Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Take a Break: Try a Different Approach to Journaling

This past week I read Rachel Naomi Remen’s article GrowingNew Eyes  and was captivated by the different approach she describes for journaling. She refers to it as “Heart Journaling.” Taking a few minutes each day to do this literally changes people’s perceptions of themselves. 

 In the evening, sit down with your journal and review your day in reverse, starting with the present moment and tracing your steps back to when you woke up. Remember conversations, what you did etc. After this first review, ask yourself the question, “What surprised me today?” No matter what it is, stop and write about it briefly in your journal.

Slowly start the review again, from the present moment until morning.” This time ask yourself the question, “What touched my heart today?” As before, no matter what it is, write about it briefly in your journal.

Review your day one more time, in reverse, and ask yourself the question, “What inspired me today?” And again write whatever comes to mind in your journal.

You can continue the process and include other questions such as “What am I most grateful for today?” “How well I have loved or received love?”

Remen notes, Often when people first start this journal they find the same answer to all three questions “Nothing. Nothing. And Nothing”. Do not be discouraged if this happens to you. Meaning is an innate capacity but also an acquired skill. If you do this exercise daily, before long answers to all three questions will come to you.

Not interested in today’s activity? Check out the Take a Break Pinterest for lots of Take a Break ideas. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How to Be Around Someone Who is Ill or Injured

This post is dedicated to Paul. As the e-mails circulating among our friends about his stroke, the usefulness of the posts How to Respond When Someone is Ill or Injured and Unique Gifts for Hospital Patients were obvious. Yet,  I was reminded that many people don’t know how to act when they are in the presence of someone who is ill or injured, which is unfortunate since seeing family and friends can play a very important role in healing, 

Given Paul’s diagnosis, I thought a good place to start was with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroanatomist who documented her recovery in “My Stroke of Insight.” She outlined in her book, “Forty Things I Needed Most” from her friends, family and visitors.  This was a good jumping off point to write 10 “How to Be’s” regardless of diagnosis.

•  Be respectful not only of the person but those closest to them. 

• Be mindful of how you speak and communicate: Speak clearly, slowly and distinctly. Unless they are deaf, speaking louder doesn’t help and it can be confusing and frustrating for them. Repeat what you said, sitting close so they are more likely to hear you.

• Be patient, gentle and non judgmental: They are wounded and need time and support in healing. People react differently to illness and injury so don’t over react to their behavior. Chances are they are having a very normal reaction to a very abnormal situation. This can be a long process so remember to be patient with yourself as well.

• Be aware of what your body language and facial expressions communicate. Make eye contact. Nervous and weeping visitors aren’t helpful. You can communicate healing and loving energy by how you approach and interact with them.  Don’t be afraid to touch them, but do so appropriately and respectfully.

• Be encouraging: Cheer them on.  Healing is hard work. Celebrate all of their successes no matter how small. Celebrate what they can do not what they can’t do.

• Be mindful of their needs
-    Sleep is a wonderful healer, so eliminate distractions such as radios, and TV.
-    Keep visits short, unless they make it clear they want you to stay.
-    Speak to them directly, not about them with others.
-    Keep them familiar with family, friends and loving support by building a collage wall or an album of cards and photographs. Be sure to label things to help them understand whose who.
-    Continue to share with them the things they loved-music, art, books, movies etc.
-    Medications, medical procedures as well as the injury or illness,  can change how they appear and act, so don’t over react to what they might say and do.
-    They need you to listen to what they have to say.

• Be part of a healing team: Not only are there very practical things that need to be done, having a strong group of family and friends that are encouraging, cheering on the smallest of improvements, can be very helpful. Using a free Lotsa Helping Hands website  is a great way to organize a team that can provide support and help as needed. However, be sure they and those closest to them are comfortable with this.

• Be protective but don’t stand in the way of their making progress. While they may need assistance, if they want to try doing things on their own, be close enough to help them but not so close you stifle them.

• Be funny: Laughter heals.

• Be mindful that healing is not cure. Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are. Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Take a Break: Celebrate Earth Day 2014 Upcycle

Yesterday was Earth Day, but since it’s still part of Earth week/month, today’s take a break focuses on having fun and being “earth friendly.” Check out Celebrate Earth Day for various things you can do to help your community. Have some fun up cycling.

Whether it’s converting an old coffee can into a lampshade or using wine corks to make a place mat, there are thousands of ways you can re purpose items around the house. Check out the following:

 Dish Functional Designs: Great projects for those with lots of books they want to get rid of. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Journal Watch: April 2014

A new feature of Healing Whole is the third Saturday of the month Journal Watch, which reports on the latest research pertaining to living with chronic conditions.

April is:

Cultivating Happiness Often Misunderstood: The concept of maximizing happiness has been explored by researchers, who have found that pursuing concrete 'giving' goals rather than abstract ones leads to greater satisfaction. One path to happiness is through concrete, specific goals of benevolence -- like making someone smile or increasing recycling -- instead of following similar but more abstract goals -- like making someone happy or saving the environment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2014.04.002

Vitamin D Deficiency, Cognition Appear to be Linked in Older Adults: A study that looks at Vitamin D deficiency and cognition relationship in older adults adds to the existing literature on the subject. "This study provides increasing evidence that suggests there is an association between low vitamin D levels and cognitive decline over time," said the lead author. "Although this study cannot establish a direct cause and effect relationship, it would have a huge public health implication if vitamin D supplementation could be shown to improve cognitive performance over time because deficiency is so common in the population." 

Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory are of brain in older women: Regular aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning among women whose intellectual capacity has been affected by age, indicates a small study. The researchers tested the impact of different types of exercise on the hippocampal volume of 86 women who said they had mild memory problems, known as mild cognitive impairment -- and a common risk factor for dementia. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-093184

A Doctor’s People Skills Affects Patients Health: The doctor-patient relationship can have an impact on people's health. A review of 13 clinical trials, found that when doctors were given training to hone their people skills, patients typically fared better in their efforts to lose weight, lower their blood pressure or manage pain. April 9, 2014 PLOS One, online 
 Certain Prescription Painkillers Tied to Higher Risk of Irregular Heartbeat: A long-term study suggests that older people who use common prescription painkillers, including prescription-strength ibuprofen, may be increasing their risk for developing a type of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. April 8, 2014, BMJ Open, online 
Exercise May Curtail COPD Complications: Exercise might help reduce the risk of hospital readmission in people with a progressive lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new study finds."Our findings suggest that regular physical activity could buffer the stresses of hospitalization." Kaiser Permanente, news release, April 9, 2014 
Free Drug Samples Tied to More Expensive Prescriptions: Free drug samples drive the prescribing practices of physicians away from less expensive generic medications, according to a study published online April 16 in JAMA Dermatology 
FDA Approves Ragwitek for Adults with Ragweed Allergy: Ragwitek has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat allergy to short ragweed among adults aged 18 to 65. The once-daily tablet contains an extract from short ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) pollen, the agency said in a news release. Treatment should begin 12 weeks before the start of ragweed season -- which in the United States includes late summer and early fall -- and continue through the season. 
One in 20 Adults a Victim of Diagnostic Errors: A meta analysis shows that diagnostic errors affect at least one in 20 U.S. adults, according to research published online April 17 in BMJ Quality & Safety. It is estimated, based upon previous work, that about half of these errors could potentially be harmful. 
Informed Patients Questions Unnecessary Prescriptions: Well-informed patients might make better choices about what prescriptions they take, according to the evaluation of an educational intervention aimed at encouraging seniors to discontinue sleeping pill use published online April 14 in JAMA Internal Medicine
Lack of Clear Evidence for Health Benefits of Vitamin D: Evidence is lacking for the associations between vitamin D and health outcomes, according to one review published April 1 in BMJ; however, lower levels of circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D correlate with increased mortality, according to another review also published April 1 in BMJ
 New Study Suggests Better Way to deal with bad memories: Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois studied the behavioral and neural mechanisms of focusing away from emotion during recollection of personal emotional memories, and found that thinking about the contextual elements of the memories significantly reduced their emotional impact. 
 Internet Use Can Help Ward Off Depression Among Elderly: It’s estimated that as many as 10 million older Americans suffer from depression, often brought on by feelings of loneliness and isolation. A project that followed the lives of thousands of retired older Americans for six years – found that Internet use among the elderly can reduce the chances of depression by more than 30 percent.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Take a Break: Peeps 2014/Egg Geodes

It’s that glorious time of the year-Peep Season! Definitely check out 2013  and 2012 options.

I’ve been doing this for several years now. After dark on the night before Easter, my husband and I “peep” our friends. One year we made Peepshi- Think Rice Krispie Treats, fruit leather and beheaded peeps and another year Peep wreaths.This year’s Peeping involves....Hm....never know whose reading the blog, so it will have to wait until Easter 2015 for a reveal. 

So the Peep activity for 2014 is Peep trees and topiary.
Styrofoam form: Using a cone or ball shape, start sticking peeps on with a toothpick. It’s not a bad idea to purchase your peeps a week in advance of your project. Take them out of their package and stick the tooth pick in. Let them “harden” for a few days. I’ve tried sticking pins in year old Peeps and they crumpled. If they’re too fresh, they can slide off the tooth pick. Gluing is also an option. Check out KQ’s Garden Peep Topiary for a good example of how to use different styles of Peeps plus other types of Easter candy. 

Tree Branch: Use a branch from your yard, park or wherever you can find one, and just stick the Peeps on one end.

Peep Bouquet Tree: Take a small pail and stick a Styrofoam form in it. Use wooden skewers and stick one end in the Peep and the other in the stryo. Peep bunnies work well for this project.

If you don’t find Peeps inspiring, make crystal egg geodes. 

Not interested in today’s activity? Check out the Take a Break Pinterest for lots of Take a Break ideas. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

We All Have Purpose Even When We Think We Don’t

Whether it’s the Blue Zones’ Power Nine,  or the latest research on happiness, having and knowing your purpose-why you get up every morning- is a top property for a satisfying, if not longer life. 

How you are affected by a chronic condition can greatly impact your sense of purpose. While the caregiver may believe their role is to care for their charge, they can be at a loss once that task ends. Those who are compromised by illness may wonder what possible purpose they could now serve.

Purpose is often viewed by what we do or how we fit within a family or group-medical provider, volunteer, parent, spouse, caregiver and so forth. However, like many things in our culture, we have turned “knowing our purpose” into a problem when it’s actually something that is an integral part of our being.

Quantum physics is using scientific methods to confirm what the Buddhists have been teaching for centuries- we are all connected. "All things, mutually supportive and related, form a living cosmos, a single living whole."  From the smallest atom, what happens to one, impacts everything else.

I was reminded of our connectivity when watching the 16 minute documentary “Slomo.” 
"Slomo" Jon Kitchin

Jon Kitchin, a.k.a. Slomo, was a neurologist trained in psychiatry who dropped out 15 years ago to spend his days skating. Miserable as a doctor, a chronic condition helped him decide to retire and move to a studio apartment a half-block from the boardwalk. His slow-motion gliding to music became a portal to happiness.

There are those who would think that Kitchin lost his purpose when he gave up medicine for skating.  The looks of joy, cheers and hand slaps of the people interacting with Slomo as he glides along would say otherwise. He has found his “bliss,” which in turn he shares in a very public way.

Many of the things we identify as our purpose are transient. Parent, spouse, caregiver, worker etc. evaporate as kids grow up, marriages and jobs end, patients heal and so forth. However, the fundamental aspect of our belonging to something large and vast never changes.

If you think about it, since we all impact and contribute to the larger picture all the time, shouldn’t our primary purpose involve being as positive and mindful as possible? This may be a difficult concept to understand or accept, but it serves as an important reminder particularly when we feel “purposeless.” Ultimately, no matter how compromised or lost we may believe ourselves to be, we still can achieve our primary purpose by being mindful of how we interact with each other and the world around us.

To take this just one step farther, I think of Joseph Campbell’s comments about finding your bliss, which Slomo seems to have found.  Kitchin is operating at the deepest sense of being, going where his mind and body want to go versus what society may deem is most appropriate for a doctor, let alone one who is almost 70. Interestingly, it was because of a chronic condition that Kitchin was able to embrace who he was, letting go of the life he thought society expected of him.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
In closing this post, I’m reminded of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the famous neuroanatomist, who suffered a life-altering stroke at 37 years of age. She ended her now famous TED Talk with the following comments,   .... we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the "we" inside of me.

Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? 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.