5 Myths About Better Health

myth busting

Bust those myths!

Each day, how much time do you spend thinking about how you’re going to take better care of yourself, starting tomorrow? And we all know that tomorrow never comes, which leaves us always one day away from making smart choices.

Well, worry no longer because it’s time to attack the myths that keep too many people at arm’s length from great self-care. Today is the day to take action and embrace those healthy habits you envision.

How many of the following myths apply to you and how can you bust through them?

Myth #1: You need to exercise for one full hour each day all at once.

Fact: Our bodies are designed to move. To operate optimally, our bodies need to move continuously throughout the day with segments of sitting time limited to 45–60 minutes maximum. That leaves lots of time to focus on how we can view any and all movement as positive. Learning to be active in segments of 5-, 10-, or 15-minute intervals often makes it much easier to get started. Even a 1-minute walk to the mailbox to break up an hour of desk work can keep back pain away.

Myth #2: You need to eat healthy foods you dislike to lose weight.

Fact: Eating foods you dislike will quickly lead to reverting back to unhealthy eating habits and feelings of failure. You certainly don’t want that to happen! Eating should be joyful and there are plenty of healthy foods to choose from, so you can spend most of your time eating healthy foods you enjoy.

Making gradual changes helps too. Therefore, focus on healthy foods you enjoy, discover healthy foods you haven’t tried before, increase the time you spend exercising, and get quality sleep as much as possible, and you will see the pounds dropping off! Another tip: If you drink soda, replace it with a healthier drink, including water with lemon, unsweetened iced tea, etc. Soda can contribute significantly to weight gain.

Myth #3: You need to learn to live with stress because there will always be stress in life.

Fact: Yes, there will always be stressful situations that arise, but the important factor is how you react to the stress. Typically, when you are dealing with stress, there is the stress you can control and the stress you cannot. For example, allowing yourself to constantly be overscheduled is stress you can control. You can eliminate the stress by cutting down on your “to do” list.

An example of stress you cannot control is when you are laid off from a job unexpectedly. In this case, you can choose how you react to the situation. Instead of endlessly worrying about the job loss, you can take positive action by thinking about how this may be an opportunity to find a better job. You can take control to reduce your stress; one way is to adopt a more positive mindset.

Myth #4: If you’re thin, you’re healthy.

Fact: Although being overweight leaves people at higher risk of health problems, being thin does not automatically equate to good health. A person in a healthy weight range for their height may also be a person who smokes, doesn’t exercise or eat healthy, has high stress, and doesn’t get quality sleep. Obviously, these habits will leave this person at higher risk for illness and disease than someone who is slightly overweight but practices healthy habits.

Myth #5: Everyone needs to drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Fact: Although drinking water and avoiding dehydration is essential for good health, there are other ways to stay hydrated, including drinking healthy beverages such as unsweetened tea and juice. Foods can also provide fluids, such as fruits, vegetables, and soups.

What other myths can you think of that have provided wrong information about your health? Keep an open mind, bust those myths, and make smart choices for better health!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Mental Habits to Improve Health and Happiness

family outdoors

By Carol Phillips

The middle of summer is a great time to enjoy some vacation days and give your brain a break! Escape the endless demands of work, school, and the many other obligations we juggle on a regular basis.

Here are some tips to not only make sure our mental health is in a good place, but to create as much joy in our lives as possible:

Create a stress-free morning routine.

Instead of waking up to a blaring alarm and immediately worrying about everything you need to do that day, choose a ringtone that you enjoy. Also, think of something positive you’re looking forward to during the day or take a moment to be grateful for the blessings in your life. Give yourself enough time to get ready, so you’re not always fighting the clock, which only creates stress.

Be cognizant of everything that is going well.

Be cognizant of everything that is going well during the day, but be realistic and prepared for when something goes wrong or when an unexpected challenge presents itself. The world doesn’t revolve around us, so we often need to be flexible. Accepting these situations and handling them the best we can, instead of allowing ourselves to get upset, makes life much easier. As the saying goes, “I can’t control many situations, but I can control how I respond to them.”

The kids are watching!

If you have children, always be aware that they are watching and learning from you. Our actions have much more impact on them than what we verbally tell them. Modeling good mental health care, staying positive, and showing them how to handle difficult times helps to give them the tools they need to stay mentally healthy.

Learn to cope.

Adopt a new way to cope with disappointment, if this is an area you find difficult. Whether it’s a last-minute vacation flight being cancelled, or becoming ill and having to skip a party you were looking forward to attending, we inevitably have to deal with missing out on activities we were looking forward to. In those situations, I take some time to mentally process the loss, then I look for a “Plan B,” so my brain can get to a better place. For example, if I have to cancel a fun day with a friend due to not feeling well, I’ll reschedule in the near future, so the fun is simply delayed, not cancelled.

What are you stressing about?

Be aware of what causes you to feel stressed and deal with them one at a time. Find ways to reduce the negative effects they have on you, whether it’s solving a problem, distracting yourself, or meditating. Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and other health problems. When we’re in a good place mentally, our physical health benefits. The mind/body connection is very strong, so use it to your advantage.

Find your “go-to” ways to reduce stress.

During stressful times, find what works best for you to reduce that stress. For example, call a friend for support, watch a funny show, listen to calming music, take a walk, or start a new hobby. The sky’s the limit!

When you learn to ride the waves of life with grace, your mental outlook will improve. You’ll also feel happier and healthier, and ready to tackle anything.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

The High Cost of Ignoring Employee Wellness

Is your company ignoring employee wellness? Health and wellness are a vital part of our lives, every moment of every day, including our working hours. During the early 2000s, many companies increased their focus on this important topic and implemented wellness programs, with the knowledge that healthier employees reduce costs and improve productivity, resulting in better morale and increased profits. However, at that time, significant studies had not been done to help quantify the true value (or ROI ?— return on investment) of wellness programs. While most would say it is common sense to help employees optimize their health, skeptical employers were still insisting on seeing financial proof that wellness programs were a good investment, as opposed to an added expense.

Enter the large studies conducted in 2007 and 2008. Not only did these studies confirm the fact that effective wellness programs are a wise investment—not an expense—but they also revealed impressively significant ROIs. In most cases, wellness programs provided a return of $2-$6 for every $1 invested. Furthermore, the returns were realized in as little as 2-5 years. And, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, in recent years, companies who have been voted as the best companies to work for have reported returns as high as $8 for every $1 invested in the wellness of their employees.

Even with this information available, many companies continue to operate without a formal wellness program. I often hear business owners say they can’t afford a wellness program. The truth is that companies can’t operate optimally without an effective program in place. Here’s why:

Comprehensive employee wellness studies concluded that U.S. employers lose a staggering $153 billion each year due to their employees’ lack of wellness. In addition, experts report that this number is a conservative estimate and the true cost is even higher. These losses are due to a wide variety of factors, including higher:

-Insurance costs

-Absenteeism

-Presenteeism (employees who are at work but are not productive)

-Incidents of worksite accidents

-Employee turnover

When meeting with potential clients, I spend the majority of the beginning of meetings educating business owners and managers on the high cost of “unwellness.” Employees are not 100% healthy and 100% productive every day, hence, the need for wellness programs. Effective programs are not an add-on value for a company; they are a crucial means to reduce the financial losses companies otherwise suffer every day.

As an employer or manager, do you realize that without a wellness program your company is losing an average of $3,500 per employee/per year? For employees who smoke, this number jumps to $5,500, and in cases of certain health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer, the number can be a staggering $9,500 per employee/per year.

In a company of 100 employees, using the $3,500 per employee/per year average, that equals a whopping $350,000 loss per year or $29,167 per month. Oftentimes, employers are not aware this is happening and this is where the true benefit of wellness programs enters the picture. Effective wellness programs are designed to reduce these losses and increase productivity.

Utilizing the example above, if the company with 100 employees implements a quality wellness program and over the course of two years improves overall health by a conservative 20%, the savings would average $70,000 annually. Once aware of the potential savings, why would an employer choose not to support the wellness of their employees?

An effective wellness program is a necessity, a highly effective tool, designed to reduce the “financial bleeding” that is already taking place. Employers are wise to prioritize wellness as a means to reduce the financial losses that are an inevitable part of hiring employees and doing business.

What is the number for your company? You can easily do the math by multiplying the number of your employees by the $3,500 average to determine your annual loss. I highly recommend you take this number to your next managers’ meeting to discuss a plan to prioritize wellness. The result will be healthier employees and a healthier company.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Bad Bosses are Killing Your Profit

By Carol Phillips

Bad bosses—we’ve all dealt with one directly or we know one… or many. Most of us at some point have pondered, “Why haven’t they been fired?”

Although I don’t like to label people as “bad,” the term “bad bosses” has become part of our business language. The term identifies a segment of the work population that causes much conflict and costs employers significant amounts of money.

What do the polls say?

A 2015 Gallup Poll revealed that half of all employees who quit their jobs do so to escape their direct managers. Think about it: Out of all the reasons why people leave employers, 50% resign due to the actions of one person. This decision is a negative and direct link to health and wellness. Bad bosses create enormous amounts of employee stress. Workplace stress costs companies millions of dollars in lost productivity and lawsuits each year. This drives up healthcare costs and creates countless problems for employers.

Stressed employees

Imagine how high the average employee’s stress level needs to be for them to make the serious decision to quit their job for no other reason than to escape a negative environment they have little or no control over. Most likely, these employees believe the situation is not going to improve and that their company will likely not fire the person for their poor behavior. In addition, this leads to employees having a poor view of management, further damaging employee morale. This contributes to a toxic company culture.

When our stress levels are so high we begin to look for an exit, we are in full “fight or flight” mode. Our brains are operating at a primal survival level, one where we seek a better situation in which to feel safe, healthy, and valued. Most employees crave a work environment in which they can feel safe, productive, and respected. They want to be treated fairly. When these elements are missing due to the actions of an immediate supervisor, employees are forced to hyper-focus on their own well-being vs. their own work, which saps productivity.  

Does having a toxic non-management employee result in the same damage to a company as a toxic manager? No. The toxic manager is doing more harm to your company. Every company has a hierarchy—company culture typically works “top down.” Therefore, the toxic manager tends to poison those around them and everyone below them. The non-management employee tends to have a more limited negative effect. In addition, the toxic employee tends to be fired more quickly, whereas the toxic manager tends to create a broader unhealthy environment and can cause multiple employees to quit before upper management takes control of the situation, if ever.

Change hesitancy

For a number of reasons, employers hesitate to force bad managers to change and often take even longer to fire them. They tend to operate under the false hope that the situation will take care of itself and/or they don’t want to invest the time and resources to hire and train a new manager. They may also fear a lawsuit by the manager. This is flawed thinking, since the bad boss is continuously costing the employer much more money and time in lost productivity, higher healthcare costs, and the risk of multiple employee lawsuits than the contained cost of hiring a new, and hopefully competent, manager. Solving a bad boss problem will likely result in fairly immediate improved morale and loyalty from multiple employees, positively affecting productivity and profit.

Open your eyes

Be aware of employees who are struggling. Do they happen to work under the same supervisor? Their actions can be a symptom of high stress levels due a negative work environment. Get to know your employees. Create a safe and friendly environment in which employees feel free to report negative or abusive behavior. This will set the stage for a positive workplace culture where employees flourish and companies profit.

Invest the time in helping these managers improve their skills or remove them from the company altogether. When firing a manager is necessary, the long-term effects to the fired individual may actually prove to be positive, as they will likely be forced to evaluate their own behavior and hopefully learn better skills to bring to their next employer.

Employees talk. They share their feelings about work with family, friends, and acquaintances. They are your best advertising or your worst advertising. Your choices will determine this outcome. Help them to spread glowing reviews of your company as the best place to work by providing them with managers who create a positive and supportive environment where everyone wins!

Step back and evaluate each and every person in a management position. Then determine where praise should be showered and where tough changes need to be made. These are necessary steps toward a healthier, happier, and more productive workplace.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

BEST Ways to Spring into Health

biking

Get Outdoors and into Wellness

By Carol Phillips

Welcome to spring! Some people call it “mud season,” but I prefer to focus on the warmer days ahead and watching the daffodils pop up out of the thawing ground… as I watch my sneakers sink in the mud. As we spend more time outdoors, here are some ideas to incorporate wellness into every activity:

Slather on the sunscreen.

It’s easy to forget to apply sunscreen when the temperatures are not as high as in mid-summer, but we can still get burnt and create a higher risk of skin cancer in any season. Has your sunscreen expired? The Food and Drug Administration requires sunscreens to be effective for at least three years. Not all sunscreens list an expiration date on the container. In that case, I write the year I purchased the sunscreen in permanent marker on the container. Be sure to apply an effective amount, re-apply according to instructions on the label, and apply to all exposed areas of skin. Use sunscreen all year long on exposed skin, not just in the summer. Best to apply 20 minutes before going out in the sun and at recommended intervals throughout your time outdoors.

For Adults: Check out 365 by Whole Foods Market Sunscreen, SPF 50, Coconut Vanilla, Formulated without Formulated without Octinoxate, Homosalate, Oxybenzone, or PABA. Made without Parbens, Phthalates, or animal ingredients. https://amzn.to/3NFg3jy

For Kids: Check out 365 by Whole Foods Market, Sunscreen for Kids, SPF 50, Fragrance-Free, Formulated without Octinoxate, Homosalate, Oxybenzone, or PABA. Made without Parbens, Phthalates, or animal ingredients. https://amzn.to/3O69ypM

Take a water bottle with you.

Staying hydrated is always important, but it’s easy to overlook when we are excited to get outside for longer periods of time. A great healthy habit is to purchase a water bottle that you like to use (not too big or too small, easy to clean, easy to open, etc.) and keep it next to your purse, wallet, or keys to remember to take it with you.

Check out this beautiful water bottle with a filter!

Epic Nalgene OG | Water Bottle with Filter | USA Made Bottle and Filter | Dishwasher Safe | Filtered Water Bottle | Travel Water Bottle | BPA Free Water Bottle | Removes 99.99% Tap Water Impurities. https://amzn.to/3Hbpu7H

Keep a small lunchbox or cooler in your vehicle.

This simple addition to your wellness routine will make it easier to pack a healthy lunch and snacks. This will also help you avoid purchasing unhealthy fast food on the days you’re out longer than expected. So, treat yourself to a new lunchbox you love because cool lunchboxes aren’t just for kids anymore!

Make the most out of yardwork.

Yardwork is a great way to improve wellness, as long as we remember to include a few precautions. Wear a hat and sunscreen, stay hydrated, apply bug spray to clothes instead of directly on the skin, and stretch afterward to reduce the dreaded next-day muscle soreness, especially if you don’t pace yourself. But remember…muscle soreness is also a natural side effect of challenging the muscles, which helps them to become stronger!

How CUTE is this sunhat?! Order yours here: https://amzn.to/3zx4zKK

Spend time with your friends and family.

After the cold weather is gone, it’s sometimes easier to catch up with family and friends. You can walk, exercise, and visit with these special people outside. Try some new activities (tai chi or yoga in the park, kayaking, biking) or fall back on past activities you love to do with your loved ones. It’s also a good time to look for outside events, including spring arts festivals, parades, and food festivals. Being in touch with others is an important component of wellness and who doesn’t love some fun social time after the long winter?

Have you tried kayaking? There’s nothing like being so close to the water!

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series: https://amzn.to/3O9NuKY

Choose activities you are eager to do.

We all need to take time to enjoy life, without all the demands we place on ourselves. Think about what you would love to do and then do it! If you feel guilty every time you take some well-deserved “me” time, remind yourself that all work and no play is not good for your mental health. And we need to be aware of our mental and our physical health. As a result, you will learn to be kind to YOU and LIVE a little… or a lot!

What other simple actions can you incorporate into your spring activities to stay on a healthy path? Keeping it simple and doable is the best way to live a healthy lifestyle every day!

Need some great health coaching to get started? CLICK HERE to contact Coach Carol!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Is Imposter Syndrome Holding You Back?

By Carol Phillips

Have you heard of imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome is a term used to describe the feeling and belief that we are “not good enough” or inferior to others. For example, a supervisor announces that the company is inviting employees to apply for a newly created position, which would be a promotion. Imposter syndrome can cause a person to immediately believe that their co-workers will be more likely to secure the promotion, despite evidence to the contrary.

Our feelings drive our thoughts, which drive our behaviors. Some people are aware of their own self-defeating thoughts and how they hold them back from thriving in life. Others don’t even realize they are talking themselves out of acting on life’s opportunities. Whether we consciously recognize imposter syndrome as a significant problem in our lives or we find ourselves lacking confidence every now and then, these feelings of inferiority can negatively affect our wellness, including increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Many people describe the problem as feeling like a fraud and not deserving of any of their achievements, be it in the workplace, with their families and friends, or in the community.

Years ago, I was given an opportunity to apply for a promotion. Several co-workers were also applying for the same job. Although I wanted to apply for the position, I found myself focusing on the many reasons why I would not be chosen for the position (most were untrue). Once I recognized that I was being my own worst critic, I told myself that I needed to embrace all the qualities and experience that would help me be the top choice. Subsequently, I applied for the position, focused on exuding a positive, confident attitude, and earned the promotion. If I had applied, but with insecure, negative energy surrounding me, I believe I would not have been successful.

How can we recognize imposter syndrome in our own lives and how can we counter this problem? Here are five simple steps you can take to identify any issues you may have and gravitate toward a path of self-confidence:

  1. Listen to yourself. What are the daily thoughts and feelings you have that drive you to make certain decisions in all areas of your life?
  2. Try to determine the root cause of your thoughts and feelings of inferiority. Have you always doubted your competence? Did you grow up in an abusive home and/or were you surrounded by highly critical people? Were you bullied at school? Sometimes others have treated us poorly and we never learned to get those false messages out of our heads.
  3. Start changing the narrative. Begin to purge all the self-destructive thoughts that hold you back. Learn to catch yourself when you’re being “not so nice” to yourself and remind yourself of all your strengths. People who are filled with negativity cannot live a positive life and are less likely to exercise, eat healthy, reduce stress, and find joy in their daily lives. Mentally kick the bully out of your head!
  4. Find ways to increase your self-confidence. Once you go through steps 1–3, you will be better equipped to notice all the opportunities in life to improve your self-confidence. Each time you shut down the negative self-talk and identify the endless ways to start loving yourself, your self-confidence will begin to flourish.
  5. Focus on embracing success. Learn to take the time to congratulate yourself for your successes, large and small. Say the positive things to yourself that you would say to a best friend who just shared an accomplishment. This step literally will make your brain feel good and you’ll want to experience that feeling again and again!

Simply being aware that you are having these thoughts can be the start of learning to shut down the negativity and embrace a winning strategy. Your mental and physical health will thank you!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Keep Exercise Alive Through the Winter

By Carol Phillips

During the winter months, it can be hard to remain motivated to exercise daily at a level that supports optimal health. The cold, dark days can leave us feeling like a bear, ready to curl up and hibernate. Although that works well for the bear, our bodies are designed to be active throughout the day, every day.

If you think of exercise as a chore, it’s time to redefine your physical activity. Don’t fall into the trap of inactivity, which can lead to increased risk of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and cancer. Every minute we spend in physical activity is helping to reduce our risk of illness, disease, and the negative effects of aging. Daily activity also boosts our immune system, which is even more important in the winter and especially during a pandemic!

Use the information below to create a winning exercise program:

Choose exercises you enjoy. Your body doesn’t care whether you’re doing yoga, Zumba, walking, kayaking, or sledding with the family after a winter storm. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll be much more likely to exercise for life. Try new activities to keep from becoming bored.

Cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular (cardio or aerobic) exercise occurs when we move continuously, raising our heart rate and keeping it elevated for a length of time to result in health benefits. Two of the many benefits of cardio exercise include exercising one of the most important muscles in our bodies, our heart, and burning unhealthy fat. Need some ideas? Think of “moving” words: walking, running, biking, hiking, swimming, etc.

Strength training. Strength training has many health benefits, but two main categories are:

1. Keeping muscles strong, which enables us to remain independent; also known as able perform activities of daily living (ADLs), and

2. Helping our bones stay strong. When our muscles contract, they pull on the bone, which tells the bone to get stronger in order to keep up with the demand on the muscle.

The goal is to challenge the muscle with weight, so the muscle and bone don’t weaken. When you challenge your body with weight, your body will respond by strengthening muscles and bones.

Note: Muscle soreness is a common side effect of performing new exercises. Unless you really overdo it, think of muscle soreness as something positive. When the soreness subsides, the muscle will be stronger. Instead of being discouraged, give yourself positive feedback for taking your fitness to a higher level. Also, drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins and remain hydrated.

Stretch. When we exercise, our muscles shorten and our range of motion can be negatively reduced. Stretching helps return our muscles to their ideal length, allowing our bodies to move easily. This also reduces our risk of injury. Get in the habit of stretching immediately after exercising, while watching your favorite show, or as a way to help unwind, mentally, at the end of the day.

Balance. Challenging your sense of balance is important because it can mean the difference, when walking, between slipping and catching yourself versus slipping, falling, and becoming injured. In an instant, a fall can negatively affect you for the rest of your life.

Most of our body mass is in the upper two-thirds of our body. This disproportion means we are constantly at risk of falling and becoming injured. Working on improving our balance can literally keep us on our feet and out of harm’s way!

Regular exercise also contributes to better mental health. When we increase our heart rate through exercise, our brains release dopamine, the “feel good” or “happy” hormone, which helps give us a greater sense of well-being.

Adopt a new way of viewing exercise and discover the countless ways you can enjoy daily movement. Need some help getting started? Simply turn on some music and dance!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Prioritize Your Mental Health During the Pandemic

By Carol Phillips

How is your mental health holding up during these long months of dealing with the consequences of COVID-19? Are you struggling or have you found ways to cope?

We’re all dealing with a wide variety of challenges due to the ongoing pandemic. Our lives have been significantly impacted, and for many people, prioritizing health and wellness has been difficult. Feeling an increased level of stress is common.

We are social beings. Even people who normally describe themselves as introverts are finding it hard to be so isolated as we all try to follow medical experts’ advice regarding social distancing. Previously, we were used to being in the presence of other people, engaging in conversation, working, eating, and having fun together. The absence of these encounters leaves a void that our brains want to fill.

The continuing uncertainty and seclusion we are experiencing can create a negative environment for our mental health and we may feel anxious or depressed. Identifying that it’s a problem is the first step in making changes for the better.

Here are some tips to keep your mental health positive:

Talk yourself out of worrying.

Pay attention to your thoughts and when they become too heavy, consciously think about the positives in your life and what you are grateful for. Also, remind yourself that this situation, albeit feeling incredibly long, is temporary, and will improve.

Focus on others.

Is your spouse okay? Your children, parents, friends? What can you do to support each other during tough times? Helping others is a great way to not overthink your own problems, and you’ll feel better by taking positive steps.

Plan something fun.

What makes you happy and helps you forget your troubles? Give yourself permission to put everything on hold for a few minutes, hours, or a day, or a week! Remind yourself that exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep all contribute to better mental health.

Lazy days.

Are you spending too much time trying to stay busy? Our brains need rest during the day, not just when we’re sleeping. Take some time to let your brain unwind, without feeling guilty.

Laugh.

It’s impossible to be stressed or sad in the midst of a good belly laugh. What makes you laugh? Whether it’s watching your favorite sitcom, a funny movie, or calling a friend with a great sense of humor, schedule some laughter into every day.

Put away your devices.

Being addicted to our phone and email creates a brain that is overworked and sets us up for burnout. Unplug and enjoy some untethered time!

Get outside.

You can’t beat time outdoors. Go for a walk or a hike. You’ll feel better by being in the fresh air and sunshine, enjoying the sights, sounds, and smell of nature. Take a friend or family member, and your pet with you (see below).

Furry friends.

Pets are great for the brain. Did you know that simply petting a dog can reduce your blood pressure? Even watching fish swim in a tank can improve mental health. Walking your dog is a great way get outside every day.

Reach out for help.

It’s okay to not be okay, sometimes. We all go through tough times. If you’re not making progress on your own, reach out for professional help. Don’t know where to start? Call your doctor for a referral. If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work, give them a call and they will set you up with a counselor.

Hopefully, we are just a few months away from beginning to move beyond this pandemic, where we can begin to embrace our new sense of normal, and literally, be able to embrace our family and friends. We’re all in this together, even when separated, and it will get better.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Affecting You?

By Carol Phillips

Do you dread moving the clock back in the fall or is this practice just a minor inconvenience for you? For people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the days suddenly becoming darker an hour earlier causes great disruption to their mental health. Combine this with less sunlight and spending more time indoors due to the colder weather, and it becomes easier to find people who are struggling to maintain a positive outlook. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is “a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.” Patients sometimes report episodes of SAD in the summer, although this is less common. Women 20 years and older are at greatest risk for the disorder. 

Symptoms of SAD often include:

?  Feeling depressed daily or several times each week

?  Losing interest in favorite activities

?  Feeling hopeless or worthless

?  Poor concentration

?  Lack of energy

?  Feeling overwhelmed or irritated

?  Weight loss or weight gain

?  Sleep problems, including too little or too much sleep

?  Feeling a sense of doom or having suicidal thoughts

What can you do to address this problem? 

First, reach out to your primary health professional to report your concerns and obtain information and recommendations based on your health history. Often, patients are referred to a mental health professional with experience in helping people with this specific disorder. 

While professional help is often a critical component to making progress, you should also feel empowered to find what works best for you to combat any symptoms of depression or seasonal affective disorder. For most, the answer lies in a combination of therapies and behavior changes. Be on the lookout for the seemingly simple changes that may make a significant difference in your life. For example, getting outside for even a daily 10-minute walk can improve your outlook. For now, enjoy the cooler air and lower humidity as well as the stunning Fall colors. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this year it’s been even more important to get outside when it’s light out. A weekly phone call, Skype, or Zoom chat with a kind friend or family member can be an important element of your treatment. Is there a color you love or a certain scent that makes you calm and happy? Incorporate your favorites into your daily or weekly environment. 

Pets have also been reported to not only improve a sense of calm and happiness, but also reduce blood pressure. What combination works best for you? What changes spark a sense of hopefulness in your mind? Find them and implement them as often as possible for better mental health.

The risk of suicide and attempted suicide is greater for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. If you or someone you know is at risk, reach out to your health professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

You can also text HELLO to 741741. 

Many people suffer from mental health issues and trained professionals are ready to help you overcome any painful thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Don’t hesitate to reach out! Help is available, whether it’s professional or from your friends and family. You are not alone.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Get Out! The Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

By Carol Phillips

In the past few months, there has been much discussion regarding spending time outdoors, while attempting to remain healthy and safe during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. Is it safe to be out of my home? What is the risk of exercising outside among people who are not immediate family members? Should I wear a mask?

As with other threats to our health, some of the answers can vary depending on the situation and each person’s risk factors, such as age and pre-existing conditions.
This pandemic has created an opportunity for people to learn more about the importance of hand washing and simple steps we can take to control the spread of germs to reduce infections and disease.

COVID-19 has also sparked countless conversations regarding balancing risks and benefits. For example, do the benefits of being outside outweigh the risks of being near people who may be infected?

The answer lies in assessing each situation to consider the factors involved, including:

? The specific situation: How many people and who will be present? How much distance will there be between individuals? Will they be wearing masks? Does the activity present opportunities for a greater chance of the virus being spread, such as people handling the same surfaces?
? Current local, state, and federal laws and guidelines.
? Prioritizing your mental and physical health.
? Your personal comfort level: Our natural instinct typically guides us well.
? Personal responsibility for not increasing the risk of others becoming ill.

Many people are feeling the negative effects of what many people are calling “isolation fatigue”—feeling irritated, depressed, or just plain bored from spending so much time indoors away from other people. Being outdoors provides numerous benefits to our mental and physical health. Here are a few benefits to consider:

? Fresh air. Every cell in our bodies needs oxygen. Being outside, especially closer to oxygen-producing trees and plants, helps to maintain health and helps us feel alert.
? Sunshine. Although we should wear sunscreen to protect our skin from the negative effects of the sun, spending time outdoors provides light therapy, reducing the chance of feeling depressed. Exposure to the sun is also the best way for our bodies to get Vitamin D, which helps with proper brain function and bone health, among other benefits.
? Exercise. People tend to move more when they are outdoors, even if they are not outside for the express purpose of exercise. Also, the great outdoors provides wonderful opportunities to participate in a wide range of physical activities, including walking, running, biking, hiking, playing sports, or a simple game of hide-and-seek in your own yard!
? Connecting with others. The outdoors can offer the space required for people to spend time together while maintaining the recommended six-foot distance between people.
? On the other hand, spending time alone. Being self-isolated with immediate family members 24/7 can create issues due to “too much time together.” Getting outside alone can give us a chance to clear our minds and feel less irritable. If you’re working from home, talking even a short walk is a great way to take a break during the day.
? Connecting with nature. There’s something primal and wonderful about connecting with nature. Listening to the sounds and appreciating the beauty all around us can help us adopt a more positive frame of mind! Even planting a small garden, container or other, can brighten your day. Plus, you’ll be outside watering and tending to the garden.

Are you spending enough time outdoors? Even doing something as simple as reading a book in the yard can be healthier than reading indoors. People who spend time every day outdoors are shown to have a higher degree of overall health. Are you one of them? If so, great! If not, embrace the great outdoors and enjoy all the benefits nature has waiting for you!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.