Writer at Work

Writing is and can be an exhilarating pass time, fascination and/or professionI appreciate my friend sharing this professionally created door marker.  The insignia surely is not my creation but inspires me when I get a writing block.

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I took a short break from public writing which turned out for me to be a restless time because as we all know – ‘writers, write.’

The writing bug is beginning to buzz just like all of the busy birds and bees of spring.

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All I need to do now is ‘unclutter’ all my paperwork.

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Ray Anthony Lewis

UNDENIABLE

I was watching an interview between Dan Patrick and Ray Anthony Lewis.  Ray Lewis completed a distinguished 16-year career as a middle linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens wearing #52 and is inducted into the Football Hall of Fame.

Ray mentioned many inspiring quotes during the process of the conversation but one particular thought remains with me: “If you stay ready then you ain’t never got to get ready.”  This seems to be his mantra for success.  Even though Ray experienced a challenging childhood he continues striving for success in his adult years because he wants to “stop my family’s pain.”  His humble beginnings taught him that personal dedication and striving to, as he says, “get on the other side of pain” seems to be his driving force for success.

As Ray joined his fellow teammates at the University of Miami he came to the university with 1 pair of jeans and 3 white tee shirts.  Certainly, he has expanded not only his wardrobe but his capacity to stay ready and stop his family’s pain by providing not only a sincere example of dedication but the physical trappings of material success.

A profound quote by this successful man really remains with me: “If there’s something in your life that needs changing then you better change it because if you don’t someone else will and you may not like how they do it.”

 

Vitrification

Vitrification is a process of converting a material into a glass-like amorphous solid that is free from any crystalline structure, either by the quick removal or addition of heat or by mixing with an additive.  So, what does this mean and why am I writing about it?

Well, your most recognizable example of this process occurs as you walk along the beach and you find a solid form of light-brown tinted glass lying in the sand.  When lightning strikes enough sand it can create glass.  In this case, the sand heats up and liquefies, then rapidly cools into a glass-like state.  When you reach down and pick up this vitrified glass you’re holding evidence of nature changing itself.

We can take a lesson from nature.  Feeling awkward in social situations or being mentally challenged often increases our body temperature because our innate “flight-or-flight” preservation response tells us that our system is under attack.  Things are heating up for us, we are getting hotter; sweating, dry mouth, jittery, nervous are all responses that we know.

Do we need to change?  Does the heat that we’re experiencing indicate that we’re getting ready for the proverbial bolt from above?  Will changing help us feel comfortable?  Well, nature seems to understand change fairly well and accepts the idea as part of life.  Could it be that we are stubborn when the need for change comes our way?  I think that we all agree – a bolt of lightning is extreme and no one wants to experience a fast, atmospheric, electric flash with enough energy to discharge itself and change us into glass.

Vitrification is extreme.  Maybe a slow, uncomfortable burn is more manageable when we are looking for clues of change.  We want to feel good, relate well with our partner, enhance our well-being and mental ability in a low anxiety environment.  No one wants to get zapped with high-voltage electricity!  Embracing the need for change may be a powerful potential antidote to loneliness or social isolation – “therapy without a therapist.”

Making change when we first feel uncomfortable in social situations may be the key to a comfortable transition.  Introducing small adjustments to our daily lives before big changes are needed seems logical.  It’s like experiencing light rain with far-off thunder instead of standing in a hurricane with the constant threat of a lightning strike.

Do You Feel the Anxiety?

As we enter the month of December the feeling of free-floating anxiety is rising.  There seems to be an unwritten rule that we must perform unusual social activities with our friends and casual acquaintances for the next few weeks in order to fulfill an invisible cultural norm.

This duty requires our appearance at social functions that are often scheduled to include potluck meals prepared with high-calorie foods that we prepare late at night with ingredients we normally wouldn’t purchase.  We do this so that our potluck dish will be noticed among all of the other specially prepared meals.  Of course, we also are socially obliged to eat portions of these dishes so that we can fulfill the invisible cultural norm.

As the month of Christmas-tide begins most of us make a mental resolution to manage our sleep routine so that getting enough much-needed shut-eye is a priority.  However, bedtime bleeds into the wee hours as we try to check up on our emails.  Since we are exhausted after a difficult day at the office most of us will try to catch a few winks on the couch before dinner – invariably then we can’t fall asleep at night.  If we do manage to fall asleep all of the festive issues swirling around the season wash through our brain with worry and concern.  When we can’t sleep we get out of bed, turn on the TV and watch the latest re-run of a 20 year old western even though we know that this artificial light interferes with our body’s production of melatonin.

So, now we have eaten too much unhealthy food, socialized with people we don’t know or even like and when we do finally get to bed, we can’t sleep.  Does this sound familiar?

Take a breath.  Understand that you can manage Christmas-tide because you have three tools on your December calendar.  These tools will work well for you because you’re putting them to work early in the month.  They’re easy and free.  Since you know what’s coming in the Christmas-tide from your past experiences you’ll now be prepared to handle situations.  These tools assist you when you feel the anxiety of the season.

  •  Schedule your time
  •  Eat healthy food
  •  Plan for setbacks

These three powerful tools may seem simple and logical but if you put them into practice NOW and physically write them on your December calendar you’ll be successful in using these expert tools.  I know that you’ll make a mental resolution to write the physical words on your calendar or type them into your laptop but I want you to do it NOW. When you feel the anxiety, read the tools!

Purpose

I was listening to an interview with a prominent sports marketing and memorabilia entrepreneur.  This person has overcome multiple challenges in his life to become successful.  These struggles facing humiliation and embarrassment solidified his purpose at a young age.  His focus which was forged into a purpose centers around developing healthy relationships.

It’s obvious that this person is a prominent figure in today’s sports arena.  He has strategically developed business relationships throughout his tenuous career.  Therefore, he enjoys conversational dialogues with well-known athletes.   His personal relationship skills have developed through years of interactions in multiple business ventures.

His personal skills have been finely honed into a detection monitor for the finer things in life.  Although money is important and needed for daily existence the real and sustaining value lies closer to everyone’s reach.  It is something that can be developed and nurtured by anyone desiring to have a rich and full life.  This ‘finer thing’ requires attention to developing problem-solving abilities and upgrading your listening skills.

The purpose of developing healthy relationships is a lifelong skill.   It involves struggling with life’s challenges, appreciating your life, trusting in the goodness of people, looking honestly at disappointments, disassembling your old notions of bias and being charitable toward other’s faults.  In order to have healthy relationships with people, you have to talk to and interact with people.  I know that sounds obvious but the idea can be scary to some people.  Often, people who are skilled at playing hardball in the business world find it difficult to interact in the personal arena with others.  For some reason, these hard-hitting entrepreneurs find that dealing with another human being on a strictly personal level is terrifying.

However, this terror is quickly overcome when a ‘purpose’ is the main focus.  Purpose trumps everything.  Especially when you truly care for people you’ll find that if you decide that your purpose is healthy relationships that’s where your focus will be.  Fostering your interactions with the people that you care for will melt away all of the incidentals in life.  I’m not saying that food or clothing or shelter aren’t vitally important because they are but if you decide that your purpose in life is healthy relationships with yourself and others, the essentials of life will also fit nicely into your life.

The purpose of life is to remember that people are more important than things.

 

Weight or Wait

Grandma’s experiences influence our DNA structure.  The science of Epigenetics studies the chemical modification of genes and how the information in our genes is expressed and used by our cells.

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The reason this concept of weight is important is that if grandma is obese that tendency is imprinted on her DNA and can be genetically passed to her descendants. (DiscoverMagazine.com) Epigenetics doesn’t alter the sequence but influences our gene expression.

A Redbook article (Wrangle Your Stress, Sept.2018) relates that when we’re stressed our body shifts into a fight-or-flight mode.  This hormonal shift signals our body to conserve energy since we’re under attack; our metabolism slows.  This situation also signals the stress hormone, cortisol which increases hunger motivating us to eat foods high in sugar and fat according to Jessica Bartfield, M.D., assistant professor in the Weight Management Center at Wake Forest Medical Center in North Carolina.

This theme of stress and survival imprints on grandma’s DNA and functions much like a stop light; turning “on” or “off” a particular DNA expression. So, if grandma experienced stress on a regular basis the imprint of obesity sits on her DNA and is passed on to her descendants as a potential expression.

An article in WebMD (July/Aug2018) relates that childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S.  The researchers voiced concern that excess weight has become so common that many parents may now see it as normal.

Another study noted in HealthyDay (Sep 19, 2018) relates a quote by Mark Eberhardt, an epidemiologist at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) “Diabetes remains a chronic health problem in this country, affecting some 30 million people.”  This idea is reinforced by the fact that 1 in 7 Americans has diabetes, and many don’t know they have the disease.

Medscape Medical News Jan 20, 2017, cites that the epidemic of obesity is affecting society’s youngest members, driving up rates of type 2 diabetes from infancy to the college years.  Severe obesity is a cause of type 2DM.  Not the only cause, but a direct one.  Increasing rates of obesity will lead to more type 2 DM.

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Obviously, all of this medical research proves that obesity affects our DNA and the tendency for obesity can be passed on to our children who in turn can pass the tendency on to their children.  “Therefore grandma’s experiences leave a mark on your genes.”

So, the question is do we wait to address the issue of obesity?  Since there is scientific evidence that the altered trait of obesity can be transmitted to our grandma’s descendants is it time to integrate genetics into our weight management program?  Waiting to make this change may ensure that the tendency for obesity keeps integrating throughout our coming generations.

Should we wait to act on the weight issue?

CLUES

How do we define disease? How do we define health?

These seem like easy questions to answer.  We know when someone is sick or when they’re without illness; it’s obvious. We can tell when our body isn’t working “up to par.”

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CLUES are interesting little bits of information that swirl around our everyday lives guiding us through the intricate maze of evidence that can lead us to a solution to our problems.  Often these little, sometimes annoying, indicators lead us to a complete understanding of the issues in our lives, all we need to do is take a few minutes to understand the story that they’re telling us.

As we go along our day performing our comfortable habits in our normal routine these tiny indications slowly creep into our awareness and take on the persona of an aggravating gnat. As usual, we flick this tiny suggestion away from our consciousness as though it were a brief inconvenience.

Our vibrancy, wit, and confidence aren’t threatened so why should we give attention to such a minute detail?  Not until or memory, behavior, daily functions and activities begin to falter does our attention focus on our personal health and wellness.  Now, our daily habits are interrupted.  Now, we notice the CLUES that have been circling and buzzing to attract our attention.

Our flexibility and awareness may need to be reset into the ‘priority’ mode especially when it comes to listening to the CLUES that our body is giving us about our health and wellness.

 

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Plasticity

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Plastic is a substance capable of being molded. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus-2012) This definition as it refers to our human brains includes the consistent reprocessing and re-pattering of events when one’s brain can create new neural pathways and thereby follow new responses to old triggers (The Guardian – July23, 2015).

When our brains change, our abilities change.  Dr. Micheal Merzenich and Dr. Norman Doidge of Brain HQ, condenses this information into a simple statement – “the brain can change itself.”  Through their research, both doctors have determined that the gray matter in our brains can shrink or thicken; neural connections can be forged, refined weakened and severed.

CNN.com (May 5,2011) reported this amazing issues when they related the story of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She had been shot in the head by a bullet during a political campaign.  She made remarkable progress by forming new brain cells called neurons.  The feat was accomplished by repeated rehabilitation to relearn basic tasks.  A traumatic brain injury patient may be able to form new brain connections that allow him or her to talk and walk again.

Although part of the brain may be damaged, functions of the missing parts are taken over by reconnection pathways to other, healthy functioning neuros.  This forms new circuits to resume the lost function.  Albeit, this process may be slow, it is possible to regain the original ability.

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Research also shows that the opposite of plasticity is true.  If an available brain function isn’t used, it may shrivel and disappear.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent relates that when it comes to basic functions it truly is a “use it or lose it” idea.  That’s why rehabilitation to relearn how to walk and speak is so important.  Dr. Gupta says, “the more you improve in the early time period, the more you’ll improve in the long run.”  Since our brain is plastic, we should make it our best friend and nudge our neurons into functioning circuits that help improve us every day.

Healthy People/Unhealthy People

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Maybe where a person lives determines their health status.  Maybe where a person lives influences the factors that cause disease? In the book “Social Determinates of Health – A Comparative Approach” Alan Davidson states “the extent to which something poses a risk to us depends on our level of susceptibility or our resilience.”  Maybe our health depends on the combination of where we live and the choices that we make.

Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h) FAAN in her article in American Nurse Today (Vol.13, #2) cites the Black Commission which outlines Britain’s National Health Service that found social conditions are important to the health of the population and your level of education relates closely to your disease risk.”  If these facts are true, then where we live and what we chose to do with the information that we have does make an impact on our health.

The idea of social determinates focuses on the interrelated conditions and factors that influence the health of a total population over the course of a lifetime.  In a greater viewpoint, it is the context in which people live their lives – the availability of everyday social, economic, educational and health resources that are available to the average person, that determines the health of a population.

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Could it be that social parity is more influential than individual health habits?  Or do the healthy choices that individuals make each day determine the overall health of the neighborhood in which they live?  Whatever the answer is, it’s obvious that the context in which a person lives exerts a great influence on their overall health status and possibly their individual life expectancy.  Healthy or unhealthy, statistics show that we all have a choice.

 

Check-In

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The month of March is a good time to check-in to see how New Year’s Resolutions are progressing.  Everyone has had a few weeks to work out some kinks in their firmness and dedication.  There has been time to refine a schedule and determine a routine so that we all should now be fairly well set into a regular cycle of activity.

So, how are things going?  Obviously, there have been a few bumps and detours along the path with maybe a couple of starts and stops.  However, the focus is still clear and our mental persuasion keeps reminding us that we remain true to our decisions.

Possibly, some of us have really not done anything.  But, I’m sure that it’s only a couple of us and we are still totally committed to refreshing our commitment to those ever-precious goals that will enrich our lives and encourage the betterment of the community.  That staunch focus helps us to renew our commitment that made us decide on the New Year’s Resolutions in the first place.

Some of us decided to increase our exercise by walking or running on a daily basis.  Others are going to ride our bikes in the open air to expose ourselves to nature and clear skies.  A few have signed up for yoga and stretching classes but we haven’t always been able to attend on a regular basis.  Only a couple chose to train for an upcoming marathon and that workout is going fairly well – although most of the training is a little too strenuous.

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It seems like things are going really well. Our goals are being met and we’re feeling healthy, calm and centered.

Now possibly, just possibly, if there are just a few of us who have slipped just a little bit and not been able to meet each and every landmark that we set for ourselves, do not despair.  It’s only March.  There’s plenty of time to renew, refresh and reuse.  You can check-in with yourself and check-out your progress – go forth…