Appreciative “May” benefit your outlook and health

Today was one of those days….. bombarded by everyone and trying to settle on finances and budgets, schedules, as typical of working women who are trying to balance their life. And yes if you are in your midlife or older chances are you are that “squeezed” sandwich generation where you have the task of home, younger family and elder family care. It’s no coincidence then that this group often experiences burnout and what is called “caretaker syndrome”.

According to statistics,  women have it worse as they are tasked with more housework (if not all of it) caring for their aging parent or in-law, all the while their teenager is flipping out or their little one is whining about something. It turns out that women’s natural ability to multitask makes it easier for everything  to get done …so remind me why women are paid less?

And did I mention married men have better overall health than married women ? Likely because spouses usually nag their husbands about going to the doctor. So be appreciative of your wives! And if you’re divorced try to hang out with more female friends, they might benefit your health if they’re health literate themselves!

As I was scrambling to get my facts straight about changing risk behaviors, making lists and filling in my calendars (yes both paper and electronic!) the look on my face likely made the cafe barista want to lend a hand or a heart ❤️ as you see from the cappuccino outcome.  I’m very appreciative!

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It got me thinking that many important holidays and days of remembrance happen in May. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, European Cancer prevention week,  Clean Air Month to name a few. In thinking of the outdoors I was also appreciative (despite my seasonal allergies) to walk in green fields and soak up some sunlight this past week. It’s amazing how nature truly calms us and is truly a “soul healer”. Dr. Scott Peck, you’d be proud as I often take “The Road Less Travelled”.

2A55A92F-2801-4A9C-BCDA-96F295A95A35Five simple things you can do this month to make you more appreciative of others and  your community at large:

1) Smile, and Say  “thank you” more often and give thanks for what you have (the glass is half full remember??). Regardless of their age, little and big people love this!

2) Reuse, Reduce, Recycle ♻️ daily. Keep things simple and “prune your stuff often” as experts like Kondo recommend. Life can be complicated, make it simpler.

3) Take a walk (20-30 minutes daily or at least 3 Xs a week) for heart health and better cognitive function.  While you’re at it, plant a tree 🌳 , and remember to always stop and smell the roses, or the violets. Exercising and doing more self-care are a ‘must’ for long-term benefits.

4) Read a new book (or listen via audio), write a letter to a beloved friend — no matter how far they are…even “snail” mail is great on occasion it’s a pleasant surprise!

5) Be creative whether in art, food, or in writing.  Write five things you enjoyed or accomplished each week — don’t focus on what you didn’t finish — this adds to your  self-esteem and your outlook of positivity. We all tend to be harsh on ourselves or others but remember one needs a hand (or a branch/vine) if they are to get un-stuck in the quicksand!

“Hacking” for Health

On Friday February 22nd groups of young people, professionals of all ages and company mentors from pharmaceuticals and insurance companies got together to form teams geared to “hacking” health and building health literacy through an MIT Hacking health literacy event in Athens, Greece. Respecting the privacy of the winners two days later, the emphasis of the monetary awards was on giving hope for progress in addition to mentoring and longer term support for product fruition. Much needed in a country very much in shambles due to the crisis of the past 10 years — check out the Lancet’s “Omens of a Health Tragedy” written in earlier part of the crisis, and the most recent The New York Times opinion article written by Simon Critchley titled “Athens in Pieces: The Stench of the Academy. ”

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Speaking about health literacy in Greece and discussing the first HLS-EU study several aspects were brought up of individual and social responsibility — see video link.  It seems that this photo I shared says it all when public systems don’t work and thus includes lack of maintenance, no policing, and high risk behaviors. Enough said ….the more you look at it, the more you’d realize there is so much to do !

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What”s wrong with this picture!?

Birds of a feather, Flu season and personal responsibility

Everyone loves flamingos right? Birds migrate to warmer climates throughout the year despite global warming and colder climates with snow in unlikely places (last post). We all should know that birds are one of the major ways disease is transmitted across continents and via mosquitoes to animals and humans! .

Have you ever stopped to think how your own actions could prevent further spread of what are known as “communicable diseases” such as flu? This season is prime for H1N1 (known as swine flu) or others like bird flu, and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization constantly share updates on disease spread and prevention.

Good friend Jenny, did her part too! She’s not only talented as a Dramaturg and Stage Director, she recently proved to be very health literate too! Being health literate is having the ability to act appropriately medically (getting tested, vaccinated, taking appropriate meds once sick, resting and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration), and taking personal responsibility to prevent disease spread.

Her Facebook post (permission to share with you) says it all. It was the first time we had “virtual drinks” and it was a great time despite illness!  Thanks Jenny for doing your part! Maybe it’s true that birds of a feather truly hang together…

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Peaches oh 🍑 peaches!

61ED0575-A0CD-4AD8-ACC2-0ED00F7C2AB8I’ve never met a peach I didn’t like. Can you tell the difference among white or yellow flesh type peaches, nectarines and other local varieties? I used to live in the southern U.S. “Peach State” Georgia which first got me thinking and making wonderful peach tart-pies. I also got to appreciate the rich character and identity of each place I’ve lived in. We often overlook symbols and sayings but these add value to our historical knowledge as well as likely contributing to our health literacy. Phrases like “how peachy” can be positive while saying “oh, peaches!” could be a softer more comical way to express one’s frustration. So yes, we sometimes use “fruit language” when we speak.

Not only are peaches an attractive looking fruit, they taste great, are low calorie and have necessary fiber and carbohydrates and vitamins, including potassium and Vitamins A through E to help us function better during our day — particularly good for our skin fighting against the stress of everyday pollution. Furthermore, peaches are supposedly good for those with high blood pressure but as with everything please eat in moderation…yes, if fresh peaches are not an option, eating canned peaches with strained Greek-style yogurt is a low calorie meal especially at the start of your day. If you can afford the extra calories try “peaches and cream”, another southern U.S. tradition which is especially delicious. I particularly like one variety which comes from the region of Naoussa in Northern Greece where it looks like a squished flat peach but it’s sweeter than other varieties.

Here’s a secret for a great peach tart — bake the crust for about 15 minutes before then add your peach mixture and if your peaches are tart just add some more brown sugar! Yummy…

 

 

Waiting time, me first!?

Yesterday I was waiting in line at the bank as they had changed their system in the last five months so those in the que needed to have numbered tickets. Summer is also a time with a lot of ex-pats and visitors to countries who may have no idea of the way things are done or changes and indeed a new system could create several communication issues…

I happened to ask a question and one of the few employees (think cut-backs and vacation time so it was the so-called “skeleton crew”) and she had directed me to an odd looking stand with a digital button to receive a number for the que. There were primarily older people over 70 years, one whom I’ll call “Gus” and one mid-lifer (45-50 years) who sat down after me, started listening to music singing to himself whom I’ll call “Dick”.  What came to unfold was another case of personality traits up against digital – access literacy.

Gus was talking to me about the cuts in his social security and his disappointment with the current leadership and how he doesn’t see for the last three years any improvements. In fact, on a functional societal level it’s been the worst ever and the damage has been done for years to come despite these articles about Greece getting out of debt (well financially banks have gained and all Greek tax payers have been squeezed like no one can imagine since WWII!) a good one by Ms. Stamouli for the Wall Street Journal (link WSJ). Gus it turns out had not gotten a number for the que, so when the number changed Dick sprang up and in essence cut, even though he clearly saw the people waiting before him.

Gus: “Sir, sorry but it’s my turn in line” (Dick first ignored him, looking at the bank teller).

Dick: “Well this is my number”

This is where I had enough and said to Dick “please don’t tell me you didn’t see the people waiting here in front of you AND you see it’s obvious the man is older and likely didn’t know he had to get a ticket?” (no response just looking at us and the teller).

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Waiting time 10 minutes on average

At this point, the teller was going to allow the older man to go in front, but Dick (true to his name) didn’t budge, so Gus just said “it’s ok…it’s obvious to me this man doesn’t have courtesy”. I got up gave Gus my ticket and got another one glaring at Dick. You guessed it, we waited until Dick was done, as I said to Gus loudly for Dick and others to hear “You see if you’re dealing the ‘me-first’ people there is no point in talking sense to them…” Gus agreed as did a woman next to me and of course we continued pleasantly to talk about a group, maybe even a newer generation of people who are oblivious to their surroundings most of the time including to those with special needs or elders, pregnant women, etc. there is such a need of mindfulness training!

Personality traits like narcissism, digital literacy, corporate and human communication….hmm….don’t even get me started about the tailgating and “me first” attitude on the roads!

 

Poverty lives among us

Many  of you may think you know what poverty looks like. But given what poverty levels are there substantial numbers of people in the world living it every day. You can see it, you can smell it, you can feel it, it is not so pleasant for you or for your daily living requirements.

When poverty exists, there are no street cleaners picking up after daily trash, not enough policemen to go around and do an adequate job, people’s ADL skills are so low that you often have to hold your nose from the stench in crowded public transport systems.

One day I saw an older man picking through trash from a dumpster in broad daylight in a more upper scale part of a city but I didn’t have time to ask him what he was looking for exactly — food, or other? I frequently see some people picking out aluminum cans for recycle money and sometimes to the dismay of local people living there (since they dump other trash on the ground and don’t pick it up) or to monetary loss of municipalities.

Another day I saw someone rummaging through my neighboring garbage bin so I asked – stated “are you looking for food? I’m sure the local fast food place or the church further down can help you out with that….” He looked at me saying in broken Greek (so I knew he was a migrant, and pretty well dressed guy who could look like any local!) “you know what I’m looking for? Clothes for my wife and kids”. So I told him where he could find stuff including the fact that we now recycle clothes in big red bins in many areas of Athens now! Then I thought to ask how many kids he had? He said FIVE. So I smiled saying “wow, you moved fast but hard to support all of them…most of us can’t make it with one or two!” The current poverty levels falling under “extreme poverty” are up to 15% according to survey sources in Greece.

How can we reach people in being more health literate about spacing children and general contraception information, being realistic about responsibilities and understanding that we now live in cities mostly not in farms, and talking more seriously about overpopulation as  many religious leaders still continue to preach about the “sin” of birth control and encourage population growth… really?

Let’s help people better manage themselves their homes and communities to not delve in poverty so that the upper “land lords” gain the wealth only. Share the wealth, live in and with integrity.