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Anxiety in Women Comes in Many Forms, But Can Be Managed

aa woman_concernedIt was 2:30 in the morning when Shirley’s eyes popped open. Thoughts tumbled through her mind. “I know I am going to be in trouble with my boss because I didn’t finish the proposal on time. He is going to yell and I won’t get that raise I need. My bill for the car repair is going to cost more than I have. Rosa wants to go on a date on Friday and I know that her boyfriend drives too fast and something will happen to Rosa.” Her heart beat faster. She sat up in bed and tried to stop the thoughts from swimming around her brain, but it didn’t happen. She rubbed her achy forehead and wiped the sweat from her armpits. She tried to remain calm, but nothing was helping. Shirley was living in a constant state of fear and stress on a daily basis. Anxiety was causing her sleepless nights. Women are two times more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder. Let’s look at how anxiety affects women and how it is being treated today with positive results.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of American defines generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, as one type of anxiety that affects women causing, persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. The worry that a woman feels can affect her daily routine, her family and her job performance. A woman may worry about her relationship with her spouse/significant other, her health or her family members. Constant anxiety over monthly bills and income are common. Fear of losing a loved one or even being in a room with a group of strangers can bring on apprehensive feelings.

What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety?

You are not alone if you suffer from anxiety. Over 40 million women and men suffer from this mental illness making it the most common mental illness in the United States. Symptoms affect a woman both emotionally and physically.

Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Tension
  • Irritability
  • Loss of concentration
  • A feeling of dread

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is not just a feeling or the emotion. Physical symptoms may be intense and can include:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Excessive sweatingcaucasian woman thinking_praying
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

What are the Main Types of Anxiety Disorders?

The American Psychiatric Association breaks anxiety disorders into several types.

  1. Women with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) show signs of tension and worry about daily happenings in their lives. Women can have complications completing their duties at work and doing home tasks due to these continuing symptoms.
  2. Women with a phobia have a deep fear of a situation, object or activity. We can break phobias into 3 main categories:
    1. Specific phobia- when a woman is fearful of a specific thing, for example, hydrophobia is the fear of water.
    2. Social phobia- when a woman is excessively fearful of being in a social situation such as public speaking or afraid to go to a movie where she will have to talk to the ticket taker. She avoids social situations where she feels she will be judged.
    3. Agoraphobia- when a woman is fearful of being in a situation where she might feel embarrassed or she may feel that there is no help for her when she goes into a panic attack. A woman with a severe case of agoraphobia may not leave her home
  3. When a woman has overwhelming anxiety, she may have panic disorder which can cause panic attacks. These attacks can come unexpectedly. The woman may feel terror so deeply that she believes she is having a heart attack especially when she is experiencing a fast hammering heart and sweating. Dizziness, trembling and even chills may be observed in a woman having a panic attack.

What Treatments Options for Anxiety Disorders?

Of course it is advised that if you have any anxiety symptoms that you first discuss them with your health care provider. Your provider will make a detailed assessment and find the best treatment for your type of disorder.

Psychotherapy is one choice that women can use to deal with the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavior therapy teaches a woman the skills and steps to follow to prevent anxiety. The goal is to work toward being able to function in her daily routines.

Medications for anxiety include antidepressants which would be prescribed by a health care provider. Sedatives can be used but usually for a short time span because they are habit forming.

Changes to a woman’s diet, exercise routine, and sleep habits can also help relieve anxiety symptoms, so these may be recommended by your physician.

The best part of seeking help from your health care provider is that many anxiety disorders can be treated with positive outcomes. The psychiatrist or therapist may use a combination of therapy and medications to help a woman with her disorder.

Seek and Find the Help You Need

Women experiencing symptoms of anxiety can  find help by contacting a health provider.  Mental health impacts physical health, and overall wellness in so many ways.  You do not need to handle this alone!  Help is available.  If you want more information on finding support or education materials, contact http://www.namiwisconsin.org/, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin’s chapter. I encourage you to take that first step!


Because it all begins with a healthy woman…

Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.

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Get out of town! Explore Wisconsin’s State Parks


View of the lake from the quartzite bluffs of Devil’s Lake State Park.

It’s summertime and the weather is fine with vacation heavy on our minds…

But the reality is that with work, family, and household responsibilities, our vacations can be limited. When we let these responsibilities keep us from leisure activities, it often leads to higher stress levels, sleeping problems, and other unhealthy behaviors. That’s why it’s so important to make time for yourself and your family and to get out of town, away from the things that can weigh you down, physically and emotionally.

The good news is, you don’t have to fly across the country en route to a pricey vacation spot. Our very own state offers beautiful areas for day-trips and weekend-stays, a perfect way to escape the stresses of life, while also staying within a budget.  Whether you’re into hiking, camping, swimming or simply want a hassle-free stay at a quiet lodging spot, WI has something for you. Here are some of our favorite local mini day and weekend trips:


1. Get out and hike! Visit Copper Falls State Park 


Copper Falls State Park, Brownstone Falls

Located in the Great North West region of the state, Coppers Falls offers 17 miles of hiking trails with great scenery and unique land features. Take a walk along the Bad River, hike your way to the Copper or Brownstone falls, and don’t forget to make it to the ancient lava flows and deep gorges. Don’t make us try to convince you…this state park is well worth the visit.

2. Pack your swimsuit! Visit Governor Dodge State Park

This south-centrally located park has much to offer in the way of fun, outdoor activities. Its two inland lakes are clean and warm by the early summer months and are great for swimming or kayaking/canoeing – rentals available! That on top of beautiful hiking trails, waterfall and 269 family campsites make this a perfect weekend getaway.

3. Bring the whole family! Visit Peninsula State Park in Door County


Birds-eye view of Eagle tower at Peninsula State Park, Door County.

Anxious to find a family-friendly park with lots of activities to keep the little ones occupied? You can’t go wrong with Peninsula State Park. Here you’ll find beautiful trails for hiking and biking alike; a nice sandy beach with kayak, canoe and watercraft rentals; playgrounds; tennis and volleyball courts; and an old lighthouse to explore. With over 460 campsites and a location close to shops and restaurants, this could be your best – and cheapest – family vacation yet. Not into camping? Door County can accommodate that.

 4. Bring the camera! Visit Devil’s Lake State Park

Just 45 minutes outside of our state capitol, Devil’s Lake is a gem for Wisconsin locals. It’s easy to access, making it very popular for visitors, but has plenty of backcountry solitude to make everyone happy. Picnic sites line the shore on both sides of the lake, with restroom, food and boating rental facilities. No motorized boats are allowed, adding to the cleanliness of the lake and peaceful quality of the park’s atmosphere. The quartzite bluffs make for vigorous, but do-able, hiking with rewarding views around every corner. Whether for a day trip or camping, you’ll love your time here and will be anxious to return.


(Meatless) Ways to Get More Protein in Your Diet

Here in the U.S. there’s a big culture built around meat-eating that can sometimes feel unavoidable. The summer can prove to be even more difficult with our weekend schedules filled with family BBQ’s and baseball games where burgers and brats are the norm.

Lean meats like chicken and fish are excellent alternatives to red meats, which can lead to certain heart issues along with a host of other health problems.

But let’s shake it up this summer with some lighter protein options – soy, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and certain veggies can be lower in saturated fat and contain phytonutrients that may help fend off disease.


1. Pistachios: Don’t be fooled by their size…these little green-colored nuts have up to 6 grams of protein per serving. They also have plenty of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, iron, antioxidants and other nutrients. When you’re craving something salty and crunchy, this snack could be the way to go over that fatty and processed bag of chips.

2. Oats: Whole-grain oats are another awesome protein-filled option with 5-6 grams per cup of cooked oats. Added bonus: they contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol and keeps you fuller, longer. With oats’ complex carbs along with all that protein and fiber, you’re sure to get your morning started right.imgres-1

ttar_asparagus_v 3. Asparagus: Can a green vegetable have a lot of protein? The answer is yes! A cup and a half of cooked asparagus has over 6 grams of protein, about the same as the large egg you had for breakfast. Protein aside, this veggie also supplies folic acid (an important B vitamin, particularly for women of childbearing age) as well as vitamin C, iron, and more than 2 grams of fiber per cup.

4. Chia Seeds: These tiny seeds have been all the rage this year, and it’s no wonder why when a mere 2 tablespoons added to any meal can add about 3 grams of protein. Like the others, this protein source has additional benefits, including fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6), which have been shown to help reduce inflammation and heart disease. You don’t have to eat them straight – add them to your morning oatmeal, blend them in your smoothie, or toss them on a salad as an alternative to chicken or fish.


None of these foods strike your fancy? Check out these other meatless protein options with tasty recipes that are sure to satisfy your craving.



Heart & Happiness

SAT HeadshotEleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” Are you ready to get heart healthy and happy this summer? To reach that emotional state of joy and happiness, you need to take measures and choose to have a healthy lifestyle. By investing in modest lifestyle changes you can cut your risk of coronary heart disease. Let’s examine ways that you can keep your heart healthy consequently increasing your own state of happiness.

2015 GrapeVine Conference – Thank you!

Grapevine_color2   Thank you to everyone who supported our first ever GrapeVine Conference! Over 70 community nurses joined us for this 2-day event where we had the opportunity to teach 6 updated GrapeVine training units covering women’s health topics like diabetes prevention, gynecological cancers, breast cancer, bone health and breastfeeding and oral health.

gv collage

The focus of this event was to provide educational resources and support to our community nurses by connecting them through networking opportunities, health training sessions and break-out activities. Attendees also enjoyed engaging in physical opportunities during meal  times, which included walks around the beautiful State Capitol and stretching exercises with instructors from Barre3. We were excited that over half of our attendees this year were new to the GrapeVine Project and are looking forward to their future involvement!

What people are saying… barre3

“Thanks to the GrapeVine materials, we’re doing lots of programming in rural areas which is good because a lot of people haven’t heard about the information we are presenting.”

Kris Wisnefske, Monroe Clinic, Monroe, WI (Monroe County)

“One lady came up to me after a GrapeVine presentation and said ‘I don’t know how you know all this information.’ I said it’s the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation that provides the information. I just share it. Before I had to piece things together, with the GrapeVine materials now I have it all in one place.”

Cynthia Schoettler, Parish Nurse, Madison, WI (Dane County)

“We’re really excited to do our first presentation, to get the word out, and to get other groups involved. I’m very impressed how organized the materials are. It’s a desk reference for me. If I had to do this research, it would take me hours and I wouldn’t be sure that I had all the key points.”

Melanie Simpkins, Green Lake County Health Educator, Ripon, WI (Green County)


Interested in getting involved with the GrapeVine Project?

Contact Program Manager, Nora Miller, for more information at 608-251-1675 x 103, nmiller@wwhf.org.

Get Outside! Get Active!

SAT HeadshotAre you bored to tears when you walk on the treadmill at your gym? Are you up at dawn lifting weights in your dim bedroom while your spouse remains sleeping? Do your children or grandchildren prefer to play on their computer than go to play at the park? It’s time for a change! This month I want to help you shift your mindset that exercise must be in a large building where you are jogging beside 28 other people. Understand I am not against gyms. They provide great support numerous classes and various machines to keep your heart beating at its peak performance. But exercising in nature has special benefits for the mind and body. Exercise can happen anywhere, but as spring bursts into summer, let’s plan on getting outside to be active! 

Thank you for supporting our first GrapeVine conference

Picture2Memorial Day is past, and you know what that means? The countdown is almost over! We are so excited to see everyone at the GrapeVine Conference next week. This will be an exciting event full of learning, networking and more.

We are particularly excited to unveil two brand new education units that will be shared with women throughout the state. We are also excited to welcome over 30 new providers into the GrapeVine Project.

None of this would be possible without our generous sponsors and exhibitors:Picture1

Patron Sponsors:

  • Dean / St. Mary’s / SSM
  • Delta Dental
  • University of Wisconsin Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Meriter Health Services

Benefactor Sponsors:

Bellin Health Care Foundation


  • Honoring Choices Wisconsin, an Initiative of the Wisconsin Medical Society
  • Home Health United
  • Dane County Area Agency on Aging
  • Aging & Disability Resource Center of Dane County
  • Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • America Diabetes Association
  • Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition
  • End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin
  • Catholic Charities of Madison
  • Alzheimer’s Association

Thank you so much for your support as we work to educate women and families throughout Wisconsin!


Mental Health Matters For Everyone

MHM2015 B4Stage4 VERTICAL BANNERLike any other chronic health condition, untreated mental health conditions can worsen with time.

That’s why organizations like Mental Health America of Wisconsin are emphasizing the importance of awareness and preventative treatment as we observe Mental Health Month this May.

When we think about common health issues in our country like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, we don’t wait for them to develop. We start before Stage 4, implementing preventative measures to help keep our children and family members healthy. This mindset should also apply to our mental health.

“The good news is, most mental health problems are very treatable. The bad news is, there are several barriers that prevent people from getting treatment,” writes Huffington Post Healthy Living Blogger and Psychotherapist, Amy Morin. “Many people fail to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of a mental health problem. There’s also still a stigma associated with seeking treatment for mental health problems. And for many people, treatment simply isn’t affordable.”

It’s important, then, to learn the signs and address symptoms early on in order to plan an appropriate course of action to achieving overall health. We must also work together to get the word out about mental health awareness and the resources that are available for those who struggle with this reality.

Thankfully, there are resources out there that are free and available to the public. One of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition is to take a mental health screening. Mental Health America has online screening tools for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. MHA’s goal is to get every American screened and aware of their mental health, so they can address it #B4Stage4.

mentalhealth_avatar-1You can also visit MHA’s website and use their Mental Health Resources tool – it will locate support groups, help lines and therapists according to the county you live in.

66 years ago May is Mental Health month was started by MHA Wisconsin’s national organization to help raise awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone. You can get involved this month by attending their Music for the Mind benefit concert on May 29 in Milwaukee. The event is open to all ages and will feature live music, coffee beverages and libations. Show support for the MHA of Wisconsin and all the work they’re doing in Wisconsin!

Your involvement doesn’t have to stop there. Be an advocate every day to help change the stigma of mental illness. Reach out to your loved ones to let them know they are supported. And take care of yourself by checking-in with your mental health regularly. 


Happy Nurses Week!

Happy Nurses Week to all of the nurses who partner with the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. First Breath, My Baby & Me, GrapeVine Project, Komen Breast Fund, and our other initiatives would not be successful without your expertise and passion. We hope you take some time for yourself this week. You deserve it!


Upcoming Opportunity for Nurses: 

Register for our First Annual GrapeVine Conference, held June 1st and 2nd at the Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin. You’ll get started in the program by being trained on four units and learning from existing GrapeVine nurses.  It is free. Register here for the conference or contact Program Manager, Nora Miller, for more information at 608-251-1675 x 103, nmiller@wwhf.org.

April Showers Bring May Flowers…And a Healthier You!


Gardening is an excellent activity for people of all ages. It gets you outdoors, away from your computer or TV, breathing in the fresh air and building up a nice sweat. Plus, it provides a beautiful and soothing environment, while also giving you a sense of accomplishment as you reap the benefits of your labor.

Here’s why you should plant a garden this summer. Big or small, it can help us maintain our physical and mental health:

  1. Gardening can help alleviate stress: A study published in The Journal of Health Psychology compared reading and gardening as a form of stress relief. The results found that the gardening group not only reported better moods, but they had measurably lower levels of cortisol, “the stress hormone”. 
  2. Gardening is a form of exercise, leading to healthier hearts: A Stockholm study of almost 4,000 people shows “regular gardening or DIY can prolong life by as much as 30% in 60-plus age group”. As we get older, more vigorous exercise can be hard on our bodies.  30 minutes of gardening a day is a great alternative, as it requires movement of both arms and legs.
  3. gardening_handsGardening can improve hand strength and dexterity: With age, both our hand strength and dexterity start to diminish, and the number of activities we can enjoy diminish as well. Gardening gets us exercising our hand muscles, helping to keep them strong and agile. Related research led to it’s incorporation into some rehabilitative programs for stroke patients as a way to rebuild strength and ability. However, it’s important to note that gardening can lead to repetitive stress injuries like tendonitis or carpal tunnel. Be sure to do some simple warm ups to prevent this.
  4. Gardening can lift our moods and help with depression: It’s no surprise that spending time outside makes us happier. The fresh air, the sun…that wonderful scent of blooming flowers and beautiful display of colorful produce. There are some places that are using gardening as “horticulture therapy”. In Canada, this type of therapy has given proven results for patients with depression and other mental illness. “Horticultural therapy as a treatment for many psychological and physical disorders is a valid and increasingly popular intervention,” says Mitchell Hewson, Canada’s first registered horticultural therapist who founded the country’s largest horticultural therapy program at Homewood Health Center, an addiction recovery and mental health treatment facility in Ontario.

Even if you’ve never gardened before, this summer could be a great time to try it! There are endless online resources that can help get you started. Here’s just one of them