Sometimes I see Facebook posts from high school classmates reminiscing about the “good old days.” I did have some unbridled fun back then but I far prefer my adulthood. Even with a chronic health condition. Back in high school and college my emotions ran the intensity gamut from I’m on top of the world to If I only had a gun, I’d end it now! And that could be within the same hour. It was exhausting.

I knew nothing about regulating my emotions. I felt…deeply….and often. Anger was no stranger to me. Anger easily led to sadness which could take hold of me for awhile. I was depressed intermittently throughout both high school and college. I tried anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to help regulate my moods. It offered some relief but the side effects were annoying.

Eventually I developed tools to help manage my emotions. I don’t mean I got rid of them, I just felt them a little less intensely and I was able to achieve a sense of balance more easily.

So how does one begin to regulate their emotions?

I think the first step

is an awareness…developing a mindful attitude about an emotion. Realize what that emotion is and how your behavior has changed. You are not that anger, sadness, or ecstasy. Or at least that’s not all of you. Try to step back and see it. Examine what has led you to that feeling. Realize that this feeling is temporary and that you will experience this and other emotions again.

As I developed a more refined self-care regimen with my diet and exercise, I realized that not only was my physical health impacted, but so was my emotional health. What we feed our bodies also affects our emotional selves. I’ll explore these connections in our Facebook group during the month of September.

To help you get a perspective on your emotions, use the Health Storylines app to monitor your daily moods, food intake, and physical activity. Be diligent for a couple of weeks and then download a report to see if you detect any patterns. Remember to track any medications you take as well.

I am definitely not an expert on this topic but over the years, and a steady practice of yoga and mindfulness, I have become more resourceful in regulating my emotions. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

If you’ve joined me on this Self-Care Challenge since the first month, thank you! I hope you’re progressing well, learning a lot, and achieving a few goals you may have set for yourself. If you’re new to the Challenge, feel free to join us now. Briefly, here’s what you’ve missed.

The first month we spent identifying symptoms and/or health challenges we’d like to work on. I introduced you to six categories of Self-Care practices. We became familiar with the Health Storylines app. During Month 2 we focused on Diet & Nutrition. In the Glass Half Full Group on Facebook we shared information related to Diet & Nutrition. You’re welcome to join this group at any time to deepen your exploration of self-care practices.

The challenge this month is all about moving your body, and it’s not just called Exercise. That’s a scary word for some people. Even scarier for me is the term…physical education. That brings back miserable memories for me throughout elementary, middle, and high school. The competition, humiliation, and mandatory one piece gym suits never fostered a love of exercise. But I did enjoy other activities involving movement. I loved dancing in high school and college and never thought about it as exercise.

Recently I purchased a Fitbit Charge 2 device which I wear daily. The data feeds into the Health Storylines app. The wrist device tracks my steps which motivates me to walk more. There are days when I don’t officially exercise but do house and garden chores and I can hit 10,000 steps. That’s movement and it certainly counts.

But my feet and legs don’t work as well as they used to. I have drop foot and often am too fatigued to walk. That’s when classes such as gentle yoga and chair fitness classes are a big help. I’ve attended a variety of chair yoga classes and tomorrow I’m going to a Seated Tai Chi class. Adaptive exercise classes are wonderful. 

But maybe you don’t have these adaptive exercise course offerings where you live? Or perhaps you just don’t want to leave your home? That’s when the DVD player becomes your coach. I am a big fan of gentle exercise DVDs especially when it’s hot outside and I don’t feel like driving to the gym. Here are some of my favorites: Yoga for the Rest of Us, Chair Dancing through the Decades, Simple Qigong, Sitting Fit Anytime, and Tai Cheng.

Join us in the Facebook group for a month-long focus on moving our bodies. I’ll share some evidence-based research studies as well as ideas for boosting your daily physical activity.

YouTube is a great place to find motivating movement video segments; here are a couple from the Glass Half Full archives:

In the continuing series, Food=Medicine, Cooking with Love explores different interpretations of how love can be a vital element in the food we eat. Whether it’s part of the mission of a local organic farm, a vegetarian chef preparing pureed, nutrient-dense food for her father with progressive Parkinson’s disease, or another chef infusing fine dining, multi-coursed meals with cannabis — each guest offers a fresh perspective for mindful eating.

Lacey Sher, owner/Chef of the Encuentro pop-up restaurant in Oakland, CA shares two recipes for nutrient-dense smoothies. Aleta Pierce, farm manager for Alameda Point Collaborative’s farm2market program, welcomes farm volunteers and CSA subscribers. Michael Magallanes, San Francisco-based chef, prepares meals for private clients.

Sweet and Green Protein Smoothie

hemp milk, coconut water, or spring water

handful organic fresh or frozen blueberries

handful organic fresh or frozen raspberries

4-5 leaves of lacinato kale or romaine

handful of parsley

2 scoops hemp protein

3 pitted dates

1/2 avocado

– add ingredients into your Vitamix or blender
– blend together until super smooth
– pour into your favorite to go jar or mug
– sip slow and enjoy!

Berry Banana Antioxidant Booster   

This smoothie is full of colorful foods, such as berries and cacao, which are loaded with a wealth of vitamins and antioxidants to help the body stay strong and vital. Plus with B-vitamin dense maca, omega rich hemp seeds, and beauty boosting coconut oil, this smoothie is filling yet completely whole and natural, assuring optimal function of body and mind. Enjoy!

3 cups of water or herbal tea

1 cup frozen organic blueberries

1 cup frozen organic strawberries or raspberries

1 frozen or fresh organic banana

handful of cacao nibs

2 tablespoons raw coconut oil

1/3 cup hemp seeds

2 tablespoons maca

1/2 stick vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

optional: 2 tablespoons spirulina, your favorite green powder, or vanilla

Sweetener of choice: 3 tablespoons honey or agave, 2-3 pitted dates, or 3 drops stevia (Stevia is very sweet and strong. Use the least amount to taste.)
– add ingredients into your Vitamix or blender
– blend together until super smooth
– pour into your favorite to go jar or mug
– sip slow and enjoy!

These are simple and delicious and folks can use less fruit for less sweetness. I also like to add different ingredients such as chia, moringa powder, sometimes different vegetables like cooked or raw sweet potatoes, substitute spinach for kale if I have it. So many options. ~ Lacey Sher

Resources for Dysphagia (Swallowing difficulties)

If you truly want to understand the mechanics of dysphagia, check out this recorded webinar with the author of the textbook, Dysphagia: Clinical Management in Adults and Children, Michael E. Groher, Ph.D. It’s about an hour in duration but you’ll have a much better understanding of what this condition is.

Here is a community-generated recipe guide for people with swallowing difficulties. Recipes were submitted by caregiving family members.

Here is a recorded panel discussion about food preparation for people with dysphagia. Additional resources can be found here.

More Food=Medicine Podcast Episodes

The first Food=Medicine podcast episode included Retired Navy Lieutenant Laura Root and Edibell Stone, LPC & health coach talking about their respective diets. The second Food=Medicine podcast episode featured Jill Nussinow, The Veggie Queen, at the Farm to Fermentation Festival. Jill is a Registered Dietician and author of cookbooks and DVDs. If you want to go deeper into an understanding of fermented foods and their healing properties, check out this episode with fermentation guru, Sandor Katz. This episode explores the ancient tradition of Ayurveda through one woman’s health and diet journey.

Hot weather affects the health of humans and animals

Basset Hound with ears flapping in front of a fan

High temperatures can exacerbate symptoms for someone with a chronic health condition. The best way to cope may be to seek refuge in an air-conditioned environment. If that proves to be difficult, you may learn about a few tools and resources from patient advocates, You’ll meet Kate Mitchell, from Boston, who has Rheumatoid Arthritis and POTS (Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), Danny van Leeuwen, also in Boston, who has Multiple Sclerosis, and Brook McCall, in Portland, Oregon, who has a spinal cord injury. They share their experiences with weather — hot, cold, ice, snow, and pressure changes.

7 Hot Tips to Beat the Heat

1. Pre-cooling

Check out the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website for information about pre-cooling techniques.

2. Hydration

Water’s great but so are some other beverages. The Ayurvedic tradition focuses on herbs, spices, and other plant-based remedies to cool you down. Check this magazine article for a few recipes. If you’re intrigued by Ayurveda, have you listened to last year’s podcast episode?

3. Diet Modification

Consider eating smaller, lighter meals. Here’s a list of hydrating foods.

4. Clothing

Check out this issue of the UC-Berkeley Wellness Newsletter for tips on appropriate clothing for hot weather.

5. AC over Fans

This is discussed in the link above.

6. Yoga Poses

Curl your tongue and breathe. To learn more about this cooling yoga pranayama and other cooling asanas, visit this webpage.

7. Mediation

Listen to this guided meditation to help you cool down…once you’re safe inside or in a shaded area.

 

Last month I embarked on a Self-Care Challenge and invited you to join me. You can join at any time by reading the posts, contributing feedback in our Glass Half Full Facebook group, and using the Health Storylines online tool.

I’ve been practicing Self Care for years without even realizing it. Years ago, before I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease, I began to experiment with my diet. I didn’t necessarily have a bad diet but I often felt bloated, experienced abdominal cramps, and probably had what we now know to be irritable bowel syndrome.

I can’t recall what the impetus was but it happened over 30 years ago. I gave up eating beef. Within a year or two I was no longer eating any animal flesh and called myself a lacto-ovo vegetarian (plant-based diet with dairy/eggs). My bloating disappeared. My cramps were intermittent but I still had that occasional nervous stomach.

A diet is really a dynamic concept. It shouldn’t be fixed, i.e. eating the same foods every day. The seasons change and there are different foods to be consumed aligned with the season. Our bodies change. We continue to learn more about food, how food is prepared, nutrients and micronutrients. As I’ve learned more about food and nutrition over the years, I continue to tweak my diet.

Little changes can have a huge impact. When I started going for acupuncture treatments, 15 or so years ago, I was asked about my diet by the practitioner. No Western-trained physician had ever spent much time talking with me about my diet. Even when I complained of GI problems. I won’t even attempt to claim any real knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) but there is a long history of food = medicine. The first change I made during my course of TCM treatments was giving up that big glass of orange juice I started each day with. That cold sugar hit was not welcomed by my belly.

I’ve learned so much about food over the years and if I shared it, this would become the longest blog post in history. But, that’s not what I want to do. My diet & nutrition journey is likely different from yours. Becoming a vegetarian has helped me, yet it’s not the only way to eat a well-balanced diet. There are plenty of vegetarians that eat poorly and plenty of omnivores that eat well.

In the next month I will post in the Facebook group…mostly factoids from various nutrition newsletters I read. Here’s the Self-Care Challenge for YOU:

  • Become aware of what you’re eating, how much of it, and how often. The best way to do this is with a Food Diary. Using the online Health Storylines tool, you can keep track of your daily intake using the Food Diary feature.
  • Knowing what you already know about good foods and beverages & bad foods and beverages, each week select one bad food to omit for a week. And try to eat a new food — something plant-based. I’ll help you with suggestions.

Remember, small steps in making health behavior changes are the key. Good luck!

Sound Bath? Sound Meditation? Sound Symphony?

Melissa Felsenstein – sound practitioner – plays crystal bowls and gongs to usher in the summer solstice.

It’s become a wonderful therapeutic tool to access deep relaxation. For many, it is a gateway to meditation. Melissa Felsenstein of Inner Sounds Meditation shares her story of how playing crystal bowls and metal gongs helped her heal from symptoms of anxiety and depression. A self-proclaimed Nervous System Advocate, after several years of exploring these musical instruments, she now shares her process to help others.

Check out a video from this Summer Solstice Sound Bath.

What is Nature and how is it beneficial to our emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being? Bonnie Lewkowicz (Program Manager, Access Northern California) and Lori Gray (Adventures & Outings Program Coordinator) both work for the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program (BORP) organization in Berkeley, California.

Bonnie, Lori, and Delroy share their love of nature in this podcast episode.

Both women use wheelchairs and have years of experience navigating hiking trails and organizing outdoor adventures for people with physical and/or developmental disabilities. Joining them is middle school teacher, Delroy Thompson, in South Florida. Together they share how important nature is for them.

Bonnie wrote A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide published by the Coastal Conservancy. Delroy, is a member of the Muscular Dystrophy Association National Community Advisory Committee, and wrote a children’s book, The Secret of the Elves in Helen, about an elf kingdom n the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to attend BORP events but you can search for similar organizations in your area at the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) website.

What exactly is Self-Care? Years ago I used the term, Self-Management Health Behaviors to identify everything I did to enhance my health given that I was diagnosed with a chronic, progressive neuromuscular disease. Some of the behaviors were already my routine like eating a vegetarian diet and practicing yoga. As I learned more about positive health behaviors from a Stanford University program I took at my local hospital, I became more intentional about how I led my life.

Health Storylines Tool Library

Somewhere along the way these behaviors became known as Self-Care. You can find Self-Care articles everywhere — in all types of popular magazines, TV commercials — it’s entered popular culture. “As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—had one or more chronic health conditions,” according to the U.S. Government’s Center for Disease Control. That’s tremendous!

Even though there are so many different types of chronic health conditions, there is a lot of overlap with symptoms. I have a rare disease but when I look at my individual symptoms — muscle pain, dysphagia, fatigue, respiratory weakness — I can learn a lot from more common conditions. And many of these common conditions have known self-care practices that help mitigate the symptoms.

Based on the Stanford research I became familiar with and my own research, I’ll categorize the self-care practices into these:

  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Physical Activity and Exercise
  • Emotion Regulation
  • Social Support
  • Relaxation
  • Medication

Once we identify our symptoms, we start to look for ways to alleviate these symptoms. What helps my muscle pain may not help your muscle pain. But, perhaps you’re like me, and you are open to exploring. The key, of course, is to explore self-care practices that have minimal if any negative side-effects. During the experimentation phase you may notice some connections; maybe you have less muscle pain on days you’ve slept at least 8 hours the night before? Or, if you have gastrointestinal issues, maybe your gut feels better when you haven’t eaten spicy foods?

It’s a lot to manage but once you hit upon some solid patterns and adopt new self-care routines, it can make your life so much better. It sure has for me.

This trial-and-error process can now be easier with the assistance of a tool. I’m thrilled to introduce an online tool — Health Storylines — to help with your self-care routines. I’ve been chosen to join a team of Self Care Ambassadors who are helping others with chronic health conditions practice self-care. We’ll be doing this together and each month I’ll take a Self Care Challenge with you. Make sure you’re part of our Facebook group so we can track, monitor, and motivate each other.

Are you ready?

Here’s what I’d like you to do over the next month:

  1. Register for the Health Storylines Tool. If you have questions about the registration process, send me a message via the Facebook group. You can use the Tool on a desktop computer, smart phone, or tablet. The data you enter will synch on all devices.
  2. Use the Symptom Tracker feature to list all of the symptoms associated with your chronic health condition.
  3. Using the Self-Care Practices categories above, make a list of self-care practices you already have as part of your routine. Maybe you attend a weekly exercise class? How does exercise impact your symptoms?
  4. You’re encouraged to explore the other features of the Tool on your own. But for the next month I’ll focus on symptoms and different self care practices that can help them. The goal is to take small steps toward changing your routines so you’re not overwhelmed and it makes it easier to maintain a steady practice.

Good luck and see you in the Facebook group!

Nicole Cavales — yoga instructor — was diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutation making her a high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. She chose to have surgery and reconstruction. Nicole’s plastic surgeon referred her to Hilary Nakao, D.PT, — physical therapist — to help with recovery. Both women are part of the latest podcast episode exploring how critical movement and exercise are to one’s daily life.

Nicole demonstrates range of motion exercises she learned from Hilary.

Nicole continues to teach restorative yoga classes in Northern California and also works for Hilary.

 

Is using Social Media important to you? Which platform do you use to find support from others with the same chronic health condition? If you’re a caregiver, do you access an online group to connect with other caregivers? Maybe you use social media to help educate or advocate for a particular health condition? This podcast episode explores how a variety of patients, and caregivers, use Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to do what they need to do.

You’ll hear from people with chronic health conditions: Toni Bernhard, best-selling author, and in 2001, initially diagnosed with an acute viral infection—but has yet to recover; Chris Schlecty, a Microsoft software engineer in Seattle, living with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy and Dean Sage, an attorney in San Diego, diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy.

Also included are caregivers — Loraine Dressler, retired nurse and caregiver for family members and Marla Murasko, Down Syndrome Mom Advocate & Inclusion Influencer.

In a post on the WEGO Health website, these links provide instructions on how to protect your private information on Facebook:

Newsweek, Facebook Data: How to Protect Your Private Information

Trusted Reviews, Facebook Privacy Settings: 18 changes you should make right away

Mashable, How to See All the Weird Apps That Can See Your Data on Facebook