Category Archives: staying healthy

Back in the game

After taking about two weeks off to nurse an injury– caused by (in succession): a birthday (mine), a beach, dancing, and (lots of) alcohol — I decided tonight after I got home from work that it was ‘now or never,’ so to speak with regard to a run I’ve been wanting to go on for over a week. My knee has not hurt for the last week or so, but it does feel ‘funny’ sometimes and there’s been a twinge of something ‘not quite right’ if I flex it back too far or too hard.

That said, the trial trots up and down my office’s hallway and around my apartment were telling me that my knee was much better, but I still didn’t want to push it. (Okay, I was being lazy, too.)

But tonight I ran. I did an 11:20 mile pace, which is better than I’d been running before I tweaked my knee. I felt light, I felt strong, my pace was good and my form was awesome. Having stood at the edge of that “Oh, crap! I need to do that! Big Sur is coming up in May! I don’t want to duck out because of injury!” cliff, I’m completely one-hundred percent relieved that tonight’s easy run went so well… And really, it wasn’t so scary after all… 🙂

Here’s to a good 3-miler (hopefully! will have to see if body is willing…) tomorrow!

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Why It Matters Wednesday: Hello! (and Falling Asleep)

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Gosh, but it feels like Tuesday… Three-day weekends will do that to you, I guess…

I’m currently recuperating from a could-be-so-much-worse knee injury (of the wow-was-I-being-dumb variety) so my running’s been a little light lately (read: nonexistent) but I wanted to make sure to get online tonight to introduce a new series… Why It Matters Wednesday. (Bear with me… it’s a working title for now.)

The idea behind this is to bring up topics that pertain to health and wellness and why we should take the extra time/energy to care about how they affect us. In the name of grace, I know my first several posts will be fairly broad, but I’m hoping to get down to the nitty-gritty eventually and address things that interest me in a bigger sense… things that are more cause-based and incite a bit more fire in my writing (blood donation and autism to name a couple of near-and-dear causes), but first things first…

Hello! Welcome to Why it Matters Wednesday!

Baby yawning

This kid's got the right idea... Goodnight everyone!

As it is rapidly drawing close to bedtime for me, the subject of sleep is certainly on the front of my mind… or rather, falling asleep. We’ve heard every syndicated medical expert on radios/TVs/the interwebs talking about why sleep is so good, how much you should get, that sleep can contribute to your weight loss… We get it. Enough already. But for many people, the act of falling asleep is the challenge and staying asleep can be a battle.

There is a wiiiiiiiiiiide spectrum of advice on how to get yourself to sleep — much of it is solid, research-supported advice — but a lot of it is just one big stew pot of old wives’ tales sprinkled with some friend-0f-a-friend-based urban legend. The problem with faulty advice? Faulty results! Here are a few of my favorite myths about how to fall asleep…

1. “Just flip on the TV… You’ll zone out.”
Well, not really… Your bed is a zone that should exclusively be “for sleep and hanky panky” (no joke — the American Sleep Association has that on their website!). No reading, no TV-watching, and you should definitely do as I say and not as I do (right now) and NOT tappety-tap on your laptop from the comfort of your bed. Associating your bed with anything other than sleep or hanky panky (I just wanted to say hanky panky again) prompts wakefulness. Unplug, unwind, and for Heaven’s sake… don’t play with your computer/iPhone/other techy stuff in bed.

2. “Man, I hate insomnia! I keep a bottle of NyQuil on the nightstand just in case…”
Taking NyQuil to make you go to sleep is not wise… at all. The wonder drug we all know and love for when we’re itchy, sneezy, sniffly, feverish, et al is known to cause drowsiness — hence the warning about not operating heavy machinery. The problem with relying on this effect is that antihistamines aren’t intended to be used as sleep aids and can actually cause ‘fragmented sleep,’ meaning the sleep you’re encouraging will not be restful, sustained sleep.

3. “Hmm… Can’t sleep… Guess it’s time for a  beer…”
Alcohol is something of a false friend when it comes to sleep. Though it makes you feel drowsy initially, it inhibits deeper levels of sleep and drinking lots can mean you’ll have to get up in the middle of the night.

Sleep is important for a lot of reasons, but if we won’t listen to docs and get enough sleep or see a physician to help diagnose a possible sleep disorder, we’re putting more at risk than our waistlines and vanity — we’re putting each other at risk.

Fatal crashes are most likely to occur between 2:00 and 3:00 AM and are more than ten times more likely to occur then than they are between 8:00 and 9:00 AM. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that about 1,500 drowsy driving related deaths occur each year, that 71,000 injuries are reported from drowsy driving-related crashes, and that $12.5 billion dollars are lost annually to these crashes.

You’ve probably heard every reason imaginable imploring you to sleep more, sleep regularly, sleep well but after a while, it probably just sounds like noise. Does hectoring the public make them more likely to follow sound advice? Probably not. But imagine how much more you could get done, how much more time you could save, and most importantly how much more energy you’d have for everything if sleep was your priority and not just an option.

Do yourselves a favor — get sleep regularly. And if you can’t fall asleep, get help from a professional — you’ll be thankful that you did. (And I won’t avoid driving when you’re driving.)

With that said, I’m off… G’night everyone!

Resources:
American Sleep Association
Sleep Foundation
Mayo Clinic: Expert Answers (Insomnia)
– Choose Safety for Life: Drowsy Driving
– AAA Foundation — Drowsy Driving FAQ

Energy and holiday resolutions

holiday lights

Fond holiday memories usually involve being cozy and quiet indoors with loved ones and soft twinkling lights.

With the holidays in full swing, I’ve only just finished my Christmas shopping and everything’s wrapped and ready to go and all I want to do after the day’s done is sleep and sleep and sleep . . . It’s a rambling way of saying – I’m spent.

I recently talked about how restorative it is to take a break from wiring into technology, but where do you draw the energy to get back on the horse? How do I muster the mental drive to put something worth reading up here? (Not that I manage that on good days all of the time, but bear with me . . .)

I sit in a frenzied, mentally-draining, my-goodness-where-did-my-money-go daze of too much sugar, too much caffeine, too little sleep and too much singsong holiday music (Frosty can kiss my butt) and all I want to do is crawl into bed for a week.

But I know I shouldn’t gripe — I’m very fortunate to be where I am, have a roof over my head and a job that keeps food in my fridge and caffeine in my bloodstream. I’d wager a lot of money that during the holidays especially, self-neglect runs more rampant than any cold or flu. It’s contagious, has a longer incubation period and is terribly difficult to self-diagnose sometimes. But enough is enough — in the interest of boundaries and accountability, I’m posting my pre-New Year’s resolutions which, with any luck, well help me get through that blessed occasion.

1. Be thankful every day. Lately, I’ve been reminding myself to tell Alex that I’m thankful for him. I really am — it’s not a good-gift-insurance plan — but by verbally telling him, “I’m really thankful I get to talk to you today” or something similar, it’s an audible reminder to me to keep my focus on the important things.

2. Remember that it’s not about the money. Really, it isn’t. I really stretched my budget this year to buy my family and boyfriend things I felt they’d really love . . . but I could have done it differently. I could have done it a little less expensively. I’m not overdrawn, my bills are paid and I’ve got money for gas and groceries, but I really had to remind myself yesterday when finishing up a Christmas present that the person receiving it would love the nice (yet less expensive and not-quite-so-swanky) model of something similar I’d been thinking of getting them. In the end, it saved me enough money to cover gas to and from Sacramento, which is a pretty sweet difference — and those ‘just in case’ funds are so useful around the holidays.

3. Get back to what I care about. Some self-reflection this holiday season has reminded me of what’s important to me, what I’m working towards, where my heart is and even why I started this blog. Expect to see some very different, mindcasting-type posts in the new year.

4. Sleep as much as I can. This is going to be an epic, sisyphean task, but I’m going to try to get 9 hours of sleep each night. Yes, you read that correctly. Will keep you posted on how that goes . . .

5. Do something self-soothing every day. Sounds a little basic and prosaic, but I have to make a checklist each day . . . and from here on my checklist will include one item/task to shoot for that will help me relax — knitting (yes, I’m an 80-year-old disguised in a not-quite-24-year-old body), reading something that doesn’t require much thinking to enjoy (hellooooo, guilty-pleasure-chick-lit), or a bath.

These are hardly groundbreaking resolutions, but I think they’ll really help me enjoy the remaining 10 days of the year — because that’s what really should be happening, right?

P.S. My current favorite song just came on my AccuRadio station . . . Instantly brighter, more energized mood. 🙂

Germ warfare

The temperatures in California are FINALLY going down . . . For several weeks, the weather has been playing a bipolar game of Cool, Crisp 50’s and Warm, Sunny 80’s — which is pretty ridiculous given that it’s November. (Folks, nobody should EVER need air conditioning in November.)

But as we’re heading indoors more often and pulling our sweaters and scarves out of the closet, it’s easy to forget that there are some sinister sidewinders waiting to attack at every door handle, gas pump and ATM machine we encounter on our way to the local Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte.

I’m talkin’ about germs, people. In the interest of staying healthy, it’s important not to forget a few, simple things we can do to better arm ourselves against bugs this winter.

It almost looks cool . . . until you think about the hours of daytime television you'll have to endure.

– Hand sanitizer/hand washing. Now is the hour of our discontent, made glorious summer to a host of germs. Okay, Richard III adaptation aside (I majored in English, folks – don’t act so surprised), germs are just as prevalent in the summer as they are in the winter, but we are more susceptible in the winter because we’re indoors. We keep windows closed, we’re all cozy with the heater on. Wash your hands, disinfect surfaces that you frequently touch and keep hand gel around for “just in case.” I always have it in my car — because gas pumps and ATM buttons are germ orgies. Gross. Bath & Body works makes this stuff in at least a dozen different scents and sells them for about a buck a bottle. I try to grab a half dozen or so every time I’m in the store.

– Drink up! When you’re dehydrated, a lot of things don’t work as well as they could — like your immune system. When you’re dehydrated, your blood slows down and lymph fluid (the fluid that carries bacteria to your lymph nodes to be destroyed) thickens, making your immune system sluggish. Keep a bottle of water at your workspace and refill it often. For iPhone users, there’s a nifty little app called 8 a Day where you track your water intake by tapping a glass for each glass you consume. When you open it back up, it shows you how many glasses you have left to drink for the day. Pretty sure this is a free app, so why wait? Bottoms up!

– Get a flu shot. Yes, your arm will be sore and it’s possible you’ll have a day where you’re feeling a bit off after you’ve gotten it, but a flu shots make a difference. There are some who feel that flu shots shouldn’t be necessary — that our bodies fight off the flu and that we’re ultimately making ourselves weaker by not allowing ourselves to fight the virus. I’m not a doctor, but reading that many people die every year from flu complications makes me think that a vaccine certainly couldn’t hurt. A pretty good flu shot FAQ recap can be read here. For more information about seasonal flu, check out what the Center for Disease Control has to say. (In the interest of transparent honesty, though, I feel like I should mention that California state law requires me to get a flu shot as I work for a hospital. I’m happy to comply, knowing that walking in and out of the hospital, touching elevator buttons or door handles on my way to meetings might mean a few days on the couch miserable without a preemptive strike against flu.)

But if all else fails and you find yourself sick, curl up on the couch with a hot toddy and reruns of something awesome. It’s a home remedy guaranteed to work . . . unless you have ebola. Then you’re pretty much hosed. (Sorry.)