His, Mine & Our …

When you live with a Chronic illness, your spouse/partner does too. Did you ever think of it that way? As isolating as your conditions may make you feel, you aren’t in this alone. Likewise, you are living with their health issues too. Because, by age 50, having a Chronic condition is pretty common. In fact, CDC research data shows about 75% of males age 55+ have at least one. As for females, it jumps to 80% of that same age group. This adds a whole new meaning to his, mine & our. Let’s talk about that …

 

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Any Chronic illness, whether it’s yours or his/hers, has the ability to change a relationship. Those bad days, that you sometimes get, place more demands on your loved one. And their bad days do the same to you. It can take its toll. Studies have shown that relationships in which one spouse has a chronic illness are more likely to fail, if the spouses are young. Hmmm. Perhaps, age has more advantages than an AARP card? But these same studies also tell us that spouses who are caregivers are six times more likely to suffer from depression than spouses who aren’t caregivers. Being older and wiser, as the cliche goes, spares us nothing in this department. So, how exactly can we juggle our Chronic illnesses and a marriage/relationship?

There is no easy fix. But with patience and communication, you and your spouse/partner can live with the added stress and pressures brought about by Chronic illnesses. Consider these simple steps:

  • Communicate. Any relationship suffers when communication breaks down. The loss leads to feelings of distance, confusion, frustration, even a lack of intimacy.
  • Watch Those Stressful Emotions. Anxiety can lead to additional problems, i.e. depression. If you need help, then talk to a therapist. This can be done separately, or as a couple. But it will allow you to better manage your health, their health and your relationship.
  • Be Clear About Your Needs. None of us are mind-readers. So, talk. Convey your needs to your spouse/partner about everything. Encourage them to do the same. Affection isn’t a dirty word. Creativity doesn’t end, at age 30. Neither does intimacy.
  • Take Care Of The Caregiver. It’s easy to be so focused on your partner that you neglect your own health & conditions. It’s also unsafe and can lead to additional problems, i.e. depression, lack of sleep, weight loss, irritability, physical exhaustion, possibly feelings of suicide.
  • Stay Connected To Others. Sometimes, a Chronic illness can be isolating. And your spouse/partner has to keep things going for both of you. Friends can help. Relatives, too. Support Groups are another option. 
  • Keep An Eye On Finances. Money can be a strain on any relationship. If one of you must take a Leave of Absence, it can effect your household finances quickly.  You and your spouse/partner may even want to work with a financial planner, to feel better prepared for such a circumstance.
  • Gift Each Other. And, no, I’m not necessarily talking about spending money here. Think of gifting, in the broader sense. Say something nice to each other, every day. Compliments are like building blocks for a relationship. Don’t forget to share a hug, or a tender kiss. Maybe, try sexting? Make his favorite dinner (or dessert). Splurge occasionally … bring some flowers home for her. Treat one another to a massage, in the evening. Little things can and do mean a lot. When I was pregnant, many moons ago, my husband would give me pedicures. Some things are priceless (especially when you can no longer see your feet)!

My husband and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary, a couple of months ago. We aren’t the college kids who exchanged vows. We’re older. Wiser. Slower. More confident. Sometimes, grumpier. And our health is definitely more of an issue than it used to be. But in many ways, despite our Chronic illnesses, we have become better versions of our younger selves. Imagine that! This was made possible through team-work. We have shared, suffered and conquered it all … together! He has always brought out the very best in me. Still does. And I think, he’d say that I have done the same for him. One thing is for certain, it’s never been dull!

Don’t let your Chronic illness/es rob you of living, or loving! Life is too precious for that!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/health_policy/adult_chronic_conditions.htm

https://www.aarp.org/home-family/sex-intimacy/info-01-2013/seniors-having-sex-older-couples.html

https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/features/chronic-illness-seven-relationship-tips#1

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ServicesAndSupport/Sex-and-chronic-illness#:~:text=another%20healthcare%20professional.-,General%20advice%20about%20sex%20and%20chronic%20illness,of%20comfort%2C%20pleasure%20and%20intimacy.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/chronically-me/202002/chronic-illness-and-relationships

*Photo by Renate Vanaga on Unsplash

Do What Makes You Happy …

When you live with a Chronic illness, you juggle a lot, i.e. doctors, tests, meds, job, family. etc. Some days, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. We’ve all been there. And that added stress is no good. So, avoid the hassle if you can. Respect your limits. Delegate a few errands/duties. Yes, the kids can vacuum. Your husband/partner can do the grocery shopping. Free yourself of the idea that you alone must do it all. And, by all means, find the time to do what makes you happy.

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Now, granted, happiness isn’t as simple as going to the store and buying something. Or is it? The key to happiness breaks down to wanting and getting. If you want a nap, then getting a couple of uninterrupted hours of sleep will make you happy.  Perhaps, you like to garden? Making time for your gardening will make you happy. Some people, I’m convinced, have no idea of what will make them happy. For them, the journey may take longer but it’s still feasible. So, hang in there … explore some ideas.

In a study done on children with Chronic conditions, the results found that many were just as happy as their healthy peers. Stress management played a role in their health, just as it does with adults. The more complicated their condition was, the more vulnerable they were to issues like anxiety and depression. Sound familiar? But, for the most part, kids don’t allow a disease to define them. That also helps them to be happy. And it works for adults, too. 

If you want to put more happiness in your life, here are a few simple things that can help:

  • Smile
  • Exercise
  • Get your rest
  • Eat healthy
  • Keep a journal
  • Be grateful
  • Acknowledge what makes you unhappy
  • Compliment others
  • Breathe Deeply
  • Learn to avoid stress

Your Chronic illness isn’t going anywhere. It’s chronic; remember? But you can learn to live fully and be happier, despite your condition. A few changes here and there can put time in your schedule and a smile on your face. It can improve your mood and that helps with your relationships, your overall productivity, etc. Remember the childhood song “If You’re Happy And Your Know It”? Try singing a few lines. It’s time to clap your hands, again!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/click-here-happiness/201801/how-be-happy-23-ways-be-happier

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-control/201806/finding-the-thing-makes-you-happy

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/5-ways-to-de-stress-and-help-your-heart

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3084723/

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-05-kids-chronic-illness-happy.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-be-happy#daily-habits

*Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash

Re-inventing Yourself …

Sometimes, a Chronic illness forces you to re-invent yourself. You were diagnosed. You made some lifestyle changes. Still, there’s a problem. Perhaps, your disease worsened? Perhaps, you developed another Chronic illness? Multiples are not uncommon. In fact, according to the CDC, 4 out of 10 adults have two or more Chronic conditions. If you haven’t made all of the lifestyle changes that your doctor initially recommended, you need to. If you have done these things, then it may be time to re-invent yourself.

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Let’s say that you are a school-teacher who is battling anxiety attacks. Seriously. A private school, or charter school, offers smaller classroom size and [in most cases] a disciplinary code that changes your work environment for the better. Less stress and anxiety equates to a happier you. This could even be the right time to pursue a Grad degree and enter Educational Administration. Perhaps, you are a cashier with arthritis in your feet and/or legs? Standing for long periods of time, on the job, has become difficult. It’s time to consider using your talents, elsewhere. Not all cashiers stand, i.e. a medical office. With licenses and training, you can move into real estate, or an insurance office. The new job change allows you to continue working and manage your Chronic illness symptoms more effectively. You have re-invented yourself. And it wasn’t that difficult.

There are even employers who are looking for chronically ill employees to fill jobs, within the digital workforce. Imagine that. Just because you are living with a Chronic illness does not mean you are incapable of calling the shots. You simply need to know how to do so. First and foremost, you have got to acknowledge and respect your limits.

Too many times, chronically ill patients want to give-up. They are just too overwhelmed by the upheaval in their lives. What they need to do is step back, take a breath and consider their options. If this is you, I hope that you will consider the promise and potential that a little change can make. When you feel better, you are going to be more productive and happier. That’s just a no-brainer. You may even discover talents that you never realized you had. That’s a good thing! Life doesn’t end with your diagnosis. This is just part of the journey. There’s still so much more to explore. So, go for it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm

https://www.wearecapable.org/

https://www.healthline.com/health/tips-for-managing-a-job-and-chronic-illness#4

https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10041-manage-chronic-illness-at-work.html

*Photo by Bruno Cervera on Unsplash

The Need To Be Touched

Most of us don’t put a lot of thought into this subject, but there is so much to learn from it.  We, as human beings, have a basic need to be touched. If anything, this pandemic has made us aware of just how much a handshake or hug can be missed. Have you missed doing these things? Have you felt isolated? Disconnected? I know that I have, sometimes.

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If you were raised in a family who openly showed affection, you are most likely a hugger. You hug family, friends, new acquaintances, etc. It is a social interaction that’s part of your daily life. If you were raised in a family who didn’t easily share affection (by that I mean often or at all), you may not particularly like hugging. You probably don’t even understand why some people are so open to affection. Yet, touch is a basic human interaction. An infant is soothed by it. An adult feels comfort, even joy, from it. And what they are feeling is real. It’s significant. Because we all need human touch — the decent, affectionate kind. It has the ability to relieve us of pain, fear, frustration, etc. It has the power to make us feel loved and appreciated. But how does something like a hug do all that?

According to researchers, we all have the ability to communicate many feelings through touch. It is a silent language that needs no words. A mother can cuddle her crying baby, in the night, and the message is clear. The infant knows he/she is secure and their crying ceases. A stranger can go into a natural disaster area and offer a hug to a distraught victim. Again, the message is clear — help has arrived. That compassion, even from a stranger, can be sensed. And it’s powerful. There is also a difference between a caring touch and an aggressive one. The two categories should never be confused. 

When we offer or receive a caring hug, oxytocin is released in our bodies. This is a “bonding” hormone. It has the ability to reduce stress, lower cortisol levels and increase our sense of trust/security. In fact, in a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, researchers discovered that women who received more hugs from their partners had lower heart rates and blood pressure. That’s healthy! A massage has the ability to relax the body, ease pain and melt away tension. That too is healthy! Even something as simple as eye contact and a pat on the back from a patient’s doctor may boost their survival rate, despite the complex disease they are fighting (University of California research). It may sound too good to be true, but science supports it.

Scientific research actually correlates physical touch with several things:

  • Decreased violence. Less touch as a child will lead to greater violence.
  • Greater Trust. Touch has the ability to bond individuals.
  • Decreased Disease & Stronger Immune Systems. In other words, a healthier you.
  • Greater Learning Engagement. When teachers touch students platonically, it encourages their learning. They are also more likely to speak-up in class.
  • More Non-Sexual Emotional Intimacy. Interpersonal touch has a powerful impact on our emotions.
  • Stronger Team Dynamics. We touch to initiate and sustain cooperation. Hugs and handshakes increase the chances that a person will treat you “like family”, even if you’ve just met. 
  • Economic Gain. Touch signals safety and trust, i.e. NBA teams whose players touch each other more, win more games.
  • Overall Well-being. Adults need positive human touch to thrive, i.e. hugs, handshakes, a pat on the arm or back, holding hands, cuddling, etc. It is fundamental to our physical, mental and emotional health.

Today, we are even seeing Touch Therapy being used to treat patients. First standardized in the 1970’s, scientists are not sure how this technique works. The popular theories are: a) Pain is stored in the body’s cells; b) Think quantum physics. Blood, which contains iron, flows through our bodies and creates an electromagnetic field; c) Good health requires a balanced flow of life energy. And there are many Chronic illnesses that respond to this treatment, i.e. Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, Chronic Pain, etc.

Some of us are old enough to remember the social panic that AIDs initially created. People feared that it could be spread by even the simplest forms of human contact. Patients often suffered in near isolation. Until, one day, a certain princess visited an AIDs hospital … and held the hand of patient. No gloves. No mask. Just hand-to-hand touch. Thank you, Diana. You not only helped that patient, you changed the global perception of a disease.

Today, we are seeing healthcare professionals, i.e. doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc., hold the hands of COVID-19 patients to provide that needed human touch. At a time when family and friends are not allowed near these seriously ill patients, this is so important … to connect … to feel that someone is there for them … to help … to trust … to provide hope … and to heal.

One day, this pandemic will be behind us. We will hug, shake hands, etc., without giving it a second thought. Until then, it is safe to share hugs with any individual you are living/quarantined with.  We are all in need of human touch … of its power … its compassion … and its ability to literally make us feel better. Some are starved for that connection. So, stretch out your arms … reach for your partner, spouse, roommate, sibling, or pet. It’s time that we share a hug for our good health! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mind-body-connection/201309/why-we-all-need-touch-and-be-touched

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-surprising-psychological-value-of-human-touch/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research

https://www.in-mind.org/article/that-human-touch-that-means-so-much-exploring-the-tactile-dimension-of-social-life

https://theweek.com/articles/749384/painnumbing-power-human-touch

https://www.healthline.com/health/haphephobia#symptoms

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/treatment/therapeutic-touch

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-39490507/how-princess-diana-changed-attitudes-to-aids

https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2020/05/respiratory-therapists-give-covid-patients-human-touch

https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/hugging-post-coronavirus.html

*Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash

 

Sometimes, You Have To Bake Cookies …

Many years ago, my hubby told me that he always knew when I had a bout of Writer’s block. Apparently, in my frustration, I’d leave my home office … go into the kitchen … and proceed with a cooking/baking frenzy. At the time he first made this observation, I just laughed — dispensing it as nonsense. But in the years since, I’ve come to realize that he was right. I do get some sort of cathartic relief, when I cook or bake. And it isn’t necessarily caused by Writer’s block. The kitchen has somehow become my zen place.

 

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As odd as it may sound, there is medical research behind this. Studies have actually been done. When you cook or bake, you are creating … relaxing … destressing … spreading the love. You are experiencing fulfillment and satisfaction. Your body and mind is calming itself. If done with others, you are sharing quality time that strengthens any relationship. All positive. All healthy. All good.

In fact, cooking/baking is being used by many therapists and clinics as part of treatment for patients who live with a variety of mental and behavioral conditions, i.e. depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, stress, even some addictions.

We are living in crazy, chaotic times … nothing is as simple as it was just 4 months ago. Our lives, careers, expectations and work environments have changed. Learning environments have changed. There are added demands, frustrations and stress. None of us are immune. But we can explore new ways to deal with these challenges. 

Sometimes, you have to bake cookies … knead dough … chop vegetables … make a casserole. You have to step outside of your usual comfort zone and explore new things. You might even find that you enjoy it — a lot. It may comfort you as it has me. It may help you to cope. At the least, you may discover a new hobby or hidden talent. That’s not a bad thing. It could be a means of self-growth. And that’s positive, too.

I could go on, but there’s a recipe waiting … the oven is warm … and the kitchen is calling me. Need I say more?

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/feeling-down-scientists-say-cooking-and-baking-may-help-you-feel-better-180961223/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

https://www.mindfood.com/article/why-cooking-makes-happy/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201505/kitchen-therapy-cooking-mental-well-being

https://www.calmmoment.com/mindfulness/how-mindful-baking-can-improve-your-mood-and-reduce-stress/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/12/baking-anxiety-millennials/578404/

https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2020-04-13/how-to-relieve-stress-during-a-pandemic-quarantinebaking

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/baking-for-others-psychology_n_58dd0b85e4b0e6ac7092aaf8

*Photo by Madison Kaminiski on Unsplash

A Dose Of Patience …

Have you ever heard the cliche “Patience is a virtue”? My mother, who seldom exercised patience, often said it. Perhaps, as a reminder to herself? She was a busy woman and a healthcare professional. She was driven … focused on results … and eager to see them. My grandmother never uttered the cliche, but she had an abundance of patience. She was a very prolific gardener. I’ve seen her take a sprig from a bush … put it in some water … and nurture it into a large plant. She had the ability to sit back on the porch … watch … wait. And me? I’m somewhere between the two — not as impatient as Mom or as patient as Granny. I have my limits. We all do. Life isn’t perfect. We aren’t perfect. Things can and do get crazy … overwhelming … and stressful. But that’s where patience comes in. It helps us to juggle it all.

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From the psychological standpoint, patience is actually a coping mechanism. When a person uses patience, they aren’t giving up. They are utilizing a constructive method to reach their goals. Impatience comes from an individual’s inability to withstand certain situations or emotions. Did you know that when a person becomes more confident about winning or attaining their goal, they also become more patient? Hmmm.

Biblically, we are taught that patience is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). It’s a wondrous thing like joy, love, peace, kindness, goodness, self-control, etc. A true gift. And embracing patience makes life more enjoyable. Imagine that.

We are living in some very stressful times. If you aren’t patient, by nature, there is still hope. Here are ways to train yourself:

  • Understand & Counteract Your Triggers.  What do you think of, or feel, just before you lose it? When you feel this building-up, you can counter it with calming exercises.
  • Increase Your Self ConfidenceImpatience is more likely to appear, when you feel let down or losing control. When you are confident, you will work with the situation as it is, instead of becoming combative.
  • Look For The Positive. Patience is a matter of perspective. Turn a negative into a positive. For example, if the elevator is out-of-order at work … you can get healthy exercise using the stairs.
  • Change Your Attitude. Most people who struggle with patience can’t answer a simple question: Why are you in a hurry? Focus on the task — not the speed that you are doing it. 
  • Release Tension & Stress In A Positive WayThis can be done through exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Give yourself some “Me Time” for a nap, a leisurely bath, or a good book. It helps tremendously.

 

Last, but not least, love yourself. Instead of being so hard on you, try compassion. Try understanding. You don’t need more stress in your life. None of us do. Chronic stress brings even more problems to the table.  But if you learn to cope, with a dose of patience — that’s the key to happiness!

 

 

Reference Link:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201209/the-power-patience

https://www.2knowmyself.com/The_psychology_of_patience

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+5%3A22-23&version=NIV

How To Be More Patient: 7 Easy Tips

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323324

*Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 

 

April Is Autism Awareness Month

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a neurological disorder that effects a child’s development. It is characterized by a difficulty with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and/or repetitive behavior. According to the CDC, it effects approximately 1 in 54 children. That’s over 3M Americans. It’s 4 times more common among boys than girls. And it occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Autism is also a Chronic illness.

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When I was in college, many moons ago, I had a required reading assignment that fascinated me. The book was Dibs: In Search of Self, written by clinical psychologist and author Virginia Axline. I would highly recommend it to anyone. This was possibly the first documentation that opened the door, examined and detailed what a child can accomplish despite setbacks and scorn. And while no two children, with or without Autism, are alike … the book offers an excellent insight into their lives.

The signs of Autism often appear by age two. Each child usually exhibits a unique pattern of behavior as well as a level of severity. Some autistic children have difficulty learning. Others have normal to high levels of intelligence. As they grow, it’s possible for the child to become more socially engaged. He or she may also show fewer disturbances in their behavior. And those with the least severe problems often lead normal lives.

Children and adults with Autism have much to offer the world. If we just take a moment to watch, listen and admire their abilities. They learn differently. They are socially awkward. But we are all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Once we as a society embrace that, we are one step closer to understanding Autism. They have the ability to be creative, smart and productive. But they need to be nurtured differently. Consider the following well-known individuals in history who lived with Autism:

  • Hans Christian Andersen – Children’s Author
  • Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”
  • Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist
  • Temple Grandin – Animal Scientist
  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
  • Tim Burton – Movie Director
  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster
  • Emily Dickinson – Poet
  • Thomas Jefferson – President

Try to imagine the world without their accomplishments. I can’t. 

Autism is not a new health issue. Obviously, it has been around for a while. Yet, misconceptions still exist about the diagnosis and those who live with the condition. We can change that. April is Autism Awareness Month. If you or a loved one has Autism, read the reference links below. Learn more. Most importantly, share the information!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/185394

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928

Learning Styles & Autism

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

National Autism Awareness Month

https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/historys-30-most-inspiring-people-on-the-autism-spectrum/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/73860.Dibs_in_Search_of_Self

*Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

Be Not Afraid …

I have a confession to make … I love lighthouses. I always have. Back in the 90’s, I actually ventured inside one (1879 Hooper’s Strait Lighthouse). To really appreciate the message and function of a lighthouse, you must experience it both inside and out. From the outside, like a sailor at sea, you appreciate its guiding light. The comfort that it surely provides, during a tempest storm … to breathe easy … home is near. From the inside, you stand by its massive beacon and look out across the distant water … you feel the isolation … the loneliness … and you realize that the lighthouse keeper’s duty was more than just keeping a light on … it was also a biblical reminder … “Be not afraid”.

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Scripture is filled with verses that tell us to reject fear and draw strength from God, i.e. Jeremiah 1:8, Matthew 14:27, Mark 5:36, etc. Yet, in crisis situations, we often forget that. Likewise, Judaism teaches to “Fear not”. And Islam also teaches that one must cope with fear. Like love and the Golden Rule, this is a message that transcends languages and religions. 

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with a Chronic illness, it’s easy to be afraid. The unknown is a scary place. The what-ifs can and do keep you awake at night. I know. I have been there, more than once. If you allow those worst-case scenarios to consume you, it can lead to other problems including additional Chronic illnesses. So it’s important to realize that fear, while a natural instinct, can also be an unnecessary burden in our lives. When I feel fear closing in on me, I always think of a lighthouse. For a moment, I close my eyes and drift back to that warm summer day when I first entered one in Maryland. I remember the salty air and climbing the narrow steps up to the beacon … looking out over the waters of the Chesapeake … and feeling closer to God … at peace. 

The Coronavirus pandemic has heightened fear in millions. We cannot ignore this added health risk, for our sake and that of so many others. It must be acknowledged and taken seriously. Preventative measures, many of which have upended our lives, must be embraced. But we can take comfort that we are not alone. God is with us. And like the lighthouse, we can stand firm. This storm, as dark and scary as it is, will pass. Be not afraid. 

Reference Links:

https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?search=be+not+afraid&searchtype=phrase&spanbegin=1&spanend=73&version1=9

https://reformjudaism.org/%E2%80%9Cfear-not%E2%80%9D

Coping With Fear

*Photo by Cole Wyland on Unsplash

Do You Need To De-stress?

Is it just me or is life a lot more stressful than it used to be? Nowadays, it seems that everywhere I go I find people who are tired, frustrated, upset, worried, etc. Life can always throw you a curve-ball that is stressful. But when you add a pandemic … stress hits a whole new level. And stress on its own isn’t healthy. In fact, stress worsens most pre-existing or Chronic conditions. If you have been feeling the pressure of stress, you aren’t alone. According to the American Institute of Stress, about 77% of the population regularly suffers from the symptoms of stress.  Let’s talk about that …

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Stress can negatively impact your relationships at school, home and/or work. A bad day at the office somehow leads to an argument with your spouse/partner? Or vice-versa? You know what I’m talking about. Stress can also weaken your immune systems, increase your blood pressure, increase blood sugar levels, increase pain, etc. The more you allow it to consume you, the worse you are going to feel. That’s a given. And that makes you more vulnerable to other things, i.e. anxiety, depression, colds, viruses. Thankfully, we can do things to reduce the stress in our lives.

If you feel that stress is getting the best of you, try these simple yet effective ways to de-stress:

  • Limit Social Media/Broadcast Media. Yes, social media can be fun. Unfortunately, it’s also a stressor for millions. So limit your use of it. Binge-watching news and talk-shows can also have a negative impact. Select one or two reputable news broadcasts or shows, watch them and move on. You want to be informed — NOT stressed-out.
  • Meditation/PrayerIt just takes a few minutes to close your eyes and focus on something positive or calming. Likewise, reading from a devotional or engaging in silent prayer has the same soothing results.
  • Breathing Deeply. For five minutes, sit upright with your eyes closed. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
  • Slow Down. Look around you. Admire flowers growing, a butterfly fluttering, etc. Eat slower and enjoy your food. Live in the moment and do so fully. When you focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.
  • Reach Out. Talk to others, face-to-face or on the phone. Share what’s going on with a friend, co-worker, spouse/partner before it becomes a bigger issue. It can provide helpful support and input.
  • Pull-out The Heating-Pad. Just 10 minutes of warmth on your neck and shoulders can allow your body to decompress and ease tension.
  • Laugh Out Loud. Enjoy a good joke or a funny story … at home, in the locker-room, or the break-room. Watch a 30-minute sitcom with your significant other. Laughing lowers your body’s stress hormone (cortisol) and boosts brain chemicals (endorphins) that lighten your mood.
  • Exercise. All forms of exercise, even low-impact ones like yoga and walking, can relax you. It can ease depression and anxiety. 
  • Listen To Music. Soothing music, from classical to nature sounds, can lower your blood pressure and heart-rate. You can even create your favorite playlist for relaxing!
  • Keep A Gratitude Journal. Carry it with you. Set it by your bed and read it every night. Think of the things you are most grateful for, in your life. The people and things that make your life special.

 

Last but not least, realizing that you need to de-stress isn’t a sign of weakness … or age … or illness. It’s a preventative health measure. One that we all can benefit from. So, don’t be reluctant to try it. The healthier that we are, the happier we are. That leads to the more productive we are and so on. And it’s all good. So go for it!

 

 

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hope-relationships/201504/6-natural-ways-de-stress

https://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot#3

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html

https://www.stress.org/daily-life

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/social-media-mental-health-negative-effects-depression-anxiety-addiction-memory-a8307196.html

*Photo by Jared Rice in Unsplash

Viral Heart Disease

Yes, it’s winter. It’s also flu season. But those symptoms that have you down may not be the flu. It could be viral heart disease, also known as Myocarditis. This inflammation of the heart muscle is usually caused by a virus. However, it can also be caused by a drug reaction or an inflammatory condition, i.e.  Mycoplasma, Streptococcal (Strep), Staphylococcal (Staph), Borrelia, HIV, Herpes, etc. And it can strike even the healthiest of people. This includes children.

gaelle-marcel-D3GYTrmj77M-unsplash

 

In its early stages, Myocarditis can have no symptoms. As it worsens, it presents itself much like the flu, i.e. fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, etc. You may also experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or fluid-retention. And left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, i.e. heart failure, heart attack, stroke, arrhythmias, or sudden cardiac arrest.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or those mentioned in the links provided, you need to see a doctor. If you have had an infection and begin to experience these symptoms, notify your doctor. If your symptoms are severe, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room for help. Myocarditis may be considered rare, but it is nothing to take for granted.

Over 3M cases were diagnosed, in 2017. This isn’t a disease exclusive to the elderly, or those with pre-existing illnesses. Myocarditis hits all ages — even the healthy, athletic types. It is the third leading cause of Sudden Death in children and teens. So, please, share this awareness. The life of someone you love may depend on it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/myocarditis/symptoms-causes/syc-20352539

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/myocarditis#1

https://www.myocarditisfoundation.org/about-myocarditis/

https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/viral

*Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash