Tag Archives: knitting

Self-Care Month

Self-Care Month

It’s Self-Care Month, and if you’re not sure why self-care matters, these TED talks can explain why your emotional and physical health should be a priority.

If you’ve never focused on self-care before, these 10 habits are a great way to get started.

Taking Time for Yourself

 

Create a relaxing routine for self-care. Whether it’s herbal tea and reading a book before bed or coffee and the newspaper in the morning, taking structured time for yourself is a great way to wind down and prepare you for the next thing.

Relaxing Routines

 

Take a break from technology. Whether it’s picking up a book, heading outdoors, or just spending time with friends or family, turning off the news and social media can help you refocus on yourself.

A Break from Tech

 

If you need to be more mindful or focus on relaxation, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, find a meditation app that can help guide you.

Mindful Meditation

 

Learn something new. Cooking or baking new recipes, knitting, or playing an instrument requires you to focus but can also give you time to yourself.

Learn Something New

 

Mixing up your day-to-day routine, like taking a different route to work, can help you get out of a rut, and these little changes can help you create new neural pathways to keep the brain healthy and build new habits.

Changing Up Your Routine

Relaxing Against Stress in Chicago

My Healthy Journey: Spring Cleaning Your Life

This last year has been a long and busy one, and I’m going to be pretty honest when I say I’m exhausted, filled with stress, and not feeling very healthy. The good news is that while I feel that way, it’s not entirely true.

I started working a lot of overtime last May, and it didn’t end until December. And even when I stopped working extra, I was still very busy when I was on the clock.

More than 46% of Americans’ workplace stress is caused by their workload, so I know I’m not alone in putting stress on myself to get things done. And when your levels of this kind of stress get too high, you’re more likely to develop high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other disorders, according to The American Institute of Stress.

Then, in February, I started packing to move again. I tried my best to declutter my stuff. (I donated a lot of old clothes and tossed any traces of college notebooks and many unnecessary knick-knacks. And after moving all my books, I’m once again wondering if a Kindle is the way to go, but you just can’t replace the smell of physical books!)

From there, my pup and I moved into my friend’s apartment, where we’ve gained the company of this gorgeous (and crazy) puppy.

Quinn, Our New Friend

So you could say that I’m probably suffering from one problem that’s causing that exhaustion: stress, stress, and more stress.

The good news is I’ve been taking steps to fight it.

First, my boss and I worked out an arrangement where I get to work from home on some days. Not only does this make eating healthy easier (I don’t have to be as prepared in advance) and allows me to document my food on our Instagram any day of the week, but it also lets me have a few days a week that I know will be calm(er). No matter how crazy things online get, I’m sitting in my own bed with my best stress-buster, Tootsie, by my side.

Tootsie By My Side
I mean, just look at that face.

My friend is also a certified physical trainer, so, now hold your breath on this one… I’ve also been going to the gym! *gasp*

I know, it’s been building to this for over a year, and finally, I’m a pretty regular gym-goer.

The first day, I was shocked by how weak I’d really become (doing 10 real pushups was really hard), and I’ve had a number of realizations about how pullups make me hate everything. The first few weeks, I was so sore I could barely stand.

But I’ve finally hit a groove. Some days I run, others I’ve been focusing on simple weight training, mostly using body-weight exercises. And, I’m not sore all the time anymore, so we’re making progress!

As spring has rolled in, I’ve also been getting out with those lovely dogs more often to the park across the street. And even better, I’ve been taking full advantage of all that spring produce starting to show up at the grocery store.

Rally, our online wellness tool, has a mission that has you focus on fruits and veggies, which I’ve been working toward accomplishing. Essentially, you try to cover at least half of your plate with fruits or veggies at least twice a day. (Follow me on Instagram to see how I’m trying to work in more fruits and veggies.)

And most importantly, I took a short break. The American Psychological Association has some great ideas to help you bust up your workplace stress, including taking time to recharge.

I recharged by going to Chicago, where I ate some of my favorite food, like Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes, Eataly, and Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill.

Chicken Tacos at Frontera Grill
Best guac ever, chicken tacos, and black beans with plantains so good they will unleash your hidden love of plantains, all at Frontera Grill.

And I visited the Van Gogh art exhibit and Dylan’s Candy Bar, did a little shopping, and saw a wonderful live concert at the Chicago Theatre.

Chicago Theatre
(Son Little opening for Leon Bridges, if you’re curious.)

And how am I maintaining my sanity the rest of the time? I’ve been:

Scarf for My Sister-in-Law

  • Trying to work more fruit into breakfast and brunch

Fruit-Filled Brunch!

  • Focusing on salads and, pretty regularly, tacos inspired by those amazing ones from Frontera Grill (Just so you know, they have great seasoning packets available at most grocery stores!)

Tacos for Everyone!

 

And find more ways to relax from Nicole’s last Chasing Health post!

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Stop the Tossing and Turning

My Healthy Journey: Finding Time for Sleep

It’s been a busy year for my team at Health Alliance, so I hope you’ve been enjoying Nicole’s Chasing Health series while I’ve been too busy to post!

When life gets busy and stress takes over, the first thing that always goes for me is sleep. I’ve never been very good at getting a lot of it, even though it’s one of my favorite things in the world, especially when stress sets in.

Unfortunately, that’s not doing my health any favors:

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Image via Mind Body Green

And since stress and being too busy already make some of these things worse, like my mood and healthy eating flying out the window, not getting enough sleep on top of all that is not good.

Not to mention that it’s definitely not helping my work:

What Happens When Your Brain Doesn't Sleep?
Image via Science.Mic

The moral is clearly that sometimes, you have to make taking care of yourself a priority, which is unfortunately easier said than done.

Rally, our online wellness tool, can help by offering missions that help you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, stick to a bedtime, start a bedtime ritual, and sleep better.

As for me, what can I do to get better sleep?

I’m taking notes from this video and this handy list of 27 Easy Ways to Sleep Better Tonight from Greatist.

  • Start a bedtime routine. I used to have one, but that’s all but disappeared the last 6 months. I need to start again, and I’m going to try adding drinking something warm (and decaffeinated) to that schedule.
  • Listen to soothing music. Normally, I leave something playing on Netflix as I fall asleep, but soothing music or a sound machine, without the light, would be a much better idea. Maybe I can make use of Adele’s new album or apps like Rain, Rain, which makes thunderstorm noises.
  • Cut back on electronics. This and making my bed a work-free zone are nearly impossible for me, but I do need to work on cutting back. Setting a curfew when I set down my phone or laptop, like at least a half hour before bed, could really help.
  • Make your bed cozy. I mentioned this in my resolutions for this year, but I’ve just gotten around to digging out my cozy stuff for this winter.

A Cozy Bed

  • Make up for lost sleep. Adding an extra hour when I didn’t get enough sleep the night before could help me with my sleep debt.
  • Don’t toss and turn. I do this a lot, and if I can’t fall asleep for more than 20 minutes, I should try getting up and doing something relaxing (NOT work), like knitting or reading.

One thing I can tell you I won’t be trying off this list? Kicking my pet out of my bed.

While I know this must be a problem for some people, I don’t think it’s a problem for me. And I’m not alone. A new study finds that 41% of people think having their pet in the room helps them sleep better.

I know that I would worry about her if she wasn’t in my room. Plus, cuddling her is about the most relaxing activity in my life. In fact, that’s frequently how I fall asleep now. I mean, how can you resist that?

Sleepy Tootsie

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Using Your Brainpower

Boost Your Brainpower

Challenging yourself mentally raises your brainpower and function, which is shown to reduce the risk of mental decline and dementia in old age. What can you do to keep your brain in amazing shape?

Never Stop Learning

Learning new things in school or classes, at work, and in your spare time all help you challenge your mind, no matter what your age.

As we get older, we get comfortable doing the things we’ve always done. But your brain will benefit from tackling something new. Learning keeps life stimulating, especially during retirement.

Community colleges and park districts offer a variety of courses that allow you to interact with others while challenging your mind. You can try a new sport, learn a new language, take up painting, or learn a skill you’ve always been interested in picking up.

Activities that use your hands, like woodworking, sign language, or knitting, are also great because focusing on your hand-eye coordination works multiple parts of your brain.

Not only will it help you stay sharp, you’ll also feel accomplished. Never stop challenging yourself to learn new things!

Memorize

Learn a new word a day, take up local theater where you learn a small part, learn your favorite poem by heart, or learn all the words to your latest favorite song. Writing things down as you go can also help. This careful listening and learning can help you sharpen your thinking.

Get Involved

Volunteering with a local organization offers you the chance to interact with others, which also stimulates your brain. You can meet new people who are both working and being helped in the community.

Help your church, local library, animal shelter, or even a branch of a larger organization like the Alzheimer’s Association to meet people, work events, and even get active with 5ks.

Eat Antioxidants

Foods like blueberries and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants, which help fight age-related diseases. They can also help delay or prevent cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

And they’re delicious! Win-win!

Get Moving

Dancing with a partner or in a group may be one of the best physical activities you can do that is also good for your mind. When you dance the salsa, a waltz, or even the electric slide, your brain whirls to keep up with the steps, all while you interact with others around you. Dancing is also shown to help slow the progress of dementia.

Try Something New

Break out of your routine and see something new, like an art show. Taking pictures for social media, writing about it, and making scrapbooks to show your family and friends are all great ways to train your brain to remember the details about your new experience too.

There are many brain games on the market you can try to stay sharp. Lumosity is one online tool you can try, for a fee. You can also try more traditional methods, like chess, sudoku, or puzzles. While they’re not proven to fight dementia, they can help you maintain critical thinking skills.