SMALL CHANGES FOR BIG IMPACT

by Kay Jennings, BSN, MHSA, MSN, PHMNP-BC, DPSc

photo-1441015401724-70d16b783f5c UNSPLASHAs a business owner and recipient of the Montana Excellence in Worksite Health Promotion Award for two consecutive years, I would like to share some ideas that may help other employers and their employees to maximize their personal health and wellness by addressing the effects of nutrition, motion, sleep, toxins, and stress.

Eat for Better Health  Many employers offer annual lab testing and this is a good place to start.  If lipids are elevated or blood sugar is a little high, then immediate attention to diet is essential.  I recommend “The Cardiometabolic Diet” which essentially recommends 5-7 vegetables, 5 fat servings and 5 protein servings a day. Cutting out processed refined foods and gluten is usually an excellent idea as well.

Changing diet requires planning and preparation, especially if you have meals that take place at work. Avoiding eating out is critical to manage blood sugar issues and to help lipids return to normal. I have found that Sundays are a good day to prepare snacks and soups or salads for the work week.  Mason jar salads are easy to make and ideas are plentiful on the internet.

Drink More Water  Having a quart jar on your desk to drink water is another great idea. A simple way to calculate the ideal number of ounces your body may require is to take your body weight and divide by two (in other words, if you weigh 180 pounds, try to drink 90 ounces of water each day). Get away from that coffee pot and drink pure, filtered water if available (or get a Brita style filter).

Get Out of Your Chair  Today’s sitting is yesterday’s smoking: The health care and scientific communities all agree that prolonged sitting can be as unhealthy as smoking.  So, how does one increase movement while at work?  Get up and move around at least every hour! Personally, I sit on a stability ball while seeing patients, I stand/walk on a treadmill with an elevated desk while doing computer work, and I have an exercise bike under my desk to pedal while I am reading or talking to staff.

I have even been known to get down on the floor and do planks to demonstrate to patients just how easy it is to get a full body strengthening break.  I would challenge each of you to do a 30-day plank challenge (search the internet for ideas and programs).

I also take every opportunity I can to get up out of my chair and take a brief walk in-between patient visits, always take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park furthest away from the building. These are simple yet incredibly effective ways to boost daily activity.

Get Your ZZZZZ’s  A minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep is essential to rest and repair of cells and, as you sleep, your brain works to eliminate toxins.

Do your best to eliminate “screen time” (that includes your computer, tablet, and cell phone) at least one hour before bed, sleep in a darkened room, use static or white noise if necessary, discourage pets in the bed, and keep the room cool.  If insomnia is a problem for you, specially compounded non-prescription sleep formulas with natural ingredients may be helpful.

“HeartMath”, a program that helps people obtain mastery over their heart rate variability, can benefit sleep.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy-Insomnia (CBT-I),  is another treatment that is recommended prior to using any hypnotic drugs.

Say ‘No’ To Toxins  Toxins seem to be everywhere.  Eliminating as many toxins as possible in your hygiene routine is a starting point:  Switch to natural toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo in order to significantly decrease the toxic load. Another good idea is to drink from glass jars instead of plastic. And, check the Electro Magnetic Fields in your home and workspace, then rearrange electrical items so that where you sit or sleep the majority of the time is away from disruptive EMF’s.

Manage Your Stress  Finally, stress is the one game changer in our quest for health.  I don’t care what type of job you have, even if you are passionate and love what you do, as I do, you can’t avoid stressors in your life.  But, you can learn how to manage them.

Stress affects your adrenal glands and I find many of my patients are on the verge of adrenal exhaustion.  Diet, exercise, and mindfulness techniques all help to reduce stress.  Recently I have started offering HeartMath for stress management and find it to be extremely helpful for myself and my clients.

Stress also increases oxidative stress, so taking supplements to help restore the cells is important.  Consider taking Vitamins A, C, E, and a good B complex, since we do not get enough micronutrients in our food due to depleted soils.