Updated: Nov 2
This Winter, BE Like a Red-Tailed Hawk
By Edie Johnson
Co-Author of A Computer-Assisted System for Setting Goals and Methods of Attainment, Resources in Treatment Planning, CV Mosby Co.
The Red Tail Hawk above (photo by Ed Frampton) is a perfect example of the first step in staying healthy and comfortable as Winter sneaks in. It's all about
"Layering", and other means of temperature control, and not only out in the cold, also in our homes as the evening chill sneaks through every tiny crevice. If you look closely, this beautiful raptor has layer upon layer upon layer of a variety of feathers at different densities. And they benefit him by giving an extraordinary range of temperature control options. And what do hawks and many other birds do when it's frigid out? They "Power through" what they must do (mostly hunting and a quick overseeing of what is going on in their territory), Then they conserve their bodily resources, finding a safe fence post while they contemplate what they learned today about how to stay alive. Our fence posts are most likely a house or office where we accomplish more sedentary accomplishments, but the lesson is clear. Don't stay in pouring rain, or a blizzard any longer than you have to. While many claim that sickness is entirely caused by germs, few would argue against the incredible protections offered by a healthy immune system. Don't ignore your body when it signals "I've had enough." We have plenty of resourcs to call on. while growing a healthier lifestyle. BUT, and it's a big but!..... Even though the pandemic is over, we need to heed the lessons learned. Stay away from people who are obviously sick, or wear a mask if you feel like you can't avoid being exposed. In fact, it is safer to keep a few feet of distance with people other than your family and closest friends in the season where germs seem to flourish. Get vaccinated and boosted when appropriate. And get medical supervision for treatment when needed. Virus treatments have become much more effective especially when taken right after symptoms appear.
I'm listing the more common winter tips that you can still benefit as a reminder (like good hot broths, soups, and cider) (at the end of this text), so you can start by enjoying a few fun and possibly new ideas. Please! Drop me a line (email@example.com) if you find these helpful and if you have some additional ideas for a follow-up. Just about every family has some favorite tried and true tips. Mine is from Cousin Astrid Johannson in Sweden. Cousin Astrid always says "There is no bad weather, only wrong clothing".
Techniques to Support Mental Health While Facing Winter Stress
If your mood starts to drop here are a few simple "bribes" to cheer you up. A simple switch in the order of tasks can give a huge boost. Try working on one project you really like for a short spell after every 4 tasks you must accomplish even though you don't enjoy them.
Take a little time in the evening to plan for Spring... a new garden design, new flower choices or even ordering seeds and getting them set up to start Spring early by planting them indoors. or at least having the materials ready. If you still have flowers and plants blooming, take a cutting and plant it indoors or pluck the seedcaps and store the seeds in a freezer. Or if you like to sew, hem some cheery new curtains, make a summer dress, or even a laptop or cell phone case in bright Spring-Summer colors. These will be the seeds of your emotions (and actual neurology) knowing that while it will take some time Spring will be here in all of its beauty again. Mark off the weeks on a Spring is coming calendar if you need to, with markers along the way.
There is nothing quite as mood elevating as actually taking a few steps like that where you are actually moving (at least neurologically) toward everyone's favorite season. And you may very well be surprised that those new neuron seeds tend to grow rather quickly and... WOOSH!, you have an new idea for that garden, or why don't we put a gazebo over there with a little landscaping around it. You could even put a simple photo in your Windows Paint program and add one or two parts of the design each weekp. Meanwhile you will be learning new graphics skills and discovering new ideas for it The truth is that neurons are seeds too.....and they also will continue to grow, showing you each new best step.
Don't forget to plant some seeds for intellectual growth as well. Learn something new. It's a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, and in just the right amount will help deter dementia. Start with something simple, like a few new recipes or a new outdoor skill like pruning, and then add at least one mega-learning challenge like learning a new language or musical instrument.. Then take a break to refresh. How awesome it will be at the end of Winter to look back on your accomplishments.
Mind your mouth - that is, what you eat. Holidays are the most difficult time to eat healthy. Tell yourself "I am what I eat, and eating healthy will keep me feeling healthy and happy" (but of course we all have to splurge occasionally).
Lastly, and this tip shouldn't be downplayed (and don't feel guilty about using it) though you have probably already used a version of it thousands of times. Bribery can be a very effective tactic, as long as you don't stay on the bribery side trip for too long. This may require setting a time limit. We all know how hard it is to get back to work after having fun.
Setting Goals -Make a short daily list of goals and methods to attain , and challenge yourself to Power Through them. Some days are hard, and then we have to tell ourselves "At least do Something" and that first step becomes 2 steps and then 3 and so on (again planting neurological seeds). But making lists is not new. It's hard to imagine how long humanity has made lists as reminders. And even if you for some reason get only 1 or 2 of your most dreaded chores done, hey, that's a big deal!. But there is still something special about doing it in a more purposeful way. In the late 70's when I was co-author of the book about Treatment Planning in Medical Care we did statistical studies that showed that people who were coached in writing goal-oriented plans with specific methods to attain them with, in 5 different areas of their lives, got well sooner and had fewer returns to the hospital during the following year. The book became popular enough that it was used as a text in Nursing education centers, including Duke University and numerous other teaching schools both in the US and abroad. In fact, the State of Illinois almost adopted "Goal Oriented Treatment & Record Keeping " in the oversight of their top Medical School. Unfortunately they decided "You're right, but Insurance Companies are not ready to change from Problem-Orientation. " But guess what. If you are focusing on. problems you might just stay there. At least now facilitating goals is being used more often, even though "WELLNESS" as a goal is not rewarded as it should be. How foolish is that, to reward roblems and not reward success. That definitely should change, and at least for now we can do that for ourselves.
I'm adding a little twist to understanding the incredible potential value of using a "Powering Through" concept. There are times whens important goals can take months and even years to get done the right way. And others are meant to be enjoyed. But if you have a short list of 3 or 4 things that you just DREAD to do, I challenge you to make a little game out of it . Envision being in a football game. You're only 50 ft. from the goal so it's time to "Run like hell". I call it "Leap Frog". Keep the list where you can't avoid it. If you can think of anything that will make the dreaded task easier (like phone numbers ready) and pick a time today or tomorrow to power through at least 2 of the 4. Not only will you feel great about having accomplished them, a chunk of dread is gone. And this is important - You have planted the seeds of the game Leap Frog, and after "winning" the game twice chances are it just starts to feel natural and you've become a Power Leap Frogger. Yes, when neurons are fed they grow. Pat yourself on the back. The truth is that when you Leap Frog you simply jump past the stresses and fears that keep you from accomplishing the things you need to do, in order to get back to the things you want to do.
(PS -When we wrote the Goal and Attainment book, at the last minute, Mosby Company (the Publisher) said they had communicated with hospitals and that since their current system was Problem-oriented the book had to have Problem-oriented n its title. For me, it will always be Goal-oriented, Record Keeping because that's the point. And most of the people who had bought the book had already read about our computerized goal project in a few medical professional publications. To improve your situation you must convert problems to goals. The medical community is finally getting there, albieit about 35 years later, and only with baby steps. The programming that the computer-assisted system was accomplished by was a pair of very smart young MIT computer geeks, and every time a patient or staff member wrote what we thought was a good method of attainment we would add that to a resource catalogue that was a huge group accomplishment.
Don't Forget- Some Better Known but Still Important Tips to Help You Stay Healthy This Winter:
1. Anyone who has taken care of an older parent or grandparent knows that as a person ages, the ability of the body to self control responses to temperature change diminishes. It can be a big help to bring an extra sweater or jacket along just in case it gets chilly.
2. Nice warm broths, soups, cider and tea not only warm you, but the aroma floating through your kitchen and living space warm it as well as elevate the mood by creating a positive environment along with anticipation of a yummy meal or drink.
3. Take a little walk outside after rising, even if only for a few minutes. You will find that the old physics law is true. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Not only does it stay in motion, it gets the juices in your body warmed up and all of a sudden the cold air may even feel good.
4. If you are a morning exerciser, be sure to do a few stretch ing exercises and take time while limbering up. 5. Close drapes and curtains, and switch to a heavier version or even shuttered windows if you have the time, money and material, along with an anti-draft roll along the bottom of outside doors. Set up a working area in a smaller room that is more efficient to heat if possible.. BUT, "older folks" are not the only ones who can suffer from "Sundowning" (getting depressed when sunlight disappears). Don't let the surroundings get too dark. Keep the room you spend most of your time in bright and cheery with light and colors. And if these new LED lights cause uncomfortable glare you can always replace them with an old-fashioned tinted bulb or two.
6. Music - Who doesn't love music and have some favorites. Make a list of a few that are uplifting but not so loud that they detract from the focus you need (as well as others around you) for work.
And don't forget to thank our bird friends for their feathers....they can make a huge difference in your comfortor (it's called a 'comforter' for a reason), in your jacket, in your pillow. And thank them for their beauty and courage as they inspire us by flying through wind and snow. Whether bird or human, when your body warms up it also warms up the surroundings in return, making a self-heating circle, at least for awhile.
If you need more assistance keeping healthy this year, here are two highly valued home-grown expert resources: Jason Siruchek of Medicare Advantage, and Mark Freitas, Owner of Washingtonville Pharmacy.