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8 Tips For Healthy Living in China

welcome to beijingMost people who are new to China, no matter which country they are from, have similar health concerns: How do I avoid air pollution? How can I keep my children healthy? Where can I find nutritious and safe foods? You actually have the exact same concerns as local Chinese people! I have lived in China since 2006, working as a family doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital, and I would like to share what I feel are the top tips for thriving here in China. The secret to success here is to take control of your health choices, and it’s easier than it sounds.

Tip 1: Lead an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle 

I find it useful to picture China as a pro-inflammatory country. “Pro-inflammatory” means causing free radical damage to our healthy cells, as well as setting off cascades of unhealthy hormones and enzymes that can slowly lead to many illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. Because we are exposed to these chemicals in our foods and in the air we breathe, it might be helpful to ask yourself, “What can I do to fight off this damage?” Fortunately, you can take a lot of basic steps: don’t smoke; exercise; limit your exposure to air pollution; watch your alcohol intake; and eat anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables. You should also avoid our modern world’s unhealthier foods including trans-fats, processed foods and grain-fed red meats.

Tip 2: Air Pollution — Control Your Exposure 

Air pollution is a problem in almost every city in China, but it is generally worse in the north including Beijing and Tianjin. Sometimes the Air Quality Index (AQI) is many times higher than World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended levels. Air pollution may be a serious health concern if you or your children have lung or heart conditions. Healthy people may also develop symptoms on severely polluted days. Children are especially at risk for long-term lung damage because their sensitive lungs keep growing until their late teens. But it’s important to realize two things: First, the relative risk of air pollution causing health problems is much lower than the risk of suffering from other lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition and smoking. Second, you can take steps to avoid the worst of the pollution. Because 90% of our lives are spent indoors, use indoor air purifiers to clean your air at all times, especially in a child’s bedroom. On the worst days, especially when the AQI is over 200, you should consider limiting your outdoor activities. If you or your child must go outside on those bad days, wear an N95-rated air pollution mask. N95 means the mask blocks 95% of fine particles. By taking these steps, you can dramatically decrease your total exposure to air pollution. (Click here for more articles about air pollution)

Tip 3: Play with Your Food 

Food safety is a major concern all over China, so I recommend sticking to foods, restaurants and markets that you know are safer. Organic food is a good choice because it is more likely to be free of toxic levels of pesticides and chemicals. High prices and availability can be an issue, but the next level of protected foods – called GreenFood (绿色食品) – are often cheaper than organic foods and claim to use fewer chemicals. The big supermarkets – such as Metro, Walmart and Carrefour – have a growing selection of organic foods. Also, their general quality of produce and meats are high due to their supply chains and cold storage. No matter where you get your produce, always clean and rinse it properly, especially leafy greens. In the summer, be especially careful where you buy your meats and produce because dangerous bacteria can grow quickly on uncovered, un-cooled meats. Don’t forget other basics of food safety: try to use glass containers (not plastic) and polyethylene (PE) cling wrap; make sure your ayi knows how to properly clean and prepare foods; and try to drink water from installed filters and not delivered bottles. (Much of the delivered water and containers are counterfeit or unsafe). You can also make your own soymilk and yogurt with machines that can be purchased at many stores.   (Click here for more articles about food safety)

Tip 4: Get Fit – Even Outside!

China shares the same #1 killer as the rest of the world: heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Most heart disease is caused by our modern lifestyles and can be prevented..We all need to focus on the basics of maintaining healthy body weight, eating proper foods, not smoking, and, most importantly, exercising. With exercise, you should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, or 90 minutes of more energetic exercise. You can also try shorter routines called high-intensity interval training (HIIT) three times a week for 15 minutes each. You should do whatever sport you love. Beijing is filled with gyms and public parks, and there are many hiking and biking clubs. Don’t be afraid to exercise outside! As long as the AQI pollution index is reasonable (under 150), exercising outside is still much healthier than not exercising at all. If the AQI is high, especially over 200, you should wear a properly fitted pollution mask when exercising outdoors.  (Click here for more articles about exercise)

Tip 5: Enjoy the Four Seasons 

Beijing has clear seasons with a climate generally similar to New York or London. Spring and fall are the best times of year but often pass too quickly. Each season has its own particular oddities.

Summer: Major health issues include a big increase in gastroenteritis (diarrhea), as well as travel-related issues from vacations to exotic (and malaria-rampant) south Asian locales. You really need to be careful about street food as well as where you buy your meats and produce because food spoils rapidly. On vacation, the best way to prevent a health disaster is to do early research into your destination’s health status on the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for travelers’ health. Bring a medical travel kit to help when you meet common issues like diarrhea. Prepare early; you may need a month or more to finish a full course of vaccines, such as Japanese encephalitis, rabies or hepatitis. These are often in short supply at the expat clinics during the summer crunch. If you’re here in Beijing, enjoy the great outdoors! Explore the mountains to the west and north, or take trips to Tianjin or the Beidaihe beaches.

Autumn: Often a wonderful season, autumn is full of comfortable nights and blue skies. You should enjoy this all-too-brief time of perfect weather by exploring Beijing’s mountains and tourist attractions. As the air chills, join your fellow Beijingers in line to eat delicious roasted chestnut and sweet potatoes. At night, feel free to join the dancing and singing in almost every street corner and park.

Winter: This season can be monotonously cold, lasting from November all the way to March. It is usually dry with clear skies and the occasional snowfall of a couple of centimeters shutting down the streets. The worst health problems usually include colds, influenza, dry skin and winter depression – plus overeating during the amazing Chinese New Years holidays. You should pamper yourself to avoid the winter blues, especially by visiting a local hot springs resort for a gloriously relaxing afternoon or overnight stay. Beijing’s air is extremely dry, so you should regularly apply moisturizer and use humidifiers at home to keep indoor humidity levels around 30-50%. Our vitamin D levels drop during winter’s sunless days, so adults and children should consider taking a daily supplement. During Chinese New Year, many people leave town for the holidays, leaving Beijing virtually traffic- and pollution-free for four weeks – the perfect time to explore!

Spring: Like autumn, spring is often a wonderful time of year, especially April and May. In March, Beijing gets sandstorms, which can be a respiratory health hazard. But if you use a little common-sense avoidance, you’ll be fine. In May, catkin pollen fills the air like snow, but this causes almost no health problems. Many people have allergic hay fever in the spring, but quite a few actually experience fewer symptoms than they do back home. For springtime fun, you should definitely join the rest of Beijing by flocking to local parks for the beautiful spring blossom festivals. Enjoy the local outdoors as much as you can before summer’s always-too-early heat kicks in.

Tip 6: Explore Beijing by Bicycle

Biking in Beijing is a vanishing tradition but continues to be the most convenient mode of transport around many parts of Beijing. Biking is often faster than driving. Plus, you gain immense lifetime value from improved health and fitness, even if you factor in the pollution (wear a mask if it’s very bad that day). I bike to work every day and feel a deep connection to real Beijing. There’s simply nothing as charming as biking through the old hutong neighborhoods, especially at night. Don’t forget to wear your helmet! You may stand out in a crowd, but helmets are lifesavers for you and your children.

Tip 7: Take Care of Your Body and Soul 

Beijing’s hectic pace and harsh environment can put a lot of stress on us, and some cope much better than others. It’s crucial to frequently check in with our hearts and souls and ask ourselves, “Am I happy here in Beijing? Am I neglecting something or someone, including myself?” Health tips include getting eight hours of sleep; enjoying a massage, spa or hot springs as much as possible; joining others for yoga, tai chi, or dancing; and staying away from smoking and excess alcohol. If you’re worried about your life spinning out of control, please take advantage of our friendly counseling team.  (Click here for more articles about mental health)

Tip 8: Be Aware of Sexually Transmitted Diseases 

Beijing is not immune to the worldwide problem of sexually transmitted diseases. Thus, there are many reasons for you to practice safe sex. Be careful where you buy condoms; many poorly made counterfeits are sold, usually in smaller stores. You should buy only from the big chain stores or pharmacies. Don’t forget that you can carry sexual infections for many years and feel perfectly healthy — but still infect others. That’s why sexually active men and women should get tested regularly. These tests can give you a lot of peace of mind, especially if you are entering a new relationship.

I hope you find these health tips useful, and I wish you and your families a wonderful time here in China. If you’re ever in need of medical help, everyone’s more than welcome to see me in my family medicine clinic here at Beijing United Family Hospital.

What’s The Secret to Long Term Expat Happiness?

After six and a half years here in Beijing, I can comfortably say that I have joined the ranks of the long term expats. I’ve seen many friends and patients come and go. But I’m still here with my wife, and now with my new son Alex. And despite all those constant stressors from environmental scandals, bad traffic and all too rare perfect weather, we continue to have a satisfying adventure here. What’s our secret? And is there a common thread, some survival skill, which separates long term expats from those that leave earlier?

Happiness index

No matter where you are in the world. if you want to thrive in your community you need happiness. If you’re happy, you stay. If you’re unhappy, you move along. I think the main secret to expat happiness in Beijing is a healthy attitude, open mind, and deep social connections. Our minds are powerful mediators of our physical health, and to survive in Beijing’s often harsh environs you definitely need a tolerant and malleable frame of mind. Otherwise, a buildup of stress or unhappiness will inevitably wear down your immune system and lead to illnesses as well as chronic problems such as heart disease. This is why a successful long term expat comes to terms with those stressors and rides them out, like a luxury boat on a choppy river.

I asked one of our psychologists, Dr Rob Blinn, what he thought was the secret to long term expat happiness for both kids and adults:

Several meta-studies in the past few decades have shown that neither health nor wealth are predictive of happiness.  What is predictive is the breadth and depth of social connections.  This is true for kids as well as adults.  I think this is the most important tip I have.  The people who do well here seem to have lots of close friends.   They also seem to know when to ask for help or support when they are struggling.

I’ve always found relaxing activities such as yoga, tai chi or a massage to be powerful tools for relaxing and resetting my balance. Yoga, especially, has well researched benefits on happiness and relaxation as well as treating anxiety and depression. All of these activities are readily available in Beijing. A good, inexpensive massage surely is one of the best perks of living here!

Another key for long term happiness here is to really connect with your community of local Beijingers. If you’re always in an expat bubble and especially don’t learn Chinese, you’re much more likely to suffer that “Lost in Translation” ennui and never really understand the charming side of local Beijingers. The best way to explore Beijing is on a bike! Our favorite activity in Beijing is to bicycle through the hutongs inside second ring, randomly taking turns and discovering new gems each time. Beijing is at its most charming after dinner as everyone socializes outside, and you can have a fun and rewarding social experience joining everyone as they sing and dance on every street corner and park.

Physical health is crucial for long term happiness. Exercising the recommended 90-150 minutes a week; getting a good night’s sleep; not letting stress take over your life; eating a balanced diet; drinking in moderation and no smoking; not getting overweight — all these lifestyle basics are helpful anywhere to thrive.

The number one tip again: be social! And have a wonderful time!

(This article was originally printed in the current edition of Beijing Kids magazine, where I am a contributing editor. You can click here to read the rest of my BeijingKids “The Doc Is In” columns.)

Top Ten Wellness Tips For Beijing Newcomers: Part Two

(Click here for part one, with tips #1-5…)

Tip #6: To Every Thing, There Is A Season.

Beijing has a surprising variety of all four seasons, which I think is a great thing. Spring and fall, the best times of year here, are unfortunately short, but in general you can expect the same seasonal variations you would find in New England or northern Europe. But each season has a few particular oddities:

Winter can be monotonously cold, and last year was quite painfully drawn out. The worst health problems usually include colds and influenza, as well as winter depression. The secret to avoiding the winter blues? Pamper yourself! Here are some personal tips:

  • Buy a foot soak. I bought one on Taobao for 320RMB and I love it; there’s nothing better after a cold day than to soak your feet in a warm, massaging tub with epsom salt thrown in. Add a warm brandy and a portable low-back massager, and I’m in heaven…
  • Keep your skin moist. Dry skin is a major hassle in Beijing, and everyone needs to respect this, or soon enough you’ll be scratching yourself crazy. I think a humidifier in important rooms is a must-have, including at your office. And you almost definitely will need daily use of a good moisturizer.
  • Visit a local hot springs. Beijing has a surprising number of hot spring resorts within an hours drive; my favorite is in the south, in Daxing. They have the added benefit of Turkish flesh-eating fish, and you can also stay overnight.
  • Take a weekend break in a hotel. Forecast calls for -13? Check into a city hotel such as the classy Ritz-Carlton (Huamao) on a Saturday night and just relax all day in their plush lobby, then fall asleep after a spa massage.
  • Take vitamin D. There’s growing evidence that vitamin D is an important factor in staying healthy, and since most vitamin D is created in our skin from direct sunlight, it’s easy to be deficient in vitamin D in the winter. Some studies suggest that supplements all winter can help decrease infections like the winter flu — in kids as well.
  • Eat roasted chestnuts and yams. Join your local Beijingers and wait in line on the street corners for a 10 kuai bag of delicious, freshly roasted chestnuts. Also look out for the very common sweet potato/yam sellers on most streets, selling delicious roasted wares for about 2 kuai each. These are some of Beijing’s best traditions.

Spring is a visual feast: in March we get sandstorms blotting out the sun, and in May we have catkin pollen filling the air like snow. OK, it’s not that dramatic, but we definitely have some sandstorm days where the skies are orange and the grit seeps into your nostrils, clothes, bedrooms — everywhere. It actually can be a health hazard, but have a little common sense avoidance and you’ll be fine. As for the catkins, it’s dramatic but not really a health nuisance. However, many Beijingers do have allergic hayfever problems in the spring. Most expats actually have less hayfever problems in Beijing.

Otherwise, you should definitely free yourself from winter’s shackles and join the rest of Beijing by flocking to local parks for the beautiful spring blossom festivals. Enjoy the local outdoors as much as you can, before summer’s always-too-early heat kicks in.

Summer is often dreadfully long; the major health issues are a major increase in gastroenteritis as well as travel-related diseases from expats’ vacations to exotic and malaria-filled southern locales. The best way to prevent a vacation disaster is to do your homework beforehand by researching your destination’s health status on the CDC Travel website; and bring a medical travel kit to help the often-inevitable issues like diarrhea. And prepare early! You may need at least a month or more to get a full course of vaccines like japanese encephalitis, rabies or hepatitis; these are often in short supply in the expat clinics during the summer crunch.

We do get major heat waves as well, but fortunately many July and August afternoons are filled with thunderstorms to cool things off for your after-dinner stroll (another very cool China tradition you should definitely pick up). Other fun traditions include eating the excellent local watermelons and corn on the cob.

If you want a water break (and you will want one), you can drive 3 hours to Beidaihe or take an hour flight to the lovely beach cities of Dalian or Qingdao. And if you just want to cool off, take a drive into the local mountains and visit a temple. I’ve created a small list of my personal favorite local spots.

Autumn is fairly mellow, health-wise, so you should enjoy this all-too-brief moment of perfect weather by exploring Beijing’s mountains and tourist attractions.

Tip #7: Have An Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle.

I find it useful to picture Beijing as a pro-inflammatory city; we are daily bombarded with air particles and gases both indoors and outdoors, as well as from chemicals in our foods, that are pro-inflammatory — causing free radical damage to our healthy cells, as well as setting off cascades of unhealthy hormones and enzymes that can slowly lead to many illnesses such as heart disease and cancers. So, you always need to think, “what can I do to fight off this damage?” Fortunately, you can do a lot of things:

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking is, by far, the worst toxin you can put into your body. It directly destroys your lung’s membranes, and of course sets off oxidative changes that lead to the cancers and heart and lung diseases we all know about. You’re already breathing in toxins while living here — adding cigarettes will only hasten that inflammatory cascade.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Your liver is a crucial organ whose main function is to detoxify all the chemicals and pollutants you breathe in and eat. Alcohol should also be considered as a direct toxin to your liver; a moderate amount is fine and fun and may actually lower your risk of heart disease. But the binge drinking and excess daily drinking will definitely wipe out your liver, slowly but surely. Those of you who admit — or are told by loved ones — that your drinking may be a problem, should take heed and find help if needed. Beijing does have an Alcoholics Anonymous branch, and your family doctor can also help.
  • Eat anti-inflammatory foods. Your mother was right — you should eat your veggies. There is overwhelming evidence that healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can dramatically lower risks of developing heart diseases as well as cancers. And some modern foods can be decidedly pro-inflammatory, such as trans-fats and certain red meats like grain-fed cows. Take control of what you put in your body!
  • Consider a supplement. This is a bit more controversial, and there definitely is no medical consensus regarding the effectiveness of many commonly taken supplements — even a simple multivitamin. I personally feel that omega-3 from fish oil (not flax) has a lot of evidence supporting its use to lower risks for heart disease, and its side effects are minimal. Again, supplements are a bit controversial and some may actually harm if taken to excess or combined with certain prescriptions, so you should discuss this with your doctor.

Tip #8: Exercise

One crucial thing to remember is that Beijing may have some unique quirks with air pollution, food issues, etc — but the major diseases and risks are the same here, and China’s #1 killer is the same as all over the world: heart disease. So please keep things in perspective here — you still need to focus on the basics of good body weight, exercise, proper foods, and not smoking.

I’ve posted many articles about exercise for you to review, and a lot of it is obvious, but expats should be especially aware that it can:

  • help manage your stress levels
  • lower your risk of diabetes and high blood pressure
  • help you sleep better
  • fight off depression

How much is enough? You should shoot for at least 150 minutes a week of pulse-racing activity. As for which exercise, you should continue whatever you love. Beijing is filled with gyms and public parks for all sports, and there are many hiking and biking clubs as well. Also, don’t be afraid to exercise outside! As long as the pollution index is reasonable (somewhere way below 200), then exercise outside is still much healthier than no exercise at all. Try to stay at least 200 meters from any major road or highway to minimize pollution.

Tip #9: Take Care of Your Body and Soul.

Last spring I had a series of articles discussing what I called expatitis:

Expatitis (Expat from expatriā “to leave native land” +itis“inflammation, abnormal states, excesses, tendencies, etc”) – a syndrome of multiple physical and mental illnesses brought on by maladaptive coping mechanisms to the stressors inherent to living abroad.

I see a lot of overworked patients who rarely sleep well, are totally stressed and too busy for exercise — all of which lower people’s immune systems and set them up for illness. So I do feel that it’s crucial that we all focus on ourselves — to constantly check in with our heart and soul and ask ourselves, “am I happy here in Beijing? Am I neglecting something or someone, including myself?” For example, it really is a basic that we all need about 8 hours of sleep, and if your lifestyle is constantly preventing that, you increase your risk of more frequent and severe infections, depression and anxiety, as well as more long-term problems like heart disease.

And if you feel that your life is totally spinning out of control, or you are starting to cry often and out of nowhere, or are getting waves of panic attacks, then you should definitely consider getting some professional help. Each clinic in Beijing should have a couple counselors and family doctors who can help you through your tough times. Our clinic has Dr Mike, a psychologist who welcomes anyone to call him on his mobile phone at 158.0131.9796.

Tip #10: Watch Out For Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Beijing is not immune to the worldwide problem of sexually transmitted diseases, and it is frighteningly common here to get exposed to bugs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. There is also an alarming resurgence of syphilis in China — plus the usual suspects like HIV, herpes, hepatitis and others. So, there are many reasons for you to practice safe sex — that means always wearing a condom with new partners. And be careful where you buy your condoms — there have been recent scares with poorly made counterfeits. Stick to the big chains like Watsons.

And don’t forget that you can carry these infections for many years and feel perfectly healthy, but you can still infect others. One of the major causes of infertility for women is uterus damage from chlamydia, and most women didn’t even know they were infected. That’s why we recommend routine screening tests for sexually active men and women, including the pelvic exam for young women, which is not as routine among Chinese women as it should be. These tests can provide you with a lot of peace of mind, especially if you are entering a new relationship and want “a clean slate”.

People always have a lot of questions about STDs (for example: yes, you can get STDs just from oral sex), so I created an online slide show about the basics of STDs.

Bonus Tip: Immerse Yourself

Many expats eventually leave Beijing feeling they’ve just finished the most rewarding and interesting times of their lives, and a common cause seems to be a deep immersion into Chinese culture. That usually means learning the Chinese language well enough to talk with anybody, and I know how difficult that is (I’m still years away), but clearly you will have a much richer time here.

Even if you can’t chat away with locals, you can still have a wonderful experience by biking around the hutongs; dancing a waltz at night in practically any local park; volunteering to help migrant schoolkids — or countless other small things that add up to a fulfilling and mind-expanding adventure.

(Click here for part one, with tips #1-5…)

Brain Games To Keep You Fit

A few weeks ago I wrote a popular piece regarding brain exercise, detailing the exciting research showing how keeping your brain stimulated as we age can literally improve your memory. One underlying concept was to always stray from your comfort zone and challenge yourself to new situations and ideas.

Another way is with simple brain exercises. I’m sure a crossword puzzle would be great (I can’t get past the New York Times’ Tuesday puzzles),  but there are some fun computer games as well. One company getting a lot of press is Lumosity. They have a nicely designed website with dozens of games that work on different functions of the brain. You can also track your progress and also compare to others your age. It’s a paid site but you can try it free for a week; there’s also an iPhone version. I tried it out and it was fun, but I don’t think I’ll subscribe just yet. If I were older, say in my 50’s or 60’s and also had a bit more time on my hands, I may pay for this type of website. For now, I’ll stick to my crosswords.

Another company is Dakim’s BrainFitness, a stand-alone touchscreen computer with software that has 150 similar types of brain exercises. This machine, geared more to elderly care homes, was recently reviewed in a preliminary study and proved effective to preserve memory loss:

Assessed by 4 different memory tests, the group who played the BrainFitness game for the full 6 months gained almost 2 points on memory scores, increasing from 10.4 at baseline to 12.1 at follow-up.

This is in contrast to controls, who, having played the same BrainFitness game from month 2 to month 6, had the same memory scores decrease slightly from 10.2 at baseline to 10.1 at follow-up (P = .001). A total of 38 elderly subjects completed the 6-month trial, 22 at an average age of 82 years in the intervention group and 16 at an average age of 83 years in the control group.

“By month 6, the intervention group had played more than double the number of sessions at 93 compared with only about 40 sessions played by active controls, so it’s the long-term use that improves overall memory. The maximum benefit comes when you keep on playing,” Dr. Miller told Medscape Psychiatry.

Of course, you don’t need to spend money to keep your brain active. Just shut off that TV and do something new! Join that karate class or creative writing workshop. What other ideas do people have? You can leave comments below.

Expatitis Can Hit Families Hard

I’m pleased that my recent articles on expatitis are striking a chord among my readers. Here’s an email I received from a reader in England that I thought deserved its own page. It’s a lovely and personal example of how an entire family can struggle when living abroad:

I wanted to send a thank you for this latest post because I think it is such a prevalent problem in the high powered ex-pat community and so little discussed.

My husband Bob definitely had a case of expatitis, and although we are recovering, it scared the bejeesus out of both of us while it was at its worst because my normally super-man uber-capable husband was so close to a nervous breakdown. Bob is no stranger to stress or travel, and he has traveled extensively for work for years and works more hours than anyone I have ever met. Through our relationship he has managed to keep his humor and equilibrium about him, until we moved here to England, a pretty cushy move compared to China.

Two work aquaintances of ours, both high-powered lawyers like him, committed suicide over the summer. One morning in the fall he told me he thought everyone considered suicide as a way to escape the demands of their life. But the “everyone thinks about it” made me scared and I demanded he take his health seriously and go see a doctor and get help with stress. He had been working hard and traveling non-stop for a couple of months. He was constantly jet-lagged and the time changes contributed to sleep confusion and sleep deprivation as well as a digestive system that didn’t know what time it was. he argues that it was obvious he would be more irritable, have insomnia frequently, and have more stomach pains than usual. He was reluctant to talk to a doctor about stress caused mainly by work.

Although I had been telling him for years to leave his blackberry, computer, and tv out of the bedroom, to make sure he exercised frequently (even though it is much harder here because of the rain/cold/dark), and that alcohol is a depressent, he didn’t listen until he was scared by his own thoughts and a doctor said the same stuff to him. He still hasn’t reduced his alcohol intake, but the other changes we have made have helped a great deal, and the fact that he consciously carves out “down time” away from work and sometimes away from family. (The last one is hard, but we also make demands of him, and although he doesn’t spend enough time with us it is hard for an introvert to get recharged around children with their constant demands.)

I also decided my role needed to be far more traditional (hear me chafing) and supportive of the whole family than it was in the states. So I volunteer instead of get paid for my work, and my secret unsupported job is to keep the kids and Bob sane. Since this happened I try to create down time and family time that re-energizes and doesn’t exhaust. We cancelled a trip to Russia which we were all excited to visit because I could see that it would also exhaust and drain as well as be fascinating and fun. We also unplugged our tv and put it into a closet so that when the kids are not at school and doing homework they are interacting with each other and us (card games, board games). It promotes more laughter and also more fights, but also more sense of family togetherness in an over-scheduled and hectic life. TV took time (which is precious) but gave little back to us in terms of memories and opportunities for emotional outlets. (I’ll let you know if that experiment works!)

We are all much happier since we starting accepting that we ALL have to work as a family to fight stress and anxiety, and make (hard) choices to leave technology off whenever possible, slow down, relax more, exercise more, and support one another. Thought I’d chime in with my thanks and support for this topic/discussion. Thanks for the post…