Tag Archives: lifestyle

The Importance of Routines in Times of Uncertainty

Beginning with the nationwide lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more people have found themselves working from home and will likely be doing so for the foreseeable future. And with many schools around the country announcing plans to begin the school year with online learning, more families will find themselves still stuck at home this fall.

All of the disruptions the pandemic has caused have drastically changed many people’s daily routines, which can make it even more difficult to deal with the extreme stress and anxiety this crisis has created. Hours and days start to blend together, and before you know it, all you’ve accomplished is binging a full season of your favorite show on Netflix or scrolling through social media on your phone.

While binge-watching is a great stress reliever, you don’t want to fill all of your days being a couch potato. Maintaining a regular daily routine can help you feel more in control during this time when all other aspects of our world feel so uncertain.

Benefits of structure and routine
Sticking to a daily routine can have great benefits for mental health. Not only can routines help you better manage stress and anxiety, but they can also lower stress levels and have a calming effect, help you maintain good daily habits, encourage you to take care of your health, and help you feel more focused and productive. Having a daily routine allows you to complete necessary tasks, such as work or home duties so that you can then find time for exercise and other leisure activities. A routine can help to make your situation feel more predictable and controllable.

Creating a routine
Your daily routine may look very different right now if you’re working from home or temporarily unemployed, or if you have children at home. Create a routine that adds structure and a sense of predictability to your day. Your routine might vary on different days, but sticking to a basic schedule of when you sleep, wake up, eat, work, exercise, and do other activities will help you manage stress and feel that you have accomplished more day to day.

An easy way to create a schedule is to make a list of all the things you must get done during the day. Write down everything from work to household chores to childcare. Once you have identified all of the basic tasks that you need to get done, you can make an outline of a schedule that would work for you.

In addition to all of the tasks and chores, you must accomplish daily, remember to include time for activities that you enjoy so you have something to look forward to every day. Things such as reading, watching TV, taking a hot bath, calling a friend, or playing with your kids can help you stay positive while you’re completing the essential tasks of your day.

A routine that works for you
It’s important to be flexible and find a routine that works for you and your family. Some people may thrive with a structured routine that is basically the same every day, while others may do better making a daily to-do list and prioritizing that list each day. If you have young or school-age children at home, it’s very important for them to have structure to their day, especially if they are participating in online schooling.

Routines are even more important during times of stress and chaos, such as what the U.S. is experiencing right now. Daily rituals can offer you some control and some certainty in a situation that has neither.

 

 

Your Sunscreen Questions Answered

Summertime has arrived and with more time spent outdoors, you’ll want to make sure to use a good sunscreen to protect your skin. Unlike the 1970s and 1980s when tanning oils and the bronzed look were all the rage, we now know that using sunscreen is essential to preventing not only sunburn but long-term damage from the sun—including skin cancer.

While most people adhere to this advice and aren’t breaking out the baby oil to get a deep, dark tan, they still have misconceptions when it comes to sun protection. What SPF is best? How much sunscreen do I need? How often should I reapply? If I tan well, do I really need sunscreen?

Below are answers to some of the most common questions about sunscreen:

Are higher SPFs better?
Sunscreens are available with SPFs (sun protection factors) ranging from SPF 4 to SPF 100+. Most people mistakenly think that the higher the SPF, the more sun protection the product offers, but that is not necessarily true.

Dermatologists recommend that everyone use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. SPF 30 blocks approximately 97 percent of UVB rays, which are the ones that cause skin cancer. For products with anything higher than a SPF 30, the difference in sun protection is minimal. No sunscreen can can offer 100 percent protection from UVB rays, and products with higher SPFs often contain more chemical ingredients that can irritate the skin. And sunscreens with higher SPFs are often more expensive.

Which sunscreen is best?
There are so many different brands and different types of sunscreens available, it would be hard to choose the best one. A lot depends on your personal preferences—whether you prefer a lotion, spray, or cream, or whether you want a chemical versus a physical sunscreen, and your preference for a specific fragrance or no fragrance at all, etc.

Whatever sunscreen you choose, always make sure it is at least SPF 30 and is labeled “broad spectrum.” Broad spectrum sunscreens protect the skin against both UVA and UVB rays; that is, they protect against both the UVA rays that can cause premature skin aging, wrinkles, and age spots and the UVB rays that cause sunburn, which over time, can lead to skin cancer.

How often do I need to reapply sunscreen?
How many times have you gotten to the beach or the pool and applied your sunscreen, and then spent the day swimming and playing in the sun—forgetting to reapply and ending up with red, sore sunburned skin later that evening? One of the biggest mistakes that many people make is not reapplying their sunscreen either at all or often enough.

All sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every two hours while outdoors. If you will be spending a lot of time in the water or if you are sweating a lot, such as when exercising outdoors, then you should reapply more often. Even if a product is labeled “water-resistant,” it still needs to be reapplied at least every two hours—no sunscreen is completely water-proof.

How much sunscreen do I need?
If you use too little sunscreen, you may end up with a painful sunburn. Dermatologists recommend using enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass (about two tablespoons) to cover all exposed areas of the body and face. If you prefer to use a spray, always make sure to rub in the sunscreen after spraying it on your skin to get even coverage.

It’s cloudy, do I really need to wear sunscreen?
Yes, you do! Don’t skimp on the sunscreen on overcast days. The sun’s UV rays can easily pass through clouds, and you can still get a sunburn.

My skin tans well, do I still have to use sunscreen?
All dermatologists will tell you that there is no such thing as a healthy or safe tan. A tan is a sign that skin damage has already occurred, and it does not offer any protection against future sun exposure. A so-called “base tan” only provides the equivalent of about a SPF 4, so a tan will not protect against sunburn or skin cancer.

Whether a tan is from an indoor tanning bed or from the sun, tanning causes skin damage over time. This damage may not only lead to premature skin aging and more wrinkles, it can also lead to skin cancer.

Sleep Quantity and Quality Is Important to Your Health

Sleep is essential to overall health, but it’s usually one of the first things to suffer when people are under stress or pressed for time. Sleep often falls low on people’s list of priorities behind work, family obligations, chores, socializing, and entertainment. But skimping on sleep can have a big impact on long-term health and can negatively affect your mental clarity and emotional health in the short run.

 

Declutter Your Life, Gain Control, and Reduce Stress

Decluttering your life goes beyond having an organized and neat home, although that is a big part of it. Decluttering can also become important to your overall well-being by helping you make room for what really matters to you, reducing stress, and helping you feel in control.

Tackling the clutter in your home may seem overwhelming, but you don’t have to go full Marie Kondo to make a difference. You can start the decluttering process with small steps, doing a little at a time.

According to Dave Ramsey, “For decluttering to have its full effect, though, you have to first believe that filling your life with stuff—material items—will never actually bring true fulfillment. Once you believe that, you’ll be on your way to living with a minimalist attitude, no matter how much (or how little) you end up decluttering.”

If you’re ready to begin decluttering, here are some ways to get started with decluttering both your home and your life.

Declutter Your Home
At first, it may seem like a daunting task, but in order to effectively declutter your house, you’ll have to tackle your messes and take everything out in order to take inventory of what you want to keep, toss, or store.

First, start with one room and empty everything out of drawers, closets, and any other places clutter may be lurking. Then, lay it all out on a large towel or sheet to take inventory of what you have. Start to separate your items into three distinct piles: keep, toss, or store. If you have old files and papers collecting in your home office, modify your piles into these categories: file, to do, and trash.

  • Keep: Keep only the things that still serve a purpose for you, or to quote organization expert, Marie Kondo, “things that bring you joy.” Another good rule of thumb, especially for clothing, is that if you have not worn it or used it in a year, get rid of it. Those jeans that are two sizes smaller aren’t motivating you to lose the weight; they’re just taking up valuable space. Same for that dress you wore one time to a dinner two years ago. You get the gist; look at each item individually and really consider which pile to place it into.
  • Toss: Sometimes the decision to throw out an item will be obvious, such as jeans that no longer fit, a shirt with holes in it, or makeup that’s gone bad. With other items, you may think, “I might wear that someday.” Don’t get caught in that train of thought, as the “someday” items are what is cluttering up your space.
  • Store: There will be some items that hold sentimental value for you. Things such as your child’s first blanket or your wedding veil. These types of items can, of course, be kept and stored. But don’t be too quick to put something into the store pile, or you’ll end up not parting with anything. Only store those items that truly hold sentimental value or that you may need in the future.

Continue this process with every room in your home. Tackle the piles of toys, CDs, DVDs, books, and other items, and place them into the three piles. Once you have a full “toss” pile, you can decide if you want to donate items or if any items are worth selling. Don’t let the toss pile sit too long in your basement or garage, because then it just becomes more clutter. Go ahead and donate or sell items as soon as possible to truly get rid of the clutter once and for all.

Declutter Your Life
Decluttering the physical stuff in your life is the easy part compared to decluttering your life, but this step is crucial to your mental health and overall well being.

  • Streamline Your Commitments: Between work, family, school, sports, hobbies, and social commitments, our lives seem to be scheduled 24/7. To declutter your schedule, take a look at all of your commitments and write them all down. Seeing all of it in writing can help you realize how much you are really doing and can help you decide which commitments you must keep, which you want to keep, and which ones you can let go. To make more time for the things that you truly want to do and truly love, you will need to learn to say no more often and not feel guilty about it.
  • Restructure Your Routines: We all have daily and weekly obligations and chores, but most of us just do them without any routine or structure. Write down your daily and weekly tasks and obligations, and then create a schedule, such as doing your laundry all in one day instead of several times a week, cleaning the house on a certain day, and so on. Having a daily or weekly routine can bring a sense of order to your life and help reduce the stress you may feel about getting everything done.
  • Declutter Your Relationships: With the hectic schedules that most adults have today, it leaves little time for friendships and relationships. That’s why it’s important to really focus on those relationships that truly matter. If there are friends or others in your life who are negative and drain your energy, it’s time to let them go. Place more emphasis on spending your time with people who make you feel happy and loved, and help you grow. This can be true for friends on social media as well!

Once you’ve decluttered, be aware of clutter trying to creep back into your life. Keep on top of it so it doesn’t take over your life again. You’ll not only have a tidier home, but a less stressful life.

 

 

Exercise Your Way to Better Health in the Pool

People with certain physical limitations cannot participate in running, jogging, walking, biking, gym workouts, sports activities, and other high-impact exercise routines. However, there is still an option for them to maintain a healthy, physically active lifestyle.

Swimming is an ideal exercise for those with limitations as well as for healthy adults. It is a low-impact aerobic exercise that builds strength and improves cardio abilities and is a total body-strengthening workout since all parts of the body are used. Swimming helps your body to use oxygen more effectively, improving lung capacity and building endurance. And it decreases the risk of many chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. As for weight loss, Dr. I-Min Lee, a Harvard Medical School professor of medicine who studies the role of physical activity in disease prevention says “Recreational swimming will burn about the same calories as brisk walking.”

Besides swimming, there are other water-based exercises that are great options:

  • Water aerobics –These are simply mild exercise and movements done in an indoor or outdoor pool. Some might be apprehensive about water aerobics because they are not strong swimmers or do not swim at all, but these classes (which may be offered by YMCAs, private clubs, or sports clubs) do not involve actual swimming but other water exercises instead. They are led by an instructor who will guide participants and show them what to do. There are different levels that may be offered: beginning, medium, or advanced-level classes. These are usually held in the shallow part of a pool where members stand while doing the exercises, but deep-water exercises may be an option as well.  Accessories that may be used are items like kickboards, foam noodles, and water dumbbells (made of foam and plastic). Often, the classes are accompanied by recorded music and are done with a group, so participants can enjoy getting to know other participants.
  • Acquapole® – A newer water fitness exercise, pole dancing or Aquarobics, began in Italy in 2010 when water fitness instructor Monica Spagnuolo and Stefania Manfredi developed an apparatus consisting of a steel pole that fits into a red base and can be applied to the bottom of a swimming pool through a system of suction pads. This more intense water activity has spread to Australia and other countries and can be found in some US cities but is not yet widespread in the United States. With over 20 “holds” and 150 different exercises, Acquapole® Fitness offers participants a variety of training sessions that can work on all muscle bands: legs, arms, and core.
  • Silver Sneakers – offers water aerobics classes like Splash or Water in Motion for all skill levels—even non-swimmers. Splash involves  the use of signature splash-boards to increase movement and intensity options. (Silver Sneakers is fitness program for older adults  and is available at no cost under some supplement plans.

Whether swimming or participating in water aerobics, the buoyancy of the water reduces the amount of stress put on the weight-bearing joints of the legs and enables the participant to do a full range of movements and exercise that they might not be able to do on land.

The great thing about swimming and other water exercises is that they can be done by those of any age, weight, or body type.  And you can get the exercise without the sweat that goes along with gym workouts and other high-intensity exercises. If health conditions prevent you from participating in high-impact exercise activities, just grab a bathing suit and find a swimming pool.

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.

Which is Right For You – a Personal Trainer or Dietitian?

If you are serious about losing weight and getting in shape, you may be wondering whether you should hire a personal trainer or a dietitian to help you achieve your goals. With the many different diets that have risen in popularity and then faded to obscurity and the ubiquitous gyms and exercise systems claiming to be the best, making the right choice for yourself takes a little time and research.

One thing is certain: you need to ask yourself if your main goal is to lose weight or to get in shape? These two things are very different, though they are often believed to be the same. A person can be very thin but not very muscular, and likewise, someone may have been working on those muscles but still have a lot of pounds he or she needs to lose. How you answer that question will help you to determine if you may benefit more from the advice of a personal trainer or a dietitian.

When it comes to weight loss, exercising helps but is not nearly as effective in the short term as making changes in your diet. Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, is a nutritional biochemist and formerly acted as director of the Nutrition Clinic at the University of Utah. He said, “As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise. An analysis of more than 700 weight loss studies found that people see the biggest short-term results when they eat smart. On average, people who dieted without exercising for 15 weeks lost 23 pounds; the exercisers lost only six over about 21 weeks. It’s much easier to cut calories than to burn them off exercising. For example, if you eat a fast-food steak quesadilla, which can pack 500-plus calories, you need to run more than four miles to ʻundo’ it.”

If you had a choice between jogging for thirty minutes to burn off the calories, or just eliminating two 16-ounce cans of soda, what would be the easier choice? For weight loss, seeing a dietitian for help in planning an appropriate diet that is safe and effective in helping you reach your goals is probably your best choice.

On the other hand, if you are not so much interested in losing weight as in developing your muscle mass, which will also help in long-term weight loss goals (more muscle increases metabolism), the personal trainer might be the way to go. A personal trainer can create a personalized regimen for you that will help you increase your strength, introduce you to new types of exercises, prepare you for any physical challenges you want to undertake (like running a 5K or marathon), help you stay motivated, and help you develop fitness goals that can ultimately encourage weight loss.

Whether your goal is to become more physically fit by increasing your muscle mass and overall strength, or to lose some weight, or both, the help of a personal trainer or dietitian will help you attain your goal faster with healthy practices and without injury.

Below are some professional organizations that you can contact to locate certified professionals: