This article was first printed in Rochester Lifeways,Sep/Oct 2005 p.13 .
It is easy to get caught up in all the new beginnings of the autumn season. This tends to be a busy and hectic time of the year as we adjust to new schedules, cooler weather, and the dwindling daylight hours. We often don’t take the time to rest, eat or exercise properly and can quickly become out of balance. This imbalance often creates unnecessary stress in our lives. It’s an important time to implement positive, healthy habits for a balanced lifestyle. With all of the other commitments we agree to this season, a healthy way of living should be at the top of the list.
A commitment to good health does not have to be complicated. There are simple things we can do. In fact, it may be the simplest things that can make the most difference.
Dr. Mary Claire Wise, of Rochester, New York and other healthcare providers say the key is proper sleep and rest. It is an essential part of well-being. Sleep deprivation prevents us from restoring ourselves physically, emotionally, and even cognitively. This affects our mood, behavior and performance. It can make it more difficult to concentrate, retain information and make careful decisions. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), more than 40 percent of adults are affected enough to interfere with their daily activities and that fatigue can contribute to thousands of injuries and death every year.
One important step in getting more rest is to p ay attention to how much sleep you need and make sure you get that much every day — including weekends. Dr. Wise believes that it is important to maintain “a schedule and pattern” to sleeping. We need to rest at other times, too, not just at bedtime. Make time to sit for a half hour and read or participate in some other restful activity. Or go outside to relax, enjoy the remaining pleasant days of autumn, and take in the natural beauty of our area. Remember, proper rest helps us to make mindful decisions, which affect all other areas of our health. Dr. Wise says, “You can’t give from an empty cup.”
Another very important aspect of healthier living is proper nutrition. A healthy, balanced diet provides us with nutrients. These nutrients provide the fuel that gives us energy and regulates our physical bodies. A hectic lifestyle, eating on the run, excessive snacking, etc., can contribute to a lack of proper nutrition. We tend to eat more foods that are higher in saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar, which can put us at risk for many types of illnesses. The healthy way to good nutrition is by eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines recommends that you choose a wide variety among and within food groups, including fruits, vegetables, calcium-rich foods, whole grains, and protein. It also suggests a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.
In keeping with the idea of living by the sun and seasons, Heather Feinman, a Chiropractor at the Hands-On Chiropractic and Wellness Center in Rochester, recommends incorporating dietary ideas from Traditional Chinese Medicine. According to Heather, “those looking to maintain their health should eat foods in harmony with the season to achieve a balance between the internal body and that which is exposed to the environment.” Autumn is an abundant time in our area for fruits and vegetables. You can find apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, pumpkins and other squashes, beans, beets, peppers, carrots, and more. Buying regionally harvested produce also supports local farmers markets.
Balanced eating times are important, too. According to Cathy Feldman, a Nutritionist and yoga instructor at Natural Medicine Center in Rochester, regular meal eating contributes to better concentration, especially for students because it is “important for learning capabilities at school.” She feels that setting aside regular time to eat as a family is also significant because it helps us to “pay attention to what we are eating.” Cathy also recommends speaking with your healthcare practitioner about vitamin supplements to insure everyone is getting what they need.
Proper exercise is another important part of a healthy lifestyle. Even though we seem to be busier at this time of year, we tend to become less active. Running from one appointment or activity to the next doesn’t count (unless you’re actually running). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies show that regular physical activity reduces many health risks, including developing cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, diabetes, and feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. There are many ways to incorporate exercise into our lives.
Park further away from your destination and walk Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator Bike, hike or walk through any one of the beautiful parks in this area to see the changing leaves Do yard work or fall gardening such as raking leaves, planting bulbs, etc. Clean the house, garage, porch, etc. (this can be fun — play music, get the whole family involved) Play with your children or pets Dance to music
With a little creativity and planning, we can all make time in our schedules to stay active in a healthy way. Even just a half an hour a day (or most days) can make a difference.
When we are out of balance, stress can become overwhelming. Incorporating balance through proper rest, nutrition and exercise will naturally reduce stress. You’ll have more energy to accomplish all that needs to be done and feel good. Cathy Feldman of the Natural Medicine Center says that “breathing quality is affected by emotional states.” Learning how to breathe correctly and mindfully will also reduce stress.
Planning ahead as much as possible is another way to lighten the load. This includes meal planning and preparation. If your weekdays and nights are pretty busy, then do more of the cooking on the weekends, then refrigerate or freeze. Dr. Wise suggests buying and cooking a turkey, then making pot pies with the leftovers (don’t forget to include all of those fresh veggies). Soups and spaghetti sauce are other menu items that can be prepared ahead and pulled out to eat later. Another idea is to car pool for some of the family’s activities. This saves time, money and fuel. And don’t forget to say no. We don’t have to do everything.
Cathy Feldman believes that stress can also be a result of a “lack of connection to nature.” So, get outside — play, appreciate and connect with nature, engage your imagination. Follow the patterns of the sun and seasons. Make a commitment to healthy living. And keep it simple.
www.cdc.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
www.sleepfoundation.org (National Sleep Foundation)
Dr. Mary Claire Wise
A Place For Healing 1654 Monroe Avenue Rochester, NY 14618 585-256-1967
Natural Medicine Center
120 Allens Creek Road
Rochester , NY
Hands-On Chiropractic and Wellness Center
1441 South Avenue
Rochester , NY