Posts tagged #Wellness

Tossing and Turning? Try these Sleep-Improving Tips!

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There are few things more precious to me than a good night’s sleep.  I mean it. I pride myself on my ability to sleep at pretty much any time of day for any length of time. Okay, for all my bragging about sleep abilities, even I have restless nights of tossing and turning. It’s not surprising-- one in three Americans have reported difficulties falling asleep or waking frequently throughout the night. Our hectic lives can often wreak havoc on our sleep cycles, and it can take a lot of effort on our part to rectify the damage.  Scroll down to read some methods to getting more restful and sustained sleep.

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One of the biggest factors of our lives affecting sleep is stress.  The constant go-go-go of the standard Modern American lifestyle impacts our sympathetic nervous system causing it to be constantly upregulated.  This upregulation is helpful in the hustle and bustle, keeping us moving and alert, but when it comes time to sleep, our body needs time to downregulate. Allowing our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for functions like digestion and healing, to kick in while we rest is critical for a happy and healthy body.  But in a stressful “constantly on” world, it is increasingly difficult to downregulate, which can cause-- you guessed it-- insomnia and other sleep troubles. If you find your mind racing, or feel anxious around bed time, try some of these downregulating activities:

Meditate for 10-20 minutes. Meditation is a really great way to override your nervous system to allow for calm and relaxation.  Need some guidance? Try a guided meditation app, like Headspace or Calm.

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Yoga. Light physical activity like gentle yoga an hour before bed can help the body begin to downregulate. Specific yoga positions, like forward folds and bends are particularly beneficial in calming the nervous system.

Put away the screens.  Phones, computers, and even televisions emit blue light, which interrupts the body’s natural cues to begin getting sleepy.  I recommend turning off at least two hours before bed, and do something else, like some light reading or maybe that yoga I mentioned before.

Limit the Caffeine, Sugar, and Junk Food.  What goes into your body is just as important as what you do with it.  Caffeine has a huge impact on your ability to sleep restfully throughout the night.  Some studies have shown that ingesting caffeine up to 6 hours before bed can reduce your total sleep by one hour a night.  Sugar can also rob you of precious sleep, which can even increase your blood sugar, posing a long-term risk for diabetes. So put the cookies down, eat a healthy snack if you must, and limit that coffee to the morning.  Your body will thank you for it.

Get a massage. It can be difficult to get comfortable in bed and sleep restfully if your muscles are tense and sore. Massage not only helps soothe any physical issues you might have, but can also have a huge impact on that nervous system that’s stuck firing on all cylinders.  Schedule a massage once a month to keep the continuing benefits going. I’ve heard of this really great place called the Pear Day Spa….. :)

Sleep can be elusive to some, but hopefully some of the tips above can set you up for a more restful night.  Of course, not everything can be fixed with some yoga and less coffee-- if you have persistent sleep issues, it could be time to speak with your doctor about potential medical conditions.  

Posted on June 12, 2019 and filed under Self-care, Healthy Living.

Stressed Out? Try "Forest Bathing"

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I have this habit of spending the vast majority of my time indoors. I even semi-jokingly refer to myself as “indoorsy,” preferring to spend my free time inside rather than out in nature. But often, I find myself feeling stressed, anxious, and tired. A high-stress life of modern society can leave one feeling frazzled and depleted. When we get caught up in our daily lives hustling from one task to the next, not only does our nervous system get tired, but we can experience a sort of “tunnel vision” that has us only half experiencing life.

Here in Eugene, I feel so fortunate to live somewhere with such abundant greenspace. Just being able to sit by the Willamette and soak in the sights and sounds of nature is a little magical.  And as the weather slowly warms up and the sun peeks through the clouds, spending time outside in Oregon becomes even more enjoyable. Even my “indoorsy” self has something to enjoy outside here: the Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku, or “forest bathing.”

“Forest Bathing” is the idea that spending time in the forest (or whatever natural setting you might find yourself near) can positively influence your health. Proponents of Shinrin-yoku claim that the connection with our natural surroundings promotes mental and physical well-being.  Through mindfulness, observation, and sensory exploration, forest bathing can help lower stress and bring mental clarity. In studies, test subjects who took a 40-minute slow walk in a forest showed lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) than those who did the same physical activity in a lab setting. Pretty neat, huh?

Shinrin-yoku, at its core, does not only provide benefit to the individual, but also to the forest. The Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) describes Forest Therapy as:

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

“...not an extractive process, where we treat forests as a "resource" from which we extract well being for humans. Instead, it is a deeply relational practice, characterized by a sense of loving and tender connection.”

Now, I’m not usually one to feed into pseudoscience, but this makes some sense. It comes down to compassion for your surroundings-- when you benefit from your surroundings in a meaningful way, you tend to take care of it more. Regular Forest bathing walks provide you with a firsthand account of the health and welfare of your surroundings.  Is there trash everywhere? Can you hear birds and other wildlife? Having a mindful experience in nature opens you to small details you might otherwise miss, and gives you the opportunity to take action to take care of the environment which you find yourself in. You win, the forest wins, the birds win-- everyone wins!

The next time you find yourself depleted or stressed, take time to find nature and experience Shinrin-yoku for yourself.  Interested in learning more about Shinrin-yoku? Visit the link below for articles and lots more information from the ANFT.

https://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/

Posted on March 4, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Healthy Living.

Keeping up with New Year's Resolutions

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Chances are that, by now, you have fallen off the New Year’s Resolution bandwagon. Research shows that almost 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are ditched before the second week in February. Overly lofty goal and aspirations can quickly fall by the wayside once the holidays are in the rear-view mirror and we settle back into the routines of our normal lives. I always start the year with a list of goals, and usually by the end of the month I am back to my old ways. This year, I made a resolution to eat fresh veggies every day (we’ve got a long and complicated history). In order to maintain these goals long enough to develop into healthy habits, I have noticed that two things help me to rediscover my aspirations: mindfulness and acceptance.

Mindfulness is a critical tool to that helps us to stay aware of our actions and thoughts.  It can be invaluable when setting and maintaining New Year’s Resolutions. Being mindful to the reasons why you chose that goal can hone down what is really important to you in the coming year. Instead of deciding to exercise more, examine what it is that makes you want to exercise more.  Why has it not happened already, and what do you need to change in order to attain this goal? Mindful examination of behaviors may lead you to create different resolutions. Instead of telling myself I need to eat more healthy, which is vague, it really comes down to adding more vegetables to my diet. When you feel as though you are falling off the wagon, ask yourself, “What am I doing that is detrimental to my efforts?”  It is way easier to microwave some leftovers than make a fresh salad, but is that necessarily the best for me? Mindfulness brings you to an objective place to analyze your actions and habits in order to move forward again.

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“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Creating new habits is really difficult and takes time. Acknowledging this is the first step to helping achieve those New Year’s Resolutions.  They don’t come overnight, and they will have obstacles. Accept slip-ups with grace, forgive yourself, and make the choice to get back in the game. By doing this, you not only show compassion for yourself, but allow the faults and failures that lead to true change over time. This helps gently reaffirm your original goal. It is fine to have a week or even longer where your goals fall by the wayside; that doesn’t mean that you have failed. Failure only happens when you stop picking up where you left off.

I hope you have success in your goals for 2019. If you slip up, remember to accept your obstacles with grace and keep on keepin’ on.

Posted on February 14, 2019 and filed under Mental Wellness, Self-care.