by Dr Tony Alessandra,
â€œDonâ€™t waste energy trying to change your relatives. Instead, extend your definition of family to find closeness, connection and community among friends.â€ â€“ Natural Health magazine, Dec. 2004
The holiday season, though joyous for many, may bring with it many stressors and spirit deflating family dynamics. A recent survey by the National Womenâ€™s Health Resource Center (NWHRC) revealed that almost two-thirds of the respondents had experienced holiday depression.
â€œThe holidays become filled with baggage, old hurts and conflicts,â€ says Dr. Norman Epstein, clinical psychologist in the article, â€œPresence of Mindâ€ in Natural Health. â€œThese issues are there all the time, but during this season, people are especially sensitive.â€
According to the NWHRC, found at www.healthywomen.org depression can happen to anyone of any age, race, class or gender. It afflicts almost 19 million Americans each year, and up to one in five American women will suffer from clinical depression at some point in her life. Women are two to three times more likely than men to suffer from depression. Research sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests that depression may be a major risk factor for osteoporosis.Â The good news is that depression is a treatable illness; however, according to a major study published in the June 18, 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), just one in five women with depression ever receive adequate treatment.
If you suffer from depression and it is affecting your life and interfering with your ability to function then perhaps you should seek medical attention. However, if youâ€™re facing the â€œholiday bluesâ€ Natural Health magazine offers helpful strategies to lift your mood with the following:
- Get outside your own head. Become involved in your community. In a study of more than 2,500 people published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, researchers found that volunteer work enhanced six aspects of personal well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, and self esteem, sense of control, physical health, and depression relief.
- Use essential oils and aromatic scents to lift your spirits. Oils with citrus properties remind people of warm climates with lots of sunshine.
- Exercise to improve your mood. In one investigation, published in Comprehensive Psychiatry, researchers found that running was as effective as psychotherapy at relieving depression.
â€œIf people walked 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon they would meet the 30 minutes a day recommendation from the Surgeon General. The University of Texas-Pan American www.utpa.edu is promoting its own health initiative to make people aware of their overall health,â€ said Ruby de la Garza, health education coordinator at UTPAâ€™s Border Health Office. â€œWe encourage people to move and get up during their work day because itâ€™s very likely that they are going to get home and continue to be sedentary. Chances are they are eating unhealthy food during the day and getting no exercise and then going home and doing the same thing. It all adds up.â€
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated that 64 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, resulting in 300,000 preventable deaths each year and the numbers are growing. Many people work long hours stationary at their desks involved in little to no physical activity in or outside the office. Sometimes, their immediate surroundings are laden with secret stashes of â€œcomfort foodsâ€ such as candy bars, sugared sodas and chips rich in fat, sugar and weight producing carbohydrates. When those in-between-snacks arenâ€™t being consumed, lunchtime activities further revolve around eating out or grabbing lunch on-the-go at fast food restaurants where healthy nutritional food is the minority.
â€œI donâ€™t need to convince you that if youâ€™re physically fit, youâ€™re going to come across better to others,â€ writes Dr. Tony Alessendra http://www.alessandra.com/ social psychologist and the author of Charisma â€“ Seven Keys to Developing the Magnetism that Leads to Success. â€œWeâ€™re all attracted to healthy looking people. What youâ€™ll find, over the intermediate to long term, is that as your body gets used to the greater demands of exercise, youâ€™ll look better and feel better. Youâ€™ll have more energy. Your self-esteem and self-confidence will also likely improve.â€
Alessandra suggests making fitness a lifestyle, not a chore. He offers the following ideas to get healthier at work:
- Walk up and down the stairs to your office or apartment.
- Meet and discuss business while walking around the office and its grounds.
- Drink water often throughout the day to stave off hunger pains and feeling tired.
- If you can walk to a meeting do so, rather than drive.
- Schedule workouts as must-attend meetings.
In the April 2004 edition of Prevention magazine, the article â€œFit Execs are More Successful,â€ illustrated how physical fitness improves career success. In a Ball State University survey of 336 entrepreneurs, the physically fit professionals netted bigger returns. Compared with sedentary business owners, daily exercisers were 10 percent more likely to feel personal satisfaction at work.
According to Prevention, being overweight actually costs you more. It reported that of the more than 178,000 people evaluated, the annual cost of health care for an obese American is $1,500 higher than for a normal-weight person.
Prevention provides helpful tips to alleviate weight gain at the office:
- Never go hungry. Eat small amounts of high nutritional foods (fruits and vegetables) throughout the day.
- Never go thirsty. Dehydration can make you feel tired, light-headed, headachy, dizzy and confused. Keep water at your desk and drink it throughout the day.
- Donâ€™t drink sports drinks and sugared sodas for re-hydration. They contain glucose or sugar. Avoid fruit juice because of the high fructose or sugar content as well. These drinks add unnecessary calories and are loaded with lots of sugar that if unused is stored as fat. Water is always the best choice.
- Eat plenty of low fat, high protein snacks. This includes low-fat dairy products, legumes and nuts.
- Take supplements. Take a multivitamin everyday and get plenty of calcium.
- Eat more fish. Fish is rich in omega-3s that help reduce inflammation and stress. Baked or broiled, it can be less fatty than other types of meat.
- Limit Fats. Fat is the last nutrient to leave the stomach and it slows down digestion.
- Set an alarm to go off every hour to remind you to stand up and move around. Even if you just swing your arms or take a deep breath, youâ€™ll feel more alert.
- Use the restroom on another floor and take the stairs.
- Deliver documents or messages to co-workers in person rather than by e-mail.
- Pack your lunch rather than eating out.
- Stock healthy snacks at your desk so that when you get hungry you arenâ€™t tempted to go to the vending machine. Have healthy snacks handy such as fruit, baby carrots, pre-cut veggies, individual salad dressing packets, Cherrios, and, if you have access to a fridge, low-fat yogurt.
- When seated at your desk, maintain good posture. Common aches and pains from sitting too long at a desk include headaches, eyestrain, rounded shoulders and back pain.
- At the desk, squeeze in your abs; make a muscle in your legs, hold a couple seconds and relax. Repeat this for several minutes.
When you consider eating at your desk ask yourself why you want to eat. Are you really hungry or are you stressed, bored or thirsty? Evaluating why you â€œfeelâ€ hungry may prove insightful. Food can provide immediate feelings of satiation and fullness that may be misplaced as addressing the deeper issues of feeling stressed, frustrated or anxious. Food comforts and it is often used as a form of â€œself-medicatingâ€ to deal with emotional distress.
Holidays provide many opportunities where mind, body and spirit may suffer. Family dynamics can be the most distressing of all. Expectations run high, old wounds may surface and opposing personalities may grate the nerves. Family dysfunction is stressful and debilitating.
You can not pick the family you are born into and emotionally charged situations can fester during the holiday season bringing upsets in its wake. As an option and possible substitute for family disharmony create what psychologists are calling a â€œchosen family.â€ These alternative cliques play the role of family by lending support, companionship and advice.
The idea is to create a tight group of people (co-workers, church members and friends) who share similar interests, perspectives and attitudes toward life. Tips on how to grow your own clique are listed in â€œPresence of Mindâ€ article. It suggests the following:
- Create weekly events â€“ Coming together for a weekly potluck dinner, book club or softball game reinforces ties and fosters group bonding.
- Be assertive â€“ If you meet someone you feel drawn to get to know them by inviting them to the group event.
- Organize yearly rituals â€“ Gather the group together for an annual event or create a signature holiday tradition.
- Be inclusive, not exclusive â€“ The purpose of a chosen family is to extend outward and invite others in, rather than to stay sheltered.
- Use technology to build social networks â€“ The Web site friendster.com connects more than nine million members for the purpose of meeting others with common interests. The Web site meetup.com connects members locally based on interests.
Being surrounded by like-minded people and loving friends can help ease the tension of the holidays. Using holistic strategies to deal with stress can equally improve your mental state with healthy eating, self-control and exercise. Be easy on yourself and your expectations of others. Use rationality to guide you and leave the emotional baggage outside. Your holiday season will be better for it.
â€œWhen health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.â€Â Herophilus, (335 -280 B.C.) a Greek physician
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