Posts tagged ‘exercise’

March 19, 2013

Life’s Big Stresses

by lrmetcalfe

In 1967, psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe created an experiment to determine whether stressful events might cause illnesses. They created a list of 43 stressful life and patients had to score which they would find most stressful, their medical records were studied and a positive correlation was found between their life events and their illnesses.

In the last few months I have experienced several of the events on the list and it got me thinking about the best remedies and lifestyle changes we can make to help us get through these difficult times, to ultimately keep our health in the best possible condition.

There is no escaping stress and in the modern world, many of us feel we are always under pressure and our stresses start to feel overwhelming.  However stress can also be a motivator and it is important to remember many stressful events will eventually have a positive effect on our lives; such as sitting exams, job interviews or your wedding day.

So here are some tips to help you deal with some of those scarier moments in life:

B Vitamins and Vitamin C

The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys, they are critical to the body’s regulation of homeostasis and particularly support energy and circulation during times of stress. The water soluble vitamins- Vitamin C and B Vitamins are essential for the production of adrenal hormones and in times of severe stress can become depleted.

Try taking a high strength B Complex and 1000mg of Vitamin C daily, look for a timed release formula to ensure the nutrients are properly absorbed.

Alternatively a bowl of porridge every morning will give you a good daily hit of B vitamins. To increase your Vitamin C intake, consume more fruit and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower).

Lavender Oil

I never underestimate the power of lavender oil. The most flexible of all the essential oils, it is essential in times of stress! Look for lavender oil in a rollerball bottle, and rub a little on the temples, nape of the neck and wrists, to relieve headaches and restore calm. Add a drop or two to your evening bath and onto your pillow to aid relaxation and sleep.

Sleep

Eight hours of sleep is essential for your body to function properly, when you are stressed, sleep is even more important. However sleep can become much more elusive when you feel stressed. Many of us lie awake staring at the ceiling and thinking of all the things we need to do. So here are my top tips for those sleepless nights:

  • Don’t eat after 6pm, and don’t drink any caffeinated beverages. No midnight snacks if you can’t sleep!
  • Avoid watching TV, going on a computer or looking at your mobile phone for 2 hours before bedtime. These will all stimulate the brain.
  • Keep a notebook my your bedside table- if you wake up and can’t sleep, terrified you will forget something you need to do tomorrow, just note it down and take it off your mind.
  • If you really can’t sleep, get out of bed, stop tossing and turning. Do something relaxing and non-stimulating in a different room, for instance go downstairs and read a book. Return to bed when you start to feel sleepy.
  • If you feel you need to take a sleeping remedy, avoid tablets. After 6pm the digestive system starts to close down, this means any pills taken late at night will not be digested until the next morning when you have breakfast. Try a liquid formula such as ‘A.Vogel Dormeasan’ which contains the calming herbs- Valerian and Hops.

The importance of a healthy diet

In times of stress a healthy diet is your best weapon. Ensuring you get all the nutrients you need will ensure your immune, digestive and adrenal systems are all in good condition, helping you to cope with the demands you are placing on your body. This is probably the hardest thing to do and many of us just turn to stimulants such as chocolate and coffee to give us energy throughout the day and take-aways at night, as we are too tired to cook.

Make sure you stock up on healthy things to snack on like fruit, yoghurts, nuts and dried fruit and look into quick, easy and healthy meals you can knock up for dinner.

Exercise

When we exercise we release feel-good hormones called endorphins. Many people who suffer from stress find exercise to be an effective remedy. However it can be difficult to fit exercise in to a hectic schedule; try and do a little bit every day, go for a walk on your lunch break, or do some gentle yoga stretches in the morning, you will soon see and feel the benefits.

Breathe!

Breathing exercises are a fantastic remedy for stress; they can be both energising and relaxing. There are many different breathing techniques you can try. Buy a Yoga dvd or book and it will detail various effect breathing exercises, or you could try this basic one:

Make sure you breathe in and out through your nose. Inhale deeply and slowly, as you do this, try and stick out your tummy, ribcage and chest, breathe out gently and slowly. Try counting whilst you inhale and exhale, you could start off by inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of 8. As you become more practised, try and increase the number you count to.

Breathing exercises are a great relaxation technique however if you suffer from panic attacks or you find your breathing changes when you feel stressed, do not try and breathe deeply. Contrary to popular belief, this can make you feel worse; instead sit down and take steady, short, shallow breaths.

Depression and stress are not to be confused, it is important to speak to your doctor if you are unsure as to exactly what you are suffering from or you are experiencing physical symptoms.

January 1, 2013

Healthy Resolutions

by lrmetcalfe

New YearsHappy New Year everyone!

I hope you have had a lovely (and over indulgent) Christmas (I have!). Now that the festivities are over it is the time for looking forward and deciding on a new year’s resolution, and then deciding how we are going to keep it! Many of us set unattainable goals and give up by January 5th, however let’s look at some healthy steps we can take to break down those scary resolutions we all make.

“I must drink two litres of water a day!”

We all know we need to drink between 1.5-2 litres of water a day, to keep our bodies in tip top condition. We have all tried buying the litre bottle of Evian on January 2nd and resolving to drink and refill it at least twice a day, but let’s be realistic! It is very hard to keep this up; I usually lose my litre bottle or get fed up of carrying this extra weight around with me.  So let’s take little easy steps.

Have a look at what you drink in a normal day. Are you a tea or coffee drinker? Or is squash or coke more your tipple. Start by swapping two of your naughtier daily drinks for a glass of water and increase gradually, before you know it you will have included more water into your diet- no huge plastic bottle in sight.

Also try making water more interesting. Add ice and a slice of lemon or lime, and water becomes more refreshing and tasty. Or for a hot drink option, try herbal teas. There are so many varieties available now that there is a tea for every taste. I like buying loose green tea, and using just a pinch of leaves- I find it settles my stomach and is easier to drink than the more concentrated green tea bags.

So get exploring, if you don’t want to waste money on a whole box of tea bags that you may not enjoy log on to http://twinnings.co.uk and select your two free sample tea bags.

“I must do more exercise!”

Another resolution that many of us shudder at the thought of! Every January many of us trudge to the local gym and purchase a years gym membership which we only use until February. This is not applicable to everyone, many people love going to the gym and follow structured routines. However it’s not so easy for others and is not the cheapest way to get fit:

Do something you enjoy! Whichever form of exercise you opt for, make sure you enjoy it, otherwise it will be hard to commit to. If you’re not sporty then exercise may not seem like an enjoyable past time, but you could dance around your living room to your favourite music for 15 minutes a day and get a great workout. Think outside the box, keep mixing it up and changing your routines and make sure you are having fun whilst you burn calories!

Buy a pedometer. You can get a decent pedometer for around £5 now. Record how many steps you do on a normal day.  Gradually try and increase this, setting yourself attainable goals. Easy ways to increase your step count are:

  • Taking the stairs instead of lifts or escalators.
  • Park your car a little further away from your destination.
  • Get off the bus one stop earlier.

Exercise doesn’t have to be all about blood sweat and tears! Slogging away at a sweaty workout and leaving the gym like a red faced buffoon, seems to many of us the best way to get fit. However, gentle exercise can be much more effective, especially if you suffer from a medical condition which restricts the amount of strain your body can take. Swimming, yoga, tai chi and walking are all gentle forms of exercise which are great for your body and mind.

Do it with a friend. Making a pact with a friend to exercise together, often makes us stick to exercise. The obligation to our friend pulls us off the sofa much better than the thought of losing a stone. Nattering away to a friend whilst exercising often makes the time pass quicker, as well as making the exercise more enjoyable.

“I will lose 2 stone”

Before vowing to lose massive amounts of weight and buying a faddy diet book, set yourself an attainable goal to be met within an attainable time frame. Focus on one goal at a time and achieve this before you start another. Try focusing on making your diet healthier and weight loss will soon come if it is neccesary. Many diets will make you lose weight in the short term but aren’t nutritionally beneficial. Lose weight for yourself and for your health!

Try making these easy changes and see what happens on the scales:

1. Firstly, don’t use the word diet, personally if I tell myself I am on a diet I become suddenly ravenous and want to eat everything I see! ‘I am trying to eat healthier’, is a much better mantra.

2. Swap naughty snacks for healthy (yummy) ones! There is nothing worse than snacking on boring pumpkin seeds and rice cakes and watching your friends shovel down biscuits. Look for yummy, yet healthy snacks. Try exotic fruits and buy supermarket pre-packs if slicing and dicing will put you off. There are some lovely dried fruit mixes available now, dried pineapple or cherries are my favourites. Munchy Seeds are also a great choice, they are seeds which have been roasted and sprinkled with natural flavouring- a great option for savoury fans. Low fat yoghurts and smoothies are another tasty choice.

3. Don’t skip meals and always eat breakfast! Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day you are literally ‘breaking a fast’ and your body needs that kick start of energy from breakfast to start all of its natural processes- including switching on your metabolism, which controls the rate your body burns off calories!  Just the thought of breakfast can turn the stomach for many, but it is important to just have something if you can’t stand a large meal in the morning. Try a banana, a piece of wholemeal toast or a healthy cereal bar (Eat Natural of Nakd bars are great options) if you can’t stand one of the below healthy breakfast options:

  •  Porridge. Many of us don’t like porridge so don’t force yourself if you can’t stand it, if you can porridge is one of the best ways to start the day, full of B vitamins and slow releasing energy it will help you cope with a hectic stressful morning.
  • A healthy ‘fry’ up- grill everything! Try this: a poached egg, grilled bacon with the rind removed, beans, wholemeal toast and a grilled tomato. A great protein filled start – keeping you full up for longer.
  • Wholemeal Granary Toast & Peanut Butter
  • Natural Yoghurt and fruit, sprinkled with muesli or oats

4. Sit up to the table and make each meal time an event. Don’t eat on the go or eat sat in front of the TV or computer, research shows that our brain doesn’t register that we have eaten if we are distracted or eat too quickly and could lead to snacking later. Sitting up to the table and enjoying your meal will keep you fuller for longer and improve digestion. As well as providing you with extra time to sit and be sociable with your family and friends.

I hope that has helped to make a few of your resolutions seem less scary.

My new year’s resolution is to write more articles- I am doing rather well at the minute…. however it is the 1st January!

Happy New Year!