Posted by hclibrary on Dec 12, 2013 in Health, Reviews | 0 comments
Stress can severely affect my rheumatoid arthritis (RA). When I’m stressed, I feel more achy, tired, stiff and all around crummy. I don’t know the science behind what stress does to the body, but I do know that I feel it physically, mentally and emotionally. Another side effect of stress is that I am less capable of my daily coping with my condition. When I’m stressed I have fewer mental resources to take care of myself.
The holidays can be a stressful time between the demands of events, family visits, shopping, cooking and traveling. While I love this time of year and enjoy the festivities, I also need to be mindful of managing the stress and taking care of myself so that I can best enjoy the holidays.
I have a few coping mechanisms for preventing and managing stress during the holiday season:
• Making Lists—While making lists is a habitual activity of mine, they are especially helpful this time of year. I have lists for gifts, holiday cards, and tasks to complete. Ticking things off the lists makes me feel better and relieves stress. Also, knowing what I have to do and prioritizing my activities helps me manage my time. Frankly, I may not get to everything, but I know what is most important and I can concentrate on those things.
• Getting Plenty of Rest—I always struggle with getting enough rest! RA is an autoimmune disease, which saps strength and energy. Sometimes I get run down and sick, which is often connected to not resting enough. This is why I love naps, when I can grab them. Sleeping in on the weekends can also help. Taking it easy is a good habit because it makes me feel better and more energized for all the holiday fun.
• Exercising—With all the responsibilities of the holidays it can be easy to let the regular exercise drop. However, I’ve learned that when I don’t exercise I feel worse and enjoy the holidays less. I need my regular stretches and strengthening exercises to help keep my joints happy and my energy up. If anything, I should try to exercise a little more, albeit gently, to counteract some of the stiffness that comes with winter.
• Eating Carefully—Recently, I’ve begun tracking my eating and calories. There are many easy phone apps that can help. It has made me more aware of some of my good and bad eating habits. With all the sweets and treats that are abundantly available during the holidays, I need the reminder that every bite counts. While I continue to indulge, I do it more carefully and really think about whether the calories are worth the extra cookie. Another way to think about it is, how much extra exercise will I need to burn off the additional calories? Now, I am trying to plan ahead about what I eat, so that I can eat smarter while still enjoying myself.
• Taking Time Out—This is perhaps the most important coping mechanism for me! I need quiet time! Sometimes all the shopping, parties, and activities just wear me out and I need some time in a quiet room, a little meditation, reading, or listening to music that I enjoy. De-stressing allows me to relax my mind, relinquish my worries, and have time alone. It’s perfectly fine to need a little time out to recharge before rejoining the holiday frenzy.
What kinds of de-stressing or stress prevention strategies do you have? How does stress affect you if not managed well?
Posted by HCGH on Dec 10, 2013 in Health, News | 0 comments
Over this past year, as HCGH celebrated our 40th anniversary- we collected some great stories. Occasionally the physician becomes the patient… Here is one that you might have missed.
Dr. Kevin Carlson Shares Her Own Multigenerational HCGH Story
Dr. Carlson’s son, Max, with his great-grandmother
“It was the weekend of September 19, 2003, during Hurricane Isabel, a major storm that caused widespread flooding and some evacuations, that I delivered my third child, Sidney, in Labor and Delivery. On Saturday, my second child, Campbell, then two years old, required ER evaluation and was discharged home with clearance to meet her new baby sister. The previous Thursday, my grandmother, Helen Namkin, had been admitted for a pelvic fracture. On the same Friday I was delivering a baby, she underwent a scheduled elective carotid endarterectomy surgery by Dr. Edmund Tortolani. She spent the night in post-op in the ICU and was well enough to visit me and the baby before being discharged on Sunday.
Therefore on one night, three generations and four members of my family were beautifully cared for at HCGH and the huge extended family needed only to drive to one destination – via flooded roads – to support a grandmother, a mother, a child and a new baby!”
It’s okay to gain weight over the holidays, right? It’s the time of year when we all give ourselves permission to overeat and excuse some weight gain. Well, why sabotage all the good habits we spent months establishing? Luckily, there are lots of ways to enjoy spending time with family and friends and feel the joy of the holiday season without loosening our belts! Here at Well & Wise, we’ve already covered some ways to prevent holiday weight gain, but for many of us desserts are hard to pass up! I know I’ve often told people the fun “fact” that sugar causes your stomach to expand and so there’s always room for dessert. Here are some books and their recipes for delicious and light desserts you can indulge in without totally breaking your diet.
Just off the new shelf, we have Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 Just Desserts. This entry in the popular series of cookbooks brings recipes for cake-in-a-mug, cupcakes, cake pops, cheesecakes (and normal cakes), brownies, fudge, pies, softies, whoopie pies, ice cream treats, crunchers, dessert cones, cream fluff snacks, trifles, parfaits, creme brulees, fruity desserts, and finally, “desserts in disguise.” Whew! A lot of these recipes are surprisingly simple, and a separate listing in the back pages gives lists like 30 Minutes or Less, 5 Ingredients or Less, and Pumpkin Attack! Those of us trying to find something quick and low-calorie to take to a workplace holiday party can definitely find it in this book.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the TV show The Biggest Loser, but The Biggest Loser Dessert Cookbook may have me looking the other way. Many of the desserts in this book are downright impressive. Cookies, cakes, rum balls, pies, pumpkin ice cream, sorbet, even dessert pizza. Just think of how impressed everyone will be when you bring a Naked Apple Tart (120 calories, p. 44) or Strawberry Cloud Souffles (75 calories, p. 62) to the table! Not to mention, Pumped Up Pumpkin Pie Bites (94 calories, p. 172).
Last, we have some oldies, but still goodies: Healthy Homestyle Desserts brings cookies, pies, tarts, cakes, and more “with a fraction of the fat and calories” while and Perfect Light Desserts promises cakes, cookies, pies, and more made with real butter, sugar, flour, and eggs “under 30 calories per generous serving.” Now those are some taglines I can get behind. I can even promise you that nobody will scoff at the Very Berry Swirl Cheesecake (p. 162) from Healthy Homestyle Desserts. The secret to this cookbook is replacing high calorie and fat ingredients with lighter choices like using fat-free cream cheese, egg whites instead of whole eggs, and so on – it even provides a scorecard to show how many calories and grams of fat were reduced. Perfect Light Desserts on the other hand has a lot of recipes that are a bit outside the box of traditional American fare: Coconut Poppy Seed Coffee Cake (p. 84), Butterscotch Pie (p. 98), Coconut Tapioca with Lime and Mint-scented Pineapple (p. 141), Snow Eggs (meringue eggs with a custard sauce, p. 157), and Earl Grey Sherbert (p. 218) – and those are just the recipes I want to try.
I didn’t forget about those of you with specialized diets. No longer does vegan cousin Tallulah have to watch as everyone eats that delicious cake full of eggs and milk – as long as you make something from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, which is a brand new cookbook full of vegan versions of everyday favorite desserts, from cookies to cake to pie. For raw diets we have Everyday Raw Desserts, low-carb fans can enjoy sweets from Everyday Low-Carb Desserts, and organic eaters can check out the dessert section in The Organic Family Cookbook, which boasts very unique organic desserts, many of them vegan to boot.
So, it looks like you can have your cake and eat it too! You’re sure to find the right recipe when you browse HCLS’ extensive collection of healthy and low-calorie cookbooks for your holiday fare.
Can you believe it’s already December? Now, that you’ve made it through Thanksgiving, what’s on your mind? Is your calendar packed with parties, gift giving, decorating, kids’ performances, and other assorted requisite holiday happenings? Well, this may be the perfect time to talk about “holiday mindfulness.” You may be thinking, My mind is already full holiday stuff! What else am I supposed to be mindful of? Good question. The answer is you. With all the stress and pressure to get things done this holiday season you may feel overwhelmed. Perhaps, your emotions are playing that dreadful tug of war game with your sanity. If you feel pulled in every direction and obligated to have a jolly good time in the midst of it, mindfulness may be the remedy you need to abate some of the craziness you may experience this month.
Mindfulness is one of the most intriguing and fascinating subjects I have ever researched. If you’ve never heard of this term before it’s simple; mindfulness is awareness. That’s it. Jon Kabat-Zinn created Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a meditative method which is used and taught nationwide for treating pain, illness, and stress. According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is cultivated by purposefully paying attention, being present in the moment, non-judgmentally.
Unfortunately, it’s so easy to be caught up in negative thought patterns that trigger unhealthy emotional reactions causing overloads of stress and anxiety. Through the systematic cultivation of mindfulness you can become more aware of reality, your thoughts and emotions, and the way you are in relationship to them. Mindfulness, instead of adding to the mess, gives us a chance to breathe in the present and see things in a new perspective.
We have been conditioned to try and solve our problems by doing more with our minds. Thinking about the past and the future does help us to plan and grow, but the only moment we have is the present. Part of the essence of mindfulness is to center ourselves in the present and use our innate inner capacity for awareness to better respond to situations moment by moment. Can you see how this may relate to the holiday season?
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and harnessing the power of being present you may enjoy the following books available through Howard County Library System. You can also try a meditation workshop at the Miller Branch or join a class at Howard County General Hospital.
So, the next time you feel overwhelmed with holiday stress, slow down and check-in with yourself. Get in touch with what is truly most important for your well-being. Disconnect from the hustle and bustle and connect with your emotions and health. Mindfulness may help you make more effective decisions, enjoy the richness that life has to offer, and be able to understand yourself in a (potentially) greater way. I hope you find that you are worth the time despite the haste that the holiday season brings. May your holidays be peaceful and bright!
Posted by hclibrary on Nov 28, 2013 in Health, Reviews | 0 comments
Last year, I shared the thankful reflections of local cancer survivors, caregivers, and cancer awareness ambassadors. Their thanksgivings echoed the gratefulness of a community touched by disease and motivated to make a difference despite cancer diagnoses. Dr. Harpham’s book, Happiness in a Storm, argues that an attitude of gratitude when managing chronic illness fosters healthy survivorship. And as a young woman navigating my own journey with cancer, the simple exercise of giving thanks and nurturing hope has proven to be a useful tool for acknowledging my progress, visualizing future successes, and putting it all in perspective.
This year, I wanted to explore the thanksgivings of my HCLS colleagues and Facebook users (via a public post) as it related to general health and wellness. Participants were asked to complete a sentence beginning with “I’m thankful/grateful–.” Below are a number of the responses I received.
“that I’ve made yoga a regular part of my morning routine. It sets the stage for an awesome day!” -Gigi, 49, Woodbine
“for my family and friends that helped me reach my goal of becoming an Ironman. With family and friends supporting you, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.” -Bryan, almost 50, Columbia.
“I wake up (mostly) pain-free and without illness. Sometimes we take things for granted, but good health should not be one of them.” -Carmen, 39, Columbia
“for my friends who motivate me to go to the gym on a regular basis.” -Helen, Ellicott City
“for my two dogs who keep me company through several hours of walks a week, and make me laugh every single day.” -JB, 58, Columbia
“for motivational support from my friends in getting me active. I wouldn’t have joined the gym without their encouragement!” -Julie F., Ellicott City
“that I have wonderful friends and relatives to talk to when I need a release valve for stress or just a listening ear. I hope they feel I can help them out in the same way.” -AC, 55, Columbia
“for all the great friends I have made over the year. When I left my marriage, I also left what few “friends” I had. It is nice to have a amazing support system now.” -Larry, Elkridge
“for every day I get to spend with my family.” -Eileen, 38, Hobbits Glen
“for having been a LIVESTRONG Leader for two years to help spread the word on cancer advocacy and support.” -Bryan, 49, Columbia
“that oatmeal is wonderfully cheap, easy to make, healthy, and delicious as it is the high point of my every morning.” -Aryn Dagirmanjian, 26, HCLS Miller Branch
“to my dog for walking with me. I’m grateful to live in a county with so many people who love to read. I’m thankful for my daughter’s boundless positive energy. She disrupts my stress spiral every time.” -CT, 49, Columbia
“for the time I am able to take in the mornings to take a walk, enjoy the quiet, and listen to a book before I start my day.” -MH, 41, Ellicott City
“for Reiki. Learning and practicing has enriched my life and allowed me to help others. I’m thankful for walking my daughter to school. It’s great exercise for both of us and gives me a few quiet minutes on my walk back to meditate and center before the rest of the day.” -Jessica, 33, Savage
“for the group of women that became my “running buddies” when I began the walk/run program “Females in Training” with the HoCo Striders. They inspired and cajoled me to a place of wellness and peace.” -Mikie, Kings Contrivance
“for my body’s amazing capability to nourish my son.” -Allison, 30, Glenwood
“for the ability to run for those who can’t!” -Anna, 49, Ellicott City
“for my physical therapists whose leg-strengthening exercises have enabled me to finally move past the pain of knee surgery. I do my exercises every day, Denise!” -Jean, Central Branch
“for a husband who knows how important it is for me to be able to go to the gym, even though that means two more nights a week that he’s the cook!” -Julie, 41, Ellicott City
This simple project revealed more than I had anticipated. I realized what I had was more than a heartfelt compilation of healthy-reflections, I had a sample population of people indirectly sharing their attitudes and definitions of “health.” As I combed through their responses an overwhelming theme of “support” emerged. Could it be that our attitudes about health are influenced by the kind of support we receive?
If attitudes frame our beliefs, or, at least, filter the messages that we receive from friends, family, and society, we should pay close attention to the kinds of attitudes we’re perpetuating. Laurie Edwards writes about the significance of attitudes in her 2013 title, In the Kingdom of the Sick. Edwards notes that we’ve cultivated a caste system between the healthy and the sick. The sick are blamed for causing their illnesses and are considered to have weaker characters, whereas those deemed “healthy” have the power to shift the meaning of wellness and dictate the treatment of the sick by reinforcing these negative attitudes via social media. Edwards does take the time to explore possible solutions on a much larger scale (e.g. societal, medical industry) but I am more interested in what we can do now and simply.
Let’s change our attitudes. Instead of bullying people into being more healthy, let’s choose to empower those who’re working toward their health goals. The submissions above are a good example of what a positive attitude toward health can bring. People who’ve never really exercised before find themselves loving to run. Many find themselves making their way to the gym or practicing healthy coping skills to decompress because they have the support they need. The attitudes we hold and the attitudes others express impact our health.
I propose we broaden our idea of health to extend beyond the physical. Healthiness should also include mental and emotional well-being as well as safe and loving relationships. It’s essential that we recognize that wellness is not a destination, but a way of life. A healthy lifestyle covers every dimension of wellness and requires a great deal of support from family, friends, and medical professionals. Being healthy means more than taking care of our bodies, it means taking care of our person.
Finally, as we prepare for a day filled with food, football, volunteering, and Turkey-trots, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks for your readership. Thank you for being an integral part of the success of Howard County Well & Wise. Our writers and guest contributors do their best to share meaningful, relevant, and informative material with you. We’re also honored to have ranked #3 as Best Organization Blog in Baltimore Sun’s 2013 Mobbies. Your votes and continued support is invaluable and we are sincerely grateful. And whatever you choose to do today, may it keep you healthy, well, and wise.
Happy Thanksgiving from our families to yours.
I’ve been called the Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge and a few other choice things. I understand. They are labels thrown out by people that can’t fathom my particular brand of holiday spirit. To them, there is no holiday without shopping and wrapping… without gift exchanges at the workplace, the preschool, the mom’s group, and the basketball team. It’s the season of giving, right?
Absolutely. Many illuminate the longest nights and darkest days of winter with a celebration that involves giving. It is at that point, however where we usually diverge, as I choose the path less traveled and that has made all the difference in my life.
Long before the downturn in the economy prompted conservation, Occupy Wall Street caused us to consider our own personal levels of greed, and recent studies called to mind our staggering level of consumption; our family chose to tune out the unrelenting cacophony of the holiday season and celebrate Christmas “unplugged.”
Nearly fifteen years ago, on Christmas morning, my husband and I applied the proverbial brakes. Surrounded by a sea of torn wrapping paper, empty boxes and mountains of new non-essential things to put away, we realized that which we had taken months to create, had taken only ten minutes to undo. We had succumbed to commercial interests and become conspicuous consumers. We had filled the landfills with more than our share of stuff. We were stressed and snappish. We had lost sight of our own faith-based reason for the season. And, most heartbreaking- we had lost our most precious gift- time with our children. There was no way to reclaim those dozens of hours lost each year to the commercial clamor of shopping and wrapping of holidays past, but we could rewrite the future.
We resolved to change. Out of respect for the sensibilities of young children, who could understand the theory, but not so much the practice, we eased into our new tradition. We limited the gifts to three presents per child for the first year, but the next year, we were all in- we graduated to Christmas- Unplugged.
Holiday display at the National Botanic Garden
We concentrate on what we do, and not on the things we don’t do. We bake cookies. We see the the lights in Hampden or visit the holiday train and monument displays at the United States Botanic Garden. We visit the International Crèche display at the Washington DC Temple. We support the local arts and go into Baltimore to see Tuba Christmas (200 of Maryland’s finest tubas and euphoniums in concert). We try to catch a show- last year it was Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Kennedy Center. We participate in workshops, like the annual Sock Monkey Saturday at the American Visionary Art Museum (memorable for the hopeless looks we received from the men in the family as they tried to stitch their creations together.) We go ice skating outside
and take long walks along the Patapsco and Middle Patuxent rivers. We play games like Bananagrams or Cathedral or Apples to Apples. We watch football games together.
Together as a family we celebrate old traditions and create new ones, we carve out time to spend together and in the process, we create lasting memories. Our family has grown and evolved, but the Christmas Unplugged spirit remains a steady reminder that the spirit of the holidays is within us.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!
More holiday unplugged resources:
Mary Catherine Cochran