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Finding out that your wife or girlfriend is pregnant is a big deal. Whether you were hoping to get pregnant or not, you are going to become a parent. In addition to being one of life’s stepping stones, this exciting stage will also change your life as you knew it. This article will discuss what you should know about pregnancy, including what will change, how you can help, and what is happening to your partner that is causing her hormones to ebb and flow. What will change? Pregnancy can be one of the most joyful and one of the most difficult physical challenges that one can face. After getting a positive test result, many future parents feel overwhelmed, excited, terrified, etc. During the first few weeks of pregnancy, be advised that a number of things will soon change in your life, with or without your consent. Steve Hoyles, a British weightlifting coach and fitness blogger with Fitness Savvy, says, “Your partner is about to become the victim of changes she didn’t expect. She will be hormonally stressed, physically tired, and sick.” Though no two pregnancies are the same, the American Pregnancy Association claims that up to 70 percent of expectant mothers will get sick and experience nausea at some point during pregnancy. The reality of this data point is felt by women around the world every day who find themselves rushing to a toilet, garbage can, or even the side of the road when they are overcome by sickness. As your partner may be struggling physically, mentally, or emotionally during this pregnancy, it is important to understand the role that you play. Liz Brown, Certified Sleep Coach and founder of SleepingLucid, suggests, “Partners are expected to help soothe and make the pregnancy easier for women, whether it’s by helping them move from time to time, assisting with their diet, or simply being their shoulder to cry on.” Though it may not sound appealing, logical, or fair to you, your ability to successfully help your partner through this pregnancy is directly related to your willingness to continually adjust, being hard to offend, and never giving up. Michael Smit, Senior SEO Analyst and Owner of Blue Cabin SEO, suggests that the majority of your personal needs will be put on the back burner, though this can be frustrating, Smit feels that is something that you need to accept and celebrate as your partner will soon be devoting much of her “you” time to your child. What should I know about pregnancy? First and foremost, you need to realize that you simply don’t know what being pregnant is like. “This is not like being sick, overweight, exhausted,” says Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C and Director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. Though it has a little bit of all of those rolled in, you have never experienced another human growing inside of you. Dr. Sashini, General Practitioner of medicine at DoctorOnCall, urges that you remember that pregnancy is hard. She says “Women sacrifice a lot during this period. Their bodies undergo a number of changes including weight gain/loss, skin health and appearance, and hair health. It is important to know these and appreciate them more.” The more that you know about pregnancy before it begins, the better you will be able to understand your partner and appreciate the mental, emotional, and physical struggles that she is experiencing. What about pregnancy hormones? If you have never been around a pregnant woman, you may have heard stories of the emotions that come with pregnancy. Though it may seem a bit dramatic at first, as you become more educated on what is happening in a woman’s body during pregnancy, these emotions will begin to make more sense. If you find that you are struggling to understand some of her emotions, Hoyles recommends that you read as much as you can about hormones during pregnancy. The more you read and listen to her, the better you will be able to understand her. “During pregnancy, women experience rapid and sudden increases in the hormones estrogen and progesterone,” says Dr. Don Grant, MB, ChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, of The Independent Pharmacy. These changes are necessary as they help with the development of the fetus, formation of blood vessels, and circulation of vital nutrients around the body. If a woman is already tired, stressed, experiencing changes in metabolism, etc., her mood swings may be exacerbated. The best thing that you can do to help her through this is to be patient with her and help to ease her stress whenever possible. Heads up: Though it is common for women to experience mood swings during pregnancy, it is not uncommon for these to continue postpartum and/or while breastfeeding. Jessica Small, Marriage and Family Therapist with Growing Self, warns that you be thoughtful in how you talk about these hormone changes and that whatever you do, you don’t blame any of her feelings on hormones. What should I be doing for my partner? Knowing what you can and should be doing to help and support your partner during pregnancy can be difficult. As you prepare to welcome the newest member of your family, Charlotte Edun, a Positive Birth Movement facilitator with The Good Birth Practice, urges you to consider the following: “Your job is to protect and serve. Right now, she is going to lead and she needs you to follow.” Brown reminds fathers and partners that the simplest things become very hard to do for women that are pregnant. This could include sleeping, moving around, or controlling emotions. Remembering this as you look for ways to serve your partner will make your service much more meaningful and appreciated. We've outlined some ways that you can serve your partner below: Listening intently and acknowledge If you find that you are driven by a “logic” mind, Smit suggests that you set it aside for the time being. When your partner wants to talk to you, listen. Though all of what she says may not be pertinent to your specific circumstance, it is very relevant to hers. You may notice over time that some things will continue to come up over and over again. These are likely challenges, topics, or issues that are important to her. Identifying these topics will help you to know how you can best help her feel heard. Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid of repeating yourself. Your partner may seek answers to the same question or acknowledgement about the same things a number of times. Don’t remind her that you have already responded to this before; just respond again in the most loving way you can. Get your hands dirty Even if you work full time, go to the gym every day, and have other obligations, you need to remember that your partner is feeling hormonal and sick. If she feels unable to do much around the house, it is not an excuse to get you to help out. It simply means that she does not feel well and is in need of your help. During pregnancy, you should plan to take on more of the household chores. It may feel burdensome, but don’t let it feel that way. Marcus Anwar, cofounder of OhMy, recommends being willing to be flexible with your gym time or other activities to make sure that you don’t leave the household chores for her. It may feel like you are sacrificing a lot, but remember, your partner is the one carrying your child. You can at least do this in return. Bonus tip: Dr. Grant suggests that you keep things extra clean. Many women are extra sensitive to smells while pregnant. Air out rooms often and shower daily. Take the garbage out regularly. The cleaner your home is, the less likely the smells in it will add to her morning or evening sickness. Assume nothing If you are unsure about what your partner needs, just ask her, suggests Small. Though it may seem easier to just assume what she may need from you, there is a lot to be said for being willing to ask her what she needs and then following through with her request. Bonus tip: Say things like "How can I help?” says Mara Watts, M.S., M, Ed, and Therapist with Postpartum Support Virginia. Even though you may not know exactly what she is going through, you can still acknowledge and appreciate all that she is doing. Have her back Pregnancy can feel burdensome, and women may feel lonely and helpless. Shannon Serpette, Chief Editor of Mom Loves Best, counsels you to remind your partner from time to time that you are on her side and that you have her back. The more of your support that she feels, the more loved and cherished she will feel. Bonus tip: One of the ways that you can show her that you are there for her is going to doctor visits with her. Jack Burke, Community Outreach Coordinator for Hims, suggests that this shows your commitment while solidifying your new relationship as parents. As a perk, you will also be able to see and hear your baby’s heart beating for the first time during an ultrasound/sonogram. Be involved There is so much that will be going on around your home during pregnancy. Rick Musson, father of four with a fifth on the way and a consultant for LifeInsuranceTypes.com, recommends that you participate in as much of it as possible. Whether you are helping to clean out, paint, furnish, and decorate the nursery, or shopping for some of the “must-haves,” your partner will be grateful for your participation. Bonus tip: Embrace change. During this entire process it is likely that your spouse or partner will change her mind many times. If you have painted the nursery green and she decides that it needs to be gray or blue, paint it again. What happens after pregnancy? Once you have made it through delivery and you are the proud parents of a brand new baby, you will begin to experience a number of additional changes in your life. Musson offers the following suggestions to help you in your preparation for this new life. Expect your one-on-one time with your spouse to decrease. Know that your ability to do things spontaneously will be more difficult. When traveling, plan to stop often for food, bathroom breaks, etc. Plan on traveling taking longer than you anticipate, ALWAYS. Either you, your partner, or a paid caregiver needs to care for you child, so budget accordingly. Normal activities may be replaced with new interests that are more kid-friendly. Be prepared for your life to be filled with an immense amount of joy.
Guest Post by Robyn Flint Depression knows no boundaries. It can occur in anyone due to a number of precipitating factors like predisposition, a life-changing diagnosis or illness, the loss of a loved one, or seasonality. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is depression brought on by the colder days and longer nights typically associated with late fall and early winter. SAD affects women more often than men, but it certainly doesn’t discriminate. Men typically don’t seek treatment for mental health issues as often as women. Men may feel a sense of shame in seeking treatment, but there is no shame in seeking help for depression. There are mental health services available for men who may be experiencing SAD or other mental health issues. If you are unclear about the symptoms of SAD, here are a few warning signs and suggestions for overcoming them: Loss of interest in things you normally like If you find yourself losing interest or avoiding the things you once loved (e.g. outdoor recreational activites), this may be a tell-tale sign of SAD or other forms of depression. If you find yourself unable to pull out of the slump, it may be time to seek professional help. To avoid losing interest in normal activities, make a conscious effort to stay active during the winter. Instead of taking a run outside, join a gym during the colder months. Go with friends and make it a regularly scheduled activity. Consider a vacation to help your mental health. Spend time doing the things you love even if you have to tweak the specifics to accommodate the colder weather. For example, you may not be able to play football with friends, but you can certainly watch it with them. Make a plan to watch one game together each week at a set time and day, alternating the place you watch. This is a great way to stay active and enjoy the things and people you love. Changes in your sleeping habits If you have experienced changes in your sleep habits (sleeping all the time or having trouble sleeping), this may be a sign of SAD. By itself, this is a symptom of other potential health issues. But when it’s paired with other symptoms, it could be due to seasonal depression. A great suggestion for combatting a sleep issue is to establish a nightly routine. If you stay active during the day instead of becoming a hermit, this will help diminish your need to fill the time with sleep. When boredom sets in, so do the urges to sleep. Keep yourself from getting bored. Schedule a bedtime and turn it into a habit. At least one hour before your bedtime, start a routine to prepare your body for sleep. Take a warm shower and follow it up with a caffeine-free beverage and a good book. Turn off the TV as some shows may evoke feelings that make it difficult to sleep and the light is scientifically proven to keep you awake. Instead, listen to soothing music, meditate, read, or do another activity that helps you wind down. No working before bed, you workaholics! Overeating and weight gain during those colder months Boredom in the winter wreaks havoc on our bodies. When we get bored, we eat, we watch TV, we snack, and we have nothing to do outside, so we bake. You may not be the chef in your house, but chances are you are one of many taste testers. It’s really a double-edged sword. We eat because we are bored, and we are bored because there is nothing to do, except eat. Put the beer and chips away. Get off the couch and do some crunches. This goes back up to the first point about staying active. If that fails, then take an interest in healthy cooking. Use the long nights to learn how to become a gourmet chef. The point is to do something healthy instead of vegging out and eating junk all evening. And gentlemen, if you didn’t know, being able to cook is a very attractive quality in a man. Other warning signs of SAD Here are additional signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder: Mood changes (sadness, irritability, and anger) Feeling tired and lethargic Feeling generally depressed Changes in concentration Feelings of guilt and hopelessness There is relief available for Seasonal Affective Disorder and singing the winter blues. Recognize these changes and be proactive with your mental health. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get some professional help by consulting your physician or mental health provider. Robyn Flint writes for CompareLifeInsurance.com and has an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Her experience in the field of mental health includes counseling children and families through outpatient counseling, program management, clinical supervision, and therapeutic foster care. Robyn is also a freelance writer and published author.
Guest Post by Dan Chojnacki The health and wellness industry continues to have a significant impact on society. Figuring out how and what we should eat is the subject of endless debate. You've probably heard of the keto diet, the macro diet, the Mediterranean diet, or the South Beach diet — they all promise better health. How does a person decide what diet will work for them? Is it the best diet for them, or would another one be better? Will it give them the results they’re looking for? Breaking news: You don’t have to diet to be healthy or reach your goals! People dealing with a medical condition may need to follow a specific diet to maintain their health. For those of us not under a doctor’s care, however, our best bet is to try healthy eating. “Healthy” is a term that can mean different things for different people. Our bodies are all unique in their exact needs, so what is healthy for one person might not be healthy for another. Despite this, we all share many common needs when it comes to nutrition. So let’s take a look at some of the obvious (and not so obvious) choices we can make to eat well, sans diet. Cut out the junk No one’s going to be shocked to learn that pizza, burgers, and fried foods won’t make the list of today’s best diets. For those trying to improve their health without a specific diet, there’s no excuse for junk food. Whether you’re following a plan or not, the first step toward eating well is to remove or cut back on the foods we know are unhealthy. Of course you can indulge in your favorite foods on occasion. Don’t be that guy who gets bummed when there’s no cauliflower pizza at the kid’s birthday party. At the same time, don’t be the guy making junk food a part of your daily menu. That will lead to many problems. Most people know which foods they should avoid when trying to eat well. For those with questions, there are plenty of resources available to help you make the decision. When in doubt, ask yourself if this food will benefit your body, or just satisfy a craving. Figure out your daily needs It’s not a universal rule that everyone needs to count calories. However, knowing the number of calories your body requires will help you be mindful of what you’re eating. You don’t have to keep an exact log all day, every day. But it’s important to be aware of whether you are overeating or undereating to stay healthy. Calorie counting can also help you decide what types of foods you want to eat. For example, if you know that three slices of pizza will take up 800 of the 1,800 calories your body needs in a day, you might rethink your decision and opt for something healthier. People’s specific calorie needs vary due to several factors. You can find dozens of calorie calculators online to give you a rough estimate of what you need in a day. If you’re looking for something more exact, consider seeing a dietician. Keep your portions under control Portion control is one area of eating well that can’t be stressed enough. Even healthy food can be unhealthy for our bodies if we eat too much of it. Let’s use almonds, for example. They contain healthy fats that are good for our hearts. However, a handful of almonds can contain around 200 calories. It’s easy to overindulge quickly when you don’t know things like that. Here are two tips I like to give my clients when thinking about portion control and healthy eating: Use a smaller plate when eating meals. Most of us fill our plates to the max when we see delicious food. If there is less room on the plate, then our portion size is automatically smaller (as long as you don’t go back for seconds or thirds). Try to stick to one helping of a meal. There is a delay between our brain and our stomach when it comes to feeling full. We might be full after our first helping, but our brain hasn’t received that signal yet. Try waiting 10–15 minutes after your first helping before deciding if you need to go for seconds. Plan your meals in advance Now before you start to think this is beginning to sound like a diet, I promise you it’s not. Many diets do ask you to plan or prepare your meals in advance. But these diets usually have specific meals for you to follow. Knowing what you’re going to eat in advance helps you avoid giving into cravings or taking an easy way out when it comes to cooking a meal. This is not a specific diet. It’s simply a plan for your meals to contain the foods of your choice. This is also a great way to save time. Many of our poor eating choices happen when we’re in a hurry. We feel like we don’t have time to even think of what we should make to eat, let alone cook it. So mapping out your meals and having them ready eliminates your excuse to make an unhealthy choice because of time. Yes, you can eat healthy without dieting The word “diet” has a bad reputation, and often leaves a bad taste in our mouths. It conjures up thoughts of carb-cutting, kale salads, and day after day of boneless, skinless chicken breast. Newsflash: the word “diet” can simply refer to what you’re eating. Everything you eat is part of your diet. For that reason, you can eat nutritiously without giving your diet a specific name. By focusing on healthy foods, calorie needs, and portion sizes, you’ll be well on your way to cleaning up your diet without being on one. Dan Chojnacki writes for QuickQuote.com and has been a certified personal trainer (NETA) for nearly a decade. He currently trains in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he is also a group fitness director. In his free time, he enjoys running, swimming, playing tennis, and coaching youth softball.
Guest Post by Dan Chojnacki New year, new you. It’s an annual phrase used by many to signal a change. The new year is a time when many people want to either hit the reset button and return to previous goals or decide to turn a part of their life in a different direction. Goals motivate us to keep moving forward, but what happens when they seem so far out of reach that we want to give up? Making a lasting change, especially changes to your health, takes more than a few days to accomplish, which makes the first couple of months of the year vital. The key to achieving your resolutions is staying consistent during the beginning portion of the year. This way, you stick to your plan long enough to form a habit. Once you develop these habits as part of a routine, you’ll be well on your way to accomplishing your goals. Write out your plan Success and motivation go together like peanut butter and jelly. Motivation leads to success, success leads to more motivation to continue forward, and so on. If you have small successes along the way, you’ll continue to be motivated to reach your long-term goals. So many people get caught up focusing on the destination that they forget to take notice of what’s happening along the journey. But if you set smaller goals for yourself as steps to lead to your ultimate goal, every time you reach one of your smaller milestones, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will drive you forward to the next one. This could be something like losing one or two pounds per week on the way to a larger weight loss goal. Each time you lose even a small amount of weight, you’ll be motivated to continue toward your end goal. Write down your health resolution and then write down the small steps or milestones it will take to get there. Writing down your resolution serves two purposes. First, it makes it tangible. It is no longer just a thought in your head. You have taken the time to put it out there to be seen. Being able to see your goal visually makes it more concrete and more likely that you will follow through. Second, it serves as a reminder whenever motivation lags. Rather than trying to remember why you want this goal or what steps you decided to take to reach it, you have a place where you can look to restore your drive. Find a friend to hold you accountable Many of us are built with a desire to not let other people down. There are certainly times in which this can be a negative trait, but when it comes to resolutions, it can be a useful tool to keep you on track. Of course, we first and foremost want to accomplish our goals because they are important to us. However, if you take the time to share your resolution with someone important in your life, there is a good chance they will help you stick to it. Friends who know what you’re trying to accomplish can motivate you and lift your spirits when you feel like you should give up. They may even join you in your goals. You could start running together, shopping for healthy foods together, or preparing meals for the week together. It also provides motivation for you, knowing that if you decide to stop pursuing your resolution, you will have to face your friend. With any luck, your friend may be able to persuade you to reconsider. Put your goals in your schedule There are so many possible excuses, especially with health goals, that can hold you back. The excuse used most often centers on time. “I don’t have time to work out.” “I don’t have time to meal prep.” We all have 24 hours in a day and we need to make the most of them. You can make the best use of your time by scheduling the tasks that will help you accomplish your goals. If it’s a fitness resolution, scheduling your workout times in advance can help keep your week organized. And scheduling time on Sundays to prepare your snacks and meals for the week will actually save you time during the week. Whatever your goal is, planning it out to make it a part of your daily and weekly calendar will help you develop a routine. When this routine becomes a habit, the habit will lead to success. The next step You’ve made your resolution. It’s all mapped out. You have your end goal written down and you’ve made note of the smaller steps along the way that will help you feel successful and motivated. You found a friend to share your health resolution with. That friend is providing you with motivation and has even decided to join you because of the drive you showed. Now you are working together for the same goal. Every workout is written on your calendar. Your meals are planned and prepared in advance. Just like that, you’ve reached your goal. You’ve utilized these tips to stay consistent, form habits, and meet your resolution. Now what? New year, new you. Time to start again. Dan Chojnacki writes for EffortlessInsurance.com and has been a certified personal trainer (NETA) for nearly a decade. He currently trains in Green Bay, Wisconsin where he is also a group fitness director. In his free time, he enjoys running, swimming, playing tennis, and coaching youth softball.
Guest Post by Sahara Rose De Vore When you think of self-care you probably think about going to the gym, joining a yoga class, spending an hour a day meditating, drinking a green juice, getting a massage, or trying out the newest health trend like testing out your Eskimo skills with cryotherapy or floating in a sensory deprivation tank. These are the typical self-care rituals that we commonly talk about. Something that we turn to at different points in our life is travel. When we are feeling stressed out from work, we are dealing with a terrible breakup, there was a death in our life, when we need to shake up a relationship or strengthen the bond with a loved one, or we need to break out of our daily routine and feel something new, we turn to travel. We often do this without recognizing our deeper intent or reasoning. Travel is healing. It fulfills us in a way unlike any other. Vacationing is a restorative behavior with an independent positive effect on health where the benefits can take effect before, during, and after a trip. Decades of research show the positive effects of travel on people’s overall health. Travel activities reinforce physical and mental activity, provide opportunities for human interaction, deepens relationships, aids in combating burnout, enables you to disconnect, and improves your self-awareness. Improves your mental health Resting the body and relaxing the mind are just two ways that travel helps improve your mental well-being. Being in new environments, having exciting new experiences, meeting interesting people, exercising your senses, increasing mindfulness, learning about yourself and what you want out of life, and being part of something bigger than yourself are a few ways that travel can positively change your mental state of mind. Research by psychologists and neuroscientists has found that travel can affect mental change. According to a five-year study by the Wisconsin Medical Journal, “the odds of depression and tension were higher among women who took vacations only once in two years or once in six years compared to women who traveled two times or more each year” and “women who take vacations frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired.” Traveling can help you take a breather to focus on yourself, explore your emotions, and realign with your inner self. The Wisconsin Medical Journal also states that “women who took vacations were much less likely to suffer from depression and other mental health issues, so they subsequently enjoyed a higher quality of life.” Traveling to warm climates, exposure to sunlight, and getting Vitamin D all have a positive effect on depression. Travel increases our happiness hormones and keeps them flowing. "One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University. Travel is the opposite of adaptation. Your environment is constantly changing, you hear different languages, you are faced with new decisions and problems to solve, and you are exposed to new foods, people, cultures, and ways of life. Like Matador Network says, “new experiences increase your cognitive flexibility and keeps your mind sharp”. Decreases burnout There continues to be a rising burnout epidemic in today’s workforce but studies show that the majority of companies are not prioritizing travel in their wellness programs. Research proves that travel is a key ingredient to combating burnout. Taking time for yourself, doing something that makes you happy, checking things off of your bucketlist, being in nature, fulfilling your needs, and exercising the mind and body aids in lowering work-related fatigue and stress. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “a four-day ‘long weekend’ vacation had positive effects on well-being, recovery, strain, and perceived stress for as long as 45 days.” Benefits of travel are almost immediate. After only one or two days of vacation, 89 percent of respondents saw significant drops in stress according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and the United States Travel Association. Although traveling can put your anxiety to the test, it can also teach you new ways to cope and learn about your limits. Keeps you physically fit Travel can keep you physically fit both inside and out. Although some vacations may entail plenty of laying on the beach, many also involve plenty of walking and physical activities. Walking to explore new cities, going on hikes, dancing the night away, and snorkeling in the sea are some common physical activities during traveling that keep your body active and your heart strong. Being fit also means your internal well-being. Exposure to the salty sea air and eating local seafood and marine plants can increase your iodine levels which aids in boosting the immune system. The more that you travel to new environments with different foods, climates, flora, and fauna, the more you build antibodies, ultimately boosting your immune system. If you suffer from sore muscles, achy joints, or arthritis, soaking in the salty sea or mineral-rich hot springs can help alleviate pain and stiffness. Places like the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, Turkish hot springs, and the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan are prime destinations for this. According to a study by The Framingham Heart, “men and women who traveled annually were less likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease.” There is an association between infrequent vacationing and increased incidence of heart problems or death due to coronary causes during a 20-year follow up of women participants. Traveling can increase your chance of living longer and having more fun doing it. It is a healthy way to keep your spirit youthful as you age. Multigenerational travel benefits both grandparents and grandchildren. According to the U.S Travel Association, grandparents “cite valuing the opportunity to travel with their grandchildren to help them feel and stay more youthful.” New destinations can also make eating healthier easier. Asia and South America are saturated with local markets where you can buy vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. You can try exotic new produce that would otherwise be expensive or non-existent where you live. Various fruits like sour sop, papaya, and persimmons are popular fruits known to have healing properties. Eastern healing practices like massages and yoga, homeopathic remedies, Chinese medicines, ancient herbals and teas, and meditation are more accessible and affordable when traveling to that region of the world. Traveling gives you the opportunity to align with your inner self and prioritize your self-care from the inside out. Ignites your self-esteem Traveling also makes you an interesting storyteller. It can boost your confidence levels and self-awareness. Being challenged, trying new things, solving problems on your own, and navigating a foreign place ignites your self-esteem. Vacation offers the opportunity for freedom, intrinsic motivation, creativity, and self-determining factors, which ultimately results in psychological benefits. Studies have shown a connection between travel and creativity, a deeper sense of cultural awareness, and personal growth. When traveling, you expand your mind, adapt to new situations, learn new skills, exercise your thinking process, and become more globally and culturally aware. Travel sends you home with life-long memories to keep and stories to share. Are you putting travel in the forefront of your self-care regime? Ask yourself what truly drives you to get away and what kind of experience you need to have the wellness outcomes that you desire. Sahara Rose De Vore is an Intuitive Wellness Travel Coach who has traveled solo to 84 countries. Founder of The Travel Coach Network, she is on a mission to bring travel to the forefront of well-being both in and out of the workplace.
“The best resolution is one that you will keep!” — Dr. Barbara Bushman of Missouri State University In 2018, only 4 percent of people actually stuck to their New Year’s resolutions. You don’t need to be a mathematician to know how bad of a percentage that is. Let’s face it, both you and I have set resolutions that we have been unable or unwilling to keep. Do you want to change that this year? You likely set some resolutions at the end of 2020. Are you still keeping them? Whether you are or aren’t, the following tips and tricks from a wide panel of over 25 experts will help you stay on track. Why you aren’t being successful “No matter our goals, sometimes we end up making choices or acting in a way that undermines what we really want. Even with the best of conscious intentions, we often allow this self-sabotage to creep in and prevent us from reaching our goals,” said Dr. Bradley Nelson, veteran holistic physician, lecturer, and author from Discover Healing. Setting goals is easy enough, but actually acting on our goals is much harder. Dr. Nelson points out some of the ways that we might sabotage our success: Focusing on failure — We often forget that some of the most successful people are only where they are because they have previously failed a number of times and learned from those experiences. Focus on learning from mistakes, not on beating yourself up when you come short. Not celebrating small victories — You don’t have to wait to celebrate your success until the end of your goal. Enjoy the journey and celebrate the baby steps. Procrastinating — If you allow fear, dread, or insecurity to control you, you will continue to put off accomplishing your goals. Get rid of these thoughts and you will accomplish much more. Faking it — Don’t be afraid of letting people know exactly where you are. The more honest you are, the better people know how to help you. Suffering from Imposter Syndrome — This means that you feel that you are not worthy of happiness or success. Write down all that you accomplish; you will soon see that you have done more than you expected and are worth more than you could ever know. Erika Lee Sperl, a (PES) performace consultant based in Los Angeles adds, "I believe that our inability to stick with the majority of our New Year's resolutions comes down to three things: No one is holding you accountable but yourself, the approach needs changing, but you don't know how, and the goal becomes irrelevant as life situations change." How to choose a resolution To start, you should not make a long list of resolutions. If you did that, look over them and pick one that you would like to focus on. Dr. Susan Besser, MD, MBA, FAAFP, and CIME at Mercy Medical Center suggests that making multiple resolutions will set you up for failure. She also suggests that you treat any resolution you make as a goal. She said, “Decide what one thing (that you can change) is upsetting you the most, then make small changes to improve yourself in that area.” If you do end up slacking off a bit, be kind to yourself. If you find yourself getting stuck, Dr. Besser recommends evaluating what has happened and looking for positive changes to make to your current situation. If you can do this, you will be able to maintain a happy and healthy outlook during your journey to change. Fitness resolutions A recent study by Finder found that over 39 percent of Americans set resolutions to improve their health. These resolutions are often to lose a certain amount of weight or increase physical activity. To prevent burn out, here are some suggestions to make this goal more attainable: Start small — If you hope to run a 5k in the near future, Bushman recommends that you start with a walking program. Work your way into things so that you don't get burned out. Take a walk — Joyce Shulman, Founder of 99Walks said that walking has incredible benefits for your mind, your mood, and your body. It offers time and space free of distractions, fuels your creativity, and is the easiest way to effectively improve your fitness. Facilitate more movement — Teri Dreher, Founder, RN, CCM, and BCPA with NShore Patient Advocates suggests that you park at the further end of the store lot or consider getting a fitness tracker and start counting steps. “Improving posture provides a plethora of health improvements, from reducing torso pain, arthritis pain, knee pain, and of course back pains. Gastrointestinal issues are reduced or corrected by improving posture, and mental acuity is improved. It involves correcting a lifetime of living in bad habits, and that’s not an easy pattern to change.” — Bill Schultz, Founder of Alignmed Have you ever considered working to improve your posture as a New Year’s resolution? Shultz suggests that improving your posture is one of the most important resolutions that we could make for ourselves. If you have recently experienced unexplained back or neck pain, it is possible that your posture is poor. Shultz has found that this pain begins with soreness, turns into inflammation, and then becomes pain and discomfort. Common symptoms for poor posture include: A forward lean when standing straight Fatigue throughout the day A slow metabolism Alignmed has created clothing that acts as a posture corrector. It can be worn while working in the office, when you are out and about, or when you are participating in physical activities. Some professional athletes use it during training to improve performance. If you are looking for help with your posture, it may be worth looking into. Get more sleep Do you get eight hours of good sleep each night? The reality is that most of us don’t. We should, but we get side tracked with friends, family, TV, video games, or other activities. Imagine how good it would feel to get a solid eight hours of sleep each night. Here is what the experts have to say about sleeping habits: Routine — Bill Fish, Founder of Tuck.com, feels that the quantity of sleep is not as important as the quality of sleep that you are getting. He said, “Our bodies are equipped with an internal 24-hour clock known as our circadian rhythm. It tells our body when to rest and when to be alert, and craves consistency. Thus, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day will help your body immensely.” Time — It is not uncommon for us to plan so many things in our day that we end up staying out later than we would like. If this is a habit of yours, Jocelyn Nadua, Registered Practical Nurse and Care Coordinator for C-Care Health Services, suggests that you start trying to go to bed a bit earlier. She said, “It's okay to go to bed late on some occasions, but those few extra hours of sleep you get when you go to be early will go a long way in keeping your body healthy.” Sleep apps — Dr. Tanya Altmann, Pediatrician and Author, recommends trying out a sleep app to better your sleeping patterns. She points out that “smart apps for sleep can track sleep cycles, aid in falling asleep, or potentially guide your dreams.” Get more exercise Who doesn’t want to take better care of their body at the beginning of a new year? There are so many ways that you can tackle physical health. To start, here are five tips from Billy Ferguson, CEO and Founder of Trivelo. Keep variety in your exercise regime. Mix things up and have some fun. Resist routine. Keep your body guessing and prevent muscle memory from reducing the effectiveness of your training. Combine cardio, strength training, and low resistance stretching based exercises to create all round fitness and maximize the time invested. Vary times of training and type. Don’t feel the need to workout for exactly an hour every day. Reward all efforts from 50-mile bike rides all the way down to getting 10,000 steps of walking in a day. Sometimes improving physical health can be intimidating. That being said, there are ways to make it more palatable. If you are not the best at going to the gym or working out, it is important to start with baby steps. Renata Trebing, Founder of Nourish With Renata suggests that you get out and move your body for 30 minutes each day. To help you create a habit, she offers these three suggestions: Select a time of day that works for you (during a lunch break, nap time, or before dinner, etc.) Hold yourself accountable (write your goal down) Invite people that you are close to to help you (build a support group) “You should exercise (moderate physical activity) 150 minutes per week: 5 days of 30 minutes each session.” — American Heart Association Jocelyn Henning, MS, PA-C, Stroke Program Director, and Director of Patient Safety at Mercy Medical Center, suggests pairing fitness with nutrition by setting regular eating and exercise patterns six out of seven days per week. The seventh day is a day for you to enjoy your favorite meal or some treats. If, like the majority of us, you have a couple of bad days and are unable to meet your daily goals, just jump right back into it. Henning said, “One or two not so good days aren’t an excuse to ruin the rest of the week.” Improve your nutrition Making changes to your eating habits is easier said than done. One of the best ways to improve your health is eating a nutrient-rich diet. Dr. Stacey Bell, DSc and RDN with Drink Nutrient, offers a few suggestions to help you get started: Stay hydrated Don’t count calories, count nutrients Avoid the “Naughty Nine” preservatives gluten GMOs excess sugar excess sodium acrylamide artificial flavors/sweeteners/dyes binders/emulsifiers Whole Foods-banned ingredients. Expert parenting tip: Pack a lunch for your kids. There are many resources to help you get some inspiration. Jessica Gury, Cofounder and CEO of Teuko, a company that helps parents know how to pack good lunches for their kids, suggests that parents pack lunches for their kids to help them develop healthier eating habits. Making changes to your diet usually will require you to replace the bad foods that you are eating with healthier options. Amy Van Sydow Green, MD, MS, and RD with Honey Brains, adds her recommendations on eating better foods: Increase veggies and fruit in your daily diet. Aim to make half of your plate vegetables at lunch and dinner. Add a fruit and veggie smoothie with your breakfast egg. Slice up an apple to eat with nuts for a nourishing evening snack. Get in the habit of having a side salad with dinner. Eat more whole foods and less processed foods. For example, fish, chicken, nuts, eggs, fruits, and vegetables are more filling and can help you manage a healthy weight. Stay hydrated “Proper hydration is not only essential to health, it regulates body temperature, it helps your kidneys function, helps your digestive tract move things along, and helps your body send essential nutrients/electrolytes to their proper destinations in your body.” — Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD and LDN with Smart Healthy Living It's important to stay hydrated throughout the day, every day. But that doesn't have to mean just drinking more water. Though this would be ideal, it is certainly only one of many sources of hydration. Miller suggests that you can help keep your body hydrated by consuming the following: water, broths, juices, teas, fruits, and veggies. All of these sources can be used to increase your fluid intake during the day. Proper hydration for you can be determined by a registered dietitian (there may be certain health conditions that have specific fluid recommendations). For more suggestions, see what Medical News Today has to say. So how can you tell if you are dehydrated? It's actully pretty simple. According to Miller, unless you have any conditions that may cause your body to act differently (kidney disease, diuretic medications, etc.), you will be able to judge your hydration based on the color of your urine. If it is dark yellow or amber, it is likely that you need to increase your hydration. Ideally, urine should be clear or very pale yellow. Breathe better Have you ever thought about making a goal to improve your lung capacity? It may sound silly, but some of the things we do every day really do affect our ability to breathe. Bob Prichard, President of Somax Performance Institute, shares some of his findings below: Stop smoking — Anything (vaping, marijuana) that you inhale that is not clean air will irritate the sensitive lung tissues. The result is that you gradually, imperceptibly lose chest expansion, lung capacity and brain oxygen. Wash your hands — Colds and the flu can cause similar effects on your lungs as smoking. Avoid corset undergarments — Want a wasp waist? Say goodbye to your brain oxygen. Travel more Did you know that traveling can help reduce stress levels and boost self esteem? In a recent article by Lonely Planet, travel was identified as an act of self care. It is not uncommon for people to want to travel more, but the number of those who actually do is fairly low. While traveling requires time, energy, and money, in exhange you get experience, memories, and a richer life. “Travel is a key component to maintaining a healthy and happy lifestyle,” said Sahara Rose De Vore, Founder of The Travel Coach Network. She continues, “People are drawn to travel for reasons including healing, connecting, exploring, adventure, soul searching, and other fulfilling purposes. Therefore, travel is a health resolution that people should keep up with all year.” If you would like to travel more, but always run into roadblocks, here are some tips from De Vore to help you change that: Treat travel as self-care Be involved in the planning process (don’t just leave it to a travel agency) Set a specific budget and plan accordingly Put money aside each month into a travel fund Create a travel vision board Explore the hidden gems of your hometown, state, or country on a stay-cation See if your employer offers any travel perks (remote work or volunteering abroad) The better you are at caring for yourself, the more effective you will be in all that you do. Improve your mental health Have you ever set a goal but felt that you would never be able to achieve it? When we set lofty goals but are not in the mental space to take them on, we can easily become discouraged. Strive to look at your goals through a positive lens. McKenzie Caldwell, MPH and RDN with Feed Your Zest, feels that the best type of diet is no diet at all. Thinking that you are on a diet can be restrictive and mentally taxing. She recommends sticking to a couple of guidelines (rules) to improve your physical and mental state. This is called intuitive eating. She said, “Intuitive eating is all about tuning into your inner signals of hunger, fullness and cravings. In this way, you can pursue a healthier lifestyle, and have better body image and mental health in the process.” If you start getting anxious or upset about your eating and fitness goals, take inventory of your social media feeds. If you are following people or companies that discuss dieting or exercise, unfollow them. There is no point focusing on others successes when you should be enjoying your own journey through conscious decision making. Do you expect to be perfect immediately when you start a new goal? Let’s face it, you won’t be. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody falls short in some capacity and needs to start over. To help you navigate this in your life, Cynthia Thurlow, Functional Medicine Nurse Practitioner, Nutrition Expert, and Wellness Entrepreneur, shares four key tips: Be honest with yourself — Analyze what is working and what is not without making excuses. Consistently assess — No matter your goal, take the time to assess your progress and identify places where you are doing well and places that you think you could improve. Take time — Give yourself at least 30–60 days to transition into a new habit. Change requires time. Turn around — Take some time every so often to look back and see how far you have come. You will be surprised to see how big a difference each small change can make.
Guest Post by Lisa Richards Nobody enjoys being bloated or gassy. And yet we often think that it’s just something to put up with. Well, good news — you don’t have to put up with it. All you need to do is make a few lifestyle changes. Good digestion is not only about what you eat, but how you eat it, and how well you look after your body in general. After all, you are what you eat! Here are eight lifestyle changes to help maintain great digestion: 1. Eat the right foods Unsurprisingly, the foods that upset your digestive system the most are those that are high in fat, sugar, and artificial additives. That’s because your body was never designed to break down these highly processed foods. Chips, cookies, crackers and soft drinks aren’t really food at all, but rather a mixture of chemicals and synthetic ingredients. Your digestive system is built for plant foods, lean proteins, fruits, and nuts. These are the foods that provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs in order to function properly — so it makes sense to eat them! By including more real food in your diet and less man-made food, you’ll be feeding your digestive system the foods it recognizes and providing yourself with real nutrition. It’s a no-brainer, really! 2. Boost your good gut bacteria Your gut is home to trillions of microbes that play a major role in healthy digestion. But if you’re suffering from dysbiosis or an overgrowth of bad bacteria (or yeast such as Candida albicans), your digestive function will be considerably weakened. The best way to beat the bad bacteria is to add more good. Studies have shown that supplementing with probiotics is an effective way to reduce levels of bad bacteria and yeast in the gut and also restore good digestive function. You can improve your levels of beneficial bacteria by taking a quality probiotic supplement every day or by adding fermented foods to your diet. These include products such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and natural yoghurt. When buying a probiotic, look for one that contains lots of strains and at least 10 billion CFUs of bacteria. Also consider the delivery system to your gut, as most probiotics in vegetable capsules are destroyed by stomach acid. The probiotic that I use myself uses time-release tablets to deliver its bacteria safely past stomach acid. 3. Add more fiber to your diet Another one of the reasons for poor digestive function is slow bowel transit time. When your diet is lacking in fiber, food moves more slowly through the intestines, causing it to release nasty gases. Fiber also only helps to maintain the health of your gut and bulk out your stools, helping them to move through your digestive system more regularly. Even better, fiber provides fuel that supports the good bacteria in your gut. The best fiber-rich foods include nuts, seeds, kiwifruit, berries, avocados, pears, bran, and oatmeal. 4. Minimize stress You may have noticed a kind of butterflies feeling in your tummy when you’re nervous or stressed. This is the effect that anxiety and worry can have on your digestion. In some cases, stress slows down digestion and causes bloating, pain, and constipation. Other times, it can speed everything up, causing diarrhea or destroying your appetite completely. Stress can also worsen conditions such as stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome. It can also change the balance of your gut bacteria. It’s a good idea to avoid eating if you’re feeling very anxious, stressed, or upset. Try to avoid stressful situations during meal times or eating on the run. Practice meditation for 15–30 minutes a day to reduce your stress levels and induce a sense of calm. 5. Quit smoking Smoking can really mess with your natural digestive function, causing all sorts of nasty symptoms. Cigarette smoking tends to weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of your esophagus, known as the gullet. When this happens, acid from your stomach can splash up into your esophagus, causing the unpleasant sensation known as acid reflux. Reflux is often described as heartburn — a burning sensation in the chest. Over time, excess stomach acid caused by smoking can also increase your risk of stomach ulcers and inflammatory conditions of the bowel. Smoking is also a major risk factor for stomach cancer. The best way to restore the health of your gut is to quit! 6. Practice mindful eating Taking the time to really focus on your food can make a huge difference to your digestion. Don't rush your meals. Take time to chew slowly. Try putting your fork down between bites and chewing each mouthful properly. This method can also help prevent you from overeating. If you find it takes you too long to eat a full meal, try eating five to six small meals a day instead of three large ones. It’s also important to avoid eating a big meal just before you go to bed, as your body will find it difficult to digest a meal while lying down. 7. Hydrate Make sure you have plenty of water to drink each day — at least two liters. Water helps to flush food through your digestive system, keeping everything flowing smoothly down through your digestive tract. When you don’t drink enough, your stools can become dry and hard to pass, causing constipation and intestinal discomfort. Try carrying a water bottle with you at all times and remember to keep sipping it throughout the day. This is easier than drinking those eight glasses! Do try to avoid drinking large amounts of water 30 minutes either side of meals, as this can dilute your digestive enzymes. 8. Exercise Exercise naturally stimulates peristalsis, the movement of food through your intestines. Being sedentary, however, has the opposite effect: it causes your digestion to slow down, which in turn can lead to tummy trouble. Being overweight can also cause digestive problems because excess abdominal fat puts pressure on your stomach, causing heartburn. Regular exercise will not only help speed your bowel transit time but will also keep your weight at a healthy range. Losing a few pounds can help to relieve digestive symptoms and also reduce your risk of inflammatory bowel conditions. Try exercising for at least 30 minutes a day through walking, jogging, running, or cycling. Lisa Richards is a Nutritionist for The Candida Diet.
Guest Post by Shyam Bhardwaj Corporate lifestyles are causing a significant proportion of the U.S. workforce to face lesser productivity. Sedentary lifestyles, poor nutritional choices, bad posture, improper work-life balance, and excessive alcohol use have all been identified as contributors to chronic illnesses among workers. Chronic illness has become a major burden on the workplace due to health care costs, absenteeism, and reduced employee productivity when at work. Work-load and associated stress levels undeviatingly impact mental as well as physical health. The American Heart Association uses CVH metrics to define physical health comprising several observations, including non-smoking, body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol, etc. Reportedly, CVH metrics + Healthy Diet + Physical Activity are arbitrarily linked with better engagement and performance. Many organizations have addressed these issues by inducting workplace wellness programs to inspire employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. Programs are either implemented directly by the employer or through a program developed by the company's health-care provider. Cited by the RAND report, nearly half of U.S.-based employers run a sort of wellness program. Most of these programs combine screening for risk factors with interventions to reduce risk. Individual's data set on weight, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and fitness habits are commonly collected by employers as part of these wellness initiatives. Interventions offered in the wellness programs involve smoking cessation programs, on-site weight measurements, on-site vaccinations, weight-loss competitions, nutrition educational activities, stress management educational activities, substance abuse counseling, and fitness promotion programs. About half of the employers with wellness initiatives also offer disease management assistance, with diabetes as the most commonly targeted condition. The biggest obstacle for employers to make these programs extremely successful is the ratio of positive participation from employees. The majority of wellness programs used incentives such as money and prizes to encourage employee participation in the programs. Organizational wellness programs might differ based on personalized goals and company-size, but usually, the following points decide the wellness plan structure: What is pushing the most extravagant claims onto your health care plan. Humanize your organization and set realistic expectations. Integration of workplace wellness with other benefits. Lead by example; Practice what you preach. Implementation is the key. Corporate wellness programs do more than just promote healthy lifestyles among employees. Aside from providing positive reinforcement to get in shape, they also boost the company's bottom line. In the past, employers used to do small things to encourage employee health like hanging motivational posters or encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Today, companies are shelling out significant sums of money for wellness programs because they really do work. The initial investment ends up paying for itself and then some over the long haul. Let's take a look at a couple of benefits of taking the wellness plunge. Fewer sick days Corporate wellness programs typically offer employees incentives for reaching health goals and sometimes even punish them with a bit of negative reinforcement for being unhealthy. The result is a significant improvement in overall employee health. When employees understand how to live a healthy lifestyle and are encouraged to do so through a corporate wellness program, they get sick less often. This helps the company stay profitable. Fewer workers' compensation claims Better levels of health are directly linked to fewer workers' compensation claims. Employees who are in shape are less likely to strain muscles, tear ligaments, and break bones while performing work activities. Healthcare savings Corporate wellness programs boost a company's bottom line by saving money on health insurance costs. In a study conducted by Richard Milani and Carl Lavie, over 185 couples were given cardiac rehabilitation training. Over 100 couples recovered from high-risk to low-risk health status at the end of a six-month wellness program. The savings is passed on to the company in the form of reduced healthcare premiums and fewer workers' compensation claims. Mutual benefits One of the best aspects of a corporate wellness program is that it has the potential to be mutually beneficial to both the company and the employees. Most employers will provide financial rewards to employees who hit health benchmarks for things like blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels. Increased happiness Healthy people are generally much happier people than those who are unhealthy. Happier people are also more likely to show up to work and take fewer sick days and personal time off. Beyond merely showing up for work, happy employees are also much more productive than their unhealthy counterparts and will boost the company's bottom line. Don't underestimate how contagious a positive attitude can be. Happy people liven up the workplace atmosphere and lift the moods of others, making the environment much more productive. External benefits One of the best ways to sell employees on a wellness plan is to stress the fact that it can benefit them beyond the workplace. Although the company's primary interest is maintaining a healthy workforce, it can also benefit from an employee who has a happy life outside of work. Those who enjoy their time off of work will be much more productive while on the clock. If employees understand that a wellness program will help them get in shape so that they can spend more quality time with their family and live a long life, they'll be more likely to participate in the program with sincere interest and effort. Long-term investment While a corporate wellness program will be a sizable initial investment, it will eventually produce results. The key is patience. Once employees get in the habit of taking care of themselves, they'll be more likely to practice healthy behaviors over an extended period of time. The result will be a healthier, happier workforce that lowers the employer's future healthcare premiums and workers' compensation claim costs. Group mentality One of the more interesting aspects of corporate wellness programs is that employees are much more likely to participate because their co-workers do. While it is difficult for an individual to motivate himself to sign up for a gym or start a workout routine all by himself, it is much easier for him to participate in a wellness program when his peers do it with him. Nobody wants to be the odd man left out. When asked, employers tended to be confident that wellness programs were effective and cost-saving for the corporations. It pays off in reduced absenteeism and boosted productivity, plus a fairly large discount on its healthcare costs from its healthcare provider. Shyam Bhardwaj has over seven years of experience in marketing and branding space. With background experience in software engineering, he also deals with IT and web development areas. He often writes about entrepreneurship journey, start-up success stories, marketing hurdles, and business operations.