Saturday, August 29, 2015

10 Things you Can do to Change Your World and Everyone Else’s

Just because your life has been impacted by a chronic condition doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute in very meaningful ways. So below are 10 things you can do that will make a difference.

• Write elected officials (politicians) to move your issue forward. This is really helpful when trying to get legislation passed. Don’t e-mail or call but rather hand write your letter, once a month in the following manner
- Paragraph 1: Show your appreciation for what they are doing, even if it’s to recognize they have a tough job
- Paragraph 2: What’s on your mind-attack the tactic not the person
- Paragraph 3: Give them solutions/exit strategy
- Paragraph 4: Nurturing agent If no one is providing you this information, let me help.
- Signature: You identify yourself as a volunteer, person living with a condition etc. This can show your political sphere

Send the original to the district office with a copy to the main office.

• Interact with people from different cultures. The more you know and understand how others live, the less you are likely to be critical and the more accepting you can be.  

• Share Positivity. Yup, whether it’s Facebook or the nightly news, “if it bleeds it leads,” so start sharing the positive things that are happening in your life and the world around you.

• Reduce the Pollutants in Your Life: With only 2% of the earth’s water drinkable, see what you can do to reduce the amount of nasty chemicals you put in the water such as pesticides, paint, hair dye, non-biodegradable laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaner etc. Even if you live in a municipality where the water is filtered, a lot of toxins can leak into the soil. 

• Help Others: Do it with no expectations

• Pay it Forward: Put a smile on someone’s face by paying for the next person in line’s coffee, slice a pizza or something else. Random acts of kindness are wonderful and you can completely change the day for someone by doing this.

• Be a wise consumer
- Know who you are buying from and what their company stands for. There is even an app to help you do that-Shop Ethical. Of course grocery shopping at your local farm stand helps.
- If you have investments, know how your money is being used.

• Donate/volunteer for a cause of your choice

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Take a Break with a Free On-Line Course

It’s the first day of school in my town, so what better time to check out the many free “open learning” courses available on-line through various colleges and universities. Below are some links to help get you started.


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

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Searching for Meaning When You are Chronically Ill

Why me? I can’t do what I did, so what good am I? I’m a drain on my family. The litany that so many affected by chronic illness can and do recite can go on and on resulting in feelings of anxiousness, fearfulness, frustration, and depression. Not exactly healing tools.

This past week, several items crossed my desk which encouraged me to once again write about how a sense of meaning makes it not only possible to get up in the morning, but also to enjoy life no matter its twists and turns.

The first was a Wise Brain Bulletin Lessons for the Healthy From the Land of the Sick  by Toni Berhard author of  several books including her most recent one “How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide.” One of the guiding principles of her work is that mindfulness, compassion and equanimity are critical to a life of well-being.

The other was finding Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning available online in PDF and audio formats. Published in 1946, its been considered to be among the “ten most influential books in the United States,” is one of the most popular books among prison inmates today and even has been read by celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon after his recent injury.

A Jewish psychiatrist/neurologist, Frankl developed the theory of “healing through meaning”, logotherapy, while a prisoner in the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Counseling fellow prisoners, many of whom were suicidal, he believed that striving for meaning, not pleasure or power, is what keeps us alive.

At first blush, these two writers could appear at odds, however they work well together.

Last week I posted Cut to the Chase: How to Stop Obsessive Thinking About Illness and I realize now I need to go back and include Berhard’s “Drop It” approach as it’s one of the best tips I’ve received in a long time on stopping thoughts that aren’t helpful. When you become aware that you’re stuck in regret about the past, or that you’re overcome with worry about what the future holds, gently but firmly say, “Drop it.” Then immediately direct your attention to some current sensory input. It could be something you see or smell. It could be the physical sensation of your feet on the ground or of your breath coming in and out of your body. Dropping a stressful train of thought about the past or the future and relaxing into the present moment is a relief. And adding a slight smile can bring with it a sense of peace and well-being.

At the same time one can be obsessively thinking, being ill can be extremely isolating, painful and create a world of negativity and suffering. The comments of a former inmate address this, “I had to find something to keep me going, to keep my spirits up. Being in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, no interaction with people, that’s really hard on you. Frankl’s work “taught me to seek peace. It taught me that in a negative environment, I need to find the positive.”

The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity - even under the most difficult circumstances - to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. Viktor Frankl

While I’m not about to say which approach, or combination there of, might work for you, it’s worth your time to read both:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Take a Break: Make/Be Inspired by a Dreamcatcher

 In addition to the grape vine growing everywhere at this time of year, the barn spiders are creating amazing webs in various spots on windows, doorways and even between twigs. It’s a perfect time to think about making a “dreamcatcher.”

Not familiar with a dream catcher? It is an object made in the form of a circle with a net or spider-web design inside. ...The current widespread belief is that a dream catcher literally filters dreams. It usually hangs above the bed and captures the good in a person's dreams so that it remains with the individual for the rest of his/her life. Any bad or evil in their dreams passes through the hole in the center, and does not become a part of the person...They originated in traditional Indian beliefs....Among the Chippewa, net cradle charms protected a baby by catching "everything evil, as a spider's web catches and holds everything that comes in contact with it." Evil forces included colds, illness, and bad spirits. Similar beliefs are found across North America. Dreamcatchers have been recorded to be used by the Ojibwa, Cree, Crow, Zuni, Cochiti, Laguna, and the Huichol of Mexico. They have also been portrayed in murals produced by pre-Colonial peoples of Central America. AritFACT: Dreamcatchers 

The materials are simple-a hoop of some sort, though antlers and twigs can be used, plus thread of some sort. Depending on the size of the hoop you can use thread, embroidery floss or even rope. Below are instructions to help you get started. Keep in mind that while the threading is easy, it can be difficult if
you are using a big ball. It may be smart to cut off what you need and then wrap around a piece of cardboard. As you’ll see in the video, they’ve used embroidery floss, which lays pretty flat.

Think I want a “summer catcher” to hold all the warmth of the summer sun as we get closer to fall and the approaching winter.

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Journal Watch August 2015


Knee Replacement May Ease Pain for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Knee replacement surgery can temporarily return the joint to an earlier, better level of function in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, new research suggests. Arthritis & Rheumatology, online 

• Drinking May Ease Fibromyalgia Pain but be Wary: Moderate to heavy drinking might cut the likelihood of disability for people with chronic widespread pain such as that related to fibromyalgia, new Scottish research suggests. But U.S. pain specialists say consuming alcohol is the wrong approach to coping with disabling pain. Arthritis Care & Research 

 Online Program Helps People with Chronic Pain: People can manage chronic pain and reduce their reliance on opioids through an Internet-based program that teaches non-medical alternatives like increased physical activity, thinking more positively and dealing with emotions, a new report suggests. Pain Management Nursing 

• Most Chronic Pain Patients Use Alternative Therapies but Don’t Tell Doctor: More than half of chronic pain patients in a managed care setting reported using chiropractic care or acupuncture or both, but many of these patients didn't discuss this care with their primary care providers. These study results suggest that better care coordination is needed among patients and physicians. American Journal of Managed Care

 Mindfulness Therapy Might Help Ease PTSD: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) seems to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new study suggests. As mindfulness skills increased, patients showed improvement in PTSD symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks of the traumatic event and avoiding things that might remind them of the traumatic event. In addition, patients experienced improvements in irritability, depression and quality of life. JAMA 

• Regular Pot Use as Teen Not Tied to Long-Term Health Problems: Regular marijuana use doesn't appear to put teens at increased risk for depression, lung cancer or other physical and mental health problems later in life, contends a new study that challenges previous research. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 

• Tuning into Favorite Music May Boost Post Op Recovery: A review of 72 studies, that includes nearly 7,000 patients, investigators found that listening to music before, during or after surgery significantly lowered patients' anxiety and pain, decreased their need for pain medicines, and increased their satisfaction with their care. The Lancet 

• Approved Praluent injection, the first cholesterol lowering treatment approved in a new class of drugs known as propotein convertase subtilisn kexin type 9 inhibitors.
• Wants to strengthen sugar labeling adding ‘percent daily value’
• Approved Odomzo, a pill for locally advanced basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer.
• Approved Technivie (ombitasvir, paritaprevir and ritonavir) to be used with ribavirin to treat HCV genotype 4 infection
• Approved Spritam, the first 3-D printed pill, to be taken with other medicines for seizures
• Approved OxyContin for Children as Young as 11

• Exercise May Buffer Symptoms of Early Alzheimer’s: Regular exercise may be the best medicine for seniors facing the onset of dementia, according to three new clinical trials. Physical activity improved mood, memory and ability to think for participants in all three studies. Alzheimer's Association International Conference

• Moderate Exercise May Reduce Men’sHeart Failure Risk: Researchers found that those who exercised by walking or cycling at least 20 minutes a day had a 21 percent lower risk of heart failure. Exercising more than an hour a week decreased risk by 14 percent, the study found. The least-active group had a 69 percent higher risk for developing heart failure, while the highest-intensity group had a 31 percent higher risk of heart failure, the study revealed. There was no information on whether the high-intensity exercisers did marathons or other similar activities. Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure. 

 Older Smokers with Migraines and Stroke Risk: A study of nearly 1,300 people, average age 68, who suffered migraine headaches with and without aura found no association between migraine and the risk of heart or stroke in non smokers. But among smokers, migraine was associated with a threefold increased risk of stroke. Neurology

• Stand, Don’t Sit: A new study found that sitting appears to be linked to increased blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which can lead to added weight, diabetes and heart ills. But standing more helps improve all these measures and can give you a trimmer waist to boot, the researchers said. European Heart Journal 

Standing All Day May Take Toll on Health: Desk jobs aren't good for your health, but working on your feet could spell trouble, too, researchers say. Standing five hours a day contributes to significant and prolonged lower-limb muscle fatigue, a small study concluded. This may raise your risk for long-term back pain and musculoskeletal disorders. Human Factors

 • Targeted Workouts May Strengthen Bone sin Middle Age Men: Certain types of exercise improve bone health in middle-aged men with low bone mass and may lower their risk for osteoporosis, according to a small new study. Only those who did weight-lifting had increases in hip-bone density, the study found. Bone 

• Birth Control Pills May Cut Risk of Uterine Cancer: Taking birth control pills, even for just a few years, offers significant long-term protection against uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, the British researchers said. And the longer a women takes birth control pills, the greater her reduction in risk for the disease. The Lancet Oncology 

 Healthy Diet May Help Shield the Aging Brain: Older adults with healthier diets reduced their odds of impaired "executive function" by 35 percent. Executive function refers to a collection of things done by the brain, including memory, reasoning, multi-tasking, problem-solving and planning skills. Alzheimer's Association International Conference 

• High Soda Intake May Boost Diabetes Risk, Even without Obesity: Whether you are slim or obese, if you drink lots of sugary soda or other sweetened drinks you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, a new analysis reveals. BMJ online 

Spicing Up Meals May Extend Life: A large multi-year food analysis found that adults who reported eating spicy foods -- such as fresh and dried chili pepper -- as little as three days per week were less likely to die during the study period than those who consumed such foods less than once a week. "If you eat more spicy food, it's better for your health and lowers the risk for mortality, especially as it relates to cancer and heart disease." BMJ 

Yo-Yo Dieting Won’t Raise Cancer Risk: This type of dieting, also called weight cycling, features repeated episodes of weight loss followed by weight gain. Previous research has suggested that weight cycling may trigger biological processes that could lead to cancer. Data from more than 132,000 men and women who were aged 50 to 74 when they enrolled in an American Cancer Society study in 1992 found that yo-yo dieting was not associated with overall cancer risk or increased risk. American Journal of Epidemiology 

• Low Fat May Beat Low Carb Diet for Trimming Body Fat: When it comes to slimming down, a diet low in fat seems to beat a diet low in carbohydrates for body fat loss, new research suggests. The finding stems from a small U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) investigation that tracked each approach to weight loss among 19 obese adults. Cell Metabolism 

Diet High in Refined Carbs  Could Increase Depression Risk: High-glycemic-index (GI) diets could increase the risk of depression in postmenopausal women, according to a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

• Vitamin D Supplements Won’t Strengthen Older Women’s Bones: High doses of vitamin D do not appear to protect postmenopausal women from the dangers of osteoporosis, new research indicates. JAMA Internal Medicine 

• Omega 3-Fatty Acids May Help Improve Treatment, Quality of Life for Cancer Patients: Adding omega-3 fatty acids to anti-tumor medications may improve treatment response and quality of life for cancer patients according to a new study. The study examined 50 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 

• Mixed Results on Testosterone Supplements: Testosterone therapy may not be as bad for men's heart health as previously thought, but it doesn't seem to turn back time on their sex lives either, a new trial shows. JAMA

• Deep Brain Stimulation for Depression Fails to Demonstrated Efficacy: A large number of relatively small open-label studies have supported the effectiveness of various forms of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for both depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In the current issue of Biological Psychiatry researchers report the results of the first large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of DBS treatment for treatment-resistant symptoms of depression, which failed to find that DBS reduced depression symptoms better than placebo.

• Cell Damage Occurs When People Have CT Scans: Cellular damage occurs when people undergo CT scans, but whether or not this causes cancer or any other health problems is unclear, a new study finds. Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging 

• Dementia Risk May Be Dropping With Generations: New research suggests that people born after 1930 may have a lower risk of developing dementia than the generation before them, adding to evidence that the incidence of dementia may be declining in the United States and elsewhere. That decline was not explained by age, but did seem to be related to improvements in heart health over time, the researchers found. Alzheimer's Association International Conference 

• 1 in 5 US Adults Has a Physical, Mental Disability: More than 50 million Americans live with a disability, health officials reported Thursday. The most common disabilities are mobility limitations, such as having serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs -- affecting one in eight adults -- followed by disabilities in thinking and/or memory, independent living, seeing and self-care, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

• 1 in 4 Senior Women in US has Osteoporosis: The weakening bones of osteoporosis greatly raise a person's odds for dangerous fractures, and a new report finds that one-quarter of all American women aged 65 or older suffer from the condition. Close to 6 percent of men in this age group also have osteoporosis, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.