Interests: Mum's and Kid's Health, Headaches
The new year has begun! After a short break, we will all soon be back into routine, back at work and starting the new school year. It is very easy to start the year with good intentions (What was your Resolution?), and then fall back into the same old routines to scrape through the year. Think about how you finished 2018. Were you stressed and exhausted, just waiting for the year to end so you could ‘start over’? Did you end the year overtired and strung out?
If yes, ask yourself, why would you want to do the same things again?
Here are 12 tips to help you break your stressful routine, and help you get through 2019 relatively unscathed. These small changes can make a big difference when applied consistently.
1. Workstation set up
We have all seen the pictures of the person sitting at the desk with the computer screen at eye level and their chair set to an exact angle. Truth is, there is no ‘perfect’ set up you to have at your desk, but it is well worth looking at how your desk or study space is set up. Are you always looking slightly down, or to the right? Do you have all your reference or work books on the left hand side of the desk? Your desk should be comfortable, but also encourage correct posture for you. Ask your OH&S rep for an ergonomic consult, or ask your chiro next time you’re in for some tips and tricks.
2. Backpacks and handbags
School backpacks should be no more than 10% of the person's body weight (i.e. 30kg student = 3kg bag). They should be worn evenly, with both straps on, and the bottom of the school bag should not be below your hips. If present, do up the chest and waist straps to distribute the weight away from your shoulders.
Handbags or work bags should also be kept as light as possible, only carrying the essentials to and from work. Most fashion bags are designed to be worn on one side of the body, carried in one hand or hung from one shoulder. Try swapping your bag to the other side of your body, aiming to carry 50% of the time on each side. If you are very used to carrying on one side, this can feel very strange, but it is well worth changing the weight distribution through your spine to be more even.
3. Consistent exercise
A lot of people have the new years resolution of ‘get into shape’ or ‘lose weight’. Often people attempt to do this by setting an unattainable goal like running every day when the furthest they have ever run is to the fridge. The key with exercise is to keep it consistent and attainable. Walking is fantastic exercise, as is stretching and yoga. The goal of your exercise should be to get your body moving and to feel strong and calm, not exhausted and sore. Plus exercise has been shown to help improve concentration and memory, so taking a break from work or study to exercise might actually help in the long run.
4. Car exercises and good posture for the commute
Many people have long commutes everyday. While it can be tempting to play Candy Crush the whole way to Melbourne on the train, staring down at your phone for an extended period can be very detrimental to your posture and your health. If you have a long commute, vary the activities you do if you can, for example, 20 minutes on your phone, 10 minutes looking out the window or people watching, then get up and go for a walk to stretch your legs, or try some of our seated stretches and exercises (ask your chiro next time you come in).
5. Try not to depend on sugar
Got a test tomorrow? Haven’t studied or forgot it was on? If you are going to be up late studying, do not reach for sugar to help you get through! Sugar is often stored as fat in your body, especially if eaten late in the evening, so it can contribute to you gaining weight. Raising your blood sugar can also disrupt your sleep, making it harder for you to get to sleep and stay asleep. You are actually better off to have a quick read of the material, then get a solid nights sleep to allow yourself to have maximum recall and quicker thinking than if you had been up all night.
6. Lunchboxes for kids
Preparation is key. Try and do as much as you can the night before, or even try and meal plan for the school week ahead, to avoid grabbing the Tiny Teddies out of the pantry for the kids lunches. It is surprisingly easy and cheap to make healthy and delicious lunches for the kids, it just takes a little forward planning and preparation.
7. Coffee- some is ok, too much is bad
Getting back into routine usually means turning the alarm clock back on. This means you are being woken, and can often wake feeling groggy or still tired. It is a cultural norm to reach for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning to ‘help you wake up’. While you may feel a little more alert, coffee (and caffeine) can have a detrimental effect on your adrenal system, which is closely linked to stress. Not to say that you can’t have the occasional cup of coffee, but if find yourself reaching for the 7th coffee of the day it might be time to reassess how much caffeine you are actually having, and the effects this can have on other areas of your life, like sleep.
8. Adult lunches
Once you have prepared lunches for the kids, take the time to prepare something for yourself too. Not only will you save money by not buying your lunch everyday, but you will eat better food and more appropriate portions too. If you buy your lunch, you will generally eat everything, even if you are not hungry anymore, because you don’t want to waste it. By preparing a healthy lunch for yourself, you may be eating better food with less preservatives and less sugars. If you are struggling to come up with anything other than Vegemite sandwiches, have a look at salads and soups, and you could even make some bliss balls for a sweet treat!
9. Avoiding wind up/early identifying of stress
Stress and its sequelae are some of the most common and debilitating conditions we see. So it is important to be able to pick up on when you are starting to feel stressed or anxious, so you can take steps to reduce your stress before it starts effecting your health. Some people start getting headaches or noticing tension in their shoulders. Others have nervous ticks like biting nails, picking at lips or twirling their hair. Others may procrastinate, putting off the thing that is making them stressed, which only makes them more stressed. Whatever your tell is, learn to identify it, so you can take steps to reduce it (See our September blog on Sympathetic Dominance for how to reduce stress)
10. Proper preparation for exams
Some people swear by the last minute, late night cramming session before a test or exam. This has been shown time and time again not to be the best way to actually learn and retain the information being taught. Sure, you might get through the test, but you won’t be able to apply any of the information you supposedly ‘learned’. And this method is going to send your fight or flight response through the roof! Proper preparation is key. Attending classes, asking questions and consolidating your knowledge well before the test date is a much better way to take in the material being taught. So be kind to your body and your emotional health, pay attention in class!
11. Sleep hygiene
Sleep is incredibly important. It allows your body to heal and relax and your brain to clean and recharge. So why wouldn’t you want your sleep to be the best it can be? Give yourself a good bedtime routine which includes some wind down time before bed, no screens (phone, computers or TV’s for at least an hour before bed), a dark cool bedroom and maybe even some meditation before bed. Consistent sleep and wake times can make a big difference, look into your sleep cycles if you are always waking up tired. Adults should aim for at least 8-9 hours sleep a night (yes, even if you think you only need 6 hours). Teens need approximately 10 hours sleep, however their hormone levels encourage them to stay up later in the evening, creating an issue when they need to be up early for school. Preschoolers and primary school aged children need at least 10 hours of sleep a night, although some children may need up to 12 hours a night.
12. Effective communication to avoid stress and help relationships at work
Being able to effectively communicate your wants and needs, especially at work, can be extremely beneficial. If you are able to clearly communicate within your workplace, you can save yourself a lot of stress. Make sure your boss and your peers are aware of your situation, whatever that may be, so they can communicate effectively to you. Have boundaries on when you are available to discuss work, it is ok not to check your work email at home. If you can, discuss any frustrations with the relevant parties before you leave work, so you don’t spend the evening dwelling on any issues. While it is getting harder and harder to separate work and home, it is important to give yourself some downtime and take some time for yourself, whatever that means for you.
So what can you change to make 2019 less stressful than 2018? Do you just need a few small tweaks? Or do you need to implement this whole list? Taking even one of these suggestions and putting it into practice could change your whole year. So what are you waiting for?
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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.