May 8, 2019

#571 – Live Better with RA – Tip #6

Tip #6 – Accentuate the Positive

We’re hard-wired to scan our environment for danger. Unfortunately, for some, our experiences have us performing this operation far too often.

In one study, optimistic subjects had increased cell-mediated immunity, whereas a drop in optimism showed a decrease in immunity. Other studies show that an optimistic attitude about aging can help people live longer, and optimistic cardiac patients are less likely to be readmitted to hospital.

One way to flip your perspective is by practicing gratitude on a regular basis. Another is to do stress techniques, which help to lighten the load and carry you into a better frame of mind.

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April 30, 2019

“Paw-blem” Solving

HollysBoots

Holly is still with us, despite her diagnosis in December 2017.

Unlike the boys, Harley and Murphy, Holly is more high maintenance, which is understandable, given her rough beginning. “Just like her ‘mamma’,” says my husband! (RA tends to make one high maintenance, but that’s a post for another day.)

She has an inexplicable skin condition, which is extremely itchy. Her nerves are impacted because of the location of the tumour. As a result, she doesn’t feel when she has the urge to poop. The solution is to put a diaper on her when she is in the house.

She drags her feet when we go on walks, which has worn down her nails so much, that several of them bleed. Whenever we go out, we now have to put boots on her. It’s like getting a toddler ready to go out to play in below zero weather. It takes us about 10 minutes just to get out the door. It is what it is, though.

It’s a challenge to find something that is suitable for both of us. With my loss of hand strength and dexterity, it is difficult to tighten the straps enough so that the boots stay on during our walks. It helps if the straps are long enough so that I can get a good grip on them.

Here are some of boots we’ve bought (and returned):

  • Jawz for Paws Dog Boots  – Impossible for me to stretch the boot enough to get it onto the  “Jawz” – the device that is supposed to make it easy to put on.
  • Puppy Socks – I liked these, but they wore out in 1 week. It says that the toe is covered in rubber. If that were the case, I’m sure that they would have lasted longer.
  • North Fetch Silicone Dog Boots  – I brought XXXL home from the pet store. Couldn’t even get it on her foot. Even if they were a proper size, they’re not tall enough, so you couldn’t tie the boots on tight enough.
  • Waterproof Mesh Dog Boots – My husband uses these. I find that the velcro is not long enough for me to pinch and give a good tightening tug.

Since I couldn’t find any boots that worked, I decided to get some made for Holly. (I’d do it myself, but I don’t have a heavy-duty sewing machine.) We had an old boot that belonged to Harley, which worked pretty well, until she wore a hole in it.

I stopped at the shoemaker to ask him to sew a pair for Holly from a pattern I had traced from Harley’s boot. He told me that he didn’t have any appropriate material from which to make it.

Undaunted, I stopped a thrift store, where I found a pair of men’s heavy duty work gloves that would work. I brought them and my pattern back to the shoemaker. To prolong the life of the boots, I asked him to sew leather over the toes. They were ready in a couple of hours.

DogBoots

To keep them on, I wrap a strip of velcro around the boot and off we go. If they do fall off, which isn’t often, when I can get the velcro pulled tight enough, the bright orange boots are easy to spot.

“Pawblem”solved!

April 24, 2019

#569 – Live Better with RA – Tip #5

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Image courtesy of Samantha Mesones.

Tip #5 – Laugh and/or Smile

I was recently reminded about the healing power of laughter. I had injured myself doing some leg exercises with weights, which were too heavy. (It’s a reminder that I’m more delicate than I think I am!) One evening, I watched a number of YouTube videos featuring this great observational comic, whom I found to be laugh-out-loud funny. The next day, I felt significantly better. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe not. Find what tickles your funny bone and indulge.

The Power Behind a Smile

So, you haven’t had a good laugh in awhile. Try on a smile for a boost of happiness. On page 37 in Connected – How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do, the authors explain:

If your friend feels happy, she smiles, you smile, and in the act of smiling you also come to feel happy. In bars and bedrooms, at work and on the street, everywhere people interact, we tend to synchronize our facial expressions, vocalizations , and postures unconsciously and rapidly, and as a result we also meld our emotional states.”

Even if you don’t feel happy, there’s value in turning that frown upside down. A study in the Association for Psychological Science shows that smiling, whether it be a Duchenne smile (the muscles surrounding both the mouth and eyes are engaged), or a standard smile, can help to reduce the body’s stress response:

The results of the study suggest that smiling may actually influence our physical state: compared to participants who held neutral facial expressions, participants who were instructed to smile, and in particular those with Duchenne smiles, had lower heart rate levels after recovery from the stressful activities.”

It can be hard to smile and laugh when you are enveloped in a red-hot flare, when sleep is elusive and the worries accumulate faster than ants on your picnic table. You want to  break the cycle, so you have to start somewhere. A smile, even faked, can be of value. Combine it with a lot of the other strategies you’ll find on this blog and that faked smile may just become real.

Do it for the health of it!

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April 3, 2019

#568 – Live Better with RA – Tip #4

bedroom-1494960-640x480

Image courtesy of  Gail  Rau.

Tip #4 – Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

Relentless flares, disease-related anxieties, family issues, bills, noise, frustrations — just a sampling of the things that can keep you up at night. A lack of sleep can create a snowball of increasing sleeplessness, wreaking havoc on your RA. With a few important but relatively small changes, you can learn to cultivate good sleep habits, which may lead to a better night’s sleep.

Yeah, but How Do You Do That, Exactly?

  1. Transform your stress on a regular basis.
  2. Experiment to discover the time by which you should stop eating and using your electronic devices. Too close to bedtime and you might be too wired to sleep.
  3. Limit alcohol.
  4. Make your bedroom an electronics nogozone.
  5. Find the right bedding. For example, I prefer feather pillows, a down duvet and definitely not a soft comfort (Yeah, right!) mattress.
  6. Your bedroom ambience. For me: a cool, dark room is a must.
  7. Don’t count sheep, but instead, list all the things for which you are grateful.
  8. Practice cognitive shuffling: Choose a 5/6 letter word, such as “dream.” Now list as many words that you can think of for d, then r, and so on.
  9. Do a room inventory, once you’ve turned off the light. Slowly list everything that is in your bedroom. You might find you’re asleep before you are half-way around the room.
  10. Perhaps you have sleep apnea? Get tested.
  11. Support your jaw.
  12. Do you have painsomnia? Onboard strategies to help you manage your pain. See #1.
  13. Reset your sleep clock. Sometimes you’re simply going to bed too early. Stay up later and find your ideal bedtime.
  14. Medication can interfere with sleep. Talk with your doctor and pharmacist to discover solutions and options.
  15. A hormone deficiency may impact your sleep. Talk to your doctor about getting tested.
  16. Melatonin, 5-HTP and other over-the-counter products may induce sleep. Check with your doctor to see if these products are a good option for you.
  17. Your sleep hygiene routine may include a nap on the couch.
  18. Exercise – but at the right time for you. For example, I know if I exercise in the evening, I’m too wired to sleep.
  19. Laugh. Several hours before bed, I watched several YouTube videos of one of my favourite comedians, Michael McIntyre. No, he didn’t put me to sleep with his routine; he is laugh-out-loud funny with his observational humour. All that laughter changes your chemistry – for the better.
  20. Your turn: Please share what helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.

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