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?
People often think Wellness means physical health, such as nutrition, exercise, weight control, etc.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines Wellness as: “Being in a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
What Are the Dimensions of Wellness?
Some experts say there are ten dimensions or aspects of Wellness; others say there are seven, and still others maintain that Wellness encompasses six or eight mutually interdependent dimensions.
But what is certain is that when you change your habits, you change your life.
You want to become the best kind of person you can be. You want to reach your full potential. You want to care about yourself in all areas of life.
That said, this article will discuss five aspects or dimensions of life that you must become aware of to make choices toward a healthy, fulfilling life so you can thrive:
Holistic means each dimension is interrelated with the others. In wellness, you consciously develop the whole self, living life as fully as possible.
You develop physical Wellness through what you do to your body and what you put inside your body. Looking good and feeling good will also raise your self-esteem, so you achieve psychological benefits as well.
To stay healthy as you age means giving more thought to your health than perhaps you have been to date.
Ideas to Improve Physical Wellness
Get Sufficient Exercise
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.
The many benefits touted of regular exercise proponents include improved conditions of the heart and lungs and other body organs.
The Oxygen delivered to body cells improves blood circulation and overall health.
Also, a test conducted by the Japanese Education Ministry found that men who exercised regularly had the physical stamina of men ten years younger, and women, that of women who were five years younger.
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
“Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.”
—T. Colin Campbell
According to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), “The prevalence of obesity was 39.8 percent and affected 93.3 million of U.S. adults in 2015-2016.”
In 2020, the U.S. adult obesity rate stands at 42.4 percent, the first time the national rate has passed the 40 percent mark, according to the CDC.
Our country has lousy eating habits.
Hippocrates called the “father of medicine,” has said: “Thy food shall be thy remedy.” Better than food is a remedy is food for health maintenance!
Most health experts recommend that you eat a balanced, healthy diet. But what’s a healthy diet?
It 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 vitamins 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) (Source: WebMD.com)
Get More Sleep
To have good health, you must get sufficient rest. It has been said, “sleep is to the man that winding up is to a clock.”
Sleep restores energy to the body, brain, and the rest of the nervous system.
Sleep also gives us a break from the many tensions of the day. In sleep, we rest our bodies and get rest from such burdens as loneliness and poor health.
Spanish author Cervantes said centuries ago concerning sleep that, “it is meat to the hungry, drink for the thirst, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot.”
Proper sleep is vital!
How much sleep?
A research paper published 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 (or slightly decrease to 6.5 to 7 hours per night)
Avoid drinking coffee or cola drinks after midday.
Avoid eating a heavy meal or spicy foods shortly before bedtime.
Learn to relax (meditation, reading).
Practice deep breathing.
Try a warm bath to help you relax.
Play soothing music.
Have the right mental attitude and emotional state (the worst thing you can do is a worry when you can’t sleep).
What are emotions?
According to Wikipedia.org, an “emotion is any conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a certain degree of pleasure or displeasure. Emotions are complex. According to some theories, they are states of feeling that result in physical and psychological changes that influence our behavior.”
Ideas to Improve Emotions
You will want to understand and respect your feelings and attitudes as well as others.
You will want to recognize and control your negative emotions by first understanding your emotional triggers.
What are the emotional triggers?
Also referred to as “hot buttons,” emotional triggers are those situations, words spoken, or problems that may cause you to tense up or feel distressed.
Most of us have specific needs or values—when others do not acknowledge these needs they will take us on emotional ups and downs.
Examples of everyday emotional needs:
To be treated fairly
To be needed
To be valued
To be liked
You will want to manage your emotions creatively, feel positive, and maintain optimism and enthusiasm about life.
Here are a few techniques to help you shift your emotional state if you feel triggered:
Relax: Breathe and release the tension in your body.
Detach: Clear your mind of all thoughts.
Center: Pretend that your awareness can be moved and drop it to the center of your body just below your navel and feel your breathing, as this will help you clear your mind.
Focus and Implant: Choose one keyword representing how you want to feel or who you want to be in that moment. (Source: Outsmartyourbrain.com)
For instance, you could choose the word “patient” if someone is getting on your last nerve!
“Intellectual Wellness is the ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can apply to personal decisions, group interactions, and community betterment. The desire to learn new concepts, improve skills and seek challenges in pursuit of lifelong learning contributes to our Intellectual Wellness.”
Value lifelong learning.
Continue to grow intellectually.
Expand knowledge and skills.
Ideas to Improve Intellectual Dimension
Intro to Screenwriting
COVID-19 in Africa: Managing the Outbreak in Primary Care Settings
Food as Medicine and Our Genome
Udemy.com (“Learn anything on your schedule.”)
Udemy also invites you to share your gifts with others on their platform.
Experts consider learning essential to a well-rounded life.
More ideas to improve intellectual wellness:
Learn a foreign language
Join a book club
Go to or watch a TED Talk
Like food nourishes the body, information and continued learning nourishes the mind. Stay current with world events.
Experts consider learning essential to a well-rounded life.
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
Never stop learning.
Idea: Turn off the TV and Netflix and read!
“I’m still learning.”—Michelangelo (at age 87)
Social Wellness means fostering genuine connections with those around you, being comfortable and confident with other people, and having a healthy relationship with family and friends.
Social Wellness also means letting others care about you.
Getting involved in your community, sharing projects, helping others, and volunteering when needed are ways to improve your social Wellness.
Build a social support network.
One of the most significant benefits of having good social wellness is that you develop a network of friends and family members to whom you can turn for assistance when needed.
Social Wellness means a sense of interconnectedness and interdependence = a sense of belonging.
Today, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are encouraged to practice social distancing to prevent the virus’s spread. Having in-person, face-to-face interaction is limited.
The health guidelines to 1) stay six feet away from others, and 2) avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, may cause some to feel isolated.
But with the nationwide (and worldwide) spread of the pandemic, and most people’s desire to protect themselves and others from this disease, you may also discover a feeling of community.
We’re all in this together.
You feel part of something bigger than yourself.
You care about the greater good of society.
The sense of community is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself when it comes to social Wellness.
“The compassionate actions of its members most accurately measure the greatness of a community.”
—Coretta Scott King
Ideas to Improve Social Wellness (And Expand Your Social Network):
Find an interest group online.
Join a book club (expand your mind and social circle).
Get involved in your community.
Build new relationships.
Schedule time with family, friends, or colleagues—on Zoom, if necessary.
Recognize when you are in an unhealthy relationship.
Refrain from blaming or criticizing others
Communicate your feelings.
Practice self-disclosure around those you trust.
A word of caution: You want to form quality relationships built on trust, intimacy, and connection. But know your boundaries. If you find that you have a bond to someone critical and negative that increases your stress level or drains your energy, it may be an unhealthy union.
And if someone is hurting you emotionally or physically, RUN!!
Spirituality: “Having to do with the human spirit as opposed to physical things.”—Oxford English Dictionary
Many believe that a “spiritual” person spends time defining personal values and ethics and makes any decision in life to complement them.
Someone concerned with his spirituality will search for meaning and purpose in life and strive for a state of harmony with oneself and others with or without organized religion.
A spiritual person will balance inner, personal needs with the rest of the world and care about others’ welfare not just what satisfies himself.
Spirituality means having a calm heart.
Ideas to Improve Spiritual Wellness:
Meditate. Take five to 10 minutes each day to stop, reflect, and free your mind of worry. Meditation will focus your attention inward; it feeds the heart.
Have Purpose. Think profoundly and at length about the meaning of your life; if you have a religion, study and practice it.
Practice Yoga. It can improve the overall quality of life: sleep, spiritual well-being, anxiety, depression, mood, and fatigue.
Think positively. Believe it or not, you can choose how to feel. Enrich your life with positive thoughts.
Be grateful. There is no room for resentment or fear if your life is full of gratitude; appreciate the natural world around you.
Be calm. According to one proverb, “A relaxed attitude lengthens life.”
Write your memoir. See the miracles in your life more clearly. Find the meaning of life by writing your bio.
Wellness includes five mutually interdependent dimensions: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. Neglecting one element can negatively affect others.
And ultimately, your overall health, well-being, and quality of life will suffer.
Make choices that empower you to grow in all dimensions: Physical Wellness, Emotional Wellness, Intellectual Wellness, Social Wellness, and Spiritual Wellness.
We each have our views on life and what it means to live life fully.
While all elements or Dimensions of Wellness do not have equal balance, your goal is to strive for an agreement that feels real to you.
Through Wellness, you do indeed have the secret to holistic growth and prosperity.
“Solitude is not the same as loneliness. Solitude is a solitary boat floating in a sea of possible companions.”—Robert Fulghum
Carrie, a full-time caregiver to her ailing 70-year-old husband, felt lonely. She said:
“I’ve been in a dark hole for quite a while. Sometimes, I believe everyone around me would be better off if I were dead. My friends can no longer visit; my few remaining relatives don’t seem to care. I often feel dead inside.
“I can’t help it. I know I sound selfish, but I’ve spent more than twenty years with caregiving duties for one relative after another, and now my husband. When will it end?
“I can’t see the light at the end of this very long, dark tunnel. I’m miserable.”
Carrie could be suffering from many different negative emotions: burnout, resentment, anger. She has no close connections and feels helpless and lonely.
And at this writing, the world is experiencing a worldwide COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, which only exacerbates and upends Carrie’s already difficult situation.
Why are persistent feelings of sadness and isolation so dangerous?
Recent studies link loneliness to severe health conditions.
The State of Loneliness Today
“Sad because one has no friends or company.”—Oxford English Dictionary
Studies show older adults are at increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as loss of family or friends.
As mentioned above, Carrie has “lost” her husband for all practical purposes due to his chronic illness and her having to care for him 24/7.
At the same time, the world, including here in the U.S., is in the middle of a pandemic: COVID-19 (coronavirus). Practicing “social distancing” (or physical distancing) is a significant way to prevent spreading the virus.
These guidelines restrict interaction with others. (More on this later in this article.)
According to the latest statistics on loneliness (2016-2020), data show loneliness in the general U.S. population; 61% of Americans were lonely in 2019. In 2018, the number was 54%.
These data are before COVID-19.
Long before coronavirus spread worldwide, former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy warned of the dangers of loneliness. He worked hard to bring attention to the “loneliness epidemic.”
Murthy believes that loneliness takes a toll on physical and mental health and links social connection to a 50% drop in the risk of early death.
In Dr. Murthy’s new book, he discusses the toll of isolation on America’s health:
Though it is hard to measure, recent studies found these severe health risks related to loneliness:
Premature death (similar to dangers from smoking and obesity)
50% increased risk of dementia
29% increased risk of heart disease
32% increased risk of stroke
Higher rates of clinical depression, anxiety, and suicide
(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Effects of loneliness on general health include:
Trouble concentrating and remembering details and making decisions
Low energy or fatigue
Sleep problems; sleeping too little (insomnia) or sleeping too much
Appetite change; overeating or appetite loss
Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
Recurrent pain, such as headaches or cramps
Persistent sadness, anxiety, or feelings of emptiness
Pessimism and hopelessness
(Note: This is not a diagnosis. If you experience any of the above to an excessive degree, please see a mental health professional.)
Loneliness and Social Isolation
Many nations, including in the U.S., are attempting to control and manage the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) thought to spread mainly from person to person.
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease.
The director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Robert R. Redfield, outlined several steps we can take to protect each other:
Stay home as much as possible.
Practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet, or two arms’ length from other people who are not from your household indoor and outdoor spaces.
Wear cloth mask (face covering) in public settings, especially when other social distancing measures are challenging to maintain. Note: respiratory droplets spread when someone coughs, sneezes, raise their voice, shouts, chants, or sings, and can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby, or perhaps inhaled into the lungs. Some people with COVID-19 lack symptoms and can transmit the virus to others before showing signs.
Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
There are also guidelines regarding isolation and quarantine. (Guidelines can change, so be sure to speak with your doctor.)
COVID-19 (coronavirus) is highly contagious, which cannot be stressed enough.
Thus, interacting face-to-face with others individually or in crowds is a significant health risk.
But to quote Dr. Robert R. Redfield of the CDC:
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally with a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Meanwhile, gone are trips to the movies, concerts, bar lounges, and attending churches and other worship places for services and funerals.
Even eating in restaurants is incredibly limited.
Numerous businesses have closed (some temporarily but many permanently), and countless other employer groups have asked employees to work from home.
Most schools are closed and have moved to virtual learning.
Staying connected to friends and loved ones in the middle of this pandemic is difficult, if not impossible.
Many people, like Carrie, are desperately lonely during this time, experiencing profound disconnection.
So, what can Carrie and others that have no close connections, do about loneliness?
What You Can Do About Loneliness
As discussed above, prolonged loneliness can be dangerous to your health—especially your mental health.
Social distancing recommended during the pandemic can leave you feeling lonely.
If we perceive ourselves as socially or emotionally isolated, if we lack deep friendships, if we lack any meaningful relationships at all, we could suffer “chronic” loneliness.
Chronic loneliness goes far beyond fundamental unhappiness; you must work to do something about it.
A Few Ideas:
Stick to a Schedule. Make your days feel as normal as possible by staying with your daily routine. Follow your to-do list if you have one.
Stay Active. Don’t focus exclusively on managing your mental health; engage in at-home activities for physical fitness. (Practice workouts at home with YouTube videos or go outside for a walk, when possible.)
Keep Up-to-Date. Learn what’s going on in your community and the country because COVID-19 mandates and guidelines change. You don’t want to stress out by watching world news day in and day out, as this is dangerous to your mental health, but do keep abreast of the latest health information. Make sure you seek sites that give factual, up-to-date guidelines.
Pray and Meditate. People who connect to their internal spirituality are more resilient emotionally if you are a spiritual person.
Practice Self-Care. Add techniques like mindfulness and daily affirmations to help you feel more optimistic
Practice Empathy. You will feel less lonely and more social connectedness if you practice empathy for yourself and others. Feeling compassion will also help you manage your anxiety and reduce overwhelm.
Participate in Online Communities. Join and participate in Facebook groups of interest to you to combat loneliness. I participated in an online caregiving support group when I cared for my husband, 24/7, that proved to be a lifesaver for me.
Join Voice-Chat app, QuarantineChat@dialup.com for serendipitous connections with people around the world affected by the virus. (Available on iOS and Android.)
Write. Daily journal writing is an excellent way to combat loneliness. Writing in a journal permits you to look closely and think deeply about everyday events in your life. You can chronicle the ups and downs, as well as the pains and joys of your life. You can express yourself without inhibition and get to know yourself better through journal writing.
Older adults (65+), particularly, self-isolate during the pandemic making them more susceptible to loneliness.
Just making regular phone calls to relatives and asking for help from family members will help stave off feeling alone.
A national network of gyms with free membership for those with participating health plans, and a community of other adults seeking to remain fit and involved. Tools to help you stay in shape and have fun.
Feeling lonely and being isolated is terrible for your health.
Higher rates of depression, a weakened immune system, heart disease, and early death are just a few of the tragedies associated with loneliness.
If you live alone, can’t leave your home, feel alone or disconnected from others, recently had a significant loss or change, a caregiver, and a lack of purpose, you must find an activity you enjoy.
Indeed, loneliness can affect your body and your mind.
But all is not lost. You can do something about loneliness.
“My books are always about somebody taken from aloneness and isolation—often elevated loneliness—to community. It may be a denigrated community that is filthy and poor, but they are not alone; they are with people.”—Chuck Palahniuk
Use the ideas discussed in this article to soothe the emotional suffering that loneliness creates.
And find your community!
Disclaimer: The content in this article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If the emotional pain of loneliness is too great, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider for therapy or treatment.
“Happiness consists of getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.”
— Robert A. Heinlein
According to the 2020 U.S. census data, the oldest of the estimated 73 million Baby Boomers will hit 74 years old by the end of the year, the youngest 56.
By the year 2030, all Boomers will be age 65 or older.
With time steamrolling ahead, what is one of the most significant quests for midlife adults today? Better health.
This article will focus on one area of health: sleep.
A German philosopher said that “sleep is to a man that winding up is to a clock.” It restores energy to the body, the brain, and the rest of the nervous system.
After a good night’s sleep, we awake in good spirits, eager to charge ahead in work before us, feeling much better, and looking better.
Moreover, sleep gives us a break from life’s cares and tensions. In sleep, we rest our bodies and have rest from such burdens as poverty, loneliness, poor health, and injustices.
Today, in 2020, we face a worldwide health pandemic: COVID-19.
Nowadays, life overflows with anxiety and stress!
Cervantes said centuries ago concerning sleep: “It is meat for the hungry, drinks for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot.”
Proper sleep is vital to our health and well-being.
What Kind of Sleep?
Sleep is a natural condition that occurs regularly and in which one loses awareness of one’s surroundings. Though it is a mystery as to what sleep is, the Oxford English Dictionary offers this definition:
“A state of rest in which the nervous system is inactive, the eyes are closed, the muscles are relaxed, and the mind is unconscious.”
There are two kinds of sleep.
In one kind of sleep, which starts with drowsiness and gets deeper and deeper, profound restorative processes occur. Your breathing and your heartbeat slow down, your blood pressure drops, and your limbs relax.
Experts believe this deep sleep is an aid to memory. It lasts for about ninety minutes.
Afterward, you return to a sleep much lighter in some respects, and other respects, deeper. It is called the REM stage and marked by the side-to-side Rapid Eye Movement, which indicates that you are dreaming.
Your heartbeat greatly fluctuates, and your limbs grow tense, indicating that your mind and your body are involved in dreaming.
After about ten minutes of REM sleep, you will again go into a deep sleep for another ninety minutes and then back up, and so on throughout the night.
Most researchers believe that both kinds of sleep are essential for mental and physical health; one cannot take the other’s place.
As to how long you sleep, quality is more than quantity.
However, with aging sleep patterns tend to change.
Sleeplessness: A Common Complaint
If you have trouble sleeping, you have plenty of company, especially in industrialized countries like the United States where sleeplessness or insomnia is most common.
And insomnia is one of the more common sleep problems in older people.
Sleeplessness usually takes one of three forms. Some have a lot of difficulties falling to sleep in the first place. Others fall asleep readily but wake up early in the morning and cannot go back to sleep. With still others, the problem is that they keep waking up intermittently.
Most people find that aging causes them to have a harder time falling asleep. They awaken more often during the night and earlier in the morning.
Studies published in Science Daily (2018), show that “One in four Americans develop insomnia each year. About 25% experience acute insomnia, characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for as little as three nights per week for at least two consecutive weeks up to three months.”
It also appears that by and large, women have more difficulty sleeping than do men.
What Causes Insomnia?
One of a hundred different things can cause insomnia.
It could be inherited, a genetic defect in which the brain fails to produce serotonin, a hormone-like substance. This substance is said to act like a “sleep juice” that enters the blood and causes the body to become sleepy.
Your problem may be caused by some low-grade pain that is ignored while you are busy during the day but persists enough at night to cause you to wake up from time to time.
Your trouble sleeping could be a poorly ventilated room, or because your mattress is too hard or too soft.
Your trouble sleeping may be due to a stimulant such as coffee, tea, or a cola drink.
You may have had the habit of eating a heavy meal of food hard to digest shortly before going to bed. Or, just the opposite, hunger may keep you awake, even as constipation at times interferes with sleep.
Negative emotions, such as feelings of guilt, excessive ambition, emotional insecurity, and especially anxiety or worries, may keep you from sleeping.
Mental depression can also cause insomnia and, in particular, can nervous exhaustion. The same can be said for hostile or aggressive feelings, even though unconscious.
On the other hand, too much excitement, or chasing after thrills, can cheat you of sleep.
No matter what the underlying cause, you perhaps agree with this quote:
“The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
How to Defeat Insomnia
Must you resort to pills to defeat insomnia?
In the publication Sleep Research, Dr. F.R. Freemon stated, “The promiscuous prescribing of sleep medications is the most common error in medicine.”
Taking sleeping pills may seem the most comfortable way out, but they can become addictive.
You should use them only in case of emergencies.
And older people respond differently to medicines than do younger people. Thus, it is crucial to talk with a provider before taking sleep medicines; avoid them if at all possible.
Try these basic ideas:
Ensure your bedroom is well ventilated, and your mattress is comfortable (not too soft or too hard).
Turn down the noise.
Avoid drinking coffee or cola drinks after midday.
Avoid eating a heavy meal or spicy foods shortly before bedtime.
DO NOT take naps during the day.
Take a walk or do some light stretching if you sit all day at work (nothing too strenuous as this will stimulate and keep you from sleeping).
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.
Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake at the same time each morning.
Have the right mental and emotional state (the worst thing you can do is a worry when you can’t fall asleep).
(Source: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions)
I repeat, whatever you do, stop worrying. Worry only hampers your sleep. Usually, there is no danger in being without sleep for a period now and then.
The Swiss psychotherapist Paul Debois likens sleep to a dove. If you hold your hand but gently, it comes voluntarily and settles on it. But if you try to grab it, it flies away.
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) had good sleep quality.
A research paper published 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 (or slightly decrease to 6.5 to 7 hours per night)
Here you will find a sleep duration recommendations chart.
Find the cause.
It is essential to find the real cause of your sleeping problem if indeed you have one.
Sleeplessness may be a symptom of some physical disorder, such as hypertension or upset stomach.
But often, the cause is in your mind rather than in your body.
Are you worrying about something?
Try to reason it out with yourself in a balanced way.
Prayer, expressions of gratitude, can put a person’s mind at ease.
Consulting a wise and mature friend regarding your problem may be beneficial.
In many respects, sound sleep might be considered a reward for the right living.
If you are a religious person, you undoubtedly agree with Solomon, who says of those exercising godly wisdom: “When you lie down, your sleep will be pleasant.” (Proverbs 3:24)
That godly wisdom would include producing the fruits of God’s spirit, such as “love, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control,” all conducive to good sleep. (Galatians 5:22, 23).
So, if you are having trouble sleeping, do not become discouraged. There are several remedies or adjustments in your life that you might make to correct the problem.
If you suffer from sleeplessness, why not try the simple ideas found in this article? If they don’t work, see your doctor.
While it may be true that sleeplessness never killed anybody, it is equally valid that, as a haggard victim of insomnia, said: “It can make you wish you were dead!”
Finally, if you are an older adult, you absolutely can improve the quality of your life right now.
When it comes to your health and well-being in later years: “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”—Thomas Dekker
Disclaimer: The content in this article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.
“I have so much to do that I will spend the first three hours in prayer.”
As I write this article, the global COVID-19 Pandemic is raging.
And it would be of no use to quote the number of infections and deaths because the numbers multiply each day worldwide.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has increased stress levels for many of us. We face new challenges about our home and family lives, social distancing, employment, and for some, isolation and quarantine.
Stress, anxiety, overwhelm, exhaustion—I believe it is safe to say that we’ve all experienced these emotions, especially during this difficult time.
What Is Burnout?
Herbert Freudenberger and other researchers took up this term in the mid-1970s, and it describes “a state of exhaustion resulting from involvement with people in emotionally demanding situations.”
Also, “physical or emotional exhaustion, especially as a result of long-term stress or dissipation.” (American Heritage Dictionary)
Symptoms of burnout can include:
Depleted energy reserves
Lowered resistance to illness
Increased dissatisfaction and pessimism
Increased absenteeism and inefficiency at work.
Burnout can be debilitating because it can weaken and even devastating, otherwise healthy, energetic, and competent individuals.
Burnout is unrelieved stress, the kind that goes on day after day, month after month, year after year.
Burnout is nothing to play around with or to take lightly.
It’s easy for a person to lose meaning in his work due to mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion due to the long-term unresolved stress called burnout.
The 5 Stages of Burnout
Burnout can affect anyone, at any time in their lives.
I think particularly about family caregivers, most of whom are under extreme pressure day in and day out caring for their loved ones.
But how would you know if you do have burnout?
Psychologists at Winona State University conducted a study where they identified five stages and the symptoms, though these symptoms can change from person to person:
Phase 1: Honeymoon Phase. You have a new job or business venture, and you feel excited but begin to experience stress because you want to prove yourself.
Symptoms in this phase could include:
Commitment to excel
Eager to take on more responsibility
Obsessively demonstrate your worth
Work becomes the only focus
An inability to “switch off.”
Phase 2: Onset of Stress. Values become skewed, and neglect of self begins to set in.
Symptoms in this phase could include:
Anxiety, fatigue, irritability
Life limited to work or business
Trying harder does not lead to success
Dismissal of family and friends
Phase 3: Chronic Stress. Stress levels rise and become more frequent.
Symptoms in this phase could include:
Non-existent social life
Persistent tiredness in the mornings
Obvious changes in behavior
Phase 4: Apathy and Despair (burnout). You see no way out of your situation.
Symptoms in this phase could include:
Feeling empty inside
Phase 5: Habitual Burnout. Experience physical, mental, and emotional collapse. Symptoms become imbedded in your life.
Symptoms in this phase could include:
Chronic physical exhaustion
Chronic mental exhaustion
Loss of hope and trust
These five stages are a good standard for gauging a state of burnout.
The five stages can act as warning signs, signaling potential risk, and a need to readjust.
Who Is Most Prone to Burning Out?
Although burnout has proven to be the result of excess work and stress, medical experts are now discovering that some people are more prone to it than others.
Some people are less likely to suffer burnout regardless of how much pressure they endure.
In determining how prone you may be to burnout, there are two considerations to look at:
Deep prevailing needs within us that can strongly influence behaviors that lead to burnout.
Character traits that amplify the possibility of burning out.
First, consider Need for Achievement:
You are motivated to set challenging goals and push hard to achieve them. Getting feedback on your effort validates your success. A lack of feedback can make you feel stressed, disappointed, or resentful for not being noticed.
Need for Attachment:
You are motivated to fit in well with others.
You spend a lot of time maintaining relationships and making sure others accept you. The need for acceptance can lead to you conforming to the others’ wishes and desires at the risk of fulfilling your personal needs.
Need for Control:
You are motivated to influence others.
Need for control leads you to seek out roles of authority.
When faced with something uncertain, you fear you are losing control, which can cause you to be overwhelmed.
Character traits in those prone to burnout include:
Not able to express confidence:
You likely believe and act in ways that don’t better yourself.
This character trait creates stress when things don’t work out as hoped.
You likely overthink why things aren’t going well for you, which can cause you to blame others for your situation.
A lack of confidence also makes you more likely to give up in the face of difficulties.
Not able to accept challenges:
You don’t accept change very well, or the challenges that change brings with it.
This character of not accepting challenges creates stress because you would rather hang on to the way things are than accept change and the discomfort it brings.
Not able to remain committed:
You tend to see adversity as something negative rather than something that brings about the best possible outcome.
This character trait creates stress because instead of staying engaged and pushing through the difficulty, you check out and isolate yourself or become apathetic.
Thus, we have deep personal needs that can influence our behavior, lead to burnout, and character traits that can make burnout even more probable.
You can become more aware of and avoid burnout by having a clearer understanding of your personal needs and traits.
Manage Your Energy to Avoid Burning Out
“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”
The most common response to the rising demands of life and work is to put more hours into getting things done.
But the longer hours mean that time isn’t the only resource you use up.
Your efforts consume your energy, as well as your time.
You spend your energy through physical, emotional, and mental activities.
Positive rituals intentionally scheduled and practiced renew your strength.
So, paying attention to your energy levels, and doing things to recharge yourself is critical to avoiding burnout.
Every activity we do reduces our energy.
Usually, when our energy drops, we increase our effort, but in the long run, this only causes more harm and makes us burn out faster.
It’s times like these that we must instead renew our energy levels.
Renewing Our Energy
There are many ways to renew our energy levels.
Consider these seven ways:
Sleep. Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Rest is where recovery starts.
Create rituals. Positive rituals will renew energy levels. My morning ritual, for example, is to a) begin with prayer, meditation, and expressions of gratitude; b) hydrate; c) follow along with two different line-dance routines on YouTube. After my morning ritual, I feel energetic and ready to begin my day.
Slow down. As you sense your energy depleting throughout the day, slow down. Take a few moments to breathe deeply. Try the 7/11 breathing exercise where you count to 7 as you breathe in and count to 11 as you slowly breathe out. You will immediately feel less anxious or stressed, and more relaxed.
Eat and Drink. Not too much. And stay away from sugary drinks.
Take mini-breaks. Throughout the day.
Practice gratitude. Do you have a gratitude journal?
Practice forgiveness. Including forgiving yourself if need be.
Stressful situations in life can trigger a response in our body that taps into our energy reserves for support.
Lengthy and repeated stress responses—prevalent in the hectic lives we live—can have harmful effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health if our energy reserves get wholly depleted.
With higher levels of stress, the more frequent and necessary it is for us to renew our physical, mental, and emotional energy reserves to avoid burnout.
Burnout can seem like the end, but it’s not.
By changing how we prioritize our time and other valuable resources, we can make a complete recovery and emerge anew.
Much like plants and animals in nature retreat for a time of rest during winter, from time to time, we all must retreat to replenish ourselves so we may emerge anew.
If you are experiencing extreme stress that can lead to burnout, you have learned several techniques that you can adopt to recharge.
Just like in springtime, the bare tree emerges after a long winter to put forth leaves.
From burnout, you can also emerge with new energy, habits, and a new perspective, and a new life.
“Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.” –Stephen Hawking, English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author
Family caregivers struggle. And those that also hold down jobs experience extreme stress and anxiety. Juggling work and caregiving duties cannot help but impact their productivity and job performance.
Working family caregivers also, at the same time, want to experience a measure of happiness and contentment.
Is this possible?
Consider just a few of the many consequences to working caregivers, according to a recent National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study:
6 out of 10 (61%) caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving such as cutting back on hours, taking a leave of absence receiving a warning about performance or attendance.
49% arrive at their place of work late, leave early, or take time off.
15% take a leave of absence.
14% reduce their work hours or take a demotion.
5% turn down promotions.
4 % choose to retire early.
3% lose job benefits.
6% give up working entirely.
39% leave their job to have more time to care for a loved one.
34% leave their job because their work does not provide flexible hours.
When it comes to productivity:
The same National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study found that the costs of informal caregiving in terms of lost productivity to U.S. businesses is $17.1 to $33.4 billion annually.
You Can Improve Your Productivity with These Three Simple Daily Routines
Relax and clear your mind.
A clear mind leads to greater focus and increased creativity.
Substitute unwanted thoughts for desirable ones (affirmations, daydream)
Write your feelings out in a journal
Call a friend
Exercise/get out in nature (walk, run, aerobics)
Breathe deeply (try the 7/11 breathing exercise: count to 7 as you breathe in and count to 11 as you slowly breathe out)
Turn off technology
Our most valuable resource is time.
Having a strategy to organize your day will increase your productivity and help you avoid time-wasting activities; a reasonable amount of order prevents anxiety and reduces stress.
Plan your tasks the night before you go to work (my favorite strategy). This strategy is simple, and it works. Otherwise, you could spend hours debating what you should do at the beginning of your day, which is a time-waster.
Why not wake up, relax and clear your mind, and begin your tasks immediately.
There are many formulas to organize your work.
Try the “Eisenhower Box”:
I will not recount the many accomplishments of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, and a five-star general of the United States Army, but he did a lot.
And his methods for time management and productivity have been studied at length.
The Eisenhower Box
Understand the difference between urgent and important tasks. What is important is often not urgent, and what is critical is usually not significant.
Urgent tasks, for instance, could include emails, phone calls, and text messages. However, essential duties contribute to the long-term mission, values, and goals of the company.
The Eisenhower Box makes it simple to separate urgent/not urgent differences. However, making the distinction over and over again, day in and day out consistently can be tough.
Tip: Never check email before noon. Use the morning to do what’s important rather than responding to what is “urgent.”
Multitasking is a time waster and does not work! You will not accomplish more, in fact, just the opposite. Having fewer priorities leads to better work. You can’t be great at one task if you are dividing your time seven or eight ways.
Thus, multitasking is counterproductive.
According to neuroscientist Dr. Jordan Grafman: “We cannot focus on several things at the same time; something has to suffer. Hence, multitasking can result in superficiality and poor retention. Also, the rapid-fire switching of attention causes people to make more mistakes and takes more time to get jobs done than completing them sequentially.”
The fastest way to get something done is to eliminate the task from your to-do list, which is not always possible.
You must force yourself to delete any task that doesn’t move you forward to accomplish your mission or lead toward your values or goals.
So be prepared sometimes to make hard decisions and delete tasks when possible.
Don’t do “busy work” for the sake of being busy.
The myth of multitasking is that being busy is synonymous with being better.
I like this quote from Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek:
“Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
In this regard, you should find the Eisenhower Matrix helpful. Using the Matrix will help you eliminate the things that waste your time each day.
You will be more productive at the more important things.
Tip: Never be afraid to let others lend a helping hand; delegate.
How to Find Joy
Yes, it is possible to alleviate the pain of the ups and downs of your job responsibilities as an employee while fulfilling your demanding family caregiver role.
Happiness is a choice you make.
There are ways to create a deliberate positive emotional state.
There are ways to feel at peace and have joy.
Express gratitude—daily; count your blessings.
Force negative thoughts out of your mind.
Concentrate on positive things.
Talk about positive things.
Surround yourself with positive thinkers.
Find purpose in your caregiving role; you are helping others.
Maintain a good social circle.
Smile, laugh out loud!
Follow the example of evergreen trees:
In Canada and the northern United States, you can find hundreds of miles of evergreen forests. During wintertime, these trees endure intense weather conditions, such as heavy wet snow and freezing rain and ice.
But the evergreens thrive. Why?
Evergreens bend, flex, and adjust to their circumstances. They thrive not out of resistance, but through acceptance of what they cannot control.
So, dear working caregiver, how will you bend and flex with your life’s circumstances? How will you refuse to let worry and anxiety steal another moment of your happiness and contentment?
There is strength—not weakness—in learning how to bend and adjust when storms come our way.
Source: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions
Notice Dr. Wayne Dyer’s description of happiness as a journey in his book, Pulling Your Own Strings:
“Instead, wake up and appreciate everything you encounter along your path. Enjoy the flowers that are for your pleasure. Tune in to the sunrise, the little children, the laughter, the rain, and the birds. Drink it all in, rather than waiting to get some always-future point where it will be all right for you to relax.
“Indeed, success—even life itself—is nothing more than moments to enjoy, one at a time. When you understand this principle, you will stop evaluating your happiness based on achievements, and instead, look upon the whole trip of life as something to be happy about. Or to sum it up, there is no way to happiness, because happiness is the way.”
Family caregivers perform a heroic and crucial role in our society.
When the family caregiver must also hold down a job outside the home, this can lead to extreme stress and anxiety.
The working family caregiver pulling “double duty” often experiences anger, resentment, and frustration.
Caregiving harms the worker.
Caregiving responsibilities have shown to contribute to reduced employee productivity.
Employees with caregiving responsibilities cost their employers billions of dollars more per year in healthcare costs than employees without caregiving responsibilities.
I could go on and on.
If you are one juggling work and caregiving, I hope you have found the ideas presented in this article that focuses primarily on productivity and organization, helpful.
Be assured; you are providing labor of love under challenging circumstances.
But you can feel joy no matter your situation in life.
“You can’t always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”—Wayne Dyer