Category Archives: Health

Self-Care (for Sanity’s Sake) Through the Holidays

The holidays are here, whether we are ready or not.  It seems like the year just started, but it is almost over.  The holidays, while they can be wonderful, are tremendously stressful.  Don’t let them be – there are things that you can do to put the joy back in the holidays and keep your sanity.

 

NOTE: I also want to say at the outset that if you suffer from depression, please talk to someone – a friend, a family member, a coworker, or anyone that you trust.

 

  • Eat healthy meals before going to parties.
  • Moderate your caffeine and alcohol intake – too much of either will leave you feeling bad later, and also dehydrate you.
  • Get enough sleep.  Go to bed earlier than normal at least once a week.
  • Evaluate any “obligations” that you are facing.  Just because you have done something in the past doesn’t mean you have to continue.
  • Family can be stressful.  It is important to spend time with people that you ENJOY, family or not.  Also, recognize that old patterns reappear under stress, so be aware of that in interactions with family.
  • Say “No” – and mean it.  Remember that NO can  be a complete sentence – you don’t have to explain.
  • Take short breaks to fit in a walk or other forms of exercise.  Not only will it help with possible weight gain over the holiday, it is an excellent stress reliever.
  • Watch how much you spend, to avoid making the start of the new year a more stressful one.
  • Make sure your routine stays the same, or as close as possible.  Keeping a regular routine makes rest/sleep easier, and also helps keep you in balance.
  • If you have stress management techniques that you use in other circumstances, pull them out and use them. Find what works for you and stick with it!
  • Prioritize.  Look at your activities and do what is most important to you.  Don’t worry if less important things don’t get done.
  • Take a time out for yourself – away from noise, stimulation, and things that need to be done.  They will still be there in five, ten, fifteen minutes.
  • Relax and be present in the moment – not worrying about the future, not worrying about what happened in the past.  Enjoy the family around you.  Enjoy the smells of the holiday.  Enjoy the sounds of the holiday.
  • Simplify.  Cut your to-do list in half.  Send fewer cards.  Exchange fewer gifts.  Say NO to a few occasions.
  • Stay flexible; things can change at the drop of a hat so be ready to change.
  • If you have too much to do, delegate.  Ask for help from those around you.  You do the best you can; remember that.
  • Don’t bake six types of cookies if two will do!
  • Laugh.  Hang on to your sense of humor and take care of it.  Look for the funny in life – there is plenty of it out there.  Find some funny websites and look at them first thing in the morning, or any time you need a giggle.
  • Let go of the “ideal” Christmas and enjoy the one around you.
  • Do non-materialistic things with friends and family.
  • Be aware of your breaking point and step back before you reach it.  Step away and take a break.  Avoid those things that push you close to your breaking point, even if it is family.  There is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
  • Chose your battles; ask yourself, “Is this worth a fight?”
  • Keep expectations realistic.  Don’t look for a Brady Bunch Christmas if your family tends to be more boisterous.

If you get stressed, stop and ask yourself, “Is it worth this?  Am I doing this to myself?  Is there something that I can do to make this fun again?”

 

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30 Foolproof Self-Care Tips for the Greatly Stressed

On Your Own Nerves

Life is stressful and complicated – I am fairly certain that we can all agree on that.  Many families either have two parents working or are single-parent homes.  Add to that schedules for children that require families to be in multiple places at the same time and you find stress – how to feed the family, be involved with both children, work, get laundry done, and so on.  Other stresses for people with or without children include travel for work, long work hours, having to work holidays, not being able to make ends meet, committing to too many things, not having enough time, eating poorly, inability to accept things as they are, and failure to take time to relax.  Of course, those just scratch the surface.  I am a mother of two, one of whom has a chronic illness that she will never grow out of, a lifelong situation that has changed her life and those of me and the rest of the family.  We face the stresses of changes in her condition, hospital stays, lots and lots of doctor visits of various types, and the fact that even simple things like having her teeth examined by a dentist are complicated. That doesn’t even begin to describe the stress of trying to make sure that our son, who doesn’t have health issues, doesn’t feel neglected.  Stressors abound.

In view of all this, I have been trying to find ways to de-stress, lessen my anxiety, and take care of myself.  I want to be a better worker (I work part time), better spouse, and better mother.  I have found that to be impossible as long as I am stressed to the max, anxious alm0st all time time, and beginning to see physical side effects of stress.  Here are a list of things that I have tried and found help me.  Some or all of them may appeal to you.  I hope that at least some of them will help you as well.

  1. Soak your feet in hot water and Epsom salts.  I use about one cup of Epsom salts in a dishpan that I use specifically for soaking my feet (purchased on Amazon, but can probably be found at Wal-Mart or Target).  I make the water fairly hot and soak for 10 minutes or so.  Then put moisturizer on your feet and cover with stocks.  I highly recommend this an hour or so before bed – it even helps me sleep.
  2. Solitude.  Sometimes you just need a brief break – some quiet to either contemplate the situation or to not think about it at all.  As I mentioned earlier, I have two delightful, wonderful children – one of whom is very chatty.  Sometimes I just need a few minutes of quiet to gather my thoughts.  In my experience, I have less stressful days when I can have 15-20 minutes of time to myself.
  3. Fifteen minutes to yourself when you get home.  I highly recommend taking fifteen minutes or so when you get home to sit in a quiet place and unwind.  Ask your children to give you a few minutes before asking you anything – or go in your room and shut the door.  Let them know it will just be a short time.  Read for a few minutes, rock in a rocking chair, crochet, write, or whatever else helps you relax.  If just sitting helps, by all means sit and be still.
  4. Keep a journal.  Write out the good things, as well as the bad.  You can look back at the good memories on days you need something to perk you up.  Also, seeing what you’ve overcome can help as well.  In addition, sometimes writing out a problem can help you see things more clearly.  Remember, there is no rule that says you have to keep any or all of your journal.  If you feel better burning, shredding, or otherwise disposing of what you’ve written, then do so.
  5. Be sure to get enough sleep.  At least once a week, go to bed at earlier than normal to make sure you get a good night’s sleep.  If you have trouble sleeping, try getting more exercise.  If that doesn’t work, talk to a doctor or look into other methods of getting help with sleep problems.
  6. Clear some clutter.  Believe it or not, by organizing, you will make yourself feel better.  Clutter is a source of stress.  When you cannot find something, you get frustrated and worried, especially if it is something like car keys or cell phones.  It results in time spent looking for things rather than being productive.
  7. Five things to give up:
    1. People pleasing
    2. Negative self-talk
    3. Complaining
    4. The need to be right
    5. Running from things you fear
  8. Exercise a little every day.  There are some creative ways to work exercise into your day; do some research on Google.  Even 20 minutes a day is a big help, and may help you sleep better too!
  9. Make a humor file – collect articles from magazines or newspapers, comic strips, pictures, etc. – anything that makes you laugh or smile.  Pull it out on tough days.
  10. Read, read, read.  Sometimes curling up with a good book, whether it is fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, book, magazine, or whatever, is a great escape for a while – long enough to relax and unwind a bit.
  11. Practice gratitude.  If you are feeling stressed or depressed, sit down and make a list of five things that you are grateful for; it doesn’t matter what it is.  Start small: a flower, the breeze, waking up this morning, the tree outside your window, the sunset.
  12. Cut back on junk food, caffeine, and sugar.  Don’t overuse alcohol.
  13. When stressed, focus on what you can control – and  stop worrying about the things that you can’t.  Keep telling yourself to do that until it gets to be a habit.  Worrying about things you cannot change won’t change things, won’t make them better – but it can make your stress worse and make you sick.
  14. Replace negative self-talk with positive.  This can be something along the lines of using positive affirmations.  Reframe the negative things you tell yourself.  For example, if you think something like, “I can’t do this,” rephrase it to: “I’m not sure how to do this yet, but I will learn.”
  15. Cut back on electronics and media.  Keeping up with world happenings is a good thing overall, but it is negative in general.  Bad news sells papers.  Cut back on the amount of time you spend on computer, playing games, reading the news, following the news stories.  Spend more time with family, reading, exercising, or doing a hobby.
  16. Take up a hobby – speaking of hobbies!  Learn something new or pick up something you’ve been doing already.  Crochetcan be very relaxing – and yes, men crochet or knit too…
    1. http://www.pinterest.com/csuecrafty/real-men-crochet-or-knit/
    2. On Being a Man Who Knits
    3. No Yarn: Charity Does Good With Stitch In Time 
    4. Meet the Soldier Who Learned to Crochet In Afghanistan
  17. Try meditation.  Start small – mediate for five minutes.  Keep practicing – it takes time to build up but any amount should help your stress levels.
  18. Take an online course and stretch yourself.
  19. Do something nice for someone.
  20. Stop trying to be someone else, for someone else – or trying to live your life to please someone else.  Be yourself – live your values and your interests and follow your dreams.  You’ll find that relieves a LOT of stress.
  21. Sit on the back porch and enjoy your favorite beverage as the sun rises or sets.  Enjoy the sounds of nature.
  22. Practice healthy breathing – many people don’t breathe correctly and stress can affect breathing as well.
  23. Learn to acknowledge all of your feelings – including the negative ones, like anger and jealousy.  Recognize when you are feeling them, explore why you are feeling them, and acknowledge them.  Then let them go.
  24. Cry – let it all out.  Sometimes you just need to vent and let out some of your internal pressure.  It is a way of releasing pressure and stress.
  25. Make a list of activities that you enjoy doing – and do one.
  26. Say no to something that you really don’t want to do, or say no if you don’t have enough energy to commit to something else.  Forget what other people say or think – this is for your own well-being.
  27. Stop watching TV and read instead.
  28. Set your own goals and get away from living by someone else’s rules and goals for you.
  29. Determine your core values and make sure your job and your lifestyle are aligned with them.  When they aren’t in agreement, there is a disconnect and it can be very stressful.
  30. Develop coping strategies.  Sources of help include:
    1. Common Coping Responses for Stress
    2. Stress Management
    3. 101 Ways to Cope With Stress

Stress Less

Sources of information:

Clear Clutter Out of Your Life

Why Mess Causes Stress

 

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Helping Someone Who is Depressed

Some things to keep in mind if you know someone who is suffering from depression:

  1. First of all, this isn’t a case of the blues.  It isn’t a passing mood.  Clinical depression does have its ups and downs, but the person suffering won’t just “get over it.”
  2. Second of all, the person may push you away.  People who are depressed tend, involuntarily, to isolate themselves.  They tend to think that they are affecting people around them and to avoid that, they push people away.  Don’t take it personally and don’t let it affect your relationship!
  3. Third, this is a disease.

Now then, to help someone who is depressed, you may actually have to drag them kicking and screaming (NOT literally!) out of the house.  Reach out to them, get them out of the environment that they are trying to hide in.  This may not be what they think they want, but it is very, very good to get them out, away from the environment for a while.  Many people who are depressed tend to retreat from the world and isolate themselves.  Help them fight this tendency.   Go for a walk, go to dinner, go shopping, go to a park.  If they complain, be persistant but not unkind – recognize if they truly aren’t ready but keep coming back.

When you are helping someone who is depressed, it is VERY important to remember to take care of yourself as well.  Take time to do things you enjoy, to spend time with people who are NOT depressed, to do things unrelated to depression or the depressed person.  Get your rest.

Be there for the person.  If they just need an ear, listen to them and let them pour it out.  Avoid giving advice – just be supportive.  If  you’ve done some research about depression, share what you’ve learned and emphasize it is not their fault.

Try to remain upbeat and positive and be patient.

Spend some time together around animals: puppies, kittens, at the zoo, whatever.  Animals can help reach someone who is isolating themselves.

Know the warning signs of suicide – and DON’T be afraid to ask if they are considering it.  Do NOT ignore talk of suicide; take them to the emergency room or to a doctor immediately.

Ask what you can do to help.  Perhaps you can help get the kids to school, clean the house, cut the grass.  Does the car need to be inspected?

One other thing to remember:  don’t do too much for the person.  I know that sounds silly but people do also want to help themselves.  Don’t overdo the care!

Sources of Information

If You Know Someone Who’s Depressed

Depression.com – Help Someone You Love

Depression

WebMD: Supporting Someone Who Has Depression

About.com: Relationships and Depression

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Sources of Help for Families in Need

I don’t know that this will reach the people it needs to reach, but I hope it will.  My family and I have had a tough, tough time over the last three years.  It was only toward the end that I found several of these sources of help – it would have lessened the strain and stress I was under had I found them sooner.  Some of these are specific programs, some are simply ideas of places to START looking.  Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help; that’s the reason these programs exist.

  1. FAMIS or state medical insurance for children – FAMIS is Virginia’s version of affordable insurance for children; other states may have their own.  I found a link from the US Department of Health and Human Services about state insurance for children called Insure Kids Now!
  2. Local shelters for women/families
  3. Local churches
  4. Programs that help people “dress for success” – providing clothing for interviews and new jobs
  5. Health departments/clinics
  6. Ask about payment plans; some places are willing to work with someone who can’t pay the whole bill at once.
  7. If you happen to have to go to the emergency room, explain your situation and ask if there is anything they can do to help or if there is a program in place in the hospital.
  8. One suggestion I have is to reach out; yes, it is humbling, yes it is difficult, but it can provide enough relief from the strain to get you through the tough times.  Ask.  Simply ask.  Ask your child’s teacher if there is anything available through the school; my son’s preschool actually sent information home before Christmas about programs available for families in need.   Ask around the city government offices, or check out their website (you should be able to do that at the library for free).
  9. Seek out the groups that help communities: the Salvation Army, church groups, etc.  You should be able to find someone at the donation sites or the thrift store (if they have one) that you can talk to privately or quietly to the side.
  10. Look for clothes and other things at thrift stores; you can often find decent clothes (et cetera) for low prices.  Yes, some things are damaged, but plenty of people donate nice things that have been “gently worn” or “gently used”.  Check it out.

I just hope someone reads this and reaches out.  I wish that I had. Yes, things are improving for me now, but I think that I made my own situation worse – or at least more stressful – but not seeking the help that I should have.  Looking back, it seems like it should have been common sense to find these groups and ask for help, but at the time…well, depression can cloud your judgment and pride can make it difficult.

God bless anyone who reads this and is struggling; I’ve been there and I understand.  Trust me – someone around you, someone near you can help.  Reach out.

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Cold Drugs and Children

According to the Washington Post on January 29, 2008 (article here), more than 7000 children per year get rushed to emergency rooms due to adverse reactions to cough/cold medicines. According to the article, most of the problems occur in children ages 2-5, who got into the medicine on their own.

The researchers based their conclusions on information from a “nationally representative sample of 63 emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005.” This is coming as the FDA considers whether to further restrict the use of these products. The issues are the risks involved and the possibility that the products simply aren’t effective in young children.

Pediatricians are arguing that the drugs are not effective in young children and pose too great a risk to continue to allow their usage; the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, an industry group, says that the report shows that the problem really lies in parents giving incorrect dosages or failing to make sure the medicine is out of the reach of children. Last year, the industry voluntarily withdrew all products marketed for children under the age of two, but insisted that the products were safe for children older than 2.

The CDC said that last year at least “1500 children younger than 2 had complications in 2004 and 2005 from the products, and an FDA review noted dozens of cases of convulsions, heart problems, trouble breathing, neurological complications and other reactions, including at least 123 deaths.”

In terms of this most recent information, the researchers identified 301 cases between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2005. “Cold and cough drugs account for 5.7 percent of all medicine-related visits to the emergency room by children younger than 12. The cases did include prescription and OTC products, but researchers said that most of them involved nonprescription products.

Nearly 80 percent of the cases in the ages 2-5 involved situations in which children got into the medicine without their parents’ knowledge.

Basically, the researchers recommended several steps to make the products safer and reduce the risk. Examples include: encouraging parents to put the medicines out of the reach of children, to encourage them to keep them capped, designing better child-proof containers, and also avoiding the use of colors that make products appealing to children.

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Ok, what I really want to know here is this: are the products effective or not? I can certainly take care of keeping the products out of the reach of my children and make sure the caps are on good, but I don’t want to use them if they aren’t going to help!

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Researchers say to drink and exercise

Now here is a study I can get behind! According to Danish researchers, “drinking is healthy, exercise is healthy, and doing a little of both is even healthier.” This is according to an article published by Reuters on January 8, 2008 (here).

Obviously, you are not supposed to go out and get drunk every night – that is most definitely NOT healthy and not what is being touted by doctors. Rather, a drink or two regularly in addition to regular exercise is a healthy way of life.

According to the article, people who neither exercise nor drink have a 30-49 percent higher risk of heart disease than those who do one or both of the activities, according to a report in the European Heart Journal. “Several major studies have found that light to moderate drinking – up to two drinks a day on a regular basis – is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, and some have also found this leads to a lower risk of some cancers.” The Danish study, though, is the largest of its kind to examine the combined effect of drinking and exercise, and it found there were additional benefits from doing both things. Non-drinkers had a 30-31 percent higher risk of heart disease compared to moderate drinkers, regardless of the level of activity. Moderate consumption of alcohol was defined as up to 2 drinks per day (1-14 drinks per week). Teetotalers were able to reduce their risk of heart disease by exercising at least moderately. The people with the lowest risk of dying from any cause were those who performed both activities while those at the highest risk were those who were physically inactive, heavy drinkers.

Just something to think about…and of course, you do have to wonder if a study next week or next month will find the opposite. My husband’s doctor did indeed recommend a drink a day for health benefits; he gets a kick out of telling people that he’s having a drink due to doctor’s orders.

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Stress Relief for the Holidays

I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I have got to find a way to make my holidays less stressful. There are so many sources of stress these days: commercialization of holidays, work (or lack thereof),

  1. Focus on what is important and let the little things slide.  I know this isn’t easy.  I’m still working on this myself, but I realized over Thanksgiving that it was much more important that I got to see my 90+ year old grandmother and that she got to see my young children than the fact that everyone in the family is harping on the job situation for my husband and how I should fix it.  I’ve been trying to focus on her joy rather than the negatives and the stress.
  2. Draw boundaries where necessary.  Sometimes people don’t realize that they are offending or bothering you.  You may need to let them know as gently as possible – or you may have to be blunt.
  3. Get away from the situation if you can.  Sometimes you simply need a break from the situation.  Step back for a little while.  Do something that relaxes you.  Come back to the situation when you are calmer and can deal with it rationally or calmly.
  4. Do something nice for yourself.  Soak in the tub.  Get a pedicure. Find a quiet spot and read your favorite book for 10-15 minutes.  Talk to someone else about the stress or ask for some assistance, depending on what is stressing you.  Get away from all of the activity for a little while; find some quiet time.  Get up 15 minutes before everyone else so that you can get a quiet, slower start to the day.  Go to bed 15 minutes early for some peace and quiet.  Try meditating for 15 minutes before bed.
  5. Cut back on holiday activities.  I know that if you travel somewhere for the holidays many people probably want to see you, but you can overextend yourself easily.  Try to arrange a get-together in one place of as many people as possible to avoid having to drive around through your entire visit.  And know your limits – simply say “No, I’m afraid I can’t make it over this time.  I’m sorry but we’ll have to visit next time.”

I really think that holidays should be less about stress and driving around and seeing absolutely everybody and more about really enjoying the time you have with the people you do get to see.  If you spend more time in the car than you do visiting with people, you are going to be stressed.

I realized this holiday that I really  have to look at what I’m doing wrong.  This was the most stressful holiday I’ve ever had.  I enjoyed very little of it and there has to be something I can do to avoid a repeat of it.  The things I listed above are some ideas I’ve had about my own experiences.  I also realized that I set myself up for some of my stress; I tried too hard to please everybody and neglected my own needs.  That has got to change for the next visit.  Take some time to look at what you didn’t like about the last holiday and think about what you can do to improve it.

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