Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Never too late for a wellness class

Chris and I are attending a wellness class at the YMCA.

The class uses a text entitled "Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions." It outlines self-management tools based on "an ongoing series of studies conducted at Stanford University School of Medicine." Stanford, founded by robber baron Leland Stanford, is known for many things. It helped spawn the computer revolution, trained numerous NFL players and sponsors a kooky marching band (go you Cardinal!). And I have nothing against robber barons -- with them we wouldn't have Stanford's Wallace Stenger poetry fellowships, the many Carnegie libraries that taught generation to love books, and Grand Teton National Park (thanks Rockefeller family). Our current crop of high-tech billionaires seem to be trying to follow in the footsteps of their elders, although our grandkids will have to judge their legacies.

I'd be lying if I said the book's Stanford connection didn't impress me. There are some elitist bones in my body. But the book is a good and helpful and logical. We all need self-management skills when it comes to our health. Too often, we don't sail our own ship, health-wise, and that leads to many problems down the line -- heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, asthma and, as the book notes, "other physical and mental health conditions." Notice that latter term -- mental health conditions. The book stresses links between physical and mental health. Very important. You really can't have one without the other.

Pages 8-9 lists the management skills recommended for an array of chronic conditions. Categories include pain management, fatigue management, breathing techniques, relaxation and managing emotions, nutrition, exercise and medications. Notice that "medications" is last? I did. I take a boatload of meds for my heart disease, but also pay attention to the other categories, especially exercise and nutrition. I would like to wean myself off some heart meds. This is a challenge, as the drug lobby is adamant we use its products and never get off of them. Out docs are complicit in this strategy. They may also need this wellness class.

The series of six classes are led by two women who were trained in the process. Each class involves note-taking and brainstorming and action plans. We often choose partners to work on action plans. Our workshop leaders call during the week to check up on our progress, or lack of it.

Is the class worth it? Not sure, as I'm only halfway through. I probably will miss the last two sessions, as I'm getting a new knee Feb. 3. Takes a good month to get back in the action. But wellness is important and I wish that I'd taking it seriously sooner. At 65, I have several chronic conditions: heart disease, arthritis, depression. A better lifestyle would have spared me the heart condition. Arthritis and bad knees show the wear-and-tear of time, and many years of basketball and running. Depression runs in the family.

I'd like to sum up by saying something memorable about living life to the fullest. Must be a gazillion quotes and thousands of memes on the subject.

Here's one: "Be here now," coined by writer/philosopher Ram Dass for his book of the same name..

Here's another: "One day at a time," something I heard once or twice at Twelve-Step meetings.

"So it goes" from Kurt Vonnegut.

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