• How to Get the Perfect Shut-eye (Sans Medication)

    ZZzzzzz

    Did you know that the average person spends a third of her lifetime sleeping?

    Pretty fascinating, right? Scientists think so too! In fact, many devote their life’s research to the study and understanding of this mandatory routine. In simple terms, it puzzles them why sleep–or really, the lack of it–leads to exhaustion, irritation, and lethargy.

    There’s no arguing that a proper night’s rest is vital for a productive day ahead. But, as much as you may want to try a quick, guaranteed fix of eight hours or more by popping a sleeping pill, reaching for melatonin is not always the best first option.

    Turn off the lights!

    If you’re having a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep, try wearing a sleeping mask! Trust me, the silky ones are more than just a glamorous fashion statement. Should you stir ever so slightly in the middle of the night, these nifty light blockers will prevent you from fully waking up.

    Not a fan of wrapping cloth over your eyes? No worries! Black out blinds are another great way to ensure a full night’s rest.

    Moderate Your Caffeine Intake.

    While there are indisputable benefits to caffeine–hello, productivity–a cup of coffee or black tea before bed is not always the best idea. Try to kick your late night habit by enjoying your liquid life well in the morning or early afternoon.

    Work, work, work (at your desk).

    Many of us are guilty of answering emails and finishing work in bed, myself included. Even though it’s super comfortable use our bedrooms as a pseudo office space, doing so can often disorient our minds and bodies. For that reason, I recommend leaving your cellphones and tablets outside when preparing for bed. Scrolling through your social media feed as you drift to sleep negatively impacts your sleep more than you think!

    Exercise, just do it.

    Besides the general physical and psychological benefits of exercise, breaking a sweat can also improve your sleep! People who work out tend to fall asleep faster than those who don’t. If you do high intensity exercises in the morning finish off with yoga or a couple stretches in the evening before bedtime, I guarantee a very sound sleep.

    Quit napping!

    Even though napping might seem ideal after a busy day at work or lazy Saturday afternoon lounging on the couch, a quick shut-eye, should you choose to take one, will actually interfere with your sleep at night. Next time you find yourself dozing off, try drinking a cold glass or water or engaging in a stimulating conversation.

     

  • 6 Ways to Stop Anxiety and Stress

    Saying Bye Bye Bye to the Butterflies

    As women, we often feel pressured to “do it all!” Whether it’s the endless to-do lists to get through at work, the pile of household chores waiting at home, or the long list of events we had our hearts set on attending this summer, we manage–or, at the very least, attempt–to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

    Despite our superhuman personas (because really, there’s no denying the existence of our well-deserved, albeit invisible, capes), our drives come at both a physical and physiological price. A result of wearing one too many hats, our stress levels can skyrocket and our bodies can act out.

    I recently discussed five telltale signs of when your nerves may be getting the best of you. The question, however, still remains:

    How do we tackle our anxiety so that we can continue to move forward in a healthy way?

    1. ACCEPT

    When your stress levels are at an all-time high, it is important to educate yourself on the physical and psychological signs of anxiety. It is vital you adopt the “this too shall pass” mentality.

    There’s no denying how uncomfortable and unbearable our body’s reaction to stress is. We can, however, treat that never-ending feeling of anxiety by first accepting it for what it is, and then by acknowledging it as a sign for us to slow down.

    2. SLEEP

    Our sleep patterns are usually disrupted when we become overwhelmed. Know that a fair indication of this can manifest in sleeping more or sleeping less.

    The average human being should be sleeping approximately six to eight hours a night to function productively the next day. You can improve both the amount and quality of your sleep by:

    • Eliminating your caffeine intake after 6 p.m. (or earlier if you are sensitive to caffeine)
    • Using ear plugs or an eye mask to help block out both sound and light
    • Installing blackout blinds
    • Running a warm bath to relax before snoozing
    • Eliminating screen time in bed

    3. EXERCISE

    Ideally, we should be getting 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. That translates to either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Exercise not only “keeps our bodies young” by reducing our risk of acquiring many diseases, but also helps reduce anxiety.

    Physical activity releases endorphins–chemicals in our brain that act as natural pain killers. Endorphins help alleviate the symptoms caused by stress and nervousness.

    Anxiety

    4. NOURISH

    “We are what we eat” is particularly true when our body translates that into our ability to cope under pressure. When we nourish our bodies with healthy, whole foods, we feel better about ourselves and more energized to deal with our nerves.

    • Limit or avoid caffeine to prevent feeling even more nervous or jittery
    • Stay hydrated! The mildest form of dehydration can severely impact your mood and ability to focus
    • Eat breakfast. It is important not to skimp on the most important meal of the day
    • Limit or avoid alcohol. Even though alcohol may be calming at first, the substance actually interferes with your ability sleep

    5. PREPARE

    When stressed, we are tempted to disengage and put assignments and tasks on the back burner. Instead of doing so, continue tackling whatever it is that you need to do by chipping at it little by little on a daily basis.

    Whether it an upcoming meeting or a family vacation, being prepared for the events ahead can help lower your anxiety levels. On that note, it is equally important to take time for yourself. You can do so by walking your dog, getting a massage, or watching your favorite TV show.

    Remember: You can only tackle so much when you’re not mindful of your own needs.

    6. BREATHE

    When anxious, our heart rates increase. In fact, your heart may seem like it’s about to leap out of your chest. The most effective way to lower your anxiety immediately is to lower your heart rate. You can do this by:

    • Finding a comfortable sitting position
    • Placing one hand over your belly and the other over your chest
    • Taking a deep breath through your nose without moving your chest
    • Breathing out by pursing your lips
    • And, repeating this exercise three to five times while taking time with each breath

     

    *If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, please seek or have them seek help from a physician. Know that no one is alone in their journey. 

     

    Feature image via John Shiremans Shattered Flowers series.

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