Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Affecting You?

By Carol Phillips

Do you dread moving the clock back in the fall or is this practice just a minor inconvenience for you? For people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the days suddenly becoming darker an hour earlier causes great disruption to their mental health. Combine this with less sunlight and spending more time indoors due to the colder weather, and it becomes easier to find people who are struggling to maintain a positive outlook. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is “a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.” Patients sometimes report episodes of SAD in the summer, although this is less common. Women 20 years and older are at greatest risk for the disorder. 

Symptoms of SAD often include:

?  Feeling depressed daily or several times each week

?  Losing interest in favorite activities

?  Feeling hopeless or worthless

?  Poor concentration

?  Lack of energy

?  Feeling overwhelmed or irritated

?  Weight loss or weight gain

?  Sleep problems, including too little or too much sleep

?  Feeling a sense of doom or having suicidal thoughts

What can you do to address this problem? 

First, reach out to your primary health professional to report your concerns and obtain information and recommendations based on your health history. Often, patients are referred to a mental health professional with experience in helping people with this specific disorder. 

While professional help is often a critical component to making progress, you should also feel empowered to find what works best for you to combat any symptoms of depression or seasonal affective disorder. For most, the answer lies in a combination of therapies and behavior changes. Be on the lookout for the seemingly simple changes that may make a significant difference in your life. For example, getting outside for even a daily 10-minute walk can improve your outlook. For now, enjoy the cooler air and lower humidity as well as the stunning Fall colors. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this year it’s been even more important to get outside when it’s light out. A weekly phone call, Skype, or Zoom chat with a kind friend or family member can be an important element of your treatment. Is there a color you love or a certain scent that makes you calm and happy? Incorporate your favorites into your daily or weekly environment. 

Pets have also been reported to not only improve a sense of calm and happiness, but also reduce blood pressure. What combination works best for you? What changes spark a sense of hopefulness in your mind? Find them and implement them as often as possible for better mental health.

The risk of suicide and attempted suicide is greater for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. If you or someone you know is at risk, reach out to your health professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

You can also text HELLO to 741741. 

Many people suffer from mental health issues and trained professionals are ready to help you overcome any painful thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Don’t hesitate to reach out! Help is available, whether it’s professional or from your friends and family. You are not alone.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Get Out! The Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

By Carol Phillips

In the past few months, there has been much discussion regarding spending time outdoors, while attempting to remain healthy and safe during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. Is it safe to be out of my home? What is the risk of exercising outside among people who are not immediate family members? Should I wear a mask?

As with other threats to our health, some of the answers can vary depending on the situation and each person’s risk factors, such as age and pre-existing conditions.
This pandemic has created an opportunity for people to learn more about the importance of hand washing and simple steps we can take to control the spread of germs to reduce infections and disease.

COVID-19 has also sparked countless conversations regarding balancing risks and benefits. For example, do the benefits of being outside outweigh the risks of being near people who may be infected?

The answer lies in assessing each situation to consider the factors involved, including:

? The specific situation: How many people and who will be present? How much distance will there be between individuals? Will they be wearing masks? Does the activity present opportunities for a greater chance of the virus being spread, such as people handling the same surfaces?
? Current local, state, and federal laws and guidelines.
? Prioritizing your mental and physical health.
? Your personal comfort level: Our natural instinct typically guides us well.
? Personal responsibility for not increasing the risk of others becoming ill.

Many people are feeling the negative effects of what many people are calling “isolation fatigue”—feeling irritated, depressed, or just plain bored from spending so much time indoors away from other people. Being outdoors provides numerous benefits to our mental and physical health. Here are a few benefits to consider:

? Fresh air. Every cell in our bodies needs oxygen. Being outside, especially closer to oxygen-producing trees and plants, helps to maintain health and helps us feel alert.
? Sunshine. Although we should wear sunscreen to protect our skin from the negative effects of the sun, spending time outdoors provides light therapy, reducing the chance of feeling depressed. Exposure to the sun is also the best way for our bodies to get Vitamin D, which helps with proper brain function and bone health, among other benefits.
? Exercise. People tend to move more when they are outdoors, even if they are not outside for the express purpose of exercise. Also, the great outdoors provides wonderful opportunities to participate in a wide range of physical activities, including walking, running, biking, hiking, playing sports, or a simple game of hide-and-seek in your own yard!
? Connecting with others. The outdoors can offer the space required for people to spend time together while maintaining the recommended six-foot distance between people.
? On the other hand, spending time alone. Being self-isolated with immediate family members 24/7 can create issues due to “too much time together.” Getting outside alone can give us a chance to clear our minds and feel less irritable. If you’re working from home, talking even a short walk is a great way to take a break during the day.
? Connecting with nature. There’s something primal and wonderful about connecting with nature. Listening to the sounds and appreciating the beauty all around us can help us adopt a more positive frame of mind! Even planting a small garden, container or other, can brighten your day. Plus, you’ll be outside watering and tending to the garden.

Are you spending enough time outdoors? Even doing something as simple as reading a book in the yard can be healthier than reading indoors. People who spend time every day outdoors are shown to have a higher degree of overall health. Are you one of them? If so, great! If not, embrace the great outdoors and enjoy all the benefits nature has waiting for you!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Using Resiliency to Improve Your Health

By Carol Phillips

Do you consider yourself resilient? When facing difficult times, are you confident you will be able to cope and conquer each challenge as it comes? Using resiliency as one of our wellness “tools” can not only help us deal with trying times, but aids us in returning to a sense of normalcy and helps us maintain better health.

How can you sharpen this tool within yourself?

First, spend some time noticing how you handle stressful situations. Notice your immediate thoughts and actions when faced with unexpected challenges. Do you feel overwhelmed and hopeless? Or is your tendency to remind yourself that everything will be fine and then take action to solve each problem as it arises? If you fall into the latter category, you are using the power of resiliency to navigate through any trials.

If you find yourself struggling, here are some ways to begin to build a greater level of resiliency:

Prioritize your daily healthy habits. Focus on simple ways to take better care of yourself, such as drinking an extra glass of water each day, playing with your children to get some exercise and build better relationships with them, or leaving one unhealthy food out of your shopping cart. Each area of life you improve contributes to a better can-do attitude.

Identify emotions that trigger a sense of overwhelm. When highly stressed, what is your greatest emotion? Is it fear, anger, confusion, hopelessness? Discovering your most problematic emotion can help you take control and better the situation. For example, if you identify fear as the strongest emotion, you can ask yourself, “What am I so afraid of? Is my fear justified? How can I begin to put this situation into perspective?” Answering those questions can help you take control of the situation.

Think of similar past situations you found to be difficult. How did you handle them and did you handle them positively? What are some of the coping mechanisms you used that were helpful and can be repeated and improved upon? What struggles can you avoid next time? Use your vast experience to make life easier.

Create a joyful, fun life. Do you work too hard and spend too much time worrying about all the negativity in the world? These habits only add to your stress and leave you less able to bounce back from adversity. Instead, set out on a mission to discover what brings you joy and weave it into your everyday life as much as possible. Take time to relax and be grateful for the fun times, the good people, and the many riches in your life. 

Avoid being stuck in indecision. Certain situations that cause us the most stress are not the situations themselves, but the fact that we struggle to make a decision on how we want to handle the situation. Here’s a tip: Pretend someone took the decision away from you. What would you want them to decide? What would you not want them to choose? Imagining someone else making difficult decisions for us can give us a glimpse into what we really want. Then, we can take action to move past the stressful trap of indecision.

Create a new habit of seeking a few moments of quiet time when faced with hardships. Make a conscious decision to better handle the inevitable storms of life as you learn and grow. These small but important changes in your thinking will improve your resiliency and you will find yourself reacting to a new challenge with “I’ve got this!”

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

A New You in the New Year

By Carol Phillips

The New Year is a great opportunity to reflect on where we are in many different areas of our lives. The wellness connection teaches us that all aspects of our lives are intertwined and continuously affect each other. Identifying the areas where we are doing well and honestly evaluating areas where we may be struggling can help us improve our overall health and wellness. The countless choices we make daily, over time, have negative, positive, or neutral consequences. Being mentally aware of our strengths and weaknesses is the first step to creating a better year ahead. 

Look at each of the following categories and be totally honest with yourself. What areas are your biggest strengths? Where you can pause to give yourself credit and use those advantages to help other areas? Are there areas where you are in an unhealthy place and struggle to make changes? What changes would you like to make that can benefit from the excitement and energy of the new year?

Prioritize your health and wellness by spending some time staring the year off right by completing the following exercise. The categories are from Plymouth State University’s OSSIPEE Model to describe the Seven Dimensions of Wellness.

For each category, complete these five steps:

  1. Read each question.
  2. Spend a few minutes thinking about all aspects of that area of your life.
  3. Answer these questions: Are you satisfied with this area of your life? What are you doing that works? What aspects would you like to change?
  4. Identify your strengths and give yourself credit (patting yourself on the back is a wonderful mental exercise). Also, think about how your success in this area may help you in other areas of your life.
  5. Identify your struggles, weaknesses, and any changes you would like to make. Think of one or two realistic changes you can make to begin to improve this area of your life, in order to improve your overall wellness and experience an evolving sense of accomplishment. 

Occupational Health:

Does your chosen profession bring you fulfillment and a sense of purpose? 

Spiritual Health:

Does your belief system regarding your life purpose, religion, soulfulness, or higher power add value to your life? 

Social Health:

Do your relationships with others help you feel connected and supported?

Intellectual Health:

Do you use your mind to observe, think critically, be creative, and solve problems?

Physical Health:

Do you exercise regularly, eat healthily, and make good choices regarding self-care to avoid illness and injury?

Emotional Health:

Do you handle well your feelings and emotions, such as happiness, sadness, anger, love, and frustration, including controlling stress?

Environmental Health:

Do you feel connected to the planet, use its resources wisely, and avoid toxins for yourself and others?

The past year has been extremely challenging for many people as we continue to cope with the pandemic. The new year gives us an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, what we would still like to change, and identify the many skills we already possess to help us create a happier and healthier future for ourselves and the people closest to us!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Heart Healthy Habits to Embrace

By Carol Phillips

February is the month to focus on heart health. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), heart disease is the cause of death of one out of every four people in the United States, and leaves people at high risk of heart attack and stroke.

Think of heart health this way: If you sustained a major injury, which muscles in your body could you live without? Technically, most of our muscles aren’t critical for survival, but we can’t live without our heart. Every day, we need to make choices that will help us avoid heart disease and live a heart healthy lifestyle.

Which of the following activities are already part of your regular routine? Which ones can you adopt, starting today, to reduce your risk of becoming a victim? 

Keep your body moving. Hours of inactivity is the breeding ground for heart disease. Your heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised, so the more you move, the stronger it becomes. Incorporate movement throughout the day to keep your blood circulating more effectively.

Feed your heart. Your heart pumps blood, which carries nutrients to all parts of your body, including your heart. Eat heart-healthy foods including fruits, vegetables (especially leafy greens), whole grains, nuts, and salmon. Avoid foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat, and processed foods, including chips, pastries, and fatty meats. Unhealthy food clogs our arteries, choking away our health. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, so your heart can pump properly.

Stress management. How well do you control everyday stress? Uncontrolled stress contributes to high blood pressure, which forces your heart to overwork, increasing your chance of having a heart attack. Learning how to adopt a positive attitude and taking time to R-E-L-A-X and meditate will help your heart work more efficiently. 

Sleep. Quantity and quality of sleep are critical for heart health. Allow enough time each night and set up your environment to allow your brain to get into a deep sleep and stay there, uninterrupted. For example, go to bed at the same time each night and keep the room at a comfortable temperature. 

Live in a healthy weight range. People often have a number in their head of what they’d like to weigh but believe they will never achieve that goal, leaving them far from a healthy weight. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, learn what is a healthy weight range for you. Make simple changes each day that will, over time, help you move toward that goal, thus improving your heart health. Celebrate small successes, which are anything but small in importance, as they reduce your risk of heart disease.

Quit smoking or at least cut down. Smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease. If you smoke, challenge yourself to discover why you smoke and come up with a plan to move in a smoke-free direction. If going cold turkey works for you, great! If not, slowly tapering off is just as important!

Limit or eliminate alcohol. Excessive drinking can take a major toll on a person’s heart, and negatively affects other areas of life, as well. If you struggle to control alcohol consumption (including beer), reach out for help. Seeking assistance is a sign of strength, not weakness. Find a local A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting and encourage yourself to attend. Every person in attendance made the same important step at one point in their lives. You can do it, too. Your heart will thank you!

Visit the American Heart Association’s website (heart.org) for more information. While you’re there, consider signing up for a CPR class. You’ll learn the skills needed to help someone if they’re having medical emergency, such as a heart attack. A great balance in life is taking care of our heart health and helping others along the way!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Using Resiliency to Improve Your Health

I Believe In Me

Do you consider yourself resilient? When facing difficult times, are you confident you will be able to cope and conquer each challenge as it comes? Using resiliency as one of our wellness “tools” can not only help us deal with trying times, but aids us in returning to a sense of normalcy and helps us maintain better health.

Continue reading “Using Resiliency to Improve Your Health”
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Get Out! The Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

In the past few months, there has been much discussion regarding spending time outdoors, while attempting to remain healthy and safe during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. Is it safe to be out of my home? What is the risk of exercising outside among people who are not immediate family members? Should I wear a mask?

Continue reading “Get Out! The Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors”
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Adopting Mantras for a Better You!

As we continue to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed more and more people using the well-known phrase, “We will get through this together.” When we feel hopeless, our stress level rises, leaving us at risk for stress-related problems, if the problem is not quickly resolved. Simply thinking of and/or repeating certain phrases, mottos, or mantras can help us put stressful situations into perspective and improve our ability to cope… especially in difficult situations that are out of our control.

Continue reading “Adopting Mantras for a Better You!”
Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.