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How to Healthily Distract Yourself During This Difficult Time

Posted on 22 April, 2020 at 11:50


This COVID-19 crisis has radically changed our lives. Just a few months ago, we had no idea our 'world' would be confined to our homes!


This crisis is a powerful reminder of how important freedom is - and how much we need human connection!


Remember you are not alone. Because what is DIFFERENT here is that everyone is impacted! Your neighbour, mom, boss and friends as well as your counterparts around the world are all going through something similar.


So, it's important to remember:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. Viktor E. Frankl


This is the challenge each of us must rise to! If we're going to be stuck at home, we may as well make the most of it.


1) Create a Healthy, Supportive Routine


When we feel powerless or helpless (as so many of us do at the moment), one EXTREMELY easy thing to do is to create a routine or schedule.


While we're all stuck in anxiously waiting at home, it's easy to lose our sense of time. Days can begin to blend into each other. A routine can give us an anchor and greater sense of control over our lives. And if you have children, creating a routine is especially important to give them a sense of normality.


This routine or schedule can be as simple as:


• 7am - Wake-up

• 8am - Breakfast

• 10am - Exercise

• 11am - Talk to friends

• 12.00pm - Lunch

• 1-4pm - Learning or a home project

• 5pm - Make & Eat Dinner

• 7pm - Talk to close family

• 8pm - Reading, Journaling

• 10pm - Bed


Be sure to include food preparation, social time, exercise and outdoor time and some learning or creativity so you get some benefit from this challenging time.


It's also important to recognize weekends because it's too easy for weeks to blur together. So, make a looser schedule for your weekends. For example, you could include:


• Sleeping in/later bedtime

• Brunch

• "Treats"

• Movie night with popcorn

• A virtual time hour with friends or colleagues

• A larger project, perhaps some art, craft, gardening or home redecoration.


So, create a routine for a sense of control and mastery over your environment and life circumstances. Reclaim what power you can over your own life, because with all this uncertainty it's important for you - and especially important for children - to have predictability.


2) Build Your Physical Strength, Fitness Levels or Flexibility!


Building your physical strength is powerful and health-boosting! Not only is physical strength and flexibility life-affirming and good for our health, but feeling more physically powerful actually helps us feel more empowered and less helpless in life too!


So add some physical activity into your schedule - as little as 15 minutes daily. Maybe by the end of this you'll be fitter or even be able to do 10 (or 100!) press-ups!


There are many options to boost your physical strength and health. Here are some ideas:


• Take up a yoga practice - excellent for strength-building, flexibility - and calm! There are lots of online options. Here is one with everything from 10 minutes for beginners to an advanced practice. Sarah Beth Yoga on Youtube has more (free) yoga videos than I can count


• Learn do a press-up or push-up. Then see if you can get to 10 (or more - depending on where you start)!


• There are so many online fitness classes on Youtube - for beginners, experts - with equipment and also with no equipment whatsoever. PopSugar Fitness has many options to choose from. Try Peloton free for 90 says!


Add your fitness and strength class ideas to the above including links to make it super-easy for people.


REMEMBER: BEing stronger = FEELING stronger and more in control! And building your PHYSICAL strength or fitness = REDUCED feelings of helplessness!


3) Learn with Non-Fiction Books:


Use this time at home to educate yourself with non-fiction books. There is so much to be gained - like self-confidence, negotiation skills, health (sleep, nutrition), how to have difficult conversations and much more.


What keeps you up at night? There's probably a book about that! What do you wish you were better at? There's probably a book about that too!

Here are some book ideas to get you thinking:


• Be more productive or creative with "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore or "A Whack on the Side of the Head (How You Can Be More Creative)" by Roger Von Oech and "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink.

• Think (or rethink?) how you live with books like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan (also available in a young reader's version), "Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures" by Carlo Petrini, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" by Barbara Ehrenreich, "Doughnut Economics" by Kate Raworth.

• Get personally inspired with "Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts" and "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown, or "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl.

• Up-skill yourself with "Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most" by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen.

• Learn about the human mind with "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell or "The Whole Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegel MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.

• Get healthier with "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker PhD.

• Be more confident and discover your strengths with "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman" or "Now, Discover Your Strengths (How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage)" by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.

• Finally, read memoir! Choose someone you admire, get inspired and learn how other people think - and live their lives.

Reading one book will expand your mind, reading several of these books is going to make you more interesting, help you learn new skills - and maybe even make you more employable too!


4) Gain a New Skill with Online Learning:


There are so many opportunities online to gain a new skill and they're growing by the day!

Grow your personal or creative skills or choose a new skill to learn and take back to work with online training providers like Coursera or Udemy.

There are many other providers.

If there's a skill you always wanted to learn, search for it. But be sure to read the course descriptions thoroughly, check reviews if there are any - and check money-back guarantees as you need to!

And with so many learning options ranging from FREE to tens of dollars to the low hundreds of dollars, there will be something out there just perfect for you.


5) Explore your Life Vision:


Rather than watching endless news streams, you can choose to focus on a bigger picture - your future. What do you want from the rest of your life? What would you be disappointed you did NOT do? Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?


Having a clear vision of how you want your life to be is a powerful motivator. A vision helps us work towards our goals, take action and make change. Soon, we'll all be super-busy again - and a vision might be just what you need stay focused!


Here are 5 questions to ponder or journal around to go deeper:

• What do you desire or yearn for in your life?

• How do you want to feel?

• What do you really, really want to be different in your life?

• What would have happened in 3 years time such that your life is spectacular and you feel magnificent about yourself?

• What's your dream for this lifetime? Imagine you're 90 years old and looking back over your life; what did you do that made you proud and happy?


TIP: Remember to think possibility not probability! Don't limit yourself and your ideas because you don't believe something is likely. Instead believe it's possible - and even if you don't get all the way there, you may get close - or even find something better along the way!



6) Be in the moment:


In THIS moment you are OK. You are safe. Take one day at a time. One hour or even one breath at a time if you need to.

This tip is about being super-present, not thinking ahead or remembering the past, but practicing BEING.

This is a PRACTICE - meaning you will have to do it over and over again - bringing yourself back to the NOW. Over time it gets easier, and it's a great skill to have to take back to "normal" life.

So when you notice you're worrying, feeling twitchy and want to pick up your device and find out what the "latest" is about the COVID situation, say to yourself, "It's OK. In this moment, I am safe. In this moment I am OK." You can also add or say, "In this moment, my children/husband/family are safe."

EXTRA TIP: Reduce or minimise how often you watch and read the news! And DON'T read or watch the news (or articles about COVID-19 or similar) just before bed!


7) Laugh


Distracting ourselves from our fears is a valid technique for feeling better!

Laughter releases helpful chemicals in our bloodstream - Endorphins (our natural "happy" drug) and Dopamine (part of our bodily "reward" system).

• What are your favourite comedy shows?

• Is there a comedian you like?

• Netflix and similar have so many watching options, so find something that makes you laugh!

IMPORTANT: We should NOT use over-use laughter as a distraction technique. And it shouldn't be used for ongoing and persistent fears in regular life. But for a situation like this, where this isn't much that any of us can do other than sit and wait - distraction can be a great coping mechanism.


8 ) Start a Journal!


If you've always wanted to journal, now is a good time to start. More than just keeping a record of your day, a journal can help you explore and sift through your feelings and experiences and learn from them. It's a great way to get to know you.

It's great to choose a beautiful notebook, but the most important thing is to just get started. Here are some prompts to get started with:

• Today I am feeling _________. I think this is because __________.

• One big thing I have learned during this crisis is _________.

• I remember the last time I was stuck in the house _________.

• One thing that's surprised me recently is _________.

• What matters most to me in life is _________.

• Describe your ideal day _________.

"A journal is expressive by nature and it contains feelings, emotions, problems, ponderings and it is more reflective on the meaning of life being lived." Lynda Monk


9) Be Kind!


Kindness and compassion are one of the most powerful tools any of us have in our toolbox right now. Many of us are largely housebound, never mind the fear that you or a loved on might actually catch the COVID virus! So, of course we're going to feel unpleasant and weird.


• Use kindness to comfort yourself when afraid or feeling anxious or fidgety. Be gentle. Imagine you're soothing a friend, small child or animal who is afraid - what would you say to them? Then say that to yourself!


• Use kindness to give yourself - and others - the benefit or the doubt. Instead of getting upset when you see other people behaving badly, remember that we all do silly things when we're scared.


• Imagine you have a kind, wise self. A part of you that is unflappable, intelligent and unconditionally loves ALL of you. Now, when you need it, imagine that kind, wise self is with you, supporting you, maybe giving you a hug - and saying exactly what you need to hear (not just the sugary stuff, but also the tough love and common sense).


10) Help Others


Helping others is empowering and makes us feel better. Here are a few ways you could help others.

• Check in on a neighbour or friend and see if they need anything. You can do this by phone, or in person, remembering to maintain a 6 feet distance.

• Offer to get someone groceries if you're going.

• Help someone less technically savvy learn how to use Zoom or WhatsApp or whatever they need to get online.

• Host a virtual get-together with your regular friends.

• Reconnect more deeply with friends or relatives who have moved away.


11) Live Your Values


When we know your values, we understand what motivates and drives us. When we build our lives around our values, we create a life that is meaningful. Finally, when we align our actions with our values - we're being truly authentic. It's a very satisfying and fulfilling way to live.

And living your values could be the single most important thing any of us can do right now.

Here's an exercise you can do:

• List your values on a piece of paper or in your journal.

• Give each value a score ___ / 10 as to how well you are living that value in your life now (where 0 is not at all and 10 is full-out).

• For the scores that are 8 or more - great!

• For the scores that are 7 or less out of 10, ask yourself, "How could I express this value more in my life right now?" "What could I do differently or approach differently, so that I feel good about how I live this value in my life?"

For example: You have a value of creativity, but you're only managing to 'go through the motions' right now and your score is 4/10. Ask yourself how you could be more creative during this time - whether it's cooking, gardening, art or writing or helping your kids do something creative, or even watching a documentary about someone creative you admire...


12) De-Clutter


I bet you have some organizational things on your to-do list (like going through winter clothes, sorting out toys to donate or tidying the laundry closet, garage or shed) that have been on there for a while. Use this isolation period to get them done!

Getting organized and de-cluttering allows us to exert some control over our lives - and therefore feel less helpless! Plus it'll feel amazing just to have it done.

Organize your closets, your garage, your books, your photos, office, kitchen equipment. Whatever needs organizing. Or perhaps you need to go through your receipts or file your taxes!

• If you need some inspiration (and great clothes-folding tips) you could watch the Marie Kondo series on Netflix!

A simple 3 Step Method to go through your stuff:

1. If you're keeping it, be sure to DECIDE where it will "live" from now on.

2. If you're not keeping it, create two piles:

o Things to DUMP

o Things to DONATE (and if relevant to pass on to specific people).

3. When you're done, put each pile into bags or boxes, and then once this crisis is over you can get rid of what you no longer need.

• TIP: You don't need to do any of this 'in one sitting', do an hour a day - you'll be surprised how much you get done if you keep it up for a week!

Amend the above with your own tips or method. You could also MAKE AN OFFER to help them make a plan to get organized!


13) Grow Something - Or Get an Indoor Flowering Plant!


There is nothing quite like growing something - whether it's flowers, fruits or vegetables that makes us feel good! Even if you live in an apartment and you could grow fresh herbs on your windowsill or balcony to cook with!

• Get some seeds, (a pot and some soil if needed) and get started.

• Many plant nurseries are still open, or you could order seeds etc. online.

• Follow the instructions - and remember to water it!

If growing something is just too much work, get yourself a spring bulb or succulent (cacti) planter, or you could get an indoor plant like a Spathiphyllum* (Peace Lily) is good for cleaning the air of pollutants (and easy to take care of).

* Be aware that some plants are poisonous to pets - so please check.


14) Send "Real" Snail Mail Letters or Cards


Go old-fashioned. Who doesn't love to receive a lovely card or handwritten letter in the post box! Rediscover the lost art of letter-writing and make someone's day.

Yes, you could send an email appreciating someone, and that's great. But imagine your recipient's face as they pick up that hand-written card in the mailbox.

Wondering what to say? Write from the heart! Here are some ideas to get started:

• I really appreciate having you in my life because ________.

• I love hanging out with you when we ________.

• I've realised that you bring ________ to my life.


15) Begin a Meditation Practice


Meditation is a practice that has been proven scientifically to calm us, help us be more creative and be happier (for starters). It's extremely beneficial.

There is a lot to learn about meditation - and it's called a Meditation Practice for a reason. But it's also not as hard as it sounds. You can start with as little as 5 minutes a day - and it's good to build a routine, so you meditate at the same time every day. Get a book on "Meditation for Beginners" or go to Youtube or Google and search for "How to Meditate". Another good place to start is "Metta" or "Loving Kindness" meditation. Again, search online and you'll have lots of options to choose from.

It helps to have a quiet space without interruptions - which many of us don't have at the moment. And for some people, trying to meditate when anxious can be stressful. If this is the case, listen to a relaxing guided meditation instead.

Another idea is to listen to a sleep meditation or "Body Scan Meditation" before going to sleep. Smiling Mind has a free meditation app to get you started!


Wrap-up


So, which of the above ideas resonated with you? I am slowing down so I have began daily meditation practice and sending letters to loved ones!

Believe you have the skills and power to tackle this situation and you will! Choose to make the best of a difficult situation and no matter what - you'll find a way.

This current and strange COVID-19 situation will end. And when it does, you'll be proud you made the effort to learn something - whether it's about yourself, fresh knowledge, a new skill - and who knows what else!


 

Bye Bye Sleeping Through the Night

Posted on 29 January, 2020 at 10:30



Have you said “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?

 

Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?

 

Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!

 

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing

 

Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we're just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

 

Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind. People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation. And don't forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.

 

Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? (Gasp!)

 

OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???

 

Knowing this it's easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:

● To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.

● To improve our brain's ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.

● To conserve some energy so we're not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

 

Do you know how much sleep adults need? It's less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it's recommended that all adults get 7 - 9 hours a night. For real!

 

Try not to skimp!

 

(Don't worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below.)

 

Tips for better sleep

 

● The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you're more likely to achieve it. This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. Seven. Days. A. Week. I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.

 

● Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. You know, eat less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber). Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack). Make sure you're getting some protein every time you eat.

 

● During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it's daytime; time for being productive, active and alert. By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.

 

● Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it's the “added” sugar we're minimizing. Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte. Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).

 

● Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 - 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath.

 

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?

 

Recipe (Caffeine-free latte for your afternoon “coffee break”): Caffeine-Free Chai Latte

 

Serves 1-2

 

1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)

2 cups of boiling water

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)

2 dates (optional)

 

Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.

 

Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.

 

Blend until creamy.

 

Serve and Enjoy!

 

Tip: You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best. Cashew butter anyone?

 

References:

 

http://www.thepaleomom.com/gotobed/

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep

 

How to Improve Gut Health

Posted on 6 January, 2020 at 14:00


Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”

 

And while this may not be 100% true for every disease in every person, more and more research shows that our gut (digestive system) has a bigger role in many diseases than we used to think. And we're not just talking about heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, IBS, IBD, etc. We're talking about all kinds of issues like allergies, pain, mood disorders, and nutrient deficiencies.

 

There are a lot of reasons for this. Our gut is the portal to the outside world. It's here where we take in disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. We also take in nutrients (and toxins) through our gut. The nutrients we ingest and absorb are the building blocks of every single part of our body. We're just learning the connections between our gut and other areas of our body, like our brain (have you heard of "the gut-brain axis"). Not just our gut per se; but, its friendly resident microbes too. These guys also have newly discovered roles in our gut health and overall health.

 

So, let's talk about the roles that our gut and our gut microbes play in our overall health. Then I'll give you tips to improve your gut health naturally.

 

Our gut’s role in our overall health

 

Our gut’s main role is as a barrier. To let things in that should get in, and to keep things out that should stay out. Think of “absorption” of nutrients as things we want to let in; and “elimination” of waste as things we want to pass right through and out.

 

This seemingly simple role is super-complex! And it can break down in so many places.

 

For one thing, our guts can "leak." Yes, like a long tube with holes in it, it can allow things to get into our bloodstream/bodies that can wreak havoc (bacteria, undigested food, and toxins). You name it, whatever you put into your mouth can be absorbed by your gut and get into your bloodstream, even if it's not supposed to. And when your gut wall gets irritated, it can "leak." When this happens, you get inflammation, which is a starting point for many diseases that don't seem linked to the gut but have a sneaky connection there.

 

FUN FACT: About 70% of our immune system lives in and around our gut.

 

A healthy gut is not a leaky gut. It maintains its barrier and shuttles things through to be eliminated. Maintaining a healthy gut barrier is the first pillar of gut health.

 

The second main part of your gut are the billions of friendly health-promoting microbes. Gut microbes help us digest and absorb nutrients. They fight off disease-causing microbes, make some vitamins for us, and have all kinds of other health benefits, like mental health benefits, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar.

 

So, keeping your gut microbes happy is the second pillar of gut health!

 

How to improve gut health

 

There are a lot of natural ways to improve gut health. Let’s start with what to stop. It’s always best to eliminate the cause, so let’s stop giving our guts junk to deal with. How about eliminating added sugars, processed foods, and alcohol? Try that for a few weeks, and you may be amazed at how much better your body (and gut) feels.

 

You may also want to eliminate other gut irritants. Dairy and grains contain common compounds known to irritate some people’s guts. Sometimes you only need to eliminate them for a few weeks to see if it makes a difference for your health.

 

By eating nutrient-dense foods, we allow ample macro- and micro-nutrients into our gut to maximize the chance for absorption. These nutrients help our bodies build and repair our gut, and every other body part as well. Some of the most nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, colourful fruits and veggies, liver, and fish.

 

The second pillar of gut health is our microbes. By ingesting probiotic-rich foods and drinks, we can help to replenish our gut microbes. These are found in fermented foods like kombucha, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Make these a part of your daily diet.

 

Whole foods are full of gut-friendly fiber. Not eating enough fiber increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Fiber plays lots of roles in our gut, including whisking away some of those pesky bad bacteria and toxins so they can be eliminated. Fiber also helps to feed our friendly resident microbes that help us absorb and digest our food better. What foods have a lot of fiber? Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and even cacao.

 

And don’t forget the uber-important lifestyle factors like getting enough sleep, stressing less, and getting the right amount (and intensity) of exercise for you. It’s easy to forget some of the simple, but key links there are between what we do with our bodies and how well they function.

 

Conclusion

 

The function of your gut is key to your overall health. There are two pillars of gut health: maintaining a good barrier and maintaining healthy gut microbes.

 

The main ways to improve both of these naturally is by eating nutrient-dense whole foods. Foods filled with nutrition, probiotics, and fiber. And eliminating common gut irritants like added sugar, processed foods, and alcohol.

 

Recipe (Probiotic-rich): Fermented Carrots

 

Serves 12

 

1 L warm water

4 tsp salt

4 carrots, medium, peeled, sliced

1 clove garlic, smashed (optional)

 

Instructions

 

 

Make a brine by dissolving the salt in water.

 

Place carrots into a clean canning jar, packing them in tight. Make sure to leave about 1 inch of head space at the top.

Fill the jar with brine, making sure to cover the carrots completely. Weigh the carrots down to make sure they don't float (you can use a "fermenting weight").

 

Close the jar and let it sit at room temperature for 1-4 days. The longer it sits, the more the flavor will develop. Feel free to open and taste.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Use this as a side dish, or even a snack.

 

References:

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/does-all-disease-begin-in-the-gut/

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-nutrition-gut-health

 

http://neurotrition.ca/blog/your-gut-bugs-what-they-eat-and-7-ways-feed-them

 


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