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National Anti-Boredom Month Activities

National Anti-Boredom Month Activities

It’s National Anti-Boredom Month, and it’s important to beat boredom in more ways than just bingeing Netflix, no matter your age. Give these National Anti-Boredom Month activities a try.

Try a new and adventurous activity, like kickboxing, indoor rock climbing, or yoga, or just find a great hiking spot.

Reaching New Heights

 

Got bored kids this summer? Try a campout in the backyard or build an awesome indoor fort with them for a change of pace.

Campout at Home

 

Create a dream and goal board, which can help you identify things to work toward in your personal or professional life.

Dream Smart

 

Explore your community. Find a place to volunteer, visit a local farmers market, and check out a local calendar for festivals and events.

Learn something new to beat boredom. Pick up a new skill for your career, teach yourself to knit or paint, or start a garden.

Growing a New Skill

 

Get creative! Find crafts and activities for you or the whole family, like scrapbooking, sewing, or woodworking.

Creative Creation

 

If TV or movies are your favorite hobbies, do an exercise each commercial break or make a game out of it. Try doing something like 10 crunches each time a character says their catchphrase.

Active in Front of the TV

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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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Holiday Cookie Eating

Chasing Health: My Ho-Ho-Horrible Holiday Eating & Exercise Habits

I love the holiday season. In the fall and early winter, it seems like there is something special to celebrate nearly every other week. The list goes on and on, and I can’t get enough of it.

As a holiday enthusiast, I appreciate it all, from decorating, baking, and gift-buying to curling up and watching holiday-themed movies, not to mention mouth-watering smells, twinkling lights, and feeling like you’re in a magical snow globe at the first sight of flurries. Seems innocent enough, right?

Well, when I’m not watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or Home Alone 2 for the 80th time, tearing up when “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” comes on the radio, or obsessing over the placement of ornaments on my tree (perfectionism strikes again), you can probably find me eating all the delicious holiday goodies that come along this time of year.

On top of turkey, ham, and the wide selection of casseroles, you get fudge, cookies, cheeseball, cheese dips, and pretty much any other finger food you can imagine. It’s amazing.

This is the time of year a lot of people take a break from their diets and indulge. It’s also the time of year when the days are short and cold, and your couch and TV seem to call your name the minute you walk through your door. (“Nicole, come catch up on The Walking Dead for the next five hours. I already set out your favorite blanket.”) It’s not a good combination.

But there is hope. Whether you overeat because your stress from the holiday grind has reached Clark Griswold level or (like me) you’ve waited all year for your mom’s chocolate crinkle cookies, you don’t have to put your healthy eating and exercise on hold.

I realize it’s hard to control yourself when you’re surrounded by fabulous snacks in every direction. I go into my family’s celebration with the same strategy every year, and it’s not a healthy one.

On Christmas Eve, I skip breakfast, make ham-and-cheese pinwheels (my decade-and-a-half-long contribution to our family’s party), nibble on the ones that don’t quite make the cut, and consider that my lunch.

An hour or two later when I’m extra hungry from skipping two meals, I help my mom set out all our delicious cookies. I’m an expert in taste-testing.

Cookie pic 2
My mom is in charge of chocolate crinkles (my all-time favorite!), peanut butter, and molasses. I’m in charge of the iced sugar cookies.

Once my aunt’s cheeseball and grandma’s fudge arrive, it’s game over. I’m usually not even hungry by the time my dad’s secret-recipe glazed ham is ready. But I somehow rally like a true holiday-eating champion and get through that meal and an equally delicious meal the next day with the other side of my family.

How does the two-day affair almost always end? With a stomachache and a tinge of regret.

Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.
Here is the fabulous spread of delicious goodies. Notice the salad and bowl of oranges. Not everything is unhealthy! Full disclosure, I skip right over both of those.

Holidays don’t have to end in stomachaches or regret. Here are some tips based on my own worst holiday habits to help you stay on track this holiday season.

  • Don’t cut back on sleep before the big celebration. I like to stay up late any chance I get, whether there’s a special occasion or I’m just watching Netflix by myself. I’m no better than the millions of kids staying up to wait for Santa. But research shows that not getting enough sleep can make you crave the not-so-healthy foods, which isn’t good when the not-so-healthy foods are everywhere.
  • Don’t skip meals to overeat at the party later. Sometimes I think skipping breakfast and lunch gives me a free pass to fill my body with chocolate. It doesn’t. It not only puts me in the wrong mindset, but an Ohio State study suggests that doing this regularly can also affect how your body gains belly fat.
  • Don’t stand around the snack table. This is my favorite place to camp out for the afternoon, but it makes snacking a little too convenient. I probably don’t need a 10th piece of fudge, but who’s counting? (This brings me to my next point.)
  • Keep track of what you’re eating. I started tracking what I eat at the beginning of December as part of a headache diary for my migraines, and my snacking has fallen way off since then. I can only imagine how much this tracking system will help me through the holidays. Any kind of food diary can help you see how healthy or unhealthy your eating habits are.
  • Eat something healthy. Sadly, despite what Buddy the Elf tells us, the main food groups are not “candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.” Mix some fruits and veggies into your holiday meals and snacking options, and eat the unhealthier options in moderation.
  • Keep yourself busy with something other than food. Play games (my brother and I are quite the Catch Phrase duo) or set up a tournament. My cousins and I have hosted all kinds of championship events, everything from table tennis to Guitar Hero to rock-paper-scissors (we must have been feeling either really bored or hyper-competitive that year). The more physically active and farther from the food, the better.
  • Keep up your exercise routine (or something close to it). If you fall off, don’t feel discouraged (and don’t eat more cookies to console yourself). Just start exercising again. It’s easy to make excuses, but if you’re like me, you’ll feel better physically and mentally if you don’t ditch the physical activity.

I hope to follow at least some of these tips this holiday season and hope you do, too. I’ve already tried pretending celery is chocolate. It didn’t go so well, but I have high hopes for these other more reasonable tips.

Happy holidays!

me alternate option

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Relax for National Family Caregivers Month

National Family Caregivers Month

November is also National Family Caregivers Month, and this year’s theme is all about RESPITE and taking care of yourself as a caregiver.

R is for rest and relaxation. Relaxing sometimes is the best way to stay fresh as a caregiver.

E is for energize. You need to re-energize and lower your stress so you’re a good caregiver.

Energize

 

S is for sleep. Caregivers often have sleep problems. Try these tips or talk to your doctor.

Sleep

 

P is for programs that can help you as a caregiver. Find programs near you.

Programs

 

I is for imagination. Let your mind loose with activities like movies and books that let you take a mental break.

Imagination

 

T is for take 5, or 10. Little breaks that help you beat stress will also help you be a better caregiver when you are there.

Take 5

 

E is for exhale. Simple breathing exercises can help you calm down and refocus in no time.

Exhale

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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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