Tag Archives: Huffington Post

Organzing Against Stress

Chasing Health: Finding Out You’re Far from Perfect

Having gone through grad school while working in a Division I college athletics department, I thought I was a pro at dealing with stress.

Oh, you need game recaps, live scoring, social media coverage, and postgame interviews for four sporting events tonight? Cool, I’m on it. I’ll pencil in my critical analysis paper for my 20-page reading assignment for about 4 o’clock tomorrow morning, right after I finish my 5-page response to my other 20-page reading assignment.

That was once pretty much my life. And with a little Mountain Dew here and there (and more than a few post-midnight candy binges), I made it work and even enjoyed it from time to time. I mean, I was doing my dream job. It just happened to be at an extremely busy and stressful point in my life.

To understand how I deal with stress, you have to know a little bit about how I deal with anything. I’m not exactly laid back, and I’ve probably never done anything casually or halfway in my entire life. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. You know, go big or go home.

Growing up, I never wanted to be any teacher’s second-favorite. I was the annoying teacher’s pet, cares-way-too-much-about-everything type. Any error on any assignment bothered me way longer than it should have, and a minus sign at the end of a letter grade on a report card caused physical pain.

I participated in nearly every high school extracurricular activity, from cheerleading and dance to the ecology team and Student Council. (I stayed away from competitive sports, though. Per my all-or-nothing attitude, if I wasn’t good at something, “go big or go home” meant go home.)

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I think too much, worry too much, and let other people’s opinions get to me. Looking back now and knowing how I still am, I realize I don’t actually deal well with stress at all. And that busy grad-school schedule I stuck to wasn’t actually impressive. It was just busy and lacked the portion of life that’s meant for sleeping.

Although perfectionism sometimes leads to positive results, like good report cards, accuracy at work, and being everyone’s favorite group project member, it’s not as pleasant as it sounds. Nobody is perfect, so no matter what, perfectionists fall short of their own impossible expectations. Believe me. It happens to me nearly every day.

I can turn something that’s supposed to be fun and innocent, like baking sugar cookies, creating a Halloween costume, or choosing a new series to watch on Netflix, into a needlessly dramatic situation.

I’m a great example of how NOT to handle stress. Here are a few tips I’ve learned (but don’t always use) along the way.

  • Don’t stay up all night for work. I was a champ at pulling all-nighters during my college years, but now, not so much. And even if you can do it, it’s not exactly good for you.
  • Don’t load up on caffeine (especially if caffeinated drinks are normally not your thing). A few nights of extreme restlessness and extra anxiety were enough for me to stop my caffeine-bingeing in its tracks.
  • Don’t skip lunch to later eat your weight in candy corn. This is always a bad idea. Don’t skip lunch for any reason (unless you’re too sick to eat or something), and never eat your weight in anything.
  • Don’t cut back on exercise. Working out is not only good for your physical health but also your mental health, especially when dealing with stress.
  • Don’t focus on the possibility of failure, which in addition to strokes and snakes, is one of my biggest fears. Thinking too much about failure only slows down your success.
  • Don’t do it all alone. Some perfectionists, including me, are pretty good at keeping up their calm appearances on the outside. Don’t try to handle all your stress alone, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. (If you’re a perfectionist, asking for help is one of the hardest things to do.)

Perfectionism isn’t healthy. On top of the bad eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, it can come with loads of anxiety, and it’s probably not good for my blood pressure or migraine-prone head, either. My late nights fueled by soda are never my most productive nights anyway (although they led to some dramatic reflection papers in college).

Here are some ways I deal with stress that actually work for me.

  • Taking outdoor walks (I recommend literally stopping to smell the roses and glancing at the beautiful fall trees. I did both this week. That’s about as close as I get to living in the moment.)
  • Going to PiYo classes (a Pilates-yoga combo)
  • Dancing in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, parking lots, anywhere really (except during important meetings and such)
  • Cleaning my apartment (It helps me feel an instant sense of accomplishment.)
  • Visiting the holiday aisles of my favorite craft stores (If thinking about the holidays stresses you out even more, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Just go to your version of a happy place.)
  • Listening to my favorite jams (For me, this consists of a lot of ‘90s boyband stuff, Broadway hits, and Taylor Swift. Don’t judge.)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your hardest or take pride in your work. I’m just encouraging you to try to put everything into perspective, realize you can ask for help, and know that sometimes, things won’t be perfect.

Take this blog post for instance. In some not-so-surprising twist, I’ve toyed around with it off and on for nearly a week. I’m sure I could pull it apart more, but I think there is sometimes a point when good enough is good enough. (Thank goodness I’m usually on deadline.) And in the case of this perfectionist’s blog post, I think I’m there.

Try living in the moment (responsibly) rather than stressing out about everything. I’ve never really done it, but I’ve heard good things.

Fruit and Veggies More Matters Month

Fruit and Veggies More Matters Month

It’s Fruit and Veggies More Matters Month, so we helped you learn about eating more each day this week.

Do you know what a serving of fruit looks like? You might be surprised how much you get.

What a Serving of Fruit Looks Like
Image via Popsugar

 

Do you know the best ways to cook certain veggies? This can help you.

Cooking Vegetables A-F
Image via Berkeley University of California Wellness

 

Make sure you know how long your fresh fruits and veggies are good for.

Which Produce Should I Eat First?
Image via Huffington Post

 

This simple guide can help you figure out when your fruits and veggies are ripest.

A Guide to Produce Ripening
Image via Lunds and Byerlys

 

Mason jar salads are a popular and easy way to get your veggies in. Try these recipes.

Mason Jar Salads
Image via Buzzfeed

 

Have you heard of zoodles? Learn how you can make pasta out of veggies like zucchini.

Zucchini Pasta
Image and Recipe via Cook Eat Paleo

 

Use this handy chart to figure out when your favorite fruits and veggies are in-season. And learn more.

When Produce Is In-Season
Image via Chasing Delicious

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Protecting Your Baby with Vaccines

The Importance of Vaccines: Myths vs. Facts

A little boy in Germany has died, the first death in the current measles outbreak. While people take sides about vaccines in the news and politics, the medical world’s feelings are clear.

Vaccines, or immunizations, are a time-tested and scientifically proven way to prevent certain diseases to protect your kids and our society.

What are vaccines?

Vaccines, immunizations, or shots are kinds of drugs you can take to help your immune system. Inside your body, they act like the diseases they’re supposed to prevent and trick your body into producing the kinds of cells it needs to fight a certain disease. By doing this, vaccines teach your body how to beat real infections when they happen.

When enough people are vaccinated, 90 to 95% of the population, it is enough to protect everyone, which helps get rid of diseases altogether.

Inoculation, an early form of vaccines, has been saving lives since the year 1000 in China. And waves of diseases and struggles to find treatments and cures across history have shown that sometimes, vaccines are our first and best form of protection.

Get more history on vaccines and the diseases they fight with this project from The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, The History of Vaccines.  

How well do they work?

Some of the scariest and most painful diseases to ever exist have been nearly wiped out by vaccination. And smallpox, one of the deadliest diseases, has been completely wiped out around the world. By doing so, according to Unicef, we’ve saved approximately 5 million lives each year.

And other diseases, like polio, have been close to being wiped out, too.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a dozen of the most deadly sicknesses humans have ever seen have been nearly wiped out in the last 200 years since vaccines were made. This infographic from Leon Farrant, also shared in this ThinkProgress article on vaccines, shows their power:

ThinkProgress Vaccine Infographic

Still not convinced? The Wall Street Journal can visually show you the data piece by piece for some of the main diseases your doctor vaccinates you against.

If they work so well, why are we even talking about them?

Diseases that we hadn’t seen much in the last few years, like measles, are making a comeback.

Those diseases are coming back because parents aren’t vaccinating their kids as much as they used to. And once the population falls below that 90 to 95% vaccination rate, those diseases are able to come back. And even with modern medicine, you can still die from them.

So why are parents taking that risk? Because of an old medical study that has been discredited, says The New York Times.

In 1998, a doctor said that he had linked the measles, mumps, rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism in children.

Dozens of scientists and studies proved his work wrong, saying his research was bad since he’d only studied 12 kids, which is a tiny sample when doing scientific research. The British medical authorities even took away his medical license.

This is the only time a link has ever been made between vaccines and autism, and scientists and the medical field proved it wasn’t true. As this Guardian article talks about, later research studies have even made a lot of data disproving a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Yet the story stuck.

People also worry that vaccines are just being produced by a big company to make money, not to protect patients. But as this New York Times article points out, many doctors lose money by giving you vaccines, and historically, many makers of them have made very little money off them.

As Newsweek points out, some statistics have also been skewed in a negative way. The CDC keeps a database of adverse effects from vaccines, which it’s required to do by law. Since 2004, 69 people have died after getting a measles vaccine. However, not necessarily because of the vaccine. In some cases, their death was completely unrelated, but the reporting system just gives the cold, hard numbers, not the cause-and-effect relationship between patients’ deaths and the vaccine. Numbers like these are sometimes used to convince people that vaccines are dangerous.

But the fact is that vaccines save many lives around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the measles vaccine alone has saved 15.6 million lives between 2000 and 2016.

The government, your insurance companies, doctors, and pharmacies make vaccines affordable and easy to get for one reason and one reason only: to save lives.

Don’t risk your family or your community. Health Alliance covers immunizations for our members, and we can help you stay up-to-date.

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Tropical Island

My Healthy Journey: TV Bingeing

Instead of telling you all about how healthy I’m being (although I am cooking and eating better!), I have a confession.

I binge on TV shows. I love TV bingeing.

Actually, I binge on all types of media. I binge on social media (a hazard of the job really), movies, and especially television shows. And when winter hits, especially after getting all new bedding for Christmas like I did this year, all I want to do is curl up in my comfy bed with my dog and Netflix. And this year has been no exception.

I may have (definitely did) watched all 6 seasons of Lost in the last month, and 3 of those were in the last week. (Because I don’t have self-control!) Did I choose a show that encourages this with a million mysteries? Probably. Is it actually crazy that I did this? Yes!

I know I’m not the only one who does this, but I have to say that I feel awful now. Is this partly because I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending? Probably (sorry Lost lovers!). Is it because I stayed up ‘til 3 a.m. to finish it before work? Totally.

But it’s also because it has been emotionally draining! Investing that much thought for days and hours in a row, especially in characters experiencing some serious drama, has been exhausting. I’ve felt the stress of their lives on top of my shoulders for the last three weeks. I may or may not have spent an unhealthy amount of time crying about people that aren’t real for the last day. That’s completely crazy!

Not to mention there’s a physical toll. Lack of sleep, check. Shoulders aching from stress, check. Back nearly out from sitting still for 8-hour blocks at a time, check. Puffy eyes and stuffed nose, check. An unhealthy level of Doritos in my body, check.

And guess what, this is bad for you! Science says so!

Scientists have compared sitting still for long periods to smoking. In this Huffington Post article, Dr. James Levine is quoted as saying, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. “

I sit all day at work, I’m hunched over my phone using my own and my job’s social media 24/7, and then I binge on TV in my bed all winter long. And all this sitting increases my risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, muscular problems, and depression, and it can even lower my energy.  (See infographic below.)

And all this hunching over and staring at screens increases the risk for bad posture, back problems, carpal-tunnel, neck strain, and eye problems. The Atlantic recently highlighted a study about the scary amount of time we let our kids stare at screens, much more than the recommended 2 hour a day max, increasing their risk of all of those problems. And at this rate, I personally am spending at least 15 hours of my day with a screen, and that’s actually being generous for my time offline.

This brings me back to my goals for 2015, to spend less time on my devices and to do other activities more often, like reading for fun and yoga. There are also ways to get around your schedule, like standing desks and their many benefits. Time to refocus and get up!

Can I promise I will never TV binge again? Absolutely not. Can I give you a big list of reasons we should all do this less? Absolutely!

Take a Stand Infographic
Image via Pain Management and Injury Relief

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