Free Resources to Keep You Healthy & Centered during COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, likely throwing off your daily routine and sense of balance in this turbulent time.

Taking care of yourself, whether through fitness, nutrition or mindfulness, can help retain a sense of normalcy and keep you feeling (somewhat!) centered.

We’ve rounded up some of the best free offers from fitness apps, meditation apps and more below. We’ll be updating this regularly so bookmark this page and keep checking back! Continue reading

Breathing to Calm Stress

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Breathing consciously is one of the most powerful ways to calm the body’s stress response (sympathetic nervous system) and activate the body’s rest response (parasympathetic nervous system), powerfully changing the cascade of hormones and communication molecules flowing through your brain and body for the better. Try integrating the following breathing practices into your daily life and notice the effect on your mood and mental clarity.

If you have no time at all, try: 

Observing Your Breath: Don’t change your breath in any way; simply observe your breath. Where is your breath going in your body? Feel your lungs expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale. Focus on the changing sensations as air moves through your nose and fills your chest and abdomen. You may mentally note, “inhaling,” as inhaling and, “exhaling,” as exhaling.

Belly Breathing: Place your hand on your abdomen and as you inhale let your belly expand, like the belly of a baby or a puppy dog. When we are stressed, we take short upper chest breaths. Breathing deeply into the belly tells the brain that we are safe, bringing blood to the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the highest part of the brain. “Willpower pause” is the term researcher Kelly McGonigal uses to describe how two minutes of deep belly breathing shifts blood away from the reactive parts of the brain to the PFC, allowing us to respond with clarity and resilience during times of stress. Amazing! 

Focusing on the Exhalation: Take a deep breath in through your nose and as you let it out through your mouth, focus on squeezing out every last sip. Notice the effort in the muscles between your ribs (called intercostal muscles). The amount of air you move out of your lungs determines the amount of air you can draw in. 

If you have 3 minutes, try:


Counting Your Breath: This is a powerful anti-anxiety technique. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth (like you were blowing out of a straw) for a count of 8. Repeat the processes three more times, maintaining the 4:7:8 ratio and notice the effect on your nervous system. Do four breath cycles at least twice a day. 

If you have 5 – 10 minutes try: 

Making your Breath Deeper and More Easeful with an Anchor: Sitting or lying down, scan your body for any areas of unnecessary tension and let the body soften. Bring your attention to your belly and invite your breath to be deeper and more easeful. At the bottom of each exhalation, silently whisper a word or phrase that makes you feel safe or peaceful. This word or phrase is an anchor for your attention. When your mind wanders, invite your attention back to your breath and your word. Keep inviting yourself back for 5-20 minutes. Researchers use the term “relaxation response” to describe the healing that occurs through this practice. In one study, participants who practiced for 10 -20 minutes once or twice per day demonstrated changes in the expression of genes related to immune function, energy metabolism, and inflammation. Relaxation literally changes the substance of your body!

Resting in Your Breath: Find a comfortable position lying down. Let the eyes close and the arms and legs rest heavy. Find your breath wherever you feel it most easily – belly, chest, or nose. Now, sense that you are “being breathed” by the universal life force. There is nothing you have to do, just enjoy being breathed. Inhaling to receive this nourishing life force and exhaling to let go. Allow yourself be carried by this mysterious life force, resting in the fundamental rhythm of nature to which you already belong. 

 

By Kayleigh Vogel, Wellness & Positive Psychology Coach 

http://www.kayleighwellness.com

 

3 Nutrition Tips for Social Distancing

By Beth Lipton, Health Coach

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You don’t need me to tell you how stressful the situation we’re in now is. We’re all living with it and coping as best we can. What we eat has the power to ease or exacerbate our stress, so here are a few strategies to help keep you well and calm.

Watch out for stress eating: I’ve seen a lot of talk around social media about stress eating, and it’s completely understandable why this is happening—especially if you’re bored, which can make it even worse. If you’ve been stress eating, no judgment. We’re just at the beginning of this quarantine, so it’s the best time to get yourself set up with healthy habits. The best defense against stress eating is noticing when you’re doing it (or, ideally, when you’re about to do it). Every time you go to eat something outside of meal times, ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Check in with how your body is feeling. If you are hungry, note the sensations in your body, how your stomach feels (and if you’re truly hungry, have a snack—something with vegetables, protein and healthy fat, like sliced vegetables with a hard-boiled egg). If you’re not sure, or you find you aren’t actually hungry, engage yourself in an activity that isn’t eating. I recommend making a list of tasks you’ve been wanting to accomplish for a while and referring to it in these moments, instead of turning to TV or social media, which invite snacking. Clean out a closet, FaceTime a friend or loved one, organize some area of your home. Engage in something that requires your brain and ideally your hands, too. 

Eat nourishing foods. You know that to stay well, you need foods that are good for you, with plenty of nutrients. Eat plenty of vegetables, healthy fats and protein—grass-fed beef, pastured poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish. If you don’t eat animal protein, whole grains and beans in combination are fine. Avoid snack foods like chips and puffs (even organic ones, and ones that say they have a serving of vegetables), and really watch out for sweets. A little something is fine, like a piece of dark chocolate. But sugar is an enemy to your immune system, and none of us needs that right now. If you’re “corona baking,” stick to recipes that sweeten with fruit like bananas, apples and dates, or that rely on just a touch of natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey. Utilize recipes that are lower in empty carbs like white flour. (Shameless plug: I post recipes like this free all the time on my Instagram.) Not only will sticking to whole, nourishing foods help you stay well, you’ll also feel so. Much. Better. 

Order in sometimes… but have it steamed. I’m in favor of supporting restaurants by ordering in some meals right now. Your best bet is to order your food steamed and add your own seasonings/sauces. Restaurants often use low-quality vegetable oils, because they’re less expensive—but those oils are highly inflammatory to the body and can leave you feeling sluggish and bloated. It’s not as sexy getting food delivered that’s steamed, but it can make a real difference in how you feel—plus, you want to avoid unnecessary inflammation as much as possible while we’re all vulnerable. We all know to avoid processed foods—you’ll be hard-pressed to find one more processed than vegetable oils. Avoid them whenever you can, starting with takeout.

I hope these tips are helpful to you, and that you stay well and safe throughout the crisis.

– Beth Lipton, Health Coach

Website: Bethlipton.com

Wellbeing Tips During COVID-19

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The current climate can be confusing and stressful, and figuring out how to balance all the changes can be overwhelming. If you’re feeling that stress, remember that it is a natural response. We are all being forced to slow down and many of us are working from home for the foreseeable future. 

To help manage through this challenging time, we consolidated tips and resources to practice self-care – because you need to be as kind to yourself as you would be to others.

Sleep

Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night will help repair your body and increase your immune boosting cells. Try implementing a reasonable bedtime even if you don’t have to wake up for an early commute.

HealthKick Sleep Partner Highlights:

  • Calm offers sleep stories to help you doze off
  • Oura Ring helps track your sleep cycle so you can make sure you’re getting the best quality of sleep 
  • dagsmejan is an innovative sleepwear company to keep your body cool while sleeping

Mindfulness/Meditation

Taking a few minutes to yourself each day to quiet your mind from the news and media coverage can be an amazing stress reliever. Letting your mind relax and checking in with your thoughts and feelings is so important. 

HealthKick Mindfulness/Meditation Partner Highlights:

  • Calm offers daily meditations to keep you zen
  • Insight Timer offers a free library of more than 30k guided meditations and 5k teachers 
  • Yoga International let’s you stream hundreds of expertly led yoga & meditation classes 

Nutrition

Fueling your body with the healthiest food can help keep your immune system strong and keep you in a better state of mind. Try snacking on fruits and veggies during the day, the recommendation is five to nine servings. 

HealthKick Nutrition Partner Highlights:

  • Hello Fresh is a fresh and affordable meal delivery kit
  • Thrive Market gives you access to healthy food from top-selling, organic brands at wholesale prices
  • Hungryroot stocks your fridge with groceries you love each week based on your food profile and then helps you cook them.
  • Butcher Box offers 100% grass fed meat delivered to your door

Stay Active

Staying active is another great way to stay healthy and from going stir crazy! Set up a regular workout time like you normally would, download an app and stick to the workouts.

HealthKick Nutrition Partner Highlights:

  • JETSWEAT brings the boutique studio experience home with HIIT, Pilates, Yoga, Sculpt, Barre & more.
  • Fhitting Room on Demand brings you the best High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and strength workouts at your fingertips. 
  • Yogaworks offers online yoga classes with top teachers.

We hope these tips and recommendations help make life a little easier to manage. If you need any help with recommendations or questions about HealthKick, please reach out at concierge@health-kick.com

Strategies to Optimize Your Sleep Environment

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Why is having your bedroom designed for optimal sleep so important? The short answer  – because sleep is so important! For too many of us, sleep is an afterthought, and unfortunately, our bedrooms reflect this. 

Sleep impacts so many aspects of our lives – our immune systems, our performance and productivity, our mood, our safety, our metabolism, our outlook, our ability to handle stress – and so much more. If our bedrooms are not conducive to sleep, our health and overall well-being are negatively affected.  

Bedroom optimization really is the first step in adopting a healthy sleep lifestyle. And a healthy sleep lifestyle can be life-changing for those who have been skimping on this biological necessity. It’s well worth the time and effort to take some time and address the following aspects of the sleep environment: 

  • Air Quality: Plants and fresh flowers can be visually appealing and relaxing while also removing toxins from the air. The extra touch of green from bedroom plants can be soothing as well as uplifting. Plants that can help improve air quality include ficus, English Ivy, bamboo palm, and garden mum

 

  • Color: Decorate the bedroom with colors that are sleep-inducing – neutrals, pale greens, and blues. Some surveys have shown that people with a blue bedroom get more sleep than those with other colored bedrooms and wake up feeling happy (that’s what a good night’s sleep does for you!) Avoid loud, bright colors (especially purples, oranges, and reds)  in the bedroom as these are not calming and conducive to relaxation and sleep.

 

  • Comfort: The bed is the focal point of the bedroom and essentially serves as the vehicle for sleep. In fact, the mattress is the most important piece of furniture in the home. Shoemaker John Wildsmith famously said, “You are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both.”

 

  • Cleanliness:  According to National Sleep Foundation surveys, people report sleeping better when their bedrooms are clean and comfortable and are more excited to go to bed on sheets with a fresh scent. 

 

  • Clutter: Bedroom clutter is anxiety-provoking,  distracting, and stressful – which can compromise sleep quality. Unused exercise equipment, old magazines, unfolded laundry – none of these should be in the sleep environment. 

 

  • Décor: Our bedrooms need to be serene, tranquil, and relaxing. A minimalist approach to bedroom décor is probably the most calming. As far as electronics go – keep them out– especially the TV. 

 

  • Design: The bedroom should be your “sleep sanctuary.” It should be furnished and maintained accordingly. Go for symmetry wherever possible, and be sure to have something beautiful and inspiring in the bedroom so you will see it upon awakening.

 

  • Function: Healthy sleep is the primary function of the bedroom. Considering we spend one-third of our lives sleeping, we spend more time in the bedroom than any other room in the home. It is estimated that between 40 and 70 percent of our time at home is spent in the bedroom.

 

  • Light: The bedroom must be dark for optimal sleep quality. Even small amounts of light interfere with sleep quality. Use blackout curtains for optimal room darkening and a sleep mask as needed. 

 

  • Neatness: The bedroom should be a “stress-free zone” at all costs – no unfolded laundry, no stack of bills, no unfinished projects – those go anywhere but the bedroom. If your bedroom doubles as an office, be sure that work items can be put away (out of sight) at bedtime.

 

  • Noise: Noise negatively affects sleep quality. Similar to a sleep disorder like sleep apnea — where breathing is repeatedly interrupted throughout the night leading to disturbed sleep — noise can wake the sleeper several times throughout the night – leading to disturbed sleep – even without the sleeper realizing it. Keep earplugs and white noise machines handy.

 

  • Scent: Some pleasing scents in the bedroom can help a person fall asleep. Some aromatherapy agents can contribute to relaxation and sleep, including lavender, vanilla, jasmine, chamomile, sandalwood, clary sage, rose, and valerian.

 

  • Serenity: The bedroom should give a sleeper the feeling of relaxation, calmness, and tranquility.

 

 

So many of us spend a great deal of time and money on kitchens, family rooms, media – but have overlooked the critical importance of the bedroom. But now that we know just how important sleep is – perhaps it’s time to pay more attention to our sleep environment.

Sleep is so good for us – in so many ways –  and skimping on it only threatens our health, well-being, and quality of life. When looking for ways to get the best sleep possible, and considering the many variables that constitute good sleep, we should always begin with optimizing our sleep environment.

With a few easy steps, it is possible to transform any bedroom into a sleep-friendly bedroom –  a significant contributor to sleep quality, and sleep quality is a significant contributor to life quality.

Terry Cralle, RN – Certified Clinical Sleep Educator, Certified in Clinical Sleep Health

Co-author of Snoozby and the Great Big Bedtime Battle and Sleeping Your Way to the Top: How to Get the Sleep You Need to Succeed. 

5 Steps to Take To Build A Healthier Relationship With Food, Eating & Your Body

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There are a number of factors that influence your eating habits and weight, including genetics, childhood upbringing, stress levels, subconscious programs and much more.  Often your relationship with food and your body is quite complex, beginning from the moment you were born and evolving until now. It takes time to change unhelpful patterns of thinking about yourself, break poor eating habits and develop a healthier relationship with food, eating and your body.  Here are 5 steps to take today to get started: 

  1. Forgive yourself and your body. That’s right, the first place to start is with self-forgiveness.  Are you angry with yourself for “letting yourself go” or not “doing better” with eating and exercise? A lot of my clients report this, as well as feeling angry with their bodies for “failing” them.  Here’s the thing; being critical of yourself isn’t going to do any good in helping you make positive changes to improve your health. If anything, this self-criticism, anger and judgment simply make things worse, creating a barrier to moving forward with ease and enjoyment. You cannot go back in time and undo your past choices, all you have is this present moment. Forgive yourself for your perceived wrongdoings. Forgive yourself for not doing “good enough” or meeting yours or others expectations. And forgive your body for not being the way you wish it would be. The truth is your body is simply a reflection of the way you’ve treated it as a result of your eating, exercise and behavioral choices. And the good news is that it will respond favorably to the improvements you make.  Become an ally with yourself and your body, leaving the past grudges behind, and empowering yourself to have a more compassionate attitude instead.  

 

  1. Give gratitude to your body daily. Usually, it’s common for people to hyper-focus on everything that is “wrong” with their body. What I hear most often is people complaining about being overweight and carrying excess fat on their body. Do you identify with your weight, believing that your weight equals your worth? If so, this is a very inaccurate perception of your value that bypasses acknowledging all the things that are right and good about your body and yourself. In the world of therapy it’s called minimization, which describes the human tendency to minimize the many positive aspects of a situation and maximize the one perceived negative thing.  To begin addressing this tendency, combat your negative body-talk by giving gratitude to your body daily. Write down 5-10 things that you are grateful for about your body. This could include things such as thanking your: legs for carrying you up a flight of stairs, stomach for digesting food, eyes for seeing the sunrise, skill for healing a wound, heart for beating and keeping you alive, etc. The list of possibilities is endless if you set the intention to truly acknowledge all your body does for you, every minute of every day, to keep you alive, thriving and well. 

 

  1. Stop labeling food as good or bad.  Chances are you have a few ideas of what foods you think are “good” or healthy foods to eat and “bad” and unhealthy foods to eat. However, when you use the language of “good” and “bad” to label foods, then it can often lead you to conclude that you are “bad” for eating a “bad” food. The concept of being good and bad implies on a deeper subconscious level that if you’ve been “bad” or “sinned” then you are guilty and deserve to be punished, whether through your words or actions. Furthermore, I often see the pattern of people concluding that since they’ve already eaten “bad” then they might as well continue to eat junk, resulting in overeating or binge eating. These patterns of thought and eating habits are worth stopping immediately. The easiest way is to simply drop the labels of “good/bad” altogether. Instead, describe foods using their names or facts about their nutritional content. For example, a salad with lots of organic vegetables is a nutrient-dense food choice while an ice cream sunday is a low-nutrient food choice. Choose which foods you will eat based on their nutritional content and how these foods make you feel after you eat them. If you feel tired and sluggish after eating something then you may opt not to eat that food again, not because it is “bad” but because it doesn’t truly make you feel healthy and isn’t moving you towards your health goals. 

 

  1. Practice eating mindfully without distractions. If you’re someone who eats on-the-go, eats at your desk or in your car, or multitasks while eating then you will benefit greatly from aiming to improve how you eat as much as what you eat.  Studies show that practicing mindful eating can help improve digestion, increase satisfaction while eating, strengthen the mind-body connection and allow you to more easily stop eating when you’re satisfied. This is also a great skill to practice if you have a tendency to clear your plate or eat an entire box of something without realizing it until after the fact. That shows your brain is eating mindlessly. Shifting into a state of mindfulness requires you to eliminate all distractions while eating. Turn of the TV, put away your phone and actually sit down at a table with just your meal. Focus 100% of your attention and five senses on your food. How does it look, smell, feel, sound and taste? Immerse yourself in the sensory experience of eating as if this was your last meal on Earth. Savor each bite, chewing your food thoroughly and noticing how your body responds. Aim to take 20 minutes to eat your meal, which is how long it takes for your body to register feelings of fullness. When you eat this way, it is much easier to stop eating when you’re satisfied and avoid the discomfort that can come from mindless eating. 

 

  1. Distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger. Increasing your awareness of what type of hunger you’re experiencing can be a game-changer in helping you not only improve your relationship with food and your eating habits, but also in helping you improve your emotional awareness and regulation. This especially applies if you are a stress or emotional eater. Often times you may find yourself reaching for food without stopping to ask if you’re actually hungry.  Indications that you are experiencing physical hunger are: it has been a few hours since you last ate, your stomach is grumbling and you may feel “hangry” or faint, and usually any food sounds appealing. On the other hand, emotional hunger usually strikes in the form of a food craving, meaning only certain foods will satisfy. If you have a fridge full of food and you decide to go drive to get the fast food you are craving then this may mean there is an inner emotion stirring that’s causing you to desire comfort foods to sooth that feeling. Furthermore, emotional hunger tends to come on suddenly and can emerge even when you know you’re full or have already eaten enough.  If you can identify that you’re experiencing emotional hunger, then it is a great opportunity to respond to your emotion in a more effective way other than eating. For example, if you are feeling stressed after a long day of work and are craving a glass of wine to unwind at night, instead you can try to release the stress by exercising, practicing deep breathing, taking a bath or doing a meditation. In doing so, you teach your brain and body other ways to effectively respond to emotions as they arise rather than turning to food as an emotional soother. 

 

Sarah Speers, LMFT, 

www.sarahspeers.com

No More Counting Sheep: 5 Easy Steps To Improve Your Sleep

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“Another restless night.”

“Counting sheep doesn’t seem to cut it anymore these days.”

“I wake up as tired as I was when I went to sleep last night.” 

All of these statements are examples of things my clients report to me all too often these days. Sleep, one of the most fundamental needs of the human body, is becoming increasingly more difficult to find in today’s busy culture. Stress, constant stimulation, technological advances (yes, I mean that phone in your hand), and busy schedules make it hard for many of us to get sleep.

 So, I want to offer you 5 quick and easy tips for creating healthy habits that will help you get better sleep (and better overall health as a result!)

  1.     Stick to a schedule – Sleep, like any behavior, will be more automatic if the body is expecting it. Try to have the same bed and waking times and stick to them. This helps to regulate your body’s circadian rhythm (sleep clock) and when that rhythm is in alignment, you fall and stay asleep easier.
  1.     Create a sleep ritual – Do something every night right before bed that helps your body and mind wind down from the day. This ritual, whatever it is, will become associated with bedtime/sleep. Examples could be, take a hot shower, read your book for half an hour, spray the pillows with lavender and practice gratitude. Whatever you do, make sure you try to do it with consistency, as the habit will become associated with sleep and signal to your mind it’s time to shut down.
  1.     Let your bedroom be a sanctuary – if you allow your bedroom to be for sleep only, the chances of actually sleeping in the bedroom increase. Avoid working, watching television and eating in the bedroom. Make sure you have dark window coverings. Create an environment that is peaceful and not too busy. Avoid anything that would otherwise be stimulating (bright lights, sounds, busy patterns, etc..)
  1.     Avoid screen time before bed – Studies show that the blue light from our cell phones interrupts our sleep cycle by reducing melatonin production and stimulating our nervous system, so be sure to turn that phone off at least an hour before bed.
  1.     Eat a carbs before bed – Have you heard that old wives’ tale about warm milk helping us sleep?  Well, it just might be true. I believe it is a derivative tale of the plain truth that carbohydrates deliver tryptophan to the body, which is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin, both of which are critical in aiding the body to relax and sleep.

 

Becca Clegg, LPC, CEDS-S

Becca Clegg is a psychotherapist, speaker and author. For more information on her practice and services, visit rebeccaclegg.com