5 Signs Poor Sleep is Making Your Immune System Cranky

How much sleep do you get? Maybe you go to bed late and wake up early. Or you try to get some sleep, but toss and turn, waking up multiple times during the night.

When morning finally arrives, you’re tired and groggy. And all you can think about is coffee or caffeine to make it through the day. That ever happen?

If you’re not getting enough sleep (less than 7 to 9 hours), you’re probably going to feel tired. But poor sleep can also make your immune system cranky, grouchy, maybe even too tired to do its job.

How does your immune system respond to lack of sleep? Here’s what happens:

  1. Your immune system treats poor sleep like a stressful event.
  2. It’s ability to fight germs, viruses, and infection gets compromised.
  3. Inflammation goes up, increasing the risk for damage to organ tissues.
  4. Hormone levels needed to support the immune system fail to rest
  5. The risk for chronic disease goes up, including: heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression.

Without adequate sleep, your immune system can’t recharge to do its job to protect your health.

An estimated 20 to 70 million adults in the U.S. toss and turn every night, or just don’t get enough sleep, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.

That’s a problem that can compromise your immune system and put your health at risk.

Wondering how to improve your sleep habits to give your immune system a boost?

Here are some things you can do:

  • Create a sleep/wake schedule. Go to bed at the same every night (even on weekends), and wake up at the same time. At first, you might have trouble going to bed earlier, and still feel tired during the day. But stick with it, and you’ll help your body’s circadian clock reset.
  • Follow a bedtime routine. When it’s time for bed, do the same thing every night. For example: Put on pajamas. Brush your teeth. Read from a book. Relax. Do this consistently, and the routine will remind your body it’s time for sleep.
  • Avoid screen time beginning a few hours before bed (TV, computer, tablet, phones). Why? Exposure to blue light can trigger activity in your brain to keep you awake.
  • Relax. Research shows that activities like deep breathing, yoga, tai chi, and even soothing sounds/music can improve sleep and improve immune system function.

Want to boost your immune system to stay healthy? Get your Zzzs

5 Healthy Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

When Clark Griswold gets a disappointing holiday bonus in the cult classic film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, it’s just the beginning of a stressful holiday season.

There’s a near-death experience with a log truck. A power surge nearly burns down the house. The holiday-dinner turkey is a disaster.  A killer squirrel and rabid dog tear the house apart. There’s a sewer line explosion, and more stressed-out extended family moments.

Does that sound anything like the holidays mixed with COVID-19?

If you’re feeling a little stressed out during the holidays, you’re not alone. Left unchecked, holiday stress can lead to overeating, weight gain, depression, anxiety, too much alcohol and other problems. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Here are some healthy and easy ways to beat holiday stress:

1. Breathe deeply. Take a deep breath. Inhale and fill your lungs with air. Hold it for about 5 seconds. Then puff up your Man breathing deeplycheeks and exhale, blowing all the air out your mouth forcefully. Just a few breaths can improve your mood and reduce stress and anxiety. But a daily breathing practice of 10-20 minutes is even better.[1]

2. Meditate. Stop multi-tasking, and calm your body and mind. That’s the foundation of meditation. Research shows that mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress and anxiety.[2] And it’s no secret that’s needed during the holidays. Not sure how to create a meditation practice? There’s lots of free guided meditations online.

3. Exercise. It’s usually one of the first things to go during the holidays when your schedule gets packed with other things. But exercise may be one of the most important things to check off your to-do list to reduce stress. Research shows that regular exercise may be as effective as medication for mild depression and anxiety.[3] Aim for at least 30 minutes a day. Pick an activity you enjoy like walking, jogging, running, lifting weights, or swimming.

4. Practice gratitude. What if you spent more time during the holidays thinking about what you’re grateful for…instead of what you want, what’s missing, or problems you have. Research suggests, you’ll feel better, be happier, and ever reduce your risk for chronic diseases.[4] One of the easiest ways to do this…keep a journal. Write down 3 to 5 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Help others. It’s the least obvious way to reduce stress during the holidays. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense. If you’re already stressed out and short on time, won’t taking time out of your schedule to help other only make things work. It turns out, that’s not the case, according to a recent study.[5]

“Our findings suggest that if we do small things for others, such as holding a door open for someone, we won’t feel as poorly on stressful days,” says Yale University researcher Dr. Emily Ansell.

If you want to keep stress levels under control during the holidays, make time for these activities to beat. Healthy eating and adequate sleep will help, too. You’ll feel better. And the holidays will be a little brighter.

COVID Fatigue? 6 Coping Strategies to Boost Mental Health and Happiness

Ever heard of Murphy’s Law? “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

That ever happen to you?

Take a look around, and you’ll notice COVID-19 has changed a lot of things.

An estimated 8.35 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States. It’s claimed the lives of 222,000 Americans. And trending data suggests that COVID-19 cases are on the rise after taking a dip.1

When COVID-19 hit hard earlier this year, lockdown orders closed businesses and schools, put people out of work, and forced people to stay home. Mix that with social and political issues, and everything else going on in your life, and you might feel like Murphy’s Law in unfolding all around you.

Are you stressed out, worried, anxious, depressed, or lonely? A recent survey found that mental health issues are on the rise because of the pandemic.2

You could be experiencing COVID Fatigue.

“People have lost wages, jobs, and loved ones with record speed,” says University of California researcher Dr. E. Alison Holman.3 “Individuals living with chronic mental and physical illness are struggling. Young people are struggling. Poor communities are struggling.”

It’s tough with so many changes to familiar environments and routines. And it’s going to be like this for the foreseeable future. So how do you improve your mental health, boost your mood, and manage stress during COVID-19?

Here are some things you can do:

  1. Learn more about COVID-19. No, you don’t need to read and watch every report on the pandemic. But you should know the symptoms and how to protect yourself and your family.
  2. If you do get sick, know where and how to get treatment. Call your doctor or telehealth provider to find out about testing, quarantine, and treatment options BEFORE you go to the hospital.
  3. Stay connected. Work from home. Avoid going out. Practice social distancing. Limit social gatherings. Changes since COVID-19 began have increased feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation. But you can stay connected with family, friends, and co-workers via phone, text, email, social media, and video calls.
  4. Unplug from media. Unplug every day. Step away from your phone, computer, TV, tablet, and screens. And limit the amount of media time you spend on watching, reading, or listening to news stories about the pandemic.
  5. Take care of your body. Practice deep breathing. Try meditation or yoga. Eat healthy food. Take a walk. Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Avoid or limit alcohol. And spend a little time in the sun. Low-vitamin D levels (from lack of sun exposure) can have a negative impact on your mood and mental health. It’s a primary cause for SAD…seasonal affective disorder, during the fall and winter months.
  6. Make time to unwind. Relax, read, listen to music, or enjoy a hobby.

You can’t control the global spread of COVID-19, and that’s a frustrating feeling. But you can control your thoughts, feelings, and actions to boost your mental health and happiness…even during a pandemic.

Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 forecast deaths. From: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/forecasting-us.html
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Anxiety and depression Household Pulse Survey. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/pulse/mental-health.htm
  1. Holman, E. A., et al. (2020). The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic: A probability-based, nationally representative study of mental health in the United States. Science Advances, 6(42). From: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/42/eabd5390

Clean Drinking Water: Take a Gulp of These 3 Health Tips

Protect your health by testing and filtering water

Gulp…gulp…gulp. You drink a glass of water. It’s zero calories. It’s good for your health and hydration…right?

But do you really know what’s in the water that comes out of the tap?

An estimated 85 percent of people drink water from the tap, according to a recent study by the Environmental Working Group.1 But it might not be as clean as you think.

Tap water that comes from a municipal water sources goes through a filtration process at a treatment plant. That’s the first way tap water is treated.

But before it’s sent through the pipes to your home, tap water typically gets treated with disinfectants like chlorine to eliminate additional contaminants.2

And then you’re good, right? Turn on the tap, fill a glass, and drink up. Not exactly.

Research shows most tap water contains trace amounts of chemicals and impurities from things like:3

  • Lead pipes and old infrastructure
  • Disinfectants
  • Medications
  • Personal-care products
  • Chemicals used in plastics and manufacturing

And that’s a problem. Even exposure to trace amounts of chemicals and contaminants in water can raise the risk for certain types of cancers, including: liver, lung, bladder, kidney, and rectal cancer.

In fact, one recent study found that contaminants in tap water may be linked to more than 100,000 cases of cancer, even though it meets regulation requirements.4

Are you starting to get the picture? Tap water isn’t as clean as you might think. If you want to protect your health, and drink cleaner water, here are some things you can do:

  1. Test your tap water
    So what’s really in your tap water? There’s only one way to find out…test it. Here’s how:

    • Check with your county health department to find out if testing is available to check for bacteria or nitrates.
    • Use an at-home test kit (available online and at home-improvement stores) to find out what’s really in your water
    • Hire a professional from a state-certified lab or contractor to test your water for contaminants
    • Call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 for more information.
  1. Use a water filter
    If you get your drinking water from the tap, use a water filter. Lots of options are available. The most common include:

    • A water filter for the tap you drink from, or
    • A pitcher with a filter for drinking water.

    Most water filters remove contaminants (like: chlorine, zinc, and hydrogen sulfide) that can give tap water a funny taste or smell. But the best water filters also remove lead.

  1. Drink bottled water, but…
    If you want to drink filtered water free of contaminants, drinking bottled water makes sense, right?
    But here’s the thing…Some bottled water comes directly from municipal water sources. Meaning, it’s not any more filtered than the water that comes out of your tap. Before you chug a bottle of water, take a closer look at the label. Check the manufacturer’s website to learn how its water is treated and filtered. If it comes directly from a municipal water source, find another option. Want to protect your health and limit your exposure to harmful contaminants? Test and filter water you drink from the tap.

Strengthen Your Immune System: 11 Ways to Stay Healthy

build immune system

Did you know there are more than 200 viruses that can make you sick?

Kind of makes you want to just stay home, stay inside, and get your food and groceries delivered, right?build immune system

For most of us, that’s not possible. There’s work, grocery shopping, taking care of kids, and everything else that requires being out and about and on the go.

And that’s means you’re going to be exposed to viruses that can make you sick like the:

  • Influenza virus (the flu)
  • Norovirus (sometime called the winter vomiting/diarrhea bug)
  • Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19)

So what happens when a virus invades your body?

It triggers an immune-system response. Your body goes to work fighting the virus.

But if you’re not in good health when it happens:

  • It takes longer for your immune system to fight back
  • Symptoms can worsen
  • Complications can arise

It’s played out with the 8.35 million people in the United States who have tested positive for COVID-19.1

Some experience mild symptoms, and get well. Some people experience serious breathing problems and complications that require hospitalization.

And current projections by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest COVID-19 cases are on the rise after taking a dip.

11 Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System

Wondering what can you do to protect your health and strengthen your immune system?

Here are 11 ways to get healthy, stay healthy and build a stronger immune system:2

  1. Don’t smoke or vape. If you do, get help to quit.
  1. Eat healthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are low in calories and high in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
  1. Drink plenty of water (instead of soda, coffee with sugar and cream, and other sugar-sweetened beverages).
  1. Get vitamin D. Taking a multi-vitamin or vitamin D supplement can strengthen your immune system and protect your health. About 40 percent of adults in the U.S. are vitamin-D deficient. It’s a risk factor for increased infections and autoimmune disorders.3 You can boost vitamin D levels with 10+ minutes in direct sunlight outdoors, or with supplements.
  1. Exercise. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day. Pick an activity you enjoy (walk, jog, bike, hike, workout, etc.), and make it part of your daily routine.
  1. Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to. Being overweight or obese can cause chronic inflammation and weaken the immune system.
  1. Manage stress in healthy ways. Excess stress causes hormone imbalances that weaken your immune system. Try yoga, deep breathing, or meditation. Even reading, listening to soothing music, can help beat stress. Or you may need to ask for help at home, at work, or see a counselor.
  1. Control blood pressure. Your diet, exercise habits, weight, and stress level all have an impact on your blood pressure. How is your blood pressure? Less than 120/80 is ideal.
  1. Avoid or limit alcohol. That’s no more than two drinks per day for men, one for women, zero if pregnant.10. Sleep 7 to 9 hours a night. Your body restores hormone levels that help reduce stress, improve metabolism, and boost the immune system when you sleep. When you get less than 7 hours, you risk for health problems increases.
  1. Practice good personal hygiene and follow COVID-19 recommendations in your area. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Avoid touching your hands and face. Use disinfectants to clean doorknobs, handles, countertops, and other high-traffic surfaces. And follow guidelines for wearing masks, social distancing, and limiting in-person gatherings.Want to protect yourself from viruses and strengthen your immune system? These healthy lifestyle habits will help. And now is always the best time to start.

Sources:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 forecast deaths. From: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/forecasting-us.html
  1. Harvard University. (2020). Preventing the spread of the coronavirus. From: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/preventing-the-spread-of-the-coronavirus
  1. Saul, L., et al. (2019). 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 restrains CD4+ T cell priming ability of CD11c+ dendritic cells by upregulating expression of CD31. Frontiers in Immunology. From: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00600/full

Mold Matters: 5 Tips to Protect Your Health and Home

Mold word cloud concept on grey background

Ever experienced unexplained headaches or fatigue?

Maybe an itchy throat, watery eyes, or even breathing problems?1

Mold word cloud concept on grey background

It happened to rock star Ted Nugent and his family. After moving to a rental home, they started feeling sick…really sick.

But when they traveled, spent the night in a hotel, or stayed somewhere else, they usually started feeling better.

And eventually, they realized it must be the house. Nugent’s wife (a fitness model and celebrity) even called it, “The Killer House,” after multiple doctor’s visits and trips to the hospital.

“I don’t think I’d be alive today if we hadn’t taken aggressive action and moved out of that Killer House,” she wrote on her blog.

Feeling sick frequently, without being able to explain it?

It may not be your diet, exercise habits, sleep patterns, or stress levels. But it could be the environment inside your house.

And mold may be the cause, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.2

Inspect common places for mold in your home

Is there mold in your home? Mold grows in places where moisture is present like:

Mold near a window in the house
Mold near a window in the house
    • Kitchens
    • Bathrooms
    • Windows
    • Ceiling
    • Carpeting

If there’s a leak, crack, or spill, there’s potential for mold. Mold can even grow in dust, paint, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, fabric, and upholstery.

If you have a mold problem in your home, you can often smell it or see it (usually colored spots in a specific area). And you should take action to protect your health.

5 ways to prevent and remove mold

Prevention is key. Think of it like this…the right habits can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. And the sooner you do something about it, the better. That’s true for mold, too.

Here are some simple ways to prevent and remove mold:

  1. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier to keep humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent inside your home.
  2. Use exhaust fans and vents in bathrooms, kitchen, and dryer to improve ventilation and keep these areas dry.
  3. Fix leaks in roofing, pipes, walls, and plumbing to prevent mold from growing.
  4. Clean up spills on carpeting and flooring as soon as possible. Consider using a fan to make sure they’re fully dry.
  5. To remove mold from hard surfaces, use soap and water, recommended cleaning products, or a bleach solution (1 cup of bleach / 1 gallon of water). Note: If mold is in carpeting or drywall, it must be removed.

Sources

  1. Cox-Ganser, J.M. (2015). Indoor dampness and mould health effects – ongoing questions on microbial exposures and allergic versus nonallergic mechanisms. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 45(10): 1478-1482. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4667360/
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Basic facts about mold and dampness. From: https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm

Boost Your Immune System: 25 Foods for Better Health

Young and happy woman eating healthy salad

What do you get when you combine cold and flu season with a global pandemic?

More sick people. More coughing and sneezing, fevers, sore throats, stuffy noses, aches and pains.

Sounds pretty bad, right? It doesn’t have to be.

Cold and flu season and COVID-19 concerns can also serve as a reminder to boost your immune system by eating healthy foods.

Does your diet look anything like this?

    • Pizza
    • Burgers
    • Fried foods
    • Pastries
    • Ice cream
    • Sugary drinks

It’s the typical American diet, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.1

The problem: Eating this way is a recipe for weight gain, chronic disease, and inflammation that can weaken your immune system.

Research shows eating processed foods high in fat, sugar, and calories (but low in nutritional value), may raise the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, obesity, and other health problems.2

The solution: You can boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and improve your health, by making better food choices.

25 nutrient-dense foods to boost your immune system
Want to boost your immune system, improve your diet, and your health?

Keep it simple. Eat less processed foods and more fresh foods. Nutrient-dense foods that can help boost your immune system include foods high in:

Vitamin A
Your body needs vitamin A to support digestion and healthy lungs (which is important if you get a cold, flu, or even the cornavirus).
Foods high in vitamin A include:

    1. Broccoli
    2. Colored bell peppers
    3. Spinach
    4. Sweet potatoes
    5. Carrots

Vitamin C
Does taking mega-doses of vitamin C help your immune system fight cold and flu symptoms or speed recovery?

One recent study suggests that the best way to lower the severity, duration, and frequency of colds is eating foods high vitamin C consistently.3 Vitamin C helps the body develop antibodies to support the immune system.
Foods high in vitamin C include:

    1. Oranges
    2. Grapefruit
    3. Strawberries
    4. Tomatoes
    5. Kiwi

Vitamin E
Your body produces free radicals as a normal part of metabolism (the process of turning food into energy). However, free radicals can damage cells, increase the risk for chronic diseases and certain types of cancer, and advance the aging process.

Is there anything you can do about it? Research suggests that eating foods high in vitamin E help produce antioxidants that fight free radicals and oxidative stress to support the immune system.4

Foods high in vitamin E include:

    1. Olive oil
    2. Nuts
    3. Seeds
    4. Avocado
    5. Leafy-green vegetables

Zinc
When you get sick, zinc is one of the first nutrients the body recruits to fight infection and keep your immune system in check.5

Only about 12 percent of adults in the U.S. are zinc deficient. But as you age, zinc absorption decreases. About 40 percent of the elderly are zinc deficient. Are you getting enough zinc in your diet to support your immune system?

Foods high in zinc include:

    1. Black beans
    2. Lean beef
    3. Chicken
    4. Turkey
    5. Salmon

Protein
You might think protein is just for bodybuilders to bulk up and build muscle. But you need protein, too.

Amino acids in protein help produce cells your immune system uses  to fight pathogens to prevent disease. It’s also important for healing and recovery.6

Foods high in protein include:

    1. Eggs
    2. Peas
    3. Soy products
    4. Tuna
    5. Poultry and lean meats

There’s more than one way to boost your immune system. Getting adequate sleep, and managing stress in healthy ways can help. And so can eating more nutrient dense foods. Now is always the best time to start.

Walk This Way: Improve Mental Health One Step at a Time

Smiling african american woman walking

Ever have one of those days?

You know…like Groundhog  Day for weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray). Everything seems to go wrong from the moment he wakes up.

It’s a recipe for feeling stressed out, unhappy, frustrated, and even depressed.

How do you get yourself out of a funk like that?
Phil had to relive the same day over and over, until he figured it out. But there’s an easier way to change your perspective, improve your mood, and feel happier.

Go for a walk. That’s it. Put on your shoes. Walk out the door or step on a treadmill and go.
Wait, what? You’re already balking at the idea or stressed out about it because you’re short on time?

Stop right there. Research suggests that a brisk 10-minute walk is enough to improve your mood and mental health.1 Just about everybody can spare 10 minutes.

9 mental health benefits of walking

If you have a little more time than just a 10-minute window, aim for walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. You don’t even have to do it all at once. Research shows that walking can improve your mental health in a variety of ways, including:2,3

  1. Reduce depression
  2. Slow cognitive decline
  3. Lower risk of dementia
  4. Reduce anxiety
  5. Improve decision making
  6. Quicken reaction time
  7. Lower stress
  8. Improve self-esteem
  9. Boost creativity

Make walking part of your daily routine
If you want to improve your mood, feel happier, and manage stress better, make walking part of your daily routine. For example:

  • Go for a walk when you wake up in the morning.
  • Fit a walk break into your work day.
  • Instead of sitting around during a meeting, talk business while you walk
  • Plan an evening walk after dinner.

Create a walking plan that fits your schedule and your life
If you need a little help, use a digital tracking device or mobile app to track your daily steps. Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day. Invite others to walk with you, or host a walking or steps challenge to create accountability and improve motivation.

You’ll be healthier and happier.

All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and repeat.

How’s your financial health?

Everybody experiences stress now and then. Work gets crazy. There’s a family crisis. Maybe it’s your health, or an unexpected event like an accident or natural disaster.

Everybody’s situation is a little different. But there’s one source of stress that everyone experiences whether you’re rich, poor or somewhere in between…money.

How’s your financial health? If it isn’t perfect, you’re not alone.
About 76 percent of adults in the U.S. say their number one source of stress is work and money.1

  • Maybe it’s an unexpected car repair or medical bill.
  • Or you’re not sure how to cover the mortgage or rent.
  • Maybe you’re trying to buy a house.
  • Or you’ve got kids to put through college and you’re trying to save for retirement.
  • Or you’re concerned about the stock market, your investments, and your future.

For most people, financial stress is always there…nickel-and-diming away your thoughts, your health, and your happiness. And if you don’t do anything about it, long-term stress can even increase your risk for a heart attack.2

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Getting a handle on your money can reduce stress, help you save for emergencies, and even improve your health.

The millionaire mindset

In the book, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of American’s Wealthy, authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko interviewed hundreds of self-made millionaires to find out what they had in common about money.3 And their advice was surprisingly simple.

Here are 9 ways to improve your financial wellness:
1. Spend less than you earn
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’ve probably heard the advice before. Maybe it’s an income problem, and you need to improve your skills to get a better job, or you live in an expensive area. But take a closer look at your spending habits. You may find ways to stretch your budget. For example, the average adult spends $2,000 to $4,000 per year on dining out.4

Tip: Use online tool such as Mint.com or other tools to create a budget and manage your spending. You can even track your spending in the FitLyfe platform, and set reminders to pay your bills.

2. Avoid credit card debt, pay off balances
If you use credit cards, pay off the balance as soon as possible to avoid high-interest fees (usually 18 to 30 percent). Wondering where you stand? In the U.S., the average adult has $4,192 in credit card debt.5 But if you only pay the minimum, without racking up any more debt, it will take years to pay that off.

3. Save some money every month
How much money are you saving every month? 5 percent, 10 percent, maybe 15 percent of your income? Or nothing. About 34 percent of U.S. adults don’t have any money in savings. And that’s a problem when an unexpected expense arises, you’d like to take a vacation, or you’re trying to save for retirement.

Tip: Pay yourself by saving some money every month. Budget for it just like your smartphone, WiFi connection, rent/mortgage or another monthly expense.

4. Save a few months of living expenses
If you don’t have three to six months of expenses saved, what’s your income plan if you lose your job, get injured, or have to take time off to help a family member?

It’s easy to think, “It won’t happen to me.” But chances are pretty good you know someone facing one of these challenges. And it could happen to you.

Tip: Save three to six months of living expenses. If that sounds impossible, start by saving enough to cover all your bills for a month.

5. Check your credit report
If you need a loan for a car, a house, or something else, your credit score matters. Check your credit report. Lenders look at credit scores to consider the risk of loaning someone money. If your credit score is low, you may have a hard time finding a loan or only qualify for high-interest loans.

Here’s a range of credit scores:

  • 300-579: Poor
  • 580-669: Fair
  • 670-739: Good
  • 740-799: Very good
  • 800-850 Excellent

How do you improve your credit score?

Pay your bills on time. Only borrow what you can pay back. And avoid carrying a lot of debt at any one time compared to your income.

Checking your credit score can also alert you to any errors on your credit report or potential identify fraud that can harm your ability to borrow money.

Tip: You can check your credit score with your bank, most credit card companies, and many online resources.

6. Pay your bills on time
It’s a basic concept. But a lot of people miss paying bills on time. And that can cost you a lot of money in late fees and charges. Use a calendar, reminders on your smartphone, or online tools to remember to pay your bills.

7. Get financial advice
If you’re planning to buy a home, invest, save for retirement, or take out a loan for something, get financial advice from an expert. You’ll learn a lot about your loan options, avoid making mistakes, and find the best option that fits your budget.

8. Save for retirement
When you’re young, you might not think about retirement much. But it’s an important part of your long-term financial plan. If you want to enjoy your senior years and cover medical costs, now is always the best time to start saving.

Tip: Take advantage of any tax-deductible contributions your employer may offer through payroll deduction to grow your retirement fund or 401(k).

9. Give your financial health a check-up
Wellness is never a one-and-done activity. It’s a process. Eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, and get regular check-ups. You know the routine. Your financial health needs a regular check-up, too.

  • Check your credit score.
  • Take a closer look at your spending habits
  • Evaluate your debt and assets
  • Review your income goals

Want to improve your financial health and wellness? Now is always the best time to start.

Sources


  1. Evans, A.C. (2017). Stress in America. The state of our nation. American Psychological Association. From: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2017/state-nation.pdf
  2. American Heart Association. (2014). Stress and heart health. From: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health
  1. Stanley, T., et al. (2010). The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of American’s Wealthy. Lanham, M.D.: Taylor Trade Publishing
  1. Lock, S. (2019). Average spending on food away from home in the U.S. Statista. From: https://www.statista.com/statistics/937352/eating-out-average-spend-by-age-us/
  1. Allcot, D. (2019). Average credit card debt in the U.S. BankRate. From: https://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/states-with-most-credit-card-debt-1/

Presenteeism: Going to Work Sick? Do This to Boost Productivity

Ever been at work in a funk?

Maybe you’re not feeling that well. You’re dealing with a family crisis at home. Or maybe there’s something about your work, your boss, your co-workers, or your customers that makes every day drudgery.

You go to work anyway. But you’re easily distracted and feel frustrated. Maybe you even feel sick, but you don’t want to miss work.

Sound familiar? Or maybe you know someone like this.

It’s Called Presenteeism
“Presenteeism is a process,” according to the Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research.1 “It starts with the decision to go to work under unsuitable biopsychosocial conditions, which in turn impacts the Tired Employee employee’s performance and the productivity of the organization.”

It might seem like a good idea to tough it out, and go to work anyway. But presenteeism actually takes a bigger toll on your health and costs employers more than $150 billion per year.2

So what does presenteeism look like and what can you do about it?

8 Signs of Presenteeism at Work
Presenteeism isn’t always easy to spot. It’s not as obvious as a high blood pressure reading or lab tests that show high blood glucose levels and diabetes risk.

It’s more subtle. And without any kind of intervention, presenteeism usually increases over time.

The most common signs of presenteeism include:

    1. Making more mistakes at work than usual
    2. Poor work performance
    3. Reduced productivity
    4. Apathy related to results and quality of work
    5. Frequently late or leaving early
    6. Skipping meals and breaks, and working long hours
    7. Working even with an illness or health condition that interferes with work
    8. Fatigue, tiredness, and exhaustion

You might think you’re taking one for the team by going to work when you’re not well, but it’s just not true. Presenteeism has an impact on your performance and quality of work. And it can also put your co-workers’ and your customers’ health at risk.3

6 Strategies to Reduce Presenteeism at Work

So you wake up one day for work and think, “I can’t do this anymore.” If you’ve been experiencing signs of presenteeism, you’re bound to reach a tipping point eventually.

When you recognize going to work every day is a struggle, it’s time to take a closer look at what’s happening and take action. Your health depends on it, and maybe your job does too.

What can you do to reduce presenteeism at work?4

Every situation is a little different. But there are some proven ways to reduce presenteeism you can take action on. Here are some things you can do:

1. Participate in your company’s wellness program
Log into your FitLyfe 360 account, and start using the resources to track your steps, eat healthier, improve your sleep, and reduce stress. You’ll feel better. You’ll earn rewards. And you’ll be more motivated to make healthy choices that will help you at work and at home.

2. Talk it out
Talk to your boss or manager about how you’re feeling and what’s happening. If that’s a challenge, talk to your human resources director. Talking to a trained professional about health challenges and stress that may be impacting your work performance can help identify problems and provide solutions.

3. Seek medical care
If it’s been more than a few days, and you’re still not feeling well, seek medical care. Make an appointment with your primary care doctor or a specialist. Take steps to find out why you’re not feeling well, so you can get better.

4. Get help from your EAP
If your organization has an Employee Assistance Program, it may provide programs, services, and even financial aid to help you.

5. Use sick leave
If you’re not feeling well, take a sick day. A rest and recovery day, or even a few days off, can give your body time to heal. Staying home from work when you’re sick may also prevent infecting others. Remember, if you’re going to work sick, you’re not as productive.

Ask about remote work for flexible schedules

If your commute or your work environment is contributing to presenteeism, ask about working remotely or creating a flexible schedule. Adjusting your hours or working from home may help you feel better and improve your work performance.

Going to work sick isn’t a badge of honor. It puts your health at risk and takes a toll on productivity. Experiencing presenteeism? Now is always the best time to make a change.

Sources

  1. Vera-Calzaretta, A., et al. (2014). Presenteeism. Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Springer, Dordrecht. From: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0753-5_2254
  1. Smith, S. (2016). Presenteeism costs businesses 10 times more than absenteeism. EHS Today. From: https://tinyurl.com/y253p346
  1. Widera, E., et al. (2010). Presenteeism: A public health hazard. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 25(11): 1244-1247. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2947637/4. Miller, B. (2017). How to reduce presenteeism. HR Daily Advisor. From: https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2017/05/29/how-to-reduce-presenteeism/

The Power of Sleep: 8 Health Benefits of Drifting Off to Dreamland

Sleep

The Power of Sleep: 8 Health Benefits of Drifting Off to Dreamland
The alarm is chirping. You roll over and hit snooze…again. You’re still tired. It seems like you just finally drifted off to sleep. And now it’s time to wake up. Sound familiar?

  • How are your sleep habits?Sleep
  • Do you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night?
  • Or is your sleep tank perpetually running on empty?

FYI…most people don’t get enough sleep. In fact, 1 in 3 adults get less than 7 hours of sleep a night.1 But research shows 7 to 9 hours of sleep is ideal for best health.

Maybe staying up late to binge-watch your favorite shows, hang out, work more hours, or click-swipe-and-tap your way through social media isn’t the best idea.

You wake up tired. Then grab a cup of coffee (or two, or three…), get up, get going, and go to work. And keep repeating the routine like a groggy version of Groundhog’s Day.

Think you can skimp on sleep, get by, and do just fine?

Here’s the thing. If you want to be healthier, have more energy, and live longer, most people need to drift off to dreamland for 7 to 9 hours a night.

In fact, research shows adequate sleep has a powerful effect on your health in many different ways. Getting adequate sleep can help:

1. Lower the risk for obesity

Getting adequate sleep helps regulate hormones linked to hunger and cravings, improves metabolism, and regulates the body’s circadian rhythm for best health. When you skimp on sleep, you’re more likely to tip the scale in the wrong direction.2

2. Control blood pressure

How’s your blood pressure? If it’s 120/80 or higher, you have have elevated or high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association. It’s a risk factor for heart disease. Lots of lifestyle factors affect blood pressure like your diet, exercise habits, and weight. Research shows getting adequate sleep can also help reduce stress and control blood pressure.3

3. Reduce the risk for diabetes

Getting adequate sleep helps improve insulin sensitivity. That’s important to help prevent diabetes, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Worried about getting enough sleep and diabetes? One recent study found that catching up on a few hours of sleep on a weekend or your days off can actually help lower blood sugar levels.4

4. Strengthen the immune system

Want to strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk of getting sick? Research shows getting adequate sleep can help. One study found that if you get less than 5 hours of sleep per night, you’re 45 percent more likely to catch a cold. That drops to just 15 percent if you get 7 hours of sleep or more. Sleep helps the body develop antibodies to fight cold and flu viruses.5

5. Improve your diet

Want to change your diet, eat healthier, and tip the scale in the right direction? Get adequate sleep. One recent study found that people who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night, cook at home more often, order fewer fast food meals, and eat less processed and frozen meals.6 Researchers also found that adequate sleep helps control appetite and cravings at night.

6. Enhance brain function

You know that mid-afternoon funk when it feels like the only thing that will save you is a boost of caffeine and a candy bar? It doesn’t have to be that way. Try getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Research shows adequate sleep enhances memory, focus and creativity.7 Sleep also helps the brain regulate emotions, manage stress, improve reaction times and decision making, lowering the risk for accidents.

7. Reduce sick days

Ever feel like you can’t miss a day of work? Or you need to work to get paid? You need to be healthy to do that, and getting adequate sleep can help. When you don’t get enough sleep, research shows it has a compounding effect on missed days, decreased performance, and higher healthcare costs.8

8. Support positive behavior changes

Ever want to make a change to improve your health? You know…eat healthier, lose weight, drink less alcohol, quit smoking. Those are all positive changes. Here’s what’s interesting… the less sleep you get, the more likely you’ll feel the need to change. But when you’re sleep deprived, it’s a recipe for failure. Research shows adequate sleep helps improve your ability to develop healthy habits.9

So it’s getting late. You can either head to bed, or stay up late another night. What’s it gonna be? If you’re serious about tapping into the health benefits of sleep, you know what you need to do…turn the lights out and drift off to dreamland. Good night!

Sources

  1. Young, L., et al. (2016). Prevalence of healthy sleep durating among adults. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(6): 137-141. From: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6506a1.htm
  1. Ding, C., et al. (2018). Sleep and obesity. Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome, 27(1): 4-24. From: www.jomes.org/journal/view.html?doi=10.7570/jomes.2018.27.1.4
  1. Calhoun, D., et al. (2010). Sleep and hypertension. Chest, 138(2): 434-443. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913764/
  1. Killick, R., et al. (2015). Metabolic and hormonal effects of ‘catch‐up’ sleep in men with chronic, repetitive, lifestyle‐driven sleep restriction. Clinical Endocrinology, 83(4): 498-507. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4858168/
  1. Prather, A., et al. (2015). Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibilit to the common cold. Sleep, 38(9): 1353-1359. From: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26118561/
  1. Spaeth, A., et al. (2013). Effects of experimental sleep restriction on weigh gain, caloric intake, and meal timing in healthy adults. Sleep, 36(7): 981-990. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3669080/
  1. Breus, M. (2020). Here’s how to support brain health with sleep. Psychology Today. From: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/202002/heres-how-support-brain-health-sleep
  1. Hui, S.A., et al. (2015). Trouble sleeping associated with lower work performance and greater healthcare costs: Longitudinal data from Kansas State Employee Wellness Program. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 57(10): 1031-1038. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610176/
  1. Grandner, M. (2018). The cost of sleep lost: Implications for health, performance, and the bottom line. American Journal of Health Promotion, 32(7): 1629-1634. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6530553/

Brain Boost: 5 Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

What if there was an easy way to boost your mood, feel better, and be happy?

No. It’s not eating chocolate cake. It might make you feel good, but it doesn’t last. And it comes with added calories, fat and sugar that have a negative impact on your health. It’s not roller coaster rides or cat videos either.

There’s a simple way to give your brain a boost. And chances are pretty good you’re not doing enough of it. Only 53 percent of adults exercise at least 30 minutes a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1

How much physical activity do you get? If you’re not very active, now is always the best time to start. It’s as easy as going for a walk. There’s the obvious benefits of exercise like burning calories, losing weight, and strengthening your heart, lungs, and muscles. But research shows, exercise is good for your brain, too.

Regular exercise can give your brain a boost to:

1. Reduce depression and anxiety
Ever have one of those days when you’re feeling down in the dumps? Or maybe you’re worried or anxious about something. It happens.
So how do you get yourself out of a funk? Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins that help reduce pain and boost your mood. And it starts in as little as five minutes.2

2. Lower stress
Its late afternoon. You’ve got a looming work deadline. There’s some mini-crisis to deal with at home, and you don’t have anything planned for dinner yet. Feeling stressed? Stress is a regular part of life for most people.
But if you don’t manage stress in healthy ways (e.g. exercise, meditation, journaling, hobbies and recreational activities, massage therapy, etc.), it take a toll on your mental and physical health. The good news…research shows regular exercise can help lower stress hormones linked to inflammation, weight gain, and chronic disease.3

3. Improve sleep
How do you feel when you don’t sleep well? Tired, cranky, and fatigued, right? You might wake up feeling like you need a cup of coffee or caffeinated drink just to get you through the day. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that regular exercise (just 30 minutes a day) improves slow-wave or deep sleep, which is a period of restorative sleep for the brain and body.4
Regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer when performed in the morning or during the day just not right before bed.

4. Boost self confidence
How would you feel after losing 10 pounds? Pretty good, right? You can totally do this.
Here’s an example. If you walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for a year, you’ll burn about , 000 calories. One pound is equal to 3,500 calories. So you’ll burn enough calories to lose 10 pounds. (That’s assuming you don’t eat more calories as you increase your activity level, the scale doesn’t budge, and/or you don’t gain weight.)
You’ll be healthier, and you’ll feel better. And you’ll be more motivated to keep going. That’s the power of exercise. All you have to do is take the first step, and then another.

5. Improve brain function
Want to be creative, remember more, and keep your mind sharp? It’s critical as you age. About 1 in 10 adults over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. But you can do something to prevent it. Research shows regular aerobic activity (walking, jogging, running, biking, swimming, etc), improves brain function, including memory and learning.5

Want to give your brain a boost, improve your mood, and feel better? Here’s your prescription…move more, sit less.

Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Exercise or physical activity. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/exercise.htm
  1. Weir, K. (2011). The exercise effect. American Psychological Association. From: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise
  1. Childs, E., et al. (2014). Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in Physiology, 5:161. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013452/
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2020). Exercising for better sleep. From: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep
  1. Godman, H. (2014). Regular exercise chances the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. From: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110