Category Archives: Healthy

Your health and stress: What you can do

It’s not uncommon to have some awareness of the impact of stress on health, yet not really know what to do about it.

There are, in fact, several things we can do within our daily lives to reduce stress and, therefore, create a more balanced and well life.  It is also intriguing that there are some favorable outcomes from certain levels of stress which I’ll highlight further in this post.

I do want to point out that when I’m talking about reducing stress, I am referring to “adverse” stress.  In layman’s terms, this could be considered the “bad” stress.

Self-care is one of the most basic approaches to stress management.

Yep, it’s actually rather simple.  Take care of yourself in a holistic manner and you can pretty much bet on less physical, mental, and emotional stress.

What does that mean???

At a base level, I am talking about healthfulness in terms of food and diet, physical activity, conditioning the mind, relationships, spiritual or connection to purpose, and engagement with finances.  Some people may recognize this as the dimensions of wellness.

Thinking more comprehensively is when we get to pull it all together in a way that brings us balance despite the various ebbs and flows we will encounter.  Furthermore, recognizing that this will take a proactive approach to how we go about life and respond to circumstances as they arise.

For a few examples of specific self-care practices, be sure to check out this article from Very Well Mind, 5 Self-Care Practices for Every Area of Your Life.

Bottomline; prioritize the care of your health and overall wellness to also reduce the likelihood of heightened, chronic adverse stress.

If you are looking for a therapeutically oriented approach with notable evidence to back it up, then Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is likely for you.  This may also fall under Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

The term mindfulness may seem a little elusive.  I have seen it explained as anything from “relaxing the mind” to something such as “openness to experience with grounding in the body” which can likely have a wild range of interpretations for meaning.

A textbook definition hones in on self-awareness and recognition for how one responds to circumstances while in the specific moment(s) in which they arise.

In research, which mostly falls under Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in fields such as psychology,  we have observed that certain shifts in the mindset paired with an emphasis on practicing self-compassion have been positively correlated to stress reduction.  Studies have also shown compelling information with regards to a reduction in feelings of “burn out”.

Furthermore, the reduction of adverse stress in our daily lives has been considered with regards to the quality of life factors, such as productivity, health outcomes, leisure and social interactions, and certain socio-economic aspects.

Meanwhile, meditation practices have been around for centuries and are often relied upon for the management of stress.  In fact, if you run a web search on mindfulness or self-care for that matter, many of the results for exercises to complete will include meditation as a suggestion.

With a significant emphasis on breathwork, meditative practices are considered mind-body therapies.  Breathing practices can help disengage the brain from negative responses, such as mind racing, and bring a greater sense of focus.

Furthermore, there is a connection with breathing patterns to the nervous system.  Approaches considerate of this, such as meditation exercises, are thought to relax the nervous system.  This can help bring the body out of a heightened response state and, therefore, reduce excess stress response as well as other respective adverse effects such as consequences to the immune system.

Studies of brain mechanisms and meditation are emerging, but we are seeing much more integration of meditation into both professional and social settings centered on wellness or well-being and certain clinical care settings.

Finally, a somewhat unique, emerging option is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  Admittedly, when I first started hearing hype about this approach, I was a bit skeptic.  However, when I finally did the research, I found it compelling.  The approach is of particular interest when chronic emotional stress or feelings of anxiety are present.  This Healthline article, What is EFT Tapping, provides a succinct overview.

Now on to the benefits of a little stress!

There is such a thing as “good” stress.  Eustress is the type that energizes us, such as that the comes from various exhilarating experiences.

Also, moderate levels of stress, in our day-to-day lives can actually help us to build resilience, which is the ability to overcome obstacles.  This article in Time, How Some Stress Can Actually Be Good For You, talks to a few experts in psychology about this.  They also point out benefits to motivation, social bonding, and the recognition of purpose in life.

Knowledge of this fact alone can actually be empowering in itself.  It can help us put into perspective how we respond to things and, when things feel a little out of hand, the methodologies detailed above can come in handy!

Want to learn a little more about what to actually do in your life AND come away with a personalized action plan???  Consider joining us for a virtual workshop.  Sign up HERE.

Photo credit:  Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

Live Out Your Joy

It was a blast to plan out an Instagram contest with a fellow entrepreneur who takes center on healthful living.  Be sure to follow @theConureLife and @LiveConscientiousLiveHealthful on Instagram to play along.

It starts on February 13th (US time) which also happens to coincide with “National Self Love Day”.

The daily themes center on healthful habits and behaviors that can be easily and consistently addressed, such as hydration, breathing, eliminating negative facets that don’t serve you, movement, and appropriate rest.

Additional ideas for you to “Live Out Your Joy” can be found in this Mind Body Green article, 10 Everyday Choices for a Soul-centered, Joyous Life.  I also love this article written by Eric Barke, How to Live Joyously Like an Old Person, that gains perspective on joy from our elder population.

Feel free to join us!

 

 

Photo credits to @JuicePlus and @WellnessStockShop

Support your body to better ward off infection & illness with this recipe

Herbs and spices have various “healing” properties.  They can also play a role in prevention.

Specific profiles will vary, but in general, appropriate usage of herbs and spices in our dietary protocols can make a favorable impact on digestion, circulation, blood sugar regulation, and immune response.  Within the scope of health-beneficial herbs and spices, options such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger are often revered.  (click on each of them for more info)

I am happy to share this nourishing hot beverage from my mother’s recipe Rolodex.  A true inspiration, she has been steadfast in practicing whole-food, natural-living protocols for many years.

This warming drink comes especially in handy for times that you notice signs and symptoms of a nasty bug coming on, such as a cold or other viral infection.

Start with the following:

  • cinnamon stick (break it up if you can)
  • 1 tsp whole clove buds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • two large mugs of water

Put the water in a pan and bring to a high boil.  Add cinnamon and clove.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Turn off heat and add ginger.  Steep for about 15 more minutes.

Time to get warm and spicy.  Drink up.  Strain the desired amount.  Add lemon juice and honey to taste (optional).  Keep any remaining beverage to sip on later.

Photo credit Wellness Stock Shop #wellnessstockshop @wellnessstockshop

How do you Spaghetti Squash?

This is an engagement post.  Please comment.

Personally, I love to make a roasted tomato-garlic-basil base with an arugula saute layered over pre-baked spaghetti squash.  Using this method, you can carve the squash out of the shell onto a plate or simply spoon out the sauce and arugula directly over 1/2 of the cooked squash and scoop it all out like it’s a big bowl itself.

A few other notables that have caught my eye;

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein by Little Bits Of –  http://littlebitsof.com/2014/10/spaghetti-squash-chow-mein/

Spaghetti Squash Black Bean Bowls by THE glowing FRIDGE – http://www.theglowingfridge.com/spaghetti-squash-black-bean-bowls/#_a5y_p=5905804

Spaghetti Squash Hashbrowns by The Honour System – http://thehonoursystem.com/2015/03/06/spaghetti-squash-hash-browns-vegan-gluten-free/

Weekend Skillets

I wanted to devote a post to my latest love…  weekend skillets.

What is this? you might ask.  Well, quite frankly it’s a food smorgasbord that a little extra a.m. time on the weekends allows for.  Basically, you chop up, season, and saute a host of different vegetables to pair with eggs and/or other protein rich source (fish, other meats, or something plant based such as edamame or mushrooms), optional healthy grain or seed sources, such as quinoa, and condiments like hot sauce or salsa.  Top this off with a healthy fat, such as a sliced avocado, and there you have it, a skillet breakfast at it’s best.  Sometimes, depending on flavor combination, I even drizzle a little cold olive oil on top of the finished dish for added savor.  Another skillet option is to combine a cooked base with a topping of fresh, raw ingredients.

As part of my personal protocol, I have been focusing on a concept PFFC balance (protein, fat, fiber, carbohydrates).  Conceptually, this acronym serves as a guiding principle for planning meals, at a macro-nutrient level.  The goal is to apply the principle to each meal and snack through out the day.  When food options are appropriately selected, such as dark leafy greens for the complex carbohydrate category, micronutrient and fiber intake goals can also be achieved.

The science suggests that following an appropriate PFFC balance across meals and snacks throughout the day can contribute to better hormonal balance and blood sugar stabilization.  Therefore, it is further supportive of optimal health though nutrition.  The skillet presents an easy way to make this happen.  I have also learned that if I eat this in the morning, I can go most all day and only need to rely on snacks.  For my fitness and social activity routines on weekends, this is really helpful.

I found the break down PFC Balanced Eating Part 1:  What is PFC? from Dietitian Cassie clear and easy to apply (2016).

The skillet makes planning PFFC easy.  Not only is it fun to prepare and eat, it also allows me to partake in a fantastic life hack!  It might come as no surprise to you that I am fanatic about brown bag lunches.  Not only does this help me stay on track with my nutritional goals, it is a cost-effective measure.  As a customer of a regional CSA (community supported agriculture) share, I am even more committed to coming up with my own food preparation tactics as well as recipes.  What I have learned when making the skillet, I can easily perform extra chopping to be used in other recipes.  Previously I had been committing a pretty significant block of time on Sundays to do all my weekly food preparation.  However, the addition of a skillet breakfast on Saturdays allows me to split of my prep time and has ultimately saved time over all.

Dietitian Cassie also addresses ways to budget this approach to eating on the Healthy Simple Life website, PFC on the CHEAP part 1 (2014).

REFERENCES

Healthy Simple Life. (2014). Retrieved from PFC on the CHEAP part 1: http://healthysimplelife.com/pfc-on-the-cheap-part-1/

PFC Balanced Eating Part 1: What is PFC? (2016). Retrieved from Dietician Cassie. Real Talk. Real Food. Real Life.: http://www.dietitiancassie.com/pfc-balanced-eating-part-1-what-is-pfc/

More Purple… Recipe Share: Purple Power Salad

If you have noticed a recurring theme of “purple” in my blog, this is no coincidence.  Both red and purple have presented themselves as signature colors in my life.  When I was a little girl, I had to have the pastel lavender option for various toys and products, such as an 80’s style tape recorder “boom box”.  In college, it just so happened I joined a sorority with national colors purple and white, therefore, continuing the theme of purple in my life.  Aside from fashion and home accessories, I love to find the color in nature.  Turns out food is a great place for it (see my 2015 blog post “Blue-Purple”).

…and so, without further delay, another recipe share.  Again, this is inspired by Sarah Britton.  However, as we begin to pull ourselves out of winter and think about Spring, I love to start thinking about salads again.  This one has become a go-to in my life and will, undoubtedly, become a classic as time goes forward.  In addition, the spice and herb focus to the dressing not only brings about a flavorful punch, it is a savvy way to pack in a little extra nutrition.  I highly recommend to try at least a small amount of cayenne pepper, even if you think you don’t like a hot spice.  The cinnamon combination creates a nice balance.  One adjustment I have done in the past is blend figs into the dressing itself.  At certain times of the year, I can find organic green figs in the frozen section for a reasonable price.  Black figs (or Turkish as I most prefer) can be a little pricey.

Enjoy!

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2013/08/purple-power-salad-for-a-picnic/

Purple Power Picnic Salad

 

Recipe share by Sarah Britton – Winter Rainbow Panzanella | My New Roots

One of my favorite food blogs is My New Roots by Sarah Britton, Holistic Nutritionist & CNP.  Fairly recently, she also published a book and last week I discovered it in Whole Foods.

Her work is near to perfect synergy between flavor, nutrition, and food artistry.  She pays special attention to varied food availability or dietary protocols and often provides alternative suggestions.  I relate well to this approach.

Earlier this year, I saved the recipe below to Pinterest.  As we dive into winter, I am reminded of it.  So far my winter CSA has been most regularly dividing up orange and purple carrots, turnips, radishes, a hearty variety of spinach, and a few beets.  #tomatomountain  I can’t help but see making a version of this dish in my near future!

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2015/03/winter-rainbow-panzanella/

The 5 Best Ways to Build Resiliency · Experience Life (published article, not my own)

I snagged this off a Facebook post which I often approach cautiously as a source. However, this area is so critical and one that I have had on my blog ideas list. It’s a slightly longer read, but worth while.

Admittedly (and with vulnerability to reveal), I scored a 27. I feel it is somewhat accurate because I would be the first to acknowledge certain areas in which I need to work on. However, a few of the questions I felt mediocre with my quantitative reply. I plan to revisit this article over time as part of my own self-wellness journey.

https://experiencelife.com/article/the-5-best-ways-to-build-resiliency/

National Holidays – A pleasant time to remember mindfulness

For many working Americans, a national (or federal) holiday brings about feelings of “yippee”.  It could mean a 3- or 4-day weekend from work, time to take a vacation, or the opportunity to attend a special, themed event.

In reflection of the Labor Day weekend, I am reminded of the idea of mindfulness.  Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as (1) the quality or state of being mindful or (2) the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis (2015).

The idea of mindfulness is referenced often in health and wellness promotion.  We even have a division of medicine exclusively focused on the area; Mind-body Medicine[1].  The concept of mindfulness can be a critical one to incorporate into efforts that support participant behavior change which is particularly relevant to chronic conditions or overall behavior in support of maintaining physiological wellness, absent of diagnosis.  Therefore, I like to find opportunities to link to the concept.

Holidays can be a great time to remind ourselves to slow down, connect with family or social networks, and, overall, find opportunities for joyfulness.  They can also be great times to take inventory of personal priorities.  I have found that 3-day weekends present an excellent opportunity to take a personal productivity day that may not have been available otherwise.  This can help bring about balance to an often hectic lifestyle and, therefore, contribute to greater mindfulness as we move forward into the next days, months, seasons, and/or years.

This Labor Day weekend, I delicately balanced time with friends and my dog with the management of a few personal affairs.  In Chicago, we were fortuned with late summer weather so, naturally, a trip to the Lake Michigan waterfront was included.

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Often, on weekends, I am furiously managing google alerts and personal e-mails not reviewed during the week, running errands, cleaning my apartment, working out and planning fitness regimes, and preparing meals for the next work week to come.

This weekend, however, I powered down for most all of Saturday and Sunday.  Then, used Monday to gradually re-power up, so to speak, and caught up on a few personal affairs.  In hopes to avoid a “case of the Mondays” (only this week on Tuesday), I avoided an excessive, over planned schedule.  This further allowed for awareness of the various moments and presented better opportunity to be fully present within them.

…I hope that many were able to do the same.

In further support of this concept, Raquel Vasallo’s 20 Signs You’re A Spiritually Healthy Person is a great reminder for a big picture view of living mindfully (2014).

[1] For information about Mind-Body Medicine visit The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s website “about” section; http://cmbm.org/about/what-is-mind-body-medicine/.

References:

Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.  (2015).  Mindfulness.  Dictionary.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mindfulness on September 7, 2015.

Vasallo, R.  (2014, July 2010).  20 Signs You’re A Spiritually Healthy Person.  Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14440/20-signs-youre-a-spiritually-healthy-person.html on August 1, 2015.