Here today gone tomorrow: Health & Life Lessons

We have known many people who are here today gone tomorrow, through accidents, illness, homicide, or even a sudden heart attack. We don’t know the why, it just is. Or is it?

It’s a combination of our genes and the environment. It’s also about our personality type if we are “impulsive” we take more risks or if we “keep things bottled up” can eat away at our core…. Reach out, Speak 🗣 Up!
There are those philosophies about death and about living a “good life” that can help us reframe, as expressed in stoic philosophy.

Health literacy is about understanding risk and focusing on preventing or further worsening of symptoms. October is an “awareness” month for Fall (including for animals) and April for Spring, let’s keep learning. As CDC says, health literacy affects everyone!

Regarding intimate relationships and potential abuse or abuse of children and animals which is particularly traumatic or infuriating to all — sites like this one are mandatory for all youth to be reading and trained with! (See ywcaspokane.org Power and Control Wheel 🛞). When we understand about Power and Control we can understand about human “sin”, motivation and weaknesses. And we need to promote classes in schools to discuss human – healthy relationships.

Using intimidation is never “cool” in intimate relationships. Deal with your own anger first.

I was also very pleased to see a social marketing poster for citizens to remind them to call the hotline for dealing with potential child abuse as there have been many recent high profile cases, involving crime “rings” with that are surfacing in Greek news 📰 as of late. I note however that these crimes have been happening since the old times particular victims attractive “good-quiet” kids! 😣

How long will you wait before you say something? Social marketing poster with hotline to call 📞 for child abuse


I have lost many friends in their late 20s (diabetes, liver cancer, accidents), 30s and 40s (stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart attacks) and with secondary aging more expected in 50s and 60s and beyond. Death of young athletes especially shock us, like this of Mr. Nikolaidis, age 42, a Tae Kwon Do Olympic medalist who had a rare form of cancer. The Olympics article writes that he never said, “Why me?” in his two year cancer battle. He lived a good and useful life and when he discussed with a reporter years ago his working with children training them in Tae Kwon Do, I loved his sense of responsibility for the “twenty pairs of eyes” who looked up to him. As he also had two young children himself, we are especially saddened for their loss.

The Olympiad’s written message to all speaks volumes. Persistence is admirable and all are saddened by loss of great people. 😔😢The images speak volumes even if you don’t speak Greek, as his support for other cancer victims lead to his putting up his two Olympic medals for auction in helping children/ youth fighting cancer.

While fighting his own cancer, he supported others, this was the character of Olympiad Nikolaidis.

Teaching for more than 13 years courses like Developmental Psychology, having experience in hospitals and Psy wards as an intern and Counselor, discussing these cases is critical for my students learning. We talk about life but also death. I share 3 lessons for all …

Lesson #1 — if your teen or young adult is “drinking” themselves to death you need to intervene with friends/ family and professionals like family therapists or social workers, health psychologists, even religious leaders who mean something to the teen, young adult, older adult. There is specialized training, as often high risk behaviors “won’t go away” on their own. Young people engage in “sensation seeking” behaviors — as ridiculous as it may sound to you, we’ve had youth snort the white chemical known as white-out (or “blanco”) to get “highs”, and more often motorists speeding without helmets ⛑ for the rush of adrenaline ….and getting into very serious or deadly accidents, that could have been prevented. Police 👮‍♂️ need to do their jobs, and we never drink and drive. This shocking but true video speaks volumes….

No words 😶 Never tailgate, and NEVER drink and drive !

Lesson #2 — too little or too much of a good thing can be harmful to our body. This includes too many vitamins or too little, exercise, sex, sleep, heavy lifting, etc. Self-care is NOT selfish! And managing our emotions and what we “take in” is priority.

Photo by Madison Inouye on Pexels.com

Lesson #3 — share love 💗 as much as you can, ask for forgiveness, go to trips local or international, enjoy good food and good wine 🍷 (not too much), and ask for and give many hugs 🤗 ! Adult humans and children need comfort as much as animals do. These images and quotes from https://lessonslearnedinlife.com/ are particularly poignant.

Simple words, speak 🗣 volumes about Life.

Defining Health Literacy is critical to understanding life. We need patience to help others, ourselves and only time will tell the outcome. Keep moving and keep doing, don’t live with regrets, be all the best you can be, learning is a lifelong process.

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!

Ashes to ashes…tragedy befalls us

Tragedy befalls us or does it? in Greek «τραγωδία» is a word referring to a very sad situation that doesn’t have a very happy conclusion as it leads to suffering and most often death. When we say “befalls” it refers to things that happen by fate or chance. In the ancient world there were perfect explanations for everything, and usually involved ‘gods’ or other deities and mere mortals often trying somehow to make things “right” as they raise for us ethical or real life dilemmas.

Taking a recent trip with a group of colleagues and friends to the ancient theater of Epidaurus, we experienced one of the most famous of Sophocles’ plays “Electra” which the wise poet wrote towards the end of his career playing up the post-trauma of the Trojan war in the house of Mycenaean King Agamemnon (more here: classical literature ‘Elektra’). Though many directors change the structure of the plays to make them more to modern standards, this version was truly respectful of the storyline. More importantly we FELT the pain and inner struggle of the characters…I can still hear the drums beating as fast as my heart in the evening darkness as the actors in unison walked slowly with floating robes like solemn soldiers on a mission.

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Concluding the play Elektra, Epidaurus Summer 2018 Festival

This ancient theater in the valley of the Peloponnese is an acoustical marvel, and many world famous actors have passed through including Kevin Spacey as King Richard III (by William Shakespeare) honoring the ancient tradition with exceptional performance — glimpses can be had on this ‘World Stage’ clip.

I still recall Elektra’s brother Orestes’ blood-stained arms, the circles of ashes made in Elektra’s frenzy. Ashes to ashes, from dust to dust, this indeed is all we are made of. How ironic that the very next day we would be witnessing real-time tragedies of fire and ashes with almost 100 people dead in the ‘eye’ (mati) of Rafina, a seaside community outside of Athens (coincidentally the most losses in a fire since WWII), multitudes of animals, properties and nature burned within a matter of hours…. in the days following rainstorms and flooded streets in many parts of Greece as well as a “state of emergency” in California fires on the other side of the planet this year with several firefighters already dead and almost 100,000 acres of land burned to the ground.  Apparently since last year a sobering 60 servicemen have lost their lives on duty from such things like falling trees, bulldozers, etc. (more in the Mercury News article)

Unfortunately, tragedy befell Greece, and this is due to several factors in my humble opinion —

  • communication  breakdowns — in many countries in a state of emergency the military and the government have the right to take over a situation that is out of hand and work directly with media and municipalities.
  • organization and planning — ditto for this, but we know in the summer with high winds fires are constantly being set off, what are we doing to monitor beyond forest volunteers?  what about having a ‘drone watch’? See aerial surveillance for legislatures.
  • the “oh brother” syndrome («ωχ αδελφέ μου») — really now, you ARE global citizens so act like one!
  • environmental preparedness and social marketing — cutting down overgrowth, keeping water hydrants functioning, a system of communication (sirens, media buzz sound, megaphones), volunteers patrolling forests. One favorite character that was ‘built in’ U.S. culture was Smokey the bear to ‘prevent wildfires’ including some practical how-to steps…
  • health literacy about fires — taking care with outdoor fires (beach, camp, etc.), understanding that plastic and other waste (that people often leave near bushes on the sides of the roads) can be ‘fuel’ for any set fire.  If near a fire and no access to water hoses or water (many people were saved because they went to sea) keeping wet or wool blankets, crawling on the ground to avoid smoke inhalation, having adequate fire drills (and alternate with earthquake drills in schools once a year at least!), the need to have smoke detectors as well as functioning fire hydrants, firemen equipped with supplies (addressing shortages in Greece), using volunteers effectively, understanding how important time is when there are high winds…..moving quickly is of the utmost importance.

This tragedy could have happened to any government (or political party) but the situation was all too familiar to the fires back in 2007… it was purposeful arson in many parts that also ended in tragedy. However we know that prior to 2007 the persons responsible for the fire brigade planning in the country seemed to have more clear plans to make clear paths for the fires not to ‘jump’, cutting down overgrown trees, etc.  There are so many unpaved roads, no street signs, no functioning fire hydrants (or none at all) and the list goes on and on. Notably when systems don’t work (systems), we need to test and change them to be more effective as public safety and the public’s health should override any individual ‘rights’ this is why public health law exists!

What’s left now for many are feelings of emptiness and anger for many (typical of grief and post-traumatic symptoms that can range from loss of sleep to anxiety or the need to self-medicate). Grief or “bereavement” Counseling is needed and it is important to continue support groups and understand that even those watching the news may have anxiety or worse panic attack type reactions (children are in particular vulnerable to anxiety so it’s important to discuss with them ways to feel safe and express their sad or angry feelings). Play and music therapy are useful as are regular counseling and parenting techniques. A local bookstore has a book for kids emphasizing the circle of life and loss for children to understand (Εκδόσεις Παπαδόπουλος «Η Έλλη και ο Κύκλος της Ζωής» — Papadopoulos book publishers “Ellie and the Circle of Life”) but there are no books in Greek specific to dealing with traumatic events. A spiritual approach and books like Thomas Moore’s Dark Nights of the Soul help people who have experienced loss and difficult life ordeals. There are several theories about the stages of bereavement and people can feel denial that it happened (avoidance), anger, or try to accept it and move on. Particular emphasis on expressing sadness and anger is needed here.  It’s also not easy for servicemen (people) to endure everything from evacuating to picking up the corpses. There are many groups, therapists who use cognitive behavioral, meditation, and virtual reality techniques proven to be effective with these workers.

We are angry at the government and inefficiency. Mr. Tosca, the Ministry of Internal Affairs recently resigned, but nothing will change unless we re-evaluate and organize better — house in order, country in order, and see my past post on Kondo method. We can help Greece, a country in its worse crisis since WWII, by donating to worthwhile groups and initiatives like Act4Greece or The Hellenic Initiative, and Red Cross initiatives for those affected. In addition some self-care on a daily and weekly level like guided meditation helps. If we do this at least 3 times a week (much like exercise habits) and I particularly liked this one to bring more inner peace:

We cannot change that which we cannot control but YES we can learn to be more effective for the betterment of our communities.

 

 

 

Cleaning House — beyond Spring cleaning

Springtime for most of us implies flowers, planting and gardening, May wreaths, a spectacular blossoming time of year.  Others keep it as a traditional time for doing the annual Spring cleaning and overall “cleaning house.” A recent psycho-educational session about organizing our living space and ultimately better organizing our life, 738BE095-1BF3-458B-8D44-3970DA58D32Ewas based on more effective methods. This includes suggestions that were made in Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (first published in Japanese in 2011). As this month is also Mental Health Awareness Month we can find ways to tidy up our own lives, change our way of thinking,  positive overall mental health which is part of being more health literate about what mental illness is and what it isn’t.

Kondo’s method is largely based on “mindful” tidying and extends to a similar philosophy that rings true throughout time — healthy mind and healthy body. And I say why not extend this to a tidier and cleaner society with happier and more health literate people!? One editor nicely shared her “lessons learned” for her own home (and likely her office) after reading Kondo’s book.

Many of us for one always feel better in a clean and tidy environment as it helps us clear and settle our mind. We can start to prioritize and reduce procrastinating hopefully!

  • “Prune your stuff often” is an easy phrase to remember from what I consider to be a classic book, The Rules of Life (Richard Templar). Think of pruning a bush, the same way you then will sort and throw out paperwork to recycling, don’t just pile up clothes and dishes, store and wash your dishes daily, life will be so much ‘easier’ to get a handle on!
  • exercise your dusting, broom and mopping ‘skills’, and how about learning better tips like “How to Clean Your Room” video
  • use biodegradable cleaning products like those by Amway Home, so much better for the environment
  • use a small vacuum for daily messes, and leave heavier vacuuming for once a month.

Key messages she emphasizes are to respect yourself and your property (starting with clothes, books/papers, all closets, collectibles,  etc.), donate or sell as needed — most countries have Salvation Army which works on helping people in poverty and collecting and either re-selling or distributing products like clothes, furniture, collectibles.  There are also many common on-line selling sections like FB’s Marketplace.

Speaking  of clothes, for those of us who love clothes, accessories and shoes among other stuff we can also learn to better organize them (fold and store — for some of us space is a limitation so we have to move out winter stuff bring our spring and summer stuff, what a chore but good to see what we have and what doesn’t fit anymore!). The concept of Natalie’s blog of “wear you are now” fits nicely here!

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White color  is associated with “purity” and cleanliness, best shown with this lily of the valley, hand picked!

We all at some point may experience serious serious mental health issues with friends or family it is important to keep calm, get informed, get support.  Help can come in many forms, and it is not our job to “rescue” people, but you/we can:

  • intervene legally with human services or police if situations get out of hand and people are a danger to themselves (or to others)
  • educate ourselves and others on mental health issues (online, offline in seminars, by trained counselors, etc.)
  • get therapy ourselves if things get out of hand (including feelings of guilt if someone you care for hurts themselves you are never to blame for another’s extreme choice and live with a clear conscience if you’ve tried to help!). I recently came across a great video by handsome Father Mike Schmitz who talks about suicide (this video is part of others a series) — not only talks about the religious side of the matter but clearly differentiated the importance of having a team of professionals! As he says, are all doctors the same? are all religious advisors the same? so why not try different therapists as he puts a heavy importance on maintaining hope and never giving up. I think this song by the group Hurts “Never Give Up It’s Such a Wonderful Life” says it all friends….

A good friend who has years of experience in emergency medicine and writes a fab blog Heal Thyself Heal Thy World  always says “you can only do what you can do…”  There are many sites with great “tips” out there. I particularly liked one by Parent’s Magazine article about 7 Pink Flags to look out for in children with possibly serious mental health issues, and loved the importance of mental health video by the wife of Canadian Prime Minister, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau for May Mental Health Month — key emphasis on self-care and self-compassion.

Enjoy your new spring outlook, be strong and get support as needed, and carry on!

Positive “MAY” Energy

IMG_E4256.JPGHappy May day!  Today is a day of gathering flowers, making wreaths, and thinking of bringing in the positive energy into our homes.  In this part of the world in honor of the Roman-name goddess “Maia” (which also in Greek is the name of the midwife who delivers babies) people make May wreaths and in essence this is why people dance around the May Pole in most parts of Europe (and in the U.S.) In my family we often throw flower petals on the floor to bring in the positive sun-spring energy! We all need it.

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Add rose petals to your rooms to bring in the energy of the day!

May 1st is indeed a historically a pagan holiday of celebrating the official transition into the bounties of flowers and Spring.  Internationally celebrated it is also International Worker’s Day — one thought could be for supervisors or ‘bosses’ to take the place of the worker to see what their daily work involves, now there is an idea!

Flowers make any room brighter, and our mood lighter.  If you ever get a chance to go to any flower shows even better!

IMG_3972.jpgOne amazing one visited recently was the Euroflora show in Genoa, Italy on an older pavilion ground overseeing the sea (every five years if you want to visit and brush up on some Italian, see Euroflora_Genoa_2018).  You will learn more about the plants and blossoms of the world and maybe how you can make your own home and neighborhood/community even better. Granted some of us suffer from sringtime allergies but these can be in-check and helped over the long term.

We all may be stuck in the ‘shoulds’ of life some of which may be necessary for our daily survival. For example, we should eat at least 5-a-day fruits and vegetables, drink 6-8 glasses of water daily, exercise at least 10 minutes daily, sleep 7-8 hours as part of your self-care routine. After all this is what health literacy is all about.

This May, let’s focus in the “may” of life and the power of affirmations. Indeed the mind, as long as you water and nurture your positive thoughts daily they will grow (affirm repeatedly as the site indicates). However many words (even tags that we see around our cities, most of which we should just undo altogether….) repeated over and over — our subconscious mind ‘filters’ millions of messages and we keep many — can affect us both positively or negatively.

Here are a few for the day…. May you…

  • walk in sunlight to warm your soul
  • hear the birds and bees sing their happy songs
  • feel butterfly wing “kisses” on your sun-touched skin
  • choose the beautiful ‘flowers’ of your thoughts and heart to remind yourself of better things in difficult days that may come!