Monthly Archives: July 2009

Superfoods – Walnuts

walnuts

Walnuts are superfoods for many reasons.  Eating walnuts regularly provides the body with essential omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  Walnuts have the highest antioxidant content of the tree nuts.

Research suggests that walnuts can be a healthy part of the diet for the prevention of not only breast and other cancers, but also diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Walnuts – “The King of Nuts”

Walnuts are considered by many as the “king of nuts” from a nutritional perspective.  Walnuts, like other nuts are high in monounsaturated fats.  These are the same type of health-promoting fats that are found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease.  Therefore, to get the health benefits of walnuts, a moderate handful is sufficient.

Other health benefits of walnuts include:

  • Prevent Gallstones – as little as 1 ounce per week has been shown to reduce the risk of gallstones.
  • Source of Bioavailable Melatonin – improves the quality of sleep.
  • Prevents Atherosclerosis – lowers LDL’s (bad cholesterol).
  • Controls High Blood Pressure – omega 3 fatty acids help to regulate the blood pressure.
  • Antioxidant King – one of the highest antioxidant levels of all superfoods.
  • Promotes Heart Health – reduces overall cholesterol, reduces LDL’s (bad cholesterol), increases artery elasticity, antioxidant activity reduces heart disease risk by protecting the blood vessels from free radical damage.
  • Regulates Type II Diabetes – improved overall cholesterol profile, which helps to regulate the effects of the disease.
  • Protects Bone Health – supports bone health and prevents excessive bone turnover with the bioactivity of alpha linolenic acid, an omega 3 fatty acid found specifically in walnuts.
  • Enhances Brain Activity – omega 3 fatty acid  content helps to sustain a clear, healthy brain by supporting the cellular function via the fatty brain cell membranes.

Walnuts are a fantastic source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have been found to not only protect the heart and promote better cognitive function, but also provide anti-inflammatory benefits for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis.

Walnuts also contain the antioxidant compound ellagic acid, which is known to fight cancer and support the immune system.  Studies have shown approximately 16 polyphenols in walnuts, including three new tannins, with antioxidant activity so powerful it was described as “remarkable.”

So ‘in a nutshell’, walnuts are incredibly healthy for many different parts of the body.  Try incorporating them into main meals like ‘spinach roasted pumpkin and walnut salad‘ or treats like ‘walnut raisin cookies‘ in the following video:

Superwoman Tips

Of all the tips for working mums, top of the list has to be taking care of yourself.  Mum’s needs often seem to come last – after the kids, their dad, the job, the pets, and endless errands, that is.  You can’t always stay on the back burner.  Whether it’s exercise or meditation, massage or coffee with a friend, take time out to avoid the superwoman trap.

Here are 4 reasons for women who are headed toward the superwoman trap to look after yourself:

If Superwoman Isn’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy

When mum is stressed or burnt out, everyone in the house suffers.  Even a baby gets fussy when the mother is tense or upset.  Older children may respond by acting out.

If you take an hour or two to yourself, with whatever nourishes you, the rest of the day (or week) will be easier and more fun.  Your family will enjoy having an energetic and refreshed mum, even if they complain about your absence. The bottom line here is:  by paying attention to your own needs, you’ll actually be better at meeting everyone else’s.

Stress and Sleep Deprivation Make You Fat

Stress and sleep deprivation release cortisol into your bloodstream, which triggers fat storage around your waist.
It is unhealthy to carry more weight than your ideal.  It increases your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis, as well as other conditions.  Having good quality of life will allow us to live long enough to play with our grandchildren, and maybe even see them get married.

The next time you may be tempted to stay up until midnight sorting, folding, and putting away everyone else’s laundry, go to sleep instead.  You can dress the kids out of baskets of clean laundry.  Also, taking your work lunch break to exercise can actually give you a burst of energy and make the afternoon more productive.

Other People Are Capable, Too

So many working mums fall into the superwoman trap, thinking we have to be in charge of everything because we’re the only one who will do it right.  That mentality not only overloads you with work, it doesn’t give enough credit to your other family members.  Even worse, it prevents them from learning skills that can lighten your load and make them feel more capable.

Try leaving the kids with their dad or grandfather for a Saturday morning while you have brunch with your girlfriends. He may not change the nappies as often as you would, or feed them perfectly balanced meals, but I bet they have fun regardless.  Not only will he feel rightly proud of his caregiving ability, your children will develop a different perspective, seeing that they’re all right without mum always needing to be nearby.

At work, see if there’s a junior employee to whom you can delegate some tasks. Again, they won’t be completed the way you would, but you’ll have more free time for yourself.  You’ll also be assisting someone who could use the experience.

Life Is for Living

This is your life, right now.  Would you rather spend it rushing around to finish your ‘to do’ list, or actually enjoying yourself?  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll relax once you reach the bottom of the list – there will always be something more to do.  Instead, ruthlessly prioritise and eliminate tasks that don’t absolutely have to get done.
If you are having trouble taking out time for yourself, start small.  If you always wanted to meditate, wake up five minutes early for some deep breathing and visualisation. If you miss exercise regularly, schedule a once-a-week power walk during lunch.  If it’s on your calendar, you can plan work around it.

Remember, the next time you have some breathing space, don’t fill it with errands.  Instead,  ‘just breathe’.

Superwoman Trap

superwoman

Ladies, have you fallen into the Superwoman Trap?   Are you a woman who operates on overload because you spread yourself too thin?   Or if you are a male reading this, perhaps this sounds like your wife, sister or mother?

Women are well known for trying to be all things to all people.  We are cooks, maids, chauffeurs, teachers, and on top of all that, many of us also have careers outside of the home.  Why do we feel the need to be Superwoman?  We superwomen are so determined to do everything perfectly, we lose sight of the physical and mental toll it takes on us. I know how difficult it can be to relinquish control.  However, if you want to hold on to the last bit of sanity you have left, you must allow others to take on some of the household and work responsibilities.

The bottom line here is we’ve all got to juggle competing priorities – work, family, personal goals and so on.  But it is equally important to remember to take time for self.  As women we don’t take time for self as often as we should and we pay for it big time.   We pay with our health, peace of mind, emotional well-being and the quality of our relationships.

If you are a superwoman who needs to take off the cape, I invite you to take some time out this week and think about one thing that you can do to take off the superwoman cape – or at least put it down for awhile.  Try to get in the habit of taking 15 to 30 minutes each morning to get back in tune with you.  When you put yourself at the top of your ‘to do’ list you feel less ‘dazed and confused’ and life becomes more manageable.

The ability to delegate tasks is equally valuable at home and at work, and it is a vital skill employed by many successful managers and mothers.  There is a significant amount of guilt felt by mothers who work away from the home.  We beat ourselves up about not spending enough time with our children, and worry that the lack of time we spend with them will keep us from forming strong bonds.  We often feel the need to compensate for having children by bringing work home or pushing ourselves harder.  We need to prove that raising young kids will not harm our career. We’ll work from our children’s bedtime until the wee hours of the morning, or get up before everyone else and get a few things done before taking the kids to school.  Sometimes we aggravate our spouses or partners by working in the evenings or over the weekend.

Many women push themselves too hard to do something that can wait until another day.  They seem to get into situations that created more stress than could really be handled, placing unnecessary physical and emotional strains on themselves as well as others.

Why do we do these things?  We either fail to realise or don’t want to believe that it is physically impossible for us to accomplish everything we task ourselves (or have been tasked) with.  To stay mentally and physically healthy, we need to learn how to better manage our time. It has been said that the best way to manage your time is to prioritise and delegate.

A good friend of mine helped me begin the process of letting go of the need to be Superwoman.  She advised me that other people may not do things the way I do them, but that only means they do things differently, not poorly.  For example, the father might not bathe the kids the way you would, but they get clean and probably have a lot of fun in the process.  This is also true at the office.  A co-worker might not present to a client the way you would, but they can probably articulate the company’s message in a manner that could lead to getting the job done effectively.

Pushing ourselves to do everything can lead to frustration, resentment, poor performance, and illness. Not to mention the constant guilt we feel when we are thinking of things we need to get done at work while attending to our children’s needs.  When we acknowledge that we may not have the ability to complete all the tasks on our ‘to do’ list in the time we would like, and we put our trust in others to assist us, we give ourselves a chance to do the most important tasks well and keep our sanity in the process.

How can we honour our lives in the moment, identify what’s draining us and retrain friends and family to respect our energy constraints and priorities?  Stay tuned for next post on some tips to avoid the superwoman trap.

Burnout

Burnout

If you want a less stressful and more balanced life, then addressing BOTH externally-imposed and self-imposed pressures are essential.  There are times when you can’t change stressful circumstances such as a demanding workload or an annoying co-worker, but you CAN minimise the negative effects of stress by counteracting attitudes that perpetuate stress and limit attention to self-care.

Key To Preventing And Counteracting Burnout

Self-care strengthens your resiliency, which can reduce susceptibility to burnout.  Self-care is not just making healthy lifestyle choices.  It also includes self-compassion, having healthy boundaries, being aware of your needs, and staying true to your values.  Self-neglect takes a toll on your health, relationships, and your effectiveness.  Therefore preventing burnout and understanding how stress plays a role is essential.

Simply recognising the importance of taking better care of yourself is not enough.  You also need to address the psychological obstacles that limit attention to self-care and foster stress.  For example, putting pressure on yourself to always perform with excellence at work while being critical of your mistakes can cause you to become overextended and overlook your needs.  This may stem from being judged harshly and having unrealistically high expectations of you.

Self-care practices like meditation or tai chi are great, but won’t stop self-criticism or perfectionism; nor will it address attitudes that foster burnout and undermine self-care such as defining yourself by the good you do for others, an exaggerated sense of responsibility, and difficulty tolerating discord.

Stress Is Unavoidable – Burnout Is

Stress

You can take courses on time management and attend seminars on stress management techniques and still suffer from burnout.  These strategies are often helpful, but will not lead to lasting changes if you do not address personality traits that foster stress.  Much of the literature on burnout focuses more on external pressures than on self- imposed stress. While external pressures such as a demanding workload, juggling personal and professional life, unclear job responsibilities do contribute to stress and burnout, so do beliefs and personality traits.  Worries about uncertainty and lack of control can drive to burnout.  Even authors who write about personality characteristics that cause stress tend to emphasize overt and extreme behaviors such as the type A personality- overly driven, highly competitive, aggressive and obsessed with work.  There are many burnout prone people, however with personalities who do not fit this profile.  The most prominent personality characteristics that contribute to burnout are exaggerated responsibility, self-judgement and self-definition.

Perfectionism

Late at night Jacqui lies in bed restlessly, unable to sleep.  Two weeks into her new job, she is feeling nervous day and night.  She is obsessed with trying to make sure that nothing goes wrong and that no one sees her make a mistake. She has to prove to everyone, including herself, that she is worthwhile.  Jacqui believes that she is a failure if anything goes wrong.  She needs to realise how never being appreciated growing up causes her to think that self worth comes from perfection.

If you are a perfectionist you push yourself, get overscheduled, promise too many things to too many people, or take on too much work.  You judge yourself harshly when you fall short of your expectations or when you make mistakes. You probably would not treat someone you care about in the harsh manner that you treat yourself.  You learn to measure your worth by your performance and equate excelling with deserving attention or praise if your parents rewarded you primarily for excelling.

The pursuit of excellence is different from a relentless need to be the best. When you seek perfection and are unable to measure up to your ideal, your self esteem decreases. Developing realistic standards and self- compassion go a long way to counteract stress that leads to burnout.

When you make mistakes, notice how you feel about yourself.  Take notice of the ways that you talk to yourself when you fall short of your ideal.  You may not recognise that your standards for yourself are excessive.  Pay attention during the day to the ways you tell yourself how you did not do something well enough or how you could have done things better.  Has anyone else ever spoken to you in this way?  You may have internalised the ways that your parents spoke to you.  Now picture someone else talking to you the way you speak to yourself.  Chances are you would not tolerate them talking to you in this same manner.

Remember, you can’t always control the circumstances that may cause stress, but you can control how well you take care of yourself.  Taking proper care of your body, mind and soul can keep you in optimum health and wellness.