Video: Mental Health Breaks

Sometimes, you need to take a break from your daily grind. And your body will tell you when it is time to take that break. And taking a break is no sign of weakness, but is instead a sign that the mind needs to be refreshed so that it can come back stronger. So, when my work was becoming a grind, I stepped away, and now I feel great!

What can you if you need a mental health break? The actions you can take are very simple:

1. Recognize something isn’t right. That sounds easier than it really is. We train ourselves to push through barriers, to maintain mental and physical stamina, and to fight! And that is good because you should do all those things and fight. But what if that fight is no longer good enough? Then you need to recognize you need a break. And be honest with yourself, because if you take a break just because you feel lazy, the little voice in your head will start talking to you, and you will begin to feel guilty, and that is a whole other can of worms.

2. Do something physical. You may not feel like doing something physical, but action at this point is exactly what you need. Get some movement in your body, get the blood pumping, and clear your mind. We’ve discussed in other posts how physical activity is good for mental health.

3. Take some time to get away and break your current routine. Go to lunch, visit the mall, call a friend, but whatever it is, make sure it is something that is outside of your regular daily routine 4. Then get back to work. Your break doesn’t need to be multiple days or even all day. The break is just that, a break from your regular routine. You’ll find once you are back at work, your mind will fresh and you will likely have new energy and ideas.

If you have additional thoughts, please share them here. We look forward to hearing from you

Gut Health: The Brain- Gut Connection

Have you been feeling more anxious than normal? The reason may not be in your head, but in your gut.

During the pandemic, medical professionals have reported higher than normal incidences of patients feeling anxious and less mentally focused than before the pandemic. While feeling stress during this time is understandable, it turns out that the foods we eat can also impact our mental wellbeing.

Most of us known the importance of gut health, i.e. a healthy gut equals a healthy body. This is what the University of California at Davis Health says about gut health, “All food is ultimately broken down in the gut to a simple form that can enter the bloodstream and be delivered as nutrients throughout our bodies. This is only possible with a healthy digestive system. A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses and fungi. A healthy gut also communicates with the brain through nerves and hormones, which helps maintain general health and well-being.”

The Brain-Gut Connection

The fact that there is a brain-gut connection is something many folks don’t know or understand. At the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology, research is showing that the gut plays an even greater role in our overall mood that we ever suspected. The enteric nervous system (ENS), comprised of two thin layers of more than 100 million nerve cells lining the gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum, has the main role of  is controlling digestion, from swallowing to the release of enzymes that break down food to the control of blood flow that helps with nutrient absorption to elimination. It turns out that the ENS may trigger big emotional shifts experienced by people coping with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bowel problems such as constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain and stomach upset. Science originally thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems, but research now appears to show it is the other way around.  This new research is leading scientists to consider that the gut also plays a larger role in our cognition (thinking skills and memory) too.

What Can You Do To Improve Your Gut Health

Do This:

Probiotics: Foods high in probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. This helps good break down completely, allowing better absorption of nutrients into the body. Food high in probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and fresh sauerkraut. NOTE: Yogurts and kefir tend to be high in sugars because that makes the taste more palatable, thus they may not work in many diets. Kombucha carries a trace amount of alcohol. For most people, the alcohol is minimal and not a concern, but it could be a concern for those taking certain prescription drugs. When buying kimchi and sauerkraut, you need to buy these fresh and with active enzymes. Canned products have been pasteurized and thus the healthful bacteria is dead. Look for fresh products in a cold produce section of your local grocer store.

Fiber: Lots of Fruits and Vegetables each day. Think leafy greens and legumes like beans and lentils. Fiber is a bulking agent that moves food down the line like a train. This movement is important because while the body is absorbing nutrients, it is also attempting to eliminate what it doesn’t need in waste. Think of waste as poison, and you don’t want to be holding poison in your gut. A large salad contains several portions of the fiber your body wants.

Water: Water combined with fiber is like the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of good gut health. Working together, they keep everything moving. Note that the best way to determine how much water you need each day is determined by your weight. The rule of thumb is 1oz of water for every two pounds of body weight. If you weight 100lbs., you should drink 50oz of water. If you weight 200lbs, then 100oz of water. If you regularly drink from a popular branded 30oz tumbler, count the number of times you fill the tumbler with water during the day, and you’ll get an idea how much water you drink in a day. Remember, caffeine and alcohol dehydrate you, so don’t add coffee, tea, carbonated beverage, or alcoholic beverages to your count.

Exercise: Exercise assists in the movement within your gut.

Sleep: Folks who sleep irregularly also experience nausea, bloating, and constipation. Get your sleep!

Stop This:

Stay away from processed foods and refined grains: Processed food, i.e. food that has been made to fit in a bag and is then shelf stable for an extended period, typically has little to no fiber nor nutritional value. Eating food like this causes harm to your gut.

Limit your consumption of fried foods: The fats used to fry food can lead to constipation because your body has a difficult time processing the fat. Besides constipation, the bad fat stays in the body, leading to bloating. To the point made earlier, you want to move the poison out of your body.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let us know if you’ve made changes to your diet and how you are feeling.

Gut Health, Health, Food, Brain-Gut Connection, mental health, anxiety, mental wellbeing

9 Benefits of Playing Tennis

woamn playing tennisMany folks are still not able to go into a gym, so we need to search for alternative ways to exercise. If you are wanting to do something other than using your home gym, running, biking or swimming, have you considered playing tennis? Here’s why you should pick up a racket today:

  • Availability – Tennis courts are readily available in most parts of the United States, as well as over parts of the world. If you don’t have courts in your neighborhood, you will likely find them in a local park.
  • Inexpensive– If you play at a neighborhood or city park, you will likely not a fee. Your only costs are a racket, tennis balls, and the time is takes for you to get to the court.
  • Play the game at any age – Tennis is a wonderful game at any age. It can also be easily learned at any age. Don’t let the fact that you’ve never played stop you from starting. Plus, if you have never played, you will likely find a partner who will happily “show you the ropes” on how to get started.
  • Social Distance – The nature of the game creates distance between you and your opponent, thus alleviating the concern of being too close and potentially spreading pathogens.

Those are the reasons why to pick up a racket, today. What are some of the benefits of playing tennis?

  1. Full body workout: Your lower and upper body are in constant motion
  2. Improved aerobic and anaerobic health: Get your heart rate up, increase your oxygen intake, and your body will begin to build a better cardio system, as well as more efficient muscles.
  3. Burns calories and fat: Playing tennis can burn between 400-600 calories an hour. For a comparison, I walked 3.5 miles, it took me an hour and 10 minutes, and I burned 390 calories. I could have burned more in less time.
  4. Improves bone health: I recently wrote about how exercise improves bone health, and since tennis is an overall body work out, it would obviously benefit bones through your body.
  5. Heart healthy: This one is self-explanatory; if you consistently raise your heart rate, you will build a stronger cardio system.
  6. Enhances flexibility, balance and coordination: Eye hand coordination is critical in tennis. You can develop your coordination, which will in tun develop your balance, which is an important thing to maintain as we age. And because the game entails movement, reaching, and stretching, your flexibility improves, which also helps you prevent injuries.
  7. Boosts brain power: Tennis requires you “to think on your feet”, make adjustments in split seconds, to develop strategies and ever-changing tactics. studies show that exercises that require a lot of thinking can improve brain function in ways that aid memory, learning, social skills, and behavior.
  8. Is great cross-training for other sports: The short speed burst associated with tennis translates well into cross training for other sports and a thus speed up your pace and endurance.
  9. Boosts mood: Exercise has been shown to improve your mental health, alleviating anxiety and depression, while improving self-esteem and optimism.

I hope this inspires you to pick up a racket and start playing. Let us know if you are regularly playing tennis and grab a partner to play a match with you.

And if you enjoyed this post, please leave a message below and subscribe to this site. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

And a shout out to the folk at Health Fitness Revolutions for these ideas.

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8 Foods To Help You Stay Mentally Strong

8 foods to boost your concentration - with title

So many folks have told me that since the beginning of the pandemic, they have found it difficult to concentrate. Too many distractions, too many changes, and in general.. too much noise! This post won’t begin to solve all the problems that lead to the distractions, BUT I will tackle what you can do to give your brain the boost it needs so that it can stay strong during this trying time, and into the future.

  1. Caffeine – Yep, that morning or afternoon jolt can give you the energy and concentration you need, BUT, the effects are short term AND too much caffeine will actually ruin your concentration as you will be too jittery and jumpy.
  2. Sugar– Sugar can help you with your short-term memory boost, BUT it comes with a few big caveats. 1. The sugar you body wants is glucose, the type you get from carbohydrates, NOT sucrose, the type of sugar derived from table sugar. 2. Too much sugar, will make you groggy, the opposite of what you want. The Solution; a small glass of juice.
  3. Breakfast – For students in particular, a breakfast of high fiber, dairy, and fruit, has shown to improve memory and alertness. Too big a breakfast, you lose your concentration.
  4. Fish – Yep, fish is brain food. A diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids has shown to reduce the risk of dementia, lower stroke risks, and slow the progress of mental decline. Some doctors recommend 2 serving of fish a week, mine recommends 5 per week. Hint, a can of tuna counts as a serving and is a fantastic addition to a green salad.
  5. Nuts and Dark Chocolate – Nuts and dark chocolate contain high levels of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant in the effort to prevent cognitive decline. A handful of nuts a day can make all the difference. Choose almonds, walnuts, and pecans as they contain the most benefits. Skip the peanuts and cashews as they can cause inflammation. All you need is 1 oz of dark chocolate a day. 1 oz is about the size of the end of your thumb
  6. Avocado – These little green wonders are loaded with Vitamin E, and as I noted above, Vitamin E is a powerful ally in the fight to keep your brain strong. And while you may read cautions about the fat content of avocado, I wouldn’t be concerned, the fat in an avocado is monounsaturated and is the type your body wants for healthy blood flow.
  7. Blueberries – Think of them as little blue shields, protecting your brain from free radicals that want to attack your brain cells and leading to dementia or Alzheimer’s.
  8. Water – Staying hydrated during the day helps keep your working in the way it is supposed to, i.e. consuming food, creating energy, eliminating waste. Without enough water, your body directs energy to other places besides your brain, leaving you in a fog. So, drink your water regularly. The amount needed varies per person, but 8 glasses a day is not a bad rule of thumb.

You can find more details about these food sources at WebMD

These are easy foods to incorporate into just about any diet. So, when you are taking care of your body, don’t forget to also take care of your brain!

Hi, I’m Chris Stiehl, a.k.a. The Wide-Body. This blog is dedicated to the “everyday athlete”, and that person is you! I sincerely believe an athlete resides in every one of us and I want to inspire you to discover that athlete within you. You are also built with a specific body type, and each type has its own power, so embrace that power and ignore the noise that says your body shape is unworthy. That power is your gift, and thus each week, I will post articles featuring topics about Health, Fitness, and Food so that you can incorporate these ideas into life and enjoy the gift you have been given.

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Keywords: mental health, concentration, Alzheimer’s, dementia, caffeine, glucose, breakfast, fish, brain, nuts, avocado, blueberries, water, hydrate, webmd, tuna, salmon, vitamin e, ADHD