Don’t Stress! Your Heart Will Thank You

As a Family Chiropractor I am lucky to see people everyday who choose to invest in their health and are actively making choices to feel and function their best. Something that comes up consistently in conversation with people is stress, and it’s often connected to the changes I observe in their body and the injuries I see.

According to The Heart & Stroke Foundation, “Although stress happens first in the mind, it has strong effects on the body. People who have high levels of stress or prolonged stress have higher cholesterol or blood pressure. They may be more prone to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), a stroke risk factor.”

Emotional and mental stress create tension in your body and affect all body systems, including your muscles and joints! It’s important to regularly check in with yourself, assess your emotional health, and make changes if needed.

These are the 5 tips I suggest often, and ones I implement in my own life:

Let Go

You always have a choice in how you handle any situation and how you let it affect you. Holding negative feelings toward someone doesn’t hurt them, it hurts you! Who are you holding anger towards? What do you need to let go of?

Focus on the Good

What you dwell upon expands. If you focus on what you don’t have, that’s all you will see. Focusing your thoughts on victories instead of defeats will help you develop an attitude of gratitude and a greater sense of self-worth. When you change the way you look at things, often the things you are looking at change.

Be Thankful

The secret to happiness is not found by seeking more, but in developing an appreciation for what we have. A powerful exercise is the use of gratitude journal to reflect on day-to-day success, or simply take a few minutes to think of 5 things you are grateful for in your life. You will be pleasantly surprised how it will shift your mental state.

What’s Your Purpose?

A big question I know, but one that you need to make the time to think about. Are you living your life with purpose, plans and passion? If you could do anything you wanted to, what would it be? It’s never too late to re-design your life and pursue any dream you have. What steps can you take to start moving in that direction? Baby steps still take you forward!

Laugh!

Laughter is “the most inexpensive and most effective wonder drug”. It suppresses the secretion of stress hormones, boosts your immune system, reduces inflammation. Let’s face it – there is nothing like the feeling of a deep belly laugh! Are you laughing enough? Connect with others and share some fun.

Episode 24: Live Life Fit with Bruce Young

On today’s show we’re talking to Bruce Young, a local resident living a great life. He and his wife run Live, Life, Fit in Thornbury, and he’s also been involved in CrossFit and Adventure Racing. Now he is committed to a healthy lifestyle for himself and others.

Maintaining balance in his approach is what keeps him motivated and moving in the right direction. For people who are new to fitness he recommends shopping around the edge of the supermarket, avoiding processed foods, and starting where you are when it comes to fitness.

Tune in for a lot of great tips.

For more information check out this blog post about food choices.

Hungry for more? Check out the rest of the Rock Your Health Podcast episodes! If you’re more of a reader than a listener, you may prefer checking out some blog posts! If you love conversation, reach out here, I’d love to hear from you!

Sleep Considerations For A Happy Spine!

Sleep is the time during which your body can focus on the activities of growth and repair. My hope is that you are sleeping 7-8 hours, and that during this time your body is in fact healing and recharging, but the position you sleep in, the type of mattress and pillows that you use can do more harm than a good night’s rest! Let’s review some of the considerations for each of these. 

Mattress

Without proper support of your spine while you are sleeping you can create strain on the muscles and ligaments, and cause the spinal joints to become irritated. If you wake up in the morning uncomfortable or with low back pain, but can stretch and get rid of it, likely the mattress is not right for you. In general, other types of back pain will stay consistent throughout the day, and will be affected by different types of movement and activity. 

When shopping for a new mattress determine your budget and needs, then do your homework before you go to the store. There are different types of mattresses, such as inner spring, latex, or memory foam, and it can be helpful to understand the benefits of each before you start testing them out. There are concerns about the fibres or composition of some mattresses, environmental and toxicity concerns with some of them, so be sure to learn as much as you can so that you can make a choice you are comfortable with. Most stores have a good return policy, be sure to take it vantage of it if you’re not comfortable on it after a series of nights. 

Pillows

The type and number of pillows you use will either support your neck and all the spinal joints, ligaments and muscles, or cause damage! Your head should always be in a neutral position if you are sleeping on your side or back. Problems arise when people either use too many or too few pillows: With too many pillows the neck can be too elevated, hyper-flexed and tilted upwards, with too little support (a really flat pillow) the neck can be tilted back too far. One pillow is usually sufficient – it should have enough fluffiness to give you comfort, but not stretch your neck too far up her too far down, right in the middle at neutral is best. Memory foam pillows are great because they will contour to your shape. A good pillow can be expensive but it’s worth the investment to find a pillow that’s best for you. 

Which Position Is Best To Sleep In?

An easy answer for me here: Side, or back. Never on your stomach! When you sleep on your stomach you need to rotate your head one direction, and when you stay in this position for 7-8 hours you will strain and stretch the muscles in your neck. When people tell me they wake up in the morning with muscle spasms, extreme tension, and lack of mobility it’s often because their head was twisted to one side all night log. Another concern with sleeping is the position of arms. When you sleep with your arm up over head, you’ll develop shoulder injuries due to the lack of circulation, and interestingly this position also causes the lumbar spine to become compressed. Both are problems for the spine! 

Sleeping on your side or back is always preferable. If you feel this is uncomfortable or causes any strain (see your Chiropractor to correct the problem!) but you can also place a pillow between your legs, or under your knees to see if that helps. 

Dr. Melissa 

Episode 23: Forget Resolutions! My Annual Ritual For Kicking Off A New Year of Goals

We’re a couple of weeks into the new year, and in my experience, that’s when those iron-clad resolutions start losing a bit of their strength. New year’s resolutions are hard to keep, and that’s why I refuse to make them.

Instead, I think of my life a series of EVOLUTIONS. It was recommended to me by a friend who’s also a psychologist, and trust me, it’s a game changer. Tune in to today’s episode to find out how to implement this perspective in YOUR life.

For more ideas on how to EVOLVE in 2020 check out this blog post.

 

Evolution Instead of Resolution in 2020

I’ve never found resolutions work, and I stopped setting them years ago.  Really, anytime is a great time to make changes in your life! This year instead of resolving to do something different, why not think about EVOLVING a little bit.

Here’s the thing, when you set a resolution and succeed with it, it’s great, but typically at some point you will slip into an old habit, or get discouraged, or you might even lose your resolve for the day/week/month. However, if you think about evolving with your choices it’s easier to give yourself some grace and keep moving forward. Any step forward with the intention to live a healthier life is going to be a positive one, so focus on taking consistent steps forward, even if they are small steps! Even if you take a few steps forward then one step back, you’re still gaining because those steps forward count!

An idea I do love though is the idea of setting an intention and choosing a word to set the tone for your year. I’ve been suggesting it within my practice and love hearing the words that people come up with and what they mean to them.  Maybe this year you might want to give it a try!

Think about your aspirations – what do you want for the year ahead? Is there an overriding theme that comes to mind for you? Can you sum up your intentions in a single word? I bet you can.

A great word can set the tone for your actions and keep you focused.  A word can also serve as a reminder of what’s important when everyday  ‘life stuff’ frustrates us. For example, when my sons were young and I wasn’t in practice, my word was “Nurture”.  It reminded me of my focus on raising my sons and looking after myself.  It allowed me to accept that my career aspirations would be fulfilled at a later date, and that the little boys in my kitchen were simply more important for the time being. In other years the words “Grow”, “Balance” and “Focus” have worked well for me.

A great word sets your intention and will help manifest the people, places,  opportunities (and challenges!) to help you achieve your goals.  A good friend recently shared her story of using theme words during the past few years. “Abundance” was her focus at one time and she grew her business substantially. “Love” was her focus another year, and she met the man she married.  Metaphysics aside, what you focus on tends to happen!  The simple act of awareness can powerfully  keep you oriented towards actions that support your goals, and make you more likely to attract success.

Your ‘word’ might come to mind easily.  You may already have one that has been running through your thoughts repetitively, especially if you have set resolutions or goals for yourself. If not, carve out some time in your week to think about it. Sit quietly and reflect.   Journal if it helps you sort out your thoughts, or, on a blank sheet of paper simply write down words that depict your hopes and dreams for the year ahead. Something will pop out at you, or you may notice a pattern in the words you write down. Don’t over-think it!

Friends, colleagues, and people in my practice have shared their words with me for added support and accountability. Here’s some of their theme words to get you started:  Relate, Believe, Focus, Simplify, Build, Mindful, Refresh, Rejuvenate, and Fun.

Once you have your ‘word’ write it down where you can see it regularly. Use it as a password so you have to consciously think about it many times a day. Place post-it notes all over your home if you need to. Get creative and do what works for you – and share your ideas! I’ll tell you my word!

One word is easy to remember. Pick one for yourself and let it shape the months to come. Whether you feel you need to make some drastic changes, take a few small steps in a new direction, or simply get back into an established routine, commit to doing something  this month to live a better life. 

Set an intention for what you want 2020 to mean to you, choose a word to define it, make deliberate choices and take action! I’m here to help if you get stuck ?

~ Dr Melissa

Give Gifts of Experience This Year!

There are many ways to show affection and pamper the ones you love without purchasing ‘things’. I’ve noticed many people choosing ‘experience gifts’ instead of tangible items. Consider giving someone you love the gift of time together or the experience of doing something they love. I’ve done this with my sons for the past 6 years and we’ve had many memorable times together such as going to Great Wolf Lodge, a trip to New York City, or catching Raptors games. We’ve also gone skating on the Rideau Canal (after a hockey game) and seen Coldplay perform live.

Now when they make their Christmas wish lists they often include ‘things to do’ as some of their items! For the people in your life, what about vouchers for ski passes, yoga passes, gift certificates for restaurants and cafes? Cooking classes, music or art lessons? Spa services are always a popular choice, and tickets to the movies, theatre, concerts, sporting events are always fun.

GIVE THE GIFT OF HEALTH

Another option is to look around your community for services you use, ones that have made an impact on your quality of life, and consider giving your loved ones a certificate to try out those services. Gifts of health are always well received! I’ve had many people purchase an initial session with me or a series of adjustments for people they care about, and there is a tremendous amount of gratitude expressed to me by the recipients.

SHOP LOCAL

If you choose to give gifts during the holiday season, consider ones that are from local stores. Shop within your community if possible and you’ll save on gas, meet new people and support a small business.

But remember, time together is more valuable with the ones we love than any object, and you’ll get the benefit too! Take the stress away from shopping and get creative giving gifts of the heart in other ways this holiday season.

5 Ways You Can Stay Healthy Through The Holidays

During the holiday season many people are overstimulatedover-committed, and that leads to being overwhelmed.  This can leave people feeling emotionally and mentally drained, and certainly getting a lot less sleep than they would like! In my experience, January is a common time for people to get sick…

There are lots of opportunities during the holiday season for indulgent foods and extra alcohol. With the busier pace many people find themselves moving less and workout routines can also slip away. However, this doesn’t have to be how you spend your December! You can celebrate, indulge and still feel good! 

Make a few adjustments in your social calendar and you will enjoy the holiday season and start 2020 in good health.

1. Set intention and stick to it!

See this blog post for more ideas.

2. Be mindful of your food choices.

Eat regularly & prepare for outings. This should be a consideration for all year round, but what happens in the holiday season is that the sheer volume of parties and events can add up to over-consumption. If you are going to  a party or dinner, don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation.  Doing so will  slow your metabolism, leave you ravenous and more likely to overeat later in the evening. Instead, eat small meals or snacks throughout the day and you’ll be less likely to overindulge when you are out. If you are planning on consuming alcohol remember there is sugar and calories in every drink, and if you consume too many your judgement will surely be off.  Be sure to increase your intake of water to compensate for the dehydrating effects. Often we mistakenly believe that we are hungry when really what our bodies need is more fluid. Keep this in mind when you head for the table of food at your next event and try having a glass of water instead.To give your body time to digest and detoxify, consider 12 hour fast overnight. This is an easy habit and if done consistently can make a huge difference! Whatever time you eat your dinner, allow 12 hours before you eat your first meal the next day. (if you finish eating at 7pm, don’t eat breakfast until 7am or later the next day) If you have regularly been practicing intermittent fasting, keep it up!

3. Move your body.

Physical activity makes every system in your body work better. Instead of taking a break from your exercise routine during the holiday season, keep it up! Or consider getting started! You don’t have to wait until January to resolve to get in better shape.  The fact is, exercise is simply something most people have to build into their lives, work into their schedules. You will always find something better to do with your time!(Trust me, I make excuses and procrastinate sometimes too! Ask my trainer!) Exercise helps relieve stress and prevents weight gain.  Moving your body will always give you a boost, even just a some stretching or a brisk walk will rejuvenate your body and mind.

4. Get social, but with intention.

(Again, see the blog post on why this is an important step!) Be choosy about how you spend your social time. Be assertive and learn to say no to situations that will upset you. Decline invitations (if you can do so without grossly offending the invitee) that create unnecessary emotional stress, or will simply burden your schedule and shortchange you of sleep. At the other end of the social spectrum is loneliness. With changing family dynamics, different living arrangements, and simple geography for some people, many are left alone during the holidays. If you feel lonely or isolated consider getting involved in different activities, volunteering your time at seniors homes, food banks or other organizations geared towards helping others. Reach out to people who may find themselves alone during the holiday season and consider including them in your plans. The rewards will be far greater than just the social stimulation.

5. Give your body added support.

During times of added physical demand or emotional stress, it can be helpful to give your body MORE attention. Although I will always remind you to address the cause of stress in your life and in your body, if there are times when it’s unavoidable then helping your body adapt better will help. Keep up your consistent Chiropractic care, consider using essential oils to support your body, take epsom salt baths to relieve muscle strain and help detoxify, meditate, consider supplementation – whatever healthy habits you have used and loved in the past – keep them up or add more of them to your routine for December!

Healthy habits are always a choice!

Healthy holidays ARE possible. If you make a few small adjustments to your habits you’ll feel good throughout the season.

You CAN think about how you want to feel and make choices that align your holidays with that intention so that you make the right choices for you.

Episode 22: 5 Ways You Can Have a HAPPY & HEALTHY Holiday Season!

There are lots of opportunities during the holiday season for indulgent foods, extra alcohol, social engagements and festive fun! However this season can also be physically and emotionally draining if you don’t keep a few important health habits in mind. You can indulge, celebrate and feel good during the holiday season and head into the new year ready to rock! These 5 tips will give you a good start.
 

Hungry for more? Check out the rest of the Rock Your Health Podcast episodes!
If you’re more of a reader than a listener, you may prefer checking out some blog posts!
If you love conversation, reach out here, I’d love to hear from you!

The One Thing You Should START Your Holiday Season With

In my experience in practice over the past 17 years, December tends to be a month filled with fun. But it can also be filled with so much added stress!

One thing that I’ve been suggesting for the past few years that has made a profound difference for people, and in my personal life too, is asking yourself this simple question:

What’s your intention this holiday season?

You’ve likely set goals for your health (and if you haven’t – get in touch! We can help!).

You’ve likely set goals within your work life, perhaps within your family life, finances, and maybe around your home for projects. Why not set a goal for the most-wonderful-and-busiest time of the year?

Decide what you want the holidays to mean, what your priorities are, and how you want feel. Then I want you to write it down.

Choose 3-5 words or perhaps write a brief statement or sentence, then put it somewhere you can see it. You can get creative with this! Make it look pretty or decorative if you like, but what really matters is that you will see it and be reminded of what you wrote. Whether you post it on your fridge, put it on your phone, or write it in a journal that you will look at every day, this is the most important step!

When thinking about this, be realistic and consider:

Every year our lives are a little different, and it’s important to change our expectations accordingly.

What’s happening in your life these days? Where are your children or extended family in the current stage of their lives? Given their ages and interests, what do you want the holidays to look like for you?

Maybe you have a holiday planned, or there is someone in your family who having a tough time, or perhaps your grieving a loved one? There may have been a change in your home or work life. Maybe your finances are more strained than usual? Depending on your reflection on these areas of your life and the people in it, you might want to adjust your plans and celebrate a little differently this year.

When you have an intention to refer to, it will help you make solid decisions about how you spend your time and money this holiday season. You’ll feel better about your choices because they will be more realistic with your current lifestyle, and this will ease your mind, and help you find more JOY (and less stress) holiday season. Give it a try and let us know how it works for you!

What’s Wrong With Heels?

What’s wrong with heels? For starters, wearing high heels changes your body’s centre of gravity, and then your body compensates so that you maintain an upright stance. With the foot in a heeled shoe, you’ll put  increased pressure on the forefoot which then causes the rest of the body to adjust to maintain balance. With the lower part of the body leaning forward to compensate, the upper part of the body must lean back to keep you balanced. 

You may also notice (and let’s be honest this might be part of the allure of wearing heels) that in high heels your chest is pushed forward. This also causes the body to compensate by changing the curve in the lower back,  taking the hips out of proper alignment, and adding extra stress on the knees. Also, in order to maintain your balance the hip and back muscles become tense.

Overall, wearing high heels creates an unhealthy posture, and with repetitive wear overtime this can affect the health of your spine! 

Tips for Heels and Spinal Health

  1. Take your shoes off when you can. If you’re at your desk no one will see you without your shoes on! As soon as you get home, take them off.
  2. Avoid wearing heels for long periods of time, and change your footwear throughout the week to give your feet and posture a break. 
  3. Give your feet some love! Use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball and roll it under your feet to increase circulation and relieve muscle tension.

So, there’s no need to throw out your favouite pair of heels. Just keep in mind that your body needs a break every once in a while, and make sure you give your body the help it needs to heal from those heels!