Tag Archives: meditate

8 tips for winter health and safety

winter health and safety tipsAre you and your family prepared for winter? As I watch the weather reports showing another snowstorm crossing the country, it makes me think about what we can do to be safe and healthy this winter season.

Winter brings ice, snow and cold temperatures. It can also mean “snow days” with kids home from school and parents working from home.

Here are 8 health and safety tips to help you weather any ice or snowstorms this winter may bring your way:

Prepare for ice
Ice can snap electrical lines and cut off power for a few hours or even a few days. Make sure you have flashlights and batteries or a camping lantern that runs on batteries. It’s also good to have an emergency radio so you can listen to weather updates. If you live in an area with frequent storms, it can be worth investing in a generator so you can at least get enough power to have heat and a few lights.

You may want to have foods on hand you can eat without the need for cooking. Store salt or sand for icy and treacherous sidewalks.

Stock up on provisions
During the winter months, it’s a good idea to stock up on staples so that you have them available if you should be stuck at home for several days. Make sure you have long-lasting items like cereal, pasta, crackers, peanut butter, bread (you can keep it in the freezer), tuna, canned soup, nuts or trail mix. You should also keep your medicine filled for at least five days ahead, in case you are unable to get out for a few days.

Dig the board games out of the closet to entertain the kids and create some family fun. You can also do some baking together or come up with arts and crafts projects to do as a family. I still remember some of the snow days we spent at home when I was young.

Keep warm
Kids (and some adults) can be so excited by the prospect of playing in the snow, they don’t take the proper precautions. It’s important to layer. Multiple layers are better for preventing hypothermia than one big snowsuit. Cover everything the best you can – especially your head, hands and feet. Much of your body heat escapes from your head. Your hands and feet get cold quickly because they receive less blood flow than the main part of your body.

When kids start shivering, it’s time to go in and warm up. Hot chocolate is a great way to get them inside. If the skin turns pale, a light gray color or becomes numb or blistered-looking, you may have superficial frostbite. It’s time to get inside. You can apply something warm (but not hot) like a heating pad or warm water to the affected area. If the numbness persists, you may need to get medical attention.

Play it safe
Winter sports – such as ice hockey, skiing, snowboarding and even sledding – can be dangerous. The two most common winter sports’ injuries are bruised, broken or sprained limbs and head injuries. It’s important to have the proper equipment, and even head gear. Make sure the equipment is the right size and skill level for your child. Also, know you and your child’s limitations. Adults can also be injured when they forget their age or skill level.

Drive carefully
Winter months bring snow, ice and more driving during dark conditions. You should take steps to be prepared for winter driving. Many people think you can drive the speed limit in any conditions. You should slow down if the road is at all hazardous. Increase the distance between you and the car in front of you. You have more room if you or the other car should lose control.

Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Make sure your car is clear of ice and snow before you drive, including the roof. Snow can fall on the front or back window while you’re driving. Also check that your headlights and taillights are visible.

Winter workouts
Fit in your exercise routine even during the winter months. You may need to find creative ways to workout at home if you are snowed in for a few days. Bundling up and going for a walk is great exercise, especially when walking through snow. You can shovel the driveway or sled down a hill with the kids. Again, be sure to know your limitations. It can be easy to push yourself too much in cold weather.

Boost your skin care
Winter weather can wreak havoc on your skin. You may need to find a winter moisturizer that’s oil-based to help create a protective layer and keep moisture in your skin. If your house gets dry in the winter, you can use a humidifier to put moisture back into the air and prevent your skin from drying out. You may want to ban burning hot baths and showers – they can take the moisture out of your skin.

Meditate
If you find yourself getting stressed by the bad weather, change of routine and a little too much “togetherness,” take a few minutes each day to meditate. The simple act of banishing thoughts, focusing on your breathing and repeating a single word or phrase can start up your body’s natural relaxation response. Reducing your stress levels is good for the mind, body and soul!

With a little preparation, you can be ready for anything the winter months bring your way. Be safe and healthy this winter!

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Easy relaxation techniques to reduce stress

1121962_meditationThe kitchen faucet is leaking. One of my kids can’t find her P.E. clothes and the school bus is coming. I need to deposit checks, pick up the finished taxes, drop off the dehumidifier to be fixed, and get my gray roots touched up sometime. Oh, and get a little work done, too.

This is just a sample list of the types of things we all deal with on daily basis. Some stress is good for us. It helps us stay motivated to get things done, and it keeps our minds focused and active. On the other hand, too much stress can be harmful to our physical and mental health.

How can you find the right balance between a little bit of good stress and too much stress? If your hectic lifestyle is getting to you, here are a few relaxation techniques that can bring you back into balance – quickly and easily:

Meditate
When you think of meditation, you may picture twisting your legs into the lotus position, holding your hands up and repeating, “Ohmmm.” However, any repetitive action can act as meditation and help you relax. For instance, walking, swimming, painting and crocheting can help you focus on the moment and find calmness.

The idea is to quiet your mind and let your thoughts slow down. If you start feeling overwhelmed, you can also find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. You can focus on an external point, such as a photo or an object, or you can focus internally on an imaginary scene or a calming phrase. Concentrate on your point of focus and push out all the thoughts that are causing stress. You may get distracted and start stressing again. Simply push it aside and go back to your point of focus until you feel more relaxed.

When you meditate, you are giving your mind a rest from thinking and that constant stream of chatter  running through your head. You can let the negative thoughts go and move on.

Visualize yourself relaxed
This technique is called guided imagery or visualization. You focus on pleasant images to replace your negative thoughts or feelings so that you can relax. I live in landlocked southern Illinois, but I love to go to the beach. I like to picture myself sitting in my beach chair, the waves lapping at my toes, a warm wind ruffling my hair, and the sound of waves crashing rhythmically on the shore. Ah, I feel better already!

Breathe deeply
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, can help you reverse stress by calming your breathing. To practice deep breathing, follow these steps:

  • Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, pushing your abdomen out as far as possible
  • Let your shoulders and neck muscles relax
  • Begin to exhale slowly and comfortably
  • Focus on feeling relaxed and calm
  • Repeat bullets 1 through 4 up to 5 times

Relax your muscles
When you are feeling stressed, you may find your body becomes more tense. I find that I tense up my neck, shoulders and jaw which can lead to a tension headache. With practice, you can learn progressive muscle relaxation to relax your muscles when you find yourself tensing up. Find a place where you can sit comfortable or even lie down. You may want to start with a few minutes of deep breathing to help you begin to relax.

Then, focus your attention on your right foot. Slowly tighten up the muscles in your right foot squeezing as tightly as you can. Hold it for a count of 10. Relax your foot and feel the tension flowing away as you let your foot go limp. After a moment, focus on your left foot and follow the same process. You can move slowly up your entire body, contracting and relaxing muscles as you go.

It takes some practice but feels great when you get the hang of it. I also use the technique to quickly release the tension I may be holding in a specific area, such as my neck, jaw, shoulders or back.

Think positively
If you find yourself stressed out about a situation and focusing on the possible negative outcomes, take a mental step back. Engage your mind in positive thinking. It can be very powerful! Start by envisioning something that triggers positive feelings in you. You can envision your spouse, your child (or children), a favorite vacation spot or your pet.

Thinking about these things that make you happy will help you slow your breathing, relax and put a smile on your face. With these feelings of relaxation and peace, you will be able to consider the stressful situation from a new perspective. You will most likely find it less overwhelming and more manageable.

Share some love
One of the quickest ways to feel more calm and relaxed is to cuddle with a loved one. Hug your spouse or partner for no reason. Snuggle up with a child and let the child take the conversation where ever it will go. Or, spend time with your pet. Playing fetch with your dog or petting your cat can provide instant relaxation. A side benefit of spending time with those you love is that you also recognize and appreciate the good things in your life.

Take a musical trip
Music can calm your heartbeat and soothe your soul. You may like to have classical, jazz or opera playing softly in the background to help reduce your stress. Or, you may like to crank up some pop or rock and roll to get out your frustrations and dance to the beat. Turn up the radio in your car and sing along. You may get some funny looks from other drivers, but you will most likely feel more relaxed. No matter how you like your music, it can take your mind off your worries so that you can decompress and enjoy the moment.

Drink a cup of tea
I drink a giant cup of coffee to help me get going in the morning. However, coffee can raise the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. I switch to drinking water after my morning coffee, but I also like to have a cup of hot tea in the afternoon or evening. Green tea offers many health benefits, including fight cancer and heart disease, lowering cholesterol, burning fat for weight loss, preventing diabetes and stroke, and staving off dementia. Chamomile tea is great for calming the mind and reducing stress. Some research has shown that black tea may help lower levels of cortisol when you drink it on a regular basis.

The next time you feel stressed, try a few of these techniques and see what works for you. If you practice them regularly, you will be able to confront that stressed out feeling immediately. You can take control of stress instead of letting it control you.

Do you have techniques you use to help reduce your stress level? Tell us about them!