Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Beat the Heat 5 Pillar Style!

By Lisa Sussman, Psy.D.
Health Psychologist

Here we are in the dog days of summer. Typically, July and August are the warmest times of year in the U.S. While it’s great to have warmth and longer days, by now we may be itching to cool down a bit, or at least regulate our bodies amidst relentless heat. At times, we may find ourselves overheated, both physically and mentally. At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we view health from our Five Pillar model: Sleep, Activity, Purpose, Nutrition, and Resilience. Let’s take a look together at how we can beat the heat through the perspective of the Five Pillars of Health and Well-Being.

Sleep: The ideal room temperature for sleep is between 60 – 67 degrees Fahrenheit.  Studies have shown that temps above 75 degrees can disrupt sleep.  To stay cool through the night and foster a good night’s sleep, use air conditioning, fans, cotton sheets, a light blanket, and light cotton pajamas. Pack up that winter quilt! There are also mattress pads and gel mats that can be purchased which provide a layer of coolness on the mattress.  Another point to consider about sleeping in summer is that our eating, exercising and overall activation time may happen later in the evening due to vacations, longer days, and increased socializing.   Try to put at least 3 hours between eating a meal and exercising before going to bed to optimize your sleep.  Alcoholic drinks also impact quality of sleep and tend to disrupt sleep.  When socializing, we can be mindful about what we are consuming, when, and how that may affect our sleep that night.  Carve out a wind-down period of 30-60 minutes between the evening activity and going to bed to relax the body and mind and initiate our melatonin production for sleep.

Activity: Current guidelines (American Heart Association and others) recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both. How can we get this in during summer while minimizing our risk of getting overheated or having heatstroke? Exercising outdoors and participating in social or team sports gives an extra boost to our mood, releasing endorphins and even oxytocin, so plan to get out there either early in the morning, or after dinner, when the weather is cooler. Summer is also a great time to change our exercise routine, so try things such as biking and swimming. On stormy days or when it doesn’t work to be out in the cooler parts of the day, hit the gym with a fun class, yoga, or strength workout, or break out a fitness DVD in the house.

Purpose: While managing the dog days of summer, it’s important to infuse sparks of joy and meaning into the hot and sometimes energy-draining days.  What can we do in the summer that we can’t do as easily the rest of the year?  There may be more time for meaningful volunteer work and giving back, and enjoying more gatherings with family and friends.  Take that vacation or stay-cation!  Go watch the sunrise and take a walk on the beach (my personal favorite thing to do in the summer) before heading to work. When it’s too hot to be outdoors, stay in the cool house and enjoy that book we’ve been meaning to read or tackle the home improvement or craft project that’s been on our list.

Nutrition: Summer = more sweat = drink more water! Every day we should be drinking water equal to at leaset half of our body weight in ounces. Here in August, we need to make sure we are staying hydrated, and cool water does that best. Keep it fresh and appealing by adding slices of fruit or cucumber. Drink or make sparkling water for a change up, flavoring it yourself to stay away from chemicals and sugar. Ayurvedic teachings point us in the direction of consuming cooling foods in summer while staying away from spicing it up too much. Naturally sweet, bitter, and astringent foods are good choices. Go for ripe fruits such as cherries, peaches, pineapples, avocados and mangos, as well as green leafy veggies, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Spices like mint and cilantro will help keep us cool.

Resilience:  Prolonged heat not only affects us physically, but can impact our mood as well.  The term “hot and bothered” comes to mind.  Emotionally, we may feel drained and irritable when it seems like there’s no escape from the heat, or when the events we attend are overly crowded.  To get balanced, incorporate daily activities that increase joy, and spend some quiet time in thought, meditation, or listening to music.  Whatever it takes to “cool down”!  Try some activities such as taking a cool bath with lavender essential oil, riding the waves in the ocean, digging your feet in the sand, walking in a shady park, or chilling on a raft or kayak.  Take a few minutes to breathe slowly and deeply, then imagine with all of your senses being at the beach, in the water, or somewhere cool.  The brain will get the “cooling” message and the body will physiologically start to respond, providing a respite and balance.  

We can use the Five Pillars of Health and Well-being to make the most out of the last few weeks of summer, keeping cool, healthy, and happy.   Enjoy!

For further information about the Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being and taking care of your mind, body, and spirit, visit our website at HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999 to make an appointment! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Summer Simplicity

By Kathleen Welshman RN-BC, BA, NBC-HWC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

Summer reminds us of simpler times, being carefree, running barefoot on the beach or in the grass. Close your eyes and visualize that, what do you see? What feelings does that evoke? Hear the waves crashing on the beach, the seagulls chirping and the smell of salt air, the warm breeze on your face……aaah, yes, summer has arrived. Perhaps you have feelings of freedom and not a care in the world, if only for that moment. A simple time.

Warmer weather often means flip flops, shorts and tank tops. Minimal clothing for comfort. As we have moved into the season of summer, perhaps we can begin to look at what we can pare down, besides our clothing. What can we minimize and simplify in our life? Often stress comes from too much “stuff.” Clutter can take many forms, it is not just physical. It can be toxic relationships, unhealthy attachments, emotional baggage or anything that causes overwhelm. We can even clutter our minds with our own to-do lists. We have become a society that thinks “more is better” and “busy is best.” We are always on, always connected. But at what cost do we stay on that fast track? We often rush through tasks, trying to get them done, so we can go on to the next thing. Or rush to drive somewhere, so we can hurry to the next destination. Have you ever stopped to think about what madness this all is? At the end of the day there is often a feeling of pure exhaustion and stress.

We hear words like de-clutter, simplify, minimize, limit, edit, purge…….what does this all mean and what is the benefit? When asked what he wanted for Christmas this past year, my son’s response was, “We don’t need any more stuff mom, we want experiences.” Well this spoke volumes to me and led me to look more into the art of minimizing. There are many benefits to living a simpler life. You may find yourself feeling less stress, more at ease. Discover what’s important, what you value, what’s your passion and find more meaning and purpose in your life. Do what brings you joy! Perhaps spend less time online and really connect with those you love. Don’t forget to also spend time alone. Living more simply can help us to live more consciously, more deliberately, perhaps even a more purpose-driven life. What adds value to your life? Consider streamlining your life, your closets and your to-do list. The benefits will astound you!

Find inner simplicity. Create a peaceful calm, rather than chaotic confusion. Be aware of the calmness you feel when your surroundings and your head are clear of clutter. Simplify your goals; you will feel less stress and more successful as you meet each goal, one at a time! Be mindful. Be present. Be here now.

“Whatever the tasks, do them slowly and with ease, in mindfulness. Don’t do any task in order to get it over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999 to learn more about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine and our Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

This Summer, Soak Up The Slow

By Judson Chaney, ND, Lac
Acupuncturist

This summer, make time to soak up some slow.

Yes, in case you were wondering, that wasn’t a typo. Summer time is a natural time of high energy and activity. The sun is out, the days are warm and long, and winter thankfully, seems ages away. Life is in bloom all around us and that energy helps to fuel and supercharge our days.  

In continuing our emphasis on mindfulness in daily life, I recommend prioritizing some time to slow down this summer. Whether enjoying a day off, a weekend, or taking a vacation, remind yourself to slow down a little and enjoy. It may seem like common sense, but have you ever come back from a day off or a vacation feeling like you need a vacation? Maybe you needed to slow down a little bit...

The modern world, for most of us, is already filling the corners and spaces of our days that used to be used for daydreams. Our minds have many constant competitors for our attention, and as such are frequently occupied. Coupled with the natural fast paced energy of the season, it is no wonder summer can feel like it is over before it begins.  

So do yourself a favor this summer - make it last; soak up the slow. Check the sky more and your phone less.  Compare sunrise to sunset to see if one is more beautiful. Go for a walk. Count fireflies. Notice how the flowers grow and change. Do what you love, and allow yourself the space and time to love it.  Above all, remind yourself to slow down and enjoy. Summer is here, let’s make it last.  

Visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999 to learn more about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine and our Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why Do Massage Therapists Always Tell Me to Drink Water?

By Amy Grutzmacher, LMT
Licensed Massage Therapist

As a rule of thumb, it’s good to remember that drinking water in general encourages proper hydration which will help the kidneys and other organs process the various substances that move through the human body regularly.

Drinking water before a massage is recommended because a hydrated, soft muscle is easier to manipulate then a dehydrated, rigid one. Picture one of your muscles as a sponge. A dried up sponge is hard and rigid but once it’s submerged in water, it becomes supple. Our muscles also soak up water like a sponge and become more pliable with hydration.

It’s beneficial to drink water after your massage because as the massage therapist manipulates your muscles, substances are released. Drinking water post massage helps the body flush out any accumulated materials that were released during the massage. This is especially pertinent in deep tissue and therapeutic massage as massage stimulates circulation in the body while expressing water, salt and other minerals from the muscles. Circulation is designed to carry away waste materials. You can help sweep away these waste materials by drinking water.

Massage can be dehydrating. The manipulation of muscles can deplete them of water. By drinking water, you can rehydrate your muscles for the same reason you’d drink water after exercise and other forms of exertion because when the muscles are worked, they can lose water and electrolytes.

So, it is true you should drink water before and after massage because your body is using water at a faster rate, but the key is to be drinking enough water every day. Water is vital for every function that occurs in the body and necessary to maintain healthy, hydrated muscle tissue.

Visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999 to learn more about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine and our Five Pillars of Health & Well-Being.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Key to Unlocking an Enriching Life

By Marjorie Catone, BSN, RN, CCRN-CSC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach

I always thought my purpose in life was to be a mother. What could bring more joy to one’s life other than nurturing, raising and protecting your babies in a healthy and happy home? To carry an unborn child, to feel the tiny, miraculous movements from inside that nobody else in the world could feel. To connect with the spirit of a child who was about to uncover a world of their own. My life was complete with the birth of my second child. I had a fulfilling job where I was fortunate to work part-time in order to be home primarily to raise my children. My husband owned a thriving gym which was constantly expanding in space and popularity. I had a happy, loving marriage. What else more could I want?

Until, one day, something happened that changed my life forever. My only son, 20 months old, had passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly. I can remember the feelings that followed in the days and months that passed. Feelings of emptiness, loneliness, depression, confusion and the yearning to just hold him once again. The simplest things like getting out of bed in the morning, preparing meals, completing household tasks, attending friends and relatives parties all seemed unsatisfying, difficult and unbearable. However, I had my four-year-old daughter that needed me so I had a choice to make. I could continue to live with my head hanging low in the shadows of the days or use this crisis to thrive and live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.

Sometimes we find our life purpose when we are under a crisis such as an illness, death, divorce, retirement, or job loss. However, this crisis can become a catalyst for a purpose we never envisioned possible. Most of us tend to take life for granted and get lost in the busy and stressful days of the everyday hustle and bustle of life until a crisis wakes us up and forces us to ask some big questions. “Why am I here?”, “What is my purpose in life?”, “What do I want to achieve while I am here?” We end up letting go of petty concerns, conflicts and the need for control and begin to truly realize that life is short and every moment is precious. At our lowest moments and times of suffering, our heartbreaking situations that arise cause us to revisit our stories which ultimately reawaken us and help us see life a little more clearly. Previous importance’s fade in significance. As the dust settles and the fog lifts, we begin to see the true importance of life.  

Research has shown that having an authentic purpose in life creates better health outcomes. It can be important to overall brain health and well-being and make you less prone to illness and disease and ultimately help you live a longer, happier, more fulfilling life. But, how do we find our purpose? We all want to leave an impact on the world, to leave our footprints behind, to contribute to the greater good, to what speaks to our soul. We all seek growth, knowledge, compassion, love and joy. However, we must ask ourselves, “What is our unique purpose in this world?” A great place to start is by searching our childhood and seeing the gifts that were instilled in us, our passions and values, and asking ourselves, “What gives our life meaning?” For many people, purpose can be as simple as having a family and children or it can be a fulfilling career that rewards us with its gratification. We also must be aware that purpose can change, as life changes and unfolds. As we grow, learn and mature, we become wiser. As challenges arise, we find that our purpose sees us through and sometimes during this challenge, purpose finds us and we must answer. The truth comes from within, buried deep within our souls.

Through unimaginable pain, struggle and hardship, I found a new meaning and purpose in my life. Not only do we grow physically, but we grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and socially. I have chosen to live a more simple life and have found joy in nature and in all those that I meet. I try and find the good in all humanity, even at times when I have lost all hope. I have learned to love more deeply and be present in each moment, especially with my family. I have become an advocate for my son Nicholas, who no longer has a voice in a world that is so large. Through tragedy, I found transformation and every day I fight to turn my unimaginable loss into a legacy. Sometimes, as our true-life purpose unfolds, our story connects with others and encourages them to find their higher meaning in life and to motivate them to be a better person. We all want to become the best we can be. Through self-awareness and reflection, our purpose unfolds. You already have it in you. However, you are the only one that possesses the key to an enriching life. So, I challenge you to unlock your story, your gifts and your curiosity and find your life’s purpose. Therefore, I leave you with some questions to ponder and perhaps write down in a journal.

1.) What is your reason for getting up in the morning?
2.) How do you contribute to the world?
3.) What special characteristics make you unique?
4.) How do others see you?
5.) Why are you here?

Visit www.HackensackMeridianHealth.org/IntegrativeMedicine or call 732-263-7999 to learn more.