Everyone Multi-Tasks: No One Does It Well

Think you do? Think again. For most people, multi-tasking isn’t possible. What we really do well is task switching, or completing individual actions in rapid succession. This is called solo tasking – what our brains are better wired for. Sure, folding laundry and watching Netflix, that you can do. But for complex tasks, especially at work, multi-tasking divides our attention so that it becomes more difficult to focus our attention, even when solo tasking. Studies show multi-tasking makes us less efficient, and we make more mistakes because we don’t tune out the world to engage in deeper processing and learning. So, on days you’re feeling overwhelmed and looking for a boost to your productivity and mental well-being, ‘one thing at a time’ might very well serve you best.

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Eating Well in Summer

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‘I’m a big eater.’ ‘I like to eat.’ When clients come @ me with this defense, I like to reply, “Yes, you’re among many!” and “Who doesn’t?” My easy-to-remember tips that work any time, but especially in summer:
·       If portions trip you up, make half your plate fruits and vegetables and you won’t be hungry. Eat whole fruits and choose a ‘rainbow’ of veggies for lots of nutrients.
·       Make half your grains whole grains. You get fiber for gut health, no deprivation of your beloved carbs, and you stay full longer.
·       Vary your protein routine. There’s more to life than burgers and chicken wings! Hint: Americans don’t consume enough of this, and it swims in the sea…

There you have it: three steps for better summertime eating for food lovers everywhere. 

HOW TO AMP UP YOUR FIRE WITH THESE TEN ENERGY HACKS

Zip, pep, power, pizazz. No matter the word, from time to time we all seek a boost of energy to power through our day and all of its demands. Here are ten natural ways to put some liveliness into your life.

1.     SLEEP

Everything is easier, lighter when you are rested. It puts you in a better mood, you’re in better humor, you can follow through if you have gotten a good night’s rest. Commit to one sleep roadblock that is keeping you from your pillow. Here’s my hint: your devices are at the top of the list. Two words to live by: phone down (one hour before bedtime).

2.     EXERCISE

Energy begets energy. It may sound counterintuitive that moving your body creates energy, but research says it’s true. Even five minutes of walking creates a hormonal burst of energy in your body. And for a high-speed burst of energy, a blast of body movement, like a few power punches, wall push-ups, even marching in place will literally get the blood flowing.

3.     FOOD

Eat for your brain and body not your emotions when you want energy. Your head may say I’m tired let’s load up on coffee and a gooey muffin. Yet for optimum energy suppress that notion. Your body needs a little lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats. A better choice would be avocado toast, a banana and whole grain cereal, maybe an egg.  For a snack, a small piece of dark chocolate is both enjoyable and been shown to improve brain function!

4.     PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT

Nothing can create mental energy like crossing something off your to-do list. So go for one micro-task: make that dreaded call or tackle that chore and bask in the energy of achievement. The results can last for quite some time and may be just the thing to jump start you on to even more.

5.     MUSIC

Studies say listening to music can stimulate brain waves. Turning on a music app like Spotify or iTunes especially when it cues up to your ‘favorites’ playlist can give you an energetic boost from the jump.

6.     CHANGE UP YOUR ENVIRONMENT

Nature, fresh air, Vitamin D via sunlight – getting outdoors gets you out of your head. Simply removing yourself physically can simply transport your energy force.

7. and 8. STRETCH AND BREATHE

Stretching increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to your muscles, which can help improve energy levels and encourage waste removal from your tissues. Stretching helps you use energy more efficiently, since a contracted muscle requires more energy to move than a relaxed one. Besides flexibility, the goal of stretching is to promote the flow of energy in your upper and lower body. The seated forward bend is a great one to try for stamina.

Breathing: When your cells don’t get enough oxygen, they don’t have the fuel to slough off toxins, which causes you to get bogged down and tired. By supplying your cells with enough oxygen, you improve your ability to remove toxic waste, and your immunity system can benefit. Here’s a good breathing exercise that you can do anywhere. Inhale through the nose for 2 counts , exhale through the mouth for 2 counts, then do the same for 3 and 4 counts. It’s called a 2-3-4 pattern. Do this once a day to start, then as much as you find useful. You’ll also notice when you start breathing properly, your energy level will be more consistent: less highs, less lows.

9. CONNECT

Stay connected to people, and don’t forget your pets as a source of connection! Further, check to see if you’re surrounded by a negativity vibe. People who complain all the time will naturally cause you to become mentally drained. Find people who spark your feelings of positivity, peace and calm. Or get some alone time to nix negativity and recharge on your own.

10. LAUGH

Laughing causes your body to release those all-important endorphins, which legally provide you a shot of motivation, productivity, and well-being.  So, laugh your way to higher energy and the world is sunshine in your house.

So, there you have it. Ten easy energy hacks. All natural and all at your fingertips. Monster drinks not necessary.

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Boost Your Brain While At The Ballpark

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You’re at your first spectator event! What your brain doesn’t need is a hot dog, fries and a diet soda – all choices that lead to poor memory, impaired learning and inflammation of the hippocampus, considered the heart of your brain, the part involved in emotions, learning, and memory formation. You’ve been taxed enough! Your beautiful brain is the most resilient organ in your body, let’s keep it that way.  These tips will give you a bullet-proof summer of improved brain function, cognition, and focus.

  • For a boost to brain happiness, it needs healthy fats. Think avocado toast.
  • For anti-inflammatory powers, blueberries are your superfruit and green leafy veggies, too, as well as provide a positive kick to our mental well-being.
  • To increase serotonin levels in your brain; go for complex carbs like whole-grain breads, oatmeal, lentils and beans.
  • Omega-3’s found in salmon, tuna, walnuts and eggs can prevent surges in stress hormones and are good for overall brain health.
  • A small piece of dark chocolate has been shown to improve brain function.
  • Dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches, irritability and decreased concentration levels. Ditch sugary and even diet drinks in favor of sparkling water and stay hydrated.

And finally, because virtually none of these are served in most ballparks or concert venues, plan on eating before you get there. You still get all the fun and will now possess an enhanced ability to pay attention to the main event on the field.

People Who are Good with Money: Wellness Tips for Better Financial Health

When we think about our overall wellness, our finances may not be top of mind, but they should be! A strong sense of financial wellbeing reduces stress and contributes to an enhanced sense of emotional wellbeing. The sense of security and freedom we have when our finances are in order gives us greater peace of mind both now and for the future. Here are two success strategies and some pro tips to help you make financial planning a priority:

#1 Success Strategy: A Written Budget

A budget is your opportunity to put your money where you want it to go. Here are three tips for budgeting:

Follow the ‘50/30/20’ budget. Using your monthly take-home pay, allocate 50% toward necessities (rent, utilities, childcare, insurance), 30% toward wants (all the extras: movies, meals out, etc.) and 20% toward savings (401K, emergency fund) and paying down debt.

  • There are numerous tools to keep you on track. I found success using a digital ‘cash envelope’ app that will allocate money into spending categories based on my 50/30/20 priorities, and another that rounds up spare change from my checking account and deposits it daily into my savings.
  • Identify your budget trigger. Mine is the skincare aisle at Target. Those seemingly small $12 individual purchases added up when I realized they were occurring a few times a month and breaking my budget. Now, I spend more mindfully, doing research, evaluating my purchase decisions and indulging in a priority item with delighted consciousness.

#2 Success Strategy: A Savings Plan

You can make saving a priority using the 50/30/20 budgeting tip above. It can be helpful to establish a goal to keep you motivated. Start with these three questions:

What are you saving for (a baby, a vacation, a house)?

How much do you need? (research current cost)

What’s your timeframe (when do you need/want the money)?

Saving can feel overwhelming, and even discouraging. Getting started might be the hardest part, just like for any wellness program! Your takeaway here is that even small amounts can make a big difference when it comes to savings. Here’s an example: Start with $1,000, then regularly add $25 per month. After 5 years, that initial $1,000 will have grown to more than $3,000 (at 6% interest)! Search for a free ‘Compound Interest Calculator’ online to calculate for yourself and see how your savings can add up over time.

And don’t forget to find a positive, simple, nonmonetary reward to help offset your ‘perception’ of sacrifice. Look for fun, free options of activities that you may have previously spent money on, or use your 50/30/20 budget to plan for special occasion spending.

Just as with your overall wellness, better financial health is a life-long journey. Financial security and financial freedom are your target destinations and your emotional wellbeing is the welcome rest stop along the way.

Good time management is good stress management

“Time. time. TIME!”  This was the resounding refrain in the participant chat in today’s wellness session for a client. It came during the section where we covered how to take stress management STRATEGIES and build them into SKILLS. For most of us, we didn’t learn how to do this in any formal class or course (luckily, activities like mindful meditation is being taught in many elementary schools), and it does takes practice. Other strategies-to-skills I include such as food and mood, fun as a superpower, and the link between positivity and gratitude incorporate five tips you can do in 5 minutes or less because one size does not fit all when it comes to good mental health, and studies show even a little bit is beneficial for your wellbeing. April is Stress Awareness Month so what better time to give it a try?

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Jumpstart Your Way to Healthy Habits

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Seven Tips to Shed Light on Habit-Forming

Habits –whether healthy or unhealthy –are made the same way: by repeating an action until it becomes become a pattern. When our lives are going smoothly, discipline, structure and routine carry us a good portion of the way. We use them as anchors to move us forward. But, sometimes, our good habits (exercise, eating right, managing our stress) seemingly grind to a halt.

Let’s talk some fast facts that may give you perspective about why this sometimes happens, as well as tips on how to get back to your habits of health:

  • In our ‘we want it all right now’ world, we are bombarded with instant gratification messages. It’s important to acknowledge the difference when it comes to health habits: bad habits are easy and good ones can be harder. However, the payoff is that while good ones are harder, they improve your health and well-being and make you feel all kinds of better.
  • Humans need support, but we rarely ask for it. Finding your squad (whether it is 1 or 100) is one of the best things you can do to increase your success by increasing our accountability and making good health habits a shared activity.
  • It’s easy to go down a health information rabbit-hole online, including sites that are misleading or untrustworthy. Be vigilant in ensuring that the online content you review is research-based and from expert sources. In the end, and I can’t stress this enough: no one will care about your health as much as you. 
  • Many of us fight the ‘all or nothing’ approach when it comes to health habits. This can defeat us from ever getting started. Sustainable healthy habits provide a little flexibility for life’s obligations and the everyday events that inevitably come up.
  • In fact,  giving in on occasion can keep you from tumbling down. Get started with a micro-steps approach: focus first on changing just one behavior in a meaningful and quantifiable way—such as taking a 5-minute daily walk or drinking at least 8 ounces of water. Once achieved consistently and integrated into your life, build on this success. Tiny victories boost confidence and build momentum toward your next goal.
  • When it comes to nutrition, processed food is genetically engineered and has addictive qualities. It’s also marketed brilliantly, often using engaging characters and celebrities. Knowing more about nutrition and how it is manufactured is all-important to reduce your reliance on high-calorie, high-fat items.
  • Finally, there are a whole host of causes, like genetics, social triggers and biological factors, that you may want to explore to better understand the personal barriers you need to navigate and overcome. Your physician, wellness coach or mental health provider can be an excellent partner in this effort.

Healthy habits are not linear. Give yourself the physical and emotional space as you take on, update or upgrade your goals—and make room for a reward for that new behavior to keep you motivated and make it easier to make those new healthy habits a pattern.

What Does a Health Coach Do?

Wellness coaching now ranks Number 5 on an annual employer wellness trend survey, taking its biggest jump to date. What do they do, exactly? Let’s break it down.

I am a wellness coach and health educator. I help employees improve their health in areas like emotional health, stress management, nutrition and physical activity. I like to say I’m not your mama, your therapist or your best friend, but rather I sit in the passenger seat on your highway of health, helping you navigate toward more productivity, satisfaction and creativity on your journey to better overall wellbeing.

You choose the area you want to focus on:  Physical Activity, Healthy Eating, Managing Stress, Financial Wellness, Mental Health, Energy, Better Sleep, Stop or Reduce Smoking, Medical Self-Care, Career, Social Well-Being, any area that affects your overall sense of wellbeing.

People generally work with a health coach because they are ready to make some type of change in their life. A health coach helps you find the energy, motivation and information to make healthy choices every day. We help you eliminate or reduce unhealthy behaviors with a goal toward sustainable well-being, lowering healthcare costs for your employer and increasing your job satisfaction and productivity. A win-win for everyone!

Good health coaching is about what is working right, building on your strengths, and finding the positive in your ability to sustain a health habit. I like to say the solutions reside within each of my clients and I am there to draw it out. When those moments happen, it is a moment of pure empowerment! You work hard; we develop a personal wellness vision, with goals, plans and accountability and we do it using small changes – micro steps – that last. And because a healthy workforce is a productive, satisfied one (70% of healthcare spending is driven by preventable disease), wellness activities like health coaching lower healthcare costs and is a benefit to the employee as well.

Many employers will bring me onsite to conduct monthly health education workshop sessions and then book me for a block of individual health coaching sessions for employees. I have also been doing this virtually for the past year with success. Employees love it: it uses their time wisely and is an effective, practical way to learn and immediately take wellness principles and put them into action. Employers see the value to their wellness program by providing an affordable, ongoing wellness event for their workforce.

We form healthy and unhealthy habits the same way: by repeating individual actions that then become a pattern. Perhaps a health coach is right for you on your journey to better health.

Do This For Your Body and Brain

You have a surprising amount of control in preventing and managing chronic disease. Chronic disease is defined as a health condition lasting a year or longer, requires ongoing medical attention and limits the activities of your daily life. In other words, no fun. Be fueled by this one statistic: 80 percent of adults have at least one chronic disease and 68 percent have at least two or more.

To age well and maximize the years ahead, consider adopting a ‘small steps’ mindset to preventing and managing chronic disease: take on just one ‘habit of health’ at a time until it is integrated into your daily life. I have confidence you will find it easily blended into your daily routine. Let’s give it a try!

At the Top of the List: Your Arteries and A Healthy Heart

Last year, 58% of older adults were treated for high blood pressure – a condition that involves both challenges in how much blood your heart pumps, as well as resistance in your arteries to blood flow. Knowing ‘your number’- your blood pressure reading – is vital to good health. As we age, the arteries that lead to the heart narrow, causing a build-up of plaque and reducing blood flow to the heart. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease (29% in older adults) and even heart failure (14%). Symptoms can include feeling tired, lightheaded or having a rapid heartbeat. Black adults are 33% more likely to have high blood pressure and are at least 50% more likely to die earlier from heart disease or stroke.

Build on these Daily Lifestyle Habits toward Better Health:

  • Reduce sodium: This includes more than table salt—read food labels and calculate your daily intake (no more than 2300 mg for adults unless your physician advises even less)
  • Maintain a healthy weight; your heart works harder if you carry extra weight
  • Get some daily movement for your body and brain, including functional fitness (see earlier blog post)
  • Sleep seven-to-eight hours each night; your heart needs the rest
  • Follow doctor’s orders around medication compliance

Bring Down that Cholesterol

Another way for your arteries to get clogged with plaque is through high cholesterol, an excess of bad fats in the blood that then clog your arteries. An astonishing 47% of older adults are treated for high cholesterol, including 60% of Hispanic adults. Integrate these Daily Dietary Habits for Better Health:

  • Eat protein-rich foods like fish, which contain Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Minimize saturated fats, like red meat and high-fat dairy
  • Increase the number of whole grains like high-fiber cereals and breads 

Your Brain and Your Mood Affect Your Mental Health

It’s common for older adults to seek treatment for depression (14% last year). If you are experiencing persistent feelings of hopelessness, difficulty making decisions, changes in appetite or a loss of interest in activities, contact your primary care physician, who may talk to you about medication or psychotherapy.  Try one of these Daily Well-Being Habits for Better Health:

  • Stay social by phone, online, or in person if safe to do so, even if you initially don’t feel like it; 15 minutes can do a world of good!
  • The foods you put into your body can affect your mood, so refrain from ‘comfort’ or processed foods that only momentarily dull the feelings of stress. Instead, shop the perimeter of the grocery for nature’s foods: fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, high-fiber grains and low-fat dairy products that benefit your brain with Vitamin B and folate in particular.
  • Limit consumption of alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners, which can negatively affect your brain and your mood
  • Take a 10-minute walk, ideally outdoors, to release endorphins and other “feel good” brain chemicals. Puzzles, adult coloring books, board games and digital apps for good brain health will also boost your self-confidence and self-worth – you did it!
  • During sleep, your brain acts like a dishwasher each night, clearing out harmful toxins, so getting at least seven hours is recommended

Bone Health and Arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammation of your joints that causes pain and stiffness, and can greatly affect daily movement. More common in women, likely due to hormones; 31% of older adults were treated for arthritis last year. Here are some suggested Daily Physical Habits for Better Health:

  • While it may seem counterintuitive, exercising at least five times per week for 20 minutes will improve function and decrease pain. Try to include a mixture of aerobic, strength-building and stretching movements, like Tai Chi and gentle yoga.
  • Maintain the recommended weight for your body frame—losing just one pound can remove four pounds of pressure on your knees!
  • Make sure your back, legs and arms are always supported when you sit or lie down
  • Don’t smoke; avoid anything that interferes with tissue regeneration

Monitoring Your Blood Sugar and Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone used to get energy from the food you eat into your cells. When you have diabetes, the sugar (glucose) from the food stays in your blood, resulting in ‘high blood sugar.’ This is a dangerous condition but can be managed through medication and lifestyle actions. The risk of having diabetes increases after age 45. Last year, 27% of older adults were treated for diabetes and among ethnic groups, the diagnosis rates are 77% higher among Blacks, 66% higher among Hispanics and 18% higher among Asians.  As a starting point to help regulate blood glucose, choose one of these Daily Wellness Habits For Better Health

  • Fill half your plate with high-fiber fruits and vegetables (emphasis on veggies!)
  • Hydrate! Many older adults simply do not drink enough water. Drinking a full eight-ounce glass of water first thing in the morning sets you on a good pace for the day.
  • Daily exercise to keep your blood glucose levels in check and to control weight gain; try not to miss two days in a row.
  • Lose just 5-7% of your body weight can reap tremendous benefits (for a 200 lb. person, that’s 10 pounds).

Power Your ‘Better Health’ Potential

The foundation of good health is, and always has been, what you put in your body and how (and how often) you move from a sitting position to an active one. When it comes to your heart, your brain or your joints, these factors can be a game-changer in preventing and managing chronic disease. Start by making one small choice for your wellness each day, build from there, and you are well on your way to better health.

Looking To Boost Your Health After 50?

Some say some the best time of your life is once you’re over the age of 50. As we’ve gotten better at aging, we’re healthier and therefore living longer, and our expectations and mindsets for the expression ‘over the hill’ no longer applies.  Many are embracing career pivots or happily working longer, creating time for new leisure pursuits and community interests, or welcoming back family members to live with them. Therefore, making healthful living a priority to fuel that lifestyle is essential.

To serve you well in these “best years” of your life, let’s hang out for a bit with nutrition—specifically, good sources of protein and why we need it — and how adding flexibility to your fitness routine can make all the difference in how you navigate out in the world.

Maintain Muscle Mass

Our body composition changes as we age. Starting around age 40, two things happen to our muscles: one is sarcopenia, which is the progressive loss of muscle as we age. We may lose as much as 50% of our muscle mass due to sarcopenia and inactivity as an older adult. The second is that we are more likely to experience a period of muscle disuse, often due to an injury or illness.

To counteract these effects, we need to build up our muscle mass by increasing our consumption of protein — and add strength training to our fitness regimen (more on that in a future post). But, before you picture yourself simultaneously snacking on steak sandwiches and curling free weights, it’s important to consider both the quality and quantity of your protein source, as well as timing of protein intake.

Pack on the Protein

Protein-rich foods that contain a key amino acid, leucine, are best to rebuild muscle over age 50. Leucine helps amplify the anabolic resistance of muscle (anabolic simply means the build-up of muscle). Consuming at least 30 grams of protein with 2.5 grams of leucine per meal, spread evenly across meals versus heavy loading at one meal, is advised. Top choices with both include eggs, chicken, soybeans (including tofu and tempeh), almonds, whey and soy protein powders, beef, salmon, peanuts, chickpeas and lentils. Check with your medical professional for any specific dietary concerns.

Flexibility aka Functional Fitness

The concept of a balanced diet should also be applied to physical activity with a focus on brain, body and bone health. This can be achieved through endurance exercise like walking or swimming, strength training like lifting free weights, and functional fitness exercises, which sharpen balance, coordination and agility. Many consider functional fitness to be the “flexibility foundation” of an essential physical activity program for those over 50 because if you aren’t moving well, you aren’t living well!

Functional fitness exercises mimic the motions you make every day, creating muscle memories that help make daily living activities easier, safer and more efficient. Try the following to increase your stability, balance, flexibility and mobility:

  • Yoga and tai chi can help you move more fluidly when reaching into a file cabinet as you put away folders.
  • Want to be able to reach down to tie your shoelaces without difficulty? Focus on flexibility stretches.
  • Wish you could move your shoulders through their full range of motion without modification to easily put on a jacket?  Incorporate stretching exercises that build mobility.
  • To avoid and prevent falls, often reported as happening unexpectedly and during everyday activities, add balance and stability drills like walking heel to toe in a line for a short distance.

To see benefits in your everyday living, choose one of the above categories to do each day for 5-10 minutes, rotating through the week. You can find printouts and videos online.

Energy Begets Energy

Knowing the physiological changes that come after age 50 will allow you to make smart choices about your food and fitness plans like those noted in this post. Consider it the fuel you need to replenish the energy you’re tapping as you live your very best life.

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