Five Tips to Keep You Feeling Energized

Summer is my favorite time of year, but the really hot days, increased activity, and travel can leave you feeling completely exhausted!  An extra espresso shot just doesn’t seem to do the trick.  Here are 5 tips to keep you feeling energetic so you can get the most out of the summer months!

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!  Our bodies are made up of between 60 to 70 percent water.  We need water to regulate temperature, to transport oxygen to our cells, to remove waste from our system, and of course to supply our bodies with nutrients.  Drink water first thing in the morning and try to remember to keep doing so throughout the day.  I find this hydration calculator a very nice tool to determine how much water we actually need per day based on our activity level, as well as other factors:  http://nutrition.about.com/library/blwatercalculator.htm

  1. Stay positive!  Does dealing with office politics or difficult family members leave you feeling drained?  I know it has that effect on me.  Try and counter the negativity by spending time with people who uplift you.  This may be easier said than done in the workplace, but it is far less energy zapping to avoid the office gossip.  If your regular lunch bunch spends too much time complaining, try going for a lunch-time walk on your own once in awhile.  You will be surprised how much more inspired and energized you may feel.

  1. Get moving!  I have been suffering from jet lag since returning from vacation last week.  I have been so tired; the last thing I felt like doing was exercising.  I went for a brisk walk for both the cardiovascular activity and exposure to sunlight to help with the jet lag.  I felt so much better once I spent a few minutes outdoors!  Ignore the little voice telling you to sleep for an extra hour and get moving!  A few minutes of stretching each day goes a long way as well, especially if you have been cramped on an airplane for several hours.
  1. Stay on top of the clutter.  For years, I let the unimportant mail and documents to shred pile up until the pile toppled over.  Just looking a pile of mail to be opened made me want to take a nap!  I made a decision to stay on top of the clutter so it wasn’t such a dreaded chore.  Got an untidy garage?  Consider donating furniture, clothing, and small appliances that you haven’t used in ages to a local community non-profit or check out Freecycle.com to see if a neighbor may be able to use something you are ready to part with!
  1. Don’t forget to breathe!  Just like water is such a critical component to our health and energy level, so is oxygen!  Deep breathing promotes relaxation and a healthy lymphatic system.  If you can do simple breathing exercises on your own — great!  If not, I have found some gentle and restorative yoga classes to be very helpful in teaching the art of mindful breathing.

I hope you find these 5 tips for staying energized helpful!  If you have comments or other suggestions, I would love to hear from you!

Prevention is Powerful Medicine

Earlier this year, I attended the Personalized Medicine World Conference in Mountain View, CA.  One of the speakers started out his presentation posing several questions to the audience:

“How many of you are physicians?
How many of you are scientists?
How many of you are venture capitalists?”

Several hands went up after each question was posted.  His last question to us was, “How many of you are patients?”  At that point, EVERY hand in the room was raised.  That was the single commonality among each of us in that room, and that is something that binds each and every one of US together.  What a powerful message he was bringing to us!

As a collective of patients, we had become a community of healthcare consumers where we could share and discuss our opinions and experiences about disease, about health and wellness, about traditional versus alternative care.

When it boils down to it, no one is more invested in our own health and wellness than we are ourselves.  Our health care providers, our friends, and our families care for us and want us to be healthy.  But it is up to each one of us to stay that way, and we have choices.  Educate yourself, practice prevention, and live a happier, healthier life!

Be safe when using OTC medications

I don’t want to make any negative comments about any specific over-the-counter (OTC) medications out there, but I do want to stress how IMPORTANT it is to educate yourself about them before using them for your own safety.  For the purpose of this story, any medication that I talk about will be referred to as DrugX…

So I arrived at yoga class a few minutes early yesterday, and the instructor was there chatting with a few of the regular attendees.  She told us all that the class would be a little easier than usual because she was feeling under the weather.  She elaborated a bit on how she didn’t get much sleep and that she thought she was coming down with a cold.

Someone in class called out, “Have you tried DrugX?”
“No,” the teacher said.  “Is it good?”
“Oh yes,” the student replied.  “Someone told me about it in the locker room.  I tried it, and it really helped my cold.”
“I never try new over-the-counter cold medicines without talking to my doctor,” says the teacher, “but if you say it works then I’ll give it a try!”

A seemingly harmless and even helpful tidbit so it seemed, but my twelve years of experience as a drug safety professional had me cringing on my yoga mat!

First of all, DrugX is a brand-name that actually five or six products to choose from based on your symptoms.  All except one of the products is a combination product, meaning that it contains two or more ingredients to treat your cold symptoms.  Not everyone reads (or can see!) the tiny printed label on the back of the box called Drug Facts.  This contains important information like all of the active ingredients in the product, what the product’s intended use is, warnings, directions for use, etc.

PLEASE NOTE:  THIS LABEL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ‘DRUGX’ THAT I MENTION IN THE STORY.  I PULLED THIS FROM THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) WEBSITE FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY!

Second, when the teacher began to talk about her symptoms, none of the 5 or 6 products in that brand family are actually used to treat her specific symptoms!  So, she would have been taking something that wouldn’t have made her feel any better and could have in fact made her symptoms worsen.

Honestly, most OTC medications are safe if used as directed.  However, if you are taking any other prescription or OTC meds please talk to your doctor or the pharmacist to determine if the new medication is right for you.

One last tidbit… OTC meds come in all forms — eye & ear drops, those taken orally, and even creams applied topically.  Be careful not to exceed the recommended dosage of a particular ingredient if you are using both an oral and a topical medication to treat a symptom or symptoms to avoid a potential overdose.

If you have been taking an OTC medication for several days and your condition is not improving, you should consult your doctor.  Always consult your doctor before taking any medication if you are pregnant or nursing.

Wishing you wellness!

Multi-tasking vs. Mindfulness: The Science of Stress

Let’s face it… we can keep saying that we are going to start taking care of ourselves more when things “go back to normal”, but our lives are just getting busier and more chaotic.A few years ago, I was spending 12 – 20 hours on a plane each week for my job.  For those 5-6 hours flying from Newark to San Francisco, I had undistracted time to work, nap, read, watch a movie or whatever!  The point is, no one could reach me.  Now, we’ve got internet access on planes, there is an app for just about everything, people are sadly texting while driving more than ever despite the harsh fines.  We are living in a world where multi-tasking is more commonplace than ever before.
mindfulness

 

 

 

 

 

I read an interview with a pioneer in the field of research, Dr. Earl K. Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT.  He shares with us that there is really no such thing as true multitasking.  For example, when a teenager is doing homework, texting friends, and watching TV at the same time, these things are not actually being done simultaneously!  Actually, our brain switches focus from one thing to another, often resulting in loss of focus, and decreased quality of work.

No wonder we are exhausted!  That brings me to the subject of mindfulness.  Mindfulness meditation is defined as the practice of bringing an open and receptive awareness of the present moment to experiences, avoiding thinking of the past or worrying about the future. It is thought to reduce stress and improve health outcomes across the board.  Stress is a known contributor to diseases such as depression and can exacerbate chronic disease such as heart disease, autoimmune disease, and some types of cancer.

While meditation is not for everyone, we can introduce mindfulness in small doses without being a master yogi or meditator.  Here are a few easy tips that have worked wonderfully to give my brain a break and reduce stress.

  • Ditch the TV during dinner time and eat your meals at the dinner table.  You actually taste your food while you are eating it, and it is much easier not to overeat when you eat mindfully.
  • Put down the cell phone while you are driving!  Hands-free chatting is a law now in many states, and texting is just plan dangerous.  We are all guilty of doing one of these things at least one time or another, but really… it’s not worth the risk to your life or someone elses.
  • We love our music when exercising, but every once in awhile leave the iPod at home.  Check out the scenery, breathe in the fresh air, and be alone with your own thoughts.  You may be surprised what you learn about yourself when you are listening.

The Science of Sleep

Are you a night owl or an early bird?  Personally, I don’t think I am either. However, research shows that a preference for being an early riser or a late sleeper is influenced by genetics.

how much sleep do you need

A study conducted at the University of California at San Francisco by Dr. Ying-Hui Fu and her team revealed a rare mutation in the gene DEC2 of a mother and daughter who needed only an average of 6.5 hours of sleep per night due to more intense REM sleep states.  People with this mutation (also called “short-sleepers”) appear to sleep more efficiently.

Think you are one of the lucky few?  The odds are stacked against you. Less than 3% of the population is said to carry this mutation.  For the other 97% of us, how do we find out how much sleep we need?  In seventh grade math class, I remember learning a formula for calculating how many hours of sleep we need at night based on our age throughout childhood.  Once we hit the age of 18, our sleep needs pretty much stay the same (between 7.5 to 9 hours) assuming the absence of certain medical conditions.

After feeling sleep deprived for close to two years, I took a long-needed sleep vacation!  I didn’t have to go anywhere other than my bed; I just had to prioritize this little but necessary experiment, and I was on my way to feeling better than I have in years.  Here’s what you need to do.

  • Carve out two weeks where you have some flexibility to go to bed at the same time every night & wake up without an alarm clock
  • Don’t worry… for the first couple of days you will sleep longer if you have been sleep deprived – your body’s way of paying off your “sleep debt”
  • Continue going to be at a consistent time and waking up naturally.  Within two weeks, you will establish a sleep pattern and obtaining the same amount of sleep each night

Nine hours ended up being my magic number.  No wonder I had felt sleep deprived!  I was getting between 6 and 7 hours of sleep every night for the past several years.

Need other tips for getting a good night’s sleep?  Make sure you are sleeping on a comfortable mattress and pillow, and limit television watching and computer use in the few hours before bedtime.  Try to exercise in the earlier part of the day and steer clear of late-night caffeine and alcohol intake.

Schedule your sleep vacation and follow this simple formula.  You’ll be sleeping like a rockstar before you know it.

The Balancing Act: Take Inventory

work-life-balance | how to have it

Before you can be balanced, you’ve got to figure out what you’ve got on your plate. For some of us, it may be straightforward.  For others, not so much.  We’ve got to make sure our minds and bodies are able to balance what our relationships and the world around us is demanding.  Grab a pen and paper or start a new document and take a personal inventory by answering these questions below.  Don’t think about it too much.  Our first impressions are often spot-on.

Body.  Is your body as strong as you need it to be?  Have you been trying to drop a few pounds (or more) for the past several years but can’t seem to do it?  Are you limited by physical pain?  Are you limited by an injury?  Are you aware of any chronic disease suffered by yourself or a family member such as high cholesterol or diabetes?  If so, is your disease well-managed?

Mind.  Are you able to think clearly, or are you overwhelmed by racing thoughts?  Are you able to concentrate?  How is your memory?  Have you ever tried to meditate or do yoga?  If yes, were you able to relax or were you flooded by outside demands and responsibilities?

Work and Relationships.  Are you honoring the relationships that are most important to you?  Does your partner, spouse, or children tell you that you don’t spend enough time with them?  Are you worried that your pets are feeling neglected?  Are you at odds with anyone & wish to mend fences?  And what about work… Are you doing what you love or just working to get by?  Are your work demands taking so much from you that you are neglecting your important relationships?

Environment.  Are you living in a place that makes you happy?  How is the quality of air you are breathing?  Are you subjecting yourself to injury or disease by your living or working conditions?  Do you make an effort to protect our natural resources through conservation, recycling, or some other effort?  Do you buy locally grown fruits and vegetables?  Are your eating habits in sync with your core beliefs?

Now you’ve got your inventory, and you are ready for the next step.  Figuring out your personal formula for successful balance.