Posts Tagged ‘health’

Breaking Bad Habits Now

April 4, 2017

Habits form when we repeat an action and often they are very helpful to us. We form bad habits because they have short-term benefits, and we ignore the long-term consequences for this momentary payoff. The more enjoyable the instant gratification, the harder the bad habit is to break.

When behaviors are enjoyable, even if they’re unhealthy, they can release a chemical in the brain called dopamine. The habit becomes even stronger, and we continue doing it regardless of how we feel afterward (i.e. overeating, obsessively checking social media, etc.).

STRATEGIES TO BREAK BAD HABITS

Along the path to better habits, we must start by making a choice. Here are several strategies to break bad habits:

GETTING STARTED

  • Identify purpose – Perhaps the most helpful strategy is to understand what purpose the bad habit serves. If you weren’t getting something from it, you wouldn’t keep doing it.
  • Identify progression – What actions typically lead up to your habit? Disrupting the progression of events that trigger your bad habit sets you up for greater success.
  • Identify motivation – How would you assess your commitment to change? Feeling a deep connection to your “why” helps make difficult choices worth it.
  • Identify influence – Try to avoid individuals who are linked to dangerous habits like excessive drinking or drug use.

MOVING TOWARD GOOD HABITS

  • Plan ahead – Don’t trust your strength in the moment. Making a plan ahead of time for dealing with temptation prepares your mind to resist the urge.
  • Change environments – Be mindful of situations and temptations where it might be easy to continue in your behavior. This will help to eliminate the potential for a slip-up.
  • Practice mindfulness – Pay attention to your mind and body. Be mindful of the emotions you’re experiencing and what’s going on in your body.
  • Replace with good – Trade out your bad habits for good ones. For example, swap out the time you once spent overeating and use it to exercise.

POSSIBLE SETBACKS ALONG THE WAY

  • Not alone – You don’t have to do this alone. Find someone wanting to quit one of his or her bad habits and team up.
  • Forgive – If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Change takes time. Some days you might take a step back before you keep moving forward. Forgive yourself and keep trying.

Stress Stoppers: Stress Stretch

February 14, 2017

When you are under stress, tension accumulates in your neck and jaw. Take a minute to gently and slowly move your head from front to back, side to side, and in a full circle. For your jaw, stretch your mouth open, and slowly move your lower jaw from side to side and front to back. (NOTE: If you notice any pain or if you have had any injuries to your back, neck or jaw, check with your doctor first.)

Set a Goal (and Achieve It!)

Unrealistic goals that never seem to be reached add to your stress level. Try setting one goal for yourself this week. Pick one small goal and write it down. Can you count it or check it off a list? Is it realistic? If not, make it smaller. Decide how to reward yourself when you reach your goal. Set a specific, realistic date to finish or achieve your goal.

Comedy Break: Laugh at Stress

Set aside some time for laughter, your body’s natural stress release mechanism. Rent your favorite comedy video. Tape a TV show that you know makes you laugh and keep it on hand for stress emergencies. Go to the library and borrow a book by an author who can make you laugh. Read the daily comics in the newspaper. Or, phone the funniest person you know!

Walking Breaks

Walk away from stress. Instead of sitting down for another cup of stress-inducing caffeine on your coffee break, lunch hour or when you’re at home … try going for a stress-relieving and energizing walk. If you don’t like walking by yourself, try forming a walking club with two or three of your friends or coworkers.

Sleep Hygiene

January 27, 2017

Have you ever sat down and suddenly realized just how tired you are? When it comes to staying fit and being healthy, sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise. Not only is the amount of sleep key to staying fit, so is the type. Whether you’re tired of sleep eluding you or just looking for more quality sleep, the following are proven strategies to help catch those zzzz’s.

Say “no” to long naps – A long nap actually works against you at night. If you do need to rest your eyes, stick to about thirty minutes around mid-afternoon.

Exercise – Physical activity during the day may help you fall asleep faster and stay in a deep sleep longer. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as it may energize you.

Lose the gadgets – Okay, don’t literally lose all your devices, but you should nix reading, watching television, or web surfing while in bed. you’ll fall asleep faster without them.

Be consistent – Pick the same time each day for bedtime and waking to establish a regular routine.

Be comfortable – Keep your room the temperature and brightness you prefer to create a calm and relaxing environment.

Cope with stressors – Worrying can keep us up all night. Find positive ways to relieve stress throughout the day and leave the worries behind.

Sleep is essential. While it is nothing new, remember this: when life’s demands increase, sleep is usually the first area we skimp. Experts are quick to recommend seven to eight hours of sleep for adults each night. Sweet dreams!

Sleep Solutions

October 31, 2016

Most adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. We spend about a third of our lives asleep, but most people know very little about it, even though it’s as important as food and water.

It’s estimated that sleep disorders affect more than 70 million Americans. When you get less sleep than needed, you fall into “sleep debt.” If the debt becomes too high, then physical problems and daytime drowsiness can occur.

THREE KEY INGREDIENTS

Three key ingredients to good sleep are temperature, light, and sound. A hot bath or shower raises your temperature then rapidly lowers it to help you relax. If the room is cool, you’re likely to get better sleep. To control light, consider dimming the light an hour or two before you go to sleep. Don’t look at computer or TV screens right before bed, so the hormone melatonin can flow. If your neighborhood is noisy, consider wearing earplugs to keep the sound out.

SLEEP TIPS

  • Be consistent – If you can go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends, you’ll sleep better.
  • Create a routine – You can train your body to recognize when it’s time to sleep if you stay consistent with habits. Maybe read a book. or take a warm shower. Perhaps lay out your clothes for the next day.
  • Get up if you can’t fall asleep – If after 15 minutes you don’t fall asleep, get up and do something rather than worry. Consider reading a book or listening to soft music.
  • Limit your naps – It might feel good to snooze for an hour in the afternoon, but anything over half an hour might keep you up at night.
  • Consult a professional – If you need to get more info or guidance on your sleep habits, talk to your primary care physician.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

May 24, 2016

Getting a full night’s sleep may seem like a luxury, but it’s important to your overall health. Sleep serves a critical role when it comes to your health and well-being – similar to eating, drinking and breathing. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night in order to feel rested and have the positive benefits associated with a full night’s sleep. When rested, we’re more alert, energetic, happier, and better able to function the next day. The benefits of good sleep also include improvements in short-term memory, productivity, sensitivity to pain, and the functioning of your immune system.

Tips for Better Sleep

If you have trouble falling asleep, there are a few tricks you can try to help you get the sleep your body needs.

  1. Set a regular sleep schedule and routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. Having a bedtime routine lets your body know it’s time to go to sleep. Part of your routine may include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to calming music, or dimming the lights.
  2. Limit naps to 20-30 minutes. If you nap, keep it early in the day. Napping late in the afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.
  3. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine. Caffeine from food or drinks can disrupt sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep. And alcohol might help you fall asleep, but it will be restless sleep and you’re more likely to wake in the night.
  4. Take any medications that are stimulants in the morning. You can also ask your doctor to switch you to a non-stimulating alternative. Any drugs that make you drowsy should be taken in the evening.
  5. Avoid heavy meals before bed.  These can make you feel uncomfortable and keep you awake at night. However, if you feel too hungry to sleep, have a light snack.
  6. Avoid intense exercise within three hours of bedtime. It may make you too energized to fall asleep. Regular exercise earlier in the day, however, will help you sleep better.
  7. Keep a worry journal. Before you get in bed, write down any worries or pressing thoughts you have that may keep you up. Have a notepad and pen next to the bed and if something pops into your head, write it down. Then try not to think about these worries or thoughts until the morning.
  8. Limit liquids. If you wake up often to use the rest room, cut down on how much you drink late in the day.
  9. Have an environment conducive to sleep. For most people, this is a space that is dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable. Consider using room darkening shades, ear plugs, eye masks, or a fan to make your sleeping space right for you.
  10. Avoid plots that may get your adrenaline going before bed. Whether it’s a movie, TV show, or book, you don’t want your heart to be racing before bed. Instead, you should feel calm and relaxed when you’re ready to fall asleep.

If you still don’t feel well rested in the morning after trying the tips listed, make an appointment with your doctor. There may be an underlying cause that needs to be properly diagnosed. Your doctor can help you treat the problem or refer you to a sleep specialist.

Avoiding Burnout

December 4, 2015

There are many “outs” in life. We can be stressed out, worn out, and maybe even need a time out. As passionate as we may feel about our work, we are all susceptible to burning out if we fail to exercise good self-care and relaxation techniques. Burnout is a constant feeling of exhaustion and pessimism in the workplace, which usually results in a decline in performance and passion.

There are several early warning signs of burnout. Do you dread coming back from vacation? Despise work tasks you one enjoyed? Is your overall attitude pessimistic toward your coworkers and your performance? The answers to these questions can all be indicators of workplace burnout.

However, burnout is preventable; consider these simple tips:

  • Take small breaks – Failing to take short breaks negatively impacts your overall performance. Concentration wanes after too long, so take a quick five or ten minutes. Your brain will thank you.
  • Evaluate – Take a step back to see how you’re using your time. Where and when are you most productive? How is the quality of your work? Being efficient does not equal being effective. Take inventory and prioritize your time.
  • Set vacations in stone – If you are financially able, plan that trip today. It will give you something to anticipate. Alternatively, consider doing a “staycation” and rewarding yourself with some rest and relaxation.
  • Engage new passions – Look for a new hobby to catch your interest during the week. Often new activities reignite passions for old ones.

Taking care of yourself with proper rest, exercise, and nutrition is essential to reducing your risk for a workplace burnout. You will have more energy, productivity, and passion for what you enjoy most.

Sick and Tired or Just Plain Ill?

November 10, 2015

“Feeling fatigued is something people shouldn’t ignore,” says Andrew Heyman, MD, MS. “When you feel fatigued and you do the normal activities – such as improving your diet, getting adequate sleep at night and reducing your stress – and you’re still fatigued and can’t do normal activities, then it’s time to see your doctor.”

Many services are available for people experiencing fatigue. Heyman notes that fatigue rarely stems from a single cause. “A lot of things happen that cause fatigue: our hormone levels change, our respiratory pattern changes, our heart rhythms change,” he says. “It occurs on all levels of the body, at the cellular level, the organ-system level, and can include psychiatric factors such as low energy from depression.”

Some causes of fatigue include, but are not limited to:

  • sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
  • ongoing pain, including conditions such as fibromyalgia.
  • an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism.
  • use of alcohol, illegal drugs, or overuse of medications.
  • depression.
  • diseases such as mononucleosis, tuberculosis and AIDS.
  • malnutrition or eating disorders.
  • cancer.
  • congestive heart failure.
  • diabetes.
  • lupus and other autoimmune disorders.
  • chronic fatigue syndrome.

Possible treatments can include:

  • regularly getting enough sleep. Heyman says most people need about eight hours a night. In the 1940s and 1950s, he says, only about 15%of the population had less than seven hours of sleep a night; today, it is closer to 40%.
  • avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and drugs.
  • increase in exercise.
  • prescription medications that help to regulate one’s sleep.
  • vitamin and mineral supplements.
  • meditation and breathing exercises.
  • acupuncture, which is showing promise as a treatment to alleviate fatigue. Heyman notes that the needles used in acupuncture can have a stimulating effect on the body and can give people more energy.
  • physical therapy.
  • treatment of underlying conditions, such as talk therapy for depression.

Meeting Your Health Goals

October 23, 2015

Every day we make choices about how to care for ourselves. From what we’ll eat to how active we’ll be, every decision has costs and benefits. Choosing healthy goals can feel intimidating, especially when we’re lacking the “New Year’s Resolution” momentum. Making specific, measurable, and attainable goals sets you up for the life you desire.

Goal-Setting Tips:

Specific – Many times, our goals are vague and too broad. This fails to inspire and motivate us to make a lifestyle change. Instead, clearly describe what you would like to do and with what specific behavior.

For example, you might say, “I want to get fit.” But how often are you going to exercise and for how long? There’s a big difference between, “I want to be healthier,” and “I want to go for an hour-long run, three times this week, so I will have energy to play with my kids.”

Measurable – In addition to specificity, goals should be measurable. Writing down our behavior or tracking it wan an app will offer clues as to why we’re moving toward or away from our goals. For example, if your goal is to lose 15 pounds, this might involve counting your calories or tracking your daily percentage of vitamins and minerals.

Attainable – Goals should be realistic, given your time, finances, abilities, etc. Set small, attainable steps toward the larger goal. These might be daily, weekly, or monthly. Besides offering encouragement, small and attainable goals provide opportunities for rewards along the way.

Setting health goals are best done in community. Surrounding yourself with supportive peers pursuing similar goals is very helpful. Also, say your goals aloud. Tell people what you’re working toward and how you’ll get there. The more you speak out your goals and why you’re doing this, the more you’ll believe you can actually achieve them. There’s no time like today, even if it isn’t January 1st.

Caring for the Caregiver

February 23, 2015

Many people are responsible for ailing parents or loved ones. Many are serving as caretakers in addition to working full- or part-time. This can lead to burn out, depression and physical illness for the caretaker. Now two people need help!

To avoid the double whammy of trying to nurse yourself while taking care of another, consider the following pointers for self-care from the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Michigan.

  • Prioritize your time.
  • Set realistic goals for your time. There’s always tomorrow.
  • Identify the main stressors in your caregiving role and find ways to cope with them.
  • Treat yourself to a therapeutic massage.
  • Eat and rest properly and exercise daily, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
  • Hire a teen or older adult for daily breaks.
  • Spend time with people who make you laugh.
  • Don’t take the ill person’s negative moods personally.
  • Ask for and accept help.
  • Develop a support system for yourself – and remember that you can feel supported and in touch with others on the phone and via email if your time is restricted.
  • Allow yourself to be less than perfect.
  • Take one day at a time.

Are You Getting Enough Rest?

December 5, 2014

Sleep deprivation is a common condition that afflicts 47 million American adults, or almost a quarter of the adult population. Symptoms can interfere with memory, energy levels, mental abilities, and emotional mood. The condition drastically affects the body’s ability to metabolize glucose, leading to symptoms that mimic early-stage diabetes.

Exhaustion, fatigue and lack of physical energy are common sleep deprivation symptoms. Exhaustion and fatigue affect our emotional moods, causing pessimism, sadness, stress and anger. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has suggested that social problems such as road rage may be caused in part, by a national epidemic of sleepiness.

The Sleep in America poll, conducted by the NSF, indicates that the average American adult now only sleeps 6.9 hours a night, leading to fatigue, exhaustion and other symptoms. Shift workers suffer more than other people: may shift workers average only five hours a night.

So how much sleep do you need? Different people require different amounts of rest. While the majority of adults should spend between eight to nine hours asleep, a small number of people function perfectly well with much less. The time a person spends asleep also changes with age. Here’s a list of how much sleep by age people should get a night:

Age       Hours of Sleep Needed
Zero to 24 Months 13-17 Hours
Two Year Olds 9-13 Hours
Ten Year Olds 10-11 Hours
16-65 Years 6-9 Hours
Over 65 Years 6-8 Hours