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Friday, June 23, 2017

Lifestyle Changes I've Learned through a Simple Life

I used to be one of the busy-bodies at work. The type of person that would grind out 60-80 hour weeks between my day job and moonlighting projects. This went on for the better part of a decade but quickly hit an abrupt end after a disastrous breakup.

During that period of “high productivity” I became unhealthy:

•  I had put on an additional 30 pounds in weight

•  I had regular panic and anxiety attacks (every day)

•  I had relied on booze to calm myself after a hard day’s work

•  I had burned through my finances due to lifestyle adjustment

Sound familiar?

Americans are overworked and overstressed.

We reach a point of burn-out where it’s hard to keep going, goals go to the wayside, and we place unnecessary standards on ourselves. We hit a wall and have trouble getting back on track.

Working toward an Early Grave

I decided I needed a change.

There were three parts to my new lifestyle plan:

•  Improve my gut health to lose weight and feel physically better

•  Learn to cope and deal with the triggers that caused my anxiety/panic attacks

•  Create a cut-off where I wasn’t punishing myself for relaxing

The first of these was to set achievable goals for my diet and exercise. The actions that worked best was to simplify my diet so that I wasn’t tempted to order out because I was too tired to cook a complicated meal. I found that meal prep and budget recipes to be the most effective. I combined this with using a 7-minute exercise app (in the beginning) and then scaling to 30-minute bike rides and weight routines.

My suggestion: The Couch-to-5K program.


The second was learning how to handle my attacks. These attacks were debilitating and put me “out of it” for many hours. The actions that mattered also happened to be a simplification of my lifestyle. I used a combination of anxiety forums to read personal accounts of attacks and a journal to track on my own to learn what brought them on. The ability to identify triggers and do a routine to calm myself eliminated 90% of the attacks.

My suggestion: 3 Effective Anxiety Breathing Exercises

The third was to find a work-life balance. I was a champion of working long hours and complaining about how little I slept. It was troublesome to “turn off” because I felt guilty that I wasn’t working… but then guilty that I wasn’t relaxing. The simple act of walking away and using a better to-do list helped the most; it was having a cut-off point at the job and computer where I shut it all down.

My suggestion: Work Harder, Not Smarter

The Importance of Simplicity


We tend to think that change is a complex set of actions – mainly because we look at the end-goal and find fear in how much work is required to reach these goals. The better way is to break these goals down into small, actionable chunks so they’re not overwhelming yet takes us one step closer to them.

It’s all about simplicity. It’s about taking the time to understand life and where we want to go.

The past is behind us and the future we can’t predict. If we live in the moment and make positive changes then we will gain control of our lives. We remove the convoluted, foggy thoughts that distill fear and doubt – we return to a simpler existence that brings wonders and change every day.

How do you approach simplicity in your lifestyle? 

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

How To Put Away Your Pills And Manage Arthritic Hands

Many arthritis sufferers are caught betwixt and between. Advil and other analgesic over-the-counter pain relievers aren’t strong enough, but Oxycontin and other opioid prescription painkillers are highly addictive. Perhaps the problem is that many of us view medication as the entire solution as opposed to a piece of the puzzle.

Medical intervention is ideal for flare-ups, and although some people claim it is possible to deal with conditions like trigger finger with some natural remedies, it’s usually a much better idea to just use a good trigger finger splint.

But since there is no splint or wrap for everyday chronic pain, dealing with this discomfort requires a more thoughtful approach.

Meditation

It may sound far-fetched to some, but there is considerable evidence that mindfulness reduces arthritis pain and makes it more manageable.

Pain messages are a lot like news stories. “Breaking News” headlines are hard to ignore, but when a commentator appears to tell us what’s wrong with America, it is a little easier to change the channel. Likewise, when nerve endings declare that “something is wrong” and send intense pain signals, these signals are almost impossible to drown out. But non-emergency messages are a little easier to muffle.

That’s where meditation comes in. By focusing on something other than pain messages for a few minutes, some people can effectively ignore the pain for several hours thereafter.

The goal should probably not be to meditate the pain away altogether, because that is not very likely to happen, at least after just a few minutes of deep breathing once or twice a day. But meditation can, and usually does, reduce your dependency on painkillers and often also reduces the pain enough to the point that analgesics are much more effective.

Diet

This one may seem a bit far-fetched as well, but once again, there is evidence that certain kinds of fat reduce joint stiffness.

Omega-3s, which are in fish oils and some other foods, have shown considerable promise in surveys and chemical trials, but since you’ll need to consume a lot of these fats, consult a doctor before taking any supplements. The same goes for the plant-based fat GLA (gamma-linolenic acid).

Some herbs, like turmeric, may help reduce arthritis pain as well, but there is little research directly on point.

Like meditation, curry and cod will not make your arthritis go into remission, and it probably won’t be anywhere nearly that effective. But diet can take the edge of arthritis pain and make the day more manageable with fewer pills.

Exercise

Skip the weightlifting exercises, because excessive and strong gripping can lead to the aforementioned trigger finger.

Instead, focus on flexibility exercises. Here are a few good ones. Taking up a string instrument, like a violin or a guitar, often helps flex fingers as well. For the first few days, most people experience significant discomfort, but this short-term pain is basically like an investment in long-term pain relief, and the investment is almost always worthwhile.

Temperature Therapy

Well-applied hot and cold therapy can greatly reduce your medication use as well.

Heat eases joint stiffness, especially at the beginning and end of the day. Some people respond to a good hand soaking in warm water, and for others, a heating pad might do the trick. Commercial hot packs are available as well that don’t radiate as much heat or use electricity.

While warmth reduces the stiffness that triggers pain signals, ice dampens the nerve endings and decreases inflammation. Ice your hands for about fifteen or twenty minutes to get the most benefit, so if you use a commercial ice pack, be sure it stays cold for a long time.

By changing the way you think about medicine, your pills will go much further than they did before.

This is a guest blog entry.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

7 Summer Health & Safety Reminders for Seniors


With the official start of summer comes important safety reminders and checklists for seniors. From beating the heat to remembering to stay hydrated, small, proactive actions can keep you in on the summer fun and out of trouble. Don’t miss these top 7:

Don’t Overdo It
As the warm sun beckons you outside to spend all day working in the garden, tending to the landscaping, or clearing out the garage, it’s important to remember not to overdo it. While your body may not recognize strain and joint stress right away, especially on lower back muscles, over a few days you will feel the ache and pain in your inflamed muscles and joints. Avoid spending a significant amount of time bending over, stooping, leaning, and reaching - instead use sitting stools, reacher grabbers, and frequent breaks to ease up on your body and place less stress on internal joints and muscles.

Stay Hydrated

Did you know that you may not feel thirsty even when you’re dehydrated? Metabolic imbalances can hinder thirst function and the general wear and tear of aging makes it more difficult to conserve water. The resulting dehydration can quickly sneak up on you and lead to serious medical complications. Setting reminders to drink water regularly throughout the day, as well as in-taking lots of water-rich fruits, vegetables, and soups, and drinking additional electrolyte-based beverages (with sodium and potassium) can ensure your body’s cells get all the hydration they need to function normally.

Know the Signs of Heat Stroke
With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees in many towns across the U.S. at just the start of the summer, it’s critically important for older adults and their caregivers to recognize signs of heat stroke. Hyperthermia, or heat stroke, can quickly spiral out of control and become life-threatening. Seek medical attention immediately if your body temperature spikes and you experience:

•    Headaches
•    Nausea or vomiting
•    Confusion, disorientation, or agitation
•    Dry, flushed skin
•    Rapid pulse
•    Heavy breathing
•    Not sweating and even fainting

Dress Lightly
Wearing loose, breathable clothing made with less synthetic materials (like cotton) during the summer does more than you may know. In addition to helping you stay cool, it provides greater comfort, is easier to put on, and allows for more active, fluid movement. A dressing aid for the disabled may help a senior with limited range of motion or mobility continue to be able to get dressed on their own. One item that should never be loose however? Shoes. Proper fitting shoes with smooth bottoms help support and stabilize strong mobility as well as potentially prevent falls.
 
Beat the Heat

Properly cooled environments may be a luxury for some seniors, though some local nonprofits and programs could potentially help you acquire a free or discounted unit. If you don’t have air conditioning or your unit breaks on a very hot day, try to get out of your house until it is fixed. Go to a friend’s house or area with air conditioning like a movie theatre or coffee shop. Don’t wait outside in scalding heat for a bus, but instead call a friend, neighbor, or local rideshare service for a ride if you cannot transport yourself. If you are unable to leave the house, cool off in cool shower or bath until help arrives.

Practice Sun Safety
Just as you would in your younger years, practice sun safety by wearing hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen when spending extended amounts of time outdoors. According to SkinCancer.org, an estimated 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. SPF 30+ is a safe recommendation when it comes to sunscreen, but it is also important to remember that limited sun exposure is healthy for the body which converts UV rays into Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays an important role in helping your body absorb calcium and grow bones as well as lowering your risk of developing some chronic diseases.

Watch Out for Water
Much of the fun of summer is cooling off with water! When traveling and having family over during the warm summer months, be careful of puddles and spills that come with grandkids tracking in water from the beach or dogs knocking over their water bowls after a hike. Slick and slippery surfaces turn your home into a dangerous environment with increased risk of you falling and injuring yourself. One out of three seniors over 65 will experience a fall, and many in their own home. Be smart about cleaning up spills and asking guests to dry off prior to entering your home after a dunk in the pool or ocean.

Ultimately, seniors should always have multiple emergency contacts whom they can reach out to if an issue comes up including air conditioning breaking, running out of clean, drinkable water, or needing help with a big summer project. Storing emergency numbers in a smartphone as well as printing them off and posting them in a common area, like the kitchen, can ensure that in the event of an emergency, help isn’t far away this summer.

This is a guest blog entry.