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WellTips: Quick Tips to Beat Holiday Stress

WellTips, stress

December hits us with a flurry of holiday activities, shopping for gifts, baking, decorating the home, holiday parties, and vacation time-off for the kids. At the same time, we are often faced with work projects and end-of-the-year deadlines that leave us overwhelmed, overcommitted, and burning the candle at both ends.

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WellTips: Healthy Bites!

WellTips, nutrition

Breakfast bars are becoming more and more popular to have as a snack when you are on the go or simply want a quick pre/post workout snack. However, many of the leading bars are full of sugar and other ingredients that don't offer the best quality nutrition. Here are some tips to help you choose a healthy bar next time you go shopping!

WellTips: The Anti Stress Diet

Nutrition, WellTips

Some foods help reduce stress by boosting the immune system, reducing stress hormone levels, and fighting high blood pressure. Other foods can increase your stress hormone levels and aggravate stress.  Foods that cause stress should be eaten in moderation.  Continuously high levels of stress hormones can increase your risk of heart attack, sleeplessness, anxiety, fatigue, stroke, and headaches. Below are examples of what to eat and what to avoid.

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WellTips: Motivation Tips for Those Who Don't Love to Exercise!

WellTips, fitnessDid you know that the minimum physical activity recommendation is 30 minutes most days of the week? A report released last summer by the Center for Disease Control states that 55% of Americans did not reach this recommended amount. Study after study has shown that regular physical activity, even at moderate levels, reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity, as well as enhances physical and mental functioning. Unfortunately, many Americans choose a sedentary lifestyle despite the many health benefits associated with exercise. 
There are many reasons why people avoid exercise, from intimidation and time constraints, to lack of motivation and social support. Here are some great tips to help make staying fit not only tolerable, but enjoyable too! 

Exercise Motivation Tips: 
  1. Find something you enjoy. Bottom line, if you don't enjoy it, you will not stick with it. If you are not sure what you enjoy, just explore. Take different classes, play outside, and keep trying new things until you find something fun!
  2. Bring a friend. Not only does exercising with a buddy make time fly, but studies have shown that it increases rates of weight loss.
  3. Abandon the "all or nothing" approach. If you planned to exercise a whole hour, but realize your schedule is now swamped, fit in three 10 minute walks to meet your daily requirement. Don't beat yourself up if you miss a day, just focus on getting right back into your routine.
  4. Reward yourself. Set measureable, attainable, and realistic goals on the way to your ultimate goal. For example, if your final goal is to run a 10k race, a realistic goal of jogging for 15 minutes is a great start. Each time you accomplish a new goal, reward yourself with a new CD, book, or even a new workout shirt! Just remember to keep your rewards smart and healthy.

Focus on how great and accomplished you feel after your workout, as well as the health benefits to come, rather than the workout itself. We all have obstacles in life, but finding inspiration and motivation makes those obstacles easier to overcome. Exercise is great in any form, you just have to find what works best for you!

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WellTips: All About Qigong

iStock 000001604847XSmall resized 600Qigong, pronounced "Chee Gung," is an ancient Chinese practice that combines meditation, self-massage, movement, and breathing. Qigong is a combination of "Qi" (life-force, energy, creativity, consciousness, breath, function) and "Gong" (cultivation or practice over time). This self-initiated meditation is used to improve health and happiness, relieve stress, and develop spirituality.

Qigong teaches us how to properly acknowledge and manage our stress. This practice increases the delivery of oxygen to our body's tissues, assists in eliminating waste, and helps transport immune cells through the lymph system.
Qigong master Ching-Tse Lee recommends this calming exercise to help with everyday stress. Try it out on your next break from work!

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  2. Bend your knees to a 45 degree-squat position, while keeping your upper body straight
  3. With your elbows slightly bent, inhale and bring your arms slowly up in front of you until they reach shoulder height
  4. Exhale, stretching your arms straight out
  5. Inhale again, bend your elbows slightly and drop your arms down slowly until your thumbs touch the sides of your legs
  6. Exhale once more, then stand up straight
For more information, Click

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WellTips: The Power of Garlic!

WellTips, nutritionGarlic has been used for its delicious flavor and powerful medicinal abilities for thousands of years all over the world. During WWII, garlic was successfully used as an antibiotic to heal soldiers' wounds. Hippocrates claimed to have used garlic to help heal certain cancerous tumors. Today, modern science is quickly picking up on garlic's ability to improve the immune system and prevent health issues, such as heart disease, including atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries that can block the flow of blood and possibly lead to heart attack or stroke), high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Selection and storage tips:
  • Choose bulbs that are firm, and without any blotches.
  • Store unpeeled heads of garlic in an open container in a cool, dry place away from other foods.
  • As garlic ages, it can start to sprout green strands, which is a sign that it should be discarded.

Cooking tips:
  • The most health benefits come from chopping rawgarlic and letting it sit for a few moments in order to acclimate to room temperature. Chopped garlic releases allicin, which is one of garlic's highest valued compounds. Research has shown that allicin can help protect your heart and assist in fighting cancer.
  • The smaller you cut the garlic, the more potent the flavor.
  • The more the garlic is cooked, the more subdued the flavor will become. One raw uncooked clove can be stronger than a dozen cooked cloves.
  • If the flavor of raw garlic is too strong for you, try sautéing garlic quickly on a lower heat. If the garlic turns brown, it will take on a bitter and unpleasant flavor, so be careful not to cook it for too long.

Easy Garlic Ideas:
  • Purée fresh garlic, canned garbanzo beans, tahini, olive oil and lemon juice to make a quick and healthy hummus dip.
  • Sauté steamed spinach, garlic, and fresh lemon juice.
  • Add garlic to sauces and soups.
  • Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste and enjoy!
Information and resources:

WellTips: STEP Up Your Walking to Improve Your Memory!

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A sharper memory is just one more reason to step up your walking! A new study found that adults who walked about 45 minutes three times per week for six months performed substantially better on several cognitive tasks than those who did stretching or strengthening exercises.

Want to know the best part? All 124 participants were previously sedentary. ''The nice result of our study is that a person who has not been physically active during his or her younger years still can benefit from walking,'' noted lead researcher Dr. Arthur F. Kramer of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Not only did the studied walkers improve their ability to plan, establish schedules and switch between tasks, they also showed significant improvement in oxygen consumption.

More health benefits of walking:

A sharper memory isn't the only reason to increase your walking routine. Other health benefits include weight management, stress management, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, increased energy levels, stronger bones, decreased lower back pain, improved sleep, improved mood, and more.

What can you do to increase your walking?

  • Use half of your lunch break to go for a brisk walk outside. Or, walk around your building and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Invite a friend to walk with you. There's nothing better than getting a workout in while laughing and sharing stories with a buddy.
  • Sneak in more walking opportunities, especially on days you are too busy for your regular workout. Walk in the morning, during breaks, after meals, and at night to rack up your steps and get your heart rate going. Walking small amounts several times a day is just as beneficial as walking all at once.
  • Most importantly, find what works best for you and have fun with it! Make your walk or any physical exercise enjoyable, so it doesn't feel like a chore, but rather something to look forward to.
Information and resources:

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WellTips: Berries for All!


Now that spring has sprung, it will be easier to pick up your favorite produce, including a variety of berries. Not only are berries simple to eat, sweet, and great in recipes, they also offer a lot health benefits. Keep reading to learn why berries are so good for your health and how to incorporate them into your diet!

WellTips: The Good-Mood Foods

WellTips, nutrition

Ever notice that certain foods and beverages have the ability to affect the way you feel? The two most common mood-effecting substances are sugar and caffeine. Too much sugar causes a spike in energy, followed by an energy drop so intense that all you can think about is a nap. Oftentimes, people rely on caffeine as their wake-up remedy, which can cause improved mental alertness, improved mood and increased productivity. On the darker side, however, caffeine can cause shakiness, irritability, anxiety, nausea, and headaches. Read on to learn about the healthy alternative foods that can improve your mood without leaving you depleted hours later.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making us feel good and happy. What is interesting to know about serotonin is that 80-90% is actually produced by the cells in our guts, and not our brain. In fact, serotonin was tied to food long before it was tied to our moods. When sources are depleted, we tend to feel more depressed, and when in full effect, we tend to feel happier. Not only that, but a recent study by the UT Southwestern Medical Center found that drugs that increased serotonin levels in the brain resulted in participants eating less.

Serotonin in food:
Serotonin is very important to our bodies and can be found in a variety of foods. Further studies show that supplementing with serotonin for a year increased mood in women. Instead of looking to feel good temporarily from that afternoon cookie or third cup of coffee, try these naturally available forms of feel-good foods: walnuts, tomatoes, kiwis, pineapples, plums and plantains.

Although consuming these foods will increase serotonin, the neurotransmitter needs some help to cross the blood-brain barrier. This helper is tryptophan, an amino acid key to serotonin production in our brains when serotonin levels are low. Our bodies naturally understand this, and therefore, cause us to crave tryptophan. Foods high in this amino acid include fish, eggs, beans, turkey, nuts, yogurt and milk.

Listen to you body:
As with all healthy diets, it is important to eat a balanced diet and to listen to what your body craves. What we choose to eat will affect our mood, but inversely, our mood will affect what foods we want to eat. The next time you feel stressed, depressed, or just rundown, take a moment and think about what you can have to feel a little happier.


WellTips: Ending The More Stress, Less Sleep Cycle

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Do you feel like your busy schedule is getting in the way of a good night's sleep? Hectic schedules and high demands can cause people to live in a constant state of stress. Although you may think that pulling an all-nighter will benefit you at work, not getting enough rest can lead to less productivity and an increase in stress hormones.

What does stress feel like?

Common signs of stress include depression, insomnia, tension, anxiety, work mistakes, poor concentration, and apathy. When the body is under stress, it increases levels of the hormone, cortisol, to deal with it. Prolonged levels of increased cortisol can affect the body's immune system and decrease the ability to keep blood sugar levels even. Follow these important tips to avoid the more stress, less sleep cycle.

Tips to get a better night's sleep:

  • Discover your stressors: Figuring out what is causing you the most stress and developing a plan can give you peace of mind. If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night remembering things to do the next day, try writing a to do list each afternoon or keep a pen and paper by your bedside. That way, you can can write down your thought right away and get back to sleep quickly.
  • Have a bedtime routine: Train your body to get ready for sleep by creating a three-step routine. These steps can include taking a warm bath, drinking a hot cup of (non-caffeinated) tea, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, or meditating.
  • Avoid watching stressful television shows or reading suspenseful books before bed: These forms of entertainment are exciting, and can raise your cortisol levels making it more difficult to sleep. Opt for a funny or historical television show, or better yet, choose an uplifting book to help you wind down.
  • Limit light exposure: Turning down the lights before bed helps your body realize that it is almost time for sleep. This includes lights from your computer, IPad, phone or other electronic devices that should be used only outside the bedroom.
  • Exercise regularly: Getting regular exercise can help your body manage stress better. Just make sure you finish your workout at least 2 hours before bedtime or it may affect your sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Having regular, balanced meals can keep energy levels high and prevent blood sugar ups and downs that can lead to craving caffeine and sugar.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, make sure that it isn't the culprit for those late nights. Stop drinking caffeine early in the day and consider eliminating it if you still find your sleep affected. Although alcohol might make you sleepy, it does not lead to the most restful sleep since you may need to make extra trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

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