Monday, July 29, 2013

Living Well And Healthy, Part 19

Dealing With Chronic Pain. Healthwise explains chronic pain as "a long-term, persistent pain" that afflicts many people, especially middle-aged and older adults. Chronic pain is associated with fatigue, sleep problems, irritability, stress, depression, anxiety, and withdrawal from daily activities. 

Arthritis, back problems, recurring sports injuries, nerve damage, cancer, and many other conditions, according to Healthwise, can result in chronic pain. In many cases the cause of pain is not known. A variety of factors can contribute to it.

Your mind and body are important allies in your efforts to manage chronic pain. Pain often has an emotional as well as a physical component. Your thoughts and feelings can affect how much pain you feel. Feeling anxious, angry, frustrated about your pain may make it worse. If you put your mind to work against the pain, you can manage it better and that it interferes less with your life.

You can deal with chronic pain, no matter what the cause, by following Healthwise's tips in dealing with its emotional and physical aspects:

  • Take control of the pain. Accept that the pain is not going away, so take active steps towards managing it and keeping it from affecting your life too much.
  • Practise positive thinking. Recognize unhelpful or self-defeating thoughts, such as "This pain will never get better." Your thoughts can affect your perception of pain.
  • Track how your moods, thoughts, and activities affect your pain. Record your pain level in relation to these factors several times a day for several days. You may find that your pain is worse during or after certain activities or when you are feeling a certain emotion.
  • Try to relax. Chronic pain causes stress and tension which may make the pain worse
  • Take any medication your health professional has recommended or prescribed on schedule and in the correct dose.
  • Exercise regularly. Try gentle, low-impact exercises that don't aggravate your pain, such as swimming, water aerobics, walking, or stationary cycling. Ask your health professional about physical therapy, too. Therapeutic massage maybe helpful. Experiment with heat, cold, and massage. Find out what works best for you.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. If pain frequently disrupts your sleep, talk to your health professional.
  • Consider complementary therapies such as biofeedback, acupuncture, or yoga in addition to your regular medical care (not as a substitute for it).
  • Change the way you do daily activities so you can do them with less pain. Some people find assistive devices (such as canes, foot supports, or specially designed household tools) helpful.
  • Join a support group. By being around others who share your problem, you and your family can learn skills for accepting and coping with pain. You may also feel less isolated. To find a group near you, Healthwise suggests you contact the American Chronic Pain Association at (916) 632-0922.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Living Well And Healthy, Part 18

In addition to staying healthy, eating right, and managing stress, Healthwise offers the following three strategies to help maintain your health:

1. Create positive expectations for health and healing.
Mental and emotional expectations can influence medical outcomes. The effectiveness of any medical treatment depends in part on how useful you expect it to be.  The "placebo effect" proves this.  A placebo is a drug or treatment that provides no medical benefit except for the patient's belief that it will help. On the average, 35 percent of patients who receive placebos report satisfactory relief from their medical problem, even though they received no actual medication.

2. Open yourself to humor, friendship, and love.
Positive emotions boost your health.  Fortunately, almost anything that makes you feel good about yourself helps you stay healthy.

  • Laugh.  A little humor makes life richer and healthier. Laughter increases creativity, reduces pain, and speeds healing.  Keep an emergency laughter kit that contains funny videotapes, jokes, cartoons, and photographs.  Put it with your first aid supplies and keep it well stocked.
  • Seek out friends.  Friendships are vital to good health. Close social ties help you recover more quickly from illness and reduce your risk of developing diseases ranging from arthritis to depression.
  • Volunteer.  People who volunteer live longer and enjoy life more than those who do not volunteer.  By helping others, we help ourselves.
  • Appeal to the Spirit.  Faith, prayer and spiritual beliefs can play an important role in recovering from an illness. Your sense of spiritual wellness can help you overcome personal trials and things you cannot change.
(Dealing with chronic pain will be taken up on Monday, 29 July 2013. - J.P.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Living Well And Healthy, Part 17

Our Mental and Physical HealthHealthwise calls it “mind-body connection.”  Medical science, continues Healthwise, is making remarkable discoveries about the relationship between your state of mind and your mental and physical health.

Researchers have found that one function of the brain is to produce substances that can improve your health.  Your brain can create endorphins, which are natural painkillers; gamma globulin for fortifying your immune system; and interferon for combating infections, viruses, and even cancer.  Your brain can combine these and other substances into a vast number of tailor-made prescriptions for whatever ails you.

The substances that your brain produces depend in part on your thoughts, feelings and expectations.  If your attitude about an illness (or life in general) is negative and you don’t have expectations that your condition will get better, your brain may not produce enough of the substances your body needs to heal.  On the other hand, if your attitude and expectations are more positive, your brain is likely to produce sufficient amounts of the substances that will boost your body’s healing power.

Your physical health also has an impact on your brain's ability to produce substances that affect your mental well-being.  An illness or injury that causes long-term physical stress can lead to chemical imbalances in the brain which may lead to depression and other mental health problems.

Positive Thinking.  People with positive attitudes generally enjoy life more, but are they any healthier? The answer is often “yes.”  Optimism is a resource for healing.  Optimists are more likely to overcome pain and adversity in their efforts to improve their medical treatment outcomes.  Your body responds to your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

Changing your expectations from negative to positive may enhance your physical health. Here’s how to make the change as Healthwise suggests:
  • Stop negative self-talk.  Make positive statements that promote your recovery.
  • Send yourself a steady stream of affirmations.  An affirmation is a phrase or sentence that sends strong, positive statements to you about yourself, such as “I am a capable person.” 
  • Visualize health and healing. Add mental pictures that support your positive affirmations.
  • Don’t feel guilty.  There is no value in feeling guilty about health problems.  While there is a lot you can do to reduce your risk for health problems and improve your chance of recovery, some illnesses may develop and persist no matter what you do.  Some things just are.  Do the best you can. 

(More tips about how positive emotions can boost your health will appear on Monday, 22 July 2013. – J.P.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Living Well and Healthy, Part 16

Overcome Your Anger Positively.  As Healthwise advises, you can express your anger in healthy ways:
  • Count to 10 or practise some form of mental relaxation.  When you have calmed down, you will be better able to discuss the conflict rationally.
  • Try screaming or yelling in a private place, not at other people.
  • Go for a short walk or jog.
  • Talk about your anger with a friend.
  • Draw or paint to release the anger, or write it in a journal.

Here are some more practical tips from Healthwise on dealing with your anger.
  • Use “I” statements, not “you” statements, to discuss your anger.  Say “I feel angry when my needs are not being met,” instead of “You make me mad when you are so inconsiderate.”
  • If you are angry with someone, listen to what the other person has to say.  Try to understand his or her point of view.
  • Forgive and forget.  Forgiving helps lower blood pressure and ease muscle tension so you can feel more relaxed.
Anger and disagreements are normal parts of healthy relationships.  However, anger that leads to threats or violence, such as hitting or hurting, is not normal or healthy.  Physical, verbal, or sexual abuse is not an acceptable part of any relationship.  There is no excuse for it, and it is not your fault.  Nobody deserved to be abused.

Violent behavior is a common problem.  It often begins with verbal threats or relatively minor incidents, but over time it can become more serious, involving physical harm.  Abuse occur when someone attacks you with words, objects, hands, or fists.  Abuse usually happens when one person tries to control another person.  Abusive behavior is destructive and dangerous.

Children are also affected by abuse.  They may feel scared and ashamed, or think that they caused the problem.  Violent behavior is learned behavior, so children grow up learning that it’s okay to hurt people or let other people hurt them.  It is important to teach your children that violence is not a healthy solution to conflict.

(To cap our healthy lifestyle series, on Monday 15 July 2103, we will explain the important relationship between our mental and physical health. – J.P.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Living Well and Healthy, Part 15

Pursue Healthy Pleasures.  Give yourself permission to make yourself happy.  The good things in life make it easier to deal with the things that aren’t so good.  If it’s been a while since you’ve indulged yourself in something pleasurable, try this exercise:
  • Make a list of 10 (or more) things that give you pleasure.
  • Do at least one of the things on your list every day for one week.
  • Enjoy and repeat.

Help to Make a Healthier World.  Do what you can to make your home, your community, and your world a better place.  Support a cause that is working to make positive changes.  Recycle.  Mentor.  Tutor.  Volunteer.  And remember, peace on Earth begins at home: seek non-violent ways to resolve conflicts at home, at school, at work, and in your community.

So we will understand better why violent ways cannot resolve conflicts, let us consider anger, hostility, violent behavior and abuse.

Anger and Hostility.  According to Healthwise, anger signals your body to prepare for a fight.  When you get angry, adrenalin and other hormones are released into your bloodstream.  Your blood pressure, pulse, and respiration rate all go up.  Anger is a normal response to daily events.  It is the appropriate response to any situation that poses a threat.  Anger can be directed to become a positive driving force behind your actions.

Hostility is being ready for a fight all the time.  Continual hostility keeps your blood pressure high and may increase your risk of heart attack and other illnesses.  Being hostile also isolates you from other people.

When confronted with a situation that might trigger an angry response, ask yourself:
  • Is this really important enough to get angry about?
  • Am I justified in getting angry?
  • Will getting angry really make a difference?
  • Is it the current situation that is making me angry or something that happened earlier? 

Notice when you start to become angry, and take steps to deal with your anger in a positive way.  Don’t ignore your anger until you “blow up.”

(How to express your anger in healthy ways will be discussed this coming Monday, 8 July 2013. – J.P.)