Brain Freeze: When Your Brain is Hijacked by Stress.

Stress isn’t, in and of itself, a bad thing. It’s a natural process designed to protect or at least prepare us for imminent danger. Stress helps us run fast to catch a train, or run away from a threat. It’s the trigger to our fight or flight response. Stress motivates us to stop procrastinating and get our work done.

In small doses and for a short time, stress is a good thing—but it’s a big problem when we are under too much stress and when it’s constant. Chronic stress causes negative side effects and health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease. Stress is kind of a trickster. It builds up slowly and sneaks up on us, because we get used to being overworked and overstimulated. But your body knows and forces us to slow down.

It isn’t just our body–our brain rebels too. Maybe you noticed your decisions are more difficult when you are under pressure. Stress impairs our thinking—the brain shuts down too and you find yourself operating with 10-15 (some say 20) less IQ points. Why? Because the prefrontal cortex, which is our executive functioning and decision-making region of the brain is impacted. When there is any fear or anxiety the amygdala region of the brain, your emotional center, jumps to attention and takes resources away from the executive decision making of the prefrontal cortex. A chain reaction causes resources (blood and oxygen) to leave the prefrontal cortex, and your IQ plummets. It can seem easier to put off a decision, make a bad one or no decision at all. Brain freeze is something we have all experienced at some time.

Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist has found an inverse relationship between the activation of amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. When the amygdala is active with blood and oxygen, there is less activation in the prefrontal cortex. Our thinking power is hijacked and our problem solving ability plummets, because the blood and oxygen are in the amygdala versus the prefrontal cortex. Tunnel vision is the survival reaction of the of the amygdala–you just can’t see everything.

Any strong emotion, fear, stress, anxiety, anger, joy, or betrayal trips off that pesky amygdala and impairs the prefrontal cortex’s working memory. Powerful emotions overwhelm rationality. That is why when we are emotionally upset or stressed we can’t think straight. The IQ points we need to carefully consider decisions are depleted temporarily.

Quick Stress Buster: Take A Breath

It’s time for a quick stress buster–something you can do anytime or anywhere to relieve tension and stress. It’s as simple as taking a deep breath.

That’s right. The simple act of taking a few deliberate and slow breaths can do you a world of good. It’s relaxing, supplies the body with plenty of fresh oxygen, and relives any tension you have built up.

Get Some Fresh Air

Getting out in the fresh air (today in Minnesota it’s a bit bracing) but it’s worth it. Moving around a little, and simply breathing is a very effective way to release tension, relax, and rejuvenate. You may be worried that it’s a waste of time, especially when you’re on a tight deadline, but trust me and give it a try. You’ll find yourself coming back from a short walk with a lot more energy and a much clearer mind. You’ll easily make up the time you spent outside and feel better.

What are some other ways you might ease your stress and bring your brain back to full power?

 

Day 13- Happiness and Getting Your ZZZZZs

Sleep is important for your health, both your physical and mental well-being. Not getting a good night’s sleep can dramatically impact your performance during the day. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of health issues, such as depression and even weight gain. In other words, not getting the sleep you need has many consequences.  

On the flip side, making sure you get enough rest can help you feel more energized. You get more done which boosts your self-confidence and in turn your overall happiness. Making sure you get your beauty rest makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I’m a night owl myself, so the temptation to stay up too late and “just finish this one little thing” is always there. Even though I know I have to get up early for a meeting, I sometimes push the clock. And the clock pushes back. Hard!

I’m sure you’ve seen this in action yourself. When we don’t sleep well, or don’t get a chance to get enough rest, we end up grumpy and tense. Our stress levels go way up, which makes us feel worse. We might not get the work we had planned done, and we start to feel depressed. Which in turn leads to more sleepless nights. It’s a vicious cycle.

Everything changes for the better when we make sleep a priority. We wake up in a great mood, ready to tackle the day. It’s easier to get work and chores done and still have time to relax and unwind. That in turn leads to a better night’s sleep and an even better morning.

So how do we get to this state of sleep-full bliss and a solid 7 – 8 hours of rest at night? Make sleep a priority! I know, I know, there are times in our lives (like the arrival of a newborn, for example), when getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a possibility. But for most of us, working on a reasonable bedtime routine is not that hard.

Keyword here is routine. Good sleep is a habit and a learned behavior. It takes a little work on your part to change your habits and establish a good sleep and bedtime routine, but it will be well worth it. I promise.

Start by setting a regular bedtime and do your best to stick to it – even on the weekend and holidays. Our bodies get in a rhythm of walking and resting hours. Help your body get there by staying on schedule. Spend some time in the hours before bed to relax and calm down. Stop working, don’t exercise too late in the day, avoid caffeine a few hours before bed, and turn off screens at least an hour before you’re ready to fall asleep. Turning down the lights, playing soft music, and reading an old-fashioned paper book are all great ways to relax and prepare both body and mind for sleep. Taking a warm bath or shower can help as well.

If you’re still having a hard time going to sleep after implementing a routine, consider supplementing with magnesium and /or melatonin. Both are natural and not habit-forming. A lack of either one of those substances in your body can make it much harder to fall and stay asleep. Stick with your routine and you will get into a habit of getting plenty of sleep, leading to happier, more energetic and productive days.

 

Day 12 – Your Happy Squad–a Support System of Positive People

 

Moods are contagious. If you’re around a bunch of sad and depressed people, you’ll start to feel down. Have you been in a room with someone that just sucks the energy right out of you? Black Cloud contagion alert!  If you are in a group of happy people, you can’t help but start to smile. It makes sense then to surround yourself with happy people if you want to increase your own level of happiness.

Does this mean that you should shut all people who aren’t super happy out of your life? Of course not. We all have important people in our lives whom we love and cherish even if they don’t have the sunniest outlook on life. We all have happier and sadder seasons in our lives. It would be horrible if we avoided loved ones during tough times.

SO who are the happy people in your life?  Who are your cheerleaders? Who will put a smile on your face anytime you spend time with them? Take note of those positive people and build a support system of happy people that you can turn to when you’re feeling down.

Along the same lines, you want to be careful about the negative and sad people around you and how they affect your own mood. When you’re having a hard time and are struggling with your own happiness levels, it may be better to avoid people that you know will bring you further down. Those are the times when you want to spend time with your team of cheerleaders– your happiness support system. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to completely shut people out of your life, just take note of their energy and how they affect you and spend time with them accordingly.

When you are happy, don’t be afraid to share that happiness and spread it around. Smiling, laughing, and feeling good about life, as I said, is contagious. Spread the joy and soak it up from positive people around you when you’re not feeling your personal best. Call up that friend who makes you feel better instantly. Talk to people who love and care for you about this idea of contagious happiness. Let them know when you could use some cheering up and then return the favor. Because, let’s face it, we all have times when we’re happier and in a much better mood than other days. Make it a habit to build each other up and create that happiness support system. It will make a huge difference in your life and those around you.

 

Day 7  Happiness and Exercise

When you’re having a bad day, or are feeling down, exercise is a good way to boost your happiness,. There is a strong link between exercise and an improvement in mood and well being. Give it a try. Go for a walk whenever you’re feeling depressed and unhappy. You’ll notice your mood starting to get better after a short time.

This increase of happiness and well being after exercise is caused by two different mechanisms in our body. The first is that exercise causes the release of brain chemicals like endorphins and other mood enhancers. This happens just a few minutes after you work out and the effect can last for a good 12 hours. The second part to the equation is that exercise also helps reduce the levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. That means you’ll instantly feel less stressed. This one-two punch can have a powerful effect on how you feel. Something as simple as a brisk walk can help you feel better almost immediately.

For best results, you want to exercise a few times per week. Take some time during your lunch break to go for a walk, or work a quick workout in before you head to work in the morning. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you start moving around and get that blood pumping. Pick activities you enjoy that you will stick with.

In addition to the everyday mood booster you get from exercising regularly, there are a lot of long term benefits. Exercise is good for your health and you will start to get fitter and even slimmer and more toned if you stick with it. This in turn will improve how you feel and how you feel about yourself. That added confidence can be a great additional mood booster.

Try to get as much exercise as you can outside. Fresh air and sunshine add to a feeling of well being. Come up with some simple things you can start doing right now. Maybe it’s going for a walk each afternoon. Maybe it’s running. Maybe it’s signing up for a yoga or Pilates class at your local community center, or maybe it’s joining a sports team. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you make it a goal to get more active and move around. Switch it up and plan a group hike for the weekend, or dust off your bike. There’s a lot of fun ways to get moving and enjoy the world around you.

What Is Clean Eating?

You know that your health is your greatest wealth, right? Clean eating is one of the best ways to keep yourself and your family healthy–but what the heck is it and how can I fit that into an already busy day? I have found a great resource to help you plan clean meals at Menu Planning Central. I only have a few affiliate connections, because I am SO fussy about what I recommend to you. It has to be good! A free week of menu plans will give you a head start. Check it out!   

Clean eating started gaining popularity back in the mid-1990’s. People were starting to pay attention to how foods were processed and grown. Health food stores were becoming more mainstream. Today, clean eating or eating clean is a way of life for many people of all walks of life.

Clean eating means everything from eating more fruits and vegetables to eliminating all processed foods. Basically, it means to eat whole foods. So instead of eating a banana nut muffin, eat a banana and nuts instead. It means using foods that have only all natural ingredients–if you can’t pronounce it, it probably isn’t a whole food!

One way to replace those processed foods is to make homemade versions. Everything from energy bars to salad dressings can be created with whole natural ingredients at home. Clean eating recipes can be found for just about everything, from five-ingredient ice cream to homemade baby food and pickled veggies.

Whole natural foods provide the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for the body to function at its best. Nutrients are the foundation for the structure and function of our body’s cells. The health and the way these cells function is determined directly by what you eat.

Eating clean gives you clearer skin, more energy, shinier hair and better sleep and moods as well as less aches and pains and clearer thinking.

Here are the basics of clean eating:

  • Nothing white. No sugar, no white flour (bread, pasta, etc), and no white rice. The only white allowed is white vegetables. Read labels and ingredient lists.
  • No alcohol. Moderated opinion
  • Only healthy sources of fats. Fats olive oil, coconut oil and nut oils are perfect. Fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fat are good sources.
  • Lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats.

Clean eating isn’t a fad diet. It’s a common-sense approach to eating for a healthy lifestyle. It’s something everyone can do by choosing a variety of whole, unrefined foods in as close to their natural state as possible.

Benefits of Clean Eating

Now that you know what clean eating is, you might be wondering what the benefits of eating clean are. Well, there are many. Let’s take a look.

  • You’ll feel better. It’s simple, really. Whole vegetables, fruits and lean proteins balance your energy levels, which leaves you feeling great all day. When you eat clean, you are able to absorb nutrients better and your energy levels skyrocket.
  • Healthy foods promote cell growth, which in turn makes your skin, hair and nails stronger, shinier and healthier.
  • You’ll maintain a healthy weight. Eating clean is the best way to sustain a healthy weight. You lose weight by eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains.
  • You will build up your immune system. For a strong immune system, you need nutritious foods. Eating clean provides them. Building your immune system through clean eating allows the body to fight of illnesses more naturally and recover more quickly.
  • Your thinking becomes clearer. Processed and junk food can cloud your mind and can make you feel sluggish. On the other hand, eating clean, whole foods high in healthy fats like Omega 3 fatty acids keeps your brain functioning at peak ability. Your brain needs a balance of nutrients like proteins and healthy fats to function properly. Foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, beets, bell peppers and eggplants are rich in high level antioxidants. Prunes, raisins, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes and cherries protect the brain cells. Salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and nuts boost Vitamin E levels.
  • Boost energy levels. Clean foods boost energy with foods that slowly release natural sugar. Foods that create a gentle and steady release of sugar include fruit combined with oatmeal or yogurt, cheese and natural crackers, apple slices and peanut butter or cottage cheese with veggies.
  • You’ll experience better sleep. The vitamins and minerals found in natural foods allow your body to regulate hormonal functions during the day, allowing you to sleep deeper at night. Clean eating foods calm your nervous system and trigger sleep hormones that help you rest better at night.

 

Take Care of Yourself!

Don’t you just hate it when people show up to work or meetings obviously ill? Coughing, sneezing and in general looking like death is not only at their doorway, but they graciously are bringing it to you as well! But hey, they made it in to work! Do everyone a favor, including yourself, and stay home! If you are a business owner, you too need to pay attention to what your body is saying and take care of yourself.

If you get sick, then be sick- so many people try to work through their illness, like it is a badge of honor or something to push though. Stop. If you are sick, then stay in bed. Getting sick is your body’s way of telling you to slow down! You will feel better faster if you just accept that you are ill and take a break. Plus, you will not be contaminating your family, clients, co-workers and others around you. So grab some hot tea or juice, Kleenex, binge on Nexflix and let your body heal!

PS: If you don’t start feeling better, see a doctor if you haven’t already. Your health is your most valuable natural resource–take care.

 

Hacks To Add Fun & Excitement To Your Life

If life isn’t about having fun and enjoying yourself, what is it about? If you’re not having fun regularly, you’re missing out on the entire point of being. If you’re all work and no play, try these tips to get you started on your new life of fun and excitement.

  •  Never 00smStop Learning – Some people stop learning the moment they graduate from school. But, the world is so full of information and answers it’s important to always be in the process of learning something new. Learning keeps your brain functioning at a higher level, too.
  • Be Mindful – Many people just aren’t present in their life in the moment they’re living. Instead, they’re thinking of another day. “When I turn 18…”, “When I get my degree …”, “When I win the lottery.” You’ve likely heard yourself say something like this before. Instead, try being truly present with whatever is going on right now. Enjoy the smells, the conversation, and experience life at full throttle.
  • Take Your Time – Being in a hurry all the time can make you miss the joy in your life. You feel as if you never have enough time to accomplish your goals or  do anything fun. But if you learn to take your time and sometimes do nothing, you’ll begin to redevelop your childhood sense of wonder and joy.beachIS934-033
  •  Be Daring – At least once a year do something out of your comfort zone such as public speaking, hiking a high mountain, running a marathon, or something else that challenges you. Only you can know what that might be. Have a new adventure each year, and you’ll stay young and have more fun throughout your entire life.
  •  Get Moving – The more oxygen you intake, the more happy you’ll feel. Instead of being irritated by your neighbor’s loud music, let loose and dance. You’ll be a lot happier and healthier due to it.
  •  Smile More – It might seem like a silly thing to do, but practice smiling even when you wouldn’t normally smile. Smile as you walk through the grocery store. Smile while waiting in line at the post office. To get the smile going, simply think of a happy time in your life, or a special person.
  •  Enjoy Nature – Humans are meant to be part of nature and to feel grass on our feet. Take time each day to notice and enjoy as much nature as you can. You’ll feel more connected to the world, and naturally have more fun just being.relax one
  •  Let Go of Perfection – The truth is, no one is perfect and striving for perfection can totally trash your sense of joy and happiness when you fall short, which we all do. You still want to reach for being great, but never expect perfection.
  •  Encourage Others – Motivating others can make you feel happier and more satisfied with your own life. Give out compliments freely, and help boost others up as often as you can. In the end you’ll be boosting yourself.

Throw caution to the wind and do something you really want to do. Stop the all work and no play lifestyle and learn to have and be fun again.

The Sun is Beautiful–and Dangerous

by Karen Karsten (former Sunburn Queen)

Seems like a long time since we’ve had to worry about sunburn! Here at last is summer with all the glorious greenery and warmth. Just remember, protecting your skin is very important when you arsun facee outdoors.  

Sunburns can really put a damper on your life (it hurts!) and can cause premature aging and skin cancer.  Here are five tips to save your beautiful skin–toast a bit but don’t burn….

  1. Stay in the shade when possible.  Not only will this protect you from the sun, it will also keep you from getting so hot.
  2. Wear a good sweat proof sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.  It only takes a few minutes to put it on before you go out, and it keeps you from having to worry about getting burned.
  3. Make sure you’re completely covered.  Areas that are often forgotten or not covered well when it comes to sunscreen include the ears, neck, and the portion of the scalp that is exposed by the part of your hair.  Our lips need sunscreen too, so invest in a good lip balm or lipstick with sun protection in it.
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of the sun.  Being out for as little as 30 minutes without sunscreen can produce a burn, especially if you have fair skin. 
  5. Be sure to wear sunscreen when you’re in the water.  You don’t feel a burn as easily, but the sun’s effects are actually intensified because the water reflects the sun onto your skin

Some forms of sun damage are very dangerous. Click here to receive a short ecourse to help you recognize them easily.

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Staying Hydrated–Like Drink up, Already

hosebabyWhen you’re exercising in the summer, you will almost certainly sweat a lot. This is the body’s way of cooling itself off, and it’s normal. It can even help us lose weight. But it also means we’re losing water. If we don’t replace it, we could become dehydrated.

That’s why it’s so important to drink plenty of water in the summer, especially when you are exercising. Becoming dehydrated increases your risk of heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Here are some tips for staying hydrated during summer workouts:

  1.  Stay away from caffeinated, carbonated and alcoholic beverages. They are very dehydrating.
  2. Drink plenty of water every day. While there is some debate over whether we really need eight glasses, it is a good idea to drink at least a few glasses of water each day even if you’re not exercising. It helps wash toxins out of your system and aids in building new cells, and it will keep you from being dehydrated when you start working out.
  3. Always keep water nearby when you’re working out. Drink it throughout your workout, even if you are not thirsty. A good rule of thumb is 16 ounces an hour when you’re doing an intense workout in hot weather.
  4. If you’re participating in really strenuous activity, or you work out for more than an hour at a time, drink a sports drink with a good electrolyte balance. This will replace the sodium and other vital nutrients that you lose through heavy sweating.
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables. These are good for you in a number of ways, one of which is keeping you hydrated.

Hydration is always important to your health, but it becomes even more crucial when you’re working up a sweat. Watching your water intake is essential. While it is possible to drink too much water, it is hard to do when you’re exercising in the summer heat. So keep the water handy, and drink up, already!