20 ways to beat the weekday blues.

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Monday’s back and bringing long meetings, deadlines, responsibilities, household upkeep, gym routines, and meal prep along with it. To manage the week long anxiety, stress, and blues here is a list of small, manageable, and easy self-care tips to incorporate when feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Include a small walk into your lunch breaks.  It’s a chance to clear your mind from previous meetings or prepares you for the remainder of the workday. Plus fresh air, light, and color are proven to be instant mood-boosters.
  2. Get some sleep. Doctors aren’t kidding around when they say that 7-8 hours of sleep each night is best for you. Sleep restores the mind, resets your body, and decreases stress levels.
  3. Start a bullet journal. Bullet journals are a great way to see your calendar, goals, thoughts, finances, meal tracking, and appointments all on one page!
  4. Pick up a good book. Instead of watching re-runs at night, unwind with a new book! Share what you’re reading with friends, colleagues, or even start a book club for more book recommendations.
  5. Call a friend. Either on the drive to and from work, during lunch breaks, or when making dinner. Calling a friend for a quick catch-up is an immediate stress-reliever.
  6. Volunteer. I know during the week this may be hard to fit in, but even a small donation to a charity of your choice such as the humane society and CT Food Bank or setting up a time to volunteer over the weekend is a feel-good opportunity to help others
  7. Cook. Learning a new meal and incorporating new foods takes your mind off the day and challenges you into trying something you haven’t done before.
  8. Laugh! They say laughter is the best medicine. Go watch some good youtube videos during your down time and get a good laugh in. I suggest Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets. They aways put a smile on my face.
  9. Take a bath. What’s better than relaxing in a nice warm bath after a long day of work. Take it a step up and add in a cool bath bomb for ultimate relaxation.
  10. Clean out a small part of your closet, cabinets, food pantry, or shoe bin each night. Once you compile a large enough collection, go and donate it to Goodwill.
  11. Go get a manicure, pedicure, hair-cut, facial, or [insert other self-care activities here]. A little bit of pampering is never a bad thing.
  12. Write a letter. Put that pen to paper and write a friend or relative a nice letter. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a letter addressed to them in the mail.
  13. Exercise. You may be tired after a long day of work, but going to a gym class or even spending 20 minutes walking on a treadmill gets your blood flowing enough for a second wind.
  14. Surf Pinterest, Groupon, or Etsy for some fun DIY crafts or some local activities to try.
  15. Listen to music. Music has a way of pumping you up, calming you down, or getting you out of the unexplained funk that you’re in. Put some tunes on when getting ready, cooking dinner, or when falling asleep to reduce anxiety.
  16. Write down your bucket list. As extravagant or simplistic as it may be, setting your sights on things you want to accomplish in your lifetime is empowering and can even motivate you enough to try one of them.
  17. Practice mindfulness. Taking a moment to reflect or meditate is a great way to help resolve why you may be feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed at that time. Taking a step back and examining the situation causing you discomfort allows you to think of external factors such as communication barriers, environmental barriers, time-management issues, or personal upsets that are getting in the way of your success. It allows you to prepare a plan of action rather then react without thought.
  18. Redecorate. Sometimes moving around furniture or hanging a new picture on the wall in order to create the feel of a new living space is just the pick-me-up you need.
  19. Paint, color, sketch, or doodle. Having a distraction such as this is a great way to get your mind off of the laundry list of things to do the next day. Hello adult coloring books! 
  20. Pet an animal. If you own a pet or if  your family, friends, or close neighbors have an animal that they will let you pet, go do it! Petting an animal is proven to lower cortisol levels in humans and act as an immediate stress reliever.

Start small and incorporate one each week! Sooner or later you will be looking forward to doing these activities instead of dreading the work week ahead!

 

healthy eats. Sweet Potato Chili

5391320389_abac107bf3_zSince the first day of autumn is right around the corner I can’t think of a better time to introduce my sweet twist on this classic dish. This hearty, warm, and flavorful meal is the perfect pick-me-up to counteract the bite that is starting to appear in the air. Two of the leading ingredients in this recipe offer an abundance of vitamins and minerals. The sweet potatoes in the chili offer vitamins A, B6 and C, magnesium and potassium, while the beans are a great source of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. This meal can be served immediately or frozen into separate servings to have throughout the week!

Ingredients:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into squares
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red peppers, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 can of low sodium chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can of low sodium kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili powder [dependent on your tolerance for spice]
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Place the olive oil and sweet potatoes into a large pot over medium-high heat until potatoes are softened
  2. Add the onions and peppers into the pot and stir continuously until soft
  3. Once vegetables are soft, add the remaining ingredients into the pot and boil (Feel free to play around with the amount of spices to make the chili more to your liking)
  4. Once the contents of the pot begin to boil turn heat down to simmer and cover
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes until the chili appears thicker in texture
  6. Serve and enjoy!

Prep Time: 20 minutes   Cook Time: 40 minutes     Total Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 6-7 people           Calories: 410

Optional Sides:

  • Cornbread muffins are always a good side, just be aware of the size of the muffin
  • Steamed broccoli is always a great side to pair with chili; steam 2 cups of broccoli florets in water until bright green and soft in texture; drain then serve
  • If you would like additional protein, ground turkey is a great lean protein source. Just cook in a side pan with pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil until the turkey is 80% cooked (when you see very little pink) and then add it into the pot with the chili ingredients

 

you’ve got a friend in me.

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Define the word health. Easy right….the first thing that usually comes to mind when thinking of the word is the idea of not being sick or injured. While some of us go further to include mental health and the idea of being free from psychological struggles such as depression, PTSD, or OCD; defining health turns out to be a little more complex.

Health is dynamic. Health is multi-dimensional. Health is not a complete state or a fixed outcome. The more aware you are of the different facets of health and the more you begin to focus on improving upon these many facets within yourself, the closer you are to encompassing a positive, and well-balanced, life.

In addition to the physical and mental health dimensions, environmental health, financial health, occupational health, intellectual health, sexual health, spiritual health, and social health make up what is called the wellness wheel.

For today, I am going to focus on the importance of social health [hence the Randy Newman title reference]. Nowadays social media, news segments, magazine articles, and newspaper stories are filled to the brim with negative commentary about all the things we as humans are inflicting upon each other. It seems that it is now easier to display hate and hostility then it is to accept differences in opinion and practice love, respect, and humility. This is why social health is so important. You are considered socially healthy if you are able to develop, and maintain, a sense of belonging and connectedness with another person and if you have a support system in place to rely on in tough situations [such as cyber-bullying]. That being said, your support system can be one person or it can be fifty people. As long as at the end of the day you have someone to reach out to if you’re struggling.

Social health is linked to many positive benefits. The American Psychological Association (2015) explains it best. They’ve determined that social health can be deemed a protective factor to stress and coping with tough situations. Those on the positive spectrum of social health have higher self-esteem, a brighter outlook, better performance, better coping skills, and better relationships with others around them. They also found that those on the more negative side of social health are more at risk of high blood pressure, increased cardiovascular risk, cognitive decline, and poor peer connectedness.

I am not saying that to be considered socially healthy you need to go out and gain a million new friends, stop being an introvert, and go experience everything on your bucket list tomorrow. Having social support and an increased sense of belonging is as simple as talking to a friend, a family member, co-workers, neighbors, or members of your community. Even saying hello to a passerby on the street or doing something kind for a stranger, the environment, or even an animal is enough to give you the sense of belonging in this world.

If you are looking for some ways to reach out to your existing social support group or to expand your horizons and meet someone new, try  some of these fun tips:

  • Call, text, Facetime, or Skype friends or family that you haven’t spoken to in a while or just for a good laugh [reason #1 why I call my sister 10x a day]
  • Use the many social media outlets there are to find events in your area or to connect with friends
  • Websites like meetup.com, groupon.com, or livingsocial.com are jam packed with activities, groups, clubs, or events in your area where you can be linked to people with similar interests and passions as you
  • Many libraries hold book clubs, movie nights, and yoga classes for a small or non-existent fee
  • Museums, popular districts of town, or old houses do historical tours
  • Gyms always have group classes where, in between huffing and puffing, you can meet someone from your town you may not have met otherwise
  • Art classes  Wine and paint nights are a great bonding time for all, and you get to show off your amazing, in my case not-so-amazing, art skills
  • Local community colleges have a whole range of classes to try for a reasonable price (i.e. photography, cooking, coding, graphic design, etc.)

There are so many more ways to improve your social health, but like I said.. it’s dynamic. What may help one person improve their sense of belonging may not be your cup of tea. But all you can do is try, keep your head up, and move on. You’ll find your niche. Regardless…you got a friend in me.

healthy eats. Salmon with Pineapple Salsa

8704841865_72327c1366_zThis healthy dinner option combines a mix of flavors into a one-of-a-kind meal for under 400 calories. It is easy to make with limited ingredients, preparation, and dishes to wash!

Salmon, a powerful food known to promote eye and heart health, as well as cognition and memory, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, protein, vitamin b6, vitamin d, and vitamin b12.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound salmon
  • 3/4 c vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 pineapple, diced into large squares
  • 4 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farhenheit
  2. Place the salmon into a greased baking dish
  3. Pour the vegetable broth over the salmon and lightly season with salt and pepper
  4. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes; the salmon should be a light pink inside and will flake easily with a fork
  5. While salmon is baking, mix together the lime juice, olive oil, soy sauce, sugar, diced pineapple, diced tomatoes, and the basil into a bowl and store in the fridge until time to serve
  6. Once salmon is done baking, take out of the oven and discard the vegetable broth
  7. Place the salmon back into the baking dish to be served
  8. Serving size: 4 ounces of salmon with 1/4 cup of pineapple salsa
  • Optional Sides:  
    • Cook 1  cup of brown rice, made with 1/2 cup vegetable broth and 1/2 cup water until absorbed
    • Steam 1 cup of mini carrots with 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon until soft

Prep Time: 15 minutes   Cook Time: 30 minutes  Total Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4 people              Calories: 350 

just put it on the list.

 

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It had become a routine. After a long day of work the last thing I ever wanted to do was run errands and pick up around my house. Multiply that times five days a week and I now had a weekend loaded with things to do…or so I told myself. I had mastered the art of procrastination and the mantra “I’ll get to it tomorrow” became a common phrase. When Monday morning’s wake up call hit, it usually hit hard. Overwhelmed with the immense task of having even more things to do than before, I decided to work proactively to reduce the stress I was putting on myself. It has worked wonders.

To best manage life stressors make to-do lists your best friend. 

That’s right. It sounds simple and unnecessary, but making a list, and more importantly, sticking to the list is as helpful to managing stress as a bloody mary is to a Sunday morning “headache”. Items usually topping my list are what to make for my meals and snacks, a vague outfit idea according to my inaccurate iPhone weather app, errands to run to and from work such as get gas, mail some late thank you cards, a coffee stop, the gym, and grocery shopping.

Disclaimer: my abnormally long list is usually due to the aforementioned weekend procrastination. Learn from my mistakes people.

What I have come to learn is this. Instead of thinking of your to-do list as a tedious inventory of chores change your mindset. Think of your list as a set of intentions to complete that day. Holding yourself accountable to your intentions creates a sense of purpose and achievement. I mean honestly, what a good feeling it is to take pen to paper and scratch out something you’ve been meaning to do for a while. Daily lists are made up of small, obtainable goals that hold a bigger meaning than you realize. Setting your sights upon a goal and completing that goal according to your predetermined timeframe is known to improve self-esteem and time-management, as well as attitude and sense of accomplishment. All while decreasing levels of stress, anxiety, and worry. Plus the more you get done that day is less you have to do during your weekend.

Start small. Make a small list of priority items for one day and see how far you get. If you don’t get around to all of them don’t get defeated. Just add it to next days list. You’ll find list making improves organization, saves you time and stress, and allows you to better remember those last minute notes-to-self you need when running out the door. I sure did.