Tag Archives: Physical exercise

Overwhelmed?

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I am overwhelmed.  Who hasn’t said that?  But what does it really mean?  The definition is “to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything.”  That is certainly true when it comes to all of the health and wellness advice that we hear.

I truly believe that everyone wants to feel good and to be healthy.  There are so many reasons that we have trouble striving for, and reaching, improved health.  These reasons can be emotional, physical, political, and many others.  Add in the vastness of information at our disposal, much of which is confusing and contradictory.  How are we supposed to navigate all of this, and who has the time to do it anyway?

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Sometimes we have to make the time if we are faced with serious illness in our lives.  We need to be able to find reliable and valid information.  Please, please, please remember that what we read is not always true just because it comes from an excellent public speaker and/or a doctor.  Solid starting points are:  WebMDHealthfinder.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services.  Take advantage of their search functions.  Also, Wikipedia is always a great place to start a search, but keep in mind that the information can be posted by anyone at any time and always needs to be verified.

prioritize

So what is the most important aspects of health and wellness to concerns ourselves about?  Exercise?  Diet?  Stress control?  Should we worry about butter vs. margarine?  Alkaline vs. acidic?  Carbs vs. fat?  Organic vs. conventional?  The concerns seem endless.  And for each concern there are multiple and conflicting opinions as to what we should be doing.  Then, just when we think we have it figured out, the experts discover something new and everything we know as true is turned upside down.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But it is also the nature of the proverbial beast.  As our technology and understanding evolve and increase, so do our core beliefs on what is healthy.

Certainly when our lives are effected by a specific illness we tend to concentrate on that one as the most important.  If we are predisposed to a disease, that should be of greater importance to us to learn about.  Knowledge is power… as long as we are willing to implement that knowledge.  Just how much time and energy do we need to spend researching all aspects of health and wellness in order to improve our health and quality of life?

Good_News

The good news is that for most of us, simply being mindful goes a long way toward improving our health and wellness.  Start with the basics, my personal mantra:  balance, moderation, and variety.  They all are all different, yet each ties in with the others:

download     Balance:
Work and play, good food and junk food, spending and saving, exercising and relaxing… It doesn’t matter what it is.  Too much of one and not enough of the other infringes on our health and happiness.  When we balance all aspects of our existence we can enjoy a healthier, happier life.

images (2)     Moderation:
Anything taken to the extreme can be harmful.  As I’ve mentioned before, that includes drinking too much water.  Not only do we want to balance relaxation with exercise, we also want to exercise in a safe manner and not push harder than our bodies can safely handle.  If we are not active, we need to work up to strenuous activities.  “Weekend athletes” suffer injuries due to their lack of conditioning.  If we “work hard and play hard” we are balanced, but if we are pushing ourselves too hard in each of them, we will suffer from the lack of moderation in both.

Variety of fresh vegetables at market. Siem Reap     Variety:
We all know how important it is to have variety in our diet.  Different colored fruits and vegetables each provide distinct health properties.  We need a variety of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in order to survive and thrive.  Most of us eat wheat (white or processed whole wheat) at every meal and for snacks in between.  Many of our bodies are rejecting the wheat we are consuming at every meal (and it’s not the same wheat our grandparents ate.)  We are complex organisms.  When we consume a large variety of healthy foods we don’t have to concerns ourselves with the specifics of eating the right combination of nutrients.  When we vary our exercise routines we are working different muscle groups and different systems.  By varying our mental activities, we work different parts of our brains.

When we are mindful and aware of what we are doing to and with our bodies, we can do so with balance, moderation, and variety which will increase our health and wellness.  Will you start with being mindful and perhaps throw a little more balance, moderation, and variety in?  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

Diet. A Four-Letter Word?

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What is a diet?  According to my friends Webster and The Merriams, diet is defined as:

:  food and drink regularly provided or consumed
:  habitual nourishment
:  the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
:  a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight <going on a diet>

Our “diets” are what we habitually eat (and drink.)  That’s it.  They are not “good.”  They are not “bad.”  They are what they are.  They may be good for us (or not), but they are nothing more than a list of foods and food products.  We choose to label them, and then often judge ourselves for being “bad” or eating “bad.”  Our negative self-talk only serves to propagate our unhealthy behaviors.

Also according to Merriam-Webster, the origin of the word “diet” is:  “Middle English diete, from Anglo-French, from Latin diaeta,from Greek diaita, literally, manner of living, from diaitasthaito lead one’s life”  Manner of living, or lead one’s life.  How wonderful is that?!

So, our diets, what we habitually consume, are our manner of living and lead our lives.  If we think about that, it is certainly true.  What we eat fuels our bodies (and our minds), and allows us to live the full and meaningful lives we so desire.  Of course if we are eating food products that damage our health, we are leading our lives in the opposite direction.

Most of us are no longer plagued by plagues and infectious diseases, but are suffering and succumbing to “lifestyle diseases.”  It is our responsibility to change that.  We have effectively redefined the term “epidemic.”  It used to be an infection affecting a disproportionately large portion of the population.  You can’t “catch” obesity and lifestyle diseases, but they are at epic proportions and are being considered epidemics by many.  

So.  Have you been “on a diet”?  It appears that there are some 500 to choose from.  A few of the classifications include:  belief-based, vegetarian/vegan, low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat, crash/fad, detox, and others.  Many, many others.  A study in the UK found that “the average 45-year-old has been on 61 diets.”  (MailOnline)  It doesn’t take much to figure out that if 61 “diets” haven’t worked, maybe it’s the act of dieting that is to blame!

The next time we want to lose a few pounds and feel a bit better physically and emotionally, we can think about going on yet another diet*, or we can think about making a few small, manageable changes to our diet and lifestyle.  We can consume a few more nutrient-dense calories, a few less nutrient-void foods, and move a little more today than we did yesterday.   (*Most diets are extremely successful.  Not for weight loss, of course, but for the authors!)

I am in no way saying that it’s easy, or that everyone will lose weight by making these more manageable lifestyle changes.  There are many reasons that people are unwell and/or overweight.  But most of us can experience a significant change in our bodies and our health by making simple changes.  Healthier choices.  We can feel so much better!  We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to their children…  Small changes matter.  

So what one or two changes are you going to make today?

How to Put Your Best Foot (and the Rest of You) Forward

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Although this post is geared towards those of us who may be out of work or underemployed, it is appropriate for all of us who want to get more out of the lives we are currently living.  

Would you like to excel on your next interview?  Are you having trouble lining up that interview?  We all know the obvious:  network, research, prepare, etc.  But what happens when we put all of our time and effort into the job search at the expense of our health and wellness?  We will not be at our best, for sure.  Whether on that interview or networking with peers (or at the local market… you never know where that next big break will appear!)  Let’s get back to basics.  We need to put ourselves first so that we have the resources to excel.  Note:  No-one can do it all, all the time, or all at once.  As with anything, it is often best if we pick the most important and most changeable items and start there.  Baby steps!

According to The Under Cover Recruiter, the top seven qualities an employer is looking for are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  In order for us to possess and display these attributes, we must have balance in our lives and take care of our health and wellness.  “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (The WHO.)

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves.  All we need for normal repairs and growth is the proper resources (sleep, nutrition, and exercise.)

SLEEP:  According to WebMD, short-term lack of enough sleep can cause decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury, and automobile injury.  Long-term lack of enough sleep is “associated with numerous, serious medical illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, psychiatric problems including depression and other mood disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), mental impairment, and many others. (WebMD)

None of these conditions will benefit our job search, to say the least!  It should be pretty obvious that to perform on a professional level and to display our strengths properly, we need to be well rested.  Not just on the day of the interview, but every day.  There are many resources available to help us sleep better.  The first steps are to stick to a regular sleep schedule, pay attention to our food and drink consumption, create a bedtime ritual, set the conditions for sleep comfortably, limit naps, get regular exercise, and manage stress.  (For detailed information:  MayoClinic.)

NUTRITION: Living on coffee and nutrient-deficient snacks or meals is not going to give our bodies what they need to survive, let alone thrive.  As an employer, would you be more likely to hire someone who is vibrant, clear and sharp with a healthy glow, or someone who is haggard and listless?  Nutrition is surprisingly simple (to understand, anyway):  We need to take in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole carbohydrates, and lean proteins in reasonable portions and on a regular schedule.  Eat foods that our grandparents would recognize as food!  That’s it.

Variety is important because each different type of food has different raw materials our bodies need.  Each different color of vegetable contains different phytonutrients our bodies require, for example.  As always, excess is unhealthy.  Period.  Even drinking too much water (too quickly) can kill you.  Seriously, it can (water Intoxication.)  Many of us unemployed think we can’t afford to eat healthy.  The truth is, we can’t afford not to.  Tips to eat healthy on a budget:  MyPlate.  There are many others sources a few keystrokes away.

I am sure we all know how important it is to start the day (after an eight to twelve hour fast) with a good meal.  Personally, I love leftover dinners for breakfast.  Talk about quick and easy!  Going too long between meals causes blood sugar drops and feeling tired or sluggish (certainly not an optimal way to be job hunting), can slow metabolism, and cause us to gain weight.  (Fit Day)  Our brains need the nutrition and the energy to function!

EXERCISE:  The benefits of regular exercise cover every aspect of MindBodySpirit wellness.  “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey.”  (USA News)  The evidence abounds.  Move it or lose it!  Again, no need to go crazy.  Move a little bit more than you did yesterday, then make it a habit.  Exercise helps with sleep, too (although too close to bedtime may not work for you.  It keeps me up for many hours!)

Remember those seven things employers are looking for?  They are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  When you are healthy and taking care of yourself, you are much more likely to not only grow these attributes, but to also present them well.  As job-seekers, we are in the business of selling.  We are the salespeople, and we are the products.  We each need to know our product in order to sell it.  As any salesperson will tell you:  the easiest products to sell are the ones of that sell themselves.  You can showcase your attributes clearly and vibrantly because you are taking care of yourself.  Be a positive and effective product and you will find it much easier to sell yourself for the perfect position!

Wishing you success in your life, and career.  Remember, put your health first and everything else will follow!

Photo credit:  Dr. Ancheta.

The Pressure of Blood Pressure

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Blood pressure seems to be something we all know about, yet don’t really know.   It is simply the force of our blood against the walls of our blood vessels.  Our blood pressure is determined by the health of our circulatory system (strength of our heartbeat, elasticity of our artery walls, amount and thickness of our blood), and our age and health (physical condition,)

We all know how it is measured, but do we know what they are really measuring?!  They are measuring the force of the blood against the wall of an artery in our left arm, closest to our heart.  The top number (systolic pressure) is the measure of the pressure against the artery wall when our heart beats or pumps.  The bottom number (diastolic) is measured between beats while the heart is resting or refilling.  I’m currently learning how to listen to and measure it myself – it’s much harder (for me, anyway) than I thought!

Here is a brief video overview of blood pressure.

I was always taught that 120/80 is “normal.”  My research shows that we should be anywhere between 90/60 and 120/80, so 120/80 is the top of the ‘normal’ range.  According to WebMD:

Normal blood pressure rises steadily from about 90/60 at birth to about 120/80 in a healthy adult. If someone were to take your blood pressure immediately after you’d delivered a speech or jogged five miles, the reading would undoubtedly seem high. This is not necessarily cause for alarm: It’s natural for blood pressure to rise and fall with changes in activity or emotional state.

We should check our BP whenever we have the opportunity, or visit our doctors.  One high reading is not a problem, but if we have two consistently high readings, we should consult with our medical practitioners.

Risk factors include:  Family history, advanced age, gender-related risk factors, lack of physical activity, poor diet (including too much salt), overweight and obesity, and too much alcohol.  Additional risk factors may include:    Stress, smoke (first and second-hand), and sleep apnea.  For more information see Understand Your Risk for High Blood Pressure.

If we have high blood pressure, or if we want to prevent it, there are a number of things we can do:

  1. Eat healthier food
  2. Move more
  3. Maintain a healthy weight
  4. Manage stress
  5. Avoid tobacco smoke
  6. Take medications properly if prescribed
  7. Limit alcohol if consumed

Details for these tips can be found by clicking the respective hot-links in Prevention & Treatment of High Blood Pressure.

As always, moderation and balance.  Small changes add up.

What *is* all this health and wellness talk, anyway?

wellness-wheel - AZ Health Dept

Seriously.  Why do we need to keep hearing about it?

Now we have to carry water around with us?  When did that happen?!*  (A comedian did a skit on this, but I can’t find it.  A gold star if you can find it and post it for me!)  I’m pretty sure that my homo erectus ancestors didn’t worry about getting exercise or eating right.  No, not them.  They worried about outrunning saber-toothed cats and hunting their next meal.

A little closer to home, our great-grandparents (and theirs) had a rougher lifestyle than we do in a lot of ways .  Much simpler, too.  Besides plagues and communicable diseases, I don’t think they thought much about health, and probably didn’t have to.  They had to work hard (exercise), and had only basic foods available to eat (clean, balanced diet.)  “Treats” were just that.  Occasionally consumed.  They lived in close-knit groups for support and survival.  They could count on each other.  Of course there are exceptions to all of this, but I believe that was the norm.

Not us!  Fast forward to today.  We have technology that plants us firmly on our butts (like right now!)  We have so much to do and so many things to see.  We are overwhelmed and stressed.  We have all kinds of food and food-like products available to us at all hours of the day… and night.  (Perhaps that is why we actually have to carry said bottles of water with us now – to re-hydrate so our bodies can function properly after consuming all the processed foods and diuretic drinks we do.)  Often it is a downward spiral as one area becomes more unhealthy, other areas of our lives or health deteriorate too.  

Moderation.  Great concept.  One of my favorites.  Yet so hard to practice for many of us.  I love the above image for so many reasons.  It encompasses all of the aspects of health and well-being, that they are all interconnected, and that we need to balance them,  And it does so in a beautiful never-ending rainbow.  (Thank you AZDHS.)

Health is not how we look, it is not just diet and exercise.  Our overall health and wellness depend on keeping all aspects of us healthy and in balance.  Everything in our lives might be great, but if we are not emotionally healthy, I guarantee the rest will begin to erode, too.  We are greatly affected by the environment that we live in, and it is our responsibility to keep it as healthy as we can for our own sake too.  Perhaps we have everything we could have ever hoped for, but we become physically ill.  The rest doesn’t matter so much anymore because we can no longer enjoy it, and often can’t hold onto it.  If we are not financially healthy (very different from wealthy), that too, will interfere with the other aspects of our lives.  I could go on (and on, and on!), but I’m sure you get the idea.

Due to the nature of our current living conditions, we not only need to think about our health and wellness, but we need to proactively work toward a healthy balance in all of these areas in our lives.  The beauty of it is that we don’t have to do it all at once.  Pick one area to work on and start there.  It’s the opposite of a downward spiral.  The better we feel, the more we want to feel better, and the easier it becomes.  So I ask you.  What will your first step be?