Simple Strategies for Boosting Your Health

Guest blogger Melissa Howard shares some valuable insight on keeping yourself well as we move into spring:

Making health and wellness a priority isn’t easy. Most adults are overburdened. As a result, they aren’t as likely to make self-care a central focus in their lives. Luckily, there are some simple health-boosting techniques that can fit into even the busiest of schedules. Deep Curves Ahead shares some options below.

Make Time for Sleep
Overall, adults usually need between 7 and 9 hours of quality sleep each night. It gives your body enough time to go through critical processes that keep you healthy, so rest needs to be a priority.

If you experience any signs or symptoms of sleep disorders, such as frequent waking or extreme fatigue during the day, it’s wise to see a medical professional. They can assess your condition and develop a treatment plan, ensuring you can get the rest you need.

Use Stress-Reducing Techniques
Many stress reduction techniques are easy to work into even the busiest of schedules. Meditation and deep breathing can be incredibly effective and can often be done nearly anywhere. Taking a second to watch a funny video is also an excellent option, as a quick laugh can be a natural mood-booster.

For some people, journaling is a great way to keep stress levels down. It lets them vent their frustrations in a safe manner, giving them an outlet. However, writing down what you’re grateful for can also work. With the gratitude approach, you focus on the positive, which can be a better fit for many.

Lastly, take a look at your surroundings and see if your home is cluttered — believe it or not, this could be a major source of stress and anxiety. Not only will cleaning up a bit help alleviate these feelings, but it can also release any negative energy this clutter has trapped in your home.

Examine Your Job
For many people, their careers are a major source of stress. A lack of job satisfaction has a negative impact on your health, so it’s crucial to examine your work situation to see if it’s an issue.

When you’re not feeling challenged at work, boredom can become a problem. If you’re under constant stress, burnout is more likely to be an issue. When a workplace is blatantly toxic, it strains your mental health.

If your job is causing you a significant amount of distress, pivoting into a new career might be a smart move. Online degree programs make heading in a new direction simple. You can keep working and manage family obligations while you acquire new skills, allowing you to maintain a balance.

When you look for an online school, make sure it’s accredited. Additionally, research tuition costs, fee structures, and other related expenses to ensure the pricing is competitive. That way, you can secure a quality education without breaking the bank.

Get Enough Exercise
Exercise is a big part of overall wellness. Not only can it keep you physically fit, but it can also reduce stress, lead to better sleep, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and more.

Most adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to happen all at once. As long as each session is at least 10 minutes long, you’re meeting the requirement.

Learn to Say ‘No’
In some cases, people struggle with their health because they’re overwhelmed. By learning to say “no,” you can get more control over your workload and personal life.

If you’re asked to accept a task or obligation that you genuinely feel isn’t a smart idea, say “no.” Don’t overburden yourself if it isn’t a genuine necessity or requires you to sacrifice in another critical area of your life. If you do, you can keep your workload manageable, relieving a significant source of stress.

Photo Credit: Pexels

About Melissa:

“Every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, Melissa Howard felt compelled to create Stop Suicide. By providing helpful resources and articles on her website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information. She went to school at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and currently works as an executive assistant.”

Self-Improvement Efforts You Can Implement Today for a Better Tomorrow

Photo Credit: Pexels

As we move forward in this new year, guest blogger Melissa Howard shares some fabulous tips for making positive changes in your life:

Are you of a mindset that you need to turn your life around? Many of us make the mistake of thinking that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to make big, sweeping changes to our entire routine. After all, we think, if what we’re doing right now isn’t working, wouldn’t it be best to make major changes? Although this is well-intentioned, it relies on the logical fallacy that bigger is always better when it comes to self-improvement.

In reality, small changes are likely to make the biggest difference. Why? You’ll actually stick with them. DeepCurvesAhead takes a look at some techniques you can use to make yourself healthier, happier, and more excited to face each and every day:

Take Charge of Your Career

Many of us move through our careers in whatever way feels most natural and expected of us. We get a job that uses our skills or degree; we do the work and put in the time; we take the raises, promotions, and opportunities that come our way. Although this happens to work out well for some people, it can leave others feeling listless and out of control of their lives.

If you’re in the latter camp, take little steps each day to reclaim and take charge of your career. For example, you might decide you’d rather work for yourself than for a large company. Rather than jumping ship right away, however, you can start by taking on a little bit of freelance or contract work on the side.

Always check your contract to avoid breaking a non-compete clause, and consider forming an LLC if your work requires taking on any legal risks. Little steps each day will push you toward your ultimate goal.

Make Time for Exercise

It feels almost contradictory at first blush, but most of us live busy sedentary lives. If you have an office job, there may be days where your only real activity is the walk from your car to the office and back. As more and more of us work from home at least some of the time, even this short jaunt gets cut from our routines.

This constant inactivity leaves our bodies restless and in desperate need of movement. This can lead to increased anxiety, fatigue, and, of course, poor health overall. Fitting in something as simple as a thirty-minute walk each day, however, can make a huge difference.

Mix Up Your Style

Finally, now is a fantastic time to take a look at your personal style and see if it’s truly representing who you are. Many of us dress to satisfy others’ expectations of us, instead of wearing what we feel best in. Although you may be bound by formality expectations, such as wearing business clothing in the workplace, you should still strive to represent yourself as much as possible in what you wear.

However, many people don’t really know what their own style actually is. Consider picking up a new piece of clothing or accessory at a regular interval, such as monthly or every other week. Try it out for a while, and see if it suits you. If it does, you can use that as a launching point for the next item. If not, sell or donate it and try something else; avoid falling into the trap of too much stuff. This is a great way to gradually transform your wardrobe into items that feel authentic and empowering for you.

These are just a few of the ways you can make a big difference in your life by taking small steps. Remember, the smaller the change, the easier it will be to stick with, and the bigger an impact it will have in the long run.

About Melissa:

“Every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, Melissa Howard felt compelled to create Stop Suicide. By providing helpful resources and articles on her website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information. Went to school at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and currently works as an executive assistant.”

Under Pressure

Next week, my company will start bringing people back into the office. I’m part of “phase 1,” meaning that I’m expected to return to my office on campus on Monday.

I am terrified.

Coronavirus is still very real. The number of cases is increasing, (particularly in the county I live in). I do my best to wash my hands frequently, observe social distancing, and wear a mask in public. I’ve barely left the house in the past few months.

There is immense pressure to return to the office, but I’m torn. I could leave this company, or take a leave of absence and come back when things are safer. But then I’d be leaving a job I truly love and scrambling to find a way to keep the bills paid. Or I can return to the office (as I plan to on Monday) and put my health and the health of the people I love at risk. It’s a rock and a hard place indeed.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m being thrown to the wolves. My company is requiring masks in community areas, and we are getting a solo office if we want one. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about the HVAC system we used—the company is improving the air filtration system and shared details about it with us. All of these things are great for sure.

But what about the elevators?

The break rooms?

The copy areas?

All it takes is one person.

One person being careless or showing up to work sick and all hell breaks loose. I understand that people want things to get back to “normal.” But unfortunately things probably won’t be “normal” for quite some time.

Honestly, things may never go back to the way they were.

When I return to work, I won’t be going to in-person meetings. I’ll be calling into meetings from my office, with the door closed and the window open.

When I return to work, I won’t be in a classroom teaching groups of 20-40 people. I’ll be in my office, training those exact same people virtually. I won’t be able to see their faces, but I can still educate them and support them.

When I return to work, I won’t drop by someone else’s office to troubleshoot an issue, or ask a question, or just say “hi.” I’ll be calling people, or using video conferencing—all with a sign on my office door telling people to call me instead of stopping by.

When I return to work, there will be no lunchtime gatherings with coworkers as we enjoy delicious food from the cafeteria buffet lines. I’m bringing my lunch every single day, and my own silverware too. I’m currently trying to figure out how I can bring enough water for the day so I don’t have to go to the water fountain or the break room for a drink.

When I return to work, it won’t be “normal” in many ways. As I think about it, there is one way in particular that will make going to work completely abnormal for me.

I’ll be scared to do it.

Veggie to Vegan

Happy February, friends!

Today’s post revolves around a decision that has been months in the making for me–I’m officially starting my transition from vegetarian to vegan.  This is my “official” start because we all know the Internet is forever–I figure if I declare it here, I’ll have to stick to it.

Just for a bit of background, I gave up meat on and off during high school (over 10 years ago #oldladystatus) but made my forever transition to vegetarianism in 2016.  In the beginning, it was tough–I literally dreamed about frying chicken–but now I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the lifestyle change.  The cravings for meat have subsided, and vegetarian cooking has become second-nature.  Honestly, some of the vegetarian dishes I make taste better than the meaty version!  (At least to me, anyway.)  Check out a few vegan meals I’ve made below, and if you want more #foodporn, follow me on Instagram:

food collage.jpg

Delicious vegan food I’ve made!  (Clockwise from top left:  Banana “Ice Cream” with Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar, Tofu Fingers with Roasted Potatoes, Tofu Scramble with Roasted Potatoes, and Portobello “Steak” Strips with Green Beans and Rice Pilaf)

Why haven’t I become vegan yet, then?  Three big things:  Greek yogurt, eggs, and cheese.  Greek yogurt makes the list because it’s a good source of protein, which is something I need since I don’t get protein from meat.  It’s also super convenient for breakfast and/or a snack, which works well with my work/gym/life schedule.  Eggs make the list for the same reasons–protein and convenience.  (Also, plenty of the baked goods I love contain eggs, and I can’t quite give up my sweet treats just yet.)

And then there’s cheese.  Ahhhhh, cheese.  I live in Wisconsin, y’all.  The cheese up here is out of this WORLD, and it’s EVERYWHERE!  Real talk, I had no idea how many different types of cheese there are–and how tasty they could be–until I moved to America’s Dairyland.  I’m also a firm believer that it ain’t pizza unless it has cheese on it–and I love me some pizza.  So cheese has stuck around for a while even though I got rid of butter and cow’s milk a long time ago.

So–how is this transition going to work?  Starting today, I’m cutting cheese out of my diet.  (Guess I’ll be eating a lot of “ain’t pizza”.)  I know it’s going to be rough, but I really want to transition to a plant-based diet so I’m gonna do it!  Here are a few of the reasons I made this decision:

If you’re interested in cutting meat out of your life, check out this article by the Harvard Medical Center–it’s got some good information about the different types of vegetarianism and potential health benefits (and risks).  Also check out my Veggie Girl board on Pinterest for lots of vegetarian and vegan recipe ideas.

If you’re not interested in cutting meat out of your life, that’s cool with me.  #nojudgementhere #yourlifeisyours But I hope you’ll wish me luck on my journey from veggie to vegan!

Eating Well and Helping Out #100HappyDays

Day 94:  Eating well makes me happy.  I’ve mentioned it a few times on the blog but for those who may not know, I’m a vegetarian.  (Fun fact:  July 8 was my one year veggie-versary!)  I originally became vegetarian in order to eat healthier and improve my lifestyle, but quickly fell into the habit of eating very unhealthy vegetarian foods.  (Another fun fact:  French fries and cheese pizza are in fact vegetarian, but they aren’t the best foods for you.  #TheMoreYouKnow)  I’ve also been working with a personal trainer, and he encouraged me to start a food diary to keep up with the number of calories and amount of protein I’m eating (peep this post for more on that).  Now I know it’s possible to have a delicious, filling dinner for under 700 calories!  (Final fun fact:  This does not mean I’m never going to each french fries or cheese pizza again.  A lady has to indulge every now and again.)

Day 95:  Helping out my company makes me happy.  I actually have *two* days in the office this week!  And I chose to spend two hours of each one not working in my office.  (That’s #assbackwards I know.)  Our annual company picnic is on Saturday, and I’m helping out with advance registration. Volunteering for this internal opportunity made me happy in a few ways:

  1. I get to spend time in a part of campus that I never go to.
  2. I met three really cool coworkers that I probably wouldn’t have talked otherwise.  (In a company of 9000+ people, it’s easy to work with folks you’ve never met.)
  3. I got to brush off my retail customer service skills.
  4. I got to pick up my own tickets in advance.
  5. I got a free t-shirt!

Enjoying the Gym (a.k.a Something I Never Thought Would Happen to Me. Like, EVER. )

It’s been a bit since my last post, but I’ve been busy in an unexpected place–the gym!

Now, I’ve never been particularly athletic. If I was, it was in an artsy-fartsy kind of way–ballet and jazz classes or colorguard with the marching band in high school. And I’ve definitely never liked to sweat (real talk–still don’t). But once I got to my heaviest weight ever last year, I decided to get my ass in gear…workout gear. 

Like many hopeful fools at the beginning of 2016, shortly after January 1 I bought a gym membership. Guess how many times I went to the gym that spring? 

Approximately twice. (Lame, I know.)

But now, a year later, I’m hitting the gym three times a week. And you know what? I actually kind of like it!

I never thought I’d look forward to going to the gym. Ever. It’s like Invasion of the Ashley Snatchers over here! But there were a few things that changed my mindset:

  1. Accountability. Instead of working out solo, I hired a personal trainer at my gym. This way, I have an appointment–and someone to hold me accountable for showing up. Now it isn’t “I’ll work out when I have time” or “I’m tired so I’ll work out tomorrow.” I’ve got someone who expects me to be at the gym. 
  2. Guidance. When I worked out solo, I got anxious. I had no idea what exercises to do or if i was doing them correctly, so I stuck to easy cardio (walking usually). When I worked out in large groups, like a boot camp or class like Zumba, I got anxious and embarrassed. Was I the worst person in the group? Were the other people judging me? Once in a group boot camp, an extremely pregnant lady literally ran laps around me–not a great confidence booster, y’all. (And guess who never went back to that boot camp.) With my trainer I’ve got someone to show me what exercises to do, how to do them, and no pressure to be “the best” in the class–I’m #1 by default!
  3. Consistency. If you know me, you know I’m a full-fledged Type A control freak. I gotta have a plan for errythang. So, I plan my workouts. I meet with my trainer twice a week on the same days at the same time; a recurring meeting request on my calendar keeps me on track. Starting this month, I plan a solo workout too–a week in advance–and put that on my calendar as well. Getting in a routine makes getting to the gym much easier for me. 

Since I’ve been hitting the gym regularly, I honestly haven’t lost much weight. However, my body fat percentage has decreased since I’m replacing fat with muscle. I’ve noticed changes–my body is more toned overall and my waist is smaller–and other people have too. When I went home to Kentucky for Christmas, multiple family members commented on how I’d lost weight since they saw me for Thanksgiving less than a month before! 

Don’t get me wrong–she’s not a gym rat yet. I go to the gym, sure, but I still hate sweating. (I guess some things never change.) However, I’m slowly enjoying my time there more and more. I’m even toying with the idea of adding a fourth workout each week in the morning before work! 

My goal is to lose 30 pounds by my 30th birthday in September. But even if I don’t meet that goal, I’m still really happy and proud of myself. I’m making a lifestyle change! And that’s pretty damn awesome.