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

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

When It’s Not Fun For Everyone …

Well, we have made it to July 4th weekend. And many are planning celebrations for the holiday. If you are one of those people, it’s important to remember that the usual activities aren’t fun for everyone. I don’t mean these are boring. I mean they can result in medical emergencies. Let’s talk about that …

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most large-scale fireworks displays have been cancelled. Which means that many will attempt to do their own. Fireworks effect many medical conditions. As beautiful as they are, fireworks release pollutants into the air. This in turn impacts our air quality. In fact, some of the chemicals dispersed by fireworks, such as aluminum, barium, cadium, dioxins, and rubidium, are radioactive and known carcinogens. For anyone, of any age, this can be a problem. Conditions like Asthma, Bronchitis and COPD can be worsened by breathing the particulate matter or PM in the air. Even smaller fireworks that are used at ground level (Sparklers, Firecrackers) can expose individuals to metallic fumes and create breathing difficulties. Fireworks can also have an impact on people who live with Hypertension, Heart conditions, Anxiety, Epilepsy and PTSD. They’re notoriously unsettling for pets, too.

Food can also cause problems, whether you are planning a backyard barbecue or a picnic. Look at your menu. Have you thought about your guests? Do any of them have food allergies? If the answer is “yes”, then make sure you have another option available. Diabetics will be happy to see fruit like fresh watermelon, on the table. Maybe, a crisp tossed salad? Carbs raise their blood-sugar. And nobody wants to serve food poisoning at their get-together. So, here’s a few tips to help avoid that: 

  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Clean your work-surface after each use.
  • Without refrigeration or a heat source, perishables should not be left out more than two hours.
  • Always keep COLD food cold by using a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers,a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers.
  • Packing drinks in a separate cooler is strongly recommended, so the food cooler isn’t opened frequently.
  • If you plan to marinate meat and/or poultry for several hours or overnight prior to the event, make sure to marinate them in the refrigerator.
  • To ensure safety, leftovers must be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerated to 40 ⁰F or below within two hours.

Last, but certainly not least, avoid large gatherings. It just isn’t safe, during a pandemic. Keep your get-togethers small. Nowadays, less really does equate to more. Practice social distancing. Wear face masks. You might even consider giving the patriotic-print ones as party gifts/favors. Yes, this is a short-notice for that idea. But many retailers are advertising them. They are available, just like flags, balloons, paper-goods, etc. So, decorate your home … your yard … and do it with a mask on. When it’s not fun for everyone, it’s not much of a celebration. Period. Take a moment to think about all of those you’ve invited to your July 4th festivities — make a list of their names and phone numbers. As morbid as this may sound today, if someone develops COVID-19 next week … your guests will need to be notified. That list will come in handy. 2020 remains, even in our moments of celebration, unusual.

Happy Fourth, y’all! Stay well!

 

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220320/

https://healthcare-in-europe.com/en/news/the-health-impact-of-festival-fireworks.html

https://www.epilepsy.com/article/2014/3/fireworks-flags-video-games-and-driving-seizure-risks-and-prevention

Fireworks, Triggers, PTSD, and Veterans

Wrap up your celebration with fireworks, not food poisoning

https://www.lmh.org/news/2020-news/safely-celebrate-the-fourth-of-july-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

*Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

Breaking Bad

Maybe, you’ve been warned? You are dangerously close to having a Chronic illness, i.e. Diabetes, Hypertension, etc. Or maybe, you are newly diagnosed? Either way, you’ve probably been told to make lifestyle changes. Have you done it? Have you tried? Are you ready to break with the bad? Let’s talk about that …

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Often times, we think that we can’t change. We insist that it isn’t possible. When, in reality, we are merely dreading the journey outside of our comfort zone. Remember the cliche about “old dogs and new tricks”? It’s a little like that — a stubborn resistance. That doesn’t make it impossible. In fact, you might be surprised at how easy it is. And equally surprised at how good the changes can make you feel!

I live with 3 Chronic illnesses. Upon the first diagnosis, as a teen, I responded quickly. At age 41, I was smacked with the second diagnosis. And then, 9 years later, came number 3. During those 9 years, I fought a mixture of severe pain and self-pity. I lost a great deal of mobility. I even came within a hair of totally giving-up. That was a mistake. I realize that, now. Diagnosis number 3, for me, meant taking chemotherapy. It was a struggle. I was fighting multiple illnesses, fatigue and overwhelming nausea. I lived in my pajamas most days. But during that hellish period, I had an awakening — I vowed to get my life back. And I did! How? I made the necessary changes. Now, I am doing better than I’ve done in 20 years. I have more energy. I sleep better. I work. I blog. I travel. I do Tai Chi. Life is, quite frankly, rewarding again. Everyone should be so lucky. And, personally, I believe that they can be!

First, consider your bad behaviors/habits. What do you need to change? You’ve probably already had this discussion with your doctor. So, here’s some tips to help you change:

  • Identify Cues. Something has to trigger a habit, and a cue can be anything, i.e. stress leading to nervous eating, or smoking.
  • Disrupt. Once you know the cues, you can throw bad habits off track. 
  • Replace. Research shows that replacing a bad behavior with a good one is more effective. If you need exercise (and we all do), don’t plant yourself on the couch. Take a walk around the block, join a gym, jump into a cool swimming pool, try Tai Chi. MOVE!
  • Keep It Simple. Old habits are easy because you are conditioned to them. It’s time to re-program the brain with the new ones. That takes time. Set a goal & attain it. Then, look to set another. The progress will happen.
  • Think Long-Term. Habits satisfy impulses. When you focus on the long-term, you are actually investing in yourself, your health & your future!
  • Persist. Just as you made bad habits part of your routine, you can make good habits the norm. You have to keep at it. Persistence pays off! 

By now, you may be saying to yourself, “Why am I doing this? I’m still going to be sick.” Well, this is true. Once you are diagnosed, you are pretty much in it for the long haul. Chronic is just that — chronic. But there is a vast difference between existing and living. Which one are you doing now? Which one do you want? Lifestyle changes can help you to manage your disease (even if you have multiples). It can help you to feel better and do more. To live with less pain and less inflammation. It may lead to less medication. It can even help you to ward off complications, too. The benefits are endless. Do you really need a better reason?

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-trick-to-real-and-lasting-lifestyle-changes

https://www.apa.org/topics/lifestyle-changes#:~:text=Lifestyle%20changes%20are%20a%20process,one%20step%20at%20a%20time.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/things-to-stop-doing-to-yourself-cfs-715700

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180619122707.htm

https://www.readersdigest.ca/health/healthy-living/bad-habits-best-ways-quit/

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/how-to-break-bad-habits-and-change-behaviors

*Photo by Andres Siimon 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

 

 

Wants & Needs: There Is A Difference

Nowadays, a lot of people seem to be confused by the meaning of “essentials”. They are assuming that “wants” and “needs” are the same thing. But, in reality, these things are very different. Our needs are necessary, i.e. shelter, food, water, air. Our wants are often materialistic desires, i.e. a designer handbag, a new set of golf clubs, new furniture, etc. As nice as these things are, they aren’t necessary for our survival. When we confuse our needs and wants, we can actually do more harm than good. Let’s talk about that …

 

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If you have been diagnosed with a Chronic illness, you learn the difference between wants and needs pretty quickly. It’s how you effectively manage your illness. You may want that 16-ounce T-bone with a loaded baked potato, for dinner. But, as a diabetic, it’s not the best choice for you. Yes, you need to eat. But you don’t need to send your blood-sugar into outer space. See the difference? It’s important to think and choose, carefully.

If you are an asthma patient, you may want to indulge in a day of hiking. You want to enjoy the mountain scenery, the beauty of nature, etc. But, with asthma, you need to avoid outdoor exercise when pollen counts are high. Yes, you need exercise. So, pick an option that is safer to enjoy. Maybe, a treadmill? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some days, I want Reese’s peanut butter cups or Lindt truffles. And, depending upon my mood, it can really feel like a need. Medicinal chocolate? Sort of? The argument can be made that plain dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy. Unfortunately, no such data exists for pb cups or truffles. Damn. When you have a Chronic illness, you need your medication. You don’t need Broadway tickets. You may want them, but you don’t need them. You need healthcare coverage. That luxury cruise … it’s a want too. And we must place our needs before our wants.

Now, we have COVID-19 to think about. It has forced additional lifestyle changes on all of us. Avoid the urge to emotionally comfort yourself with online splurges, or unnecessary shopping trips. The expenses do add up and the risks are too great. Some can cause financial burden. Others can be life-threatening. Avoid the excess use of alcohol. It can lead to additional problems. If you are already living with alcoholism, the COVID-19 crisis can put your sobriety at risk. You don’t need that — turn to your Support Group instead. 

To those who are bored or lonely, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. Talk. Laugh. Send texts. Bond. Pull those nearly forgotten board-games out of the closet, dust them off and play. Watch your favorite DVD. Read a good book. Start a hobby, or return to an old one. Instead of stressing over the changes, or creating additional hardships, keep it simple. Focus on your needs. Because if you have these essentials, you have the key to happiness!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://study.com/academy/lesson/wants-vs-needs-in-psychology.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/therapy-in-mind/201208/key-happiness-focus-what-you-need-not-what-you-want

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelkay/2017/03/21/finding-the-balance-between-needs-vs-wants/#5439926b4b11

https://psychcentral.com/blog/needs-vs-wants-american-style/

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

https://www.alcohol.org/resources/coronavirus-and-alcoholism/

*Photo by James Besser on Unsplash

 

A Furry Kind Of Healing …

Those of us who are pet owners know how wonderful our pets are. We brag on them, dote on them, etc.  Those of us, who are also parents, may even distinguish between our children as “those with fur” and “those without”. Our pets live with us, play with us and travel with us. They comfort — even mourn — with us. They are a member of our family and we love them. But did you know that these adorable pets … with their soulful eyes … precocious personalities … cunning wit … and slobbery kisses … actually have the ability to heal?

 

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The U.S. Dog Registry divides dogs (of any breed) into three categories:

  • Service Dogs help with a function/s for a person with a disability, i.e. Blind, Deaf, PTSD, MS, etc.
  • Emotional Support Dogs help people with emotional problems by providing support and comfort, i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders.
  • Therapy Dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. They are often sent, in the wake of horrific events, i.e. mass shootings, earthquakes, etc.

But what they all accomplish is that they make a positive impact on the people that they interact with. These pets improve the lives of every human that they touch.

Children with Autism were significantly more engaged, when animal therapy was incorporated into their sessions instead of using the standard approach. The children used more language. They exhibited more social interaction. All positive. All healthful.

Cancer patients have improved from pet therapy, also known as Animal-assisted Therapy or AAT. A session of animal interaction, lasting between 5-15 minutes, provides a welcomed distraction from difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It brightens their day, lifts their spirits and offers a myriad of benefits overall. In fact, AAT has proven to be so effective time and again for many illnesses that the medical community is embracing the idea more than ever before — regularly including it in patient care.

Seniors, who often live alone, also benefit from owning a pet. A pet can provide mental stimulation, erase loneliness, give them a reason to walk around the block and a companion to do it with. Pet interaction has the ability to lessen, even diminish, overall pain. 

When we are bonding with a pet, whether we have a Chronic illness or not, we are in the company of a dear friend — a confidante. As a result, our blood pressure lowers … muscles relax … stress fades. On the chemical level, a pet decreases cortisol in our blood. It can raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. We are happier and more positive. And when we reach out … touching their fur … rubbing their back … talking to them … we experience an increase of immunoglobulin A. That antibody boosts our immune system. Hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released, when we are rubbing that fuzzy belly or rolling a tennis ball across the floor. Our mood is lighter. We’re smiling … laughing … enjoying life.

Have you hugged your pet, today? Have you felt the nuzzle of a cold nose against your cheek? Or was it soft purring? We all should be so lucky. That furry companion, who greets us at the door, is actually good for us!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/healing-power-pets

https://www.curetoday.com/community/mike-verano/2015/12/cancer-and-the-healing-power-of-pets

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm

https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/from-cancercare/animal-assisted-therapy-enhances-cancer-care/article/372518/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342

* Photo of Whisky Macallan … my fur-baby, friend, joy and solace.

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