As we close the book on the tumultuous year that was 2020, many people continue to experience a great deal of stress. While the COVID-19 pandemic persists, there are a variety of reasons to feel anxious. Uncertainty about a vaccine, worries about exposure, and isolation are among the most common.
Because chronic stress is linked to health issues ranging from headaches and weight gain to diabetes and heart disease, it’s important to learn healthy ways to navigate tough times. When you don’t have positive ways of coping, unhealthy behaviors are more likely to develop.
Many people find regular journaling eases stress. It can be a productive way to sort out your feelings, focus on your blessings, and keep grounded. In fact, University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes regular journaling may even improve your health.
Journaling your feelings and fears helps you find solutions and peace. It can strengthen your immune system, increasing your odds of fighting off infections and staying healthy.
How and Why You Should Journal
One study highlighted the importance of journaling about what is really getting you down. Researchers found that 47% of patients with a chronic health condition experienced improvement in their physical and emotional well-being after writing honestly about what was impacting their lives. In contrast, people who journaled solely about everyday activities only had a 24% improvement. The bottom line was writing about what really hurts is difficult but meaningful.
If you’ve never tried journaling before, here’s some advice for getting started:
- Your journal doesn’t have to be expensive or particularly beautiful. While something nice to write in might entice you to journal more, even a spiral notebook will work.
- Journal at least four times a week to document your fears and hopes. Twenty to thirty minutes at a time is optimal for many people.
- Write without stopping; don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Just keep going.
- Write this for your eyes only. You’ll be more inclined to be open and honest if you don’t worry about what others might think.
- If writing about something makes you too upset, stop. Take a break and try again another day.
The Therapeutic Value of Journaling When You are a Caregiver offers more tips on journaling for better health. While written for family caregivers, much of the advice can be applied to anyone.
Heritage Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic
At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand how fearful people are of being exposed to the coronavirus. Older adults are at highest risk for serious health consequences if they develop it. Coronavirus Precautions has tips to help you reduce your chances of being exposed, as well as information on our communities’ prevention measures. As conditions change, so will our response.
The holidays can be tough if you have type 2 diabetes. Sticking to a well-balanced diet isn’t easy when tasty treats abound. Some people find it difficult to get enough physical activity when the weather or COVID-19 concerns keep them stuck inside. However, diet and exercise are vital to managing diabetes.
Health professionals say planning is the key to enjoying the holidays without putting your health at risk. We are sharing a few suggestions to help you get started.
Managing Type 2 Diabetes during the Holidays
With so many temptations, it takes more than self-control to manage diabetes. Here are a few ways you can adjust your daily routine to stay safe during the holiday season:
- Exercise in the morning.
This is a good strategy any time of year, but especially during the holidays. If you are busy shopping, wrapping gifts, and baking, you might be tempted to skip your work out. But as anyone with diabetes knows, exercise is an important part of maintaining your health.
Walking, riding a recumbent bike, and practicing yoga or Tai Chi can all be done in the comfort of your own home. Resistance bands are another inexpensive tool that can help you maintain muscles and core strength. “Exploring Senior-Friendly Forms of Exercise” has more fitness suggestions for older adults to explore.
- Monitor your health.
Most diabetics know it’s vital to continue checking their glucose as directed by their physician during the holidays. What some may skip is stepping on the scale. It’s easy for extra pounds to creep up when you are overindulging and not exercising as much. For adults with diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight is essential. Take time to weigh yourself weekly before a few pounds turn into more.
Also be sure to monitor your blood pressure as per your physician’s recommendations. Salty foods and alcoholic beverages often served at holiday parties can cause your blood pressure to spike.
- Plan your meals ahead of time.
No one wants to miss out on holiday goodies, but moderation is key. That’s why mapping out your food choices for the day and week ahead is important during the holiday season. If you know you’ll be attending a holiday luncheon on Wednesday, for example, eat a healthy breakfast and dinner that day.
If you blow your diet at one party or during one meal, don’t use it as an excuse to give up your healthy lifestyle. Instead, forgive yourself for slipping and get back on track at the next meal.
- Make smart choices at holiday parties.
While many people are limiting how many holiday gatherings they attend this year because of COVID-19 worries, you’ll still want to be careful. Though you can’t control the menu at holiday parties and events, you can be mindful of making better, healthier choices.
- You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating. Try to fill up on healthy foods before a holiday event. A plate of fresh vegetables, apple slices topped with peanut butter, or a cup of yogurt can help prevent you from overindulging at your party.
- Skip alcoholic beverages and opt for water with lemon instead. If you want an alcoholic beverage, choose dry wine or light beer. Avoid drinks with sugary mixers.
- For food, opt for fresh fruit, vegetables, turkey, chicken, and nuts. Skip fried foods and those covered in dips or sauces. Limit sweet treats to just a bite or two of your favorites.
We hope these tips help you have an enjoyable and safe holiday season!
Heritage Communities Accommodate Special Diets
At Heritage Senior Communities, our dining services teams happily accommodate the special dietary needs of residents. It’s part of The Heritage Difference that makes our family-owned company a leading provider of senior living services for over four generations. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!
Health and wellness have been at the forefront of many conversations this year. As worries about the COVID-19 pandemic continue, older adults everywhere are wondering how to strengthen their immune system. In most cases, a well-balanced diet, exercise, and quality sleep are essential components of a healthy lifestyle.
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, discuss walking with your physician. When the weather is nice, you can enjoy a walk around your neighborhood or local park. When it’s snowy or rainy, a treadmill might be the answer.
Health Benefits of Walking
While walking might not seem like exercise, it yields many health benefits for older adults. The Arthritis Foundation recommends it to help control the pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Other benefits of walking include:
- Weight management
- Diabetes control
- Stress reduction
- Improved circulation
- Stronger bones
- Increased muscle strength
- Better sleep
- Lowered Alzheimer’s risk
How much should you walk each day? Here’s what the experts say.
Walk Your Way to Better Health
The medical community often recommends 10,000 steps a day or 150 minutes a week of combined walking. Keep in mind 10,000 steps generally equates to about 5 miles.
If you are just starting out, however, setting a goal that high might be intimidating. Instead, begin by tracking how far you walk in a typical day. Once you have a baseline established, set small weekly goals to keep you moving closer to 10,000 steps.
A few ways to make walking more enjoyable are:
- Adopting a senior dog (or borrowing one!)
- Listening to music
- Finding a walking buddy
- Walking in different places each day
Senior-Friendly Fitness Trackers
How can you track your steps? There are a variety of devices available at many price points. Here are a few devices you can explore to track your daily steps:
- 3DFitBud: This simple-to-use pedometer will track steps in every direction—up, down, forward, and backward. It also features an extra-large digital display, which is easier on aging eyes. At $24.99, it’s inexpensive.
- Fitbit Charge 4 Fitness Tracker: This device does more than just count steps. It also has a real-time heart rate monitor and an inactivity monitor that alerts you if you’ve been sedentary too long. The backlit grayscale display and the touch screen are two senior-friendly features. The device can be purchased for about $150.
- Apple Watch 5 Series: A device that might appeal to seniors is an Apple watch. This series offers an electrocardiogram (ECG) system that can detect cardiac abnormalities, like atrial fibrillation. The watch also has a fall detection tool. Prices start at $399.
- Garmin Vivosmart 4 Fitness Tracker: Garmin trackers are also very popular. The long battery life, generally 7 days, is a nice benefit. Beyond tracking steps, the device also has a pulse OX sensor to measure oxygen, sleep tracker, inactivity alert, and calorie tracker. Cost ranges from $80 to $120.
Active Living at Heritage Senior Communities
At Heritage Senior Communities, residents have a wide variety of opportunities to engage in fitness programs every day. From gardening to walking and morning exercise groups, there is an activity for every interest and ability. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!