For most of us, the current state of the world is an unprecedented and uncertain time. The Covid-19 pandemic, racial struggles, and the financial strain of the closures are all taking a toll on the holistic well-being of the global citizenry. Collectively and as individuals, we are more aware of our health status, and many are seeking to improve it, protect it, or both!
From the comfort of your own home, you can use these well-intentioned moments to improve your health with a few small changes. I know, I know. You want to emerge from the cocoon that is quarantine like a glistening butterfly! Drop 25 pounds! Go from the couch to a 5k! But, small, doable, steps are the key to not only big changes but lasting changes! We are talking about improving the overall quality of life! The following five tips can be tackled one-at-a-time or all together for a sure-fire jumpstart to a healthier you!
- De-stress yourself-and enjoy it!
While activities like meditation, walking, or more rigorous exercise have all been common suggestions for reducing stress, simple but enjoyable pastimes like reading, listening to music, or stroking a pet are effective self-care strategies that can really pay off when it comes to soothing the systems of the body. Prolonged stress releases different chemicals and hormones in the body that have been linked to things including heart disease, stroke, hypertension, migraines, and obesity. These are common co-morbidity diseases that can be better managed or even prevented when stress levels are keep in check.
Tip: Tight on time? Spend a few minutes with your eyes closed. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of four, allowing the belly and chest to expand. Exhale through the nose to a count of four, pressing the air out from the belly. Repeat a few times in a moment. You can repeat as your schedule permits and before bed!
- Pass on the salt. Foods naturally have salt, or sodium, and if your diet includes frequent meals out or processed foods, it is likely that you are consuming too much sodium, which can increase blood pressure.
Tip: Swap the salt for flavorful salt-free seasoning blends and only use salt during meal preparation.
- Skip the added sugar. Much like salt, added sugar lurks everywhere. A common culprit of weight gain and contributor to sustained high blood glucose levels, reading labels and simple swaps can go long way.
Tip: Seems daunting? Swap one sugary drink a day with water and enjoy whole pieces of fruit instead of juices.
- Stretch it out. Taking a break at work to stretch or making sure you do so before and after exercise can prevent injury and maintain healthy range of motion of joints.
Tip: Not exercising that day? Find a natural time of day to limber up like when you are getting out of your car after your commute!
- Get more sleep! The strategy that dreams are made of! Adequate sleep is critical in allowing the body the chance to restore and rejuvenate itself. Sleep shortage has been linked to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, regardless of weight, exercise, or other factors. An adult needs an average of 7 hours of shut-eye nightly.
Tip: A brief stretch and deep breathing can help balance hormones and relax you so that you can fall asleep faster.
These strategies can be easily and quickly added to your daily life despite all that is going on around us. The road to optimal health is not linear, or smooth. The thing to know and focus on is that it is never too late to maintain or to improve your quality of life by building healthy habits. You are worth the effort!