What is Mind/Body Exercise?

 

 

It has been shown that breathing exercises used to help with relaxation can have beneficial effects on overall health (Hoge, Guidos, Mete, Bui, Pollack, Simon, & Dutton 2017) A guided relaxation exercise with a focus on the breath allows us to relax our body, reducing anxiety, tension, and stress. It has also been shown to decrease Post-traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms in military veterans (Seppala, Nitschke, Tudorascu, Hayes, Goldstein, Nguyen, Perlman, & Davidson 2014).

Breathing is a great way to relax and increase our awareness. Developing a “breathing awareness” will not only allow us to relax now, but it can also help us to stay calm and focused during stressful situations.

To get a full, deep breath, close your mouth, breathe slowly through your nose, and feel your diaphragm rise as you gradually fill your diaphragm and lungs with air. Hold for one second. Exhale through your nose slowly. Repeat.

Mind/Body exercises are also exercises that involve movements/poses while focusing energy on form and breath. Some examples of these mind/body exercises are yoga, Pilates, and gyrotonics. These types of mind/body exercises allow a focused mental energy on the body, its form and its function. Gyrotonics is a type of exercise that includes movements from other types of exercise such as yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi.

Allowing time in our schedule to learn breathing, relaxation, and other mind/body exercises such as yoga or pilates will foster a healthy relationship with our mental and physical self. This relationship can often help to promote a sense of  overall well-being. 

What are the Biggest Myths about Sleep?

We all know sleep is important. Sleep helps your body and brain rest and recover, keeps your mood under control, and prepares you for the day ahead. What we may not know is the truth behind some of the most common sleep myths out there. Knowing the difference between these myths and reality is crucial in order to get the good night’s rest you deserve.

It’s possible to catch up on missed sleep over the weekend.

This is a big one, especially in the busy chaotic world we live in. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night on average. Skipping an hour or two a night may not seem like much, but that missed sleep adds up to something called “sleep debt”. If you miss one hour of sleep each night in a week, that adds up to five hours’ debt by Friday night. Sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings may seem like a good way to pay it off, but those extra hours throw off your snooze schedule even further. By the time Sunday night rolls around again, you’ll find it harder to fall asleep than the week before!

Plus, the interest on this debt is killer. Your sleep shortage during the week slows your reaction time, making driving much more dangerous. In fact, sleep shortage is to blame for roughly 100,000 traffic accidents, 76,000 injuries, and 1,500 deaths a year.

Any debt has to be repaid, and the best way to clear a sleep debt is slowly and steadily. Stick to a regular sleep/wake schedule (yes, even on weekends), try going to bed even just 15 minutes earlier each night, and, if possible, a daytime nap may help you pay off that debt. But, as with any debt, the best way to deal with it is to avoid adding to it at all.

Daytime naps are good for your sleep schedule.

A daytime nap may be good for helping catch up on lost sleep or ditching drowsiness before driving long distances, but there is such a thing as “too much”. Long naps in the middle of the day disrupt your body’s usual sleep/wake rhythm. This can make it even harder to fall asleep at night, which can add to your sleep debt. Try limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes, and make sure to leave at least four hours between your nap and bedtime.

Exercising in the evening helps you sleep better.

While exercise does help you sleep better, exercising too close to bedtime can keep you wired when it’s time to turn in. To make sure you’re settled down by bedtime, it’s best to work out in the morning or afternoon. Morning workouts have been linked to longer, deeper sleep and more time spent in reparative stages of sleep. If morning workouts aren’t your thing, take advantage of the slight increase in your body temperature throughout the day to help your muscles work more efficiently during an afternoon workout. Aerobic afternoon workouts in particular can help you fall asleep quicker and stay asleep through the night. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, be sure to leave four to six hours between your workout and your pillow.

Watching TV and/or using your laptop in bed helps you relax.

Although it might be relaxing to chill out with a TV show or your favorite internet site, screen time can interfere with signals that tell your brain to prepare for sleep. Exciting (or stressful) content may hype you up, and the “blue light” emitted from your screens mimics daytime sunlight – tricking your brain into thinking it’s time to be awake. Doing these activities in bed can further confuse your brain into thinking that your bed is a place to stay awake rather than fall asleep. Try to keep the laptop and TV out of the bedroom and turned off in the 30-60 minutes before bedtime (we know it can be hard!). Instead, fill that time with a relaxing bedtime routine to help your brain power down too.

If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to lie in bed, count sheep, or toss and turn until you eventually fall back asleep.

Insomnia is not just having trouble falling asleep; it can also be waking up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep. Some research suggests that the classic counting sheep may actually be more distracting than relaxing. Other relaxing imagery or thoughts may help, but if you can’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, it’s best not to stress yourself out by watching the clock or tossing and turning. Instead, try getting out of bed and doing a relaxing activity in another room (such as listening to music or reading). When you feel sleepy, go back to bed and try to catch those elusive Zzz’s again.

Bottom Line

Sleep is important in maintaining many aspects of our health, but there are many myths that can spread confusing information on the best sleep practices. By making sure we stick to the truths about sleep habits, we can be sure that we’re getting the best rest possible for our bodies.

Daylight Saving Time 2017

 

 

It seems like Daylight Saving Time sneaks up on us every year, leaving us confused and having trouble adjusting our schedules. Thanks to modern technology, most of our clocks automatically adjust with the time change, somewhat preventing the days of missing that next Monday morning meeting. Daylight Saving occurs this year on Sunday, March 12th, when all clocks will roll forward one hour.

So why do we have trouble adjusting to an hour time change? Well, it has a lot to do with our circadian rhythm, which is our internal clocks that manage our sleep and wake cycles. When we change the time, we essentially put our circadian rhythm out of sync.  Luckily, our circadian rhythm can be adjusted through our environment. Here are a few things we can do to make this adjustment easier.

Gradual Shifts

If you are someone who has a lot of trouble adjusting to time changes, you may want to prepare my slowly changing your habits 10-15 minutes at a time the week before. If you go to bed and wake up a little earlier each day, your body will slowly adjust. It is important though to keep relatively the same schedule to adapt the time change. Be consistent with the times you eat, exercise, and socialize. You may be tempted to sleep in later or take a long nap during the day to catch up on that hour, but these strategies often backfire causing you more difficulty falling asleep at night further disrupting your internal clock.

Exercise

If you already exercise, keep up the routine! If not, exercise could help your body adjust to the time change. When we exercise, our bodies release serotonin, a chemical in the brain that stabilizes our mood, helps digestion, and stimulates the parts of our brain controlling our sleep and wake cycles. Exercise will also help to induce fatigue to allow your body to relax and sleep sooner. However, be careful about exercising too late in the day as it could interfere with the quality of your sleep.

Nighttime Ritual

There are a few things we can remember to do that will help us to fall asleep at a decent time.

  1. Avoid caffeine after midday – Caffeine is a stimulant that could keep you awake at night. Many people feel restless at night when they are attempting to fall asleep if they consume caffeine in the afternoon. Know your body and how it is affected by caffeine to set a time after which caffeine is off limits for you.
  2. Don’t rely on alcohol – Alcohol consumption may initially make you feel drowsy, but it can interfere with your sleep cycle, causing less deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and more disrupted sleep. If you do consume alcohol, supplement it with water and try to stick to only one or two drinks.
  3. Allow food to digest before bed – Meal times may be affected by the time change, but don’t allow yourself to eat so late that your food doesn’t have time to digest before you lie down in bed. Letting food sit in your stomach can also interfere with your sleep quality by causing heartburn or acid reflux.
  4. Light Cues – Our circadian rhythm responds best to natural indicators of time, such as light and dark. To help with this, make sure you dim the lights in the evening when it’s time to wind down and open the blinds (or turn on lights) in the morning to encourage your body to wake. Exposure to light, especially natural sunlight, helps sync our natural circadian rhythm. Using bright lights at night or dark environments in the morning will make it more difficult for your body’s internal clock to adjust.

 

 

 

 

 

How to have a Healthier Mardi Gras

 

Image source: healthycookingblog.com

Mardi Gras season is known for its over-the-top indulgence. From king cakes to beignets and everything in between, the very words “Mardi Gras” translate to “Fat Tuesday”. All of this indulgent food makes it even more challenging to stick to a healthy diet. Luckily, it is possible to partake in the seasonal flavors while still maintaining a healthy diet. Below, we map out some helpful tips for navigating our way through Mardi Gras.

Moderation

Everything in moderation. There are no “good” foods or “bad” foods. Thinking that all Mardi Gras foods are “bad” will likely send you on the path to over-thinking it and eventually over-eating.  Instead, re-frame your way of thinking. There are healthy foods that you should aim to eat plenty of and unhealthy foods that you should try to avoid most of the time. When it comes to king cakes or beignets, allow yourself to enjoy one slice or piece, but try to fill up on healthy foods that consist mostly of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. By having a healthy eating plan and allowing yourself to enjoy a small portion of dessert, you will be more satisfied and less likely to over-eat.

Choose your beverage wisely

Alcoholic drinks tend to be higher in calories and essentially offer no nutritional value. Some of the highest calorie alcoholic beverages are favorites during Mardi Gras. On average, one 32-ounce daiquiri has 1,800-2,000 calories (mostly from sugar). One (tiny) 9.5-ounce hurricane has upwards of 300 calories!

For a lower calorie option, stick with beer! One bottle of Abita Mardi Gras Bock has only 187 calories. OR if cocktails are your thing, stick to lighter options that combine only fresh juices with a spirit (e.g. a Skinny Margarita). Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks is a great way to stay hydrated and to reduce the amount of extra calories you consume.

Tradition with a healthy twist

One way to experience the seasonal flavorings without all the added calories, fat, and sugar, is to make healthier versions of your favorite Mardi Gras dishes. Try this homemade king cake recipe. Using ingredients like reduced-fat crescent rolls and reduced-fat cream cheese help to reduce the total fat and calorie content. For dirty rice fans, try substituting cauliflower rice for white rice. Using cauliflower “rice” instead of white rice helps to reduce the number of carbohydrates and calories, while also adding protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals (e.g. vitamin C, vitamin-B-6, and magnesium).

Share it!

If you know that no substitute or healthy version will satisfy your craving for that one king cake from your favorite bakery, then go ahead and buy the king cake…and take it to work! By sharing your king cake with others, you will still be able to enjoy it, but without the temptation of having to eat the whole thing by yourself.

Another way to cut back on excess calories is to share your favorite dish as an appetizer when you go out to eat. Or, you can order your favorite Mardi Gras entrée for lunch and box half of it up right away. Presto! Now you don’t have to cook anything for dinner AND you just found a way to enjoy your favorite Mardi Gras dish while also cutting the calories in half.

Burn it off!

One of the best things about Mardi Gras is the parades! Walking to and from the parades is a great way to burn calories. One hour of moderate intensity walking burns about 200 calories. If you include moderate intensity dancing (and you KNOW there will be dancing because… Mardi Gras), add another 300 calories burned per hour.

The best way to enjoy Mardi Gras season is to have a healthy eating plan as outlined above, stay active, and have fun! 

News Roundup: Panic Attacks

Recently a very popular television show, “This Is Us” aired an episode showing a character on the show having a panic attack. The internet was quick to respond, with many people stating that they appreciated the realistic depiction of what it is like to have a panic attack.

This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to panic attacks, how to tell if you are having a panic attack, and how to help someone having a panic attack. 

This Is Us’ touches on the issue of panic attacks in recent episode.  TODAY. “About 6 million adults in the U.S. experience panic disorder in a given year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. On the show — don't worry, we won't spoil anything major — Randall, played by actor Sterling K. Brown, experiences a panic attack, also sometimes called an anxiety attack.”

How to tell if you are having a panic attack. US NEWS.Anyone can experience a panic attack, anxiety specialists say, although people who suffer from these sometimes don’t recognize the source of their discomfort. Panic attacks are easily explainable – and with the guidance of a physician or therapist, they’re also treatable.

How to help someone who is having a panic attack. NEW HEALTH ADVISOR.  “Anyone who has experienced a family member or friend with a panic disorder knows first-hand how disrupting and frightening the episode can be. Knowing how anxiety impacts their life, you want to be supportive, so here are some suggestions on how to help someone having a panic attack.”