Don’t Overstress this Holiday Season—Five Stress-Less Tips

The holiday season is the happiest time of the year, right? Unfortunately, for too many people, it’s fraught with anxiety, worry, and stress of every kind: financial, emotional, work, and time. According to a survey by Think Finance, forty-five percent of people would prefer to skip Christmas entirely. In addition, nearly twenty-five percent of Americans report feeling extreme stress levels when the end-of-year holidays approach, with 69 percent feeling stressed by lack of time, 69 percent feeling stressed by lack of money, and 51 percent feeling stressed by the pressure to give or receive gifts. Such feelings are certainly not aligned with the reason for the season.

Over time, stress can cause such serious health complications as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, and the holiday season can exacerbate risk factors. Research from Sweden identified that the odds of a heart attack increased by nearly 40 percent on Christmas Eve.

This season, don’t let the holidays—or your health—be ruined by stressing over the big or little seasonal details. We’ve got five tips to help you prioritize and recontextualize your seasonal commitments so that you can truly enjoy the last month of the year and your time with friends and family.

  1. Create and Stick to a Budget. For many families, the cost of holiday gift-giving, travel, and hosting puts an uncomfortable pressure on their finances at year’s end. Create a holiday budget and stick to it. Include how much money you will spend on gifts for all your friends and family. If you’re part of a large family with lots of little ones, consider a white elephant or Secret Santa exchange to limit how much everyone spends on one another. The goal of the holidays should be to spend time together—not to spend money on each other. 
  1. Learn When to Say, No. If it hasn’t already, your calendar is about to blow up with holiday commitments. There are parties, shopping trips, cookie-baking, gift-wrapping, caroling, eight-days of menorah lighting, school concerts, volunteering and, simply, not enough time. Accept that you can’t be everywhere and you don’t have to RSVP yes to every invitation. Set boundaries with your friends and family and make sure you’re not putting too much stress on your calendar and spreading yourself too thin. You won’t enjoy any event in which you’re feeling overly stressed and run-down. 
  1. Stick to Your Routine. When your schedule gets full, it’s even more important to take time for yourself. Don’t give up you healthy routine during the month of December. Make sure you are exercising regularly, eating healthfully (extra cookie or two excluded), getting enough sleep at night, and making time for mindfulness practices, yoga, or meditation—whatever helps you to relax. 
  1. Scale Down. If your holiday stress comes from trying to do too much, sit down and prioritize where you most enjoy spending your time. Maybe bake three dozen cookies this year instead of five, or send holiday cards from an online stationery service rather than hand-writing them individually. No one can make everything from scratch and personalize every holiday detail­—not even Mrs. Claus. Be realistic and cut back where you can.
  1. Get Out and Get Some Sun. The days may be shorter, but you still need to get in your Vitamin D during the winter, especially during stressful holiday months. Weather-permitting, get outside daily, even if only for ten minutes. Walk your dog, take a short hike, or take a mid-day stroll around your business complex with your co-workers. Exposure to natural sunlight boosts the production of feel-good serotonin, helping you to ward-off holiday blues.

Remember, most importantly, that the holidays are about spending time with your loved ones, reflecting on what makes you feel grateful, and planning ahead for a new year. By making time for yourself, maintaining your healthy practices, and not overbooking your schedule, you can enjoy the very best of the holidays, without the stress. Cheers to that.

How to Enjoy Thanksgiving Without Overindulging in Seven Steps

tips to enjoy thanksgiving

The turkey. The stuffing. The mashed and sweet potatoes. And. The. Pies. Thanksgiving is designed to be enjoyed with family, friends, and a full plate of once-a-year-favorite foods. However, before you write off the day as a diet loss and give yourself free rein to stuff yourself full, consider that the average person consumes around 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving. For some perspective, the average athlete would need to jog for four hours to burn only 2,400 calories. This Thanksgiving, enjoy your time with family and friends—and your favorite holiday foods—but do so responsibly. Here are some tips to help keep you from overindulging this Thanksgiving.

  1. Don’t Skip Meals. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that skipping breakfast and lunch will allot you extra calories for an oversized dinner. Skipping meals will only leave you feeling starving come big mealtime, and you’re likely to overeat more than you would have if you had eaten healthily earlier in the day. Have a small breakfast high in protein (think eggs or Greek yogurt) and a reasonable, healthy lunch instead so that you can feel satiated before dinner.
  2. Be Mindful. Research shows that the first three bites of food are the most pleasurable. Keep this in mind when portioning out your favorite side dishes. You may love your Nana’s sweet yams that she only prepares once a year, but you don’t need to consume a jumbo-smoothie-sized portion. Serve yourself a healthy amount instead, and mindfully enjoy every bite.
  3. Take Smaller Portions. Thanksgiving Day meals tend to include more sides than an average meal. Consider a Thanksgiving Day portion as three to four bites in size, particularly if your side dish options consist of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, cornbread, broccoli casserole, cranberries, and sweetbreads—and you intend to try them all.
  4. Eat Earlier in the Day. If you can control the day’s schedule, move up mealtime. Research shows that if you eat a large meal close to the time that you go to bed, your body may be more likely to store the calories as fat. Move up to a 1 p.m. start time. That way, everyone can focus on the evening’s football games after dinner.
  5. Skip the Carbs. When you eat carbohydrates at the start of a meal, your body releases hunger-stimulating hormones that may cause you to overeat. If you must eat bread, start your meal with lean turkey instead, but consider skipping it altogether. Do so, and you’ll have more room for pie.
  6. Slow Your Roll. Wait twenty minutes before going back for seconds. During this time, if you’re full (and you likely will be), your body will send that signal to your brain, and with that information, you can make a conscientious choice to take extra helpings home for the next day’s lunch instead of eating them then and there.
  7. Use Smaller Tableware. The average dinner plate has increased in size by over 20 percent over the decades. Consider serving your dinner on petite china or smaller seasonal tableware to keep from piling your plate too full with too much food.

Above all, remember Thanksgiving is about gratitude. Be thankful for your friends, family, and your health. Make decisions that will keep you on the path to optimal wellness and allow you to enjoy many more seasonal celebrations for years to come.

Kidney Stone Risk Factors and Treatment Options

kidney heart stone

It starts as a dull ache, maybe in your back, or perhaps beneath your rib cage. Suddenly it escalates to severe cramping and then to a piercing pain that leaves you in agony as it radiates into your lower abdomen. If left untreated, kidney stones can lead to an infection, which can evolve into sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection complication. Understand the risk factors that can lead to Kidney stones and how to minimize your risk of developing this painful and dangerous condition.

What are Kidney Stones?

When dissolved minerals buildup on the inner lining of the kidneys, the result can be kidney stones. The collection often consists of calcium oxalate or other components. If the stones remain small, they can pass undetected and unbothersome through the urinary tract. Kidney stones can grow to be as large as a golf ball with sharp, jagged edges. When the stones become large, the process of the stones traveling out of the system can cause extreme pain.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones form when urine contains higher levels of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid than can be diluted by urine fluid. Urine that lacks naturally occurring substances that prevent crystal formation further leads to an increased risk of kidney stone development. There are four types of kidney stones:

  • Calcium Stones: The most common type of kidney stones. Calcium stones are typically comprised of calcium oxalate, a naturally occurring substance found in food, particularly nuts, chocolate, fruits, and vegetables, and created by the liver. A diet high in Vitamin D, some metabolic disorders, and intestinal bypass surgery can increase the presence of calcium or oxalate in the urine.
  • Uric Acid Stones – Uric acid stones are most common among people who fail to drink enough regular fluids or eat a high-protein diet. They can also occur in people who have gout, a disease caused by a reduced ability to metabolize uric acid that results in painful arthritis that is often felt in the feet or that causes chalkstone deposits.
  • Struvite Stones – This variety of kidney stones often forms in response to an infection, particularly a urinary tract infection (UTI).
  • Cystine Stones – These kidney stones most commonly form in response to a hereditary disorder that results in the kidneys excreting too high levels of the amino acid cystinuria.

How to Treat Kidney Stones

If you have any of the above risk factors and believe you may be suffering pain caused by kidney stones, talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to identify the cause and variety of your kidney stones and can help you devise a treatment plan and long-term strategy to avoid kidney stone recurrence.

Most kidney stones are small and will eventually pass through your urinary tract. To expedite the process as painlessly as possible, you can:

  • Drink water. Ideally, drink two to three quarts daily to help flush your urinary tract.
  • Take a pain reliever. Ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen can help mitigate the pain and discomfort that kidney stones cause.
  • An alpha-blocker. Your doctor may prescribe a medication to relax the muscles in your ureter to help you pass the kidney stone quickly and less painfully.

Large stones that cannot pass on their own or may cause kidney or urinary tract damage or infection, or internal bleeding, may require medical intervention. In these cases, a doctor may recommend:

  • Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) – A process that uses sound waves to break up kidney stones into small pieces so that they can pass through the urinary tract.
  • Surgery  – A surgeon may remove large stones using a procedure called percutaneous nephrolithotomy in which he or she will use a small telescope and instruments inserted through a small incision in the lower back.
  • A Scope. A doctor can remove smaller stones by inserting a ureteroscope with a camera through your urethra and bladder into your ureter. 
  • Parathyroid gland surgery. An overactive parathyroid gland is the cause of some kidney stones. Overproduction of parathyroid hormone may be the result of a benign tumor developing on one of the parathyroid glands. Surgery to remove the tumor can help to stop the hormone overproduction.

If you believe you may be suffering from kidney stone pain, don’t wait. Make an appointment with your doctor or walk into an urgent care clinic and get a medical assessment right away. Once you understand the cause of your kidney stone and any complications you may face due to its size, you and your doctor can determine a plan to help you rid your body of the painful stone while minimizing your discomfort.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

How to Reduce Your Risk of Type II Diabetes.

For the 30.3 million Americans living with Diabetes, November is more than a time for awareness. It is a time for hope—hope that researchers will one day find a cure to this painful and dangerous condition. This month, take the time to better understand the signs and symptoms of this chronic disease and your risk factors. With proper lifestyle choices, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing Type II Diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes, or Diabetes Mellitus, is a disease that occurs when one has too much blood glucose (blood sugar) in the body. We obtain blood glucose from the foods we eat and use it as our primary source of energy. In a healthy body, insulin made by the pancreas helps with this energy transformation process. When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, glucose remains in the blood, never reaching cells or being converted into energy. When too much glucose stays in the blood, it can cause health complications.

What is the Difference Between Type I and Type II Diabetes?

A person with Type I Diabetes does not produce any insulin. The immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy cells, destroying insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, which prohibits the body from producing insulin.

A person why Type II Diabetes does not produce enough insulin and is unable to use it effectively, a condition that is known as being insulin resistant. Lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of Type II Diabetes, including excessive weight gain and inactivity.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?

Symptoms of both Types I and II Diabetes include:

  • Feeling excessively thirsty, resulting in significant water intake
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores or cuts that are slow to heal

Also, patients with Type I Diabetes may experience rapid mood changes, irritability, and weight loss, while patients with Type II Diabetes may experience sensations of numbness and tingling in their extremities.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Type II Diabetes

You can mitigate your chances of developing Type II Diabetes by making healthy lifestyle choices, including the following:

  • Manage Your Weight. Individuals who carry excess body fat, especially if stored in the midsection, are at risk of developing insulin resistance.
  • Balance Your Diet. Part of managing your weight should include eating a balanced diet full of healthy grains, lean proteins, hearty vegetables, and fruits. Also, reduce your intake of sodium by lowering your consumption of fried or processed foods and not adding excess salt to your meals.
  • Exercise Regularly. Aim for at least 30-minutes of activity that raises your heart rate at least three times per week. Talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen. 
  • Quit Smoking. People who smoke are twice as likely to develop Diabetes as non-smokers.
  • Moderate Alcohol Intake. Too much alcohol can result in weight gain, which could boost your blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Men should not exceed two drinks in a day, and women should not exceed one. 
  • Talk to Your Doctor. Make sure you are visiting your primary care physician as appropriate based on your age and other health factors. Be honest with him or her about your lifestyle habits, and if anyone in your immediate family has Type I or Type II Diabetes. If your physician determines that you may be at risk, together, you can create a sustainable plan to address risky lifestyle factors and help you prevent the development of this chronic, complex disease.

What’s the Deal with Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting

One of the latest get-healthy-and-fit trends generating buzz is intermittent fasting. As with all things trendy, it promises to offer a definitive cure to all your health needs. You may even be hearing about it first-hand from friends, family, and followers. What’s the deal with this health trend? Is it truly something we should all do to optimize our health, or is it yet another overpromise that we can expect to be here today and gone tomorrow?

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting utilizes a repeating cycle of fasting and eating in an attempt to achieve health benefits. There are a variety of approaches and theories about intermittent fasting, but all of them break up the day or week into defined periods of fasting and eating.

Possibly the most straightforward intermittent fasting strategy involves lengthening the period between dinner and the following day’s breakfast—since you’re likely to sleep through most of it. With this model, you may eat your last meal of the day at 8 p.m., and then not eat again until noon the next day, although you can consume non-caloric beverages, including water, black coffee, or tea. In this way, you fast for 16 hours.

What are the Promised Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

Those who advocate for intermittent fasting tout such health benefits as weight loss, improved metabolism, a reduced chance of developing cancer and other diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, and longevity.

When we experience a prolonged period without food, our bodies’ processes change to protect us until our next meal. Those process changes include hormone regulation, cellular repair, and even genetic reactions. During a fast, we also experience a reduction in insulin and blood sugar levels and an increase in human growth hormone. 

 Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?

The Harvard School of Public Health reports that while studies of periodic calorie restrictions in animals have been shown to increase lifespan and improve reactions to metabolic stress, there have been less definitively conclusive results from human studies. One risk of intermittent fasting is that a participant will overeat during non-fasting periods to compensate after a period of feeling hungry. If a primary goal of the fast is weightloss, such behavior can result in cumulatively higher calorie consumption, thus impeding the intended weight loss.

How Can I Tell if I Should Try Intermittent Fasting?

As with all diet and exercise routines, do not attempt to make any changes without first consulting your doctor. He or she will explain to you what your specific benefits and potential risks may be of intermittent fasting. Whether your goals are weight loss, longevity, or mitigating the risk of developing a catastrophic condition, your doctor will work with you to put a safe and effective health and wellness plan in place that you can execute together.

Acid Reflux: Risks, Warnings, and Treatment Options

acid reflux

For many food enthusiasts, there is nothing better than a hot, spicy meal of food, drenched in sauce and mixed with peppers—but there’s also nothing worse than the pain and discomfort that follows. For those living with acid reflux, post-meal bliss can quickly turn into a burning, painful sensation that no amount of cold water can quench. If heartburn is frequently heating your chest, read on to review common symptoms, learn what may be causing your flare-ups, and understand your treatment options.

What is Acid Reflux?

Also known as acid indigestion or pyrosis, acid reflux is a common condition marked by a burning pain that appears in the lower chest area. The pain occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the food pipe. This misdirection of acid occurs when a valve that exists at the entrance to the stomach—the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close all the way when food is moving into the stomach. If the LES remains partially open, stomach acid can travel up through the esophagus.

When an individual experiences acid reflux more than twice per week, the condition is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What are the Symptoms of Acid Reflux?

The most common symptom of acid reflux is a painful burning sensation that resonates from your stomach, up through the chest and into the throat. Other symptoms of acid reflux may include:

  • A bitter or sour acid material that backs up into your throat or mouth, known as regurgitation
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Burping
  • Incessant hiccups
  • Bloody vomit
  • Bloody or black stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Wheezing, dry cough, hoarseness, or chronic sore throat

How Common is Acid Reflux?

The American College of Gastroenterology reports that over 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once per month, and 15 million Americans experience it daily. Acid reflux is the most common gut-related medical complaint treated by U.S. hospitals, as the related chest pain is often so severe that patients misconstrue it as a sign of a heart attack.

What Causes Acid Reflux?

Lifestyle choices, such as diet, obesity, and smoking, are the most common causes of acid reflux. Acid reflux may also be caused by such factors as:

  • A hiatal hernia, a stomach abnormality in which the upper part of the stomach and LES move above the diaphragm, allowing stomach acid to move up the esophagus
  • Eating large meals
  • Laying down or bending over immediately after a meal
  • Eating certain foods, including onions, garlic, mint, chocolate, tomato, citrus, and foods high in fat, or drinking such beverages as coffee, tea, alcohol, or carbonated drinks
  • Pregnancy
  • Some medications, including ibuprofen, aspirin, and some muscle relaxers and blood pressure medications

Treatment Options for Acid Reflux and GERD

For occasional heartburn, lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking or reducing your consumption of spicy, irritating foods, may reduce the frequency with which you experience heartburn. Chronic heartburn, however, can lead to severe complications, such as an inflammation of the esophagus, known as esophagitis, which can further cause bleeding, ulcers, and chronic scarring that narrows the esophagus, eventually making it difficult to swallow.

If you are suffering from heartburn pain regularly, talk to your doctor. He or she may diagnose you as experiencing GERD and may recommend, in addition to lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter prescription medication, such as antacids that neutralize stomach acid. In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe an H-2-receptor blocker medication that reduces acid production, or a drug that both blocks acid production and heals the esophagus— known as a proton pump inhibitor.

If your heartburn symptoms are frequent and disruptive, make an appointment with one of our Nova Health compassionate care providers today.

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Woman sleeping how much sleep

For many of us, sleep is a commodity—and we can never get enough of it. If you’re like most, you can’t help spending an extra fifteen minutes scrolling through your social media feeds when you know you should turn off the lights and go to bed. Couple that with a morning routine that has you waking up early to get your kids ready for school and commute to work, all before 8 a.m., and most days, you’re left feeling sluggish and foggy before you get to your 11 a.m. staff meeting.

How much sleep do you really need every night? We all hear stories of billionaire entrepreneurs who claim only to need (need) three hours of sleep every night, but is such little sleep realistic or healthy? How can you tell what your personal, optimal amount of sleep is, and more importantly, how can you get it? We’ve got the 411 on all the Zzzs.

How Much Sleep Do You Need at Night?

The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep at night, but according to the National Institutes of Health, is only getting seven. The difference between how much sleep you get and how much you need is critical because the amount of sleep you can get by on is not the same as the amount of sleep you need for optimal health and wellness.

Age Matters

It is important to note that throughout your life, the amount of sleep you will need will fluctuate. Consider the following recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation:

Average Sleep Needs by Age

AgeHours NeededMay be appropriate
Newborn to 3 months old14 – 17 hrs11 – 19 hrs
4 to 11 months old12 – 15 hrs10 – 18 hrs
1 to 2 years old11 – 14 hrs9 – 16 hrs
3 to 5 years old10 – 13 hrs8 – 14 hrs
6 to 13 years old9 – 11 hrs7 – 12 hrs
14 to 17 years old8 – 10 hrs7 – 11 hrs
18 to 25 years old7 – 9 hrs6 – 11 hrs
26 to 64 years old7 – 9 hrs6 – 10 hrs
65+ years old7 – 8 hrs5 – 9 hrs

Can You Get Too Much Sleep?

If you believe you may be suffering from the opposite issue—obtaining too much sleep every night—know that you can overdo it. New research shows that sleeping too much may be linked with health hazards that include:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Depression
  • Increased inflammation
  • Increased pain
  • Impaired fertility
  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Higher risk of diabetes
  • Higher risk of heart disease
  • Higher risk of stroke
  • Higher all-cause mortality

How to Find Your Sleep Sweet Spot

Since the amount of sleep that you need every night is individualized, to determine if you are getting an optimal amount of nightly rest, keep a sleep journal for a few months. Document what time you went to bed and what time you woke up, and assess you how you feel the next day. If you are getting optimal rest, you will feel energized and mentally acute. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you will feel low-energy and mentally fuzzy.

If you already know you need to commit to longer nights’ sleep, click here for tips on healthy sleeping habits you can start today.

Nova Health: Ribbon Cutting and 100 Free Flu Shots

The community partner in wellness hosts ribbon cutting and flu shot giveaway, commits to keeping patients at the center of care

EUGENE, Ore. – October 21, 2019 – Nova Health, a comprehensive provider of quality urgent care, primary care, physical therapy, and musculoskeletal services in Lane and Douglas Counties, announced its rebrand from the Eugene Urgent Care, Prime Care Partners and Atlas Physical Therapy.

Eugene, Roseburg, Thurston, Junction City and Pleasant Hill Urgent Care among other primary care and physical therapy clinics in Lane and Douglas counties are now known as Nova Health. As a longstanding member of the community, the rebrand and name (nova, a new star is defined by the collaborative formation of a new entity that is stronger and brighter than its individual components) represents the company’s unified commitment to providing immediate access to outpatient medical care under one umbrella, including rural and underserved communities.

“As Lane and Douglas counties’ partner in health and wellness, we are excited to reaffirm Nova Health’s partnership with our community,” said Bill Clendenen, Nova Health Chief Executive Officer. “We know that this community has a choice in where they go to receive care and Nova Health remains focused on a bright future in healthcare that revolves around what our people do best: caring for our patients.”

The rebrand has been marked by updated Nova Health facility signs and updated marketing materials at all 14 clinic sites. Current and future patients can now easily identify Nova Health clinics, reassuring they will receive quality, patient-focused medical care.

Nova Health will host a ribbon cutting and open house for the entire community to celebrate the clinic’s brand unity and continued care practices. The clinic will also be providing free flu shots to the first 100 people. Details below:

WHAT:                 Nova Health Ribbon Cutting and Flu Shot Giveaway

WHEN:                 October 31, 2019

                             10AM

WHERE:               Nova Urgent Care – Thurston

                              5781 Main Street, Springfield

                              RSVP here on the Nova Health Facebook page

VISUALS:  100 community members receiving free flu shots

                              New signage and clinic tours

WHY:  Recent studies show that young people (ages 18-34) are increasingly relying on “immediate care” services in non-emergency situations including urgent care clinics compared to older generations. Nova Health understands the need for immediate access to medical care is more and more prevalent and is therefore committed to providing such services and options for patients to receive affordable and consistent healthcare.

About Nova Health

Celebrating over ten years of serving patients throughout Lane and Douglas Counties, Nova Health is an outpatient healthcare organization that provides urgent care, primary care, physical therapy services, and musculoskeletal clinic services. Our focus is on providing high-quality patient care to the neighborhoods and communities we serve. Nova Health is a growing company that was established in 2008 with one clinic and nine employees and has grown to 14 clinics all within the Eugene, Springfield, Junction City, Veneta, Oakridge, Cottage Grove, Florence, and Roseburg areas. For more information, please visit novahealth.com.

Media Contact:
Kristine Rice

541-870-3726

krice@novahealth.com

Five Morning Habits of Highly Successful People

5 Morning Habits

Do you ever feel like some people just have it all together? Maybe it’s the dance mom who never seems frantic on Wednesday afternoons with her perfect outfits, perfect hair, and perfectly manicured nails, or the co-worker in your office who is always sitting at his desk sending out brilliant ideas via email before you even make it into the office.

If it seems like some people can produce a type of daily lifestyle efficiency you feel is unobtainable, know that nothing is stopping you from being just as prepared, organized, and optimistic, except for your daily habits. By adopting the following five proven-effective morning habits of highly successful people, you too will be able to do it all with Zen, no matter what the day throws at you.

  1. Follow a Consistent Wake-Up Routine
    Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends) not only trains your body to fall asleep and wake up more quickly, but it also allows you to be consistent in your morning routine. Nothing sets your morning off on a rough start like running late. If you consistently oversleep, you set yourself up for the panicked morning rush and the anxiety it brings or failing to do something you need to set your day off right—like eating a healthy breakfast.
  2. Wake Up Early. Like, Really Early.
    Not only do you want to wake up at the same time every day, but you’ll also want to wake up early. Some of the world’s most successful people report that they wake up at five or even 4 a.m. If you must be at work by 8 a.m., and you have a 30-minute commute, a 7 a.m. alarm won’t give you the time you will need for healthy habits like meditation, exercise, and eating a healthy breakfast. Commit to slowly moving your wake-up time backward, even just five minutes a week until you are part of the pre-sunrise morning crew.
  3. Get Active.
    If you’re wondering what to do with all the extra time you have in the morning, use it to get active. Daily exercise—even 20 to 30-minutes, can help reduce stress, burn calories, and help keep you fit. Not getting enough exercise can leave you feeling sluggish, fatigued, and unmotivated. A morning jog, yoga session, or workout at your local CrossFit gym will leave you feeling confident and ready to take on your world.
  4. Reflect.
    Take time, even if only five minutes, to reflect on what you’re grateful for, and what you hope to accomplish that day. Many successful people rely on a hand-written to-do list to help them organize and prioritize their tasks for the day. Your list may include personal responsibilities, work requirements, or a mix of both. Throughout the day, check-in with your list, cross off what you have accomplished, and adjust where needed. By the day’s end, seeing how many vital tasks you completed will give you a sense of confidence that will motivate you to tackle tomorrow.
  5. Meditate.
    Before you say that meditation doesn’t work for you, know that there is no right or wrong way to meditate, as long as you take even five minutes to breathe with intention and reflect on what makes you feel grateful, happy, or content. For more tips on how to meditate, review this article from our experts.

Our final piece of advice is not to be too hard on yourself if, on any given morning, things go off the rails. Life happens to all of us, and even the best-laid plans often go awry. When life’s interruptions and disruptions occur, recommit to your morning efficiency plan, and try again. We promise, if you ask all the people in your life who seem to be winning the morning, they’ll tell you that even they have bad days too, but their secret to success is perseverance—and now it’s yours too.

The Days are Getting Shorter—Are You Feeling the Effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SADs-Seasonal Affective Disorder

We’re in full Fall swing, which means baseball playoffs, pumpkin spice everything, cool, crisp weather, and shorter days. If you’re like most people, even if you love Autumn, you secretly crave more hours of sunlight every day. Why? Our bodies naturally crave the energy and mood-boosting power of the sun. When we start to experience fewer regular hours of daylight, especially as Fall turns to Winter, it can begin to impact your mood, especially if you are sensitive to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). What is this moody condition, and how might it be affecting your internal happiness-o-meter? Read on to find out.

What is SAD?

SAD, often referred to as major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern, is a type of depression that’s associated with the changing of the seasons. Those who experience SAD most often feel a decline in their mood in the Fall and Winter months. While experts still need to conduct more research on the causes of SAD, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) believes the condition may be triggered by reduced exposure to sunlight, causing a chemical imbalance in the brain and a disruption of the circadian rhythm (our internal clock).

While the APA reports that only about five percent of Americans experience SAD annually, it can plague their mood for up to 40 percent of the year.

SAD Symptoms

Symptoms of Fall and Winter SAD may include:

  • Regular feelings of depression or hopelessness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Being easily agitated
  • Reduced interest in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating

In the most severe cases, SAD can result in thoughts of death or suicidal ideation.

What to Do if You Believe You are Experiencing SAD

If you notice a recurring, negative impact on your mood and emotional wellbeing during times of the year that experience less consistent daylight, talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to diagnose whether or not you are experiencing a seasonal, or more persistent form of major depressive disorder, and can prescribe a treatment plan. Common treatments for SAD include:

  • Psychotherapy – Treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help patients understand and manage their reactions to certain situations and environments.
  • Prescription Medication – For some, antidepressant medications help to increase serotonin levels, improving mood, and lessening feelings of depression.
  • Bright Light Therapy (Phototherapy) – During this treatment approach, a patient sits in front of a lightbox for twenty minutes to an hour daily, ideally in the morning hours, during the times of the year when they typically experience SAD. The light exposure may help to restore the patient’s normal circadian rhythm.
  • Lifestyle Changes – Changing one’s routine to maximize exposure to sunlight may also help improve mood. Committing to an afternoon walk, changing window dressings to allow more natural sunlight into rooms, and sitting near a window during work hours are all helpful tactics. Obtaining regular exercise and eating healthy also help to stabilize and improve mental health.

The days are only going to keep getting shorter until we reach the Winter solstice. If you believe you may be feeling the effects of shorter, darker days, make an appointment now to talk to your Nova Health provider. Together we will build a plan so that you can maximize your enjoyment of every day, regardless of the season.