Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Take a Break: Make an Easter Basket/Remembering Anderson/Roosevelt

A very simple design for a lovely paper Easter Basket can be found at I’ve made one from origami paper and it looks stunning. Tried it with a glue stick and it was a real pain holding the paper until it sets so my recommendation is double-sided tape over glue or a glue stick.

In researching a project for a Young Historian’s program, I came across the Easter 1939 concert Marian Anderson gave in front of the Lincoln Memorial. She was bared by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) from singing in Constitution Hall because of her race. Eleanor Roosevelt, then First Lady, resigned from the DAR and worked with the NAACP and the Roosevelt administration to create the memorable open air concert for 75,000 people. Millions listened via the radio. What a voice!

You can watch the newsreel of her singing “My Country Tis of Thee” at

Eleanor Roosevelt’s resignation letter and her weekly newspaper column announcing her decision can be read at the FDR Library website

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Exercise: How Much, How Often and What Kind

New research is showing that people with chronic conditions greatly benefit from exercise. It not only helps reduce stress, but it can keep you healthier and happier, as well as reduce the risk of developing other conditions

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, from the US Department of Health & Human Services, recommends the following for people with chronic conditions:

• Adults with chronic conditions obtain important health benefits from regular physical activity.

• When adults with chronic conditions do activity according to their abilities, physical activity is safe.

• Adults with chronic conditions should be under the care of health-care providers. People with chronic conditions and symptoms should consult their health-care providers about the types and amounts of activity appropriate for them.

For adults in general, the Guidelines recommend:
• All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits

• For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.

• For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.

• Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

While there are general guidelines for what constitutes “moderate” or “ vigorous” activities, how you do them and where can change the benefit. For example, I live in the mountains so a mile walk is more of a hike than walking a similar distance in Chicago, where it’s fairly flat.

Moderate intensity activities include walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race walking); water aerobics, bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour; general gardening; ballroom dancing; tennis doubles. Vigorous intensity includes race walking, jogging, running; swimming laps; aerobic dancing; jumping rope; hiking uphill

Motivating yourself to exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. How your exercise can be incorporated into your daily routine a lot easier than you realize.

Below are some tips that might be helpful.
• Have an exercise buddy or an exercise group. Classes can be fun. These are a great time to catch up with friends. For years I’ve walked and hiked with different groups of people. You’ll find yourself looking forward to the conversation and hardly notice the distance you’ve walked.

• Mix it up. Do different types of exercise.

• Play. This can include a sport, such as tennis or golf, but it can also include getting out with your kids or grandkids and playing an active game of their choosing. Yes Wii games count.

• Music is a good motivator. I Nordic walk faster if I listen to my iPod and I’m more focused when I do my Qigong if I have some music in the background.

• Gym it. Some people hate gyms, while others find them a good place to work out. My husband isn’t fond of the workout, but loves the sauna and the hot tub.

• Incorporate exercise into your daily life. Instead of driving to the corner store, walk. Park the car farther from the door of your office and the mall. Housework is exercise, so when you don’t feel like cleaning think of it as your exercise for the day. When you don’t feel like exercising, remind yourself that the last hour you spent mopping floors and hanging laundry counts toward your exercise. If you are on the phone, stand up or walk. Garden and do lawn chores instead of hiring someone. Shovel snow instead or using a snow blower. Keep in mind the “instead ofs:” sit up instead of lying down; stand instead of sitting; walk or ride a bike instead of driving

• Mall walking works.

• Exercise in 10 minute intervals. Done three times a day, that’s 30 minutes.

• Do things you enjoy. Take a dance or yoga class.

• Walk the dog

• Fly a kite.

Friday, March 26, 2010

An answer for What Can I do to Help

An answer for What Can I do to Help

I recently learned of a new free website that helps families and friends organize to help someone in need-Lotsa Helping Hands

To the question of “What Can I do to Help?” Lotsa Helping Hands is a private, web-based caregiving coordination service that allows family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to create a community to assist a family caregiver with the daily tasks that become a challenge during times of medical crisis, caregiver exhaustion, or when caring for an elderly parent.

Each community includes an intuitive group calendar for scheduling tasks such as meals delivery and rides, a platform for securely sharing vital medical, financial, and legal information with designated family members, and customizable sections for posting photos, well wishes, blogs, journals, and messages.

Now, when someone asks “what can I do to help?” the answer is “give me your name and email address” – the system takes over and allows people to sign up and start helping.

The uses of Lotsa Helping Hands are endless. One area where there is a big need is caring for an elderly parent when siblings live in different parts of the country. This site can help keep everyone in the loop, coordinate with people who are local and can help out, and keep track of what’s going on.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Take a Break: Decorate Eggs

With Easter less than two weeks away, the next two Wednesdays will focus on things to do to celebrate spring.

What would Easter be without egg decorating? “Fine by me,” would be a popular response by many. However, there are a lot of creative and fun ways to decorate eggs that result in pieces of art that you will keep year after year.

13 Creative Ways to Dye and Decorate Easter Eggs

• Two versions using silk ties:
Our Best Bites version (they also have some great recipes to try out)

Martha Stewart’s version

Pysanky (Ukrainian Easter Eggs): I’ve used PAS dyes and made very light colored ones.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sabotaging Success

For years I have watched people take the negative option time and again. No matter what you tell them, or how positive you sound, they will find a way to make it dreadful and somehow they become the “victim” yet again. A doctor can give them very positive news and they will immediately find a negative in it. A new drug regiment is working well, and they sabotage it so they become sick again. It’s as if they are unable to accept success in their life.

Do they need to return to a state of feeling bad physically and emotionally because that’s what they’ve known in the past and for them the future is totally predicted by the past? There is also the possibility that they have survived the past feeling bad and, since their emphasis is on surviving not thriving, they immediately seek what they see as a safe approach.

The March 22, 2010 New York Times has an interesting article about this topic “Sabotaging Success, but to What End? So what explains those men and women who repeatedly pursue a path that leads to pain and disappointment? Perhaps there is a hidden psychological reward.

I got a glimpse of it once from another patient, a woman in her early 60s who complained about her ungrateful children and neglectful friends. As she spoke, it was clear she felt that all the major figures in her life had done her wrong. In fact, her status as an injured party afforded her a psychological advantage: she felt morally superior to everyone she felt had mistreated her. This was a role she had no intention of giving up.

As she left my office, she smiled and said, “I don’t expect that you’ll be able to help me.” She was already setting up her next failure: her treatment.

You can download the article at

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Living Long-Tips from the Blue zones

It is interesting to watch the ongoing debate about the Obama health care bill. What’s even more interesting is to follow research on longevity, health and happiness and see how much of this has been incorporated into the bill. The quick answer is very little.

If you are not familiar with Blue zones, these are places inhabited by the world’s longest-lived populations- Okinawa Japan, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costra Rica, Sardinia, Italy and Loma Linda California. Interestingly, it’s not so much the genetics or the availability to high tech care, but rather its lifestyle habits- diet, exercise, beliefs and attitude-that play a major role in health and life expectancy.

There are four basic concepts that appear to improve chances of longevity:
Move Naturally – Make your home, community and workplace present you with natural ways to move. Focus on activities you love, like gardening, walking and playing with your family. Exercise is automatically incorporated into your daily life. These people are not long distance runners or tri athletes.

Right Outlook – Know and be able to articulate your sense of purpose, and ensure your day is punctuated with periods of calm. Naps are really good.

Eat Wisely – No dieting among these groups, instead they eat 20% less at meals, whole foods that are plant based, limited meat and little to no processed foods.

Belong to the Right Tribe – Surround yourself with the right people, make the effort to connect or reconnect with your religion and put loved ones first. We're evolutionarily designed to socialize so there is likely a biological link between connectedness and how well our bodies (immune system, etc) works. The knowledge that we're not alone in the world reduces stress, puts us at ease. Other people can give our lives meaning, a reason to get up and out of the house. There are a variety of ways to increase the people in your life that are the “right fit” for you-do what you love and follow that path. If you enjoy painting, become a dosen at a museum. Love singing or running, join a chorus or a running group. It’s more about sharing activities you enjoy with people who also enjoy those things, and incorporating as many healthy routines into as many areas of your life!

Many people can’t afford health insurance, or have such high deductibles they’re hesitant to seek care. Yet, the key to healthy living, as we see from those that are outliving most Americans, isn’t necessarily in making heavy use of your health plan. Maybe one of the things we can do to be proactive is adopt the Blue zones Top Ten for TV

Blue zones Top Ten for TV
1. De-convenience your home – lose the remote, buy a light garage door and lift it yourself, use a shovel instead of a snowblower

2. Eat Nuts – Have a can of nuts around your office or home, eat a handful daily

3. Drink Sardinian wine – Sardinian canonau wine has the world's highest levels of antioxidants. Drink a glass or two a day

4. Play with your children – this is excellent low intensity exercise and will strenthen a family. Both associated with longer life expectancy

5. Grow a Garden – This proven stress reducer will put your body through the range of motion and yield fresh vegtables

6. Hour of Power – Downshift daily with a nap, meditation, prayer or a quiet walk--destressing is a proven way to slow aging

7. Eat Tofu – Arguably the world's most perfect food, eaten by the world's longest lived women. Contains a plant estrogen that makes skin look younger

8. Get a Tan – Doctors are rethinking the notion of slathering yourself with sunscreen. Up to half of Americans are Vitamin D deficient--a condition that can double your chance of dying in any given year. A tan not only looks healthy, it is.

9. Donate your large dinner plates – eat off 9 inch plates as the Okinawans do and reduce calorie consumption at dinner by 20-30%

10. Write Down your Personal Mission – Know and putting into practice your sense of purpose can give you up to a decade of good life.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Healing the Whole Person 3/10

In August, I posted a copy of the handout I've developed on healing whole. I looked at it the other day, and based on the research and discussions from doing this blog, I've made some alterations. As I mentioned then, as I learn more, changes would be made.

Healing the Whole Person

Whether you are a caregiver or living with a chronic or life threatening condition, you are more than the diagnosis. Feeling powerless in the face of illness is common. It is easy to define yourself by what you can no longer do and how you appear. You may feel that you have been robbed of everything that makes life worth living. Yet great things can be achieved by connecting with your inner self, identity, soul, spirit or whatever form you choose to call the core of who you are versus what you appear to be.

Keep in mind the following
• There’s no benefit in blaming yourself or others for your present situation
• You are doing the best you can and your best is more than good enough.
• Every one has “something” to deal with. This is your something.
• You can have feelings of being disconnected to yourself, family and friends. You may find yourself feeling extremely angry or sad. Be patient with yourself. If the feelings continue to persist for several weeks, or are interfering with your life, get professional help.
• Breathe!

Live in the present/Practice Mindfulness: Be aware of your present and not trying to relive the past or be in fear of the future.

Practice acceptance, strive for joy.

Know Your Purpose

Practice Happiness: The following 10 steps were developed as part of the BBC’s 2005 Documentary Making Slough Happy
• Plant something and nurture it

• Count your blessings - at least five - at the end of each day

• Take time to talk - have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week

• Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up

• Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it

• Have a good laugh at least once a day

• Get physical - exercise for half an hour three times a week

• Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once each day

• Cut your TV viewing by half

• Spread some kindness - do a good turn for someone every day

I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. Dali Lama

Develop or use your spirituality and/or faith: For some this may be a renewed faith in their religion for others it is an opportunity to find beliefs that provide comfort.

Don’t lose hope

Make achievable goals

Ask for Help

Keep a Journal: Write about feelings and thoughts.

Surround yourself with people that you enjoy

Take an Art Break: Engaging in art activities can reduce stress and increase well being. You can play or listen to music, draw, paint, write a poem, dance, bake or work on a craft project. The sky’s the limit.

Meditate: Inhale through your nose to the count of four or more. Exhale slowly, with lips puckered, through your mouth for as long as you can. As you exhale, listen to the sounds you make. Do you notice a difference in how your face feels as you let go of the tension? Repeat as many times that are comfortable for you, keeping in mind the saying, “take 10 deep breaths.” You can also try out meditation on-line by going to Google or You Tube and search the video section.

Manage Your Health
• Keep a health notebook
• Maintain healthy habits by:
- Eating whole foods-at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily;
- Reducing sugar & caffeine in your diet;
- Regular exercise as health permits (consider yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong); and
- Getting sufficient sleep
• Keep medical appointments
• Join a support group to help yourself and so you can help others
• Recognize you are in charge of your health care and act accordingly
• Identify resources in your community that can help you get what you need
• Developing and maintaining good relationships with your health providers

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Difficulty Trusting Others Impacts Life Expectancy

In response to the March 13 post, “Functioning When it Doesn’t Seem Possible,” I received a comment about how reluctant one person was in sharing their feelings and concerns with others. “I don’t want to be a whiner.” Today, I read a very interesting article about how not trusting and reaching out may actually shorten one’s life. This particular study was done in patients with diabetes.

Mistrust can exact a high toll. Being overly cautious or dismissive in relating to people, researchers are learning, may shorten the lives of people with diabetes.

Diabetes patients who have a lower propensity to reach out to others have a higher mortality rate than those who feel comfortable seeking support. These are the findings of a five-year study reported by Dr. Paul Ciechanowski, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington (UW) and an affiliate investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. To read more about the study, go to

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Take a Break: Make Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Celebrate by making Irish Soda Bread. This recipe is from County Cork Ireland

Must do 2 pans worth--in other words, half the recipe in each pan

4 Cups white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Cup sugar

Blend the above. Then cut in till small lumps are created the following:
1 and 1/2 sticks butter

Then add 1 cup currants plus 1 and1/2 Cups buttermilk (or milk soured with 2 Tbsp vinegar)
Plus 1/4 cup caraway seeds

Mix the above and divide in half, hence the need for two pans

Brush tops with mix of 1 egg yolk plus 2 Tblsp water. Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake for 55-60 minutes at 350

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Functioning When it Doesn’t Seem Possible

For over a week, I was dealing with intense painful sinus headaches, which occurred at random times. This experience gave me a new sense of how easy it is to become frozen in fear. I understood only to well why people with chronic illness become isolated, not just because of health problems but also because of their fears about them. Will I have the same pain when I wake up tomorrow? What if I go out with friends and I have an attack? Should I invite friends over? What happens if I should be in pain at work?

My fears of what could happen increased my stress and anxiety, which fed into my feelings of not being well.

People with chronic illnesses do have health issues that can feel paralyzing. Below are some ways to rethink the situation:

• Make sure you have an accurate diagnosis from a medical provider. Don’t diagnosis yourself and assume it’s correct. In my case, I thought I might have cluster headaches, which made me even more fearful.

• Explore treatment to prevent the problem if it is possible.

• Learn how others cope with similar issues. You can do this by:
- Participating in an on-line or in person support group
- Posting a question on a blog or website that is specific to your condition.
- Talk to your medical provider
- Contact the condition specific organization (e.g. The American Cancer Society) that is relevant to you. Many groups will have handouts on dealing with various problems relating to your condition.

• Let key people in your life know what you are coping with. These can include your supervisor, spouse, friend(s), co-worker, neighbor, family members. Most people are supportive. Let them know what the symptoms might be and how this may impact you in relationship to work and other activities.

• Recognize that fear and anxiety are major stress producers and can make you feel worse. They can also result in your making decisions and have thoughts that are irrational.

• Live mindfully, live in the moment. Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them. Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.
Cultivating a nonjudgmental awareness of the present bestows a host of benefits. Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps patients cope with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day actively focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease.
The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment, Psychology Today 11/1/08

• Practice stress reduction (more on that in the coming weeks)

• Seek professional help sooner than later.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Take a Break: Sing

There is growing evidence that just like exercise, singing is good for you. In fact, singing can even include aerobic conditioning. It’s also a wonderful stress reliever.

You can sing in the shower, driving in car, with other people in a chorus, karaoke, or just get together with several friends and “sing a few.”

Singing as a health tool seems to have been embraced in England, where they have programs like “Singing for the Brain.” However, the most important thing is to just sing. If you are trying to remember lyrics, you can find a lot of them on line.

Want to try karaoke? Try the following links

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What to do with Medications you are no longer using

It is common for people with chronic conditions to have medications lying around that they are no longer using. In the past, medications were dumped in the toilet. However, studies show that this practice contaminates the water, not only endangering wild life, but also exposing people to low doses of medications through drinking water. Wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals and over the counter drugs.

If you have medications that your are no longer going to use, take the following steps:


• Check the instructions that came with the medication. Sometimes they’ll provide directions for disposal.

• Many communities have “take-back” programs. Inquire about disposal options in your area. Pharmacies, clinics, health centers and hospitals often have programs.

• Depending on the drug, the amount you have and the expiration date, you can donate medications for other patients. Some states have “drug repository” programs. Your medical provider may have more information on this, so check with them first. Another source of information will be a condition specific organization, such as The American Cancer Society.

• Call your local trash service as they may have household waste facilities that will incinerate the medication

• If your only option is to throw the medication in the trash, take the following precautions so no one (animals, children and people who pick through trash) is harmed
- Keep in original container, but mark out your name and prescription number. This is helpful if an animal or person is exposed to the contents. Note that some states recommend not leaving medication in their original containers.

- Modify the medication so someone can’t take it. For pills, add some water or soda to dissolve them. For liquids, add something inedible such as dirt, salt, kitty liter, flour or ashes. Wrap Blister packs in multiple layers of duct tape or packing tape. Transdermal patches should be folded into itself and then placed in an undesirable mixture.

- Close the lid and secure with duct tape or packing tape

- Place the bottle(s) inside a non see through container, such as a detergent bottle, margarine tub, empty yogurt container. Contents should not be seen.

- Tape the container closed and hide in the trash. Do not put it in the recycling bin. Do not conceal medicines in food products.

For more information on disposal of medications, check out the following sites:

Smart Disposal

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): How to Dispose of Unused Medicines

Friday, March 5, 2010

When Bad Dreams Keep you Awake

Many people with chronic and life threatening conditions have problems sleeping While some have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many have recurring dreams which can keep them up night after night.

Today I came across an article “Getting Rid of Repeating Nightmares: A Simple, Potent, New Recipe,” by psychotherapist Belleruth Naparstek. I found it to be an interesting way to eliminate this problem.

One of the most dramatic, butt-kicking examples of an effective new treatment tool for posttraumatic stress is a simple protocol called Nightmare Reprocessing, devised by two V.A. psychologists, Edgardo Padin-Rivera and Beverly Donovan at the Louis Stokes Cleveland V.A. Medical Center.

From all indications, when this method is followed, trauma survivors can rid themselves of a repeating nightmare in three weeks or less.

Experienced therapists will find this hard to swallow. I know I did. This is because traditional, deep dish, insight-based therapy doesn't get a whole lot of traction with repetitive nightmares.

And, to add insult to injury, Nightmare Reprocessing is a simple procedure that any idiot can follow. (Sorry, colleagues! I didn't like it either!) It doesn't require savvy training, deft insight or masterful technique….

Drs. Padin-Rivera and Donovan developed their iteration by tweaking Barry Krakow's Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, which you may have read about last fall in the New Yorker. They added some clever elements from Francine Shapiro's EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing), streamlined the process, and came up with a fast, potent method……
Used at the Brecksville V.A. with several hundred veterans suffering from the twin challenges of chemical dependency and posttraumatic stress, Nightmare Reprocessing was involved in outcome research and described in the Journal of Traumatic Stress,

And, according to Donovan, the success with the nightmares produces a kind of halo effect, creating such a sense of efficacy and well-being, that other PTS symptoms subside as well.

To read the entire article, go to

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Take a Break: Be Inspired

This week I watched a video of Bobby McFerrin “hacking your brain with music.” It was inspiring and enchanting. You can watch it at

We all have those days when nothing seems to inspire or motivate us. I find that I check out and I generally find something that sparks my mind. If you are not familiar with TED it is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

TED makes the various presentations available for free at their website. The site is updated weekly.

Over the years of following TED, my all time favorite talk was Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s presentation “Stroke of Insight.”
Taylor is a brain scientist who had a massive stroke and observed her brain functions shut down one by one. She went from not being able to speak, remember, or walk to making the final closing comment at the 2008 TED Conference. I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea worth spreading.