Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goals . . . Why they’re elusive—and why they don’t have to be

Before you know it, it will be 2010—a New Year, and more than likely you’ll be trying to start it by keeping the same old resolutions. Lose weight, quit smoking, become more active, get healthy . . . and the list goes on. And what does it take to keep all these resolutions? We’ll get to that. What it doesn’t take is more of what you probably already know, more information you already have, more lectures you’ve already heard or more self-help books just like those you’ve already read.

Problems aren’t necessarily solved just because you have information to solve them with—they are solved when you are motivated and take the actions you already know you need to take. Problems aren’t usually resolved by going for the easiest solution either, but by recognizing that the process probably won’t be easy—and at the same time, that it won’t be impossible.

To make better choices, you can’t be afraid to fail. We all sometimes fail at things we try, and sometimes we fail more than once—or twice. But armed with the right “toolkit” and the realistic expectation of success, we can take steps in a positive direction that will lead to that success. Once you are on that path, the fear of failure begins to fade.

And those initial successes will lead to the realization that those resolutions you make each year can lead to real change. Those “perks” you think you get from a bag of chips, drive-thru meal, plate of donuts or that cigarette (you get the picture) will be replaced by real perks—like more energy, lower cholesterol, less dependence on prescription medications, lost weight, better health (not to mention the power of knowing you have achieved what you set out to achieve).

When this happens—you will find you have not only been successful in keeping those resolutions—you are taking charge of your long-term health and wellness.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pre-Holiday Stress to Post-Holiday Stress – and Beyond

We’re eating too much. We’re spending too much. There’s no time. We’re not ready for the holidays. We have stress. And then, all of a sudden, the holidays are over, and now we feel let-down, depressed, even more stressed and, to add insult to injury—guilty. There’s no way to un-eat, un-drink or un-spend what we ate, drank and spent. All we can do now is damage control.

Experts say it’s a combination of many factors that results in both pre- and post-holiday stress: unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization and financial constraints as well as the demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, house guests, and too much joy and cheer. We experience stress in the form of headaches, over-eating, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, bloating or fatigue from too much fat or sugar, and the guilt from eating, drinking and spending too much. In fact, stress is sometimes the result of a little too much of everything, even the good times with family and friends.

And it’s not good. Did you know:

  • 55% to 75% of all illnesses are thought to be stress related
  • 15% of American workers abuse drugs and alcohol
  • 88% of employees say they have a hard time juggling work and life
  • Stress costs American employers approximately $200 billion a year in absenteeism, lower productivity, health care and workers compensation costs
  • Between 75 – 90% of visits to primary care physicians are related to stress

(Sources for above stats: EAP Digest)

  • Health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine)

Now that we know (as if we didn’t already) that we’re a little “stressed,” what can we do about it right now? Sorry, but we can’t help with the stress from spending too much money or too much time at great aunt Bertha’s. But we can offer the following food / stress-related tips:

  • Get Moving – Getting the blood flowing is the perfect remedy for a “food hangover.” Think simple, such as walking, yoga, stretching. Even 15 minutes will boost your mood and energy level.
  • Drink Water – Bloating can be an overload of salt which can cause water retention. Many holiday favorites contain much more salt than our bodies need, and extra water can help rid the body of this extra salt.
  • Eat lightly – You may think, “I’ll never eat again,” but you will get hungry. Nibbling on lighter fare for awhile, such as salad, soup, fruit, grilled fish, or sandwiches on whole grain bread will provide nutrients without overloading your body with calories and fat.
  • Make a “Little” Plan – Of all the side-effects that come from eating too much, guilt is one of the worst. But we can use it to move us on to something better. Start with a plan for just the “next few days” to get back on track. Even the act of planning is productive—the follow-through the reward. Plan to increase your level of physical activity, and plan healthy nutritious choices.
  • Look to the Future – Don’t just write off the mistakes made during the holiday season. We should learn from them, and use them to make positive choices in the future.

So yes, we can probably all agree that there’s a lot of stress associated with the holidays, but for many of us stress isn’t relegated to just the holidays. Finding consistent ways to handle the strain of stress is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Do you have suggestions or tips that work for you? We’d like to know.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wellness, Fitness . . . and Family Values

Does the question, “Is wellness fundamentally important” shock you?

Believe it or not, there are individuals and organizations that look at wellness more as a “luxury item” than as a value, more optional than necessary. But, what happens if rather than an add-on, we viewed wellness as an integral part of our being? Our foundation.

Our lifestyles today are busier than ever, leaving us with little spare time (whatever that is). In order to maintain this tempo we need to take care of ourselves and make the positive choices that will take us in the direction away from pending “illness” and toward wellness.

“Great,” you’re thinking. “One more thing I need to do.” Well, yes—and no. While you may find yourself “adding” new behaviors that take you down the wellness road, you may just as easily find these new behaviors can come about simply by making positive substitutions . . . water instead of soda, stairs instead of escalator, walking instead of sitting in front of the TV.

Resist the urge to do everything all at once to begin to make wellness a family or organizational value. Small adjustments and modification can add up to big results. Mindful choices made each day will result in steady changes leading to sustainable health and wellness.

The effect is cumulative—and what we do—or don’t do determines our success and our overall wellness. Imagine thinking of laying a foundation of wellness as you would think of breathing—in other words, not as a choice but an automatic response and action. So, take a deep breath. Your values—and actions—speak to what is most important to you in life. And how you value wellness becomes the foundation that will make it possible to create a Culture of Wellness within your organization as well as a recognized, personal value.

Back to the original question: Is wellness fundamentally important? And, is it important to you?