So first, a little news: I’ve recently been invited to join the amazing team of bloggers over on Yummy Mummy Club, the awesome website and brainchild of Erica Ehm. I will still be keeping up my own blog, Savvy Health, right here, but now you can also find me over on YMC.
And my latest post over there is one you’ll want to check: Sneaky Ways To Lose Weight.
In the article I detail 9 tricks you can use to drop a few pounds…without even trying.
Might come in handy after the holidays.
How many of us start the day running before our feet hit the floor? Are your mornings a frazzled mess? Instead of lurching into your waking hours and figuring things out as you go, maybe you need to consider a more…intentional approach.
Starting the day on the right foot has psychic repercussions that carry through the day. And by psychic I don’t mean palm-reading. I’m talking about what it does to your brain/soul/emotional center to begin your day the “right” way.
Now–to clarify–”right” will mean a different thing to everyone. The perfect a.m. routine, for you, honors your priorities for health and happiness. You want to initiate rituals that send a cue to your inner self that you are taking care of yourself. Nourishing yourself. You’ve rested, and now you’re beginning the day by turning on the lights in your brain, firing up the furnace, priming the pump. Even if it’s been a crappy night (the early years with a newborn spring to mind) you can still start each day fresh.
Your routine does not need to be lengthy. Few of us can devote a big chunk of time to drawn-out morning rituals (as much as we might like to!). But even a few minutes can make a big difference.
To get you thinking, some examples of things you might include in your morning routine:
You couldn’t include all these things, and they’re not all going to be your thing anyway. Which is okay. Choose your favorite 2-3 activities, then start crafting your own perfect morning ritual. Of course, you’re probably not always going to make them happen. Also okay.
So I’m wondering…what would you include in your perfect morning?
A lot of holiday stress has to do with over-commitment. Most of us have pretty full plates to begin with. Throw a bunch of extra stuff in there…where is that extra time supposed to come from?
There’s little doubt that stress affects our health. It weakens our immune systems, triggers inflammation, messes with our sleep, causes all manner of physical symptoms…and just downright sucks.
But do the holidays have to be synonymous with stress? Not if you take steps to cope.
Here are my suggestions.
Take “Me Time”. Schedule some quiet time for yourself. If necessary, sneak away to do it. It doesn’t have to be an entire day of indulgence…sometimes just a 15-minute breather will do it. Don’t feel guilty about this! You are no good to anyone else if you are totally burned out.
Let go of the need to be perfect. Our expectations are ridiculous this time of year. You do not need to channel Martha. You do not need to throw the perfect party, complete with handmade decorations and home-canned preserves for every guest…a person can only do so much. Make sure you know your true priorities, then focus on those. Quality time with loved-ones is probably a healthier goal than hand-crocheted doilies. But maybe that’s my bias coming out.
Have a strategy for healthy eating. Temptation is all over the place this season. Making good choices will help your energy level, your digestion, your sleep…and will also help you avoid the particular stress that occurs when struggling to zip up your pants. Of course…I also think you need to enjoy yourself. Lesley Beck, a prominent dietitian, has a terrific take on that. One of my strategies: be a total food snob. When there’s so much truly good food around, don’t waste calories on something that’s just ho-hum.
Exercise. Most people recognize that exercise is a big help with stress. But finding the time for said exercise? A cause of stress. Hm. Conundrum. My advice: nevermind if you can’t find the time for big workouts right now. Just squeeze little bits in here and there.
Just say no. Overcommitment will lead straight to overwhelm. Tune in to what you really need to do, and cut the fat on everything else. One way to do that? Check out Gretchen Rubin’s suggestion to think of yourself in the third person.
Re-frame the holidays. A quantum shift in perspective might be just what you need. Once upon a time, winter was a time of darkness, a time of seeking warmth and comfort and gathering indoors…not a time of nonstop cheer. It might help to respect the season, the darkness, and lower your expectations accordingly. Read Dr. Andrew Weil’s wonderful post on this aspect of our cultural history.
Breathe. Quick and easy (thus fitting nicely into a packed schedule), breathing exercises are a wonderful stress-reliever. Here’s my primer on that.
Listen to music. And no, not holiday tunes. I love Christmas music, make no mistake, but…sometimes you need to take a break from the nonstop jingle-belling. Read this to see why music is medicine.
Shop online. I can’t stand Christmas shopping at the mall. The parking, the checkout lineups…and don’t even get me started on the food court. I avoid it at all costs. But I’m no Grinch. I love to shop, and I admit to going a little crazy on the gift front.The internet, and UPS, offers the perfect solution.
Protect your sleep. A person needs to rest, there’s no way you can get through all the holiday festivities without it. Insufficient sleep makes you grumpy, irritable, and…wait for it: fat. (it’s true: lack of sleep increases your chances of becoming overweight). Do whatever it takes to keep a regular sleep schedule. Your body, and brain, will thank you.
Yes, there are tons of viruses going around this year. If you haven’t caught one yet, just wait…(sorry!)
However, when you’re sick with a cold, do you have to suffer in misery? Well, truthfully, your immune system does need to deal with the virus, and that process takes time (typically a week). But does mean there’s nothing you can do to help that poor ol’ overworked immune system of yours?
Here’s something you can do: take zinc.
There’s actually quite a bit of research to back this up. Zinc seems to shorten the duration and severity of the common cold, in otherwise healthy people.
Because most viral replication happens within the first 24 hours of symptom onset, you’re going to get the most benefit from zinc if you start taking it on Day 1. That said, taking it within the first 3 days may still have benefit.
Aim for at least 75 mg/day of zinc. The studies showing the most benefit used 75 mg as a minimum dose.
It seems that contact time with zinc is important. Zinc lozenges appear to be most effective when you dissolve them slowly in your mouth (slowly, here, is sucking on a lozenge for 20-30 minutes), and doing this every 2 hours.
The exact mechanism of zinc is unknown, but it’s thought to assist T cells (a subset of white blood cells) which kill virus-infected cells.
Intranasal administration of zinc is not recommended–this has been linked with a loss of the sense of smell, which can be permanent. Yikes. And don’t overdo it with zinc. Large doses (more than 300 mg per day) can compete with copper and manganese absorption, and can interfere with T-cell function. It can also chelate some antibiotics and cause drug-drug interactions.
Yep, it seems to be helpful for that, too. Supplementary zinc taken on a daily basis appears to help prevent pesky colds from striking in the first place. In studies, children receiving supplements for at least 5 months had fewer colds and fewer absentee days from school.
I’ve recommended zinc to patients for quite some time now, and I personally use it, whenever I start to feel those first inklings of a sore throat. If you start taking it early enough, you can really knock that cold flat. Before it does that to you.
Sometimes, making big changes can feel way overwhelming. And overwhelm can stop you from changing anything. Where do you even start? It’s easier to just stick with the status quo, right? Get out of that rut with baby steps! Instead of tackling a total health makeover, just make a few tweaks. Small bites are much more manageable, and can help you break down those psychological barriers.
Below are some suggestions. Whatever you do, do NOT attempt to make all these changes at once. Try one on for size. If it sticks, choose another.
Now it’s your turn! Any other ideas for small changes that can add up big?
Yeah, me too.
If a siesta isn’t exactly an option for you in the middle of the day (it certainly isn’t for me), what can you do? There’s always Starbucks of course. Or chocolate. But…know what might work better?
Yep, a recent study has shown this:
An interesting little type of brain cells, called orexin cells, secrete a stimulant that gives us energy. If the activity of these cells decreases, sleepiness results. In a study published in Neuron, researchers looked at the activity of orexin cells in mice. And they found that glucose blocks the function of orexin cells. In contrast…amino acids (the building blocks of protein) keep orexin cells active, and the mice alert.
Now, this is a preliminary study in this field, and was done on mice, not humans. However, while we’re waiting for more research to trickle in, it’s worth a try using protein to boost energy and alertness. Besides, we already know that protein is a great way to regulate blood sugar, stave off the munchies, and control your weight.
Here’s a handy list of quick and yummy protein snacks to keep you zipping through your day: