Get to Sleep…

I sometimes have trouble falling asleep. Not like my dogs – they can take a nap anywhere, anytime. No matter what’s going on around them, and especially after some intense physical activity, Booker and Tango are out.

Not me. Even if I’ve had a busy day – one that’s productive and full of exercise, I still have trouble falling asleep. I know that a good night’s sleep is important for good health, but that doesn’t help me fall asleep.

Many people swear by this breathing method to help fall asleep:

Called the 4 – 7 – 8 Method, it’s been proposed by Dr. Andrew Weil as the body’s natural tranquilizer. (Sounds exactly like what I need.) Dr. Weil maintains that this method will help relax you when you’re feeling stressed, or help you fight off that sugar craving that hits at about 3:00 in the afternoon.

  1. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
  2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  6. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat three more times for a total of four cycles.

It’s worth a try, right?

Is your head exploding?

Stress is bad in more ways than you know. It can also slow down your metabolism. Many people are stress-eaters. If you feel stress, every couple of hours, take 5 minutes and just breathe. Empty your brain and focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and think of water, mountains, flowers (like pansies), or whatever makes you happy. Not work. Not the kids. Not all the chores that aren’t getting done! Just the ocean or snow-capped mountains. Set a timer so you don’t worry about the time.

When the timer goes off and you open your eyes, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to tackle the work, the chores, and the kids.

If you’re not into meditating but still feel the stress. Go for a walk! Climb some stairs. If you have one, close your door and dance to a couple of your favorite songs. Bounce on the balls of your feet and get the blood moving. Sing along if you want to! (Off-key is fine!) Again, when you go back to your desk, you’ll be better able to manage the stress.

You won’t want that candy bar, but definitely have a drink of water! Your metabolism be chugging along, and you’ll feel much better.

Keep it simple!

chicken_broccoliniIt’s way too easy to zip in and out of a fast-food drive-thru on your way home from work. And that’s really dangerous. The portions are way too big. The food has too many calories, and it’s full of fat. It’s deep-fried. If you’re trying to watch your weight, and eat clean and healthy then drive-thrus are the most dangerous places on the planet!

Yes, french fries are delicious. Nothing can beat a burger and fries. Unless it’s a burger and fries with a shake. But I always feel a little sick and bloated before bed when I indulge like that. And it’s just not worth it. What is worth it is taking a few minutes to plan ahead for a delicious, healthy meal.

The first few times I planned meals for a week it was a real chore. Not fun at all. But then I wrote notes through the week about meal ideas and then I gathered those notes to plan the week’s menus and it was no big deal.

The key to actually following through on the meal plan on busy week nights is to keep it simple. Like the grilled chicken, steamed broccolini and sweet potato pictured. I microwave the sweet potato, so it just takes a few minutes. It’s done when the chicken is. I also use the microwave to steam vegetables. I do the potato first and wrap it in foil to stay warm and finish cooking. Delicious, nutritious and easy!

Happiness

keys_sunriseI’ve sort of been in a funk lately. My brain is spinning. A friend is hurting. We’re moving our business. My dogs have forgotten every bit of training they ever had. And I hurt my back. Time to try something new? First I have to decide what would make me happy.

What is happiness? A feeling of uplifting. A smiling feeling. When you can’t help but turn the corners of your mouth up. The anticipation you feel when you know you’ll see someone you love. Or you’ll be doing something you enjoy. Remembering something wonderful. A trip you took when you had so much fun! A gorgeous sunrise in the Florida Keys. Being with a friend. Eating a fantastic meal.

I’m trying to enjoy the small things every day. A particularly good tomato. A crunchy pea pod. The sunshine without much humidity. Cooler temperatures. The Cubs winning their Division.

So, I have to plan something fun! When to plan this for? After our moving date, of course, and after my back is feeling all better. I’ve weaned myself off of the heating pad and pain relievers, but there is still that occasional twinge. And I’m counting on the dogs to atleast remember how to sit!

 

Don’t feel like working out?

self_0416Some days you just don’t feel it. Me too. You don’t feel like getting sweaty. You’re tired. Your legs are tired. You’d rather be reading. You’d rather be listening to music. You’d rather be playing with your dog. (I know, I advocate playing with your dog over almost anything else, but …) But working out is something I have to do at least 5 days a week. What tricks do I use?

First, if I’m feeling especially frumpy I put on my good workout clothes. Silly, right? Good workout clothes? Isn’t that a contradiction? Nope. If I feel like I look good doing those lunges, it makes it better. So, put on those leggings! Put on that body-hugging top that makes the most of what you’ve got! You’ll feel great, and more likely to do the workout. And if you look like that inspiring trainer you saw on Facebook, you may just get a better workout!

Next, promise yourself 8 minutes. Just start. 8 minutes is nothing! Then it’s 10 minutes, 15, 25 and then you’re done! It just takes 30 minutes a day. That’s it!

And if you don’t work out for yourself, do it for those around you! Yes, when you’re done, you’ll feel great. You’ll feel virtuous! But you’ll also be more patient. You’ll be nicer to those around you. You’ll have more time for the family. Work out for everyone else as well as yourself!

(That’s me feeling all virtuous!)

Feeling down? Play with your dog!

Play with your dog!Here in Chicagoland it’s cold, rainy, snowy, and just generally miserable! Yes, it’s April and we know that the weather will improve (eventually), but right now it’s just miserable. I’m tired of wearing three layers inside. I’m tired of having cold feet (with the ensuing blue toes – this creeps out my sister). And I’m tired of having to blow my nose every hour because it has a tendency to drip when it’s cold. We had a very mild winter, so I feel kind of bad complaining, but it’s April! The continual grayness just depresses me.

So, what do you do when you’re feeling low? I play with my dog! Not sitting on my butt and throwing the ball for him and letting him bring it back when he feels like it. No – I get down on the floor and tug with him. I push on his chest and he comes roaring back at me, ready for another game. Then I’ll chase him around. And I’ll let him chase me! That will get the blood flowing and some feeling back in my feet. And then I’ll throw his ball and race him for it. He’ll win, but he’ll love the game – as will I! And when we’re done I’ll have a tired dog and a smile on my face.

The body achieves what the mind believes

Your body can achieve what the mind believesThe body achieves what the mind believes. Strong stuff. How much is really in your mind? Can you achieve anything you believe?

I think you have to temper that with a short dose of reality. I know I’m never going to be a rock star. For one thing, I can’t carry a tune. Wait – that doesn’t stop a lot of “rock stars” I hear on the radio. For another, I don’t play the guitar. Hmmm, again, not a prerequisite. And, I’m 60 years old. Well, I guess stranger things have happened. I’ll have to work on a look.

But, really. The mind is incredibly powerful. Let’s think about something a little less esoteric. Say, my goal is to do 10 regular pushups. No girlie pushups on my knees. No – real pushups on my toes. And my starting point is that I can’t do any from my toes. No problem. Do 20 pushups on my knees. And 10 with one leg straight, the other knee on the floor. And switch to the other knee. The next day, I’ll do more, and try one pushup on my toes. The key is to practice every single day. Eventually I know I’ll get stronger and I’ll be able to reach my goal. And then I’ll make a new goal.

Walk well to age well

runningman1We all want to get old, but we want the best quality of life as we age. We want to be able to do what we did when we were young (or as close to that as possible). What’s the secret?

Retired occupational therapist Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind suggests that good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk every day are the keys to aging well. In her article, “The Surprising Secret to Aging Well” in The Next Avenue, Beskind suggests that good posture and that walk from early childhood on will build bones and keep us young. It will build bone density and balance reflexes that will cut down on debilitating falls and injuries in later years.

Beskind states that walking has enormous benefits — emotionally and even creatively. This is in addition to the well-known benefits to the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. A sturdy gait pattern with alternating arm/leg movement helps maintain balance reflexes and strength in lateral hip muscles. And going for a walk frees the mind for creative pursuits.

So you don’t have to go crazy – just a brisk walk (with your head held high and your arms swinging in opposition to your gait) will help you achieve the golden years of your dreams!

Breathe properly for more energy

Breathe for energyDid you know that breathing correctly helps you feel less tired? Yup, it’s one factor that internist Dr. Holly Phillips identifies that proper breathing is one way to feel more energized in her book, The Exhaustion Breakthrough.

At least once an hour everyone should make the effort to breathe correctly, that is, consciously and deeply, from the diaphragm and not from the chest. Inhale fully and exhale fully. You’ll stand straighter, with no slumped shoulders.

Check in with your body once an hour while you’re at it. To start, set an alarm – your phone has one built in.  From the top of your head, down through your jaw, your shoulders and chest, your back and hips, your legs and your feet. Stop clenching your teeth and locking your jaw. Align everything. Put your feet flat on the floor. Check for any areas of tension or discomfort. And fix it! Poor posture makes you look tired and feel tired! Stand up and walk around. Then, when you sit back down, you’ll be more energized.

Take 10 deep breaths when you sit down. Full, slow, diaphragmatic deep breaths. You’ll be straighter and maybe even taller! Now reset your alarm and get back to work.

Keep moving!

Side plank in PiYo. Great for strength and flexibility.Whatever you do, keep moving. To stop is to atrophy. And to atrophy is to die.

I know, there are some days when it just hurts to get out of bed. I have those days too. From the bottom up and the top down. Neck hurts. Shoulders hurt. Back hurts. Hips are killing me. Knees hurt. Even the ankles hurt.

But that’s no excuse! Whether it’s arthritis, bursitis, muscle soreness or just sleeping funny. Get up, get dressed and move!

I know it’s not easy. Life isn’t easy. But the more you move, the less you hurt. Those first steps to the bathroom are slow and uneven. Maybe I’m even limping a little. But by the time I finish my morning ablutions, it’s a little better. And then when I’m dressed and the dogs fed, it’s better still. And by the time I finish my coffee I can face a short walk. And then I can work out.

And don’t skimp on the workout! You’re cheating yourself if you do! Yes, modify the moves. Yes, take a break when you need to. (If you’re doing a DVD exercise program, hit pause – again, you don’t want to cheat yourself!) Drink plenty of water during the breaks. But don’t cheat yourself!

And when you’re done, chances are you’ll feel great! Or, if not great, then at least you’ll be proud of yourself for finishing!