I have this idea, an idea that once changed how I handle and approach things that has stuck with me to this day. The advice, you ask?
“I cannot say anything to make you feel any better in this season of life you are in, but I promise you time heals all things.”
While this advice seems so simple and is maybe even heard frequently, when you are 17, it is anything but.
This advice came from my great-aunt. She wrote to me (you know, actually on paper, with a pen, mailed with a stamp she purchased via USPS, and not in a text or email?) A meaningful letter that she took her precious time to send to me personally because I meant something to her. She has since passed, and I still regret not emphasizing just how much it really meant to me even after all these years.
While I know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea and is a little outside my own box, this idea might help change the way my daughters, niece, nephews, or grandkids view or handle a certain situation one day (should I be so lucky).
I was 17 and lost two friends in a vehicle accident, and that letter where she told me about a tragic loss she had is what gave me hope I would eventually make it through.
So here is the idea. Have you ever considered writing a letter to your younger self? Your title: What I Know Now.
What if this letter could help someone through a tough time? What if this letter is something you leave behind to someone you love or is able to help in their time of need?
This will require you to remember your past while considering the present, written in an encouraging voice with compassion and understanding during a certain stage of your life so that another person can understand the message or theme.
Think about a scenario from when you were a particular age and how you would change that. What advice would you give to your younger self to do things differently? We all have a unique story to tell because we are all unique in our own ways.
Someone somewhere wants to hear all about it.
Morgan Gunder is a community and broker liaison for Reid Health Alliance. Born in the South and raised in the Midwest, she is a wife and mother with a passion for traveling, learning, and technology.
The surrounding orchards could not have been more green and vibrant as they readied to grow fruit. The river ran brilliant blue, reflecting a sky filled with puffy, white clouds. The sun shone brightly, arousing hope as only a perfect NCW spring day can. But it took a tragic turn for the worse as I received the call. A dear family member, known for his gentle heart, had tragically committed suicide.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death that could be prevented in the United States across groups, including seniors. Locally, rates have steadily risen in Chelan and Douglas counties since 2012, and Okanogan County has one of the highest rates in the state.
Washington state has recently declared that suicide prevention is a statewide public safety issue and is requiring MDs, DOs, APCs, nurses, and rehab staff to complete 6 hours of suicide prevention training as part of their licensure. This will help them gain the tools and knowledge to recognize at-risk patients, communicate with them, and take the appropriate steps for follow-through.
Carolina was truly sorry to hear of my loss. She said it’s important to promote hope, connection, social support, treatment, and recovery to help with suicide prevention.
The public seems to think that suicide is a response to stressful situations and that suicidal thoughts may lead to death. It is important to combat this view with positive messaging that shows actions people can take to prevent suicide and stories that show prevention works, that recovery is possible, and that programs, services, and help exist.
This does not mean we should minimize the very real stories of struggle. For my family, that beautiful spring day changed our lives and saddened us to depths we may never recover from. I’m not close to having the answers to what we could have done differently, but I have chosen not to dwell on the negative. Instead, I will honor our loved one by calling attention to suicide and encouraging other families struggling to choose hope.
Help is never far away:
Chelan-Douglas Crisis Line: 509-662-7105
Grant County Crisis Line: 509-765-1717 or 1-877-467-4303
Okanogan County Crisis Line: 1-866-826-6191 or 509-826-6191
Shannon Simsis a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off she enjoys spending time with her family and riding horses.
Even with an occasional 60-degree day, February isn’t exactly my favorite month for getting active (or doing anything really, except maybe watching college basketball and catching up on TV shows). I prefer to spend my winter under a warm blanket with a giant sweatshirt and my bunny slippers, remote in hand, butt on couch.
As someone who thinks the first snow of the season is magical and who saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens (chock-full of hope from crawl to credits) three times this winter, I know if I’m running a little low on hope and motivation, lots of others probably are, too. After the holiday goodies go stale, I’m kind of done with winter. The mere thought of being outside in the cold makes me cringe. (Once again, thank goodness for those rare warm February days.)
Despite the snow, ice, and occasional subzero wind chills (gross), you don’t have to hibernate for the whole season. A little rest mixed with a hobby here and there is a great recipe for a productive and satisfying winter, even if you’re like me and think stepping outside in the cold is pure torture.
In fact, relaxation is healthy, too. It not only helps refresh your mind, but it also helps lower your risk for certain diseases. Relaxation doesn’t mean lying in bed all day doing nothing. You can take some time to do something you love, catch up with a friend or family member on the phone (or in person if you’re ready to brave the cold), or try a new, relaxing hobby.
Winter is a gift-wrapped, guilt-free excuse handed to us each year (at least in the northern half of the United States), allowing us to put off our outdoor activities for about three months.
I need to cherish that gift, and here’s a short list of how I plan to do so with a mixture of stimulating and relaxing hobbies. You can customize the list and make the most of winter, too.
Nicole’s Ultimate Relaxation & At-Home Projects List
Make my dream a reality.
Although writing is literally my job, after years of writing about real-life events and health facts, I want to try my hand at fiction. I’ve dreamed of writing a novel since grade school, and it’s at the top of my bucket list (or sunshine list, as my friend aptly named it).
The verdict is still out on whether I’m any good, but this item is mostly about achieving a personal goal. Plus, writing is the perfect indoor activity for me (I can wear my bunny slippers AND make my dream come true).
Complete a major organization project.
Although it’s not quite as empowering as writing an entire novel, I would love to someday have every photo I’ve ever taken, or at least the good ones, organized both digitally and in print. (Not having printed photos makes me uneasy every time I watch a post-apocalyptic TV show or movie). Like my book, this one will take more than a season, but it’s another activity I can do inside.
I’m staying away from scrapbooking, though. I learned firsthand while creating a (very thorough) scrapbook of my senior year of high school that my perfectionism and scrapbooking don’t mix well when stress relief is my goal.
Take something old and make it new.
I spent a large chunk of last winter painting Mason jars to use as brightly colored vases in my apartment. I also started saving and painting olive, pickle, and pepper jars in the process, and suddenly, I had a winter hobby. I love olives, pickles, and peppers almost as much as candy, so my collection grew pretty quickly.
They were easy to paint (there are different techniques with varying degrees of difficulty) and reminded me of spring.
There are plenty of physical activities you can do without getting out in the nasty weather. Last winter, I started a step challenge. I got a LOT of steps, about 10,000 per day, sometimes closer to 20,000, mostly by walking around my apartment during commercial breaks, sporting events, and phone conversations. (Sorry, downstairs neighbors.)
I sometimes also do pushups, squats, crunches, and various other exercises while watching TV, and my all-time favorite exercise, dancing, is living room-friendly as well. Basically, as long as dancing and/or being able to watch TV is on the table, I’m a fan of exercise.
Channel my inner kid.
I’m somewhat of an expert at this one. For instance, I ate SpaghettiOs while writing this blog post.
Anyway, adult coloring books are a thing now. My co-workers and I have started having coloring nights after work. I use a kid coloring book, though. To me, the adult ones look too tough to be fun, and I’m a bigger fan of Disney characters than abstract designs anyway.
Spring sprang in my apartment about a week ago because, like I’ve mentioned again and again, I’m tired of the cold. Decorating helps me cut back on boredom and allows for some creativity. Once it’s done, it’s a daily reminder that spring isn’t too far away. I highly recommend this one.
Enjoy those rare warm days.
If it’s going to be 60 degrees outside (or even upper 50s), I intend to get out and enjoy the spring-like temperature. As much as my relaxation and indoor projects list motivates me, nothing is quite as motivating as being able to go outside on a sunny day in a spring jacket.
Disclaimer: While the items on this list can help you fight boredom, escape from stress, feel accomplished, and stimulate your mind, they’re not magic. Winter will still be winter.
When the relaxation and indoor hobbies aren’t masking the winter grind, just remember, jelly bean season is in full swing, and pitchers and catchers reported this week. Spring will come.
There is a line in the song “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock that always reminds me of this time of year, “Nothing seems as strange as when the leaves begin to change.”
For me, November is always a time for reflection, and as I transition from road warrior to spending more time in the office, what comes to mind is how my work in Medicare teaches me so much about staying young.
Last September, Karen Bruggman from Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) kindly invited me to Tonasket to celebrate Geriatric Fall Prevention Week with Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL).
As I exercised with a group of 45 women, there was so much laughter that it reminded me of the circle of friends I ride horses with and gave me hope that you can find sisterhood at any age. After the class, the woman next to me, who could touch her toes when I could not, told me she was 92 years old and that doing SAIL for the last 6 years had kept her young.
At the Roaring ‘20s Dance, hosted by the Wenatchee Senior Activity Center, I sat next to a couple celebrating their one-year anniversary. It was their second chance at true love, and as they showed me wedding pictures from their iPhone, I couldn’t help but notice that the glow of their special day was just as youthful, beautiful, and poignant as my own son’s recent wedding.
While attending an open house at the Ephrata Senior Center (ESC), the room buzzed with purpose and excitement. The reinvented ESC and its members are busier than ever since they opened a catering company. Their creative marketing and energy helped renew my zest for my own work and showed me that at any period of life, opportunities are limitless.
Recently, while talking with a woman who proudly told me how healthy she was for being in her eighties, she also gave me a warning, “To become elderly falls as fast as night.”
This brought to mind another line from the song, “Or how we thought these days would never end.”
During this Thanksgiving, a big part of what I will be thankful for is my work in Medicare because it fills my heart with appreciation and teaches me to value what I have today and to be hopeful for what will come when the leaves of my own life begin to change.
Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.
As a child, I folded and cut red, heart-shaped Valentine’s Day cards. As a teenager, I experienced my first broken heart. And as adults, we learn the importance of taking care of our hearts by eating right, exercising, and avoiding damaging habits, like smoking, to avoid heart disease.
Heart disease, a disorder of the heart and blood vessels, affects people of all ages and is the number one killer of women. You should also know about atrial fibrillation (AFib) and stroke. AFib is where upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly, causing dizziness, fainting and a racing, pounding sensation. Stroke is a brain attack that occurs when blood clots block an artery or blood vessel, interrupting blood flow to the brain. People with AFib are five times more likely to have a stroke.
People diagnosed with heart problems may feel overwhelmed, anxious, and afraid, opening the door for depression. That’s where Greater Wenatchee Mended Hearts, a volunteer peer-to-peer support organization, comes in to inspire hope through people who are heart patients themselves. I recently had the privilege to attend one of Mended Hearts’ monthly meetings. The room was buzzing with encouragement. Mended Hearts also hosts educational speakers and sends monthly newsletters full of valuable information about heart disease.
One of the most valuable aspects of Mended Hearts is its Heart Patient Visiting Room program that lets heart patients meet other people who have gone through or are going through the same thing. Natalie Noyd, director of the cardiovascular service line at Confluence Health, says peer support coming from someone who has walked the walk helps heart disease patients feel they can get through the experience and aids the overall recovery process. Confluence Health and Mended Hearts work together, mutually spreading heart disease awareness and education, and helping patients, throughout North Central Washington.
Health Alliance provides therapy to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and also offers rehab and testing. Sometimes heart disease runs in the family, so creating habits to help prevent the disease becomes extra important for people with a family history of heart problems. Health Alliance encourages you to learn more by joining the Go Red for Women Heart & Sole Walk on February 6 in various locations throughout Wenatchee.
Walks will also take place at Confluence Health Clinics in Omak and Moses Lake. To learn more about Mended Hearts, call Ann at 509-679-8181 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.