One of the most challenging aspects of my work is finding people who are living with health conditions and asking them to share their story with the whole world. I am always amazed, and touched, by people’s willingness to do this. I’ve discussed some very difficult subjects with people who are in the trenches. I’ve talked to people about their thoughts of suicide, how their marriages have survived despite serious physical and mental health challenges, and how they feel about the loss of their mobility and independence. We’ve talked openly about conditions that can lead to significant embarrassment and stigma, such as inflammatory bowel disease and severe skin conditions. For these conversations, and all the ones to come, I am very grateful. When I worked in health and medical public relations, we knew that putting a face on a disease or condition would make it real to readers and viewers. There’s always the difficulty when you do this of respecting people’s privacy and being realistic with them about the outcome of the piece. Most people want to share their story because they feel — correctly, I think — that if their story can help just one person feel less alone or make a healthy decision, the sharing is worth it. That’s how we connect as social creatures, learning from one another and supporting each other along the way. Yet even as I believe in that positive aspect of discussing difficult situations, I strive always to honor the stories of the people I write about. Here’s an example, if you are interested, featuring the story of one of the most memorable men I’ve spoken with: http://www.everydayhealth.com/diabetes/suicide-and-diabetes-what-caregivers-should-know.aspx
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I love to cook! I do! Even when my little guys are either clinging to me and begging me to do something else, or trying to help me. (On a side note, I love cooking with my kids and it’s wonderful as they grow older to see how much more they can do and to know that they are building a little internal recipe box so they can feed themselves, at least some of the time!) Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that we’d all be healthier if we knew how to cook. It’s worth learning about food, and cooking, and trying new recipes. But I also get that sometimes it’s tiring to plan, and shop, and prep, and all that. So here’s a handy little guide to cutting down on the tiring part of cooking: http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/tip-guide-fatigue-free-healthy-meal-prep/?xid=tw_everydayhealth_sf#01
Having a blah day? I am. A little blue? Me too. But here’s the good news – listening to upbeat music that makes you feel happier really does make you happier. Seems circular, but it’s true. For me, that’s Imagine Dragons, New Orleans music, and more. What’s on your playlist? http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/choose-music-to-boost-happiness-3267.aspx
The other day a freelance colleague asked me, “What have you learned about health from being a health writer?” The answer is – I’ve learned a lot, actually. Here’s a brief summary:
1. Just about every health situation could be improved with appropriate regular exercise and eating healthy, fresh, whole foods. And drinking lots of water, and getting good sleep.
2. Death is inevitable. That seems rather naïve to say, but I’m saying it because it seems to me that we all spend a lot of time trying to fight this fact. Don’t spend so much time fighting death that you are living a miserable, constrained life. Relax a bit. It’s ok.
3. Things we can’t quantify really do matter. Your faith practices, your friendships, your attitude to life, the things that bring you pleasure, what goes on in your mind when you have a quiet moment, those things affect your health and your wellbeing, but it’s unlikely that any study will ever accurately describe how.
I could go on about this. And in fact, I will. But for now I’d just like to highlight an article I wrote about one of my favorite people, a cardiologist in New Orleans who is also a Beefmaster and a true character: http://www.everydayhealth.com/senior-health/super-senior-health-cardiologist-and-cowboy-at-ninety.aspx
One of the complaints that I hear most frequently from medical experts for whom I have done public/media relations is echoed by medical experts I interview: the media is all sensational, doom and gloom. Now, the whys and wherefores of that are probably for another post (or another blog entirely) and I’ve given classes and presentations on how to work well with the media to control the interview, so what I want to say here is that when I write, I really like to write about positive living. Yes, there are health problems that are very serious and people struggle with them. And, yes, there are choices we all can make to be healthier or not-so-healthy. But I really like to cover topics that make it possible for people in just about any situation to choose a healthier, happier way of being alive in this world. And as a result, I try to seek out the kind of news that lets people know that the most basic pleasures in life, such as socializing, laughing, music, being outdoors, and so on have an actual prescriptive value. How would you like it if your doctor handed you a prescription to join a drum circle? Or laugh more? Or go on a hike with friends? Here’s an oldie but a goodie – a story I loved to work on and sometimes reread just to remind myself it’s all good: http://www.everydayhealth.com/womens-health/health-benefits-of-laughter.aspx
As a health journalist, I am always learning on the job. When working on an assignment to write about ending anxiety attacks, I found out that you should do the exact opposite of what you probably want to do during a panic attack! Everything in you might be screaming to get out of the situation and flee, but really what you should be doing (unless, of course, you’re actually in danger) is ride it out. A panic attack won’t kill you, even if it feels like you’re going to die. And the more you avoid the places, people, and things that trigger panic attacks, the worse it all gets — and the more constricted your life gets. Read about it here:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/08/end-anxiety-attack_n_5454472.html