Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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August is Wellness Month, and more specifically, Wednesday, August 15, is National Relaxation Day!
And yes, every day should be wellness day, but too many of us let self-care and wellness take a back seat in our busy live
If you already practice wellness, then maybe you don't need a reminder. I try really hard to remember to incorporate wellness into each day, but my feeling is that there's always something new to learn and discover.
Read more about Why We All Need to Practice Self-Care.
Just recently, I attended two fabulous media events in New York City where I got an opportunity to see exciting new products and services geared to make us all healthier. It was fun, informative and upbeat, a nice break from my job as a writer, which can sometimes be intense and oftentimes mentally exhausting.
In honor of Wellness Day, here are 15 ways to support your wellness. Some include product recommendations and others are things you can easily incorporate into each day.
- Drink more water. Water lubricates joints (especially important as we age!) and transports nutrients for energy and health. Some people (guilty as charged) don't drink enough water because, well, it's a bit ho-hum. Water infusion drops will change all that. They have zero calories, sugar or artificial sweeteners. Flavor your hot, cold or sparkling water with flavors like coconut, blueberry and white tea and add some sprigs of mint or other herbs for a really yummy and special drink. Cheers!
- Nourish your skin. Your skin—your body's largest organ—takes a lot of abuse, especially in the summer when the heat and humidity can make it wilt. I stopped and smelled the roses and recently tried out two new products from Lancome: their Rose Sugar Scrub and the Rose Jelly Mask, which both made my tired, weathered skin feel like it was blooming again. The rose-scented scrub is super-gentle and the fragrant overnight mask is wonderfully hydrating and luxurious.
- Get outside and exercise. Yes, it's been pretty hot, but consider swapping the air conditioned gym for an outdoor workout instead. You'll reap the benefits of a psychological boost that an indoor environment can't compete with. There's been lots of research that points to the therapeutic benefits of exercising in "green spaces."
- Streamline your snacks. Eating between meals is OK and won't pack on extra pounds—if you do it right. That means swapping out those ready-made smoothies and granola bars for things like air-popped popcorn, celery or carrot sticks, and making your own smoothies using fresh or frozen fruit or veggies and plain yogurt or milk. Another easy way to have your snacks and eat them too: Never eat directly out of the bag or box. Take out a sensible portion, put it in a bowl (a pretty, decorative one makes snacking even more special), then put the rest away. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Toss the pantyhose. I love wearing dresses and skirts with bare legs in the summer (who wants to wear pantyhose when it's so hot?) but this so-called midlife has gifted me with various spots and spider veins that I'd rather cover up. And since my legs never tan (nor would I even try) I'm so glad I found a way to cheat on the sun. Vita Liberata makes a genius product called Body Blur, which manages to erase all those pesky imperfections in one fell swoop. Smooth it on, and you're good to go, flawless legs and all.
- Practice deep breathing. Stress has a way of hurting your health—and interfering with your breathing. You may not mean to do it, but when you're stressed you hold your breath or take much shallower breaths. And then? Your whole body tenses, creating muscle tension and maybe even pain. There are so many ways to breathe, and the 4-4-8 technique is just one of the many: 1. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four, bringing the breath into your abdomen. 2. Hold your breath for a count of four. 3. Breathe out through your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of eight. Ahhhhh.
- Cut back on sugar. Can you guess how many teaspoons of sugar the average American consumes each day? 22teaspoons. (Unbelievable, right?) It's not just from the sugar you put in your coffee, but from sources of hidden sugar like salad dressings, alcohol (a glass of rose has 7 grams!), juice and pasta sauces. Excess sugar consumption is linked to diabetes and heart disease and can make you feel tired and grumpy. The number to aim for is six teaspoons per day, says the American Heart Association. You can still get your sugar fix but do it smarter: add blueberries to your yogurt or cereal, drink plain water instead of soda and sweetened tea (see item #1), use spices like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice in place of sugar and roast veggies like parsnips, carrots and tomatoes (which turn sweet when roasted).
- Care for your cuticles. When cuticles are dry and jagged, it's tempting to pick, chew or cut them. And with that, you're risking infection or irritation. Your cuticles are there for a reason—they provide a barrier and protect your nail matrix. Rather than cut them, you should gently push them back with a wooden orange stick. To keep them healthy, give them The Cure, an ultra nourishing cuticle repair cream from nail guru Deborah Lippman.
- Treat yourself or someone you love to a spa treatment. You can't compete with a spa for the ultimate in self-care and relaxation. Need I say more?
- Give yourself a massage. A massage not only feels heavenly, it's a powerful friend of your health and well-being. If you can't get to a spa or it's too costly, you can still indulge with one of Wahl's products, which allow you to take matters into your own hands. Its deep-knead massage wrap is the perfect way to get a spa-like heated, shiatsu-style massage on your neck, shoulder, back, legs or calves, complete with heat to soothe your sore muscles and six massage nodes to soothe your desire for a massage with varying pressure. Guaranteed you and your massage wrap will be friends for life.
- Slow down. It always feels like there's not enough time to get everything done, doesn't it? But when you spend your days in a feverish rush, you miss out on special subtleties and nuances that speed by and elude your notice. (I realized that the other day, when I decided to take a simple stroll—not a power walk—through my neighborhood. Never before had I really seen the gorgeous trees, flowers and architecture that I soaked in along the way.) Slow walking is actually a way of actively meditating. And yes, you can meditate without really trying.
- Be kind to your eyes. Too many people neglect the health of their eyes, and each year about 50,000 Americans go blind, mostly from treatable or preventable eye diseases like macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Make sure to get annual eye exams, eat a well-balanced diet, and, if you smoke, quit. Also wear sunglasses and use safety eyewear or protective goggles where necessary. If you work at a computer, look 20 feet away from your screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes and take a 15-minute break at least every two hours.
- Stretch. Beginning your day with a good stretch is like sipping a good cup of coffee (if you're not a coffee-drinker, then I'm sure you have your own special way to begin your day). Aside from preserving mobility and independence as you age, stretching helps keep your muscles flexible and strong and protects your joints and muscles from injury. Stretching may seem overwhelming and time consuming, but the most important areas for mobility are in your lower extremities (your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors in the pelvis and quadriceps in the front of the thigh), say experts at Harvard Medical School.
- Read food labels. It's an easy—and effective—way to check in with yourself and your nutrition and stay accountable to your health. Sometimes those "hidden" details can be shocking, like how much sugar is in a slice of bread and how much salt is in some cereals. Decode food labels with these seven easy steps or read this helpful book by dietician and nutrition expert Bonnie Taub-Dix, Read It Before You Eat It.
- Pamper your lips. Your forehead, eyes and neck are not the only things prone to wrinkles and fine lines. Your lips, which have thinner skin surrounding them and have no oil glands, are fair game, too. And with the passage of time, lips lose volume, making them even more vulnerable. Resist the urge to lick your lips or breathe through your mouth, which can dry them out even more. Make sure to always protect your lips with a lubricating lip cream or balm, especially when you're outside. Plain old petroleum jelly makes a good lip moisturizer, or you can try one of the zillion of other products out there.
I hope you find your special way toward wellness today and every day.
This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.