Top Ways To Increase Your Focus

We’ve all been there, you have a ton of work to do or you have a big presentation coming up and you just can’t get your mind to focus – it’s the worst right! If you find your mind wandering and you can’t seem to get yourself to focus on your task at hand, the below can help to increase your focus and attention quickly!


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Exercise

This is the number one, best natural way to boost your attention and focus. The more vigorous, the better, but even just a short walk can help to boost focus in the brain. If you know you will need to be extra focused one day, make a point to get a workout in that morning to get  blood flowing to the brain to boost attention and productivity..



Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the very best ways to boost concentration and focus in your brain. I recommend natural sources of caffeine, such as from coffee or tea. Even decaf has some caffeine so if you can’t tolerate a typical cup of coffee or tea then try decaf next time.

Caffeine’s peak effect happens between 30-60 minutes of consuming, so drink accordingly 

Power nap

If you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, a short nap that does not last longer than 25 minutes is perfect for re-charing your brain. Anything longer than this can put you into deeper stages of sleep which can make you feel more groggy when you wake up, so make sure to set an alarm on your phone!

Nap booster:

Increase the power of the nap by drinking a cup of coffee right before you take a nap. Coffee takes about 15 minutes to be absorbed and peak action of the caffeine happens within 30-60 minutes. The benefits of the nap plus the peak in caffeine will boost your focus and concentration to an even higher level.

Avoiding carbohydrates

Carbohydrate heavy meals can make you feel sleepy and lethargic – not what you want if you need to be focused! Cut down on the carbs for the day, and instead increase protein and fat and vegetables into your meals. These foods will keep you fuller longer and won’t cause dips in energy or focus as will carb heavy meals.

Note:

This definitely includes saying “no” to any treats that might find their way into your office. Just one bite of a donut or cupcake can cause a downward spiral for the day.

Meditation

Practicing mindfulness with meditation is a great way to center yourself, and to set up your brain to be focused for your tasks for the day. Mindfulness makes you be in the present, and helps to calm your brain from thinking about the past or future events. When our mind is distracted, this causes us to not be able to focus.

Meditation does not have to be long to feel the benefits, even just 5 minutes can be beneficial.

Music

Listening to music, especially lyric-free music, can help to get your mind focused on the task at hand. There is a reason athletes listen to music before games – it gets them focused and ready to dominate.

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About the author: Sarah-Kate is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet.

Simple Mindfulness Practices for Children

You’re most likely home with your kids all day given what’s going on with COVID-19, so what better time than now to incorporate mindfulness into their lives.

Mindfulness has been shown to improve the quality of our adult lives in many ways, but children too can join in on the amazing benefits. Specifically, mindfulness has been shown to: improve a child’s social skills, boost focus, lower attention problems, and even limit the negative effects of bullying.

Here are 6 ways you can practice mindfulness with children and start their journey to a mindful life at an early age:

1. Body Scans

Identifying with the body is one of the oldest forms of mindfulness, and easy for children of all ages to grasp. Start with your children lying on their back on a cozy surface and close their eyes. Have them tighten their muscles throughout their entire body (making fists, closing toes, etc.) and hold them like that for 5 seconds. Then tell them to “release” the hold – ask them to tell you to explain that feeling to you.

2. Heartbeat Tracking

Have your kids engage in a physical activity (like jumping jacks, push ups, run) – once they have finished have them gently place their hand over their heart and tell them to only focus on their heartbeat. This will help them improve focus and also become more aware of their own body.

3. Emotion Validation

Kids are full of a wide range of emotions. Though often adults will try and downplay them when a child expresses themselves (saying “it’s fine” when they are expressing pain). When trying to instill mindfulness it’s important to let them feel their feelings without us judging them. This will help them as they grow and learn how to deal, not suppress feelings and emotions – something many adults do on a daily basis.

4. Taste Tests

This is a fun one that your kids are sure to love. Pick out 5 foods that you know your kids will enjoy. Cover your child’s eyes and give them a bite of each one and tell them to first guess what it is, then have them try to describe to you what it tastes like.

5. Guided Meditation

It’s never too early to start teaching meditation to a child – I wish I would have learned earlier (it’s hard!). Most of the meditation apps out there offer meditations for kids, but it could be as simple as sitting with them, playing soft music in the background, and having them close their eyes and counting each breath. Meditation is something that works better as it compounds over time – so try and create a routine of daily meditation.

6. Follow the Leader

This one is actually more on you as the adult then on the child. We’ve all heard (and likely seen) that kids pick up on everything adults do – from how we speak to act. That said, it’s important to act in a mindful way yourself and practice what you preach.

Diet Advice Derailing Your Progress

On a daily basis we are bombarded with conflicting diet advice and health claims promising lasting weight loss. We get this mostly from the internet, television, and social media. With all of this information it is definitely hard and confusing to understand how to be fit and healthy.

Below lists the worst advice I’ve heard over the past few years that just won’t seem to fully die – even though these claims have been debunked time and time again.

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“It’s simple math, eat less and exercise more to lose fat”

This is the worst piece of advice out there for so many reasons. This statement has been debunked countless times, yet I still see this advised all over social media and on the internet. If this were true and it really was this simple, than why do so many of us have trouble with not just losing weight but keep it off? Of course if you starve yourself for a while your body will start to waste away – but your body is going to go after your muscles and other tissues before it wants to burn fat.

Your body is smart, if it thinks it is starving, it will slow down (meaning less calories burned), and its going to go after your body tissue that burns the most calories (aka muscle). Fat is the last thing your body wants to get rid of because fat is needed for a number or important metabolic reasons, including normal hormone production. Also, the worst is that once you stop starving yourself and start eating at a normal level again, not only do you gain the weight back, but you gain even more weight back because your body has slowed down so much.

Unfortunately I’ve had so many patients who have followed this advice, only to become heavier after.

Bottom line:

Don’t starve yourself, eat real food and cut out processed foods.

“Work out longer to burn more calories and fat”

Nope, definitely not. When you only do steady-state cardio, for example jogging or using the elliptical at the same pace for 30 minutes or longer, this does not magically make your body burn fat. Your body burns fat when it is challenged, such as with strength training and interval training. Strength training and interval training works your muscles harder, making them stronger, and preventing muscle loss. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest, and the more fat you will likely be able to burn. Steady-state cardio favors muscle loss, and does not help to build muscle or preserve the muscle you already have.

Personal experience:

I love running because I think it is the most effective and efficient workout you can do, and I like that you can do it anywhere. That being said, I advise short hard runs that incorporate intervals, and do not advise long steady-state runs (unless you are training for a marathon or other race). If you follow us on Instagram, then you see that I typically run intervals for 30 minutes, varying in intensity different days, and I basically never run at the same pace the whole time. Adding intervals and mixing up your workout also makes the workout more interesting and makes it go by faster!

Bottom line:

Ditch the steady-state cardio, instead add intervals to your workout and cut back on the amount of time you workout for to see best results.

“Eat carbohydrates in the morning for energy and to stay full all morning”

Unless you are working out in the morning, I definitely don’t advise eating carbs in the morning. Carbs are calming for sure, but also can be too calming meaning they can make you feel sleepy and lethargic. Carbs also raise blood sugar which stimulates insulin. We want to stimulate insulin as little as possible because insulin likes to shuttles calories to your fat stores – which is why insulin is called the fat storage hormone. I’m not saying don’t eat carbs ever, just know the effects of carbs on your body and how you will feel. I advise eating carbs at night time because they help to promote sleepiness, which is what you want at night time and not first thing in the morning.

Personal experience:

I used to eat oatmeal every single morning because I had been told it was the best thing to keep me full and that it would “stick” to my stomach to keep me fuller longer. I blindly followed this advise even though I noticed that no matter how much oatmeal I ate, I was always hungry within a couple of hours and needed a snack before lunch. If you find something like this is true for you where you are told something should keep you full and satisfied for hours, yet you are hungry within a couple of hours, know that its not you that’s the problem, it’s the bad advice you were given. 

Bottom line:

Instead of carbs in the morning, go for a mix of protein and fat to keep you fuller longer and to prevent a mid-morning energy slump. 

“You must eat breakfast in the morning”

Good news for those of you who can’t stomach breakfast – you don’t have to eat it! Eat when you are hungry, if that is not first thing in the morning then wait to eat. Most breakfast food is really just dessert, so if you want to skip it then skip it. If you are hungry in the morning then I advise protein and fat such as eggs, or a Bulletproof coffee made with grass-fed butter and coconut oil.

Personal experience:

I often get asked whether or not to eat before a workout in the morning, and I personally like to eat breakfast after working out in the morning because I don’t like working out on a full stomach, and don’t want to wait to workout after eating.

Bottom line:

It’s simple, if you are not hungry, don’t eat. This is true not only for breakfast, but for anytime of day.

“Do a juice fast to feel great and burn fat”

The only benefit of doing a juice fast or any other type of crash diet for a few days is from what you aren’t eating, it’s not the juice. Yes you can lose weight after a juice fast – but that comes from water and muscle, it doesn’t magically make you burn fat. For the same reasons above, a juice fast is going to slow your metabolism and make you lose muscle if anything. If your friend swears by a juice fast they’ve done and tells you how amazing they feel, question what that friend was eating and drinking in the first place.

Bottom line:

It’s ok to drink a green juice daily, but you also want to eat real food as well.

“Eating fat makes you fat”

It seems like this advice is slowly starting to die, but I know many individuals still fear that eating fat is going to make them fat. It used to be that we thought eating fat was essentially like adding fat directly to our fat stores, making us fat. We’ve found that this is not true, our body is not that simple. When you eat fat there are many chemical reactions that take place to break that fat down, and the components of fat are used for many things – making you fat is not one of them. Fat keeps you full because it is digested slowly, it is needed for absorption of essential vitamins and nutrients, and is needed to sustain a healthy functioning body. The one macronutrient we don’t need to sustain ourselves is carbohydrates, so replace the carbs in your diet with fat. For example, instead of a slice of toast in the morning to go with your eggs, add a tablespoon of coconut oil.

Bottom line:

Fat is not the enemy, it is needed for a healthy body.

“Snack frequently to increase your metabolism”

The more you snack, the more you are going to stimulate insulin, and what did we learn about insulin above? It favors fat storage. The more times you eat a day also means more opportunities you have to overeat. Also, if you are constantly hungry this means you are never quite full enough from your previous meal, meaning you may be more likely to overeat on snacks. I advise three adequate meals per day that keep you full for ideally four hours, and a mid afternoon snack if you are hungry.

Personal example:  I generally have breakfast around 8am, I have lunch around 12:30/1, a snack around 4, and I eat dinner around 7. Of course this isn’ the exact same schedule everyday, but its my usual pattern.  I generally eat the same amount at each meal and so I know roughly how long I should be full for. There are days where I’m more or less hungry and might have an additional Epic bar or something, or might make a meal slightly smaller. It’s all about trial and error and trying out what works for you.

Bottom line:

Avoid snacking, if you are having to snack or eat something within 3 hours, this means you need to make your main meals larger and denser with fiber, protein, and fat.

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About the author: Sarah-Kate is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet.

10 Ways To Beat Bloating By Tomorrow

Bloating happens to everyone at some point in time, and it is uncomfortable and embarrassing. Bloating most commonly happens from too much gas production, fluid retention, and/or constipation. Eliminating factors that promote these things is the best way to prevent bloating.

Follow the tips below if you just want to prevent feeling bloated, you have a bikini to be in tomorrow, or you have a date and want to look your best  

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1. Drink up

Water that is  Increase your fluid intake which help your body to get rid of extra fluid. Aim to drink around 64 ounces of water, more if you are exercising. I recommend drinking a cup or two before every meal. 

2. Eat some asparagus

Asparagus acts as a natural diuretic to help your body expel extra water it is holding onto.

3. Exercise

Exercise helps to get extra fluid out of you and will help to get your bowels moving if you are also feeling constipated. Jumping exercises tend to help the most, because these exercises use gravity to help pull things down.

4. Do yoga

The twisting movements in yoga help to release gas buildup in the intestines which helps to de-bloat a swollen belly.

5. Avoid dairy

Most individuals will have some degree of intolerance to dairy, which can bloat out your stomach and make you gassy. Cut out dairy for the next 24 hours and this should help to de-bloat your stomach.

6. Cook your veggies

Cooking helps to breakdown bonds in foods to make them easier to digest. Raw veggies can be hard for the stomach to digest, leading to gas production from the bacteria in your gut trying to break it down.

7. Chew more slowly

Eating too fast can trap air in the stomach leading to a bloated stomach. Practice mindfulness at your meals, slow down, put your phone away, and enjoy the flavors and the rest. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full and so slowing down will also cause you to eat less and feel more satisfied.

8. Avoid alcohol

Alcohol is dehydrating and can bloat out your stomach, especially if the alcohol is higher in sugar or mixed with a sugary beverage. Try adding fruit or citrus to your water to add some flavor.

9. Avoid artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are hard on your stomach and can lead to bloating because the bacteria in your stomach have a hard time breaking it down, leading to the production of gas in your stomach. Watch out for sugar-free or fat-free foods which likely will have added artificial sweeteners.

10. Drink mint tea

Mint can be very relaxing for the stomach and the water from the tea helps to keep your body hydrated. Sip on tea throughout the day to feel the effects tomorrow.

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About the author: Sarah-Kate is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet.

Top Signs And Symptoms Of Low Estrogen

We hear a lot about too much estrogen, but too low of estrogen is also problematic. Low estrogen is basically the hallmark of menopause, but it can happen at any point in time in a woman’s life. I’ve seen in practice many young women borderline low to lower than normal estrogen, and it seems to be more common than we think or talk about. Common causes of low estrogen can include menopause, PCOS, low body fat, eating disorders, and excessive exercise.

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Below lists signs and symptoms of low estrogen:

1. Weight gain

Estrogen plays a complicated role in the regulation of body fat, but two main roles include promoting a  decrease in fat absorption within a cell, and to help stimulate the breakdown of fat. You can read more about this here and here. Estrogen declines as women age, which is one of the reasons it becomes harder to lose fat with age and also a factor as to why women tend to gain weight during menopause.

2. Vaginal dryness

Estrogen is the hormone that helps keep the integrity of the walls of the vagina and keeps the vagina lubricated. The fall in estrogen causes the vaginal walls to become drier and thinner, leading to the feeling of vaginal dryness and irritation.

3. Recurrent UTIs

Estrogen is responsible for keeping the integrity of vaginal walls. When estrogen levels drop, vaginal walls become thinner and the vaginal area becomes more susceptible to bacteria and other pathogens to invade the area.

4. Painful sex

This is most commonly due to the lack of vaginal lubrication and thinning of the vaginal walls, which decline when estrogen declines.

5. Depression

If you are feeling extra anxious lately or sad and down for no apparent reason, this could be a sign of low estrogen. Estrogen helps with the formation of serotonin, which is the main neurotransmitter involved with regulating mood.

6. Insomnia

Insomnia or difficulty with falling and staying asleep may be a sign of low estrogen. Estrogen helps with the formation of serotonin, and serotonin is needed for the formation of melatonin. Melatonin is a prime hormone that helps us to sleep. If there is less serotonin being produced then this can lead to less melatonin from being produced as well, leading to sleep disturbances. Read more about this here

7. Irregular or missed periods

Estrogen is a prime hormone in your menstrual cycle, if it is too low then other hormones are not stimulated enough to trigger ovulation. Delayed ovulation leads to an irregular cycle and missed periods.

Main take aways..

If you are having one or more of the above symptoms, it very well could be due to low estrogen. The next time you see your healthcare provider, ask about getting your hormones checked to see if estrogen could be part of the problem.

References

  1. http://www.jbc.org/content/275/15/11404.abstract

  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/perimenopause-rocky-road-to-menopause

  3. file:///Users/sarah-kate/Downloads/jama_Jin_2017_pg_170006.pdf

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1327664/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3753111/

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  • Access to all of my newest posts sent via email directly to your inbox.

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  • Never any ads or cheesy influencer type posts (sorry Instagram) - just what I truly recommend.

Tap the button below to get my early access and get ready to reach new heights with your diet, fitness, mindset and more (of course, cancel anytime!).

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About the author: Sarah-Kate is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet.

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