Tag Archives: exercise

just a thought about gardening

1 Apr

Spring is on the way…and if you have a garden or a sunny porch that could hold some pots, there’s no better way to get healthy, chemical-free, local produce and some exercise at the same time! Everything you can grow is good for you–at least, I can’t think of any exceptions–and it’s a wonderful stress reliever, too.

If you want to drool over some gorgeous artwork and think about buying some heirloom seeds (which are NOT necessary for gardening, but some of the plants are oh-so-pretty), check out Baker Creek. Their catalog is gorgeous.

Why you need strength training

23 Jul

Strength training–weights, push-ups, all of those other exercises that you might associate with jocks–is really important, especially for women. It helps build bone mass, which can prevent osteoporosis. It also builds muscle, which helps you burn more calories, even at rest, which can combat the weight struggles that many PCOS ladies experience.

These are all of the things that you already know.

Why *I* think you should include strength training: it will make you feel great.

Cardiovascular exercise is wonderful, and you need it. But you don’t have to be huffing and puffing every day in order to reap the mood benefits of exercise. I find it easier to do weight training in between cardio days than to do cardio every day, for logistical reasons (I can do strength training with my kids, but the elliptical is in the basement and if they don’t nap, I don’t do it!). As a result, I’ve discovered that strength training blasts the endorphins, even if you only do it for a short time!

If I don’t have time for any other exercise in a day, I always do this: drop down, do as many pushups as you can. Stand back up, do 20 squats, then do pushups again–as many as you can. Go on with your life, feeling better and stronger!

seven steps to help you deal with anxiety

29 Jun

If you have anxiety, there are many options open to you to improve your life! Here are my recommendations for the first things you might try.

1) Make sure it’s anxiety.
See your doctor to rule out the possibility that your symptoms are caused by something else. Some of the manifestations of anxiety are very similar to other health problems, and a physical is a good idea. Take a list of your symptoms to the appointment, and tell the doctor that you think it may be an anxiety problem but that you’d like some help differentiating between that and some other health problem.

2) Write down your experiences.
If you and your doctor think that anxiety is the problem, the next thing I recommend is a bit complicated, but worth it: keep a journal for a week that records your symptoms with the date, time, and any comments you have. Use the journal to record, as well, the following things: how much sleep did you get? How much exercise? What did you eat and drink? Did you have any major stressful events?

3) Look for patterns.
Once you have a week’s worth of observations to examine, sit down with your journal and look for patterns. Are you very tense on days when you haven’t gotten enough sleep? Do you have a panic attack before every big work meeting? These correlations can help you find the best treatments for you.

4) Evaluate your lifestyle. Things that can reduce anxiety include getting enough sleep (easier said than done for many of us); getting plenty of exercise (also great for fighting depression); cutting out caffeine; and reducing your intake of sugar and other simple carbs. You will have to decide which of these changes you are willing and able to make. It is not always feasible to overhaul everything in your lifestyle, especially all at once. But making a few changes (such as switching to decaf coffee or iced tea, adding a walk to your lunchtime routine, or doing a bit of gardening every night for exercise and relaxation) can help, too. It isn’t all or nothing.

5) Learn a few simple relaxation techniques
. Deep breathing can help, and it’s easy to learn. Anxieties.com has excellent information about this, so I won’t try to reinvent the wheel by listing them here–but deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and other techniques can help a lot, even if it doesn’t seem likely to you right now. Give it a try and see if it helps you!

6) Counseling can also be useful. Depending on what your brain is saying to you when you’re feeling anxious, learning different kinds of self-talk can help a lot. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is great for this. You also might find that counseling can help you resolve whatever issue is causing you the stress in the first place (a problematic relationship, a bad work situation…whatever it is that’s leading you to feel so anxious, if you suspect that your anxiety is situational).

7) Finally, medication can help. There are two basic ways of medicating anxiety. Some people do both.

The first is the use of antidepressant medication, which often also has an anti-anxiety effect. You may have to try several before you find one that works for you, and because it takes a while to see results, this period can be frustrating. Popular choices for medicating anxiety include Zoloft, Lexapro, and Paxil; some other antidepressants, such as Wellbutrin, are less likely to help with anxiety. That said, Wellbutrin is what I take and it does help me a lot, so patients vary in this respect!

The second class of medications for this problem is the benzodiazepines. (Some of the newer drugs in this group are not actually benzos; however, I’m not quite sure what else to call them.) These include Xanax, Klonopin, Valium. There are definite up sides to using these drugs: they have measurable, quick, and reliable effects on anxiety. Most people who take them will see a reduction in anxiety. These effects take only a half an hour to an hour to appear. There are also some down sides, though–notably the fact that they can be habit-forming and that they can be too sedating, leading to excessive sleepiness, uncoordination, and inability to focus. (Some people take them at night to help initiate sleep, which cuts back on the sleepiness problem, but may exacerbate the addiction problem.)

Benzodiazepines can also be dangerous when combined with alcohol or other prescription drugs (including painkillers and sleeping pills). Be sure that your doctor knows everything else that you are taking, and avoid alcohol when you’re using them (or at least limit it to minimal amounts).

Many studies have shown that benzos lose their effectiveness when used routinely.

The bottom line on anti-anxiety medications is that antidepressants are safer; these can be excellent choices. It takes some time for these medications to work, though. In my opinion, there are some situations where benzodiazepines are very useful: to have on hand for major stressful events that exacerbate your anxiety disorder; to use when needed until your antidepressants start to kick in; or to help augment your antidepressants during a panic attack if you have occasional panic attacks. I do not think that taking them daily is a good idea–if nothing else, they will lose effectiveness over time, and then you won’t have that in your toolkit in case you have a major anxiety-causing event.