Stress Less This Spring

Spring.jpgStressor:  The situations and pressures that cause stress

We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as a tiring work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful.  Believe it or not, not all stress is bad.  Good stress can allow you to be more alert and focused.  Good stress can be described as positive, major life changes, such as a new job, a graduation, marriage, a vacation.

Stress occurs because we run out of emotional and sensible resources.  We do not always realize we are under stress until it has begun to overwhelm us.  It is important to acknowledge stress before it gets out of hand. Stress can negatively affect your mental and emotional health.  It can also create social and relationship problems.

Often, we resort to the unhealthy management of stress.  This could involve too much alcohol, smoking, drugs, overeating/mindless eating to name a few.

Instead of the unhealthy and negative management of stress, let’s focus on some healthy, positive, and fun ways to manage our stress.

  1. Adopt more moderate views/change your thinking patterns:
  • Reflect on positive experiences
  • Journal – record your feelings, thoughts and emotions
  • Have a more optimistic outlook on life
  • Use humor – watch comedy, smile, and make jokes
  • Refute negative thoughts
  1. Unplug:
  • Avoid social media, TV, and checking e-mails for at least 15 minutes a day
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Color – adult coloring books are the new rage. Did you know coloring stimulates the brain areas associated with motor skills, the senses, and creativity?!
  1. Build and maintain positive and supportive relationships:
  • Be with and around people who uplift your mood and provide emotional support.
  • Identify the nature and causes of stress: Minimize contact with stressors
  • Find social support/build up resources
  1. Activity:
  • Pick an activity that requires focus and is challenging – it can distract you from your worries
  • Be in nature if at all possible – breathe in the fresh air
  • Express yourself!
  1. Meditation:
  • Slow, deep breathing
  • Say “NO” to others. Say “YES” to you. Take more “ME” time.
  • Become mindful!
  1. Improve your diet:
  • Make a meal plan/meal prep
  • Eat clean/eat the rainbow/eat plenty of vegetables
  • Drink plenty of water/cut out pop/soda
Sources: The American University in Cairo ,  Beliefnet, and Active Beat
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Yoga with Jessica: Breathing

April and (hopefully) spring greetings! As it begins to warm up outside and we start to venture outside, I thought this would be a good time to dive into the breath work of yoga. I love to take my yoga practice and classes outside whenever the weather cooperates. There is a more calming atmosphere in nature.

Have you ever noticed your breath when you are happy? What about when you are sad, mad or scared? Our breath expands when we experience love, compassion, kindness and positive feelings. On the other hand, our breath is somewhat restrained when we experience fear, pain, and negative emotions.

If you have ever attended a yoga class, the teacher has undoubtedly instructed you to “bring your attention to your breath.”  But what exactly does that mean? Basically, we want you to focus your mind on your inhales and exhales, without judgment. But what does that mean? When you inhale and exhale, it is a natural process, something you do without thinking. When we ask you to focus your mind on your breath, we want you to notice that inhale coming in. Notice it without judgment, without trying to change it, just notice how it comes in. Does it come in slow & deep or does it come in short and choppy, maybe with some restriction? Neither answer (or any other answer) is wrong. The same thing is true of your exhales.

Let me get a little more technical here. In our everyday breathing, the brain stem, or medulla oblongata, is being utilized. The medulla oblongata contains the control centers for the heart and lungs. When we bring our attention to our breath, we shift to utilizing the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex plays a role in attention, perception, and awareness.  When our attention comes to our breath, our mind starts to quiet and a sense of peace starts to wash over us.

YogaBreathworkNotice the picture of the person with one hand on her belly and one hand on her chest.  I invite you to try this simple practice when you have time.  You can be seated comfortably or lying down.  Place both hands on your belly or set yourself up like the person in the picture. Feel the rise and fall of your belly/chest as you breathe. Notice each inhalation as it enters your body and each exhalation as it exits your body. Let your breathing be soft, full and easy. No effort.  What did you notice?

Finding quiet time and bringing attention to your breath has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system.  You do not have to practice yoga to practice breath work.  You also do not have to practice meditation to practice breath work.  I do, however, strongly encourage you to practice it.  Who doesn’t need a little quiet time and stress release?

Namaste until next month.

Grilled Peanut Shrimp with Sesame Snow Peas

Stir-fryThe snow pea is a pea that is eaten whole in its pod while still unripe; they lend crunch and a fresh flavor. Snow peas are flatter and thinner than sugar snap peas, but both would work in this recipe. This is a simple, nourishing entree you can put together fairly quickly.

Peanut sauce ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon canned light coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 10 medium uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

Snow peas ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh snow peas
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Fill a medium pot with water and put on high heat to bring the water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the grill. Place all ingredients for peanut sauce except shrimp in blender or food processor; puree. Pour mixture over shrimp; let stand 15 minutes.
  3. Thread shrimp onto skewers; discard excess marinade not clinging to shrimp. Grill 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until shrimp are opaque.
  4. When the water comes to a boil, blanch the snow peas by immersing them in the boiling water 2 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water.
  5. Cook garlic and sesame seeds in olive and sesame oils for 2 minutes. Add drained snow peas; heat through, tossing well. Serve with shrimp.
Source: Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials

Yoga with Jessica

FullCamelPoseHalfCamelWe have somehow made it through the entire month of February already. The month of love, hearts and all things sweet. A lot of times when you attend yoga classes the month of February the yoga teacher will do a class full of heart opener poses. I have chosen a basic heart (or chest) opener pose for this month.

Camel pose is a pose that stretches the entire front of your body. It is done on the knees and is sometimes used as a prep for deeper backbends. I like camel pose because it does double duty. It is a super heart opener, as well as a great stretch for your quadriceps.

The benefits of camel pose:

  • Opens up the hips, stretching deep hip flexors
  • Stretches and strengthens the shoulders and back
  • Expands the abdominal region, improving digestion and elimination
  • Improves posture
  • Opens the chest, improving respiration
  • Increases spinal flexibility
  • Relieves lower back pain

As we age, we become less “bendy.” I am unable to do the full expression of camel pose but I have found ways to modify it so that it works for my body while still providing all the above-mentioned benefits.

Often times we think of Valentine’s Day as a specific day to honor the loved one(s) in our life.  I have two comments about that.  1) Why do we set aside just one day to devote to our significant other?  This should be an everyday occurrence.  2) Why not use Valentine’s Day to show yourself some love? Make yourself a priority!

As I sign off for February, I encourage you, yet again, to find time for yourself.  I am leaving you with a line from a song… “it ain’t a crime to be good to yourself.”

Picture source: FitSugar

Exercise for a Healthy Heart

dreamstime_xl_22719809It’s never too late to start exercising. Once you get going, you’ll find it pays off. Even taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can make a big difference. People who don’t exercise are almost twice as likely to get heart disease as people who are active.

Regular exercise can help you:

  • Burn calories
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol
  • Boost your HDL “good” cholesterol

It is important to aim for at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week of moderate-intensity activity. Start your work out at a slower pace and increase gradually so your body can adjust. You can increase your exercise duration gradually as you build up tolerance to your exercise plan. Your exercise plan should consist of aerobic exercise 5 times a week, stretching daily, and strength training 2-3 times a week.

  • Aerobic exercise (“cardio”): Brisk walking, running, jogging, and biking are some examples. You should be moving fast enough to raise your heart rate and breathe harder, but you should still be able to talk to someone while you’re doing it. If you have joint problems, choose a low-impact activity, like swimming or walking.
  • Stretching: You’ll become more flexible if you do this daily. Stretch after you’ve warmed up or finished exercising. As you start to feel the pull hold 15-20 seconds. Stretching should be slightly uncomfortable however, it shouldn’t hurt.
  • Strength training: You can use weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight(yoga for instance) for this. Do it 2-3 times a week. Let your muscles recover for a day between sessions. Start with a lower resistance and repetitions and increase as you build tolerance.

Once you have started an exercise routine it is important to pay attention to how you are feeling. You should stop and get immediate medical help if you have pain or pressure in your chest or the upper part of your body, break out in a cold sweat, have trouble breathing, have a very fast or uneven heart rate, feel dizzy, lightheaded, or very tired. It’s normal for your muscles to be mildly sore for a day or two after your workout when you’re new to exercise. As you continue your exercise plan you will find it is easier to complete with less fatigue and soreness. Your heart is a muscle, it will become stronger and healthier as you exercise.

Source: Exercise to Keep Your Heart Healthy

How to Prevent Falling in the Winter

dreamstime_xxl_33761381According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Every year, 1 out of 4 older adults falls, but only half of them tell their doctors. Of those falls, 1 out of 5 causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • Emergency departments treat 2.8 million older people suffering from injuries related to falling.
  • More than 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of fall injuries; a majority of them being hip fracture (300,000 annually) or head injury.

Here are 5 tips to prevent falling on slippery surfaces:

  1. Walk like a duck, taking small, slow steps with your feet pointed outward and weight evenly distributed. A wide gait will create more stability.
  2. Use any assistive devices that have been prescribed, such as a walker or cane. If you’re at a store and do not have any devices, grab a shopping cart and use that to increase your stability.
  3. Don’t go it alone. Hold the arm of a friend or family member when getting out of a vehicle and walking to and from a destination.
  4. Go slow and pay attention to the ice and snow around you. Many falls are triggered by rushing or being distracted. Slick surfaces make the situation even worse.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re struggling with mobility, ask people for help, whether it’s shoveling snow or walking into a store.

Source: The Oakland Press

Yoga with Jessica: New Year Intentions

dreamstime_xl_29933419New Year

New Beginning

New Mindset

New Focus

New Start

New Intentions

New Results

For our first month of 2018, I have chosen to talk a little about intention (setting) and mindfulness, both of which are synonymous with yoga.  I have asked you before to take a moment or two to think about how much you really notice on any given day.

Mindfulness: 1.) the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something, 2) a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Intention:  An idea that you plan (or intend) to carry out. The difference between an intention and a goal is subtle.  An intention is a reminder about the present, whereas a goal is directed toward a future outcome.

Notice how both words talk about the “present” moment.  Again, being present in the present moment is synonymous with yoga.  Being present can be very hard to do sometimes.  It requires a shift in your focus, in your mindset.  I remind my students often about letting go of what happened before they stepped onto their mat and to shut off what may be planned for the later when they step off their mat.  I want them to TAKE TIME FOR THEMSELVES.  You must be present in the moment to do that. We spend so much time taking care of others that we leave little to no time for ourselves.

For most, mindfulness comes easier and quicker than intention setting.  Everything you do throughout your day you can do mindfully:  eat, exercise, drive, work, cook, etc.  Like the definition above, you just notice and accept your feelings, thoughts & bodily sensations when doing any certain thing.  There is absolutely nothing wrong or incorrect about how you might feel or think.

Setting a (daily) intention needn’t be difficult or intimidating.  Intention setting is really quite simple.  A few examples are to be quiet, listen more, be loving, rest, be in nature, have fun, be in solitude. My ultimate favorite is TO JUST BE.

Being mindful and setting a daily intention can help you to put things in perspective, to let go of stress and to focus on the present moment.  Notice how all of that just circled back to being present in the present moment.

New Year

New Beginning

New Mindset

New Focus

New Start

New Intentions

New Results

Namaste until next month.

Yoga with Jessica- Legs Up The Wall

Our yoga series is written by Jessica Durham. Jessica is a 200 Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT), and she will be sharing her thoughts, tips and tricks for those who love yoga.

Example 1.jpgDecember greetings! Suddenly we find ourselves in the last month of the year- quite possibly the busiest month of the year. There’s holiday decorating, baking, and shopping, family and social gatherings, plus the regular day to day activities of work, school, grocery shopping, laundry, nightly meal prep, etc. How on Earth can we possibly fit everything in?

I have been debating what I wanted to convey in this month’s blog. I had a thought but brushed it aside because I wanted to be really creative with our next pose and my words. I had another idea come to mind, but I couldn’t seem to get everything flowing freely. So, I went back to my original idea. Has that ever happened to you? An idea comes to mind and you think, “no, that’s entirely too simple, it’s not nearly creative enough.” Through my yoga journey, I have encountered many wise yoga sisters, some who speak and write so eloquently.  Of course, I want to be like that, but if I take the time to really look within (myself), I see that is not who I am. I am a simple human. I want things to be simple and I want everyone to understand and feel included.

With that in mind, the pose I want us to focus on this month is called “legs up the wall.”  It doesn’t sound very eloquent, does it?  Most everyone loves this pose. It can be done with or without props.  It will depend on your body, your flexibility, and your comfort.  Like all other poses before and all to follow, legs up the wall is absolutely modifiable!  There is no graceful way into or out of this pose, but the end result is SO sweet.  It is very much worth the effort it takes to achieve the pose. Plus, there are so many benefits to this pose.  Here are just a few:

  • Relieves fatigue in the legs and feet
  • Soothes the nervous system
  • Relieves a mild backache, headache, and insomnia
  • Increases circulation
  • Calms the mind
  • Relieves mild depression, stress & anxiety

This is my go-to pose pretty much every day. I have a lot of pain in my feet and occasional back issues. Even if I am not having a flare up, I will still use this pose for comfort, relaxation, stillness & silence. I have also been known to go to sleep in this pose.

You may find yourself doing much more for others this month, but be sure to do just as much for yourself.  It is not selfish to take time for yourself.  It is imperative that you take care of YOU, not only during the holidays but each and every day of the year.

Have a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.  I will see you back here in 2018.

Namaste and God Bless

~Jessica

 

 

Recipe: Salmon Marsala

Salmon Marsala.jpgThis recipe switches up chicken marsala by swapping for salmon. It’s a great way to get delicious and healthy fish on the menu. You should find marsala wine in the cooking wines/condiments section of your local grocery store.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 10 fresh mushrooms, sliced (or one 7-ounce can of sliced mushrooms, drained)
  • 4 (4 ounces each) skinless salmon filets
  • 1/3 cup Marsala wine
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth (1/3 less sodium)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 grinds, fresh ground pepper

Directions

  1. Prep the onions and mushrooms.
  2. Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, garlic and mushrooms to the skillet and begin sautéing.
  3. Add the salmon filets to the skillet, cooking for 10 minutes per inch of thickness (turn them over midway in the cooking time).
  4. Mix together the wine, broth, cornstarch and fresh ground pepper; when the fish is nearly done (you can tell by twisting the center of the thickest part – if it flakes easily, it’s done), add the wine/broth mixture to the salmon.
  5. Stir gently, as the liquid turns into a thick gravy within one minute. Serve over whole-grain pasta or brown rice, with steamed asparagus or vegetable of your choice.

Nutrition information

Makes 4 servings. Each serving contains:

  • Calories 450
  • Fat 12g
  • Fiber 9g
  • Sodium 147 mg (does not include the optional salt)
  • Carbohydrates 44g
  • Protein 37g

Recipe source: Cleveland Clinic blog

How to make an impact on Giving Tuesday

Giving TuesdayNovember 28, 2017 is #GivingTuesday, and we want to know how you are going to give back to your community! Studies have found that the following health benefits have been associated with giving (Source: Cleveland Clinic):

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Less depression
  • Lower stress levels
  • Longer life
  • Greater happiness

We have listed some ideas to help you give back to our community.

  1. Donate to the Cameron Hospital Foundation to support your local hospital.
  2. Research volunteer opportunities with an organization that meet your interest and goals. Steuben County United WayProject Help of Steuben CountyCASARISE and Steuben County Council on Aging are just a few of the MANY organizations in Steuben County that offer volunteer opportunities.
  3. Help your friends and family with a project without expecting anything in return.
  4. Donate some of your unused and unneeded household items and toys to a local charity