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May 6, 2017
Yes We May! #1: Look Out For Lyme

black legged tick

What makes you tick? Probably not ticks.

Since the late 1990s, reported cases of Lyme disease have tripled in number. And this year, after observing a spike in tick-borne illnesses across the country, scientists have reported this camping season could be the worst tick season in years.  They give credit (or blame) to the white-footed mice, able carriers of Lyme disease, who are feasting on copious amounts of acorns to thrive in number and play host to ticks. Experts also say that warmer weather fueled by climate change allows ticks to remain active longer, with more opportunity to venture into places formerly too frigid—introducing their pathogens to new regions of North America. Even during a run of severe winter days, ticks are able to bury deeply into the soil to survive. Ticks are now most prevalent in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and upper Midwest. But everyone who plans to camp this summer should learn the facts about tick bites.

Make a fortress around your feet. Ticks don’t fly or land on you; they crawl up your body. Feet and ankles are the way ticks gain access to the body. Watch your legs, wear close-toed shoes, and use tick-killing repellants on both shoes and socks. And though it may be a nerdy look, try tucking your pants into your socks. Lyme disease is never in style!

Beware black legs. Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses are commonly carried by black-legged ticks, which are most active between May and July. Black-legged ticks have doubled in number in the last 20 years.

Repel the rascals. Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535. Contrary to myth, DEET is not harmful.

Remove immediately. Don’t waste time trying to “coax” a tick off your skin or trying a folk remedy like Vaseline, nail polish, or burnt match heads. Grab the tick with tweezers as close as possible to the skin, and pull straight out.

Watch for symptoms. Sometimes contracting Lyme disease leads to noticeable symptoms: a bulls-eye rash at the site of the tick bite, facial paralysis, and even swollen knees. But it’s not always obvious, and could lead to chronic complications such as memory problems, heart arrhythmia, and debilitating arthritis. If you experience visible symptoms or any fever, aches, fatigue, and joint pain, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately. Early intervention decreases the risk of serious complications.

Scrub and soak. Take a shower, give your children a bath, and dry clothing on high heat for 10 minutes. Have a spouse or friend check your back, neck, and scalp.


May 1, 2017
Spring Ahead #4: Keeping Safe While Camping (Part 3 of 3)

Keeping Safe While Camping

In our final installment of camping safely, we explore how to cook safely so you can enjoy “al fresco” dining that’s not fraught with risk for food-borne illness. Keep these tips in mind while planning your menu.

Yes, you “can”! Canned goods are safe and shelf-stable. Plan meals that include peanut butter in plastic jars; concentrated juice boxes; canned chicken, beef or tuna; and dried fruit mixed with nuts.

Take temperature. If your menu includes burgers and hot dogs, make sure you have the proper equipment to keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold! Besides the obvious equipment, such as portable stoves, make sure you have a food thermometer handy to determine whether your meat or poultry has reached a safe internal temperature. Ground beef may harbor Salmonella or E. coli, and only a thermometer can verify that patties are cooked to a minimum of 160 degrees F. Hot dogs should remain steaming hot.

Stay cooler. On the flip side (pardon the pun), keep perishables cool to stop contamination in its tracks. It’s thrilling to leave the dinner table by languishing under the sun with your meal; but remember: toxic bacteria multiply quickly within two hours, and within one hour on sweltering days. Pack at least two insulated coolers for your camping trip: one for drinks and snacks, and one for perishable food. Ice or frozen gel packs are a good idea, too. One last tip: pack coolers in reverse order, with food you plan to use first on top. That way you’ll avoid rummaging around to the point of disarray.

Sanitize hands and surfaces often; separate raw food from cooked. Roughing it outdoors shouldn’t mean throwing all caution to the wind; food safety is just as important in the great outdoors as in your kitchen.

Boil that beverage. Don’t rely on a lake or stream for your drinking water, no matter how clean it appears. If you’re not using bottled water, you should boil it for at least one minute.


May 1, 2017
Spring Ahead #3: Keeping Safe While Camping (Part 2 of 3)

Keeping Safe While Camping

Besides the 15 minutes of total solar eclipse in mid-August—a spectacle that’s worth  a trip in itself—the sun will always factor into your preparations for safe camping. And while we all pray for a sunny day to explore the great outdoors, that bright yellow ball overhead can produce too much of a good thing. Overheating is a serious risk, especially for children and older adults. Keep your cool by reading our tips:

Consider hiking first thing in the morning or in the early evening, staying in shade or shelter during the most oppressive heat of the day (usually from 10 am to 4 pm).

Drink plenty of fluids. Tweak the old real-estate saying to “Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!” If plain water doesn’t excite you, add slices lemon, orange or mint; or bring an iced tea mix to enjoy. The key is to drink something; even coffee is better than nothing.

Spot the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Goose bumps, skin tingling, muscle cramps, dull headache, shallow breathing and nausea are all warning signs of heat exhaustion, caused by the body losing salt through exertion and perspiration. In cases of heatstroke, the body’s temperature rises to 104 degrees, causing impaired mental states such as agitation, confusion, or lethargy. That’s because the nerve cells in the brain and body are the most vulnerable to heat damage. As heat stroke progresses, blood flow to the skin increases; which, coupled with copious amounts of sweat, poses serious danger to the heart. Avoid a medical emergency by spraying your camper with cool water and applying wet clothes or ice packs to the armpits or groin.

Keep your sunscreen close at hand! Avoid the red, sore, blistered or peeling skin that comes with severe sunburn. We’ve already reminded you to pack sunscreen—one that offers broad spectrum protection. Remember that sunscreen chemicals often degrade in the sun or rub off on towels and clothing; so re-apply frequently.


April 17, 2017
Spring Ahead #2: Keeping Safe While Camping (Part 1 of 3)

safe camping

Sunburns and downpours and bears, oh my! For all the joys of camping, there are potential hazards we want to avoid. Most aren’t nearly as dramatic as a bear bursting through your tent—they’re far more mundane, far more frequent, and (luckily) far more preventable. In this multi-part series, we will cover ground on how to camp safely.

Smart camping begins with preparation—and that means packing right, even if you’re packing light. Here’s what to bring:

Long-sleeve layers, rain poncho, and emergency blanket. Have you felt the chill at sundown or while camping at high altitudes? The most important thing for campers to remember is that sudden temperature and weather shifts happen—inevitably. Pack clothes that layer easily, and bring ample protection against a rainstorm or a cold snap. Even at the height of summer, temperatures can plummet overnight. Breathable layers of long sleeves not only keeps you comfortable; they also prevent insect bites. 

Sleeping bag. The best bet is a dark-colored one with a water-repellant, windproof shell. Dark colors will absorb the sun’s warmth in the morning, keeping you cozy and comfortable at dawn.

Sunscreen. It’s essential throughout the year, not just on scorching summer days; clouds and snow actually intensify rays. The best sunscreen is a broad-spectrum version, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of 15 or higher. And don’t forget lipscreen to avoid disruptive chapping!

High-energy food. Think trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, energy bars, packets of oatmeal, and hard-boiled eggs: a good balance of carbs, protein and fat. Pack food in tight, waterproof bags and containers, tucked securely into insulated coolers.

Bug/insect repellent. Did you know that bites from mosquitos and ticks can cause harmful diseases? You can find repellents in many forms, from aerosols and sprays to creams and sticks.

First-aid kit. Rather than toss a pre-purchased one into the car, you should customize the kit with supplies that fit your group’s needs the best. Some things to include: medications, hand sanitizer, gauze, latex gloves, antiseptic wipes, cotton swabs, tweezers, and compresses.

Emergency supplies. A map, compass, flashlight, knife, waterproof fire starter, and whistle will all serve you well. Do not rely on smartphone apps; there are few outlets in the wilderness!

Leave at home: Perfume or cologne can trigger allergies at close quarters and attract undesirable insects. Too many layers of cotton can leave you perspiring. And remember: alcohol in excess causes dehydration (not to mention panic and confusion).


April 12, 2017
Spring Ahead #1: Gimme Símore

smores

Graham crackers, chocolate slabs, and marshmallows: simple to construct and sweet to enjoy, the gooey S’more transcends the sum of its parts. Done right, the freshly-toasted marshmallow melts the chocolate, with the sturdy cracker holding everything together while boosting the “ooze” factor. It’s true that packaged S’more-flavored cookies and candy are available in between camping trips, but there’s no match for the authentic char of the firepit and the satisfying squeeze of the sandwich. It’s no wonder we all want “some more”!

Daydreaming about S’more got us thinking: what is the history behind this campfire creation?

First off, we can give thanks to Sylvester Graham, who developed the Graham Cracker in 1829 as a sweeter version of the traditional cracker. We can also credit the invention of the gelatin marshmallow, allowing mass production for the first time and fueling the fad of marshmallow roasts in the 1890s, which newspapers called “an excellent medium for flirtation.”

smoresThe basic template for the S’more—cookies and cakes that sandwich a clot of squishy, gooey filling—dominated desserts in the Victorian era. The closest ancestors to S’mores appear to be Mallomars and Moon Pies, introduced in 1913 and 1917. But the first recorded recipe for “Some Mores” was printed in 1927—that’s ninety years ago—by the American Girl Scouts. That’s right, this camping classic is related to the Thin Mint and the Samoa. So when the Girl Scouts introduced its “new” S’mores cookie this year, double-dipped and coated in chocolate, they were really pulling a throwback out of the proverbial pantry.

As for the contraction of S’more: Some say that the sticky nature of the treat makes it impossible to pronounce “Some more.” The original recipe notes that “Though it tastes like ‘some more,’ one is really enough.” But traditions were made to be broken, right?

One thing is for sure: the prospect of S’mores leaves us hungry for s’more (lots more!) camping adventures!


March 10, 2017
March Forward #2: Discarded Junk Becomes Art

“Litter: it’s blending into the background of our lives. But what if we brought it to the forefront?” – Jeff Kirschner

It’s not just during camping season that we savor the delight of pristine, unspoiled nature.  Whether we’re pitching a tent, roasting dinner, getting our daily step-count in good weather, or just enjoying the view outside the window, we all cringe at the litter that turns landscapes into dumping grounds. On a recent walk in her neighborhood, this blogger found soup and soda cans, plastic cups, chewed straws, crumpled coupons, cigarette butts, and more. And these aren’t just eyesores; they can 

What if a community existed to make picking up litter not only worthwhile and productive; but also fun, engaging, and knit into a larger, powerful effort that spanned the globe?

Enter the website Litterati  (literati.org)– a global community that is crowdsourcing cleaning efforts. On the website, users take photos of the litter they pick up—and go on to identify, tag, and even map trends in a region’s “litter profile.”

Litterati’s founder, Jeff Kirschner, drew inspiration for the site when he recalled his days at sleepaway camp. On the morning of visiting day, the director would direct each camper to pick up five pieces of trash. It didn’t take long for the camp to look a whole lot cleaner. Kirschner decided to apply that “crowdsourced cleanup model” to the entire planet. To that end, he took a picture of a cigarette butt. Each time he saw a new piece of litter, he recorded each piece—and picked it up. At the end of just a few days, he had 50 photos of trash he had disposed of. The idea caught on, and soon a photo reached him from a user in China. The users, scattered as they might have been, were creating a community. And by geo-tagging and time-stamping each photo, they helped Kirschner build a Google map to plot points.

This data quickly proved invaluable. When San Francisco wanted to collect information on smoking habits to determine tax rates, they turned to Litterati after pencils and clipboards failed them and provoked outrage by Big Tobacco.

Kirschner says every city in the world has a “unique litter fingerprint” – from coffee cups to soda cans to plastic bottles. In Oakland, most of the litter in a blighted area stemmed from a well-known taco brand’s hot sauce packets. So to cut to the heart of the problem, the brand could give out hot sauce only upon request, or install bulk dispensers. Recently, in Oakland’s hills, a user found a Coke can with a vintage design. It had been perfectly preserved since 1966, and points up questions about minimal or more eco-friendly packaging.

If you’re counting the days till camping season, try geo-tagging your litter to observe your positive impact on the planet in real-time!


March 6, 2017
March Forward #1: Can You Hear Me Now?

Communication is tricky, even face-to-face; even without poor cell reception; even between two people who speak the same language.

The definition is simple: any exchange of information, verbal and non-verbal, between sender and receiver. But because humans are so fascinatingly complex, it is virtually impossible for us to convey isolated bits of data.

Every time you speak to someone you are revealing yourself—often before you even open your mouth. It’s your tone of voice, pace of speech, or facial expression; the clothes you select and the way you wear your hair. Are you crossing your legs, folding your arms, cocking your head? Are your hands on your hips or in your pocket? Are your palms clenched into fists, or open for a handshake? All of these are messages in themselves—messages about you.

What’s more, the people we address interpret what we share in light of their own beliefs and values.

Sometimes, so many variables and hidden messages accrue—casting both light and shadow over any exchange—that the original information is deeply buried. And yet, expressing how we feel and asking for what we need is key to our emotional and physical health. And communication is the thread that binds and strengthens our relationships. How can we effectively communicate our thoughts, feelings and needs?

Slow down. Take a deep breath to get centered, stay positive and focus on the other person and your connection in the moment. Don’t try to conduct an important conversation while doing something else, even if it’s just folding laundry or making dinner.

Speak the truth from your heart. Don’t rush through it, even if it seems tedious or unpleasant. Slow, steady pacing can lend clarity, coherence and calmness without wasting time.

Learn how to listen deeply. Think about the essence of what you heard, and rephrase in your own words. Try to express empathy: “I hear you.” “Tell me more.” “I’m so grateful you told me.” Says Joan Boysenko, Ph.D: “One of the most important ways that we can show respect and love is by carefully listening while another speaks.” Allow the speaker time to fine-tune; and only respond when the speaker seems heard. Listen for the natural pause that implies completion.

Avoid interruptions. No matter how important we believe our contribution is, interrupting squelches the flow of energy and sends a powerful non-verbal message that our thoughts and feelings trump the ones they’re struggling to share.


February 21, 2017
Love Yourself #4: Think Like a Martian

During the camping season – when school is out and days are longer – it’s easy for families to spend quality time together. But how about in the off-season, when days are shorter, the air chillier, and the pace more hectic?

Incentive to reserve time together may come from an unlikely source: the cold, distant planet Mars. Hear us out!

In a recent TED talk, a spacecraft missions engineer for NASA’s Martian rovers, who guides them remotely from a lab in Los Angeles, discusses the logistics of living and working on “Martian Standard Time” while simultaneously existing on Earth. The Martian day is 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth. This means that the people “working” on this distant planet need to report to work on Earth at the same time every day on Mars. One day that might be 8 am; the next day, 8:40; the day after that, 9:20. It is, says the speaker, “like moving a time zone every day.” Eventually, the dawn of the Martian day will coincide with the middle of the Earth’s night – and the crew will need to report to work at a truly ungodly hour. This forces family life to adjust: foil on the windows, black-out shades, quiet time in the mid-afternoon so Mom or Dad can nap.

The speaker, Nagin Cox, then shared a picture of a NASA director at a beach in Los Angeles with his family at 1 in the morning. Over the school vacation, his entire family had shifted to Mars time. “They had these great adventures,” Cox says, “like going bowling in the middle of the night.” Likewise, once the Mars workday was over, roving packs of NASA-employed “Martians” will cruise the traffic-less freeways to have dinner, or breakfast, at all-night diners.

Having camaraderie and company while living on another planet goes a long way toward countering the grueling physical demands, volatile schedules, and mental isolation of NASA’s Mars mission directors. It may take supreme feats of planning and dedication, but it can be done. And it’s a worthy reminder to really examine our default excuses of “not having enough time” to carve out minutes for the things that really matter—even in the camping off-season. After all, “not enough time” is all a matter of our (Earthly) perspective.


February 21, 2017
Love Yourself #3: Have Some Chocolate

Do your memories of camping involve squares of chocolate melted onto Graham crackers, clinging to marshmallows, and licked from fingers? Does your winter routine involve mugs of hot cocoa after a day of playing in (or shoveling) the snow?

Good news: in the right form, this decadent delight is exceedingly good for your heart, your skin, your performance and your mood. (Okay, that last one you knew already.) Raw cacao nibs, beans and powder may require you to branch off the beaten path, but your brain and body will thank you.

Raw chocolate is actually cacao, the seed of the fruit growing on the cacao tree. And cacao is a certified superfood—one of those foods that boost immunity, pack nutrients and protein, and deliver major levels of antioxidants. In fact, experts say the raw cacao bean trumps the blueberry in terms of antioxidant levels. Here’s why that’s amazing news for chocolate lovers hoping to stay in shape for this summer’s adventures:

Gorgeous glow. Antioxidants can protect skin from sun damage, improve circulation to the skin, promote hydration, smooth imperfections, and imbue skin with that special glow. The higher the percentage of cacao in chocolate, the more antioxidants it packs. Opt for chocolate bars that are 70% or higher in cacao—especially raw cacao made with organic ingredients.

Better mood. Chocolate’s high levels of tryptophan enable the body to release the hormone responsible for making you happy. That’s why chocolate is a natural mood enhancer.

Healthy heart. One square of dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or higher) contains more phenols than a glass of red wine. Phenols help sweep arteries clean from the bad fats that tend to cling there. Chocolate also helps dilate the cardiovascular system, allowing the heart to function at top form.

More endurance. Energy and stamina are always advantages, whether you’re foraging or fishing in the great outdoors or simply fixing a home repair. Recent studies have found that dark chocolate can boost athletic performance. In particular, cyclists who ate dark chocolate prior to hopping on their wheels were more efficient in their oxygen use and were able to bike a longer distance in a timed trial.

Want to maximize the benefits of chocolate on your next camping trip? Make your own heart-healthy, mood-boosting, stamina-stoking trail mix with raw cacao nibs or beans, gogi berries, mulberries, raw nuts and seeds. Let us know how it turns out!


February 21, 2017
Love Yourself #2: Eat Your Heart Out

“Every food a person might eat either fights or contributes to disease.” – Stephen L. Kopecky, MD, cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic

Does it surprise you that most Americans would rather pop a pill than adjust their eating and exercise regimens?

While it’s true that medications like statins work—and are far easier to “swallow” (no pun intended) than major life overhauls—it’s a fact that the right kind of diet and exercise will maximize the benefits of any cholesterol-lowering drug, while providing a broad swath of protection against heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

The Mayo Clinic cardiologist quoted above endorses a Mediterranean diet, one that typifies the eating habits of people living in Greece and Italy. In those countries, it’s not uncommon to eat an average of nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, as well as seafood each day. They enjoy healthy, heart-protective fats but treat processed foods as a rare indulgence. Besides the heart benefits, studies suggest this kind of diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s, arthritis, diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome that’s a cluster of pre-diabetic risk factors.

Should you want to dip a toe (or more) into the Mediterranean this month, here are ways to tweak your eating regimen without complete mutiny:

  • Shop the perimeter of your grocery store to buy produce such as strawberries,  blueberries, red grapes, oranges, spinach, broccoli, red bell peppers, eggplant, and corn. If you have it on hand, it’s less of a hassle to cook with it—and easier to get in your two-plus servings of vegetables and three-plus servings of fruits, each day.
  • Try to eat seafood three times each week, making one (or more) a fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and trout.
  • Tweak your scrambled eggs by using two egg whites for every one yolk.
  • Skip the butter and even the margarine. Use olive oil to cook your food, drizzle your dish, and dip your bread. Canola oil is also a good choice for cooking.
  • Taper your reliance on red or processed meats. There’s no need to swear them off; but make your primary protein source either fish, leaner cuts, or vegetable protein like lentils, black beans, and split peas.

February 7, 2017
Love Yourself #1: Head Over Heart

Humans form an emotional brain long before a rational one, and a beating heart before either.

Last month, we talked about the destructive nature of stress – against body, mind and spirit – and the power of positive emotion to unravel the knots of negativity. As with any skill, positive thinking grows stronger and faster with practice. It may seem awkward or forced at first. But eventually, through dedicated practice, you will feel as comfortable in this “positive framework” as you will feel ill at ease in the negative one. It’s easy to get sucked into the downward spiral; but on the flip side, it’s just as easy to hold fast to the “upward spiral” generated by positive thinking.

How does HeartMath (heartmath.org) factor into the equation? And why is it exciting that HeartMath has just released an app?

The HeartMath Institute began 35 years ago as an inquiry into post-operative heart surgery patients. But along the way, researchers bumped into a key component of the heart and how it plays into our emotion—and how it helps us become good parents and good partners; focused athletes; and high-achieving students who don’t fall prey to anxiety. Heart intelligence, the theory goes, is the source of emotional intelligence and logical thinking. (The head and the heart don’t clash as much as love songs would suggest.) And when cultivated, it can help us bridge the connection between heart and mind; and build a connection to the hearts of others.

Like the gut, the heart has a direct line to the brain; and the two are in constant communication. But the heart relays far more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart. Specifically, heart signals target the brain centers involved in decision-making, creativity, and emotional experience.

Early HeartMath research found that negative emotions threw the nervous system out of balance—creating disordered and jagged rhythms on the study’s heart monitor, and clouding thinking to the point of irrationality and confusion. Positive emotions, by contrast, were found to increase order and balance in the nervous system to produce smooth, harmonious heart rhythms that not only reduced stress; but also enhanced people’s ability to perceive the world around them. Positive thinking hones creativity, affords clarity, and boosts concentration. The coherence of synchronized systems—brain, heart, nervous—can yield reduced blood pressure for hypertensive patients, improvements in asthma, enhanced well-being, increased emotional stability, and improved cognitive performance.  It can reduce anxiety and “helplessness” in favor of logical thinking underpinning plans of action.  In short, it can help us feel completely at peace…with strength. What better Valentine’s gift to yourself and your loved ones?

Visit www.heartmath.org to learn more.


January 30, 2017
New Starts #4: Encouraging ALL Our Children

“A teacher affects eternity. He or she can never tell where his or her influence stops.” – Henry Adams

Whether we have sons or daughters, we want our children to maximize their potential and cultivate their natural talents, innate gifts, and proven “knack” for anything from language to leadership. But a spate of recent research has shown that by the age of six—in other words, by the time most kids are in kindergarten, barely on the threshold of grade school—girls are less likely than boys to view their own gender as brilliant; and they start to rule out certain activities as “not for them” by virtue of not being smart enough. They may be absorbing cultural stereotypes about brilliance. If they watch television, they may realize that geniuses portrayed on television are almost exclusively men (think Sherlock Holmes or Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory”). And if they watch their parents, they may be picking up on the stereotypes that Mom and Dad imperceptibly uphold and advance.

Think modern parents aren’t guilty of gender bias? Aggregate data in 2014 from Google searches reveal that American parents are two and a half times more likely to Google “is my son a genius” than “is my daughter a genius.” And this is despite the fact that girls consistently show larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences from an early age.

Parents also Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as much as “Is my son overweight?” Again, this is fueled by bias – not reality. 33 percent of boys, and 30 percent of girls, are overweight. But parents see, and ruminate over, what they want to see.

In an Illinois study, ninety-six children were told two stories: one about a “really, really smart” person and one about a “really, really nice person.” The children were shown four pictures (two boys, two girls) and asked to guess which one might be the person in each story. At age five, boys and girls were equally likely to associate intelligence with their own gender. But at six, the likelihood of girls picking other girls as the “really, really smart” one sharply declined. Many girls, and most boys, picked the boy. And this remained consistent across all races, parent education and family incomes.

Another test asked children to play a game that was either for “really, really smart” people or one that was for children who “try really, really hard.” Girls were less interested in the former game, indicating a strong preference for the latter.

All the more reason for parents and teachers to make a conscious effort to battle ingrained, even unconscious stereotypes; encourage girls to develop broad interests; and take as much an interest in our daughters’ minds as in their bodies. E-commerce giants like Amazon has launched a subscription service for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) toys. Despite recent gains for women in the workforce, women in STEM are still under-represented. We can change that with a few adjustments to our thinking.


January 30, 2017
New Starts #3: Time to Chill

“Health is not only to be well but to use well all the powers that you have.” – Florence Nightingale

We all know January is the “time to chill.” But in this post, we’re going to discuss chilling as a means of reducing stress, tension, anxiety and negativity in your life. To that end, here are some key facts about stress:

  1. Your body can’t discriminate between major stressors and minor ones. Whether it’s a traffic jam or a computer virus, the stress reaction triggers a cascade of 1,400 biochemical events in your body, taking over a critical part of our brain.
  2. Stress can make smart people do stupid things: clouding our thinking, draining our energy, undercutting our productivity, and even aging us prematurely if left unchecked. We’ve all “lost it” in a stressful situation, likely surprising even ourselves. That’s because stress causes what researchers call “cortical inhibition,” bottle-necking our brain function. And the shallow breathing of stress raises heart rate and blood pressure, even changing blood chemistry in a way that makes your platelets stickier. Sadly, that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. No wonder there’s an expression about taking “a chill pill”!
  3. We can grow numb to stress with enough exposure. Often the daily pressures and irritations of life begin to seem like “the new normal” and cease to faze us. But we may not realize how much they’re undermining our mental, emotional, and physical health until it manifests as a rash decision, an impulsive outburst, or even an unwanted medical diagnosis.
  4. We are fully in control of how we react to stress! We can rewire our stress response to override it with calm, cool and collected “coherence” — bringing the brain, heart and nervous system in harmony, and fostering peak performance.
  5. Handling stress in the moment is the best strategy. Millions of us use the “binge and purge” approach to stress: letting it build up all day, burying it inside, and waiting for an evening yoga class or the weekend. This doesn’t work — the stress response has already activated.

The good news: positive emotion is the antidote to stress in every way, and this mode of thought and reaction grows stronger with practice. And because it utilizes the same receptors as stress, it’s literally impossible to feel stress while you’re cultivating positive emotion and positive thinking. One strategy to do so is a combination of deep breathing and gratitude for the joyful things in our lives. Place your hand on your heart, visualize your breath moving in and out through your heart, and think of a person or place that brings you joy. You can use this practice before you fall asleep, when you wake up in the middle of the night, to prepare for an important communication (from a meeting to a mingle), and to recoup or recover from a stressful situation.  Studies show it leads to improved relationships, improved sleep, improved performance at work and at play, and a greater sense of balance and ease.


January 15, 2017
New Starts #2: Never Say Diet

Most of us approach the new year with a resolve to lose weight—but it gets difficult when popular diets undermine and contradict each other. We should go meatless but eat like a caveman? We should avoid sugar yet indulge on fruit? We shouldn’t eat between meals, but we should subsist on frequent snacks?

And so our weight loss gets stalled before it begins. How can we possibly decide whether to embrace or avoid fats, carbs, sugar, dairy, gluten, wheat, grazing, and snacks?

In a recent article, Greatist.com counsels to “think of dieting like dating.”

“You wouldn’t choose to be in a relationship with someone you despise from day one, so why would you do that with the foods you eat. Every. Single. Day. You will quit the plan, you will learn to hate healthy eating, and you’ll probably end up more frustrated and confused than when you started.”

So if you love bread and pasta, don’t attempt to restrict your carbs. If you love dessert, avoid restricted sugar eating plans. If you enjoy waking up to a hearty breakfast or ending the day with a late-night snack, don’t buy into diets that prescribe huge lunches.

At the end of the day, “diet” is the wrong approach. But enjoying your food, honoring your hunger, and observing portion size – day in and day out – will all help you lose weight without finding it again, without the drama and heartbreak of a toxic relationship. To that end, remember these general guidelines:

Drink water, eat fiber. Both water and fiber-rich foods can battle bloat and better sync your gut and your brain so you stop eating when you’ve had your fill. Try crunching on zucchini and cucumber (not chips), popping frozen grapes as a late-night snack, and warming up with peppermint tea instead of soda.

Beware the “health halo.” That’s the blinding light surrounding certain foods that beguile us into eating badly when we think we’re making a healthy choice.  For example: granola bars, protein shakes, veggie chips, fruit juice, and frozen yogurt. There’s nothing wrong with having these in moderation – just watch your portion size; otherwise sugar levels can approach that of a king-size candy bar. 

Keep it real. Consoled with fat-free or sugar-free versions of your favorite food? The health halo strikes again. When food makers take out fat, they replace the lost flavor with sugar and salt.  When they take out sugar, they replace the lost flavor with fat. All experts say to eat the regular version of anything, from cheddar to chocolate, in moderation. You’ll be far more satisfied.

Savor and socialize. No need to shy away from dinner with family or friends! When you enjoy every bite, and every conversational bit, you will feel fuller much faster.

Don’t skip meals! It messes with your metabolism and sets you up for more overeating. If you over-indulged at lunch or dinner, it’s okay. Make the next meal “green and clean”: lean protein, fish, vegetables, fruits, to keep your energy up and your willpower strong.

Get enough sleep. Besides suppressing hormones that fuel hunger, eight hours of shut-eye means less incentive to nosh late at night, sharper focus in the morning, and more energy to jump into activities you enjoy.


January 15, 2017
New Starts #1: Tiny Habits, Big Impact

We’ve all heard it: New Year, New You. We’ve done everything we’re
“supposed” to do: joined a gym, cleared the fridge, sharpened our pencils, upgraded our software, and installed that zen-like Meditation app on our phone.

Here’s the problem: most habits don’t have the sticking power to see you through 2017. You might start to break them before you even make them—and throw in the towel before you’ve even brought it to the gym. Maybe that’s because you (secretly) don’t like the treadmill; or you start to fidget when you’re told to “relax”; or a salad with dressing on the side just doesn’t fill you up. Understandably, willpower erodes quickly.

A new approach to change called the Fogg Method reboots the self-inflicted “torture” – think of any diet regimen, abandoned painting project, or dust-gathering gym pass – that inevitably crumbles, backfires, and drains our resources. The psychologist behind the method, B.J. Fogg, lists three steps to focus on training your brain to succeed at small adjustments, celebrate small victories, and draw confidence from them to create momentum and rewrite the “scripts” from inevitable failure to resounding success.

  1. Identify your outcome. Do you want to feel more energetic, less stressed, more focused, less rushed? Do you want to lose 10 percent of your bodyweight, score that promotion, or pull yourself out of debt? And how will that change make you feel? Grounding resolve in our feelings clarifies our decisions, our goals, and our actions.
  2. Identify the “tiny habits” that will help us, incrementally, approach our goals. It’s not necessarily working out at the gym; maybe it’s walking with a friend. Instead of working longer hours, maybe it’s working smarter – requesting that faster computer or second monitor, for example. If meditation makes you antsy, lunch with a friend or cuddling your pet might relax you more. And that’s okay.
  3. Find a trigger – a pre-existing habit – and graft the new habit onto it, in a diluted version that requires little motivation. Examples: putting an apple on the counter when you make coffee, doing one push-up after using the bathroom, flossing one tooth after brushing them all, tossing one piece of garbage from your car each time you park, or lacing your sneakers after washing the dishes. You don’t have to actually eat the apple, crank out calisthenics, floss all your teeth, vacuum your vinyl seats, or head out to jog—yet. This will come in good time. In the meantime, as the Fogg online health coach phrases it, “You’re rewriting your identity as someone who succeeds.” Small victories aggregate into large changes. To join Tiny Habits, visit tinyhabits.com.



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N9070 14th Avenue
Wautoma, WI 54982
920-787-3601
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