3 posts tagged “stress reduction”

How to prepare for a doctor’s appointment: 7 tips from member Cathy

Posted 2 months ago by

Ever feel confused or overwhelmed after a doctor’s appointment? Forget to ask important questions or bring up new symptoms? Covering all of your concerns in a 30-minute appointment can be tricky. MS community member Cathy can relate — read on to see how she’s learned to make the most of her appointments and check out her 7 tips for getting the answers she needs.

In 1986 I noticed something was awry when my legs were completely numb, my arms were weak, and I was always physically exhausted. I felt scared, isolated and confused. I scheduled an appointment with my internist who referred me to a neurologist. After a spinal tap and CT scan the tests were conclusive. I had multiple sclerosis.

I was happy to have a name for what I had but that didn’t diminish my confusion. I decided my neurologist would lighten my emotional load at my next appointment and, like Scarlett O’Hara, I’d think about it all another day. In hindsight I realize this was not a good plan.

Learning how to self-advocate

One of the most important lessons I learned over the last three decades is you must always advocate for your health instead of letting others do it for you. Self-advocacy must be our number one priority. In today’s health care climate, when doctors are often inundated and pressed for time, it’s crucial to get answers to our questions during the thirty minutes or so of medical appointments.

As Megan Weigel, a Doctor of Nursing and the president of the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses explains:

“The advice I give about preparing for a doctor’s appointment is to think about your goals for the visit and consider that your healthcare provider may have different goals. For example, you may want to talk about your top three most bothersome symptoms, and your provider may need to talk about labs…or other tests that you need. I usually tell patients to have a list of questions that they want to ask or topics that they want to discuss. I also tell them to come prepared to take notes…and to ask for what you need, including written instructions or what to follow up on in the office.”

Preparing for your next doctor’s appointment:

To avoid feeling anxious, overwhelmed or worried about doctor appointments I created a list of reminders I use so I will be fully prepared for my next visit:

  • Organize your medical history by having copies of medical records, x-rays, scans or other lab tests and the names/phone numbers of previous doctors. You can have these sent directly to your doctor from your previous doctor (you will first need to sign a consent form) either before your appointment or bring them with you.
  • Keep a journal of your symptoms. It does’t need to be elaborate, just a word or two to help you remember.
  • Bring a list of questions with you. I keep a piece of paper on my nightstand to write down questions and concerns I have. Do not leave your appointment until everything on your list is addressed.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come with you to help explain your symptoms, or to be a good listener and take notes.
  • Be specific about your symptoms, how they affect you and when they happen.
  • Bring a list of any medications and supplements you are taking including dosage and inform the doctor of any allergic reactions to medications.
  • Request a brief verbal summary and follow-up instructions to review what was discussed. If you’re nervous or need extra time to process information this review can be particularly helpful.

Remember that you and your doctor are managing your health as a team. The more prepared you are for your appointment the stronger your team will be!

How do you prepare for a doctor’s appointment? Anything you’d add to Cathy’s list? Join PatientsLikeMe to chime in and get more tips from the community.

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The benefits of just a bit of exercise (+”forest bathing”?)

Posted 2 months ago by

If frequent, long workouts aren’t in the cards, here’s some good news: A new research analysis based on decades’ of studies shows the potential mental health perks of even just a smidgen of light exercise. Also, see the results of a Japanese study on something called “forest bathing.”

Exercise linked to good vibes

“Even a Little Exercise Might Make Us Happier,” a recent New York Times headline proclaims. It might sound obvious, but it’s still positive news — especially for those who may not be able to meet physical activity guidelines for the general population (30+ minutes of exercise on most days).

“According to a new review of research about good moods and physical activity, people who work out even once a week or for as little as 10 minutes a day tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise. And any type of exercise may be helpful… The type of exercise did not seem to matter. Some happy people walked or jogged. Others practiced yoga-style posing and stretching.”

For the published review, researchers at the University of Michigan analyzed the results of 23 studies since 1980 that explored the links between physical activity and happiness. The studies were mostly observational (not strict clinical trials) but they involved a total of 500,000 people ranging from adolescents to the very old and from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

The Times notes that happiness is a rather “subjective, squishy concept,” and it’s not clear from these studies if working out causes happiness or if the two commonly occur together. But overall, the results are notable because “the amount of exercise needed to influence happiness was slight… In several studies, people who worked out only once or twice a week said they felt much happier than those who never exercised.” Exercising even more frequently may bring even greater happiness, the researchers say.

Talk with your doctor about healthy ways for you to squeeze in physical activity — ideas you’re likely to enjoy and stick with. For some people with Parkinson’s disease, it’s walking to their favorite tunes, and for those living with cancer, it may be chair yoga.

In general, try not to stress about not getting enough exercise — other recent research shows that dwelling on it isn’t good for your health.

What’s “forest bathing”?

Here’s another headline that caught our eye: “Just being outside can improve your psychological health, and maybe your physical health too.”

Quartz summed up about $4 million of Japanese research on the benefits of something called “forest bathing” (essentially, it’s just sitting or standing in the woods).

“Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything,” Quartz reports. “The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.”

Inhaling the essential oils of a forest, generally called phytoncide, appears to give (healthy) people an immune system boost and reduce stress. Even getting a “dose of nature” in an urban park setting can help with stress relief, studies have shown.

Some health conditions may make it difficult to spend time outdoors, such as lupus (which can bring sun sensitivity — check out these photosensitivity tips). Connect with members of your community on PatientsLikeMe or talk with your doctor about ways to safely spend time outside, considering your particular condition.

How do you squeeze in a bit of activity or outdoor time these days? Join PatientsLikeMe today to swap ideas with the community!

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