Natural Balance Therapy has a team of therapists that has been providing therapeutic treatments to residents, in all stages of life, in southeast Wisconsin for the past ten years, helping them return to a pain-free, active lifestyle. We seek to help people understand their bodies and what is causing their pain and discomfort, as well as teach them what they can do to help themselves heal. Natural Balance Therapy is known for giving people in chronic pain hope and long-lasting results.
At this time of year, we see more than visions of sugarplums. Trays of cakes, candies, and cookies seem to be everywhere. What's a person trying to keep a healthy body to do?
As the cold and flu season continues (and before many of us see friends and family for the holidays), here are some tips to keep from sharing more than holiday cheer.
- Wash your hands. It bears repeating, time and again (because many studies have shown that both children and adults do not do an adequate job here). Before eating, before and after handling food, after using the toilet, after having contact with someone else who may be ill, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. Use soap and water, and be sure to lather for at least 15-20 seconds.
- Skip antibacterial soap. Yes, the additives kill certain bugs, but the overall effect is not better than regular soap, and overuse of antibacterials is contributing to our current problems with antibiotic-resistant germ strains.
- Clean kitchen surfaces regularly. Because of food prep, the kitchen can be a breeding ground for microorganisms that we then consume in our food. It is especially important to wash surfaces and utensils after handling raw meat. Replace or clean sponges or washcloths regularly (if you have a 'sanitize' cycle on your dishwasher, run your sponges through on the top rack).
- Can't wash? Use hand sanitizer. Here is where the antibacterials can work for you. An alcohol-based gel sanitizer or wipe can kill germs without promoting antibacterial-resistant strains. They're very drying for your skin, though, so soap and water is always preferred.
- Don't bother with a paper, gauze, or cotton mask - there's no evidence they're effective. Viruses and bacteria are small enough to pass through the weave. Hospital masks are more effective, but it takes some training to use them effectively. If a mask traps a pathogen, you'll actually be increasing your exposure.
- Did we mention washing your hands with soap and water?
Last week, we talked about some tips for stress relief for busy people – easy, small things to help your mind and body take a break. But did you know that stress can have some positive effects on the body? Some studies show that moderate, short-lived stress can boost mental alertness, as well as improving memory and cognitive function.
Are you feeling frazzled? Or are you a little over-scheduled, especially with the holidays approaching? When taking a week off in the Caribbean isn’t an option, here are some ways to work some stress-relieving activities into your everyday routine. While some of these might need a little bit of planning, many of them take only a few minutes, no special equipment, and can be added into your day at any time and just about anywhere.
- Take a little time to just ‘goof off’ – even if it’s just a half an hour, that can have a significant effect on your stress levels. Regular relaxation time is vital for physical and emotional health. Read a humorous book, watch a funny movie, go to a park and play on the swings like a six-year-old (or go sledding and make snow angels). Remember, 'getting physical' has the added benefit of producing mood-lifting endorphins.
- Schedule time for a new hobby – or revisit an old favorite. Getting in touch with your creative side, and getting away from whatever causes you stress, can often help you solve your stressful problems. While one part of your brain is creating, other parts of your brain are working in the background, coming up with solutions. You may have noticed the recent craze of coloring books for grown-ups – the meditative aspects and visual appeal of coloring provide both relaxation and creative stimulus.
- Try out a new stress-management ‘routine’ to turn to when you get overwhelmed – whether that be a few minutes of deep breathing, a five-minute self-massage for the face and scalp, or practicing guided imagery to daydream yourself into another location (like that beach in the Caribbean). Even eating a piece of fruit with mindful attention can interrupt the stress cycle.
- Go on a ‘tech’ fast for a day, a morning, an hour. With television, computers, tablets, and smartphones, we’re bombarded with news and images that are often threatening or downright depressing. Taking a little time to shut off the technology reenergizes us and helps us focus on those things we can actually affect.
Heading into winter (with more limited outdoor activity options) and the holiday season (when indulgent food seems to be everywhere) may seem to be an odd time to talk about starting health habits. But why wait for New Year's Day to try to establish some good health habits? Whether you're looking to exercise more, make healthier eating choices, or engage in a mindfulness or meditation practice, here are some ways to help you make lasting change to long-standing behaviors.
- Go slowly. Allow time. You won’t reach the stage at which your healthy habit is embedded in a few days. Rather, it may take weeks, months, or even years.
- Be realistic and specific in your goals.
- Start with small changes. If working out at the gym for an hour is off-putting, start with half-hour walks instead. It's easier to set—and meet—a few small goals than one big goal.
- Examine your beliefs to see if any of them are undermining your effort to change. For example, do you tell yourself that you don’t have time to exercise? If so, draw up a weekly schedule. Even 10-minute workouts can improve health.
- Add things to your life to replace things you’re subtracting. If you are giving up cigarettes, get rid of that old jacket with the cigarette burn and treat yourself to a new one. If cutting calories, choose interesting new foods and recipes. If you’re giving up junk food such as potato chips, stock up on healthier snacks such as whole-wheat pretzels or popcorn.
- Tell your friends, family, and colleagues what you're up to, so they can offer encouragement and help out. Some may be trying to kick the same bad habit as you and be willing to join you in your challenge. But watch out for people who may sabotage your efforts.
- If you can’t change on your own, consider working with a therapist or counselor who can help you navigate the stages of change. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be particularly useful; it helps identify and change "maladaptive" thinking and behavior that keep you stuck in bad habits. There are also computer-based programs, either self-administered or guided by a counselor, designed to promote behavioral change.