I’ve based this article on my book:
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:
- Heart Disease
- Type-2 Diabetes
- High cholesterol
- 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:
- Strong bones
- Prevention of congenital disabilities
- Healthy teeth
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.
- Stationary running
- Brisk walking
- Climbing stairs
- Jumping rope
- Volleyball, basketball
- Baseball, softball
- 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)
- Emotional or physical discomfort
- Environmental factors (noise, light, room temperature)
- Some medications that interfere with sleep
- Jet lag, switching from day shift to the nightshift
The causes of chronic (long-lasting) insomnia include:
- Depression/or anxiety
- Chronic stress
- 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.
(Source: Abrazo Community Health Network https://www.abrazohealth.com)
Key#4: Manage Your Stress Load
“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.”—Mark Hyman
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:
- Quit smoking
- Eat healthily
- Get regular exercise
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol
- Get screened
- Get enough sleep
- Know your family history
Key #7: Reduce the Risk of Accidents
“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!