Making Time for Yourself

Between work, friends, and family, finding a minute alone can seem impossible. This is especially in big cities, where I find much of my time is walking through crowded sidewalks or packed into a subway with strangers.

 Taking time for yourself, while difficult to arrange, is also incredibly important. Meditating, walking around a park, or just reading in my home grounds me and prepares me for the week ahead, no matter the task. Time spent clearing your head between endless meetings and luncheons isn’t a waste; it’s recharging so you can best face whatever comes next in your day with energy and focus you otherwise might not have had.

 The biggest questions you should ask yourself when trying to carve out this time alone can be boiled down to three basics: When am I free? What form of relaxation do I have time for? What am I really needing right now?

 If you only have 20 minutes before your next meeting, maybe the best thing is to plug in some ear buds and do a guided meditation on a park bench. There are plenty of great meditation apps to choose from, like Headspace. Maybe you have three hours, and therefore have time to throw on workout clothes and head to the gym for some much-needed cardio. Or maybe what you are really craving is down time, in which case a nap may be the perfect move. Even if you just have a few minutes before your next event, try sitting somewhere comfortable and closing your eyes, enjoying a few deep breaths.

 No matter how you spend it or how long you have to enjoy it, I guarantee that making some me-time in your day is worth the effort.

The Benefits of Reading

You can admit it: reading doesn’t always seem like the easiest thing to do at night. Maybe your time-wasting weakness involves playing the latest farm simulation game on your phone. Maybe you have a TV show you like to binge watch or you’re a movie buff. Whatever it is, I find I often push my books to the side.

In case some extra motivation could help, however, I recently discovered this Real Simple article on the benefits of reading – from an actual book, not a Kindle or e-book – which are even greater than I knew.

It can boost your brain power. Similar to the way going for a jog exercises your cardiovascular system, reading can improve memory function and may help slow the aging process, keeping minds sharper longer, according to research published in Neurology.

Reading can make you more empathetic. According to a study in Science, a good book has been proven to make it easier for people to relate to others. And, what’s more, the effect is more significant on those who read literary fiction as opposed to those who read nonfiction. “Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies,” researchers David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano wrote.

Lastly, reading a book before bed can help you sleep. Bedtime rituals tell your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic. Reading a real book helps you relax more than zoning out in front of a screen before bed. Screens like e-readers and tablets have been proven to actually keep you awake longer and even hurt your sleep.

If you need an enlightening and inspiring book, I always recommend Simon Sinek’s Start With Why to friends. Let me know what books you recommend or are currently reading!

Recommended Resolutions

Happy New Year to you and yours! I hope everyone enjoyed watching their local clock strike midnight next with people they love. And, maybe most importantly, I hope you all managed to stay warm!

If, like me, you use this period to reflect on the year behind and strategize for the year ahead, you might be interested in this list of 21 good New Year’s resolutions. I pulled out a few of my favorites:

  1. Learn a party trick. Or, if you prefer, a joke. Here’s a freebie: “What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear!
  2. Go to the theatre. Fret not, if Hamilton tickets are out of the question. Check out a community playhouse!
  3. Walk to work. Even if this means just parking farther away from the door or getting off the bus one stop earlier, a light walk in the morning can help clear your head and prepare you for the day.
  4. Read a book. I highly recommend the book by Simon Sinek, “Start With Why.” You may have seen his TED Talk on the subject, which I also suggest watching.
  5. Plant some bulbs. Just set it and forget it! Burying a few bulbs will give you a delightful, colorful surprise once the weather warms back up.

How to Tell if You’re Dehydrated

Staying hydrated is a basic but essential part of a healthy, functioning body. When we’re hungry, the body is usually not shy about reminding us to eat (sometimes with loud, grumbling noises that flare up during the quietest moment of a meeting). But the body is much more subtle when it comes to letting us know we’re short on fluids.

Dehydration can cause fatigue and affect cognitive abilities, which can lead to serious problems. In order to prevent this, look out for these signs that you should reach for a water bottle:

You feel dizzy when you stand up too fast. Blood pressure drops when you’re dehydrated, which can leave you feeling dizzy and give you a rush of lightheadedness when you get up too quickly.

Your lips and hands are cracking. Dehydration often makes its way to your skin, which can result in cracks forming on your lips and knuckles. This can be itchy and painful.

You have headaches. While a headache can signify a hundred different things, one of the most common causes of headaches is dehydration. When the brain is dehydrated it can actually shrink, just like a sponge due to lost fluid.

Your limbs are cramping. Dehydration is responsible for cramps, because it alters your body’s balance of electrolytes, which are responsible for keeping your muscles functional.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the right amount of water per day is 11.5 cups for women and 15.5 cups for men. Of course, this fluctuates with body type and health levels, but in general it’s a good baseline to shoot for.

 

Three Dairy-Free Ice Creams

Lactose intolerance means your body has a hard time digesting and breaking down lactose, a natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products. It can sure seem like a social injustice for a number of reasons, not the least of which includes hindering one’s ability to eat ice cream! As a child, I remember being flabbergasted and barely able to believe that some of my friends had to stay away from the sweet, unrivaled treat that is ice cream.

Then I discovered an entire grocery freezer shelf stocked with alternate options, some that are even tastier than their counterparts! Not all is lost, after all, for those who cannot tolerate lactose. Here are three delicious ice cream brands for those looking to avoid dairy:

NadaMoo: NadaMoo’s ice cream is made with a coconut cream base, which gives it a delectable airy, whipped texture. Unlike other coconut-based ice creams, NadaMoo’s pints don’t contain an overly-present coconut flavor. I suggest the Rocky Road.

Ben and Jerry’s: The classic ice cream duo recently came out with a line of non-dairy pints, and it makes me love those two even more. These creations are made with almond milk and come in seven different flavors. You can’t go wrong with their big seller: Cherry Garcia!

Talenti: Talenti’s Peanut Butter Fudge pint is a knockout. Unlike the other dairy-free options on the market, this one is made not with soy, cashew, coconut or almond–but with real peanut butter! It’s like digging your spoon into a big tub of frozen peanut butter and dairy-free fudge swirl. You can’t go wrong.

 

Pros and Cons of a Standing Desk

It seems like every week there is another doctor proclaiming the deadly dangers of too much sitting. “Too much time spent sitting can lead to an early death!” they say. Here’s how it affects your health: when slumped in a chair, your body’s calorie-burning slows to a third of the rate it is while walking. Metabolism drops. Your risk of developing diabetes and becoming obese grows.

Are you considering a standing workplace station yet? To help with that decision, here are some pros and cons to standing desks:

THE PROS:

Calories. You burn more calories. Standing burns anywhere from 20-100% (depending on the study) more calories than sitting.

Less lower back pain. If your standing desk is set up ergonomically correct, it’s likely that it will improve lower back pain.

More energy. While this might sound counterintuitive, it’s actually a rebound effect of standing. If you spend an extra bit of energy standing, your body rebounds, giving you a bit more energy.

THE CONS:

Foot pain. If you go from sitting eight hours a day to standing eight hours a day, you will definitely feel it in your feet. To pull off a standing desk, you’ll need very comfortable shoes.

Decreased concentration. While this varies on the person, studies show that workers requiring lots of analytical concentration have better luck sitting down.

Coworkers. If you are at the only standing desk in the office, your coworkers may not be excited about a person looming over them. In a workplace, it’s always important to be considerate of those around you.

 

Tips for Healthy Tailgating

If you are like many Americans and revel in the time-honored customs of football season, you’re familiar with the food that often accompanies tailgating. You also know that game day snacks are typically heavy, cheesy, fill-up-your-belly-until-it-might-burst foods. While it’s true that bottomless plates of nachos provide the important energy required for shouting at blind referees, the truth is that there are plenty of healthy (and tasty!) alternatives to greasy tailgating foods. Here are my tips for healthier tailgating:

B.Y.O.S.: Bring Your Own Snacks! The best way to steer clear of the beckoning buffalo chicken wings is to bring your own lighter alternative. Some tasty ideas include veggies with hummus, lightly salted popcorn, or buffalo cauliflower bites with ranch dressing.

HYDRATE: Keep drinking water throughout the day. Oftentimes people confuse thirst with hunger and needlessly fill up their plates for another round. Additionally, it’s all too easy to reach for another alcoholic beverage–but just make sure you’re getting enough plain old H20 as well.

GET MOVING: Toss the football, play some cornhole, run around with the little ones, play fetch with the dog or take a walk with your friends. Tailgating is about watching the game, but it’s also about socializing with friends and enjoying the fall weather!

With just a little planning, you can be a healthy person and still an awesome tailgater.

Weekend road trips for peak foliage viewing

Autumn is arguably the most beautiful season, notable for cooling weather and dazzling changes of scenery. One of my favorite autumn activities is a lazy afternoon drive spent ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the vibrant colors. There are many places throughout the country to view peak foliage, but here are my suggestions for short, northeastern road trips:

New York’s Finger Lakes

The Adirondack region is often praised for its fall colors, and for good reason. The Finger Lakes area boasts unrivaled fall foliage and country scenes worthy of calendars. Start in Lake Placid and drive the Olympic Trail Scenic Byway, which runs for 170 miles of amazing views.

Northwest Connecticut

This stunning 100-mile loop in Northwestern Connecticut is perfect for a Sunday afternoon. Start in the Town of Falls Village, which looks straight out of a 1800s movie set, and continue to meander through covered bridges, horse farms and state parks full of hiking trails.

Vermont Green Mountain Byway

This 220-mile trip deserves a full weekend. Start in Waitsfield and relish one-lane highways weaving through mountains, valleys and pastures. When you need to stretch your legs, hop out and climb Mount Mansfield to see views from the state’s highest peak.

I suggest getting started early, with a cup of coffee and a tank full of gas. Happy foliage hunting!

Battle of the Leafy Greens: Spinach vs. Kale

Leafy greens are perhaps the superstars of the vegetable family: they contain myriad health benefits, they’re tasty, and they’re versatile. Those of us who grew up watching Popeye are familiar with the merits of spinach, but in the last few years a new leafy green has taken over the limelight: kale. The two look similar, taste similar, and are often used in similar ways. So, just how similar are they?

Calories: While the number of calories should never be a concern while munching veggies, a cup of kale has double the calories that a cup of spinach does.

Magnesium: Magnesium contributes to strong bones, and spinach contains a quarter of your daily magnesium. This might be why Popeye was such a tough guy!

Vitamin C: Kale takes the lead here. Kale has four times the amount of Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, than spinach.

Calcium: While it’s a close call, kale edges out spinach in its amount of calcium.

Protein: Kale has 15 percent more protein than spinach. (Maybe Popeye should have switched!)

The bottom line is that, with either kale or spinach, you can’t go wrong! In terms of benefits, spinach may be the better option for pregnant women because of its rich amounts of the nutrients folate and iron, whereas vegans may choose kale in order to get a calcium and protein fix. Happy munching!

Puerto Rico Needs Our Help

By now, you have seen the heartbreaking images from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. This event touches particularly close to home for the more than 2,000 MMM and MSO of Puerto Rico employees who help us meet the healthcare needs of the island. Over 80 employees lost their homes and possessions and many are still living without basic essentials like food, electricity and water. Hundreds more had family members impacted by the category 5 storm. Despite these hardships, more than 90 percent of MMM and MSO employees are reporting to work to help our beneficiaries get the care they need.

In partnership with our sister company, Care-One, we are undertaking an ambitious fundraising effort to show our commitment to these employees, their communities and the more than 450,000 Puerto Rican beneficiaries who turn to us to keep them well. We’re calling it “Caminamos Juntos” which means “We Walk Together.”

As part of this effort, we are hosting a fundraiser in New York City on Thursday, October 19. We hope you can attend. Detailed information, including ticket purchase and sponsorship information, can be found at www.innovacarehealth.com/puertorico. Please click this link to learn more about how you can help make a difference.

To maximize the speed and impact of your donation, the proceeds will be directed by the Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Charitable Fund to the recovery and rebuilding of Puerto Rico. This will ensure 100 percent of the proceeds are distributed effectively and without delay.

For those who are unable to attend but would still like to contribute, please click on the tickets/donation button here. Please “walk together” with us now by showing the generosity that Puerto Rico so badly needs.