Wellness, as it turns out, begins like much of our life – with mental perception. Here is a possible scenario: it’s mid afternoon (or morning) and you’re simply dragging. Your mental clarity, aptitude and cognition are much like jello in a blender – no longer solid, not a liquid and kinda gooey. Not a clinical way to describe it, but you catch the drift. Perhaps you’re puffing going up the stairs, straining that back as you work in the technical or service industry. If you’re tired all the time, here are some wellness suggestions that may have you revving up life to “full speed.” Always remember this disclaimer, for it is in your own best good: go see your doctor. I am firm in the faith that preventative medicine costs less in time, energy, mental health and actual money. If you’re constantly exhausted, there is a underlying condition attempting to have a conversation with your attention. Barring any major medical issues, you might consider adding the following thoughts to your life.
Rethink the grocery basket. If you know the “garbage principal,” you know that you are what you eat. Garbage in – garbage out. It’s that simple. So when you’re at the store this week, look down. How much of your basket is dedicated to whole foods? How many things come in prepacked boxes? Look at labels, and do some nutritional comparison. I tend to have more than half of my basket dedicated to whole fresh veggies. I am pretty selective about the frozen foods that I use. Prepackaged foods like hotdogs, pizza, meal helpers, etc all have a ton of chemicals that your body was never designed to process. Lean meats, fish and lots of colorful greens will have an almost immediate impact on your daily energy. Vegetables have differing nutritional value, so be cognizant of what those are. How can your grocery basket help you with your energy today? The snacks that you have during the day should always come from whole foods. Note to self – they don’t carry those in most vending machines. Greasy fried foods will deplete your energy, while foods rich in natural spices, flavor and color will rev up our energy, libido and your cognitive processes. Look for things like these “brain foods” from the Health Journal:
Blueberries—Blueberries serve a wide range of functions for improving mental function. Most notably, regular blueberry consumption has been shown to improve memory function. Furthermore, blueberries are rich in antioxidants, helping to prevent free radical damage. Still not convinced? Research has found that blueberries can also reverse age related declines in motor function, balance, and coordination.
Salmon—Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon helps your brain develop tissue for increasing your brain power. Furthermore, salmon also plays a key role in fighting Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive disorders.
Flax seeds—Flax seeds are crammed with ALA- a healthy fat that aids the cerebral cortex in functioning better. This is the portion of the brain responsible for processing sensory information. Keeping it sharp is vital.
Coffee—Regular coffee drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and other mental disorders. That’s because caffeine is good for the brain (in moderation), and it contains antioxidants.
Mixed nuts—Peanuts, walnuts, pecans, and other nuts contain properties that help with everything from fighting insomnia to promoting mental clarity and strong memory. Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids while almonds contain natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
Avocados—Don’t let the avocado’s fat content fool you. It’s a healthy fat that promotes blood flow, keeping your mind functioning at its peak. That’s not all: Avocados have also been shown to reduce blood pressure.
Eggs—Egg yolks are rich in choline, an essential nutrient to improving memory function.
Whole grains—From oatmeal to whole grain bread, whole grains are excellent brain foods as they improve circulation and contain essential fibers, vitamins, and even some Omega-3. Just make your sandwiches from whole grain breads to enjoy the benefits.
Chocolate—For me, this is the yummiest brain food of all. Dark chocolate is antioxidant-rich, and it also improves focus and concentration. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, improves memory and reaction time.
Broccoli—Broccoli has been shown to improve memory function as well as slow the aging process. This means a broccoli-rich diet will keep you young and sharp.
Must haves in the spices category? Cumin, cinnamon, Rosemary, Garlic, Oregano, Cilantro, Dill, Caraway Seed (specially if you experience acid reflux). Using whole spices to cook, raw herbs where possible, will increase your energy and health in important, life-giving ways.
Parents – are your kids lacking vital energy? Here is something to consider – the average child is gaining intense cerebral and muscle mass in the first seven years of life, especially the first three. What are you feeding your children in this imperative time? Junk food could later equal cognitive impairment, social adjustment problems, obesity, and a proclivity to low self esteem and depression. Lifespan development shows us that children who are neglected through poor nutrition exhibit a whole host of issues in adolescence. Whole foods are a must have for children under ten, especially those that tend to drink heavy soda, consume packaged or prepped foods (meal helpers), have a diet high in carbohydrates and low in lean proteins, consider corndogs a food group, and avoid vegetables. (Note to Mom’s – corn has no real nutritional value. Think green.)
Add a brisk walk. I’m back to the gym after a hiatus of becoming whole and well – and wow, does it feel great. Do I wake up early every morning and thing “gee, I can’t wait to go bust my butt?” Nope, not really…… Okay, I do a little. I love the feeling that the effort brings with it. Maybe you’re not a workout person, but adding a simple walk to your morning – a brisk, deep breath walk as you begin your day – will make a world of difference. Commit to a few weeks of “wake up walking” and see what happens to your energy level. In addition, this might be just the thing that you want to add to your mid afternoon to perk up your metabolism. According to Journal Week, you can also experience the following benefits outside of an almost immediate energy boost:
- Stimulates the brain and lowers the risk of dementia in seniors
- Slows down the rate of bone loss
- Reduces the risk of breast and colon cancer
- Helps ease stress and reduces depression
- Improves self-esteem
- Add years to life
Hydrate. I love coffee. The deep, black Sumatra or Colombian coffees that are specially roasted on site, freshly ground and brought home by my faithful husbter each week just really float my boat. The down side of my love affair with coffee? It dehydrates you. Yep, that is the truth. Caffeine dehydrates the human body and leaves you open for headaches, joint pain, exhaustion, electrolyte imbalances and more. I’m not willing to give up my really good Java – let’s face it, as a writer, I consider coffee a major food group. I have made some changes, though. First, I drink a big glass of juice (V8 Mango Green Tea is my current fave), Acai spritzer or plain old water before each cup of coffee. I also make a pitcher of hydrating water based product each day – 2 quarts of my daily favorite flavors. I use Crystal Light naturals – no dangerous sugar substitutes – and a few others that are more exotic, like Mojito and Strawberry daiquiri. I use calorie free vitamin mixes that offer value in my water. If I’ve have a tough workout, I hit the Gatorade product with the least sodium and most flavor that’s cold/available at the gym. So if you’re feeling like you’re about to fall asleep, try a great cold glass of water, add some lemon and maybe a dash of mint.
Lower your sodium intake. We’re all subject to one sneaky American reality. If you buy food at a grocery store, you’re probably consuming to much sodium. While some is healthy, lots is out of balance. If you’re feeling like you’re carrying a gallon of extra water in your joints, fingers, feet and legs, it’s probably that little culprit sodium making you bloat.
Avoid the mid-afternoon (or morning) carb snack. Yes, I have never met a pastry that didn’t seem like a good idea at the time. I love all things confection, like carrot cake, banana bread, lemon bars – and I am damn good at making them, too. But here is the deal – empty carbs run your blood glucose way up high, mess with your insulin production, rile up your energy level like pressing your foot to a gas pedal while your car is in park. Net result? A lot of noise with no progress. If you’re going to work out, healthy carbs are the way to go. If you’re losing weight, a balance of healthy carbs and fats will do your body real justice. That wonderful pumpkin bread that you’re matching with a venti caramel macchiato is costing you more than a thousand calories for the pair – more than half of your daily recommended intake of calories that are void of any nutrition. Does this mean never sip another of your addictive brew? Nope. Ask for the lighter version – skip the whole milk for skinny, and go for the sugar free syrups. Cutting the calories also reduces the crash later.
Move that Body. Yep, I’m back on the movement thing. You see, you don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to make a significant difference in your shape…and your energy/mental shape. So for a few weeks, pack your healthy lunch, forgo every drive through window and add the following cost free routine to your summer schedule. This is the workout I’ll be doing during our book tour this summer, between interviews and making my hand cramp signing books! Why? I need the energy to sustain long days, especially when I am away from my beloved Rushville. Here is a great little work out from the fitness folks – modify it to meet your medical needs. For you MS’ers out there, remember to balance and modify based on your energy. Hitting it to hard one day may well provoke your symptomology and make life really hard for the next. Balance, people, balance. These cross-training strength moves from Fitness Magazine will help you run faster and reduce your risk of injury. Do two sets of these moves twice a week [once on a rest day] to train your supporting muscles, reduce the risk of injury, and up your overall energy.
Hands-Up Lunge (targets: hips, butt, quads, and hamstrings)
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms overhead, palms facing each other.
2. Lunge forward with left leg, bending knees 90 degrees.
3. Step back to start position; switch legs and repeat.
4. Do 20 reps, alternating legs.
Plank Flip (targets: back, abs, butt, and hamstrings)
1. Start in plank. Lift right leg; lower. Lift left leg; lower. Do 5 reps each side.
2. Flip over to face up, legs together and extended, arms bent by sides, forearms on floor, torso lifted.
3. Lift hips a few inches. Lift right leg; lower. Lift left leg; lower. Do 5 reps each side.
Single-Leg Squat (targets: butt and quads)
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides.
2. Lift right foot a few inches behind you and squat as you lift extended arms to shoulder level in front of you.
3. Straighten left leg and lower arms. Do 10 reps, keeping right foot lifted.
4. Switch legs; repeat.
Thinking B! I beleive in the power of nature to heal the body. What does that mean? Your right in the vicinity of some healthy helpers – your local health or drug store. I take a B12 Amino Acid elixir every day of my life to stave off the exhaustion that is part of my world. To absorb the compound, I know that I need both vitamin c and calcium at adequate levels, plus a hefty dose of D. Even though I eat a diet rich in lots of fresh foods, I still find that my body’s ability to store and use B vitamins is kind of lacking. Ergo, I listen to the needs of my human self and go after the good stuff. How do you learn about vitamins and great things like spices to combat fatigue?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of fatigue that persist or are growing worse, check out this CDC article about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and talk with your doctor about it.