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How to go back to sleep in the middle of the night

| Feb 11, 2019 | Physical Wellbeing | 0 comments

How to go back to sleep in the middle of the night

You have experienced this situation before. You wake up in the middle of the night, and you desperately want to go back to sleep. “I’ve got a full-on day tomorrow, and  I need all the rest that I can get”, you anxiously remind yourself. You toss and turn hoping that you will transition into a deep slumber, only to realise that it’s just wishful thinking. You have been through this before, so you know that deep sleep will be hard to come by anytime soon or it may not come at all.

There is a common, widespread myth that “if you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep, you should just stay in bed”. If you are able to stay relaxed in bed, experts would agree that staying in bed may help you fall back asleep.  However, if you feel anxious, agitated and/or tense because of your inability to drift back off, sleep experts suggest that you should desist from trying so hard.

If 20 minutes have gone by and you are still unable to fall asleep, then you should get up and do something else. The reason behind this is that your brain thrives on making associations. This means that if night after night you stay awake for long periods in bed, your brain will quickly learn that your bed is a place where you should be awake.

Some people find it hard to follow this advise because they think they are sacrificing precious sleep time by getting up and anxiety levels may rise, but what you have to understand is that you need to start training your brain again to relearn the association with your bedroom being about sleep rather than wakefulness.

If you decide to follow this evidence-based advise, these are a few recommendations on what to do when you get up in the middle of the night:

1.-Meditate for at least 10 minutes.- Go to another room, sit down and meditate. Meditation will quiet your mind and will slow down the fight-or-flight mechanisms of your nervous system (which are mainly responsible for insomnia).

2.-Perform deep breathing techniques.- Most deep breathing techniques aimed at calming down your nervous system will do the trick. My favourite one is referred to as the 4-7-8 technique. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat this cycle up to 6 times only.

3.-Read something light.- Go to another room and read a short story, a light novel or anything that has a calming effect on you. Stay away from the news, heavy fiction, work-related material, dense poetry, etc., since some of this material will require increased levels of attention. Make sure NOT to turn on the light and use a clip-on lamp that you can attach your book or magazine.

4.-Do not eat.-Digesting food in the middle of the evening will definitely interfere with your natural sleep cycle. Besides, eating in the middle of the night may contribute to weight gain, abnormal cholesterol levels, alterations in blood sugar regulations, altered hormone function and inflammation.

5.-Stay away from digital devices.- Digital devices radiate blue-light which upon contact with your retina triggers brain activity and halts the secretion of melatonin (the hormone responsible for inducing sleep).  If you decide to read, stick to old-fashioned paper.

Put your healthy anxiety to good use

| Feb 3, 2019 | Mental Wellbeing | 0 comments

Put your healthy anxiety to good use

Some time ago, I asked an exceptional psychologist friend of mine the main reason why people would come to see her for treatment. Even before I could even finish the sentence, she affirmed in matter-of-fact fashion “Anxiety, of course, César!”.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as fear or worry, that can be mild or severe. Mild anxiety, such as low levels of apprehension, mild muscle tightness and doubts about your ability, may actually improve your performance.  Anxiety levels on this low end of the spectrum may actually motivate you to work harder toward a goal and improve your attention and problem-solving.

For instance, anxiety about an upcoming meeting, presentation or interview will likely drive you to prepare thoroughly.  Normal levels of anxiety can prove to be adaptive and helpful to your everyday life.

On the other side of the spectrum, however, you will find the clinical levels of anxiety.  When your performance rapidly decreases, causing impairment and obvious physiological and recurrent symptoms (sleep problems, panic attacks, nausea, etc.), then you may find that you have a diagnosable anxiety disorder such as phobia, PTSD, obsessive/compulsive, panic or generalised anxiety disorder.

What if you find yourself in the middle of the anxiety spectrum? If you feel that your level of anxiety is becoming a barrier, is no longer adaptive and is hindering your performance, then I urge to act before your chronic anxiety grows steadily into a clinically diagnosable anxiety disorder.  The smart course of action is to start using evidenced-based strategies that will help you bring your anxiety back to the adaptive, low end of the spectrum.

Here are a few evidence-based options to keep your anxiety in check:

1.-Practice mindfulness.- Whether in the form of daily 10-minute meditation practice or any other techniques that can help you focus on the present moment.

2.-Face situations instead of avoiding them.- If you regularly face the things that cause you anxiety (difficult conversations, public speaking, etc.) over time, the anxiety will fade away.

3.-Eat anxiety calming foods.- Choose foods such as complex carbs (quinoa, legumes, vegetables, etc.) which boost serotonin, the calming brain hormone.  Drink plenty of water and limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption (which can cause edginess).

4.-Enjoy physical activity.- Whether in the form of regular exercise, playing sports, walking your dog, taking a power walk with your friends, any kind of activity that gets your body moving, will cause chemical changes in the brain which can positively improve your mood.

5.-Avoid drug therapies if possible.-  If you are not experiencing clinical levels of anxiety, then exhaust all the non-pharmaceutical therapies possible. According to several studies, medications alone are less effective than psychotherapy in the long run.

Money will buy you happiness if…..

| Jan 28, 2019 | Mental Wellbeing | 0 comments

Money will buy you happiness if…..

I’m sure you’ve heard this saying before, “money can’t buy happiness”.  People who know me well enough know that I’m not a big fan of blanket statements or speaking in absolutes, and this certainly applies in this case.  Research suggests that money can actually buy you happiness if you spend it in specific ways.

Studies have shown that if you are able to meet your basic needs financially, then the principles that I am about to share with you apply to everyone, regardless of net worth, level of income or socioeconomic status.

Recently, researchers at San Francisco University have reached similar findings to previous studies on happiness.  Most of the physical things that we buy will increase our happiness sharply at the moment of purchase, but this happiness will fade away in the ensuing weeks.  Usually, 60 days after we have purchased a tangible object, most of us will return to the same level of happiness before the object was acquired.

Buying experiences, however (such as taking a vacation, going to dinner or a show), is a whole different ball game.  When we buy an experience, however big or small, our body is inundated with happiness-inducing hormones all throughout the process of the experience. Our happiness level increases when we are planning the experience, when we look forward to it, when we have the actual experience, and when we look back at the fond memories (even for years in some cases).

For instance, if you take a look at my diary, you’ll see that I have a permanent recurring meeting every Friday evening from 6 pm to 9.30 pm. This entry is labelled  “Paula and daddy night out”.  When I’m in town, every Friday evening I collect my 10-year-old daughter from school and take her to dinner and a movie.  If for some pressing reason I’ll be unavailable that Friday evening, I will reschedule for the next day or the day after that (my daughter is a savvy negotiator :-))

During my work week, every time I glance at that diary entry, I get a hit of dopamine and serotonin (the happiness hormones).  This instant hormonal bath will increase my sense of wellbeing, will make me more resilient to face the potential rigours of the week and will make me healthier (dopamine and serotonin are immunoregulators that fine-tune our immune system).

Having your diary packed with scattered experiences throughout the week is a sound strategy to increase your levels of happiness.

 

Recommendations

 

Not all experiences require money expenditure, but if you have some disposable income that you want to put to good use, then the following suggestions have the potential to increase your levels of happiness:

1.-Spend money on experiences instead of material things. Remember that we rarely get bored with cherished memories like we do with physical objects.

2.-Spend money on someone. Harvard researchers found that spending on oneself provides an ephemeral wellbeing boost compared to the lasting wellbeing effect of spending on others. Remember that the amount spent is not that relevant.

3.-Give your money away in person. Rather than posting a check to your charity of choice, hand that check in person and spend time with the beneficiaries of your donation.  If you encounter a person in need on the street, give this person something (money, food, reassuring words), look at him/her in the eyes and assess how you feel.

4.-Spend within your means. I can’t emphasise enough the fact that the amount spent is not relevant.  It’s the action in itself which counts.

Should you be taking vitamin and mineral supplements?

| Jan 21, 2019 | Physical Wellbeing | 0 comments

Should you be taking vitamin and mineral supplements?

The question of whether we should be taking vitamins and mineral supplements to improve our health and wellbeing is still frequently asked, and the answer is really not that complicated.

First and foremost, sourcing your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) intake from your diet should be your priority. Eating a variety of different foods, preferably plant-based (fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grain cereal & legumes) every day, is, by and large, the best nutritional tactic.

However, in spite of our best intentions, eating a healthy diet doesn’t guarantee that we will get the recommended daily intake of every micronutrient that we need.  There are many reasons behind this potential deficit, and in this article, I will focus one: where you source your food.

Depending on where you live, the vegetables you are buying from your local shop might have been grown on soil that lacks certain minerals.  The quality of the soil will vary depending on the geographical area where the land is located, farming practices and soil management to name a few influential factors.

For instance, I recently learned that the soil where I source my vegetables from is deficient in selenium, which is an essential nutrient that supports our reproductive function, DNA production, thyroid gland function and immune system. Although I thought that I was getting my recommended daily dosage of selenium every day through my selenium-rich diet (spinach, lentils, mushrooms, beans, etc.), I apparently wasn’t.

To correct this imbalance, I can always go to the supermarket and buy my vegetables from other producers from around the world, but how do I know for sure that the soil those vegetables where grow in contain the minerals I need? Even if their farming practices and soil management are of the highest standards, selenium may exist in that soil in a form that is either absorbed by plants with difficulty or unavailable to plants altogether.

Selenium has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant that helps defend the body from chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, so if I’m unsure as to whether I’m getting the full amount, what are the options?

I have spoken with many different scientific experts that agree with a large number of scientists in the nutrition community. They support the idea of taking multivitamin & multimineral tablets as an insurance policy against potential nutritional gaps.   So if a medical doctor hasn’t advised you against taking multivitamin & multimineral supplements, then I think you should play it safe and consider supplementing your healthy diet with high-quality supplements.

Recommendations

1.-Eat a variety of different foods, preferably plant-based (fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grain cereal & legumes) every day to maximise your natural intake of micronutrients.

2.-Make sure that a medical doctor has not advised you against taking multivitamin & multimineral supplements before you start supplementing your diet.

3.-Taking supplements don’t give you the freedom to embark on an unhealthy diet.  It would be best if you still ate as healthy as you can.

4.-Multivitamin & multimineral supplements vary in quality.  Do your research and find reliable manufacturers you can trust.

Let’s not underestimate this superfood!

| Jan 15, 2019 | Physical Wellbeing | 0 comments

Let’s not underestimate this superfood!

Someone recently asked me an interesting question : “César, which superfood is currently underestimated?” I immediately thought of one specific food in particular, and I will tell you which one in a moment, but first, I think we should clarify what a superfood is in the first place.

For a food to be given the label “super” it must be, as some nutritionists like to say, “nutritionally dense”. In a nutshell (no pun intended), it means that the food should be slammed packed with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Just to clarify, the superfoods don’t have their own food group. It’s quite likely that the word “superfood” arose from marketing circles rather than scientific ones (so beware of deceitful marketing tactics), but nevertheless, the common understanding is that there is little debate as to the health benefits that the real superfoods can bring to us.

Most of these superfoods are mostly plant-based (vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits) but some fish and diary have been given this label as well.  Salmon, berries, leafy greens, nuts, olive oil and yogurt are a few examples of foods that have garnered this “super” label.

Now, back to my favourite superfood: Quinoa (seeds from a plant primarily found in the Andes). Why?  Quinoa is a rich source of iron, fibre (healthy carb!), protein,  magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, folate, copper, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6 and vitamin E.  If  you are  seriously looking into losing unhealthy weight, gaining muscle mass, lowering your cholesterol level, keeping your sugar levels in check, combating constipation, strengthening your immune system and many other health benefits, include quinoa in your diet.

For a number of years, quinoa has gained well deserved international acclaim and recognition. The year 2013 was declared by the United Nations “The International Year of Quinoa” and NASA, who feeds quinoa to their astronauts in space, have been looking at quinoa as a suitable crop to be grown in outer space based on simplicity of growing and high nutrient content!

Recommendations

1.-Although quinoa is a superfood, eating loads of quinoa every day is perhaps not the best course of action.  Eat a variety of nutritious foods in the right quantities every day.

2.-For whole grains to be superfoods, they need to be eaten WHOLE (like in quinoa)  and not overly processed (like in unhealthy white bread).

3.-For green tea to deserve the superfood label, make sure it’s not cut with inferior teas and brewed with sugar.  Find out how your green tea is made.

4.-If you are trying to lose weight, go easy on fruits.  Even fruits without added sugar still contain calories.

5.-The research is clear: the ideal diet is one that is largely plant-based (vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits) and healthful animal products.

That’s Why they Call it the Blues

| May 14, 2018 | Physical Wellbeing, slider | 0 comments

That’s Why they Call it the Blues

You’ve heard of “blue light” right? That light that keeps you up at night? But do you actually know what it is and its effect on your mind? It is a question that I get asked often, so allow me to shed some light on the topic (no pun intended)! (more…)

The Influence of Ego in High Performance Teams

| Apr 4, 2018 | Mental Wellbeing, slider | 0 comments

The Influence of Ego in High Performance Teams

As I was writing this article, my 9-year-old daughter was looking over my shoulder, as she often does in a healthy curious way, and noticed that I had a picture of Donald Trump on my computer. She asked me what I was writing about and I told her “it’s an article explaining the greatest handicap in high-performing teams”, to which she replied, “If that handicap has to do with inflated egos, you have chosen the best example, dad.” She was spot on. (more…)

4 Smart Eating Strategies

| Feb 22, 2018 | Physical Wellbeing, slider | 0 comments

4 Smart Eating Strategies

“How dare do you suggest we eat cereal!” “Red meat?!, Are you serious?” “Milk?! You’ve got to be joking right?”

These were just a few of the colourful remarks I recently heard from nutritionists, GPs, cardiologists and many other scientists in the medical/nutrition/wellbeing field directed at the representative for Public Health England at a food conference hosted by the College of Medicine. (more…)

4 ways to get back to your natural rhythms

| Jan 24, 2018 | Physical Wellbeing, slider | 0 comments

4 ways to get back to your natural rhythms

10 days before my birthday, on October 2nd 2017, I received a gift. A gift from an unlikely source that seemed to want to help me and many others in my profession convey with scientific rigour a fact of life: All aspects of your being (body, mind & emotions) are synchronised with the rhythms of nature. If you are out of tune, or out of sync with these rhythms, you will experience stress, strain, pain and discomfort.

I’ll tell you what that gift was in just a moment, but first, let me give you a brief explanation of what these rhythms of the Earth are and how they influence our physiology and psychology. (more…)

Don’t sit on it for too long

| Mar 1, 2017 | Physical Wellbeing, slider | 0 comments

Don’t sit on it for too long

If your work requires for you to spend a considerable amount of time sitting down, I hope you invest the next three minutes of your time reading this post – it can literally add years and quality to your life.

The statistics that are being published about the perils of sitting for too long are frankly quite scary. You may want to stand up for this…:

– Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you up to 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3. Even if you exercise.

– Sitting makes you gain weight. As soon as you sit down, your calorie burning drops to 1 per minute and the enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90%

– The World Health Organisation has identified physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, ahead of obesity.

The human body simply isn’t built to sit for long periods of time. Ever since we evolved from archaic homo sapiens to anatomically evolved modern humans more than 150,000 years ago, we were meant to be active, to spend time outdoors walking and running. Sitting for extended periods of time whether at work and/or during our commute is something mother nature hasn’t prepared us for.

When you remain inactive (or sitting down) for long periods of time, the muscles in your back are affected, particularly the erector spinae muscles which run parallel to your spine. Not maintaining proper posture whilst sitting can seriously damage your spine structure and even cause permanent problems such as back pain.

Evidence of the health benefits of standing up compared to sitting down goes back to the 1950s when a study by one of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed British general medical journal “The Lancet” compared bus conductors (who stand) with bus drivers (who don’t). The study revealed that bus conductors had around half the risk of developing heart disease of the bus drivers.

Standing is like walking: It increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, ramps up your metabolism, increases blood flow and improves your posture along the way.

Recommendations:

1.- Sit smarter. When sitting on a chair, make sure you sit back and move your chair close to the desk to maintain proper contact between your back and the seat back to help support and maintain the natural inward curve of your lumbar spine. So remember to always sit up straight without hunching over and use ergonomic chairs or furniture when possible.

2.- Try sitting on a stability ball. Also known as Pilates balls, the use of a stability ball (a big, round piece of exercise equipment used for strength training) to replace regular chairs is becoming increasingly popular. The key here is to alternate between the ball and an ergonomically designed chair since you need every so often to reduce disc pressure in your back.

3.- Get a sit-stand desktop. There are now plenty of products in the market which allows you to easily convert a tabletop into a height-adjustable standing desk. This option allows you to sit or stand to work at any time.

4.-Don’t eat at your desk.– Having lunch at your desk will unnecessarily prolong the time you remain sitting down. Your brain needs this time of the day to physically recharge anyway and eating at your desk means this much-needed rest will not happen given that your mind will most likely be actively engaged doing work, reading the news, etc. Your performance, memory, concentration and most of your brain’s executive functions will be affected if you don’t disconnect from work for a little while, so do your lower back and brain a favour and have a mindful lunch somewhere else.

5.- Give walking or standing meetings a try. Since alternating between sitting, standing and walking is the best you can do for your body-mind, then use meetings as an opportunity to get up to either stand or walk. The benefits of walking meetings are numerous: Your attention span will expand, your energy levels will go up, your creative juices will flow freely and you’ll even get the extra benefit of burning more calories. I take most of my calls standing up and my conversations benefit from this without a shadow of a doubt.

And perhaps the most compelling argument of this post to get you to stand more: Data published by BuzzFeed showed that selfies are taken while standing get more “Likes” than those taken while sitting!

 César Gamio - Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist - CesarGamio.com
 César Gamio - Executive Life Coach - EMCC-EIA - CesarGamio.com
 César Gamio - Chopra Center Certified Instructor - CesarGamio.com
César Gamio - Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist - CesarGamio.com César Gamio - Executive Life Coach - EMCC-EIA - CesarGamio.com
César Gamio - Chopra Center Certified Instructor - CesarGamio.com
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