6 Stress-Busting Workouts

6 Stress-Busting Workouts

Here are some easy – and fun – ways to reduce stress while improving your health.

Working out was one of the things many Americans gave up doing during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. With gyms closed and outdoor recreation restricted in some places, staying active wasn’t easy. And even though you could work out at home, many people felt unmotivated to do so.

Unfortunately, your mental health suffers as much as your physical health when you don’t get enough exercise. Physical activity is a great way to keep stress at bay – and we all know we could use a little stress relieving these days! With so much worry about health, work, school, finances and changes to everyday life that seem anything but normal, the one thing we can benefit from is a good sweat session.

So even if you still can’t to a gym – or you don’t feel comfortable going – it’s important to find ways to be more active. Looking for some inspiration? These six workouts offer fun ways to get some heart-healthy exercise, reduce stress and get back in your groove.

  1. Online Exercise Classes – YouTube is the place to turn to whether you want to learn how to do a downward dog or master kickboxing. Videos cover almost every form of exercise ever created. Although you’ll find amateur videos on the site, many videos are made by professional fitness instructors and offer step-by-step instructions and tips to help you perform the exercises safely.
  2. Fitness App Challenges – You’ll almost feel as if you have your own personal trainer when you participate in a fitness app challenge. Apps offer training videos and tips and allow you to set goals and track your results. They also let you challenge friends and family for some added motivation. Some fitness apps cost as much as $30 per month but free apps are also available.
  3. Zoom Dance Parties – Thanks to the popular video conferencing app, you don’t have to give up dancing with your friends. Virtual dance parties are the perfect way to have some heart-pumping fun. Choose a music genre, turn up the volume and get grooving. While you dance the night away, you’ll reduce stress naturally, burn a few calories and improve your health.
  4. Throwback Games – When was the last time you were “it” in a game of tag? Resurrecting your favorite childhood games for fun game nights with family or friends is an excellent way to stay active (just be sure to follow proper social distancing measures if you’re playing with people you don’t live with). Play capture the flag, hold a jump rope contest or create a family Olympics.
  5. Outdoor Classes – You’re much less likely to catch COVID-19, or any virus, if you exercise outdoors and practice social distancing instead of working out inside a public space. Check websites of local gyms and recreation departments for listings of outdoor fitness classes or gather a group of friends and hold your own informal classes.
  6. DIY Workouts – Even brief amounts of exercise may have surprising mental health benefits. In fact, just five minutes of aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You don’t need a formal exercise plan to get moving. Chopping wood, dashing up and down the stairs or playing with the dog can help you get the stress-relieving exercise you need.

Stress relief is more important than ever as we deal with unprecedented changes in our lives. Fortunately, regular exercise offers a simple way to improve your health and reduce stress and anxiety.

Copyright 2020-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: July 16, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Andrew P. Overman, DPT, MS, COMT, CSCS

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The Difference between Substance Use and Abuse

The Difference between Substance Use and Abuse

These are some signs that casual substance use has crossed the line to substance abuse.

Have you ever wondered if there’s a specific point at which substance use becomes substance abuse?  Also referred to as substance use disorder, alcoholism or drug addiction, the National Institute on Drug Abuse defines substance abuse as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”

A substance is something a person willingly ingests that alters their brain, affecting mood or thought processes. These substances can be legal or illegal, or in the case of marijuana, legal in some places but not in others. They are typically consumed with the goal of experiencing euphoria, easing sadness, reducing stress, eliminating pain or blurring difficult memories. Or they’re simply used as a way to relax and have fun.  Some of the most common substances used and abused include:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs, especially opioid pain medication
  • Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and other street drugs

Many people believe they can use some substances responsibly, such as when they consume a few alcoholic drinks with friends on the weekend or take a couple of painkillers when their back hurts. But all of these substances are addictive, meaning they have the power to take over a person’s life if used regularly.

Although there is no finite line that separates use from abuse, there are several signs that indicate that casual or social use of a substance has turned into dangerous abuse. It is likely abuse or addiction if the person:

  • Has developed a physical dependence on the substance
  • Experiences withdrawal symptoms if temporarily stopping usage
  • Has intense cravings for the substance
  • Is experiencing health complications from use of the substance
  • Has lost the ability to perform normal daily activities (like caring for children, going to work or even getting out of bed in the morning)
  • Feels powerless to stop using the substance despite any of these issues

If you suspect that someone you care about has a substance abuse problem or if you’re worried about your own substance abuse issues, it’s important to get help. The first step is admitting there’s a problem and being willing to seek help to combat the addiction. Treatment for substance use disorder includes support groups, counseling, biofeedback and medications.

Copyright 2020-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: January 30, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

The Link Between Physical and Mental Health

The Link Between Physical and Mental Health

If you think your mind and body don’t affect each another, think again.

It’s easy to think of our minds and our bodies as being completely separate. But nothing could be further from the truth—they are intricately connected to each other.

The fact is that people with chronic health conditions are at a higher than normal risk of developing a mental health condition. Those with mental health conditions are also at a higher than normal risk of developing serious physical conditions. In many cases, it becomes a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape. A serious health condition can lead to depression and anxiety, which can worsen the health condition or lead to others, which can increase the person’s depression and anxiety symptoms, and so on.

There are a number of ways in which our mental health can affect our physical health and vice-versa. Here are some examples:

  • A mental health condition can make it harder for you to deal with a chronic illness. If you’re depressed or anxious, you might not have the energy or motivation to follow up with the recommended treatment for your health issue. Without proper treatment, your physical condition could get worse, which might lead to increased depression or anxiety. On the flip side, being diagnosed with a serious illness can cause you to develop a mental health condition in the first place.
  • A mental health condition might cause disruptions in sleep patterns. Sleep is essential for good health. It’s meant to help us recharge our brains and our bodies. Regularly sleeping less than 7 hours per night increases your risk of serious health conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Sleeping too much can cause the same health issues, plus headaches and back pain. Not getting enough quality sleep can also affect your immune system, which makes it difficult for you to ward off illnesses.
  • A person experiencing a serious physical illness, injury or mental health condition might engage in dangerous behaviors. Some people turn to alcohol, drugs or cigarette smoking as a way to cope with both physical and mental health issues. Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, liver disease, pancreatic disease and cancer. Illegal drugs take a heavy toll on the heart and nervous system, which can lead to seizures, hemorrhaging and heart attacks. Cigarette smoking is a proven risk factor for asthma, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
  • People with mental illness are less likely to seek routine medical care, such as annual physicals. Preventive visits include essential screenings—like blood pressure, weight and cholesterol checks, among others—which help detect and manage health conditions. It is much easier to manage health conditions that are caught early and are well-controlled compared to when routine medical care has been skipped or recommendations ignored.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: August 16, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

Is a Laugh a Day the Key to a Healthy Heart?

Is a Laugh a Day the Key to a Healthy Heart?

When it comes to your heart, here’s why laughter really may be the best medicine.

It may sound like a barrel of monkeys, but research suggests that a good laugh may just be the punch line for good health.

The Science behind Your Funny Bone

When you laugh, your brain activates a series of neurons called a reward pathway. The reward pathways triggered by humor cause a sense of euphoria and can lead to a reduction in stress.

Chronic high levels of stress interrupt sleep and can cause a host of health issues, from heart disease and diabetes to depression and anxiety. Laughter, on the other hand, does the opposite. In addition to easing stress, research suggests laughing may decrease blood pressure, reduce artery inflammation, increase HDL (“good” cholesterol), lessen pain, reduce muscle tension, improve your immune system, boost morale and enrich your quality of life. Although research on the subject is limited, results suggest that a laugh a day may be just what you need to keep your heart healthy and improve your overall well-being.

Laugh Therapy Is No Laughing Matter

Today, humor therapy is often used as part of an integrated regimen to treat chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and asthma. Convinced about the benefits of laughter for older adults, a hospital in Washington, DC even created a “Laugh Café” where seniors meet for hour-long laugh sessions.

If you’re looking for an easy way to help improve your health, don’t forget to laugh each day. Hang out with funny people, read a humorous book or see a silly movie. While humor is contagious, its only temporary side effects are shortness of breath and a sore belly but it can provide a host of long-term benefits.

Copyright 2017-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: March 17, 2017

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

Do You Have These Symptoms of PTSD?

Do You Have These Symptoms of PTSD?

You’re not alone if you have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder due to COVID-19.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) doesn’t just affect soldiers or people who have survived dangerous situations. In fact, many people are experiencing PTSD as a result of the trauma they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PTSD can occur after any scary or emotionally difficult experience, whether it’s a house fire, abuse from a parent or spouse, being a victim of a violent crime or being in combat. Surviving a serious illness, such as COVID-19, or being an essential worker may also trigger this mental health condition.

During the pandemic, many healthcare workers were overwhelmed as they cared for a seemingly endless stream of sick and dying patients. They were not only exhausted but traumatized by what they saw. Grocery store workers, delivery drivers and other essential employees were also put in the line of fire, working long hours while worrying about catching the virus.

If you had COVID-19, you may have been terrified you would develop serious symptoms. If you were seriously ill and wound up in the hospital, you were alone and scared, also possibly fearing death. Even those who recovered from their initial illness might be experiencing long-haul symptoms. That’s why it’s not surprising that PTSD is particularly common in people who have had COVID-19. In fact, 30% of hospitalized COVID patients reported PTSD symptoms in a study published in JAMA Psychiatry.

You may have also developed PTSD if a close family member had COVID-19, you know people who died from the virus or you have been struggling to handle changes in your life brought on by the pandemic.

Common PTSD symptoms include:

  • Reliving your experiences: You may suffer nightmares or flashbacks about being intubated, treating seriously ill patients or caring for family members.
  • Sleep problems: Falling asleep and staying asleep may be difficult, particularly if your sleep is disrupted by nightmares.
  • Emotional issues: You may feel irritable, be easily startled, have emotional outbursts or negative thoughts, or no longer enjoy your favorite activities.
  • Concentration problems: Difficulty focusing or concentrating may also occur. Brain fog, a common complaint in long-haul COVID patients, may actually be related to PTSD, according to a paper co-authored by a UCLA neuropsychologist.
  • Avoidance: You may avoid people or places that remind you of your ordeal.

These suggestions may help relieve or reduce your PTSD symptoms:

  • Share your feelings: Talking to friends or family members can help you feel supported and less isolated. You may be surprised at just how many people feel the same way.
  • Chill out: Meditating, exercising, and participating in hobbies and activities you enjoy provide natural ways to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Stay connected: Visiting friends and engaging in fun activities with others, rather than spending a lot of time alone, may help you better manage your symptoms.
  • Embrace positivity: Focusing on the good things in your life, even if they seem small, can help improve your outlook. Keep a gratitude journal to record positive experiences and feelings.
  • Limit news watching: New stories or dramatic posts on social media can cause flashbacks and negative feelings.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be difficult to manage on your own, even with an emotional bag of tricks. If your symptoms don’t improve with some of the above suggestions, consider talking to a mental health professional. A therapist can help you work through your feelings and change your reactions to triggers. In addition to talk therapy, medications may help you better manage your condition.

Copyright 2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: April 16, 2021

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.

 

How to Calm Down Fast

How to Calm Down Fast

When stress, anxiety or fear flare up, these 9 techniques help keep you calmer.

We all get stressed and agitated sometimes. It’s a product of our busy, over-scheduled lives and living with circumstances we can’t control.

When you’re stressed or anxious, it causes your body to release stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can increase how stressed you feel. You may also feel other symptoms, like headaches, dizziness and depression. Long-term stress can negatively affect your weight, heart and chronic health conditions. In addition to your physical health, untreated stress can have a negative effect on other areas of your life, including your mental health, professional life and social relationships.

When you’re feeling stressed, anxious, scared or nervous – or you have the urge to lash out – the last thing you want to hear someone say is, “Just calm down.” That never works. But here are 9 calming techniques that do work – and they work quickly at that.

  • Just breathe. Breathing seems like the most natural thing in the world. But there are ways to breathe mindfully that help calm our bodies and minds almost instantly. The 4-7-8 breathing technique, known as a “relaxing breath,” is especially effective:
    • Breathe in quietly through your nose for 4 seconds
    • Hold the breath for 7 seconds
    • Exhale forcefully through your mouth with a “whooshing” sound for 8 seconds
    • Repeat as needed
  • Close your eyes and count to 10 slowly. It really works! If you need more time, count to 20 or count backwards once you reach whatever number you are counting up to. Just taking a few minutes to concentrate on something other than your stress will do wonders for your mood.
  • Chew a piece of gum. Studies show that the slow, methodical act of chewing gum keeps blood flowing to the brain, allowing you to concentrate better and keep a level head during a bout of anxiety. It also helps you resist the urge to reach for a less-healthy option, like a pint of ice cream or a cocktail, when you’re stressed.
  • Phone a friend – preferably a funny one. Touching base with someone you love can provide instant calm. Laughing is proven to release endorphins, the “feel-good chemicals” in our brains that help release tension and elevate overall mood.
  • Smell lavender. Light a lavender candle or soak in a lavender bubble bath. In aromatherapy, lavender is one of the stars of stress-relief, along with chamomile, rose, ylang-ylang and citrus.
  • Curl up with your cat or dog. Just 10 minutes of petting your furry pal can reduce stress hormones and promote a feeling of calmness.
  • Listen to calming music. Cue up your favorite tune, but nothing with a frantic beat or depressing lyrics. Then sit back, close your eyes and concentrate on the words and the rhythm. Go ahead and sing along if you wish. Studies show singing releases endorphins.
  • Exercise your body. Physical activity of any kind helps release stress. Take a 15-minute timeout for a brisk walk around the neighborhood; the fresh air will also help clear your head. If you’re stuck indoors, try a few reps of jumping jacks, jog up and down the stairs or take a spin on your exercise bike.
  • Exercise your mind and spirit. Practice yoga, meditate, get a massage, write in your journal, give yourself a pedicure or take a relaxing nap.

If you find these calming techniques aren’t helpful, explore other methods that may provide longer-term relief for your stress and anxiety. Eat right, avoid alcohol and caffeine, exercise regularly, always get enough sleep, and if needed, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional.

Copyright 2020-2021 © Baldwin Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. 
Health eCooking® is a registered trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Cook eKitchen™ is a designated trademark of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein without the express approval of Baldwin Publishing, Inc. is strictly prohibited.

Date Last Reviewed: November 13, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

Learn more about Baldwin Publishing Inc. editorial policyprivacy policy, ADA compliance and sponsorship policy.

No information provided by Baldwin Publishing, Inc. in any article is a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Baldwin Publishing, Inc. strongly suggests that you use this information in consultation with your doctor or other health professional. Use or viewing of any Baldwin Publishing, Inc. article signifies your understanding and agreement to the disclaimer and acceptance of these terms of use.