Cihacekj’s Weblog

November 27, 2008

Thanking outside the cornucopia

Filed under: Seasonal — Jessica Cihacek @ 8:35 pm

CB006061Let me guess.  Mom, Grams, Uncle Dennis or Crazy Carl probably  initiated a pause at the Thanksgiving table for all to do what this day was originally created for: giving thanks for the many blessings in life.  Turkey, pumpkin pie, and the presence of family and friends probably topped this year’s list (and last year’s).  And while all of that is well and good (and delicious), there is much more than life’s obvious pleasures that we should grant props too.

I’m talking about the unfortunate circumstances, situations, and roadblocks in life that are rarely considered valuable, let alone worthy of much gratitude.  Everything happens for a reason, or so I’m convinced, so why shouldn’t our appreciation stem from a sweeter state of mind and remain in our souls much longer than Turkey Day leftovers?  It can and will…if we begin thinking outside the box.

You may be able to relate to my recent complicated, yet credited matters of thanksgiving:

  • The smelly surprises my roommate’s dog always leaves in my bedroom usually gets me a little heated.  Until last week.  Sure, the little Yorkie (with whom I have a love-hate relationship) teaches me patience. I’ve realized, however, that one day I’m going to miss my college days, living in a duplex with my best friends and in a litter box of a room.  For these reasons, I embrace the poo, the signs of my young adulthood and the presence of such special girlfriends (and their dogs) in my life.
  • That speeding ticket I received last month? Late for work, going 60 in a 45.  Cherries were the last thing I wanted to see in my rearview mirror.  Instead of deeming every cop I see, now, as a pig, I’ve learned that I’d rather spend $100 on shoes.  Getting ready 20 minutes earlier can help me achieve that.  I’m thankful for the personal responsibility I learned by paying the ticket and slowing my driving.  Not only for the sake of a future citation, but what could prevent an incident much more detrimental than being a little late for a job.
  • Arguing with my parents is never something I enjoy.  Especially when I feel my maturity and responsibility being underrated.  Thanks, Mom and Dad.  Not only does this allow for open communication and the chance to express our frustrations and differences, it encourages me to examine my own rationale.  It makes us more appreciative of the positive interaction we share and less insolent to, “Jess, you better be watching the spending,” and “Would you stop with the nagging, already?”
  • Missing out on a most merry shindig to stay put with a bedridden friend can make it feel like an obligation when hearing of the bash the next day.  I didn’t have to keep her company, though, I got to.  I got to make her dinner, flat-iron her hair and laugh with her over how she broke her foot in the first place.  Most importantly, I got to show her I cared.  I’m thankful I was a source of comfort to her.  We both missed quite the social event, but I’m counting it as a blessing this Thanksgiving.
  • It’s been a while since I’ve had my heart broken, but every now and then the twinge of uncertainty, apprehension and confusion will strike.  Especially in an early twenty-something life when the concern of your family is always, “Is she ever going to get married and settle down?”  Thank goodness for striking twinges!  They may cause me to overanalyze every guy’s motives, but they keep me grounded and never settling.  I’m grateful for broken hearts and the emotional growth they provoke.

Join me, this Thanksgiving, in recognizing how sacred life in general really, truly is.  Every part of it.  The ups, the downs, the twists and the turns have played a part in who you are and what you find pleasure in.  So go ahead, and give thanks for filling up on Aunt Deb’s famous stuffing and buttermilk taters.  Just remember, it is in what we make of everyday misfortunes that determines what makes it on our personal list of blessings.

Merry Thanksgiving.

November 2, 2008

Daylight Saving: A makeover for your heart

Filed under: Health — Jessica Cihacek @ 9:23 pm

My guess is you probably didn’t have to hit the snooze button today.  Yes, because it is Sunday, but also because at 2 am this morning, the clocks switched over and you snuck in a few more Zzz’s with an extra hour of sleep.  You may have just done your heart a favor.

One of our very own, University of Nebraska Medical Center alumnae, and MSNBC medical correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman is sharing the results of recent Swedish studies on the correlation between more sleep and decreased heart attack risks.  It is found that overall, people do better with heart attack rates this time of year.  Ultimately, this means that the extra hour of sleep you get Saturday night could be translating to a drop in Monday morning death rates.

Here’s why:

  • When we leap forward with time in the Spring, heart attack rates go up 5%
  • When we fall back in the Fall, heart attack rates drop 5%
  • Studies show that people are highest at risk for a heart attack on Mondays in general

For a while, researchers thought all of this news was due to stress, which can also play a role in heart health.  Studies over the past 20 years, however, are showing that it’s really the sleep.  Sundays are known as our “catch up” day for errands, chores, homework, and also sleep.  The late night movies, colds and flu interfering with a restful full night, and “living it up” on the weekends all add up for a stressful and tiresome Monday.

It’s obvious that an hour in shift in time is hard on the human body, but just one hour can also be beneficial in the long run.  Turns out that sleep is more important to our heart than we have ever given it credit for.  Snyderman suggests that we look at this time change as a first step in a heart makeover.

“Take this step now in adding an extra 15, 30, 45 minutes or an hour [of sleep] every day of the week…the reality is yes, you’ll probably reduce your heart attack risk.”

The results are quite fascinating, nappers: catching some shut-eye is just as important to our health as the food we put into our mouth.

Ain’t that a kick in the head, ladies?

Filed under: Health — Jessica Cihacek @ 8:25 pm

The nineteenth century has come and gone, and so has the notion that women are only best under domestic conditions.  Women like Jennie Finch, Venus and Serena Williams, Kerri Walsh, Shawn Johnson, and Heather Mitts are no exception to the rule.  But not only do these ladies have incredible guts, gams and glutes, they are also more prone to sports injuries.  The most common among female athletes?  Concussions.

According to researchers from the Journal of Athletic Training, girls are 68% more likely to suffer sports related concussions.  The reasons for this are pointed to basic anatomy and biomechanical differences.  Girls’ heads are smaller and their neck muscles are simply not as strong as their male counterparts’.  Different styles of play, different training techniques, cultural norms, and even increasing numbers of highly competitive female athletes also explain this issue.

As rowdy and aggressive  as boys may seem on the playing field, looks, in this case, are not so deceiving.   The equation is easy.  Stronger genetic and biological makeup = more resistance to force.  Girls are known to take longer to recover from a  head injury than boys, and academically, the effects are generally more serious and prevalent in females.

Ultimately, a concussion, also referred to as mild traumatic brain injury or minor head trauma is an injury that results from a blow to the head that causes the brain to slam against the inner wall of the skull.  It is not life-threatening, but it can cause both short-term (a couple weeks) and long-term (years) problems.  Symptoms can include confusion, terrible headaches, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, perservating (repetition in speech), dizziness, amnesia (loss of memory), drowsiness, weakness, ringing in the ears and the inability to walk.

High schools all over the country are reporting a rise in sports-related head cases, too, especially in young girls.  It may be that high school girls are bigger, stronger and faster these days so that collisions between players are more forceful and dangerous.  The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has released an official manual encouraging coaches, athletic trainers and assistants to protect young athletes from serious injury through educational programs, improved protective equipment and better enforcement of rules.

Perhaps the scariest part about head trauma is that most athletes are unaware of the severity because of  the differences in how they handle the symptoms.  Nebraska Neurologist, Dr. Peter Lennarson spoke to KPTM Fox 42 earlier this year, encouraging medical attention right away at the first sign of a concussion.

“Some people have a mild blow to the head and seem to have a severe disruption of function and others have a major blow to their head and don’t seem to be affected, so there’s not a way to predict that [how it will affect any one person].”

While my athleticism (or lack thereof) doesn’t exactly qualify me as a concussion casualty, to my many soccer star sisters and avid gym-going girlfriends, it’s a girl’s world, just be careful in it.

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