All posts by pk_admin

About pk_admin

Penelope Kokkinides is a lifelong New Yorker and health care professional. Here, I plan to share with you the wide-ranging things I find interesting day-to-day. I love to travel, by horseback or jet plane, and hope you will tag along on this journey with me.

Top Spots to Visit in 2017

Don’t look now, but it’s time to start planning your summer vacation! Whether you have a month to explore or just a few days off, planning any vacation takes time. Here are a few suggestions for places that make great vacation destinations in 2017.

Banff, Canada
From hot springs to gondola rides, Banff has something for everyone. Spend a few days outside admiring the beauty and spend a few more just relaxing at a spa.

Atacama Desert, Chile
Dunes, starry nights, and salty lakes are just the right combination to take in some of the best Chile has to offer. If you like being outside and have an adventurous spirit, this is the perfect place for you.

Agra, India
Bustling streets, bright colors, and busy markets are full of culture in Agra. Aside from the Taj Mahal, this city has many museums to explore. It is also easily accessible today, thanks to a new expressway train.

Dubrovnik, Croatia
Historic buildings in this coastal town make you feel like you’re in another time. Croatia is a hidden gem that boasts of private beaches, boats, and local restaurants. 

Ketchum, Idaho
This hidden ski town is a great spot to get cozy, if you want more cold weather and need to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

While the list could go on and on, traveling is a great way to expand your knowledge and learn about new cultures. Vacations don’t just have to be a time of relaxation – they can also be a time of learning and experiencing new things!

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Spring Break Skin Safety

We are getting into the early weeks in March, which can only mean one thing: Spring Break. Or, for those of us who work, a great excuse to use some of that PTO. And what better way to spend that time than somewhere warm and sunny? I’ve covered the importance of getting enough sunlight and Vitamin D, but you also don’t want too much of a good thing. Here are some tips to keep you and your skin healthy under the hot sun on your vacation:

Wear sunscreen. This is probably overused advice, but for good reason. Wearing sunscreen not only keeps you from getting painful burns, but it can also protect you from skin cancer. Using a sunblock with SPF 30 or higher may not help you tan as quickly, but you’ll thank yourself later.

Drink lots of water. When you’re having fun at the beach, it’s easy to forget about proper hydration. But under the hot sun, it is even more important to get your daily dose of H2O. This will keep you healthy and will also help to keep your skin from getting too dry. Try eating fruits such as watermelon as well for extra hydration.

Wear a hat. Make sure you keep your face protected! A pink and peeling face won’t be flattering when you return back to work. Wearing a hat can help keep that sensitive skin protected. Besides, keeping your skin healthy also helps fight signs of aging, which is something I think we can all get behind.

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Importance of Sunshine

Winter blues are a real thing. They’re not, however, always something that a little dose of Vitamin D and sunshine can’t cure. Making sure you get enough sunshine in the winter is important to living a healthy life.

Sunlight is a natural, major source of Vitamin D. Getting outside in the sun is the best way to boost your mood and receive many health benefits. This vitamin aids in calcium metabolism, fighting depression, sleeping better, and keeping your bones and eyes healthy.  Vitamin D also helps in reducing colds and flu by boosting immune support.

During the cold, winter months we spend most of our time inside and we miss out on the benefits of natural light. It is important to spend as much time as you can in the sun to keep your Vitamin D levels up.

You can also receive Vitamin D in the winter by eating foods such as salmon, eggs, cereal, red meat, or taking a supplement.

So if you’re feeling a little blue, it may be time to catch some rays.

Combating the Sedentary Work Week

We’ve all heard the excuses for a sedentary work week: There’s no time. We don’t have enough energy. Or, maybe more honestly, we simply don’t want to exercise. But studies have proven exercise is important to keeping us both happy and healthy. Here are some tips for those with desk jobs on how to get more exercise during the day.

Walk, walk, walk: If you are busy at your desk all day, it can be hard to remember to get up and move around. But taking a quick stroll around the office every hour or so can fight a sedentary work lifestyle. Walk to lunch, visit your colleagues instead of buzzing their phones, and take the stairs. It may not seem like it, but these small acts can really makes a difference.

Wake up early: It can be more difficult to convince yourself to go to the gym after a long day of work. We are tired and ready to take it easy. If you are one of those people, maybe try waking up a little earlier. Go to the gym, get a short workout in at the house or go for a walk around the neighborhood. Even though you are waking up earlier, the extra activity should improve energy levels.

Utilize weekends: On the weekends, most of us have a little more free time. Try to incorporate a little more activity on your days off! Visit the gym, go for a hike or toss a ball in the park with a friend or your kids. Working in that extra physical activity won’t feel as much like a chore when you don’t have a million other things on your to do list.

It’s Time for a Brain Break

Sometimes we need to give our minds a little break. Whether you are stressed from work or overwhelmed by life’s demands, giving your mind a break can be good for your overall health and wellbeing. Here are some suggestions to implement mental health breaks into your day.

Write down your goals. Getting your goals on to paper allows your brain to process simply. Make sure that your goals are simple, clear and achievable. Make at least one goal each day and when you accomplish it, reward yourself.

Take a walk outside. Everyone needs exercise. Taking a walk helps to clear your mind and gives you space to breathe.

Diffuse an essential oil such as lavender. Besides the pleasant aromatic touch added to the room, essential oils can lift your mood.

Listen to your favorite music. Listening to calming piano melodies can slow your brain down if you feel stressed.  If you are feeling tired, listen to some happy, upbeat tunes.

Giving your brain a break every once in a while is essential to living life to the fullest. Balancing stress levels and allowing clear thoughts can help you work best when stressful times come. Find your personal brain break and implement it into your daily routine to become a better, healthier you!

How to Stay Energized at Work

After a few weeks back at work from the holidays, it’s easy to experience a decline in energy as you get back into the swing of things. Here are some tips to stay energized and focused to get you over that slump.

1.       Take breaks. It may seem counterproductive, but taking breaks can actually improve your ability to get work done. Simply getting up and taking a walk to get some blood flowing can improve your energy levels and your quality of work as well.

2.       Be careful with caffeine. The first thing a lot of us do when we are tired at work is reach for the coffee pot. This can be effective, but it can also backfire. You might find yourself even more tired when the caffeine wears off or you could have trouble sleeping later on at night. Try limiting your coffee consumption or switching to tea as the afternoon approaches. 

3.       Stay engaged. As things pick back up at work, it can be easy to hunker down in your office and shut everyone else out in an effort to get more work done. But socializing in your office is important! It builds a stronger communal bond, breaks up the work day and allows the sharing of ideas.

Healthy Tips for Trashing Take-out

Eating healthy can feel like a chore – one a lot of us would love to avoid. But if you vowed to change your diet this year, whether your goals are to lose weight or simply improve your overall wellness, here are some tips to make your “chores” a little easier:

1.       Don’t leave behind the leftovers.

Packing a lunch for work is often a difficult task. You want to keep it healthy, but also have enough variety so that you don’t get bored and take a trip to that takeout place you love during your break. This can be easily remedied with leftovers! Simply make a little bit more food for dinner than necessary for you and your family and take the rest for lunch. That should help taper that sandwich and salad rut.

2.       Map out your meals.

Decide in advance roughly what your menu will look like for the week. It is harder to deviate from a diet when a plan is already in place and groceries are bought. Not only does this save time and effort during the work week, but it can also be a money saver. Choose recipes in which some of the ingredients overlap to cut back on food waste and your grocery bill. 

3.       Schedule shopping trips.

In the same vein as meal planning, it is also important to schedule your grocery store visits. It is best to do this on a day off or weekend. If Monday rolls around and there’s nothing healthy in the pantry to cook for dinner, it will be far too easy for you to pick up the phone to order pizza.

Nurturing the Gym Newbies

Every January, many who have “dropped the ball” on their health and fitness goals rush to the gym in the following days to jump start their resolutions. For more frequent gym-goers, this can come as a shock when their previously unoccupied gym is swarmed with newcomers. While the immediate reaction is to get frustrated, it is important to remain positive. 

Going to a gym for the first time can be intimidating. Here are some tips to ensure your gym time remains a positive and healthy part of the day, whether you’re a regular or a first-timer.

1.       Don’t wish for failure.

Everyone knows that gym populations start to dwindle back down to regulars in late January to early February. If you frequent the weight room, it’s easy to hope for that exact outcome. Don’t! Everyone has to start somewhere. Instead of hoping they give up like many who make resolutions, hope they succeed, become healthier and perhaps more gym-savvy.

2.       If you see someone confused, help them!

Everyone has had that moment: you look at a machine and are confused about what muscle it works, let alone how to use it. If you see an unfamiliar face obviously having problems, kindly offer to demonstrate. Not only does this facilitate the kind of comradery one would want to find in a gym, but it also might free up that machine you have had your eye on a bit quicker.

3.       Remember how far you’ve come.

No matter your level of physical fitness, age or athletic experience, going to a weight room or an exercise class for the first time is scary for most. But the important thing is, these newbies are chasing their goal. That’s a good thing! Try to remember the obstacles you overcame to get to your desired fitness level. Odds are the people you are wishing away are going through something similar. A friendly face and patient attitude may be just what they need to get over that newcomer’s anxiety.

How to Stay Focused at Work During the Holidays

When we think of the holidays, the last things we want to think about are the last-minute tasks and day-to-day work that must be completed leading up to them. With so much distraction, it’s hard to stay focused during these joyful months of the year. Here are some tips to keep you concentrated:

  1. Avoid distraction. The temptation to procrastinate can be even greater this time of year. An email from your favorite department store may pop up with a flash sale, or you might want to check out the prices of available flights for Christmas. It may seem harmless to take a break from work to focus on more pleasurable things, but this can have a massive impact on your overall performance.
  1. Focus on the right projects. The holidays are a great time to work on self-guided projects. If your office is a little slow, you may have the opportunity to research without worrying if anyone will ask you to pop into a meeting or answer an email ASAP. It’s easier to focus on these sorts of big-picture, long-term tasks when you know you’ll have the time you need to really dig in.
  1. Be thoughtful of your off hours as well. Another key to staying focused at work is trying to isolate your office tasks to office hours. One of the best ways to avoid distractions is to make sure you’re allowing yourself time to shop, plan, and do whatever else you need to do outside of the office.

A Very Healthy Holiday

While the holidays are meant to be a time for celebration with family and friends, they can also take a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. From experience, however, there are a few ways in which we can truly enjoy the holiday season and wind up healthier and happier than in years past. Here are simple steps to ensure your holiday season is merry and bright:

  1. Eat healthy. With sweet treats everywhere you look, it is easy to pack on the pounds during this time of year. To prevent the extra five to 10 extra pounds this season, be aware of the caloric content in the foods and the liquids you are consuming, and opt for bringing a healthy dish to your holiday party. Don’t deprive yourself, though — remember everything in moderation.
  2. Increase activity. While the weather makes it tempting to curl up in a blanket and stay inside, make sure you are getting aerobic activity at least four to five times per week.
  3. De-stress. There can be a lot of financial stress with gift-buying in addition to work and outside obligations. Develop a plan for when these stressors arise and be sure to set aside time for you.
  4. Embrace the spirit of giving. With the holidays, there are countless opportunities to give back to the community. Whether it is volunteering at a local soup kitchen or donating presents to the less fortunate, volunteer your time and support those in need.

So instead of waiting for the New Year’s resolutions to begin after the parties and festivities, let’s vow to take small steps to a more enjoyable and healthier holiday season right now.

-Penny