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.

Photo: Eiliv.Sonas.Aceron on Unsplash

Boost Your Brain While At The Ballpark

Photo by Ainara Oto on Unsplash

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?

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Jumpstart Your Way to Healthy Habits

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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.

Photo by rishikesh yogpeeth on unsplash

How to Party Safe in 2020

We’re all feeling ‘Pandemic Fatigue’ – we’re tired of hearing and thinking about the dangers of COVID-19 and all the related changes this virus has forced on us, affecting our everyday lives, work and activities.

You may even feel resentment about some new restrictions after all these months when you followed the guidelines (wore a mask, washed your hands, physically distanced), especially when you observed others who did not.

Holidays

Let’s acknowledge that this holiday season will be different. Make peace with that right now. Embrace a new way of doing things and find new traditions that who knows, may outlast the pandemic. I’d like you to consider adopting a self-care attitude to help you navigate the coming months and that is:  ‘Try Familiar things in a New Way.’  Studies show the concept of novelty makes people happier, and we all could use a boost as we enter what might be the homestretch of this challenging time.

With the holidays coming up, we might be asking, what’s safe? You’re likely reading about the winter season ahead, with surges being predicted, and some areas of the country with more severe restrictions in place, so let’s break down some key information so you can make decisions about the holidays with guidelines and practices to be as safe as possible.

Risks

Understanding your risks is key, and only you can make the decision for you, your family and your social distancing crew. There is no individual right or wrong answer, as each person has to decide for themselves. For a family, however, it’s probably best if everyone is on the same page: for unity, for harmony, and with an eye toward collective safety, mental well-being, and overall enjoyment.  And keep a watch for confirmation bias – looking for information on what you want to hear. Be sure to carefully weight all the facts and information.

Know it’s all about balance in the coming months. We want to watch getting comfortable, as well as being hypervigilant, for months on end. There’s a balance between letting your guard down and excessive alertness. It will do you well to not look at this time as ‘all or nothing,’ meaning ‘well, we can’t do what we used to do, so forget any celebration,’ but rather finding some joy along the way in new ways that might turn out to be more fun that you imagined.

Your People

First, find your social distancing crew and stick with them. Some experts say limit that to two households. You might expand your bubble for your mental health and that will allow for some holiday cheer as well, and everyone in your bubble should be following similar social distancing practices. Spend as much time outside as possible if you are socializing, so bundle up on the outer wear; in fact, that might be on the top of your gift list this year!

The CDC encourages hosts to request that guests avoid contact with people from outside their household for two weeks before any event. That doesn’t mean total lockdown. It does mean no activities indoors outside your bubble (excluding ideally one trip to the grocery); activities within your bubble or within six feet of others outside is OK. Wear a mask.

Travel

And if you are going to lower your risk by traveling, then get tested through your state or local health department. A 72-hour window has been recommended.  It is safest to travel to low infection areas, of course, and older individuals and those with preexisting medical conditions should not travel at all at this time. It is also safest to stay at a hotel versus a home, only after quarantining.

Here’s an idea that has can keep everyone safer: make someone the ‘Designated Driver’ a champion if you will, leading safe COVID-19 practices with a cheerful tone, being pleasantly assertive and helpfully reminding everyone about masks and sanitization.  When you travel, make and bring a Safe Travel Kit. Items can include sanitizer, Tylenol, wipes or sprays and paper towels, masks, snacks, food, gloves, and linens. On the road, the risk of infection is higher.

Socialization

Please-realize that an increase in indoor socializing can easily lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases and we all want to do our part to reduce the burden on hospitals. In situations where people do gather, experts say it’s best to stay masked and avoid sharing food or utensils. The rule of six people seems to stand for gatherings, and events that are shorter in duration are better. Events outside are best. If you are inside, open a window; this is where the coat and outerwear as gifts can be used by all!

Kitchen Tips

Here’s just a few: limit people in the kitchen preparing food, even have people prepare and bring their own food; no buffets; use disposable serving dishes and cutlery; and when cleaning up, use gloves, especially with the garbage. And don’t forget, the Butterball Turkey Talk Line is open now and shop early, as smaller turkeys will be in demand this year. You can find more resources at  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

Activities

To reduce risk of exposure, you want to avoid groups of people. Avoid crowded stores, times of the day where there are larger number of people shopping or eating, and anywhere there are lines. If you observe poor protocols at any venue or establishment, feel free to leave if you feel uncomfortable.

Gifts

As for gift-giving (and if you are able): DIY kits, like candle making or a craft to pass the time at home, puzzles or board games, blankets, outerwear, and outdoor lights or heaters if you can find them, are some suggestions that fit the 2020 gift list. Self-care items will be welcome and get something for yourself; it’s been a year. And think of your local retailers and nonprofits who have been affected by the pandemic; they could really use our support.

Alternative Events

For a non-contact event, families in separate households can sit at their holiday tables at the same time and connect through Skype or Zoom, which can give a sense of sharing the holidays. You might want to concentrate on decorations this year, even if it is just for your family. Other ideas include drive-by light parades, reading classics to each other online, streaming movies together, even singing online. But avoid singing in person as that creates aerosols in the air.

2021

Remember, this isn’t quite over. Months later, COVID-19 patients still have breathing difficulty and extreme fatigue. For your safety, Washing Hands, Wearing a Mask, and Physically Distancing will keep your Immune System Strong.

The holidays are symbolized through light, love, hope, and peace. For all of us that are suffering in so many ways and for all of us that are striving to find such symbols, here’s to 2021.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

photo by brooke lark on unsplash

How to Protect Your Skin in Three Easy Steps

Summertime and all the time is the right time for skin care!

Sun

Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash

Did you know your skin covers 21 square feet (roughly a kitchen table), weighs 9 pounds (think bowling ball) and is 15 percent of your body weight? And it renews every 28 days! Our skin may be the most overlooked indicator of our health, so let’s take a closer look at how to take better care of it in three easy  steps.

First, let’s talk the biggest risk to our skin’s health and vitality, and that’s skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers and also one of the most treatable. There are three skin cancers, and they are named for the type of cells that become malignant: basal or squamous skin cancer; basal cell is cancer found on skin that is exposed to sun and the most common skin cancer. Squamous cell is skin cancer that is found in skin tissue. The third skin cancer is melanoma, a more serious and aggressive skin cancer found in cells that make the pigment melanin, like a mole. A change on any area of your skin can be the most common form of skin cancer. Any new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or any change in the size, shape, or color of an existing skin mark is often the first sign of cancer risk and can occur anywhere on the body, whether that part has been exposed to sun or not.

So, on to step one of good skin health: How do we best check for skin cancer? There are two ways to check for skin cancer. One is a self-exam, and one is an annual skin cancer physical. For a self-exam, you check yourself from head to toe, including the bottom of your feet. You might get a close friend or family member to help. Using a mirror, you look at your face, ears, neck, scalp, hands, front and back of your body, raising your arms and legs. Take note of all your birth marks, moles, and any other markings and their look and feel. Take photos if you desire. If you see something that is of concern, you may visit a medical professional who will conduct a skin cancer screening. They will map your body for your moles and marks, and generate a report of any concerns, with appropriate treatment recommendations. It is recommended you do this annually, more often if you have a history of skin cancer in your family.

Step two of good skin health: Learning about the risk for our skin. Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, no matter your ethnic heritage or the shade of your skin. Sun exposure is the main cause behind skin cancer (including your exposure to the sun over your lifetime) because the ultraviolet light found in sunlight is the source of harmful and damaging UV radiation. There are two types of ultraviolet sun rays: UVB, the rays that cause sunburn, and UVA, the rays that cause tanning and premature aging, like wrinkles.  Protecting our skin against both is important because UVB rays play the greatest role in causing skin cancers, and UVA rays penetrate more deeply into the skin.

Step three of good skin health: How do we best protect our skin? First, the ways to do so without sunscreen: Staying out of the sun at midday is best, that’s between 10am and 2pm. If you are outdoors, you should always be wearing sunglasses. Even if it is partly sunny! Wearing sunglasses protects your eyes and the skin around your eyes. Research has found that frequent exposure to sunlight can contribute to the formation of cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens.

Next, cover your head: a visor or a hat with a 2 to 3-inch brim, even a baseball cap can work as long as it has fabric that drapes down the side and neck. If you love a straw hat at the beach because it’s cooler, make sure it is tightly woven.

As for clothing, long-sleeved shirts and pants provide the most protection if you are outdoors hiking or working in the sun. Rash guards and UPF-marked clothing are best for the beach, as is an umbrella. UPF means Ultraviolet Protection Factor and in clothing, it does not allow UVA and UVB rays to penetrate fabric.

The last non sunscreen-related protection you can do is to check the UV Index. The UV Index predicts sun exposure risk each day in your area on a scale of 1 to 11+ and was developed by the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. You can find the UV Index online.

Now, protecting your skin with sunscreen. There are so many questions about what kind, how much SPF, how to protect the kids, so let’s break it down.

 Adults: always use sunscreen; be a good role model! Active ingredients in sunscreens function as either mineral or chemical filters that keep harmful rays from the skin. Also known as a mineral sunscreen, physical sunscreen stays on top of the skin like an umbrella and starts working right away to deflect UV rays. Chemical sunscreens work a little differently in that instead of deflecting, they absorb UV radiation and reduce how much penetrates the skin. Both are generally recognized as safe and effective.

Sunscreen ingredient safety has been in the news lately, so do your research as to personal preference. What is important is SPF. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Use a protection of at least 15; many doctors will tell you 30. The number 30, for example, indicates that it would take you 30 times longer to sunburn than if you used no sunscreen at all.  If your sunscreen says broad spectrum it means the formulation will protect you from both UVA (skin cancer) and UVB (sunburn) rays. The size of a golf ball is a good amount for your entire body and reapply every 2 hours when in the sun. As for gel, stick, spray or lotion, whatever form you will use consistently — and adequately is the right form for you.

Important tips for adults: 1. Use your bug spray first, then your sunscreen. Avoid using sunscreen that contains bug repellent; it has been found to be less effective. 2. Prescription medications can affect sunscreens, so consult with your medical professional on any of your medications.

Let’s talk or babies and toddlers:  For infants under 6 months, the best form of sun protection is a hat and shirt; sunscreen is not recommended. Keep infants out of direct sun as much as possible because their skin is not yet protected by melanin. When you take your baby outside:

  • Use your stroller’s canopy or hood. If you can’t sit in a shady spot, use an umbrella.
  • Avoid midday. Take walks in the early morning or late afternoon.
  • When driving, consider buying a UV shield that can be hung over any window that allows sunlight to reach the car seat.
  • For toddlers, you might consider testing on the inside wrist before an outing to see if there is any reaction. And then all the adult SPF guidelines apply. Gel sticks are a favorite of kids, and if you use spray, spray in the hands, then rub on.

Just a note on higher SPF products: the FDA has proposed a limit to SPF values and because of the coronavirus, it was postponed but expected to be reintroduced soon. Some food for thought: the FDA contends that SPF higher than 50 is “inherently misleading,” citing these reasons:  high-SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than lower-SPF sunscreens do and some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin; some may even trigger allergic reactions; and finally, some people may stay in the sun longer when using a high SPF.

You now have the knowledge to better protect your skin and can use these steps for you and your loved ones to stay healthy and safe – all year round.