Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Take A Break-Make Carrots

Not only do I enjoy eating carrots, but one of my favorite pairs of Easter earrings are a light weight paper Mache version of this vegetable. So today’s activity are ways to make a variety of carrots so you can have some very interesting decorations for Easter.

Carrot Napkins: Turn a large orange dinner napkin into a carrot: Fold the napkin into a triangle. Place silverware (can use green plastic utensils) in the corner and roll up in a carrot shape. Tie it off using green pipe cleaners. If you use different shades of green pipe cleaners, it will look a bit more leafy.

Clay carrots: Use can use polymer clay, play dough, or some other clay that will either dry hard or can be baked. Make a little worm shape and form the carrot. You can make the lines, if you choose, using dental floss or thread. If using a light weight clay, these can be turned into pins and earrings.

How to Make Carrots from Polymer Clay for Miniature Dollhouse (video)

Springtime Baby Carrots (made from yarn)

Carrot Earrings from Polymer Clay: You can use the same technique to make the earrings out of clay that dries hard.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Journal/News Watch 3/27/11

People with asthma may have a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, according to a new study that looked at the relationship between asthma and four other inflammatory conditions.

Health reform one year later: The haves and the have nots

HEPA Filters Reduce Cardiovascular Health Risks Associated with Air Pollution: Using inexpensive air filters may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk that results from exposure to air pollution, according to researchers from Canada, who studied healthy adults living in a small community in British Columbia where wood burning stoves are the main sources of pollution. The researchers found that high efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters reduced the amount of airborne particulate matter, resulting in improved blood vessel health and reductions in blood markers that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine On-line.

Vitamin D's role in preventing cancer: The research is inconsistent and doesn't establish a cause–effect relationship. Other recent reviews have reached similar conclusions.. No large-scale randomized clinical trial of vitamin D has been completed with cancer as the primary prespecified outcome. Most evidence is derived from laboratory studies, ecologic correlations, and observational investigations of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in association with cancer outcomes. Although this serum measure is a useful marker of current vitamin D exposure, associational studies have important limitations. Specifically, low serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels are also linked with confounding factors related to higher cancer risk, including obesity (vitamin D becomes sequestered in adipose tissue), lack of physical activity (correlated with less time outdoors and less solar exposure), dark skin pigmentation (less skin synthesis of vitamin D in response to sun), and diet or supplementation practices. Reverse-causation bias may also occur if poor health reduces participation in outdoor activities and sun exposure or adversely affects diet, resulting in lower vitamin D levels. Association therefore cannot prove causation. Many micronutrients that seemed promising in observational studies (e.g., beta carotene, vitamins C and E, folic acid, and selenium) were not found to reduce cancer risk in randomized clinical trials, and some were found to cause harm at high doses. NEJM 3/23/11

In a study of more than 180,000 people, scientists saw the same number of deaths from cancer and heart disease among multivitamin-takers and those who did not take the supplements. Some small studies in the past have shown that specific vitamins, not multivitamins, may be protective against heart disease or cancer later in life. However these studies looked at undernourished people, not generally healthy adults like the U.S. population. On its web site, the U.S. National Institutes of Health advise that doctors should prescribe multivitamins only "for patients who need extra vitamins, who cannot eat enough food to obtain the required vitamins, or who cannot receive the full benefit of the vitamins contained in the food they eat." The researchers did not find that taking multivitamins hurts anyone. American Journal of Epidemiology, online February 22, 2011

In an unusual health study, researchers analyzing toxin levels in tens of thousands of toenail clippings determined that mercury from eating fish does not raise the risk of heart disease or stroke. Health experts have long urged people to eat fish to lower heart risks, but some have worried that the mercury in certain types of fish like shark and swordfish might offset any benefits. Earlier studies on mercury and heart problems in adults have yielded contradictory results. The latest government-funded work is the largest to look at this question. Instead of relying on what people said they ate, it measured mercury in their toenails — a good gauge of long-term exposure to the metal from fish consumption. No differences were seen in the rates of heart and stroke among those with the highest concentrations of mercury compared to those with the lowest. NEJM 3/23/11

Researchers found that the more people exercise, the less their blood pressure will rise in response to a high-salt diet. American Heart Association's meeting on nutrition, physical activity and cardiovascular disease

A study of 6,500 nurses and nurse managers across the United States, found that too often, nurses don't alert their colleagues when they see a safety measure being violated. About 85 percent of nurses said a safety measure had warned them about a problem that might have been missed and could have resulted in patient harm. However, 58 percent of these workers admitted that even though they received the warning, they failed to speak up and solve the problem. On the issue of shortcuts, more than 50 percent of the study participants said they had witnessed events in which dangerous shortcuts led to near misses or caused harm to patients, but only 17 percent of those nurses discussed their concerns with colleagues. Disrespect, was cited as the reason why more than half of the study participants could not get others to listen to them or value their professional opinion. Only 16 percent of those who felt ignored actually confronted their disrespectful colleague, the study noted. The findings show that while safety measures can help prevent medical errors, cultures of silence in U.S. hospitals may undermine their effectiveness, the researchers noted. American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, news release, March 22, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Older I Get the Less I Know: Understanding Grief

In my mother’s 90th year, give or take a few years, she told me that with each passing decade she realized how little she really knew. I understand exactly what she means.

What I know is very different than what I have come to believe. All that I know is that we must eat, drink fluids and breathe in order to live, and regardless of how well we do these three, we still die. Other than that, everything else is up for grabs.

So what’s prompted such a reflection, and why blog about it?

I spent a large part of this past week reading about the latest research on grief. This was prompted by reading an article in Scientific American entitled “The Neuroscience of True Grit.” The essence of this article is summed up as follows: “When the worst happens-a death in the family, a terrorist attack, an epidemic of virulent disease, paralyzing fear in the midst of battle-we experience a sense of profound shock and disorientation. Yet neuroscientists and psychologists who look back at the consequences of these horrific events have learned something surprising: most victims of tragedy soon begin to recover and ultimately emerge largely emotionally intact. Most of us demonstrated astonishing natural resilience to the worst that life throws our way.”

Reading how the brain is “programmed” to return to some sense of normalcy after a traumatic event, made sense to me. This prompted me to further explore the work of Dr. George Bonanno, a psychologist at Teachers College at Columbia University, who has dedicated his career to understanding resilience. I found a summary article he wrote that I thought was pretty accurate. We know that most bereaved people generally cope pretty well. Almost everybody hurts when a loved one dies but most bereaved people are able to keep on going; they work, and love, and move on and eventually the pain recedes. Second, most bereaved people are capable of joy and happiness, even in the midst of their most acute grief experiences. That's the way our emotional systems seem to have evolved. Constant pain would exhaust us. So we experience sadness and other emotions in short burst, and in between we get a bit of a break, maybe even a laugh or a smile. Third, not everyone grieves in the same way. Although most people cope reasonably well with the pain of loss, not everyone handles it the same way. Some confront the pain head on, mourning deeply and passionately and openly. Others are more demure. Some people prefer to keep active and distracted. Sometimes bereaved people behave in a manner that might seem a bit odd, but as long as they get by, it's usually ok. Fourth, anniversary reactions are real but they are usually not long-lasting. Thriving in the Face of Trauma

Along the way I uncovered a new book and a Times magazine article both written by Ruth Davis Konigsberg, a journalist, where she claimed to know “The Truth About Grief.”

After reading and re reading the article in Time, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by both what seems to be passed off as science, and generalizations being made that flies in the face of a lot of what I see and have experienced working with people who have/are dealing with major loss. This in turn made me start thinking of how little we truly know about most things. How research today is over turned years, or even months, from now.

With the first post on this blog, I think I made it clear that I would write about things that I thought were helpful for the people I work(ed) with. I also qualified that no matter how helpful I think something might be, if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you. No more and no less. No need to say “I really tried but…” In short, I would never write an article with “the truth” in the title because truth is subjective-what I believe and someone else believes after having the same experience could, and often is, very different.

By way of this long introduction, and for what it’s worth, this is what I’ve come to understand about grief:
• The brain is amazing and strives to keep you centered. We are wired for resilience. Loss changes the brain, which ultimately changes how you think. That doesn’t have to be a negative.

• There are phases (not defined stages) of grief and mourning. If at any point someone figures they cant’ deal with the pain another minute, get help. While the “year of firsts,” can be hard, most people are in a much better frame of mind after six months. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t affected by the experience and that the course of their life isn’t altered by it. The way I think of this is from a story that a work colleague told me when I was in the throws of deep grief. She said when her father died, it was the first thought of the day for quite a while. Then it became a thought at some point during the day and had reached the point where she thought about it every three or four days. At the time she related that story, it was about a year from his death. For me, that’s been a very helpful gage of how I’m coping with a loss. Might be useful for you, might not be.

• People grieve in different ways. There is no “right” way. There is no uniform way across all cultures. The Japanese don’t even have a term for grief. Yet, all cultures have customs to deal with those who have died and those left behind. Unfortunately, there are not rituals surrounding other types of loss, such as being let go from a job you held for twenty years.

• Some deaths affect you more than others.

• What feels like, and may look like, extreme behavior is most likely a normal reaction to a very abnormal situation.

• Culture, gender, religious and spiritual beliefs, the relationship to the person, other issues of loss, age etc. etc. all impact how the death is perceived and how you deal with it. To think that research done on white American widows of 65 years of age and older, and extrapolate that to the universe of those in grief is just plain foolish.

• Customs very by culture and religion. While intended to help, they may not work for you. Being emphatic that someone needs to view the deceased, touch them or even attend a funeral is not helpful. People need to be allowed to do what they need to do and others need to keep their opinions to themselves. We are only authorities on ourselves not someone else.

• If you are with someone who is in the throws of grief, it doesn’t mean that it’s your grief or that you will experience something similar. Be present the best you can and listen. Some people like to hear stories of how others coped, survived and ultimately thrived from loss, others don’t want to hear them. Use your judgement.

• Ultimately, we all do our best in these situations and our best is more than good enough.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Take a Break-Look for Signs of Spring

Vermont in spring- the forecast is for snow today and we had several inches on our first full day of spring. However, there are signs that this snow wont be lasting long. I saw my first robin this past weekend and I’ve noticed some tiny buds on the trees. Ice on the Black River has broken up and the river is running high.

There are many signs of spring if you look for them. Today’s “take a break” is to get outside, or spend time looking out your window, and look for signs of spring. Then go to “Signs of the Seasons” and log in and map what you found.

Signs of Spring (29 photos)

15 Signs of Spring from Outdoor Life

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Strategies for Surviving a Crisis: Authors Linda and Tony Cole describe their 11 coping strategies for crises including: recruit and accept help and emotional support through family and friends; be proactive; educate yourself and be involved; recognize that “this too shall pass;” find your mental get-away; focus on others; stay busy; exercise regularly, sleep and eat well; and find a place where you can really cy, but set a limit on it.

Women who get lots of omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease affecting millions of older adults in the U.S. That's the conclusion of a new study, which jibes with earlier research linking fish consumption to slower progression of AMD. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA include salmon, trout, sardines, herring and tuna. The primary types of fish linked with lower AMD risk were canned tuna, and dark-meat fish such as salmon and sardines. Archives of Ophthalmology, online March 14, 2011.

Many Americans aged 65 and older are not receiving potentially lifesaving preventive health services, says a new report by several U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies. Too few seniors are getting recommended vaccinations for influenza and pneumococcal disease, including bloodstream infections, meningitis and pneumonia; help with quitting smoking; or screenings for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol and osteoporosis, according to the report released March 14.

The likelihood of Medicare patients being diagnosed with a chronic disease may depend on where they live, a disparity that makes it more difficult to assess the quality of care patients receive, a new study finds. Certain groups of Medicare patients in regions with the most diagnoses also had a lower case-fatality rate for chronic conditions such as coronary artery disease and kidney failure, but the reasons for that are unclear, the researchers reported. It would stand to reason that whether a person is diagnosed with a chronic disease has to do with how ill they are, the researchers said. But instead, the findings suggest that chronic disease diagnosis is influenced by the "intensity of health care" in a particular region, which includes how many doctors and specialists are operating in a particular region, access to those doctors and the likelihood of doctors to send you to a specialist or to order lab and imaging tests. JAMA 3/16/11

Two studies published online this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggest that some medical “pictures” may not be worth as much as we would like to think. In one study, Canadian researchers compared CT scans of the coronary arteries, which use multiple X-rays to create three dimensional images of the heart, to the “gold standard,” coronary angiograms, in which doctors thread a tube from the groin into the coronary arteries and inject a dye to make blockages visible on an X-ray. They found that the CT scans were reasonably accurate but there was significant variation in accuracy across centers. The second study looked at what difference CT heart scans made in how physicians treated healthy patients trying to prevent heart problems. It turns out not much—there was little change in the drugs they prescribed, the tests they ordered, or the advice they gave on diet, exercise, or smoking cessation. So why expose patients to radiation and significant expense if nothing good happens as a result?

A comprehensive review concludes that the best diabetes drug is one of the oldest and cheapest diabetes drugs: metformin. Annals of Internal Medicine 3/11 Online

After 20 months of a randomized controlled trial, Guided Care patients, a new form of primary care, experienced, on average, 30 percent fewer home health care episodes, 21 percent fewer hospital readmissions, 16 percent fewer skilled nursing facility days, and 8 percent fewer skilled nursing facility admissions. Only the reduction in home health care episodes was statistically significant. According to the study, Guided Care produced even larger reductions in a subset of patients who received their primary care from one well managed health system. Archives of Internal Medicine 3/11

Life expectancy in the United States has reached an all-time high, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday. In 2009, life expectancy increased to 78.2 years, up from 78 years in 2008, it said. For women, life expectancy was 80.6 years, up one-tenth of a year. The life expectancy for men rose to 75.7 years, an increase of two-tenths of a year. Life expectancy for whites increased two-tenths of a year and stayed the same for blacks. Suicide surpassed blood poisoning to become the 10th leading cause of death, the CDC said. Heart disease remained the top killer, although death rates dropped in that category and in nine of the other top 15 causes of death. There were 2.4 million deaths in the United States in 2009, down 36,336 from the year before, the agency said. Reuters 3/16/11

The high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets many people turn to for weight loss might have potentially harmful long-term effects on the colon, a small study hints. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online March 9, 2011

Nearly three quarters of those seeking health insurance in the U.S. individual market in recent years faced roadblocks or were turned down due to prior medical conditions, a report released on Wednesday said. The report by the Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare advocacy group, said 71 percent of an estimated 26 million people who tried to buy insurance on the individual market in the previous three years had problems purchasing affordable insurance.

New research shows that people who own dogs are about 34 percent more likely to get the recommended minimum amount of exercise each week, thanks to their furry friends.

Data from 58 studies about more than 220,000 people, with a mean age of 58 were studied for heart attack or stroke. Conventional risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking were accurate predictors of a heart attack or stroke, but additional information about weight or body shape (ascertained by measuring waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio) did not improve the ability to predict risk. Lancet

Combing a weekly tai chi exercise class with a standard depression treatment for a group of depressed elderly adults, found greater improvement in the level of depression -- along with improved quality of life, better memory and cognition, and more overall energy -- than among a different group in which the standard treatment was paired with a weekly health education class. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 3/11

If you don't have signs of heart disease, there is no evidence to suggest that getting heart tests like CT scans or echocardiography will do you much good, researchers say. Archives of Internal Medicine 3/11

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Medications Made Easier

An interesting study from Sweden indicates that how the body breaks down medicines is directly related to the sun and vitamin D levels present. Drug Metabolism & Disposition 3/11 While the analysis was done on people taking drugs, which are used to suppress the immune system in association with organ transplants, the bottom line is that sun exposure can have an impact on how the body absorbs a medication.

Prescriptions usually come with directions on when to take them-first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, with a meal etc. While some medications aren’t all that impacted by when you take them, others are very sensitive to time of day. For example, many doctors tell their patients to take statins at night, even though some statins, such as Lipitor or Crestor are thought to last long enough that they can be taken at any time of day. People taking thyroid medication are told to take it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, a half hour to an hour before breakfast. However, a new study in the December issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, indicates that the medication is much more effective if taken at night.

Confusing, isn’t it? Below are some tips on how to make things a bit easier.

Tell your medical provider what type of herbs, supplements, other medications or over the counter drugs you are taking and when you take them. It’s helpful to keep a written list of these items. Be sure to include how much of each you take. For example, if you take vitamin D-3, you would write down, Vitamin D-3, 1,000 Ius taken once a day. Other things to let your provider know:
- If you have a special diet, such as being a vegan, drink alcohol, smoke or engage in certain types of activities, such as being a competitive runner, driving heavy equipment etc.
- If you have allergies
- If you have another condition, such as diabetes, liver disease, cancer

Learn more about the medications, herbs and supplements you are taking:
• Ask your doctor and pharmacist about the medications that are prescribed for you.
• Know what the recommended dose is and how it should be taken (whole pill, split at night, day time etc.). If your doctor is prescribing the drug differently for you, understand why. If you want to take the medication in a different (divide or crush the pill) talk to your pharmacist.
• Read Over the Counter medication labels carefully. Look for possible interactions with medications you are currently taking.
• Check out the following websites:
- Drugs, Supplements and Herbal Information from Medline Plus

- Rx List

Know the side effects
While your doctor should explain side effects, read the information that comes with your prescription. Talk to your pharmacist when you pick up your prescription.

Call your provider if side effects occur.
Sometimes you may have new symptoms, that haven’t been mentioned as side effects. This maybe a result of the medication, so contact your provider.

Keep track of what you are taking
Make a list of medications, supplements and over the counter products that you are taking. Be sure to include the dosage, generic name, when you started it, if you stopped it and why. Take this with you to medical appointments.

Take medications as prescribed for the length they are prescribed
Even if symptoms have disappeared, take medications as prescribed. If you need to stop a medication, contact your provider.

Store medications properly
• Do not store in the bathroom. Unless otherwise instructed, keep away from heat, light and moisture.
• Keep medications where it is easy for you to take them. For example, might medications can be stored in the drawer of your nightstand.

Use pill caddies and other helpful tools to keep you taking medication as prescribed
One of the single biggest reasons medications don’t work for people is they aren’t taking them as prescribed. There are wide arrays of tools that can help remind you to take medications. Talk to a pharmacist, medical provider, case manager, nurse or members of a support group about what tools are available, what’s worked for others in your situation, and what might be best for you. Check out Independent for comparison of pill dispensers. They also have a section on choosing a medication aid.

If you don’t think you can take medications as prescribed let your provider know.
If a treatment sounds like something you know you aren’t going to follow, be upfront about it and discuss other options.

If money is an issue
• Ask your provider if there is a generic or cheaper medication you can take.
• Ask for samples
• Go to the following websites where you can obtain free and/or lower cost medications:
- Prescription Assistance Program
- Free Medicine Program
- Needy Meds
- Together Rx Access
- Rx Assist
- Tricare Senior Pharmacy For uniformed services beneficiaries 65 years of age or older.

Keep medicine out of children’s reach

Check for expiration dates

Dispose of Medications Properly

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Take a Break: Make a St. Brigid's Cross for St. Patrick's Day

Last year I posted my recipe for Irish Soda Bread, which I’ll be making today along with St. Brigid’s Cross. According to legend, St. Brigid was weaving this form of cross at the deathbed of either her father or a pagan lord, who upon hearing what the cross meant, asked to be baptized.

The cross, which is similar to a sun wheel, is believed to protect the house from fire and evil. It is hung in many Irish and Irish-American kitchens for this purpose.

As kids, we made the St. Brigid’s cross from the palms distributed on Palm Sunday. I’ve also used reed but haven’t tried straw or ornamental grasses. Today though, I’ll be working with fairly young kids so we’ll use pipe cleaners, “fuzzy sticks.”

Below are links that give clear instructions:
How to make a St. Bridget’s Cross-authentic County Sligo way-Video

How to Make a St. Brigid’s Cross: Very clear and easy to follow written instructions with sketches.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Journal/News Watch 3/13/11

Creating a healthy eating action plan and visualizing yourself carrying it out may help improve the way you eat, researchers suggest.

Two thirds of Americans say they don’t get enough sleep on weeknights, according to a new poll from the National Sleep Foundation, and a major reason appears to be an increase in the use of illuminated tech devices in the hour before bedtime.

The Mediterranean diet, long known to be heart-healthy, also reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors that boost the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, according to a new review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 3/15

A 60-second video showing what to do when someone's heart stops beating could help save lives, according to a new study that found those who viewed the demonstration were much more likely to take action than those who did not.

Millions of people who have been told they are on the path to hypertension may never develop life-threatening problems, according to new research that suggests it’s time to redefine “normal” blood pressure. The New York Times

Compassion-the elixir of life? New research suggests that compassion might be able to slow the aging process.

More patients are checking themselves out of the hospital against their doctors’ advice, new government data shows. New York Times 3/10/11

Millions of people who have been told they are on the path to hypertension may never develop life-threatening problems, according to new research that suggests it’s time to redefine “normal” blood pressure. The findings, from researchers at the Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota, suggest that as many as 100 million Americans who have been told they have a condition called prehypertension may face no added mortality risk and therefore could reasonably be considered to have normal blood pressure. New York Times 3/9/11

Drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol may actually lower the risk for developing both Alzheimer's and some forms of age-related dementia, new German research suggests. Age and Ageing 3/2/11

Certain types of medical errors are 46 percent less likely to occur at top-rated U.S. hospitals than bottom-ranked hospitals, according to a new study. HealthGrades researchers analyzed 40 million Medicare patient records from 2007 to 2009 and focused on 13 patient safety indicators, such as bed sores, bloodstream infections from catheters, foreign objects left in the body after procedures and excessive bleeding or bruising after surgery.

Researchers have announced in the American Journal of Epidemiology that despite the high level of spending on healthcare in the United States compared to England, Americans experience higher rates of chronic disease and markers of disease than their English counterparts at all ages. Why health status differs so dramatically in these two countries, which share much in terms of history and culture, is a mystery.

A study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet has shown that the body's ability to break down medicines may be closely related to exposure to sunlight, and thus may vary with the seasons. The findings offer a completely new model to explain individual differences in the effects of drugs, and how the surroundings can influence the body's ability to deal with toxins. Drug Metabolism & Disposition

Keys to a long life are not what you might expect. According to "The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study," it was the most prudent and persistent individuals who stayed healthiest and lived the longest. People who feel loved and cared for report a better sense of well-being, but it doesn't help them live longer. The clearest health benefit of social relationships comes from being involved with and helping others. The groups you associate with often determine the type of person you become -- healthy or unhealthy.

The hour of sleep you will likely lose early Sunday morning might pose a few health risks, at least for a couple of days. But after that, the extra hour of sunlight in the afternoon could translate into better health—especially if you use that extra hour to get outside and move around. Consumer Reports

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Healing the Whole Person: Ways to Increase Well-Being

Below is the yearly update of the handout Care of the Whole Person. Note that there is a new name for the handout.

Whether you are a caregiver or living with a chronic or life threatening condition, you are more than the diagnosis. Fear, shame, vulnerability and powerlessness can be common emotions. It is easy to define yourself by what you can no longer do and how you appear. You might even 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.

According to Martin Seligman, the leader of the Positive Psychology movement, one can achieve well-being by being positive; being engaged in life; having a sense of purpose; and having strong connections with others. Regardless of your diagnosis, and maybe even because of it, well-being is achievable.

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.
• We’re wired for fear and it can easily run/ruin your life if you let it.
• 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 Compassion of Self and Others. Accept yourself and others for who they are, not who you think they should be. We all make mistakes. We are all worthy of love, respect and kindness.

Know Your Purpose

Keep Fear in Check.

Practice Happiness: The following 10 steps were developed as part of the BBC’s 2005 Documentary Making Slough Happy. Making Australia Happy, a more recent experiment in community and individual happiness, uses many of the same steps.
• 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. l

Surround yourself with people that you enjoy. Stay connected.

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. Every Wednesday is “Take A Break” day at

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.” Take 10 Through Out the Day

Manage Your Health
Keep a health notebook: You can now do this on-line.
• Maintain healthy habits by:
- Eating whole foods-at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily;
- Reducing sugar & caffeine in your diet;
- Limiting alcohol to a glass of wine daily if allowed with current medications;
- Regular exercise as health permits (consider yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong);
- Getting sufficient sleep
• Keep medical appointments
Join a support group to help yourself and so you can help others
Use an advocate to help you navigate the medical system and to support you.
• 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
• Develop and maintain good relationships with your health providers

For more information on topics discussed above, go to

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Take a Break: Think Spring-Ribbon Wreath

Regardless that spring is less that two weeks away, at least by the calendar, it’s still snowing where I live. So the next several posts are all about how to jump start spring.

In northern New England, Christmas decorations stay up until almost Easter. I think this is how we cope with our very long winters, where you can just as easily have a “white” Easter as a “white” Christmas. So if you still have Christmas wreath lying around, that used a Styrofoam wreath form, remove the greenery and think spring. Pick ribbons that are light and airy and have different widths and textures. Cut about 41/2 inches of ribbon and make a loop. Using a pin, pin the two ends together and stick it into the form. If you are using wire ribbon, you can bend it into all sorts of shape. Add other small items that remind you of spring. Check out the following video for more How To help.

You can also use Curly Ribbon to make a Wreath. This is simply a matter of stapling curling ribbon to a Styrofoam form and curl away. Check out DIY Curly Ribbon Wreath for more instructions. You might try tying the curling ribbon around pieces of an ivy wreath. The more ribbon you add, and curl, the easier it is to hide the form you used.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Journal/News Watch 3/6/11

People who have to make treatment decisions for a seriously ill family member may suffer emotional consequences as a result, according to a meta analysis of 40 smaller studies. Annals of Internal Medicine

Scientists have linked drinking sugary drinks like fizzy cola and fruit drinks with high blood pressure and say their findings suggest that cutting both sugar and salt intake could help reduce the risk.

New brain research proves pessimism can override the effectiveness of even powerful treatments.

Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may be able to avoid the accompanying muscle loss and malnutrition by taking fish oil supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids, new research suggests.

Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family? That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising. The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

Heart patients who were optimistic about their treatment and recovery were more likely to be alive after 15 years than patients with similar disease but lower expectations, new research shows. Archives of Internal Medicine

A review of more than 160 studies on the connection between a positive state of mind and overall health and longevity has found "clear and compelling evidence" that happier people enjoy better health and longer lives. In fact, evidence linking an upbeat outlook and enjoyment of life to better health and longer life was stronger even than that linking obesity to reduced longevity, according to the review published on Tuesday in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.

A daytime nap of at least 45 minutes may help stressed-out people lower their blood pressure and protect their heart, a new study suggests.

A diet rich in foods that are loaded with potassium can reduce your risk for a stroke by 21 percent and may also lower your risk of heart disease, a new study suggests. Good sources of potassium include bananas and other fruits and vegetables, as well as fish, poultry and dairy. Ounce per ounce, sweet potato and tomato paste top the list, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Journal of the American College of Cardiology 3/1/11

People who are married to or cohabiting with a cancer patient suffer more illness in the year following their spouse or partner’s cancer diagnosis, according to a recent study.

Eating more tomatoes and tomato products can make people healthier and decrease the risk of conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, according to a review article the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (published by SAGE).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Think Before Acting

While out for a walk, this week, I discovered my 90+ neighbor on her roof trying to remove snow. It seemed like everyday I was getting a reminder of the importance of thinking before acting-the woman with a history of strokes and heart attacks walking up steep steps several times a day even though it caused her heart to feel like it was “bursting out of my chest;” the snowboarder who didn’t bother to check out a feature and wondered why he ended up with a fractured leg; the person with diabetes who drank a bottle of red wine for dinner and was puzzled by their high sugar levels. The list goes on.

There are numerous times that we have a choice in how we act or respond to a situation. Particularly when it’s an emotional response, or something that requires immediate attention, STOP is a good reminder-Stop, Take a Breathe, Observe and Proceed.

As abilities change due to health issues, it’s important to make choices that will not jeopardize well-being-not only yours but also the people you love and come in contact with. My elderly neighbor, who thinks she’s being self sufficient by cleaning her own roof, is setting herself up for the real possibility of a fall that could kill her outright or result in spending the rest of her life in a nursing home. Her belief in self-reliance could jeopardize what she most values, independence. There is also the person who would find her on the ground. It could be several days and it could also be one of the neighborhood kids. The impact could be life altering.

The spouse of the woman who continues to walk up stairs, in spite of being told not to do it by her doctor, has a number of health issues as well. He follows behind her, “in case she should fall.” However, he doesn’t have the strength to catch her and the odds are that if she started to fall, they’d both end up at the bottom of the stairs. Given that neither of them wears an alert device, they could remain like that for some time. Initially, the spouse was saying, “I’m willing to take the risk.” However, as we discussed various possible scenarios, he began to realize that maybe they needed to rethink their current living situation.

Some questions to ask yourself before you act include:
• Is this something my medical provider told me not to do?
• Have my friends/family warned me about doing this?
• Could I get hurt?
• Could I potentially hurt someone else?
• Is there another option I can consider?

Then there are the “three T’s.”

Talk to someone to help get a clearer picture. As it turns out, we were able to figure out at least a temporary solution for the hear t patient and the stairs. By resting for a count of 15 after each step, she can climb all 19 without becoming breathless.

Time is on your side-even if it’s just a matter of a few sections. The more you become aware that that there is time before a decision has to be made, the more likely you will be to take advantage of it.

Take stock of the decision you have made. When you realize something isn’t working, course correct.

Ultimately, the more mindful we live, the fewer jams we get ourselves into.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Take a Break: Celebrate Women’s History Month

Before the 1970’s, the topic of women’s history was largely missing from general public consciousness. To address this situation, the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a “Women’s History Week” celebration in 1978 and chose the week of March 8 to coincide with International Women’s Day.

In 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) cosponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a “Women’s History Week.” In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand the celebration to the entire month of March. Since then, the National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved every year with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate

This year’s theme is “Our History is Our Strength.” To celebrate try some of the following:

Visit a women’s museum or history center

• Conduct an oral history of a woman in your life. Use the Step-by-Step Guide to Oral History to help you in the interviewing process.

• Test your knowledge by taking the Women’s History Quiz.

• Read a biography or autobiography of a woman you admire or find interesting.

• Buy stamps of notable women and use them when mailing this month.

• Check your local paper for any special events that may be occurring in your community.

• Learn more about the historic women of your community.