Monday, April 30, 2012

Chronic Healing: Clean Air and Water Fortify Us From Seasonal Allergens & Toxins

Chronic Healing: Clean Air & Water Fortify Us From Seasonal Allergens & Toxins
As our South Texas Spring rolls quickly into summer, the yellow dusty residue of pollen seems to be everywhere; on the outside of our windows, our entry porch & steps, and especially on our car (even though my husband washes it several time a week). For those of us dealing with one or more chronic illnesses, the extra burden of allergens can weigh heavily on our health. Additionally, as the temperatures start to soar, so does the ozone exposure.  
We are not completely at the mercy of Mother Nature though as there are things we can do around our home that can provide us with extra support through the coming months.
If you live where there is a lot of sun and heat, and in a highly populated area with heavy traffic on the freeways, you are likely to have more exposure to ozone's.  Air Now is a great Internet site to put on your desktop or in your "favorites" file because it will give you an up-to-date reading of both the ozone's and the allergen count in your area. Just click on the site above and then, type in your zip code at the top of the page. A map for your area will show current Air Quality Index (AQI) on a map as well as provide a count (number) for allergen particles and ozone's with color coding. Green -anything under 50 is "good air quality," whereas, yellow - over 50 but not over 100, indicates some problems for people who are extremely sensitive (that would be me and many people with compromised immune systems from chronic illness). The counts and warnings then go on to orange and red - which can affect people not typically sensitive to allergens and/or ozone's. Obviously, if the readings are close to, or over 100, I try to stay inside during the worst of it (ozone's are almost always worse during the hotter part of the day, and allergens may be less prominent in evening and early morning).
In addition to being aware of the outside conditions there are also some things you can do to keep your indoor environment healthier - here are just a few ideas:
1) Make sure your windows and doors are sealed well. Our 100 year old house has it's original windows and they allow a lot of outdoor air in as the seals are virtually non-existent. Since they are so old and fragile, we cannot put new sealing around them, but we discovered a great product to help keep the hot air AND the BAD air out, in 3M Window Insulator film. This is NOT solar window film typically used to minimize the sun's rays as it actually goes over both the window and the window frame and is inexpensive and easy to apply.  For more information on this product go to:
2) Another great investment for improving indoor air and reducing allergens is The Vollara "Classic" Air  Machine.  About 15 years ago, I wrote an article about air purifiers for the home and after weeks of research, found this machine which eliminates bad ozone's and allergens (and even dust mites). It is by far, the best machine I found on the market for cleaning up to 1500 square feet of air. It is a bit of an investment but considering the job it does and how long it lasts (and the fact that it does not require filter replacements - you just wash the one it comes with about once per month), it is the best deal around. If I place a vase of fresh flowers anywhere near it, they will last twice as long as they typically do without the air machine!  I became a representative just so I could get the products at a reduced rate for my family and friends. To see more on the "Classic" Air Purifier, go to my page and click on products and then click on "air," and scroll down page. If you, or a loved one decide to get one, contact me as I can order it for you and get the $75.00 off. It will also will quickly remove any toxins in the air from cigarette smoke to paint fumes (even smoke from a fire - our toaster oven  ;-)  Breathing in air that’s free of irritants and toxins is incredibly healthful!
3) Drinking and bathing with clean water is also an essential part of boosting our immune system's ability to withstand seasonal heat, allergens, and ozone's. There are a number of really good water purifiers on the market - I prefer the kind that has the ionizing feature. We also purchase Mountain Valley Spring Water in the glass containers whenever possible, and I typically drink between 95 and 110 ounces per day (allotted out over a 14 to 16 hour day). The recommended amount for the average person is about 70 oz. per day but those of us battling chronic illness typically need more as we are more prone to dehydration from both medical conditions and medications. I take several types of allergy medicine and several prescriptions that are sodium based, so I compensate with an extra 25 to 40 ounces. (I do count decaffeinated teas and coffees and clear natural juices in this daily intake).
Water and air are referenced throughout the Bible and in many religious texts as being associated with life, healing, and health, but no matter what your beliefs; breathing healthy air and, hydrating your body with clean water will fortify you to cope better with the extra burden of allergens and toxins that often accompany the Spring and Summer Seasons. 
The following is a great drink I created to hydrate the body and keep cool on hot days.
Super Hydrating/Cleansing Summer Cocktail:
2-3 oz. Organic Aloe Vera Juice
2 Oz. Organic Cranberry Juice
2 Oz. Organic pure lemon juice
2 Oz. organic pineapple OR orange juice
2 Oz. organic apple juice Or Pomegranate Juice
1 tsp. organic maple syrup and/OR
1 packet pure Stevia (natural sweetener)
Stir together and serve chilled. For an extra “kick” and immune booster, you can add 2 oz. liquid from slowly simmering organic ginger pieces in purified water, OR, 2 oz. “Maine Root” Ginger Brew. Delicious and so good to your health!

Cry Some, Laugh More, Pray Often ~ Jamey Lacy July

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chronic Coping

Chronic Coping

There's a story about a man riding the commuter train home one evening who was visibly upset. Another man who took the same train knew the harried man from exchanging regular greetings and light conversations during their rides to and from work, asked him what was wrong. The first man proceeded to tell him that his company had downsized and he had just lost his job along with his health benefits. He then added, "And my wife told me last night that she wants a divorce and our son was suspended from school yesterday afternoon! I don't know what to do," he added with an exasperated sigh. The second man looked at his distressed friend and after a few moments said, "Here's what you should do. Don't think about any of this the rest of the night. Go home. Have a really good dinner, take a long hot shower, and get a good night's sleep." He was basically telling his commuter buddy that after re-grouping and recouping from clearing his mind, eating, relaxing his body and resting his mind, he would be much better equipped with sorting out all of his problems.  

This advice, or at least the wisdom of the concept of coping, can be vitally helpful for those of us in the long throes of battling chronic illness, and, for those who love and care for us - especially our "main" caregivers. When our symptoms flare up and seem out of control; other "life burdens" such as mounting medical costs, unexpected home or car repairs, seeing one of our children injured (recently, a broken foot in our daughter's case), job or income changes, an unforeseen increase in property or income taxes, and a thousand other potential trials that can come at us without warning, can quickly put us in a place of panic. 

Having a plan of action or a regular list of coping tactics can spare us from spinning completely out-of-control. The following are things that have helped us when life's ups and downs seem to turn upside down:

> Get QUIET. ["Peace Be Still" Mark 4:39 These 3 simple words that Jesus said to calm the waters for his disciples calm me in the midst of "life storms" when I say them out loud]. If you are at home, close the blinds or turn the lights down and sit in the quietest room/space in the house. If you have non-toxic scented candles - light a few and/or, put on some calming music. Now, take at least 7 to 12 deep breaths through your diaphragm (letting your upper abdomen rise as you inhale), and holding the air in for 3 to 5 counts, then, slowly (3 to 5 more counts) exhale. Try to clear your mind completely - if thoughts crowd in, push them out. It sometimes helps to focus on an image (a blue sky with white clouds or a babbling mountain creek).

If you are at work or driving or out in public, find a bench or an area where you can sit and do the above breathing exercises. As you breathe and clear your mind, your heart rate will slow down and the urge to panic will subside.

> If you believe in God (Divine Love/Power), then pray for peace and guidance, asking for clarity in dealing with your dilemmas.

> Nourish and hydrate. Eat a healthy meal or snack (clean; organic, Non-GMO, non-trans fat, low sugar, lean protein and complex carbohydrates). When you put premium fuel in your body it will reward you with the energy and strength to handle most situations. Drink 20 oz. of fresh purified or Spring water at least 4 intervals throughout the day (five or six if you are taking medications that dehydrate such as antihistamines and sodium based drugs).

> Exercise and/or stretch slowly. Gentle Yoga movements, a short walk on soft surfaces, climbing stairs, cycling (stationary, or if outdoors - in an uncongested area). Just 12 to 15 minutes can do wonders in circulating blood flow and promoting oxygen intake - which will give you more mental clarity to respond better and make sound decisions.

> Relax tense muscles with a hot bath and mineral salts and a few drops of organic essential oils OR take a hot shower and use bath gel with essential oils such as chamomile, lavender, or tea tree.

> If at all possible, get a massage or an acupuncture session. Both of these treatments will help your body to detoxify from extra stress factors. Most cities have massage  and acupuncture schools where you can get an intern to provide treatment for about half the cost.

> Rest. Get a power nap during the day or get to bed early enough to get 7 to 8 good hours of sleep. If you have medication to help you sleep - be sure to take it. Also, Chamomile, Valerian Root, Lavender, and Peppermint (or a combination of these) can help you relax and sleep better. Kava Kava is also very helpful for relaxing and a sleep aid. It comes in tea and also capsules and liquid tincture (you can find at most holistic stores and grocers).

> After you've quieted your mind, fueled and exercised your body and regenerated from rest, you can better access life challenges.

Put it down on paper; just like you would write a "pros & cons" list, make a list of your current problems and a list of potential solutions. Do this together with your caregiver or your patient spouse if possible (it helps you both value that you are a team - in spite of the illness and health restrictions). IF you can't partner up with your mate/caregiver, call a friend or family member, or someone who can counsel with you without getting over emotional. (A pastor/reverend/ church counselor, a therapist/psychologist, or life-coach).

> Seek specialists when they are needed; attorneys, accountants, therapists, support groups and sponsors, etc.

Use these contacts/individuals to help you make a "game plan" designed to help you work through the challenges or obstacles. Keep a list of things to do (to avoid panic and distress), AND, your "game plan" posted where you can see it and make notes and updates as things transpire.

> Seek inspiration. Stay inspired through DVDs, CDs, helpful books, visualization exercises and images, self talk, and lectures and videos on the Internet.

Think of all of the things you've survived in the past and let that fortify you through this set of trials or challenges. You CAN cope even in the midst of chronic illness!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"Resolutions" Vs. "Re-Do" Lists and Erasable Calendars

"Resolutions" Vs. "Re-Do" Lists and Erasable Calendars

By this time into the New Year we have typically had time to reflect on the previous year and may be examining a “New Resolutions” list…or maybe even a “Re-Do" list! For those of us facing the challenges of chronic illness, over time we learn that each day is an opportunity to “Re-Do” something we may have missed the day before due to a flare-up of symptoms. The calendar holds a different perspective for us. We’ve learned the benefit of having a wipe-off calendar where erasable markers set the dates and the proposed activities and appointments, with the capacity to make frequent changes as the days and weeks transpire. That erasable or “re-doable” calendar signifies how we live our lives and how we, as a couple, as a family, or even as an individual, can truly live each day in the face of life changing illness.

Around this time of year, back when William and I were still dating, we started making special plans for our Valentines’ date to go to a really unique and romantic restaurant in an eclectic part of the city. That year, Valentine’s Day fell on a week-end which meant planning even earlier than usual to get a reservation on that extra busy holiday. By Thursday night however, my daughter Laney, who was a young teen at the time, had come down with a fever and sore throat. On Friday morning her symptoms were worse and it was clear she wouldn’t be able to go to school that day.

Having lost two infant sons prior to the birth of my daughter, you could say that she was truly a “miracle baby,” and I loved her as such. I had made a commitment that I would never be away from her whenever she was sick, and told my clients and friends that plans would be re-scheduled if my daughter needed me home with her. So, on this Friday morning, I knew I would need to cancel my Valentine’s Dinner with William. It was our first Valentine’s celebration together (as we had just become a “couple” the previous summer), so I felt really bad knowing I would have to tell him I couldn’t make it.

Little did I know that for him, the day was unfolding with problems of his own. He had encountered a number of hitches in his schedule that day with work on his second book, Understanding The Tin Man; a phone meeting with his new agent had been pushed back, and editing work had hit an unexpected snag. By the time I got the nerve to call him on his cell phone early that afternoon, he was standing 20 people deep in a line at the flower shop near his house while simultaneously trying to iron out matters on the phone with his editor. When I beeped in on call-waiting, he asked if he could call me right back and sounded a little harried. I thought to myself that my news wasn’t going to make his day any better.

When William called me back he briefly told me what kind of day he was having and I told him that Laney was home sick and hesitantly said I thought I should stay home with her that night, and probably the next (which meant we would have to cancel our hard-to-get dinner reservations). I could hear William let out a deep sigh on the other end of the phone as he said, “wow, I’m really sorry Laney’s not feeling well but to be honest, I was wondering how I was going to get everything done today and make our dinner on time.” He told me he’d been standing in line to get flowers for me for over 20 minutes and there were still about a half dozen guys in front of him waiting to do the same for their girlfriends or wives. We agreed to make “our own date” for Valentine’s and by Saturday night Laney’s fever was gone and she was feeling much better so we rescheduled our dinner for Sunday night.

William brought flowers for me and Laney on Sunday evening, and he was relieved that it only took fifteen minutes to get them since the furor over Valentine’s Day was over. We left Laney with a family friend and a new movie while we went to our Valentine’s dinner. When we arrived at the lovely restaurant that had been converted from an old church with a beautiful frescoed ceiling, we were surprised to find that except for one other couple who were dining outside on the patio, we were the only couple there. It was as if we had the entire restaurant just to ourselves!

That evening over a lovely candlelight dinner, we made a vow that from then on, we would never let a calendar dictate our plans or cause unnecessary stress. Little did we know that years later, as illness greatly altered my health and our lives, this would be one of our best survival tools! We learned to plan birthdays, anniversaries, and special holidays on the best date for us and our situation - with an alternate or “back-up date” in place. Friends, family and associates who know (and understand) the challenges we face living with chronic illness, also know that we do our best to honor plans or appointments but there will be times when we need to re-schedule, or, may even miss an event according to how my health is.

We've learned to accept that on occasion we will have to pay a cancellation fee if last minute health problems arise and I have to miss a professional appointment. We only make "flexible plans" to go to dinner, an outdoor concert, or a museum exhibit with friends and family members who are "on board" with our situation. This has removed unnecessary stress from our lives and helps us feel less anxious about making plans. Today, our erasable calendar encompasses four months and hangs on one wall of our office. It reminds us that life can and often does, change unexpectedly from day to day, and that IS a reality when dealing with the unpredictability of long term illness. And every day can be a "re-do day" if necessary -- no matter what time of the year, and erasable calendars can make life less stressful -- no matter what state your health is in!

Do you have a story about how you have learned to manage your time differently since you or a loved one became ill? If so, we'd love to hear from you!
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