Stress of Mess

Homes steeped in stuff and disorganization have many rubbing their temples. The stress can wear you down, affecting not only your health but your productivity. Take small steps to put your life in order so you regain control:

  • Write it down. Keep a main list of things you have to accomplish each week in a central location, with notepads near your bed and in the car for when new items pop into your mind. Jot them down and label the date — then transfer them to your main list as soon as you can.
  • Set the timer. If you have a mountain of paperwork to tend to, don’t let lack of time delay the inevitable. Designate 15 minutes right before bed to attack it or another clutter hot spot. With every shred of paper you toss or file, you’ll release tension and boost confidence.
  • Become aware. Tap into why you’re overwhelmed. Most likely, you’re engulfed by habits. If shoes are always scattered across the living room, make a conscious effort to take them off and put them on in your closet. If junk mail collects on your kitchen table, attach a sign reminding you that the surface is off limits. Once you can identify the problem, you can act on it rather than react to it.

Lip Service

Those chapped lips could be a sign of oral contact dermatitis — an allergy of the mouth. If you notice swelling inside or outside your kisser, discomfort on the tongue, or heightened redness you could be suffering from a response to any of these common items:

  • Dental products: Things you use to polish your pearly whites and give you fresh breath could sting when you pucker up. Many toothpastes, mouthwashes, and dental floss contain artificial colorings, flavorings, and ingredients like cinnamic aldehyde, which can cause irritation. Switch between different brands and flavors to offset reactions.
  • Cosmetics: Some lipsticks and lip balms contain dyes that may cause cheilitis, a severe inflammation of the lips. Patch test any new cosmetic under a bandaid on the outside of your forearm for 48 hours before applying it to your face or mouth. Products labeled hypoallergenic may be better, but there’s no guarantee — the FDA doesn’t regulate an industry–wide definition for the term.
  • Mother Nature: While a natural product may be free from chemicals, it can still irritate your skin — so don’t assume Mother Nature is always the best option when choosing toothpaste, creams, or even chewing gum. After all, every reaction is based on your body’s immune response to certain compounds, whether they grow out of the ground or are made in a lab.

Healthy Aging

The world’s oldest person — Besse Cooper — is 115. If you aspire to the century mark, a healthy lifestyle and great genetics can help. The world’s average life expectancy is 68.9 years, while American life expectancy is 78.4.

Research reveals several common denominators that contribute to longevity:

  • Practice clean living: Don’t smoke, limit alcohol use, and avoid toxins.
  • Focus on your foods: Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Stay physically active: Maintain an ideal body weight. Exercising often also will help maintain bone strength.
  • Get screenings: Visit your doctor for regular checkups and tests. Early detection and preventive care are crucial.
  • Live happy: Throughout your life remain optimistic, cherish your family and friends, and learn to manage stress.
  • Socialize: Form strong bonds with your community. Become active at church or join a social organization. Maintain a sense of purpose by keeping a busy mind and schedule.

Go to Sleep

Lack of sleep — less than 7–9 hours — compromises your immune system (putting you at risk for infectious diseases), contributes to decreased work performance, and reduces quality of life. Daytime drowsiness and increased appetite are among the warning signs of needing more zzz.

Here are some suggestions to secure sound sleep:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule: Keep the same sleep hours, even on your days off.
  • Exercise regularly: This will help you achieve deep sleep. But exercising just before bedtime will have the opposite effect. Try to get in your workout at least 3 hours before you hit the hay.
  • Take a hot bath before bedtime: An evening routine helps relax your body and prepare it for sleep.
  • Spend time outdoors each day: Daily exposure to the sun helps regulate your body’s sleep cycle.
  • Avoid caffeine later in the day: Also check your medications; they could contain caffeine.
  • Don’t watch TV in bed: This can over–stimulate your brain and keep you awake. Darkness is your best bet for falling asleep quickly.

Doing Good

Assisting others creates a sense of purpose, promotes positivity, and strengthens communities. About 1 in 4 Americans volunteer each year; in a United Health Group survey. Most said their physical health and emotional health improved. Find a cause you’re passionate about; then be ready to show initiative, commitment, and patience.

Volunteermatch.org lists 20 places that need help:

Homeless shelters

Food banks

The Guideposts Sweater Project

Ronald McDonald House

Special Olympics

Habitat for Humanity

State parks

City programs

Literacy programs

Hospitals

Libraries

Senior citizen centers

Animal shelters

United Way

Red Cross

Salvation Army

Environmental organizations

Political campaigns

800–number volunteers

Nonprofit website creation.

Healthy Heart Foods

Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (along with most fish). Substitute your red cuts of meat with fish such salmon (tuna is another great option as well. It’s recommended that you eat foods with Omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week for a healthy heart!

Blueberries contain beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant that can improve your heart’s health. Additionally, it boosts your immune system to prevent your body from being vulnerable to sickness. Blueberries are also high in fiber.

Spinach is high in potassium and folic acid which both defend against high blood pressure. Spinach is overall a great addition to your diet because of all the nutrients it provides. Substitute your iceberg lettuce with spinach.

Oatmeal has been show to lower cholesterol and reduce the chance of heart disease. Since it’s a whole grain, it’s fiber content is high and can prevent weight gain.

Brown rice is high in fiber, niacin, and magnesium. Switching from white rice to brown rice may reduce your chances of diabetes since white rice does not contain the nutrient dense parts of the grain. Eat some brown rice with steamed veggies for dinner.

Carrots contain alpha-carotene and fiber. Alpha-carotene is a powerful anti-oxidant which fights against heart disease. It’s been studied that alpha-carotene supplements do not provide the same effects against heart disease in comparison of carrots.

Nuts contain the heart healthy monosaturated fats with low levels of saturated fats. They’re full of vitamins and minerals that can prevent heart disease. Nuts are a great alternative compared to chips, pretzels, and other salty snacks.