While summer is a month often look forward to, it’s often the most overwhelming. It’s full of baseball tournaments and swimming lessons, dance recitals and science camps. Not to mention vacations, pool days, and long weekends camping. With everything going on, are you actually taking the measures to take care of yourself this summer?
Health and wellness are both cycles. They are continuous, constantly fed by the choices you make. They can be positive, negative, and in some cases, stagnant. The positive feedback cycle tends to be fueled by “healthy” choices. And it’s often these same choices allow you to take the best possible care of yourself. Choices like consuming a wholesome diet. Getting in at least half an hour of activity a day. Sleeping enough. Managing and coping with stress, anxiety, and worry. Creating supportive inner-dialogues.
These positive actions continually build on each other. Often resulting in improved health, feeling energized and finding gratitude and true happiness. And even better, they set an example for any kids you have running around the yard. But what are these choices exactly? What is the best way to take care of yourself this summer?
Sleep, Rest, and Recovery
This may seem a little backward, but sleep, rest, and recovery are some of the best things we do for ourselves. We live in a society always on the move. And it’s especially apparent in these summer months. We have access to work all hours of the day. Meaning some of us are trading pool time or mini-golfing for time in the home office. Social media shows us all the wonderful trips we aren’t taking because we have too much work to do!
Sleep is the ultimate form of self-care. It benefits the brain’s commitment to new information and memory consolidation. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause weight gain and alter hormones. Sleep debt also influences tiredness throughout the day, which can lead to dangerous situations – such as falling asleep at the wheel or making uncommon errors. A lack of sleep can lead to negative mood changes. We are often left irritable, impatient, and unfocused. Too little sleep can leave you too tired to do the things you enjoy in life.
It is during sleep that we heal the most. That is the time when our muscles heal from workouts and our brain can cool down. Serious sleep disorders have been linked to an increase in cortisol, hypertension, and even irregular heartbeat. That deprivation also alters our immune function, which can lead to further disease. So the next time someone shames you for wanting a nap, remind them how important getting enough sleep is. And perhaps advise them to take a nap as well!
Nutrition advice is everywhere. It’s broadcasted on the radio and TV commercials – it is swimsuit season after all. We see it scrolling through our social media feeds. Diets and lifestyles are being force-fed into our brains countless times a day. And while we can argue that a lot of the nutrition industry is just trying to make a profit, there is an underlying reason why it’s a billion-dollar industry. Proper nutrition is the fuel we need to live our best lives.
It’s no secret that eating a well-balanced diet is vital for your health. Food provides our bodies with the energy it needs. It needs protein, carbohydrates, fats, nutrients, and minerals in order to grow, thrive, and function properly. We need a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods to find good health. Providing your body with what it actually needs, not necessarily what it wants, results in all kinds of benefits. It reduces the risk of some diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Proper nutrition reduces high blood pressure and lowers bad cholesterol. It also improves a person’s ability to recover from illness and injury. Energy levels increase as does well being in general.
We know everyone loves a good piece of cake or ice cream cone, but it is critical we incorporate fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains into our diets as well. Our bodies need vitamins and minerals. They don’t run as well or efficient off of processed junk. But we do want to disclaim that we aren’t “dissing” that ice cream though! We know as much as anyone how great a good dessert can be for your mental health! Just think about a nice ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day!
Activity and Exercise
Most tend to think exercise only benefits our physical health. And that’s true to an extent. Exercise can help a person lose weight and lower their risk of certain diseases. It can help you age well, which includes conditions like osteoporosis. However, exercise also benefits our mental health as well! Being active causes the body to produce those “feel good” chemicals and hormones in the brain. It can help a person sleep better. Exercise can even help those with mild depression and low-self esteem. Moving and accomplishing goals can give people a real sense of pride – like completing a 5K or setting a lifting PR.
You don’t need to complete an iron man or run a full marathon this summer to experience these benefits. We encourage you to find an exercise routine that gets you excited to move. That could be practicing yoga or Pilates. It could be doing laps at the local pool. Maybe you love roller-skating or biking on your lunch break. There are now fitness classes that involve trampolines and aerial silks! Heck, exercising can even be as simple as going on a long evening walk. Or catching lightning bugs in the back yard with the kids!
Drugs, Alcohol, and Other Mood Enhancers
It’s no secret that we tend to let loose in the summer. We act a little braver and unlike ourselves on vacation. And we have a couple of cold ones on the deck after work. We hang out at nighttime bonfires, smoking cigars and grilling hot dogs and burgers. And while we aren’t stopping you from having a good time, we do want to advise some caution.
And while exercise can improve our moods for the better, drugs, alcohol, and other mood enhancers can change them for the worse. Drugs and alcohol interfere with the chemicals in your brain. They can enhance certain emotions and put a damper on others – which is a reason many turn to them in the first place. But in the end, they all create barriers to being truly happy. These mood changes may be scoffed at by some, but in reality, these enhancers affect mental health as well.
When we use drugs and alcohol, we are interfering with the chemicals in our brains and bodies. More importantly, we are interfering with the messages they are trying to send each other. Yes in the short term, the effects of drugs and alcohol can be enjoyable for some. But normally that only happens when everything goes according to plan. There are times when we experience unwanted side effects that make us feel less than pleasant. So please, just be as careful as positive having fun this summer.
How Else to Take Care of Yourself This Summer?
The stronger the momentum in your cycle of health and wellness, the easier it is to continue with. But there is no shame in a slip-up or making a less-healthy choice every so often! If anything, that’s when you know your cycle of wellness is in a really good place. Having the flexibility and confidence to not let one “mistake” derail their positive direction only adds to this optimal health. It’s when we start ignoring or stop prioritizing these different aspects of our overall health that we should start to worry.
Sometimes taking care of ourselves also means utilizing self-care tools. That can range from indulging in ice cream to trying a new coping mechanism to healing your mind and body. Many feel they have to live with the pain they were dealt with, however, that’s not the case at all. Contact us today to schedule an introductory chiropractic session. We can discuss your pains and needs as part of my initial chiropractic workup for you as a new patient to our practice. Don’t go through the hustle and bustle of summer uncomfortably. Let’s get you feeling like new to give you the best summer ever!
And for those of you looking for more fun this summer, make sure to check out the Cranberry Township Event Calendar!
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.