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

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

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

In 2020 … More Optimism!

Well, here we are … starting a new year … and wallowing in a mixture of emotions. Excitement. Curiosity. Frustration. Determination. Perhaps, even dread? A few tell-tale signs from the holidays are still lingering … cards, decorations, perhaps a return or two. Often times, people feel the need to start fresh as a way to welcome January. So, they make a resolution. Many would even call it a tradition to do so. If you are one of these folks, please, consider making yours “optimism”!

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Optimism, or Positive thinking, is a powerful thing that can have tremendous results. If you’re laughing, or just silently skeptical, visit the reference links below. Pessimists give up more easily. They are depressed more often. And they tend to have more health issues. Optimists, on the other hand, do better in school, at work, even in extracurricular activities. They have better overall health and they may even live longer. Is there a greater gift to give yourself in 2020? To me, there isn’t!

To put it simply, optimism equates to being healthier. There are five decades of medical research, from around the world, to support this. Being healthier means you are going to feel better, look better and enjoy life more. Optimistic people have better cardiovascular health, stronger immune function, lower stress levels and lower pain levels. When an optimistic person encounters an adverse health event, i.e. orthopedic surgery, they recover more quickly. And, if they are diagnosed with a Chronic illness, they can manage their disease better. Their survival rates are higher. Wow!

The best part is that optimism can be learned! So, if you are a born pessimist, you can change your outlook. Your glass doesn’t have to be perpetually half-empty. You too can reap the rewards of optimism. Are you ready? Here, are some helpful tips:

  • Change how you think. Instead of dwelling on a problem, focus on the solution.
  • Mentally, coach yourself. We all need a cheering section. Remember to be yours.
  • Practice positive self-talk. In other words, DON’T say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else.
  • Be open to humor. Smile. Laugh. Both release stress.
  • Identify areas of your life that you want to improve. Take some time, each day, to visualize that success. 
  • Exercise. Even a little can help a lot, i.e. walk around the block, a 10-minute session of Tai Chi, etc. It will positively effect your mood and reduce stress levels.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Supportive people can offer helpful advice and feedback. Negative ones cannot.
  • Acknowledge your accomplishments. Even the small ones count and add up. So, pat yourself on the back and keep moving forward!

A new year is like standing before a blank canvas. We are the artists. And our palettes are waiting. Optimism — like the paint, pencils, brushes, palette knives, etc. — is within our reach. Here’s hoping that each of us creates a beautiful masterpiece!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201208/the-mind-and-body-benefits-optimism-0

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-behind-behavior/201607/4-reasons-why-optimistic-outlook-is-good-your-health

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/optimism-and-your-health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23510498

https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/train-yourself-to-be-an-optimist-4-steps.html

*Photo by Izabelle Acheson on Unsplash