7 tips to calm your corona crisis concerns

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and spiritual practices will help center you in routines and awareness, and keep your mind from wandering into the dark and sometimes irrational unknown.

Even physicians feel stressed and uneasy about the COVID-19 pandemic, maybe more so than others. After all, we’re supposed to be the ones with the answers to our patients’ questions and have the means to help them. And unfortunately this is a time when we have little of both and it’s frustrating.

One of my collagues read an article about dealing with this stress, and to decrease our stress from having one more piece of information to read he briefly outlined it in an email and added his own thoughts. I liked it so well I asked him if I could feature it here and he graciously consented. And like he did, I have added a few of my thoughts and some references, as well as a link to the original article from CNNhealth.

MANAGE ANXIETY-DON'T BE AFRAID-BE SMART
Limit the frequency of your updates, including social media  

With one of my patients who I was having to talk off of a ledge twice weekly, I suggested allowing herself one news check-in for 30 minutes each morning.  This worked for her.  Choose a frequency and a time that works for you.  But why stop there?  Consider a social media sabbatical .  Truly.  Give it a week and see how you feel. Taking the apps off your phone or tablet helps keep you accountable. 

CDC-Coronavirus Disease 2019

Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction

a podcast by Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Join CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the latest news about the coronavirus. He’ll make sense of the headlines, speak with the experts and give you all the information you need to stay safe and healthy.

diagram of the human brain.
The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)
Name your fears

Recognize that we all have a negativity bias hard-wired into our brains.  It’s a leftover evolutionary tool that helped keep our caveman and hunter-gatherer ancestors alive. 

In addition to constantly scanning our environment for threats, it also does a good job of overestimating the likelihood that something tragic will befall us, and underestimates our capacity and resources to cope.  We’re not crazy or neurotic, we’re just wired that way.

Conversely, if you minimize or ignore the threat of the pandemic, ask yourself if you should  take it more seriously. If your reactions don’t match those of others in your community, your fear may have driven you to denial.

Practice Social Distancing
Think outside yourself: 

If/when you are feeling overly worried and anxious, and your thinking feels contracted and hopeless, turn your thoughts to how you can help someone else.  This may be a child or other family member, a group of society that is at risk or marginalized at this time, or some of the groups at higher risk due to their occupations, age, or medical conditions. 

Science is unequivocal that when our thoughts turn to serving others, symptoms of worry, anxiety and depression lessen, and we feel better about ourselves.  And this does not have to be anything big, simply shifting to focus off of ourselves and onto someone else helps.

a smiling woman working on a laptop computer
Physicians and counsellors are available virtually, by phone or video visits.
Seek support, but do it wisely: 

Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.  And that goes for us caregivers too.  We are not, and should not think of ourselves, as impervious to the various stressors, the disrupted routines and all of the uncertainty that is prevalent in the world right now. Ask someone you can trust to be objective and rational, and not feed your worries or concerns. 

Pay attention to your basic needs

Don’t get so wrapped up in thinking about the coronavirus that you forget the essential, healthy practices that keep you physically well. 

  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Keeping up with proper nutrition
  • Getting outside as much as possible
  • Engaging in regular physical activity

Practicing mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and spiritual disciplines will  help center you in routines and awareness, and keep your mind from wandering into the dark and sometimes irrational unknown.

a women with hands clasped in prayer with a Bible
a man reading to two young girls, sitting in a woman's lap
Don’t chastise yourself for worrying. 

Again, this is part of our normal evolutionary programming.  And to help kids when they are scared, don’t just tell them everything is going to be alright. 

Let them know you hear their concerns and that you understand where they are coming from.  And THEN give them evidence and reasoning for the opposite side of the worry equation.  

Acknowledge their fears, and validate them…  And then do the same for yourself.

This post was adapted from this article on CNNhealth

How to keep coronavirus fears from affecting your mental health

Thanks to my guest writer-Dane Treat, M.D.

Dr. Treat graduated from the University of Oklahoma medical school, although a couple of decades later than I did. He completed residency at Good Samaritan Family Practice in Phoenix, where he lives and practices now. He also completed a Sports Medicine fellowship. He is a student of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. He wisely married a Mayo Clinic trained gastroenterologist, and they are the proud parents of a daughter.

near Phoenix, at Scottsdale Arizona

exploring the HEART of dealing with COVID-19

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

If you are depressed and thinking about or planning suicide, please stop and call this number now-1-800-273-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

If you want to help, donate to your local food bank, or make a purchase or donate to The Hunger Site.com . (This is an affiliate link that pays this blog a commission, however 100% of a donation stays with the charity.)

                              Dr. Aletha 

Simple and effective ways to manage chronic pain -part 2 of a series

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

In a previous post I talked about non-drug methods to manage pain in the spine-neck and back. You may want to review it now, but reading  this one first is fine. This post will focus on other painful conditions.

While people often discover methods to relieve pain that work for them, I am focusing here on treatments that are supported in the medical literature or recommended by knowledgeable professionals. For this post, I reviewed many articles which summarized current studies.

Finding trustworthy medical information

How do doctors know what works and what doesn’t? Since medical knowledge has changed since we went to medical school , how do we know what is current information?

We read literature pertinent to our fields on a regular basis, attend conferences, and talk to other doctors. But when we need a specific question answered , we do what you do-we Google it.

shelves in a library with adjacent computers
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Library, located on the organization’s campus, in Atlanta, Georgia. The CDC collections span the field of public health. Print and electronic resources cover such topics as disease prevention, epidemiology, infectious diseases, global health, chronic diseases, environmental health, injury prevention, and occupational safety and health. The main library in Atlanta and selected branch libraries are open to the public. used courtesy CDC/ Emily Weyant; MSLIS; ORISE Fellow

One of the most frequently reviewed is PubMed listing  more than 28 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The service is free and anyone can use it. PubMed is a service of  the National Library of Medicine, the largest biomedical library in the world ,located in Bethesda, Maryland,

Another major reference is the Cochrane Library, a collection of databases in medicine and other healthcare specialties ; a fee is charged to use this service.

Basic points about complementary treatments for pain management

We should use medication and surgery when appropriate, but when these can’t be used or are not helpful, we can consider alternative methods, or what I and other doctors prefer to call complementary or integrative treatment.

This post focuses on symptom relief, not necessarily curative treatment.

Herbals and supplements are drugs and can be effective for certain conditions, but this post will discuss non-drug treatments only.

Many cases of pain improve spontaneously with no specific treatment.

Almost everything works sometimes.

There are few if any down side to any of these treatments. Used under supervision they are unlikely to have adverse side effects or result in long term complications.

The most important ingredient in managing a chronic or persistent condition is having a therapeutic relationship with your physician and other healthcare professionals- physical therapist , mental health counselor, nutritionist.

SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MANAGE CHRONIC PAIN-WATERCRESSWORDS.COM

Migraine

Migraine is more than just a bad headache; it is a disorder of the brain which causes pain as well as other common symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.  Dizziness, numbness, and  loss of vision occur less frequently.

diagram of the human brain.
The major parts of the brain, including the pineal gland, cerebellum, spinal cord, brain stem, pituitary gland, and cerebrum are labeled. I photo courtesy of Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Alan Hoofring (Illustrator)

Most people with migraine require some type of medication for relief, but non-drug treatments can supplement meds and can be helpful for prevention. Integrative treatments that work according to studies include

  • acupuncture
  • biofeedback
  • CBT-cognitive behavioral therapy
  • exercise
  • meditation
  • relaxation training
  • yoga

Fibromyalgia

I mentioned fibromyalgia in my post about back and neck pain, but  include it here  since it causes pain in other body areas.

Fibromyalgia seems to be a disorder of nerves which makes them super sensitive, leading to diffuse muscle and joint pain that can become disabling. Complementary treatments recommended include

  • Mind-body-guided imagery, hypnosis, biofeedback, mindfulness meditation , relaxation
  • Tai chi
  • Hydrotherapy, balneotherapy

Osteoarthritis of the knees (degenerative arthritis)

It is likely that arthritis in other joints responds to these therapies but there aren’t enough large studies to confirm.

  • Acupuncture,
  • tai chi
  • walking and  strengthening exercises
  • Balneotherapy-bathing in hot water mineral baths

people in a gym exercising
photo courtesy Amanda Mills, CDC.gov, Public Health Image Library

 

 

 

 

Tessa Frank  discusses how she became frustrated when increasing doses of opioids didn’t relieve her chronic pain, and what she’s doing now to manage her pain.

How I’m Managing My Chronic Pain Without Opioids

“While I no longer use opioids, I do use non-opioid prescription medications and a spinal cord stimulator to provide pain relief for my CRPS, complex regional pain syndrome, a chronic, debilitating neuropathic pain condition.

I’m also hyperaware of how stress triggers my increased feelings of pain, so to mitigate stress, I personally have found relief in meditation, relaxation and yoga among other approaches.” (excerpt)

 

 

 

 

If you didn’t read it earlier, here’s a link to the previous post about treating pain, along with a brief excerpt.

Surprising effective ways to relieve back pain

“Pain in the spine results from many medical conditions, ranging from minor to life threatening. Most cases are due to routine or excessive physical activity or a minor injury causing strain of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and will go away with no or minimal intervention in less than 12 weeks.”

 

 

The affiliate product links in this post are for illustration and information only, and do not imply endorsement.

I am grateful when you like and share this post on social media.

Please consider helping support this blog by using my affiliates. You’ll find links in the side bars, on the home page, and on the resource page.

In a future post I will talk about  non-drug treatments for other conditions.

always exploring the HEART of health with you.

                       Dr. Aletha  WATERCRESSWORDS.COM-exploring the HEART of health

Most viewed post #4 -5 steps to manage stress and strain

Read the 4th most viewed post on my blog this year about managing stress #stressmanagement

In the 4th most viewed post  I offered  some personal reflections.

I developed the  post idea after reading a medical journal article about ways to help patients dealing with depression with or without medication. The article offered advice helpful to anyone dealing with a crisis, or even the ordinary stress of life.

When I wrote the post, I was  dealing with a personal health crisis, so I had the chance to take my own advice. (We physicians tend not to do so.) Now, the crisis is resolving, but I intend to continue to practice the 

 

5 steps to manage the stress and strain of life

 

As a college graduation gift, I gave a friend’s son a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble Bookseller. He earned a  mechanical engineering degree  and will work as a rocket structural engineer.

He sent me a nice handwritten thank you note (which few people do these days) and said he plans to use it to buy a book that other structural engineers recommend. The book is Roark’s Formulas for Stress and Strain. Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain- a book

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a formula for handling the stress and strain of life?

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away.  Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by  emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

Life’s  interruptions and disruptions won’t disappear, but you can make them less of a strain on your time, energy, and resources. There’s usually no quick fix but 5 steps can lessen their impact.

I’m learning the value of these steps now as I deal with the stress of a foot fracture that is not healing as expected. I’m now facing surgery to correct it, and a longer convalescence than I expected. For someone who is used to being active, this prolonged inactivity stresses me both physically and emotionally. These 5 steps were already a part of my life, but consciously choosing them now helps me cope with what would otherwise cause frustration and sadness.

5 steps to manage life’s stress and strain

1. Create and maintain a routine and schedule.

Having a plan for your time helps you feel more in control of your life.  Resist the tendency to become socially isolated or avoid activities you usually enjoy. 

a smartphone lying on a calendar page with a planner and cup of coffee
from Lightstock.com (affiliate) stock photo site

Times of crisis, loss, or illness may leave you feeling disconnected and adrift, but having a schedule provides structure and connection. When you are busy, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. 

2. Recognizing and reaching out to social supports

Your family and friends are your first line of  support during times of stress and duress. It’s nice if we don’t have to ask for their support, but their lives are busy too, so don’t be hesitant to ask for help if you need it. If they don’t call you, call them.

2 women talking over coffee with open bibles
Conversation over coffee can be therapeutic. graphic from the Lightstock collection( affiliate link)

Other sources for help include your healthcare professionals;  don’t be embarrassed to share that you need social and emotional support. Your doctor can help you identify and get connected with community resources.

Look for help from your or your spouse’s job, your religious community, organizations you belong to, your school, and online resources for support- educational sites, forums, support groups.  Although not as personal as face to face support, these are helpful  if  you are  geographically isolated or mobility is difficult.

3. Reframe by refocusing on the positive rather than the negative.

Recognizing and emphasizing the positive in life makes the problems less overwhelming and distressing. Look for something to be grateful for, or that brings a little joy into your day. It may be as simple as flowers blooming in your yard, your favorite tea and sweet,  a funny story in a magazine.  

balloons-get well IMG_2269.jpg
Balloons are nice, too.

Remembering and observing happy events, occasions, and celebrations can also be sources of renewed joy.

 

Norma, a woman facing terminal illness, reframed her crisis by finding joy in small things, like jigsaw puzzles, new foods, and a “good perm”. Read more about her at

Driving Miss Norma- a book reviewDriving Miss Norma - a book cover

4. Stay active mentally and physically

Physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore, boring, or expensive. Many things can be done at home or in your neighborhood-walking, bicycling, cardio, yoga. If exercise isn’t your thing, try dancing, gardening, swimming. 

If your  physical mobility is limited,  try something stimulating mentally-sewing, crafts, games, puzzles, writing, cooking are just a few possibilities.

checkerboard

5. Nurture your inner self

Sometimes we need to withdraw from outward activities and stimulation for times of quiet rest and reflection.woman with hands bowed in prayer

You may  find help from mindfulness, meditation, prayer, devotional reading, music, journaling,  or a combination of these approaches.

Breathing exercises can lessen anxiousness and tension.

Free Loose Leaf Tea Filter and Free Shipping with any Mighty Leaf Wellness purchase. (affiliate link)

woman standing with arms lifted to the sky

In this post, a retired nurse blogger uses gardening for both exercise and mindfulness.

The Zen of Gardening 

“But what I like most about gardening is how I can get lost in the moment of whatever I’m doing; whether it’s planting, weeding or pruning. It truly is a togetherness of body and mind.”

 

 

 

 

Tyndale House Publishers offers spiritual and devotional books.

Try their free Reader Rewards Club  at this link. Come Read with me-Tyndale Rewards.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate disclosure; some of the  photos in this post are from Lightstock, a source for photos, videos, and graphics. With a free account, you can get a weekly free photo.

Learn more at this link. 

cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos
Please visit Lightstock.com for quality photos, graphics, and videos (an affiliate link)

 

RoboForm Password Manager. (this is an affiliate link) 

You’re likely reading this post on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, so you visit sites that require a password. How do you remember them all? You don’t have to if you use RoboForm Password Manager.

a sketch of various electronic devices
RoboForm Everywhere to manage your passwords

My husband introduced me to RoboForm years ago and I am glad he did. I have used it continually to remember my passwords so I don’t have to. It syncs to both my computer and my phone so my passwords are always available. It will even generate passwords for me.

Go to this link to try RoboForm Free; if you like it you can upgrade to RoboForm Everywhere version with all the features I mentioned above. With Roboform, you will have one less thing to feel stressed about.

 

 

Please share with your friends and

follow Watercress Words as we explore the HEART of HEALTH.  

Thank you. Dr. Aletha 

5 steps to manage stress and strain

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away. Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

As a college graduation gift, I gave a friend’s son a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble Bookseller. He earned a  mechanical engineering degree  and will work as a rocket structural engineer.

He sent me a nice handwritten thank you note (which few people do these days) and said he plans to use it to buy a book that other structural engineers recommend. The book is Roark’s Formulas for Stress and Strain.

Roark's Formulas for Stress and Strain- a book

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a formula for handling the stress and strain of life?

Many health issues would resolve or be easier to manage if life stressors would just go away.  Three fourths of the patients treated by primary care physicians have problems aggravated by  emotional, social, or behavioral issues.

Life’s  interruptions and disruptions won’t disappear, but you can make them less of a strain on your time, energy, and resources. There’s usually no quick fix but 5 steps can lessen their impact.

I learned the value of these steps when I dealt with the stress of a foot fracture that required surgery to correct it, and a longer convalescence than I expected. For someone who is used to being active, the prolonged inactivity stressed me both physically and emotionally. These 5 steps were already a part of my life, but consciously choosing them helped me cope with what would otherwise cause frustration and sadness.

5 steps to manage life’s stress and strain

 

1. Create and maintain a routine and schedule.

Having a plan for your time helps you feel more in control of your life.  Resist the tendency to become socially isolated or avoid activities you usually enjoy. 

a smartphone lying on a calendar page with a planner and cup of coffee
from Lightstock.com (affiliate) stock photo site

Times of crisis, loss, or illness may leave you feeling disconnected and adrift, but having a schedule provides structure and connection. When you are busy, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. 

 

 

 

2. Recognizing and reaching out to social supports

Your family and friends are your first line of  support during times of stress and duress. It’s nice if we don’t have to ask for their support, but their lives are busy too, so don’t be hesitant to ask for help if you need it. If they don’t call you, call them.

2 women talking over coffee with open bibles
Conversation over coffee can be therapeutic. graphic from the Lightstock collection( affiliate link)

Other sources for help include your healthcare professionals;  don’t be embarrassed to share that you need social and emotional support. Your doctor can help you identify and get connected with community resources.

Look for help from your or your spouse’s job, your religious community, organizations you belong to, your school, and online resources for support- educational sites, forums, support groups.  Although not as personal as face to face support, these are helpful  if  you are  geographically isolated or mobility is difficult.

 

 

3. Reframe by refocusing on the positive rather than the negative.

Recognizing and emphasizing the positive in life makes the problems less overwhelming and distressing. Look for something to be grateful for, or that brings a little joy into your day. It may be as simple as flowers blooming in your yard, your favorite tea and sweet,  a funny story in a magazine.  

balloons-get well IMG_2269.jpg
Balloons are nice, too.

Remembering and observing happy events, occasions, and celebrations can also be sources of renewed joy.

Norma, a woman facing terminal illness, reframed her crisis by finding joy in small things, like jigsaw puzzles, new foods, and a “good perm”. Read more about her at

Driving Miss Norma- a book review
Driving Miss Norma - a book cover

 

 

 

4. Stay active mentally and physically

Physical activity doesn’t have to be a chore, boring, or expensive. Many things can be done at home or in your neighborhood-walking, bicycling, cardio, yoga. If exercise isn’t your thing, try dancing, gardening, swimming. 

If your  physical mobility is limited,  try something stimulating mentally-sewing, crafts, games, puzzles, writing, cooking are just a few possibilities.

checkerboard

 

Consider a fitness app on your phone like Aaptiv, at this affiliate link (commission to blog if you use)

 

 

5. Nurture your inner self

woman with hands bowed in prayer

Sometimes we need to withdraw from outward activities and stimulation for times of quiet rest and reflection.

You may  find help from mindfulness, meditation, prayer, devotional reading, music, journaling,  or a combination of these approaches.

Breathing exercises can lessen anxiousness and tension.

I use the breathing exercises on the Aaptiv Fitness app to relax and unwind after a long day.


These affiliate links may help you deal with stress and strain. (At no extra cost to you, purchases through this link help me fund this blog.)

My Reader Rewards Club is a great way to earn free books and Bibles for yourself, friends, and family! Your journey to earning free faith-based products starts HERE.
(When you sign up through these links, I can earn free books too.)

Join my Reader Rewards Club
READ.REVIEW.REDEEM myReader rewards club

As a member, you’ll have access to inspiring literature, Bibles, special promotional offers, and much more. Earning points is easy—you’ll receive 25 points just for signing up!

RoboForm Password Manager.

You’re likely reading this post on a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, so you visit sites that require a password. How do you remember them all? You don’t have to if you use RoboForm Password Manager.

My husband introduced me to RoboForm years ago and I am glad he did. I have used it continually to remember my passwords so I don’t have to. It syncs to both my computer and my phone so my passwords are always available. It will even generate passwords for me.

Go to this link to try RoboForm Free; if you like it you can upgrade to RoboForm Everywhere version with all the features I mentioned above. With Roboform, you will have one less thing to feel stressed about.

Help with tech stress

If computer problems cause you stress, you may find help at my husband’s tech blog. He’s a computer guy with years of professional experience that he’s now sharing at

techsavvy.life

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha