Tag Archives: energy

National Depression Education & Awareness Month

National Depression Education & Awareness Month

It’s National Depression Education & Awareness Month, and depression affects over 19 million people in the U.S.

There are several types of depression, but the most common one is major depression. Symptoms of major depression stop you from enjoying your daily life for at least 2 weeks straight.

Major Depression

 

Postpartum depression affects mothers after giving birth and can make it difficult to bond with or even care for their new babies.

Postpartum Depression

 

Seasonal affective disorder is a common kind of depression where your mood is affected by the changes in the seasons, and the colder months of the year drain you of energy.

Fighting SAD

 

Depression can be caused by genetics, trauma, stress, brain structure, brain chemistry, substance abuse, and even other conditions like sleep issues, ADHD, and chronic pain.

Reasons for Depression

 

While symptoms can vary, adults suffering from depression usually feel overwhelmed with sadness. Children and teens are more likely to be irritable. Women also tend to note anxiety, while men report aggression.

The Differences in Depression Symptom

 

80 to 90% of those who seek depression treatment will get the help they need. Antidepressants are a powerful treatment, and there are more treatment options than ever, from therapy to meditation and yoga.

How Treatment Can Help Depression

 

Depression is tied to a higher risk of suicidal behavior. If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, it’s important to talk to a doctor.

If you need to talk to someone immediately, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Getting Help for Suicidal Thoughts

Kids and Energy to Burn

Long View: Energy to Burn

I tried to talk my parents into buying me a paddle boat when I was 11. Oh yes, I did.

We used to spend the summer on a little island at the south end of Mobile Bay in Alabama. The first thing my younger brother and I wanted to do when we got there was to go to the concession stand and rent paddle boats. For those of you who are not familiar, they are kind of like riding a bike but on the water, seriously.

The rental was kind of expensive as I remember, but the folks let us ride as many times as we wanted. My idea of buying one to save on the rental just didn’t float with Mom and Dad.

The following year, we discovered the paddle boat concession had been wiped out by a hurricane. We were inconsolable until our Dad presented us with 4 new Frisbees. We got the neighbor kids out on the beach and played for what seemed like hours. When the inevitable boredom set in, we often walked to historic Fort Gaines on the far eastern end of the island. There were lots of walls to climb and ramparts to scramble up. It was like a huge jungle gym. The fort had real cannons too.  Signs discouraged people from climbing on them, but we did it just the same.

After supper, the family often walked to the western end of the island, which was quite a jaunt for our little legs, especially in the sand. By the time we got back to the house, we were ready for a well-deserved night’s sleep.

It took me a while to realize that my parents were geniuses. They knew how to engage their 2 somewhat hyperactive boys and make sure we burned off enough energy to settle down in the evening. Sometimes we volunteered to go to bed early, which gave the folks a much-deserved rest.

When I talk to people who are older and wiser than me, I keep in mind they probably have insights and wisdom far beyond my own. Giving an older friend or family member a chance to share their insights is our chance to learn from someone else’s experience.  My parents might not have been geniuses, but they were most certainly practical and insightful when it came to raising kids.

I recently checked out the cost of a paddle boat, with an awning of course. It was affordable. However, I realized what a wildly impractical purchase it would be, so I bought a Frisbee instead. Lesson learned.

Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. He is known for his inability to parallel park, and if you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, (and he paints!)

How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

5 Tips to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Traveling is amazing! What’s not to love about discovering new places, meeting new people and trying new foods? But, traveling also means that your fitness, eating, and sleep habits are disrupted, which can affect your overall health. Assist America, our travel emergency assistance partner has tips for helping you stay healthy while traveling. 

  1. Adopt a Go-To Travel Exercise Routine.

To-Go Travel Routine

If you travel regularly, create an exercise routine that can easily be adapted to your environment and that you can commit to when you’re on-the-go. Your routine should be simple and short, with exercises you can do in a hotel room, a gym, a park, or even on a beach.

If you are a runner, make sure to pack your running gear with you. Running is a great way to discover a destination from a different angle.

If working out isn’t your thing, simply set aside 10 minutes in the morning to stretch before you start your day and another 5 minutes at night to wind down. It will help you relax and energize your body. 

  1. Choose Walking Over Cabs or Public Transportation.

Choose Walking

Whenever you can, choose to walk rather than hop in a cab, bus, or subway since walking is beneficial for your health. It helps improve circulation, sleep, and breathing. It also strengthens muscles, supports your joints, and can lead to weight loss. 

  1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Reusable water bottles are your best travel ally. Once you get through airport security check points, fill up your bottle at a nearby water fountain and make sure you keep drinking water on the plane.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, fill up before you leave your hotel room if it’s safe to drink the tap water at your destination. If it’s not, ask the hotel for unopened water bottles or buy some at a store nearby. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water at restaurants or even hanging out by the pool.

  1. Commit to One Healthy Meal a Day

One Healthy Meal a Day

While there’s nothing wrong with trying new foods and enjoying big meals, having several rich meals per day can be hard on your body.

If you’re staying at a rental or an apartment-hotel, take advantage of the kitchen by cooking simple meals depending on your schedule. If you’re going to be eating out a lot, opt for vegetarian dishes, choose grilled options over fried, try some fresh seafood, and look at the salad menu. 

  1. Sleep! 

Get Enough Sleep While Traveling

Changing time zones, walking all day, carrying suitcases, all of these can be harsh on your body and your energy. Just being away from your own bed can make it hard to fall asleep. Make sure to rest and to get plenty of sleep by blocking out the lights, reducing the noise, and turning your phone off.

 

If you incorporate these tips into your travel routine, we guarantee you will feel refreshed and full of energy to enjoy each of your trips to their fullest!

Shop Smart by Reading Labels

Breaking Down Food Labels

While you’re shopping, understanding the nutrition labels on food can help you make smart choices for your family. We can help you make the most of them.

New Food Label for a New Era

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a new Nutrition Facts label with some important improvements:

What's Different?
Image via the FDA

When you see them side by side, you can see that the new label calls out the actual serving size and calories per serving much bigger. At the store, this can quickly help you see how good for you something is in terms of calories, and how much bang for your buck you’re getting in what you buy.

New vs Old Label
Image via the FDA

It also calls out added sugars, which are sugars (like sugar, honey, or corn syrup) that are added to packaged food. Fresh fruit has natural sugars, so juices don’t list the sugar that’s naturally occurring from the fruit as added sugar.

And now it calls out the exact amount of nutrients, like vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

The FDA’s new labels have also changed serving sizes to better show how much people actually eat of certain foods:

New Serving Sizes
Image via the FDA

While a half a cup of ice cream used to be the recommended serving size, most people are scooping out closer to a cup, so the FDA wanted to make sure you know how many calories you’re actually eating in that bowl of ice cream.

Making the Most of Food Labels

1. Serving Size

Serving SizeWhen you pick something up at the store, start with the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label.

It will tell you the total number of servings in the package, and the new serving size, which better shows how much of it you actually eat.

These serving sizes are standard, so it’s easier for you to compare the calories and nutrients in similar foods to find the healthiest brand for you. Serving sizes also come in measurements you know, like cups, followed by grams.

2. Calories

CaloriesNext, look at the number of calories per serving. Calories are a measure of how much energy you’ll get from food.

Many people eat more calories than they need to, so keeping track of how many you eat can help you with your weight. Most people should eat around 2,000 calories per day.

When you’re looking at the calories, if you’re eating around 2,000 calories a day, then 40 calories is low for a serving, 100 calories is in the middle, and 400 or more calories is high. In fact, you should shoot for whole meals to be around 400 calories.

3. Nutrients to Limit

The nutrients listed first are Nutrients to Limitones that most Americans get plenty or too much of.

Eating too much fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, or sugar can raise your risk of certain diseases, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

The bold headlines are most helpful for you when you’re shopping, so you can quickly see how much of these is in something, while the subheads, like saturated and trans fat, can help you focus on a nutrient you’re interested in.

The percentages along the side tell you how much of your 2,000 calorie diet this food takes up. So in this image, the total fat in this food takes up 10% of all the fat you should eat in a whole day.

Dietary fiber and protein that are mixed into this list are good for you and important to keep an eye on. Fiber can help you better process food and reduce the risk of heart disease, and protein can help you stay full longer and is important if you’re trying to build muscle.

4. Nutrients You Need

Important NutrientsThe bottom section of nutrients are ones that many don’t get enough of, so they’ve been highlighted to help you buy foods rich in them.

These are nutrients that can help you improve your health and help lower the risk of some diseases. For example, calcium and vitamin D can help you build strong bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis later in life, and potassium can help lower your blood pressure.

5. Footnote

Label FootnoteThe footnote is more simple in the new design, too. It just reminds you that the percentages are based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.

Now that you know what the different sections of the Nutrition Facts label are telling you, it will be easy to look for food with good calorie counts, limited salt, fat, and sugar, and plenty of healthy nutrients, like calcium.

Up Next:

Why shop organic? Our Organic 101 guide makes it easy!

Make sense of expiration dates while you’re shopping to make the most of your groceries.

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Fighting for Fitness with Exercise

My Healthy Journey: Time to Sweat

I’ve changed my diet, organized my life, and made healthier choices, so the last and biggest thing on the list is exercise.

I don’t like to exercise, as I think a lot of us don’t. I’m competitive, so I liked playing sports as a kid, but as an adult, exercising by myself is boring and hard work. If I had a gym membership and could read on a treadmill, it might be different. But as it is, it’s hard to make myself do it.

But if I can (for the most part) give up candy, completely abandon soda, and stop drinking coffee for a month, I can handle anything!

I started by doing a muscle-strengthening yoga routine every day, which was a great way to start for me. It wasn’t too intense, it was calming, and it really helped me regain some flexibility and balance I’d lost over the years.

Now, I’ve been doing P90X. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it used to have infomercials on TV, which automatically makes me suspicious. But I actually know a number of people who have done it, and my goal is less to get a killer six-pack and more to get in better shape, so I don’t really need it to live up to all its TV promises.

I borrowed the DVDs from a friend, so I didn’t spend all of the money they’re talking about. I’m also not following all of their meal plans or the exact exercise plan. Each day you’re supposed to do a different workout for a different part of your body, and they’re each about an hour and a half long with warmups and cool downs.

I usually can’t make it through the whole thing yet; they’re really difficult! I also do them more like every other day because I’m so sore the day after. They make you pour sweat, and they make you want to lie on the ground in your own sweat puddle to catch your breath.

But I can already see some improvements! And that’s really satisfying. Am I out running yet? No (it’s been so rainy!). But I am getting cardio and strengthening done, in my own bedroom no less.

Plus, I’ve found some new interests by doing them. For instance, there’s a kickboxing workout that I love, so maybe in the future, I might try kickboxing classes!

Do I think I’ll stick with this level of workout forever? Definitely no! Eventually, I’d like to mix things like this up with other activities, like yoga, runs, and more simple workouts. Once it’s a habit, it will really be more about doing something every day.

It’s all about finding the things that will keep you interested, engaged, and MOVING.

There are so many reasons (and studies on) why you should  exercise. Mayo Clinic breaks it down perfectly: Exercise controls weight, fights health conditions and diseases, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you sleep.

And Rally, our wellness tool, knows how important it is, too. It has tons of great missions to get you moving, like exercise 30 minutes every day, work up a sweat 3x a week, swim 30 minutes, and work your core, as well as weightlifting and walking missions.

So to help you get on a great fitness track that will entertain you and doesn’t require an expensive package, I’ve rounded up some activities for you to try for some of these missions.

Exercise 30 Minutes Every Day

43 Workouts That Allow You to Watch An Ungodly Amount of Television
100 No-Equipment Workouts

Work Up a Sweat 3x a Week

PopSugar Workout Music
Top 100 Running Songs

Run 30 Minutes

7 Easy Ways to Become a Runner
Beginner’s Running Guide
3 Methods to Run Faster

Swim 30 Minutes

The Ultimate Pool Workout
6 Tips to Improve Your Swimming Right Now
Make A Splash Infographic

Swimming's Benefits Infographic
Image via MyMedicalForum

Work Your Core

10-Minute Core-Blasting Pilates Workout

Quick Workout for a Powerful Core
Image via Buzzfeed’s 9 Quick Total Body Workouts

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Fresh Fiddlehead Ferns at Your Farmers Market

Making the Most of a Farmers Market

There are lots of reasons to get out to your local farmers market, but going to a farmers market for the first time is very different than going to the supermarket. We can help make sure it goes smoothly with these tips from a farmers market veteran:

1. Prepare.

  • Illinois has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Check it out on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site for details and participating counties and markets .
  • Many vendors only take cash (and some take SNAP and WIC benefits). Some booths only take small bills, 20s and smaller.
  • Many vendors don’t offer bags, so it’s a good idea to bring a few cloth ones you can use.
  • Most markets don’t allow dogs, so leave them at home.
  • Have an idea of what is in stock at that time of year, so you know what to expect. Use this map to find out what’s in season where you live.

2. Check the info booth first. If your market has an info booth, check there before you start shopping. The people working can let you know if there are any special things going on that day, like cooking demos.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

3. Go early or go late. If you go early, you will have first pick of the freshest and largest selection. If you go late, some farmers will offer discounts to clear out their stock before heading home.

4. Take a lap. Unless you know your market really well, don’t just buy the first things you see. By walking a lap through the market first, you can get the lay of the land, compare prices and selection, and taste samples.

5. Talk to the farmers. The farmers can answer questions about how the food was grown and harvested, talk about why their produce is or is not organic, offer recipes, give info about something you’ve never tasted, or recommend their favorites.

6. Be mindful. It’s considered rude to squeeze stone fruits, like peaches, plums, or tomatoes, because it can bruise them. And it’s considered rude to open husks of corn before buying them, which can actually make them less sweet. Also, look for whole produce, meaning veggies like carrots and beets with their green tops still whole. These will stay fresh longer, and you can make things like pesto sauces with the greens.

7. Take a risk. Sometimes you find things that are new, different, or even strange at the farmer’s market. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new because the farmers can usually give you advice on how best to use it.

8. Bring a friend or the family. Grocery shopping, unlike the farmers market, can feel like a chore. Take people with you to talk and walk with outside, and the farmer’s market instantly becomes a more fun activity. And you can always save money and split certain produce.

9. Keep it simple. When you’re cooking your food at home, go for simple recipes. Because you bought such fresh produce, you should let it shine. Put fresh wild strawberries over a salad or in a breakfast parfait instead of baking them into a cake. If you’re worried you won’t be able to use all of something you bought you can always freeze it and use the rest later. Use this guide from the FDA to make sure you’re storing and washing produce correctly.

10. Find the right market. Many areas have more than one farmers market within driving distance. If you can, test them all. Large farmer’s markets have a lot of energy, selection, and sometimes even dining options, but smaller markets often have good deals. Find the one that works best for you.

Find farmer’s markets near you. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Up Next:

Do you really understand what you’re getting when you buy organic? We break it down in Organic 101.

And make sure you’re cleaning your fresh fruits and veggies the right way to keep your family safe.

Sleep for the Whole Family

Long View: Take Time to Rest Easy, Don’t Skip Sleep

I know we all think about ways to carve out more time in our busy lives, and I’m sure we’d all like to be more efficient. Sometimes I think getting by on less sleep is the way to go, but after looking into it, there are some problems with that solution.

There are lots of reasons you might not get enough sleep—illness, stress, family commitments, and job issues. Bad sleep habits, like irregular schedules and eating too much before bed, can lead to insomnia whether or not you’re actually trying to skip sleep. The causes of a bad night’s sleep seem endless, and so do the effects. But your primary care doctor can get you started on the right path to better sleep.

I can’t close my eyes to the fact that my sleep habits aren’t always the best, but I try to maintain a regular schedule. Typically, I read a few pages from a book with a serene topic before I drift off. For a while, I was concerned about afternoon drowsiness until I was able to tie the symptoms to carb loading at lunch. I also took a medicine that had vivid dreams as a possible side effect. My dreams are vivid enough as is. The medicine made them unbearable, so my doctor and I decided we would take another path.

My friend Karen Stefaniak is our wellness program administrator here at Health Alliance. She shared her knowledge on sleep.

“Recent studies are linking reduced sleep duration—five hours or less—to weight gain,” Stefaniak says. “Not getting enough sleep affects the two hormones that tell us when to eat and when to stop eating. People who are sleep-deprived produce more ghrelin, the hormone that tells us when to eat, and less leptin, the hormone that tells us when to stop. Plus, when we don’t get enough sleep, our metabolism slows down, and we tend to crave high-carbohydrate foods that provide a quick energy boost.”

So are we actually helping ourselves at all by sleeping less? Probably not. It lowers our waking quality of life and increases our risk for accidents, and it even makes us want to eat more. I think I need to consider a good night’s sleep a necessity rather than a luxury. You can rest easy knowing I will pay more attention to my sleep habits going forward.