate at a certain point every year, we feel in control of time in relation to that activity, Gorgens added.
Decorating for fall allows us to benchmark our time.
Between back-to-school season and the end of beach vacations, fall signifies a new chapter for many people. But adults who are no longer in school have little to mark this change.
“There are interesting models of why time feels like it goes so much faster as we get older, and one of the explanatory models is we lose benchmarks,” Gorgens said.
As children, we get to look forward to learning to drive, getting to vote or being old enough to drink alcohol. “We have all of these big developmental milestones, and then we lose that,” Gorgens said.
This is where the seasonal decor comes in. “Fall is one way we are benchmarked to the passage of time,” Gorgens added.
And beyond just a change in the weather, having your home reflect the new season makes it much more of a benchmark.
Fall decorations give us a reason to celebrate our homes.
“We’re not unlike other mammals who make a den,” Gorgens said. “We are really invested in our space.”
What’s more, having a home, particularly a safe home, plays a huge role in our mental health, she noted. This goes back to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory about how certain fundamental necessities dictate our motivation and behavior. In this hierarchy, “the most important foundational component of well-being is having a safe home space,” Gorgens said.
So, when you have a home base (whether that’s a house, apartment, bedroom or other space), being able to decorate it for the time of year is a way of — knowingly or not — celebrating that place.
For those who recently left an unsafe situation, decorating their own space can be a crucial way to celebrate that victory, Gorgens added. This also rings true for anyone who recently purchased a home or moved into their first apartment.
“It’s a way of making really obvious the emotional investment you make in a home,” Gorgens said.
Between the pandemic and colder weather, we’re home more during the fall, which puts more importance on our space.
“Since the pandemic started, a lot of us are spending even more time [at] home,” DellaCava said, referring to the COVID-19 crisis. We’re working from home, commuting less and traveling less.
Plus, the days are shorter in the fall, so you’re more likely to be home in the evenings, DellaCava noted.
“More than ever, it’s helpful if our home feels like a place that feels relaxing, comfortable … [and] inviting,” she said.
When you decorate your space in a way that’s visually appealing, it will help your mood — especially when you’re stuck at home and dealing with loneliness or anxiety (two feelings that can come with the arrival of an earlier sunset).
“Decorations can make you feel connected with times you remember fondly, and that can help your mood and general sense of well-being,” DellaCava said.
In the end, going home to a cheerful space will only help your emotional well-being.
But with less sunlight, fall can be a tough time for many.
Seasonal affective disorder impacts millions of people every year. And while it exists in the spring and summer, it’s more associated with the fall and winter — seasons with fewer hours of sunlight and a higher production of the sleep hormone melatonin in our bodies.
If you have a hard time feeling excited about the arrival of fall, try to celebrate the season from time to time, Gorgens said. Practicing mindfulness, celebrating change and benchmarking the passage of time are all expert-backed recommendations for people who have difficulty with the colder seasons, she added.
For you, celebrating the season could mean sitting down with a mug of tea and your favorite movie. Or, it could mean putting on your favorite fleece sweatshirt and heading out for an autumn hike. You don’t necessarily have to put up ghostly decor for Halloween or adorn your stoop with pumpkins. Whatever it means to you, leaning into the season can make the shift a little easier, Gorgens noted.
Additionally, if you notice that your mood is consistently lower throughout the season and a cup of tea or fall hike isn’t helping, reaching out to a therapist could be a good idea, DellaCava stressed. And if you usually look forward to decorating for fall but can’t be bothered this year, that could also indicate a need to talk to someone.
For some people, the arrival of this new season is exciting, but for others, it’s a hard time of year. Just remember that there is help out there for those who need it.
If You Have These Oral Problems, You Probably Need To Floss More
Picture this: You’re at the dentist for your checkup. You think your pearly whites are perfect since you brush two times a day with a quality toothpaste, but then the dentist asks, “Have you been flossing?”
If you’re like me, you probably lie through your teeth (literally). However, you may want to think twice about skipping over the floss during your brushing routine the next time. It may cause problems with your teeth that could be easily prevented just by adding a little extra time to your dental hygiene routine every day.
Curious how? Here are seven problems you may experience if you don’t floss, according to dentists:
If you’re brushing your teeth and you notice that your gums are bleeding, that could indicate that you’re not flossing enough.
“If you don’t floss regularly, plaque builds up and can cause gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums,” said Dr. Lilya Horowitz, a dentist at Domino Dental in New York. “Signs of this include red, swollen or bleeding gums. If this isn’t treated, the plaque will continue to build up and cause gum disease.”
Dr. Gary Liu, a pediatric dentist at Kind Smiles in California, said that gum disease can also increase a person’s risk for heart disease and complications during pregnancy.
Some other reasons your gums may be bleeding are if you’re brushing too hard, taking blood thinners or wearing dentures that don’t fit properly. If you notice that this is an ongoing problem, you’ll want to visit your dentist as soon as possible to get that looked at.
Halitosis is the scientific name for “bad breath,” and the most common culprit is poor dental hygiene, which may include a lack of flossing.
“The most common cause of bad breath is waste from bacteria and dead skin cells and food particles in the mouth,” said Dr. Brian Harris, a dentist and the lead medical adviser for Snow and Frost Oral Care. “Flossing allows you to remove such particles, which will give you fresh breath and increased self-confidence.”
You may think that baby teeth are the only ones that fall out. However, for those who don’t floss enough, tooth loss could still become a reality.
“Without flossing, your teeth can become loose, fall out or need to be removed by a dentist after decay,” Horowitz said.
Tooth loss is more common in men and those older than 35. It can also stem from having high blood pressure, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, and those are issues you and your dentist will want to rule out before assuming that this problem is solely caused by lack of flossing.
From a young age, you were probably told to stay away from sugar and soda because it would give you cavities. Though that’s not totally out of the question, cavities can also be caused by not flossing enough.
“If you don’t floss regularly, plaque will form between the teeth, and the bacteria in the plaque can turn sugar from food and drinks into acid, which can slowly eat away at the teeth, causing a cavity,” Harris said.
Tartar, also known as dental calculus, develops when leftover food particles mix with bacteria in the mouth. If you’ve started to notice a yellowish-brown buildup around your teeth, that could be from not flossing enough.
“Tartar builds up when plaque remains between the teeth for an extended period of time,” Liu said.
How To Start Flossing Properly
Liu recommended flossing directly after brushing your teeth so the fluoride in the toothpaste can be flossed between the teeth. To do it properly, break off about 18 inches of floss and wind each end around your middle fingers. Then hold the ends between your thumbs and forefingers. Pull the floss taut. Guide the floss between each of your teeth and use a gentle rubbing motion.
The type of floss you use matters, too, Liu said. Here are some you may want to consider:
- Thread floss, like this Up & Up floss, is easy to use to glide in between the teeth. This type of floss is often coated with a light wax.
- On the other hand, unwaxed floss can help to remove plaque, and it is slightly thicker. This one from CVS Health is a well-reviewed option.
- Dental tape can be a thicker and broader floss that doesn’t fray or break as easily. This option from CVS Health is good for people with wider spacing between the teeth.
- Super floss, like this option by Oral-B, usually has stiffer sections on each end, so it can be guided between teeth, braces or dental bridges more easily.
- Biodegradable and natural floss, like this floss by Tree Bird, is easier on the environment. These can be made of silk and waxed with plant-derived candelilla wax.
Finally, while flossing more can be good for most people, not everyone should floss regularly. Horowitz said that those with orthopedic implants shouldn’t go too hard with flossing.
Additionally, you’ll want to schedule regular visits to your dentist, who can rule out any underlying infections and issues that may not be attributed to lack of flossing (oral cancer, tartar buildup, tooth decay, etc.).
Many Third-Generation Latinos Don’t Speak Spanish. They’re Tired Of Being Judged For It.
Growing up in Murrieta and Temecula, wine-producing suburbs about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, Spanish seemed nonexistent, she told HuffPost.
“For the most part, the majority of our peers were white,” Greer said.
But in the confines of her home, Greer received mixed messaging on the importance of being bilingual. Greer was born to a Mexican-American mother and a Mexican father who was granted amnesty during Ronald Reagan’s time in office. While her dad was adamant that she’d only speak English, her maternal grandmother had other ideas.
“Our grandmother, who we call ‘buela,’ short for abuela, wanted us to learn Spanish, and would speak it to us or try to teach us against our dad’s wishes,” she said.
Her mom would have preferred the kids be bilingual, too, but Greer said her dad feared that if they were, or if they had even a hint of a Spanish accent, “they would endure the same kind of abuse from white Americans” as he did as a kid growing up in the states.
Even soccer was off limits for Greer and her siblings: Football was fine, fútbol wasn’t.
“He wanted to avoid all Mexican stereotypes for us, so he’d encourage all-American sports like football or baseball,” said Greer, who’s now 29 and lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and two kids.
Since then, Greer’s attempts to learn Spanish have come in fits and starts: She tried taking it in high school, but it was Peninsular Spanish (Spanish spoken in Spain) and as a teen, she had trouble seeing the value in that particular dialect.
While stationed in Germany during her time in the U.S. Army, Greer tried Duolingo and Rosetta Stone, but again, it didn’t quite stick. Years later, she still hopes to learn the language once and for all.
“I feel like it’s a chunk of my identity that was missing growing up in a conservative, white space,” she said.
But what’s equally frustrating for Greer is the judgment she receives from others in the Latino American community for her lack of Spanish fluency. The criticism and cattiness is especially common online.
“The judgement has been more in recent years because social media has made it a thing to harass Latinos who don’t speak Spanish,” she said. “Now, I have to tell the world that I’m not white, because apparently now if you’re Mexican-American and don’t speak Spanish, it means you’re white.”
That’s a familiar Catch-22 for Latinos in the U.S.: You’re told to exclusively speak English in order to assimilate and get a better paying job, only to be judged by your community ― and sometimes other family members ― for not being “Latino enough” as a monolingual English speaker. It’s marginalization on top of marginalization.
“That bothers me because my experience growing up hasn’t been that I was a white-passing or white person,” Greer said. “If that was the case, other Mexicans wouldn’t have thought they could speak to me in Spanish. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have been ‘the Mexican friend’ for my white friends. I would’ve just been their friend.”
If that was the case, she thinks her father wouldn’t have felt that outsized fear of his daughter speaking the family’s native tongue.
Because of the desire to assimilate — and in some cases, generational trauma — it’s common for third-generation Latinos to exclusively speak English.
Greer is one of many third generation Latino-Americans who don’t speak Spanish. Recent Pew Research Center studies have found that while about half of second-generation self-identified Latino are bilingual, fewer than a quarter of third generation Latinos speak Spanish.
Others are “receptive bilinguals,” meaning they can understand more of a language than they can speak it.
In spite of the numbers, the “must speak Spanish” litmus test still plagues the third-gen community, said Carmen Fought, a professor of linguistics at Pitzer College and author of “Chicano English in Context, Language and Ethnicity, and Language and Gender in Children’s Animated Film.”
“When I did my research in East LA, several of the monolingual English speakers that I spoke with said that people teased them about it and said ‘you’re not really Mexican,’ particularly among girls,” Fought said.
“Growing up in the Bay Area, I felt like an imposter, or that I wasn’t ‘Latinx-enough’ to speak a language. I was intimidated, and still am, about my English accent.”
– Robin D. López, a Mexican-American ecologist who lives in Albany, California
At school and at home, “English-only” may be drilled into you but eventually, the gatekeeping comes from outside, too. That’s especially true in the workforce, according to Laura K. Muñoz, an assistant professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“Gatekeeping often comes from employers who expect every Latinx to be fluent English and Spanish speakers, which is ironic given the history of English-only and Americanization in our public schools,” the professor told HuffPost.
English-only proponents ― and some native Spanish-speaking parents ― worry that concurrently learning two languages will hinder kids’ English language acquisition. Research suggests otherwise, though; one 2019 University of Washington study suggested that exposure to multiple languages may make it easier to learn one.
For other parents, discouraging their kids from speaking Spanish is a by-product of having been punished for speaking the language in school. If you hear, “This is America, we speak English here” enough times, you’re bound to take the scolding to heart and pass it down to successive generations.
“There were even ‘Spanish detention slips’ in Los Angeles schools for a long time,” Fought said. “I just had a teacher tell me it still happens sometimes. They just call it something different like ‘disturbing the other students by speaking in class.’”
This issue became a minor news item in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries, when candidate and third-generation Mexican-American Julián Castro was pressed on why he didn’t speak Spanish ― especially while a white guy like fellow candidate Beto O’Rourke did.
While his grandma encouraged bilingualism, his parents feared their kids would be penalized for speaking Spanish in class just like they were, he explained.
As his brother, Texas congressman Joaquin Castro, said last year in an interview with KSAT-TV, “it really is just a generation of people who had a language literally beaten out of them in our school system.”
“It’s so tragic and unfortunate because it was not only the loss of a language, but also partly the loss of a culture,” he added.
The Castro brothers’ story was deeply felt by many. Ultimately, “[their] monoglot experience is just as authentic — and even more uniquely American,” Mexican-American essayist John Paul Brammer wrote in The Washington Post during the election.
Robin D. López, a Mexican-American ecologist who lives in Albany, California, is sure his family’s Spanish language abandonment is a result of generational trauma and the drive to assimilate as quickly and seamlessly as possible. (In López’s family, only his grandparents natively speak Spanish.)
His grandpa could never forget his uncle Antonio, an immigrant who was killed trying to start a new life in Riverbank, California, in the 1940s.
“He was a Mexican who dared dream of building generational wealth for his family,” López said. “His body was left blocks away from the family home in the Stanislaus River in 1945.”
“My grandfather was still just a child at the time,” he added. “I’d imagine that experience played a significant role in ensuring his descendants assimilated for survival.”
When it came to López knowing and learning Spanish, lack of exposure wasn’t an issue. He was raised in Richmond, California, and spent much of his youth working in Oakland communities with high populations of displaced people from Latin America as well as first generation folks who grew up speaking Spanish.
By the time he got up the nerve to learn Spanish on his own, López told HuffPost he’d already internalized that he was inadequate. Just imagining stumbling over a language he felt like he “should” be well-versed in from the get-go left him deeply self-conscious.
“Growing up in the Bay Area, I felt like an imposter, or that I wasn’t ‘Latinx-enough’ to speak a language,” he said. “I was intimidated, and still am, about my English accent.”
“Everyone usually spoke Spanish around me, but I also had a negative stereotype projected onto me,” he said. “I had the idea embedded into me that speaking Spanish could be weaponized against me, since our grandparents, particularly my mother’s father, have witnessed and experienced the abuse towards Spanish-speaking families.”
López’s dad eventually taught himself Spanish, but given his schedule working multiple jobs to provide for the family, he didn’t have much time to teach his kids. López, who has since learned Spanish himself enough to carry a conversation, doesn’t hold any of that against his dad.
“My dad does have regrets about not being able to teach his kids, but that’s not a fault or burden he should carry,” he said. “Not teaching the following generations Spanish was more or less a survival mechanism for our elders, to protect us.”
Fought, the linguistics professor, noted the inherent racism involved in discouraging speaking Spanish in the classroom.
“Imagine the difference between parents who speak Spanish or Cantonese and parents who speak French and come from Paris,” she said.
In the first case, “everyone worries that the kid won’t learn English and if they speak the other language at school, they may get teased or bullied,” Fought said. “They may be embarrassed to hear their parents speak it around their friends.”
In the latter case, Fought said everyone would be saying, “Oh, your mom is French, that’s so cool; it’s such a beautiful language.”
In some cases, the judgement over spotty Spanish-speaking comes from within a family.
Marisa Martín, a 26-year-old who lives in California’s Central Valley, is half Mexican and half German. Her dad, the Mexican half of the parental equation, speaks fluent Spanish and her mom is conversational in Spanish.
Growing up, Martín’s grandma babysat and tried to instill Spanish in her, but Martín rejected the lessons with all the stubbornness and defiance you’d expect of a toddler.
“I regret not learning then so much,” she told HuffPost. “I can understand and speak some Spanish, but it’s nowhere close to fluent.”
Because of that ― and because she’s part white ― Martín often feels like she has imposter syndrome within her own family, who talk a mile a minute and by and large don’t repeat themselves for Martín’s benefit.
“Some of my family is very loving and accepting, but others are not and have certainly made it known that they feel I’m not as Mexican as they are,” she said.
“The latter group will even go so far as to speak complicated sentences in Spanish directly to me in order to humiliate me because they know I don’t understand them,” she explained. “Keep in mind, my entire Mexican family speaks English fluently and has no need to speak to me in Spanish.”
Looking at the Pew stats, Martín is heartened to know that there are other third-gen Mexican-American in a “similar linguistic boat as me.”
Still, it saddens her to think how their stories are often discounted, swept under the table or unfairly judged.
“I’m fortunate to live in California where there are an abundance of Mexicans and Hispanics, but I know in many other parts of the U.S. and world, people have a preconceived notion of what a Mexican should look and sound like,” she said.
When someone feels ― or is made to feel inferior― about the language(s) they speak (or don’t speak) and the way that they speak them, it’s what linguists describe as “linguistic insecurity.”
“‘Speaking Spanish’ is a moving target for immigrants’ children, who are criticized by their own families and communities for not sounding ‘like a native speaker,’ regardless of how well they do speak and understand Spanish, and how this leads to anxiety, linguistic insecurity and a questioning of identity,” said Amelia Tseng, an assistant professor of linguistics and Spanish at American University in Washington, D.C.
“Unfortunately, heritage speakers often receive criticism of their language abilities from all sides, which they internalize as a personal failing,” she said.
Ultimately, language is only one aspect of cultural identity.
Each third-gen person we spoke to for this article wants to learn or is in the process of learning Spanish. López wants to learn mostly because when his grandfather was dying, it crushed him to know how much he’d never know about the patriarch’s life and memories all because of a language barrier.
But each person we spoke to also has complicated feelings about the in-community pressure to pass a Spanish test in order to be considered Latino.
López, for instance, knows that his work within the Latinx community is worth more than using the right preposition in Spanish and remembering that it’s “gracias por…” not “gracias par.”
“In spite of the language barriers at times, I’ve worked hard in advocacy spaces and with grass-root organizations to protect our vulnerable community members in my hometown of Richmond, California,” he said. “I’ve also done photography gigs as a local freelance photographer to highlight the beauty of our culture and the ways in which we celebrate our intersectionality of existence.”
Most recently, he decided to run for local elected office for Albany City Council. López said he hopes to champion progressive policies, while also serving to represent the growing Latinx population in the area.
“Not speaking Spanish has its challenges, but it doesn’t prevent a person from representing our culture and people,” he said.
“The fact that we continue to embrace ourselves as Latinxs is what really matters, whether we speak Spanish, English, or both.”
– Laura K. Muñoz, an assistant professor of history and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Greer hopes that people who blame third-generation Latinos for not speaking their parent’s language will try to see the nuance involved in situations like theirs.
“It wasn’t our choice,” she said. “Everyone says you can always learn, but it’s extremely difficult to learn another language after those early years of childhood, and some of us have learning disabilities or ADHD, like myself.”
Plus, she said, “if we’re really going to go there, Spanish isn’t even our language, it’s the language of our Spanish colonizers.”
Ultimately, language is only one aspect of cultural identity, said Muñoz, the ethnic studies professor.
“If we choose not to teach our children Spanish, but teach them everything else that we believe is relevant, then that’s what matters,” she said. “We get to decide what counts.”
American historian Vicki Ruiz has written that Chicano immigrants and their children “pick, borrow and retain” elements of their home culture. Muñoz looks at today’s third-gen Latino Americans and sees them doing the exact same thing.
“In a society that has proactively attempted to quash our language and our Latinidad, the fact that we continue to embrace ourselves as Latinxs is what really matters, whether we speak Spanish, English, or both,” she said.
How Long Does COVID Immunity Last With The New Bivalent Booster?
In anticipation of a fall and winter surge in COVID cases, new bivalent booster shots are available to anyone older than 12 (or 18 and up if you opt for Moderna instead of Pfizer).
The latest jab protects against the highly transmissible omicron variant while also bumping up protection against the original strain of COVID-19.
If you are at least two months out from your last COVID vaccine or a COVID infection, you can get the booster now. If you were just recently vaccinated or infected, your timeline is a little different.
Either way, it’s important to get this new COVID shot, which can prevent you from severe outcomes, including hospitalization or death, throughout the fall and winter seasons. Just how long will this new shot protect you overall, though? Experts weigh in.
It’s not yet known how long immunity lasts after the new shot, but experts have some theories.
For now, there’s no exact timeline for how long immunity persists after getting the booster, according to Dr. Andy Pekosz, co-director of the Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This is because the vaccine is new — it was authorized at the end of August by the Food and Drug Administration.
“It’s important to note that there are lots of studies that are measuring” the immunity timeline, he said ― and many of those studies are happening now.
One study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that this new shot’s protection lasted at least a month (but it likely lasts longer than that, since the study has measured only a month so far). Additionally, previous studies of other bivalent COVID vaccines showed that immunity lasted about six months.
In time, experts will know how long immunity lasts, but for now, that information is still coming.
Experts have no reason to believe immunity wanes any faster than with previous boosters, so it could last four to six months.
Just how long you’re protected after a COVID booster shot varies from person to person, and it has also rapidly changed as new COVID mutations emerge that can evade antibodies. But generally after previous COVID shots, you were protected for about four to six months.
Both Pekosz and Dr. Benjamin Abramoff, On/Go medical adviser and founder and director of Penn Medicine’s Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic, said there is no reason to believe your immunity will wane any sooner after this new booster.
“Everything we know about boosters for COVID, as well as for other vaccines, is that you’ll strengthen the long-term immunity ― the memory immunity ― with a booster,” Pekosz said.
In other words, you’re adding on to the immunity you already have from the original vaccine series, the booster, and, for many people, from prior COVID infections, too.
The next time your body sees the virus, you’ll develop a faster and stronger immune response, Pekosz said. “That’s a principle that has shown to be true with other [boosters], and we assume therefore it will be true for this as well.”
This memory immunity also contributes to how quickly you’re protected after vaccination, too. Pekosz said that 10 to 14 days after you get this booster, your antibodies should fully kick in.
Experts are confident that this booster provides strong protection against the dominant strains of COVID.
“The whole purpose of the new COVID booster is to provide more robust immunity to the current strains of COVID that are in the United States,” Abramoff said. Those strains are the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants but could also be past and future strains of the same omicron lineage.
When looking ahead to winter and the holiday season, this booster shot is intended to produce a strong immune response that, hopefully, prevents a spike in infections and protects folks from severe illness during that time, Abramoff noted.
Remember that the booster is part of a multi-pronged approach to reducing infections.
Even though this booster provides better protection against omicron, you still need to follow public health advice to stay healthy.
“Be cognizant of your symptoms, test if you feel like you may be sick [so] you’re not spreading the virus further,” Abramoff said. “It’s not enough to take the booster without other precautions.”
“Vaccines are [part] of a triple approach: It’s vaccines, testing and antivirals that together really give us the best safety blanket [for] reducing severe disease,” Pekosz added.
If you end up getting sick, it’s not enough to rely on your vaccine for protection. You need to stay home, isolate and talk to your doctor if you fall into a high-risk category. That way you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones from developing severe disease.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
5 Signs You Are Being ‘Quiet Fired’ From Your Job
If you have ever felt like your boss is giving you no choice but to quit your job to advance your career, you may be getting “quiet fired.”
A LinkedIn poll in August defined quiet firing as management going years without giving a person a raise or promotion, shifting their responsibilities to tasks requiring relatively less experience, or deliberately withdrawing development and leadership opportunities.
Of the more than 200,000 respondents on the platform, a whopping 48% said they had witnessed a colleague being quiet fired.
To be clear, quiet firing is different from the popular “quiet quitting” trend you may have heard about on social media. While employees who quiet quit are choosing to do the bare minimum in their role while they search for their next career move, employers are in control of quiet firing. People are managed out rather than up.
In some cases, quiet firing can cause quiet quitting. The disengagement felt by quiet quitters can stem from environments that don’t support their career growth, according to Bonnie Dilber, a recruiter with app-automation company Zapier.
“It often starts not with the employee, but with the employer — the employer not really engaging with an employee or investing in them or developing them or putting time into supporting them,” she said. “The outcome of that is that the employee does start to be disengaged.”
A boss may send both subtle and obvious signals that an employee has no real future at a company and that their best option would be to look elsewhere.
”Quiet firing absolutely happens. Sometimes, the decision is political, such as when the higher-ups have a favorite and it isn’t you — and [they’re] pushing you out,” said Gorick Ng, a career adviser at Harvard College and a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches the unspoken rules of career navigation.
“Other times, the decision is a matter of performance, where maybe your manager tried to give you feedback, didn’t see the behavior change they wanted within the timeline they had expected, [and] so is giving up.”
Here are some common signs that you are being pushed out of your job:
1. Your boss is MIA for much-needed conversations.
A potential indication of quiet firing is when you get the sense that your boss is avoiding conversations with you, according to Ng.
“They might have been busy, sure, but they could also be thinking, ‘I know this will get very awkward, very quickly, so let me just hide my face,’” he said.
In a popular LinkedIn post, Dilber said that reshuffling or canceling an employee’s meetings is common in quiet firing.
“You manager’s No. 1 job is to ensure that the people on their teams are happy, successful and thriving, and to remove obstacles and blockers from their way. If your manager is not taking the time to understand your work … then there’s a problem,” she told HuffPost.
“Whether it’s because your manager doesn’t believe in you or whether it’s because it’s a place that doesn’t support managers and leaders to be able to take care of their people … this is not an environment where you can grow and thrive,” she added.
2. Your boss assigns opportunities you wanted to other team members.
Another sign of quiet firing is when your boss entrusts preferred projects to other team members instead of you, Ng said.
“Diversion is when your manager, who had previously promised to give you a certain assignment, all of a sudden redirects the work to someone else,” he said. “They might have changed their mind, sure, but they could also be thinking: ‘I don’t trust you. Let me give this high-profile project to someone I know will do this job and do it well.’”
Ng suggests asking a co-worker if they’ve experienced a similar behavior change from your manager. Then, you can set up a meeting to talk with your boss about how you can get those choice assignments.
“The first step to solving the situation is to diagnose the situation. Is your manager’s behavior change really due to them quietly firing you?” he said. “Or might you be reading too much into the situation and interpreting their every action with doom and gloom in mind?”
3. Your boss can’t provide clarity on why your co-workers are getting raises and promotions while you aren’t.
Even if your manager is physically present for career conversations, they may be quiet firing you if the discussions leave you confused about what you need to be more successful.
You may only get small raises while others receive much more, or you might be consistently passed over for promotions even though you’re working as hard as your peers, Dilber said.
She recommends having a direct conversation with your manager about what they need to see from you to get that bigger raise or title.
“If they’re not able to tell you, then to me that’s not a place where you have a trajectory or are going to have opportunities for growth,” Dilber said. “It’s your employer’s job to tell you that proactively.”
4. You are placed on an unreasonable performance improvement plan.
Sometimes, performance improvement plans are genuine opportunities for employees to grow. However, if you are competent and the PIP is only based on subjective feedback, it’s actually just code for “we want you to quit.”
Being placed on a PIP is perhaps the least quiet sign that you’re being managed out, but even when explaining your goals for improvement, an employer may not be honest about its true intent.
As Nadia De Ala, the founder of group coaching program Real You Leadership, previously told HuffPost, “if the action items are literally unachievable and highly improbable to deliver in the expected time frame, or if your boss and stakeholders aren’t offering any support for you to succeed in hitting all your to-do’s,” then the PIP might actually aim to just push you out the door.
5. Your job expectations or workload changes without any input from you.
Another clue that you’re being quiet fired is when your employer’s expectations change without input from you and without any adjustment in title or pay, said career coach Jasmine Escalera.
“Organizations count on the fact that we are shackled to the money and to the salary, so they believe they can do this.”
– Career coach Jasmine Escalera
Escalera said she saw this happen to a colleague who got her workload reduced and her job moved to another state.
“They told her if she wanted to keep her job, she would have to move all the way across the country to California from New York, and that’s the only way she would be able to keep her position,” Escalera said. “They weren’t offering any additional relocation or any additional pay. It was for the same job, downgraded, in a completely different state.”
When there is no renegotiation of terms with employees after a big change, the message being sent is “accept the way it is or just leave,” she said.
“Organizations count on the fact that we are shackled to the money and to the salary, so they believe they can do this. And they also feel like they have the upper hand in that if you leave, they will find someone else.”
How To Find A Therapist Who Focuses On Latine Mental Health
It’s no secret that there is a stigma in the mental health field, no matter the demographic. People are afraid to go to therapy because of how it may look to other people (for the record, it looks healthy).
And while this spans across cultures, when it comes to the Hispanic community, “there is a negative perception about mental health care in general,” said Dr. Ruby Castilla-Puentes, the president of the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry. Because of this, “there are misunderstandings about mental health.”
This can make it hard for people in the Latine community to realize they need help, talk to loved ones about mental health and ultimately seek treatment. But, there are many experts who focus on creating safe spaces where people can explore their identity, their emotions, their problems and more.
Here, experts share how to find a therapist who focuses on Latine mental health.
Find an expert who understands your unique culture.
“Hispanic folks are looking for mental health providers that are culturally competent,” Castilla-Puentes said, adding that this can mean a therapist who speaks Spanish or someone with a deep knowledge of Hispanic-Latino culture.
Castilla-Puentes noted that miscommunication, either because of language barriers or cultural misunderstandings, causes many people in the Latine community to feel misunderstood by people in the mental health field. This can cause a “lack of confidence in the ability to receive the service that they need,” she added.
That being said, Brandie Carlos, the founder of Therapy for Latinx, noted that as a community, there is a large spectrum of cultures and beliefs. “We’re not a monolith,” she said. So, what’s right for one person may not be right for another. “What is most important is to get clear on what is important to you when you’re looking for a therapist,” she noted.
Make a list of the things you want your therapist to understand about you, your family or your culture, or make a list of the languages you want them to speak. Carlos noted that some people don’t want to go through the trouble of translating certain phrases from Spanish to English in therapy, while other people purely want someone who will speak English. It’s a totally personal preference.
Additionally, you should decide what goals you want to achieve in therapy and what subject areas you want to focus on. From there, ask questions when you meet with therapists to see if they are a fit for you.
Don’t be afraid to talk to a few different mental health experts.
“[Finding a therapist] is a lot like dating,” Carlos said. And like dating, it’s perfectly OK to go on a few introductory therapy meetings before finding a therapist you click with.
There is nothing wrong with looking around for a therapist, and all mental health professionals have come to expect this — not everyone can be a match for every patient.
And don’t discount your own symptoms.
Because of the stigma associated with mental health, it can be hard to admit that you need support. This is challenging across many cultures, but can have particular difficulties in the Latine community where people are afraid of being labeled as “loco,” according to Castilla-Puentes.
Additionally, she noted that research has shown many people in the community don’t recognize the symptoms of anxiety or depression. Instead, “they believe that depression is not a disease, it’s a part of life they need to pass through without any treatment.”
If you feel unmotivated, sad or tired, or notice that you no longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy, it may be worth finding a mental health provider to talk to. Also, if you’re going through a hard time — like dealing with the loss of a loved one or going through a breakup — it could be helpful to address any mental health concerns head-on by starting therapy.
If you’re feeling off, know you don’t have to go through a hard time without any support. Depression is not something you need to “get through” on your own.
If you have fears about deportation, use word-of-mouth to find a provider.
The American healthcare field can be a challenge for people who are undocumented, who often worry about being detained or separated from their families. This also rings true in the mental health field, Carlos noted.
She added that it’s not unheard of for these individuals or their loved ones to avoid care because of these fears. Fears like “what could happen if the mental health provider reports an incident to the police?” come front of mind.
In this case, it’s best to use word-of-mouth to find who in your area provides safe mental health care. You can talk to friends, family members or people who are undocumented, or have loved ones who are undocumented. Beyond word-of-mouth, the Latinx Therapists Action Network is also a good resource for mental health care for the migrant community, Carlos said.
Additionally, ask how your therapist handles emergency situations, she said. Find out if they call the police when someone is having suicidal ideation or if they’ll call friends and family first. Also, find out if they are under any requirements to report those who are undocumented to government agencies.
Try out databases that focus on finding mental health care for the Latine community.
You can turn to specific websites and databases to help you understand your mental health and find a mental health provider who provides culturally competent care. Castilla-Puentes noted that the American Psychiatric Association recently launched a Spanish language section of its website, and the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry has a listing of providers broken up by state.
She also pointed to Open Path Collective as another good resource that is particularly valuable because it provides affordable mental health services to people.
Try language filtering settings when looking at online databases.
Even if you are not a Spanish speaker or don’t want to speak Spanish in your therapy appointments, Carlos recommended that you use the language filter on online databases to find someone who speaks Spanish (just make sure they also speak English if you are not fluent in the language).
This way, “you might find someone who shares the same culture even if you don’t speak Spanish,” she said.
If You Just Had COVID, Here’s When To Get The New Booster Shot
There’s a new COVID-19 booster shot available that provides better protection against the variants that are currently circulating. It’s a bivalent shot, meaning it targets both the original strain of the virus and the highly contagious omicron subvariants ― including BA.5, the current dominant strain in the United States.
Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, an infectious diseases specialist and associate professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, noted that the new booster shot is here in anticipation of a fall surge in COVID cases. (Keep in mind that the Moderna booster is only available for those 18 and up, while Pfizer’s booster is available for those 12 and up.)
So, when should you get your booster? As soon as possible, in order to help fend off a fall wave and keep yourself healthy. But while those who have not had a recent COVID infection can get their shot now, the timeline guidance differs for those who recently had a COVID infection.
Here’s what to know if you just had the virus:
You should wait at least two months to get your shot.
The official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that vaccinated people can wait two months after a COVID shot to get their booster. And the Food and Drug Administration authorized the bivalent booster in people who are at least two months out from their most recent COVID vaccination.
For those who were recently sick with COVID, though, both Ogbuagu and Dr. Andy Pekosz, co-director of the Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Response at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said you need to wait two months for the bivalent shot, but can choose to wait up to three months.
So, if you’re looking for a hard and fast rule, it’s safe to say you should wait two months after infection (or vaccination) to get your new shot.
Some experts, however, think you can actually wait longer. “There are some immunologists that think spacing that booster out longer might help generate longtime immunity,” Pekosz said. An infection should give you pretty good protection for four to six months, which means you probably don’t need to take the booster shot before then, he said.
But although immunity can last for four to six months in many people, that is not always the case, Ogbuagu said.
Ogbuagu agreed with the CDC’s guidance and noted that data has shown that immunity wanes in some people, particularly if they had a mild illness, before the two-month mark. While this is a rare occurrence, a Danish study from earlier this year did find that a small number of people were reinfected 20 to 60 days after their initial COVID infection. And there’s some evidence suggesting that newer subvariants can circumvent natural immunity more quickly.
“Anyone who recovered from COVID certainly can consider delaying vaccination, but I don’t think they need to wait as far out as three months,” Ogbuagu said.
Since the shot is so new, guidance varies and it may differ from person to person. If you were recently infected, you should wait at least two months after your infection to schedule your shot — and you can consider waiting up to six months. If you want specific guidance based on your personal health records, get in touch with your doctor.
In the end, Pekosz said, it’s better to get the booster than not get the booster, “even if it’s not an optimal time.”
But if you are high-risk, you should not delay too long.
Ogbuagu stressed that certain groups of people who are at high risk for COVID should not wait too long to get their booster shot. This goes for elderly people or people who are immunocompromised.
He noted that people who fall into these groups should not get the shot before the two-month mark, but they probably also shouldn’t wait much longer than two months to ensure they’re protected against the dominant strain.
Booster shots tend to work best when they’re spaced out from a previous shot or infection.
According to Pekosz, the reason behind the differing opinions about the timeline of the new shot is that booster shots traditionally work best when some time has elapsed since the previous infection or vaccination.
If an infection and the booster are too close to each other, “your immune system is [still] ramping up and you don’t get the real benefits of the booster,” he said. When you give your body ample time to drum up its immune response to an infection and then slow down, the booster can jump-start that immune response again, he noted.
While the exact timeline is still being debated, there are no safety concerns whether you decide to get your booster after two months or six months, Pekosz said.
And whether or not you recently had COVID, getting your booster is important.
“Vaccines are the best and safest way to strengthen your immunity,” Pekosz said. He noted that earlier variants of the virus provided better protection against reinfection, but this is not the case for omicron.
Plus, the latest bivalent COVID booster is a better booster, one that can keep you from developing severe outcomes like hospitalization and death. The new booster “improves your responses to the original vaccine and gives you protection from BA.5 that is currently the dominant variant in the United States and most of the world,” Pekosz said.
So, even if you had COVID recently, you should still get this new shot. That being said, if you were infected and are unvaccinated, you have to start the vaccination series from the beginning, Pekosz said. You can’t just jump ahead to this bivalent vaccine.
Whatever you do, getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
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