All posts in Mental Health

Prioritize To Save Time

If you run a successful business, you know that time is precious. You’ve learned to use it wisely. If you work for someone else, you need to prioritize your responsibilities to be the most efficient at your job.

Much of my time is dedicated to my health-coaching business. Of course, my family and friends are important and day-to-day responsibilities are critical too. So I try to rank things according to the time involved and the day of the week. It’s called planning ahead, which is a very good thing. A good plan also allows you to be flexible, especially when an emergency arises.

Of all full-time employed adults in the United States, the overwhelming majority work 40 hours or more per week. Each has responsibilities, and of those who really care, most have little dispensable time. So it’s important for each of them to set priorities. Here’s how:

— Start with “must do” obligations. List what they are and note the amount of time it takes to get them done. Be specific. Break down the parts. This gives you more flexibility.

— Now list your “want to do” projects, which are generally more exciting. These include things that involve friends and family. Give each “want to do” activity more time.

One of the simplest, but not always the easiest, way to make the most of your time is to know when to say “No.” Which, naturally, is much easier when you already have a list of you day-to-day priorities. So, get yourself organized. Life is so much better when you do.



Relax, take a trip, enjoy!

Baby Boomers vacation
Just the thought of another South Carolina summer wears me out. It may be debatable about what is causing more and more heat year after year, but there is no doubt in my mind that climate change is real.

My husband and I are rejuvenated every summer when we take a short up I-26 to the mountains. Not only do we have fun together, traveling also is healthy — physically and spiritually. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits:

Studies show that people — especially men — are less likely to have a heart attack if they take at least one vacation per year. One nine-year study of 12,000 men found that those who took a well-planned trip were 30 percent less likely to have major heart problems.

Leaving town on a pleasant vacation is also a great way to kick the blues, and women appear to benefit most for this, studies show. There are several ways to fight depression, and travel is one of the most effective. I like to think of the mountains as one of only a few “thin places” on earth. A slow hike up a mountain obviously exercises my heart, and it is at the top where I feel closest to God.

Vacation travel reduces stress on you as well as your mate, not only during the trip, but well after you get back home. Studies of regular travelers show most are less bothered by stress hormones. (But not at airports, I might add.) Other studies show that workers who take pleasant trips have lower rates of absenteeism and burn out, plus higher productivity levels.

Travel is a learning experience, too, which is not only enjoyable but an excellent way to exercise your brain. New cultures, cuisines, sights and sounds combine to keep my memory sharp. How about you?


Do your city a favor: Ride a bike to town

Charleston, S.C. — one of the world’s most popular cities — is a nice place to live, especially if you have good physical health.   A morning stroll along The Battery overlooking Charleston Harbor is delightful, especially during the spring and fall. You are certain to see ships entering and exiting past Fort Sumter to and from the Atlantic Ocean. The sky is typically clear with white clouds billowing in calm winds mostly from the south. The old city sparkles today — generally fit and healthy, always alive and largely well.

It’s a thriving, livable city for good reason. Its people are generally happy and healthy and work hard to keep their historic port city ship-shape, so to speak. But it could be so much better. We have too many cars and trucks constantly breaking the silence and fouling the air. We have few bicycle riders risking life and limb to share the streets, and it doesn’t have to be this way. More bike lanes and a modern, reliable system of public transportation would do wonders.

Cities — like people — must stay active to remain healthy. And fiscally speaking, Charleston appears to be doing just fine. But it’s way past time to make it easier for folks to check their cars at the door. The walking and bike lane on the “new” Ravenel Bridge on the peninsula’s east side is an obvious success, and its use is growing day after day. Having a bike lane from the West Ashley Greenway across the Ashley River is a no-brainer as well. Closing one lane of the Legare Bridge into the city makes a lot of sense to me, but even if the traffic studies prove it will do more harm than good, then why not widen the span instead? If city, state and federal government would provide the seed money, there is no doubt in my mind that the balance could be raised by walkers, bicycle riders and others in very little time. Every one of the 40,000 or more Cooper River Bridge runners would happily contribute at five dollars per year, and friends and advertisers could surely cover the balance.

Each of us needs regular physical activity to help protect ourselves from serious diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. Riding your bicycle regularly is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Cycling is a low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It’s also fun, cheap and good for the environment. Riding to work or to the shops will become routine with convenient bike lanes and parking areas. An estimated one billion Americans already ride bicycles every day — for transportation, recreation and sport.

All is takes is between two and four hours of cycling per week to achieve marked improvement in one’s general health. It’s low impact and less dangerous for strains and muscle injuries that most others forms of exercise.   Cycling uses all of the major muscle groups, and it does not require a whole lot of physical skill. Once you learn, you seldom forget. And you control the intensity.

These are the benefits, according to health experts:

— Increased cardiovascular fitness.

— Increased muscle strength and flexibility.

— Improved joint mobility.

— Decreased stress levels.

— Improved posture and coordination.

— Strengthened bones.

— Decreased body fat levels.

— Prevention or management of disease, including cancer and diabetes.

— Reduced anxiety and depression.

— Weight control.

You get none of these benefits by sitting in traffic waiting for the light to change, a broken down car to be removed from the roadway or the police, ambulance and wrecker to clear a wreck. And the cost and convenience of building bike lanes on roads and bridges are minimal compared to building superhighways to accommodate all of the cars and will only make matters worse in time.

Charleston has some excellent bicycle-advocacy organizations whose members would be happy to join forces with you to achieve the necessary goals. Go on line. Check them out. And get busy. We all could use some help.


Spirituality and Health


Spirituality comes naturally, and it is typically a very healthy activity. If you have found meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in your life, you know what I’m talking about here. Spirituality is available to you through religion, music and art, nature, exercise and possession of a high sense of principle and morality.

Being a spiritual person is the ability to engage in any or all of these activities. It’s the key to health and happiness too. The mind, body and spirit are connected — and when synchronized properly, your overall wellness spikes. But like anything that’s worthwhile in your quest to get healthy and stay that way, being spiritual takes practice.

And you do not have to join a gym to find it. You can be outside or inside to practice spiritual health — anywhere that is quiet and comfortable, a place where prayer and meditation comes easily. Good spiritual health gives you a sense of wellbeing both physically and in your mind. It brings comfort and strength and will power to live you’re your life to the fullest.

How strong is your spiritual health? Do you want to strengthen it? If so, here are some ideas to consider:

— Take some time daily to practice meditation. Get comfortable and sit down in quiet, pleasant surroundings. Cross your legs like a yogi as best you can. Hold your hands palm-side up while resting your arms on your knees. Sit up straight and relax. Simply clear your mind by focusing only on your breathing initially. This should not be difficult. Every time a thought enters your mind, cut it off by returning your focus back to your breathing. Slowly take in a breath and slowly exhale.   Doing this regularly for about 20 minutes will give you a sense of inner peace, comfort, strength, love and connection.

— Do something good for others every day. Say “hello” when you pass a stranger. Hold a door for someone who needs a hand. Smile. These little things are acts of kindness, and they are very easy to do when you stop and think about it.

— Pray. Ask God to help you clear your mind of the senseless clutter that takes up valuable space in a place where goodness needs room to thrive.

— Read a good book about good people doing good things for themselves and for others.

— Learn about yoga and then give it a try.

— Sing if you can. If that’s a problem, take some lessons. It’s never too late to learn how to sing. This will surely help your breathing too.

— Exercise and eat right. Your brain works better when you do.

— Talk to your doctor about the importance of spirituality as a way to deal with stress. Good ones know how important it is for getting healthy and staying that way.

— And always be respectful of others. Practice the Golden Rule.


PERSONAL NOTE: Do you need help with your health? Doctors typically find out what’s wrong when you’re feeling bad, then go about treating your symptoms. They are trained to determine your problem then treat it in some way with drug prescriptions and surgery and the like. They may advise you on how to get healthy. But a doctor’s time is limited. Ultimately, it’s up to you to follow through and make healthy changes to your life.

That’s where a wellness coach comes in. A wellness coach works with you one on one, or sometimes in groups, to understand your problem and determine what’s important to you. They help you develop an action plan and provide accountability to get you started with new habits that will last a lifetime.


It’s OK to Age in Place But Plan Ahead


As members of the Baby Boomer generation enter their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, it may be time to get serious about where they will live comfortably, content and autonomous. One’s dwelling is a very important consideration should be at the top of the list as preventive medicine, exercise and other therapies continue to catch on.
So now is the time for older folks to take a good look around their homes and decide now if remodeling is a wise investment, or if it would be better to move on. Many of us would prefer to “age in place” for a variety of reasons.
Your finances, of course, are a major consideration. Is your house paid for? What is it worth? Can you afford to buy or build a new one? Is moving to a retirement community acceptable?
Or, is it possible to improve on what you already have by installing an elevator, access ramps and wider doors? If your bedroom were upstairs, would it be possible to use it as a guestroom, and move downstairs? If so, consider the size of your “new” first-floor room or rooms.
It’s especially important to upgrade your bathroom with more safety and convenience in mind. Should you add a powder room and a shower? You may want to hire an architect or contractor and develop an affordable plan. The services of a financial advisor should also be given serious attention.
And consider your heating and cooling system. Does it need upgrading, or will installing new insulation do the job? Wise spending today can net long-term future savings. Install a carport now instead of later. Or simply add grab bars to your shower and tub.
Just remember, planning now is a matter of perspective. It never hurts to be prepared. And this includes getting an honest, up-to-date appraisal of your property in case you decide to sell. Those numbers will change with the times, but staying on top of the value of your home is critical when considering your future.
But by all means don’t go overboard. Acting on an extreme resolution — like installing an elevator before you need it — may be over the top. You might be wiser just to know where an elevator shaft could go at this stage of the aging game. So channel irrational fears if need be. Sometimes, just knowing improvements are possible will make life easier.


Think Positive About Aging


Are you worried about the aches and pains of getting old?  If you do, then don’t.  It could make you lose your mind.

Individuals who hold negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new Yale University study.  Figuring out a way to think positively about growing old could be a good way to lower the rate of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the findings.  Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that causes dementia in more than 5 million Americans.  The findings were published online Dec. 7 in the journal of Psychology and Aging.

“We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about aging that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes,” said Becca Levy, associate professor of public health and of psychology. “Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realize that these negative beliefs about aging can be mitigated and positive beliefs about aging can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

Based on MRIs, the researchers found that long-time participants who held more negative beliefs about aging showed a greater decline in the volume of the hippocampus, a part of the brain crucial to memory. Reduced hippocampus volume is an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.

Then researchers used brain autopsies to examine two other indicators of Alzheimer’s disease: Amyloid plaques, which are protein clusters that build up between brain cells; and neurofibrillary tangles, which are twisted strands of protein that build up within brain cells. Participants holding more negative beliefs about aging had a significantly greater number of plaques and tangles. The age stereotypes were measured an average of 28 years before the plaques and tangles.

So, for those who worry about getting up in years, it’s time for an attitude adjustment.  And for those who need help with positive thinking, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about taking care of the problem.

That’s where a trained wellness coach might come in.  Wellness coaches work with doctors and patients on an integrative approach to becoming healthy physically, mentally and spiritually — and staying that way.


Political Correctness Can Be Deadly — For Men

Portrait of a group of male mature friends sitting together on bench by the ocean - Outdoor

Hey guys, do you have any close friends other than your spouse? I mean really close friends — ones you can talk to about personal problems.  It’s been estimated that more than 2.5 million British men (that’s every four men of 10 in the work place) have no out-side-the-home friends they would turn to for help or advice in a crisis, and the problem increases after they reach the age of 55.

British women, however, fare much better — every seven of 10 British women have people they consider close friends in addition to their spouses no matter how old they are.  Could this be a reason women generally live longer than men?

It should be noted here that some studies show Britain is the loneliness capital of the European Union for both men and women — but the trend holds generally throughout the United States as well.

That’s because men are generally out of the habit of striking up new friendships as they age, and healthy support systems for male loneliness are limited primarily to civic organizations, which nowadays are generally no longer for men only.

Could this be a reason men typically die younger than women?

First consider the fact that it has only been since the late-1800s that women started living longer on the average than men.  Prior to then the death rates were about equal, except during times of war.  But among people born after 1900, the death rate of men ages 50 to 70 has doubled that of women of the same ages.

The primary reason for this sharp increase in death rates for men is believed to be the rise in heart disease and stroke in male members of the human species.  That mostly has to do with a man’s tendency to have more body fat than women and less interest in eating right to reduce it.

But there is a very interesting factor to be considered here:  peer pressure.  Since older men tend to have fewer close male friends, there is far less pressure on them to look the part of being a manly man.  Women, on the other hand, compete with each other far more when it comes to looks.

So, fellows, you might want to change your attitudes about social relationships, especially in this age of extreme political correctness.  Having fewer and fewer men’s-only get-togethers as you age is a matter life and death.


Do Yourself a Favor: Practice Gratitude


Are you a happy person? If so, beyond any doubt, you should be extremely grateful. Are you a grateful person? If so, you should be extremely happy. You can’t have one without the other.

Write this down: “Happy = Grateful, and vice versa.” Stick it on your refrigerator, in your journal, at the top of your to-do list. Share this with your spouse, your children, close friends. It’s one of the most important things to remember upon starting your day.  It’s precisely what Thanksgiving is all about, so when you celebrate the holiday, include it in when you say grace. If you are not the one who is asked to bless the turkey (or fish or tofu or whatever), offer it up as an addendum.

Indeed, being thankful is critical for good health and general well being. It also clears the mind of clutter, tamps down the ego, relaxes the body, reduces panic, opens hearts to the good things in life and helps creativity.

People are not born to be grateful. Those of you who have children are quite aware of this. It’s a learned skill that is well worth developing. “Developing,” of course, means, “practicing.”

So try each day to be grateful. Once you get good at it, wonderful things happen. Your problems are easier to define when you can see both sides of various issues. And once defined, problems can be solved. Besides, if you make a conscious effort to be thankful for the good things you have, you won’t be driven to want more, more, more — which is a never-ending trap well worth avoiding.

And, perhaps most important, being grateful strengthens your relationships not only with other people but also with your own body. The power of positive thinking is incredibly strong.  Life changing. Miraculous. The most important key to unlocking happiness, thank Goodness!


Hooked on High Tech


Addictions are ubiquitous.  They’re everywhere.  How many drugs have you ingested today?  Aspirin? Aleve? Ambien? Lipitor? Wellbutrin?

What happens when you don’t take your drugs?  Dizzy? Achy? Nervous? Irritable? Sleepless?

Are you hooked on cigarettes? Alcohol? Gambling? Sex?

Anything you do in excess is addictive.  It’s a condition that typically starts out pleasurable but eventually becomes compulsive and interferes with responsibilities. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

Addictions can be physical — a state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect, otherwise known as a tolerance. Another form of physical addiction is overreaction by the brain to drugs.  Alcoholism and cigarettes immediately come to mind.  Some are more mental, which can lead to physical problems.

In fact you may be addicted to what you are doing right now. Abuse of the Internet and social media is rampant. People spend enormous amounts of time and energy on line. This becomes extremely problematical when the user’s ego is involved. Victims want to present themselves only in a good light, so much so that when a lousy photo or comment is made among “friends,” they become entrapped in an extremely disappointing virtual world.

Perhaps even worse are those who undergo withdrawal symptoms when they can’t get on line.  This is called “disconnect anxiety.” They become tense, irritable, isolated, disorientated, angry etc.  As more and more social media outlets are made available, the more disconnected the sufferer feels.

Are you addicted to anything?  Do you need help? If so, tell your doctor about it. Help is available. All you have to do is ask.