Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Not Always Pink: Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with it’s pink-washed campaigns and numerous pink products, is mainly associated with women, but men can get breast cancer too. While rare, men do develop breast cancer, and the topic is often taboo and rarely discussed. This lack of awareness often means men who develop symptoms may not recognize them or associate them with breast cancer, and they may be diagnosed at a later stage when the cancer is not as treatable.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., men are born with some breast cells and tissue. And although men don’t develop milk-producing breasts, a man’s breast cells and tissue can still develop cancer. It is much less common, with less than one percent of all breast cancer cases in males, and only one in 1,000 men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer in his lifetime.

Because breast cancer awareness for males is less, and many men who do develop symptoms delay seeking treatment, men carry a higher mortality rate from breast cancer than women. Unlike women who are recommended to get annual mammograms and do regular self-breast exams, men aren’t routinely screened for breast cancer, so when it is detected, it’s usually at a much more advanced stage. Essentially, most men just don’t think they can get it.

Risk Factors in Men

There are certain risk factors that may make a man more likely to develop breast cancer:

  • Older age. Just as in women, risk increases as a man ages. The average age of men who are diagnosed with breast cancer is 68.
  • High estrogen levels. Both normal and abnormal breast cell growth is stimulated by estrogen. Men can have higher levels of the hormone due to a variety of reasons such as medications, being overweight or obese, environmental exposure to estrogen (i.e. pesticides like DDT), high alcohol consumption, and having liver disease.
  • Family history or genetic mutations. Just as the case with women, if there’s a family history of other men in the family having breast cancer, risks are greater. Also, if men carry the breast cancer genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, they are at an increased risk.
  • Radiation exposure. Men who have been treated for other cancers with radiation, especially to the chest, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Symptoms in Men

Symptoms of breast cancer in men can be similar to those for women, but men may not associate these changes with cancer. This causes a delay in diagnosis. It’s important that men recognize that any changes to their breasts should always be checked by their physicians.

Breast Cancer Symptoms in Men Include the following:

  • a hard lump in the breast that can be felt
  • nipple pain
  • an inverted nipple
  • clear or bloody nipple discharge
  • sores on the nipple and areola
  • enlarged lymph nodes under the arm

With early diagnosis, treatment for breast cancer in men can be very successful. More awareness of breast cancer in men is needed so that men recognize any potential symptoms earlier and seek treatment when cancer is at a much more treatable stage.

Nutrition’s Role in Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s talk about prevention!

While there is no fool-proof way to prevent breast cancer, nutrition can play a role in lowering your risk and improving your overall health.

Maintain a Healthy Weight Through Good Nutrition.

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to reduce your breast cancer risk as well as your risks for other diseases.  According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, women who are overweight or obese after menopause have a 30-60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean.

Extra weight can increase estrogen in your body, and excess estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers develop and grow. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence in women who have had the disease.  Additionally, the location of where you carry extra weight also matters. Women who tend to carry extra weight in their midsection may be at a higher risk than women who carry their extra weight around their hips or thighs.

Eat More Veggies, Less Meat.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides essential antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce cancer risks.  Antioxidants help protect your cells from free radicals—highly-reactive and unstable molecules that have the potential to harm cells. Examples of dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E—all of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

A diet high in fiber has also been found to lower cancer risk. And once again, the best sources for this nutrient are unprocessed, plant-based foods. In turn, a high-fiber diet may help you lower your overall caloric intake and help you maintain a healthy weight, which, as mentioned above, is crucial in reducing your overall breast cancer risk.

Superfoods!

While no specific food can prevent breast cancer, there are some foods that contain more antioxidants and other anti-cancer properties such as fiber, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids. You should make them a regular part of your diet to help lower your breast cancer risk.

The following are some great examples of  superfoods:

  • Green Tea
  • Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Plums, peaches, avocados
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage)
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collards, etc.)
  • Vegetables rich in carotenoids (carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apricots, etc.)
  • Foods with omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, herring, cold liver oil, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and nut oils)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, corn, barley, etc.)

Breast cancer is a complex disease, and diet is only one part of the picture. Other factors like genetics, exercise, and lifestyle choices also play a role in your breast cancer risk. Discuss your individual risks with your doctor and work with him or her in developing a personalized plan to lower your risk.

Move More, Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk.

This October, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re focusing on prevention. And one of the best ways to lower your risk of developing breast cancer is regular exercise. In fact, multiple studies have shown that exercise is the No. 1 lifestyle change you can make to reduce your breast cancer risk, and also to reduce your chances of recurrence if you’ve already been diagnosed.

According to the Maurer Foundation, exercise can help reduce your breast cancer risk in several ways:

  • It helps you maintain a healthy weight. When you are at a healthy weight for your body, you naturally have less fat. This is important because fat cells store high levels of estrogen, and higher estrogen levels have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.
  • It can reduce the amount of estrogen in your body.  A study found that postmenopausal women who regularly exercised for a year had lower levels of estradiol, a type of estrogen, compared to women who didn’t exercise. Lower levels of estradiol in the body can reduce breast cancer risk.
  • It boosts your immune system.  Along with a healthy diet, regular exercise can strengthen your immune system and help your body to better fight off infections and diseases as well as helping to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • It helps with stress relief and mood. People who are active report better moods and less anxiety and depression. Regular exercise can help you better manage the stress in your life, which is important in lowering your risk, as too much stress has been shown to speed up cancer’s progression.

How Much Is Enough?

Finding the time to exercise can be a challenge, but you don’t need to work out for hours every day to reap the benefits and lower your breast cancer risk. Even 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, such as walking, cycling, or gardening  has been shown to significantly reduce your risk, according to one study.  A  Women’s Health Initiative study concluded that just 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week of brisk walking has been shown to reduce your breast cancer risk by 18 percent. If you increase your walking program to 10 hours or more per week, you can lower your breast cancer risk even more.

For those who prefer higher-intensity workouts, the recommendations are 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity spaced out across the week. Activities such as running, high-impact aerobics, swimming, or sports such as soccer or basketball are some examples of higher-intensity exercise.

Preventing Cancer Recurrence

If you’ve already had a breast cancer diagnosis and have undergone treatment, exercise can also be extremely beneficial in preventing the cancer from returning.  A 2017 study on lifestyle choices and their impact on the chances of cancer recurring in women who’ve previously had breast cancer found that of all the lifestyle factors reviewed, physical activity and avoiding weight gain seem to have the most beneficial effect on the odds of breast cancer recurrence.

According to the study, women who are overweight or obese seem to have the lowest chances of survival after a breast cancer diagnosis. Conversely, women who incorporated at least 30 minutes of exercise five days per week (or 75 minutes per week of higher-intensity exercise) significantly reduced their risk of breast cancer returning and of death from breast cancer.

In addition to reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence, exercise can improve mood, improve body image, increase energy, maintain bone health, reduce fatigue, reduce anxiety and stress, improve physical condition, and improve overall quality of life in breast cancer survivors. Researchers did note that some forms of breast cancer are more aggressive and may recur despite lifestyle changes.

Exercise – Too Much, Too Little, or Just Right? Is More Really Better?

Some people increase the amount or intensity of the exercises they do whether it is workouts, running, etc., following the old theory that “more is better” and that they will improve their health even more by doing more.

The US Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for physical activity recommends that adults get at least 21/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both. It also recommends resistance training or weight training at least twice each week.

What are moderate-intensity activities? They are those that get your heart rate up and make you breathe harder than normal, but during which you can still talk. Some activities in this category are brisk walking, water aerobics, biking (slower than 10 mph), and light gardening. High-intensity activities are activities such as running, jumping rope, swimming laps, biking (faster than 10 mph), and heavy-duty yard work like digging.

Watching television programs such as American Ninja Warrior and seeing the high-intensity challenges the athletes overcome can certainly make you feel inadequate when it comes to exercise and fitness. But working out too hard and for too long can damage your body. It would be nice to be able to look into a glass that projects the future and see how the work-out obsessed fare health-wise after years of this kind of intensity.

Many of us may feel guilty that we don’t exercise more, but there is good news if you are a moderate exerciser. In a study of more than one million women in the UK in 2015, it was found that those women who reported moderate physical activity had significantly lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease (which can lead to hemorrhaging, blood clots, and stroke), and embolisms, while those women reporting strenuous daily physical activity had higher risks of developing these same diseases.

In a large Danish study which compared the death rates of runners, it was found that light and moderate runners have lower mortality rates than nonrunners (or sedentary people), whereas strenuous runners have a death rate much like that of the sedentary group. However, other studies found, as would be expected, that those who are sedentary and do not exercise at all are at the greatest risk.

Since these studies were observational only, they can demonstrate only correlation, not causation.

Excessive endurance exercises done daily can harm the body by depressing the immune system and increasing the risk of injuries, as well as increasing inflammatory processes. Taking a day or two off weekly gives the body time to recover from the stress of exercise. Also, some studies of endurance athletes have found coronary changes that may increase the risk of arrhythmias, sudden death, and other problems.

Some medical experts disagree with these studies. Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, (with a team of researchers) tested the link between large amounts of aerobic exercise and lifespan in 122,007 people and found that “Extremely high aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest survival and was associated with benefit in older patients and those with hypertension.”

A well-lived life is about balance, and we are all happier and more fulfilled when we can achieve balance in all areas of our lives. This is true when we apply it to the time we spend exercising to be healthy. For those who are worried that they must intensify their exercise just to maintain health, the takeaway from this is that there is a great health benefit in exercising, but you don’t have to keep increasing the amount or the intensity of it to stay healthy.

Meal Planning for Easy Eating

Back-to-school is a busy time for any family, and it’s possible for important activities to fall by the wayside in the rush to get everyone ready and out the door on time. One of the first things to fall through the cracks is healthy eating. It’s all too easy to pack instant meals for your child’s lunch as opposed to nutritious meals, and that’s especially true if you’re trying to get everything ready on the fly. Instead of falling into this habit, consider these meal-planning tips to streamline the food preparation process and keep everyone happy and well-fed.

Schedule Your Meals

Create a meal plan for every day of the week. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cook something every day;  sometimes it’s just more practical to pick something up. But planning ahead gives you the opportunity to scope out smarter food choices for quick takeout than a fast food restaurant. Additionally, planning your meals out in advance gives you more time to determine when you’ll actually cook them and how to store them effectively for long-lasting freshness.

Prepare the Night Before

Instead of waiting until morning to prepare lunches, have your children help you make and pack their food the night before. This gives you more time to find healthy options while giving your child a sense of responsibility for themselves and the food they eat. This is a great chance to teach them healthy food preparation rules as well as the importance of good nutrition. And the morning will be a much less stressful experience when all you have to do is grab a packed lunch from the refrigerator and send your children on their way.

Plan Breakfast, Too

One of the biggest time-wasters parents encounter each morning is waiting for their children to decide what they want to eat for breakfast. Unless they are old enough to prepare their own food, don’t give your children too many choices. Have one or two options that are easily prepared, and you’ll find the morning moves more smoothly, and your children receive consistently healthy meals before they head off to school.

Keep It Simple

Is it tempting to try your hand at a complicated meal that consists of roughly 20 different ingredients and takes two hours to make? Well, for some us, the answer might very well be “yes.” Chances are good, however, that this isn’t a smart choice. Do you really have time to create a complicated dinner every night after work? Instead of picking complicated dishes that can take a while to prepare, keep it simple during the week. Opt for meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that can be prepared quickly and offer all the nutrition you need. For school lunches, this can consist of wraps, cheese cubes, fruit, and hummus with pita bread.

Making healthy food doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Streamlined meal preparation tips can help make it an easy and fast process. With these tips in mind, start making delicious food for your family even during the most chaotic of times.

The Benefits of Having Healthy Employees

According to statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services, less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and only one in three get the recommended amount of physical activity each week.

Persistent job stress and inactivity of employees in most workplaces contribute to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Large corporations first offered wellness programs to their employees as a benefit, but as the fitness trend has grown each year, many smaller businesses have implemented programs, devices, and equipment to help employees become healthier.

Adjustable sitting/standing desks, balance balls, desk treadmills, and other devices as well as wellness programs can now be found in many office environments to help promote the health and well-being of employees. Businesses are implementing employee wellness programs because they like the benefits of having healthier employees.

What are the benefits of offering wellness programs, installing fitness centers, or other health-related equipment in an office environment? Many benefits are not measurable, but the following are among the reasons a business might start a wellness program:

  • Lower healthcare costs – Healthcare professionals have estimated that 70 to 90 percent of healthcare spending is for problems of chronic disease associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices—improper nutrition, too little exercise, or smoking, which costs American businesses more than one trillion dollars each year in lost productivity. From 22 studies that examined the costs of wellness programs and healthcare costs, it was found that for every dollar spent on wellness programs $3.27 was saved because of reduced healthcare costs.
  • Fewer lost work days – Healthier workers miss fewer days from work due to illness.
  • Lower stress levels – Neck, back, wrist, and arm fatigue as well as eye strain from sitting and staring at a computer during work hours contributes to fatigue and stress on the job. Exercise during wellness programs helps to dissipate stress, ease muscle strain, and provide relaxing moments—promoting a sense of well-being.
  • Promotes teamwork – Employees participating together in a wellness program are more likely to develop a spirit of camaraderie and teamwork which enhances the company culture and causes the employee to value the company more. Workplace wellness programs show that companies value and appreciate their employees and the employees are more loyal to their company.
  • Improved work performance and longer retention of employees – Since exercise increases one’s ability to focus and provides more energy to perform daily activities, employees are more productive at work. Employees who have a greater sense of well-being and who feel valued by their employers are more likely to stay with their companies.

More recent studies of wellness programs in 2019 cast doubt on the benefits the programs actually produce, but many factors go into how wellness programs are initiated and supported by the businesses and corporations that started them.

There have been many studies which have examined the results and benefits of wellness programs. One study that looked at nearly 200,000 wellness program participants showed that 5 out of 7 health risks improved after one year.

One thing seems certain: Companies will end programs from which they derive no benefit for their employees or their “bottom line.” The benefits of a workplace wellness program outweigh the costs.

Gardeners Rejoice!

How Gardening is Good For You

This is the time of year when yards come alive and we gardeners once again plan our gardens and begin selecting the beautiful flowers and vegetables that will fill our outdoor spaces. But the rewards we reap are not only colorful yards and tasty food that we have grown ourselves. Gardening is also wonderful for your health. It’s a great way to get that vitamin D which our bodies create when we spend time in the sun. By gardening, you can boost your endurance and strength, as well as flexibility.

benefits of gardening

Another terrific aspect of gardening is that you can burn a lot of calories as you are preparing the soil, tilling and hoeing, digging and planting, and weeding and pruning. These activities are a great way to work some good cardiovascular exercise into your daily routine.

Jeff Restuccio who wrote Fitness the Dynamic Gardening Way says it’s a good idea to alternate the more physically challenging gardening activities with the lighter work for a more structured exercise workout. He suggests, for example, raking for a while, then digging holes, then pruning.

As you do your “gardening exercise,” concentrate on deep breathing, and for a real boost in calorie burning, exaggerate your movements to increase the range of motion. For example, while raking or digging, stretch further than you usually would. This can increase your calorie burning from 100-200 per hour up to 500 per hour according to Restuccio. The actual number of calories burned varies with age, weight, and how much muscle you have. The heavier you are, the more calories you will burn. The younger you are, the more calories you’ll burn. Also, muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you have a more muscular build, you will also burn more calories.

In addition, try switching back and forth between hands when raking. Rake with your right hand 15 times, then do 15 times with your left hand. This will ensure both sides of your body are getting an equal work out.

For people who don’t consider gardening a real workout, Restuccio says, “If you think double digging (going down a foot, turning the soil over, then down another foot, bringing that soil to the top) isn’t exercise, you haven’t tried it.”

One of the best things about working in the garden, aside from the actual harvest, is that you can do it with the whole family. Get the kids and the grandparents out in the garden and let everyone participate. Make it a bonding activity that all can share, and in the process, everyone can get healthier too!

Some gardening safety tips:

  • Remember to stretch before you begin; gardening is exercise, and you can just as easily injure a muscle gardening as you can working out in the gym.
  • Be sure to stay well hydrated and use sunscreen.
  • To avoid hurting your back or knees, use a cushion when working close to the ground.
  • Instead of sitting on your heels, try to keep your back straight and be sure to stand and stretch every 10 minutes or so.
  • When choosing your shovel or spade, look for one that is lightweight and has a long handle.
  • Don’t overload your shovel when digging, and remember to bend at the knee, stepping forward when you raise and dump each shovel full of dirt.
  • While bending to pick up tools or heavy bags, bend at the knees and hips to avoid back strain.

Spring-Clean Your Mood!

When the days grow longer and become warmer, we all feel like breaking out of our winter ruts and changing our routines.  While you are spring-cleaning your house, why not spring-clean your mood as well? We have some ideas that can help you get healthier and put the winter blues behind you.

Bring Nature Inside

Find some fresh flowers in the garden or cut some beautiful foliage to put in a vase. The flowers will bring color into the house, and you can enjoy their sweet fragrance as well. According to Deborah Serani, a psychology professor at Adelphi University and author of Living with Depression, “Studies show that having greenery in your life reduces stress, reduces depressed mood, improves attention and concentration, reduces high blood pressure, and creates an atmosphere of beauty.  Adding plants and flowers works wonders for your well-being.”

Aromatherapy has become quite popular as a way to enhance mood, and the natural aromas flowers bring can be just as effective as oils. Not only do they provide a pleasing look and scent, but having plants in the house also raises the oxygen levels as well, making the air healthier and easier to breathe.

Remove Clutter to Revitalize

Getting rid of things no longer of use to you not only improves your living space, but it is beneficial for your state of mind as well. A cluttered space can induce stress and anxiety. Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, Ph.D, said, “Since the earliest times, humans have needed to be sensitive to their surroundings to survive, which means that we have an innate awareness of our environment and seek out environments with certain qualities.” She elaborated that humans tend to seek out places where we can feel safe and secure—without too much stimulus—and places that provide physical comfort as well.

Your psychological comfort is affected by your surroundings. It is important that you let go of things you really don’t have room for, to keep your space uncluttered and soothing. As you sort through the things you truly want and need versus things that are only cluttering up your space and your life, you hone your identity and begin to understand what is truly important to you. This can bring joy and a sense of tranquility.

Rearrange for a New View, and a New You

Simply rearranging your furniture can be a major mood enhancer.  When moving into a new home, many of us will just put our couches and tables into whatever arrangement seems obvious. There are often other arrangements we never consider which could create a much better flow of energy in a room. The positioning of furniture can have a huge impact on your mood and on your enjoyment of your living space.

Omar Elbaga suggested on TinyBuddha, “Balance is more important than symmetry. The rule of thumb is to think outside the box and don’t decorate in the most obvious way.” Try turning your couch at an angle, with chairs positioned for easy conversation. Or, if you have the couch in the center of the room, experiment with pushing it up against a wall. You can often make a room look bigger just by the way you arrange the furniture.

According to Psychology Today, by rearranging your furniture, you can elevate your mood and instill satisfaction, effectiveness, comfort, and creativity. This is another way that you can spring-clean your way to better health.

Make the Most of your Mow…

Now that Spring has sprung, we must deal with fast-growing grass and weeds in the yard. While we tend to think of yard work as a chore, it is also a great opportunity to get some good exercise. You may want to opt for a push-mower instead of a riding mower and let working in the yard count as your daily exercise.

While the physical health benefits of exercise are reason enough by themselves, we also get the added boost of mood improvement from regular exercise. Exercise increases serotonin, which helps your brain to regulate sleep, appetite, and mood; overall, exercise helps alleviate chronic depression. Exercise also reduces certain chemicals in the immune system which can worsen depression.

A recent study has linked routine physical exertion with improvements in memory in older adults. We do a lot of bending and lifting when we work out in the yard, so spring cleaning outside offers an amazing amount of unexpected benefits. Fitness guru Jillian Michaels says that gardening “can burn up to 256 calories an hour, and lawn mowing 160 calories per half-hour.”

So, when you look out your window at the overgrown grass and the dandelions, instead of thinking of mowing it as a chore, think of all the good you are doing for your body, mind, and mental health by “spring-cleaning” your mood while you mow.

How to Exercise When the Pollen Count is High

If you are one of the many people who loves staying active outdoors, but you suffer from seasonal allergies, then you may find yourself becoming a lot more sedentary when spring arrives. Skipping out on these activities may help keep your allergies under control but becoming a “couch potato” is not the answer. Keep active by staying informed, changing your routine, and utilizing these strategies that will keep your body in motion and your energy at peak.

Track the Count
First you need to keep track of the pollen counts in your area. If you know which allergens you are sensitive to, that is even better. Many local news stations will tell you whether weed, tree, or grass pollens are expected to be higher than usual, and this can help you prepare. Another fast way to check pollen counts is online. Websites, such as the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology keep national pollen counts. You can check your local counts by clicking here.

Keep Your Eye on the Clock
Typically pollen counts will begin to rise in the morning and peak at midday, gradually falling toward evening. Generally, the lowest pollen count will be early in the morning before sunrise and late in the afternoon to early evening. However, if the pollen count is very high or if it is a windy day, pollen counts may remain elevated longer than usual. It is also normal in urban areas for the counts to peak and fall later than in the suburbs. Try to schedule your exercise to avoid the peak times of high pollen counts. The best time to get out is right after a good rainfall which washes a lot of the pollen out of the air and greatly reduces the pollen count.

Break out the Barriers
While outside, sunglasses can help protect your eyes not only from the sun, but also from pollen. Dab some Vaseline® around the edge of each of your nostrils before going out. This helps block pollen but be sure to reapply if you blow your nose. Covering your nose and mouth with a mask will really help minimize your inhalation of pollen when counts are high.

Choose an Alternative to Exercising Outdoors
If you usually exercise outside, consider trying a different venue for high pollen count days. There are many exciting and enjoyable opportunities such as indoor mountain climbing, indoor skiing, and even indoor sky diving.
A little less extreme option, but one that is easy and inexpensive is heading to a local indoor pool. Did you know that exercising in water is a great way to strengthen muscles? Water offers natural resistance that provides a more intense workout and increases the benefits of strengthening and toning. Even if you are not a swimmer, just walking, doing water aerobics, or dancing in the water offers great benefits. Many gyms and YMCAs offer the use of pools among their amenities for members, and city pools usually have a low entry fee for city residents.

In addition, Dr. Jay M. Portnoy, Division Director of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City says, “Allergies trigger asthma, making it much more difficult to exercise. It’s recommended that people with asthma take up swimming as an aerobic activity. The reason exercise makes asthma worse is because the airways dry out and get cold when you’re breathing fast. If you’re swimming instead of running outdoors, then there’s more moisture and warmth so you’re less likely to have trouble breathing.” Going to an indoor pool is a great way to avoid that pollen without skipping your exercise.

If walking or running is your thing, think “inside” the box. Many cities now have totally enclosed walking paths stretching for miles that can be an excellent way to get your exercise without subjecting yourself to pollen. If your city does not have an enclosed skywalk or underground pedestrian system, check with your local parks and recreation department as well as local fitness centers to see if there is an indoor walking track available. If not, consider walking through an indoor shopping mall or museum. Some cities have large airports that are fun to walk through as well.

Perhaps you prefer to avoid going outside altogether during pollen season. You can still get some great exercise right at home. If you own a treadmill or stationary bike, that would be an obvious first choice. However, for those of you who do not own any exercise equipment, why not try an exercise video? You can rent them at the library or find them available online. Amazon Prime and YouTube both have many fitness workout videos available for different fitness levels.

Whatever option you choose, it will definitely be better than skipping your exercise entirely. Track the pollen counts, strategize your timing, use barriers, and consider alternative venues for your exercise. You can avoid the pollen and still find different fun ways to stay fit!

 

Finding the Right Work-Life Balance

If you feel like you are working more hours than ever before, you are in good company. The American workforce has seen many changes over the past century, and a drastic change just in the past 40 years. In 1960, according to the Center for American Progress, “only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, 70 percent of American children live in households where all adults are employed.” As the only industrialized nation in the world without a mandatory option for new parents to enjoy paid parental leave benefits, many feel the work-life balance in our country has been thrown askew.

It is difficult to take time off for vacations or even if you aren’t feeling 100% well when faced with the prospect that your boss might think you’re not committed enough to your organization or may overlook you when it’s time for the next big promotion in favor of someone who wasn’t absent as much. While it’s obviously important to avoid unnecessary call-ins (sick), we all need some time to relax and get away from our jobs on a regular basis. The weekends just aren’t enough.

In fact, many of us don’t have weekends at all. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33% of salary-employed people spent some time working on weekends—with an average of 5.53 hours worked on a weekend day. Those holding multiple jobs and self-employed people were more likely to work on weekends than those with only one job or those employed by others.

According to the International Labor Organization, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.” When it comes to our global competitors, we are also working longer days, taking fewer vacations, and waiting longer to retire. But, before you pack up and relocate to France, allow us to present some strategies to help improve your work-life balance.

1. Leave your job at work:
While work is essential to provide for the basics in life such as your home, car, and paying the bills, it should never be a higher priority than your health and happiness. When you spend eight hours a day at your job, it becomes a large part of your life, and it’s vital that you are “working to live and not living to work.”

When you leave, really leave! Resist the urge to check work emails and texts after work hours unless there is absolutely some critical matter that you know you may need to attend to. (Hint: such a “critical” matter is not going to pop up often.) Try to get your work finished before heading out so that when you get home you can truly be present in the moment and not trying to finish up tidbits from your job that distract you from the people and things that you enjoy.

2. Put a priority on hobbies and activities that you enjoy:
Ask yourself what you would spend your time doing if you didn’t have to work. Unless that involves sipping Mai Tais on a Caribbean beach, or exploring some other distant locale, find time around your work day that you can start regularly participating in those activities on a consistent basis. Make a point of scheduling time for this pursuit on your day planner and strictly enforcing that you take that time for yourself to enjoy.

3. Keep the importance of family in perspective:
A wise word from Heather Monahan, founder of #BossinHeels, a career mentoring group, “Realize that no one at your company is going to love you or appreciate you the way your loved ones do. Remember also that everyone from work is replaceable,  and no matter how important you think your job is, the company will not miss a beat tomorrow if you are gone.” This is a great reminder that work should not take precedence over family. Don’t kid yourself into believing that you’ll always have time later to spend with them, because before you know it, the time is gone and the people you wish you had spent time with may have grown up or grown away from you.

4. During the work day, take a few minutes when you can close your eyes and think about something that brings you joy. Or, take those minutes to look at pictures of places and people (or pets) you love. Just taking a brief mental break from work, not talking to colleagues or reading work-related emails and memos, even for a short period of time, can refresh you and help bring balance to your work-life relationship.

5. Get outside. Nothing can soothe the soul like spending some time in nature. If you have any hiking trails nearby that will allow you to get into the woods, then seek them out. Walking in a wooded environment will provide you the sights, sounds, and scents of nature that are so lacking in our busy lives.

There is a new theory that some people suffer from “nature-deficit disorder.” While this may not be a formal diagnosis, Richard Louv so aptly used it in his book (Last Child in the Woods) to describe a growing problem in our country in which humans who are deprived of nature seem to be suffering psychological, physical, and cognitive damage as a result. Allow yourself some time in a natural setting to breathe deeply and relax, totally separate yourself from your workplace, and let your mind wander to the beauty around you. If you make time to do this every week, chances are you will begin to notice a greater sense of balance in every aspect of your life.