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Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to Enjoy Holiday Parties, Sweaty Palms And All

It is much more comfortable for me to stay home in my fuzzy clothes on my cozy sofa, reading my beloved books. But even introverts are social creatures, and we can expand our worlds by getting to know new people. That's what I told myself as I got dressed for a holiday party at a friend's house.

But what helped me even more was an article just published by Christine Carter of the Greater Good Science Center: Why Happiness Is The Wrong Pursuit. "The way to lead a joyful life is not to pursue happiness for ourselves, but to pursue it for others," said Dr. Carter. "The good life is not about getting what we want; it’s about having what it takes to give to others."

So what does this have to do with small talk at a holiday party?

Each person we encounter has his or her own sorrows, joys, anxieties, and dreams. We all want to feel that we are heard, seen, and appreciated.  Rather than focus on our own anxieties, we can focus on others, really seeing them and hearing them. We can be socially generous. We can think about what we can give to others rather than worrying about how others will perceive us. For me, this mental shift makes me feel less pressure and more at ease.

I've known this for a long time, but I find it hard to put it into practice. I used to be terrible at small talk. I used to awkwardly shift the conversation back to myself because I didn't want to appear as if I were interrogating others. I'm better now, but I am still looking for ways to improve. The past few years, I've been listening to others to get ideas.

There is an art to the follow-up question. You can ask someone who mentions they've been through a life change (such as a move or a new job): "How is it working out for you?" You can reply by revealing a little about yourself, but still following up with a question: "That's awesome...I've always wanted to go to Costa Rica. How did you like the food?" Or you can simply say: "Really?" Signal your interest and let the person open up more. If they are a good conversationalist, they will eventually ask about you. I'm sure these tips seem obvious, but after years of severe social anxiety, I'm still learning the basics.

Tonight I learned that an acquaintance will get to spend the holidays with her whole family for the first time in three years. I learned about another woman's plans to swim around Manhattan. I learned how to do a six-part karate move. I learned about and enjoyed OK Go's video "I Won't Let You Down." I learned that a woman whom I admire, a sports coach who always seems carefree and full of energy, is struggling with a back injury.  And I learned what it is like to be a nurse working at a hospital, low in the pecking order as a recent graduate. My world got a little bigger, and learning all of these things was more interesting than thinking about myself. Plus I believe I made people feel good by showing interest in what they had to say. Happiness comes from giving to others -- not just through volunteering but in social situations too.

While I was busy listening to others, I forgot about my hyperhidrosis. It wasn't until later that I realized my hands were not sweating.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Congratulations to 'Just a Little Sweat'!

While catching up on other hyperhidrosis blogs, I was happy that the author of "Just a Little Sweat" (who is a classical musician) got engaged. Her boyfriend proposed during a marathon that they were running together. Best wishes to the happy couple!


Medical Journal Articles About Hyperhidrosis & Iontophoresis

Hi everyone, It has been a very long time since have blogged. It was wonderful to come back and see all the comments. A few of you mentioned that you are in medical school, so I wanted to point out a resource of special interest: PubMed. You can search for recent journal articles about hyperhidrosis. It's a great website, though unfortunately, I don't have access to many of the journal articles.

Still, it helps to scan the titles and summaries. I found a few about iontophoresis, my treatment of choice.

Here's one for young people with hyperhidrosis:

"Tap water iontophoresis is an effective method of treatment for primary palmoplantar and axillary hyperhidrosis in paediatric patients. But there are still unanswered questions about the mechanism of action, ideal session intervals and protocols for maximum efficacy."
Here is one for me -- a not-so-compliant iontophoresis patient (-:
"Patients with palmoplantar hyperhidrosis are noncompliant with TWI, mainly due to a lack of time. They should be well informed before therapy and be encouraged to have a home device for maintenance."

And finally...a discouraging study about the use of hyperhidrosis for underarm sweat.

Hope that helped!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day special: A great catch!

The boyfriend of a hyperhidrosis blogger (Just A Little Sweat) wrote about what it's like to date someone with hyperhidrosis. Anyone who's frustrated with dating should read this post. If they're worth dating, they will be understanding of your hyperhidrosis. And chances are it won't be as big of a deal to them as it is to you.


Dripping and dancing

I took a break from the iontophoresis, and my hands have been sweating a lot. In fact, during a meeting for work last week, I noticed wet spots on my pants and the carpet. My hands were actually dripping so much that it caused these wet spots.

I need to get back to the iontophoresis.

I am thinking of taking a swing dancing class, but I don't know if I (or my partners) would enjoy it with my dripping wet palms. Hopefully I can get the iontophoresis going quickly. In the meantime, is it acceptable to wear gloves while dancing? Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions: Think Small and Steady

Do you have a New Year's resolution? If you're like me, and like most people, chances are that you will break your resolution. In fact, four out of five people break their New Year’s resolutions—and a third of people break them by February

I finally found a technique that helped me create a positive new habit without too much difficulty. I hope this blog post will equip you to make small but steady positive changes that can help you overcome the negative effects of hyperhidrosis.

The technique I mentioned comes from Dr. B.J. Fogg, a Stanford researcher specializing in behavior change. He sponsors an ongoing experiment called 3 Tiny Habits.  

3 Tiny Habits promises behavior change without relying on willpower or motivation. His goal is to help people learn how habits work. He believes that people can create new habits by changing their environment (your surroundings) and taking baby steps.
The behavior should be

  • ·      Easy
  • ·      Quick
  • ·      Specific
  • ·      Scheduled at a certain time each day or prompted by a trigger
      Once you accomplish a small change, you can build on it to accomplish slightly larger changes. For example, instead of setting the resolution to "lose weight," you could set the more attainable goal of "brushing your teeth every night immediately after dinner" to prevent evening snacking. This action is easy, quick, specific, and prompted by a trigger (finishing dinner.)

What would be a small change to help with the social anxiety that results from hyperhidrosis? The change, to be successful, needs to come from inside you rather than from someone else. But I can suggest the kinds of behavior changes that have worked for me in hopes of inspiring you to come up with your own.

One of the negative effects of hyperhidrosis is hyper-focus on oneself. This impedes one's ability to socialize and build relationships and rapport with other. One tiny habit that might help would be when you meet someone new to notice their eye color. This would help you focus on them rather than your own anxiety. Another tiny habit that could help would be when you meet someone to say "Nice to meet you (repeat their name)." This would help you focus on and remember their name. 

One of the most successful changes I have been able to make is, as my head touches my pillow at bedtime, to say three things I'm grateful for. This helps me focus on what is most important in life and to better appreciate the people around me. It doesn't cure hyperhidrosis, but it is an attitude shift that helps one live better with the condition.

What tiny changes will you make in 2014? Whatever they are and whoever you are, I hope you have a great year.


Friday, July 12, 2013

What if they saw you sweat?

A recent blog post by writer Donald Miller, What if the Temptation to Be Impressive Keeps Us From Connecting? got me thinking. Mr. Miller, author of the Storyline Blog, writes about how he is bored by people who portray themselves as perfect. I believe there's an important lesson here for people with hyperhidrosis and social anxiety. Often when we're so busy trying to hide our sweat, we are unable to connect with others. We may also lose the ability to discern who is a true friend who is worthy of your time and love. (And when I say "worthy," I'm talking about someone's integrity, morals, and originality--not their social standing or wealth.)

In high school, I lived in fear of classmates discovering my hyperhidrosis. I avoided activities where I might need to hold or shake others' hands. At religious services, I would leave for the bathroom in the middle of each service to avoid exchanging the sign of peace. When I won an award for excellence in my sport (surprise, was swimming!), I refused to attend the ceremony to accept the trophy because I would need to shake hands. All of this kept me apart from others, alone in a crowd. And it was all because I was afraid I would be made fun of because of my sweat.

My fear of being teased was valid--I had been teased because of my sweat--but I was not able to think this through at the time. If someone is making fun of me because of my sweat, what does it say about them? Now I know that mean people are often hurting on the inside. Ostracizing others is a way to boost yourself at others' expense. Ultimately, the cruelty hurts all involved. People who are at peace with themselves naturally feel compassionate towards others. They are the people you want to know. They are the people who are capable of healthy friendships. They are the people who will accept you for who you are, even if you sweat like a football player eating jalapeno peppers in a sweat lodge. When I think about my high school classmates, I believe there were some who would have been excellent friends who I did not connect with because I was too busy hiding.

Therefore, being honest about your hyperhidrosis will weed out people who lack the compassion and self-love to be a true friend. I'm not saying that you need to tell everyone all the time. But there are some times and places where it's better to be honest. If someone rejects you, yes, of course, it will hurt. But ultimately, the loss is theirs.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Slippery grace: Yoga is for people with hyperhidrosis too

Hi everyone, It's been a busy summer so far. I hope everyone is enjoying these long days. I wanted to call your attention to an interesting post, Yoga and Hyperhidrosis, written by the author of hyperhidrosis blog My Life as a Puddle.

I have avoided attending a yoga class for a very long time because of my hyperhidrosis (HH)I worry about sweating all over the yoga mat and leaving puddles on the floor. I also worry about doing positions like downward dog and sliding out of them since my hands are sweaty and have no traction.  
I can relate. Nevertheless, I fell in love with yoga about 15 years ago, despite my sweaty palms and feet.

Sweaty palm spirituality

It took me about 8 years from the first time I wanted to do yoga (back in the 80s when it wasn't nearly as popular in the U.S.) to the time I started doing it regularly. In my first class, the teacher asked us to work with a partner, taking turns holding each others' feet in a pose.  Just thinking about it now makes my feet sweat! At the end of the class, we all sat in a circle meditating and holding hands. Needless to say, the class was less than relaxing. Because the teacher was an exceptionally kind woman (as well as a therapist with her own practice), I called her afterwards to tell her why I wanted to drop out. As is often the case, her reaction to my disclosure was underwhelming. Without skipping a beat, she said, "It's no problem. We don't have to hold hands while we meditate. I appreciate your sharing your perspective."

That was 15 years ago, and I've been doing yoga ever since. As I type this, I think of this wonderful teacher and smile. I hope she knows she made a difference in someone's life.

Quick yoga tips for people with hyperhidrosis

  • Bring a towel to class, and use the towel under your hands during downward dog, plank, and other exercises where you place weight on your hands. No fancy equipment is needed. I find that the thin towels usually found at gyms work the best. 
  • Bring socks in case you do partner exercises
  • If the teacher seems like a discreet and understanding person, talk to him or her privately about any discomfort you might be having due to your hyperhidrosis
  • Use this opportunity to go deep inside yourself, focusing on your breathing and the alignment of your body. You might find that your sweating is reduced by the end of the class. This is almost always the case for me.
  • Be kind and gentle to your body and your spirit.


Monday, May 06, 2013

The spiritual lessons of hyperhidrosis

Thanks to "My Life as a Puddle" for this insightful post about hyperhidrosis and loving life as it is.  This is exactly the kind of conversation we need to be having. I agree that people with hyperhidrosis should seek medical treatment, but at the same time, we need to learn to love ourselves as we are.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Iontophoresis fatigue

Trees are rooted in the ground while reaching for the sky. 
Some rights reserved by @Doug88888
I have not been doing iontophoresis as often as before, and my hands are sweaty once again. Tomorrow, I am giving a speech and will need to shake hands. I wish that I had kept up my iontophoresis regimen. One reason I had stopped was that I had small cracks on my hands from winter dryness. I finally found something that helped: Eucerin's Aquaphor cream in a little tub. Now that the dry skin is healed, I need to begin the treatments again.

I went to a memorial service for a friend who died in her early 50s of breast cancer. The service was beautiful and meaningful. Attending the service made me think about what would happen if I died today? Have I lived the life I want to lead? Have I spent enough time with the people I love? Have I worked hard and enjoyed myself?

While I am sad about my friend's passing, I am glad I had the chance to be inspired by a well-lived life. And I am glad that I had a chance to reflect on the bigger picture, for I am much more than sweaty palms and feet, though they are part of who I am.