There’s an old saying that everyone knows that says bitterness is like a poison you take hoping it kills the other person. In our despair, anger and bitterness can feel like relief. It gives us a place to put all our feelings and emotions over something that has happened to us, when there might otherwise be nowhere, and these days it feels like there is plenty to be angry about. Continue reading
This week I met with a number of teachers and administrators at a school in Los Angeles to talk about mindfulness for students. I had reached out to the school after seeing a presentation that said stress was the number one concern of students, parents and teachers. Sadly this didn’t surprise me as I know it to be the case for many students, at many schools, and in fact for many parents (myself included). Continue reading
The Europeans have it all figured out. At the first sign of any aches they don’t take to bed with a bottle of Aleve. No, they head for the thermae of Italy, the baden of Germany, the baths of England, and station thermales of France The treatments at these detox meccas include water (fresh and sea) and mud therapies that promise freedom from pain — not to mention a cleaner liver. And the concept goes back millennia. After all, Spa is not an acronym for Super Place for Aerobics. Rather, it is named after the town in Belgium favored by Peter the Great. (Yes, that Peter the Great!). They are based, instead, on the restorative and healing powers of thermal and mineral springs and imbibing waters that come directly from those sources.
Alas, we in America may be hard pressed to find these types of cures closer to home as there are only a handful of natural hot springs indigenous to this country. And, truth be told, most people don’t even know they exist. Just ask someone in your office to name a liquid that makes you feel really good. I doubt hot, bubbling water would be the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, make mine a kale and celery smoothie — and a Dirty Margarita for The Lawyer.
Does this mean, though, that we have to suffer such inflammatory ailments as arthritis in silence? After all, about 50 million Americans have been diagnosed with one of the seven common forms of Arthritis. Yes, I am one of them. But limited space will not allow me to regale you with stories about my recent hip replacement! (Call me!) Curative spas aside, it is important, therefore, for patients and care givers to understand the potential impact of the disease and how best to manage it. It can be a critical part of making the decisions to make good on your intent to live a healthier lifestyle that is Better Than Before.
Let’s start with learning a little more about the illness itself. For this I turned to Phyllis Crockett, a specialty-trained pharmacist in the Accredo Rheumatoid Arthritis and Inflammatory Disease TRC.
“Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions,” she says. “Although common belief is that arthritis is a condition affecting the elderly, two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children. Also, arthritis affects people of all ethnicities.”
According to Crockett the vast majority of sufferers, about 27 million Americans, have what I have, Osteoarthritis (OA), which is characterized by a breakdown of joint cartridge. A vast majority of OA patients are elderly. (But it could be genetic, and the result of what sets in after you’ve sustained an injury! Hellooo!!)
The rest of arthritis sufferers have the more severe form: Rheumatoid arthritis. “Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is characterized by inflammation of the membranes lining the joint. Although it can strike at any age, women are typically diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 60, while male patients are usually older. There are about 1.5 million affected individuals in the United States. Finally, Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children ages 16 and younger.”
The disease takes a heavy toll. “Each year, arthritis accounts for 44 million outpatient visits and over 900,000 hospitalizations. In fact, it’s the leading cause of disability in the United States and is a more frequent cause of activity limitations than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. By some estimates, 67 million Americans will have arthritis by 2030.”
So what do we do?
“Managing the disease so that patients can continue to live normal lives is important,” Crockett continues. “Each patient is different and a physician can help determine the best treatment plan, including pain management and managing the symptoms of arthritis.”
She shared with me some tips that she offers her patients, starting with exercise. “It is a valuable tool in the fight against arthritis. OA and RA patients particularly can benefit from both endurance and resistance training.”
Maintaining a healthy weight and protecting against joint injury can help prevent OA. “Every pound of weight lost reduces the pressure on each knee by 4 pounds. Even a small weight loss can be a big help in fighting it.”
Apart from lifestyle modifications, there are also many drug therapies available for arthritis patients—and doctors and specialist pharmacists can help identify the best one for you.
For patients who already are on medication to treat the condition, adherence – taking medications as prescribed – is critical to healthier outcomes.
“But do not self-medicate!” she cautions: “Combining over-the-counter medications with prescription medications can be risky, and can cause side effects such as an increase in GI irritation or a GI bleed. And don’t adjust doses or making changes to the medication regimen without checking with your health care team.”
“Watch for drug interactions: Some common medications like acetaminophen can have a drug-drug interaction with arthritis medications. Limit intake and remember that acetaminophen is often a component in common sinus, cough/cold and pain medications.”
Opt for an anti-inflammatory regimen like the Mediterranean diet – you know the drill, easy on the acidic foods like sugar, white flours, and alcohol, and sticking with leafy greens, whole grains, and lean proteins. “But some foods and beverages can block the effects of arthritis medications,” Crockett concludes. “These include grapefruit, apple and orange juice as well as milk and yogurt. Wait at least four hours after taking medications. Exact times can vary depending on the disease and the treatment. Check with a trained clinician.”
I can assure you from very painful, personal experience that if arthritis does go too far, surgery may be the only option. So if your intent is to help avoid – or at the very least, prolong – this possible outcome, be aware that lifestyle modification and medication may be the answer.
After being given an unnecessary hysterectomy at the age of 42, Michelle King Robson saw a dramatic shift in her health. She went into menopause overnight, gained weight, experienced hot flashes, joint pain and memory loss. “I got so sick that I didn’t want to live anymore,” she recalls of the experience. Her struggles with the procedure and the long road to recovery that followed, lead her to create her website EmpowHER.com.
Michelle recently sat down with Deepak Chopra to have a discussion on her experience as part of the One World series on NEWSWIRE.FM.
As Michelle struggled through recovery, she searched for someone who had been through something similar. After visiting hundreds of websites and reaching out to doctors across the country, she couldn’t find a single person who could tell her what to expect, recommend a course of action or even give her any words of encouragement. “I got sick, I got well, and then I got mad and that’s when I decided to start a company.” Michelle explains. EmpowHER was created to ensure that no woman has to go through the struggles that Michelle went through around her health.
“What happened with me was I didn’t advocate for myself, and most women don’t. We advocate for everybody else…but we don’t do it for ourselves.” She told Deepak for the One World episode. EmpowHER allows women to not only find support when they are dealing with a variety of health challenges; but also helps women (and men alike) take control of their health with condition-specific medical information and access to a dynamic community.
EmpowHER offers resources to women around what questions they should be asking of their healthcare providers and what things they can be doing to advocate for their health. “I wanted to make sure women have valuable information and support because that’s what I was lacking.” This is how EmpowHER’s 24-hour promise was born. Anyone can log into the site, ask a question and they are guaranteed a FREE answer within 24 hours. In this way, Michelle can ensure that no one gets left behind. “We all deserve answers, validation and support around our health.”
As caregivers in most societies, women are taught to put their own wellbeing last. With EmpowHER, Michelle seeks to turn this trend on its head. “It’s ok for you to be first in your life. Because if you’re not first guess what happens? The whole family suffers.” Rather than becoming bitter as a result of her own experiences, Michelle has created the support system and tools she wishes she had. EmpowHER brings credible health information and women together in a safe trusted community. “When you have information, you have the power to change outcomes in your life and every life you touch.”
Since establishing EmpowHER, Michelle has become a nationally-recognized women’s health and wellness advocate spending her time speaking before women’s groups, health care organizations, political leaders, regulatory bodies and the media about women’s health and the importance of women advocating for themselves and their loved ones.
You can see Deepak’s whole conversation with Michelle at NEWSWIRE.FM
Learn more about Michelle and EmpowHER.com: http://www.empowher.com/michelle
Download Michelle’s Free HER Health Toolkit: http://www.empowher.com/toolkit
April showers bring May flowers – so the idiom goes, but who talks about how hard those April showers can be to get through? There are weeks during the year when it feels like the flood tides are rising and all you can do is let go into the current. Sometimes those weeks turn into months or longer, and that kind of depression takes different shapes in every person. However, there’s hope. There is a crazy idea that no matter what storms we whether there will be sunshine on the other side, and if we can make it there we’ll be better people for it. There’s hope and optimism that hard times lead to better things. Hope that our trials and tribulations will pay out in positive dividends. We have to believe that to keep going. At Intent we encourage that hope because we believe it to be absolutely true. It turns out we aren’t the only ones – check out these hopeful quotes below and spread them to anyone that could use a little joy.
A coaching client of mine lost her job – for the second time this year. Downsizing. Company problems. None of it had to do with her performance – which was exceptional. She received a glowing letter of recommendation from her CEO to help her land her next job. She asked, “Why is the world so against me? Why do bad things always happen to me?”
We all think this from time to time. We have great plans. They don’t work out. Someone we care about leaves. The person we want to spend time with can’t or won’t spend time with us. A storm damages our house, car or something that we value. Our company fails. We go bankrupt. We think the world has it out for us.
Then we look to see if we have been good – because, you know, it isn’t right or fair that bad things happen to good people. We feel that if we change, and become better, our lives will improve. Then another difficult life event happens and we are back to being depressed, challenged and upset. We, like my client, think the world has it out for us.
I used to think this when things until I heard something that changed my perspective. I was listening to a podcast about earthquakes. (Bear with me, this will make sense in a minute.) In the podcast, they were explaining why earthquakes happen – the movement of the tectonic plates deep within the earth. The earth is alive – the plates within the Earth are always moving. In short, the Earth does what is true to its nature – it brings the materials deep from the earth to the surface to regenerate and recharge itself. It isn’t spiteful or against us. It isn’t personal. Though we may be affected by an earthquake, it isn’t against us.
This helped me better understand life – it is as it is. We can choose to be disappointed, depressed, upset, bitter and hateful for what “happens to us” or we can see that life happens – it isn’t spiteful and the world isn’t against us. When we realize this, we can now focus our energy not to fight with it, feel victimized or be upset.
How can we remember to see that the world isn’t against us? Consider these:
- Remember: The only thing I can control is my response. We are small players in a big universe. We can’t control many of the things that affect our planet, country, state, neighborhood, house, family, work and health. We can, however, choose to show up present to each moment to see and understand what life is sharing with us – then choose the best response in the next moment, using all that we know. We can only control our response to the events of our lives – our thoughts, feelings and actions from the events; we can’t control the events.
- Ask: What are two opportunities that can come from this? Getting out of victim thinking and into an opportunity mindset is the key to thriving in our big wild world. By changing our focus from what is not right to seeing opportunities, we shift our energy from negative/victim (catabolic) to optimistic/opportunistic (anabolic). In this way, we can shift our energy from lack to one of power that can invent, create, solve, anticipate and appreciate.
- Ask: How will this help me show up bigger, truer, stronger, or more capable? Developing the ability to see opportunities, regardless of what life sends us, enables us to handle the tough events in life with grace, optimism and courage; we see them as the opportunity to be better. I think we are hardwired to struggle – meaning we have the built-in capacity to be resilient and tenacious. This enables us to go head-to-head with the tough times to use them to become more aware of how capable we truly are.
Life is as it is. It doesn’t pick a fight with us; it isn’t against us. It delivers what it delivers. Our days would be happier if we could learn to see life as a friend and a teacher. It is a friend when it sends us beautiful days, success and opportunity; it is a teacher when it sends us pain, challenge and struggle. Both are for us. Both benefit us. We can use both to show the world how strong, capable, courageous and amazing we can be.
Anytime someone uses the world “cancer,” stomachs drop and brows furrow. When the word breast cancer is uttered, minds start racing with worries about the worst-case scenario. Leaving the doctor’s office after being diagnosed with breast cancer is one of the hardest parts, as you are literally taking your first steps toward treatment. Breathe — it’s going to be okay.
Get to Know What You’re Dealing With
If you need to break out a recording device to remember everything the doctor said, then do it. Take time out to research all the terms that he or she used. Research the different stages and start finding answers to common questions so you can be better informed. Once you know the basics, you can start asking your doctor the more advanced questions about the cancer and about your treatment.
Start Building Your Support System
Moving forward, you’re going to want a two-tier support system. The first tier should be a significant other or a parent who can hold your hand the entire time and stand next to you during doctor’s visits. The job of this person isn’t easy; they’ll know everything about breast cancer and all of your specific treatments, and they’ll be the second opinion you seek when you make the hard decisions. They’ll also need to be a hand to hold and shoulder to cry on.
The second tier is made up of your friends and family, who will drop by to brighten your day and ask about your well-being. They’ll bring books to read while you recover, gossip to keep you in the loop, and jokes to make you laugh. They’re like breaths of fresh air in a world of medical jargon and stuffy hospitals.
This is actually one of the hardest steps as you start telling those who are close to you about your breast cancer. It starts to feel real, and you have to say it out loud over and over again.
Find Your Voice and Start Asking Questions
Some doctors and hospitals make a patient feel rushed, especially if the cancer seems minor and easy to treat. This might be good news for you, as you’re not a case that the staff is highly worried about, but it can make a patient feel like their not valued or important.
Don’t let the doctor or nurse leave until you have every possible question and concern addressed. You’re already going through a difficult time in your life; you don’t want to be left in the dark in regard to your treatment plan. Ask what test results mean, look at your chart, and have the doctor give explanations of the treatment process.
One of the first things you should do after you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer is to treat yourself to cupcakes, that purse you’ve had an eye on, a manicure, or whatever else makes you feel good about yourself. The road ahead won’t be easy, so take a little time to make yourself feel good before you have to face it.
Fighting cancer isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t beat it. Use it to build strength, not weakness.
I remember being told to be kind as a kid, primarily as it related to how I treated any of my five siblings. I was thinking about this again this week while watching how little kindness there seems to be in the news. Between political battles of ideology, fighting for land, arguing over resources and fighting over egos, we have forgotten how to be kind. “Be kind for everyone you meet is fight a hard battle,” is a quote attributed to Plato. Regardless who said it, its message rings true now more then ever. What would it take for us to be more intentionally kind? And, how would our world change we did?
To me, the word Namaste says it all – “may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you.” May whatever is great in me focus on seeing the greatness in you – even if I don’t know you. And if I did, I would be kinder. If I did, I would be more generous, more loving and more forgiving. I would see the greatness in you, trying to express your inner divinity. “We must find out for ourself that inside us is a god or goddess in embryo that wants to be born so we can express our divinity,” says Deepak Chopra in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.
Here is an exercise I regularly use for myself and as a challenge I share with my audiences. The next time you are on the highway and someone cuts you off, or you are in line and someone steps ahead of you, how will you make a point of seeing their greatness and their divinity instead of feeling offended? How will you see them as related to you, part of you and part of a greater plan? It isn’t easy because we have been trained to focus on ourselves more than on others. We feel violated, slighted or insulted. But it doesn’t have to be this way – our reaction to this is our choice. As we can choose to be unkind, we could also choose to be kind.
Changing a habit takes intention. To change a habit of focusing first on us takes the intention of wanting it to be different and committing to make the change. The starting point is awareness. We have to be able to see when we are kind and not kind. We have to be present enough to see ourselves in action – to notice our triggers and be aware of our responses. Only then will we be able to stop the “go-to” reaction of selfishness and retaliation, and instead see that we have a choice. That choice could include kindness. In the example of the car cutting you off on the highway, it could mean not blaring the horn and passing a gesture, but instead slowing down, letting the other car in and be entirely unaffected by the event. This is a choice.
The most amazing thing about being kind, is the greatest benefit is not for the other person; it is actually for you. The more unkind we are, the more damage we inflict on ourselves. I was coaching a client this week who is getting ready to leave an employer for some unfair and unprofessional things the employer did. This employee has the ability to “stick it” to his employer; be upset, carry a grudge and bad-mouth his employer. Or, he can realize that in a win-win termination solution, the employee can choose to not be at the effect of the situation, but actually choose to show up kinder, more aware and more committed to greatness. He can choose a mutually beneficial response that treats both sides kindly and professionally. He took the higher ground. His mood, health and spirit were left intact from the event. Kindness, it does a body good.
In what ways can you be more intentionally kind today, this week and this month? Feel the effects of it. See the effects of it. Though kindness does a body good, it also can do a planet good. Choose kindness.
One of my brothers still lives on Cape Cod, the place where my 5 siblings and I grew up. This is noteworthy for two reasons – first, he is a scenic photographer – he captures amazing shots of nature; second, Cape Cod and New England has had snowstorm after snowstorm this winter. This has created one of his latest works – the amazing flowering cherry tree in his front yard in each of the four seasons. Amazing flowers in spring, great dense green leaves in summer, amazing fiery reds and orange foliage in fall and the bare brown trunk blanketed under epic snow in winter. This bold tree is resilient; it shows up powerfully in each season. It inspires my intention to be more resilient.
The lesson from the cherry tree is that we too are capable of shining no matter what happens. We are resilient to handle the seasons – and by seasons I mean the constant changes in our lives. We meet sunny days where things are going our way – we flower, we shine. We meet stormy days that seem unfair, unrelenting and scary. When we are intentional and determined about connecting to our inner greatness and strength – to the power deep in us – we find we have access to amazing resilience. This helps us show up strong and committed to life, regardless what comes our way.
It still amazes me that this tree can survive in temperatures from minus 10 to nearly 100 degrees. It stands there and faces what comes, doing what it does best – living its truest self. It doesn’t lament the rains or wind. It doesn’t give up when it snows. It doesn’t wish that its leaves would remain all year – it allows them to change color and sends them off to make room for new ones. It partners with life; it allows life.
We however, like to plan and control everything in life. And when things don’t go according to plan, we find fault. We get angry. We blame. We quit. We feel at the affect of our world – at odds with it.
Or, we could learn from this cherry tree. We could see that we have the strength and resilience to see the blessing in every event, and not to fight with life but live it as it is delivered. “Anyone can be cooperative, patient and understanding when things are going well and life is good. But it is the noble man or woman who can behave with grace and compassion, and even kindness, when times are bad,” shares Garr Reynolds, blogger of Presentation Zen. My intention is to be noble and act with grace, compassion and kindness regardless of what happens in life.
Resilience, or grit, is what enables us to show up committed to life when life sends snowstorm after snowstorm. Resilience is what enables us to show up big to life when our idea didn’t work, the relationship failed, or the job was lost. As the great Japanese proverb says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” We can choose to bounce back – we can choose to see what was, understand it, learn from it and get back into life’s driver’s seat. We, like the flowering cherry in my brother’s front yard, can just keep on keepin’ on. Resilient. Strong. Committed. Determined. Intentional. Living our greatness and ready for the next moment of life – whatever that might look like.
Find your resilience role model – nature, a pet or even a person. Mine is this amazing cherry tree. Let it share its wisdom with you; learn from it and let it inspire you to be intentional and purposeful about living powerfully, positively and resiliently no matter what comes your way.
I live in New York City which has been smacked with the worst winter in over three decades. However, if you reside in one of the few areas left that hasn’t been hit with record cold or sleet and snow –yes, I’m talking about you L.A. and Honolulu — no need to read any further. Then again, no matter which part of the country you happen to call home, you are most likely suffering from SAD, the inevitable seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression or lack-of-daylight blues. So it’s high time for some much-needed advice to help uplift our spirits. For this, I turned to Colin Christopher, a clinical hypnotherapist and author of the bestselling book, Success Through Manipulation: Subconscious Reactions That Will Make or Break You. Christopher, you see, contends that whether you are simply fed up with slogging through yet another round of slush, or just feeling down from time to time, there are ways to find positives to help you become Better Than Before — before springtime.
After all, even bears learn to cope with the cold — and so can we. To that end, here are Christopher’s tried and true techniques that work to reprogram our minds:
• Change the colors of your environment: Color plays a huge role in setting the mood. This time of year, because of a lack of sunlight, it’s best to surround yourself with vibrant bold colors that will lift your spirit and energize you. Think bright reds, oranges and yellows. Try to avoid grays, light blues and white. This can be as easy as painting a bright accent to a bedroom wall to adding small odds and ends that enhance your office or any other space.
• Pump up the Music: The sounds we hear have a direct correlation to how we feel. Athletes typically listen to high energy music to get them ready to compete, just like many people listen to soothing soft music to get them ready for bed. To boost your mood, listen to music that gets you moving and makes you feel good.
• Drink more water: Dehydration increases blood pressure which in turn increases stress and can quickly bring down your mood. Being hydrated is not only good for your overall health, but even one eight-ounce glass can quickly help raise your spirits.
• Think of happier times: Remembering a happy memory for 10-30 seconds can get you out of a rut. Maybe it’s when you got married or held your child for the first time, or something even simpler like a concert you went to or barbequing with friends and family.
• Look up: It sounds simple, but it works. Sit up or stand straight and lift your chin directly towards the ceiling, sky or other high point. This physical movement gives you clarity of thought and automatically makes you feel good. Enhance this simple technique by inhaling deeply from your diaphragm (stomach area), holding for three seconds and exhaling slowly through your lips and dropping your shoulders as you breathe out. Try reciting a statement like “I feel good” or “I feel strong and confident” as you exhale.
• Use your brain: If spending more time indoors, become mentally engaged in an activity. It can be something as simple as a crossword puzzle or board game. The key is mental stimulation in some capacity.
As they say, the, er, snow must go on, so it’s essential to find ways to keep your spirit alive through it all. Better Than Before believes that while ‘stuff’ happens in life, some of it, like the weather, is entirely out of our control. But if there is something we can do about it, we owe it to ourselves to try. The good news is that this week it’s supposed to be in the mid-forties around here. A veritable heat wave! Now we just have to make sure we can still fit into our bathing suits after all those hot chocolates and chicken pot pies.