4 Steps to Controlling Your Emotions

4StepstoControllingYourEmotions

You would think that after 50 plus years I would have it all figured out.

I don’t.

One area I struggle with, that I have made a conscious effort to address this year, is managing my emotions. 98% of the time I am a calm, low-key person that goes with the flow; however, on occasion I get angry, not violent angry but that kind of anger where you stew in it and let it fester until all you can do is think about what is bothering you.

The other day, I emailed a co-worker on an issue and didn’t hear back a response. The issue was important to me, but certainly not a hot issue for the company. I got offended and for at least an hour I had imaginary conversations where this person was telling me my issue was stupid and to not bother her and she ran around telling everyone else about it. She told my manager and he called me to say that my behavior was immature and unprofessional. I started to draft my letter of resignation. I could actually feel my pulse pounding in my body, my muscles get tense and my breathing get shallow.

Wow, all because my email didn’t get answered within nine hours!

The next day, this person answered my email and fixed my issue. All was good, or was it?

Another day, I was practicing trading stock options. I thought I had placed the perfect trade and then the market went against me. I kept thinking it would reverse and go in the direction I had planned, but it didn’t. I became an animal inside. I prayed. I told myself I would quit trading and never try again, I wasn’t born to do this. I was huddled over like a kid.

I placed a trade, got out of the bad trade and took my loss and watched as the market continued to move against me. I saved myself a lot of money by getting out of that trade.

What a waste of time and energy. Maybe I’m the only person who does this, but I guess I am not.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often with me, but it bothers me so much when it does, that I want to prevent it from every happening.

Writing all this down now, I feel like I should be put in a rubber room with the door locked, sipping my dinner through a straw, while my hands are tied behind my back. What a nutcase.

Even though I haven’t eliminated these episodes from my life, I feel that I have cut down on the number of them. Below are the techniques I have used to help when I get into the hot water and that help me return to peace and calm.

TECHNIQUES TO MASTER MY EMOTIONS

1. Recognize I am in a state of anger and frustration – The first step is to be aware of when you get into a state where your emotions run rampant. What are the situations that cause you anguish? Who are the people that push your buttons? How does your body react? Does your blood pressure intensify so much that you can actually feel your pulse in your forehead or neck? Do you grit your teeth?

Once you know when, where and how you will potentially lose your cool, you can prepare yourself for it. This sets you up to take one of the other steps to prevent or eliminate a blowout.

2. View yourself in the situation – Watch yourself in the heat of the battle. It’s like you’re on TV and you’re embarrassed to watch your acting skills. You want to tell yourself, “hey, get it together, you’re getting mad at nothing.”

It’s almost never as bad as it seems. Seeing yourself at that moment is like a whack across the cheeks. You can become objective about the situation, like the smart side of you telling the dumb side how to act.

3. Get up walk and breathe deeply – OK so you’re in the middle of a scene where you could come out badly. You might say or do the wrong things. You know you’re there but viewing the situation in your mind doesn’t work cause you’re too far gone.

Get up and walk away from the place or person and start to breathe deeply. Use this link to a previous blog post on how to do an effective breathing exercise LINK. Don’t come back until you feel your heart rate return to normal and you can speak or act calmly.

4. Laugh at how silly it is – Keep the bad moment out of your memory by thinking how silly it was. Maybe the actual event was stressful, but how you were reacting to it was over the top. Find some way to make yourself laugh about it. Think of the crazy look on your face, or the vein in your temple pulsating, or your voice shaking as you told that person off. If there isn’t anything funny to remember then make something up. Laughter will get you out of a lot of messes.

SUMMARY

There you go. The 4 steps to controlling your emotions. Be aware of moments when it could happen. Be objective by picturing yourself in the moment, get up and walk away and don’t return until you’re calm, and then laugh about it so you don’t retain the negativity in your mind.

Eight Ways to Battle Depression

Depression

Depression

I like to laugh and have fun, but even I get down once in a while. I made a list of my eight ways to battle depression and thought I would share it with you.

1. Stay Busy – I find the more I stay busy, the less time I have to focus on problems. Time goes by quickly when you’re busy. When I’m not busy, my mind likes to think about my problems and worries and fears. Staying busy with the right activities eliminates those worries and fears. I stress I won’t have enough money for retirement, but I stay busy working on developing other sources of income. This year I have taken multiple classes on stock investing, developed an informational product I will start selling in August and continue to work on writing. All of these help battle my worries on money.

2. Exercise – I like to do something physical every day. Most of the time it is either a workout or a cardio interval training, but I also will take long walks or bike rides. If I can’t do any of those, I will work in the yard, around the house, or shovel snow in the winter. I find that when my body is in good shape, my mind is in better shape. I am able to better handle the issues that come up when I feel good, and exercise does that for me. Also activities like long walks and mowing the grass give me a chance to think over problems, and when combined with the activity helps me to come up with ideas to solve them.

3. Read a Good Book – Reading is an escape from every day life for me. I become part of the book and imagine myself within the story and I forget about my own life. Reading is something I commit to daily. I read during lunch and before bed for a total of about one hour or more each day. It is important to me to read good books. More and more I tend to stay away from depressing stories. I love comedies and “good over evil” stories with characters I root for.

4. Daily Affirmations – I have a couple lists of affirmations that I say every morning. They are positive up-lifting phrases that provide encouragement and fill my subconscious with thoughts that build me up. Most of the benefit is hidden internally. It is important that I say these daily affirmations with emotion and conviction. To just recite them rotely and check them off my list does no good at all. Be dramatic.

5. Watch a Comedy – I don’t watch a lot of television but when I do I like to watch a good comedy. Laughter is the best drug for my soul. I can’t help but feel good after a good laugh. I DVR David Lettermen and Conan O’Brien and try to watch a bit of both every day. I subscribe to Spotify and they have classic comedy albums available. I have been meaning to add these to my playlists so that I can listen to them in the car or when I exercise. When I was a kid I would listen to George Carlin, Steve Martin, Cheech and Chong and Bill Cosby. I’m sure there’s a ton of material out there that I have never heard before (send suggestions).

6. Listen to Great Music – When I hear some music that I love, it really pumps me up, I feel energized, motivated, happy, excited and confident. But not all music does that to me. If I listen to Pink Floyd or Evanescense I get depressed. When you hear a song or a musical piece that inspires you, jot it down and put these into a collection. Back in the eighties we made mix tapes, now you can put them into collections on your iPhone or an online radio like Spotify. Crank up your collection when you feel down, want to exercise or get started on your project.

7. Get Outside – Humans need to get out into the sunshine and enjoy the outdoors. When I feel down, I work out in the yard, take a long walk or head to the park. One park by me has a nice lake that always makes me feel great just to look at it. Grab a friend or family member and throw the frisbee or drink a cup of coffee outside. If it is wintertime I still like to go out, the parks look beautiful with the snow on the trees. When I was a kid I used to spend hours outside in the winter having snowball fights, building forts/snowmen, playing hockey. I haven’t done some of those activities since, and I need to remember that this winter. My favorite time of the year is Fall when the weather in Chicago is perfect, but those first few Spring days when the weather warms after a brutal Winter are special too. Anytime the weather is awesome, I try to take at least a moment to go out and enjoy it. When you feel good physically, you feel good mentally.

8. Hang With Positive People – When I am my most depressed I am usually alone. It is so easy to feel sorry for myself when I’m just focusing on Mister Me.

Don’t!

Hang with family, friends or even complete strangers. I make sure though, that they are positive people who will make me laugh, encourage me and take my mind off my troubles. I don’t need to magnify them by spending time with people who will make me feel worse.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I think I’m more extroverted around complete strangers than I am around my own family and friends. So going out for coffee, spending time downtown, joining a club or taking a class gets me out of the house and I am able to meet new people.

SUMMARY

Illnesses of the mind are every bit as important as those of the body. Take them seriously. Try all of the techniques above, especially number eight. If nothing works, then seek out professional help. Don’t try to handle it all by yourself. The more you interact with other people, the more you realize that there are people out there in this world with problems way worse than your own.

Caring for a Loved One

sweet old kiss

Photo by: Jonel Hanopol

Am I Qualified to Care for Someone

A month ago, I sat in the airport terminal with time to pause and think about a question that nagged me the previous day. I was on my way to Texas to care for a family member who was seriously ill. My relative had been released from the hospital, but no one was there to care for her. What could I do? I am not qualified to be a caretaker. I was concerned, depressed and felt hopeless. How could I find the courage to break through the trouble?

Awkwardness greeted me upon my arrival in Texas. I decided to use a technique that had worked many times in the past when I faced a terrifying situation. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths and smiled. With suitcase in hand I set off for my relative’s home.

Be There

I remember blunder around my relative’s home for the first few days, not knowing what to say or do. But carrying on the normal daily activities soon erased the awkwardness of the situation. I quickly realized that being there is what is needed. I didn’t have to do a thing. I didn’t have to say a thing. When I felt useless, I cleaned a room. When I felt inadequate, I spent time with her watching a TV show. When I felt ineffective, I cooked a meal. I felt useful. I acted useful. I was useful.

With perseverance, hard work and maybe a miracle or two, recovery arrived. I could hear it, see it, sense it. But for fear of a setback I didn’t want to cease worrying and helping and praying. You focus on the good and forget the bad. Bad will diminish allowing the good to flourish. Like putting a weed killer on your lawn that chokes out the weeds allowing the grass to grow unencumbered. The grass can stretch its feet and enjoy the warmth of the sun. Recovery is contagious. With each sign of improvement the mind becomes convinced it can recover and armed with those subconscious thoughts, my relative wanted to recover.

My trepidations were calmed. I could return home knowing my trip was a benefit to someone I loved. The simple prevailed.

Six Benefits of Breathing Exercises

Breathe Deeply
Photo by Amanda Hirsch

I have been trying to learn how to meditate. I am a ways off. My mind drifts off and I start thinking about dozens of things. If I devote ten minutes to meditation, it ends up being ten minutes of day dreaming.

One of the elements of meditation that I have picked up and works really well is deep breathing – performing breathing exercises. This is a great relaxation technique that works and works quickly.

METHOD

Breathe deeply through the nose for four seconds.

Hold your breath for seven seconds.

Exhale for eight seconds.

Do this for five repetitions; in the morning, before bed and anytime during the day you feel stressed.

Does it have to be 4,7,8 seconds? No tweak those numbers to suit you. The point is to go slowly and deliberately.

BENEFITS

1. CALM – When I do this I can feel my heart rate slow down. If I feel stressed I can feel my blood pressure decrease. It is like I am watching the temperature on a thermometer decrease.

2. ENERGY – I feel more awake with more energy which is great when I do this in the morning. At night, I don’t feel the energy boost, or at least it is not enough to offset the calm/relaxed feeling that puts me to sleep.

3. HEALTHIER – As much as 70% of the toxins in your body are released in your breathing. Deep breathing intensifies this, releasing more toxins than a shallow breath.

4. POSTURE – Good breathing techniques enhance your posture. Try it and see if your chest doesn’t come out, shoulders back, chin in…

5. FOCUS – When you do these breathing exercises it requires you to focus on how you breathe, how long you inhale, hold, and exhale. This is one of the techniques used in meditation to keep your mind from wandering.

6. HAPPIER – Breathing deeply releases endorphins which make you feel good. Endorphins spark a good feeling in you similar to a drug, like when you go for a run and you come back with a runner’s high.

Endorphins help diminish pain, making you feel good or relaxed. Your body makes them and they are released in response to chemicals called neurotransmitters. They bind to receptors like pain medicines but without the bad side effects.

SUMMARY

Give it a try. Develop a daily habit and use this anytime you feel the pressure building. Make it a habit by incorporating into a daily routine like when you get dressed or after you turn out lights for bed. This way it will become second nature to you like when you sigh relief after a dreaded moment – giving a speech, close call in traffic…

Feel free to comment below if you try it and like it.

Routine Dental Care

smile
Photo by Michael Karshis

Routine Dental Care

Welcome to the exciting world of dentistry.

I remember about a year ago reading a blog post on developing good habits LINK . The problem most people have is they try to do too much at once and give up before the task becomes a habit. In the post the blogger started by flossing just one tooth and gradually adding more teeth. After about 30 days he developed the habit of flossing every night and he didn’t even have to think about it.

My teeth have always been pretty good…no cavities. My gums are another story.

The start of my dental care would be my trips to the dentist. I go twice a year; May and December. They always go well, except my dentist will berate me for not flossing enough. They were red, swollen and bled easily.

After reading the blog I started a course to healthy teeth and gums. I developed my routine dental care that has become a habit. My dentist has given me a high five my last two trips. My gums no longer bleed and are almost all back to their original shade of pink…and growing (no more receding).

Here’s my daily routine dental care:

1. Floss – Once per day, at night, I floss with waxed floss. My new technique of slowly dragging the floss between the tooth and then wrapping the floss around the tooth and coming back down, replaced the old technique of bull-dozing the floss up into my gums. If you ever wonder where bad breath comes from, smell your floss when you’re done…ouch!

2. Water-Pik – I purchased one of these from Amazon LINK I’ve read that these are not as good as just flossing and don’t remove plaque very well. However it has been great for my gums. I honestly do not use this every night, but do use it at least once a week. I mix in a little listerine into the water. It has a dial on it to adjust the intensity. I found, for me, to leave it around six. It amazes me to see stuff flush out that I missed in flossing, especially way in the back.

3. Tongue Scraper – This is new to my list. I read that 80-90% of all bad breath comes from the bacteria on your tongue. Granted I read this on the tongue scraper box, but after using this I can believe it. Take a look at your tongue. Do you see any white on it? Scrape it with your finger and take a whiff…not pleasant. The tongue scraper is a gentle brush designed to effectively remove this bacteria. I brush a couple strokes with nothing on the scraper and then do a couple more with some toothpaste on it. I try to go as far back without choking. When I am done my tongue is red. I use the Orabrush scraper LINK. Make sure to rinse it off in hot water when done.

4. Brushing – Hey finally! The old reliable. I do this twice a day. I should brush at lunch, but have never brought a brush to work. I just started using the Oral-B battery-powered toothbrush LINK. There’s a more expensive one out there that goes for about $175. I opted to try this one. It is only $6 and uses replaceable batteries and brushes. I think a pack of two was also around $6 and they last three months. I’ve heard the best way to brush is in a circular motion. I’ve also heard it is up and down and across…eeesh! This brush has both a circular and back and forth motion. I am holding it at an angle and getting just up under the gum line. I am expecting from the reviews that this thing will be a home run. So far so good. My teeth feel like they were just cleaned at the dentist.

5. Oral Rinse – I finish off with Biotene oral rinse LINK. This is another routine dental care step I have added this year. This stuff loosens plaque which makes it easier for your brush and floss to work. It also leaves your breath fresh. I use this twice a day. I buy it on sale for $7.

6. Dental Pick and Mirror – I purchased these LINK about two years ago to help get rid of the plaque that develops on my two, front, lower teeth (where my tongue seems to call home most of the day). I was doing a gentle scrape on the back of these two teeth once or twice per week. I am guessing with my new battery-powered toothbrush (combined with the oral rinse) that I won’t need to use these anymore. I was always a little leery of scraping away my tooth enamel but if you’re careful it is ok.

SUMMARY

Well there is my daily routine dental care. If I do everything it takes about ten minutes. This has had noticeable effects on my teeth and gums. They look like they did back when I was a kid. Take advantage of some of the great products that are out there and save yourself some money and pain down the line. The people around you will thank you.

Blood Test Comparison One Year Later

BloodTest

I had my blood tested a year after my last test LINK.

Looking at my blood test comparison between the two years, improvements were made in every category. They were dramatic in cholesterol and triglycerides, despite eating six eggs a day! My weak category was HDL (good cholesterol), which only improved to 37. I need this to be 60.

Tips to improve this are found on the Mayo Clinic website at LINK. I am good with all the points they mention and I don’t want to take any medications. That leaves me with increasing my fiber (wheat bran and flax seed…added to protein shakes) and omega-3 (fish oil supplements…increase from one per day to two).

I attribute my success to my healthy diet and consistent exercise over the past year. I did not take any medications; only supplements including protein shake, multi-vitamin, vitamin D and fish oil. I will continue as is, but increase my fiber and fish oil to see if I can get my HDL up over 60.

Nine Ways to Contentment

Nine Roads to Contentment

Ah…contentment…feels good!

Health Exams for Guys over 50

Medical

What I had Examined

  1. Cholestoral
  2. Prostate
  3. Heart
  4. Colon
  5. Eyes
  6. Ears
  7. Teeth
  8. Skin
  9. Nerves
  10. Aches and Pains

I have read that when you reach age 50 you should celebrate with a battery of tests to see if you’re still healthy. So I made out my list of body parts to have checked out over the next year; heart, blood, colon, prostate, eyes, ears, teeth, skin, bones and ears. That’s a lot of stuff that can break.

That was January, 2011. By the end of the year the only things that I had checked out were my eyes and teeth. Pathetic. 2012 I hit it hard and made it through my list. Here is a run-down of what I had checked. I found a lot of good information from Mayoclinic.com and webmd.com. Also see my medical disclaimer below.

1. Cholesterol

I have this tested every year, as my family has a history of high blood pressure and heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following levels will tell you how good or bad yours is. Mine has improved over the last couple of years due to increased exercise, a better diet and fish oil supplements.

Total Cholesterol

Less than 200 mg/dl is good
200 to 239 mg/dl is borderline high
Greater than 240 mg/dl is bad

LDL (the bad cholesterol)

Less than 100 mg/dl is the level for people with risk of heart disease
100-129 mg/dl ideal for most people
130-159 mg/dl is borderline high
>=160 mg/dl is high

HDL (the good cholesterol)

Less than 40 mg/dl is bad
40-59 mg/dl is ok
>=60 mg/dl is good

Cholesterol Ratio

There is some disagreement if this is valuable or not. The formula is to take your LDL (bad) divided by your HDL (good). That number/ratio should be 5:1 or lower. You improve it by lowering your LDL, raising your HDL or a combo of the two.

Triglycerides

Less than 100 mg/dl is good
100 – 150 mg/dl is average
150 – 199 mg/dl is borderline high
>= 200 mg/dl is high

2. Prostate (PSA) Test

PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen. The test I took was done with my blood test. It is recommended for men between the ages of 40-75. A level of 4.0 ng/mL or lower is considered normal. Higher than that could require further testing for cancer. This is another test that has pros and cons. The pro being it could detect cancer early while treatable. The bad being it could give a false indicator. Your best best is to consult your doctor. I decided to at least get the test and see the results. I also had my doctor do the rectal exam to check for an enlarged prostate. The one-fingered rubber glove can send shivers down the spine of anyone.

3. Heart

Heart disease and high blood pressure run in my family so these tests were high on my list. I will probably have these done every couple of years.

Blood Tests

I discussed this above. Your doctor may be able to detect signs of heart disease by looking at your blood tests.

Chest X-Ray

A chest x-ray can reveal an enlarged heart, which could be a sign of heart disease.

Electrocardiogram

Probes are placed on the chest and other parts of the body and your heart rhythm is measured and recorded over time. This is done while at rest and after walking/jogging on a treadmill (stress test). I was in too good of shape. It took forever to get my heart to the required rate.

Echocardiogram

A technician does an ultrasound of your heart and looks at your heart, valves and rhythm after the stress test. When I looked at the pictures I couldn’t make out anything. It looked like a wolverine choking on a fur ball.

These are the tests I had done. There are others if any of the above show signs of heart disease.

4. Colon

This is the one test I dreaded. A camera on a tube is inserted into your rectum so the doctor can look at your colon and check for polyps and other irregularities or signs of cancer. There is a lot of prep for this test leading up to the day before your exam. I took a drink called Movi Prep. This basically does unspeakable things to clean you out…unbelievable. Don’t plan on going to work that day, unless you have a portable desk you can move into the bathroom.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was asked a lot of questions and asked to undress and put on a gown. Funny thing as I undressed behind a screen, a huge wind came through the vents and blew the screen open just as a nurse walked by. All I could do was say, “hey how’s it going?”

I was wheeled into the operating room and told to roll over on my side. The IV was put in my arm and I counted back to like 98 and was out cold. I woke up what felt like five minutes later and it was all done…painless. My mind was out in space. I had to have my wife drive me home. The pictures of my colon reminded me of Carlsbad Caverns. Since mine came out ok, I don’t need another one for ten years…yeah!

5. Eyes

I generally see an optometrist (OD) every two years at the local For Eyes store. They do general testing for things like eye movement, reaction to light, visual acuity, refraction testing (which is better this one or that one?), and the Glaucoma puff of air test.

I have not been to an Opthamologist, but I don’t have any troubles with my eyes except for being near-sighted and far-sighted.

I did switch to multi-focal (combo of regular lenses and bifocals) lenses a few years ago and really like them.

6. Ears

This is one test I did not schedule. My hearing is generally ok but I know I’ve lost some of the “highs” in my right ear from playing loud music. I started wearing ear plugs at my band’s practice.

Years ago I went to an Audiologist after I went swimming and couldn’t get the water out of my ears. It was starting to hurt and nothing I tried worked. The doctor stuck a tiny vacuum with a camera in my ears and sucked out the wax way down deep. You would be surprised how much is in there, even if you clean your ears often. After he was done, I could hear like I was in high school again (ok maybe my parents didn’t think I heard real well back then either).

7. Teeth

I go to the dentist twice a year and have had clean check ups. The last couple have been really good. I made it a habit last year to floss every night and bought a water pik. Both have been great at bringing my gums back to health. They are now a nice shade of pink, no swelling and no bleeding. I also add a tiny bit of mouth wash in the water pik and it keeps my breath fresh. I also purchased a dental pick and mirror from Amazon and gently scrape the plaque off my lower front teeth.

Here’s to being over 50 and still having all my teeth!

8. Skin

I went to a Dermatologist and had the full-body exam done. You strip down to nothing and the doctor measures and examines all your moles, freckles…A young nurse comes into the room to take down all the notes. I’m not sure who was more embarrassed the nurse or myself.

I was told I had one mole that should be cut off and sent to a lab to check for cancer. I also had the option to have the rest of them cut out or frozen off. I had one on my back frozen off to see what it was like. I think it cost me about $75, after my insurance. The doctor sprays liquid nitrogen on my the mole and bandages it up. After two weeks the mole comes off and the skin is like normal. Worked great. The mole I had cut out was not cancerous.

This was a great exam…highly recommended and enlightening. Lesson learned – wear your sunscreen, hat and sunglasses often.

9. Nerves

I scheduled an appointment with a Neurologist. The doctor placed several electrodes all over my body that were hooked up to a computer. He then sent electric impulses and noted the reaction. This test wasn’t painful, but it really freaked me out. Your body parts jerk and twitch from these impulses and my thoughts turned to Nazi torture. Luckily the tests were clean and I won’t have to come back here for a while.

10. Aches and Pains

This was the one area of my health that I felt needed attention. I don’t know anyone over 50 that doesn’t have some aches or pains. I was no exception. Years of playing sports, playing several musical instruments, sitting at a computer all day and being in a car that rolled down a mountain road have all taken a toll on my body.

The pain culminated last year in my left arm. I could not sleep at night or concentrate at work. I started seeing my normal doctor and we went through the battery of tests on my heart and nerves. I went to a Chiropractor and that didn’t help. Finally I went to one of the best Orthopedic doctors in the Chicago area (found in the Chicago magazine annual review of doctors). An MRI revealed that one of my neck vertebrae had herniated and was pressing on a nerve that ran down my left arm.

The options were therapy, a shot of cortisone into my spine or surgery. I opted for therapy and it worked. I still do my exercises and also purchased a custom pillow that has a dent in the middle to keep my head tilted back. I also take frequent breaks from my PC and purchased a great guitar strap for my heavy bass.

The last pains I had were in my right knee and ankle. I figured it was just old age or from playing hockey. My doctor suggested foot pads in my shoes and alternating the back pocket of my pants where I put my wallet. Yes there is a curse to having a fat wallet. The combination of the two suggestions cured my pains. I have since converted to a thin wallet/money-clip that fits in my front pocket and have stopped wearing the foot pads. I think the wallet alone was causing my issues…amazing.

Summary

In summary, I would highly recommend all men over 50 years old to have these tests completed. Take nothing for granted. Do your own research. We’ve worked too hard to get to this age. Let’s not destroy it by neglecting our health. Keep these tests on your “to do” list and get them done. Don’t procrastinate.

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this website. Never rely on information on this website in place of seeking professional medical advice.