Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Take a Break: It’s Back to School- Hand and Finger Art /Paralympics

To coincide with the start of school in my community, as well as the opening of the Paralympic games in London, today’s post is about using what you have to be as creative as possible.

Yes, this post is a day early. That’s because I’m taking my youngest to college, so no post on Saturday this week.

Remember those funky turkey pictures you made in first grade using your hand? Well now turn your hand into the canvas.

• Milan based artist Guido Daniele creates realistic images of birds and other animals with nothing but the hand. Klaire De Lys provides step by step instruction on achieving something similar using eye brow pencil and face paints. that are easy to follow (parrots, tigers, using eye liner and face paints. This is a good time to hit the Dollar Store to pick up the Halloween face paints that are already apeparing in stores.

• Five years ago in Rome, my family fell in love with Marcel, whom my niece calls the “Puppet Master.” Watching him perform his amazing finger puppetry in Piazza Navona kept us spell bound. Thanks to U Tube, you can watch him as Michael Jackson.

• Check out a variety of creative and funny ways to use your fingers.

• Finger prints,: Your own DNA, can be a source of all kinds of art. You can make a thumb or finger print, scan it into your computer, increase the size, use different colors and make very interesting, and truly one of a kind design art. You can also try some Fingerprint Characters.

Who better exemplifies making the most of what you have but the competitors of the Paralympics? These athletes are beyond amazing and inspiring. Wheelchair basketball is a fast paced and aggressive game, but don’t over look track and field . There is a wide array of sports to choose from, so be sure to sample the 28 different sporting events being offered.

Unfortunately, coverage of these events are minimal by commercial television. NBC Sports Network (formerly “Versus”) will be running one-hour highlight shows starting on Sept. 4 for four days. NBC will have a 90-minute special on Sept. 16. However, Utube and the Paralympic organizations will be offering live streaming.

If none of this is inspiring for a “take a break,” watch how the French women burn calories.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Importance of Spirituality in Healing

One of the items included in the handout Healing the Whole Person: Ways to Increase Well-Being is 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.

Many people view spirituality and religion as interchangeable terms, which is not the case. While a religion can nurture spiritual beliefs, they are dictated by institutional practices, rites and specified beliefs. You can be religious and not spiritual as well as the reverse.

It is normal to ponder the meaning of life. Those with chronic illness may be more interested than most in questioning why they are dealing with major issues and others are not. They may be more likely to think about the deeper questions of what happens when you die; is there a God and so forth.

So what is spirituality? Sylvia Boorstein, author, psychologist, spiritual teacher and one of the teachers at Spirit Rock defines it as anything that I do that intentionally is returning my mind to a state of relative clarity and relative ease so that at least enough wisdom to keep my mind cordial can manifest itself. …. having a meditation practice that I do every day, it certainly is spiritual practice; not watching too much television is also a spiritual practice, if I think if I watch too much television my mind will get frazzled and I won't be clear. I like to put everything in the category of spiritual practice if its intention is to keep my mind clear so that I'll be in cordial relationship.”

Dr. Puchalski noted in “The Role of spirituality in Health Care" Cure is not possible for many illnesses, but I firmly believe that there is always room for healing. Healing can be experienced as acceptance of illness and peace with one's life. This healing, I believe, is at its core spiritual.

Maybe the simplest way for me to describe why spirituality is so important is that through illness, hardship and the various ups and downs of life, we become disconnected from each other, the land on which we live and even from ourselves. Spirituality helps to restore the connections and strengthens them. We heal best when we are connected.

Howard Clinebell, who practiced pastoral psychology and counseling for three decades at the School of Theology in Claremont, California, believed that humans have seven spiritual hungers in common:

• All people need to experience regularly the healing and empowerment of love - from others, self, and an ultimate source/God.

• Every one needs to experience renewing times of transcendence - moments that expand us beyond the immediate sensory spheres.

• Every body needs vital beliefs that give some sense of meaning and hope the midst of losses, tragedies, and failures.

• Every person needs to have values, priorities, and life commitments - usually centered in issues of justice, integrity, and love - that guide us in personally and socially responsible living.

• Each human being needs to discover and develop their inner wisdom, creativity and love of their unique transpersonal/spiritual self.

• All people need a deepening awareness of oneness with other people and with the natural world, the wonderful web of all living things.

• Every human being needs spiritual resources to help heal the painful wounds of grief, guilt, resentment, unforgiveness, self-rejection, and shame. We also need spiritual resources to deepen our experiences of trust, self-esteem, hope, joy and love of life. University of Minnesota’s “Taking Charge of YourHealth”

For those with a more scientific bent For 40 years, laboratories at the Harvard Medical School have systematically studied mind body interactions. The research established that when a person engages in a repetitive prayer, word, sound or phrase and when intrusive thoughts are passively disregarded, a specific set of physiologic changes ensue. These changes — decreased metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure and rate of breathing — are the opposite of those induced by stress, and have been labeled the relaxation response. Surveys indicate that over 60% of visits to health care professionals are for conditions caused or exacerbated by stress and that the relaxation response is an effective therapy for stress-related conditions.

Many people who elicit the relaxation response also note increased spirituality. Spirituality is expressed as experiencing the presence of a power, a force, an energy or what was perceived of as God, and this presence is close to the person. Spirituality and Healing in Medicine.

A research team at Johns Hopkins helped older adults suffering from chronic diseases to improve their energy levels using a spiritual program. They watched a short video and were given intervention-specific workbooks to complete over 4 weeks. At the end of the study, those given the spirituality materials, versus the control group, which received educational materials for cardiac risk reduction, had significantly higher energy levels. Interestingly, these levels decreased for the control group. International Journal of Psychiatry

In order to have a sense of where you might be in terms of your spirituality, try George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health’s FICA Self Assessment.

F – Faith and Belief Do I have a spiritual belief that helps me cope with stress? With illness? What gives my life meaning?

I – Importance Is this belief important to me? Does it influence how I think about my health and illness? Does it influence my healthcare decisions?

C – Community Do I belong to a spiritual community (church, temple, mosque or other group)? Am I happy there? Do I need to do more with the community? Do I need to search for another community? If I don't have a community, would it help me if I found one?

A – Address in Care What should be my action plan? What changes do I need to make? Are there spiritual practices I want to develop? Would it help for me to see a chaplain, spiritual director, or pastoral counselor?

If you are looking to develop a spirituality, there are no set rules or ideas that you must conform to or a God or belief that you must adhere to. It only needs to make sense, and provide comfort, to you. So how does one go about doing this?

For starters consider the last question in the FICA Self Assessment, would it help you to see a chaplain, spiritual director or pastoral counselor? Many hospitals, medical providers and care centers understand the importance of the mind, body and spirit connection and either offer these services or can connect you to someone that can. Ask about them at a visit to your provider.

An aside note: Be aware that just like snake oil salesmen providing “sure fire cures, “the spirituality movement abounds with scam artists. If they are asking for money, a lot of your time, and/or are being unrealistic in expectations, steer clear of them.

If you grew up in a faith community, is this something that might be right for you now? Yoga, mindfulness meditation, Qigong, Tai Chi and other such practices can help to develop a sense of spirit. Some hospitals and health care centers offer such programs for low cost or for free. You can also go to the Kripalu website and take five minute yoga breaks all day long. Other sites to consider include:

Taking Care of Your Spirit from Mental Health America

Mindful Meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

University of Minnesota’s “Taking Charge of Your Health,” Links for their Life Purpose and Spirituality

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Take a Break: “Color” by Number using tape/Redo Marilyn Prints

Remember the old paint by number kits? Years ago, there was an exhibit of how different these could be, based on the person painting them. That made me wonder what it would be like if you used an altogether different medium, such as tape, in place of paint.

I love duct tape and make all sorts of things out it, since it now comes in a variety of colors and designs. However, masking tape, which can be cheaper and has the advantage that you can paint on it, now comes in an array of colors. I’ve used acrylics as well as watercolors on masking tape with excellent results. Depending on the look you want, either tape will work.

The easiest way to cut small shapes with either tape is laying it, sticky side down onto parchment paper (wax paper is okay for duct tape but not for masking tape). If you use a lot of peel and stick labels, don’t throw away the empty sheet, as it’s perfect for either tape.

Make sure your “paint by number” finished product will be on a fairly sturdy surface, like card stock or heavier. The easiest thing is to make a copy of the “print” and then cut it up into the individual colors and use as a pattern for your tape. Once you have the individual pieces cut out, carefully tape them on your “canvas.” Keep in mind that shapes will overlap and which one that goes on first can make a difference in the final result.

Of course you don’t need a paint by number template to create some amazing tape art. However if you do want some ideas, check out the following


- Holiday/Winter Scene

- Butterfly

- Bees

50 Free Color by Number Worksheets

If you don’t have any tape handy, of course you can color them, or you check out Web Paint by Number.

If none of this appeals to you, redo Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Prints. Yes, you can create your own unique color scheme for Marilyn and print it on your computer. Talk about instant art! Actually, the website Color Vision & Art has a variety of wonderful interactive art projects to try.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Now That the Olympics are Over, What’s Next? The importance of being centered

The Olympics wrapped up on Sunday night, minus the Queen and her spouse. I had hoped she would have left the arena in a manner as spectacular as her entrance. More importantly though, what’s next for these Olympians, the majority of whom did not medal? Is there something that those affected by chronic conditions can take from it?

Those who are determined to make it to Rio, the site of the 2016 Olympics, will take a mini vacation, or not, and go back to training. If you are a “star,” like Michael Phelps or Gabby Douglas, there are talk shows to do and commercials to make, at least for the next few weeks before football takes over. However, for many, they had their moment in London.

Paul Bowler, a former Olympic gymnast noted “I thought life was over,” Generally as a gymnast, your career finishes, you almost have a nervous breakdown and then you go sit in the corner of a gym and teach children the rest of your life until you start breathing in magnesium.”

New research shows that intensive exercise is as addictive as heroin, which means those returning athletes who will not continue to train are at risk for a with drawl that can lead to anxiety, depression and worse. While exercise is a good way to combat depression, there is also new research that shows a much higher than anticipated, possibly as high as 50%, of elite athletes that are at risk for exercise dependence, where they perceive severe physical, mental and social consequences if they don’t train. It’s not surprising then that these athletes may be more prone to substance abuse, eating disorders and suicide than the general population. This helps explain why they have a shorter life expectancy. Olympians and life expectancy

“No one wants to talk about it, no one wants to retire, and no one wants to think about the end,” said Nicole Detling, a visiting professor at the University of Utah College of Health and a sport psychology consultant for the U.S. Speed Skating team and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “We call it the post-Olympics let-down,” she said. “Within the time period following the Olympics, even those who’ve medaled have this period of time where if they were checked for depression, they’d be diagnosed.”

However, “The more ‘real’ and grounded the person is, the easier they can step out of the elite role to see it for what it is and have a structure to fall back on,” says Jayashri Kulkarni, director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre in Melbourne. Olympians Hanging Up Cleats Risk Drug Addict-Like Ills

There is a strong message from these Olympians. Whether it’s the end of a career, failure or even achievement of a goal or dream, an injury, illness, or having to significantly change your life to accommodate a chronic condition, the more one is capable of being grounded and centered, the better the chances of weathering the peaks and valleys of life and reducing the risk of serious emotional and physical problems.

So some pointers on staying centered:

• Work at Keeping a Strong Social Network. It was interesting to hear Michael Phelps speak at length about his relationship with his niece. She sounded like a grounding influence on him. Strong friendships and family can make a big difference in how you deal with the ups and downs of life.

• Be more than a “one crop” farmer: Develop multiple interests and participate in different activities that fully engage you. Learn something new. Read an interesting article in the New York Times about how people in the third act of life-those over 65-are living incredibly healthy lives by being fully engaged.

• Incorporate Break Times in Your Day: According to the psychologist Martha Beck, I discovered a two-word instruction that reliably ushered me onto the plains of peace when I couldn't force my brain to just "be still." Here it is: Make something. You see, creative work causes us to secrete dopamine, a hormone that can make us feel absorbed and fulfilled without feeling manic. This is in sharp contrast to the fight-or-flight mechanism, which is associated with hysteria hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Research indicates that we're most creative when we're happy and relaxed, and conversely, that we can steer our brains into this state by undertaking a creative task. Read more on the importance of Taking a Break.

• Develop your spirituality: Having a connection to the non-material aspects of life, can significantly help in understanding and accepting the ebb and flows of what’s happening.

Many of these ideas and more are contained in Healing the Whole Person: Ways to Increase Well-Being.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New ad campaign portrays caregivers' call for help

By LAURAN NEERGAARD | Associated Press15 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — There's a campaign beginning Thursday to raise awareness of the heavy impact of family caregiving as the nation rapidly grays — and to point overwhelmed families toward resources that may ease the strain.

In a new public service ad, a woman grips her car's steering wheel as her frail father, on oxygen, coughs beside her and her kids play in the back seat. The frustration is recognizable to millions who struggle to care for aging loved ones while holding down jobs and raising children.

AARP vice president Debra Whitman says most don't know where to turn for help. An AARP report found families provide a staggering $450 billion worth of unpaid care annually — and other research shows the toll that can take on the caregivers' own health and finances.

The latest story in the joint AP-APME project looking at the aging of the baby boomers and the impact of this so-called silver tsunami on society.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Take a Break: Start/Display a Collection

Recently, I spent a very delightful weekend in Maine at the home of Nancy Carlisle, author of “America’s Kitchen.” Nancy and her husband Alex Scala are amazing collectors. Going to auctions and tag sales, they have put together simple yet wonderful collections of various sorts, all very practical or decorative, but not to excess. A group of old Corelle coffee mugs were a cheery welcome on a misty Maine morning, and who wouldn’t love a nightlight that is actually an airplane lamp where the body lights up? I have a feeling just about everything in their island home meets the description “If they have it, someone else had it.”

This post is inspired by Nancy and Alex as well as Lisa Congdon’s A Collection a Day Blog and now book.

As Congdon noted This is a blog documenting a project that will span exactly one year, from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010. On each of those 365 days, I will photograph or draw (and occasionally paint) one collection. Most of the collections are real and exist in my home or studio; those I will photograph. Some are imagined; those I will draw or (occasionally) paint.

While you can start a collection of just about anything, here are a few “rules” you might want to follow:

• Items to be collected are inexpensive and relatively easy to obtain.

• They have/had a practical application.

• They can be easily contained in your living space

• The items have meaning to you.

Before you say, “this is just what I need, more junk around the house,” consider the “junk” you have and see if by grouping it together you already have a “collection.” Try creating a display so it’s no longer clutter, but something interesting to enjoy. Displayed together, no matter how inexpensive they might be individually, your collection will look like a million bucks. Whether you have a collection, starting to put one together and/or realizing you already have a collection, below are some good links on ways to go about displaying them:

Stylish Ways to Display Collections from Real Simple

10 How-Tos for Organizing and Displaying Collections

Creative Tips for Displaying Collections with Style

Of course there is also the possibility that you can take your collection, newly found or existing, and turn it into hard cold cash by putting it on E-Bay.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How to Help Someone Get the Medical Care They Need

Recently, I received the following request via e-mail, I've been talking to a woman, with really complicated health issues and no support system. She's been getting disconnected/uncoordinated care. A partial list of her conditions were included along with a description of some pretty major symptoms. The question I was being asked was, what could be done to help this person, with multiple chronic conditions, get the medical care they need?

A new study shows that a growing number of Americans (21%), between 45-64 have at least two chronic health issues. In those over 65, the incidence increases to 45%. The survey was compiled by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). This study also found that increasingly people are delaying care, not getting the care they need and/or not taking medication because of cost.

The rise in the number of people with more than one chronic condition "presents a complex challenge to the U.S. health care system, both in terms of quality of life and expenditures for an aging population," the report stated. July edition of the NCHS Data Brief.

Given that the baby boomer generation is aging, with the ranks of the 65 and up reaching unprecedented levels, the type of request I received is becoming increasingly more common.

So here’s a crash course in how you can help someone get the medical care they need. Note that this is about “medical” not “life” care (dealing with issues, such as finding housing or transportation, getting an elderly parent to give up their license etc).

As I have written on aspects of this topic before, I’ve included links to other posts on the Healing Whole blog where some of the issues have been dealt with in more depth.

If you have tried something that has worked well please be sure to post it below, or you can put it on Facebook or e-mail to margoc@tds.net

• Communicate: If at all possible, try to have a conversation face to face. If that’s not possible, use the phone or Skype. As one nurses noted, seeing her son’s skin rash via Skype was more helpful then his description. E-mail can be useful, but a lot of back and forth gets old really quick. Texting, while the preferred way to communicate for teens and adults up to around 40 it has the same draw backs as e-mail and you can have some very sore thumbs before it’s all said and done. That noted use whatever means the person is most comfortable with.

• Address immediate issues first. In the case above, the phone conversation revealed significant medical symptoms that required that the person be seen as soon as possible. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following are warning signs of a medical emergency:

- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath

- Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure

- Fainting

- Sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision

- Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion, difficulty arousing)

- Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body

- Bleeding that won't stop

- Severe or persistent vomiting

- Coughing up or vomiting blood

- Suicidal or homicidal feelings

If the person is on a new medication, had surgery, is receiving chemo or radiation therapy, or dealing with unique medical issues, they will most likely have received information about when to call the doctor and when to head directly to the emergency room.

• Call an ambulance, if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

- Is the person's condition life-threatening?

- Could the person's condition worsen and become life-threatening on the way to the hospital?

- Could moving the person cause further injury?

- Does the person need the skills or equipment of paramedics or emergency medical technicians?

- Would distance or traffic conditions cause a delay in getting the person to the hospital?

• Call the treating provider. Whether it’s a side effect or a new problem, if the person has a medical provider, contact them if they are having problems. In the case of a true emergency, call the ambulance first and then the provider. Not only can the provider offer suggestions to deal with non emergent issues, but if you need to go to the hospital, they can call ahead and make things easier.

• There is a time and a place for emergency rooms. Check out Emergency room docs offer inside scoop: How to get treated, faster, better.

• If they don’t have a medical provider: If they need to be seen immediately, use the emergency room or an urgent care center based on what type of problems they maybe experiencing. If need isn’t immediate, check the health insurance policy as some have a list of providers to choose from.

In finding a provider, research shows that among the best recommendations actually come from family and friends. You can also contact your state’s medical association for a referral or for a condition specific specialists, such as an oncologist, call your local chapter of the condition specific organization

For more on this topic, check out How to Find the Best Doctors.

• If they don’t like their provider: The most important question to ask is why don’t they like their provider. Are their expectations realistic? People will often look to their health provider for life care versus health care. If it’s a “bedside manner” issue, and they are going alone to office visits, this might be eliminated by having an advocate with them. If this is a situation where they don’t trust their doctor clinically, then follow the suggestions above for finding a new medical provider.

• Use a Primary Care Provider: One of the biggest medical problems people face with multiple chronic conditions is who is in charge. The more complex the medical situation, the more difficult this can become. Theoretically, the person along with advocate/family, is the head of the medical team. However, it’s important to have a provider that can help coordinate what is going on if multiple providers are involved.

On the face of it, this sounds like the role of the primary care provider and some family medicine and internal medicine doctors and physician assistants do a great job in this area. However, it’s not uncommon for them to be concerned because the person has a major illness, like a cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, hepatitis and want to have the specialist treat them. In fact, many are taught that if it’s x, y or z disease “turf it to the specialist.” Fortunately, this is starting to change as more and more people are living with multiple chronic conditions.

• Use a Medical Case Manager: A case manager is someone who can help monitor and coordinate care being delivered. While some people hire an individual to do this for them, some medical centers provide this service, particularly places like cancer centers, often through their social work department. For certain diseases, case/care management may be available through the local chapter of a condition specific organization.

• If finances are a concern: If they are not going for care, taking medications or doing without treatment for fear of medical bills, be advised that. there are a number of programs available, including free clinics, and assistance for medications. See What are my options? Paying for Healthcare for more on this topic.

• Use an advocate: An advocate helps to make sure the person gets the care they need and want. They can play a variety of roles and can be paid, family or friends or a volunteer. Some chapters of condition specific organizations will provide them as do some hospitals and clinics. However, many are not in the position to afford a patient advocate. In the case above, we discussed the person in need’s possible circles she could draw from to serve as an advocate-someone that could accompany her to medical appointments/hospital, take notes and be supportive as she interacts with the medical community. Consider the networks a person may be involved in such as church; clubs; organizations; work; school; community groups; neighbors; support group, including AA. Learn more about being an advocacy at Health Advocate Who, What, When and Where

• Use a Personal Health Notebook: Keeping a personal health notebook is important for a variety of reasons including

- The person who is living with the chronic condition(s) and/or family/advocate are responsible for making decisions about care and treatment. This can be an overwhelming task as multiple health providers are involved and the variety of paper and information being generated from tests, treatments, to say nothing of health insurance, is mind-boggling. The more organized you can be, keeping information centralized, the easier some decisions will be to make.

- The medical chart may not be available for a host of reasons: new doctor, emergency visit, computer clitch etc. Having the information in hand reduces errors.

- If something happens, what medications and other necessary information, will be available for family and health team. This is particularly important if several people are involved in someone’s care, such as adult children caring for an elderly parent. Having centralized health information, that all have access to, helps to simplify a complex situation.

To read more on this topic, including links for free on-line and printable health notebooks, Managing Health Information: Yours/Theirs.

• Take Notes During Office Visits and Hospitalizations: If you are in the position of advocate, take good notes from the time they start doing basic vitals (Temperature blood pressure check etc.) all the way through to when the provider exits the office. You want to write down the following:

- Vitals (temperature, weight, blood pressure etc.)

- Results from any tests

- Findings from physical exams

- Provider comments about current medical situation

- Questions asked and responses to questions

- Next Steps (write down future appointments, medications prescribed etc.)

More on this topic: How to be a Friend with a Pen

Other posts that might be useful

Healing the Whole Person: Ways to Increase Well-Being

Getting What You Need: A Checklist for those living with a chronic condition and those that care for them

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Take a Break: Have fun with the Olympics

Maybe you’ve spent the last week and a half sitting on the couch watching the XXX Olympic Games in London. Whether you have or have not, it’s time for a new spin and fun with the Olympics.

• Go for a walk, run, bike ride, play tennis, swim or engage in another Olympic sport.

• Can you name the 30 sports at this year’s Olympics? What about the first Olympics in Ancient Greece? Hint there were seven.

Tour the Olympic Museum Virtually

Play Ping Pong and other virtual Olympic games

• Since the games are in London, try some of these classic British dishes

- Scones

- Tea

- Beans on toast

- Shepherd’s Pie

- Fish and Chips

- Spotted Dick

Take the virtual London Tour

Learn about ancient Greek Olympics

• One of the sports in Ancient Greek Olympics was Pankration. Do you know what it is? It’s still practiced today.

• Amazed at the architecture seen at the various venues in London, check out what an ant colony can do.