A to Z Blogging Challenge 2020 Health: F is for Fun

So many of my health posts for this challenge has been about pain and illness. I know I’ve been through a lot, but I also know many others have as well. I believe that we are here to learn things and one of the best ways to learn is by experiencing them.

But I thought I’d go in a more positive direction this time… and talk about fun.

The definition of fun is something that brings pleasure, joy or playfulness.

I had to stop and think… what is fun and do I have any?

When I was a kid, it was easy. Pretty much everything fun… unless it was eating peas and beets and having my long hair combed out to get rid of snarls.

Fun was playing dolls with my friends, either Barbies or Tiny Tears or paper dolls.

Fun was riding from one end of the neighborhood on our bikes, pretending that we were on houses, fast powered boats or race cars.

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Fun was playing group games like Hide n’ Seek, Tag, Kick the Can, or making up our own games like Invasion from Mars.

Fun was spending hours at the library, or exploring Ravenna Park with its many trails and creeks.

Life was fun then. Even in my 20’s, I found fun…. usually clubbing and dancing, but also riding my bike or jogging around Greenlake, ice skating every morning before going into work.

I found fun in parenting… dressing up my daughter like she was a little doll (and my son too, for that matter), watching them both explore and achieve and seeing the world through their eyes.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2020 Health: E is for Edema

Over the years I’ve had some problems with swollen ankles and hands, but that really became a problem last summer. My feet swelled so badly that I couldn’t wear shoes. The skin on my feet and legs felt so tight, I thought it would rip open and in a sense it did… I developed a radiation ulcer on the back of my leg where I had had two Lymphoma tumors, treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In the past year and half, my feet and legs balloon up and excess water drains out of the ulcer. I’ve had to resort to cut apart diapers to absorb the moisture.

My doctors, wound specialists and I have tried a variety of things to attempt to get this thing to close up and heal, but nothing has worked. First we tried topical oxygen therapy when it was thought that an hyperbaric chamber might help, but there wasn’t one close enough to go to four days a week for 10 weeks. After 6 months of this, not much had changed. We tried Juzo compression wraps but they were hot, uncomfortable and a pain to put on. They also didn’t stay up very well and slipped down until they were bunched around my ankle. I dislike wearing socks so these were not a favorite.

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After the Juzos, I discovered Air Compression Boots, that not only felt better, worked even better. Sitting with my feet up on an ottoman while the boots did their work was relaxing and calming and did even more than wearing the Juzos for 12 hours.

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I’ve also now accepted that I’m going to have take Diuretics on a daily basis, something I resisted for months. When I was in the hospital they gave me Lasix. Now I’m on Bumax. When I first started taking this drug, I was up every five minutes to pee. I guess my body is adapting because now I can go for 10-15 minutes before each potty break.

I’ve also come to terms with the idea that all of this for treating edema in my legs is going to a long term project. Edema happens when your small blood vessels leak fluid into surrounding tissues. Between the damage from the car accident, treatment for two cancer tumors and now this ulcer, the circulation in my legs ain’t what it use to be. I’m due to see a vascular surgeon eventually to see if surgery will help with this, but I have my doubts that it will. There is just too much damage on that one leg.

So, for now, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing along with the other guidelines of fighting edema; Movement, Elevation, Massage, Compression (the boots help with these last three), and Reduce salt intake. I’ve been on a low salt diet since last summer and it helps. I’ve also discovered that salty foods now taste awful for me… I can’t eat pizza or fish and chips anymore. I’ve also discovered one other thing.

Getting old sucks!!

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2020 Health: D is for Depression

I’ve been treated for depression off and on since I was nine. Treatment has ranged from just trying to ignore it to self medicating to therapy and counseling to medications. Some of it works for a while, but it’s an ongoing to battle.

What is depression?

“Unlike the blues, sadness, or even grief, depression is a condition in which a person feels an overwhelming and debilitating unhappiness. People who are depressed may have trouble thinking clearly and be unable to perform normal functions. They may be uninterested in eating and be unable to sleep, or they may engage in these activities excessively. Persons with depression may even have thoughts of suicide.”

For some people depression can cause feelings of lethargy or anger and irritability… it can affect each person differently, which makes it hard to treat. So far there is not a physical test, like blood tests, to diagnose if you might be depressed. So it takes communication and observation by your doctor to help make that determination.

What Causes Depression?

“Although depression can be triggered by an emotional event in a person’s life, a decrease in the levels of one of the neurotransmitters, serotonin, has been linked in the biology of depression.”

“The brain is composed of millions of interconnecting nerve cells called neurons. In order for a person to think, move, or feel, these neurons must communicate with one another. They do so by sending and receiving chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.

When a neurotransmitter is released from a neuron, it crosses a cleft, or synapse, and binds to a receptor on another neuron; thus the signal is passed on.”

How to treat depression?

Treatment ranges from medications such as Zoloft and Paxil to cognitive behavior therapies. Sometimes the best thing is to sit in a room with a therapist and just talk. Often both are used. There are some natural remedies that some doctors approve of (check with your doctor first) such as 5-HTP, B vitamins and St. John’s Wort. Other therapies that sometimes helps are treatments like biofeedback.

I have a list of suggestions that I turn to when depression hits me. These ideas are not meant to replace diagnosis and treatment from your doctor and/or mental health specialist. If any of these ideas appeal to you, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctors about them and get their input before including them in your health care routine. I’m also including things that can be done during self quarantines for Covid 16, and many instructions can be found online.

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Yoga. The ultimate mind/body exercise, you stretch yourself physically and mentally in yoga class. Between the deep breathing and asanas, both can make a difference in how you feel.

Meditate, Chant or Pray. Whether it’s rosary beads or Buddhist chants, the rhythmic singsong cadence of repetitive prayer or mantras may have a calming effect on the heart, according to some studies. You can use relaxation or meditation audio tapes and find videos on YouTube.

Give to charity.  Volunteer at your local hospital, teach literacy classes, or dish up meals at the local shelter. Donate money and food to food banks. Offer to teach something online on YouTube.

Humor. Studies have suggested that humor can lower blood pressure and boost levels of natural feel-good chemicals known as endorphins. Read comic strips (my favorite is Pickles). Read comic books. Watch cartoons from your childhood (Rocky and Bullwinkle?). Watch stand up comedians like Robin Williams, George Carlin, Jeff Foxworthy, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Ellen DeGeneres, Carol Burnett.

Create a sanctuary.  A soft pillow and knitted throw on a favorite chair, can help to  neutralize stress. Surround yourself with favorite pictures and photos, plants, aromatherapy.

Drink Chamomile Tea. Or lavender tea. I love Yogi Honey Lavender tea and I can feel much more relaxed after drinking just one cup.

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Play with a yoyo

Write a list of the 10 things you enjoyed most about today. Or are grateful for. (Do this each day)

Speak to People. Start with your family…. your partner, your kids, your parents, your siblings; by phone, by text, by email, on a video app. Talk to strangers on an online group. On chat apps on the phone such as Quarantine Chat 

Collage Therapy. Collect old magazines and even junk mail and cut up pictures or just colors and designs and glue onto poster board or an artist’s canvas about how you feel or how you would like to feel.

Coloring Therapy
Spend 30 minutes coloring with whatever colors call to you. This is a form of meditation, good for hand-eye coordination, slows down the mind, and brings out your inner child. I have an adult coloring book of fairies that I color using glitter gel pens.

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Coloring Book

Journal – Keep a private journal where you can record events, your reactions to them, how you feel about situations, what you are learning. Do a blog. My blog works as my journal, but I also keep an autobiographical journal too, that someday will hopefully become a book for my grandchildren. You can keep an art journal. A photo journal. A nature journal.

Sing. Singing draws more oxygen into your body, enhances mental clarity, and reduces fatigue. Make a playlist on whatever music app you like best (I use Amazon) and make a playlist of your favorite songs that you like to sing along to. Turn it on full blast and sing at the top of your lungs.

Hydrotherapy which can be anything from showers and baths to saunas and hot tubs. I like to take hot showers and imagine my depression and anxiety being washed away and down the drain.

Bake bread. Making bread the old fashioned way helps with feelings of irritability and aggression when you have to spend 10 minutes kneading the dough. It become a good physical release and the reward is the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven. I understand there is a shortage of yeast these days because so many people are suddenly making bread at home. If you find that to be true, try fruit and veggie breads… banana bread, zucchini bread, carrot bread.

Plenty of sleep… go to bed earlier or take afternoon naps

Dance.. aerobics, ballet, bellydancing, or just move around the room to your favorite music.

Get a piece of stretched canvas and some acrylic paints and paint your feelings. Don’t worry what it looks like.

Make an adult blanket to cuddle with. Use a variety of soft fabrics; velvet, silk, satin, soft cotton… and sew them together as a crazy quilt.

Learn to play an instrument; piano, guitar, harp, cello, flute… provides a sense of accomplishment.

Plant and tend to a garden, even a container garden or herb garden.

Color raw rice with a few drops of one color of food coloring and a few drops of desired essential oil. Let sit and dry. Store in a low wooden box. This rice is very relaxing to play with, sift thru your fingers, fill small silver or wooden cups, pour out. Revert back to childhood.

Look at old photos, or better yet, put them in a scrapbook with colorful papers, stickers, die cuts, and journaling

Jump rope, and see how many of the rhymes from childhood that you remember.

Write a poem, about being sad, about being happy… write lots of poems, and keep them in a notebook.

Do a jigsaw puzzle

Blow bubbles

Learn how to juggle

Learn a language; French, Dutch, Japanese, Sign

Hug a Tree – Spending time with nature is my favorite way to feel better. Put on your hiking boots and get lost for a couple hours near a babbling brook. If you can’t get out of town, at least go for a barefoot run through the grasses in your yard.

Change your bed sheets – Order a new set of colorful bed linens to brighten up your bedroom. Crisp, clean, and colorful bed linens to curl up inside at bedtime will offer comfort when you most need it.

This last one I use to do with my daycare kids and I discovered that their parents would sit down for a bit when they were picking up their children and play with it too. I started making up and giving it to the parents as gifts. One told me she kept in her drawer at work.

AROMATHERAPY MODELING DOUGH

1 cup flour
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. cooking oil
1/4 cup salt
Essential oils of choice (One should obviously stay away from oils that could cause a serious problem to the skin, etc.). If color is desired food coloring or Kool-Aid powder work well. Kool-Aid also comes in a nice color variety:)

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until smooth. Remove dough from the pan and knead until blended smooth. If you want colors, add food coloring or a pinch of Kool-Aid now until the desired color is made. Let cool. Now to make it aromatic, roll the dough into a ball and push a hole in it with thumb. Add a few drops of an essential oil (usually 1-3 to start) and knead the dough thoroughly. Sniff. Keep doing this until you get the aroma you are looking for.

Here are some single EO’s and color ideas:

Brown — Cardamom, Frankincense or Cocoa Absolute
Orange — Tangerine or Bergamot
Yellow — Lemon or Lemon Balm
Green — Mimosa, Eucalyptus or Spikenard
Red — Rose or Geranium
Purple — Lavender
Blue — German Chamomile
Pink — Pink Grapefruit
White — Peppermint or Tea Tree

Lavender scented in a deep purple colored dough is wonderful!!

Make small quantities and use them as office toys. Why sit and squeeze a tennis ball or rub a worry stone etc., while on the phone when you can squish, squeeze, roll, pinch, mash, and sniff play dough?!

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A to Z Blogging Challenge 2020 Health: B is for Balance

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We’ve all heard the phrase: “All things in moderation”. That is another form of finding balance. You can often justify having a slice of birthday cake to celebrate a friend’s day, but not to sit down and eat a whole cake. Drinking is another example. One drink isn’t likely to harm you, but one drink every hour could.

Balance is also about doing two things that actually do balance each other out… Getting angry about an injustice in your town that prompts you to sign a petition to make changes and then sitting down to meditate to find your calm again. Getting angry and staying angry and doing nothing about it, solves nothing and helps no one, least of all yourself. Find a balance between sitting and working and getting up and moving around. You may be able to find other ways to bring balance in your own life and routine.

Trying to find balance in the middle of a pandemic is difficult. Anxiety is gripping people who never had a problem with it before. So what do you do? I’m not going to say it’s easy because it’s not. But it is doable.

Learn as much about this pandemic as you can. I keep saying, “knowledge is power” and I truly believe it is. Get the FACTS not the rumors and conspiracy theories. Granted, much of this novel coronavirus is still unknown… even it’s name “novel” means new. But you can keep up to date with the newest discoveries.

Learn what works and what doesn’t. Some of the so called cures that people are suggesting are downright scary. I’m constantly amazed at the people who will use them without further investigation. Right now and by the time I hit publish on this, it could change…. the main things that work are these:

  1. Social distancing… Stay at Home, if you can. Keep 6 feet away from others if you can’t.
  2. WASH. Your. Hands!! This should go without saying. We learned this in kindergarten!!
  3. Get plenty of sleep, move around and get some exercise, go outside and walk or run providing it’s not with a group of people. Keep regular meals.
  4. Find someway to relax and slow down your heart rate and breathing. I do this with meditation… others use prayer, listening to music, even watching TV is a form of meditation. Watching fish in a home aquarium… watching the clouds float by. They all work.

At the moment there are discussions on if the US should adopt the habit that they use in China and Japan, of wearing masks out in public, even if you aren’t sick.  There are now dozens of sites on how to make your own mask, including my own favorite of a bandana, hanky or piece of fabric and two hair ties (this will be my go to), which people will need to do if this becomes a requirement. By now everyone knows that the medical personnel are running out of everything they need to care for Covid 19 patients and if there are not enough masks for them, there won’t be for us in the general public either.

Just like those who are hoarding toilet paper, there will be even more hoarding of masks than there already is now.

And this is another way you can help to find balance for yourself and others…

  1. Make masks. For yourself. To donate to hospitals.
  2. Donate fabric and elastic to the many groups that are now making masks for hospital workers.
  3. Don’t buy, and god-forbid, don’t hoard surgical-quality masks that nurses and doctors desperately need right now.

Finding your balance in this difficult time will not only help you, but help those around you and will have a long reaching benefit for others, as well as helping you after we survive this virus.

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