"I am enjoying a relationship with two men simultaneously. The first is called Ben, the other, Jerry. Number of current boyfriends: zero." — Bridget Jones, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004 movie)

In the Friends episode “The One with the Thumb”, Monica dates a man named Alan. As the rest of the gang comes to know Alan, they become even more enamored with Alan than Monica. When Monica breaks up with him, the whole crew takes it pretty hard. At one point, she walks in to find them collectively drowning their sorrows in tubs of ice cream.

Why is it that this common trope in television and movies seems to persist? We often see the heartbroken individual turn to a dessert-like food for solace. Many people will see this and at least understand what’s being conveyed, if not have a level of empathy for having a similar experience. We seem tied to this recurring imagery because it resonates with us. It feels familiar. Many people are familiar with and understand the concept of “comfort food”, but did you know that there’s ancient biological wisdom hidden beneath this comedic messaging? For generations, fables and mythical tales have been often told to convey moral lessons or wisdom. In our current age, television and film are our most common vehicle of storytelling, and it’s possible that television could be passing along innate, ancient wisdom.

For most, the common reaction to stressful events is either a noticeable increase or decrease in appetite. But why is that? Why would appetite change at all in response to stress, and why is it different in different people? And with that, why is it we would rather reach for something like ice cream than celery?

Like many of the baffling phenomena related to food and eating, we have to start by looking at the brain. Specifically, we are concerned with the motivational circuit, where dopamine is released after positive experiences to serve as the ‘rewards system’. This motivational circuit overlaps with the limbic system, which is the part of our brain responsible for emotions, reactions to stressors, and responses that are critical to maintaining homeostasis (keeping us safe and functioning). You could refer to the limbic system as our “caveman brain” or “survival brain” because it only knows how to respond to emotions and try to keep us alive. In addition to the limbic system, we need to be familiar with the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is responsible for what you might call “higher-level thinking”. This is the region of the brain that is typically responsible for executive functioning, planning, and control of impulses, desires, and cravings. You might call this part of our brain, the “mature adult” brain. During times of high stress, our “mature adult” brain (PFC) is overtaken by the “survival brain” (limbic system). With the limbic system in the driver’s seat, we are more prone to “automatic” behaviors done for survival. In other words, our brain only knows that it is stressed and needs to survive. Back in the “caveman days” where food was scarce, seeking out food in response to stress meant avoiding starvation. This reaction of seeking higher fat and/or carb foods in response to stress is actually a brilliant survival mechanism. In times of high stress, our ancestors didn’t have time to sit back and

contemplate their 5-year plan. High stress meant danger. Danger meant a need for immediate action. Eat to avoid starvation or run to avoid predators.

To support this survival instinct, our body has established metabolic and hormonal reactions to further help endure stressors. In a normal stress-response, cortisol is acutely elevated, causing metabolic changes (like increased blood glucose mobilization, blood flow redirected to the muscles/heart/muscles, and increased heart rate) designed to prepare us for “fight or flight”. As these changes occur, our body decreases the priority of digestion and appetite. Historically, sitting down to eat never seemed like a top priority when running away from a hungry tiger.

These responses are all what we expect and actually want in response to normal, short-term stress. This is what helps us perform better on the test, in the big meeting, or during our athletic competitions. Where we run into problems is when that stress doesn’t come back down.

Chronic stress can contribute to a host of unsavory health issues. In the context of stress eating, we are concerned with chronic stress causing dysregulation to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This dysregulation can have consequences for our appetite regulation. In general, people already under chronic stress are more prone to experience greater appetite and cravings in response to additional, acute stressors. In these scenarios, research has also shown that people show greater preference for foods higher in carbohydrates and/or fats.

But what happens when, or if, you choose to follow these cravings? What happens, physiologically, when you reach for that pint of ice cream your body beckons for after a brutal day? Interestingly, choosing to abide these cravings may help dampen the stress response. It’s been shown that insulin action helps to reduce cortisol. Insulin is released in response to eating foods, particularly those with carbohydrates. The greater the carb intake, the greater the insulin response. In other words, that sweet treat could actually be just the medicine your body needs to take the edge off your stress. If anything, this speaks to the innate wisdom your body holds related to food and health.

What happens if you resist the ice cream? What if you are committed to a particular diet-style and have decided that whatever your body is craving doesn’t fit in the plan? This is called “restrained eating”, and research has shown that this perspective only serves to further raise cortisol levels during a stress-response and, ultimately, contributes to more frequent and/or intense cravings in response to future stressors.

By fighting these cravings, you are fighting your biology. You’re opposing your survival instincts. The body doesn’t understand the difference between a rough day at work and being chased by a tiger. In the same way, the body doesn’t understand the difference between you choosing to not eat something and starving from lack of available food. To the body, stress is stress. Hunger is hunger. Following a stressful event, your limbic system (“survival brain”) takes over, causing you to be more ‘reactive’ to your stress and emotions. By resisting the drive and urges of “survival brain”, cortisol stays high, the limbic system stays in the driver seat longer, and you feel stressed out longer.

So, what do I suggest? Stop fighting your biology. Eat the ice cream. Help your cortisol return to baseline more quickly, which will let the limbic system take the back seat and put the prefrontal cortex back in control. Once you’re not in ‘max stress’ mode anymore, you can address the thing that stressed you out in the first place and try keep the stress from becoming a chronic issue.

“We always kept in our hearts the most noble, beautiful feeling that sets human beings apart: hope.” - Manel Loureiro

When we think about wellness, we often think about our physical health, but if you look at the full spectrum of the Dimensions of Wellness, you'll find that wellness is so much more than just exercising and eating healthy. Paying attention to a managing our emotional well-being is a huge part of overall health and can help us lead a fuller life. Today, I want to talk about an emotion that sometimes gets pushed aside in this fast paced world: hope. We get bad news all the time and there often isn't time to process the bombardment of negativity we can experience in this digital age. That's why it's important to take time to hope.

Think of hope like a muscle. You come to the gym and work on building stronger muscles, building stamina, and working towards long-term goals. Week by week you make more progress and find yourself getting stronger and stronger with each day of exercise. Hope, like most muscles you exercise, can hurt at first, especially if you’re not used to flexing it.

When tough times hit, hoping for a better tomorrow can sometimes feel fruitless and even foolish. When bad things happen around us, it’s natural to want to give in to the hopelessness that we might feel. It may not be easy, but it's possible to strengthen our "hope muscle" right now and it's one of the greatest acts of kindness we can do for ourselves and others around us. Working on nourishing our sense of hope helps us get through the toughest times and lends strength to the people in our lives.

What Hope Is & Isn’t

Let’s be real, it’s HARD to hope when things suck. But you don’t have to wax poetic or go full Lord of the Rings monologue to be hopeful. Hope isn’t about thinking positive thoughts or self-deluding. Hope is the work of believing the dawn comes after each dark night. Hope is doing what needs to be done each day to care for yourself, care for your community, and society because you know better days are coming. Hope is a lasting human legacy, practiced by billions of people through all the worst moments in history.

Hope isn’t a mood. It’s an action. It’s a choice we make every day to believe in the possibility of a better future.

The Science of Hope

For those of you who need a little more than just pretty words about the triumph of the human spirit, there’s science behind hope too. Research shows that people who choose hopefulness in the face of adversity manage stress better, feel a greater sense of happiness, and believe they are better equipped to influence the direction of their own lives and impact on the world. Those who exercise the “hope muscle” also are more likely to live a physically healthier life as well, making healthier food choices and exercising more regularly.

This week, take a moment to choose hope, for yourself and for others.

What do you feel hopeful about this week? If you're struggling to manage this important emotional dimension of your life, consider talking to one of our certified Wellness Coaches and getting guidance on a holistic approach to leading a well life.

Stimulate your senses and create a calming experience in the kitchen!

Sound

When you think of cooking there can be many sounds that come into play. For some, when they think of cooking sounds they think of busy chaotic kitchen noises coming - pots and pans banging around, searching through drawers or cupboards to find the right tools, and frenzied movement. To find a calming correlation when in the kitchen forget the clanking of silverware and plates and focus your mind for a moment on the sizzling of food, the subtle chopping sound of a knife, or the rolling boil of water. Focus on one sound at a time, and you may notice that the sounds of the kitchen become more harmonious and peaceful. Acknowledge the artificial noises that are allowed during this time. If you must play music, strive for instrumental covers or something without lyrics. Try to find calm within the movement of cooking.

Touch
We are told from an early age not to play with our food. I urge you to throw that notion out and have a little fun and stimulate your senses by getting your hands dirty! A lot of stress release can come from the physical acts of squeezing, kneading, or compressing. If you are cooking for yourself there is no harm in touching your own food (just make sure your hands are clean first). There is appreciation and feelings of gratitude that can come from touching and admiring something that you have created with your own hands.

Smell
Take in the aroma! Aromatherapy for relieving stress has become exceedingly popular. Experiment and choose to cook with ingredients that bring positive or relaxing thoughts. Here are a few herbs and spices to try in the kitchen and the impacts of their aromas.

Taste
The sensation of tasting food can release a multitude of emotions. It can tap into memories and conjure up different thoughts and ideas. This is also why it is important to be mindful of the food you choose to cook, especially if your goal is to reduce stress while cooking. When I think of the effects that taste has, this scene from Ratatouille comes to mind.

Sight
“A feast for the eyes” or “Eat with your eyes.” These are expressions that make the connection of how visualizing food can be as important as tasting. What we see tells a story and invokes emotions. That is why for stress reduction choose foods that are not strenuous to eat. Complex foods may include foods that need a multitude of tools or utensils to eat such as crab, lobster,
or foods with a shell that need prying. Take note of foods you try that are visually distressing. You don't have to force yourself to eat anything bony, slimy, gooey, stringy, or otherwise unpleasant to you! Something to look at are the colors used. View your plate as a work of art and try to see what kinds of palettes you can make with your food!

Focus on a more mindful cooking experience next time you're in the kitchen and note how it makes you feel. Paying attention to our sense and being present in whatever we are doing helps reduce stress - plus you'll come out of it with a delicious meal!

Part 3: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you.

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read Part 1 & Part 2 prior to moving on to this section.

With that, read on for the top foundational fitness mistakes and how to fix them:

These next two points (#5 and #6) are often the first things people contemplate and seek advice on when they want to advance their progress in the gym. Note that these points are lower on the list because changes in these will yield little results unless points #1 through #4 are addressed first. It is only after you have established a fitting and sustainable approach to fitness that you can address these following points. Ensure your approach to fitness considers activities you enjoy, goals that make sense, recovery that sustains you, and focus during your fitness routines before being concerned with the following points.

 

Error #5: You make it to the gym, but possibly too much or not enough.

Frequency of your workouts is a major consideration in many fitness circles. When discussing it, the image of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is always comes to mind. You don’t want it to be too much or too little – but “just right”.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. Sometimes, it seems the messaging from health and fitness influencers says “more is better”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. With any form of physical activity, there is a point at which increasing your frequency or total volume will not result in any further benefit. In fact, surpassing this limit of maximal benefits can result in regression (not to mention increased risk for injury, illness, and many other issues. Especially if intense activity is overdone). If you recall point #3, recovery is just as important, if not more so, than the effort and activity itself. The point at which no added benefit is gained from increasing exercise frequency/volume is known as “the point of diminishing returns”. In a practical interpretation, this could mean that weightlifting 3-4 times per week is your “sweet spot” for increasing strength, for example. For this individual, lifting weights any more during the week would only interfere with their recovery and likely lead to loss in strength and possibly even injury. While the example I provided is for lifting weights, this principle applies to all forms of fitness.

In other words, there is truly “too much of a good thing”. It’s true. Doing “all the right things” too often can actually hinder your ultimate progress. Spending too much time and effort on “perfecting” a singular piece of your fitness won’t necessarily be the fastest path to results. Sometimes the “scenic route” will yield the best outcomes. For example, a runner may think that the best, and only, way to improve their running pace may be to simply run. It has been shown, though, that performing various weightlifting and agility drills can help enhance speed and power while decreasing risk of injury in runners. From this perspective, including variety in your training won’t just make you a more well-rounded athlete, but a better athlete at your activity of choice.

With that being said, all forms of activity need a minimum frequency and volume of training to result in noticeable progress. While I wish I could give the “magic number” of times you should generally work out each week to maximize progress, any number I would give would be a gross oversimplification. Every person has a different threshold for volume of activity and making progress. This threshold is based on the activity they do, their ability to recover, their genetic potential for said activity, their diet, and much more. To help guide you, I would like to provide you with a rule of thumb: If you currently do an activity or exercise consistently, have not made any noticeable progress within the last couple weeks or month, but also find that you are consistently feeling fully rested and recovered, you are probably ready to explore increasing your frequency. Note: this ONLY applies of you aren’t making progress AND are consistently recovering.

While I know that this is a very broad approach to finding your ideal frequency to train, this is going to be your best method to discovering your individual needs and limitations. Struggling to find that training “sweet spot”? Consider talking to a Western personal trainer about how your current routine could be tweaked to accelerate your progress.

 

Error #6: Your nutrition could be better… and not in the way you think.

“I’d hit my gym goals if I could just stop eating carbs/sugar/junk.”

“It would be so much better if I had more self-control with food.”

“I just need to eat less calories. It’s all just calories in, calories out.”

“I think keto/intermittent fasting/[insert popular diet here] will be the key I’ve been looking for.”

In the fitness community, nutrition seems to be the center of conversation quite often. Just as I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, it seems that we also seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when it comes to nutrition. Take it from a dietitian: nutrition does not need to be complicated. In fact, the belief that you just need to cut out a particular food or follow a certain diet to be fit or healthy only serves to overcomplicate nutrition.

It seems that every year is accompanied by the next new “diet hack” that is guaranteed to make you thinner, leaner, stronger, faster, etc. Despite each “diet breakthrough” spreading like wildfire, it seems that it never sticks long before the next is announced. Case in point; For much of the 1980s and 1990s, eating low-fat was the key to ideal health and fitness. Across grocery stores, low-fat versions of everyone’s favorite foods could be found. Now entering the 2010s and 2020s, a diet that is low-carb (Hello, Keto!) is the key to ideal health. Those very same low-fat foods that filled the shelves have now been replaced by high-fat and low-carb alternatives. Anyone else suspicious about the flip in script?

Hidden underneath the shouts of these “revolutionary diets”, you may have heard the quiet but unchanging mantra of many nutrition professionals, “eat a balanced diet, including a variety of fruits and vegetables.” Is this advice revolutionary, breakthrough, or grabbing any headlines? No. But it never changes, and that is for good reason. This advice, though not exciting, is consistently true. I hate to break it to you, but there is no magic pill, no revolutionary diet, or perfect food. Our human biology has developed over many, many years. As a result, it is unlikely that we will simply discover a way to “hack” our incredibly smart, complicated body. For some, this news may be disappointing. You may not even want to believe it and continue to hold on to hope that the next new diet will be your secret key. Perhaps for some, though, this may be a relief. It may be reassurance that you can stop your searching and rest easy knowing that eating doesn’t have to be complicated.

Despite this, I can still assure you that there are tips and tricks to change your diet for improved fitness and even just general health. Thankfully, these points are short and simple enough to fit on the following bullet points:

Nutrition can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make it. Know that there’s no such thing as a “bad” or “wrong” diet. There are certainly different ways to eat that may or may not support whatever outcome or goal you desire, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with any particular food choices. When in doubt, the smallest and most sustainable changes to your current nutrition habits will have the longest-reaching and most significant impacts.

Part 2: Why Your Workouts Aren't "Working Out"

After years of scouring through fitness and nutrition research, I have discovered quite the assortment of tips and tricks to ‘maximize results’ in the gym. By this, I mean I have put in considerable time and effort towards understanding all the ways to help my clients most efficiently and effectively reach their fitness goals. Throughout this research, I have come to find that much of the ‘big picture’ or ‘fundamental’ truths for fitness seem to be glossed over, neglected for the sake of defining and understanding the minutiae. In other words, we often seem to “miss the forest for the trees” when seeking or giving advice to make progress in the gym. Many of the popular articles in the news and on the internet are announcing the next ‘breakthrough technique’ or product that will ‘take your fitness to the next level’. While we are obsessed with finding the cutting-edge difference-makers, we forget that fundamentals are… well… just that: fundamental. The “tried and true” basics of how to be successful in the gym aren’t shiny, sexy, new, or exciting. So, while we frantically search for the next secret to make that 1% difference, we forget to attend to the other 99%. Among the chatter of all the ‘new research’, we seem to no longer hear about what has worked for so many people over so many years prior.  

In this three-part blog, I would like to introduce the major errors I see fitness enthusiasts make that prevent them from reaching their goals or their fullest potential. The intention with this article is that you use it as a sort of “checklist”. As you read through each bullet, consider whether any of these fundamental missteps sound familiar. If this is the case, addressing this factor could be the missing link in truly accelerating your health and fitness goals. With that, I also recommend treating this list in sequential order, working from top to bottom. If you find that there are multiple points you need to work on, start with the upper-most point (closest to #1) and work your way down. The higher on this list the point is, the more foundational it is. If you don’t resolve any issues in the earlier points, any changes in the later points will not have as significant of a result, if any. Whether you are starting a new fitness journey or have been working out consistently for years, this list is essential to ensuring you find a fitness plan that works for you. 

As this is a 3-Part blog post, be sure to read part 1 prior to moving on to this section, which you can find here.

Error #3: You aren’t chasing your dreams.

Now that you’ve chosen workouts that you love and have goals that align with these activities, it’s time to start focusing on how to continue fueling yourself for these activities. Points #1 and #2 focus on the fitness activities and goals we choose, because this sets the course for our fitness journey. If we are consistently active and working towards goals we care about, we have the foundation needed to make progress. From here, we need to consider other factors in our days and lives that will either accelerate or hinder our fitness progress.

There are many different variables that may come to mind when I say that recovery is critical to making fitness progress. Many health and fitness experts would agree that the quality of your recovery matters more than the actual effort made in they gym when it comes to making progress. This point should not be overlooked, so read it again if you need to. It is very intentional that this point is the very next fundamental to follow up your activity and goal selection.

Don’t believe that your recovery is just as important, if not more so, than your effort in the gym? Consider this: all forms of exercise are a physical stressors. The common lesson many of us receive regarding how a muscle grows and gets stronger stands as an excellent example. As you may have heard, damage is done to a muscle as it works. This damage is known is “microtraumas” or “microtears”. When the body repairs this damage, it is supposed to grow back bigger and stronger. While this is an oversimplification of the process, at its core it is true. Considering this, you may realize how significant recovery is. Without the recovery or repair process, the muscle simply remains damaged. In this case, you’re not just delaying progress but possibly causing regression. It is for this reason that significant progress in any fitness endeavor demands adequate rest and recovery.

With that in mind, we must address sleep. Sleep is the cornerstone of our health. Without adequate sleep, nearly all your health and fitness efforts will be more like an uphill battle. During sleep, your body and brain are restored and repaired from a full, exhausting day. The more you miss out on this opportunity to reset and recover, the less motivated you’ll feel and the less energy you will have for nearly anything else.

Unfortunately, there are many different things that can interfere with our ability to get a good night of sleep. Stress, blue light from screens, caffeine intake, or any number of factors can seriously hinder our ability to drift off to dreamland. Feel like your sleep needs some improvements? Check out this link to find tips for improving your sleep from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Error #4: You make it to the gym, but you aren’t present for the workout.

At this point, you are certain that you have picked forms of exercise you enjoy, you have set goals that keep you coming back to these activities to seek progress, and you are getting enough sleep to recover from all the hard work you put in. This next rule focuses on your mindset in the gym. More specifically, we are concerned with the principle of prioritizing ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’. In other words, it doesn’t matter how long you spend in the gym, but how intentional you are about working towards your goals. To put it bluntly, nobody ever hit their fitness goals staring at their phone. Distractions during our workouts diminish the quality of our workouts and the benefits we will receive from them. Among the top offenders for distractions: phones and stress.

If you find yourself getting sucked into your phone during your usual time for fitness, it may be time to find ways to distance yourself from the phone. If that isn’t a possibility (perhaps you listen to your music through your phone or need to be close to your phone for work), it may be worth at least exploring options to reduce distractions. For some, putting the phone on ‘airplane mode’ or silencing notifications is enough. For others, it may mean putting the phone in the locker or the gym bag. Can’t quite part with your phone during a workout? Try to at least leave it on the other side of the gym. This way, you may be less tempted to pick it up as often.

If you find stress is the main culprit distracting you during your workouts, you’re not alone. Many people struggle with balancing busy schedules and various responsibilities, more than a few of which tend to creep into our mind during our fitness time. In this scenario, having routines or strategies to create a ‘mind-shift’ into fitness mode can be very helpful. Sometimes it may be as simple as having a favorite playlist of music to blast in your headphones. Other times, it may require some creativity. Having a routine or ritual to your workout can help you get into the proper headspace. Some people feel they need an activity that is mentally challenging and stimulating, like boxing or playing basketball with someone else, to pull them out of their headspace and into the present. Other people sometimes find that changing the time of the day that they workout can be a simple fix to stress-levels and distractions. For some, the morning workout is too stress-inducing to squeeze into an already-packed morning schedule. For others, the evening workout is too difficult, as they still have thoughts from work swirling in their head and find they can’t focus. Finding your sweet-spot may take some trial-and-error.

Still feel that you’re struggling to manage your stress and finding that it is hindering your fitness goals? Contact a Wellness Coach here at Western to see if we can help you find effective stress-reducing strategies!

Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!

What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.

In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.

Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.

Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.

  1. Start with small, short-term goals. They’re easier to achieve and create momentum for the next one.
  2. Set reasonable goals and write them down.
  3. Create a schedule. Come to the gym on a set schedule. Consistent routines are key to forming a habit.
  4. Utilize Western’s registered dietitian! He has expert knowledge that can help set you up for success. (Learn more about Tad at westernracquet.com/wellness-coaching)
  5. Speak with a personal trainer. It’s not just a workout you’d be looking for; it is a partner who holds you accountable, creates a personalized workout plan to match your goals and lifestyle, and makes sure you exercise with correct form to minimize risk of injury. In my experience, nothing derails progress like pain and uncertainty. Speak with one of our great trainers to make sure you’re moving in correct movement patterns and using a plan that makes sense for you! (Visit westernracquet.com/personal-training to get matched with the right trainers for you!)
  6. Go to group classes. Western's group fitness classes have a reputation for being fun, energetic, and taught by excellent, passionate instructors. A team dynamic is very motivating and going each week will give you a set schedule. And even better? There are over 40 group fitness classes at Western that are completely FREE with your membership! (Visit westernracquet.com/group-fitness to see a full schedule of classes.)
  7. Workout with a friend. You hold each other accountable and push each other. Also, people tend not to skip workouts because they don’t want to let their friend down. Tip: Choose a friend who pushes you or has similar goals as you. You'll be that much more motivated!
  8. Keep your weekly goals in a visible place like your refrigerator or somewhere you’ll see it daily.
  9. Do you have to make dramatic, life altering changes? No. The key is small changes and moderation. Remember to take things slow!
  10. Do what you like to do. Do you hate running? Don’t do it. Does the thought of hopping on the stairmill for an hour give you anxiety? Don’t do it. Do you like walking your dog outside in the evening? Do that! Do what you like because you’re more likely to continue doing it. Fitness isn’t a cookie cutter lifestyle. Do what you enjoy so it becomes fun.
  11. Most importantly, ask yourself "why" and then keep asking "why". Get to the bare root of why you have this goal. If you ask yourself "why" enough times and it triggers an emotional response, you’ve found your reason. When the going gets tough, you can always look back on that core reason to help keep you motivated.

 

Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!

“The only bad workout is the one that never happened.”

“No pain, no gain.”

“Go hard or go home.”

We seem to have an endless supply of motivational quotes designed to keep you pushing your limits. The message in all avenues of life is clear; if you aren’t working your butt off, you’re wasting your time. Particularly in the fast-paced culture we currently live in, the perspective seems to be that you need to be busy or productive every hour of the day, otherwise you would be considered ‘lazy’.

Right now, I’m begging you to question this perspective. As healthy, well-rounded human beings, we are meant to do so much more than just ‘work’. I’d like to bring to your attention the nine dimensions of wellness. These dimensions include cultural, environmental, social, emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual, occupational, and financial. To account for all dimensions of wellness, we need balance in life. A balanced diet can stand as a metaphor for our overall life balance. Shocker that the dietitian would relate the topic to nutrition, right? Hear me out on this, though. If you only eat the same one or two things every day, you are bound to miss out on valuable vitamins or minerals. Eventually, you could become deficient in a nutrient and develop serious health issues. In the same way, filling your days with only work, for example, will leave you deficient in other areas of wellness. For example, a workaholic usually becomes “socially deficient”, missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with friends and family.

I often see this same predicament unfold in dedicated athletes and gym-goers. This mentality of “no days off” drives the high-achievers to adopt the approach of “more is always better.” In this scenario, three days a week of working out will always be better than one. In the same way, five days will always be better than three, seven better than five, and twice a day every day is better than seven times a week. As both a dietitian and personal trainer, I want you to know that this is not the case. Furthermore, you should know that walking the path of “more is always better” is a slippery slope, particularly in the fitness world. Long-distance runners that don’t get adequate rest often develop shin splints. Weightlifters that don’t get adequate rest often develop strains or tendonitis in the overworked muscles. Athletes that don’t get adequate rest are often much more susceptible to major injuries. To be able to push the body, you must nurture the body. If you’re chronically skipping rest-days, lacking sleep, and under-fueling by not eating enough, you’re not going to see the results you really want. On the other hand, if you take care of your body, it will take care of you.

To take a broader view on this, how do we learn when to “step on the gas” or “step on the brakes” in different avenues of our life? I’ll be the first to admit it’s not easy. Striking this balance in life requires that we become attuned to the different dimensions of wellness in our life. It takes practice to intuitively find what you need, from day-to-day or moment-to-moment, to truly be well. Perhaps the first, and most important, step is to practice mindfulness in various aspects of your life. Allow time for reflection to see how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically during different times of your day. Let’s walk through an example. For instance, let’s say, one day at work, you were stuck in a late work meeting. Once you are finally on your way home, much later than usual, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You eventually arrive home, only to find an email from your boss stating that the deadline for a big project has been moved up to tomorrow. As a result, you continue working late into the evening. The next morning, your alarm clock goes off for your usual, early-morning workout. With getting much less sleep than usual, every ounce of your being screams out to turn off the alarm and sleep in. In the same breath, you fear the guilt and sense of laziness that arises from skipping a workout. What is really happening at this moment is a conflicting mental dialogue. Your attuned self is telling you that you haven’t gotten enough sleep and you should continue resting. At the same time, the ever-prevalent media and cultural messaging that says rest is “lazy” is overpowering your attuned self and using guilt to push your limits. Am I saying that sleeping in is always the better alternative to working out? Not quite. I’m simply suggesting you take time to investigate the motivations behind some of the decisions you make in a day and make the final decisions that will ultimately better your overall wellbeing. In this same scenario, you might rationalize that you don’t have the energy to get your usual workout in, but you might still go to the gym for some other forms of self-care. Maybe you’d walk on the treadmill instead of your usual, intense workout. Maybe you would take time to stretch, foam-roll, sit in the sauna, or simply get cryotherapy and a smoothie to kick-start your day.

True wellness involves being critical of the “healthy” choices we make every day and analyze them in the context of what we truly want and need. Wellness is so much more than striving to out-work, out-do, out-anything anyone else. Wellbeing has many different looks because everyone has a very different lifestyle with very different needs. With this article, I hope it helps all my fellow workaholics out there take a moment to reassess their current perspective and consider what they can do to care for themselves just a little bit better.

Feel like you could use some help rediscovering a lifestyle that has balance in all aspects of your wellbeing? Consider how Wellness Coaching at Western could help you! Email tad.taggart@westernracquet.com to learn more about Wellness Coaching and what we offer!

 

Wake up, take the dogs out, feed them, start coffee, get lunches ready, get dressed, leave for work. Get to work and open, serve customers, have meetings, chat with co-workers and members, get prep list completed, place orders. Get home, take care of the dogs, get dinner ready, clean up around the house, get dishes done, maybe cut the lawn, chat with hubby, prep anything for next day, and finally go to bed. Whew! The day is over!

Does that craziness sound familiar to you? Our days get packed full of work, family, chores, cooking, kids, friends, etc., and often before we even get home we are burnt out for the day. How often do we take a pause during our day to give ourselves some time to just stop and take a breath, taking the time to reflect on the positive and the challenging events of the day?

For many of us, personal time or self-care has been conditioned in our minds as selfish. What is it about slowing down and caring for ourselves that makes us feel guilty? Why is it so easy for us to say yes to anyone and everyone, except ourselves?

In the book, Dare to Lead by researcher and author Brene Brown, she discusses what she calls “the dirty yes”. This is when we say yes to a request but are internally saying no because we would rather let ourselves drown instead of possibly disappointing someone. So many of us could benefit from learning to advocating for ourselves and getting comfortable with saying, “You know, I would love to but at this time I just cannot help out.” There is nothing wrong with not overfilling your plate and not being able to give that sliver of time you do have to yourself instead of trying to cram in a task for someone else.

Self-care activities can be as easy and mindless as hiding in the bathroom for 5 minutes or sitting in your car with some quiet time (my personal favorite), to getting in an intense killer workout or going to a calming yoga or meditation class. Whatever it is you decide to do for you will be right for you, because you are giving your mind time to check out for a bit.

If you are unsure of how you will find this time, try killing two birds with one stone. Mindful.org gives some ideas like walking to work (you are outside with fresh air, being more environmentally friends, and saving and wear and tear on your vehicle plus getting in physical activity), arriving at work/appointment early, and using that time for whatever you need, after dropping the kiddos off at practice walk at the facility or outside of it, and lastly, if possible, take your lunch break offsite/outside alone.

Self-care is not a one-size-fits all concept. It will be different for you and everyone you meet. For some, they may just need a 1-minute breathing activity to get grounded and continue with the day. For another, it could consist of 5 minutes in the morning, 5 minutes at lunch, and 5 minutes before bed. Some may need a whole day to recharge their batteries and feel ready to take on life’s challenges again. Practicing self-care activities are easy because you can do whatever you need to but continuing to practice self-care may be challenging and will take time to master and add that into your list of daily activities.

Let’s all try to start taking a couple of minutes of the day to give yourself grace, time, and rejuvenation. Be willing to ask for help or to say no if you are already overloaded or feeling like you are slowly sinking.  Encourage yourself to find the time to practice self-care for yourself, your family, and your career so you can fully bring out the best of yourself. If you are interested in more about self-care take a look at the links provided that explain what is self-care, self-care activities, and why we should all practice them.

https://www.mindful.org/the-embarrassing-truth-of-self-care/

https://www.mindful.org/the-five-rules-for-self-care-in-politically-charged-times/

https://www.mindful.org/transforming-self-care-into-a-passionate-movement/

https://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/how-to-find-time-for-yourself.html

Here is to us all finding a little time in each day and starting to see that we are worth self-care and self-love.

“Summer shred” is a common phrase or phenomenon around the gym. If you aren’t familiar with this term, it is otherwise known as working on the “beach-ready body”. This pursuit often pushes gymgoers to hop on a treadmill or elliptical and pound away for hour upon sweaty hour. The belief is that burning enough calories will whittle away the fat, shedding pounds and revealing a physique akin to those of Greek statues. Unfortunately, it’s more common than not for many ‘summer shredders’ to burn endless calories and still not end up looking like Michelangelo’s David. If the science says that staying in a calorie deficit helps to burn fat and lose weight, why does it still feel like all that running on the treadmill is really going nowhere?

If this resonates with you, the source of your frustrations may be boiled down to an observation of human biology and metabolism known as “Setpoint Theory”. This is likely a phenomenon you, yourself, have experienced but maybe didn’t realized has a name or scientific explanation. While this theory can be explained through an intricate interplay of metabolism, genes, and hormones, I feel this theory is best represented by a rubber band. Imagine you have a rubber band wrapped around an immovable stake in the ground. That stake is your body’s current “setpoint” weight. This is the weight that your body would prefer to be at, based on the many interactions of your physiology. The rubber band is your genes trying to always pull you back to your setpoint weight. Your pull on the rubber band, wrapped around this stake, is like your efforts to change your weight. It is true that you can pull and stretch the band, but note that rubber bands become much harder to pull the more they are stretched. In the same way, your weight is malleable, but only to a point. Truly, your weight will move more easily when it is closer to your setpoint weight. As you continue to stretch that rubber band, it becomes more and more difficult to pull the further from the stake it is. In the same way, your weight becomes harder and harder to budge the further it is pushed from the setpoint. Your efforts to ‘stretch the rubber band’ are reflective, usually, of dieting and exercise to try and lose weight. The more you slave away on the treadmill and lose pounds, the more the weight-loss slows to a crawl and, eventually, a dead-stop. In this instance, you’ve pushed your limit on how far you can truly push your weight from your setpoint. Further, what happens to the rubber band once you release the effort to stretch it? It snaps back toward the original length, looped around the metal stake. This is the same with our efforts to diet and exercise to burn calories. Once all the efforts stop, the body settles back towards the setpoint weight. Note, this theory applies to weight/muscle gain, as well.

So what do we do? Do we despair in the hopeless efforts to change our weight, only to have our genes snap us right back to our setpoint? Not quite. There are various lifestyle and dietary factors that can actually make it easier to move away from our setpoint (and stay there). Some choices, like eating fresh fruits and vegetables, managing stress, and engaging in exercise that supports muscle mass and a healthy metabolism, can all serve to reduce your body's pull back to the setpoint. Some lifestyle factors can even effectively move your setpoint! In the case of our rubber band, our changes in nutrition and fitness are like swapping out our current rubber band for a much thinner one. In this way, the pullback to our setpoint (the stake) is much weaker. In other words, your weight change goals not only become easier to achieve but also more sustainable. These changes often require that you try things you might have never thought to try or develop habits you might have never even considered. For you it could mean trying meditation, cooking a new recipe, attending a new yoga class, having a trainer guide you through a new workout plan, or getting nutritional guidance from a professional.

Don't waste energy and time pulling on that thick rubber band pulling you back to your setpoint. Choose a new approach and swap in a thinner rubber band for greater success in your health and fitness goals.

What is S.A.D.?

A type of depression that corresponds to the changes in the seasons. For most people, this starts in fall and continues throughout the winter months. This usually starts and ends at the same time each year when the seasons change. As the season progresses, your symptoms may progress as well.

Seasonal affective disorder occurs more often in women than men; also, it occurs more often in younger adults than in older adults. But it can affect anybody at any stage in their life!

What may increase your risk of S.A.D.?

Causes of S.A.D.

Unfortunately, there is not a specific cause, but there are a few factors that can cause S.A.D.

Possible Signs and Symptoms of S.A.D.

If you feel like you want to harm yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

We all have days when we are feeling down, but if you notice this happening days at a time, go see you doctor. Treatment can help the symptoms from progressing.

Take control of your mood and fight the S.A.D.!

 

With so much uncertainty in the world right now, you might be more aware of your stress levels now more than ever. The world is simultaneously going through a global pandemic and significant social and political upheaval, plus many of us are still dealing with big changes in lifestyle, like working from home, facilitating virtual learning for kids, and continuing public health precautions like limiting our interaction with friends and family which can take its toll on us mentally and emotionally.

Stress is inevitable, even in the best of times, but how you look at stress determines how it will affect you. Take control of the situations in your life you have control over, find what works best for you, and find a stress management routine to create a healthy relationship with the stressors in your life.

Here are some healthy ways to cope with stress:

We will always have some sort of stress in our lives but learning effective strategies to adapt to those stress levels will help create a positive outcome for you.

If you feel like you need a little extra help managing stress in your life, consider Health Coaching as an option to get you on the path to more healthy stress management! Learn more about Western Health Coaching at westernracquet.com/health-coaching.

We tend to focus so much on our physical fitness but do you ever focus on your mental fitness? Your brain needs exercise just like your muscles do. You can become more mentally strong, healthy, and fit at any age! You just need time, practice, and consistency. Here are 10 ways to start focusing on your mental fitness today!

Remember that not every thought is true or helpful.
Our beliefs, past experiences, and feelings are an invisible filter that influences how we interpret and experience the world. We don’t have to accept every thought we have. Just because we think it doesn’t mean it’s true. A different way of seeing the world is possible if you open your mind.

Train your mind to concentrate.
Meditation is a great way to strengthen your ability to focus and tune out distractions. Some other ways to concentrate are cleaning, conscious breathing, coloring, yoga, listening to music, walking, journaling, and dancing.

Notice when you are continuously thinking the same thoughts.
When you catch yourself in the downward spiral of thoughts, bring yourself back to the present moment. These thoughts might happen when you’re stressed, worried, disappointed, angry, or nervous. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts of overthinking and self-criticism. Use your senses to bring you back to the present moment with what you can see, hear, feel, smell, and touch.

Rest your mind.
Your mind needs to reset and recharge, just like your body does after your workout. Some may think rest equates to lazy, but getting enough rest can increase your focus, creativity, and energy to be more productive and efficient. Find something to rest your mind and give yourself a break from your everyday stressors, whether it is reading a book, crafting, or a board game.

Tune out the noise.
Digital devices are everywhere! We have notifications, messages, social media, and streaming platforms at our fingertips, which can pull us away from what’s important in life. Minimize your push notifications on your phone and practice being in the moment more.

Prioritize sleep.
Sleep is important for your body and brain to repair and recover during the night. If you want to show up the best you, get more sleep at night. It will help your memory, mood, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Create a routine.
Creating new habits can take time, so finding a routine that works best for your lifestyle, will help you stay consistent. Start by scheduling your habits into your day until you don’t have to and they become a routine.

Let go.
Accept that you cannot control everything in life. Focus on what you can control and let go of the other stuff. Be kind to yourself if you struggle with letting go, too.

Listen to the voice within.
Listening your instincts and gut feeling is a great form of self-love and you can build a relationship of trust with yourself. Sometimes we ignore these feelings because our friends and family can influence your thoughts. Stick with what you think is right.

Take a deep breath.
Deep breathing is a powerful tool to use when you are stressed, nervous, and upset. Slowing down and deepening your breath can calm the mind, reduce blood pressure, improve memory, and settle your emotions.

  1. Take a long, slow, deep inhale through the nose while your belly, ribcage, and chest expand.
  2. Exhale through the nose feeling your belly, ribcage, and chest relax.
  3. Repeat this cycle for as long as you would like.

Since 1949, the month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness. Mental Health is essential to everyone’s overall health and wellbeing. It is especially important during a time like this. According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

We all face challenges in our lives that can impact our mental health, and everyone experiences something different. Mental health conditions are more common than you may think. Some people don’t like to talk about them or might be scared to. But you are not alone. Every year millions of Americans face a mental health condition. 1 in 5 US adults will experience a mental illness during their lifetime. You are not broken, and nothing is wrong with you. Recovery is possible.

Just like you need to put forth an effort to maintain your physical health, the same goes for your mental health. You must continue to practice establishing strong mental health because there are so many ways life takes a toll on our emotional well-being.

Reaching out is not a sign of weakness. Our social side craves companionship, so it is key to have someone you trust that you can open up to. Phone calls, video chat, and social media are great ways to connect during times when we aren't able to be face-t0-face. Confide in someone who is a good listener that won’t interrupt, judge, or criticize you.

Treat yourself like you would treat others. Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid self-criticism. Make time for your favorite activities and hobbies.

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy. How you think about yourself can impact how you feel, so use words that promote feelings of positivity, self-worth, and personal power.

Being mindful of the present moment allows you to let go of negative or difficult emotions from something weighing you down. It also brings awareness by paying attention to physical sensations, sounds, smells, and tastes to what you are doing.

Taking care of your physical wellness will have a positive impact on your mental and emotional wellness. Get 7-9 hours of sleep, drink plenty of water, eat nutritious meals, and move daily!

Make your mental health a priority. Reach out to someone to talk. And remember to be kind to yourself and be kind to others. You don’t know what they are going through.

Earth Day is celebrated annually on the 22nd of April. And this year marks 50 years of Earth Day! In 1970 the idea for the first Earth Day was proposed to have one day to focus on the environment. Each action we do can either help or hurt our planet. Many unfortunate events happen to our Earth: using plastic, oil spills, pollution, and wiping out forests. And our Earth needs us now more than ever.

So, what can we do to create a greener living and reduce our carbon footprint?

Helping our Earth will allow us to be out in nature and enjoy the great benefits of it. Whether you are walking, biking, gardening, or cleaning up the yard, you are still getting the Vitamin D boost from the sun. Getting outside helps improve your mood and cheer you up. Do you ever notice yourself smiling when you step outside on a beautiful sunny day? Nature also decreases anxiety, depression, and stress, while reducing blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension. This is why we all need to take action to keep our Earth healthy, so we can stay healthy!

Earth Day should not just be celebrated one day a year. We should always focus on how we can better the Earth because one day is not enough. No matter where you are, you can make a difference. Our planet is fragile, so it’s important to protect it. Together, we can save the Earth.

“Let the clean air blow the cobwebs from your body. Air is medicine.”
Lillian Russell (1862-1922), quoted in Reader's Digest, March 1922

April is National Stress Awareness Month and National Humor Month. What a perfect pair!

National Stress Awareness month began in 1992 to bring attention to the health risks associated with stress and strategies for coping with it. Stress is not always a bad thing and we also cannot get rid of it completely. It is a normal reaction to everyday pressures we face, but it can become unhealthy when it upsets your day-to-day functioning.

There are several types of stress we face at different times in our lives. Everyone has their own unique stressors, and everyone handles stress in different ways. So, what works for one person might not work for the next.

Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress

Acute Stress Chronic Stress
Occurs in response to a short-term stressor Occurs when stressors don’t let up
Car accident or argument with a spouse/friend/coworker Examples can vary widely: toxic relationship to financial issues
Responds well to coping techniques Everyone responds differently
Can pass quickly Can damage your mental and physical health

 

Eustress vs. Distress

Eustress – Positive Stress Distress – Negative Stress
Relationships/Marriage Separation/Divorce
Work promotion/raise Job change/Unemployment
Children/Grandchildren/Nieces/Nephews Death
Taking a vacation/Traveling Financial issues
Money Losing contact with loved ones
New friends Hospitalization/Injury/Illness
Retirement Legal problems
Learning a new hobby Fears
Personal achievement Worrying about future events

 

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Impacts of Stress

Short Term Impacts Long Term Impacts
Tense muscles Decreased immune system
Headaches Type 2 Diabetes
Loss of appetite High Blood Pressure
Short temper Heart Disease
Digestive issues Anxiety
Difficulty sleeping Depression

How to Manage Stress

 

National Humor Month

National Humor Month was founded in 1976 to utilize the value of humor to improve the quality of our lives and health. Humor is a therapeutic stress reliever, so it’s no coincidence that April begins with April Fool’s Day. This month is a time to remind ourselves to not take everything so seriously and to laugh more!

Laughter is the best medicine. Have you heard that saying before? There is evidence that laughter can improve one’s health and reduce stress. Strong laughter may even bring on tears or moderate muscle pain.

Benefits of Humor

Incorporate More Humor in Your Life

Think about how you deal with your stress now. Hopefully you learned some new techniques you can fit into your life to help you better manage. Enjoy April and try to make it funny and less stressful! ?

Even when you are not intentionally exercising, you are still burning calories. Whether you are folding laundry or sitting in a chair jiggling your legs. That is NEAT.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy you expend for everything you do that does not involve sleeping, eating, or exercise. NEAT is just one of the four components that makes up your metabolism. Exercise is essential for great health, but so is daily movement throughout the other 23 hours of the day. Our body is designed to move, yet physical inactivity is the 4th leading risk factor for mortality.

Even if you exercise daily, but the remainder of the day you are sedentary, you put yourself at risk for serious health conditions. Are you aware of how many hours a day you spend sitting? The average American spends 12+ hours sitting each day. Being sedentary can involve time spent working at a desk, driving, playing video games, and watching TV.
Most people spend majority of their day at work. So how can you increase your NEAT during the workday, especially if you have a sedentary job? If possible, change your mode of transportation by walking or biking to work. Take the stairs to the 3rd floor of your office building instead of the elevator. Walking meetings are another way to boost creativity and move throughout the day. Move the garbage can out of your office, so you must get up from your desk to throw out trash or recycling. Lastly, if you have a standing desk, try standing more throughout the day than sitting.

Other NEAT examples:
• Taking the stairs over the escalator/elevator
• Parking the farthest from the building
• Performing yard work
• Playing with your kids/pet
• Cleaning the house
• Get up during commercials to do something around the house
• Pace around when you are on the phone
• Fidgeting

When you chose to stand up, sit less, and move more there are great benefits for your health, mind, and body.

HEALTH
• Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease Enhances brain power Increases circulation and blood flow
• Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes Increases energy Improves posture
• Reduced risk of early mortality Increases ability to focus Decreases pain from sitting
• Reduced risk of cancer Increases productivity Strengthens muscles
• Reduced risk of osteoporosis Improves mood Supports bone health

MIND
• Enhances brain power
• Increase energy
• Increases ability to focus
• Increases productivity
• Improves mood

BODY
• Increases circulation and blood flow
• Improves posture
• Decreases pain from sitting
• Strengthens muscles
• Supports bone health

NEAT is a great addition to your exercise routine that doesn’t take time away from your home or family. You could even involve your family members and friends with you! Increasing NEAT throughout the day can assist with weight loss by burning more calories over time due to an increase in daily expenditure. It may be more sustainable to make small changes in your day than finding an extra hour to do more cardio. Try increasing your NEAT activity each day and assess how you feel physically and mentally.

National Sleep Awareness Month is observed in March annually. This is a great opportunity to stop and think about your sleep habits and how to improve them. Also, the second Sunday in March is Daylight Savings where we get to “spring ahead” and advance our clocks one hour. “Spring ahead” and “fall back” may affect you more than you know, so it is important to be aware of your sleep and your health.

How have you been sleeping lately? How much sleep are you getting? What is the quality of your sleep? How is your sleep, or lack of, impacting your well-being?

Getting enough quality sleep is not a luxury. It is something you must prioritize to care for your body.

Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night and getting less may pose serious consequences to your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers insufficient sleep a public health epidemic because there is an increased risk for developing other health concerns if you are not getting the sleep your body needs.

Not getting enough sleep is linked to many chronic diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Poor sleep can lead to vehicle crashes and mistakes at work, such as injury. According to the CDC, people who reported sleeping six hours or less per night were significantly more likely to fall asleep while driving than those who reported sleeping seven to nine hours nightly.

 

Benefits of Healthy Sleep

 

What Happens During Sleep

Sleep is not just a time for you to rest, it is a productive process for your body. About every 90 minutes, your body alternates through a pattern of REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. It repeats that cycle, while your body is working to restore energy, remove waste products from cells, grow and repair tissues, increase blood supply to muscles, and produce and release hormones. When you don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, your body cannot effectively repair itself, and that is when health conditions arise.

 

Sleep Tips

 

Sleep Diary

If you feel like sleep is impacting your health in a negative way, try tracking your sleep to see the trends that can be improved. Seeing your trends on paper can be a powerful way to make incremental changes for your health. Here are some items related to your sleep to track for 7-21 days:

Complete in Morning

Complete at the End of the Day

If you are still having trouble sleeping, speak with your doctor or find a sleep professional.

Random Acts of Kindness Day is Monday, February 17th and kicks off a week-long celebration for Random Acts of Kindness Week! This day and week are celebrated nationwide to encourage others to engage in a random act of kindness. It doesn’t take much to be kind, but it can make a huge difference in someone else’s life. Random acts of kindness do not have to be extravagant. Something as simple as smiling at someone, holding the door open, or letting someone cut in front of you in a traffic jam are all ways to be kind to others.

The benefits of a single act of kindness aren’t going to last if you aren't continuously being kind. This is a practice that you can work into your daily routine. Here are some benefits of engaging in acts of kindness regularly:

Kindness is teachable and contagious. One act of kindness can create a positive experience for everyone who witnessed it.  Others are more likely to “pay it forward” when they witness an act of kindness. The people you’ve helped will help other people. And those other people will help even more people. And those random acts of kindness can start a chain reaction and spread. Help turn the world kind.

It all starts with one person.

YOU.

What will you do to be kind today?

 

Western Employee Random Acts of Kindness

 

I asked employees at Western Racquet to share a random act of kindness experience of their own. What random act of kindness have you done for someone? What random act of kindness have you received from someone? What random act of kindness have you witnessed? Here are some responses from our staff:

 

“When I was pregnant a bunch of the evening tennis ladies league groups threw me a surprise baby shower!” – Sophie B.

 

“The week my mom passed away I went to the store and the women in front of me was having issues with her credit card not working, so she couldn’t pay for her items. She left the store and I anonymously paid for her items, so when she came back to pick them up and pay, it was covered.” – Paul B.

 

“When I was at Chipotle, I bought the food for the person in line behind me.” – Ryan O.

 

“Many years ago, I had surgery followed by a week of recovery time in the hospital.  On the 3rd day of my recovery, feeling better, but bedraggled, a friend unexpectedly came in carrying a small duffle bag.  As she took out the contents of the bag, it became obvious that she had come to wash my hair. Even after all these passing years, I still remember how much better I felt after her visit and her simple, kind, unsolicited act.” – Bonnie G.

 

“I saw someone put extra change in a parking meter when they were leaving, so the next person to park there didn’t have to pay at all or not put as much money in the meter.” – Alexis AF.

 

“My husband said we were going for a surprise drive, and we ended up going to Milwaukee. When we got there, he told me to look up at the sky at this blimp and said, “that’s for you!” It had a sign on the blimp, but I don’t remember what it said. He ended up driving me to the Milwaukee airport and surprised me with my parents there since I haven’t seen them in a long time!” – Amy X.

 

“Someone was crying, and I asked them what was wrong and offered them a hug.” – Alex A.

 

“Last St. Patrick’s Day, my sister and I completed a long hike in Southern Wisconsin, on the Ice Age Trail. I had the 5-hour hike plus the three-hour drive back home to think about what I wanted to eat for dinner as a reward. When I got back to Green Bay, I treated myself to the Union Hotel for a big, juicy steak dinner. I went by myself because no one was free to go with me. While eating, I noticed an elderly gentleman eating his steak alone as well. I stealthily asked the waitress to please add his bill to mine and I would pay for it. (I often pay for the car behind me at Starbucks or at a fast-food restaurant, but this was the first time I had ever paid for an expensive meal like this.) I was still feeling amazing from my hike and it made me feel even better to treat this gentleman, even though I had never met him.

I told Danielle about this random act of kindness while getting a facial treatment. Here’s the weird part, she had already heard about this, but didn't know it was me!  That gentleman happened to be a relative of someone Danielle knows, she had randomly been told by this friend that he was so touched that someone had bought his meal.

My story came back full circle and made me feel tremendously grateful and proud that I was able to touch someone’s life in this little way. Such a simple and quick little thing to do and the result was making a stranger feel so good.” – Erin P.

 

This was just a small sample of the many responses about random acts of kindness I received from our staff! Some employees wanted to keep their acts of kindness a secret! What random acts of kindness will you do this week? ?

Would you let your cellphone battery die? What about letting your vehicle run out of gas? Why is it that we usually care for our valuables more than we do ourselves?

When life gets busy, it may be hard to fit everything into your day, especially self-care. Trying to excel in your career, maintain a social life, eat nutritious meals, drink enough water, sleep, exercise, and care for your family. The list could go on and on. But how can you find that balance in your life by making time for yourself?

Self-care is just that. It is deliberately taking time for yourself, knowing when to take care of yourself to be able to take care of others, and protecting your wellbeing and happiness during periods of stress. Self-care may seem selfish, but it is not! It is crucial for your overall wellbeing. This is not something you should force yourself to do either or something you do not enjoy doing.

Why is it beneficial to engage in self-care?

Self-care is not a one-size-fits-all approach because each person has their own favorite activities. Here are a variety of self-care practices that may help you get an idea of what will work best for you:

How do you come up with your self-care practice? Find what makes you happy, what you enjoy doing, what you can fit into your day, and figure out how much time you have. Self-care practices can vary from person to person based on how busy their life is and their likes and dislikes. You should have enough options that vary in time because some days you may have more time than others.

Where do you start?

To begin this new decade, start doing something just for you to improve your overall wellbeing and quality of life!

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