4 WAYS TO MAINTAIN BALANCE WHEN THINGS GET HECTIC (ACE Healthy Living Feb 2019)
It seems as though the pace of life continues to gain speed. Constant events, deadlines, goals and to-do lists fill the calendar. This pace of life can become stressful. Unfortunately, stress is one of the primary causes of disease, unhappiness and anxiety. When you are really busy, it’s likely you don’t have time for a shower, much less a massage or a vacation. So, how do you make time for de-stressing? Let’s get right to the point, because time is of the essence. Try any of the following actions to improve your ability to reduce stress, maintain balance and enhance resiliency. Each idea can be implemented daily with little time commitment.
- Change the way you think – Shift your focus to abundance rather than lack. Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t. This simple mindset shift evokes gratitude and a sense of peace. We inherently fear failure and rejection. We worry about trying to control every outcome in our lives. We compare ourselves to other people, and we believe that we are always behind. As easy as it is to compare ourselves to others, it really is something to avoid. Each person has his or her own challenges, feelings of lack and bouts of unhappiness. We all have our own story, each is unique and different. It’s O.K. to be content with where you are right now and be grateful for what you have in the present.
Action: Start a gratitude journal – For one week, each night before bed, write down three things for which you feel grateful, proud, happy or content. Note how these things came into your life. At the end of the week, assess how you feel. It’s likely a mood shift may have occurred, and you feel less stressed.
- Take a break – In the midst of an overwhelming schedule, a selfish break can feel irresponsible. However, a short five- to 10-minute break will clear the mind, help with fatigue and provide a much-needed pause during a busy day. If possible, go for a short walk outdoors. Nature provides grounding energy, and movement improves blood flow and produces mood-enhancing hormones. Better yet, pair regular breaks with a daily bout of exercise. Maintaining a consistent exercise program, even when life is hectic, will enhance your physical and emotional abilities to deal with stress.
Action: Walk in the present – In the next hour, take a five-minute break for a walk. Notice your surroundings and pay attention to how your body feels. Take inventory of how you feel prior to the walk and again after the walk.
- Be a superhero – Physical activity, smiling, power postures and deep breathing are quick fixes for stress-related physical symptoms. Our bodies display stress in external ways—headaches, gastrointestinal issues, sleeplessness, general aches and pains can often be attributed to stress. Even if you don’t experience severe symptoms, it’s likely you have experienced fatigue, general tightness around the neck and shoulders, and a slouchy, tired posture. You can trick your body into feeling fewer physical symptoms of stress by changing your physical posture. Stand up straight, align the spine and smile. This power posture is an instant boost.
Action: Pose like a superhero – During moments of stress or general tiredness, stand up and place your hands on your hips. Pretend you are a superhero and puff up your chest. Take five deep breaths. Fill your lungs and belly to capacity. Next, smile for 10 seconds. The simple act of smiling sends a positive signal to the brain and allows the body to relax a bit. This power posture can be helpful before presentations and difficult conversations, and for those times when you just feel overwhelmed.
- Practice mindfulness – When life is overwhelming, your mind naturally spins with multiple thoughts. Focusing your thoughts on the past can create feelings of regret and depression, and focusing on the future can foster feelings of anxiety. The only place we can be without worry is truly in the present. That means letting go of expectations of anything except what happens right now. Most of us have future deadlines, goals and ambitions. Being mindful in the moment does not mean that we let go of those things. It simply means we turn our attention to the task at hand, and really place our focus and energy with it. For some, mindfulness is being fully immersed in work. Taking the time to eat slowly, taste and enjoy food is a form of mindfulness. Paying attention to how your body feels during movement is mindfulness. Mindfulness might also take the shape of paying attention to the breath, something that occurs all day long without you giving it a second thought. Whatever form mindfulness takes for you, the point is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, and it provides immediate results. In as little as 60 seconds, your body and mind can become calm, and a sense of balance can be restored.
Action: Breathe – Assume a comfortable position with a tall posture, standing or seated. Set a timer for one to three minutes. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Follow the inhale, follow the exhale. Try to inhale for the same duration as you exhale. Notice how you feel before this exercise and after.
It takes conscious effort and commitment to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. These four ideas are quick and efficient ways to navigate stress and maintain balance when life gets hectic.
WAYS TO PREVENT FALLING (From Washington Post, Lean and Fit, Feb 27, 2019)
The author of this article had taken a fall and was apprehensive about falling again. She was 53 years of age. She consulted several people about how to prevent falls, and here are excerpts from that article regarding the advice she received.
- Practice the following:
Level 1. Balance on one foot. Start by doing it near a doorway or chair so there is something to grab for support.
Level 2. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot.
Level 3. Use your non-dominant hand to stir a pot while standing on one foot.
- If you are going to fall, the best way to do it is to bend a knee and roll at an angle over one shoulder to protect your hip and your noggin.
- Tuck your head, use your strength to direct your fall, and roll so that you take most of the impact on your backside, the upper back and/or gluts being the most resistant parts of your body.
- Wear “minimal” shoes with thin, flexible soles for both sports and everyday living. The information we get from the bottoms of our feet (the technical term is plantar neurosensory input) helps us maintain balance. This input, coupled with muscle strength and agility, is essential for generating a “good correctional movement” should we fall.
Debora’s Note: I recently took a fall while walking fast on a dark street. I tripped on uneven pavement and when I realized that I was not going to be able to regain balance, the one thing I told myself as I was falling, was, “Don’t hit your head on the sidewalk”. I did hit my nose and head, but I was able to keep from hitting hard by bracing myself with my arms. Despite a lot of facial bruising, I was unharmed. But I learned that walking in the dark requires one to pay extra attention to the surface you are walking on.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!
THE ONE EXERCISE EVERYONE SHOULD BE DOING (from Livestrong Nov. 2018)
With so many Americans concerned about the cost of health care, this exercise can positively impact eight out of the 10 most costly health conditions in the U.S. (Heart disease, cancer, COPD, asthma, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and back problems.)
This exercise will also improve your mood, boost endorphins, reduce fatigue and lower your stress hormones as well.
What’s more, this exercise is absolutely free and you don’t need a lot of time: Only 15-40 minutes a day five days a week will tone and trim your body, vastly improve your health and could even save your life.
Some of you have probably guessed that I’m talking about WALKING!
How Americans Compare to Other Nations – In a study published in October 2010 in the journal “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,” researchers used pedometers to track the steps of 1,136 American adults. They found that people living in the U.S. take fewer steps than adults in Australia, Switzerland and Japan.
- Australians averaged 9,695 steps a day.
- Swiss averaged 9,650, steps a day.
- Japanese averaged 7,168 steps a day.
- Americans averaged just 5,117 steps a day.
According to the CDC, 36 percent of Americans are obese, while a 2010 Reuters article states that “During the past decade Australia, Japan and Switzerland have reported obesity rates of 16 percent, 3 percent and 8 percent, respectively.”
And it’s not just lower obesity rates; it’s longer life expectancy as well. As A 2013 CNN article reported, 2011 data shows that 27 countries (including those daily walkers in Australia, Switzerland and Japan!) have higher life expectancies at birth than the United States.
Here Are 19 of the Proven Health Benefits Walking
- It increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters and reduces the stress hormone cortisol, helping you feel less anxious or sad.
- Can lead to a longer life. Research by the University of Michigan Medical School and the Veterans Administration Ann Arbor Healthcare System says those who exercise regularly in their fifties and sixties are 35 percent less likely to die over the next eight years than their non-walking counterparts.
- Decreases knee pain and stiffness by keeping joints lubricated.
- Lowers the risk of fractures. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, study of post-menopausal women found that 30 minutes of walking each day reduced their risk of hip fractures by 40 percent.
- Reduces women’s risk of stroke by 20 percent when they walk 30 minutes a day – by 40 percent when they step up the pace — according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
- Boosts endorphins, lowering stress, fatigue and anger in 10 minutes and lowers blood pressure by five points.
- Reduces glaucoma risk by reducing the pressure inside the eye, which lowers your chance of developing glaucoma, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
- May cut Alzheimer’s disease risk by 50 percent over five years, and for women, reduce colon cancer risk by 31 percent.
- Decreases the odds of catching a cold by 30-50 percent.
- Tones ab muscles, builds bone mass and reduces risk of osteoporosis and reduces low back pain by 40 percent.
- 54 percent lower risk of heart attack with two to four hours of fast walking per week.
- 30-40 percent less risk of coronary heart disease with three hours of brisk walking per week.
- 54 percent lower death rates for type 2 diabetics who walk three to four hours per week.
- Helps prevent and manage arthritis.
- Decreases body weight, BMI, body fat percentage and waist circumference and increases muscle endurance.
- Increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Significantly reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Increases heart and respiratory fitness in adults with type 2 diabetes.
- Reduces physical symptoms of anxiety associated with minor stress.
- Improves sleep quality and is associated with better cognitive performance.
- Increases the size of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, potentially beneficial for memory. (Check out the study on this one.)
NUTRITION MISFIRES (excerpted from IDEA Food and Nutrition Nov. 2018)
There is so much conflicting information about food and nutrition, it is a challenge to determine what is the correct information. Stamp out misunderstandings by learning how top nutrition professionals set their clients straight on five all-too-common nutrition misfires.
Misfire #1 Sugar is bad; therefore, all carbs are bad.
“All carbs are not created equal,” advises Kathy McManus, MS, RDN, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “There are some unhealthy sources, like white bread, white rice, white potatoes, and foods containing added sugar (cake, cookies, candy and sugar-sweetened beverages). These foods raise blood sugar and can lead to diabetes and weight gain. But “The right types of carbohydrate foods, such as intact whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, are the foundation for a healthy diet.” (Intact whole grains include all layers of the original kernel: bran, germ and endosperm.)
Focus on reducing added sugar, not on reducing sugar that occurs naturally, as in fruit or all carbohydrates. it is added sugar or refined grain, limit intake. If it’s in whole foods, dig in, though be mindful of portion control even with healthy foods.
Misfire #2 Vegetarian diets are healthy, so I should avoid all animal foods.
Vegetarians have lower rates of overweight and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers compared with those on a typical American diet (Appleby & Key 2016). That sounds pretty compelling, but it doesn’t necessarily mean animal foods (meat, poultry, fish, dairy products) have no place in a healthy diet. In addition to protein, meats are sources of well-absorbed minerals, including iron and zinc, while milk and other dairy products are great sources of calcium.
Misfire #3 Gluten is bad for some people; therefore, everyone should avoid gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. “The fact that gluten is a protein surprises people, since today’s food conversation is very positive about protein,” says Kim Kirchherr, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant. People with celiac disease react to gluten in a way that damages the lining of their small intestine, leading to digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients.
Wheat sensitivities are not always related to gluten. “Some people with irritable bowel syndrome are intolerant to the carbohydrate portions of wheat called oligosaccharides. But the majority of us are totally okay to consume wheat and gluten,” says Denise Barratt, MS, RDN. She says gluten-free products may have less iron, fiber and B vitamins, so reconsider switching unless you need to avoid gluten for health reasons.
The message shouldn’t be to avoid gluten; it should be to choose more nutrient-dense breads made with whole-grain flours and, especially, more intact whole grains like barley and quinoa, which don’t raise blood sugar as much.
Misfire #4 Juicing is the best way to get your fruit and veggies.
Recent research has shown that juices are an effective way to increase vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in the diet (Zheng 2017). In the U.S., most people don’t eat enough fruit or vegetables and may miss out on the nutrients they provide: vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, phytonutrients, and more.
Juicers, however, usually remove fiber, and fiber is important for digestive health and cholesterol reduction, and it helps keep blood sugar under control.
Calories are another consideration. You are probably consuming a lot more calories from juice than you would if you were eating the whole fruit.
Misfire #5 Vitamins and minerals are essential for health, so I should take a lot of them.
Vitamins and minerals are critical for good health, but “bigger isn’t always better. We can’t easily get rid of excess vitamins stored in fat, such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The B vitamins and vitamin C, on the other hand, are water-soluble, and we excrete what we can’t absorb, so taking an excess of those may mean you are essentially flushing the money you paid for them down the toilet.
While a multivitamin and mineral supplement containing around 100% of the Daily Values may be low risk and could make up for nutrients missing in the diet (Ward 2014), we have little research on the long-term effects of large doses of vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements. In the U.S., laws do not require the Food and Drug Administration to verify safety or effectiveness before dietary supplements are marketed to consumers (NIH 2011).
ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS. DON’T FORGET TO EXERCISE, EAT HEALTHY, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, BE NICE AND SMILE A LOT.
THE HUMAN HEART (from IDEA Fitness Journal October 2018
As “head coach” of the circulatory/cardiovascular system, the heart pumps blood throughout the body, supplying oxygen and nutrients to tissues.
Actually, two circulatory systems work as a “team”: Systemic circulation carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the body and sends deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Pulmonary circulation transports oxygen-poor blood from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs, where it picks up a new supply of oxygen-rich blood that it carries to the heart’s left atrium.
According to the Heart Health Institute (2015), you’d need to leave your kitchen faucet on full blast for at least 45 years to match the amount of blood pumped by the heart in an average lifetime. Heart health is high on the list of client goals—and for good reason. Learn more about this miraculous muscular organ:
- The “broken-heart myth” may not be that far-fetched. A breakup or traumatic news (say, the death of a loved one) can spur a heightened risk of heart attack. It can also trigger the release of stress hormones that may temporarily stun the heart, potentially causing heart attack symptoms (Heart Health Institute 2015).
- The heart of a typical athlete “churns out up to 8 gallons of blood per minute” (Arkansas Heart Hospital 2016).
- Heart attacks (also known as myocardial infarctions) most often occur early on a Monday morning in fall or winter (Lefer 2010).
- What’s the earliest known case of heart disease? Scientists have found atherosclerosis in a 3,500-year-old Egyptian mummy (Allam et al. 2011).
- Christmas and New Year’s Day are the two days of the year when heart attacks are most likely to occur (Kloner 2004).
- The heart beats 100,000 times a day and 35 million times a year. During an average lifespan, it will beat more than 3 billion times (Arkansas Heart Hospital 2016).
- Women have smaller hearts than men do and exhibit different signs of a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience shoulder pain, nausea and indigestion rather than the trademark chest pain (Watson 2009).
USING STRESS FOR POSITIVE RESULTS (from IDEA Fitness Journal October 2018)
You’ve been training for a 10K. You’re ready, but when you show up on race day, your heart is pounding and you feel panicked. What should you do to lower your stress? Some people might say, “Take a deep breath.” We all know that deep breathing to calm the nervous system is a go-to strategy for dealing with stress. But is it always the best strategy?
In her work as a psychologist and a yoga and fitness professional at Stanford University, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, has found that expanding your repertoire of strategies for dealing with stress is helpful. She suggests three alternative approaches.
Harness the Energy of Stress – Studies have compared the physiological responses of terrified first-time skydivers and experienced skydivers (Allison et al. 2012; Hare, Wetherell & Smith 2013). Surprisingly, they don’t differ. Heart rates go up whether people are scared or thrilled. Yet how you interpret your pounding heart and sweaty palms can be the difference between feeling panicked and feeling amped up. It turns out that choosing a positive interpretation of stress is something many elite athletes have learned to do. They don’t see stress as a barrier to performance, and they don’t view anxiety as a signal they are going to choke.
The takeaway: When you feel your heart pounding, palms sweating or mind racing, remember that these are signs of an adrenaline rush that can fuel peak performance. Remind yourself that even the most accomplished athletes, performers and leaders experience anxiety, and the most successful choose to channel their stress into energy and positive motivation.
Choose a Growth Mindset – Think of a time in your life that changed you in a positive way. Maybe you discovered your courage or developed more compassion for others. Maybe it was a turning point that forced you to make an important change.
Whatever your story is, it’s likely it was stressful while you were going through it. Psychologists know that it is through stress that we learn and grow—even if the process isn’t always fun. Difficult experiences can have positive outcomes, whether it’s personal growth from defeating obstacles or growth that can follow serious adversity.
The takeaway: Reflect on how you have grown from adversity. What past difficulties have strengthened you and given you a greater sense of your own capabilities and purpose? You can strengthen your resilience by thinking about how a stressful situation can contribute to your personal growth.
Make It About Something Bigger Than Yourself – Imagine two people in a hospital waiting room, both worried. One reaches out to hold the other’s hand, hoping to comfort her and offer compassion. Which of the two will experience greater stress relief?
Both will likely feel better, but the person who offered the compassion will get the bigger benefit. Neuroscientists have studied what happens in the brain during social support, and giving support reduces stress significantly more than receiving support (Inagaki et al. 2016). Moreover, just thinking about helping and encouraging someone else can create the same stress-relieving changes in the brain (Engen & Singer 2015).
The takeaway: Savor being part of something bigger than yourself. In a moment of stress, thinking about others who might also be struggling, or connecting to the joy of helping others, can be a powerful source of resilience.