How to stay healthy during crunch time
Welcome to the May 2010 issue of the Health Matters Newsletter. The Health Matters Newsletter is published on a monthly basis on the Health Center home page, and is linked to the weekly Campus Report. The purpose of the newsletter is to share information, regarding pertinent medical issue and health and wellness suggestions with the students, faculty and staff here at SUNY Fredonia.
As the school year comes to a close, and the crunch is on, there can be anxiety and frustration in trying to get everything done. Tests, papers, presentations, recitals and final exams can put our minds and bodies to the test.
Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. Your body makes hormones, called endorphins, that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. It is important to take care of yourself during these high periods of stress. Here are some of the things that you can do:
- Set priorities.Use a day timer to schedule all of your commitments. Make a daily "to do" list.
- Get some sleep. " All nighters" are not the answer. The lack of sleep slows down your thought process hindering your ability to react quickly. A good average should be 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.
- Avoid the use of stimulants such as caffeine, soda, or supplements. If taken in excessive amount, this can cause more anxiety, hyperactivity, heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting , and of course the inability to sleep.
- Eat a well balanced diet. Food fuels both your mind and your body with energy to tackle stress.
- Take a break. Exercise, take a walk, talk with a friend, watch some TV. These diversions can help to relieve some stress, and make you more focused when you return to your work.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol might relax you temporarily, but it also slows down the thought process and you can become distracted.
Time Management 101
- Prioritize. As noted above, use a day timer to schedule all of your commitments and social events.
- Make a daily "to do " list
- Be selective. You can't do everything. Quality is more important then quantity
- Learn to take power naps. A 20 minute nap can reenergize you for hours.
- Budget your time. Study while on the bus, review between classes, read while eating.
- Don't be overcommitted. Learn to say "no".
- Set aside some time to have fun.
- Know your peak energy times, and prioritize your activities when you know your energy is at it's highest.
- Focus on one thing at a time.
How much sleep do I need?
Each of us has a specific daily sleep requirement. Some people need ten to twelve hours of sleep each day, while others can get away with six. Everyone's "biological clock" is different. The "biological clock " is a term applied to the brain process which causes us to have 24 hour fluctuations in body temperature, hormone secretion and a host of other bodily activities. Its most important function is to foster the daily cycle of sleep and wakefulness. If this "clock" is persistently put to the test with forces such as all nighters, excessive partying, alcohol, caffeine and stress, it too can falter causing irritability, exhaustion, and possibly serious health problems. Frequently , when students enter college, they are given plenty of information on good nutrition and physical fitness. Unfortunately, sleep is never discussed on the forefront. We must realize that we cannot be healthy unless our sleep is healthy.
NASA's Fatigue Countermeasure program developed the dangers of sleep deprivation which indicates the less sleep you get, the greater the health risk.
8 hours -- Refreshed mood, alert, peak physical performance
7 hours -- Moody, occasional trouble concentrating, reduced short-term memory, some drowsiness while driving
6 hours -- Testy, irritable, poor decision-making, weight gain, reduced immunity, impaired motor skills
5 hours-- Depressed mood, 50% slower reaction time, stressed out, great chance of heart and stomach ailments, physical performance similar to someone legally drunk
4 hours-- Extremely irritable, exhaustion, higher risk for ulcers, diabetes, heart attacks and obesity, dangerous to self and others on the job and while driving
Seven Secrets For Sound Sleep
1) Make sleep a priority. A good average is about 7-8 hours nightly
2) Establish a regular sleeping routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same hour (even on weekends). This keeps your internal clock on schedule.
3) Develop sleep cues. Sleep in a quiet, dark room that is between 60-65 degrees . Do something that you find relaxing prior to bed. You might read, listen to music or take a warm bath.
4) Avoid caffeine and cigarettes. They are stimulants. If you must drink caffeine, do so at least four hours prior to bedtime. Avoid alcohol as well. Although a night cap may make you fall asleep, alcohol can cause your sleep to be light and fitful.
5) When snacking at night, try foods rich in tryptophan (an amino acid that aids in sleep). This is found in dairy products, bananas, and turkey.
6) Nap for twenty minutes or less during the day. This will refresh you as much as an hour of sleep.
7) Be wary of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills can become additive, and should only be used for very short periods of time. Never use them for more then three nights in a row. If not used properly, sleeping pills can lead to further sleep disruption and daytime fatigue. If you must use them, try for a low dose pill that works for a short period to avoid drowsiness the next day.
Eating is primitive, like sleeping or going to the bathroom. When food sources are abundant, our brains are trained to eat as much as our body needs to function, survive, and reproduce. Eating can also be a source of comfort and pleasure. For some, food is a way to relieve the stress of our day to day lives. Balanced nutrition is essential to maintaining overall good health, but it also can affect your ability to cope with stress. Let's face it: Food is good! Eating is fun! It's no wonder we find it hard to deprive ourselves of this most basic and nurturing act. It all begins with balance.....
The Food Groups
The best way to jump start your metabolic function is to eat well, regularly and often. Food is the fuel needed to keep your body and brain energized. Try to eat a variety of foods and don't skip meals. Including all food groups in your daily eating is important because it helps to full your brain as well as your body. In times of stress, maintaining a well balanced diet becomes even more important.
Grains. Grains provide your brain and muscles with energy and are a good source of B-vitamins and iron. Include grains like rice, potatoes, pasta and whole grain bread at every meal.
Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables help to boost your immune system, and are good for your eyes, hair and blood . They are a good source of vitamins A and C, minerals and fiber. A healthy diet should include 5 - 7 servings each day, of fruits and vegetables like apples, broccoli, pear, carrots, squash.
Milk and Dairy. Dairy products help to maintain strong bones and teeth. They are a good source of calcium and protein. Try to aim for a three servings of low fat dairy foods like 8 oz milk, 1 oz cheese, 1 cup of yogurt, cottage cheese , pudding or frozen yogurt each day.
Meat and Protein. Protein helps to build muscles, fight infection, and heal wounds. Try eating beef,chicken, peanut butter, fish tofu or eggs at two meals daily.
Fats and Oils. Fats keep hair and skin soft while giving you a feeling of fullness. Include a little fat like salad dressing, olive oil, guacamole, nuts or seeds at each meal.
Healthy Eating Tips
1) Eat a good breakfast every morning. Breakfast kick starts your metabolism. It provides your brain and your body with the energy needed to feel good, cope with stress , and perform better in the classroom and on the athletic field.
2) Eat three meals a day and two or more snacks. Eating every two to three hours is a good idea if you are under stress. This will help to prevent your body from getting hungry leaving you even more stressed and more apt to binge.
3) Eat fruits and vegetables. Foods high in potassium, such as orange juice, squash, potatoes, apricots, limes, banana, avocados, tomatoes, and peaches are low in calorie and high in energy. They can be used in a meal or as a snack to help keep your body going.
4) Eat foods that are high in calcium, such as yogurt, cheese, and tofu. These foods will build up stores of calcium in your body and prevent osteoporosis in later life.
5) Eat protein at every meal. Protein helps build muscles, fight infection, and heal wounds.
6) Include healthy fats in your diet, particularly foods rich in omega-3's . Avoid trans fats.
7) Completely avoid soft drinks and juices with high fructose corn syrup. Limit use of artificial sweeteners. These drinks can give you instant energy, but the fall out is that the energy is short lived, leaving you feeling lethargic and lazy shortly after.
8) Drink lots of water. Water is a very important nutrient that is often forgotten. Your body needs at least eight glasses of water each day, and if you exercise, or play sports, you may need more.
9) Limit sugar, sweets and junk food from your diet. These foods, available in most vending machines, offer minimal nutritional value and cause an immediate "high" followed by a prolonged "low".
10) Limit alcohol. Alcohol depletes your body's B vitamins and can disrupt sleep and impair judgment or clarity of thought.
11) Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate). Caffeine causes nervousness and inhibits sleep if too much is ingested.
12) Take a daily multi-vitamin. A daily multivitamin can minimize the physical damage caused by stress.
13) Sleep deprivation can also contribute to snacking and poor food choices. When you are tired, your body releases hormones that affect your metabolism and make you crave empty calories like cookies and chips. So another healthy-eating strategy is making sure that you get the eight to ten hours of sleep a night that you need.