What a way to be reminded – self-care

I know. It’s been a while. It was late June, I was in the final throes of revision for my final Year 2 exams and it was all too much, and I stopped writing.

Now I can hardly believe that two whole months and some have passed by.

After an extraordinarily crazy month of May with being continually on the move and having hardly any rest and relaxation whatsoever, and then moving straight into the final run up to the exams at the start of July, I started to feel burnt out, to the extent that when the exams were over, I couldn’t bring myself to write. Truth be told, I couldn’t bring myself to do other things besides too. The many things I’d planned for after the exams, and had been looking forward to, didn’t make the light of day.

Not a great way to be reminded of the importance of self-care, but it was a good reminder.

Self-care is such an essential part of our well-being, and yet, it’s something that many, women in particular, forget about – whether it’s because we take on too much, don’t make the time, or feel guilty putting ourselves first.

We really can’t be there properly for others if we don’t fill ourselves up first. How can we be the best partner, wife, mum, and all those other roles we have, if we’re too tired, or too stressed, or too irritable? Not to mention the potential for adrenal fatigue, where the body becomes too worn out to function properly.

Taking just 20 minutes a day (and more, if you can) to spend some time outdoors, or do some deep breathing, or meditation, or dancing, or getting a massage, or cat nap can make a significant difference to your vitality. We know this, but we think we don’t have the time, so we push away the messages from our body and carry on, like that Duracell bunny.

But if we don’t make the time, our body will make us make the time.

Don’t do that. Take the time for self-care. Here, now, today. As the question goes, “If not now, then when?”

Make your next years your best years.

Love

Veronica
xo

Chances Are You’re Sitting Too Much And Why You Should Care

If you’re reading this, it’s more than likely that you sit too much – in the car, at your desk in the office, during your commute, in the evenings after work. Even playing games these days is usually done sitting down, in front of a computer. It’s no wonder that most of us spend between 55 and 70 percent of our day sitting down, with some estimates putting this figure at closer to 90 percent when sleep is included in the equation.

sitting-too-long

Studies from Canada, Australia and the US show an association between a sedentary lifestyle and premature mortality. But before you stop reading this article thinking that this doesn’t apply to you because you work out regularly, think again. Studies have differentiated between too much sitting and too little exercise, whereby one can be an “Active Couch Potato” – someone who’s physically active (spending at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week), yet sits for extended periods of time.

“Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death,” says Dr. James Levine, director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative.

Coined as “the new smoking”, prolonged sitting can compromise our metabolic health and here are some reasons why you should care.

Reduced Brain Function & Depression

Activity increases blood flow and releases mood-enhancing and cognitive chemicals. With inactivity comes reduced blood flow throughout our body, leading to a slowing down of brain function. The result is brain fogginess. One study also suggested that sitting for more than seven hours a day increased the risk of depression by 47% when compared to sitting for four hours or less per day.

Heart Disease

With blood pooling, blood flow tends to get sluggish allowing fatty acids to build quicker resulting in plaque, elevated cholesterol and eventually heart disease. If we are up and moving, fatty acids are better flushed from the circulatory system.

Colon & Endometrial cancer

Prolonged sitting for a good portion of your work day can also increase the risk for certain cancers. While not fully understood, scientists think the lack of movement could be linked to an inflammatory cascade of metabolic processes, triggering overactive cell growth, particularly in the colon and also linking to endometrial cancer.

Muscle degeneration and tightening

When we are up and moving about, standing or even sitting up straight, our abdominal muscles support our back. But when hunched over, the abdominal muscles relax and hang loose. As a result of this lack of use, the muscles weaken and extra pressure is transferred to the back muscles. This muscle imbalance can eventually lead to a condition called sway back, resulting in back pain.

In addition, sitting for extended periods can also lead to a shortening and tightening of the hip flexors. Over time, this reduces the range of motion in the hips, increasing the risk for imbalance and instability, leading to an increased risk for falls.

Herniated discs are also a common condition brought about by prolonged sitting. The psoas muscle – the muscle running from the hips to the spine that provides stability – tightens. Over time, it shortens up from non-use and pulls the lower spine forward putting excessive pressure on some of the intervertebral discs. Eventually these discs, which function as sponge-like shock absorbers in between the vertebrae, squeeze out, causing pain and sometimes surgery to correct the condition.

So, should you race out and invest in a standing desk?

Not necessarily, because standing still for prolonged periods is not without issues either. It can bring on blood pooling also, along with heart disease, varicose veins, joint pain in the knees and muscle fatigue. However, standing is more active and therefore better than sitting on its own, with a UK study finding that there is a significant increase in heart rate and energy expenditure, when comparing the two.

A sit-stand desk may therefore be of benefit, but the bottom-line is that it is neither standing nor sitting per se, but intermittent movement that is the key.

In other words, the solution is to frequently move around and not sit or stand for too long at a time. In fact, studies have found that positive changes to metabolic biomarkers were associated with breaks in sedentary time. This included transitional movements, from sitting to standing, or from standing still to walking.

The bottom-line then is to think how you can make your day more active. The ideal would be to move between 5 and 10 minutes out of each hour. What simple changes could you make to your day?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Get up and get a glass of water every now and again
  • Hand deliver a message or walk over and talk to a colleague instead of emailing it
  • Take a walk for 15 minutes after eating lunch
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park further away from your office building or get off one stop sooner than usual and walk in the rest of the way
  • Use the loos that are further away from your desk
  • Stand and stretch every now and again
  • Combine your movement breaks with the “pomodoro” technique – a strategy that uses short, frequent breaks to increase your productivity
  • Stand up during a meeting or have walking meetings when possible
  • Pop out to get your own lunch instead of asking a colleague to get yours when they’re out to get theirs
  • Set your timer at intermittent intervals to remind you to take a break, or download an app like the Dejal Time Out which dims your screen when it’s time for a break

Adopt the curiosity that comes with a youthful mind and experiment to find what works for you. It’s not always easy when you start, but like any habit, it becomes easier with both time and practice. And the next time that colleague who’s been annoying you, because they seem to take such frequent breaks, goes for yet another walk? Rather than getting vexed again, take that as your cue to take a leaf out of their book and do your health a favour!

(This article was first published on Actualise Daily)

Update:

Since I wrote this article, I bought this posture stand which turns my table into a standing desk. Also, Michael Hyatt has done a great podcast on the same topic and shared this great infographic from Visual.ly which is a fantastic recap.

Sitting Is Killing You

The 20 Minute Daily Energy Boost

Is your morning one crazy rush, a little like a chicken with its head chopped off? Or do your arrive at work calm, centred and ready to tackle the day? “Start how you mean to go on,” as the saying goes, and this applies to getting your day too. If you’ve ever had a day when you “got out of the wrong side of the bed,” you’ll know how impactful this can be! The thing is, whether or not you’re consciously aware of it, you have a morning routine. And your morning routine “pre-paves” how the rest of your day goes. So, is your morning routine setting you up for having the kind of day that you’d like?

Be conscious of your morning routine and energise your day:

  1. Wake up early. Giving yourself enough time by waking up early alleviates any anxiety that arises when time is an issue. It also gives you a sense of control and so reduces stress. Stress is an important factor to manage because it has a significant impact on our health. If you need to, go to bed a little earlier the night before. Allowing yourself an additional thirty minutes in the morning will streamline your morning before work and also make it feel more leisurely and pleasant. But don’t panic! Simply wake up 5 minutes earlier each day for the next 6 days and by the end of the week, you’ll have an extra half hour with minimal effort.
  2. Meditate for a few minutes. Hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off and use the usual 9-minute snooze time for a short meditation session. Just breathe and pay conscious attention to your breath. If you find your mind wandering, just notice the thought and then let it go, as you bring your attention bring it back to your breath. By the end of your “snooze”, you’ll be relaxed, calm and your cells will also be energised with oxygen.
  3. Have a large glass of lemon water. Everyone needs to rehydrate after a night’s sleep. We lose water through our breath while we are sleeping and we’re not drinking during this period either, which means that we’re dehydrated when we awaken. Grab yourself a large glass of water with the juice of a lemon, before doing anything else. It will “wake up” your body and encourage it to cleanse. And then, make it a habit to drink water regularly throughout the day. In fact, anytime you’re feeling sluggish or tired throughout the day, it’s likely that your body needs water; a glass of water will frequently help. Keeping a bottle of water at your desk is a great way to keep hydrated throughout. Your body will thank you for it and your skin will look better too.
  4. Move for 5 minutes. Five minutes might not seem like much, but it’s enough time to get your heart rate up and become more alert. Walk up and down the stairs a few times or march in place. If you have a treadmill, use it. You’re just trying to move and warm your body. Or a few easy jumping jacks or marching on the spot. This is not about strenuous activity but about moderate movement to wake up your body and boost your energy. Have some fun with this!
  5. Recite affirmations. While in the shower, recite some affirmations to yourself. Whatever particular affirmations you use are entirely up to you, but make sure they are ones that make you feel great. Choose affirmations that will enhance your mood and put you in a place of well-being. Instead of worrying about work (or other matters), use the time to make yourself feel better. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Today, I choose to have a great day.
  • Wealth and abundance are all around me.
  • I deserve a healthy body and mind.
  1. Nourish yourself with a healthy breakfast. A good breakfast will keep your energy up and fuel your day. Eat within an hour of getting up and include protein, healthy fats and fibre in your breakfast, while skipping heavy and sugary carbs. A healthy morning meal often leads to a healthy lunch. Try different types of breakfast foods and determine which works the best for you.
  2. Take stock of the day’s tasks during your commute. Check your to-do list before heading out the door. On your commute to work, mentally review those tasks and consider the most effective strategy to get those responsibilities accomplished. Doing this enables you to feel in control about the day ahead. Plus here’s an additional tip: Imagine those tasks going smoothly and easily – it gets your mind into gear for working out exactly how to have that happen. Don’t underestimate the power of your mind.
  3. Listen to something that makes you feel good. For the last 10 minutes of your commute, listen to something that inspires and energizes you. It could be a podcast or it could be some music that gets you feeling upbeat. We all have a song that makes us feel like we can take on the world. One of my favourites is Matchbox Twenty’s “How Far We’ve Come.” What’s yours?

Most of this morning routine doesn’t take up any additional time. With just 20 minutes, you can enhance your morning and the rest of your day. Getting off to a good start is the best way to give your day an energy boost and have a great day to boot.

In what other ways could you add even more to your day?