Summer Workout Tips for the Hot and Sweaty

Ah the Summer Olympics: the triumph, the drama, the glory…the heat. With average August temperatures in Rio de Janeiro hovering in the high 70’s, athletes from around the world will come together this week and begin competing not only against one other, but also against Mother Nature. These fiercely fit phenoms know how to keep themselves at peak performance regardless of weather conditions; meanwhile I’m over here wondering how anyone manages to wear light grey in August and if I should start bringing a second towel to yoga class.

Sadly, most of us mere mortals are only Olympians in our mid-workout daydreams. Still, we need to take extra care of our bodies when exercising in these hot and humid summer months. Notwithstanding the fact that overheating is dangerous, working out in the dead heat of summer can be downright discouraging. It’s hard enough to find the inspiration some days to get yourself moving, and now you have to do it with sweat pouring down your face before you even get started. To help you out, we’ve put together some workout tips to keep you safe, motivated, and maybe even feeling a little more Gold this summer.

Drink (and Eat) to Maintain Hydration

More heat, more sweat, more dehydration. Dehydration can put you at risk for heat stroke, or just make you feel drained and lose the enthusiasm to workout. But believe it or not, chugging too much water and becoming over-hydrated is just as (if not more) dangerous.[i] To prevent this, use your thirst as a guide to know when you need to rev up your fluid intake. It also helps to consume fluids before, during, and after you workout.[ii] Alcohol doesn’t count, so you may need to rethink that post-gym glass of wine (or at least pair it with plenty of water!)

What does count towards rehydrating your body is water, tea, coffee, juices, soups, and even fruits and vegetables. Water is the most obvious choice for a reason: it’s the best one. But these other sources will all help contribute to hydration. Fresh fruit and veggies will also help you get the nutrients you need – especially potassium – to stay healthfully fueled. One option you may want to pass up? Sugary sports drinks: the excessive calories and refined sugar essentially cancel out whatever gains you made in your workout. You’re better off eating mineral-rich foods to replenish the electrolytes you sweated out. Your waistline will thank you for it, and real food tastes better than those neon liquids anyway.

Mix it Up and Keep It Cool

Unlike Olympians, we pedestrians – thankfully – have options when it comes to how we get our exercise. Changing up your routine can be an easy and effective way to pull yourself out of a heat-induced workout slump. It can also keep you safe on days that are really scorching hot. Not looking forward to your usual 5-mile outdoor run when then heat index hovers near triple digits? Then don’t do it. Instead, opt for cooler activities like taking an indoor fitness class, working out in the air-conditioned gym, going swimming, or trying a new water sport. You’ll beat the heat and may just find a new fitness favorite by trying something different. If you really have your heart set on an outdoor activity, try to avoid the peak heat of midday, keep to the shade when possible, and follow the other tips in this article to stay safe.

When you do decide to sweat it out outside, don’t forget about sun protection. Sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen will help prevent sunburn – which affects your body’s ability to cool itself. And remember to reapply sunscreen as you sweat and wipe it off. I’m also going to give you an excuse to go shopping: proper active wear can help keep you cool, too. Look for clothing made of lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric and choose lighter colors over dark. (I know, I know: we all love our black spandex, but it’s basically a magnet for the sun.)

Know When to Take a Break

Pushing yourself is an important part of achieving fitness goals, but it’s equally important to know when you need to back off. Listening to your body and having a good understanding of your limits is invaluable and can help prevent heat-related illness. Signs you may have pushed your fitness boundaries too far include: muscle cramps, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and fatigue.[iii] Recognizing these signs and taking action to lower your body temperature will help prevent them from progressing into heat stroke – a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention.

How do you battle the sweat deluge during summer workout sessions? And how many towels do you have to bring to yoga? Share your sweaty secrets in the comment below!

[i] http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/trade-sports-drinks-for-water-201207305079
[ii] http://www.livescience.com/38553-staying-hydrated-in-the-heat.html
[iii] http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048167?pg=2

How is Public Breastfeeding Even A Point of Discussion?

Looking through photos to accompany this article, I ran into an image of a woman sitting on a bench, breastfeeding an infant that was flagged with an “Adult Content Warning.” My jaw dropped. How could this sweet, simple picture warrant a warning? But then I realized: this bizarre occurrence is a perfect example of the conversation around breastfeeding in public that’s taking place right now. Should women (who choose to breastfeed versus use formula) be “allowed” to feed their children in public, or is it “too inappropriate”?

The problem is: this argument, at its crux, is ridiculous. The thought that the discomfort of some adults should in any way affect the nourishment of all newborn children within their line of sight is, quite frankly, preposterous. In case there’s any confusion, babies cannot feed themselves. They’re completely reliant on their mothers for life and nourishment. On average, newborns feed 8-12 times per day, taking up to 20 minutes per breast. That’s an average of up to 8 hours a day new moms can spend breastfeeding.[i]

Are we meant to say that new mothers should live in isolation in a nursery-cave, hidden away as to not offend the delicate sensitivities of a few strangers, doing nothing but function as human udders? Or, if they do dare venture out, they must be sure to pack enough pre-pumped breast milk for their little one, not to mention the pump itself in case they need to express? Or, or! Must they employ the ever-appealing option of feeding their child under a tarp, regardless of the baby’s temperature or comfort? Honestly, not even the baby will stand for that one most of the time.[ii]

This isn’t even a matter of breastfeeding rights, or boobie rights, or whatever other cute name you may hear it called: it’s basic women’s rights.

Policing how and when women feed their offspring is an act of oppression.[iii] It’s not the kind of oppression that is as obvious as child brides or unequal wages, but it’s the kind of subtle, insidious oppression that helps keep women marginalized. Shackled by obligatory nursing covers, breast pumps, or the need to run for shelter every 90 minutes or so, nursing women are not free to walk the world on equal footing as men.

Relatedly, telling women what to wear, how much to wear, and when to wear it is a tactic of control.[iv] This is seen again and again in cultures and religions across the globe. And it goes both ways: women are told to wear both less and more to be appealing. The incongruity of the messages is irrelevant; what matters is the way in which they control the recipients. (To be clear, I’m not condemning women who choose to wear certain coverings to honor their religion. I’m standing up for those who are made to wear things without choice.)

If you, as a mother, feel more comfortable covering up while breastfeeding or using bottles then please, do so. If you feel more comfortable breastfeeding in the privacy of your own home, do so. But you should never be confined to these rules or locations. The point is that women should be free to choose whichever solution best cares for themselves and their babies. Let’s end the judgment, the oppression, and the absurd regulations.

 

If you feel differently, by all means, let us know in the comments.

 

[i] http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html#

[ii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katharine-mckinney/breastfeeding-in-public_b_2814004.html

[iii] http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2010/5/14/50-reasons-for-breastfeeding-anytime-anywhere.html

[iv] http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2010/1/27/covering-up-is-a-feminist-issue.html

Self Care: The Me Time Revolution

Let me begin by stating the obvious: we face a lot of negative pressure these days. We’re supposed to do more, achieve more, have more, work harder, work faster…and for many, this leaves us feeling burnt-out, overwhelmed, unsatisfied, and exhausted. We learn to ignore our needs and come to feel that we are not enough, never enough.

But now let me remind you that this is utterly untrue: you are absolutely and completely enough, and there is a quiet resistance rising against this culture of speed and excess that makes us feel otherwise. It goes by the name of self care, perhaps more aptly titled self compassion. Lately this phrase has been buzzing around magazines and online, and the din only seems to be growing louder as it strikes a chord in the core of our overextended population.

Let’s Talk About What Self Care Is NOT

Before we delve in to the details of this little revolution, I want to clear something up. Sometimes you’ll see self care distilled down to some variation of “use a mud mask to fight depression!” (I’m exaggerating, but honestly not much.) That is not self care. Self care isn’t smiling through pain to trick yourself into feeling better; it’s seeking proper help and support when you need it. It’s not trying to buy happiness; it’s seeking out things or experiences that make you genuinely feel good and releasing those that make you feel bad. And it’s certainly not burying your head in the sand doing yoga on the beach while ignoring all your responsibilities. It’s the notion that, in order to be of service to anyone or anything, you must first be in a healthy state of mind and body.

So Then, What Exactly Is Self Care and How Do We Do It?

In the simplest terms, self care is an act of self compassion. It is you doing something for yourself that fosters loving kindness towards yourself, encourages tuning into your physical and emotional needs, and promotes your overall health and wellbeing. It can take many forms and means different things to different people, so get to know yourself and how to respond to your needs to nurture yourself. (Note: this can be incredibly challenging at first.) A loving, caring act could be anything from luxuriating in your morning makeup application to dedicating time to relax or exercise. It could mean taking three deep breaths at your desk at work or keeping a note on your phone listing every compliment anyone ever gives you so you can read it when you catch yourself being your own worst critic.

There really are so many ways to bring self care into your life. (For more ideas, check out this lovely list from Tiny Buddha.) Another point worth mentioning is that self care is a regular practice – it’s something you need to incorporate into your life consistently. Think about it: you don’t shower once and think, “Okay now I’m clean for the rest of my life!” It’s something you do over and over again, year after year. Self care is like showering. (And sometimes it can be – literally – taking a nice shower.)

If There’s One Final Thing You Take Away From This Article, Let It Be This

Repeat after me: it is not selfish, lazy, or self-indulgent to stop ignoring your needs. I will go so far as to say honoring your needs through acts of self care is pivotal to mental and physical health, and will ultimately make you a more giving, productive person. Many of us are familiar with Gandhi’s advice on how to change the world: first, we have to change ourselves. I don’t mention this to be trite, but I bring it up because for all the ways we contribute to the world – big or small, mundane or groundbreaking – it really does start with us at an individual level. Imagine how much more positive these contributions could be if, instead of feeling frayed and frazzled, we felt lovingly and wholly cared for? Our little, intimate acts reverberate outward into the world infinitely.

Think of it like this: you shouldn’t run around trying to put out fires if your own hair is flaming. You’re not going to do anyone any favors by this “selfless” act; you’re just spreading the blaze to them, too (and fanning your own). Before you go out into the world, you need to dump some water on your head (you can even make it rosewater, if you really feel like revving up the TLC). I promise you will feel better and be in better shape to take on all that life has to offer. Feeling good also makes treating others with kindness and compassion much more effortless, making self care ultimately sound pretty selfless if you ask me.

What are your favorite ways to show yourself love and care? Share them with us in the comments!

What to Know About Zika for Safe Summer Travels

If you were planning a summer getaway to some sunny South American destination, you may want to take a few extra precautions before you hit the road. The growing epidemic of Zika hasn’t quite garnered the public outcry of some others in recent history (remember Ebola?), yet the WHO has called it an “extraordinary event” and officially declared it a public health emergency.[i] Here’s a list of some Zika must-knows to keep you and your family safe this summer.

What It Is

 The Zika virus, most commonly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, belongs to the same family of viruses as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya, and dengue. An unfortunate distinction between Zika and the others is that there in no preventative vaccine or treatment available for the infection.[ii]

What It Does

 For those who contract the Zika virus, symptoms are often mild, or even nonexistent: 4 out of 5 people infected don’t show any symptoms.[iii] Because of this, Zika has been referred to as a silent epidemic. Its most prevalent danger is not to the ones infected directly, but rather to developing fetuses carried by those infected. The virus has been linked to miscarriage, microcephaly, and other serious birth defects. Frequently it is not until months after contracting the virus, if the person infected is pregnant and birth defects begin to emerge in the fetal screenings, that doctors discover the infection.

How It Spreads

 Of course, being bit by a carrier mosquito is one way to contract the virus. But another important thing to know about Zika is that it can be sexually transmitted.[iv] So, while you may think that pregnant women are the only ones that need to watch out, this is absolutely not the case: men and women both need to take precautions. The CDC states that a man with Zika, regardless of whether he’s currently symptomatic or not, can pass the virus to female or male sexual partners. (The CDC recently addressed the first reported case of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika[vi] to determine more about this pathway.)

This is especially important to know considering the conflicting advice out there. Jacques Wagner, chief of staff to the Brazilian President, said the following in regards to tourists visiting Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games:

If someone is bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus, the damage is more dramatic if we are talking about a pregnant woman. If I am a man or woman, unless I’m pregnant, I would develop the antibodies necessary to fight virus in 3 or 4 days. Unless we are talking about a pregnant woman, there is zero risk — it’s zero in the sense of something major happening.

His nonchalance is a bit concerning, considering it does not take into account the very real possibilities of female tourists who do not yet know they are pregnant or male tourists who can transmit the virus to their pregnant partners – not exactly what I’d call “zero risk.” But he is not alone: the WHO recently rejected a call to postpone the Rio Olympics, to the dissent of the 150 health experts who called for the action “in the name of public health.” [v]

What to Do

While the conflict continues among experts and officials, you can keep yourself and your family safe by taking protective actions. As far as we know right now, Zika has not yet reached the US by means of local transmission. That is, reported cases have been brought back from travelers or spread through sex, as opposed to being contracted through mosquito bites. For now, most of the areas affected are relegated to South America, and the CDC advises couples that are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or could become pregnant to avoid traveling to those areas altogether. (See a map of local transmissions here.)

If you do travel to an affected area, make sure to use strict mosquito protection and follow safe sex guidelines with your partner. However, you may want to consider the risks and avoid certain areas even if you don’t think you fall into one of the above categories. Hey, even Rihanna seems to be playing it safe!

Most importantly, stay informed. As cases evolve and events surrounding the virus transpire, healthcare professionals are learning new information about Zika all the time. You can stay up to date and find more information here.

[i] http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/01/health/zika-virus-public-health-emergency/index.html
[ii] http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/26/health/zika-what-you-need-to-know/index.html
[iii] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/zika-virus-outbreak/invisible-zika-virus-epidemic-frustrates-health-officials-n602811
[iv] http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/sexual-transmission.html
[v] http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/zika-virus-outbreak/world-health-organization-rejects-call-postpone-rio-olympics-n582051
[vi] http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6528e2.htm

Covering Our Chins: The curse of Adult Acne

When our parents warned us that life isn’t fair, do you ever wonder if they were foreshadowing the experience of having – all at once – wrinkles, pimples, and unrelenting social media documentation of our faces? While we all hoped that zits were a nightmare of teenage past, unfortunately many of us – particularly women – find they’re still very much an issue well into adulthood. In fact, one study[i] found that 45% of women in their 20s, 26% of women in their 30s, and 12% of women in their 40s have clinical acne.

This is of no small consequence: the way we feel about our skin has a significant psychological impact. Research[ii] found that those who considered their acne to be bad – a matter of self perception rather than clinical measure – had their quality of life negatively influenced just as much as those living with chronic disease. Clearly, clear skin isn’t simply about beauty, it has deeper ties to confidence and overall wellbeing. The emphasis on pore-less, crystal clear skin in our airbrushed culture means that skin-deep judgments end up cutting to the core.

So if we’re well past puberty, what the heck is causing all this acne?

The short answer: hormones. Adult acne tends to be cystic and located on the chin and jawline, all indications that hormones are to blame. More specifically, hormones called androgens are primary culprits of our complexion woes. Androgens signal glands in the dermis to produce sebum (oil), which contributes to acne by clogging pores and giving Propionibacterium acnes bacteria something to snack on – causing infection and therefore, pimples.

Menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and going on or off birth control pills are all sources of hormonal fluctuations that can lead to the consequential hormonal acne flare-ups.[iii] PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a hormonal disorder and leading cause of infertility in women, is also associated with adult acne for those with the syndrome.

Some have looked to the increased instance of hormones in our food, particularly in dairy products,[iv] for links to the rising numbers of adult acne, but research is scant. (Still, if you’re facing skin challenges, it may not hurt to see if switching to organic dairy makes a difference for you, personally.)

We can’t treat adult acne the same way we did as teens

Considering its prevalence, there’s still a surprising lack of research on adult acne and its treatment, and many investigations only unearth more inquiries. Unlike the breakouts of our teen years, which tend to eventually respond to dermatological interventions, adult acne can be incredibly stubborn and complicated to treat.[v] Skin is drier and less resilient than it’s former adolescent form, causing amplified side effects from treatments. Once-effective options (like benzoyl peroxide, for example) are often now too harsh for our skin.

Even isotretinoin (Accutane), perhaps the toughest tool in a dermatologist’s toolkit, only seems to work temporarily on adults: come off the pill, and the blemishes return. On top of that, this drug is teratogenic (toxic to fetuses) – not exactly ideal for many adult women, who may be or could become pregnant.[vi]

One solid takeaway from all this is that our skin, our hormones, our entire physiology isn’t the same as it was when we were teenagers, so the way we care for our skin can’t be the same as it used to be, either. It’s important to use the right products for us, from gentle cleansers to non-comedogenic makeup to prescription treatments when necessary. Moreover, it’s important that we are developing the right skincare products and treatments for adult women, so they exist for us to utilize in the first place.

Have you found an acne treatment or makeup brand you love to use to care for your skin? Let us know in the comments!

 

[i] http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jwh.2010.2722?journalCode=jwh
[ii] http://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961614P0692X#close
[iii] https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne-and-rosacea/adult-acne
[iv] http://www.prevention.com/beauty/skin-care/best-treatments-for-adult-acne/slide/3
[v] http://www.racked.com/2015/4/16/8416837/hormonal-adult-acne-female-cause-treatment
[vi] https://www.drugs.com/pregnancy/isotretinoin.html

Intuitive Eating: Why Ditching Your Diet May Be the Key to a Healthier, Happier You

By around age six, American girls start expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies.[i] By age ten, 80% of them will have already been on a diet. Yet more than two-thirds of US adults are overweight or obese, about one-third of US children are overweight or obese, and about 20 million women suffer from clinically significant eating disorders at some point in their lives.[ii]

As these numbers suggest, dieting doesn’t work, despite what the multibillion-dollar weight loss industry may profess. This is not a matter of faltering willpower; it’s a principle of our physiology. Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt[iii] studied dieters and found that five years after their dieting began, they were heavier than before they ever started. When you look at the facts, you could argue that the result of dieting is actually weight gain and disease, not weight loss or health. What then, are we to do?

There’s No Such Thing As “Bad” Food

First of all, the way we speak about food is problematic. I was good today; I didn’t cheat on my diet. I was so bad last night; I went wild and ate too much of whatever. This vernacular sounds more like we’re speaking about a rocky relationship than a plate of nachos. The problem with labeling food “good” and “bad” (or ourselves as such for abiding by or deviated from our food rules) is that it sets up an ethical hierarchy where none exists. Sure, some food is healthier and better supports your body’s functions, but this has nothing to do with morality. This false connection between virtue and eating gives food a powerful emotional charge that leads to disordered eating and negative body image.[iv]

We shouldn’t feel guilt, shame, or even pride in our food choices. In fact, doing so may sabotage our best intentions: studies find that people eat more calories when they categorize the food they’re eating as “healthy.” Eating should – and can – be pleasurable: an experience of delicious tastes, appetizing aromas, delectable textures, and (if you’re occasionally so inclined) ingenious wine pairings. And when it is enjoyable, research shows that people feel more satisfied with less food.iii

The conclusion? Eat real food. If you want chocolate, don’t buy some low fat, chocolate-like packaged product that’s been processed to the point of becoming a food-like edible object. Have a piece of the best, richest chocolate you can find and enjoy every bite.

How to Bring Mindfulness to the Dining Table

So when you do go for that chocolate, how do you keep from eating the whole bar? (Hint: it’s not a matter of willpower.) How do you make the switch from shameful indulgence to pleasant experience? The answer is mindfulness.

Dieting disconnects us from our body by telling us to ignore signs of hunger or desires for certain foods. But this divorce is indiscriminate: it also tunes out signs of fullness or nutritional deficits, leading us to not know what and when to eat, and often, therefore, overeat.

Intuitive Eating (also called Mindful Eating or The Non-Diet Approach) is the process of bringing back awareness to what, when, and why we eat. It calls for nonjudgmental observation of our hunger, fullness, cravings, and emotions surrounding food, as well as focused attention on the experience of eating itself. It encourages you to eat whatever you like, as long as it’s to satiate physical hunger. And the results are pretty profound: multiple studies found that this way of eating is related to positive signs of health, including lower body mass and higher feelings of wellbeing.[v]

You Don’t Need to Fear Your Own Hunger

The notion of giving yourself permission to eat whatever you’d like when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full seems simple enough, but for many of us it is anything but. Especially for those who’ve spent years – maybe even decades – shaming their body and food choices, covering pangs of hunger with thoughts of bikini season, and guiltily stuffing down unpleasant emotions with snack food; the thought of releasing this control is terrifying.

You may think that all your white knuckling around food is the only reason you’re not a million pounds, and loosening up would lead to never-ending junk-food binge fest. And at first, it may be a struggle: it takes time to re-learn how to listen to your body’s eating cues and dispel the emotional charge of certain foods. But eventually, balance can be restored and healthy choices naturally crop up (it turns out un-foreboding the forbidden fruit causes it to lose a lot of its appeal). As you become reintegrated to your innate biological rhythms, research shows that this intuitive way of eating leads to healthier weights than dieters and long term weight maintenance.[vi]

In short, hunger isn’t something to fear and ignore: it’s a sign it’s time to nourish yourself. Similarly, fullness isn’t a sign of failure: it’s a signal your body has all the sustenance it needs for now. The more attuned we can become to hearing these signs, the better off our health – and waistlines – will be.

 

[i] https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
[ii] http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/Pages/overweight-obesity-statistics.aspx
[iii] https://www.ted.com/talks/sandra_aamodt_why_dieting_doesn_t_usually_work?language=en
[iv] http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-problem-with-cheat-days/
[v] http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/cou/53/2/226/
[vi] http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(05)00322-6/abstract

Gazing into Someone’s Eyes Could Lead to Love

We can probably all agree that love is weird – beautiful, but certainly odd. And just to complicate things, here’s a study that proposes all you need to fall in love with someone is 36 questions and four minutes of eye contact.

Back in 1997, psychologist Arthur Aron[i] aimed to see if he could make two strangers fall in love in a laboratory. Randomly paired partners asked one another a series of increasingly intimate questions, then silently stared into one another’s eyes. The experiment aimed to accelerate the experience of sharing and vulnerability it takes to create a close relationship.

While the study admits it couldn’t replicate certain pivotal relationship aspects that necessarily take time to develop – qualities like loyalty, dependence, commitment, etc. – they did find that participants reported increased feelings of intimacy to their partners, and several maintained relationships after the study. The best part? One pair even got married six months later and invited the whole lab to their ceremony.

There have been several subsequent similar studies since Aron’s years ago, as well as anecdotal reports of couples finding success (i.e. love) using his methods.[ii] If you have your eye on someone sweet, you may want to round him or her up and try it for yourselves. You can find the complete list of questions here.

[i] http://psp.sagepub.com/content/23/4/363.full.pdf+html

[ii] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/fashion/modern-love-to-fall-in-love-with-anyone-do-this.html

Eye Health 101: Eat Lobster, Wear Cucumber, and Throw Away Your Gross Mascara Already

We’ve all heard that eyes are the windows to the soul, but can they also provide a peek into our health? This week, we’re talking all about eyes and what to do to keep them sparking.

Your Eyes Reveal A Lot About Your Health

 Just by looking at your eyes, ophthalmologists can tell quite a bit about your overall health, from identifying risk factors for heart disease and diabetes to diagnosing certain mental health disorders.[i] And for those who have diabetes, experiencing blurry vision can be a warning sign that your blood sugar has spiked.[ii] Blurred vision can also be a sign of Lyme disease – something to watch out for in these summer months filled with outdoor activities.[iii]

 Another eye symptom to beware of is clouded vision. This can be a red flag for cataracts, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. As we age, the proteins that make up the lens of our eyes can begin to clump together, forming cloudy areas that subsequently block our sight. Despite their prevalence, cataracts are very easily treatable via an outpatient procedure that’s considered one of the safest and quickest surgeries around. (It has a 95% success rate and a procedure time of only about 15 minutes.)[iv]

How to Take Care of Your Precious Peepers

With so many important roles to play, it’s no wonder many of us enjoy giving our eyes a little extra attention in our self-care and beauty routines. Here are some of our favorite healthy tips to keep your eyes bright and beautiful.

Diet:

Studies[v] have shown that foods rich in nutrients like Vitamin A and C, Beta-carotene, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids are good for eye function. Incorporating foods like kale, salmon, oysters, lobster, citrus fruit, carrots, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe into your diet regularly can help you get these nutrients and keep your eyes healthy.

Beauty:

Puffiness under the eyes is often due to a buildup of lymphatic fluid. You can naturally encourage lymphatic drainage and reduce puffiness by drinking plenty of water, sleeping on your back, and eating less salt. But for those times when you wake up belly-down, post-wine-and-pizza-night-out-with-the-ladies, placing cool cucumber slices over each eye really can help.[vi] A combination of the cool temperature and the veggie’s antioxidants help reduce irritation and swelling.

Hygiene:

A common cause of eye irritation and infections is expired makeup and dirty brushes, which become breeding grounds for bacteria. Experts suggest keeping mascara and eyeliner no longer than three months.[vii] Makeup brushes need to be washed regularly, depending upon how frequently you use them; and if you currently have an eye infection, it’s best to skip the makeup altogether until it clears up. Even though studies reveal[viii] we women are known offenders when it comes to makeup hoarding, it’s time to let go of that half-empty tube in the bottom of your purse and invest in some fresh, clean cosmetics.

Lifestyle:

Many of us spend hours upon hours a day looking at screens, which can lead to eyestrain – where eyes feel sore, tired, dry, and irritated. You can find lots of helpful hints to reduce eyestrain here. Our favorite advice is to reduce screen time when possible; and when you are plugged in, abide by the 20/20/20 rule: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to rest your eyes.

Protection:

Wearing sunglasses protects your eyes from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation[ix] recommends wearing large frames, even on cloudy or overcast days, so go ahead and embrace your inner diva and rock those paparazzi-proof shades everyday!

What are your favorite eye health and beauty tips? Let us know in the comments below!

[i] http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/10-surprising-things-your-eyes-reveal-about-your-health
[ii] http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/eye-problems
[iii] http://www.lymeresearchalliance.org/signs-symptom-list.html
[iv] http://yoursightmatters.com/june-cataract-awareness-month/
[v] http://yoursightmatters.com/food-for-your-eyescid20130215ysmtz1/
[vi] http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/puffy-eyes-undereyes-cucumbers-cures-remedies_n_1964329.html
[vii] http://www.popsugar.com/beauty/When-Throw-Makeup-Away-Guidelines-Cosmetic-Life-Span-1124422
[viii] https://www.stowawaycosmetics.com/right-sized?source=affiliate-cj#slide-1
[ix] http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/for-your-eyes/protect-your-eyes

PTSD Patients Reclaim A Sense Of Safety Through Yoga

Current statistics[i] estimate that every one out of five women will be raped at some point in her life. While the causes of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are varied and complex, a traumatic event such as rape can certainly contribute to its onset. Yoga has been shown to help with this psychological disorder precisely because of – rather than despite – the physicality of the practice. Read on to learn more about this healing link between mind and body.

Why Talk Therapy May Not Be Enough

Faced with danger, humans instinctually respond by fighting, fleeing, freezing, or a combination of these. It is this response of freezing, when unable to be psychologically discharged following a traumatic event, which is thought to contribute to the development of PTSD.[ii]

Traditional talk therapy is often insufficient in treating PTSD because of the very nature of the freeze response. Many experts now agree that this psychological state of holding that can last long after the danger subsides – with its concomitant experiences of hopelessness, fear, and stagnation – needs physical movement to release. Moreover, trauma lives in the realm of the nonverbal, and therefore calls for a nonverbal component to the approach used to fully address and heal it. This is supported by neurological imaging: studies have shown that traumatic triggers can deactivate a major language center of the brain, giving a truly substantiated backing to the term “at a loss for words” experienced by so many patients trying to discuss their trauma.[iii]

In other words, the mind cannot think or logic itself out of the traumatized state; it must follow the guidance of the body to get out of it. In order for the mind to find emotional release, the body needs to physically release. And mounting research[iv] finds that yoga, especially when paired with breathing and mediation exercises, can be a successful treatment modality for just this.

How Yoga Can Restore Trust

PTSD, especially following a physical and emotional invasion such a rape, creates a consequential physical and emotional environment of fear-fueled immobility. When a traumatic event so completely robs one of a sense of safety that one does not even feel safe in one’s very own body – let alone one’s surroundings – one becomes trapped. This is often both literally (over actively avoiding perceived potential danger by not leaving the house, for example) and figuratively (through damaging thought patterns and emotional responses).[v]

The movement and sensations of yoga can create the positive physical experiences necessary to reclaim a sense of safety in one’s body and comfort with unanticipated events normal to safe, everyday life.[vi] The practice of yoga, in part, teaches practitioners to reconnect with their bodies: listening for its signals, exploring its abilities, and honoring its limitations. It shows how to find steadiness through calm breathing, even amidst unexpected and challenging postures. It encourages and demonstrates how to break old habits, and establish new, healthier ones. Through these teachings, the physical practice has the potential to reverberate psychologically.[vii]

Yoga is not a replacement for therapy or medication. However, by additionally garnering these positive experiences and restoring this bodily relationship, it can help patients break through the frozen pain of PTSD and begin the healing process. It can help reestablish trust in one’s self and environment. And perhaps most importantly, it can help regrow a sense of safety in the most intimate home of all – one’s own body – which is a right everyone is entitled to.

 

[i] http://www.nsvrc.org/sites/default/files/publications_nsvrc_factsheet_media-packet_statistics-about-sexual-violence_0.pdf
[ii] Levine, P. A. (1997). Waking the tiger; healing trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic.
[iii] Shin, L. M., McNally, R. J., Kosslyn, S. M., Thompson, W. L., Rauch, S. L., Alpert, N. M., et al. (1999). Regional cerebral blood flow during script-driven imagery in childhood sexual abuse–related posttraumatic stress disorder: A PET investigation. American Journal of Psychiatry156, 575–584. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10200737
[iv] http://warriorsatease.org/resources/research/
[v] American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev). Washington, DC: Author.
[vi] van der Kolk, B. A. (2006). Clinical implications of neuroscience research in PTSD. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences1071, 277–293. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16891578
[vii] http://www.traumacenter.org/research/yoga_study.php

Trauma, Hope, and Healing: Insights into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Butterfly At SunsetPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects people of all walks of life for a multitude of reasons. Any intensely negative and shocking experience, or trauma, causes a natural stress response. But if this stress reaction does not dissipate with time, it can lead to PTSD.[i] This debilitating condition strongly impacts emotional wellbeing and quality of life, with primary symptoms including flashbacks to the traumatic event, avoidance of circumstances that remind one of the event (known as “triggers”), emotional numbing, strong feelings of negativity towards oneself, and hyper vigilance.[ii]

Thankfully, research finds that we humans are incredibly resilient – holding great potential to heal from trauma and PTSD with the proper support and treatment.[iii] Read on to learn more about trauma: something that over half of all Americans will experience at one point in their lives.[iv]

There Are Different Types of Trauma

When we hear the word trauma, as in PTSD, we probably think of a single, overwhelming incident: car crash, illness, rape, tsunami, war, home invasion, or another event of the like. But this is only one type of trauma, referred to as Big T in the psychology community.

There is also a second kind of trauma called – you guessed it – Little t, which refers to smaller events, such as personal tragedies like a relationship breakup or a job loss. Little t’s have the potential to accumulate over time and become psychologically damaging, depending upon the personal reaction to and experience of these events.[v]

Our Reaction to Trauma is Unique and Individual

One thing that makes trauma tricky to understand is that it isn’t one-size-fits all. People can experience the same event and not find it equally traumatic (or one could find it intensely traumatic, while another doesn’t find it distressing at all, for that matter). Conversely, people can experience the same traumatic event and have completely different psychological ramifications from it. One person could naturally process and move on from it relatively quickly, while the other could develop severe PTSD and take much longer to recover.[vi]

The reasons for this are multiple and are related to aspects such as an individual’s genetic makeup, past life experiences, and the duration and intensity of the traumatic event. Even physiological factors such as neuroendocrine response to stress (specifically how much cortisol a person releases in response to stress) play a role in the development of PTSD.[vii]

We Have A Great Capacity to Heal from Trauma

There are many elements thought to reduce a person’s risk of developing PTSD in response to a traumatic experience, also known as resilience factors. For example, those who seek out social support from others, learn how to feel good about their own actions and responses, and adopt positive coping strategies tend to find peace and healing from their trauma.[viii]

And for those who do develop PTSD, research shows that treatment modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy and medication can be highly effective.[ix] Additionally, a growing number of complementary therapeutic options such as yoga, mindfulness meditation, and pet therapy are helping people find holistic healing. (We will be posting more on this topic later this week, so check back with us to learn more!)

From Oprah to Gloria Steinem, there are countless examples of trauma survivors who have grown to become incredibly successful and valuable contributors to society. If you or someone you know is healing from trauma, know you (or they) are not alone and are, in fact, in very good company. You can find additional information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder here and resources here.

Resources

[i] http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/index.asp
[ii] American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev). Washington, DC: Author.
[iii] http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp
[iv] http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/understanding_ptsd/booklet.pdf
[v] http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/big-t-and-little-t-trauma-and-how-your-body-reacts-to-it-1019154
[vi] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml
[vii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14728094
[viii] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml#part_145372
[ix] http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/treatment-ptsd.asp