Changing Just One Thing Can Improve Your Health

Changing Just One Thing Can Improve Your Health

In recognition of National Wellness Month, we wanted to look at how we can all take some simple, purposeful steps to be more active, manage stress, improve our mental and physical health and more.  Not just for the month of August but all year long.

Whether you want to focus on physical, emotional, spiritual, or social wellness, it is important to pick one thing and get started with small steps that will help your new healthy habits stick around for the long term.

Build Wellness Into Your Life

Making a plan sounds daunting but wellness goals should be simple, easy to adopt and fit into your lifestyle.

Here are a few examples of what your wellness plan might look like:

  • I want to focus on being active. I am going to start sitting less every day by setting an alarm to remind me to get up and walk for 1 minute every hour. Tip: Set that alarm in another room so you have to get up to turn it off.
  • I want to focus on self-care. I am going to start by taking a 15-minute break, in a quiet location, with a book and my coffee/tea/favorite beverage on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tip: Create a favorite space (inside or outside) that is only used for taking a moment out of your day to decompress.Photo of Lavender with Wellness tag
  • I want to focus on managing stress. I am going to incorporate a 4-4-4 breathing exercise at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. for 1 minute (breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 4). Tip: Practice this technique at any point in your day you might need to manage stress (driving, during a work meeting, while having a difficult conversation).
  • I want to focus on physical and mental health. I am going to practice yoga for 20 minutes 3 times this week. Tip: purchase an online plan or sign up for a class (committing money helps us also commit the time).
  • I want to focus on healthy eating. I will incorporate 1 fruit or vegetable into at least 2 meals every day this week. Tip: Focus on what is in season so it will be tastiest and also give you variety throughout the year.
Looking for a little inspiration to get started?

Here are some other ideas to put you on the road to a healthier, happier life:

  • Increase your water intake. The Mayo Clinic tells us how much water is enough.
  • water bottle graphicMonitor your sleep and make adjustments for better sleep habits.
  • Join a walking, or aerobics class.
  • Learn to meditate. Mindful.org gives you some meditation tips. \Plan a day of fun activities you love.
  • Visit with friends and family.
  • Start a gratitude journal.  PositivePsychology.com can get your started.
  • Practice being your own cheerleader with positive self-talk.
Setting Goals That Stick

We’re talking about wellness goals that are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. But if you want some help with setting a goal, here are a few steps you can take to create a wellness plan that will endure:

  1. Pick a topic you want to focus on.
  2. Set 1 goal using the S.M.A.R.T. method
    1. Specific: The goal should be very precise with no room for misinterpretation.
    2. Measurable: The goal should be quantifiable, and progress should be easy to track.
    3. Achievable: The goal should be attainable — not outlandish or unrealistic.
    4. Relevant: The goal should contribute to your broader, overarching goals.
    5. Time-bound: The goal should have a defined start and end date.
  3. Share your goal with a trusted friend or family member. Accountability can often help encourage our success. You also might find a goal buddy!
  4. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see it every day.
Other Resources

Defining Wellness

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.  – Read more about the Global Wellness Institute’s perspectives

Wellness at Work

Since we spend much of our waking hours at work, here is a WebMD Health Services’ article that shows how to promote employee wellbeing.

Stay tuned for our August podcast for more on the five dimensions of wellness.

Andrew & Esther Schorr Advocate for Raising Patient and Care Partner Voices

Andrew & Esther Schorr Advocate for Raising Patient and Care Partner Voices

Esther & Andrew Schorr photo

Executive Director and Your Guide Through Cancer Podcast Host Mindy Griffin’s guests are Patient Power Co-Founders, Andrew and Esther Schorr.  Their mission is to raise “patient and care partner voices” to help them more actively participate and drive their own healthcare decisions  They talk about how they are working on patient community development, relationship-building with medical experts, centers of excellence, pharma and advocacy groups.

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Cultural Sensitivity Is More Than Language Translation

Cultural Sensitivity Is More Than Language Translation

Bag It Cancer continually reviews the Bag to ensure it is as helpful as it can be for those living with cancer. This spring we conducted research through a series of interviews and focus groups of Latino and Hispanic survivors, caregivers and other stakeholders for input on how to better address their values, beliefs, language, and culture in the Spanish Bag.

We heard about a variety of topics that would be beneficial to include in the Spanish Bag, or address in a different way in the Bag.

Photo of Spanish Bag It bag contents

For example, to many people, cancer=death. If someone is diagnosed with cancer, the only possible outcome is death. We hope to dispel this commonly-held misconception and others by educating Bag users and families about the evidence-based facts about cancer. We gained more insight about the importance of family in the Latino and Hispanic communities. Family members often take part in the decision making about treatment. Their involvement in that process, and as caregivers, can have huge impacts on a patient’s wellbeing.

We also learned that if nutritional information in the Bag isn’t tailored to culturally relevant foods, patients and caregivers may not make necessary changes to their diet during and after treatment. We plan to include recipes from Latina kitchens that adapt favorite Latin dishes to make them healthier – lower in fat, richer in fiber and vitamins, but still tasty.

Latinos and Hispanics are disproportionately affected by poor conditions of daily life which are shaped by a variety of structural and social position factors (such as income, education, occupations, cultural values, and social support systems), known as social determinants of health. These factors impact their cancer care and survival. We can’t overcome all of these barriers, but we can do our small part by educating and guiding Latinos and Hispanics with a more culturally-tailored Bag It Bag.

We look forward to introducing the new bicultural Bag It Bag to you and your patients at the end of the year.

A Healthcare Provider’s Role in Patient Education

A Healthcare Provider’s Role in Patient Education

For many patients, except for a fellow cancer survivor, no one other than their healthcare provider understands how devastating a cancer diagnosis can be. When worry or smiles turn to fear, anger, or sadness, providers are there.

While some providers have long recognized the value of providing comprehensive patient education materials, others have missed the mark by giving little to none, placing the burden on patients to find their own resources or information. When implemented correctly, patient education goes beyond informing patients about their cancer and treatment. It can play a crucial role in helping patients cope better, learn how to become a self-advocate, and how to be engaged in their care.

At Bag It Cancer, we believe patient education is primarily the provider’s responsibility. Most Bag recipients receive their Bag It Bags directly from their providers, ensuring that they’re receiving the trusted information at the right time. So yes, please continue to give your patients the Bag It Bag if you are a current Bag distributor. If you are not, consider how offering this critical aspect of patient care benefits both patients and clinicians.

Studies show that patient education can help patients be more informed, more engaged in their care, better equipped to ask better questions, more compliant with treatment, and enjoy a better quality of life. Providers who directly provide quality education materials like the Bag It Bag can be confident that their patients are accessing reliable information rather than obtaining misinformation that could be dangerous.

Ideally, here is what a patient education session for a newly-diagnosed patient would look like:

A provider walks in with a Bag It Bag and opens it up to introduce it to the patient. The patient, having been informed of their diagnosis, opens My Companion Guidebook to section 1 (My Personal Details) to see that the provider has already written in the details of their current diagnosis. The provider shows them  copies of their recent scans and lab work which have already been added to the appropriate sections and discusses the results and next steps. The patient would also be directed to one of the booklets that the provider feels would be most helpful to them at that time. Now a difficult appointment where many patients often leave dazed and confused has become one where the patient leaves feeling cared for, prepared, empowered, and with a better sense of what to expect.

If you or your team are interested in seeing how Bag It can improve your oncology patient education services, please feel free to reach out at cj@bagitcancer.org or call 520-337-2800.

 

It’s Cancer Prevention Month

It’s Cancer Prevention Month

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We wish we could say that all cancer is preventable if you just follow these steps, but that is not the case. However, research has shown that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed can be attributed to preventable causes. That is why February is dedicated to cancer prevention. 

Knowing the actions we need to take and actually taking them, does often require change in our lifestyle. Some of the actions we can take might feel a little easier such as not getting too much sun exposure, skipping the tanning bed, and making sure to have sun protection on when you are exposed. Some actions might feel more difficult like maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, making different food choices and exercising regularly. A clean bill of health will show you the effort is worth it.

 

 

Wellness Walk

These behavior changes are listed as the top contributing factors for cancer prevention:

  • Quit smoking: (this includes cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes) Tobacco use has been shown to increase the risk of developing 17 different types of cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese as an adult increases a person’s risk for 15 types of cancer. Talk to your doctor about what is a healthy weight for you.
  • Be physically active: Being physically active reduces risk for nine types of cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of activity 5 times a week. 
  • Limit alcohol intake: Order smaller portions and drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage.
  • Get regular screenings: American Cancer Society cancer screening guidelines by age.
  • Get available vaccines: The Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can significantly decrease the risk of several cancers including cervical, throat, tongue, anal, and other genital cancers. The Hepatitis B vaccine decreases the risk for liver cancer.
  • Protect your skin from the sun: limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., make sure to wear sunscreen, clothing that covers your skin, and avoid tanning beds.
  • Know your family history: Early detection can be key in life saving treatment. Knowing your family history can help you and your doctor plan for regular screenings (which may be recommended earlier with a known family history).
  • Follow a healthy diet: AICR’s New American Plate, (⅔ whole grains, vegetables, fruit and beans, ⅓ protein), emphasizes foods that can reduce your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.
There are lots of programs that can help you with weight maintenance, quitting smoking and alcohol intake. Talk to your doctor for any recommendations they feel might help. AICR’s website offers healthy recipes that contain cancer fighting foods. 

If talking with your family about their health history feels difficult, practice with a friend first. Remind them that knowing their history can help you with early detection and prevention. If you do not have family available to ask about their history, talk to your doctor about genetic testing that may be available. 

If getting started with activity is a little overwhelming or you don’t know what you like to do, many exercise programs have classes available online. If you find something you enjoy, you are much more likely to engage in activity regularly. Try lots of options and remember to start where you are. 

In this month that focuses on LOVE, show yourself (and those who love you) some love by committing to lifestyle changes that will reduce your risk of being diagnosed with cancer. If you need a little extra support and accountability, you can take the pledge for AICR’s Click, Connect, and Commit campaign which offers a step-by-step guide to incorporate AICR’s 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations in your everyday routine. You will also find a calendar with small steps you can take every day in February to help work towards your long term prevention goals.