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5 Things You Should Do First Thing In The Morning To Be Happier All Day

If you roll out of bed feeling tired or stressed, these a.m. habits can help you turn your mood around.

A few tweaks to your morning routine can help set you up for improved well-being for the rest of the day.

Mornings can be rough for many people who tend to feel sleepy pretty regularly, which in turn makes them report feeling irritable a lot of the time. And yes, it’s hard to feel cheery when you’re overtired and stressed — much of which, alas, is outside of people’s control.

But happiness experts say there are simple habits people can practice in the morning that will that have a profound influence on how they feel throughout the day. They’re easy tweaks that can help improve overall mental well-being.

Ready to take stock of your general day-to-day happiness and incorporate some new practices that can improve your mood all day long? Here are five strategies to consider:

1. Pick a wellness habit, then link it to an a.m. ritual you already have.

This first tip is pretty broad, and that’s on purpose. Because the truth is there are many evidence-backed strategies people can use to try to boost happiness.

So you might take some time to cultivate awareness through meditation. (One simple strategy: Close your eyes and focus on the act of taking 10 breaths.) Or you might be intrigued by the research that shows incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help boost happiness. Maybe you’d like to spend a few seconds every morning simply focusing on whatever nature you see outside your window, whether it’s the grass in your yard or the sky over the city.

There really are so many different wellness habits that can help you, according to psychiatrist Murray Zucker, chief medical officer of the health care platform Happify. The key is simply to start with one — whatever it is— then attach it to a routine that you already have. You’re linking habit to ritual, he explained.

So maybe every morning you get up, go to the bathroom, then make your bed. Link a moment in that routine (say, the bed making) to the habit you want to cultivate (maybe it’s reading 10 pages in a book). By tacking it on to something you already do, you’re much more likely to actually stick with it. And consistency really is the key to boosting happiness over time, Zucker said.

“Start slow and build gradually,” he added. He encourages people to really just start with one new habit you want to link to your existing routine, then go from there.

2. Get your phone out of your room.

“Do not have your screen in your room,” said Allison Task, a career and life coach who said that she insists on this as a non-negotiable with her clients. That’s because when you reach for your phone (or tablet, or computer, or click on the TV) first thing in the morning, you’re really inviting the outside world to dictate your mood first thing, she said.

And there really is a lot of evidence supporting the idea that screens hamper happiness. Studies have linked frequent social media use to decreased mood over time; other research has shown that a high volume of emails is connected with overall feelings of unhappiness.

Furthermore, screens can get in the way of sleep, which is deeply connected to people’s overall sense of well-being.

“Sleep is just a game changer,” Task said. You might not be able to control what time your toddler shuffles into your room in the morning or what time your alarm starts to blare, but you can at least try to protect your sleeping hours by keeping screens out of your room.

3. Talk to yourself…

Zucker noted that people tend to spend a lot of time talking to themselves in their own heads, particularly in the morning when feeling frazzled or stressed about what’s to come. He is a big fan of noticing self-talk and self-correcting using this simple technique: say your name.

“If you use your own name in your self-talk, you’re more likely to follow cognitive advice,” Zucker explained.

If, for example, you have a big presentation at work and you notice that you’re spending the morning psyching yourself out, telling yourself that you’re going to flop, you really can make yourself pretty nervous, Zucker said.

“But if I say: ‘Murray. You’ve done this before. You like doing this,’” you really can take some control over your own thoughts, which can set you up for greater happiness throughout the day.

“Just using your own name can be very helpful,” Zucker said.

Connecting with someone – even on your phone – in the morning can offer mood-boosting benefits that will linger throughout the day.

Connecting with someone – even on your phone – in the morning can offer mood-boosting benefits that will linger throughout the day.

4. … and somebody else.

“Make a social contact with somebody you have positive regard for,” Zucker said. This could really be anyone — a spouse or child, a friend, an extended family member.

What that “social contact” looks like really depends on your personality and your schedule. “For someone who is busy, it may be a phone call or a text. If you have more time, meeting someone for a cup of coffee to start your day is really a boost,” Zucker said.

But research suggests that even if you don’t actually meet up with someone or send them an email or text, it can be enough to simply send good thoughts their way. “You can start with a simple appreciation practice,” Cortland Dahl, a research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds, previously told HuffPost. Just bring a friend or loved one into your mind, then consciously focusing on the things you really cherish about them.

5. Incorporate gratitude.

While it’s true that there is a huge range of habits that can help boost happiness in the morning, researchers and clinicians tend to return to one again and again because it’s so powerful: gratitude.

In research trials, people who journaled about the things they’re thankful for during the week scored much higher on measures of happiness than people who instead noted things they’d been irritated by. And a daily gratitude practice may even contribute to improved physical health — which, in turn, contributes to overall feelings of happiness.

There are many different ways to work gratitude into your morning routines, but it can (and should!) be simple.

“Many religions do a morning prayer,” said Task, who added that spending a moment doing something similar — whether you’re religious or not — can be a doable morning habit to cultivate.

“Take that pause to appreciate that you’re alive, whatever that means to you,” she urged. Say to yourself: “I’m so glad I’m alive, and I get to play with my 2-year-old daughter,” Task offered by way of example. Or that you get to go to work. Or you get to walk your dog. Or even that you get to hit the snooze button again — yes, even if experts generally say it’s not a great idea.

Just find some way to express some gratitude in the morning, because it truly can be enough to put you in a better frame of mind all day.

By Catherine Pearson   04/23/2021

source: HuffPost


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How To Create A Morning Routine That Reduces Anxiety And Stress

The self-care rituals you practice in the morning
can improve your mental health for the rest of the day.

As a person who’s dealt with anxiety since I was a kid, I find that I’m often most anxious first thing in the morning. When I open my eyes, all of the worries and potential stressors that await me flood my mind. The pit in my stomach makes me want to stay in bed as long as I can so I don’t have to face the day ahead.

Of course, this avoidance only exacerbates what I’m feeling. What alleviates it is just the opposite: Getting up on the earlier side so I have time for my morning routine. These days, that’s making an iced coffee, taking my dog for a walk, following a short workout video, writing my to-do list for the day and ― when time permits ― meditating and journaling.

“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day,” Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and well-being consultant in Britain, told HuffPost. “A worry-filled morning will often flood into an anxious afternoon.” Conversely, starting the morning with intention creates a sense of calm and confidence that makes the rest of the day seem more manageable.

So how do you create those morning rituals that will quiet your racing mind and stick with them? Below, experts offer some helpful advice.

How to start a solid morning routine

Be realistic about how much you can dedicate to your morning routine. 

Consider how much time you can realistically carve out for yourself.

“We all have a period of the morning that we have some level of control over,” Chambers said. “For some people, that may be an hour, for others, it may be 20 minutes.”

For example, if you have young kids or a long commute to the office, you may have less time to work with. So figure out what’s realistic for your circumstances.

Waking up earlier may help your mornings feel less frazzled. That said, you shouldn’t force yourself into becoming an early riser at the expense of getting a full night’s rest. Remember that sleep plays a pivotal role in your emotional regulation.

“Often we hear of routines that start in the early hours of the morning,” Chambers said. “For some people, this is a high-energy time and a perfect time to start your routine. But if you’re limiting your sleep or you just don’t function well so early, it is going to be detrimental.”

Experiment to figure out which rituals work best for you.

Finding out which morning routine additions alleviate your anxiety may take some trial and error. What works for your partner, friend or that random influencer you follow on Instagram may or may not work for you.

“Think about your biggest stressors and problems that trigger your anxiety, and then consider what really helps in these situations,” Chambers said. “Then look to those activities and experiment. There are many ways and methods to exercise, plan, journal, listen and read, and some will feel just right for you.”

Make it easy and enjoyable so you stick with it.

You don’t need to come up with some elaborate 20-step process to reap the benefits of a morning routine (but, hey, if you want to, more power to you).

“Morning routines are most effective when we enjoy them and they are easy to integrate into our lives,” Chambers said. “They are not about completely changing what we do, but adding small, positive changes that compound together.”

“Morning routines are most effective when we enjoy them and they are easy to integrate into our lives.”

– LEE CHAMBERS, ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND WELL-BEING CONSULTANT

One way to make the morning smoother? Do some preparation the night before, like laying out your workout clothes, whipping up a make-ahead breakfast or putting your journal by your coffeemaker.

“Leave things to trigger you to remember, make what you need accessible and craft a space where it is possible,” Chambers said.

But know that you’re not going to execute your routine perfectly every day ― and that’s OK.

You might be on a roll for a couple of weeks and then fall off for a few days. If you mentally prepare for these hiccups, you’ll be less likely to beat yourself up when they happen.

“It’s easy to move into judgment and criticism of yourself when things don’t go as you would have wanted or when you don’t immediately want to jump out of bed in the morning to start a new routine,” said marriage and family therapist Lynsie Seely of Wellspace SF in San Francisco. “Expect that there will be difficult moments and connect with your internal voice that offers kind words and encouragement along the way.”

And when you do follow your routine, give yourself some praise.

“Celebrate a little,” Chambers said. “Similarly, when you miss it, be kind to yourself and get prepared for the following morning.”

Some habits worth trying to incorporate into your morning

Here are some expert-recommend practices to reduce anxiety. Experiment to see what works well for you and then narrow it down. 

We asked mental health professionals to recommend some practices that help soothe anxiety. Try out a few of these and check in with how you feel afterwards — but know that it may take some time to see the benefits. Then you can determine if you want to add any to your a.m. routine.

1. Start your day by drinking water.

Before you have your tea or coffee, hydrate with a glass of a water as soon as you wake up.

“It gives us increased cognitive function, allowing us more clarity of mind, can elevate our mood and energy, and promotes more balanced emotional regulation and takes less than a minute,” Chambers said. “And it’s a great habit to stack your next part of the routine into, and you can even prepare your water the evening before.”

2. Walk outside.

Taking a walk outdoors is a calming, grounding way to begin the day.

“It is also great as it gets sunlight into our eyes, stimulating serotonin, which boosts our mood,” Chambers said. “It also ignites our senses, as the wind hits our face, sounds of the environment fill our ears and we smell the external world. It makes us mindful and eases our worries in the process.”

3. Practice gratitude.

Take a moment to reflect on all of the good in your life. You can list a few things in your head, share them with a partner or child, or write them down in a journal.

“Start your day with a grateful heart before you even get up from bed,” said Renato Perez, a Los Angeles psychotherapist. “Start naming all the things you’re grateful for. This could be done through prayer or simply a list you say out loud to the universe or Mother Nature.”

4. Try to avoid checking your phone first thing.

Those work emails, text messages, Instagram notifications and news alerts can wait a bit. If you charge your phone by your bed or use it as an alarm clock, you’re going to look at it right when you wake up. Before you know it, you’re sucked in and two minutes of scrolling turns into 20. Try charging your phone across the room so it’s not within reach. Or charge it outside of the bedroom and use an alarm clock instead.

“I see so many people who immediately check their work email in the morning, which automatically puts them in ‘work mode’ and makes them feel anxious about the day ahead before they even get out of bed,” said Gina Delucca, a clinical psychologist at Wellspace SF. “Similarly, some people hop on social media or start reading news articles while lying in bed, which may trigger anxiety by reading or seeing something negative or scary.”

That doesn’t mean you have to avoid your phone altogether, which just isn’t realistic for most of us. “But I definitely recommend giving yourself some peace and quiet in the morning before the daily grind begins,” Delucca added.

5. Take some deep breaths.

When you’re anxious, you might notice your breathing is quick and shallow, rather than slow and deep.

“This is a part of our body’s natural stress response, and it coincides with a few of the other physical sensations you may notice when you feel anxious — like rapid heart rate, dizziness and upset stomach,” Delucca said. “While we don’t have voluntary control over some of these bodily sensations, we do have control over our breathing, and we can use our breath to help induce a more relaxed state.”

“Morning routines are powerful and set our pattern for the rest of the day.”

– LEE CHAMBERS, ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGIST AND WELL-BEING CONSULTANT

Those deep, nourishing inhalations and exhalations stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, producing a sense of calm.

“To begin, try to spend a few minutes each morning sitting or lying in a comfortable position, closing your eyes and taking a few slow, controlled, deep breaths,” Delucca said. “Try breathing in through your nose and then breathing out through either your nose or mouth. When you inhale, imagine that you are filling up a balloon in your abdomen rather than just breathing into your chest.”

6. Meditate.

“There is no better way to quiet the mind than by practicing meditation,” Perez said. “Start small — two to three minutes — and increment every week.”

When your mind wanders away, which it inevitably will, gently bring it back to your breath.

You can sit in silence, listen to relaxing music, do a guided mediation through an app like Calm, Headspace or Insight Timer, or find one on YouTube

You can also try repeating a mantra — “I am safe, and I will be OK,” is one Delucca suggested. Or do a body scan: Start at the top of your head, bringing awareness to each body part and releasing tension from that area as you slowly work your way down to your toes.

7. Eat a nourishing breakfast.

“Our mood is highly influenced by what we eat,” Chambers said.

Opt for a balanced breakfast that contains protein, healthful fats, fiber and complex carbohydrates — think a vegetable omelet with avocado toast or oatmeal with nut butter, berries and chia seeds. Refined carbohydrates, such as doughnuts and sugary cereals, can lead to a blood sugar spike and crash, “causing challenges with emotional regulation, which may leave you feeling anxious,” Chambers added. (That said, if the occasional croissant or chocolate chip muffin brings some joy to your morning, it’s totally fine. Food is meant to be enjoyed, after all.)

8. Read a few pages from a book.

Rather than reading news or catching up on your social media feeds early in the morning, Perez recommends picking up a book that inspires you and reading for a few minutes ― even just five pages.

“Find a book that really speaks to you and makes you feel good,” he said.

9. Move your body.

It could be yoga, walking, running, dancing, cycling, strength-training or even stretching.

“When you exercise in the morning, you may notice improved focus and energy during the rest of the day, as well as better sleep at night, which can also help to tame anxiety,” Delucca said. “In addition, exercising in the morning can enhance your mood by giving you a boost of endorphins and a sense of accomplishment at the start of your day.”

It’s worth noting that some people report that certain workouts, especially very intense ones, actually stoke their anxiety rather than reduce it. So just be aware of that.

“We react differently to exercise, and it is a stressor,” Chambers said. “Exercising with too much intensity for some people can lead them to become fatigued and more likely to feel anxious.”

10. Do some visualization.

A visualization practice can help you set the desired tone for your day. If you’re feeling anxious and distracted, perhaps you’d like to feel calm, focused and empowered instead. Seely recommends calling on a memory that evokes that feeling for you. Tune into the small details and sensations of the experience.

“For example, if I’m visualizing a memory where I hiked up to the peak of a mountain and I’m overlooking the summit, I might notice the details of the incredible view, the sounds of nature around me, the feel of my muscles after climbing the steep terrain, the smell and temperature of the air, the sensation of feeling accomplished, proud, unstoppable,” she said. “Really getting into every sensation of the memory helps your body to soak in the experience and primes your physiology for that particular state of being ― in this example, empowered and ready to take on the day.”

And if you can’t think of a specific memory, allow yourself to daydream and build the desired experience in your imagination.

How to stick to your morning routine

“You’re more likely to follow through on behavior change when you set clear and specific goals versus vague aspirations,” said psychologist Gina Delucca. 

You may think your biggest stumbling blocks are a lack of willpower or hitting the snooze button half a dozen times. But often it “comes down to a lack of clarity with the routine,” Delucca said.

“You’re more likely to follow through on behavior change when you set clear and specific goals versus vague aspirations,” she added.

So instead of saying something general, like, “I want to work out in the morning,” make the goal more concrete: “I’m going to do a virtual yoga class at 7:30 a.m. after I finish my tea.”

Delucca also recommends getting up around the same time each day and outlining what specific activities you want to incorporate into your routine and in what order. It may help to write them down.

“When you do something repeatedly in the same order, you can eventually develop a habit,” Delucca said. “When a habit is formed, you’re not solely relying on how you feel in the moment in terms of your mood, motivation or willpower. Habits feel automatic without any guesswork as to what you should do next.”

She offered the example of taking a shower. You likely shampoo, condition, shave and wash your body in a specific order without giving it much thought.

“It’s automatic because the routine is clear and you’ve created a habit in which one action flows directly into the next action without any questioning,” Delucca said. “So, try to be as specific and consistent as possible when creating a morning routine. Each activity will serve as a cue for the next, and with time, your morning routine will flow.”

Kelsey Borresen – Senior Reporter, HuffPost Life        09/16/2020 

source:  www.huffingtonpost.ca

 

breakfast
 
 

5 Habits You Should Avoid
First Thing In The Morning

Don’t make these mistakes when you wake up.
Here’s what to avoid in your a.m. routine and what to do instead.
 
A few simple changes to your morning habits
can make a big difference in your overall well-being.
 
A good morning routine is a foundational part of self-care, affecting everything from your energy levels and productivity to the state of your skin.
 
But it is easy to fall into less-than-ideal habits without even realizing it ― particularly during a global pandemic when we are collectively coping with much bigger issues and routines have long gone out the window.
 
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get back on track. We asked experts for some of the most common morning routine mistakes and easy fixes to try instead.
 

Mistake #1: Hitting The Snooze Button

More than half of Americans say they hit the snooze button daily, so know that if you do too, you’re in good company. Also, it’s really not your fault. Growing research suggests that workdays and school days start too early, causing millions of kids and adults to lose out on the hours of sleep their brains and bodies need. So trying to sneak in a few last-minute ZZZs might seem like your only recourse. But alas, it doesn’t work.
 
“It’s so tempting to keep hitting snooze,” said Niket Sonpal, a New York City-based internist and faculty member with the Touro College of Medicine. “But it’s not beneficial.”
 
That’s because the extra minutes you eke out at that point aren’t actually restorative, even if they feel good at the time.
 
Plus, you could be disrupting the longer periods of REM sleep that tend to happen early in the morning. And frequent interruptions to the natural sleep cycle have been linked to range of both mental effects (like cognitive issues and depression) as well as physical ones (like metabolic problems).
 
“If you want some extra time in the morning, a better idea would be to set your clock ahead 15 minutes and wake up the minute it goes off,” Sonpal said. “If you have to set a really annoying alarm tone, then do so.”
 

Mistake #2: Letting Your Mind Be ‘Directed’ By Your Phone

Another big morning mistake people make is reaching for their phones while they’re still under the covers, said Naomi Parrella, a primary care physician with Rush University Medical Group.
 
If the very first thing you do in the morning is check email, look at social media or scan the day’s headlines, you’re essentially letting things outside of your control “hijack” your very first thoughts and feelings, Parrella said.
 
You’re giving your mind “inputs that are effectively somebody else deciding for you what goes in your brain,” she said. And she is worried that people have become almost “addicted” to the up-and-down news cycle.
 
So now is the time to be diligent about boundaries. It’s OK if you reach for your phone first thing in the morning because it’s your alarm; it’s not great if you’re picking it up to immediately connect to the outside world.
 
Take a few deep breaths instead. Do some stretches. Say “hi” to your partner or kids. Drink some water.
 
Set boundaries with your devices by not doomscrolling when you first get up.
 

Mistake #3: Filling Up On Sugar Right Away

“Sugar and super, ultra-processed breakfast foods cause a hormonal shift in the body,” Parrella said. “Now you’re going to be on this roller coaster of being hungry, being moody, possibly having a sugar crash.”
 
The average North American consumes 77 grams of sugar a day, according to the American Heart Association, which is about three times the recommended daily amount for women. (The recommended amount is slightly higher for men.) And experts tend to warn that breakfast is the most problematic meal of the day when it comes to added sugar thanks to common offerings like sweetened coffee and tea, cereals, syrup, breakfast bars, sugary smoothies and yogurts, and on and on.
 
So what does “too much” actually mean? Public health guidelines are a good starting point, but Parrella doesn’t like to be too prescriptive or harsh. Basically, the more sugar you can cut out of your morning routine, the better.
 
“If you want to really start the day strong and solid and anchored, it’s really helpful if you can cut out the sugar completely,” she urged — but that’s not necessary.
 
Sugar isn’t the devil, it’s just recommended that you choose wisely when to enjoy it. And if you do have a sugar-heavy morning, try incorporating some movement into your routine right after.
 
“You might go for a little walk, you might do some sun salutations or a few yoga moves, but the worst would be to go from [eating sugar] to sitting at your chair or in the car for hours on end,” Parrella said.
 

Mistake #4: Not Washing Your face Properly Or Using SPF

One morning mishap that really bothers some skin care experts? Not washing your face because you did it the night before, said Stacy Chimento, a Miami-based dermatologist with Riverchase Dermatology.
 
There is a chance your skin can pick up yucky stuff at night, like dead skin cells that collect on your pillowcase or dust that might be circulating in your sleep space while you get those ZZZs. (One stomach-churning investigation suggested that our pillows have as many microbes as our toilet seats.)
 
We must note that this tip is a little contentious: Some dermatologists say it’s not strictly necessary to wash your face with products in the morning if you’ve done a thorough job the night before. Using soap or cleansers multiple times might dry out your skin.
 
If you do go that route, take note of the water temp. “Although it might be tempting to wash your face with very cold water to wake yourself up, the temperature of the water should not be extreme,” Chimento said. “Wash with lukewarm water. Most people are rushing in the morning. Take care not to tug at your skin or be overzealous if you are exfoliating your face.”
 
Whatever you choose, make sure to slather on plenty of SPF. “You need at least a teaspoon to cover your whole face,” Chimento said — as well as your neck and chest.
 

Mistake #5: Completely Overlooking Your Mental Well-Being

The mornings can be rough: You’re tired, you’re often rushing or balancing walking pets, getting kids out the door and catching up on last-minute deadlines.
 
However, “if you don’t start the day right, you can spend the next few hours trying to work your way out of a ‘funk,’” Sonpal said — and she urges everyone to make sure they find even a few moments to tend to their well-being.
 
The strategies you use can be quite simple. “Open the blinds or shades wherever you can in your home to let in natural light,” Sonpal said. Then find a few moments to stretch, to meditate, to write in a gratitude journal or just connect, in a positive way, with a loved one.
 
One recent research paper that offered brief, actionable steps people can take every day to boost well-being pointed to the potential benefits of just taking a few deep breaths or spending a few moments focusing on the qualities you admire about a friend or loved one. Those kinds of quick and easy exercises can set you up for the day and train your brain over time.
 
“Not everyone is a ‘morning person,’” Sonpal said. But “if you establish the right routine, you can help yourself to function better.”
 
 
Catherine Pearson   02/10/2021
 
 


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7 Little Ways To Feel A Sense Of Normalcy Right Now

Who isn’t stressed over all this uncertainty? Here’s how to find some stability during the COVID-19 pandemic and the election cycle.
 
Let’s just say what we all know is true: things are not “normal” right now and things won’t look remotely “normal” for months to come. The coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of slowing down as we inch toward a cold winter, and post-election stress is adding an additional layer of unrest to an already unrestful year.
 
Normal days are something that many took for granted before all of this. Lindsey McKernan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the constants in our world create a rhythm for our day and ultimately build normalcy around us. And right now, the constants that we once knew are gone.
 
“When things are normal … you don’t have to put as much cognitive energy into anticipating what’s next because it’s the rhythm of the day,” McKernan said. “We’re having to put so much additional cognitive effort into what’s going on throughout the day.”
 
This additional cognitive effort contributes to increased stress levels across society, McKernan said. Establishing a sense of normalcy can help reduce the cognitive burden of the day and allow us to feel more in control of our own days.
 
But how exactly can we do that right now? Below, experts offer some of their best advice for creating a sense of normalcy as we continue through this far from normal time.
 
1. Establish a routine for yourself.
“When we’re in a period of heightened stress, we are grounded by routine,” McKernan said.
 
That’s why, in “regular times,” you might feel off if you go to bed later than usual or if you skip your weekend run. This year has been one huge version of that. There are many changes altering our normal routines.
 
McKernan said fighting those limitations that are now part of our day-to-day lives only adds to the struggle. Instead, we should embrace our current reality so we can appropriately respond and plan.
 
“The first thing when thinking about establishing a routine right now is redefining what that means and accepting that our sense of normal isn’t necessarily where we want it to be ― and that’s OK. We have to work to intentionally re-establish a sense of routine,” she said.
 
McKernan recommended looking at four major things in order to adjust your routine: how you’re sleeping, how you’re eating, if you’re moving and to what extent you are able to socialize. Which of those areas could use some extra attention? (Maybe it’s all of them, which is understandable.) Start building your routine around those pillars.
 
That could look like going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. You may also want to try meal prepping as if you still needed to bring food into the office for lunch during the week. Maybe it’s calling your friend every Friday afternoon while you’re on a walk, or planning a cocktail night every weekend with your roommate. Whatever the case may be, build in small habits you can come to expect and make them something you can execute regularly.
 
2. Take part in rewarding activities.
 
In the early days of the pandemic, many of us were all about “bettering ourselves” ― whether that meant learning a new language or learning how to make sourdough. And while those activities were fun in the beginning, the practice of bread-baking and language-learning fizzled out for most. Now, we’re just trying to get through each day without losing it.
 
But there is something to taking on new activities as a way to create some normalcy ― as long as you’re genuinely connected to them, McKernan said.
 
“When you choose activities that connect to things that you value in your life, that actually gives you a sense of reward and meaning,” she said, adding that these activities could be attending a virtual spiritual service, online volunteering, cooking, reading or knitting. Choose something that gets you excited or pulls you away from your stress.
“We might not be able to capture all activities in the way that we’re used to ― for example, if you value fitness and you’re used to going to a hot yoga studio, that might not be safe to do right now,” McKernan said. “So, how can you recapture a little bit of that exercise in your life and in your day?”
 
These activities also lift your mood, which can be crucial as we move into winter, a time when many are faced with lower mood.
 
“One of the things that can happen when our mood starts to get low is that we lose the motivation to do things. And, a lot of the time, we feel like we need to magically have the motivation back in order to re-engage in things,” McKernan said. “But it can work in the opposite way, too, where if you choose … activities that are meaningful, you start to build back your sense of motivation and reward.”
 
3. Find creative ways to connect with loved ones.
 
A lot of the social aspects of our lives have been drastically altered in order to protect one another from the virus. McLean Pollock, assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University in North Carolina, noted that it’s hard to navigate how to socialize and feel close to loved ones without doing the things we’re used to, like handshaking, hugging and seeing people in person.
 
Pollock said that finding ways to connect with others is crucial in the search for normalcy. It will be hard to feel normal if one of our most basic needs ― social connection ― goes unmet throughout the remainder of this pandemic.
 
“This pandemic has led to some isolation. We can bridge that by making connections with other people because that is how we’re getting through this, together, even though it’s in a different way of being together,” she added.
 
But by now we’re used to scheduling Zoom calls and they can feel a little stale. Janine Dutcher, a research scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, suggested finding more unique ways to connect with people. This encourages us to be creative, which can be rewarding in itself.
 
“I think that creativity can often be very difficult to engage in but it can be really rewarding too, because you found a way to beat the system, so to speak, and do something really fun and interesting,” she said.
 
Dutcher added that since the pandemic began, she has been writing loved ones letters and physically sending them in the mail. She has also conducted food exchanges with friends where she’ll order delivery dinner for a friend in another city from one of their favorite restaurants. The other friend will also return the favor for her.
 
4. Decorate your home for seasonal celebrations.
 
While we can’t control the whole world, we can control our own microcosm, specifically our own home, Pollack said.
 
Decorating your home for seasonal celebrations with either store-bought items or handmade décor can help create a mile-marker for time within your own life. And, conveniently, a number of ideal-for-decorating holidays are approaching.
 
“Our days are bleeding into one another because we don’t have variation, so having something that can distinguish this time as different from other times can be helpful in creating that sense of normalcy and creating memories,” Pollock said.
 
5. Plan things for the future.
 
Having something to look forward to adds excitement to our days. And while our plans may have to look different for a while, we still can make them — whether that means a virtual happy hour or a fun night at home with your family.
 
“When you have something to look forward to, each day passes a little bit faster, particularly as you get closer to it ― it’s one of those funny things about time perception. Looking forward to anything, even if it’s really simple, is very, very powerful,” Dutcher said.
 
Of course, this doesn’t give anyone permission to plan something that puts people at risk for contracting the virus.
 
“If you’re at home with family, you can plan for a fun movie night where you watch a movie, pop some popcorn and have some candy,” Dutcher suggested. She also added that, while spontaneous conversations with friends and family are nice, planned phone dates also hold their own type of power when it comes to generating some normalcy.
 
6. Accept that this is not a normal time.
 
Nothing about this period in our lives is regular. Our lives have been upended in many different ways and we are faced with uncertainty nearly every day.
 
“There is no magical solution, part of feeling a sense of normalcy is accepting that this is not normal and that these are really difficult and stressful times,” Pollock said. “Recognize that that’s the context of trying to create some normalcy, first of all.” (In other words, cut yourself some slack.)
 
She added that we are all facing different difficulties as the pandemic, the election and the rest of the year unfolds and we need to adjust our normalcy to fit our own situation.
 
7. If you’re still struggling, consider talking to a therapist.
 
Everyone’s mental health has been put through the wringer this year, and things like routine setting, socializing and planning activities may not be enough to feel “normal” ― and that is OK.
 
“If people are really struggling, it’s always worth reaching out to a professional to make sure that they are getting the care and support that they need,” Dutcher said.
 
Therapy can help you navigate our current reality and give you the coping skills to find a sense of normalcy among the chaos. Seeing a therapist can be incredibly expensive, but there are affordable resources available that may help.
 
If the uncertainty is stressing you out to the point where it has been severely affecting your daily life, you don’t have to manage it alone. You’re also not the only one who feels this way.
 
“I think a lot of people are probably experiencing a low-level or even clinical-level of depression right now. I think it is, unfortunately, very common and people should be mindful and make sure they’re taking care of their wellness.”
 
By  Jillian Wilson   11/06/2020 
 
 
 
 
normal setting
 
 

The Psychology Behind To-Do Lists and How They Can Make You Feel Less Anxious

1. Wake up.

2. Make coffee.

3. Write this story.
 
 
In a time when it seems like we may have less to do, a to-do list actually could be quite helpful.

As the days blend together for many people living in lockdown, crossing things off a to-do list can feel even more satisfying. To-do lists can be great tools for decreasing anxiety, providing structure and giving us a record of everything we’ve accomplished in a day.

The trick is to reframe your to-do list as a set of miniature goals for the day and to think of your checklist items as steps in a plan.

Research on the psychology of goal-making has revealed that an unfinished goal causes interference with other tasks you’re trying to achieve. But simply making a plan to facilitate that goal, such as detailing steps on a to-do list, can help your mind set it aside to focus on other things.
 
“Goals are interesting as they are almost these autonomous agents that kind of live inside you and occupy space in your mind,” said E.J. Masicampo, an associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
 
“When a goal is unfinished it might be a weight on your mind in terms of anxiety or worry and it colors how you see the world, because it’s sort of tugging at the sleeve of your conscious attention,” Masicampo said. “It can be omnipresent whether you’re aware of it or not.”

People with unfinished short-term goals performed poorly on unrelated reading and comprehension tasks, reported a 2011 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Masicampo and research co-author Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at The University of Queensland.
But when the 2011 study participants were allowed to formulate specific plans for their goals before moving onto the next task, those negative effects were eliminated.
 
“We were able to find that you don’t have to finish the goal to offload it – you really could just make a specific plan for how to attain it to get it to stop occupying that mental space,” Masicampo said.
 
But Masicampo cautioned that it won’t help to offload your mental burden by jotting it down on a list “without actually making a plan.”
 
“To-do lists often tend to be mental graveyards, but that said I think there’s some relief there,” Masicampo said, adding that sub-goals are important. “Something that’s been sitting there for too long is probably just stated in too big terms.”
 
With the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis and the difficulty of making concrete plans, he said it could make sense to have your initial plan be simply to make a plan at a later date.

Stuck in the middle

In order to work effectively, your to-do list’s mini-goals also need to be well defined and have short time frames. That’s because people also tend to give up in the middle of goals, according to psychologists.

The solution is to make the “middles” of your goals and to-do list tasks short.
One place people get stuck is exercise, but a goal to exercise half the days each week will be easier to stick to than exercising half the days each month. Even then, exercise will make it onto your to-do list more often at the beginning and end of the week — but it’s difficult to motivate yourself on Wednesday.
 
“We celebrate graduations at work and cheer when we finish big projects. But there is no celebration for middles. That’s when we both cut corners and we lose our motivation,” said Ayelet Fishbach, a professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago who is an expert on motivation and decision-making.
 
“We will still slack in that middle, and having long projects invites a long middle.”
 
To-do lists also need to be flexible. If your plans change or get interrupted by an endless flurry of Zoom calls, it’s important to recognize that’s not the end of the world.
 
“If we measure ourselves by how much we stick to the plan, that’s not good for motivation,” Fishbach said. “There’s a fine line between keeping structure and keeping your to-do list and also being very flexible. Because things change and they change on a daily basis.”

It’s not a wish list

For all the structure and stress reduction that to-do lists can provide, they can sometimes add to anxiety. That’s because tasks on your to-do list that linger for weeks or months are bad for mental health and motivation.

“To-do lists are interesting because they sometimes become commitments. Once you write an activity or goal down on a piece of paper, it’s work undone,” said Jordan Etkin, an associate professor of marketing at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and an expert on goals.
 
Do you want to complete extra work-related tasks aiming for a promotion and cook dinner for your family that night? Cue goal conflict.
 
“The more things people put on their lists, the more open they are to creating goal conflict and its sort of negative downstream effects,” Etkin said.
 
Conflicting goals can create stress and even that overwhelming feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day, according to Etkin’s 2015 study in the Journal of Marketing Research.

To-doing it right

To use a to-do list the right way, Etkin said people need to clearly define their goals and differentiate the tasks they definitely want to get done today versus tasks they want to do “maybe someday.”

Tasks need to be clearly ranked in terms of importance.

“To-do lists can be very helpful for informing how you should be directing your time and cognitive resources,” Etkin said. “I think where challenges emerge is when people treat to-do lists like wish lists, rather than the things they definitely want to do today.”

Having a productive to-do list shouldn’t make you feel like you can’t take a break, Etkin also stressed, even if you haven’t crossed all those items off your list yet.
 
“It’s also important for people to have protective time in their lives where they’re not striving towards any goal,” she said.
 
To-do lists can be great tools to keep us going during this time of coronavirus boredom, uncertainty, and pandemic anxiety, but it’s important to not fill up your leisure time with productivity. One of the most important tasks we can add to our daily list, Etkin said, is “rest.”
 
By Lauren Kent, CNN      Tue July 14, 2020.
 
source: cnn.com


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The Pandemic Diet: How to Lose the ‘Quarantine 15’

The company that makes snacks like Oreos and Ritz Crackers is having a very good year. Sales in North America have leapt more than 16% over 2019. And there’s one big reason: When we started to go into lockdown, Americans stocked up on comfort food.
Why not? We thought it would be a matter of weeks. Seven months on, that includes some extra pounds for many of us. A survey done for Nutrisystem found that 76% of Americans have gained weight, as much as 16 pounds between March and July. Another survey, done in August by RunRepeat, found that 41% of the 10,000+ respondents in the U.S. had gained more than 5 pounds since quarantine began — and those are people visiting a website devoted to running.
“Back then it was a shock to the system, the challenge of staying home,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, a dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. “Now we’re seeing people struggling with stress, boredom, and the inability to focus on making a lifestyle change when there are so many other things going on.”
So, does that mean we should just keep going the way we have been? Not so fast, says Kirkpatrick: “Some people are changing the narrative, looking at this as an opportunity.” Not going to the workplace means there’s no long commute, which makes space for exercising and cooking healthy meals. “While about half of my patients are saying this is the worst thing ever, the other half say, ‘There’s so much I can’t control, I’ll control making a true lifestyle change.’ They’ve finally got the time to do it,” she says.
Such was the case for Dianne Simmons of Frederick, MD, who has lost 40 pounds on WW (formerly Weight Watchers) during the pandemic. “COVID made me look differently at how there are some things I can control, and some I have no control over whatsoever,” she says. “I think I needed something to focus on that allowed me little victories going along. It makes 2020 feel a bit less dire.”
How to Lose Weight in Quarantine
Kirkpatrick says there’s not a single “pandemic diet” that will help shed those pounds. But she does offer some suggestions – including specific ways of eating – that take into account the times we’re living in. Complicated diets that require extensive shopping and meal prep may be too difficult or stressful to tackle right now.
To start, all the usual weight loss advice still applies: Focus on healthy eating, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep. But given the realities of pandemic life, that may not be enough. Here’s what Kirkpatrick suggests:
  • Take baby steps. We’re all stressed right now, so trying to overhaul your lifestyle completely might be asking too much of yourself. Instead, start with one small step. “What’s something you can change right now?” says Kirkpatrick. “It’s too hard to make five different changes when you can just pick one to start.” For many of her patients, that means experimenting with intermittent fasting, in which you eat only during a set number of hours each day. (More on that below.)
  • Embrace semi-homemade. Yes, you have more time to cook. But if you just don’t have the mental energy to choose recipes and shop for specific ingredients, stock your kitchen with ready-to-use items that are easy to transform into a nutritious meal. “Now isn’t the time to become a grand chef,” says Kirkpatrick. “Learn to be a great short-order cook.” Frozen chicken breast + frozen broccoli + a pouch of pre-cooked quinoa or brown rice = dinner.
  • Eat on a schedule. Working from home means you’ve got food accessible 24/7, and your days probably have less structure than they used to. Plan when you’ll take a coffee break and eat lunch, and stick to it.
  • Consider intermittent fasting. “Even a Mediterranean or low-carb diet takes planning, and most of my patients can’t wrap their heads around that right now,” says Kirkpatrick. Intermittent fasting limits your eating to a set window of hours each day. The idea isn’t to gorge on cookies during those hours – you should still aim for healthy meals and snacks — but you don’t have to count calories or nutrients. Simply by not eating early in the morning and late at night, you’ll probably find you’re eating less. Pre-pandemic, Rachel Kahan of Brooklyn, NY, was doing a 12-hour intermittent fast, largely because her commute required eating breakfast early and dinner late. In lockdown, her family ate breakfast later in the morning and had dinner earlier in the evening, which left her with a 10-hour window for eating. She’s lost 5 pounds, and her husband has lost 10.
  • Or maybe go vegan. Many of Kirkpatrick’s patients have adopted a vegan lifestyle during the pandemic, which they hope will be better for their immune systems. Experts say a plant-based diet supports your immune system. “It’s transformed how they eat,” she says. “A lot have lost weight without that being the goal.”
  • Lock the liquor cabinet. Not only does alcohol provide excess calories, it also takes away your ability to regulate your food intake, Kirkpatrick says. “If you start drinking while you’re cooking, you stop caring about what you’re eating.” You don’t have to give up alcohol entirely, but drink more consciously.
  • Start the day ready to play. Get dressed every day, but skip the comfy sweats. Opt for clothing that encourages you to move. “Loungewear doesn’t foster physical activity,” says Kirkpatrick. “Whatever clothes make you more likely to go for a walk, choose that.”
  • Use your commute time for exercise. Now that you don’t have to leave home by 8, you can spend that time moving your body. “The intensity of your workout doesn’t have to change, but you might have 90 minutes now, instead of 45 minutes during your lunch break on the job,” says Kirkpatrick.
Get Help Losing Weight
If the DIY approach doesn’t feel right to you, virtual help is right at your fingertips. To decide what kind of plan will work best for you, ask yourself a few questions:
  • What’s realistic in your current environment? A young person quarantining with roommates probably can’t ask everyone else to adopt the same approach to eating, but you can be honest with them and ask for their support. A parent with small children, on the other hand, has more control over what food comes into the house — but less time to focus on your own needs, so a health-oriented meal-delivery program might do the trick. And a senior living alone might want the sociability and group support of a plan like WW.
  • What kind of communication do you prefer? If you’re just looking for structure and guidance, a tracking app or website might do the trick. For structure as well as support from others, a formal weight loss program could be a good fit. Or if you’d prefer a one-on-one approach, opt for Zoom sessions with a dietitian.
  • How much support do you need? Maybe you already understand what changes you need to make, but don’t have people in your life who’ll support you. Thanks to the pandemic, neighborhood groups have sprung up on sites like Facebook and Nextdoor. “People share ideas about what to make for dinner, or say, ‘Hey, I’m going for a socially distanced walk at noon. Who wants to join?’” says Kirkpatrick. “They’re supporting one another, and they don’t necessarily have to see each other.”
When it comes to measuring your progress, Kirkpatrick says you can aim for one-half to one pound a week – but in terms of your overall health, keeping track of your waist measurement might be the better bet. Studies have shown that central obesity (carrying more weight around your middle) has a higher risk of chronic illness and death.
“Waist size also matters because central obesity is more inflammatory, which may have a worse effect on COVID compared to someone who is holding weight in the butt or thigh area,” Kirkpatrick says. “This is the time to focus on accurate, measurable indicators for health, and studies show that waist is a better predictor.”
By Debbie Koenig      Oct. 29, 2020
WebMD Health News Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 29, 2020
 
Sources
Article: The Pandemic Diet: How to Lose the ‘Quarantine 15’
Mondelēz International: “Mondelēz International Reports Q2 2020 Results.”
SWNS Digital: “Americans have gained up to 16 pounds while quarantining.”
Nick Rizzo, fitness research director, RunRepeat.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian, Cleveland Clinic.
Dianne Simmons, Frederick, MD.
Rachel Kahan, Brooklyn, NY.
The BMJ: “Central fatness and risk of all cause mortality: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of 72 prospective cohort studies.”
MD Anderson: “5 benefits of a plant-based diet.”
John Whyte, MD, MPH. Chief Medical Officer, WebMD,
Drew Ramsey, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University
source: WebMD
scale

The Quickest Weight Loss Technique

People in the study lost 8 pounds in four weeks.
Eating as much as you want one day and fasting the next is one of the quickest ways to lose weight, research finds.
Alternate-day fasting not only helps people lose weight, but also improves their health and reduces the risk of disease.
People in one study who fasted on alternate days lost 8 pounds in four weeks.
Fasting helped them to reduce biological markers of aging and disease, as well as decreasing their levels of bad cholesterol.
On the fasting day, people are only allowed to have zero-calorie drinks, such as unsweetened tea and coffee and water, or to chew sugar-free gum.
Studies on both mice and humans have shown that alternate-day fasting can be effective.
One study has tested the effects of alternate-day fasting on mice.
This also looked to see if fasting at 50 percent on one day followed by eating freely the next could be effective.
The results showed that total fasting one day was, unsurprisingly, the most effective.
However, 50 percent fasting on one day also reduced weight and improved the health of the mice.
The size of fat cells in the bodies of mice who fasted at 100 percent on alternate days was reduced by more than half.
Dr Thomas Pieber, co-author of the study on humans, said:
“Why exactly calorie restriction and fasting induce so many beneficial effects is not fully clear yet.
The elegant thing about strict ADF [alternate-day fasting] is that it doesn’t require participants to count their meals and calories: they just don’t eat anything for one day.”
Professor Harald Sourij, another co-author of the study on humans, said:
“We found that on average, during the 12 hours when they could eat normally, the participants in the ADF group compensated for some of the calories lost from the fasting, but not all.
Overall, they reached a mean calorie restriction of about 35% and lost an average of 3.5 kg [7.7 lb] during four weeks of ADF.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
 
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Lipid Research (Varady et al., 2007).
source: Psyblog


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Your Self-Care Toolkit For Dealing With The Tough COVID-19 Months Ahead

Let these tips help you through the difficult days during the coronavirus pandemic that are inevitably on the horizon.

Feeling blue? You’re not alone. The COVVID-19 pandemic has had clear repercussions for mental health, with some people impacted more than others.

A study published in the Lancet journal comparing our mental health in April 2019 to this year found the prevalence of “clinically significant” levels of mental distress have risen from 18.9% to 27.3%. Increases were greatest among 18- to 34-year-olds, women and people living with young children.

With local lockdowns coming back into effect across parts of the globe, more people are once again confined to their homes without social contact, and many of us are experiencing an overwhelming sense of déjà vu.

Niall Campbell, a psychiatrist and consultant in the UK, is also worried about the impact of what he calls “COVID burnout” on the generation of women who are “sandwiched” between jobs, a dependent child and an adult relative who requires care.

Many people are working long hours through fear of losing their job and because days and nights are blurring into one, he adds – and alcohol can become a crutch for some when there’s an absence of support. “Long hours generally mean less sleep, poorer diet, less exercise, more stress, feeling you are constantly ‘on’ and having to prove yourself,” he says.

On top of that, as autumn turns to winter, some of us are facing down the prospect of seasonal affective disorder, which sees roughly 1 in 15 in the UK hit with feelings of lethargy and depression on a life-altering scale.

So, how can you keep your head above water in the months ahead? Thankfully, there are ways. Here’s your ultimate self-care toolkit”

Take your annual leave, even if you stay home

Ever-changing restrictions make planning hard, but taking leave is crucial right now – even if the only place you go is your living room.

Gary Wood, author of “The Psychology of Wellbeing” (out in October), says a well-earned break is crucial for us to reflect and plan. “When we relax, we access the full range of higher-level functions such as problem-solving and planning,” he says. “But over the pandemic, we might have not had the time out to stock-take and plan.”

If you can’t go anywhere, Wood recommends creating a mini-break or spa day at home. Stuck for ideas of what to do? Holistic health and lifestyle coach Milla Lascelles previously shared her top tips with HuffPost UK.

Keep in touch with loved ones

“News of tightening of social measures to combat the rising number of COVID-19 infections will be making the winter months ahead look even darker for many people,” says Keith Grimes, a physician for online doctor service Babylon.

Feelings of sadness are understandable, he notes, but know that we have learned a huge amount about how to reduce the spread of this illness and treat it successfully. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

During this time it’s important to stay in touch with friends and family, he says. If you live alone, it’s worth bubbling up with another household so you can spend time with them. And if you can’t see others, it might help to schedule regular FaceTime conversations or phone calls with your nearest and dearest.

Aragona Giuseppe, a physician and medical advisor for Prescription Doctor, says calling friends and family will not only lift you, but also be a lovely surprise for the other person. “We may not be able to meet all our friends at the pub, but a Zoom call or a phone call should help to boost your mood and remind you what’s waiting at the end of this lockdown.”

Social media can be useful for keeping in touch with others however it should complement phone calls and face-to-face chats, rather than replace them.

Plan time to enjoy yourself

We might be stuck at home but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan smaller activities to look forward to – whether that’s a long walk, a movie night or a visit to that restaurant you’ve been meaning to check out for some time.

“Make sure you plan time to enjoy yourself, exercise and get outside in nature and experience the change of the seasons in person,” advises Grimes.

Failing that, why not treat yourself to a pamper day? Hair salons, nail places and spas are still open and in need of your support. (Just wear a mask when you go, of course.)

Create a self-care box

One of experts’ top tips for people with SAD is to fill a box with things that comfort you or help you to relax – also known as a self-care box.

Try including your favorite book or film, and a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts or notes of encouragement to yourself.

Not feeling up to the task? Order one. For example, the depression charity Blurt has created a self-care subscription box called The BuddyBox, which is full of mood-lifting treats. Each box contains at least five surprise products hand-picked to nourish, inspire and encourage self-care.

Keep active

It might be hard to find the motivation to move your body, especially as the days get shorter and the temperature drops, but it’s really important to try and stick to an exercise regime if you can.

“Exercise is not only a great way to keep yourself fit and healthy but will also increase your overall mood from the endorphins being released during and after each session,” Giuseppe says.

You don’t have to do anything too strenuous ― even moving your body once a day can help improve your mood, he says. This could mean getting out each day for a brisk walk or doing a bit of yoga. And with it getting darker earlier, it might be best to schedule it in for first thing in the morning, or on your lunch break, rather than after work.

Start or learn something new

If there’s one thing we learned during the beginning of the pandemic, it’s how to amuse ourselves. Keeping occupied with hobbies or learning new skills can help us take our mind off the bigger picture, which, let’s face it, is pretty overwhelming.

People will undoubtedly feel increased stress and anxiety over work and the possibility of redundancy in the coming months, says Giuseppe. While there’s not much you can do about job security, there are ways to take control of other parts of your life, he says.

“Learning a new skill may help to keep you busy and your mind occupied, whether that is something you’re passionate about that you’ve never taken further or a new outdoor hobby such as cycling,” he says. “Taking up something which you can use to burn energy and keep yourself busy will really help with your long-term physical and mental health.”

It can be useful to set goals – and these can center around your hobbies, too. That could be wanting to learn a certain amount of phrases in Spanish by Christmas, for example, or being able to run a mile non-stop by January.

Claudia Pastides, also a physician with Babylon, urges people to put their efforts into something productive which can help them feel good about themselves, whether that’s organizing your cupboards, painting your front door, or upcycling and selling old furniture.

“All these things are positive tasks or hobbies that you can put your energy into and make you feel good at the end,” she says. “Motivation comes from inside us all. We are in charge of creating it and holding on to it.”

computer

Do what you can to stay safe

Adopting COVID-19 safety measures can actually help people’s mental health, according to Penn State University research. Researchers surveyed participants between the ages of 18 and 90, measuring how much they felt the pandemic was affecting them financially, physically, socially and mentally; whether they were adhering to recommendations such as mask wearing; and what kinds of coping strategies they were using.

“Things like keeping a consistent schedule, reminding yourself that things will get better, finding activities to distract yourself, and taking care of others who need help are all helpful,” says Erina MacGeorge, professor of communication arts and sciences.

“Additionally, adhering to the national recommendations for protecting oneself from COVID-19, like hand-washing, social distancing and masking, was also associated with better mental health.”

“Sometimes we need to take a break from thinking about how we feel and do something to help alleviate the threat and make us feel a lot better about our situation in life,” says Jessica Myrick, an associate professor of media studies.

“COVID-related messages that emphasize that even small actions are worthwhile might have the doubly positive effect of getting people to take small actions, like washing their hands more often, but also alleviate some mental strain, too.”

Structure your day

Humans are creatures of habit and we (understandably) like to feel in control, so sticking to a structure – where possible – can be incredibly stabalizing. Planning your day out can also be helpful if you struggle with SAD.

“Try to maintain the same structure as you had back in the pre-quarantine days,” says Giuseppe, noting that parents will likely find sticking to a daily routine much easier than just seeing how the days go. “When working from home, it can be tempting to fall into a bit of a lethargic lifestyle which could lead to negative thoughts and feelings of worthlessness.”

So, wake up early, change out of your pajamas, do a bit of exercise and get into some comfy work clothes – maybe take a walk around the block to act as a faux commute, or make yourself a nice coffee to set you up for the day. Eating balanced meals and sticking to a regular sleep routine is also crucial.

“Keeping your normal exercise routine is imperative and also making your work space separate from your living space should help you to separate your working day to your evening routine,” adds Giuseppe.

Rethink your social circles

Another finding from Penn State’s research is that “social strain” – such as someone making demands, giving criticism, or simply getting on your nerves – is a strong and consistent predictor of poor mental health.

Yanmengqian Zhou, a graduate assistant in communication arts and sciences, says “this suggests that in difficult times like this, it could be particularly important to proactively structure our social networks in ways that minimize negative social experiences.”

Choose your friends wisely and don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do – these are challenging times and you need to be kind to yourself.

Another reason to focus on your friendship list is that both good and bad moods can be “picked up” from friends, according to the University of Warwick.

Researchers found that having more friends who suffer worse moods is associated with a higher probability of an individual experiencing low moods and a decreased probability of them improving. The opposite applied to those who had a more positive social circle.

Turn off the news when you need to

One tip therapists and doctors swear by is not to overdo your exposure to news and keeping on top of all things COVID.

“Avoid excessive watching of coronavirus coverage,” says Giuseppe. “It’s good to keep up to date with what’s going on however watching the news reel 24/7 will likely have detrimental effects on your mental health and will cause your stress and anxiety levels to rise.”

“You can’t change or fix what is happening so obsessing over the news will not help you get through the next six months,“Giuseppe adds. “If you want to keep abreast of the news, limit it to one news update per day, or every few days.”

Keep your friends close and your pets closer

Pet owners know that animals can be a huge boost to mental health – and new research backs this up.

The study, conducted from March to June this year by the University of York and the University of Lincoln, found that having a pet was linked to better mental health and reduced loneliness. More than 90% of respondents said their pet helped them cope emotionally with the lockdown and 96% said their pet helped keep them fit and active.

Daniel Mills, the study’s co-author, says the research indicates how having a companion animal in your home can buffer against some of the psychological stress associated with lockdown.

Elena Ratschen, the study’s lead author, warned that people shouldn’t necessarily rush to acquire a pet during the pandemic. But for those who do own animals – especially those who adopted pets during lockdown – the finding will surely be of comfort.

Shift your thinking

It can be hard to stay positive when everything feels like it’s working against you, however there are some ways we can reframe our thinking to focus on the positives, rather than all the negatives.

“Maintain an attitude of curiosity about the world and practice gratitude, even for the small stuff,” says Wood. “At the end of each day, write down three things you’re grateful for, and at the start of each day write down three things you’re looking forward to.”

For example, rather than thinking “I’m stuck inside,” Giuseppe suggests trying “I am stuck inside, however I can use this time to work on myself and my passions.”

The first lockdown has left us more prepared, we now know what to expect, and we can use this knowledge to our advantage. “If there’s something you wanted to start but never had the time, then this could be the moment,” Giuseppe said.

Don’t be afraid to seek help

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can still feel down or anxious, says Pastides. If it gets to the point where every day is a struggle, this is the time to seek help.

“Reach out to your GP, or a friend, and speak about how you’re feeling,” she says. “You won’t be alone in having those feelings and there is help available.”

Your doctor should be able to offer more support and can also help with treatment options, which can include talking therapies or medication.

Dave Smithson, from Anxiety UK, urges people to surround themselves with a support network – and if you don’t have anyone in your life you feel comfortable talking to about how you feel, try a local peer-support groups.

“Talking to people and sharing your thoughts and feelings with others in similar situations can be really supportive,” he previously told HuffPost UK. “They understand what you’re going through and what you’re dealing with because they’re in the same boat.”

This post originally appeared in HuffPost UK.

by Natasha Hinde – Lifestyle Writer at The Huffington Post UK     09/30/2020

source: www.huffingtonpost.ca


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Healthy Habits for Working From Home

8 Healthy Habits for Working From Home

For some of us, working from home is normal, but for others, this pandemic may have you working remotely for the first time. Whichever category you fit into, it’s important to have healthy habits when working from your home “office”.

  1. Pretend like you are actually going into the office. Set your alarm, make coffee, take a shower and change out of your pjs to help you get into the “I’m going to work” mindset.
  2. Set boundaries such as defined hours and breaks throughout the day. Just as you would leave the office, you need to know when to stop working and take a breather for a good work-life balance.
  3. Don’t forget to give your eyes a break too! It’s not healthy for your eyes to be glued to a screen all day. Several times throughout the day, take a few minutes to look at something else to make sure you’re not straining your eyes.
  4. Working from home with your new “co-workers” could take some getting used too. Stock up on time consuming projects like, puzzles, crafts or activity books help to keep the kiddos busy. Take advantage of video chatting to continue learning opportunities such as piano lessons. Mix up your hours (if your job allows) – try to squeeze in work when your toddler is asleep such as early morning, nap times and at night – you’ll be more productive if you have quiet time to yourself.
  5. Create a dedicated work space – although it’s tempting to work from your bed, it’s important to set up a dedicated work space with a door that you can close if you need to drown out the noise of your pets, kids or TV to remain productive and professional. Also, if possible, invest in a good chair. Your home chair/desk/keyboard setup might not be the same as at the office and comfy sofas or bed pillows don’t offer the necessary support for your back, which can lead to poor posture and back, shoulder and neck pain.
  6. Set goals by writing out a daily and weekly to-do list involving your work and the tasks that need completing.
  7. Working from home can be isolating especially if you’re used to a busy office environment – check-in with people throughout the day. Just because everyone is practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you need to actually feel so distant.
  8. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy food. Since you’re now so close to your kitchen, it’s even easier to snack on everything and anything. To avoid unhealthy snacking, keep healthy snacks readily available. Drink a lot of water throughout the day, too, which can help curb mindless snacking.

March 23, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story
Michael Carson, M.D. contributes to topics such as Internal Medicine.

source: www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org

 

work-from-home

 

 

5 Healthy Habits for When You’re Working From Home

We all know working from home can be both a blessing and a curse. Gone are the days of commuting to the office, and in are the days where you roll out of bed and hop onto the computer, right?!

For the majority of us, working from home requires a lot of willpower and developing loads of healthy habits to stay on top of work and home life together.

When you’re working from home, it’s easy to get distracted by household chores, friends and family and find the motivation to get on with the hard work tasks that simply need to get done.

So to help, I’ve put together 5 work from home tips and healthy habits that you can start implementing in your working life.

Working from home and starting your own service-based business? Sign up for my free workshop and start making some money on the side.

Develop a morning routine

I’ve heard it a million times, to get the most of your work from home life, a little discipline goes a long way.

However, where I differ is I’m not encouraging you to get up at 4 am, do some yoga, make a smoothie, journal and meditate. Instead, I believe in a simple and tailored approach that’s tailored to you.

A routine is simply something you do over and over again to flip the switch in your brain to tell you it’s time to get into ‘work mode’.

For you that might mean waking at 7 am, making a cup of coffee and reading. For someone else, it might mean waking at 6 am, getting your kids ready for school, dropping them off and then unwinding before work with a hot drink and a book.

Experiment and find a routine that works for your unique situation, is easy and enjoyable and the rest will fall into place.

Open windows even in the winter

We’re spending more and more time indoors and because of this, our indoor air quality is suffering.

“Indoor air pollution is dust, dirt or gases in the air inside a building such as your home or workplace that harms us if we breathe it in.”

What’s more, if you have any kind of lung disease such as asthma, then you’re indoor air quality should be something to take seriously.

“Indoor air is often 10 times more polluted than outdoor air and as people spend 90% of their time indoors the importance of indoor air quality is critical to health and wellbeing.”

One of the simplest things you can do to improve the air quality in your home is to open your windows. Even in the cold months, for just a few hours a day, you could vastly improve the air quality in your home.

Once you do it, you’ll realize how heavy your air was and as a bonus, the new fresh air will give you a boost, trust me.

Move your body

I like to keep things simple, so the next healthy habit is determined by you. If you’re working from home, chances are you’re not moving from your desk very often.

The fact is, the human body was not built to withstand this much sitting. Depending on your ability and desire, anything from a few desk stretches, to a lunchtime walk would give your body and your brain the boost it needs to keep those creative juices flowing.

Because let’s be real, the last thing we’re all thinking about when working is doing 50 lunges or rolling out a dusty yoga mat.

Plan breaks

When you’re working on a project, writing, or generally doing any kind of absorbing task, it’s easy to lose track of time. The last thing you want is to be working so hard that you miss a valuable snack or coffee break.

Set a rough schedule for yourself and stick notifications on your phone to remind you. Or if you’re a bit more analogue, write it in your to-do list to take breaks at certain times of the day.

Here’s mine as an example:

11 am – coffee break (snack if required)

12 noon – lunch

3 pm – snack break or simply walk around a bit

“Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative.”

Even if you’re not hungry or would rather keep working, these breaks act as a switch in your mind to take a break. Your brain simply can’t keep working for hours straight, give it a rest and give your body some fuel.

Remove your distractions 

It’s no surprise that when we’re working from home it’s almost impossible not to get distracted. In fact, it’s the reason why we’re developing these healthy habits in the first place.

Raise your hand if any of these distractions apply to you:

Social media

Email

Friends messaging you

Family ringing you

Family in the room with you (I’m talking about you, kids)

Unwashed dishes

Other people’s clutter

Your own clutter

Anything and everything that isn’t your work

Yeah, I raised my hand multiple times too!

The fact is, we can never remove 100% of our work from home distractions. After all, we are working from home, not a remote cabin in the woods. But we can reduce that list significantly.

If social media is your problem, remove the apps from your phone. Is it email? Schedule to read at only certain times of the day. If it’s friends and family, start setting boundaries with them. If it’s household mess and chores, ask your family to help, or schedule in time to clear your space. After all, your home is your office, it needs to be treated as one.

Roundup

Creating healthy habits for your work from home life can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting out, or things have gotten out of hand.

If this is the case, I recommend starting with just one of these and implementing the changes over the course of a few weeks. Then add another. Be patient, your ideal work from home life will take time to happen.

by Gina Lucia      10 October 2019

source: limitbreaker.co

How to Work From Home and Stay Healthy

Healthy habits when working from home


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Poor Sleep Linked to Weight Gain

in 2-year smartphone sleep tracking study
 
Not sleeping enough or getting a bad night’s sleep over and over makes it hard to control your appetite. And that sets you up for all sorts of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
The link between poor sleep and a greater body mass index (BMI) has been shown in study after study, but researchers typically relied on the memories of the participants to record how well they slept.
Sleep apps on fitness trackers, smartphones and watches have changed all that. In a new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked sleep quality for 120,000 people for up to two years.
The results showed sleep durations and patterns are highly variable between people. Despite that, the study found people with BMIs of 30 or above – which is considered obese by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – had slightly shorter mean sleep durations and more variable sleep patterns.
It didn’t take much less sleep to see the effect. People with BMIs over 30 only slept about 15 minutes less than their less weighty counterparts.
There were some limitations to the study. Naps were excluded, other health conditions could not be factored in, and people who use wearable tracking devices are typically younger, healthier and from a higher socioeconomic status than those who do not wear trackers.
“These are quite pricey devices, and remember, they are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, the associate program director of the Sleep Medicine Fellowship at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.
“The results would need to be validated by the appropriate FDA-approved devices, and because the study is likely on younger people who are more economically well off, does that really apply to older folks we worry about with poor sleep?” said Dasgupta, who was not involved in the study.
However, Dasgupta added, a major plus for the study is that it did monitor people for over two years, and the results corroborated prior research and were “not surprising.”
“While we cannot determine the direction of association from our study result, these findings provide further support to the notion that sleep patterns are associated with weight management and overall health,” the authors wrote.
“The findings also support the potential value of including both sleep duration and individual sleep patterns when studying sleep-related health outcomes.”

LINK BETWEEN SLEEP AND EATING

There is a scientific reason why a lack of sleep is linked to appetite. When you’re sleep deprived, research has shown, levels of a hormone called ghrelin spike while another hormone, leptin, takes a nosedive. The result is an increase in hunger.
“The ‘l’ in leptin stands for lose: It suppresses appetite and therefore contributes to weight loss,” he said. “The ‘g’ in ghrelin stands for gain: This fast-acting hormone increases hunger and leads to weight gain,” Dasgupta said.
Another reason we gain weight is due to an ancient body system called the endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana, which as we know, often triggers the “munchies.”
“When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not like, ‘Oh, you know what, I want some carrots,'” said behavioural neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, who studies the connection between brain systems and behavior at the University of Chicago, in a prior CNN interview.
“You’re craving sweets and salty and starchy things,” she added. “You want those chips, you want a cookie, you want some candy, you know?”
A 2016 study by Hanlon compared the circulating levels of 2-AG, one of the most abundant endocannabinoids, in people who got four nights of normal sleep (more than eight hours) to people who only got 4.5 hours.
People who were sleep-deprived reported greater increases in hunger and appetite and had higher afternoon concentrations of 2-AG than those who slept well. The sleep-deprived participants also had a rough time controlling their urges for high-carb, high-calorie snacks.

GET BETTER SLEEP

Want more control over your appetite? Depending on your age, you are supposed to get between seven and 10 hours of sleep each night.
Getting less has been linked in studies to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, weight gain, a lack of libido, mood swings, paranoia, depression and a higher risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, dementia and some cancers.
So sleep a full seven to 10 hours a night, stick to a regular bedtime and get up the same time very day, even on weekends, experts advise.
Adding exercise to your daily routine is a great way to improve your sleep and improve your health. After finishing one 30-minute physical activity, you’ll have less anxiety, lower blood pressure, more sensitivity to insulin and you’ll sleep better that night.
You can also train your brain to get more restful sleep with a few key steps:
  •  During the day, try to get good exposure to natural light, as that will help regulate your circadian rhythm.
  •  Avoid stimulants (coffee, tea) after 3 p.m. and fatty foods before bedtime.
  •  Establish a bedtime routine you can follow each night. Taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or doing light stretches are all good options.
  •  Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and the room is cool: Between 60 and 67 degrees is best. Don’t watch TV or work in your bedroom; you want your brain to think of the room as only for sleep.
  •  Eliminate all lights – even the blue light of cellphones or laptops can be disruptive. Dull sounds, too. Earplugs or white noise machines can be very helpful, but you can create your own with a humidifier or fan.
Sandee LaMotte      CNN     Monday, September 14, 2020
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10 Ways Sleep Can Change Your Life

What if someone told you there was a magic potion by which you could prevent disease, improve your intellect, reduce your stress and be nicer to your family while you’re all cooped up together during the pandemic?
It sounds too good to be true, as if solving those problems would really require dietary supplements, workout programs, diets, meditation and a separate room to cry alone.
It turns out that sleep, according to numerous studies, is the answer. It’s the preventive medicine for conditions related to our physical, mental and emotional health. And despite how important sleep is, it can be difficult to make it a priority.
“During a pandemic such as Covid-19, there’s a potential to induce or exacerbate many sleep issues,” Dr. Matthew Schmitt, a doctor of sleep medicine at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, told CNN.
“A lack of quality sleep not only affects how we feel during the daytime, but can also impair our immune system function, which is vital in protecting us from common viral illnesses.”
A sleep routine is just one of the behaviors that is part of sleep hygiene, a buffet of efforts needed to sleep well that include eating healthy meals at regular times and not drinking too much coffee, said Dr. Meir Kryger, a professor of pulmonary medicine and a clinical professor of nursing at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut.
“All of these things are really interconnected in terms of their function. All of them are connected to the body clock,” Kryger said. “The body is like an orchestra where there’s an orchestra leader that’s sort of the main timer, but everybody else is playing it together and they’re optimizing what they are doing.”
Once you’ve developed your sleep routine,
here are 10 benefits you could gain from the regimen.
1. Helps your body heal and repair itself
Our nightly shut-eye is our bodies’ time for healing and repairing itself from performing its taxing daily functions.
“Imagine you’re a car or something that’s running for 16 hours during the day,” Kryger said. “You’re going to have to do stuff to get back to normal. You just can’t keep on running.”
During sleep is when we produce most of our growth hormone that ultimately results in bone growth. Our tissues rest, relaxing our muscles and reducing inflammation. And each cell and organ have their own clock that “plays a really important role in maximizing or optimizing how our body works,” Kryger added.
2. Lowers risk for disease
Sleep on its own is a protective factor against disease.
When people get too much or too little sleep, “there appears to be an increased risk of deaths … and other diseases raising their ugly heads,” Kryger said, such as heart problems and diabetes. The healing period during sleep also factors in, as it allows cells that would cause disease to repair themselves.
3. Improves cognitive function
Sleep feeds our creativity and cognitive function, which describes our mental abilities to learn, think, reason, remember, problem solve, make decisions and pay attention.
“As you sleep, memories are reactivated, connections between brain cells are strengthened, and information is transferred from short- to long-term,” said a National Sleep Foundation article on the subject. “Without enough quality sleep, we become forgetful.”
4. Reduces stress
Slumber of great quantity and quality can enhance your mood and also encourage the brain’s ability to regulate emotional responses to both neutral and emotional events.
5. Helps maintain a healthy weight
Getting your beauty sleep can help you to maintain a healthy weight or increase your chances of losing excess fat.
Two hormones control our urge to eat: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells us that we’re full, while ghrelin communicates hunger.
When we don’t sleep enough, both hormones veer in the wrong direction, Kryger said — ghrelin spikes while leptin declines, resulting in an increase in hunger and the potential to overeat and gain weight.
Sleep helps our bodies to maintain normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well, which determines how we hang on to excess fat.
6. Bolsters your immune system
Kryger has seen the immune systems of patients with sleep disorders fail to normally function. Sleep helps our bodies to produce and release cytokines, a type of protein that helps create an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation.
Additionally, “research done actually years ago showed that when people are sleep deprived, they do not have as vigorous a response to vaccination,” Kryger added.
“As we’re thinking about vaccination that’s being developed” for Covid-19, that kind of research is going to be important.
7. May improve your social life
The emotional benefits of sleep can transfer over into your social life. “Just imagine you don’t sleep enough and you’re cranky,” Kryger said. “Who’s going to want to be around you? Another part of it is being cognitively sharp.”
Adequate sleep can help you to be more confident, be more easygoing and support your efforts to do your part at home, he added.
8. Supports your mental health
Mental health disorders are often associated with substandard sleep and a sleep deficit can lead to depressive symptoms even if the person doesn’t have the chronic disorder, Kryger said.
“Getting the right amount of sleep is really important in possibly preventing a mental illness or the appearance of a mental illness,” he added. And in addition to the benefits for mood and stress regulation, sleeping enough “may make the treatment of the mental illnesses more efficacious if the person sleeps enough.”
9. Reduces pain sensitivity
Extending participants’ sleep time during the night or with midday naps, a 2019 study found, restored their pain sensitivity to normal levels in comparison to sleep-deprived individuals, who had a lower threshold for pain.
How this happens would have to be in the realm of perception, Kryger said, which ultimately traces back to the brain. “The brain is where sleep is,” he explained.
10. Increases your likelihood for overall success
Since sleep can improve our health on all fronts, it consequently can help us be the best versions of ourselves. Healthy cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, coping and social life are all foundational to pursuing and achieving our goals and overall well-being.
By Kristen Rogers, CNN       Tue August 4, 2020
source: www.cnn.com
sleep_snooze

 

People React Better to Both Negative and Positive Events
With More Sleep

Summary:
New research finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day — and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. This has important health implications: previous research shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
FULL STORY
New research from UBC finds that after a night of shorter sleep, people react more emotionally to stressful events the next day – and they don’t find as much joy in the good things. The study, led by health psychologist Nancy Sin, looks at how sleep affects our reaction to both stressful and positive events in daily life.
“When people experience something positive, such as getting a hug or spending time in nature, they typically feel happier that day,” says Nancy Sin, assistant professor in UBC’s department of psychology. “But we found that when a person sleeps less than their usual amount, they don’t have as much of a boost in positive emotions from their positive events.”
People also reported a number of stressful events in their daily lives, including arguments, social tensions, work and family stress, and being discriminated against. When people slept less than usual, they responded to these stressful events with a greater loss of positive emotions. This has important health implications: previous research by Sin and others shows that being unable to maintain positive emotions in the face of stress puts people at risk of inflammation and even an earlier death.
Using daily diary data from a national U.S. sample of almost 2,000 people, Sin analyzed sleep duration and how people responded to negative and positive situations the next day. The participants reported on their experiences and the amount of sleep they had the previous night in daily telephone interviews over eight days.
“The recommended guideline for a good night’s sleep is at least seven hours, yet one in three adults don’t meet this standard,” says Sin. “A large body of research has shown that inadequate sleep increases the risk for mental disorders, chronic health conditions, and premature death. My study adds to this evidence by showing that even minor night-to-night fluctuations in sleep duration can have consequences in how people respond to events in their daily lives.”
Chronic health conditions – such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer – are prevalent among adults, especially as we grow older. Past research suggests that people with health conditions are more reactive when faced with stressful situations, possibly due to wear-and-tear of the physiological stress systems.
“We were also interested in whether adults with chronic health conditions might gain an even larger benefit from sleep than healthy adults,” says Sin. “For those with chronic health conditions, we found that longer sleep – compared to one’s usual sleep duration – led to better responses to positive experiences on the following day.”
Sin hopes that by making sleep a priority, people can have a better quality of life and protect their long-term health.
Journal Reference:
Nancy L. Sin, Jin H. Wen, Patrick Klaiber, Orfeu M. Buxton, David M. Almeida. Sleep duration and affective reactivity to stressors and positive events in daily life.. Health Psychology, 2020; DOI: 10.1037/hea0001033
University of British Columbia. “People react better to both negative and positive events with more sleep.”  ScienceDaily, 15 September 2020
Materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.  September 15, 2020
 


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How To Get a Good Night’s Sleep Right Now

“Doesn’t it feel like the zombie apocalypse?” I recently asked my boyfriend. We were taking our daily sanity stroll when suddenly the sleep-deprived eyes peeking over surgical masks started to feel extra eerie. I may have even traumatized a small child in a window when I waved excitedly, forgetting a big black piece of fabric was covering half my face and I hadn’t bothered with concealer.

Honestly, the lack of concealer is probably what drove the poor thing to run. The insomnia has been brutal lately.

I’m certainly not alone. Everyone I speak to, from my grandmother to Kaia Gerber, mentions how badly they’ve been sleeping. That’s because the current situation is a veritable perfect storm for sleeplessness, and that goes for sassy 80-year-olds and teen top models alike.

“The biggest issue is stress and anxiety: worrying about your health, worrying about your job, worrying about your finances,” says Dr. Atul Khullar, medical director at the Northern Alberta Sleep Clinic and senior consultant at MedSleep.

Then there are the changes to your routine. “Being more restrained, not being able to get out as much, less light, less exercise, worse eating habits — it’s just a hurricane of things that can disrupt sleep.”

While we can’t control what’s going on in the world, there are some things we can do to help rest our minds and bodies, and get that much needed shut-eye.

Make sleep a priority

In our performance-obsessed culture, rest is often undervalued. A chronic lack of sleep is linked to a whole host of issues including heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes. “Some studies show you’re less likely to catch things, including the coronavirus, if you get proper sleep because sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, even in the short term,” says Khullar. Poor sleep also hikes stress hormones, which make it harder to deal with everything going on, on top of making us more irritable. “Sleep is going to get your entire family in a better mood,” says Alanna McGinn, sleep expert and founder of the Good Night Sleep Site. “We’re all stuck together, so we need to be as happy as we can.”

Stick to a schedule

With no commute to worry about, it’s tempting to sleep in more and, since you don’t have to wake up so early, you might be going to bed later, too. But all of this can throw off your sleep and your energy levels throughout the day. “A lot of people don’t have the discipline to keep the structure, so we find people not keeping consistent bedtimes or sometimes napping excessively,” says Khullar. McGinn says to set an alarm. “It doesn’t have to be as early as when you were going to work, but getting up at a more reasonable hour builds up more drive for sleep, which will help you fall asleep a lot better at night.” Regular exercise also helps with that and promotes a deeper, more restful sleep.

Make your bed sacred

Both experts are adamant your bed should be for sleep only. “Protecting your sleep space provides a positive association between sleep and your bed,” explains McGinn. “Now our bedrooms are becoming our home office and that can make falling asleep even harder.” What happens is your brain no longer equates being in bed with just sleeping, so you lose that signal to wind down. “If you start doing many other activities in bed, you can get very strong behavioural insomnia,” warns Khullar. This is also why you shouldn’t lie awake for long periods. “We should be sleeping 85 per cent of the time we’re in bed, so if you’re struggling with that, it’s OK to get out of bed for 10 to 15 minutes,” says McGinn. “Do a quiet activity in low light like reading or doing a puzzle — don’t turn on every light or check your email — then try again.”

sleep



Optimize your sleep space

There are plenty of small tweaks that can make your bedroom more conducive to sleep. Mornings are getting brighter, so incorporating blackout drapes can help keep your room dark. There’s also the matter of temperature. “The best sleeping temperature is usually a little cooler than people think: between 16 and 19 C,” says Khullar. McGinn suggests switching to more breathable bedding and moisture-wicking materials like bamboo, eucalyptus or linen. And if you sleep with a partner, don’t be afraid to customize your side. “You don’t need to have the same pillow, comforter and sheets,” she says. Finally, pay attention to how your room smells, too. Certain scents like lavender and camomile have been shown to promote sleep, so don’t discount those trendy diffusers and pillow sprays.

Implement a bedtime ritual

Pre-pillow quiet time is key to telling your brain you’re about to go to bed, say the pros. “It can be 10 minutes or 40 minutes, but there should be some time where you don’t do any other activities except prepare for bed,” says Khullar. For McGinn, that means putting down devices and steering clear of all things stressful. “We need boundaries on what we’re absorbing with the news and the scary stuff that we’re bringing into our brains right before going to bed,” she says. You also want to limit screen time in the evening as the artificial light confuses your internal clock. Things like meditation apps or relaxing podcasts can help get you into a calmer state.

Give your body a break

Another important part of prepping for bed is what you eat. Avoid big meals at least four hours before bed so that your body is not focused on digestion. “A lot of people are turning more to carbs and desserts right now, and if your body is not used to that it might have a harder time metabolizing it,” says McGinn. She suggests having sweets earlier in the day so that you’re not hyped up on sugar later. Many of us are also consuming more alcohol these days. “Alcohol is probably one of the worst things you can do for your sleep,” says Khullar. “It can put you to sleep, but that wears off quickly, and the sleep it gives you is artificial and not restful. Long term, it damages your ability to sleep.” What about weed? “If cannabis is helping you sleep, then maybe there’s something else that you need to look at, such as anxiety, depression or chronic pain,” says Khullar. “As a general rule, we don’t recommend people use anything to help them sleep without addressing it and getting assessed by a medical professional.” Many sleep clinics offer virtual consultations right now, so if you try these tips and still find yourself sleepless, reach out for help. From coping with the stress to staying healthy, you need your rest more than ever.

By Katherine Lalancette     Mon., June 22, 202
Katherine Lalancette is the beauty director of The Kit, based in Toronto.
Reach her on email at kl@thekit.ca or follow her on Twitter: @kik_tweets


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3 Mental Techniques That Boost Your Immune System

Lack of sleep, loneliness and stress are the main psychological factors that make people more vulnerable to infection, research finds.

However, loneliness can be combated by speaking to others using apps like FaceTime, Skype, Viber, WhatsApp and Google Duo.

Stress can be reduced with simple psychological exercises and sleep can be improved by following sleep hygiene guidelines.

Dr Christopher Fagundes, an expert on how mental health affects the immune system, said:

“We’ve found that stress, loneliness and lack of sleep are three factors that can seriously compromise aspects of the immune system that make people more susceptible to viruses if exposed.
Also, stress, loneliness and disrupted sleep promote other aspects of the immune system responsible for the production of proinflammatory cytokines to over-respond.
Elevated proinflammatory cytokine production can generate sustained upper respiratory infection symptoms.”

1. Loneliness

Studies have repeatedly shown that loneliness tends to make people more susceptible to infection.

People who spend less time around others are more likely to get sick when exposed to a virus, research finds.

Staying connected with others and experiencing positive emotions, though, can boost the immune system.

Dr Fagundes recommends video calls:

“There is some evidence that it may be better to video conference versus having a regular phone call to reduce feelings of isolation.
There’s something about chatting with people and having them visually ‘with’ you that seems to be more of a buffer against loneliness.”

2. Sleep

Sleep deprivation makes people more likely to get sick, said Dr Fagundes:

“The overwhelming consensus in the field is that people who do not consistently get a good night’s sleep—7-9 hours for adults, with variation on what is optimal—makes a person more likely to get sick.”

One of the best methods for improving sleep is called stimulus control therapy.

In general, though, having a regular sleep schedule, bedtime routine and prioritising sleep, all help people sleep better, scientists have found.

 

sleep

 

3. Stress

Stress is the third factor that can affect the performance of the immune system, said Dr Fagundes:

“It’s important also to note that when we talk about stress, we mean chronic stress taking place over several weeks, not a single stressful incident or a few days of stress.An isolated stressful incident does not seem to make a person more susceptible to a cold or the flu.”

Daily routines are a wonderful defence against stress, said Dr Fagundes:

“This will regulate your sleep and allow you to focus on immediate goals and plans.In turn, you will overthink things less and feel more accomplished.”

People who are particularly susceptible to worry may like to try this exercise, said Dr Fagundes:

“People often worry and overthink things because their brain is telling them there is something to solve.
However, it can be counterproductive after a while.
A good technique is to set aside 15 minutes a day where you allow yourself to worry, preferably with a pen and paper.
After that, you aren’t allowed to think about the issue for the rest of the day.”

A further step is to address cognitive distortions, said Dr Fagundes:

“People often convince themselves that a situation is much worse than it is by telling themselves things that are not true.
We call these cognitive distortions.
For example, it is common to catastrophize a situation by convincing themselves that the worst-case scenario is the most likely scenario.
When people learn to identify and then refute these thoughts, they often feel much better.”

 

The studies were published in various journals (Cohen et al., 2011; Cohen et al., 2018; Prather et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog.
He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.

He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

 

source: PsyBlog        March 28, 2020


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How People Are Practicing Healthier Behaviors in the Face of COVID-19

  • In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are getting motivated to make healthier choices and adopt healthier habits.
  • Some people living with chronic conditions have found they’re also vigilant about self-care.
  • Experts say even small changes can lead to big improvements in overall health.
  • With many things still shut down, experts say this is an excellent time to focus on your health.

Like most New Yorkers, Rob Taub, 64, has been sheltering in place as the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the city and the nation at large.

For Taub, a writer and broadcaster who lives in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, there has been one surprising result of the radical day-to-day life changes brought about by the outbreak — his overall health has improved.

Taub has been living with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure for nearly 15 years. An athlete growing up, he said when he was in his 40s he “looked like an NFL player,” but then something changed as he got older.

“I started gaining 15 pounds a year. Soon I was 40 pounds, then 50 pounds overweight,” said Taub, who serves as an ambassador for the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Now, as he’s been adhering to physical distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, he’s found that his overall health has improved.

The man who ate out at restaurants for about 80 percent of his meals now cooks for himself at home. A big change has been salt intake.

“One of the things I switched to recently prior to COVID-19 was oatmeal because there’s no salt in it and I realized my blood pressure was going down while eating it,” he said. “When cooking for myself, there is no salt. I realize restaurant food is laden with salt and it’s not good for you.”

Taub takes his blood pressure every day — at the time of his interview with Healthline it was at 112/80 mm Hg — and has been able to cut back on his medications.

These readings are better than he ever thought he’d see, especially when they were at their worst about a decade and a half ago.

Being vigilant is also important because he has a family history of these health concerns. His mother died at 73 from complications tied to diabetes.

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A time to embrace healthy habits

While now is a difficult time for many — stress and anxiety are up, people’s insecurities and fears over their personal health have increased — for some people like Taub, this new way of life has ironically led to better, healthier behaviors.

Dr. Robert Eckel, the American Diabetes Association president of medicine and science, and an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said Taub’s story isn’t unusual.

With life on pause, he said that “now is a good time to focus” on health.

He added that depending on a person’s individual lifestyle and desires — and assuming they’re not facing too severe of an economic impact from the current health crisis — sheltering at home gives an opportunity to adopt some healthier behaviors, from more routine fitness to better sleep habits.

A big piece of it is reflected in Taub’s experience — eating better food.

“In general, a heart healthy diet is a diabetes healthy diet and cancer healthy and blood pressure healthy diet,” Eckel, a past-president of the American Heart Association, told Healthline.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an independent science-based consumer advocacy organization, writes that rampant unhealthy diets have something of a domino effect on overall health in the United States.

The organization says that diets that rely on heavily processed meals low on nutritious value contribute to about 678,000 deaths each year as a result of diseases tied to poor nutrition and obesity, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

It should be no surprise then that each of these conditions are highly prevalent in the North America.

Annually, heart disease is the leading cause of death nationwide, resulting in 1 in every 4 deaths, while more than 100 million adults live with diabetes or prediabetes.

Obesity statistics are similarly high, with the condition’s prevalence shooting from 30.5 percent in the year from 1999 to 2000, to 42.4 percent in the 2017–2018 time frame. The prevalence of obesity-related diseases moved from 4.7 percent to 9.2 percent during that time frame.

Eckel said that as the coronavirus puts a pause on day-to-day life, it gives Americans an opportunity to hit the reset button on some of these worrying trends.

He cited both the DASH and Mediterranean diets as fairly accessible healthy eating plans that promote weight reduction, decreased salt intake, increased daily nutritional intake, and lowered blood pressure.

He also cited moderate exercise as a way to maintain healthy behaviors while stuck at home.

This means trying to fit in about 40 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day — this doesn’t mean having fancy or expensive equipment. It could be a brisk walk or using light weights to include some sort of resistance-training workout at home.

Really anything to avoid being in a “predominantly sedentary position,” he explained.

The challenges of making these changes

Of course, all of this can be easier said than done for some people.

The emotional, psychological, and financial toll taken by COVID-19 can make it hard for people to dedicate time to make some of these lifestyle shifts.

Dr. Luke Laffin, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline that the people he treats generally have fallen in two camps during this crisis. One group was already exercising, visiting gyms, and adhering to healthy diets. Anecdotally, he noticed this group actually seemed to “fall off a bit” from their schedules once sheltering at home.

“They haven’t been doing as well in this setting,” Laffin said.

The other group consists of people who weren’t regularly exercising, not making the best dietary choices, but are now changing their routines slightly, finding they have more time to go for a walk or start preparing meals.

“It’s a double-edged sword. I’ve seen people benefit from this time but also some people not benefit as much,” he added.

For those in the second group, does Laffin envision these new healthy habits being maintained over the years once the COVID-19 threat passes?

“I think the most important part is getting into these habits and routines, and sticking with them. People are creatures of habit, so if for a couple of months with more time to exercise and eat healthily, I hope they find they can’t go without the daily routine of eating healthier, of making these choices,” he said.

If they feel better and see that their weight is lower and that their overall health has improved, Laffin added that he hopes these people will see these are necessary behaviors to hold on to.

Maintaining new routines

For those in the first group who are finding it difficult to self-motivate during an uncertain time, Laffin suggested pursuing routines that aren’t intimidating.

Just walking around the block is a good way to add some activity, and taking quick breaks in between working from home to do some light exercise could be helpful.

As for food, one doesn’t have to embrace complicated recipes if they’re used to dining out or grabbing a quick meal at the office cafeteria. He said to make sure you try to make dishes that have 50 to 60 percent fruits and vegetables.

Try to stock up on some healthier items when you do go to the local grocery store, just so you have them on hand and can incorporate them with your meal, even if it’s a side dish to complement what you might naturally gravitate to.

“I think it’s important for everyone to be realistic with themselves, however,” Laffin added. “A lot of people out there will slide back a bit, they will put on some extra pounds, they won’t be as physically active. Understand that this is not a 6-week reality, this is going to be going on for 6, 12, 18 months — now is the time to make these adjustments but also be realistic.”

For Taub’s part, he’s a social person who lives alone and said he will heartily embrace eating out with friends once it’s safe and responsible to do so.

What will he make sure to do moving forward to keep up with his new shelter-in-place healthy behaviors?

“I’m going to be aggressive in restaurants about what I order, I might even call ahead to see what I can get that is salt-free. If they won’t accommodate me, then I won’t go there,” Taub stressed.

“If I’m able to control my blood pressure more, then I have to be more cognizant of my behaviors,” he added. “It’s too easy to depend on medication, as great as it is. I need to be really diligent about it.”

Written by Brian Mastroianni              May 26, 2020              Fact checked by Dana K. Cassell