Articles from December 2007

Rest

When people, even the experts, talk about health, they talk a lot about movement.  Get up and exercise, get off the couch, walk to the store, park further from your office, take the stairs – MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!  What many people fail to realize is that there is another equally important component to good health — and that is getting good rest.

Rest, both in the form of good, healthy sleep, and plain old down time are both critically important to good health – and something women over 40 rarely get enough of or prioritize the way they should.  Women in their 40s are more likely to be working, raising kids, and taking care of aging parents, which means even less time for taking care of themselves.

Studies have shown that poor sleeping habits and not getting enough sleep have been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, and decreased heart health.  Getting good sleep is literally a lifesaving activity, as much as getting exercise.

To rest well, you need to be able to put away the stresses of your day.  That can be very difficult and sometimes impossible in the world we live in.  There are things you can do, though, that will help.

First of all, eliminate any chemical contributions to your poor rest.  Do you drink a lot of caffeine (coffee, tea, soda) throughout the day or late in the afternoon?  Do you drink energy drinks to get you through the day?  Eliminate the sources of caffeine in your diet; a cup or two of coffee in the morning is fine, but after that you should switch to water and vegetable juice.

Second, learn to let go of stress.  When you are stressed out, you don’t rest well. Meditate.  Get a massage.  Leave work at work.  Turn off the TV if the news is making you crazy with worry.  Get out with some girlfriends and blow off some steam.

Third, improve your diet.  Reduce the amount of sugar and simple carbs you are eating.  They will make it more difficult for you to rest well. Increase the amount of whole grain fiber, fruits, and vegetables.  Eat oatmeal for breakfast instead of skipping or having white toast.  Eat a small piece of chicken and some broccoli for dinner instead of spaghetti made with white flour noodles.

Finally, exercise.  If exercising exhausts you, do it at the end of the day so that you will go to bed ready to rest.  If exercising exhilarates you, do it in the morning to help you get through the day without your caffeine crutches and you’ll still feel more like sleeping at the end of the day.

Try to practice preparing yourself for rest at nights. We often get into bed so weighed down we cannot sleep and even if we sleep, we don’t really get rested.  Try to carve out some quiet time for yourself, maybe 15-30 minutes before you get into bed. Do some deep breathing and relax your mind and body.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the difference it makes to the quality of your rest.

Girl’s Night Out

Not everything you do for the benefit of your health and well being requires you to get sweaty, breathe heavy, or worry about whether or not you are hitting your target heart rate and how many calories you are burning in an hour.  Some of the best things you can do for your health – things that ultimately benefit your physical health as well as your mental and emotional health – are a lot more fun than throwing on your sweats and running on your treadmill.

Connecting with your female friends, and developing some close, intimate friendships if you don’t have any, is a critically important aspect of good health.  Girl’s night out doesn’t have to mean a late-night bar scene in a loud club, although it’s okay if it does.  Some of the best girl’s night out moments are actually no further away that whichever friend is hosting, with all of you sharing some good wine and great conversation.

When it comes to your health, it is the conversation and connection that make all the difference.  Studies have shown that women who have close girl friends and spend time with them live longer, live happier, survive more successfully during periods of stress and after the death of a loved one, and are physically healthier.  Why?  Because our girlfriends provide us with a healthy dose of self-esteem.  They love us for who we are, no matter who that is; they pick us up when we’re down; they are our cheerleaders when we need them and our confidantes.

Women often think once they’re married and raising a family that their only priority is taking care of house, husband, and children.  You will be a better wife and mother, though, if you still take time for you.  Maintain your friendships, leave the kids with your husband once in a while, and get out (or in) for a girls night out.  Your husband will appreciate you more because he’ll realize how much he misses you.  He’ll also appreciate the relaxed, happy mood you are in when you return.

It is ok for your kids to miss you and learn to appreciate you too.  It’s also good for your kids to bond with dad.  If you’re a single parent, hire a sitter or send the kids to grandma’s house for the night – but don’t let excuses stand in the way of regularly occurring girl’s nights out.