Make Fitness a Part of Self-Care: Balance the Basics

Contributed by Sheila Olson; www.fitsheila.com

Making time to take care of yourself can be tricky. We live in a fast-paced society, and sometimes it doesn’t seem there are enough hours in the day. Women, in particular, seem to get the short end of the stick, picking up the slack for both work and family obligations. However, we can’t take care of others if we’re not taking good care of ourselves. Here are some tips to help you restore the balance you’ve lost in your life.

 Get Enough Rest

Sleep deprivation makes it hard to concentrate. It can also make you cranky, tired, and ill. A lack of sleep can lower immune function, leaving us susceptible to viruses and bacterial infections, as well as depression and mental illness. Give each day the best beginning possible by getting plenty of rest. Start by cutting out caffeinated beverages after lunch to give yourself a chance to feel sleepy. Then, create a bedtime ritual that soothes and relaxes you. A hot bath, a chapter of a favorite book, a mug of warm milk -- whatever makes you feel warm and cozy. Go to bed at the same time each night, and try to get up at the same time every day.

Better Your Body with Diet and Exercise

Despite our growing national weight problem, a lot of us are actually malnourished. A lack of proper nutrients in our diet can trigger depression and suppress healing in the body. It makes you more irritable and contributes to fatigue. Fight back by eating less junk food and processed carbohydrates, especially sugars. Focus on healthy meats, produce, and fats. Make time to feed and properly hydrate your body each day.

Your body needs exercise to maintain mobility and grow strong bones and muscles. However, it doesn’t have to be done with a pricey gym membership. Think of your workout as playtime, and use it to engage in movement that is fun and feels good to your body. Go biking, walking, swimming, or hiking. Dance in your pajamas in the living room, or swipe your kid’s hula hoop and groove to your favorite music. The point is to get active and engaged in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day, five days each week. You can even break it up into smaller segments several times a day.

Learn to Listen

Part of making yourself a priority in your own life is learning to listen to yourself. Meditation is a great way to be more mindful and live in the moment. Take a few minutes each day to meditate. Focus on your breathing, visualize your happy place, and get a little bit more zen. Studies show meditation improves cardiovascular health and immune response. It even helps slow the process of aging. On top of all that, it makes you feel more optimistic, happier, and self-aware. Combined with yoga, tai chi, or stretching exercises, it can be a healthy part of your fitness routine as well. One of the best things about meditation is that you don’t even have to leave your home. Find a peaceful, low-traffic area of your home and design your own meditation room.

Learn to Relax

Part of taking care of yourself is respecting your own limits. Avoid getting overcommitted; it’s okay to say no. When you make a social obligation, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. You can’t be all things to all people, so prioritize what really matters to you. And be careful not to let yourself get overwhelmed; if your schedule is getting a little crazy, pull back. Don’t overdo it. It’s better to cancel than to let an event exhaust you completely.

Everyone can benefit from good self-care practices, but they’re especially important for people who are in addiction recovery or struggling with a mental illness. These illnesses can cause so much damage, eating away at your self esteem, even as they ravage the health of your body. Self-care promotes healthy lifestyle choices and encourages the healing process. Self-care is about becoming the very best version of yourself by investing in the health and well-being of your body and mind. Take time to replenish your resources so you can give back to the people you love. 

Alleviate Stress with Acupuncture and Healthy Sleep

Contributed by: Amy Highland, Sleep Expert at Sleephelp.org

If you are too stressed out to relax and sleep well at night, you are not alone. 70% of U.S. adults say they experience stress daily. Most of them agree that it interferes with their ability to sleep. While losing a few hours of sleep may not seem like a big deal, sleep deprivation can reduce your ability to deal with stress.

A recent study showed that sleep-deprived people perceive greater anxiety in response to small stressors than well-rested counterparts. Even small amounts of stress can get under your skin when you’re sleep deprived. Since getting insufficient sleep increases irritability and creates more stress that can then interfere with sleep, people can get in an unpleasant cycle. Stress makes it difficult to sleep and sleeping less makes stress more likely.

You can break this unpleasant cycle by improving your sleep conditions and reducing your stress.

Rest and Stress Less

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A small step toward better sleep is making sure that your bedroom is set up for a good night’s rest. Your mattress should support spinal alignment. If you’re sensitive to smells, you might want to trade your old mattress for a new organic bed, which may have lower amounts of chemicals that cause unpleasant smells. Those who are sensitive to light and sounds should also work to mitigate these disturbances. Blackout curtains can block sunlight and night light pollution. A white noise machine or fountain may obscure unpleasant noises in the night.

Your bedroom should be a place where stress can’t find you. Try adding calming scents like lavender to your bedding and pillows. A couple of houseplants might also help you relax. Many people find nature to be calming.

Changing your sleep environment may not be enough to reduce your stress to levels where you can sleep soundly. If you are still feeling stressed, acupuncture and other alternative treatments may provide a solution.

Treating Stress with Acupuncture

Acupuncture may help you to sleep in two ways - by reducing anxiety and increasing the amount of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Anxious adults who underwent five weeks of acupuncture treatment reported that they fell asleep faster and their sleep time increased. They also started to release more melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy, at night.

Other Ways to Reduce Stress

Alternative therapies can often be combined with each other to improve results. For example, herbology and acupuncture are often used together. You can try different stress-reducing activities and see which mixture is the best one for you.

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Most adults deal with stress, but they shouldn’t have to deal with insomnia too. You can take steps to reduce stress, like making time for weekly acupuncture sessions or daily mindfulness meditations. These activities may help you sleep better, which makes it easier to deal with stress the next day.

Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.

The Psychological Effects of Cancer

The Psychological Effects of Cancer

Contributed by Scott Sanders

During cancer treatment, you’re under fire from several directions. The disease itself, as well as the typical cancer treatments, can cause a lot of stress emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It doesn’t help that a cancer diagnosis often comes out of the blue, rather than being something you know is coming and can prepare for. However, you can still take steps to manage your well-being following your diagnosis. Here are a few things you can try.

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