Get Organized for Spring

Today is the first official day of spring, and the warm temperatures definitely are making me think of bright flowers, green grass and sandals. Just as this is a time of growth and renewal for Mother Nature, we can apply the same principles to our own lives to feel energized and rejuvenated. Taking time to get organized has health benefits too; according to Eva Selhub, M.D., author of Your Health Destiny: How to Unlock Your Natural Ability to Overcome Illness, Feel Better, and Live Longer, “At the end of the day, being organized is about having more time for yourself, and enabling you to live a more balanced life.”

Read on for some great tips to get you and your family ready for the season.

Schedule screening and doctor appointments. Now is the perfect time to get annual checks crossed off your list before the chaos of sports, family picnics and end of the school year projects are in full swing. If you take medication, check in with your doctor to make sure your prescription is still correct. Any nagging ailment? Get that checked out now so you don’t miss out on fun summer activities.

Do some spring cleaning. I know, this one sounds awful, but take this opportunity to make a little extra room in your home. Clean out your closets—anything you haven’t worn for more than a year or anything that isn’t flattering gets tossed. Have your kids try on clothes so you can get rid of anything they’ve outgrown as well. Old coats, sporting equipment and anything else that has gotten pushed out of sight—goodbye! While you’re at it, clean out your medicine cabinet and makeup bag. Throw out anything that is expired; makeup generally only has a shelf life of one year, so anything you’ve had longer should be replaced.

Detox your home of allergens. Between grass, pollen and animals shedding, spring can wreak havoc for allergies. Take a preemptive strike against these by washing all your linens, blankets, couch covers, pillows, rugs—anything that traps dirt and dust. Sweep and mop floors, and, if you’re feeling really ambitious, get your carpets professionally cleaned. Do the same to other high-traffic places such as cars and offices. Your nose and sinuses will thank you.

Do a virtual clean out. Beyond our homes, our inboxes and phones can accumulate just as much unused stuff. Start with your inbox and delete old emails that you don’t need to any longer. For ones you do need to keep, get them organized by placing them in folders. Challenge yourself to keep your inbox to fewer than 50 messages so it’s easy to find ones when you need them. On your phone, access your apps. Anything that hasn’t been opened in the last few months can go. Clear up more memory space by downloading your pictures and then clear that folder.

Schedule weekly “me” time. Between work, family obligations and social engagements saying life can get hectic is an understatement. Often, time for yourself gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Find a weekly activity to recharge this spring. Perhaps it’s an exercise or art class, maybe it’s a weekly coffee date with a girlfriend or even just getting into bed an hour earlier to read a good novel. Find something that is relaxing and don’t let excuses pop up to skip this time. Your mental well-being will thank you.

Spring has sprung, and before the hubbub of warm weather takes over completely, set aside some time to get your life and home really organized. Take one weekend day to put these tips into action and then enjoy the positive feelings of productivity and accomplishment you’ll feel after. What are some other tips you have for getting ready for spring? Share them with us in the comments below.

Take Care of Yourself First to Stay Merry and Bright this Holiday Season

Hanukkah has started and Christmas Day is just one week away, quickly followed by Kwanzaa and New Years. This special time is synonymous with spending time with family and friends, feasting, opening presents, attending holiday parties and more. However, too often we lose the meaning behind what makes this time of year special by getting overwhelmed with our holiday to-do lists. Amid the rush of last minute shopping, wrapping and baking stress can take the “ho-ho-ho” out of the festivities.

According to Everyday Health (http://bit.ly/1wZYocY), stress can cause forgetfulness and concentration loss, acne, headaches, nausea and a weakened immune system. Here are some tips to help de-stress so you can enjoy every minute of holiday magic:

Plan Ahead: Balancing numerous responsibilities and expectations is one of the primary causes of stress during the holidays, especially during the final days of preparation. Plan ahead to manage your time. Some things can wait; make lists to prioritize tasks and take care of the most urgent matters first. Utilize evenings after the kids are asleep to wrap gifts or address Christmas cards while cookies are baking in the oven. Don’t forget to schedule time for the fun stuff also: watching holiday movies, decorating the tree or going ice-skating.

Exercise. The importance of this can’t be reiterated enough. Exercising is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Whether running, walking, doing yoga, lifting weights or skiing—get moving! Health.com promotes physical activity, which give you natural stress relieving endorphins and boost your mood for up to 12 hours (http://bit.ly/1wGrlIL). You will also sleep better if you keep active – and sleep is key to stress reduction. Plus, a little daily sweat will keep those extra pounds off and ensure you feel great at every holiday party!

Eat Well. We are what we eat. Eating well is essential for improving overall mood and staying stress free. Eating unhealthy foods can make us feel sluggish and tired, not to mention adding unnecessary pounds during an already indulgent time of year. Make sure you eat breakfast everyday, especially before shopping and baking marathons, to feel full and satisfied. Pack a granola bar, some fresh veggies or a few hard-boiled eggs to eat on the go when hunger strikes rather than resorting to fast food or treats. When you do try those cookies or sweet treats, add something with protein to temper the sugar high – and low.

Practice Mindfulness. We can spend far too much time looking forward to and preparing for an upcoming event that we forget to enjoy the present – and the event. Stop and look around to see all you have for which to be grateful. In addition – try as much as possible to stick with your normal routine—continue book club, yoga, or whatever ‘me’ time you take for yourself. Living in the now can help you appreciate what you already have, rather than thinking about what isn’t done. Watch a holiday movie with your kids, go-out for a romantic date night—before we know it, the season will be past. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, close your eyes and take three or four deep breaths to re-center your mood. And remember the joy of the season – research shows that doing a small something that’s nice for someone else – as simple as smiling – will improve your day even more than theirs.

Say no. Learning to say no is important for staying stress free. Getting caught up trying to please everyone makes us forget about ourselves. If you don’t have time to do a favor for a friend or committing to another social engagement might increase stress levels, it’s fine to say no. Sometimes, simply accepting that not everything needs to be perfect can greatly reduce stress. Again, prioritize what is most important, and be willing to let some other stuff slide in favor of your mental well-being.

Appreciate the true magic of the season by keeping your stress in check. Have other tips to keep calm and still celebrate? Share them with us in the comments below.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental illnesses affect people all around the world. For such a common condition they are often misunderstood and ignored, leaving many victims to suffer in silence.

But, there is hope. Advances in medical and psychological technology are giving us a better understanding of the causes of mental illnesses and closer to finding the cures. More people are getting involved to help raise money and awareness. In our “Movember” blog from last month , we discussed a couple of charities that are fighting to change this narrative (Movember and No Shave November). But what is mental health, and how do we better educate ourselves to help those affected?

Mental illness refers to a wide range of medical conditions that affect ones mood, thinking and behavior. Some of the more common illnesses include: depression, anxiety, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating), substance abuse and dependency, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Like many diseases, mental illnesses often come and go with symptoms varying in length and severity. Illnesses like these effect one in four people worldwide.

There are numerous ways in which individuals can develop mental illnesses but we can narrow it down to two primary categories: internal (biological, biochemical) and external causes (traumatic events, stress, environment).

  • Biological factors: Individuals who are related to those suffering from mental illnesses are often more likely to develop those illnesses.
  • Traumatic situations. People that go through traumatic events in their life often develop mental illnesses.
  • Brain Chemistry: Biochemical changes in our brains have been linked to different aspects of mental health. Hormonal changes can affect mental health as well.

No two mental illnesses are alike, but many of the victims exhibit will suffer from some of the more common symptoms (Mayo Clinic):

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Excessive fears or worries, feelings of extreme guilt
  • Extreme mood changes from high to lows
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Evidence suggests that psychological treatments are by far the most effective method in treating mental illness. These psychological treatments target many of the behavioral, cognitive, social, emotional or environmental factors to improve mental or physical health and the treatment most people see. This can include joining support groups or talking with a psychologist, and in many cases prescription drugs may be prescribed.

The most important thing to remember in regards to mental health is to get help. Many individuals living with mental health disorders feel alone in their struggle. But as we have discussed, mental health is something individuals all around the world suffer from. You are not alone.

If you are worried about a loved one going through trouble with mental health, reach out to them. MentalHealth.gov has an excellent article on how to talk to friends and family going through problems with mental illness. Here are a few of the talking points:

  • Learning about mental health can help in improved recognition of problems, getting earlier treatment, and greater understanding and compassion for those suffering.
  • How to best address problems you see in friends. Be understanding and caring. “I’ve been worried about you, can we talk about what you are experiencing, if not who are you comfortable talking to?”
  • Knowing where to go for help, or connecting others to make sure they are getting the help they need.

Mental health is a problem effecting people all around the world, with one in four people experiencing complications in their lifetime, this is a problem that is not getting the attention it is deserved. It is up to us to get help for ourselves and our loved ones.