Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘health

Mysterious Pain

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Every morning for half a year now, I have taken my temperature to monitor for changes that might indicate an onset of illness. So far, so good. However, that span of time hasn’t passed without a variety of other curious symptoms popping up every now and again. Every odd headache, bout of exhaustive fatigue, unsettled digestion, or passing light-headedness trips the mind to wonder, …coronavirus?

Yesterday, I began to notice hints of something amiss. Curious twinges of unidentifed nerves deep within that kept threatening to fire off a shout of discomfort, but never quite did. Why would I suddenly be having pangs that defied logic and emanated from such a nondescript part of my body? Probably from the strange virus that is ravaging the entire planet. Seems like a reasonable conclusion to me.

I have already endured two of the most intense pains in my life from the center of my torso: a kidney stone and bulging/rupturing discs in my lower back, both of which originated in parts of my body from where I had never previously noticed any sensations. I’m now well-familiar with that first little warning sign that something is beginning to invade the space of my spinal nerve roots. I also know what it is like to get a stabbing pain from well within the body where my ureter travels toward my bladder.

Yesterday’s looming threat of pain caused me at first to fear my degenerating discs, despite having happily executed all of my daily morning strength and stretching exercises hours earlier. I adjusted my posture and did some walking and stretching in response. My movement wasn’t hampered at all, but later, while seated again, the mysterious attention-getting pangs returned, always stopping short of really manifesting as pain.

Maybe it’s a small kidney stone, despite my lifestyle of high-hydration and almost exclusively choosing to drink water in place of all other options. I can’t rule that out. It wasn’t a constant ache, though. It came in spurts that would grab my attention as a warning that something worse could follow at any second. But nothing worse ever played out.

Just in case, I’ve been trying to stay extra-hydrated without straying too far into water toxemia. Pedialyte, anyone?

Trying to age healthily is not for wimps. I’m trying to listen to my body, but I am having some difficulty understanding what it is trying to tell me at this point.

If nothing more comes of this, I’ll consider the message one of prompting me to pay closer attention to my whole body, inside and out. Message received!

If something more does develop, I guarantee you will read about it here. When have I ever failed to keep you all informed of my each and every ouchie boo-boo?

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Don’t Stop

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Whether it’s depression-related struggles or simply one of life’s difficult challenges, there is a well-known saying about going through hell: Don’t stop; keep going.

The changes and complications of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic this year, stirred in with an unprecedented series of hassles unraveling my usual activities at the day-job, have been making an impression which holds certain similarities to the concept of hell.

I’m working hard to focus on the practice of not stopping. Despite umpteen repetitions of troubleshooting exercises that have repeatedly produced mixed results alternating between success and failure, I have tried Einstein’s definition of insanity so many times lately that I am growing a little concerned about the clarity of my thinking. (Insanity as: doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.)

Luckily, I have a pretty good antidote in the landscape of Wintervale that helps inspire me to keep going.

I’m not gonna stop.

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Written by johnwhays

July 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Pay Attention

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Attention to what? That’s a good question.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Your posture right now.
  • Who is suffering most among those you know and love.
  • The best return for your investment of time.
  • How long it has been since you voiced appreciation to someone deserving.
  • How you might help someone less deserving.
  • Your most common habitual “tick.”
  • When you sense yourself not acting in your own best interest.
  • How false information is being used for unethical advantage.
  • What it is you are actually afraid of.
  • How long it has been since you laughed and cried at the same time.
  • What you actually ate in one day that was not a healthy choice.
  • How swiftly days become weeks and weeks become months.
  • How much sleep you are getting.
  • Maintaining a healthy social distance from all others.
  • The expression on your face when not actively smiling.
  • How much of our unspoken thinking is inadvertently communicated.
  • When you find yourself unable to ask for what you need or want.
  • The power of love.

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Imperfect Improvement

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Five years. It’s been almost five years since I saw the 2014 documentary movie, “Fed Up” and decided once and for all to commit to a long-term intentional change to address my uncontrolled craving for sugar. (See “My Addiction“) My solution was admittedly an imperfect one, but I have very slowly achieved a noticeable improvement throughout the ensuing years.

One of the imperfections of my plan to take command of that insidious nagging urge to eat something that will produce the intoxicating dopamine reward is that I allow myself to have a little sweet treat or treats every day. I liken it to trying to live a sober life while still continuing to have an alcoholic drink every day, (no disrespect intended to those who are working a program to manage alcohol or any other substances). From my understanding, total abstinence is the more effective practice.

Since there are natural sugars in plenty of foods, total avoidance of sugar is an extreme I chose not to pursue. After watching “Fed Up,” my plan was to avoid the added sugar in processed food, especially in cases where it is well hidden and unexpected. I was surprised to learn how much sugar might be included in buns and some types of bread, in sauces, dressings, and yogurts, to name a few.

I decided to start paying attention to labels and serving sizes and plotted to achieve the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Food and Drug dietary guidelines of 10% of daily calories consumed.

Based on an oft-referenced 2000 calorie per day average (your mileage may vary) that amounts to 200 calories or roughly 50 grams of sugar per day. I decided to aim for 10 grams of sugar per my three main meals. That gave me a full 20 grams of headroom to account for variations and a modest cookie or dessert bite for moments of rewarding bliss.

One serving size of a Girl Scout S’mores® cookie equals two cookies coming in at 16 grams of sugar. I eat just one.

These S’mores taste incredibly sweet to me. One welcome improvement over the five years of measured sugar intake is that I have developed a heightened sensitivity to sweetness. That’s probably one of the things that helps me to be able to stop at just one cookie per serving.

It’s an imperfect formula that I’ve settled on, but since I started this practice, I have controlled my hemoglobin A1c levels and avoided the all-too-typical annual weight gain that normal aging usually brings on.

The craving? It’s still a constant companion, but one that has become much easier to contain, …one measured serving at a time.

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Near You

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This morning, I took my temperature again, just like I have every day for the last week. A clear pattern has developed that gives me confidence I will recognize if/when a change starts to occur.

Even without the threat of infection from the current pandemic, I regularly notice odd aches, pains, or unexplained weird sensations that have me noting a possibility of illness visiting my body. Almost always, nothing comes of it. Headache? Maybe I didn’t drink enough water. Throat feels scratchy? There’s probably an allergen in the air.

A day later, I’ve usually forgotten about the previous days’ malady that caught my attention.

Of course, now my first impression when something feels amiss is that I am getting the COVID-19. Although, in that regard, I’m equally inclined to suspect that I’ve already been exposed and haven’t developed any symptoms.

Wouldn’t it be great if officials could get their act together and widely release the increasingly tantalizing simple blood test to check for COVID-19 antibodies that will clarify who is able to get back to life as normal? I’d be one of the first in line after they give us all permission to go out together again.

There is another way I am trying to contribute to a greater understanding of this pandemic. In the US, it is possible to provide your health status to a team at Boston Children’s Hospital to help them map the COVID-19 outbreak. The brilliance of their project is that it doesn’t simply focus on who has been tested, it seeks to collect information from everyone by way of user-submitted reports to fill out the picture of both who is sick and who is still healthy.

COVID Near You is a sister tool of Flu Near You already in use to help communities track cases of seasonal flu.

How are you feeling?

Go to covidnearyou.org and answer that question. Contribute to the map of everyone, both ill and well.

I can’t think of any easier step to take toward contributing to a better world for all, except maybe pausing wherever you are to conjure up some love for the rest of the world.

What the heck, might as well do both.

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Written by johnwhays

March 29, 2020 at 9:00 am

Practicing Life

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In the vein of practicing medicine –isn’t it a little scary that we say doctors are “practicing?”– I figure I am practicing life, but without a license from any official authority. Without a license, I’m not supposed to offer formal advice to others on matters of health and wellness, but that seems like a lost opportunity regarding the life lessons I have experienced through my years.

Alas, the act of living healthy is something I share with others by way of simply doing it. I’m practicing living healthy every day and attempting to add a little love in the world while I’m at it.

By far, the most significant step in my life’s journey toward optimal health happened when I sought treatment for depression. The years when I put my focus on diet and exercise prior to diagnosis of my dysfunctional mental health had me spinning my wheels. In the time since I learned to conduct my thoughts in a healthy manner, the benefits of my other efforts increased noticeably.

I dare say the steps I have put in place in my life would suit others equally well if practiced as a way of life. Too bad I’ve no license to prescribe such medicine and be compensated. On the other hand, I do have plenty of opportunities to give my advice for free.

The most significant point I express regarding the quest for best health is that it is an everyday effort for as many years as we may live. However many days (years) we might have traveled an unhealthy path must, at the very least, be equaled in time in order to undo. There aren’t any quick fixes that can be achieved by temporary endeavors.

You’ve got to play the long game.

The good news is that benefits are available along the way and the journey gets easier and more rewarding as you go. You don’t need to wait for some magic day when everything becomes rainbows and unicorns.

Eat well, exercise your body and mind, practice loving self and others with all your heart. Do it every day. Keep it up for the rest of your life.

Call me in the morning.

No charge. The nurse will show you out.

Have a good life!

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Wholeness

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Words on Images

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It’s Like

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It’s like one of those days when you are enjoying a fresh bite of an incredibly delicious meal and your teeth suddenly chomp on your own flesh.

It’s like the time lost waiting for a page to load, watching the progress bar fill to the last little bit where it pauses for far too long before finally jumping to a page that announces the failure to load and suggests the possibility the page has moved. Really? My gmail site has moved?

It’s like the umpteenth time of settling down into a reclined position and then discovering your reading glasses were left somewhere far out of reach.

It’s coming to realize that you can’t remember what it was like when you didn’t need reading glasses.

It’s that second time you bite the swollen wound on the inside of your lip from two days before.

It’s like that moment when screwing in the last of twelve screws to secure the cover of something you just fixed and finding there is one last part remaining to be reinstalled.

It’s like that feeling when re-reading your own business email message included in a reply sent by your customer or vendor and finding a writing error that disturbingly undermines your intended message in the first place.

It’s like waking up to shower for work, getting dressed, and heading out the door before discovering there are still two-and-a-half hours left until your alarm is due to go off.

It’s also like the day you embraced the ability to overcome the chemical reaction unleashed in the brain by these uninvited incidents to frame them in the grand scheme of things as not deserving more than a moment’s chagrin.

It’s like the chemical rush of endorphins that cascade on the first scrumptious bite of your all-time favorite deep-dish pizza pie.

It’s like the rich appreciation possible when pausing to count privileged blessings for all of the times when web pages load without hesitation, a soft chair or warm bed is available for reclining, reading glasses are at the ready, you wrote just the right message in a business communication, and you got a healthy, full night’s sleep.

With practice, we can choose to determine what each of life’s foibles are like for us.

Make a healthy choice!

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2019 at 7:00 am

Sun Rises

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Today marks the return of Standard Time for most people in the U.S. but the sun paid no attention. The earth and sun did nothing unusual to change our circadian rhythms today.

Cyndie captured this image a few minutes before the sun appeared. It didn’t matter to the universe what time our clocks were set to read.

We will reconcile the adjustment to an apparent hour-earlier darkness because we must. Society has yet to reconcile our differing opinions about changing clocks twice a year, but science appears to be leaning toward the conclusion that better health and well-being is possible by eliminating the bi-annual clock adjustment and maintaining Standard Time year-round.
 (Ref: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0748730419854197)

I have a good friend who never hesitates to remind me how much he likes that we adjust the clocks twice a year to alter the daylight for our routine activities. He is not alone, which explains why the repeated debates arise twice every year in the spring and fall yet nothing seems to come of it.

It’s not the kind of thing that we can each just choose for ourselves. It’s a lot like our national leadership. Independents don’t hold much sway in our two-party system and we can’t each choose to follow our own preferred President. We need to function in a system whether we agree with it or not.

The sun and the earth don’t care either way. For some reason, I find solace in that. Knowing the universe pays no heed to our trifling clock settings helps me cope with a system to which I disagree.

It hasn’t helped as well with tolerating national leadership that shows no interest in helping shift us away from abusing the planet to everyone’s detriment. I suspect the universe will have the last laugh in that contest.

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Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2019 at 11:05 am

Delicate Balance

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In the end, we have turned down all the quotes for resurfacing our deck because the costs all exceeded our available funds. The only affordable option was to buy the lumber and do the work ourselves with the generous support of willing friends.

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We have already begun experimenting with several techniques for removing the old boards, with varying success. Yesterday, I resorted to buying a hole-saw bit that would allow drilling around a stripped-out screw to free up a board and leave the screw behind to be extracted with a vice-grip plier.

I don’t mind working slow, but at the pace I am achieving, the 815-square-foot deck surface will not be completed in a weekend.

Initially, I envisioned getting all the old wood removed before focusing on installing the new boards, but then I heard a suggestion of just removing one board at a time and replacing it. That way the project could start and stop at any time without the deck being in total disarray.

One big challenge for me if this project ends up lasting for a long time is the delicate balance I am trying to manage in dealing with a bulging disc in my lower back. When it flares up, my mobility is greatly hampered.

I had high hopes of making big progress yesterday removing screws from boards, but a sharp twang of breathtaking pain suddenly limited my success to a single board.

The reason I describe the challenge of my bulging disc as a balancing act is because of the way the problem manifests. For most of my days I experience no pain and no limitations of movement. Then, without warning, the slightest movement will unleash the hint of a stab that takes my breath away and sends an adrenaline spike that contracts my muscles in an attempt to prevent a deeper stab.

Moments later, I am able to move like normal, yet with an understandable precautionary stiffness in fear the worst outcome is just as possible, likely even, if I make one wrong move.

I just have no idea which movement will end up being a wrong one.

A natural response to this scenario is to walk in the stiffest posture possible, but that isn’t a realistic solution. Instead, I returned to my core-strengthening exercises and flexibility stretches. This routine is the opposite of maintaining the stiffest posture possible and allows me to move very close to normal.

But it still leaves me in a delicate balance, because the bulge in my disc doesn’t instantaneously recede. That takes time. Weeks.

In the meantime, I proceed walking and leaning forward within an immeasurably small fraction of that startling reminder the bulge is in close proximity to spinal nerves.

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2019 at 10:03 am