Gift Yourself a Healthy Holiday

It’s that time of the year again! In keeping with my current holiday theme, I’d like to address some of the habits that seem to fall by the wayside for many of us each year during this time. For many, it’s the comfort food, sedentary behavior, extended darkness, and cold weather that tend to affect our health goals just as much as parties and social events. My goal, as a health coach, is to make people aware of the habits and hidden traps that can lead people into the land of temptation and help them create tactics and plans to avoid those added pounds and that sense of exhaustion we often feel around this time of year.

Many factors play into us losing sight of our healthy plan during this busy, and usually stressful, time of year. Aside from the parties, dinners, and social events that fill our schedule, we also may find that our time for movement is cut short. Cold weather and long dark nights may keep us indoors, therefore limiting our time spent getting exercise outdoors, and keep us from getting the fresh air and sunshine that keeps our bodies happy and healthy. Daily walks are cancelled due to inclement weather, and most outdoor physical activities like gardening, tennis, and running are impossible in most areas. It’s important to take some time to evaluate how you used the outdoors in your exercise plan and come up with a replacement that can be easily done indoors. Yoga, treadmills, dancing, and streamed workouts are a fantastic way to bring your movement into warmer settings. It is important to continue to get some fresh air each day, and a bit of sunshine to boost our vitamin D and prevent depression and seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder, or “winter blues”, leads to symptoms of depression in healthy people due to a reduction of daily sunlight. Symptoms include depression, lack of energy, loss of interest in things that bring us joy, issues with concentration, and sleep disorders. Spending a small amount of time each day in the sunshine can alleviate these issues, even if you spend it sitting inside a window basked in sunshine.

Holiday parties and dinners often include decadent foods, adult beverages, and lots of treats we wouldn’t otherwise have in our health plans. The important thing to remember is to ENJOY without OVER-INDULGING! It’s absolutely fine to enjoy a few “only baked once a year” cookies, just remember-it’s about TASTING them and ENJOYING them! It’s not about eating the entire plate of them!! Enjoy your favorite foods and treats in small amounts and move on to the main focus of the holidays-making memories with family and friends, enjoying those around us, and appreciating the time we have together.

When planning your meals during the busy holiday season, be sure to focus on quality over quantity; Eat foods with BALANCE in mind. Consider eating a small healthy snack before heading to parties or big dinners to calm your hunger. Fill your plate with healthy filling foods to begin your meal, and then have small bites of more decadent fare. If you are asked to bring a dish, consider a dish that is veggie based so that you know for sure that you will be getting those healthy bites in. ALL foods are fine in MODERATION! Take small bites, be mindful in enjoying the taste, and enjoy!

Most families have what I call a “food pusher”. It could be your mom, your aunt, or a friend that simply gets her holiday joy from watching people eat ALL her treats. You know who these people are, and you need to have a plan to deal with them in advance-they generally do NOT take “no” for an answer. There’s lots of ways to say no politely, after trying a small sample, of course, but these people usually don’t settle for a simple “No thank you!” Have a plan of action going into this situation and be strong about it. Some people think they must announce their health goals, diet plans…But that often leads to too much attention and discomfort from the food pusher. Always remember, “NO.” Is a complete sentence, and that food pusher will likely move on to a new hungry victim quickly! 

I’ve put together a pretty little resource for surviving the holidays, and it’s free to you HERE. You’ll find great tips for self-care, healthy holiday travel, getting exercise during busy holiday weeks, optional food choices for meals, and a few tracker templates to print out to help get you organized and motivated. I hope you will grab yourself a copy and make your holiday season a little healthier and happier.

New Years is coming up super soon, and with it comes the blessing and promise of a brand new year! If you’re looking for a great way to start your year off with health goals in mind, consider booking free chat with me to discuss putting together the perfect, personalized plan focused on YOU and YOUR goals. Whether it’s getting your nutrition in order, finding time in your schedule for building healthier habits, dropping a few pounds, or finding ways to relieve stress, focus more on self-care, and gaining the energy you crave in life-I can guide you to your goals and keep you motivated for success. Learn more about health and wellness coaching HERE. Find out more about me and my passion for great health, and feel free to drop me a message here to start a conversation about YOU!

Speaking of Stress ~A Holiday Story~

As the holidays approach each year, I find myself watching friends and family post their pics of big meals, decorations, and crafts, as well as several posts about being stressed. It seems we all love to go BIG on the holidays, but it’s also an incredibly stressful time for most. Hosting family, baking cookies, shopping, and social events fill our schedule quickly, but the aftermath of all that activity and fun is often exhaustion. I’m no stranger to going BIG on holidays-I’ve had up to 7 decorated trees in my house, huge, haunted yards, and dinners with more guests than house space. Pandemic gave me a chance to scale back in a huge way, to avoid the expectation of bigger and more, and take a step back into simply enjoying the holidays with less stress for a bit. Stress, is without a doubt, the biggest issue I hear about during the holidays. Whether it be schedules, finances, food, or simply finding time to rest and enjoy, it all comes down to being stressed.

In 2008 I was a single, homeschooling, working mom to four kids. Stress was simply a way of waking, living, and existing for me as I navigated through each day of lessons, projects, work, chores, and child raising. Being a somewhat “over the top” kind of gal, I refused to allow my rather new single mom status hold me back, and I plowed right into my holiday plans full force. Homemade chicken potpie, guests for dinner, decorated gingerbread house, china and crystal on the table, a freshly cut tree, presents wrapped perfectly, and not a dent in my other life responsibilities. That was the plan…I never considered the amount of stress I was placing upon myself.

As Christmas grew closer, my carefully written out schedule was working out well. We wrapped up our fall homeschool classes, got our decorating done, and brought home a fresh cut tree. The kids were getting excited, and I was completely on my “type A” schedule, just marching forward into a perfectly done holiday…or so I thought.

At 7pm on Christmas Eve, I bought pizza for the kids, and settled them with a holiday movie while I began to make my famous chicken pot pie-our holiday dinner. The tree was lit, beautifully decorated, and the outside lights were glistening. Everything was perfect. I began mixing my pot pie sauce (condensed milk based, which means it burns quickly) and chopping my veggies while listen to Christmas music play from the living room. 2 of my children (I never say WHO, because no one admits to this!) were rough housing. As I opened my mouth to tell them to knock it off, the smaller child catapulted from the back of the older child-right into the Christmas tree! The tree swayed, and I ran from the kitchen attempting to grab it-but it crashed to the ground. The kids stood in horror. I was stunned. Then I smelled the burning milk…. 

I ran back to the kitchen to pull my pot from the stove as my youngest stood in tears above the fallen Christmas tree. My favorite pot was filled with stinky burnt creamed mixture. The smoke alarms were blaring.  I opened the windows to get the smoke out and returned to the living room to upright the tree. At this point, all four kids were upset and yelling. I had no idea what to do next….Being a single mom on a very tight budget, I had no extra ingredients to start over, and there was not much else in the house to serve to guests the next day. I packed up the kids and headed towards the only store open at 7:45 on Christmas Eve-a Walgreens-to see what I could piece together to save my dinner. I was happy to see cans of condensed milk and cream of chicken soup on the shelves, and I grabbed them thinking I could now pull this off! I ran to the restaurant I worked in and asked for a few chicken breasts and potatoes to complete my re-do recipe. Feeling quite accomplished, I returned home, had a glass of wine, and started all over again-in a new pot-the other pot was destroyed. It was after 9pm, and I still had presents to wrap and kids to put to bed, but my potpie was ready to be crusted and baked. I gave the filling a taste…..WOW….Did you know that condensed milk also comes in a sweetened version for desserts????

My chicken pot pie tasted like custard! I tried to add pepper and seasonings to mask the sweetness. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t absolutely disgusting. But there it was, my entire Christmas dinner, smelling like vanilla pudding with chicken and peas in it. I had another glass of wine. Let’s be honest-I had a bottle of wine! I looked at my tree with the ornaments now hung in a crazy fashion, the lights drooping to the ground on one side. I looked at my disaster of a kitchen with my favorite expensive pot sitting burnt in the trashcan. I thought about the pile of gifts hidden in my bedroom closet that remained unwrapped. I took another taste of my Christmas dinner and tried to convince myself that no one would notice the insane sweetness. I had more wine.

Looking back now, I absolutely can find the comedy in the situation-which is well documented in hysterical Facebook posts and comments. At the time, however, it was nothing but defeat and stress, and way too much wine. I never took a real moment to take a breath and realize that in all reality, none of the things I was trying to accomplish held any importance. I never stopped to think that simply asking and accepting help would have made a difference. I never took a moment to realize that while “my” version of a great Christmas involved pulling out all the stops, no one else expected to be wowed. Had I known THEN what I know NOW, things would have been very different. I would have realized my limits as a single mom of four on a major holiday. I would have taken more than a few moments to practice some mindfulness and rethink my plan with a much simpler meal. I would have realized that I took on too much, and simply taken the kids to visit family for Christmas dinner. I would not have let such a stressful situation happen-and if it HAD happened, I would have dealt with it much better: deep breaths, mindful thinking, asking for help, and not ending up with a rather bad hangover from the wine.

THIS is the point of my story dear readers! The grandiose ideas that some of us may envision as we approach the holiday season are often the reason for exhaustion, burnout, and even ending up feeling our worst. Saying “yes” to every event, volunteering too much, entertaining too much, expecting too much from ourselves are all just ways to end up not being able to enjoy the real reasons for the holidays we love. We tend to get focused on the decorating, the baking, the wrapping-and we lose sight of the JOY that the season simply presents when we are with family and friends. It’s never the dinner that is remembered, or the way the decorations were so perfectly placed, but the laughter, the conversations, and the relationships that we cherish.

As we head into these 2 months of nonstop holiday whirlwind, be sure to remain mindful of your time and energy. Practice a little (or a LOT!) of self-care and self-love. Give yourself a break, save yourself a little sanity, and present yourself to your loved ones the way they most love to see you-relaxed, well, and happy.

Just to wrap this little story up….

In the end, one of my dinner guests offered to bring a small turkey breast that “cooks in 45 minutes” …”It says so right on the label!”.

She showed up from out of state at noon on Christmas Day, and it in fact, needed to thaw for 45 minutes and cook for 3 ½ hours.

We ended up ordering Chinese Food for Christmas dinner and my kids thought it was the greatest thing EVER because that’s what they ate in The Christmas Story movie:)! THAT is the ending memory-JOY!

Learn ALL the tips and tricks to help make your holiday season more enjoyable and focused on WELLNESS with my beautiful 22 page Guide to Holiday Survival! It’s FREE and ready to download HERE!

If you’re ready to take your health and wellness goals to the next level, treat yourself to some wellness coaching! I’m here when you need me for tips, plans, and motivation to reach all your wellness goals this holiday season! Email me and let’s chat! Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram for great tips and inspiration!

Here Come the Holidays!!

And just like that…What seemed more like an endless 2020 than a new 2021 is suddenly drawing to a close. I personally have no idea where the last 11 months went; They seriously flew right on by in a blur. But now, with Halloween happening this weekend, we are headed into the frenzy of holidays bringing us to the end of another year. With that comes the endless amount of busy schedules, family occasions, parties, and food. It can be a tough time for anyone that tries to eat well, exercise, and stay with a wellness routine.

While many people have been told that the average person gains 5-15 pounds during the holidays, that is simply not statistically true. The average weight gain is 1 pound!! However, studies have also shown that that one pound is often not lost, and over a period of years, adds to unwanted weight. What I find most generally with my friends and clients is the end feeling of overdoing it too often, whether it be with food or alcohol, or the feeling of simply not feeling our best due to too many indulgences during the holiday season. It’s easy to get off schedule with movement, to eat or drink too much, or to allow ourselves to be stressed out for too long. So, I’d like to touch on some important ways to avoid some of the holiday health traps and give some tips on staying on track with your goals this season.

Because it’s Halloween, I’ll start with the obvious first obstacle-candy! If you have children in your life or enjoy treating the neighborhood kids to some trick or treating fun, it’s likely that you will face a large amount of candy at some point this week. It can be HARD having all that candy around and not overindulging. To avoid this, try planning to treat yourself to a small amount of your favorite treats, and find a time to absolutely enjoy them! Eat mindfully, focus on the taste and texture, do nothing else but enjoy. Give into a small amount of deliciousness, enjoy, and move on. If you find that you are simply weak when it comes to sugar (it’s ok, there are many!!) Try to put off buying your Halloween candy until the last minute and give it ALL away-even if this means dumpling all of it into the bags of your last few trick or treaters. Another way to deal successfully with Halloween candy is to only buy candy you do NOT enjoy. Until 2 years ago, my family home was a Halloween destination with a huge, haunted yard. We went very big and had hundreds of people show up. We handed out over 30 pounds of candy in a few hours with none left at the end of the night. My husband, however, would order the candy weeks ahead of time, and I quickly learned to remind him to leave the candy at his office, or hide it in our garage in unopened boxes. It was just too much temptation!

Halloween is just the kickoff to the holiday season, which, honestly, in my family, goes all the way to Super Bowl Sunday. Thanksgiving can present a whole new set of issues for people because it’s literally a holiday focused on eating! One of the biggest concerns I hear from clients is about “food pushers”. It seems that everyone has a friend or family member that takes a “No thank you” to food personally. Generally, this person seems to be a grandma or aunt, and they simply will not accept a “no” to their meatballs/cake/pie/cookies/casserole, nor will they accept that a small taste is “enough”. In my family, it was an aunt that would pout if you wouldn’t take a second or third helping. I can remember leaving Thanksgiving feeling sick because she’d sit next to me as a child and make sure I shoveled every bite in. I like to remind people that “NO” is a complete sentence, and a small taste IS enough to enjoy and give praise to our food pushers. Accept a small amount, enjoy it mindfully, say “no” to seconds, and change the subject or move away from the situation. It’s important to remember that holidays are about family and friends-focus on the social aspect of the holiday, and the food aspect will be much easier to navigate.

Alcohol consumption is another holiday concern for many. These drinks are often full of empty calories, they dehydrate our body, and as we drink, we lose touch with our mindset and goals, and often end up not feeling so great in the days that follow. Alcohol often leads to unplanned eating, tired days, and missed exercise. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that the sugar content of my drinks literally gives me a hangover. I call it the sugar overload hangover. If I do indulge, I find that sticking to vodka with a sugar free mixer saves me from the terrible, exhausting, headachy days that often follow just drinking a glass or two of wine. To avoid feeling crummy after having a few drinks, be sure to cut down on the sugary mixes, drink a glass of water to match each libation, and don’t drink on an empty stomach. If wine is your choice this holiday season, consider mixing it with a sugar free flavored seltzer water for tasty, less alcoholic alternative. Again, focus on the social aspect of your events, and you will find that you not only have more fun, but you will be feeling more like yourself on the days that follow.

The holiday season can be very stressful, so be sure to schedule some time for self-care to avoid burn out and exhaustion. Find some time to sneak in some quiet time to refresh your mind and find ways to stay active as the days get shorter, darker, and colder. Take a long walk and enjoy the decorations in your neighborhood or plan some recreation time with family and friends to get everyone moving. If you find that stress is creeping into your daily life, try a little meditation, or simply sit in silence for a few moments to regain your clarity and energy. Focus on basic clean nutrition to feel your best, and on days in which you plan to indulge in holiday treats, eat small, balanced meals to keep your belly full and your energy level balanced.

As our year comes to a quick, busy end, be sure to take some time to focus on YOU. Give yourself a break, acknowledge all that you’ve accomplished this year, and give yourself some praise. As we look towards 2022, start thinking about how you want to embrace that new beginning. I always like to find a word that I want to focus on as each new year begins to get my mindset in order and truly start the year with a clear sense of where I am, and where I want to be,

Have a great Halloween, go easy on the sugar, and get some self-love into your life! If you’re looking for a great FREEBIE to guide you through the holiday season, be sure to grab my 22 page Healthy Holiday Survival Guide! This beautiful guide is chockfull of tips and hacks to get you through just about any holiday wellness situations and concerns. And, if you DO find yourself indulging in too much sugar this Halloween, be sure to watch my blog, and IG, for my new 10 Day Sugar Detox program.

If you’re looking for personal guidance and accountability to motivate you through this season, consider a free chat with me to discuss your goals and needs, and see how wellness coaching might work for you. Be sure-I’ve got your back this holiday season!

Meditation for Real People

I recently wrote about getting a good, quality, night’s sleep, and in that article, I mentioned meditation (something that helped me-the chronic, lifelong, insomniac) get some rest. I realized, shortly after posting the article, that the word “meditation” often gets a weird response. Some people envision dancing hippies, or cultist beings, while others just laugh in confusion and discomfort. So, today, in deep respect to the idea and concept of meditation, I’d like provide a little education and info!

Meditation has been a part of my life for a very long time. It took me a very long time to realize that, when it is a regular part of my routine, my life seems calmer and easier to navigate. When I get away from it for long periods of time, I inevitably come back to it after finding myself stressed, exhausted, and very ungrounded. Life gets chaotic, and for me, having 4 teenagers in the house, homeschooling them through graduation, and being very active in their activities and sports should have been a perfect time to practice lots of meditation-but I abandoned it in the crazy schedules! After the last child graduated, and I ventured to the beach for early pandemic, I found my routine again, and it was life changing. It is now a daily routine for me, if only for 10 or 15 minutes.

My youngest, now 20, called me inquiring about meditation a few months back, something I found to be quite fascinating because it’s so not “him”. He was having trouble turning his mind off and getting a decent amount of sleep, and had tried many of my suggestions with little relief. I had suggested meditation several times, but it was his number 1 quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who put it into his head. Rodgers spoke about discovering yoga and meditation during an interview, explaining why meditation has become an important part of his daily routine: “Finding time, without the TV on or the phone, to sit in silence is healing”, he said. “To be able to quiet your mind and have intentions and focus on the things that are important to you and kind of drown everything away. We live in a world where we’re just constantly being distracted and we need stimulation.” This spoke to my son, and he began a journey of meditation to quiet his mind, and ultimately, better sleep and a clearer head. (Thank you, Aaron!)

Basic meditation is simply about finding stillness, quieting the mind, and calming the body-and who doesn’t need a little of that in our lives?

There are so many science-based benefits of meditation! Literally, many of the daily anxieties, mood swings, stressors, and aches and pains most people experience can be lessened or removed by a short daily practice of meditation.

Benefits include:

*Focus and redirection of thoughts

*Generates a positive mood

*Helps with habit building

*Develops discipline

*Helps with pain tolerance

*Promotes stress relief

*Controls anxiety and feelings of anger or fear

*Promotes emotional health

*Enhances self awareness

*Lengthens attention span

*May reduce age related memory loss

*Generates feelings of kindness

*Improves the quality of sleep

*Decreases blood pressure

As you can see, the benefits of meditation are varied and amazing! I have experienced just about every benefit on this list, and more. It is a practice that is easy to learn, requires very little to get started, and has immediate impact on your wellbeing.

So-if you’re ready to get started on a simple habit that will change your life quickly, I’m ready to teach you how-all you need to do is find at least 10 minutes in your daily life to follow through. Perhaps it will be when you wake, or during a work break, or even right before bedtime-but PLANNING to do it and following through is the only small obstacle keeping you from reaping ALL the benefits that await you! You can do this just about anywhere-sitting on your porch, visiting your favorite place in nature, while bathing, or simply just by putting down your phone, turning off the noise, and enjoying some peace in your day.

How to Meditate

~Setup your space and check your surroundings. Your meditation space should be quiet and peaceful, and remain that way for at least 10 minutes. Close doors, turn off your phone, and plan to be in a quiet space for the time allotted.

~Wear comfortable clothes, or loosen any clothing that may be restrictive or tight. You may want to remove your shoes, belts, hats, etc. Be as comfortable as possible.

~Relax, sit comfortably with your feet on the floor, or find a comfortable position where your legs are relaxed and at ease, or even lie down if you like.

~Breathe deeply to relax, focus on your each individual breath, breathing in through the nose, deep into your lungs, then slowly release through the mouth. Find a rhythm in your breathing, and place your focus on the sound.

~Allow eyes to close, gently. This will help you focus on the breathing, and remove distractions from the mind.

~Check in with yourself. Are you comfortable? Do you need to adjust your position? Remove your socks? Is the tag in your shirt itchy? Notice your senses, bring awareness to your body, and adjust as needed.

~Scan your body, make sure each body part is relaxed. Wiggle your toes, circle your neck if it feels tight, etc. RELAX and BREATHE.

~Simply breathe and BE. Be still, be quiet, be calm.

Upon Finishing

~Let it go, release yourself slowly, and allow yourself to sit with our thoughts for a moment.

~After completing your time, avoid sudden movements-bring your body out of this calm state slowly, be kind to your body, and gentle in your movements.

~Hold yourself with loving kindness for the positive being that you are, let go, walk forward, live with a true heart, and go on with your day.

I hope that this article has inspired you to take a few moments to meditate each day, and perhaps even start a journey into deeper, more intentional meditations to change your existence in your life. Meditation as a regular practice can have a huge impact on everything that you do, and as you learn more, and practice more, you will see amazing things happen in every aspect of your life-mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you would like to explore meditation more in depth, or are interested in finding a personal wellness plan to works for your life and goals, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to talk about your health and wellness journey!

Dreaming of a Good Night’s Sleep?

Today I’m getting personal! I am here to admit it! While I’m an ace at getting my steps in (I hit 47 thousand in a day last week!), doing my strength training, yoga, pilates, drinking all of my water, and eating about 98% clean-I STINK at sleep. I’ve never been a sleeper!

As a child, I would go to bed, hear the rest of my family follow a few hours later, and spend the entire night listening to them snore quietly around the house while my brain refused to shut down. I’d doze off as the sun began to rise, and be woken to go to school an hour later. No amount of sleepless nights led to an inevitable deep sleep for me, and I carried this trait into adulthood. I still battle with this, finding that most nights I am very tired, looking forward to going to bed, but realizing in the hours that follow-I just can NOT sleep.

So, let’s talk about sleep!

The Negative Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Whether you are a “bad” sleeper, or perhaps just someone who’s life just doesn’t allow for much time for sleep, sleep deprivation can have a wide range of negative effects. Unfortunately, the disadvantages of not getting enough sleep are beyond daytime drowsiness and can’t be fixed with a daily dose of caffeine. Lack of sleep can jeopardize your safety and that of others around you or lead to serious health consequences. The following is a list of some surprising negative effects of inadequate sleep.

Faster Aging

Sleep deprivation can affect the way you look and accelerate the aging process. After just a few days of sleepless nights, many people start to develop wrinkles, lackluster skin and dark circles under the eyes. Much of this is caused by higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body which become elevated when you don’t get enough rest. When in excess, cortisol breaks down collagen – a protein that keeps the skin smooth, elastic and looking young.

Health Problems

A few nights of missed sleep can be fixed easily with more rest during subsequent days and is unlikely to have long lasting effects on your health. However, when you don’t sleep well for weeks, months, or even years, this will start to take a serious toll on your health and put you at a much higher risk of developing a range of health problems including depression, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Increased Risk of Causing Accidents

Lack of sleep causes drowsiness that can increase the risk of accidents when driving, operating machines and performing various other tasks. Drowsiness slows down your reaction times and this makes it much more difficult to respond when you need to. This is why fatigue is one of the leading causes of automobile accidents on the roads today.

Poor Mental Performance

If you’re sleep deprived, many of your cognitive responses will not function at peak levels. Your attention span, reasoning, sense of judgment and problem solving skills will be impaired when the body is not well rested. Lack of sleep also affects the way your brain processes and stores information and you’ll tend to forget things more often. All of these factors make performing effectively and productively during the day very difficult.

Weight Gain

It may be hard to believe that not sleeping enough can cause you to pack on some extra pounds. However, recent studies have found that shortened sleep time decreases the levels of leptin (a hormone that suppresses your appetite) in your body while also elevating levels of ghrelin (a hormone that induces hunger).  A lack of sleep also reduces your human growth hormone (a hormone that stimulates muscle growth and fat burning) levels that limit the rate at which your body burns fat. The overall result is that if you don’t sleep enough, you’ll be more likely to overeat and your body will burn off these excess calories at a slower rate.

As you can see, sleep holds a major key to our over health and wellbeing. That said, different people need different amounts of sleep. Some people cannot function on less than 8 hours, while others do just fine with 6. It’s important to be mindful of how you feel during the day. Do you need several cups of caffeine to make it through? Do you find yourself dozing off at your desk mid day? Do you lack physical and mental energy regularly? If you experience these things, and know you are probably not getting enough sleep, it’s time to make an effort to make some changes.

And Now…The Positive Effects of Sleep

After an uninterrupted sleep session, you should feel refreshed, full of energy and ready to take on the day. The importance of sleep goes beyond boosting your mood and energy levels. In recent years, scientists have gone to great lengths to understand the health benefits that sleep brings. Here are a few awesome benefits of getting decent sleep:

Better Memory

Numerous studies have shown that sleep has a positive effect on your memory and allows the brain to become much better at remembering things. Researchers believe this is the result of a process known as memory consolidation whereby the brain recalls skills learned while you are awake.

Enhanced Concentration

Sleep is like nutrition for the brain. When you get enough of it, the chances of losing concentration during the day are much less. This makes you much more alert while you complete your daily tasks and has a direct positive impact on your effectiveness, productivity and performance.

Faster Muscle Growth

The body releases growth hormone and builds new muscle cells while you are sleeping. Not only does it renew and revitalize your cells but it also repairs any tissue damage. This is particularly beneficial if you perform weightlifting workouts, as the intense exercises that make up these workouts tear your muscles slightly so that they can grow back bigger and stronger. Sleep provides your body with the platform it needs to fully repair these torn muscles and maximize your muscle size and strength.

Increased Fat Loss

Researchers have found that getting enough sleep can help you eat less and even accelerate the rate at which your body burns fat. Sleeping helps regulate the levels of ghrelin and leptin in your body – 2 hormones that control hunger and appetite. It also stimulates the production of human growth hormone – the hormone that supports and speeds up your body’s fat burning processes.

Improved Physical Performance

If you’re an athlete who wants to improve your performance, getting good quality sleep every day can help you achieve this goal. Researchers at Stanford University ran a study on college football players who slept for at least 10 hours daily over several weeks. They found that not only did the well-rested athletes increase their average sprint times but also felt less tired and had more stamina during the day.

Reduced Stress Levels

When your body is sleep deprived, it goes into stress mode. Its functions remain on high alert, this causes a spike in blood pressure and cortisol – the stress hormone. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attacks and stroke, while being stressed has a negative impact on your mood and increases your risk of falling into depression. By ensuring that you get enough sleep on a regular basis, you can keep your body out of stress mode and stay in a calm, relaxed state.

AND FINALLY! 5 Tips on How to Get the Best Sleep

At this point, I’m sure both you and I have realized the importance of getting enough sleep to be able to function at optimal levels. Sleeping well improves your appearance, brainpower, memory and other vital body functions. It also reduces your risk of gaining weight, feeling fatigued or developing chronic health conditions. Both adults and children need 6 or more hours of sleep every night for optimal health. However, just getting the recommended hours of sleep each day does not mean that your body is getting the rest that it needs. A lot of people toss and turn all night, don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning and find themselves drinking ALL the coffee to avoid drowsiness during the day. Quality of sleep is so important! So, here some tips to help you get the sleep you need:

Sleep in a Cool, Dark & Quiet Room

Sleeping with the lights on is one of the major causes of sleep deprivation. When your eyes are exposed to light, neurons are aroused, and this disrupts your sleep. Research has also shown that light exposure before sleep suppresses the production of melatonin – the hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles. A reduction in this hormone at night normally leads to varying levels of sleeplessness. To avoid sleep disruption due to nighttime exposure to light, always sleep with all the lights off. This includes the light emitted from electronic devices, so make sure your computer, phone, tablet and other light producing equipment are either turned off or stored outside the bedroom.

Too much heat can also disrupt your sleep quality. To keep cool while you sleep, make sure you keep the window open and ensure the room is well ventilated. If you still find that you’re too warm after doing this, go to bed wearing lighter clothing and consider less blankets.

Noise is yet another thing that can have a detrimental impact on the quality of your sleep. To minimize the amount of noise in your room, make sure there’s nothing in the bedroom that could potentially make noises while you sleep. If it’s noisy outside your bedroom, try sleeping with a fan running (my entire family travels with box fans!) or even earplugs.

Avoid Caffeine After 3pm

As you probably know, coffee is a rich source of caffeine. These chemicals change the brain’s chemistry by binding with sleeping inducing receptors known as adenosine in order to keep you awake. The stimulating effects of caffeine can wreak havoc on your sleep because they take hours to wear off. Therefore, if you are an avid coffee drinker, (or other forms of caffeine) consider stopping consumption at 3pm. If that doesn’t help, consider stopping it even earlier.

Get Comfortable Before You Sleep

There are many ways to get comfortable before going to bed and these can improve the quality of your sleep. For instance, taking a hot shower raises your core body temperature and this helps to improve sleep. Alternatively, having a hot bath can relax your muscles and help you to have a soothing night of sleep.

Try Essential Oils or Scent Therapy

Essential oils and natural scents such as cedar wood, roman chamomile, sandalwood, valerian or lavender are all-natural relaxants and can help you have an amazing night’s sleep. There are lots of ways you can use these scents to enhance your sleep quality. If you’re having a bath before bed, try putting a few drops of your favorite sleep inducing scents into the bath and then allow the aromas to work their magic. Using these scents in the bedroom can also help calm the body and bring about sleep.

Unwind Before Bed

One final way to maximize your sleep quality is to start unwinding and getting ready for bed a few hours before you sleep. Disconnecting from the Internet, switching off the TV and your other electronic devices, and spending the last few hours of the day doing a relaxing activity can change your quality of sleep. For the last 30 minutes of the day, try to stop everything, empty your mind and focus fully on getting ready for sleep. In my personal life, I discovered that 15 minutes of restorative yoga, followed by a calming period of meditative breathing was my ticket to more sound, and deeper sleep.

Sleep is just one of the pillars of great health, and it’s in balancing all of the pillars that leads to ultimate wellness. If you are interested in finding the balance in your life, and becoming the healthiest and happiest you can be, let’s connect and chat! I’d love to hear from you and get you started on your own personal wellness journey.

 Be Blessed and BeeWell

The Healing Powers of Yoga

Hello readers! This week I want to share about something that is very dear to me-yoga! I’m super excited and happy to announce that after years of practicing yoga, I recently enrolled in a program to become a certified yoga teacher! I’m looking forward to sharing more information about yoga with you in the near future!

There are many different forms of yoga, each of which has many of the same health benefits, but each style also has some unique qualities. There is hatha yoga, hot yoga, restorative yoga, and so many others. In this blog post, I want to share about restorative yoga. Restorative yoga is so AMAZING!

With restorative yoga, you are doing a practice that is much gentler on your body. It is intended to help heal your body and mind, promote wellness, and help you learn basic stretches that will open up your body and allow for healing. This form of yoga-like others, promotes deep breathing through the nose, which leads to a very calming, cleansing, almost meditative feeling that reduces stress and anxiety, and bring a focus and stillness to the mind.

Do You Need Restorative Yoga in Your Life?

Have you felt a little anxious? Perhaps you’re having a hard time falling or staying asleep? Maybe you wake in the morning feeling un-refreshed or cloudy headed? Maybe you have moments of anger building up during your day, or simply realize you need a sense of more calm and less drama in your life? Maybe you are a multi-tasker or someone that simply cannot turn those constant thoughts off long enough to find some peace? Perhaps you simply feel little aches and pains in your life from a lack of getting proper exercise, or perhaps, you’ve paused to check your phone a few to many times  while reading this post???? Yoga….it IS your friend!

Restorative Yoga for Stress Relief

Most forms of yoga can be amazing for stress relief, but restorative yoga has a few added benefits for this purpose.

First of all, restorative yoga is more of a slower and gentler form of yoga. Instead of moving swiftly from one pose to the next, each pose in restorative yoga is going to be held for considerably longer, with deeper and very measured breathing. This is great for building up your strength and flexibility, but also gives you time to adjust and stretch through each pose. You are given more time to breathe during the pose and relax your muscles fully-you will find that with each breath, you are able to relax deeper and more completely into your poses.

You will notice that in a restorative yoga class, the entire environment is much more relaxing, which in of itself makes it better for people who are doing yoga specifically to help relieve stress. Often, whether done in class or online, there is meditative sounds or music to bring you even further into your relaxation for both mind and body.

Why Props Are Used in Restorative Yoga

Another big difference between restorative yoga and other forms of the practice is that props are used frequently. This is a mellow yoga class that is meant to relax you, so props are often used to help support your body. This allows you to hold the poses in the proper position, and for longer periods of time. Keep in mind-It is this length of time for each pose that really makes it “restorative” and healing for both your body and mind.

If you take a yoga class, they might tell you what items to bring, though most classes also provide them for their students. However, if you are doing it at home, get props like yoga blocks and bolsters if you can. Otherwise, rolled-up towels or small blankets also work great. These props make it easier for you to reach and hold each pose even if you have little flexibility or balance, therefore taking much f the body challenge out of the yoga equation.

The Best Stress-Relieving Yoga Positions

While many yoga poses used in restorative yoga are great for stress relief, there are some that are better to start with. If you are dealing with stress and overwhelm, try some of these beginner-friendly poses:

Child’s Pose

It is always good to start with a yoga pose that is very simple and easy to get your stretch in, such as the child’s pose. If you do other workouts, like strength training or Pilates, you might be familiar with child’s pose as it is a common post-workout stretch.

The child’s pose is done starting on your knees, with the top of your feet and shins flat on the ground. Leave your knees about shoulder-width apart, then start bending your body forward until your head and shoulders between your knees. Bend forward as far as you can with your arms stretched out in front of you. You want a good stretch, but not so much that it causes discomfort or pain.

Child’s pose helps calm the breath, eases lower back pain, stretches the hips and thighs, and increases circulation throughout the body.

Supported Bridge Pose

Lie on your back with your knees bent, and feet just far away from your bottom that you can touch them with your fingertips. Place a folded blanket or pillow under your lower back if support is needed. In this pose, you will gently rise from the hips, through the thighs, into a “bridge, with the upper back and shoulder still on the ground. Keep your arms relaxed and by your sides, or place them over your belly or heart. Hold this pose while breathing slowly through the nose. Bridge pose strengthens the back and glutes, while opening the chest and hip flexors. It brings calmness to the body, alleviates stress, improves digestion, and can even help with depression.

Legs up the Wall

 You can try the legs up the wall yoga pose, another classic pose that is great for beginners. All you need to do is find a wall in your home or the yoga studio that you will be able to lean your body against. You will lie with your back and buttocks on the ground, with your legs straight up in front of you, on the wall. An easy way to get into this position is put one hip on the wall, lay down flat, slowly swinging your legs around to go up the wall. Using a folded blanket under your hips will reduce any pressure from the lower back. Holding this position while using a steady breath will release tension throughout the entire body, reduce anxiety, and even lower the heart rate. This pose can also help with insomnia.

I use restorative yoga almost nightly in my personal routine. In recent weeks, during some especially stressful moments, I have pulled out my mat several times a day to spend a few moments doing simple poses and breathing deeply and slowly. The degree of calm I feel almost immediately has made me a huge believer in the practice. I hope you will take a few moments to try a pose or two each day and see how it can bring a calming, positive affect to your daily life. As always, if you’re interested in exploring new mindsets and pathways for your health and wellness journey, please reach out to me! I’d love to help set up, support, and motivate you in a program designed just for you.

Let’s Drop a Little Stress

If you are on a mission to reduce your stress levels (and hey, who isn’t these days) it doesn’t require you changing your entire life.  As a health and wellness coach, the biggest issue I currently see with my clients is stress. While someone may contact me looking to drop weight, get control of their meal planning, or gain control of their hormones, conversation ultimately turns to how the stress in their daily lives is the key factor behind all of these needs. Meals are not prepped or planned because of work and family schedules, balanced nutrition is easily ignored for quick take out, and weight, exercise and health ends up taking a hit because of it. It all seems to start with stress!

 I’m a big believer in creating small steps that lead to a progression of steady achievable successes that ultimately bring my clients to reaching big goals, so, I’ve spent some time coming up with some small changes you can take each day that lead up to a reduction in stress, worry, and anxiety.  My hope is that you find that by including some of these steps into your daily life, you’ll experience many other benefits like thinking in a more positive manner or becoming a more mindful and peaceful person going forward.

A Little Guided Imagery

One of my favorite ways to manage stress is by using a really simple meditation technique called guided imagery. This is simple to do and gets you used to meditation without having to put too much pressure on yourself. Plus, it is a wonderful way to be more optimistic and visualize your hopes and dreams. This technique is really helpful when you find yourself feeling very overwhelmed with the amount of stress you are dealing with, and the many things that are causing it. It helps us gain our breathe, calm our anxiety, and clear our heads so that we can approach our stressors with a more objective and positive view.

To use guided imagery, simply close your eyes, find your breath with slow, deep, intentional inhales and exhales, and imagine a scenario that puts you into a peaceful, calming environment. You might be at your favorite beach, laying in the sand under a palm tree, or walking through a thick forest enjoying the peaceful surroundings, or simply sitting in your home garden smelling the flowers. Take your imagination to that place, as clear and detailed as possible, and let yourself relax and release in the calm of your imagination.

The great thing about guided imagery is that it is easy to do, only takes a few minutes a day, and it can be done anywhere, in almost every situation (not while driving, of course!).

Have Healthy Daily Habits

Another daily change you can make to reduce your stress is to better develop your healthy habits. For many, current, negative, habits could be making stress worse, while for other’s, tweaking just a few habits could make a huge difference in stress levels. Start thinking about your physical health and emotional health as one whole health, and find healthy daily habits that are sustainable for you. You will notice that the result is a lower amount of stress.

Some healthy daily habits to consider are:

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. What you put into your body makes a big difference in how you feel, not just physically, but mentally as well. You can nourish your body and mind by eating a healthy diet. Focus on eating whole foods that include lean proteins like chicken and fish, healthy fats like avocado and coconut oil, fresh greens like kale and broccoli, fresh or frozen veggies like carrots and green beans, and an entire array of fruits. Be sure to drink lots of water, and watch your intake of sugar.

Getting regular exercise. Exercise is wonderful for relieving stress, and is a healthy habit everyone should make a daily habit. It doesn’t have to be hitting the gym or spending hours working out. Walking every day, going on a hike, yoga, riding a bike, or dancing in your living room all count as daily exercise.

Avoiding unhealthy habits. There are also some unhealthy habits that might be making your stress worse. For example, if you drink large amounts of alcohol or participate in recreational drugs, you may experience a sense of relief from your stress in the short-term, but in the long-term, will actually be making it much worse. Excessive amounts of caffeine can also make your stress worse.

Making sleep a priority. Everyone needs sleep, so don’t feel like getting little sleep is doing you any good. You need high quality sleep, no matter how busy your schedule is. Don’t make light of only needing to sleep a couple hours a day, because this is NOT normal OR healthy for you. Make sure you set your sleeping area up for success by lowering the temperature, having comfortable bedding, and removing blue lights and electronics. Trying to set a regular schedule of bedtime and waking time that works for you, but allows you sufficient time for rest.

Getting rest every day. Just like sleep, you also need rest every day. If you have a busy schedule, then make an appointment for rest and self-care if you have to. This is a priority to reducing stress! If you are a super busy personality type, start small, and add to this down time as you get more comfortable with resting.

Focusing on mindfulness. Mindfulness is regularly recommended for stress because it helps you live in the moment, and have a better understanding of your thoughts and worries. Practicing mindfulness every day, such as during your self-care routine, is a healthy habit you can start doing now. Be mindful of your daily routines, taste your food, admire your surroundings, enjoy the people you are with, and recognize the moments as they exist.

Use a Stress Journal

Stress and worry journals are amazing for reducing your stress. Keeping track of your moods, emotions, and stressors can provide many benefits for you, including monitoring your stress peaks, understanding more about what is causing your stress, and keeping track of any stress-relief methods you may try, and how they work out for you. Because stress can create many issues in our lives such as headaches, digestive issues, increased anxiety, problems sleeping, and work productivity issues. Tracking all of these things along with the methods you use to reduce stress can help you see patterns in what does and doesn’t work for you, or what you may need to work on.

Avoid Unnecessary Stress

Take an honest look at the sources of stress that are completely unnecessary and optional, even when it doesn’t feel that way. If you are already dealing with a lot of stress in your life, the last thing you need to do is encourage more of it.

To avoid unnecessary stress, start by learning how to say “no” to people. This is a BIG one, and a completely and freeing move-be bold, make “no” a complete sentence, and just do it! Make priorities based on your needs and abilities, and manage your time to balance the stress in your life. You will thank yourself!

You may also want to look at your current sources of known stress and make a list of things that you can do to relieve it. Delegating responsibilities, outsourcing to others, or just asking for assistance can reduce a lot of stress from many of the big activities in our lives.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to evaluate how stress may be affecting your life, and use some of these ideas to reduce it, remove it, and move beyond it. As always, if you are looking for personal guidance in your health journey, including dealing with stress and exploring mindfulness, contact me and let’s talk about starting your journey. Find peace and health:)

from my business site BeeWell.com