Category Archives: Stress

Heal Thanksgiving, family stress

Large Family gatherings like Thanksgiving are often very stressful times.  Can we make this a Thanksgiving where we don’t leave thankful that we don’t have to see them again for another year?

Yes, there are ways to make this Thanksgiving a time we will give thanks for. It will take some effort, but it can be worth it. There are three phases to Healing Thanksgiving family stress. Preparation, action, and recovery.

Prepare yourselves.  We gather together because these people have meant so much to us in the past. The stress arises as we relive and re-enact old ways that caused pain. Focusing upon the joy and love we shared will help. As we prepare for the gathering several things can be done.

First, get yourself in a positive frame of mind by playing music you enjoy.   Don’t listen to the news or talk radio. Play music that you want to dance to or sing along with. In the family car can you all join in?

Next recall what you have enjoyed about those you will see. Are there funny stories or tender moments you shared?  Was there a favorite bedtime’s story you used to share? What games did you play together? Were there vacations that you enjoyed together? Yes, there was some pain in these events but focus upon the fun and joy you shared.

What do you want to accomplish at the event. Thanksgiving is the start of a season where we exchange gifts. Can you make it a goal to listen to each person you meet and find the perfect gift that will bring that person joy? It may be a note or other personal act that will mean the most to many people. What will make each person you meet happy?

At the event there are things you can do.  While you wait for the organized meals and other activities you will have time to talk and catch up. What did they enjoy since you last met?  What joys do they look forward to? These enquiries will help you discover that perfect gift.

As people gather to eat, pause to share. Taking a moment for each person to express a reason they are thankful for each person there will help. Then also share a brief story of a good time you shared with each other. Smaller gatherings can be done one at a time. Larger groups may have to do musical chairs with several people talking and listening at the same time.

Between the meal and desert there is often a pause to let the food settle. Use this time to join in a pastime that you enjoyed in the past. Try to include that entire are there. Card games, puzzles, and charades are just a few examples of ways to gather and enjoy.

Others will have expectations that are not met. Don’t criticize others. If you feel offended, let them know you felt pain at their action. Ask that they act differently next time. If they criticize you, realize that they cared about what you did. They are risking the relationship to express their pain. Why did they care so much?  How else could their need been met? Is there a gift idea here?

Ass you part company find a way to express your joy at seeing each person again. And wish them well.

As you head home you are usually exhausted. Hopefully you are happy and content. Often we are frustrated by all the social correctness we had to perform.  Give yourself and others a time to relax and rest. Put soothing music on the radio (or CD player).  When you feel calmed let the conversation flow. Seek out the joys and frustrations. Why did certain things people did or said frustrate you? What did you need when you got frustrated?  Once people feel heard then you can try to end the ride exchanging what you look forward to with each person that will bring you BOTH Joy.

Thanksgiving is a time for giving Thanks; can we make this gathering an event to be Thankful for?

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach, Dr. Dave

Author of the forthcoming book, “Recipes for Lemonade (Thrive thru Disability): Dr. Dave’s personal story”

PS. Share the Joy by sharing this blog with friends and family. Your ideas and comments are welcome on this blog site or the associated Facebook page.

Disability Interventions: the workplace

The workplace is very stressful. I never realized how stressful my job had been until recently. There is always the fear of not performing as well as others expect. When you become aware that you might not continue to perform well, it is very stressful. It is also stressful when a friend or coworker is not performing as well as you had come to expect. This can be a very delicate topic whether the disability monster is yours or somebody else’s.

Office politics is always a difficult subject. You have friends. You have coworkers, and you have people who seem hostile. They all have demands upon them. These demands may be formal, as are those of your supervisor. Or they may be informal such as trying to meet the expectations of someone else. When you discover a disability monster lurking, Whom do you turn to? Who do you trust??

Close friends and confidants may have no experience with a disability. Many people are uneasy around people with obvious disabilities. I have several friends who use guide dogs to replace their eyesight. People often try to pet the dogs. If the dogs weren’t working this would be appropriate. However, it distracts the dog while it is working. It makes it difficult for the dog user to know what is going on. They prefer you ask before trying to pet their dog. If you are uncertain how a friend or other coworker would respond in similar situations, what would you do?

A disability intervention: with your disability monster

Most of us with a disability find that both the boss and coworkers are less supportive than we would like. When we finally choose to seek assistance we will need to approach somebody. One way to do this would be as follows:

First, connect with the person in a comfortable place. This might be over some coffee or lunch, where you are not likely to be distracted for a while. Then you’d be sure that person is not upset with something else by making some sort of small talk. Then with both of you being comfortable you can bring up the general issue of what you are struggling with. If you’re having trouble reading presentations that are projected on a screen, you might ask your friend, “is that difficult to see? “ If you’re having trouble hearing, you might ask, “Did you understand what was said? “

In other situations it might be reading reports, concentrating or being easily distracted. In these situations the assistance you would be seeking is more complicated. In my office I was the boss so I could be open with my staff and encouraged them to correct me when I misread something. I had also asked them to write with felt tip pens. These were adaptations that help me perform the job we all depended upon. Many people are not that fortunate. They work with people who don’t care or maybe are openly hostile.

When you’re working in a small organization it often become sort of a family. However many people work in large and impersonal organizations. Large corporations will have people in the human resources department whose job it is to help you perform your own job. I will talk more about how to work with the disability system in future blogs.

A disability intervention in someone else’s disability monster

If a friend or coworker seems to be having trouble this is also a problem. You might approach it much like I suggested when the disability monster was yours. Find a time and place where you are both comfortable. Let both of you settle in, and then bring up the general topic, before talking about a specific incident. You may want to make it clear that this was not the only time you saw the person struggling, and that you want to help. You want to keep that attitude of helpfulness front and center. Most people will try to deny a single incident. They may not be ready to admit it to themselves. There is the potential that they will leave angry. This will hurt. Remember denial and anger are the first steps in the process of dealing with any loss.

As your friend struggles to admit having a problem, you may become the focus of their anger. By reminding yourself that this person is struggling, and trying to care for that person while not taking it personally you can weather the storm. The storm can last for days or longer. You need to be comfortable and feel safe while it blows over. Having chosen to bring up such a difficult subject took courage; continue to have the courage to care.        You are being a real friend.

Please, have the courage to comment and share with those who might benefit from this.

As Always, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave,

Author of the forthcoming book, “recipes for lemonade (thriving through disability): Dr. Dave’s personal recipe”

Food Stamps and Tough Love

In Thursday’s New York Times article “On the Edge of Poverty, at the Center of a Debate on Food Stamps” the author talked about how the food stamp program was being used as an instrument for tough love. Those in Congress who want to cut funding feel most of the people should return to work. The author gave several examples of people who are disabled and dependent upon food stamps.

If they are disabled how can less nutrition make them more able?

“What you eat is what you will become.” If we make people starve or choose calorie dense junk foods over a variety of healthy food we will not help them be healthier. We knew know that good nutrition is important for the body to function. We also know that if people are stressed the body will function poorly.

Our bodies use food to replace and restore the tissues. It is not just a source of energy in the short term but the building blocks for our future body. Our cells are constantly turning over in periods from days to weeks. I recently saw the effect good nutrition can have when my cats became ill.

We have two cats that are 17 years old. Over a period of months they stopped eating solid food and even stopped eating moist food. They lost weight; their previously soft fur became matted and knotted. After a visit to the vet and removal of some bad teeth they started eating again. Now their fur has returned to its normal soft consistency. No longer do we have to cut the gnarls out of their hair.

Similar things happen to our bodies. What we eat affects our cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure in a fairly short time span. We are aware of the effects coffee has on us. Most parents can tell when the kids have gotten too much sugar. With my restless legs I have to avoid chocolate and caffeine in the evenings or my feet won’t settle down.

Emerging research in nutrition shows that what we eat determines what bacteria grow in our guts. These bacteria (and yeasts), help us to digest our food and either produce toxins or prevent them from getting into our bodies. Thus people talk about using diet to affect our mood and even treating depression. Some forms of arthritis can be helped by glycogen supplements or reducing the toxic load in our diets.

How do you function under stress?

I know I don’t function well under stress. My 91-year-old mother became ill on New Year’s Eve and died in May. I am now picking up the pieces from things I did during that period.  With the stress declining, I now feel more creative and energized than I did for the first half of this year.

Is the tough love approach creating a vicious cycle, poor nutrition leading to poor health leading to poor functioning and for thinking? If so isn’t it time to come up with a better way?

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments which you can post below. If you know anybody who might like to consider this please share.

 As All Way, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave

Author of the forthcoming book, “Recipes for Lemonade (Thriving through Disability): Dr. Dave’s Personal Recipe “

Trauma from Healthcare


 We all know some things in healthcare can be traumatic such a surgery. However to articles in the New York Times suggests healthcare is more traumatic than we expect.” Nightmares I.C.U.

“and the related letter “Diaries Aid Mental Recovery” suggests as much more common than I would’ve been expected. Have you experienced nightmares after healthcare?

In my years as a physician I was often called upon to manage delirious patients. Sometimes I could calm them down the path that of I by just talking to them. Often I had to physically restrain them, until medications could do the job. I thought little of how the patient might remember this. I probably should have known better.

As an infant I came to hate shots. Then age 3 a bout of whooping cough landed me in the ICU. The pain from a shot of penicillin got me to take a deep breath. I coughed out the mucus and breathe better. after I returned home I experienced night terrors for a wild. I can still recall some of the content of those nightmares. I still do not like getting poked with needles, but decided to not let it bother me when I started drawing blood and starting IV’s.

The New York Times articles suggest that some of the things we do are not as helpful as we think. As a geriatrician I tried to look for the cause of delirium as soon as possible. After the anesthesia from surgery we usually figure it’s the residual sedation from the anesthesia. Thus we would strive to avoid additional sedatives. In an ICU setting especially with the respirator the treatment can cause major panic. Patients have told me it’s next to impossible to breathe with the machine. As we try to get the patient off the respirator we set the machine to breathe with the patient. When this doesn’t work we use a variety of drugs some of which are supposed to cause amnesia.

These drugs do not cause a perfect amnesia. Often their use for such common procedures as colonoscopies. Many patients have told me they remember the whole thing. At least they don’t recall any pain. So I guess they’re effective when used this way.

Does healthcare cause other traumas?

When I was confronted with a new illness that might be cancer, I was never quite sure what to tell the patient. Even when I would’ve bet the lump was cancer, I hesitated to say so. This situation has been discussed much among physicians.

The idea of posttraumatic stress occurring from healthcare offers much room for study and improvement. This study can also be expanded to veterinary medicine. My cat in the associated photo was Seeking refuge on top of the kitchen cabinet. I was about to take her to the veterinarian. She had serious dental problems and would not eat or drink. She is about to get her teeth extracted. I have found she will eat cooked chicken  and drink chicken broth.

Healing from Healthcare Trauma

Most people get over the trauma of healthcare fairly quickly, but not all. There are several things you can do if you are wondering about what might be after effects of healthcare. First, talk to your provider. He or she can review the official report and explain what happened. This will allow you to compare your recollections with that history.

If your family of someone set up a Caring Bridge site for you there will be another record of your stay in the hospital. This can be helpful to family and friends as well.

If these leave you needing more a coach or councilor can help. Because they are attuned to your feelings and not the system that caused the trauma they may be better. SAs always You can consult me about your options thru my website.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

coach Dr. Dave,

author of the forthcoming book, “recipes for lemonade (thriving through disability): Dr. Dave’s personal recipe”

Memorial Day; remembering the dead disabled and grieving

On this weekend we remember those who have sacrificed for the benefit of us all. In the last 10 years many have risked their lives to defend our country. Ninety=six percent of those injured in combat survive to face their injuries. Most of those injured suffered physical injuries. We hear more about the emotional injuries than the physical injuries. Neither type of injury is easy to live with. Then there are those whose injury is grief over the loss of a loved one. However, society benefits from the heroics of those who serve.
The societal benefit goes beyond just the feeling of security and power that comes from waging a war on foreign soil. We know there are brave people among us who would stand up to protect us in time of emergency. While we commonly see this in natural or other domestic disasters there are those who would step forward to go overseas. This next mix of heroes domestic and foreign we should thank regularly. Yet all too often in our squabbles over what we should do as a nation, police and the military get caught in the middle.
Our society gains more than just the physical security from the force of our police and military. In any conflict new technologies are tested and improved. We may debate the utility of drones, but they are finding civilian uses. The rapid treatment of injuries learned on the battlefield is now commonplace In Trauma care .The emotional toll of war is also becoming clear. We now realize that there is trauma in many common domestic situations. Witnesses to childhood traumas and the victims of childhood traumas frequently experience posttraumatic stress. Rape victims and children going to foster care also experience high rates of PTSD. For some of these groups the rate is higher than combat veterans.
We now call the emotional consequence of trauma posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. I know a man who served in Vietnam and only recently realized he had PTSD. He now speaks openly about it and has been able to get assistance for it.
To cope with PTSD one must first recognize that it may be occurring. Anyone who reacts with major fear to reminders of a major traumatic event is likely to have PTSD. Many of them will avoid such reminders, and in time will find those triggers less alarming. Not everyone who has been exposed to a major trauma will develop PTSD. The symptoms may begin weeks to months after the event. Anyone who thinks they are experiencing PTSD should seek experienced professional medical attention.
Many of us experience some anxiety after traumatic events, but this is not PTSD. It is an acute stress reaction and can also be debilitating. After I was in an automobile collision every time I pass that place I would remember. Initially I would be anxious and worried as well. Over time it became just a memory. Sometimes I would not recall it at all.
We now know that the emotional intensity of the initial trauma is seared deeply into our brains. Thus the neural pathways affected are easily stimulated. To heal the response to various triggers need to be replaced by something less frightening. Thus refusing to react with emotion can be one such defense. Trained professional counselors will help to provide a safe place and in that safe place to introduce and monitor the response to normal events that may trigger the memory. Medications can help but they need to be used in a formal treatment program.
A life coach, friend, physician or clergy can help with minor problems. When severe or persistent symptoms exist you should be referred to trained and experienced counselors. Once a victim of PTSD has returned to a seemingly normal life a coach and other friends may help them go forward.
On this Memorial Day let us respect and give thanks to those who risk so much on our behalf. I am sure we all wish no one would have to risk PTSD. Yes I am sure some who experienced the tornado in Oklahoma this past week will suffer PTSD, also.
As All Ways, seek Joy,
Coach DR. Dave (MD disabled)


Abundant Perspective

Abundant Perspective

As I gaze out the window on this very cold winter’s day, I see bright sun shining upon bare trees and snow. It is almost too much for the eye to bear. It is blinding. It is so Abundant and yet so simple. In the midst of so little heat there is so much energy. How can this be?

Yet is not that always the way, plenty in the midst of scarcity? Or is it a matter of perspective. When I think of winter I think of snow and cold. I think of the effort to go about my normal tasks. I think of the way in olden times people would struggle to feed themselves. Yet here in Minnesota we find an abundance of ways to enjoy the cold.

Winter is the time for Ice Castles and snow forts, of sledding and hockey, of bright winter’s mornings and clear starry nights, of gently falling snow and howling winds.

A heavy snow fall is both a blessing and a curse. It makes us pause and attend not to our agendas but that of nature. We cannot go about our normal activities. We must find the car under the piles of snow. The roads are hidden under the white. Yet it creates unique opportunities. What child does not enjoy sledding or snow ball fights. When my kids were young I would pile the snow at the end of the drive so they could make forts.

What do we need? More stuff or more appreciation for what we have?

The good times I share with my family are those we spent together. It is not the activity, but the presence we shared. Paddling a canoe, each of us dipping our paddle in and out of the water in unison. The canoe gliding gently across the water, or bouncing through the rapids and thrilling us.

Hugs and smiles give us joy. Not the presents and food that fills our stomach and soon becomes waist to fill the sewer. В These are the things that are so abundant and yet so simple.

When I see the abundance I see opportunity. I get the power to do the things that I can do and let the rest take care of itself. I am freed of burdens and empowered to act. And over time I have accomplished so much that when I look back I see the abundance and not the scarcity.

So how can I apply these reflections to my life? Might I choose to pause each morning and list the abundance I find in the world? The sun that rises each day, giving light to the world and ease to our moving. The warmth of the day that eases the nights chill. Each night as I settle myself to sleep might I recall the abundance I experienced this day?

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