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Keeping memories alive and our brain fit

We know what happens to body parts not in use, for instance, during longer periods of immobilization: they degenerate and we have to work very hard to re-establish their flexibility and activity, and that involves all tissues and cells. That takes work, exercise and treatment. While wrinkles on somebody’s face or body shape clearly indicate person’s age and are visible at a first glance, the memory glitches and mild brain dysfunction are not. That’s why most people are obsessed with looking younger at any means, with diets, must have outfits and tools. That is an inevitable part of the visible and directly noticeable personality. Nobody is afraid to spend money on gym, sports equipment, hairdo, makeup, plastic surgeon and costly skin treatments. There’s so much money spent on useless food supplements which quite often harm the user without giving any of the benefits commercials promise. How come the most important part, the commandment and interaction managing center, the brain is so frequently left out of the scene of self-improvement?

Brain fitness 3

Keeping memories alive and watching the brain health is the most neglected aspect of our general health. Why?

Most likely, the main reason is nobody can see the aging of our brain or notice it right away. As it progresses, the person experiencing this badly affecting disorder is not even aware of it. This trouble becomes a serious issue when the memory loss is already large enough to affect the daily routine and any normal activities.

We simply should not allow that happen. Do we? Along with genetically inherited factors, mobile and digital devices do not demand us to use the memory and our brain. Everything is on the phone or laptop: directions, reminders, alarms, alerts and lists. We can send notes to ourselves and make endless to-do and other lists. How is that bad? It’s very simple: while we are watching screens or scrolling through them, our brain is half asleep. It’s crying for attention, but most people do not take this seriously until the brain turns itself off. The usage of our brain with well-known activities even with demanding, but familiar mental activities is very little. The brain requires daily exercise, daily workload and high level usage. That’s the only way to keep neurons alive and not to lose any connections which are called synapses. That’s the only way to develop new neurons at any age. The research in twins shows that genetic factors are by far not everything since one of twins develops dementia or Alzheimer’s while the other does not. That is a very strong indication in favor of epigenetic factors, like our daily activities, the work we do, the level of our involvement in challenging mental tasks.

Good food, absence of harmful chemicals, physical activity and proper care are essential elements of our well-being, but they make no sense when the brain stops functioning. They make zero sense without cognitive function and memory. The sad reality looks like this, however: once we are done with school and degrees, the active learning period ends, too. How many people who engage in intentional brain exercises on a daily basis when their job does not require that do you know? Let’s compare this number with people who care about their diet and physical activity. I can bet that there are very few who will say they know a lot of people who learn playing a new instrument, who do a research or learn a new language and who do visual arts for their brain exercises every day at an older age.

I would call the lack of brain exercising phenomenal in times when statistics reveal that the number of people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s is expected to double in countries like Canada and the USA by 2038. Besides, there is nothing complicated about it: book your drawing and painting class, language learning course, music class or do your research with visual illustrations right away. Do not delay because any hesitation is causing trouble.

Brain health

It’s proven by now through many controlled trials that the best brain life boosting activity is drawing and painting because:

it is something new every time;

it is challenging and requires obtaining new skills every single minute;

it is a skill one can build on while starting at an easy level;

it is rewarding and pleasurable activity;

it involves socializing when taking a class in a group;

it reduces stress, anxiety and nervousness;

it involves positive thinking and positive attitude towards reality.

Brain fitness 2

These elements of brain exercising are essential. Besides, doing an art class is easy, affordable and some class always takes place close by. Just a small note: drawing and painting with alcohol does not improve brain function because we get opposite effects: alcohol kills brain cells while visual art extends the life of neurons and number of their connections.

Taking care of the brain is essential. We shouldn’t put it off.

Preveting memory loss

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Food for brain: feed your happiness, not depression

Do you sometimes think that everything you eat can make you happy, full of energy and joy, or upset, depressed and exhausted? The truth is, feeding our brain the right way will provide us with more power to overcome bad days, allow to have much fewer bad days and to feel better and less stressed out or anxious.

We are aware by now that we can successfully teach and exercise our emotions and feelings provided the chemical reactions and levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters are in balance. However, we rarely think, that food we consume and nutrients we provide our body with have an extremely huge impact on our mental state, emotions, feelings and ability to determine whether we are having more bad or good days. Among the most important brain chemicals are serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, melatonin, insulin and prostaglandins.

Due to external and internal stresses, many people might complain about very long-lasting mild depression. I have heard recently many saying they experience a seasonal affective disorder. Well, we all do to some extent if any nutrients are lacking in our diet and we don’t give an appropriate boost of those.

I used to have extremely bad intolerance to winter darkness and was upset most of the time when the weather was cold and I couldn’t get enough air and sunlight. I had sort of no energy to deal with any issues. I refused jobs just because I didn’t feel I could handle them. As many of you know, I’ve devoted many years to medical research, writing and analysis of patient data and symptoms; therefore, I have come to conclusions that everything which is within us affects everything from our physical condition to our mental states.

Digestive and metabolism disorders heavily affect the balance of brain chemicals. For instance, most of serotonin is produced in our gut and during the sleep. It’s extremely simple: people who have good metabolism and no noticeable lack of nutrients and who take their time to rest and pay attention to long enough and good sleep, shouldn’t be having too many bad days either.

How about external stressors which do not depend on us? Like the angry voice of your boss or piles of work that needs to be done, but you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or kids insisting you do one thing, husband being grumpy about something else while you’d rather do nothing of that, but something totally different you believe you need at the moment? That’s exactly the same story: we have built in coping mechanisms, and when our brain chemicals are in good balance, when we do have our thyroid and adrenal glands not working in hypo-or hiper- regimen, these coping mechanisms can work properly, too. That is why you will see in the same situation one person laughing, the other person ignoring this situation completely, but the third one will be crying or going crazy. It’s not exactly their personality that causes these reactions; it’s how well they are prepared for dealing with any issues.

Happiness starts in the gut

Everything starts in the gut. When we are treating a mood disorder or mild depression with strong medicines, alcohol, drugs and comfort food, we are aiming for side effects and reactions which we actually want to avoid. The New Year is almost at our door step and holiday season is in full swing, so alcohol consumption is high. Your liver does not care how beautiful the cocktail looks or how expensive the drink is: once the processing starts, a big label “toxins” is assigned to the contents of the decorated drink. Many pre-processed foods, soft drinks and food with high content of artificial ingredients get assigned the same label: “toxins”. When we add to this some damage which over years has happened to parts of our body that take care of removing any toxins and leftovers, the picture becomes quite clear: these toxins are going nowhere, but accumulating straight within us, poisoning our mood, destroying our chemical balance and making levels of brain chemicals significantly off. Therefore, it should be very easy to understand: treating bad mood with a pill, drug, alcohol or sweets is absolutely wrong. This means relieving symptoms for a short-term while, in fact, we need a long-term adjustment and correction to the cause of all these disorders and imbalances. That’s how we get caught in a roller coaster of sweets and sugars that we decorate with a glass of wine or champagne.

Happiness starts with food 5

Artificial supplements and drug store vitamins might not always get absorbed as good as the ones which come from the real sources, just because your ancient DNA and your body recognizes them much better.

If you love engaging in writing New Year’s resolutions, the first and the most important item should address the BALANCE: balanced activities, balanced sleep-awake periods, balanced intake of nutrients, balanced body processes, balanced reactions due to balanced metabolism. Everything else is secondary.

Happiness starts with food 6

I love not only eating vegetables, but I’m extremely happy to take their pictures, as well. This activity alone lifts my mood. I paint these things quite often also: beautiful shapes, colors, it’s pleasure for eyes, as well.

Being a freelancer: pros and cons of freelance work

How easy it is to be a freelancer

Let us just say it is not easy at all. I certainly cannot talk about any freelance work, but only about that I have been doing for longer than 35 years. I am a medical writer and translator who takes on some interpreting, as well, if there is a good opportunity since I speak, write and understand 4 languages at a native level.  I have completed also numerous art projects either as commissions or individual design and decoration projects.

Competition and low pay

Nowadays, it is a very little money in this type of freelancing, I mean for what I do. The best years ended for me some time back in 2009, 2010.

The per-word rate between 2004 and 2018 has gone down a lot, hence such writing is paid by word count usually, unless, it is editing, and that is paid by hours. This rate went down from 0.18 US in approximately 2005 to 0.08 US at the moment. It should be straight the opposite, shouldn’t it? All prices and expenses have gone up, and my freelance earnings have decreased abnormally.

The problem is working globally. Every job is available for anybody, located anywhere, that includes countries with not that high living cost and countries with extremely high living cost, like Canada. My work requires huge knowledge and insight in medical matters, conduction of clinical trials, knowledge in chemistry, biology, physiology, anatomy, as well as lots and lots of understanding of human genetics, brain function, including cognitive function and any mental disorders, pharmaceutical mechanisms of action and all kinds of dosing rules, medical interaction of pharmaceutical ingredients and things that apply to clinical indications, such as contraindications and also exceptions when using medication off-label.

This is not something one can learn within one day or even a year. It took me about 5 years to get to the top of people who work in my respective languages, and it certainly was a very intense work. It can be physically difficult to type up to 100 pages of a very complex medical text intended for specialists in just some 4 days. Deadlines are tight, sometimes the job is urgent, meaning, I am expected to put off anything I am doing and to start typing right at that moment. That includes skipped meals, forgetting completely about any blog posts, TV or social media sites. It can be typing for 12 to 16 hours in a row. It can feel like a real slave work.

What are the advantages of being a freelancer?

I can work from home; I do not need even to get dressed to start working.

I eat at home; I do not sit in traffic delays.

I can work any time of the day or over the weekend if it happens to be the case.

I learn every single day of my life and I do extremely demanding mental work.

My memory works like a computer with so many new units added every day, it has to use and manage lots of information.

I am free to choose which project I take on and which I reject, I certainly can refuse to work for some company and collaborate with some other.

My end customers normally are billionaire medical companies.

Why the pay is so small for somebody who contributes so much in order they would be able to sell any of their stuff anywhere because of all kinds of regulatory provisions and regulations? Well, just like anything else, this type of work involves a middleman. These are agencies that get in contact directly with the end client because the end client is busy producing pharmaceuticals and conducting clinical trials. Agency grabs much of that what the end client is willing to pay. These prices got really lower once India and China got involved.  I’ve never worked with either Indian or Chinese agencies because among them are many pathological non-payers.

What are the difficulties of being a freelancer?

I cannot do any planning. I have absolutely no idea when a new work arrives and from which country it will come from. My most frequent clients come from Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Poland, Latvia and the USA. The least jobs I am getting from Canadian clients.

People who do high and very decent quality job can be at disadvantage.

It is not always that a particular project manager knows a lot about the project, and sometimes anything goes as long as they can mark the project done.

Competition is huge and insane. It is also frequently so that the job will go to a person who possibly provides with lower quality, but cheaper. Cheaper is the god of this century. And think: the billionaires-end clients.

Isolation

One sometimes does not get paid regardless of all precautions they have taken. I am very cautious, but still did not get paid twice: a genetic research company went out of business or so they made it to look and the second times was very dishonest client from Tennessee, USA who actually paid half, but then started to send really rude and nasty messages in style: how do you dare to ask for more and you should be happy you got paid for something.

Art projects and art commissions and medical writing and translations are activities that one does alone. I do not pick up even phone when I am in the middle of something complex, I do not interrupt my work for meals, I do not interrupt it for nothing quite frequently because timing and deadline can become a very stressful and demanding issue. It is work that is related to isolation. Focusing is extremely important, and that excludes any disturbing factors like social media or TV, or simple talk at times.

That is the reason I haven’t been able to post anything on my lifeschool blog for more than a month.

Being a freelancer

Prioritizing and managing time

Prioritizing and managing time is of utmost importance.

Freelancers do not enjoy any benefits like real employees do; there are no paid sick leaves, no benefits, and no additional pay for weekend or late night work.

There is a lot of uncertainty regarding workload: I can be overloaded today and have nothing to do and absolutely no income for next 3 months. Last year was pretty much the worse ever for me, even worse than the bad 2016. If one has lots of bad years in a row, they are pretty much broke financially. In my case, that matched the health issues and resulted in a personal disaster.

Multitasking

Freelancer does everything: from accepting the PO, researching the client’s ability to pay for services to providing oneself with tools and facilities. One has to be their own CEO, floor manager, hard tasks performing worker, advertising manager and public relations officer, as well as accountant and bookkeeper. This can mean multitasking at times, for sure because some of these activities are inevitable.

One has to pretty much become a workaholic. I personally never rest or take breaks just because I feel tired. I have to push myself to the limit very frequently and regardless of bad pain or feeling exhausted. Working is all I am doing. Has it resulted in a ny decent income? Not really while all middlemen are having million dollar apartments in NY or LA, Monaco and Paris, traveling the world and enjoying luxury.

Issues and concerns

Who is to blame? Nobody in person, but the system that enables a lot of advantage taking for sure. It is also freelancers themselves: some are so desperate for work that they will do anything for hardly any money. Well, 20 bucks can mean some money in some countries, but certainly not in Canada, and that is the aspect the unfair freelancer market system is exploiting: if you are desperate and poor, you will work for peanuts and praise us.

Freelance work is an option for people who are not living in their native country, have some disabilities or problems finding real work. I know there are freelancers who make mega bucks since they work in IT and all kind of marketing and advertising area. That is not what I have specialized in and I also love my work. I have achieved extremely high level doing it. The fact that it is not remunerated in a proper way is a global problem of advantage taking because realistically: one has to underpay somebody in order to boost their profits. The bad part is that actually the person who creates the result is the one that suffers.

I would advise anybody to rather be employed than do freelancing. Benefits of good employment and building up a real career outweigh to a big extent freelancing of the type I do, which is art, design and decoration and medical writing and translations.

Freelance work

Would I still do it if I had a secure income?

Most likely, not to extent I am engaged now. However, like other people go to exercise to the gym, I push my brain exercises to the limit every single day. I can remember and learn insane amounts of new information at a very short time. I have practically photographic visual memory. That makes me happy and keeps my brain very active, and that also allows me painting and drawing without any photos or pictures.

Flow of time: where does it take us?

I arrived to Canada in 2004. I did not know what to expect, but I was very impressed by greatness of many things, and everything felt to me huge. I mean everything. Latvia where I came from is a small country, and, therefore, the endless wide roads, the high-rise buildings, the downtown Toronto with its busy streets and, especially, the size of any province was so different from what I was used to.

Well, time flew absurdly fast then, and I got married in October 30th of the same year. It’s very amazing that it is my daughter’s birthday on this day, too, which I hadn’t even realized when we made all arrangements. We stayed in Niagara Falls in a newlywed suite which had number 3010 on the door. Something else, or what?

Well, we got married in The Small Wedding Chapel in Niagara Falls. My family was in Latvia, so, my fiancé decided not to invite his family also, just to be fair to each other. Very tactful, I’d say. Therefore we headed out to Niagara Falls the day before wedding. The weather was mild and sunny during the day, although, it was the end of October. These pictures were taken by the numerous by-passers who all kept congratulating us, so, it felt wonderful actually.

I cannot believe it’s been 13 years. The flow of time is very different from what it was back then. The best part is that my daughter is 38 today and we celebrate the 13th wedding anniversary. So much fun together (over the internet because she is in Latvia).

Everything worked out quite well. My husband has proved himself to be the best, most loving and most honest person ever and he is still the same excellent man who I met back then. He has had a lot of patience and understanding in the situations when my health really gave up. When we are saying “…in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part” at the wedding, we rarely can be aware of what is ahead in reality. It has not been all that smooth, but, thankfully, we are managing everything.

We got married in Niagara Falls

Signing …

Happy me, well, we tried to take each others pictures first, and then the by-passers helped

This is us 13 years ago

While we are still very young we believe that nothing really changes as we get older, except it is a larger number. We assume we will have the same ideas and the same attitude, and the same capability when executing different things. That is so wrong! I just now have started to understand how my parents felt at older age, and I am very lucky to have my daughter as my best friend because my top energy levels matched time of her being young and very energetic and passionate.

We are a lot smarter. Life teaches us if we are willing to pay attention and to learn the lesson. We find out that some ideas were simply silly and that the world isn’t there to please us and make miraculously our wishes come true without any effort. We have learnt that lots of things require fighting for them and that path can take a lot of turns, too. It’s never as if going from point A to point B. There are always obstacles and problems, and all kinds of disturbances.

The most important things for a family are love, trust and respect. Without any of this missing, marriage is going to have cracks. The most important thing for an individual is the mental and physical health. While I have a lot of brain power, excellent memory and very strong willpower, the physical side is somewhat suffering. Well, I hope the future is friendly and has some better things for me and us.

Being an older white, legal immigrant in Canada is not quite the same as being a refugee. Refugees are treated very well here and receive extreme support. I haven’t received ever any smallest or tiniest support whatsoever. My only support has come from my husband so far, and I am happy and grateful for that. Other than that, my expectations did not come true: I wasn’t met too friendly wherever I turned to in Canada, and I haven’t made too many friends locally, as well. Realistically, I was already 46 when I relocated to Canada; so, it’s not the same as when one is 16 or even 26. I have turned from a very social person (I worked at high schools and colleges in Latvia, it was work with and among people) to a very isolated person. My lack of health has contributed to that also, a lot actually, but still, I did not expect such ignorance from the local community and people. It has been as if approaching some unbreakable brick wall: there is very little interest about what I do and offer. I suppose one has way better chances if they have classmates, schoolmates, University time friends, childhood friends and obviously relatives in the country they work and live.

Well, I have only my husband.

Here it goes: to our 13 wonderful years together! I want to thank my husband and God for this great time and I certainly believe that the best times are still ahead of us.

P. S. I have to apologize to fellow bloggers for their kind and numerous comments and likes to previous posts, as well, as thank you to all who keep following my art site https://inesepogagallery.com/ I will approve everything and I will return all likes as soon as get a bit better and all my stuff is sorted out. That won’t be today because it is our wedding anniversary. Thanks to everybody!

I declare war to trends

Trends limit my choices

Trends are making me sick. Trends are everywhere and they want to manage each step of us.

After I moved my art blog to a self-hosted website, I got into a three months long night mare. I could not find a theme which more or less suits what I want. I worked hard and paid money for some themes which (how silly from me!) I believed are what the advertising page says.

It’s all beautiful until you start to edit the elements and try to adjust them to your taste.

I basically run into 2 major problems because of the stupid trends: you can get something like one-page-minimalist grey theme, extremely basic theme (I even paid for one!) which will never work for my art or you have a choice of expensive, totally supercharged, overloaded with hundreds of effects themes. That is because of trends. Every site mentions that: very trendy, very creative, very artistic. I didn’t see any of that.

2 themes practically crashed my art site. So, I worked as a slave and returned to the basic twenty seventeen which was there as a base anyway. Just widened the content area with additional css slightly. Does it suit my requirements, taste or standards? Absolutely not. I tried adding more css, and basically there was a moments when I lost all text in all my blog posts.

I didn’t mind paying for a theme, but I mind that they are never what it says, shows in the demo, and these themes were actually never what I PREFER. They are just TRENDY. TREND is a big things nowadays.

I go the store and look for pants. Just something comfortable to wear while teaching classes. I could sew them, I am a very good fashion designer and I can craft anything. Why didn’t I just do that? I was feeling not well for the last 3 years, and that is actually an understatement. I was off for 3 years. So, I’m going easy with everything at the moment. Guess what? I go to one store: there are only trends. Something which I don’t like, don’t want and am not willing to associate with “comfortable and decently looking”. There are only trends which somebody thought will suit all trillions of people on the Earth. There are lots and lots of stuff, but absolutely nothing for ME.

I am different. My art is different.

My background is different.

My taste is different.

My DNA is unique, and so I am.

So, why am I endlessly facing the pressure of TREND? It isn’t logical. Is it? The answer is very simple: the global market has to point out trends in order all sheep-like people would religiously follow the recommended whatever which is called TREND. It is way easier to make everything trendy color, trendy style, trendy content because if the offer would be individualized it would cover tiny market. That would big time decrease the profit. Profit goes closely hand in hand with trend. It seems that 95% of populations believe they have to follow trend.

Who sets the trend?

You are made believe it is some celebrity or somebody one person. Oh well, the global engineer, the global profit-taking, the master-entrepreneur and owner of everything decides that. The 1% who has it all. The owner of the entire available and unimaginable capital which constitutes 1% of population.

Why do we need trends? Trend isn’t style, and even less it is your personal style or taste.

I often hear: I hate this trend, but I still got the dress or outfit, or purse, or furniture, or whatever.

We need to announce trends in order you would throw out your previous year’s accessories and had to the store to get something new.  You need to have trendy color in order you’d start to hate your not-bad-at-all couch. Or car.

Trend is made so big because it enables fooling so many people. One feels so great when they have trendy everything. Or do they? Putting it simple: trend facilitates your spending.

What does the trend mean for me? It means that I cannot get what I want, plain and simple. The stuff I want might be not trending right now. It actually isn’t.

Why do they make it so difficult for me?

For an individual with a personal taste, style, preferences? I feel like I have to do everything on my own: I have to grow and cook my own food, I have to design and make my own outfits, I have to create my own environment, I have to even write my own WordPress theme for which I don’t have time or resources if I want it to be as I like.

TREND is neglecting me as individual or personality.

TREND is dictating me what to like, what to read, what to watch, what to think, what to believe, who to trust, and eventually we get to the point that it is managing things that are available to me.

TREND is actually putting me in a box while trying to make me think that I am oh-so-awesome trendy lady. The fact of the matter is: I never wanted to be trendy. TREND practically excludes a personal style because people who have a personal style do not stick with a trend or change everything when the trend changes. I always had my own head, my personal opinion and my personal attitude. TREND is directly opposite to an independent way of life.

These are the reasons why I have to declare war to trends.

If the global population was less like sheep, the trend would not have gotten so big. Media facilitates the trend. Profit taking is huge with trend. Financial gains for trend-setters are insane. I don’t want to support it. Instead, I want my choices back. I want access to things that are not trendy, or don’t seem to be, but I like them. It prefer them.

The only thing the TREND does not do is: it does not suit me. It does not fit me. I am somebody who has my own brain. I am somebody who has a strong personal style. I am somebody who thinks and lives independently.

Can gardening save your life?

I know people who have survived thanks to gardening.

So, are you the lucky one with a garden?

That could pretty much be an answer to many of your health problems and even save your life, because doing gardening will make your life so much more enjoyable and even support you financially and save money.

It just said on the news that one-third of the world’s population was obese.

That is the most recent statistics. When we imagine how many places on the Earth cannot provide people who live there with any food or clean water, it becomes very clear that so-called developed countries are the ones mostly suffering from this disaster. It’s no surprise it comes as a combo of all kinds of cancers and dementia, plus diabetes and cardio-vascular fatalities. Diseases are getting younger. We thought stroke was more likely to happen after 40-50, it’s affecting now people 16 years old and even younger.

This happens due to food production which is very distant from the way we were having food even 50-60 years ago. With every year, more newly discovered chemical combinations, supplements, taste enhancers, coloring and thickening agents, preservatives and so on and so forth, have been replacing natural food. Not to mention 90 types of artificial sweeteners which replace sugar.

When we think dairy, do we imagine pure chemicals in the container with a label organic cream? We don’t. Yet, it isn’t even a cream, but some mix of things that make this substance look and to some extent taste like cream. The whipping cream isn’t a cream, and milk that comes from powder or egg mix that doesn’t have real eggs in it: that’s all processed already. Cheese is the most affected because it’s easy to replace real ingredients with chemicals in cheese. Your breakfast flakes: they are already processed, if they were not you’d have raw grains. Natural and good fats such as organic butter have been replaced with chemically created fats for some 80 years. That refers to any margarine, oils of not organic origin and obviously all pastry includes that: bread, bread type of snacks, etc. since it really needs some fat or it goes stale the next day.

So, what difference does the produce you have grown on your own make?

Huge. If you have ever tried freshly picked cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini or peppers from the backyard, you know how much richer the taste is. At some point, it’s impossible to compare garden produce with fruits and vegetables from the grocery store. Greens and herbs such as green onion, dill, parsley, basil, thyme and sage from the grocery store wilt right away and they never feel really fresh because they soak them in water by spraying all the time at the store.

Farmer’s market is a good place, however, sometimes prices are extremely high (at least in Whitby, Ontario) and the produce does not look that great.

By growing our own vegetables and fruits we know what they contain.

I love that I know exactly how my vegetables are grown: what water I use, what soil, etc. Small gardens can be easily weeded manually; there is no need to use chemicals to conquer weeds. It’s also easier to control any pests in case they would appear with simple household supplies.

It makes an incredible difference for me: I just walk outside and choose whatever I feel like having for meal. Being in fresh air and having so much stuff for eyes to enjoy is definitely an added bonus.

Plus, one does not need any gym to stay in a good shape: thankfully garden work involves all kinds of moves, exercises and tasks.

I know that not everybody can live in a house with a decent size backyard. I live here also because we rent this place. Yet, there are millions of people who only have lawns everywhere: in the front and in the back. If we would start with lots of people growing healthy chemical-free vegetables and fruits not only for themselves, but also for a few other people, we might end the cancer, cardio-vascular, diabetes and obesity epidemic. We might just also have better mental abilities because of that; and some garden work is always useful as opposed to scrolling through screens or snoozing in front of TV.

This is how gardening will make you healthy:

You will get lots of exercise without paying fees for gym or designating specific time for it;

You will be rewarded with crops that are clean and contain many times more nutrients;

Naturally occurring minerals, vitamins and other good substances are only found in FRESH garden produce;

You will avoid harsh chemicals by using in your gardening only natural fertilizers and composted plant food;

You will have something to take care of and you’ll never feel lonely;

You will have peace of mind, place to relax and ability to clean the bad energies when being in contact with the soil;

You will save money on organic herbs, fruit and vegetables which we really need, but which are not in a good shape at grocery stores and very expensive;

Kids find gardening attractive because we can monitor the steady development and growing;

Gardening is suitable for any age or condition: we can always find ways to do things easily;

You don’t have to travel far to be surrounded by the nature;

Garden can become the most inspiring thing for writers, artists, designers and other creative folks;

By doing gardening and consuming only fresh and chemical-free produce you will literally help your body and brain fight diseases and manage easier the existing conditions.

So, gardening might save your life, especially if gardening becomes your passion.

Please enjoy the purple blossoming in my garden!

Chives in bloom

Purple iris

Close-up

Lovely faces of pansies

Isn’t it pretty?

The many shades of beauty

Easy to grow, always smiley

 

Burnout syndrome? Chronic fatigue? Turn to the nature

Popular assumption is that burnout is the result of excessive stress. Stress management system of the body is a very complex multi-action trigger and response system that involves both branches of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic, the brain and the HPA axis (the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis), as well as other pathways.

Burnout syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome are quite difficult to diagnose because when somebody experiences frequent headache, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, lack of interest in anything, hormone imbalance and irritable bowel symptoms: these symptoms do not immediately make us think about low cortisol and a suppressed HPA axis which have eventually resulted from stressing oneself to the maximum over long periods of time. Physical and mental exhaustion manifest as similar set of symptoms, therefore, overdoing with inappropriate physical activities, overloading one with duties or studying and learning until complete exhaustion occurs is not a good idea.

Burnout syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome may seem to be very different, but they are quite similar, in fact. The same hormonal abnormalities are present in both conditions, as well as similar complaints about physical symptoms. It could be that the brain has decided to shut down the HPA axis activity in order to prevent us from damaging our body completely. If we did not experience tiredness, sleepiness and exhaustion, we would probably work until our body is permanently damaged and unable to recover. Research suggests that the brain, and the HPA axis may be responsible for the fatigue experienced during burnout and with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Our body loves balance, so that all mechanisms and systems can work in a well-adjusted, well-balanced way. We certainly want to be safe and rich, and have no financial struggles. Many people go for 2 jobs or work even at 3 places. Nobody has cancelled family or kids; that takes our condition to the point when every single day is too short. When we start feeling worse and weaker, we can get done much less, so one wonders how that was possible I studied and worked and still had time to go out and enjoy? This pretty much affects any tasks we have to deal with: whether work or relationship related, and it does not stop there. Burnout causes to lose any motivation and interest in the job or activity which could have been even exciting and good opportunity when we started out.

It is not always work which causes somebody to burn out. It is usually a combination of things. That can be job that has become very difficult to cope with, too demanding boss or too many tasks; sick parent who needs daily care; kids’ education that needs attention, difficult and worsening relationships with spouse or friends who were there to support before, so on and so on. Loss of somebody very meaningful, especially if this person was more or less associated with anything we do. Stressful situations and events just pile up and we seem to have less and less control over them and less and less power to manage everything.

The worst part is that these emotions and feeling completely ill are like a vicious circle: they will not go away until the cause of never-ending stress is eliminated. It is easy to say: quit the job or leave the family, move to another city or town, or place your parent in old folks home. Most often the financial situation and debt are the most stubborn issues. Still, if you reach the point when it is almost impossible to keep doing that job or fighting with duties or people, you will have to quit it. Your health will demand it. In burnout syndrome, mental issues prevail; chronic fatigue manifests more as a physical illness.

Feeling good and healthy makes everything else happen.

My personal recipe before one turns to brain-affecting medications or drugs and alcohol is being in the nature. Being with it, in it and having oneself immersed in the nature. That is why these who have a garden or backyard are better off.

The soil and grasses have huge power: as you touch soil with your hands or stand bare-foot on a fresh, green grass, the bad energy flows out and energetic imbalances return to normal. We have so much electricity in us that sometimes it just needs to be unloaded. Give it to the soil, return into natural circulation. Doing garden work is good in any regard and no gym can ever compare to that. Don’t do this to become the world’s best gardener: do gardening for yourself and as much or as little as you can.

The other thing that makes time and everything else disappear is art. Meditation with pencil or brush. How wonderful is that? Drawing flowers or scenes where everything is included and balanced. Peaceful soul reaches out to the beauty of nature. Be careful, though, if you do art for achieving the status of the best artist ever, but not to relieve your stresses, there won’t be results. I am talking about activities which are completely different from your daily duties. Who cares what your drawing or painting is like? Nobody, as long as you have let stresses go for a while.

If you are an artist or writer who feels completely exhausted and swallowed down by the competitive world, you will have to choose nature for walks, forests for discoveries and gardening for making brain and body more saturated with simplicity.

Simply switching activities can help, too.

The worst way to gain more time is depriving oneself of sleep. Sleep has to be made a big priority. Cannot sleep? Drink chamomile with honey, lemon balm (if you do not have low blood pressure because it lowers blood pressure a lot), literary: smell roses and lavender.

Late night is not the time to resolve anything. Morning always knows better.

Why am I suggesting such simple things for extremely complex conditions? Because I’ve been through this. The last stretch of 4 years was horrible. I have made through it without falling apart completely only because of nature, garden, work in fresh air and art. It is not that easy to paint or draw after a bad fatigue episode when everything hurts. It is not easy to get back to life after being exhausted or depressed. If we don’t do anything, nothing good can happen either. Change is hard work, but we need to find strength within ourselves. Nature is smart, way smarter than we admit. It is very rewarding to find a part of our strength in the nature.

This is what heals me

The fantastic fragrant air raising from apple blooms: it works like a medicine

Lilac beauty and fragrance therapy

The spring blossoming this year was so intense that I could not resist taking a few more pictures.

Enjoy the blooming!

Why to declutter your life now: the many powers of spring

Do you feel happier also just because it feels like the cold and snow seem to be gone? I do for sure. It is difficult to explain how much the dullness and darkness can affect us. It does this in so many ways: I hear people engaging into comfort foods, some just sleep over or hibernate and some other try to do their best to accomplish something. I belong to these who try to accomplish something, but it is so tough. I have to put pressure on myself all the time during winter months.

Why so many New Year’s resolutions fail? The timing is simply bad because we still have in us the ancient need to save energy for the spring awakening. That is nature; these are genes and our personal clock which dictate that.

Spring arrival is in so many ways better than the New Year: we finally get to do things that were postponed due to the cold and nasty weather outdoors. That includes even such routine chores as throwing out garbage or things we will never need, but are keeping “just in case”. Decluttering only our living and work space is not enough. We definitely have to declutter our mental space and mind also.

That is the energetic power of spring!

Chives: green despite the snow we had just 2 days ago!

We can go ahead with all the health ideas we have, in particular, because we will be able to put on our table the greens and early veggies we have managed to start and accommodate in tiny, small or larger back yards, balconies, front yards and anywhere where we can plant something. It does not have to be big in order to give as a huge spring vitamin boost. NO synthetic supplements can ever replace the nutrition from real sprouts and baby greens.

Therefore, your spring greens will not only make you healthier, but also give plenty of pleasant emotions. While we watch the seed germination and sprouting we become so aware that something tiny can have an insane power. The growing power.

What are the easiest and fastest things to start with? Any herbs, any green onions, chives, radish, lettuce and similar plants. They practically require very little care: we have to only provide them with sunlight and water after planting or seeding.

Strong and bright green nettle leaves; in fact, they can be added to the spring mix

It is a huge relief when the weather forecast puts us in a better mood: birds are singing so gladly and loudly, the sun is painting shadows on tiny grass stems, and there is a promise of warmer days being here soon.

It is also time to reorganize everything from our attitude and blog to contents of our wardrobe and different garbage hiding spaces in our living space. Decluttering is such a big matter because stuff just grows around us and we need to make space for fresh air to get a brain functionality boost also indoors.

You might consider reading the blog posts of your fellow bloggers instead of just clicking on “like” from your READER this spring. That is a wonderful blogging habit, and it not only shows your respect and interest in others, but helps discover different opinions and views on the same subject. You’d be surprised how many more returns via blog traffic and personal friendships one can make just by being an attentive blogger and leaving a comment here and there. I would imagine most bloggers are like me: if you never comment on my blog, I most likely will not engage in the comment section of your blog either. Think about that: blogger community is a place where mutual interaction is appreciated.

This is the best time to start with physical activities also because there will be less side-effects and it will happen seamlessly. It feels very natural to walk more and work outdoors in spring.

This is the best time to engage in new eating habits and to get rid of our bad habits. The seasonal change to a better weather makes any swift changes easier tolerable.

This is the best time to start loving oneself because we can change our outfits, switch to nicer colors and use some lighter make-up.

Tulips are getting ready to go, as well

All inspiration we need is right before our eyes: squirrels and chipmunks running around like crazy, birds singing, plants budding and grasses sprouting. Daffodils, bluebells, crocuses, wild anemones and tulips are up. That is a genuinely new beginning. Do not miss that.

Healthy lifestyle habits that put you at risk for undesirable side effects

We live in a global environment: any news flies around the planet in seconds and that includes fake promises, expectations and lies about healing miracles. It is quite difficult to distinguish between scientifically proven truth and assumptions on which many potential cures are based.

Why does that happen? We have to understand that in nowadays profit-taking world it is not consumers’ health that always comes first. While many companies which intend to manufacture health promoting products start out honestly, there are also very many companies that use the consumers’ trust in miracles in their favor. TV and media advertising do not promote only good and well-tested products: they will advertise anything that looks like it might be true and brings in money.

Considering the epidemic obesity rates, which include early childhood and young age obesity, abnormally high numbers of patients with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular, as well as heart diseases, not to mention cancer epidemics, people need something promising. TV, phone, laptop and computer screens scream to us: vitamins and supplements are the answer!

This era is also characterized by extreme efforts trying to maintain youthful look and energy, as well as live and stay active longer. There was no long-term research present when the first statements about the beneficial use of synthetic vitamins and supplements as our daily routine were made publicly available. Since the naturally occurring vitamins, amino acids and minerals played such an important role in functioning of our body and mind, it was simply believed that more of these nutrients are better. It was believed that the source of these nutrients was not the most important aspect.

adjustment-and-vitamins-017

For how many decades now have you heard from your doctor: just take some multivitamins, use omega-3 or fish oils, don’t forget vitamin C and E; obviously we all suffer from lack of vitamin D and calcium, so these should not be forgotten either? That has become such an indisputable healthy life-style feature that you will find hardly any person in the developed countries who hasn’t been on lots of vitamins and supplements at some moment of their life.

The CONCERN ABOUT OVERUSE OF SYNTHETIC VITAMINS and SUPPLEMENTS is growing with every new clinical trial that has been carried out to observe whether there are any significant benefits from such synthetic supplement use. The findings are shocking at some point. While almost everybody knows by now that multivitamin use did not result in any health benefits, not everybody is still aware that over-the-counter supplements do not do what they are supposed to, as well.

Millions of people reach every day for their calcium or vitamin D3 pill, or combination thereof.  Here is a quote from Science Daily (summary of a clinical trial): “Taking calcium in the form of supplements may raise the risk of plaque buildup in arteries and heart damage, although a diet high in calcium-rich foods appears be protective, say researchers at conclusion of their study that analyzed 10 years of medical tests on more than 2,700 people.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161011182621.htm

Almost everybody over 50 believes that taking calcium supplements will aid in avoiding bone fractures and loss of bone mass and its mineral density: osteoporosis. That is not the only review; there are quite a few clinical trial conclusions that state the same: calcium in the form of a synthetic supplement does not provide with the same effects as consumption of dietary calcium, calcium naturally occurring in food products.

Meticulous testing showed that most of calcium taken as supplements did not even get to the bones: it was partially excreted with urine (hypercalciuria was quite common among calcium supplement users) and also calcium spikes were observed which does not happen with calcium-rich food intake. Judging by tests which showed no improvement with bone density, researchers believe that the other part of synthetic calcium dose is absorbed by soft tissue which explains arterial plagues and calcification of arteries. Calcium spikes were also responsible for heart conditions. Strokes and coronary artery blockages occurred much more frequently in those taking high doses of synthetic calcium supplements. Moreover, there was not observed decrease in fractures or osteoporosis.

Journal of the American Heart Association  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161011182621.htm

Quote: “Because of the widespread awareness and treatment of osteoporosis with calcium supplements among older adults, this population would appear to be at greater risk of developing the adverse consequences of positive calcium balance, including vascular calcification.”

 “Calcium may be involved in pathogenesis of CVD (cardiovascular diseases) through multiple pathways, including through influences in lipid metabolism, insulin secretion and sensitivity, inflammation, thrombosis, regulation of body weight, and vascular calcification.”

The same goes for so much widely popularized omega-3 or healthy fatty acids. The evidence from many clinical trials exploring different conditions, such as omega-3 effects on cardiovascular and heart diseases, strokes and heart attacks, impact on brain function and delays of age-related dementia, rheumatoid arthritis and quite a few others, is very unconvincing. The widespread assumption that fatty acids may help delaying onset of some heart conditions, eye degeneration, brain malfunction and prevent cancers has no strong scientific evidence. It was noted that people who lived far north and consumed mostly fish suffered less from the above mentioned conditions. It wasn’t taken into account that their physical loads may be way different or their environment might be almost pollution-free. Therefore, it was soon assumed (and that was based on the facts that human body does not produce omega-3 fatty acids, therefore they have to be consumed) that synthetically processed omega-3 might contribute to higher levels of absorbed omega-3 fatty acids. We know by now that more is not better. MORE SUPPLEMENTS that exceed the daily allowance for such doses can cause significant health risks. Omega-3 fatty acids interact with medications, as well. If you are taking fish oil, especially fish liver oil, vitamin D and vitamin E, you are at significantly higher risk for bleeding. When all these supplements are combined with blood thinning medications (anticoagulants) that many people take to prevent thrombosis or heart attacks, the outcome might be seriously bad because the blood clotting will be significantly affected.

None of the previously carried out clinical trials about benefits of supplemented omega-3 use has provided with statistically significant proof that such use is beneficial for any of these conditions, but healthy life style and consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from clean food sources is. Therefore, it is much more advisable to eat good food and stay away from supplements, unless your doctor has prescribed them. That might be a drug form that is different from the over-the-counter form and, therefore, it might work for you. Uncontrolled use of any kind of supplements when somebody is already on prescription medications can be DANGEROUS  and it CAN AFFECT THE WAY YOUR PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION WORKS. Always consult a doctor, assuming your doctor is aware of the newest scientific discoveries and follows up on developments in the area of synthetic vitamins and synthetic supplements.

US National Institute of Health publication https://nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3/introduction.htm

The truth is that synthetic supplements have a different chemical composition; it is not the same respective vitamin or mineral which we are absorbing from food. Therefore, the metabolism pathways and the way this supplement or vitamin act and behave in the body are not completely known. It is also believed that vitamins and minerals from natural sources work the way they do because food usually contains a set or combination of minerals, amino acids and vitamins in their natural form which is recognized by the body; and this recognition is due to the program which is set by our very individual DNA.

Next articles will review the problems with synthetic antioxidants, vitamin E (the only synthetic form which is available at pharmacies: alpha-tocopherol), vitamin C and some other supplements. If you do not know where to look for supplement and vitamin recalls (there are quite a lot of them), google Health Canada and FDA websites. Such lists are publicly available.

 

 

Preventable accidents and coincidences: a few hospital stories

If we knew where we fall, we would put down a pillow to save us.

Sometimes, the guardian angel does this for us: I mean these situations when somebody is very unlikely to make it, but they do.

Guardian angel

Painting by Murillo, public domain image

There are moments when we have done everything we could, but the disaster happens regardless of that because we are at a wrong place at a wrong time.

The sad consequences of life threatening accidents

I am a survivor of such an accident. I believe I survived due to my spiritual and mental strength, fighting power and love to life, but for the main part: due to the knowledge and devotion of the treating physician. There was 24/7 monitoring and all 9 surgeries went well.

One is never completely new after being fixed. Whatever our injuries, they leave after-effects, and they can be devastating. Chronic pain and anxiety are just one side of such post-accident experiences.

However, it is not that we cannot prevent the regular daily troubles by putting down such a pillow: preventing accidents, injuries and diseases from happening.

The unforgiving negligence

The reality is such that if there is chance for something bad to happen it most likely will. Placing hot items on the edge of any surface is lack of caution; that refers to hot coffee cups and other dishes with boiling hot liquids. Leaving harmful liquids in inappropriate containers or easy to access places is dangerous. I witnessed while practicing at hospital how a man had gotten major stomach injuries because he had been preparing pickled fish and also was having a glass of drink at the same time. He accidentally drank the highly concentrated vinegar by taking a big mouthful from the glass. Kids use to grab anything and try its taste whenever something is available for them to reach: kids have been hospitalized with laundry soap intake, vinegar and alcohol intake, not to mention after eating a lot of strong medication. In those, cases prevention would have been easy: just do not leave anything out there and within their reach.

Drunk driving and aggressive behavior of addicted spouses and friends

The major and absolutely preventable accidents are caused by driving drunk or high. Human perception changes to abnormal extent under the influence of alcohol and substances that alter brain chemicals. It’s needless to say, nobody should ever do that, but we are witnessing this again and again, and there is no end of people who put their and other peoples’ lives at risk.

I spent almost a year in a hospital. I had quite a few fellow patients, and their stories were sad. A young woman across my bed was thrown out of window from the 5th floor by her husband. It’s hard to describe the feelings she was going through when she woke up after surgical treatments. Some accidents mean: the one who was super healthy, will be partly or completely immobilized for life and having major health consequences.  However, when I had already recovered to some extent, I went to see her, and guess what? She was back with her offensive, aggressive, drinking husband, and I could see they continued the same what had been the cause of her very long hospital stay. I asked her: why didn’t you go somewhere else? Anywhere? She said she couldn’t walk and there was no place for her to go or work and so she couldn’t support herself. Well, this wasn’t any better or easier.

The fact of the matter is that the aggressive behavior when it is caused by addiction to substances rarely changes. The only hope would be in case somebody gives this up completely. However, there is always a risk of relapse with such people.

I have seen and read a lot of stories how people can recover from addiction, but that happens only when that person genuinely wants it, is ready for it and can replace the addiction with something that fills up the emptiness which occurs after they have given up their terrible habit. Art groups, social clubs, interest groups, sports and church groups are very good thing to start with.

She needed a new face: victim of drunk driving

The other woman in my hospital room didn’t have her real face any more. She was driving and got hit by another car; it was nose-to-nose crash at a high-speed, so the upper part of her car got literally taken off. Doctors restored her face as much as it was possible which meant creating a new nose and putting in place cheek bones, jaw bones and implanting new teeth. When she was that far that she could look at herself in a mirror, she was in shock. There was a scary silence for a while. It’s not me, she screamed. What do I do now, nobody will recognize me and my kids will not believe it’s me? Her kids were 4 and 6, two girls. They had kept these kids away from hospital for a while, just to get more time and to put off the unpredictable and potentially upsetting first time meeting in person. That couldn’t go on forever, so kids were taken to the hospital to meet their mom approximately 6 months after the accident. Everybody was crying: this lady, her daughters, every doctor and every patient in the room. At that moment, girls did not recognize their mom, they couldn’t believe and accept that was her because that was virtually a completely different woman in the hospital bed, not the one who was residing in their memories. It took many meetings and long time until everybody found peace of mind and re-established their relationship. This tragedy was caused by a drunk driver.

drunk driving victims

Public domain image

Physical and mental abuse: things that cannot be straightened out

People also usually do not take into account that racial, national and cultural diversities can be a problem exaggerating and issue causing aspect. Although, we are all humans, our background is very distinctive. Things that are very acceptable and very appropriate in some country, community or family, can become a subject of never-ending arguments, and eventually cause the relationship to go toxic.

As we were diagnosing patients in the urgent surgical care department at a hospital, the professor who was taking us around warned before we entered an intensive care unit: “This lady didn’t listen to her parents who told her not to engage with this particular man who is in custody at the moment. Dear girls, do not marry people who have completely distinctive background!”

The sight was extremely shocking: there was practically no face or something one could recognize as a human face, hence, it was some kind of extremely swollen dark blue, black and purple-read smashed raw meat. Eyes were not visible; they were somewhere deep under the swelling. The person could not speak, swallow anything, and not even water because of broken jaw bones. The professor lifted sheets and, as far as it was visible, the body was in exactly the same condition: bruises, hematoma at many spots, swollen limbs and torn wounds, huge five-finger imprints in bright dark purple color around the neck told that she was also been choked. Stabbed with sharp, but luckily not too wide kitchen knife which occurred to be of a flexible metal and that practically had saved her from more serious internal injuries. Her recovery took about 18 months and included fraction cure, sutures, treatment of neuroses, anxiety, abnormal physical pain and series of restorative surgery. They were successful with fixing her, and this was a case which had a happy end. Not all do.

Her husband came from a Russian family with a long history of alcohol abuse, imprisonment, family fights, strange concepts about marriage and trust, and he used to interpret the reality in a way that was severely distorted by prison moral. He was pathologically jealous, and every episode of alcohol use in excess caused him to become extremely aggressive. The closest target was always his new wife who was a young student, just relocated to start studies at the university. How do such people meet? Easy. At a bar, at a concert, and these aggressive manipulators can pretend being the nicest people on the globe when they want or have to.

Cutting off a toxic relationship

We should listen to people who care about us and warn us. We should take into account the harsh reality and advice that comes from people who have gone through hell. Do we? I did not listen to my parents and suffered for 19 years. Why? Who knows, I believed I could fix and straighten out anything. My daughter initially did not listen to me and my parents. These toxic relationships are lost time, it is time we have stolen from ourselves. Thankfully, my daughter and I found great, rewarding relationships after years of struggles. These valuable relationships contribute daily to our well-being and personal growth.

We have to learn cutting off a toxic relationship straight where it starts, not allowing to evolve into something more serious and destroying. I don’t mean only spouses and closest relatives. We have to avoid and, if necessary, immediately walk away from toxic relationship that hurts, abuses and exploits. That is the best prevention from any more serious mental and physical suffering. It is not worth it. There are so many nice people out there, and it makes sense to keep reaching out for them.

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