“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”
“I am so f*****g stressed out and sick of my pathetic life. Sam is having a bad day, and I have been trying to get ahold of my son and daughter, but of course, no one answers my plea for help. I got his oxygen back up to ninety-seven. It was eighty this morning, and he was coherent. I really need a break—a few hours for just me, but that will never happen. This is not how I envisioned our retirement—sitting here, crying and feeling sorry for myself. I’m not even sure that is allowed. Please help me!”
Rita, a family caregiver, is experiencing major stress.
What can she do?
Research on the word “stress” yields 1,130,000,000 results.
Yes, over 1 billion searches at any given time on the word stress.
People worldwide are looking for answers to managing the emotional and physical strain of everyday living, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Family caregivers are especially affected due to being “on-call” 24/7 when caring for a loved one.
What Is a Caregiver and Who Are They?
According to Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), a caregiver is an unpaid individual (for example, a spouse, a partner, or others) that helps with personal activities of daily living (ADLs) such as eating, bathing, toileting, dressing, and medical tasks.
Caregivers range in age from 18 and older. However, Boomers (born 1946-1964 and are now 55-75 years of age) or 39% provide the largest care percentage.
The percentage of women providing care ranges from 53-68%, according to the FCA.
The economic value of unpaid labor has steadily increased over the last decade, and in 2013 at $470 billion, the value of unpaid caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care.
According to AARP Caregiving in U.S. 2020 Research Report, today, 1 in 5 Americans (21.3 percent) are caregivers who provided care to an adult or child with special needs at some time in the past 12 months.
On a personal note, I, too was a caregiver to my dear husband for more than three years, including hospice at home.
What Is Caregiver Stress and Who Gets It?
Everyone undergoes stress. The human body is designed to produce mental and physical responses to experiences or challenges (stressors) you have.
But caregivers report much higher stress levels than people who are not caregivers because they have little if any time for self-care, and consequently, they burn out.
As to who gets caregiver stress, this could be anyone.
However, more women caregivers say they have high-stress levels and related health problems than men caregivers.
What Are the Signs of Caregiver Stress?
Anxiety or feeling frustrated and angry one minute and helpless the next is one sign of caregiver stress. But there are many others:
Changes in eating habits
Headaches or body aches
Drinking or smoking
*Talk to your doctor about prolonged health issues as they can increase your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis.
Three Secrets to Relieve Caregiver Stress
Long-term caregiver stress can lead to serious health problems, including early death.
What Can You Do?
Secret No.1: Seek Respite Care and Support
I cared for my husband 24/7 for three years, including Hospice at Home. But I never asked for help outside of the required services.
I was so concerned that my husband should always be treated with dignity and respect that I barely let anyone touch him, other than the medical professionals.
And I wore myself out.
Please, do not make my mistake.
Ask for and accept help.
The word respite means: “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.”
—Oxford English Dictionary
Respite care can provide short-term relief from the day-to-day challenges you face.
You can request respite care for an afternoon, a few days, or weeks.
Respite care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center.
However, respite does not have to be formal but take many forms:
Asking a family member or friend to sit with your loved one for a few hours
Hiring a local daycare facility for several days’ care*
Asking a church member or someone from your community organization (volunteer) to sit with your loved one for a few hours
*Contact your local Area Agency on Aging organization for assistance with planning.
I joined an online support group for caregivers on Facebook, which was excellent to pick up helpful caregiver tips. We also shared stories and generally supported each other as we faced the same challenges.
Secret No. 2: Accept Your Limitations
Caregiving is hard work.
And some days, you will feel helpless because of your inability to ease the suffering or change your loved one’s circumstances.
The dangers of prolonged feelings of helplessness include:
Loss of self-confidence, which can lead to you giving up
Stress, which can cause headaches, stomachaches, high blood pressure, anxiety, ulcers, and heart attacks
Depression, which can lead to self-destructive behaviors, such as drugs, drinking, overeating, and weight gain
Aggression, which can result in violence toward another person
So, you must be mindful of your limitations so as not to become hopelessly discouraged.
You can’t do it all.
In researching this article, I came across this quote:
“Whether we like it or not, each of us is constrained by limits on what we can do and feel. To ignore these limits leads to denial and eventually to failure. To achieve excellence, we must first understand the reality of the every day, with all its demands and potential frustrations.”
—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life
The first step to accepting your limitations is to ask for help, as discussed above in Secret #1: Seek Respite Care and Support.
Accept your limitations and find joy in helping your loved one within those limits.
Secret No. 3: Attend to Your Own Physical and Mental Health
Activity is needed.
Health professionals generally recognize that remaining physically and mentally active is important for physical and mental health.
Anyone whose health requires movement but who sits around regularly is going to become quite depressed.
The many benefits touted by regular exercise proponents include improved conditions of the heart and lungs, and other organs.
The oxygen that is delivered to the body cells through physical exercise improves circulation and overall health.
I know it can be tough when caring full time for a loved one, but devote a set amount of time each day to exercise, preferably at the same time every day. You don’t need a gym.
A few ideas:
Gardening can also help
*Be sure to check with your doctor before engaging in strenuous activities.
Or, find a YouTube video that’s fun.
I follow along daily with two different line dancing exercise routines on YouTube.
According to Mayo Clinic, there is no question that regular exercise and physical activity can:
Give you an emotional lift
Improve your mood
Promote better sleep
Protect your joints
Prevent bladder control problems
Ward off memory loss
Keep your weight under control
Your mental health is just as important as physical health.
You can start with getting enough sleep, as getting too little can make it difficult to make decisions.
But mental well-being is having peace of mind, contentment, happiness, and joy.
Loneliness can harm your mental health.
Ideas to protect your mental well-being:
Connect with other people:
Join a book club
Get involved in community activities
Take a class
Adopt an animal
Practice forgiveness and acceptance
Meditate and pray
These practices support mental health and help manage stress.
There’s a myth that caregiving is depressing and hard work.
The fact: Caregiving can bring joy and be very rewarding. I wouldn’t change my experiences caring for my husband full-time. I had those precious last days with him that I’ll always treasure in my heart.
I’m grateful that I had the strength to care for him myself, including hospice at home. If I could do it all over again, minus the awful pain my dear husband suffered, I’d gladly do so to have him with me.
Caregiver stress can be brutal and debilitating.
But if you follow these Three Secrets to Reduce Caregiver Stress: Seek Respite Care and Support, Accept Your limitations, and Attend to Your Own Physical and Mental Health, you’ll find the rewards of caregiving far outweigh the pain.
You’ll discover your caregiving days less stressful and more joyful.
“Yoga is invigoration in relaxation. Freedom in routine. Confidence through self-control. The energy within and energy without.”
—Seattle Yoga News
Some of the best basketball players in the NBA today are the biggest proponents of using Yoga to improve the game.
LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neil, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Love, and Blake Griffin, to name a few of the NBA stars that love Yoga.
Players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) also use Yoga’s fluidity to recharge their energy.
Imagine—a merger of basketball and Yoga.
Who would have thought?
Yet, it’s true!
Whether you’re 25 or 70, men and women who want to gain mastery over their health and vitality turn to basketball and Yoga.
You’ll find numerous YouTube videos demonstrating Yoga for basketball players.
Health Benefits of Basketball
Basketball is a fun sport that adults of all ages can enjoy, and the health benefits are many:
Burn calories (weight management)
Build endurance and increase energy levels
Improve balance, coordination, and agility
Develop concentration and self-discipline
Build up muscle tone and strength
Getting your heart rate up and using all major muscle groups during basketball drills offers a perfect fitness combination.
When you practice favorite moves for basketball players during your exercise routine, your brain will release “feel good” hormones, such as dopamine and endorphins, and improve stress.
A Yoga Story From the WNBA
Have you heard of Bridget Pettis, retired Assistant Coach for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team Chicago Sky?
Nor had I before researching this article.
Pettis is a native of East Chicago and Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame member that said of her role in sports history, “It was humbling to be part of the beginning of the WNBA and helping make it the greatest stage for women’s professional basketball.”
Bridget Pettis played in eight WNBA seasons, was a Mercury Assistant Coach from 2006-2009, and Director of Basketball Operations from 2010-2013.
Pettis expressed that though she experienced many successes during her career, in 2008, she “experienced a ‘disconnection’ within herself as she struggled to make sense of life.”
It was during this time of detachment that she discovered Yoga.
Pettis found Yoga as a way to “translate her anxiety to calm and stillness.”
Bridget Pettis found her peace.
She credits her training as a WNBA player and Ashtanga yogi as preparation for the stage in her career as an Assistant Coach, which shaped her life.
For Coach Pettis, there is no separating the two worlds of basketball and Yoga.
Pettis retired from the WNBA in 2019.
Combine Yoga Moves with Basketball
Combine basketball drills and Yoga moves to give you a lean, flexible, heart-healthy, and super-fit body.
Yoga is the Sanskrit word for union.
Yoga is both spiritual and physical.
Yoga uses breathing techniques, exercises, and meditation to help improve health and happiness.
A person doing Yoga will move from one posture to another.
Although not considered aerobic exercise, some research finds it can be just as good as aerobic exercise for improving health.
7 Top Benefits of Restorative (Gentle) Yoga
Improves quality of life
Promotes sleep quality
Reduces chronic pain
Practice Basketball at Home
You don’t need a gym or a wide-open space to practice basketball drills.
You can do great basketball drills at Home in your driveway or garage.
You can even do drills from inside your house.
Around the World
Sit-up to toes
Yoga to Lose Weight
Active, intense Yoga styles help you burn the most calories, which may help prevent weight gain.
The “Big Three” for Weight Loss:
Ashtanga Bikram Vinyasa
These Big Three styles of “power” Yoga are challenging and intense; energetic, synchronizing breath with movements.
While restorative or gentle Yoga isn’t an exceedingly physical type of Yoga, it still helps in weight loss.
One study found that restorative Yoga effectively helped overweight women lose weight, including abdominal fat.
Ordinary health-conscious women of all ages are amazed at the positive overall results to their physical and mental well-being when they use basketball and Yoga.
Sixty-three-year-old Sara K. couldn’t believe how combining basketball and Yoga helped her have more energy after a long day at the office:
“My usual routine after arriving home from work was to flop in the lounge chair and put my feet up. I wanted to put a sign on my chest that read, ‘Do Not Disturb.’ But now, I grab my basketball after changing clothes, sprint to the driveway, and practice dribbles for about 30 minutes. Me! At my age!! But I’ve never had so much fun! After my basketball ‘workout,’ I get my Yoga mat. I can target all of the areas I just used and stretch all of the muscles I just worked out—this aids in bringing my heart rate back down. Then, I shower and am ready for dinner. I feel relaxed but not tired. I have so much energy that I usually put in another two or three hours at my computer before bed. And I feel great!”
Barbara H. is also having a blast with basketball and Yoga:
“To say my job is stressful is an understatement. As a woman and newly appointed V.P., I get it from all sides. I have to put in the requisite 60-hour workweek and manage a household with a husband and three kids. How do you spell e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-o-n?! Enter basketball. This everyday routine has been a lifesaver—literally. The pattern my family has set of practicing basketball drills offers something for my entire family. My husband, the kids, and I do basketball drills and practice hoops in the driveway. And because I’m such a good sport, from time to time, my husband (but not the kids!) joins me on the Yoga mat! How cool is that?Now we have something the entire family can enjoy. And I get to do something that not only energizes me at the end of an exhausting day but supports me mentally as well. I feel good!”
If you’re looking for fast, easy, and lasting ways to improve your health, Ladies, join the Yoga-hybrid fitness craze.
Combine the benefits of basketball drills and Yoga moves to help you build excellent strength, flexibility, and overall health.
Don’t put off your decision to have a healthy mind and body one more day!!
Why not start today?!
“Yoga is the fountain of youth. You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.”
“We must not constantly talk about tackling obesity and warning people about the negative consequences of obesity. Instead, we must be positive—positive about the fun and benefits to be had from healthy living, trying to get rid of people’s excuses for being obese by tackling the issue in a positive way.”
“It is not pleasant when you have to listen to snide and unkind remarks about your appearance. People think that you are a lazy person. They do not realize that obesity can have many causes.
“I believe in my case, the problem could partially be due to hereditary factors, since most in my family have a weight problem.”
Agnes has a point.
There are many reasons why some people gain weight.
Often, obesity results from inherited factors, combined with the environment and personal eating habits, and inactivity.
But all is not lost.
You can win the war against obesity if you so desire.
In this article, I discuss:
Prevention (in three steps + strategies for reaching your wellness goals)
How to Know If You’re Obese
According to the Mayo Clinic, you’re obese if you have a body mass index (BMI) over 30.
To figure out your BMI, multiply your weight in pounds by 705, divide the result by your height in inches, then divide that by your height in inches again. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and are six feet tall, your BMI is 27 (200×705÷72÷72=27).
Or you can divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.
But you’ll find an excellent tool on Calculator.net where you plug in your age, gender, height, and weight and get instant results of your BMI and how much weight you should lose, if any, to be within a healthy range. https://www.calculator.net
Perhaps you’ll want to see a doctor for suggestions or confirmation of your status.
There’s a lot of research on human genes and obesity.
Many experts call obesity a disease, say it is in the genes, is inherited, and that the body has a set point for a weight that may destine you to fatness.
But not all scientists agree on the theories of obesity.
According to one source:
“Sophisticated techniques are being used to identify genes that predispose people to weight gain and diseases like diabetes. In scientific parlance, 25 percent to 40 percent of the variability in population body weight can be explained by genes.
“But still 60 percent or more of the influence can be attributed to environment.”
In other words, a significant factor in obesity is still a person’s lifestyle.
Overeating is a simple reason for obesity.
“Although there are genetic, behavioral, metabolic, and hormonal influences on body weight, obesity occurs when you take in more calories than you burn through exercise and normal daily activities. Your body stores these excess calories as fat.”
(Source: The Mayo Clinic Staff)
Are you more or less likely to become obese?
Risk factors or susceptibility to obesity include the following:
The genes you inherit from your parents and cultural norms. Often, obesity run in families. But not just because of the genes you share, but family members sometimes share similar eating and activity habits.
Unhealthy diet. High-calorie meals and fast food, not enough vegetables and fruit, sugared drinks, and so forth.
Sedentary lifestyle. You sit too much. Not only would you gain weight, but prolonged sitting puts you in danger of several health risks: heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), kidney disease, and anxiety. You will burn calories through exercise and daily activities.
Some medications. These medications include some antidepressants, diabetes, and antipsychotic medications. You’ll need to compensate through more exercise and a better diet to avoid gaining weight.
Social circle. Are your friends obese? They may influence you to eat more and develop obesity.
Economic issues. Do you lack grocery stores in your neighborhood that give access to healthy foods? Or do you feel unsafe walking or jogging along your streets or in the park?
Age. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of falling in older adults. According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), “Falls are the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional injury deaths worldwide. Adults older than 65 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls.” Yet, WHO estimates obesity in ages 60 years and older at 37.5% in men and 39.4% in females. Because the amount of muscle mass in the body tends to decrease as we age, which leads to a decrease in metabolism, older adults need fewer calories. So, if the aged don’t consciously control what they eat and engage in more physical activities, they’ll gain weight.
Stress. What happens when we’re stressed? We eat! And when we use food to relax or comfort us, it’s likely to be high-calorie, high-carbohydrate meals or snacks = weight gain.
Lack of sleep. Your sleep habits—not getting enough or getting too much—may cause changes in hormones that, in turn, increase your appetite. You’ll gain weight if you eat foods high in calories or carbohydrates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity increases the potential to develop many severe health problems:
COVID-19: Obesity and excess weight increase severe illness risk
All-causes of death (mortality)
High blood pressure (Hypertension)
High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
Type 2 diabetes
Coronary heart disease
Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
Sleep apnea and breathing problems
Many types of cancer
Low quality of life
Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning
Digestive problems (heartburn, gallbladder disease, and liver problems)
Gynecological and sexual issues (infertility and irregular periods in women; erectile dysfunction in men)
Also, as listed above, your quality of life diminishes.
Issues related to your quality of life include:
Discrimination (won’t get hired)
Depression (unhappiness, feelings of hopelessness)
Shame and guilt (lower self-esteem)
Social isolation (we’ve all heard the “fat” jokes)
On this site, you’ll find personalized meal plans, recipes, and motivational lifestyle tips.
You will also be able to track your progress with interactive tools, such as the Mayo Clinic iPhone app, food & fitness journals, plus a personalized exercise program.
*Note: Individuals should consult with their physician before adopting any exercise or diet regimen.
Step 3: A Long-Term Commitment
It’s all about planning, which is the third and final step to winning the fight against obesity.
When you have a lot of weight to lose, you must play the long game.
You will face challenges along the way.
Here are 9 tips to help you stay on track:
Set realistic weight loss goals. One or two pounds a week.
Use an app. As I noted above, the iPhone used at Mayo Clinic’s weight loss program can help you be honest with yourself by allowing you to track what you eat and how much. But there also other apps, such as My Fitness Pal, to help you track fitness goals.
Eat a high-protein breakfast. You are more likely to maintain a level blood sugar and not feel as hungry at lunch.
Drink plenty of water. The benefits are many. Water is essential to physical and emotional well-being and our appearance. Water is vital for transporting nutrients within our bodies and for removing wastes.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. You will not feel as hungry because nutrient-rich foods will give you a feeling of fulness.
Enjoy your favorite foods. Buy one cookie instead of a box.
Have a plan before eating out. Read the menu before you go, have a healthy snack, drink water before and during your meal.
Monitor your weight regularly. I weigh myself daily, but most experts recommend to consider at least once a week. That way, you can tell whether your efforts are working and help you notice small weight gains before they become big problems.
Get a buddy to join you. It can be tough to go it alone.
Finally, be realistic. Breaking habits and improving your diet is not easy.
According to WebMD.com, you will start to see health benefits when you’ve lost 5%-10% of your body weight.
Note what a few had to say after reaching their weight-loss goals:
Julie: “My doctor put me on a strict regimen of exercise and controlled portions of meals. I began to walk three miles nonstop every day, and I got up early each morning to exercise.
“I had to reeducate myself regarding my eating and drinking habits. I eliminated junk food and cut back on bread and sodas, replacing them with more fruit and vegetables. Now my weight is down from 206 pounds to 164 pounds.
“I still have several pounds to go, but I couldn’t be happier!”
Cynthia: “I feel that I’m healthier and that I am living again. Before, it was as if my life were on hold, as if I were stagnating. Another benefit is that I have been able to drop the medications for high blood pressure. And I feel that I can look people in the eye, knowing that there will be no implied criticism because of excess weight.”
Bonnie: “I went to the doctor, and he strongly recommended that, at 178 pounds, I start losing weight. He sent me to a nutritionist for counsel. The nutritionist explained the whys and wherefores of the regimen I was to follow.
“She showed me how to limit my portions and how to keep a check on what I was eating. At first, I had to report to her each week; and later, each month, to show how I was doing.
“Both the doctor and nutritionist encouraged me for the good progress I was making. Eventually, I lost 27 pounds, and I am holding my own at about 150 pounds.”
What will be your success story?
How will you feel after reaching your weight goal?
When will you get started?
“Weight loss doesn’t begin in the gym with dumbbells; it starts in your head with a decision.”
A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions (2019)
“I have been taking care of Mom and Dad for nearly twelve years now. Six of the years have been 24/7 living with Mom and with Dad until he died two years ago. We all know how stressful life is when caregiving. And it only builds up.
“Also, I have anxiety/panic disorder for the last thirty years. Anyway, a close friend and I were just chatting, and we were saying how we don’t feel ‘happy’ and haven’t felt so for a long time, but we don’t know why or what is missing.
“I thought it was because I’m a recovering addict/alcoholic—although I have been clean and sober for thirty years now—and that my personality is searching for an emotional ‘high’ and when I don’t feel it, I’m down.
“So, we decided to do some homework. Each night for a week, we were to make a list of things that made us happy during the day. So, I sat down in front of the computer to start my list.
“I sat there for a long time, and as I reviewed my day, nothing was coming to mind—until the first thing that popped into my head was, ‘I yelled at Mom today.’ And yes, that made me happy. I am pathetic!”
Martha did not feel hopeful or happy, though she seemed to gain a moment of pleasure from shouting angrily at her mother.
No doubt Martha felt run downed and overwhelmed, which caused her to lose self-control and yell at her mother.
However, if Martha would practice self-care or a bit of self-love, she would recognize her emotions, strengthen her relationship with her mother, and have a more positive, happier outlook on life.
In self-care, a person takes care of their whole body, mind, and spirit.
In caring for oneself; looking after oneself, a person could experience excellent health and well-being.
But what does it mean to be self-protective?
Follow These Seven Keys to Optimal Health
Key #1: Eat and Drink Right
“Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.”—T. Colin Campbell
Here in the United States, we have poor eating habits.
According to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), “the prevalence of obesity was 39.8 percent and affected about 93.3 million U.S. adults in 2015-2016.
Conditions related to obesity include:
High blood pressure
Gall bladder disease
We should concentrate on nutrients, which are essential for life and growth.
Hippocrates called the “father of medicine,” is reported to have said: “Thy food shall be thy remedy.”
Eat sensibly, which includes getting sufficient vitamins and minerals (often referred to as micronutrients because your body needs only small amounts of them).
Benefits of micronutrients include:
Prevention of congenital disabilities
A healthy diet should include:
Protein (found in fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and beans)
Fat (found in animal and dairy products, nuts, and oils)
Carbohydrates (found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, and other legumes)
Vitamins (such as A, B, C, D, E, and K)
Minerals (such as calcium, potassium, and iron)
Water (both in what you drink and water found in foods)
Nutritional supplements may help because they include what’s missing in a typical diet and decrease the risk of some deadly diseases.
Supplements do not make up for a low diet. While they can help, they cannot replace many of the nutrients and fiber found in food.
*See your doctor for diet or nutrition recommendations.
Drink more water!
Water helps relieve fatigue
Water helps energize muscles and build muscle tone; without the fluids, muscles don’t work well, and this results in muscle fatigue
Water keeps skin looking food
Water, along with fiber, is necessary for digestion and helps prevent constipation
Keep bottled water with you at all times.
Key#2: Exercise Regularly
“Exercise not only changes your body, but it also changes your mind, your attitude, and your mood.”—YourPositiveOasis.com
Warning: have a health checkup before embarking on any exercise program and then follow the doctor’s advice.
To stay healthy as you age means giving more thought to your health than perhaps you have been to date.
A ten-year study of 8,500 middle-aged men and women showed that sedentary workers had three times as many heart attacks as manual workers.
Therefore, physical exercise often makes the difference between enjoying life at seventy and being afflicted by aches, pains, and boredom at the same age.
No matter what your age, you can improve your health by exercising.
Table tennis, tennis
Catch ball, badminton
Enjoy whatever exercise you do. Relish its benefits. It can make you feel better and look better.
YouTube and Ted talks are excellent places to find the perfect workout for you.
There are dozens of guides available.
Here are two to consider:
Narish Kumai: Daily Exercise for Good Health (YouTube)
Wendy Sozuki: The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise (Ted.com)
I personally follow along with two different line dances daily on YouTube. So much fun!!
According to MayoClinic.org, you can expect to receive these health benefits with exercise:
Maintain a healthy weight.
Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes.
Strengthen your bones and muscles.
Improve your mood.
Improve balance and coordination.
Walking has also shown to improve memory and resist age-related memory loss, according to some studies.
Key#3: Get Adequate Rest
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”—Thomas Dekker
To have good health, you must have sufficient rest.
Sleep gives us a break from the many tensions of the day. In sleep, we not only rest our bodies but get rest from such burdens as loneliness and poor health.
How much sleep do you need?
One study found that fewer than six hours makes it harder for your brain to tune out distractions and focus.
Another article stated that some “short” sleepers (of around four hours) were found to have good sleep quality.
A research paper in Sleep Health recommended the following ranges for sleep for healthy individuals and those not suffering from sleep disorders:
Teenagers—eight to ten hours
Adults and young adults—seven to nine hours
Older Adults—seven to eight hours
If you have trouble sleeping, you are not alone. In highly industrialized countries like the United States, insomnia is common.
According to WebMD.com, the causes of acute insomnia include:
Life stresses (job loss, the death of a loved one)
Jet lag, switching from day shift to the nightshift
The causes of chronic (long-lasting) insomnia include:
Pain or discomfort
If this is your situation, see a doctor immediately!
A few basic ideas for better sleep:
Ensure sure your room is well ventilated, and your mattress is comfortable (not too hard or too soft).
Turn down the noise.
Avoid drinking coffee or cola drinks after midday.
Avoid eating a heavy meal or spicy foods shortly before bedtime.
Take a walk or do some light stretching if you sit all day at work.
Learn to relax (meditation, restorative yoga, or reading).
Practice deep breathing.
Try a warm bath to help you relax.
Use calming herbs and scents (lemon balm, passionflower, lavender, chamomile, valerian root).
Play soothing music.
Have the right mental attitude (the worst thing you can do is worry when you can’t fall asleep).
Inadequate sleep can affect your health and cause:
Poor mental health
A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, contributes to overall health and well-being. Sleep helps our brain prepare for the next day and thus, improves our focus, mood problem-solving skills, and mental sharpness.
Adequate sleep is also involved in repairing our heart and blood vessels and regulating hormones that control hunger and blood sugar.
Yes, sleep is “essential” to good health and well-being.
“If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness, and stress impact your physical health, think again. All these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, leading to inflammation and a weakened immune system. Learn how to cope, sweet friend, there will always be dark days.”—Kris Carr
Stress can make you sick!
According to Dr. Jay Winner, as reported by R. Morgan Griffin on WebMD.com, the following are ten of the most significant health problems induced by stress:
Heart disease. Sudden emotional stress can be a trigger for heart problems.
Asthma. Stress can worsen asthma.
Obesity. Excess belly fat poses more significant health risks.
Diabetes. Stress can worsen diabetes, raises the glucose levels of people with type 2 diabetes.
Headaches. High blood pressure is one of the most common triggers for tension headaches, including migraines.
Depression and anxiety. Chronic equates to higher rates of depression and anxiety, such as experienced by people with demanding work that offers few rewards; they have an 80 percent higher risk of developing depression within a few years.
Gastrointestinal problems. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers but can make them worse; it also contributes t gastroesophageal reflux disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Alzheimer’s disease. Stress might worsen the condition; researchers speculate that reducing stress could slow down the disease’s progression.
Accelerated aging. There’s evidence that tension can affect how you age; according to research, stress seemed to accelerate aging by nine to seventeen additional years.
Premature death. A study examined the health effects of stress by studying elderly caregivers who looked after their spouses—people who are naturally under a great deal of stress. The results determined that caregivers had a 63 percent higher death rate than people their age who were not caregivers.
Dr. Winner shares “Four Ways to Fight Back Against Stress and Improve Your Health:”
Breathe deeply. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can calm you, and you can do this anywhere. As you breathe out, you relax a specific muscle group. Start with the muscles in your jaw. On your next exhalation, relax your shoulder. Move through the different areas of your body until you feel calm.
Focus on the moment. Instead of worrying about the future, focus on what you’re doing right now. Be present at the moment. For instance, if you’re walking, focus on the sensation of your legs moving.
Reframe the situation. If you’re running late for an appointment and stuck in traffic, it won’t help to get yourself all worked up. Look at that time as an opportunity for yourself by using the time productively. Think of ways to live your dreams, listen to educative or inspiring tapes.
Keep your problems in perspective. The next time you’re feeling stressed out, think about the things for which you are grateful. If you have family and friends, consider yourself fortunate. This can be a surprisingly effective method to relieve stress.
Key#5. Maintain Close Social Ties
“The power of community to create health is far greater than any physician, clinic or hospital.”
I discussed the importance of interconnectedness and community in a previous article about “wellness.”
Here again, I suggest to have optimal health, you must have social ties or belong to a community.
Human beings are social animals.
Lots of research has shown social support and good health are connected.
Here are six health benefits as described on WebMD.com and NextAvenue.org:
Live longer: studies show that people with fewer friends tend to die sooner after having a heart attack than people with a robust social network.
Reduce the risk of strokes: researchers have found that having a several buddies lift your spirits and help reduce stress.
Boost your immune system: other studies show that having lots of friends may reduce your chance of catching a cold.
Encourage good habits: friends encourage you to take better care of yourself. One psychologist suggests that people with wider social networks are higher in self-esteem; they feel more control over their lives.
Lower or delayed risks of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease: participants in one study that felt satisfied with relations and received more support had a 55% and 53% reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Happier lives: many studies maintain that a variety of social relationships is the key to health and happiness compared to a life of loneliness and social isolation.
There are ways to can add “social” to your life:
Get involved in your community.
Join a book club.
Take a class.
Go to the gym.
Meet new people online.
Note: At the writing of this article, we are in the middle of a global pandemic—COVID 19. In most communities, you’ll have to practice social distancing for the time being. We hope that a vaccine is available soon.
Key #6: Reduce the Risk of Illness
“Treatment without prevention is simply unsustainable.”—Bill Gates
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers a comprehensive discussion on precautions for each of the following tips to reduce your risks of illness:
“Misfortunes one can endure—they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one’s own fault—ah! There is the sting of life.”—Anonymous
Please take prudent precautions to reduce your risks of accidents. Even minor ones can be devasting to life and limb and costly financially.
Keep your car well maintained.
And Each time you get into a vehicle and strap on your seatbelt, remember these 20 tips:
Position your seat properly
Position your mirrors
Place your hands in the proper position
Know your blind spots
Look both ways before turning
Stay out of the fast lane
Avoid unsafe lane changes
Reduce speed in the rain
Reduce speed red lights and stop signs
Watch for road rage
Watch for potholes
Watch for drowsy drivers
Watch for animal crossings
Watch for pedestrians
Be alert to threats
Be attentive to deadly curves
Be cautious at nighttime
Do not drive under the influence of drugs
Do not go over the speed limit
Do not tailgate
There you have it!
Your health to a large extent depends on what you eat and drink.
If you try to run a car on watered-down gasoline or add sugar to the gas, you will soon ruin the engine.
Likewise, if you try to survive on junk food and junk drink, you will eventually pay the price in impaired health: “garage in, garbage out.”
But if you follow these “seven proven keys to optimal health”: eat and drink right, exercise regularly, get adequate rest, manage your stress load, maintain close social ties, and take prudent precautions to reduce the risk of illness and accidents, you will thrive!
Hope does not mean having a pollyannish approach to situations in life.
Oxford English Dictionary defines hope: “a feeling of expectation and desire for something to happen.”
But hope is also more than mere desire and better than mere expectation.
Hope is directly related to our sense of possibilities.
Hope is indispensable if you want to endure difficult circumstances without giving up or sinking into a deep depression.
And hope is not passive. To sit and wait is the same as “wishing” that gets you nowhere.
To hope means to have positive thoughts about your future and to be willing to take the steps necessary to make it happen.
Hope means to roll up your sleeves and work!
Let me illustrate with a story—
I read a book by Jose Saramago titled Blindness, published in 1995. The book won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998.
Many consider this book Saramago’s dystopic vision, which means an imaginary place or society where everything is profoundly unhappy and miserable.
I’ve never read a more unusual book. There’s mass blindness that pictures a loss of humanity.
Here is a brief plot summary as described on wikispaces.com:
‘”Blindness”’ tells the story of several individuals engulfed in a widespread epidemic of ‘white blindness,’ in which they only see bright white. The government quickly interns all the blind and those in contact with them in an old mental hospital facility.
“To stay with her now-blind husband, an ophthalmologist’s wife fakes her blindness into a new hell.
“A story of survival against an army of ‘liquidators’ and sacrifice, ensues during which the last remaining seeing woman leads the internees.”
So much happens to the characters in this book (the characters have no names, only descriptions).
For instance, though helpless and interdependent, their behaviors are reduced to no more than animals.
They act worse than savages; they fight over food, commit rape, and murder. There is a total breakdown of what makes people human.
But “the doctor’s wife” never loses hope.
In her compassion, she claws and scratches and schemes and even commits a murder herself.
In the end, when there seems to be no way out of “hell,” it is she, as the only person in the asylum not afflicted with blindness, that leads the group out of the asylum and helps them survive in the city.
For me, the critical thought in this story is “hope.”
No, hope isn’t passive; it’s a willingness to put into action steps to shape and invest in your future; it’s a positive outlook on your future.
“Hope,” as a possession of the Christian faithful, for instance, means an expectation or desire for everlasting life.
However, the author Jose Saramago is an atheist Communist and believes religion is the cause of all humankind’s ills—including violence.
So as an atheist, did Saramago intend that one of his main characters should have hope?
Do atheists have hope?
We know that for many of the religious, hope gives peace of mind for what lies ahead.
But atheists will say hope is a religious construct and that people experience hope apart from religion.
There are many things to hope for: health, wellness, and happiness; for the power to make a better life for self and family, and so forth.
So even though Saramago as an atheist, would suggest no thought of religion or faith in a higher power, there’s no question in my mind that in his book Blindness, it is hope that propels “the doctor’s wife” to take action—and win.
Is There a Science of Hope?
One example is Charles Richard Snyder (1944-2006). Snyder was an American psychologist that specialized in positive psychology. He developed what’s known as Snyder’s Hope Theory.
According to Snyder:
“Hope can be seen as the perceived ability to walk certain paths leading to the desired destination. Also, hope helps people stay motivated when walking these paths.”
There are three components related to hope:
Focused thoughts (or goals thinking)
Developed strategies in advance to achieve goals (or pathways thinking)
Motivated to make an effort required to reach goals (or agency thinking)
“Hope: A positive feeling and a state of motivation that arises from the beliefs that one has agency (power and ability) and pathways (means) to achieve one’s goals.”
As in the book Blindness, “the doctor’s wife” believed in her capacity; she schemed, and in her goal-directed determination (she developed the feeling of hope) finally succeeded in her plan, which saves the people in the asylum.
Envisioning a better future motivates you to take steps to make it happen.
In the final analysis, hope is about having goals or mental targets of your future, pathways or routes to reach them, and agency or the mental energy to persevere.
For a detailed discussion on Snyder’s Hope Theory, please visit:
You will find additional questions about hope, activities and exercises, useful hope worksheets, and other references on the website.
Health Benefits of Hope
Hope affects our minds and bodies.
Casey Gwinn, J.D., and Chan Hellman, Ph.D., authors of the award-winning book, Hope Rises: How the Science of Hope Can Change Your Life, recognize measurable science around hope and maintain that “hope is the most predictive indicator of well-being in a person’s life.”
“Hope Rising provides a roadmap to measure hope in your life, assess what may have robbed you of the power of hope, and then provides strategies to increase hope.”
According to Jerome Groopman, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and staff writer in medicine and biology for The New Yorker, “Belief and expectation – the key elements of hope – can block pain by releasing the brain’s endorphins and enkephalins, mimicking the effects of morphine.”
Research has shown that women with high hope are more likely to implement cancer-prevention activities in their lives than women with low hope. And high hope people in general cope better while recovering from serious injuries.
Ensures increased life satisfaction scores
Promotes better lifestyle habits (“hope for the future”)
Lowers the levels of depression and anxiety
Improves overall general health
Boosts your immune system
It makes you happy!
What Can Cause You to Lose Hope?
Many things can and do go wrong in life.
In adults, losing a loved one in death or divorce is the leading cause of losing hope.
Losing the means to make a living and support family is also high on the list of causes for losing hope.
Living through a major illness or other traumatic events can lead to hopelessness.
And as I write this article, worldwide, we are grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Millions have died.
Many more millions have become ill.
The economies in most countries throughout the world are in shamble.
Has hope diminished?
What can you do?
Here are a few tips to avoid losing hope:
Be grateful (a recurring theme in this article).
Ignore negative people and situations.
Choose positive friends.
Look to others for support.
Speak with a therapist for depression.
What Can Be Said About Optimism?
“Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.”—William James
Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full type of person?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, optimism means “confidence about the future or successful outcome of something.”
So, can optimism improve your health?
According to a study in the Journal of American Medical Association, a positive outlook on life is good for your heart.
Dr. Richa Sood, a Mayo Clinic General Internist, agrees.
“Optimism is a mindset,” says Dr. Sood.
If you purposefully choose to think positively regularly, the brain will eventually form new pathways; you will become more optimistic.
Dr. Sood offers three ways to train the brain to make optimism a habit:
Gratitude. Feeling grateful for the good things in your life and having a sense of meaning and purpose in your life.
Build self-worth. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and appreciate you.
Improve your health. Exercise, eat nutritious foods, keep your weight under control, and stay away from toxins, such as trans fats and mercury in fish.
Most of us have to deal with the daily pressures of everyday life. These can lead to frustration, even panic.
A pessimistic person sees defeat or a setback as permanent—even blaming herself for the situation. An optimistic person has confidence in the future.
In a 30-year study of over 800 patients by the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.A. scientists found that optimists had better health and lived significantly longer than others.
The researchers also found that optimists coped better with stress and therefore, less likely to develop depression.
Other benefits of optimism include:
It promotes a sense of happiness and well-being.
It promotes self-confidence and boosts self-esteem.
It enables you to take action to change or improve situations.
It promotes better feelings about money.
It allows you to bounce back quickly from any adversity.
It enables you to enjoy your work regardless of your job.
It promotes peace of mind in situations over which you have no control.
However, being optimistic is not easy, especially in an environment where problems stack up for almost everyone. It’s tough to think positively.
Three tips to feel more optimistic:
When you find yourself thinking that you won’t enjoy something or you won’t succeed in some project, reject the thought. Focus on the positive
Look for friends who view life positively (the glass half-full attitudes)
Every day, write down three good things that happened to you; be grateful.
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine.” –Proverbs 17:22
Finally, you might wonder:
How Is Hope Different from Optimism?
Hope and optimism are often used interchangeably and may be simultaneously intrinsic to each other.
Both are positive motivational states.
Both involve clear expectations of desired outcomes in the future.
However, hope is not the same as optimism.
One study in the Journal of Positive Psychology suggests that people can be very optimistic but only mildly hopeful or vice versa. Also, “pathways predicted life satisfaction to a greater degree than optimism.”
“Hope,” as described above in Snyder’s Hope Theory, is the ability to work to an action plan to reach a goal. A person with goal-directed thinking is motivated and has the mental willpower to keep at it until he succeeds.
“Optimism,” on the other hand, is a positive expectation about something and does not need working for it.
Hope is first a cognitive rather than an emotional process, according to Snyder.
Some believe that hope is the deepest of the three emotions, and that happiness and optimism cannot exist without hope, but hope can exist without happiness and optimism.
Here is a quote to further help you understand the difference between hope and optimism:
“Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better.”—Jonathan Sacks
So, What Do You Think?
Now that you’ve read Snyder’s Hope Theory know the science behind hope, and understand that hope is an action-oriented strength and not just a state of mind, and recognize the many benefits of hope to your health and happiness, what will you do?
“A rainbow is a prism that sends shards of multicolored light in various directions. It lifts our spirit and makes us think of what is possible. Hope is the same—a personal rainbow of the mind.”
How will you incorporate hope into your life?
What will hope do for you to have unshakable hope, to focus on a specific vision for the future, and then follow through with an action plan as with “the doctor’s wife” in the book Blindness?
Hope is action, not wishing.
And what of optimism?
What are some ways you will embrace optimism in the future—look at the bright side of life?
After reading and pondering on this article, what do hope and optimism mean for you?