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Six Ways to De-Stress This Holiday Season

Written by Lisa Jillanza

The holidays can be the most joyous AND the most stressful time of the year. Instead of driving yourself crazy and worrying your way through the season, use the following advice to help de-stress this year.

1. If you exchange gifts with friends, family or co-workers, decide ahead of time a pre-set spending limit that you will spend on each other. By keeping this amount in mind when you are shopping it will be less stressful to you when you are searching for that perfect gift as you can eliminate certain gifts if necessary.

2. Don't try to do all of the cooking for your get-togethers. Instead delegate certain dishes to your different family members or guests and let them help take the stress off of you when it comes to the meal. You will not only get a break, but your guests will feel like they contributed to making the holiday special.

3. Watch your fat and sugar intake over the holiday season. Taking in too much fat and sugar will not only lead to bloating, but it could also lead to depression. By watching what sugary treats you eat this season you will also avoid having to lose those extra pounds that you may put on by eating those foods.

4. Teach your children the value of gift-giving and the “reason for the season.” Children do not need an abundance of gifts, instead by getting them a few memorable gifts you will be instilling in them happiness for what they do get. This will also alleviate the stress of shopping every day for those items that will only be forgotten in a few days.

5. Embrace imperfection. According to MSNBC, it's important to chill out and leave the emotional baggage at the door. Don't allow for heightened sensitivity this time of year because you're just asking for a melt-down. Laugh and smile even if you don't feel like it. Stop stressing about making everything perfect and realize that this holiday is about the joys of spending time together and not the other minor details.

6. Give to a charity this season. This season isn't about what you receive, but what you can give and what better way to give than to give to those in need? Whether it is by giving food and donations to a food bank or by donating some toys to those in need, you will feel such a calming and happy feeling knowing that you are affecting the lives of people who may do without otherwise.

Happy Holidays to you and wishes for a non stressful season!

 

All Day Energy: Ways to Stay Energized All Day Long!

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Let's face it, in today's rush-rush world we are always trying to cram as much as possible into our 24-hour day. Sadly, many people are turning to energy drinks and pills to help get them through their long days, when in actuality there are plenty of natural energy boosters that you could rely on to help you stay energized.

Just try these simple all day energy strategies provided by MSNBC to make sure that you wake up feeling refreshed, stay motivated throughout the day and are able to wind down and get a relaxed night of sleep.

Consistent wake-up time: Many people would think that sleeping in would actually give them all-day energy, but it is more harmful than it is helpful. Instead, opt for the same wake-up time everyday and get yourself into some light, whether you get your sunlight by actually going outdoors or just by opening up the blinds.

Reduce your carbs and add in more protein: While carbohydrates will give you that quick burst of energy, eating too many carbohydrates will actually drain you. Opt for getting a healthy mix of carbs and protein to feel more energetic throughout the day. Keep your daily intake of healthy carbs below 150 g. for example: five servings of veggies, two servings of fruit, three servings of whole grain carbs.

Skip your morning cup of Joe: Instead of downing your coffee first thing in the morning, opt for having an afternoon cup of coffee when tiredness typically sets in. Try having a half to one cup of coffee or its caffeine equivalent during the late afternoon when the pressure to sleep is high. Be careful not to do this too late as it may interfere with you being able to fall asleep at night.

Avoid grazing and eat your meals at consistent times: Believe it or not, your body runs on the food schedule that YOU set. When you skip meals your body suffers by going into shut down mode, like it does when it is time to sleep. Keep your meals consistent and at consistent times to avoid the daily drain. Grazing should be avoided, too, as it leads to overeating and over hunger.

Relieve stress through meditation: Because it may be hard to carve out set times to simply relax and meditate, try to do it when you have a few free minutes throughout your day. Even simply three minutes of mediation can reduce stress hormones that create body tension and constricted blood vessels. Find a quiet spot where you won't be interrupted (even a bathroom if that's your only option), sit down and close your eyes, listen to your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale, and when thoughts intrude imagine that they are like clouds floating in the sky. Practice these techniques and take a few minutes to rejuvenate through relaxation.

Power walk instead of power nap: While it may seem like a short little cat nap will help you through that afternoon slump, a short little power walk will be more beneficial. Because of the way the homeostatic and circadian systems interact, most people feel a lull 17 to 18 hours after they went to bed the previous night. Get out for a brisk walk if you are able to and your body will thank you for it. If you can't get outdoors, sit by a window and bask in the daylight for some quick light energy.

Exercise to music: Exercise may be the most obvious way to increase your energy levels throughout the day, yet many people still avoid it. If you are having trouble getting the motivation to work out, try listening to music before exercising. Studies show that people who listen to music prior to and while working out, feel like they have exerted themselves less than those who don't listen to music while working out.

Wind down before bed: Studies show that very bright light will increase brain activity and the light emitted by a computer monitor late at night can do just that. Watching television is better as most people sit far enough away from a TV to be unaffected by its brightness. Whether you choose to watch a little TV or read a good book, take the time to wind down before catching those zzz's.

 

Straight From the Headlines Getting More Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight

Written by Lisa Jillanza

According to an article on CNN Health a recent study suggests that lack of sleep could throw off a diet.

Research from the University of Chicago showed that dieters who slept for 8.5 hours lost 55 percent more body fat than dieters who slept 5.5 hours. How is this possible? According to the study not having enough sleep could affect a hormone called ghrelin, known to affect appetite and weight. An increase in this hormone level has been shown to make people hungrier and cause higher fat retention.

The study included 10 sedentary nonsmokers, between the ages of 35 to 49 years with a body mass index considered overweight to obese (BMI 25-32), who stayed in what's considered a closed study environment for two weeks. They ate the same diet, consumed multivitamins and performed the same type of work or leisure activities. Six of them were assigned to 8.5 hours of sleep, and four slept 5.5 hours. Those who slept more lost more fat and maintained fat-free body mass.

The dieters who slept less also reported feeling hungrier throughout the course of the study.

Study authors wrote, "Together, these results suggest that the loss of sleep at times of limited food intake amplifies the pattern of ghrelin-associated changes in human hunger, glucose and fat utilization, and energy metabolism.”

Furthermore, according to About.com inadequate sleep amounts can affect you in a myriad of unhealthy ways:

Lack of sleep interferes with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and causes high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body-fat storage.

Drives down leptin levels, which causes the body to crave carbohydrates.

Reduces levels of growth hormone--a protein that helps regulate the body's proportions of fat and muscle.

Can lead to insulin resistance and contribute to increased risk of diabetes.

Can increase blood pressure.

Can increase the risk of heart disease.

It may be worth your while health-wise to try to pack in as many zzz's as possible.

 

Prepare Yourself for Cold and Flu Season: Do's and Don'ts

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Now that the kids are back in school and the weather is starting to change, it's time to start worrying about cold and flu season. According to MSNBC, while the flu can resemble a cold, the flu has more severe symptoms including fever, achy joints, sore throat, chills, congestion, headache and hacking cough. In addition, children sometimes come down with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea when they catch the flu.

Adults can pass the virus to others a day before they feel sick and up to 7 days after symptoms appear, according to experts. So it is possible to give someone the flu even before you know you've got it yourself. Therefore it's important to take steps to protect you or your family from getting it in the first place. Here's some do's and don'ts to keep in mind:

Do Use Hand Sanitizer- Carry a pocket-size hand sanitizer with you at all times and use it generously whenever you are in public places. Germs are everywhere and on everything and by using hand sanitizer you are protecting yourself from bringing home these flu viruses.

Do Wash Your Hands Frequently- It may seem like the simplest thing to do, but be sure that you are washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap, and for at least 15 to 20 seconds. Teachers are now telling students to sing the ABC's or Happy Birthday to themselves while they are washing their hands to be sure you are washing for a full 15 to 20 seconds.

Do Sneeze Into the Crook of Your Elbow- By sneezing into your elbow, you are avoiding transmitting flu viruses to your hands and will keep you from passing the virus to others. It may seem socially awkward at first, but soon you will see more and more people doing this when they sneeze.

Do Fight Back with Food- Research shows that adding certain foods to an already healthful diet can increase your ability to fend off colds and flu. Try yogurt, garlic, black tea, mushrooms, and fatty fish.

Don't Shake Hands- To keep from transmitting germs, avoid shaking hands with people when you greet them. Try a head nod, waving or smiling instead to greet someone. If you can't avoid shaking someone's hand, then be sure to use your hand sanitizer following the hand shake.

Don't Use Someone Else's Phone or Computer Mouse- Phones and computers harbor some pretty heinous germs for hours. Avoid sharing someone else's phone or computer mouse if at all possible. If you do have to use someone else's phone or computer wipe it down with an alcohol swab prior to using it.

Don't Change a Diaper Without Washing Your Hands Immediately Afterwards- This should be a given at all times and not just during the flu season, but stool harbors gastrointestinal bugs that cause diarrhea, vomiting and upset stomach. It may also contain H1N1, so anyone changing a diaper needs to be sure that they are washing their hands (for 15 to 20 seconds) following the changing.

Managing Stress by Choosing Stress-Fighting Foods

Written by Lisa Jillanza

STRESS. We all deal with it at some point in our lives. But having too much stress in your life can be very harmful to your health and can make you more vulnerable to everything from colds to high blood pressure and even heart disease.

Stress management is a valuable tool to learn when it comes to your overall wellness. While there are many ways to cope with stress, eating stress-fighting foods is one good way to start. From boosting serotonin levels to lowering stress hormones, there are a number of foods that actually counteract the impact of stress on our lives. According to MSNBC, there are three nutrients that have the ability to soothe your nerves including Folic acid, a B vitamin that enhances mood; Vitamin B-12, which boosts your energy; antioxidants such as Vitamins C, E, and the mineral selenium, which help to repair damage to cells caused by stress.

The following foods should be part of your diet for stress management:

Complex Carbohydrates: All carbohydrates give a signal to the brain to produce that “feel good” chemical, serotonin. To keep a steady flow of serotonin, dieticians suggest complex carbs like whole grain cereals, breads and pastas and oatmeal.

Oranges: Because they are a wealth of vitamin C, studies show that oranges are great stress-busting foods, as well as a great immune system strengthener. Experts suggest taking 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C before a stressful event.

Spinach: It's the magnesium in spinach that helps to regulate cortisol levels that particularly get depleted when we are in stressful situations. Not enough magnesium can trigger headaches, adding to stressful situations. One cup of spinach is the recommended amount, as the magnesium goes a long way. Can't do spinach? Try cooked soy beans or salmon instead, for the same effects.

Fatty Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are important to prevent surges in stress hormones, as well as protect against heart disease. Try fatty fish like salmon or tuna for your Omega-3's.

Black Tea: Good for lowering levels of cortisol following stressful events, many experts swear by the healing powers of black tea. Black tea helps you to recover quickly following stresses and helps you to remain calm.

Pistachios: Chosen for their ability to soften the pre- and post-effects of stress, experts suggest eating a handful of pistachios every day to help lower blood pressure so it won't spike when faced with stressful situations.

Avocados: Another great high blood pressure reducing food is avocados, due to their potassium content. Half of an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. Additionally, avocados, in guacamole form, are a great and nutritious treat when stress has you craving snack foods.

Almonds: Chock full of vitamins, like vitamin E and a range of B vitamins, almonds are a great treat to eat that help with resiliency when dealing with stress.

Raw Vegetables: In a purely mechanical way, crunching on raw vegetables can help to alleviate stress. By releasing your clenched jaw and possibly warding off headaches, chomping your carrots, celery and other veggies is beneficial on many levels.