Tag: health

When You Need a Vacation

I saw this meme on Facebook. Yes, I know, that’s the first line of a TON of rants and blog posts. But it’s true. Here’s the meme:

This wasn’t it, but this is what it SAID

 

Although I agree with the sentiment BEHIND the meme, I disagree with the principle of it.

Leave it to the wordsmith to talk about semantics. You’re welcome.

The Sentiment

I take the meme to mean: “If you love what you do hard enough, you’ll never need a vacation.”

I love writing. I enjoy teaching (most of the time). According to this meme, I should never want or NEED a vacation because I’m passionate about my calling.

Be passionate about your calling. Strive to work within your called “career” and you won’t want a vacation every Friday afternoon.

Trust me. I’ve worked in a place where politics ruled. I’ve been a full-timer in our broken public education system. Those things EXHAUSTED me. Every week was another marathon. I’d chant, “It’s almost Friday. You can make it to Friday.”

Not anymore. Although, with the full-time subbing gig in a freshman social science classroom for three of the four weeks this month, you can bet I’m eager for the long weekend planned for my anniversary. But it isn’t because I’ve lost my passion.

The Principle

The principle of “a vacation” is a time to take a break from your routine. To get a change of scenery or just chance the pace of your days is just plain good for your brain and body.

Plenty of Americans don’t take vacations. And they are burned out. Their bodies run on stress and caffeine instead of food.

Maybe they’re passionate about their work, too, but that’s NOT going to keep their body, mind, spirit and soul from yearning for a break in the rut of routine.

Research shows that people who vacation regularly are BETTER at their jobs. They can focus better and they are all-around more healthy.

I haven’t had the most stress-free year around here. It could be because I’m a month behind my deadlines. It could be because my husband’s parents hit a health snafu that meant he needed to drop everything to care for them.

Or it might be because I’m getting an incredible walk-in shower. Or because I’m a first-time Lolly. I mean, who could be stressed when their granddaughter is an angel?

The reality is, we didn’t put a week-long trip on the calendar. It was supposed to be 10 days in Italy but with the bathroom expense and the extra time off to care for the parents, that wasn’t going to happen. So we had a few long weekend trips planned.

It’s NOT the same, but it will have to do.

What do you think? How often to you vacation from your daily routine? Does a virtual vacation via reading count?

Three Reasons to Work Out

Spring hauls me out of the winter pit of gray to gray. With Seasonal Affective Disorder, winter looms large in October and casts a gigantic shadow over many months. And it’s more important than ever that I’m working out every day.

Working out? Why would you do that?

Believe me, there are a host of reasons, but in the winter I need only ONE reason to get out of bed. Thank goodness I have cats who won’t let me stay there no matter what.

It’s Good For You

Okay, we’ve all heard some rumor that you should go for a walk or get your heart rate of it’s resting rate for thirty minutes five times per week. Or is it three to five times? I can never remember because the recommendations differ depending on who you listen to.

Exercise gets your sluggish blood pumping. It requires you to breathe deeply so more air fills your lungs.
Did you know that this is essential to BEING ALIVE?
Every cell in your body needs oxygen to perform it’s cellular tasks. The only way these microcosms get this Big O is if your red blood cells deliver it to them. And you guessed it! The blood must pump through your veins (actually, I think the oxygen-rich blood is in your arteries, but I’m not a medical professional) to reach your cells.

In essence, exercise keeps you living for another day.

While that statement might be stretching the truth, there is scientific data that proves people who perform physical activities at a rate that gets them out of breath are more healthy than those who don’t. Overall.

Obviously, a cancer-free couch-potato might be healthier than an athlete with cancer, but it’s not because of their love of inactivity.

Get up and work out. It’s good for you.

It Wakes You Up

Morning person here. Maybe you’re NOT. That’s okay.

But if you rely on caffeine to wake you up in the morning, you’re missing an opportunity to wake up in a way that gives you day-long and even life-long benefits.

Nope. Caffeine can’t do that. (And y’all know I love my coffee.)

It really doesn’t take much to roll out of the bed, pull on some sweats, tie on sneakers and go for a two-mile walk. It doesn’t.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, it might be a wet prospect nine months out of the year. And this winter has been especially brutal for snowfall in many areas of the United States. I don’t recommend walking in sub-zero temperatures or blizzards. That might put you into a permanent sleep.

I have tons of workout videos. This over-abundance can cause me to stall in working out. That’s why I’ve been doing Beachbody On Demand programs this winter. That way, I just open my browser on my tablet and select the next workout.

Thirty minutes later, I’m a sweaty, smiling mess.

It’s A Happy Drug

No, that wasn’t a misprint. Exercise is a happy drug. Vigorous exercise causes your brain to release endorphins. In fact, being outside in nature stimulates a similar response. That’s why I like to walk, run or bike outside during the three sunny months.

Double-dose of happy pills!

Who needs a doctor’s prescription when the sun is shining and fresh air woos me?

I am addicted to exercise. That’s the number one reason I work out.

Yes, I said it. I’m addicted to exercise. And I won’t apologize or join a 12-step program for my addiction.

This addiction can be beneficial, as long as I exercise in moderation. If I start working out three hours every day, someone call the exercise police and sit me down for an intervention.

But I don’t. If I go on a three-hour bike ride or hike (and I do sometimes), I probably won’t exercise at all the next day. And I’ll be sure to imbibe plenty of water (and chocolate) to replenish all the essential minerals extended exercise can deplete.

Are you a workout junkie like me? Or do you ascribe to the no-thanks exercise camp?

Making a Habit of Happiness

Recently, I was stuck on my latest fiction-in-progress so I was surfing the Internet and Facebook. I found this meme created by Do the Right Thing that extolled thirty habits for happiness.


I read through the list and some of the comments on the post. One person said it was too long to read through, and I thought that was a shame.
Then I decided to make my own, much shorter list.

But how do I know what should go on the list?

And who am I to say I know anything about happiness?

What is Happiness Anyway

Oh, happiness how fleeting! Here for one heart’s beating!

According to my wise friends at Dictionary.com, happiness is the quality or state of being delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.
In short: happiness is a moment in time where something goes right and you feel a surge of success.
It’s a moment in time. It’s not meant to be a continual state of being. However, if you’re going to choose an emotion to characterize your life, wouldn’t happiness be preferable to sadness or anger?

But when the property tax bill comes and it’s a couple hundred dollars more than the previous year, no one is very pleased. (Well, Mr. Tax Man probably is.)

However, practice #2 from my top ten list below and you’ll start thinking, “Plenty of people didn’t get a tax bill because they don’t own a home. I’m blessed to have such a nice house. I’ve worked in the schools and I know education is important. I’m glad that if there’s a fire, the fire department will come and take care of it. If not for my taxes, those things wouldn’t be possible.”

I might not be happy about the bill even after all that, but now I’m feeling less disgruntled.

So while I doubt anyone will be happy all the time, having a positive outlook and practicing gratitude can alter your “state of being” from irritated and grumbling to accepting and smiling.

Narrowing Down the Choices

To narrow down this list of thirty, I did what most people in this social media dominated culture of ours do: I asked my Facebook community.

How did we cull answers from a larger population before there was Facebook and Instagram and all the others?
Most kids can’t imagine not being able to search the Internet for answers to any question. Somehow, those of us born before 1980 managed it. Go figure.

Within the first twelve hours of posting my Facebook poll, I had two clear leaders among the thirty options. And a five-way tie for third place. No surprise.

This list contains thirty good habits to form for better mental health. Because in reality, that’s what happiness brings. It can also lower blood pressure and drop adrenal levels associated with stress.

Of course, no research is “one and done.” I ended up with a four-way tie for third place. So I made this meme and let my friends help me narrow the choices down a second time.


I have an amazing tribe. Although this second request didn’t gender the same flurry of interest, enough people responded that I could determine a clear third, fourth and fifth place.
In the end, my peeps helped me build this “Top 5” list (for those of you who like it short and sweet):


My Top 10 Habits for Happiness

Of course, my personal list doesn’t coincide with the masses of public opinion. It rarely does. I’m unique that way.

Here’s how I would prioritize the habits for happiness. The first two directly coincide with recent annual themes for me. I focused attention on the area of showing gratitude (remember #365DaysofGratitude) and thinking positively.

1. Show gratitude
2. Accentuate the positive
3. Smile. Smile. Smile
4. Choose faith over fear (As one person pointed out, meditating on scripture and prayer should be on the list. I think they’re incorporated here. How can I have faith without them?)
5. Let go of the baggage (Don’t hold grudges. Don’t rehearse wrongs. Don’t look for fault everywhere. Sing with Elsa, “Let it Go.”)
6. Live truthfully and honestly (yes, I combined two because they are twins)
7. Dream big and work hard for the dream (dreaming big alone is the path to disappointment and discouragement, but if you dream it and planto achieve it and then work your plan…good times!)
8. Build a healthy body (yes, I’m a cheater because eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep go here)
9. Listen to understand
10. No excuses or self-justification. Own it.

I’m a writer, so a few things about the original list bugged me. Some of the points meant the same thing. Or close enough. Others were tied together–inseparable to my way of thinking.

What is your top habit for happiness? If you do this ONE THING, you will have a better day.

One bad vein leads to another

Fight age. yeah right

The leading cause of ugly and bulging veins is age. Apparently, it’s past time for me to face facts. Spider veins could be caused by varicose veins, and all of it is a result of nearing the half-century point in life.

I’m old. There. I admitted it. Are you happy now?

I’m not. Most of the time my brain thinks I’m 38 or thereabouts. Or I have the wisdom of a white-haired sage, but not the years or wrinkles to pair with it.

Yeah. Denial. I’m pretty good at it.

In July, I began a three-treatment therapy for the spider veins in my ankles and calves. Sclerotherapy. Read about it here.

After my second treatment, I learned about the miracle-working properties of castor oil. If you missed that, click here.

My third treatment was on September 15. I know, a whole month, and I’m just now sharing the results.

Even better: I’m not really sharing the results.

Bad Veins

I may have mentioned that my left ankle is hideously marked by spider veins. It was so nice when someone commented that the picture I posted of that offensive appendage “couldn’t possibly be” mine.

Oh, yes. Whether I want to claim it or not, this disgusting exhibit of tiny blood vessels is mine.

Left Ankle: Before the First Treatment
Left Ankle: Before the First Treatment

I noticed some good results in my right ankle from the treatments, but I noticed something terrible in my left.

The veins seemed closer to the skin than ever. Furthermore, the stretched-beyond-recognition varicose vein in my calf was puffing up like a territorial cat.

Worse. It popped out –would you believe it-in the joint on the top of my ankle.

Alittle bit of medical information might be helpfule here. Varicose veins enlarge because blood is pooling in them, rather than being pumped back to the heart. They appear blue because veins carry blood that is low in oxygen, blue until the big Os hit it and then it sees red.

Spider veins appear in areas where there is too much blood with nothing to transport it back to the big veins who will send it off to the heart for recharging.

Does anyone see a correlation? Varicose veins mean blood is pooling. Spider veins mean blood is pooling.

So those little spiders might relieve some of the pressure on the non-elastic varicose.

And I so thoughtlessly stomped out those spiders with my prickly needle treatments. Big Sister Vare made her irritation known.

Treatments

There are ways to treat varicose veins. For instance, I’m supposed to wear compression stockings to help encourage the blood back up toward the heart.

Other ways to treat these unsightly big girls is sclerotherapy (but this wasn’t an option offered at Hale Health where I had my treatments), laser surgeries, vein stripping and vein surgery.

No, I didn’t sign up for it.

The medical procedures could be covered by insurance if your doctor refers you. The doctor’s questions:

“Are you in pain?”

“Have you been wearing the compression stockings?”

Since only negative answers are true for me, having the medical plan cover the cost isn’t going to happen.

There are places that will do it and offer payment plans. Supposedly, they even charge someone who walks in with cash a discounted price. After all, the insurance company can afford to pay whatever they demand, right?

Is it any wonder the cost for medical insurance keeps rising while the benefits fall?

Not chasing that bunny trail.

What I meant to tell my readers is: I won’t even know if the sclerotherapy would have cured those webs from my left ankle.

Dr. Brooks and I agreed that dissolving those little guys may have been what pushed the varicose vein to bulge where it had not previously been noticeable.

This is the left foot after two treatments.
This is the left foot after two treatments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all that money, time, inconvenience and a small amount of discomfort, the ugliest duckling remains. It sucked up a gluttinous portion of magic serum during two visits, and as you can see, was still an unsightly mess.

Varicose veins feed those ugly spiders. If you take their spider outlets away, they bulge out in ugliness. One bad vein leads to another. Go figure.

Is Confidence Linked to Appearance?

Image courtesy of inbetweenathlete.com

We’re going to a company picnic – my husband’s company picnic – and I pull shorts and tank tops out of the dresser. After all, it’s late July and the temperature is predicted to be near 90.

These shorts pinch my waist. All those sleeveless shirts will draw attention to my less-than-firm triceps. Shorts that hit mid-thigh will ride up when I sit down and the flabby part of my leg will peek out.

It’s official. I have nothing to wear. I look terrible in all of these outfits. Even though I’ve been walking or running every weekday morning throughout the summer and lifting weights two days per week, my over-40 body doesn’t become the summery outfits which would best suit this event.

I pull the capris out of my closet and the process begins again.

If this is you, I’m glad to know I’m not alone. Not really. I think the fact that women spend so much time thinking about their appearance is a travesty. Especially when I read this:

“In general, women are much more concerned about their appearance than men are. The key reason for this is that their appearance is central to how they are evaluated by others” (Jackson, L. A. from Physical Appearance and Gender).

Why are women evaluated by others based on appearance? Whatever the reason, it makes 90% of all women want to change something about their appearance according to these statistics.

According to Dr. Nigel Barber, “Women also spend huge amounts of money on clothes, cosmetics, and other products and services that enhance their physical appearance.” Is this because women feel insecure about their appearance? After all, society will judge them based on the way they look.

Unfortunately, society as a whole may judge us on external standards, such as physical appearance. Women need to build up an arsenal to fight against the negative impact this can have on our confidence and self-esteem.

Some weapons against the warped standards society sets for women are:

  • Positive self-talk: You are your own worst enemy. I avoid mirrors once I’m done getting ready in the morning. This helps me forget about my bad hair day or the extra roll above my waistband. When I look and think, “Ugh. I need to lose weight” I immediately remind myself of the three miles I ran that morning or check out a picture of the two healthy sons my body sustained for 10 months and then brought into the world. (By the way, Victoria’s Secret is that no one looks like a supermodel in their underwear.)
  • Healthy relationships: It’s comforting that my husband doesn’t think I need to wear makeup. He tells me I’m beautiful first thing in the morning (even when I still have morning breath). Don’t put yourself in a relationship with someone who puts down your appearance.
  • Realistic friendships: If you befriend the pretty girl, you’ll be surprised to realize she’s even more insecure about her looks than you are. How can that be? Looks are fleeting. We age and faces wrinkle while skin sags. It’s inevitable. If we put our confidence in our appearance, we know it’s a time bomb. Surround yourself with people who value the inner characteristics that make a person beautiful. When you’re encouraged by the truth from people who see the real you, it inspires confidence (but don’t mistake healthy self-esteem for over-confident pride).
  • A different focus:  In this article, one woman admits: “I realized that there was a marked difference between staying strong and healthy and being critical of every curve of my body, hyperaware of how things drape and present to the outside world.” We need to focus on our purpose in life. Even the supermodel and actress can’t hang all their dreams on their physical appearance. Focus on being the best mother, wife, writer, teacher, lawyer or whatever. As women, we have more than one role and none of them really need us to weigh 100 pounds and have a 36-26-36 figure.

Really. They don’t.

Is it a Hot Flash?

I’m sitting in an air conditioned room at the airport in Maui. I feel like I’m in a sauna.

While checking in, I experienced such stifling claustrophobia I thought a panic attack loomed on the horizon. Not that I’ve ever experienced a panic attack, but the heart palpitation, sweating and desire to scream seemed like symptoms.

In the long security line, my armpits felt like pools. Where was the cooling breeze that kept things temperate during the week-long vacation?

Since I’ve been having irrational mood swings, I decided the above episode qualified as a hot flash.

And it continues on. We’ve been in the air conditioning for more than ten minutes and yet sweat beads on my forehead with unattractive regularity.

Obviously, “flash” doesn’t describe the length of these midlife episodes. Could it be over in a flash, please?

That would be no.

I thought I might be too young to experience the ugly “change” that women everywhere endure. I like to think I’m still in my prime. Does menopause suggest otherwise?

What other exciting symptoms could I look forward to during this season? Are there any wise words and suggestions from my readers to help me survive it without killing someone?