It Was Just A Little Heart Attack

Last Friday, 2/3,  I stumbled upon a National Go Red Day event at Macy’s Herald Square. I  was glad that I got to participate because it made me realize how we often neglect taking care of ourselves because we are taking care of others.

Did you know that heart disease is silent, hidden and deadly?

It is the #1 killer of  women!

More women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer combined!

Ladies learn your family history and change your bad habits before it’s too late!  Raise your awareness!

At the event, they featured the debut of this film short outlining the atypical warning signs of a heart attack in women such as neck, jaw, or arm pain, and fatigue and shortness of breath with activity.  The video paints a picture of symptoms in a light-hearted way, but it is definitely is not a light-hearted matter.

Check out the video and please share your thoughts.

Please pass along to any women that you know and care about!

For more warning signs of a heart attack and stroke click here.

Dealing with Stress

Here are some strategies to deal with stress: 

  1. Identify what is causing you stress: What is the source? Try to pinpoint what is bothering you.
  2. Recognize what you can change: Change what you can if you can identify a solution.  If not seek to change your response.
  3. Reduce the intensity of your reactions: Reassess the situation. Are you overreacting? Walk away if the situation is too intense. Return when you feel calm. Resolve not to let situations get you over excited.
  4. Re-examine your attitudes and priorities: Are you taking on too much? Can something be delegated to someone else? Learn to say no. You are not a superhero. Make yourself a priority.
  5. Get organized: Identify when you are best productive.  Take some down time. Get some rest. Be a more effective manager of your time.
  6. Develop emotional support and use them: Open up and reach out to others. Try not to hold things inside. Set up a support system. Reach out to friends. Cultivate relationships with people and family. Seek emotional support from counselors, religious advisors or maybe join a support group.
  7. Let it out. : Let all your emotions out. Don’t hold it in! That release may be what you may need. If you feel like laughing, crying, or screaming… do it! Be selective about where you release these emotions but create an outlet where you can do so. Perhaps you can start to write in a journal.
  8. Ask for help: Don’t feel like it is burden to share your need with others. You will never know what resources will be helpful to you if you don’t ask. Identify some tasks and make your request.
  9. Relaxation techniques: Listen to some soothing music. Take 5 minutes to breathe deeply.  Utilize breaths in counts of 4 breaths as you inhale and then exhale. You will feel a difference!

Are you stressed?

First things first.. what is stress? It is the body’s response to the demands that are made on it. Chemicals are released into the blood when the body reacts to what is going on around them that is stressful. We experience stress in times of danger and the body responds by releasing these chemicals which give you more energy and strength. During these times, stress can be quite helpful. What we must be on the look out  for relates to if your stress is the result of a response to an emotional event and there’s no outlet to release this extra energy.

We need to look out for  bad stress.  Did you know that millions of Americans suffer from stress each year?

  • Stress can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes.
  • You are more likely to catch colds.
  • Stress can lead to alcoholism, obesity, drug addiction, cigarette use, depression, and other harmful behaviors
  • 3 out of 4 people suffer from high levels of stress at least twice a month .
  • ¼ of all drugs prescribed in the United States go to the treatment of stress.

Up to 50% of primary caregivers experience significant psychological stress. This can lead to serious health and psychological problems. Be aware of certain symptoms:

Denial                  Anger               Social Withdrawal

Anxiety                      Depression           Exhaustion         Sleeplessness

Irritability        Lack of Concentration          Health Problems

I know at different stages I’ve felt or experienced all of these symptoms. I now know that they were a result of the undue stress that I was under.

What can you do to minimize the pressures you may be feeling?

Engage in self care. Self care is the act of engaging in your own personal health care maintenance.  Make an effort to take care of yourself spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. Do nice things for yourself and realize that it is important that you put yourself first. Relinquish the need to feel guilty about putting your needs ahead of others. Realize that by not taking care of yourself you will not survive. Often times chronic and acute illnesses have roots tied to the stress in our lives.  Taking care of yourself is not a selfish act. It is necessary for your well being.

Attached please find the following Stress Management Plan that I received from a stress management workshop for caregivers. It will help you identify what stresses you out and help you pay attention to how you feel when you are stressed. Take note of things that you can do to help you relax. The more you reduce your stress the better you will feel and your quality of life will greatly improve!

 

 

A State of Consciousness

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Are you conscious of the life that you are living now?

I was watching Oprah’s Life Class and she featured a show that reflected on being “present in your life”. It first aired in 2008. There was a woman named Brenda, who was a mother of two and a school principal. Her husband normally carried both kids to daycare and school, but that morning he asked his wife to drop off their 2 year old toddler, Cecelia, at the daycare facility. It was the first day of school for Brenda. As a principal, one can only imagine the crazy hectic pace that is expected on the first day of school where a swarm of teachers, students, and parents are scurrying around as they began the new school year. What do you think was going on in Brenda’s mind? She was under a lot of pressure to not only get herself and her kids ready in the morning, but to also prep an entire school for its opening. She stopped to buy some donuts for the teachers because it was too early to drop Cecelia off at the daycare center. The child was quietly sleeping in her car seat in the back of her car. Brenda drove to her school and continued on her day functioning on autopilot. It was business as usual, or so she thought.

As I watched the recount of this story, I felt a pit drop in my stomach. Did they neglect to add a detail? I think they did; but no they did not! Brenda continued on with her day. Yes we did not hear of that one key step… that one necessary task that she needed to complete for that day. She never dropped her daughter off at the daycare center. She forgot and left her daughter in the hot car all day. To her dismay, by the time Brenda got word from a school friend who noticed that her daughter was still in the car, it was way too late. Unfortunately this was a tragic end to this story. I wish I could tell you it ended otherwise, but I can’t.

You are probably wondering, “What does this have to do with me?”  Yes I said it, because I know what you are thinking.  It’s ok to have those thoughts. I do not take it personally.

How many of us continue on our day in an unconscious state of being? Are you really aware of what’s going on around you or are you constantly rushing from task to task or obligation to obligation?  As caregivers, we are often decision makers who are under a considerable amount of pressure being responsible for the care of a loved one. Some of these situations can be very serious and critical on top of our own daily responsibilities. We often go without sleep, tend to become overwhelmed with worry about situations that are out of our control, and put our lives and dreams on hold. These sacrifices can often wreak havoc on our very own health and well being.  Guess what? You don’t even have to be a caregiver to suffer from the “superwoman” or superman” complex.  Do you constantly try to take care of everyone or try do everything all the time?

WAKE UP! Take a conscious look at your life.

Don’t let a tragedy that could have been prevented be the conscious wakeup call that you need! Seek ways to slow down and realize that you can’t do it all. Ask for help. Say no sometimes. Get some rest. Take yourself out. Call a friend just to shoot the breeze. It all doesn’t have to be done today. Doing some of these things will help you be a part of life instead of life passing you by. I know that Brenda wishes she could go back in time and change what happened on that dreadful day. Her baby was sound asleep; she made no noise; she did not cry. Don’t let busyness, overwhelming responsibilities, and stress keep you from being present in the moment of where you currently are.

This very second, you can wake up and become conscious of the life that you are living. ~ Oprah Winfrey.

The Shrinking Senior

Why do seniors, as they age, seem to all of a sudden they feel like they have no power? It seems like their confidence is gone. It is something that seems to irritate me because I am watching someone, who during my life, moved with confidence and authority that is now seeming to shrink down in their seat. I’ve witnessed this behavior from my parents.

Why it is that they choose not speak up? I’ve observed this increased tendency to shrink back and to not ask for what they need. They tend to wait for me to speak on their behalf. Why do they do that? However, when it comes to me, they feel comfortable enough to make requests and at times extreme demands of me and my time and expect me to jump at their beck and call. I can only speculate that the reason for shrinking back relates to feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps they feel like they are not a whole person anymore and feel helpless and defenseless because they have to be dependent on other people to take care of them. So, to me, it seems that they feel the need to stay quiet or act timid because they feel like they don’t want to be a bother to anyone even if they are being paid to tend to their needs. From my observation, it appears that their voice is lost and is often stifled because of feelings of a loss of their inner power.

How do you deal with this? I suggest encouraging them to be an active participant in their own care. Of course I recommend this only if your loved one has the capacity to do so. My parents are generally limited by their physical ailments so they can actively give direction and communicate what they need. If they are receiving care in the home, empower them to make their own decisions and ask them to make their own requests. I’ve tried to step back to some degree and encourage them to make their own requests. I feel it is important for my parents to feel comfortable to assert themselves. I also have found that it helps me to feel comfortable that they will be ok when I’m not around and it lets me know that they’ll be able to handle themselves. It is definitely something as a caregiver that one needs to be comfortable with.

Have you encountered this? What steps have you taken to handle this type of situation?

30 Day Workout Challenge

I am challenging myself to 30 days of exercise consecutively. That’s right, you read correctly! I can’t believe that I’m actually stating this out loud myself. But… here goes! This exercise regime will consist of anything, any kind of exercise to just get moving that can be done at the gym, at home or outside since the weather is still nice (well when we’re not floating away from the monsoon rainstorms we’ve been having lately here in NY). Also keep in mind you don’t need to have a gym membership to participate in some form of exercise.  How many of us have memberships we don’t use? I can definitely raise my hand. So I also wanted to lift restrictions from having to go to the gym. I saw an article from Time Magazine on how “Just 15 minutes of exercise a day may add years to your life”. I also felt inspired by a tweet from Judge Hatchett about participating in a 30 day exercise challenge. Exercise can help reduce risks associated with heart disease, diabetes and other health related illnesses that you may be susceptible to due to hereditary predispositions or poor health habits. Not only does exercise help you build strength, it also can help reduce the risks of developing cancer. So if doing some form of exercise daily can help you reduce the risks of all these things, why not do them? I constantly ask myself this question. I know that it’s good for me and I should do it. What’s holding me back? Excuses! Yes I said it! I fully admit it!

I know that I’m not as strong as I used to be and I wanted to get myself back on track to being in shape. Although different things have happened during the course of my life over the last couple years that caused me to get off track, I can acknowledge that these are just a whole bunch of excuses laden with procrastination and other fears coupled with laziness. The credo for all procrastinators is “I’ll start tomorrow”. Members of procrastinators anonymous please stand up! Research has shown that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. I want to try to push myself to go beyond the 21 days to 30 days of exercise. I see it as an opportunity to get a jump start on renewing my exercise habits.

As a caregiver, we often make a whole bunch of excuses about why we can’t take care of ourselves, so this is something that I want to do that is important to me that will allow me to be able to take care of myself. Exercise helps me to gain clarity, sharpen my mind, get centered and it has some great health benefits. Some of these benefits include improving my cardiovascular capacity and endurance, improving circulation, reducing the effects of stress, and also it helps me to purify and cleanse my system. I also benefit from a faster metabolism, which will help me burn more calories (By the way, I am not counting calories at all, but it’s nice to know that I’m burning them even when I am at rest 🙂 ). I also noticed in the past after doing some kind of exercise, even after a short while, that I have more energy! Who doesn’t need more energy? Having more energy will enable me to be able to participate and handle the daily activities and responsibilities of my regular life, which also includes all the stresses associated with caregiving, which I think is very important.

My Goal:

For this entire 30 day period, I will try to do some type of exercise each day whether it’s pushups, crunches, squats, lunges or something lengthy and more strengthening as a yoga class or Pilates, a cardio class, weight training with free weight or machines, bike riding, tennis, jogging, or doing some kind of walking for an extended period of time. I hope to do some type of exercise on a daily basis just to get my mind and body in alignment and focused.

Stay tuned for more!