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!

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Violets in the Spring

Spring is here in full bloom and many of us have seasonal allergies, others use this time for  a stricter diet — perhaps for lent but most to reshape our body after our seasonal eating and drinking “escapades” as natural to take on weight during winter and hibernate …Well I’m trying?! I gave in with my friend for her namesake and had a Spring inspired dessert …Pavlova with strawberries and Violet ice cream 🍨! Yes you heard it right … infused with essence of violet.D401FB7B-EE66-4572-8251-068A07F444E2

Turns out that the inspiration for that light fluffy Pavlova dessert was inspired by the Russian ballerina’s “tutu” Anna Pavlova in the 1920s according to history of food site! After eating this, surely feeling light and jubilant inside. In the name of health please enjoy everything in moderation and with friends …less guilt, more enjoyment!

Turns out that this low ground flower is traced back to Greco-Roman myths in Greek also called “Io” and it also symbolizes sexuality as well as humility  (see all violet myths described by blogger Herb Rowe).  Thus the color purple is considered a spiritual color and in some cultures even used in times of lamentation. It is also a color of the quartz stone Amethyst, the birthstone of February. Amethyst comes from the Greek  “amethistos” meaning one who doesn’t get intoxicated or drunk, have any of you drunk alcohol from an amethyst goblet or ‘drinking vessel’ to test this?  Let’s stick to Spring and flowers shall we? Keep the stone for your own crystal therapy (see blog on Energy Muse)! Regardless if it is considered a questionable practice with not enough scientific proof it is still fun to learn about.

F084389D-5E66-49F1-A029-A074191846DAThese lovely purple violets were bought at my friend’s small business called “Flower Bar” in Southern Attica (Greece)  — let’s support locally! There are over 200 types of violets, these with deep purple leaves and a yellow color center are “African violets” to be exact, made a family couple very happy for their Golden 50th anniversary! Check out the Farmer’s Almanac for caring for these gorgeous violets. 

Inspired by the flowers and spiritual color of purple is a common poem (written in 1784_ source) we used to say or sing as children and even in our romantic years! Bring back more romance people, it’s good for your relationship health ….

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet and so are you! 

Spring pickings

FA6C45A9-89C0-4C00-AC03-56CCE1A3C830I love Spring and visiting the countryside of Greece to partake in nature’s bounty. During peak pollen season I suffer greatly from allergies but I take the chance (and my antihistamines if needed) since the experience is a wonderful way to gather sunlight in the form of Vitamin D, as well as overall healing for the spirit.

As it turns out due to climate changes, the number of sufferers has been increasing according to the World Allergy Association’s WAA 2016 report. AND March 24th is world tuberculosis (TB) awareness day. So many things to be aware and health literate about (see past allergies post)!

Years ago, I read a book about a doctor who has worked with clinics around the world (Peru, Russia, Haiti)  and on his own building hospitals in downtrodden areas of Haiti and increasing awareness around TB. The book by Tracy Kidder published in 2003 was titled “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” This was the real-world story of how one person can make a difference in world health matters…. hail the idealists! However 16 years later TB is back at its peak in many parts of the globe including the Mediterranean due to population flux and lack of taking antibiotics appropriately (too many, wrong doses).

This hits me every time I see grand hotels built in the mountains as it was believed that clean air — more oxygen in essence — would help cure people thus many of these seemingly sanatoriums are considered exotic locations for other purposes (thankfully) today whether it be for skiing, sightseeing or simply taking a break! One of my favorite grand must-see hotels is the Mt. Washington hotel in New Hampshire’s Bretton Woods which dates back to the early 1900s was the place where the formation of the World Bank began after the famous Bretton World Conference to deal with the aftermath of the World War, as well as a later movie with Jack Nicholson called “The Shining”. Note, financial literacy is ONE part of health literacy is an entire new section to ponder for this blog…. stay tuned.

I posted a question about SPRING activities on a social media site,  “Each Spring since living here, I pick chamomile (despite pollen symptoms 😁) to remind myself the importance of nature helping calm the mind as well as our body with necessary healing. What do you do? Do you recognize nature’s bounties or simply pass them by?” Perhaps it goes along with the question about awareness as posed “do you stop to smell the roses?” or other small flowers, I certainly hope so!

Even though one should pick chamomile in late April or even beginning of May, I did so today …and here are some steps for that wonderful tea. Does wonders for one’s skin, stomach, great for anti-cancer and anti-diabetes regimens considered one of nature’s miracle teas (see article) . The word in Greek is χαμομήλι stems from the words “chamo” and “mile” meaning the apple of the earth …hmm sounds similar to “an apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

4 easy steps:

1) ensure the herb is indeed chamomile by smelling it first, and noticing the high hill-like shaped yellow middle (since some  mini daisies look similar!)

2) pick many tips and stems (careful don’t damage any roots to allow for regrowing) as if running a comb through nature’s “hair”. Enjoy each moment using all your senses of sight, smell and touch.

3) take home and allow it to dry for a week and more so it can be stored in glass jars for use any season (for drying use cool dry areas, careful of windy spots and consider a tulle cover).

4) boil yourself a nice cup of chamomile tea and you’ll feel healthy and calm even just recalling that lovely day you picked it!

I close with a quote by past U. S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with an image of my wonderful tea …. all well worth it.

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Be the change…the message of love and unity

The “morning after” Valentine’s Day I came across short video cartoon part of a series meant to help people understand about relationships a series by Fabiosa Better World. This featured a woman who felt disgruntled in her 10 year marriage, and no longer smiled at her husband, didn’t make his favorite food, was basically indifferent  and thus he was ready to divorce or I’m sure look elsewhere. He called his elder father who basically gave him basic advice — have you kept your end of the “bargain” have you kept your promises? He thought about it. He changed his behavior. This included having a “date night”, buying her a gift, helping with the house chores. Surprisingly to him, everything he used to have came back and his marriage made it successfully…simple things make the difference, BE the change in love  (by the way the 8-10 year mark is important because you either “make” it or “break” it as a couple, according to statistics).

I also participated in a training by organization Fractality on “appreciative inquiry”, who had invited an elder wise guest speaker a “yogi” in my mind, to work with mindfulness in our group on finding the goodness and inner peace in very difficult situations whether they be individuals or communities. We randomly got cards and my two are featured here reminds me of the important health literacy work in our community. BE the change in your community. Use your networks, get training to build skills, work with goodness and peace of mind.

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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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Seeing red signs? color, nature, and signs

One of my students was interested in seeing what adjectives we associate with colors and how our mood is potentially are affected by color in the short or long-term. Her project truly reflects both nature (certain colors calm while others excite us neurologically) and nurture (what we see, hear in our culture reflects our perceptions).

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Red Moon — photo by Bill Coast (c) 2018

There is an entire ‘color psychology’ out there and many articles written like this one : Color Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel? (VeryWellMind, September 2018). A while ago I had posted about the “Dark Moon….” and last summer there was a “Red Moon” citing starting late July through more recent weeks in August.

As leaves and seasons change to Fall-Winter our vegetables and fruits become deeper oranges and reds like vitamin C- rich pomegranates, cranberries, or Beta-carotene pumpkin pickings from the fields.  We eventually have these part of our Thanksgiving tables (if you are American) or your pumpkin soup like this great pumpkin-ginger recipe by my favorite ‘food revolutionist‘ and British chef, Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s TedEx talk about obesity in America and dietary changes around the world is still current today in our attempt to curb over-eating and eating food that is neither good for us or our communities. We love comfort foods to pep up our moods but let’s consider what we put inside our body today.

The month of November starts with health issues including Alzheimer’s Awareness, Diabetes Awareness, Tobacco Awareness and COPD month, and we end up thinking about all our extra calories after eating our turkey dinner. Perhaps our need for extra food is part of our packing up for our natural winter ‘hibernation’ as some may also suffer from seasonal affective disorders? There is a SAD test you can take today to determine if you indeed suffer from this disorder, consider environmental changes like diet and ‘light treatment’… again on the issue of colors — yellow, blue, red… ergonomics research on firetrucks has proved that lime yellow is a safer color than red, yet we seem to be stuck on the former as our preferred color of firetrucks around the world. Old habits die hard, including our own health literacy habits. Red is an ‘excitable’ color it makes sense that fire alarms are still red, and the red ‘do not smoke sign’ is just as common. I personally think Starbucks has the best line on its “thank you for not smoking” sign reminding people about maintaining the coffee’s smell and taste —  simply brilliant!

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Calling a Spade…

The joy of color, practicality and simplicity. This was what U.S. fashion designer Kate Spade inspired. A woman who made it in New York, originally from the Midwest, married for 35 years and mother to a daughter just 13 years old.  Truth is expressed in the phrase “calling a spade a spade” dating back to the times of Plutarch (ancient Greece)… nothing can be further from this in our days. The reality of midlife, excessive stress, the potential for, or reality of suicide. Does it have to be? Do so many people, including their close circle and our society need to suffer? Certainly not. A scary statistic is that in almost every state in the U.S. suicide has gone up since the year 1999 by 25% according to CDC (CNN report).  I believe that Dr. Stephen Ilardi got it right in his TedEx presentation, when he said that this is the modern epidemic of our civilization. Why? He says it is a combination of our physical self (eating habits, sleep habits, improper exercise) and our mental state.

I would further add that we have high expectations for ourselves, constantly comparing our outer ‘shells’ or situations with others (in real-time or on-line time like through Facebook), we don’t do enough self-care, we don’t have the skills needed to manage our life — keeping our life in order, cooking healthier (so many on-line sites to access) or taking supplements (my favorites are from Nutrilite), accessing social support or therapeutic support, less on-line time and more time with family, friends, nature, self-development groups; more on stress management, and financial literacy are important components of health literacy). This is particularly the case of those in the developmental stages of adolescence and midlife.

I recall years ago the movie The Hours which specifically showcased how it feels for one to be so trapped in their depression…hence another phrase ‘whose afraid of Virginia Wolfe.’  These people need to be given support networks, but it is not our job to ‘rescue’ them. But it is our job to teach younger children how to manage their emotions, how to eat better, get rid of negative thoughts, and cultivate love of learning, nature, and spirituality.  This is part of the original concept of Eudaimonia, as Aristotle described centuries B.C. “doing and living well”…. later adapted more formally into spiritual teachings, and some could even say a part of the more formal volunteerism movement. Indeed we need to cultivate this virtue of eudaimonia for a successful life as the author of the site “ARETE” indicates.

The goal in midlife as psychologist Erikson indicated is “generativity versus stagnation” — to ‘make our mark’ by creating and giving back to others and more importantly to younger generations, nicely described in the site link VeryWellmind. Teaching and working with clients in this stage of their life, we see how important it is for mid-lifers to understand and practice the above daily tasks. Else, we simply get stuck in the “swamp” of our negativity and depression. That simple, calling a spade a spade.

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Kate Spade’s designs inspired happiness

Kate was one of my favorites, whether it was eating out of her Lenox inspired cups and dishes, wearing her sunglasses or finding a place to ‘tidy up’ my make-up. Her husband Andy provided a recent statement (see Cosmopolitan article) indicating she struggled with anxiety and depression for years. Most of us know someone who is unable to get out of this ‘funk’ whether family, friend, or foe. We need to become more health literate about personality disorders, clinical versus situational depression, the reality of anxiety.  We also need to understand that some types of therapy for these disorders work better than others (cognitive behavior therapy, dialectical behavior therapy), while we need to move beyond the mind in addressing our spirit/soul with active work using breathing exercises, activity like yoga or taking walks in nature (sea, ocean, forest, whatever works), and believing that a higher power or energy is there to tap into if we need to. Some people just don’t bother to ask, others ask and expect too much…we cannot avoid natural disasters like recent volcanic eruptions in Guatemala but even there could they have heeded the warnings? Our body gives us warnings when we are anxious, suffer from panic attacks, are depressed, can we and do we get help in time?

The Kate Spade employees posted a dedication to her and her family on the company’s website. Sting’s song “The Shape of My Heart” is dedicated from our blog to you Kate, you inspired so many of us with your joy if you simply could see it and have gotten help in time.  Our best to your family and all families who have lost loved ones around the world.