Tag Archives: Self-Care

Overwhelmed?

4be3ee456ac09d15ac1209115ed342ee

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?

images

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!

“Date” Yet one more four-letter word.

Tzolkin Calendar - hsc08a

No, not that kind of date!  It can’t be healthy to eat food past the “expire” date, can it?  What about the “sell by” or “use by” dates?  These labels are confusing, and really don’t mean very much.  We might as well use an Aztec Calendar Wheel for the same amount of clarity!

They give us the the date by which the manufacturer has deemed the food to be closest to the taste that the manufacturer decided was best.  “But companies want people to taste their products as best they can at the optimum, because that’s how they maintain their business and their market shares.”  (Institute of Food Technologists)  “There should be a standard date and wording that is used. This is about quality, not safety. You can make your own decision about whether a food still has an edible quality that’s acceptable to you.” (Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic)  All sources say the same thing.  Smell it.  Taste it.  You can tell if a food has gone bad.

This is much different than contamination.  “Bacteria, viruses, or parasites mainly cause foodborne illness. Many foodborne illnesses are a result of bacteria or viruses, which are microorganisms or “germs” that occur either naturally in foods or are spread as a result of poor practices, such as cross contaminating foods or improper handling during food preparation. Bacteria can rapidly multiply under the right conditions.”  (MDH)

Bacteria growth in food 2

Bottom line:  Let your senses (including common sense) guide you, and take basic precautions including hand-washing and sanitary kitchen practices.  (Information on food safety here.)

Why can’t I just ______________ ? (Fill in the blank.)

why-how

Why can’t I?  It’s the same story, over, and over, and over again.  We want to.  We really do.  But we don’t/can’t change our behaviors.  Why?!

We may want to lose weight, make different choices, or change any myriad of circumstances in our lives.  Why is it so difficult?  The answer is a different recipe for each of us as we all have different beliefs, values, priorities, excuses, etc.

Some of the reasons I have found include:

  • Desire – without it, nothing will change, but it’s not enough
  • Fear – can stop us in our tracks – fear of the unknown, of change, etc.
  • Motivation – is the fuel toward reaching our goals
  • Priority – determines where we use our limited time and energy
  • Resources – necessary to implement the change or growth
  • Knowledge – or lack thereof – needed to advance toward change
  • Ability/Skills – needed to implement the steps toward the change
  • Reward – for our current behavior is known, yet unrealized for the future
  • Comfort – our current discomfort often seems more comfortable than change
  • Beliefs – we have amassed many beliefs while traveling this big blue marble
  • Values – many of which we were born with, and are very deep-seated
  • Conflict – we often get stuck between “I should” and “I don’t want to”
  • Habit – old habits are hard to break, new habits take time and energy to make
  • Peer Pressure – a support system is very important for our success
  • Behavior Change Stage – we need to be ready, willing, and able
  • Energy and Commitment – without them we quickly revert to our old behaviors
  • Perfection – expecting perfection is a sure path to ‘failure’ as it is unattainable

I’m sure there are many other reasons why it is difficult for so many of us to do the things we know we should, or even want to.  The bottom line is that it is difficult and it takes work.  The good news is that we are all capable of change, of bettering ourselves, our health, our positions.  And the better news is that it is worth it!

How?  So how do we make the shift from “I can’t.” to “I did!”?  It is a different path for each of us and starts with introspection.  Being truly honest with ourselves.  We don’t allow others to lie to us, and we have to stop lying to ourselves!  That includes excuses.  So we need to stop and ask ourselves many questions.  It will depend upon our own journeys, but a good starting place is to consider:

  • What am I getting out of my continued behavior?  What is my reward for continuing it?  Is it that the feel-good I get from overeating overrides the eventual feeling-good-all-the-time that is promised in the end?  (Do I even believe the promise of what is to come?  Am I afraid of it?)  We don’t do things that we don’t get some sort of reward from.  The practice of physical self-harm, for example, offers relief from emotional pain (AAMFT).  Once we realize why we are doing what we are doing, we are more able to see the value of alternatives.
  • How important is making the change?  What is it’s priority in my life?  Until I decide that the change is worthy of my time, effort, and even money, I will not be able to move forward.
  • Are my goals realistic and realizable?  Or am I setting myself up for failure?  Goal:  “I want to lose 50 pounds this month.”  That might start out with a bang because perhaps I can visualize myself thin in a short time.  But it will surely fizzle and die.  We need to be realistic with our goals and have a plan that we can monitor to see that we are reaching them.  Small steps toward the end.  Remember that two steps forward and one step back is the Cha-Cha!  (Please allow some poetic license here!)
  • Do I have a support system?  Or is my current situation going to sabotage me?  In this digital age it is so much easier to find the support we need.  Reach out.  We as humans really do want to help one another.  And like we learned in school “if you raise your hand you will see that others had the same question but were afraid to ask.”  Finding a buddy, an accountability partner, makes it so much easier, and more fun too.
  • What is my excuse?  And, more importantly:  Why am I allowing this excuse to prevent me from working toward my goal?!

I could go on and on, but for the sake of brevity I will stop here.  Please respond if you would like me to continue the questions to ask ourselves section, and how to realize the results we truly desire.  Or with any of your own questions.  I am happy to do so.

The bottom line is this:  It is up to us to figure out the “Why?” based on our own introspection.  Sometimes asking those close to us can be a big help (if we are willing to hear what they say without taking offense to their honesty if it is painful to hear.)  We need to figure out what is holding us back as we are all capable of things far bigger than we ever imagined, once we get out of our own way!

Two steps forward, and one back is still moving forward, and we need to learn to enjoy the journey.  Just like the Cha-Cha, or any dance steps I’ve tried to learn, I’ve had the most fun while tripping over my own feet (and occasionally someone else’s!)  Not taking ourselves so seriously allows us to enjoy the journey and continue on our path, often inviting others to join us.

Ballroom Dancers Latin 01

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

work-life-balance-words

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.

Why Does Sleep Elude Us So? (And how important is it, anyway?)

Image

Photo credit:  David Boyer (National Geographic)

As I lay awake last night, exhausted, yet not sleepy (I know – how frustrating, right?), I started to ponder the need for sleep.  All creatures need sleep.  Even plants shut down at night!  I know how important it is; mentally, emotionally, and physically.  So why do we struggle, and how much sleep do we need?  

We know we need to sleep.  Our bodies ask for it.  And if we don’t give it to them, they beg us for it.  Finally, we pay the price of not listening.  Perhaps we feel like we are functioning fine but our immune systems are sluggish, our response time may be less than usual (whether we recognize it or not), or maybe we have dull headaches.  Nothing we can’t work through, right?  That is certainly not ideal health, though.  A little more sleep deprivation and we hope it’s nothing as tragic as falling asleep at the wheel or our functioning being so impaired that we make disastrous mistakes.  

I know that when I wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, that I have gotten enough sleep.  And it does happen!  Unfortunately, there are pitfalls and bad habits that arise…  How many of us have that luxury of always getting the sleep we need?  The alarm always sounds too early!  And how early must I go to sleep to wake up naturally?  Seriously?!  I have too much to do…  Many of us are guilty of saying or feeling these things.  

Most of us spend more than a third of our lives sleeping.  The phrase ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ really irks me because I’m afraid that will be much sooner than necessary for those who practice that mantra.  Sleep deprivation is very serious.  So, How much sleep do you need?  Are you getting it?  Are you tired?  Tired of being constantly stressed?  Forgetful?  Overweight?  Impulsive?  Sleep really isn’t a luxury.  Getting enough, good quality sleep is imperative.

I started moving slowly this morning and saw on Facebook that today’s Ted Talk was “Russell Foster: Why do we sleep?”  He calls sleep “the single most important behavior experience that we have.”  I am a huge fan of neuroscience.  I find it fascinating.  Mr. Foster does a great job at making it entertaining.  I highly recommend the 20 minute view (after you have finished this post, of course!)  He says that scientists can’t agree as to why we need to sleep.  Even after studying it so much.  Imagine that!  

He discusses some of the hypotheses, including:

  1. Restoration
  2. Energy conservation  (a hot dog roll?)
  3. Brain processing & memory consolidation

Like me, you probably know what you should be doing in order to fall asleep at night.  Often easier said than done, I know!  The basic reminders are:

  • Retrain your sleep cycle – dark at nighttime, light in the morning.
  • Limit caffeine after lunch.
  • Create a relaxing nighttime routine – we did it for our babies, we need it too!  This does not include electronic devices which stimulate the brain.  (Dang!)
  • A (boring) book is also good – with subdued lighting, of course.

The one thing Russell Foster knows from a scientific background is that enough quality sleep is essential for good mental health.  I happen to know that from experience.  I am much nicer, more patient, I think more clearly, and nearly all areas in my life are better when I’m well rested.  

So why don’t I make it a priority?  I do.  Then something happens and it begins to slip.  Sigh.  A late night here, an emergency there, and before you know it, all areas of my life are being effected, but ever so slightly.  Not really enough to notice.  But each of these subtle effects are causing a bit more work or more stress in my life.  The cycle begins to gain momentum.  More work and stress equals less time.  Where do I ‘borrow’ that time from?  Usually sleep, feeding the cycle.  And if I don’t pay careful attention, I’m back to being exhausted and sleepless.  Tonight I start working my way back.  I know what it feels like to be rested.  I need to draw on that.  I will remember to be mindful of my decisions that will effect my sleep tonight and start being proactive again, instead of being reactive.  Proactive is always the better choice!  

Sweet dreams.

The Most Important Machine

Image

We take care of our cars.  Regular maintenance and oil changes, proper fuel, etc.  When the parts wear out, we replace them with newer ones when possible.  Eventually the vehicle is no longer repairable.  We trade it in.

Why do we take better care of our cars than our bodies?!  Because it costs less to maintain them than it does for major repairs or to replace them?  Because we want to keep the resale value as high as possible?  Or perhaps we want them to be reliable and dependable for when we really need to get somewhere.

They are all valid reasons.  I ask, then, why so many of us do not take care of the MOST IMPORTANT MACHINE in our lives… our bodies?  Our parts are more costly to replace, and some parts simply can’t be replaced.  Once our bodies wear out, there isn’t a whole lot we can do to fix them.  We certainly can’t trade them in for a new model (although that does sound tempting!)

Our bodies are wearing out and breaking down at record levels.  According to Meridian Kidviews, Summer 2013:  “Type 2 diabetes was once called adult onset.  But as children have grown heavier, the disease has appeared at younger ages.”  From the same article, Dalia Hanna, M.D. is quoted “One in three kids diagnosed with diabetes has type 2 instead of type 1.”  Astounding because it is a lifestyle disease that can be prevented in most cases.

Our bodies are incredible machines that work so well even while we abuse them, that we often don’t realize the damage until it is done.  I know.  “It won’t happen to me.”  We all feel that way.  Some of us are lucky, most are not.  Diabetes is just one of the many lifestyle diseases that is taking away our health, our vitality, our quality of life, and without a doubt draining our bank accounts and threatening to bankrupt our country.  Seriously.  “The cost of diabetes in the United States has soared from $174 billion in 2007 to a staggering $245 billion dollars in 2012, according to a new study released… by the American Diabetes Association.”  (See below for the link.)

Again, this is just ONE of so many diseases that are plaguing us because we have slowly given up the control of our diets to the manufacturers and our hectic lifestyles, while our daily activity levels continue to decrease.  

So I ask you:

  • Will you take care of your vehicle?!
  • Can you put unleaded fuel in your car, perhaps even premium occasionally?!
  • Can you make one healthier choice each day?  You’d be surprised at how easy it becomes once you start doing it regularly.
  • Will you get your car out on the road so the tires don’t dry rot and the parts don’t rust?  You don’t have to drag race.  Start with a nice Sunday drive!

The above quote and source:  “The cost of diabetes in the United States has soared from $174 billion in 2007 to a staggering $245 billion dollars in 2012, according to a new study released today by the American Diabetes Association.”  Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/559781/diabetes-costs-us-245-billion-a-year/#bIgOPkDcDkmzjpgj.99 “