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Dare to care …

This is the post excerpt.

                        Oak Allee at Brookgreen Gardens, Pawleys Island, SC

 

Did you know that 133M Americans live with a Chronic illness? By 2020, that number will exceed 150M. This isn’t my opinion. This is fact. They are our spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, neighbors and co-workers. They are young and old. No race or social-class is immune. This is America’s health crisis! One that needs far more attention than it is getting. Awareness of this issue is important. Support for those afflicted is an even greater priority. We are in this journey called life, together. Dare to care!

Experiencing The Advantages Of Tai Chi …

Here we are, deep into the Fall season, with the holidays and winter quickly approaching. For many who live with a Chronic illness, the thought of colder weather is a cruel reminder of the pain … stiffness … even lack of mobility … that winter brings. If you are one of these individuals, it may feel as though your body has placed you on house-arrest. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Low-impact exercise can help you to feel better and significantly reduce the symptoms that are making you miserable. And none are better at doing this than Tai Chi!

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Unlike other low-impact options, Tai Chi requires slower motion. And this slow motion can loosen your body in ways that others cannot. With Tai Chi, you must concentrate on what you are doing. Think of it as a meeting of the body and the mind. You are focused, yet relaxed. Your breathing is easier — calming your senses. Even the movements of the Tai Chi exercises … from the shifting of your weight … to the flowing motions of your arms … articulate every joint. You can actually feel better, after just 8-10 minutes of Tai Chi. As you strengthen your core, you may want to do longer sessions. And you can do Tai Chi in so many places, i.e. inside your home, in your yard, at a park, on vacation, etc. The winter weather cannot keep you from enjoying the benefits, even on the snowiest of days.

Aside from flexibility and convenience, Tai Chi is an excellent way to improve your balance. That is something anyone, at any age, can use. Tai Chi is also helpful for circulation. As with any exercise program, discuss Tai Chi with your doctor before starting. But given its reputation, he or she will probably encourage you to take the initiative. And, just in case you are wondering about expense, Tai Chi is as affordable as purchasing a DVD. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, or a gym membership. If you would prefer a class, there may be locations in your area that offer them. You can also obtain information from The Arthritis Foundation (call 1-800-283-7800, or visit http://www.arthritis.org). You can even find Tai Chi on YouTube. Perhaps, the best thing about it is that you don’t have to be good at Tai Chi to reap the rewards. You just have to be willing to try!

 

 

References:

https://www.energyarts.com/tai-chi-worlds-best-low-impact-exercise/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/tai-chi-and-chi-gong

*Photo by Mark Hang Fung So on Unsplash

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Epilepsy Awareness Month

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. So, for a moment, let’s shed some light on this chronic illness. Anyone can develop Epilepsy. No one is immune. But what exactly is it? Epilepsy is a neurological condition that effects the nervous system. It is also known as a seizure disorder. The diagnosis usually comes after an individual has had two or more seizures. These seizures are caused by electrical disturbances within the brain. Sometimes, they are the result of a brain injury. Other times, they can be caused by other medical conditions, i.e. stroke, brain tumors, meningitis, AIDs, etc. But for many patients, the cause of Epilepsy is unknown. 

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Last year, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) reported that the number of Americans living with Epilepsy had reached an all-time high — approximately 3.4M! Globally, over 60M live with the illness. 

There are many types of seizures, so symptoms and treatment can vary widely. But every patient with Epilepsy can benefit from awareness. There are, unfortunately, many stigmas that have been [and still are] attached to this illness. This misinformation can lead to harassment, bullying, even discrimination. Let’s change that!

An Epilepsy patient’s intelligence should never be underestimated, because of their condition. In fact, many world leaders … high achievers … influential advocates … inspiring athletes … and successful artists … have lived with seizures, i.e. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Socrates, Michelangelo, Presidents James Madison and Theodore Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, George Gershwin, Charles Dickens, Margaux Hemingway, Florence Griffith Joyner, Danny Glover, Chief Justice John Roberts, etc.

As with any chronic illness, i.e. Diabetes, Hypertension, etc., patients must respect their condition. They should take their medication as directed and maintain regular visits with their doctor. Epilepsy is a diagnosis. It is treatable. But it does not define who the individual is, or their abilities. Most people with Epilepsy lead normal lives. They go to school, college, build careers, raise families, etc. They have hobbies and enjoy sports.

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. The more you know, the better that you can understand. You can spread the word. And, most importantly, you can change your view as well as the views of others!

 

References:

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0810-epilepsy-prevalence.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20350093

https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-with-epilepsy/celebrity-lists

http://www.edmontonepilepsy.org/epilepsy/living/famous.html

https://epilepsynewstoday.com/2016/09/09/boy-with-epilepsy-scores-a-grade-advanced-mathematics

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14728909

http://www.mychildwithoutlimits.org/understand/epilepsy/how-does-epilepsy-affect-daily-life/

Be Not Afraid …

Fear. It is our most primal instinct — key to our survival. Nothing motivates us like fear. And nothing makes us more uncomfortable. When you have a Chronic illness, you know fear. Some know it all too well. You live with it, daily. In fact, patients with a Chronic illness are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety. Depending upon their diagnosis, as many as 40% can experience mental and emotional distress. It’s a burden, to say the least. 

Living with a Chronic illness is a lot like living on a roller-coaster. There are highs and lows, curves that toss you around and cork-screw days that leave you nauseous. Coping with the upheaval isn’t easy. Sometimes, you grasp for stability and comfort. Symptoms bring an array of problems. Pain alone can be overwhelming. Then there are the other things … medical bills, insurance issues, side-effects to medication, surgery, complications, various types of therapy, your job, family, etc. All bring you more stress … more worry. And, yes, fear. 

What works for one patient may not help another at all. There are no guarantees, with treatment or life. And the unknowing can be hell. The sheer feeling that you have lost control is both irritating and embarrassing. Feelings of uselessness can haunt you. The lack of mobility is scary. Thoughts of disability may keep you awake at night. Some patients don’t want to burden their families. They fear the thought of it. Yet, they need help. Others are facing end-of-life issues and making very difficult decisions. It’s a sobering moment. A daunting task. And many patients fear death itself.

 

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“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”     — Deuteronomy 31:8

 

If you or a loved one is living with a Chronic illness, be not afraid. You are not alone. Though your days may be a struggle and your nights long, scripture teaches us not to worry … to trust in God. He is always with us. I say this, not as a theologian. I offer it, from experience, as a believer. My faith has sustained me, for decades. Without it, I couldn’t live with multiple Chronic illnesses. I couldn’t cope with the throes of it. But through the grace of God, I do so daily. And when fear envelopes me, I turn to Him. I trust in Him. He remains my light through this constant storm … guiding me … giving me the strength to go on … and always reminding me that there is hope for tomorrow. 

If you are struggling to manage your Chronic illness, take a moment to talk to God. Prayer between you and Him doesn’t have to be a formal prayer. It can be done casually, on the fly. Will it ease your fear? Soothe your pain? Medical research on the power of healing prayer has nearly doubled, in the last decade. If the results weren’t positive, they wouldn’t be interested. The Lord knows your suffering and your problems. He knows your heart — your needs (1 Samuel 16:7). He’s waiting. He’s listening. And His peace does bring comfort to the body as well as the soul.

 

 

References:

https://www.psycom.net/chronic-pain-illness-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/200909/the-most-powerful-motivator

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/j.ejheart.2008.04.011

https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal#1

*Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash

The Great Pumpkin …

When autumn brings cooler days and colder nights, we pull out our sweaters and hoodies. We huddle under blankets, at ballgames. We rake leaves. Then, we rake even more. We decorate our homes, inside and out, with festive decorations. Some of us tediously carve jack-o-lanterns into works of art. Summer has slipped away from us, like a ship leaving port in the night. Yet, we don’t seem to mind. The joys of Fall abound. From apple cider to corn-mazes, we immerse ourselves in the new season. We enjoy the harvest from our own gardens — canning, freezing, cooking, baking. And by October, our minds always focus on pumpkins. The two are synonymous with each other. So much so, that we cannot seem to experience Fall without buying one. But we seldom talk about the actual benefits involved. That, my friends, is about to change.

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Pumpkins are a super-food. In other words, a pumpkin is a nutrient-enriched food that is considered beneficial to our health and well-being. Canned, cooked, or raw, pumpkin is a must-do, for this time of year. And the seeds are actually part of the treasure. Just one ounce of pumpkin seeds provides us with so many essential minerals and nutrients. They’re also incredibly easy to roast and they taste great!

Pumpkins provide us with fiber, for digestion. They’re low-calorie. Pumpkins are also loaded with beta-carotene (that’s where that bright orange color comes from). Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A. And that’s good for eye health. Two antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin), found in pumpkins, also guard against cataracts. They may even help to slow macular degeneration. But the benefits do not stop there. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin C. That’s great news, for our immune systems. The potassium, found in them, can lower our blood pressure. And the other minerals, i.e. manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper as well as calcium, can do even more. Many patients with Chronic illnesses can reap the rewards of this amazing fruit. Yes, according to botanists, pumpkins are a fruit! 

It’s Fall. Nature is exploding with color and bounty. So, let’s think beyond the lattes and scented candles. Let’s do something that’s really good for us and festive, too. Let’s take a moment to incorporate pumpkin into our meals and snacks. Let’s savor every new-found recipe. Or better still, let’s share them with others. Eating healthy has never been so easy, so inexpensive, or so good. Enjoy!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/6-surprising-health-benefits-of-pumpkin#1

https://www.health.com/family/fall-superfood-spotlight-pumpkin

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279610.php

https://nutritionstripped.com/food-index/pumpkin-seeds/

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/pumpkins-fruit-vegetable-difference-two

*Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

Do You Need That?

When you have a Chronic illness, you strive to manage it. The better your illness is managed, the better your health actually becomes. And better health equates to the best quality of life. Are you with me? Better. Better. Better. Best!

Inevitably, this management or maintenance leads to a lot of questions. Should we try this medicine? Perhaps, if we tried that supplement? Or maybe, we ought to consider a vaccine? We are literally bombarded with ads — marketing medications, vaccines, supplements, etc. They’re everywhere, i.e. television, the internet, magazines, newspapers, etc. But does that mean we actually need the product? Ask your doctor. You might be surprised by his or her answer!

Typically, if you have a Chronic illness, you are more vulnerable than an individual who is in excellent health. That doesn’t mean that you need anything and everything available. It means that your needs are based upon your age, health issues, etc. So, again, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Take the guess-work and anxiety, out of the equation.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last Fall, I was stricken with a case of shingles. It was horrendous — far worse than the chickenpox that I remember having in second grade. From the blisters to the nerve pain (that took nearly 3 months to subside), it was a brutal experience. Need I say, I became very focused on getting the vaccine. But, when I discussed it with my doctor, I was told to wait a year (at least). Having shingles allowed my body’s immune system to develop a memory of the exposure. In other words, it boosted my immunity against the virus. Obviously, this protection doesn’t last forever. And compromised immune systems are more vulnerable. Still, after talking to my doctor, I felt relieved to know that my body has a measure of protection against this virus. So, I’m planning on my annual flu shot instead. 

Supplements can be used effectively and abused. None of us need the latter. The American Medical Association recommends a multivitamin supplement for all adults. Are you taking one, daily? As for additional supplements, talk to your doctor. Some can be helpful, depending upon your medical history and health. Others can possibly do more harm than good. A study, published in The New England Medical Journal in 2015, found that adverse effects of supplements were responsible for over 22K emergency department or ED visits every year. And approximately 10% of these cases resulted in admission to the hospital!

Call me old fashioned, but … prescription medications just aren’t meant to marketed like shampoo to the general public. Anyone who is chronically ill is a sometimes desperate and vulnerable consumer. Yet, this is the reality that we now live in. If you feel that your current medication isn’t working well, discuss this with your doctor. Talk about your options. Please, don’t walk into his or her office with a specific ad or medication in mind. What may work for some, may be totally wrong for you. And, by all means, take your prescribed medication as it is directed. Many patients take unnecessary risks with medications. It is harmful — even deadly.

All of which brings us back to the initial question that entitles this piece: Do you need that? Let your doctor, not a marketing campaign or your BFF, decide!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/886087?src=par_cdc_stm_mscpedt&faf=1

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/news/20120605/risk-shingles-recurrence-is-low

http://www.mreassociates.org/pages/ama_speaks_out.html

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/harmful-effects-of-supplements-can-send-you-to-the-emergency-department-201510158434

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/how-can-prescription-drug-misuse-be-prevented

https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed/etools/managing-pain-patients-who-abuse-prescription-drugs

What Is Forest Medicine?

The healing properties of nature have long been recognized. Cedar trees were used by many Native American tribes for healing and protection against disease. John Muir, the great Scottish-born American naturalist and writer once said, “Come to the forest, for here is rest.” A century later, researchers around the world were taking medicinal and scientific interests in trees. The Japanese government was literally encouraging its citizens to get out — commune with the woods — for therapy. They called it “forest bathing”. From 2004-2012, Japan spent $4M studying hundreds of subjects. Their work became the foundation for the modern concept of “Forest Medicine”. But what exactly is it? 

 

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Forest Medicine is the science of using nature to heal you. And it has been accepted by many traditional medical practitioners. Why? Research has proven that trees having healing properties. The antimicrobial oils, or phytoncides, that protect them from germs can also help people. These oils reduce blood pressure, heart rate, stress and anxiety. They also boost the immune system, improve sleep and increase energy. It’s even possible that they can help you fight cancer or depression. As a result of these and other benefits, Japan designated 62 therapeutic forests. These woodlands attract millions, every year. All in search of better health.

Researchers in North America have also taken notice of Forest Medicine. A study, conducted by doctors at the University of Illinois, noted that children with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hypersensitivity Disorder) showed improved concentration after just a 20-minute walk in a green space, i.e. a park. Many spas and treatment centers throughout the U.S. and Canada now offer “Forest Therapy” or “Shinrin-Yoku”. It’s even been highlighted for tourists, i.e. The Travel Channel and the Fodors Travel Guide. Some locales may be closer than you think. Are you tempted? The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy actually offers free Forest Therapy Starter Kits, on their website.

For me, personally, I find rejuvenation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I prefer that simple, one-on-one approach. The sound of the water rushing over the rocks, in the mountain streams, soothe me. The smells of wood and earth fill my senses. And I feel stronger — better. I somehow have more energy. I don’t have to climb a high peak to experience the positive effects to my body. I don’t have to hike five miles. Nature opens its arms like a loving mother and it provides. And the peace is priceless.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://qz.com/1208959/japanese-forest-medicine-is-the-art-of-using-nature-to-heal-yourself-wherever-you-are/

http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html

https://hikingresearch.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/an-interview-with-forest-medicine-and-shinrin-yoku-researcher-dr-qing-li/

http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/

https://www.redbuttegarden.org/forest-medicine-north-america/

https://www.fodors.com/news/hotels/9-spas-where-you-can-try-forest-bathing

*Photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

                                               

 

Kindness Matters …

Our relationships are like the seasons — they change with time. Some grow warmer and others are colder. Some may be harsh. Others are soothing … understanding … and loving. How these relationships evolve, or change, in part depends on each of us. Why?We change, i.e. our health, our jobs, our priorities, etc. Often times, that change can effect our relationships — even strain them. Yet, our relationships are an important part of our lives. And that is all the more reason for us to be proactive.

As winter approaches, we pull out our winter clothes. We may even buy a new coat, boots, a scarf, or all of the above. We make an effort to prepare. We take the time to consider what is, or may be, needed. As summer approaches, we do the same. Our relationships need that same kind of attention. It doesn’t matter who your relationship is with, i.e. spouse, partner, significant other, caregiver, children, parents, co-workers, etc. All need and deserve consideration.

None of us are the person that we once were. But we can still be our best, despite age or Chronic illness. We can reach out — nurture ourselves as well as our relationships. And we can be all the better for it. But to do so, we need to embrace kindness.

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“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”   —   Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

One the surface, kindness is the quality of being considerate … generous … friendly. But, often times, it requires courage and strength. Though it isn’t regularly seen as such, kindness is a skill. There are different ways that we can practice kindness. We can look at a person, or group, and identify what they need. When we do so, we strengthen the relationship between us and them. Simple gestures, i.e. a smile, a hug, offering a compliment, or running an errand are acts of kindness. A card, an email, or a phone call are also excellent ways to extend kindness. Sometimes, the most helpful acts of kindness are candid and direct. They show our concern as well as providing much needed honesty and insight.

Kindness is linked to happiness and contentment — ours and someone else’s. It has  psychological and spiritual levels. Kindness promotes our gratitude and our empathy. It can encourage the will to live and provide hope to those who feel life is hopeless. Kindness has the ability to connect us, one-on-one or as a group. Kindness can bond an entire community — strengthen it. And Kindness can be good for our own health.

If you, a loved one, or neighbor has a Chronic illness, kindness can be a godsend. Talk with them. Talk to their caregiver, or yours. Talk candidly. Tell them what you need. Ask what they need. There is no shame in asking for help. Nor does it take a great deal of effort to offer some. Little things can and do mean a lot. All of us, chronically ill or well, need help from time to time. Last, but not least, remember to be kind to yourself. Love yourself.

Self-kindness has the ability to promote better health, in patients who are chronically ill. Most Chronic diseases involve pain, fatigue and/or a decrease of functioning. Self-kindness will allow a patient to focus on the positives instead of the negatives. It enables all of us to better cope with stress, setbacks, etc. Self-compassion, or self-kindness, is even being considered for use in clinical settings. Like optimism, it’s a positive thing. And the rewards are worth reaping.

May God bless.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mdedge.com/jcomjournal/article/146122/role-self-compassion-chronic-illness-care

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201711/why-random-acts-kindness-matter-your-wellbeing

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/help-chronic.aspx

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201712/the-importance-kindness

*Photo by Almos Bechtold on Unsplash