Is Stretching Necessary?

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Our bodies are constantly in motion, and in order to age well and stay healthy for as long as possible, we need to treat our bodies with care. Staying active, practicing mental relaxation techniques, and eating a balanced diet all form part of a well rounded and healthy lifestyle.

Did you know that stretching is an essential part of keeping your body healthy and injury free? While many people are aware of the fact that they need to be active, they may look past this simple and quick step. For this reason, many people suffer from chronic pain or injuries that could have been avoided. So, is stretching necessary? Absolutely! Keep reading to find out why and when you should be stretching.

Benefits of Stretching:

  • Increases flexibility
  • Increases range of motion
  • Reduces risk of injury
  • Improves workout performance
  • Improves posture
  • Increases blood flow and energy
  • Calms the mind

When Should You Stretch?

  1. When you wake up: Stretching in the morning can help your body wake up and get ready for the day, as it will improve your blood flow and give you the kickstart you need to get up and moving.
  2. Before a workout: Dynamic stretching before a workout is necessary in order to warm up the muscles and get them ready for your routine. Stretching before a workout is absolutely necessary in order to prevent injuries.
  3. After a workout: Post-workout stretches help to wind down the muscles and release tension from strenuous activity.
  4. If you’ve been sitting too long: If you lead a sedentary lifestyle or work full-time in an office setting, it’s important to take short breaks throughout the day to stand and stretch.
  5. When you’re stressed: Stress can cause your muscles to tense up and your mind to feel uneasy. Taking time for yourself to stretch or find a relaxing exercise such as yoga or tai chi can have huge benefits for both your mental and physical health.
  6. If your muscles are tight: Sometimes your muscles tighten up from daily stress, from overuse, or from strenuous workouts. Nonetheless, using different stretching techniques or even foam rolling can help.
  7. If you’re experiencing muscle pain: Stretching can help heal muscle pain by improving range of motion and can also help reduce the chances of experiencing muscle pain later on.

When you’re recovering from an injury: If you had an injury and you need therapy, they may suggest certain stretches that will help your recovery process. Continuing to do those exercises will help you feel better with time and improve post-injury trauma.

How to Increase Energy Levels Naturally

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It’s normal from time to time to feel like your energy levels are completely drained. There are multiple reasons that can cause you to feel this, including physical and mental reasons. While a lot of things can play a role on your energy levels, including diet, sleep, stress, diseases, and hormones, there are a few things you can do to help increase your energy naturally.

  1. Regulate your sleep: Having a regular bedtime and waking up at the same time every morning can help regulate your circadian rhythm, hence leaving you feeling rested and energized throughout the day.
  2. Eat a balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, grains, and an adequate amount of protein will help give your body the fuel it needs to function properly. Additionally, eating meals regularly without skipping and staying hydrated play a huge role in keeping energy levels steady.
  3. Socialize: People with strong social networks are more likely to grow into old age happier and with more energy. Consider starting a hobby of interest or joining a club that will lead you to make social connections with similar interests to you!
  4. Keep a limit: Limit alcohol, sugar, and smoking as all of these are detrimental to your overall health, causing your energy levels to plummet.
  5. Relax: Having high levels of stress and overloading your mind can lead to both mental and physical fatigue. Taking time throughout the day to decompress and also dedicating time to yourself throughout the week can help keep your mind more relaxed and in turn stabilize your energy levels.
  6. Exercise: Getting up and moving, even if you’re feeling tired, is a proven way to get your energy levels up. Additionally, an active lifestyle can reduce the risk of diseases that can leave you feeling drained and fatigued.

How to Take Care of Skin for Long Term Benefits

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Aging is part of the natural human condition. While all of us will experience wrinkles, there are a few factors such as genetics and lifestyle choices that can affect just how many or when we begin to see them show on our skin.

Establishing a proper skincare routine, whether you are a man or a woman, can go a long way in showing long term benefits when it comes to skin health. Caring for your skin is not just about beauty and aesthetics, as skin cancer and other issues can affect all genders alike.

The following are some of the most important steps you can start taking today in order to maintain healthy skin for a long time and age gracefully with a reduced risk of skin disease.

  1. Use sunscreen: Always remember this rule, sun exposure can cause sunburn and skin cancer. Remembering to wear sunscreen whenever you go to the beach or spend days at the park is important, but applying sunscreen day to day is also necessary. A helpful tip is to keep your sunscreen near your toothbrush so you can easily develop this habit.
  2. Cover up: In addition to wearing sunscreen, remember to wear protective clothing if you will be out all day and to stay in an area with shade whenever possible.
  3. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day, every day, will keep your skin looking hydrated and supple.
  4. Eat healthily: Eating healthy is beneficial to your overall health, but when it comes to skin, eating plenty of fruits and veggies full of antioxidants can help keep your skin glowing, clear, and young.
  5. Quit smoking: Smoking affects the production of collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep your skin looking young. It also decreases blood flow to the skin and increases the risk of certain types of cancer, so it’s best to avoid smoking and to find help in order to quit as soon as possible.
  6. Establish a skin care routine: Establishing a routine that fits your skin type, and actually sticking to it regularly, can have long term benefits for your skin’s health.
  7. Relax: Stress can have a huge impact on your skin by causing premature wrinkles. Try to keep stress at bay by practicing relaxation techniques and both your skin and your mental health will reap the benefits!

Causes for Insomnia

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Sleeping disorders affect many people in today’s fast-paced world. Whether it’s stress, work-related issues, children, or just everyday life, there are many factors that can affect the quality of your sleep.

Insomnia is one of the most common sleeping disorders, and most people will experience an acute version of it at some point in their life due to stress or trauma. Insomnia is characterized by a difficult ability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. In some instances, people may wake up too early and find it difficult to continue sleeping.

Symptoms of insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up multiple times during the course of the night
  • Worrying about not being able to sleep
  • Not feeling well rested
  • Waking up too early
  • Low energy throughout the day
  • Decreased alertness

Insomnia can be frustrating and can feel like a never-ending cycle. It’s important to note whether your insomnia is caused by worry and is acute or if it has been going on for months in order to properly seek help. Many cases of insomnia are caused by stress or anxiety, which can be treated through different methods. Additionally, medications or other factors can cause insomnia including the following:

  • Using your smartphone right before bed, the blue light emitted by electronic devices can interrupt the production of melatonin
  • Leaving your phone on vibrate or loud can cause interruptions throughout the night as texts or calls come in- powering down your phone is the best option to ensure no interruptions
  • Drinking caffeine past noon can interrupt your sleep cycle even if your body is used to consuming caffeine, this includes coffee, tea, and caffeine-rich foods such as dark chocolate
  • Skipping your bedtime routine can affect your quality of sleep, it’s important to have time dedicated to wind your body down and prepare it for relaxation
  • Checking your email or participating in other mentally stimulating activities such as watching tv
  • Eating certain types of food such as spicy, fatty, or sugary foods
  • Sleeping with your pet, who moves around and causes sleep disturbances
  • Drinking too much water before bed resulting in frequent trips to the bathroom

If you do any of these or perhaps other little habits that you haven’t pinpointed, they may be the cause of your insomnia. If you believe your insomnia is affecting your day to day life or may be caused by a more serious condition, do not hesitate to seek professional help in order to address the issue and be able to sleep better in no time.

Effects of Stress on the Body

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Stress is a part of everyday life, and a little stress here and there is nothing to worry about. It’s when stress becomes chronic, though, that it begins to affect both your mental and physical health. If you feel you’re reaching a breaking point, it might be that stress is affecting your health in a negative way.

 

Sometimes, the effects of stress may go unnoticed because people tend to blame chronic pain and discomfort on diseases or other factors. What they may not realize is that the effects of stress on the body are serious, oftentimes even more serious than the actual situation they tend to stress over.

Stress and the body

Stress affects every part of the body, from the musculoskeletal system to the gut. The following are ways stress takes a toll on your physical health:

  • Muscle tension
  • Chronic pain
  • Migraines
  • Shortness of breath and rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, heart palpitations, cardiovascular disease
  • Increased inflammation
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Decreased sex drive in men and women
  • Complications with menstruation and pregnancy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping problems
  • Weakened immune system and more frequent colds

Stress and the mind

Although stress has many ways of manifesting itself physically, the mind does not fall behind. In fact, the root cause of many mental health issues is directly related to stress. The following are ways stress can affect the mind:

  • Increased production of cortisol or “stress hormones”
  • Anxiety, depression, nervousness
  • Mental fatigue
  • Irritability, forgetfulness, racing thoughts
  • Lack of motivation
  • Social seclusion
  • Trouble with focus and decision making
  • Substance abuse

How to cope

Chronic stress can contribute to long term issues and can result in major health concerns. If you are experiencing signs of chronic stress, consider making changes in order to feel better. There are many ways to cope including:

  • Talking to a professional therapist who can help you identify triggers and ways of coping
  • Massage therapy
  • Breathing techniques and meditation
  • Relaxing exercises with mental health benefits such as yoga and tai chi
  • Creative therapy

 

Benefits of Reducing Caffeine Consumption

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Millions of Americans have a daily habit of consuming some form of caffeine, many of whom are doing it multiple times a day. Although caffeine is known to have some health benefits, it’s easy to become addicted. What’s worse? Withdrawal symptoms are very real and many people don’t want to endure them.

Caffeine can help you stay alert and can be a beneficial substance for some, but drinking it in moderation is key. While some people are better off staying away from caffeine, everyone can benefit from reducing its’ consumption. Keep reading to find out the benefits of reducing caffeine intake!

  1. You’ll sleep better: Caffeine can reduce your quality of sleep, particularly if consumed later in the day. Reducing caffeine consumption can benefit your sleep overall as it won’t alter your brain chemicals in any way that can impact your rest.
  2. Less anxiety: Those who are more prone to suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues typically see a spike in their symptoms when they consume caffeine regularly. Eliminating caffeine can help keep you calmer.
  3. Lower blood pressure: Caffeine raises your blood pressure, those who suffer from high blood pressure are better off avoiding it altogether.
  4. Whiter teeth: Coffee and black tea can stain your teeth, eliminating caffeine from your diet can result in overall healthier tooth enamel and whiter teeth.
  5. Healthier digestion: Due to the laxative properties in coffee, high consumption can impact your gut health and cause more frequent bowel movements. In order to regulate your gut health, lower consumption of caffeine is highly recommended.
  6. Balanced hormones: For women, a high caffeine intake can cause hormonal disbalance. This is particularly important for women who suffer from conditions such as endometriosis and certain types of cancer.

You’ll feel energized: Caffeine can cause a disruptive cycle of affecting the quality of sleep and thus creating a dependency in order to feel energized. Eliminating caffeine consumption can help to regulate your sleep cycle and feel long lasting energy the natural way.

Best Techniques to Relieve Muscle Tension

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Muscle tension is a common but not normal condition experienced by many adults in today’s fast-paced world. It is caused when muscles contract and do not release, and is often a result of high levels of stress or overuse. If prolonged, muscle tension can lead to pain throughout the body, tightness, and tension headaches.

The good news is that there are myriad of ways to relax the muscles in order to ease muscle tension and reduce pain associated with it, and the best part is that many of the techniques can be practiced right at home. So what are you waiting for? If you are experiencing any type of muscle tension or mental stress, try out one of the following techniques!

  1. Meditate: Meditation is a proven way to calm the mind and reduce both mental and physical stress. The best part? Practicing for a few minutes a day can show improvement. Incorporating breathing techniques throughout the day or during moments of high stress can also help your heart rate go down and relax.
  2. Do yoga: Yoga helps you practice mind and body connection, which in turn has mental health benefits that can lead to an increasingly calm state of being. Stretching the body with different poses and using breathing techniques while doing so can also help alleviate tension.
  3. Keep Moving: Continual movement is important for reducing tension in the body. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can cause muscles to contract, such as sitting at your desk all day without taking constant breaks. Additionally, exercise releases the feel-good chemicals in the brain called endorphins which help you stay happy and release mental and physical tension!
  4. Foam roll: Foam rolling and stretching is an excellent way to easily reduce muscle tension after a workout or even as a workout itself, and can be done at home.
  5. Sleep: Getting enough rest is important for the body and mind to feel relaxed and recovered. Skipping sleep can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, stress, and tension.
  6. Massage Therapy: Getting a massage from a professional is the best way to target knots, tightness, and other problem areas throughout the body. Massage therapy can be expensive, though. There are techniques that can be done at home such as foam rolling or using a lacrosse ball that can also work to target specific areas of tension.
  7. Acupuncture: A trained acupuncturist can help reduce tension in the body by using a pain-free technique.
  8. Warm bath: Taking a warm Epsom salt bath, shower, or even hitting the sauna can alleviate stress and tension. Warmth increases circulation and calms the body and the mind. Keep in mind to drink plenty of fluids after hot therapy in order to replenish your body.
  9. Drink Tea: Warm drinks and tea such as chamomile help relieve muscle spasms and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Try drinking a cup at night for a restful and relaxed sleep.
  10. Apply heat: Applying a warm compress to a problem area is an immediate way to reduce muscle pain by increasing blood flow and reducing lactic acid buildup.
  11. Aromatherapy: Our sense of smell can greatly aid in reducing stress and keeping calm. Essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass are all known to help reduce feelings of stress and work as muscle relaxants.
  12. Eat more antioxidants: Eating a diet high in antioxidants helps to lower levels of inflammation in the body and supports with a healthy response to stress and tension in the muscles.

Habits That Speed Up Aging

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Everyone ages, but the habits we adopt throughout our lifetime can have a huge impact on the way we age. While aging is a natural process that many people have difficulty coming to terms with, it doesn’t have to be something to dread. By simply practicing healthier habits our bodies (and time) will thank us and treat us well in return.

There are certain habits that people adopt without realizing it’s actually making them age quicker than normal. Ever wondered if you might be practicing one of these habits? Keep reading to find out a list of things that can actually speed up the aging process.

  1. You skip sleep: Sleep is one of the most important natural processes of the human body as its main function is to help us recover. As we sleep, our cells repair themselves and our bodies get the rest they need in order to function properly. Skipping sleep can make your skin look dull and tired while getting enough sleep will contribute to a youthful glow.
  2. You don’t exercise: Being too sedentary can contribute to weight gain and decline your bodily functions as you age. In order to enjoy a long, healthy life it’s important to stay active.
  3. Excessive smoking and drinking: Smoking and drinking are both known to speed up the aging process. This is because it can break down your skin elasticity and cause wrinkles and also decline your cognitive function.
  4. Poor diet: Food plays a huge role in your overall health. Eating processed sugar, fried foods, and alcohol can all speed up the aging process. Instead, incorporating more fruits and vegetables can help your body look and feel better as you age.
  5. Stress: Leading a high-stress lifestyle will make you age at a much quicker pace than you should. Keeping stress at bay and practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation and yoga can actually help you age gracefully.

Of course, everyone has different genetic makeup and will age at a different pace. The list above is only a few of the many things that can contribute to premature aging and a decrease in proper bodily function. Always remember to adopt healthy habits that will benefit your needs and lifestyle!

Common Causes of Back Pain

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Many Americans suffer from ongoing back pain and the unfortunate thing is that they either ignore it or are completely unaware of the cause. While living with back pain can be difficult, many of the root causes can actually be reversed if the correct steps are taken. The important thing is to analyze what type of pain you are feeling and speak to your doctor to see what is causing your pain in order to receive proper treatment. If you’re unsure where to start, the following is a list of common causes for back pain:

  1. Poor posture: This is perhaps the most common cause of back issues. Slouching, hunching, sleeping incorrectly, and overall incorrect posture while sitting and standing can all contribute to back pain. Consider correcting your posture by setting reminders or purchasing a posture corrector to see if it helps improve your symptoms.
  2. Form: Some people hit the gym and have no idea that form can make or break them. Doing exercises incorrectly can cause major back issues, so it’s best to learn from a professional or ask for help in order to ensure you won’t cause any long term damage from performing exercises incorrectly.
  3. Nerve Compression: Sometimes a root in the spine is pinched or compressed and sends pain signals to the brain, this can be a direct cause of other disorders such as herniated discs or bone spurs.
  4. Degenerative Disc Disease: More so than a disease, this is the natural process the body undergoes as it ages. Those who are older tend to see a reduction in disc space due to less hydration in the body, which is a common cause of back pain and discomfort.
  5. Accidents: Some back pain can be a direct result of a recent or even old injury, in this case, physical therapy and exercise at home can be a good option to help alleviate pain.

Of course, back pain can come from a number of different factors. As mentioned before, it’s important to find out where your pain stems from in order to find the right treatment option that will work best for your condition. Although some cases may require surgery in order to improve, your path to feeling better may be as simple as therapy, pain medication, and even light exercises like yoga.

How To Transform Your Environment for Better Sleep

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Good sleep is important. Getting enough rest is not just about sleeping a certain number of hours, but rather getting quality sleep. Sleeping improves cognitive function, keeps your immune system in check, and is linked to overall better health.

While many adults know how many hours of sleep they should be getting, many of them don’t actually get enough. Additionally, many people are not aware of proper sleep hygiene methods that can drastically improve the quality of their sleep. Today we’re talking about the things you can do in order to transform your bedroom and improve the quality of your sleep.

  1. Get organized: Creating a clutter-free space is an essential part of getting good sleep. If your environment is tidy, your mind is more likely to feel peaceful when it’s time to go to bed. Additionally, organizing under your bed can help keep the area well ventilated which is important due to the moisture your body releases throughout the night.
  2. Darkness: Believe it or not, any hint of light can actually confuse your brain and disrupt your sleep. This includes night lights, street lights, and even moonlight. Invest in shades and make sure to turn off all the lights when it’s time to sleep. A helpful tip is to dim your lights about an hour before bed in order to get your body ready to wind down and sleep.
  3. Put away electronics: Continuing off of the previous point, it’s important to reduce or eliminate electronic use immediately before bed. Experts recommend avoiding a TV in your bedroom, sleeping away from electronics, and turning off cellphones and tablets an hour or two before bed. The reason being? The blue light emitted by our electronics disrupts the production of melatonin and thus impact the quality of your sleep.
  4. Cool down: Lower the temperature before bed, this has been proven to help your body prepare for sleep.
  5. Scent: Creating a relaxing atmosphere through aromatherapy can help quiet your mind. Scents such as lavender, vanilla, and jasmine can all help improve the quality of sleep.
  6. Pillows: Make sure you change your pillows every once in a while and that you use a good quality pillow that won’t impact your posture or cause headaches.
  7. Cut out disruptions: Some disruptions may seem little, but they can actually impact the quality of your sleep. If you have a small nightlight, if your dog snores, or if there are any other small interruptions present throughout the night, make sure to find a solution to these things that will let you sleep through the night. In turn, you will feel well rested and better overall.