This month we have both Earth Day and Arbor Day so it’s high time to be amongst the trees. Even if you are hunkered down in the safety of your home during the pandemic, you can still derive healing benefits from gazing out of your window at nature’s bounty. If your window faces man-made materials, there is science proving that a photograph of trees can impact you in a positive physical and emotional way.

Verla Fortier, RN, author of Take Back Your Outside Mindset: Live Longer, Prevent Dementia, and Control Your Chronic Illness, shares some of the research she found about the healing powers of trees and nature. Diagnosed with systemic lupus, she was told to stay indoors to avoid the sun. And she did. Until she witnessed a noncompliant online support group participant.

Katherine Chen, meditation teacher, talks about Bodhi Meditation and its connection to nature.

If you can, go outside and hug a tree. And if you’re not sure what kind of tree you’re hugging, download a smartphone app:

If you, or someone you know, has a muscle or nerve condition such as Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, Amputation, Osteoarthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, or a neuromuscular disease (i.e. myotonic dystrophy, SMA, Charcot Marie Tooth, Becker’s, ALS, etc.), here’s an opportunity to participate in a research study. No trips to a medical center or donation of muscle tissue required.

The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center has a variety of studies with different criteria. For Factsheets produced by UW — after a study has concluded — check this website.

Listen to an earlier podcast episode with a UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine Research Study Coordinator about Resilience and Aging with a Disability.

For additional information about research studies discussed in this episode:

UW Community Health Study, Phone: 1-866-928-2114 Email: communityhealthstudy@uw.edu

UW CALMS Study, Phone: 1-866-928-2114 Email: calms@uw.edu

Coming soon to the Glass Half Full YouTube Channel

It’s April Fool’s Day so we’re mixing things up. One can’t be positive 100% of the time. Now is the opportunity to share about all of the weird things people have said about our health conditions — whether it was a friend, an aunt, or even a health care professional.

Perhaps well-intentioned but definitely not insightful nor helpful advice. Most people with some type of chronic health condition have had this experience.

A panel of three previous podcast guests share their stories — from the hilarious to the frightening. Nancy, Melissa, and Laurel let it all out.

A retired nurse, physical and yoga therapist, and mental health professional offer strategies to cope with uncertainty, anxiety, and all those other emotions caught up in this season of the pandemic.

Verla Fortier, author of Take Back Your Outside Mindset: Live Longer, Prevent Dementia, and Control Your Chronic Illness, speaks about her experience diagnosed with systemic lupus and the discovery of the healing power of trees.

Tianna Meriage-Reiter, DPT, C-IAYT, and owner of the Mind-Body Movement Center talks about her new live streaming yoga classes available at her YouTube channel.

Lee Greenstein-Wein, MSW, shares how specific essential oils can help with situational anxiety or depression. An earlier podcast episode features other healing benefits of essential oils.

How is the threat of Covid-19 (coronavirus) impacting your life? Beyond fierce hand washing, are you changing how you relate to others? Is social distancing keeping you indoors? Are you second-guessing where you go, what you do, and with whom you spend time?

You’re not alone. People with chronic illness and/or compromised immune systems need to be vigilant as well as mindful.

For a few practical tips, listen to this podcast episode as well as the earlier episode, The Flu is Not for You. Here’s a recipe to create your own hand sanitizer. And if you’re ready for a little levity, check out this reoccurring segment on The Daily Show.

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear scared person, Happy Birthday to YOU

I feel this sense of uneasiness. It grows each day. I’m grateful for when my mind and attention are actively focused on something other than the coronavirus.

Then a news alert pops up on my watch or cellphone. Or I overhear a conversation. Or there’s an email message from my healthcare system. Or I tune into the news right before my near nightly indulgence of The Daily Show which entertains and slowly lulls me to sleep. It’s good to catch a few laughs after the news so I can re-gain my clarity.

What is within my control to protect me? According to my healthcare provider and the CDC, “wash your hands.” Well, I’ve got that one down even though I refuse to sing Happy Birthday during the process.

I’m avoiding crowds and I cringe if I hear someone near me cough or sneeze. I’m a little hesitant to hug friends now when I see them…but I have. It pops in my head when they’re approaching me for a hug…should I be doing this? This is the hardest part. I love connecting with people and don’t want to view other humans as pariah.

But we know so little about this virus. People are walking around, asymptomatic, and they could be carriers. As persons with chronic health conditions, we are more vulnerable. Some of us have compromised immune systems. I know a common cold can wipe me out and take close to a month for me to get back to my level of optimal health.

I wouldn’t call it a widespread panic but personally, the uneasiness is like an internal itch that tenses my nerves. It doesn’t help to have government leaders who lack knowledge and compassion.

I have no great words of wisdom to convey. I’m scared and I suspect many of you are too. I’ll take all of the sensible precautions.

Being diagnosed with a chronic, debilitating disease can certainly bring stress to one’s life. In fact, that stress can be significant enough to be called trauma.

How one handles this stress varies. Some people have amazing coping capacity and are hard-wired for resilience while others have more difficulty. None of it is easy.

Mary Holt, a Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology, shares her journey of loss and recovery and the profound impact a mindfulness meditation practice has had on her life and work. She brings this practice to the clinics where she helps patients and their families with neuromuscular and Parkinson’s disease.

Mentioned in this podcast episode is the annual International Rare Disease Day organized by NORD. Here are two relevant podcast episodes: Rare Disease and the Need for Research and It’s Not that Easy Being Rare.

What is a Patient Advocate? A patient advocate can be an actual patient with a mental and/or physical health condition, a caregiver for someone with a health condition, or a paid professional advocating on behalf of others with a health condition.

Andrea L. Klein, of Cleveland, Tennessee, has collagen six intermediate congenital muscular dystrophy. She started a Facebook group, Breathe with MD Support Group, for people with a neuromuscular disease who struggle with respiratory health. Recently, she established a nonprofit organization with the same name.

Melissa Talwar, of Pasadena, California, has struggled with fibromyalgia since she was 14 years old. Her experiences with different medications and their alarming side effects catapulted her into focused research on the condition and potential treatments. After volunteering with a patient advocacy organization and then traveling around the U.S. to meet others with fibromyalgia, Melissa also established a nonprofit organization.

Nurse with a Heart

Registered Nurse and proud septuagenarian, Barbara Blaser, was the guest speaker at my Northern California myotonic dystrophy support group. With her healthcare background and deep knowledge of medicinal herbs, she spoke about the use of herbal tinctures, edibles, and lotions to help relieve muscle pain, anxiety, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, and more.

Barbara’s nursing career was predominantly in the mental health field. But at some point in her 60s she had an esophagectomy and due to complications, she developed septicemia. She turned to natural herbal healing to help her pain, anxiety, and GI problems.

Handouts that Barbara provided at the support group meeting are culled from this website.

Man snoring in bed, woman awake

In 2018, a research study found that at least 36% of Americans were sleeping less than seven hours each night. Inadequate sleep can lead to a number of physical and/or emotional conditions. Some common sleep disorders include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, central or obstructive sleep apnea, and sleepwalking.

Have you perfected your sleep hygiene behaviors to achieve optimal rest and sleep each night? If not, perhaps you’ll want to hear what sleep specialist, Dr. Catherine Darley, has to say.

In addition to Dr. Darley’s advice, as well as the sleep hygiene tips I offer at the end of this podcast episode, check out this blog post on Brain & Life‘s website.