Developing a Healthy Lifestyle

Breaksfast table with the meal and a vase of flowers

Living a healthy, balanced lifestyle is important for all ages and phases in the human life cycle. If you are a woman, the chances are that in your journey towards becoming a wife, developing your role as a wife and then working towards becoming a mother, you will have an important part to play in making sure that you and your family live a healthy lifestyle. One of my first introductions to just how important and powerful this is, was when I was a new graduate working in a major teaching hospital. I was asked to cover for a fellow occupational therapist in facilitating the cardiac rehabilitation group. As I reviewed the topics covered thus far and what was necessary to include in the group I was to facilitate, it struck me that the lifestyle being recommended to those who had already suffered a heart attack was important to all of us. In fact, I began thinking, if we encourage our clients to alter their lifestyle after a stroke or heart attack, why not encourage clients to develop the kind of lifestyle that would promote health and prevent illness.

I could discuss how I came to change focus from rehabilitation to an involvement in preventative healthcare and promotion of health at length, however, I had another topic on my mind and I wish to share those thoughts.

So far I have shared that living a healthy lifestyle is encouraged to all those who have suffered a debilitating illness such as a stroke or heart attack. I have touched on the fact that this lifestyle is in fact important to promote health and prevent illness. But where do you begin and what does a healthy lifestyle look like?

One place to start is in the kitchen. Why? Because we all need to eat regularly every day and having a healthy, balanced diet is very important to our health. I’m not going to tell you what you need to eat, as I am not a dietician. In addition, there are so many opinions as to what to eat and what not to eat. For the details of your diet I would say to consult with a qualified dietician, preferably in person. What I do wish to do is to share is a few thoughts that I hope will help you to view developing a health lifestyle in a positive light.

  1. Transitioning to a healthy diet can be daunting! It is very easy to get scared or to believe that there wont be yummy food items to eat and your life will be transformed into a boring, tasteless, unpleasant experience. This is not true and does not have to be either. Spend a little time researching some healthy meals and take a look at Youtube for ideas.
  2. Pay attention to detail. Have you noticed that many unhealthy foods appeal to us due to the colours that are used? Well, colour does not have to be artificial. You do not need the additives used in order to create colour. Take a look at the image at the top of this post. You can create colour by making sure to prepare your food items, your table and any extras with beauty and colour in mind. Go the extra mile and have some flowers in your home.Actually, if you are concerned about bugs, I would not recommend flowers on the same table where you are eating, but you can have either a beautiful vase of flowers or an attractive pot-plant near to where you eat your meal. Make sure that your plate is filled with colour and that you have dished up with care, rather than just dumping food any which way. It only takes a few extra moments but the end result for whoever will eat the meal makes a very big difference.
  3. Perhaps we have gotten ahead of ourselves. Where you serve the meal and what the final plate of food will look like is important. In order to get there you need to take care with your preparation. Firstly, enjoy the preparation time that goes into making your meal.

Red, Green and Yellow Peppers

In the above photograph, you can see red, green and yellow peppers. Obvious? True, for those who can see the image. Now let’s consider them a bit more. Whether you are making a salad or main meal (in Israel, these might be eaten at breakfast too) pay attention to using a range of colour.

Nature is full of colour. This is one of G-d’s gifts to us. Speaking of acknowledging where the vegetables came from, here is another task for you. Let’s say you have selected which vegetables you are going to be eating for the meal. Yes, vegetables are important and if prepared correctly can be so very yummy, nutritious too. While you are cleaning, pealing, chopping or slicing your vegetables instead of thinking that you are wasting time, you have a wonderful opportunity to enjoy what you are doing. Make this task meaningful by contemplating what it is that you are doing. You can even take it one step further to thank G-d for all He has given to you.

Look again at the image above. Appreciate the variety in size, shape, colour, contours and details. Think about the difference in the tastes of each of these peppers. They may all be bell peppers but do they taste the same? Which do you prefer and why? Consider the fact that you have your own specific likes and dislikes in food items and so do your family members. So next time a relative requests you add or eliminate a food item from a dish or from their plate, respect their unique preferences. It really is quite easy to add or subtract an ingredient, no need for an argument or to put anyone down. Let the knowledge that you enjoy some things more than others help you to appreciate that others do to and respect them for having those preferences.

If you have the time, allow yourself to contemplate all that G-d has done for you in giving you that food item. In another blog post or a Youtube video I can share an example of this. For now, let us take a look at another photograph.

Three plates of chopped food in preparation for cooking

Whether you are a vegetarian, a vegan or a meat eater, there are some tasks here for all of you to consider. When you prepare your meal, take the time to separate the food items as you cut them. You will notice that the master chefs do this when they do a demonstration. It really does make the actual cooking much easier. In addition it helps you to both separate those items that cook more quickly and to take note of the appropraite sequence and the final outcome. Make sure your meal will have a variety of nutrients and that the food items will provide the flavours, textures and overall visual effect that ensures a final pleasing experience.

In the above image, are some of the ingredients for preparing a Shwarma dish. Shwarma is a cut of turkey which has many health benefits. To begin with it is rich in iron. It is recommended for anyone needing to prevent high blood pressure or cholesterol and even for a potentially fatty liver.

If you have a memory problem, taking the time to separate the food items onto their own plate and setting them in the order necessary for a given recipe will help you to make sure that you have cooked all those ingredients that are necessary. If you need to, have your recipe near you and work from the recipe.

These are just a few ideas of how to begin using your time in your kitchen to become a more enjoyable experience on every level. Let those daily chores become an opportunity to appreciate your family. Appreciate or contemplate where you are in your life and appreciate all the details involved in what you are doing.

Of course, there is much more to cooking, working in the kitchen, housework and all other tasks that are important to the life of a woman. What do you do to improve those daily tasks necessary for a healthy lifestyle? If you are struggling with developing or maintaining a healthy lifestyle, do post your questions below. If you are in Jerusalem, be in touch to discuss your needs in developing a lifestyle that will help you with your goals of being a happy, healthy wife and mother.

This post is prepared for you by

Shoshanah Shear, Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of “Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story” and co-author of “Tuvia Finds His Freedom“.

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Occupational Therapy and Sleep Disturbance

Bed

BedI had an interesting experience yesterday. I noticed in my news feed on Face Book that someone had tagged my name and decided to take a look,  it took me to a post on a professional network group for occupational therapists. Someone congratulated me on my article on the Huffington Post website about the role of occupational therapy in sleep and wellness.

I thanked the person and was going to leave the thread but decided to take a look at who began the thread and how my article might have been mentioned. To my surprise, the person starting the thread had shared my article and so began a discussion about how many OTs are evaluating our patient’s sleep patterns. From the discussion that transpired someone mentioned a difficulty that many of her patients experience. Evidently she works with patients who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and shared how many of them avoid sleeping due to their nightmares from past traumatic experiences. I mentioned that we as OTs can indeed work with clients who have sleep disturbance due to nightmares from past experiences. Some techniques or areas of intervention include:

  • Training in relaxation techniques
  • Training in Stress Management Skills
  • Working with the person to develop a balanced lifestyle including adequate and regular exercise
  • Working with the trauma through various creative activities and techniques in order to help the person to transform the residual emotion.
  • Using creative activities to help the person to regain their power by altering the outcome of the traumatic incident. Even though the trauma has already taken place, through using one’s imagination and then putting that into action it is possible to come up with creative ways to alter the event. e.g. if someone was locked in a room and the trauma is related to how they would get out, using one’s imagination it is possible to come up with all kinds of ways to alter the outcome and give oneself permission to regain your energy by freeing yourself
  • OTs also have techniques to assist a person suffering from PTSD to forgive themselves and those involved in the trauma, where forgiveness is appropriate and relevant e.g. a widow forgiving her late husband for leaving this world and thus leaving her a widow

These are just a few ways in which an OT will assist someone who is experiencing nightmares that prevent them from sleeping effectively. As with all OT intervention, a careful evaluation and history will be necessary which will determine to what extent OT intervention is indicated and how.

If you are a woman in the Jerusalem area and are struggling with sleep disturbance that is impacting on your ability to function effectively in the day, do be in touch to book an appointment for an OT evaluation.

This post is prepared for you by
Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of “Tuvia Finds His Freedom” and author of “Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story

 

 

 

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Occupational Therapy for Widows

Woman with head on hands
Woman in head on hands

I was recently approached by a social worker, asking if I could give a talk on how to improve meaning in one’s life for a group of widows who are 55 years and older. This topic is very suitable to occupational therapy and the type of intervention that I provide and so I readily agreed. I was surprised to later hear that the social worker had shared with the group how sensory integration assists with transitions. I was a little confused. Sensory integration was not the topic that we had agreed upon. Further, there was no indication that sensory integration was necessary at all.

I’d like to take the opportunity to clarify some facts related to the profession of occupational therapy which could assist in clearing up some confusion here. Let us take a look at:

  1. What occupational therapy is.
  2. How developing meaning in one’s life relates to widows and to what extent this is relevant to OT intervention.
  3. What sensory integration is and when it is indicated.
  4. Whether a widow would experience sensory integration.
  5. To what extent transitions are dealt with in occupational therapy.

Let’s take the first topic at hand and then work through the others

  1. What is occupational therapy.
    I usually like to quote a recognized definition of occupational therapy. However, there are so many definitions of OT, which surely is confusing to everyone. As a result, I decided to share my own definition as I shared in a recent guest post. To me, the title occupational therapy describes everything we are about. We use occupations as a medium of treatment in order to assist our clients to be optimally independent in all areas of their life, throughout the life cycle. Occupational therapy is concerned about what our clients need to or want to achieve in their lives both as long term goals and on a day to day basis. We evaluate their unique situation in much detail in order to establish how the person functions as an individual, in their family, school / work, environment and their community and how each of these impacts on his / her daily functioning. This information guides us in formulating a treatment plan that is case specific and evidence based to enable our clients to live a functional and active life of meaning and purpose. To clarify a few points before we leave the topic of occupational therapy, there are many models and frames of reference used in occupational therapy, this point will be important in a later section.
    Aside from which model or frame of reference is used, in teh above definition, you will see two important facts which relate to widows. The first is that we work with our clients throughout the life cycle. Where a transition from one phase of the life cycle to another is presenting with some difficulty that results in the client experiencing difficulty in fulfilling their daily life tasks, OT intervention will be necessary. Hence one can see that transitions in and of themselves are an integral part of OT and not limited to SI (Sensory Integration)
    Further in the definition one can see that we look at how our clients function within the family. When a life role within the family has been affected in any way, as is the case of someone who loses a spouse, there can be a need for OT intervention.
  2. How developing meaning in one’s life relates to widows and to what extent this is relevant to OT intervention.
    Losing a loved one is hard for most of us and even more so when that loved one is a spouse. There are many areas of daily function that require adjustment, attention and, at times, intervention. Some examples can be where there were shared household tasks that now fall on the shoulders of the surviving widow. This can result in feeling overwhelmed, a need for assistance, time management, learning new skills especially where the husband used to take care of all banking and financial matters. There can be very practical difficulties e.g. if one of the couple would take a child or children to school, extra mural or other commitments and the other would take different children to other commitment. This can become a logistical problem that may require planning and problem solving. There can be a need for grief therapy, forgiving the husband for leaving this world with the widow having to continue with all the responsibilities that running a home and raising children entails. When it comes to marrying off children, as many in their 50’s might find themselves doing, this can be a challenge to a widow to manage on her own.
    For some widows, the difficulties related to losing a spouse can present in sleep disturbance or other signs of stress. These in turn can affect one’s sensory processing, however, in this situation I would address the underlying problem first before considering a need for SI.
    Companionship, love and intimacy are all areas of daily life that one usually finds in a healthy marriage. When a woman finds herself left a widow, there are many needs that can arise in terms of having to develop new relationships, to consider whether seeking another husband will be wanted and setting goals to achieve this and more.
    These are just a few adjustments to be made for someone who becomes a widow. As is normal when faced with a time of change, many find themselves questioning the meaning in their lives, having to set new life goals or to find a new path to achieve previously important life goals.
    All of these areas can benefit from occupational therapy intervention.
  3. What is sensory integration and when it is indicated:
    Sensory integration as defined in the book “Occupational Therapy for Children” by Jane Case-Smith, Anne S. Allen and Pat Nuse Pratt is explained as follows: ” Sensory integration holds special meaning for occupational therapists. In some contexts it is used to refer to a particular way of viewing the neural organization of sensory information for functional behaviour. In other situations this term refers to the clinical frame of reference for the assessment and treatment of persons who have functional disorders in sensory processing. Both of these meanings originated in the work of A. Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and educational psychologist whose brilliant clinical insights and original research revolutionized occupational therapy practice with children.”
    As we can see, sensory integration relates to a persons ability to receive sensory information, process it effectively and translate this into appropriate function. Whether sensory integration is necessary is determined by a qualified occupational therapist carrying out an evaluation, usually in the form of a sensory profile together with an interview in order to determine whether this frame of reference is applicable and whether there is any problem in the process of receiving sensory information effectively, processing this information and translating it into action. As mentioned in the second section, if the cause of a difficulty in receiving sensory information effectively e.g. a woman who has difficulty concentrating on a discussion is due to grief, then it is often necessary to deal with the grief, rather than apply sensory modulation.
  4. Whether a widow would experience sensory integration deficit:
    In more recent years, sensory integration has been found to benefit older children and even adults however, this is usually when there is a problem with sensory processing. As mentioned, sensory integration is only provided after an evaluation by an occupational therapist to determine that there is a sensory integration deficit that requires intervention. A major life transition such as the loss of a spouse although adjustments are needed to be made, does not automatically equal a problem in the area of sensory integration and hence a talk on sensory integration would not be my topic of choice for a group of widows.
  5. To what extent transitions are dealt with in occupational therapy.
    Being able to adjust to changes in one’s life and how this impacts on life roles and life goals is definitely an area that occupational therapists can have a role in. There are a number of models and frames of reference used in occupational therapy and I would not begin with sensory integration. That does not mean that I would not implement sensory modulation if the need was identified, however, it would not be my first choice without having met the widows or established the need.
    What would be important is to identify the areas of daily life that are being affected by the women who have become widows and how this impacts on their occupational performance. From this suitable goals can be developed that the widow or widows would work on together with the occupational therapist. The potential intervention can be individual, in a group with other widows or even as a family with the orphans when this is necessary. It can be in the form of a talk, a talk that initiates further discussion or brain storming or a workshop or series of workshops.

    I hope that the above information has given some insight and clarity as to occupational therapy and how OT intervention can apply to widows. If anyone reading this post is a widow or would like a talk or workshop for a group of widows / widows and orphans, please be in touch to schedule an appointment or to set up a talk / workshop.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer and co-author of “Tuvia Finds His Freedom” and author of “Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story

 

 

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