Christmas is a time of indulgence, where we often treat ourselves and don’t like to think about the consequences. So our challenge to you is to have a look at some of the usual areas we get into trouble over Christmas and help you to think about alternatives.
Swap #1 Pavlova for fruit salad
Christmas is well known for overindulgence, particularly of desserts and sweets. While it may be tempting to try EVERYTHING on offer at Christmas dinner, consider if a small serve of each would be better, or swap the dessert for some fruit salad.
Swap #2 Chocolate and lolly bowl for mixed nuts (natural)
There is already enough sweets on offer at the festive season, mix it up a bit by offering a bowl of raw, mixed nuts to snack on instead (or roasted chickpeas if nuts are not your thing, very easy to make at home!)
Swap #3 Soft drink for kombucha
Low in sugar and good for your gut, but still cool, refreshing and bubbly. What’s not to love about kombucha! With many flavours and brands now available from the supermarket, give it a try and see if you like it. I would recommend trying a couple of different brands if the first one doesn’t float your boat, they are all uniquely flavoured and some are less bitter than others.
Swap #4 iPad for board games
While electronics make a great Christmas gift, it is great to take advantage of the time spent together with family and friends at the festive season. Rather than gathering around the iPad, pull out the Monopoly and start a friendly rivalry that could last years!
On a serious note, social connection is declining as use of electronics is rising. Overuse of screens is being shown to be detrimental to many levels of child development, both physical and emotional. While it can be easier to let kids ‘entertain’ themselves on a screen, try and make the time to connect and play together, with cards, board games, or setting up the new train track. It will be much more memorable than an evening watching TV!
Swap #5 Store bought salad dressing for homemade
Store bought salad dressing can contain many additional ingredients and stabilisers to make it shelf safe. Decrease your exposure to additives by making your own salad dressing! A base of olive oil and vinegar is a good start, and you can add whatever spices and herbs you like. And it’s a lot cheaper too!
Swap #6 Snooze button for a morning walk
Just because it’s the holidays or you’re ‘busy’ doesn’t mean you can’t make time for a little exercise. While we don’t recommend showing up to the gym on Boxing day with a tummy full of Christmas pudding, taking a little time out of your day to do some gentle exercise can make the world of difference. And first thing in the morning can be a wonderful way to start your day, especially as the mornings get warmer.
Swap #7 Crackers for celery/carrot/cucumber sticks
Swapping the crackers or wafers from your nibbles plate and replacing them with veggie sticks. An easy way to get an extra serve of veggies into your daily intake, and carrot sticks covered in dip are just yum! A change most people won’t even notice, and it only takes a couple of extra minutes preparation.
Swap #8 Big plate for small plate
If you get the choice at Christmas dinner, grab a smaller plate. Portion sizes at this time of year can get a little out of hand, so take back a bit of control. By choosing a smaller plate, you can try a little of everything and still feel satisfied. Whereas if you had a bigger plate and left it emptier, you could be tempted back to the buffet.
Swap #9 Couch for the posture pole
Yep, just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you can get away with not doing your exercises! Don’t forget to take 15 mins in the evening to relax on your towel or half foam roller, your body and brain will thank you for it! (Not sure what’s going on here? Have a look at our Sympathetic September blog post- Sept 2018, or send us a message for more info)
Swap #10 Pasta salad for quinoa salad
Switching heavy salads like pasta or potato salad for a lighter, more nutritious side like a roast veggie quinoa salad is a great choice. Pasta salad is very gluten and sugar heavy (especially with store bought dressing), and can irritate your gut and spike blood sugars, usually with very little good nutrition there to balance it out. Choosing a green salad or a more nutritious alternative can help to avoid these side effects, and leave more room for dessert 😉
Swap #11 wine for water – every 2nd drink should be water
Again, indulgence is high this time of year. Instead of suggesting you go without alcohol, be smart about how much and how quickly you drink. Try and make every second drink a glass of water, to counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol and to keep you on an even keel. Your head will thank you in the morning!
Swap #12 Checking emails before bed for a meditation
You are on holidays! Whatever it is, it can wait until you are back in the office! But this isn’t just about the emails, it is all phone use in the 2 hours before bed. The blue light from your phone (or TV) has a stimulating effect on your brain, keeping you awake when you should be starting to feel sleepy. So if you really need to use your phone before bed, use it to play a guided meditation to lull you off to a restful sleep. If you don’t know where to start, we love any meditation by Jason Stephenson (on youtube and spotify), but there is lots of choice out there!
So while it may be a holiday time, it pays to remember to look after yourself. Of course, eat, drink and be merry, but be sensible about it! Try some of our swaps and see if it changes how you get through this silly season.
As we come into the silly season at the end of the year, it is common to feel tired, even burnt out. As we all rush through the end of the year with never ending to-do lists and events on every weekend, it makes sense we are all exhausted! But what if you could change this? With one simple word.
Confronting, isn’t it? We are designed to look after the pack, and put everyone else’s needs ahead of our own, even if it is to our own detriment. We get a big neurological reward from helping our peers; it causes a surge of rewarding happy hormones in our brain when we help and give to others. It is not the same when we make time to look after ourselves, often we feel guilty or selfish for putting ourselves ahead of others. Or we might feel like it will create conflict if we say no, so we agree, to go with the path of least resistance.
So this month, we are asking you to be selfish and put the guilt aside, and take time to look after yourself before others. At this time of the year, it can make a big difference, and we would like to challenge you to see what the end of the year could look like if you are not exhausted and scrambling for the finish line at New Year’s Eve.
How to say ‘no’
It can be very difficult to say no. Often we feel obligated, or are paying back a favour, or we can’t think of an excuse quick enough! I am here to tell you, there is no excuse needed. Everyone can understand if you say no, they are probably wishing they said no too!. Honesty is the best policy in this situation. No, I don’t have the time. No, that is not a good idea for me to take on. No, I have other priorities.
The key is to be firm in turning the other person’s request down. Don’t say, ‘I can’t help out right now’, because this creates a time in the future where you might be able to contribute. Be assertive, but polite.
Some people may be a bit frustrated by a refusal, and that is ok, it says a lot more about them than you! But if you feel like you need to explain, you can take the time to say that you are trying to look after yourself and put your energy towards things you really enjoy. Or that you don’t think you could put in the time and effort required to do a good job.
It will feel awkward the first few times, and yes, you will feel a bit guilty and selfish at the time, remember, this is a hardwired response. Just focus on the end goal behind saying no, whether it is spending more time with your family, getting more sleep, or just not being exhausted and strung out!
You can’t pour from an empty cup
Now that you have said no, it is time to look after yourself. This will look different for everyone, but you can make the extra time you now have work for you. Do whatever it is that fills your cup and restores your energy. Have a sleep in, go out for a girl’s night, get a massage, have a weekend away with your partner or by yourself, put the computer away and chill on the couch instead of working.
‘Self care’ is a bit of a cliched concept, but it is increasingly important in our ‘always on’ society. Giving yourself time to switch off, turn inwards and recharge is difficult, but essential. Saying no is the first step towards this. By decreasing your commitments, you can give yourself the gift of time. Time to look after yourself.
Dr Bridget Rodoni, Chiropractor
Bridget has been a practising chiropractor in Ballarat, Victoria for more than 7 years. She has a special interest in headache and migraine, and helping mums to be their best by looking after themselves. When she is not working with patients, she is referee to her two young boys.
Sleep. Most of us could do with more of it, or better quality for the time we get. Anyone, at any age can improve their sleep, even kids can benefit from the tips outlined below (although I hope #7 doesn’t apply!!). More restful sleep is within your reach, follow our steps to maximise your sleep.
1. Go to bed when you get tired.
Seems obvious right? Yet most of us will push through that sleepy feeling, reaching for a sugary treat or deciding to watch one more episode. Notice when you get tired and go to bed when that hits, don’t push through (notice how you feel about 10pm… )
2. Reduce light and noise in your bedroom.
With almost everyone experiencing stress, we become extra sensitive to light and noise because your body is on high alert for danger. Try to remove as much stimulus from your room as you can, blocking out streetlights, covering bright alarm clock faces, even nightlights can be too much for some people. Noise is harder to reduce, consider earplugs if your situation allows.
3. No devices/screens 2 hours before bed, no screens in the bedroom.
This is a big one. Screens emit blue light, which convinces your brain that it must still be daytime. This can alter your bodies sleep hormone production and make it very difficult to get to sleep. While it may seem drastic, turning off the TV and putting away the devices 2 hours before bed can help your body to regulate itself properly and increase the quality of your sleep. If this is too ‘middle ages’ for you, you can try using blue light blocking glasses, and blue light filters on screens, but it is best to avoid screens altogether if you’re having difficulty with sleep. If you need help changing your settings, have a look at the end of the post for links.
4. No eating 3 hours before bed.
Going to bed on a full stomach can impact sleep quality and sleep hormone production, so it is best to give yourself a buffer of a few hours if you can.
5. Use a posture correction device before bed.
To help calm your nervous system and relieve some stress, you can use a posture correction device for 15 mins before bed. This simple exercise helps to calm your brain and down regulate your fight or flight response, which can help you get a more restful nights sleep.
6. Take your magnesium.
Magnesium has been shown to help with relaxation and quality of sleep, as well as reducing muscle spasm and night cramping. An amazing supplement that can improve many aspects of your life, magnesium supplements can help support healthy sleep.
7. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Alcohol can contribute to increased snoring and sleep apnoea, and has been shown to affect night-time melatonin production, the hormone that helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake and can remain in your bloodstream for 6 to 8 hours after consumption, so watch your caffeine intake especially in the afternoon.
8. Hack your body’s natural rhythms.
Sleep cycles are usually about 90 mins, so if you need to be up at 6am, go to sleep at 9.30 or 11pm to fit with the sleep cycle. This makes it much easier to get going in the morning, as you are more likely to wake up feeling tired and drowsy if your alarm wakes you in the middle of a cycle. Your body also craves routine, so try to sleep and wake at the same time each day. Sorry, no weekend sleep in!
9. Pillows can make all the difference.
Your pillow can make a big difference to how you feel when you wake in the morning. Are you waking with a stiff and sore neck, shoulders or upper back? Your pillow could be the problem. A contoured pillow which supports your head, neck and shoulders, whichever position you sleep in, can help you to wake up feeling refreshed. Just remember, when changing your pillow, it can take up to two weeks to get used to the change, and you may feel ‘worse’ for a night or two as your body gets used to the new level of support.
10. Get out in the sunshine, when there is some!
Bright daylight helps with to regulate circadian rhythm and sleep hormones, helping you body know when it is daytime and night. Exercising during daylight hours is another amazing way to help your quality of sleep.
11. Lavender and chamomile.
Essential oils are becoming very well know for their uses in helping to calm and relax. A few drops of lavender oil on a tissue under your pillow can help you drift off a little easier. Chamomile tea is also quite well known for its ability to help calm and relax, a cup of chamomile a few hours before bed can help you wind down.
12. Temperature and the environment in your bedroom.
Your bedroom should be a sanctuary for rest and relaxation. Try to keep your bedroom tidy, no TV or other screens and create a restful, calm area to get your shut eye. The ideal temperature for sleep is between 18-20 degrees Celsius, so use heating or cooling to achieve this. Use your bed for sleep and sex, nothing else! No work, no laptops, no scrolling on your phone.
13. Relaxation techniques before bed.
Just like we do for the kids, a bedtime wind down routine can have benefits at any age. This will look different for everyone, depending on how you like to relax, but some ideas include: meditation, taking a hot bath, reading a book, listening to relaxing music, breathing exercises or visualisations. Anything that involves turning off a screen and allowing your mind to switch off before bed.
There are so many factors involved in a good bedtime routine and working towards a good restful night’s sleep. This list is not intended to be implemented all at once, take one or two steps at a time and find what works for you.
Blue light filter for Samsung
Blue light filter for iPhone
Blue light filter for computers
I am well aware that I sound like everyone’s Grandma when I say, “Stop slouching, posture is important!”. But the thing is, Grandma was on to something! The more we learn about the human body, how it interacts with the world around us and how it works to keep us alive, the more integral posture becomes.
Why is it bad to slouch?
When our head drops forward and our shoulders round down and forward, this sends a feedback signal to our brain, specifically an area called the red nucleus. The red nucleus is always on the lookout for signs that you are in danger, and this slumped posture is a big red flag for it. When the red nucleus thinks you are in trouble, it rallies its friends (other nuclei that are in the mesencephalon) and makes you hypervigilant. These friends start a cascade of defence mechanisms within your body, releasing cortisol (a stress hormone), tightening muscles, increasing your sensitivity to light and sound, all so you can be aware of any impending danger and be ready to run or fight at a moments notice. Yes, your poor posture just switched on your ‘fight or flight’ response and made you stressed!
How does your poor posture make you irritable and tired?
When your fight or flight response is turned on, it makes you hypervigilant. Your brain is looking for any signal that you are about to be attacked, and your body is not worried about any basic functions like digesting food properly or keeping up your immune system, because there will be time for that once the danger is passed! It is hard to sleep, because your brain will wake you at the slightest sounds. You are sensitive to light and this can lead to headaches. So you are tired, overwhelmed and getting headaches, of course you are going to be cranky and irritable! The slouching posture can also decrease the range of movement of your ribcage while you breathe. This can mean that you take shallower breaths, which can affect the oxygenation levels in your body, making it harder for your cells to work efficiently and making you even more tired.
Why does my back hurt?
Part of the stress response we outlined above is muscles tightening. The muscles across your shoulders and up the back of your neck get very tight as part of this, and your low back can also get tight as your body has to compensate and redistribute the weight to keep you upright. A slouched posture is not a mechanically sound position for your body. It disengages some larger muscles (like lower trapezius and deep neck flexors) and puts their work onto muscles not designed to take such a big load (like smaller spinal extensor muscles, superficial neck flexors and suboccipitals). This can leave you stiff, sore and more prone to injury.
What is good posture?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as ‘perfect posture’. There are definitely some positions to avoid, like the slumped forward posture we have talked about, but the key to good posture is… *drum roll please*…. Movement! Our bodies were not designed to sit in one position all day. Our muscles and brains thrive on movement and the feedback it provides. Taking regular breaks to move and stretch every 15-20 minutes can decrease back pain and increase your productivity. Following good ergonomic advice with your workstation set up is also a good idea, and if you are lucky enough to have a sit stand desk, varying the height so you can go between sitting and standing throughout the day. It would take far too long to write out all the ways to keep moving, so if you would like more information, have a look at our Facebook live videos this month at #SundayLiveAt8
So why is posture important? Because it can affect every system in our body, and make us tired, moody and sore if we aren’t getting it right. Make sure you check out our live videos this month, and if you have any questions please message us or talk to us during your appointment.
To learn more about the stress response, have a look at Sympathetic September (Sept 2018 in the blog archives)
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At Ballarat and District Chiropractic we know you want to be empowered when it comes your health so we want to help you by sharing all our knowledge about Chiropractic.