Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ideas for Creating Healthy "Resolutions"

“Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” ~Winston Churchill

If you are like me, every New Year's Eve you create a list of resolutions where you make big plans for changes in your life. I almost always plan to exercise more, eat better, take care of those little chores around the house that have been piling up, etc. In the past I would always start with good intentions, but then I would often get sidetracked - sometimes almost before I have even begun! So, this year I decided not to put it all on the new year, but that I would start making small changes throughout the year - what I felt would be a more healthy way of creating resolutions - and see if I could keep up with them. So, here are some things that worked well for me throughout the year:

Changes in eating: While I don't particularly like non-fat foods across the board, I did find that there are some things that I don't mind the low-fat version of. For example, cottage cheese, milk, Greek yogurt, and sour cream are all things that the lower fat or no fat versions of taste fine to me. So, I have started working those into my diet. I also found that I actually prefer whole wheat pasta to regular pasta and rye bread to white bread. And, I found that there are a number of small meals that I like that are in the 200 to 300 calorie range. I keep these supplies handy for those times when I need to eat something, but I'm not feeling really picky about what I have. These make it easy to grab a lower calorie alternative. So, these are a few small changes to my eating that have helped me become a little more healthy.
Changes in exercise: This one I haven't quite mastered yet, but I am still working on it! I have found that I enjoy doing the short yoga sets of Namaste Yoga (about 30 minutes) and that if I don't have to go to the gym to exercise, I am more likely to do it. I found that heading out to the local park for a walk of about a mile and a half is something that I will actually do once or twice a week. Recently I have been experimenting with working in a mile or so walk during my work day. This only takes me about 20 minutes to complete, and if I keep it up throughout most of the week those miles will really add up!

Changes in getting chores done: I have been steadfastly working to fix up my home - my biggest chore. Each weekend I try to focus on one larger task, like painting a room, cleaning out my files, rearranging furniture, or deep cleaning. In addition, I have a list of small projects that will take from 15 minutes to an hour to complete - things like installing a door stop or changing out a sink sprayer hose. I purchased the supplies I need for those projects, so on evenings that I have some spare time I have everything I need to get a little something more done.
Wow! When I started writing this post, I wasn't really sure that my plan had worked out as well as I had hoped! However, looking back on all of this makes me feel kind of good! I didn't try to tackle all of these at once, but focused every month or so on trying something new and working them into my daily life. Some of the things, like painting a room, have shown immediate big results. However, the smaller things, like walking more or cleaning out all that extra junk in my office, have added up over time.

What tips do you have to share about creating healthy resolutions? We would love to hear your comments and ideas!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Beginning of the Semester Academic Success Tips

With the Spring semester starting today, I thought it would be nice to mention a few tips for students who may be managing school on top of other responsibilities, like work and/or family. So, here are some helpful ideas for keeping on top of things throughout the semester:

Creating a Schedule, Staying Organized, and Prioritizing 
I always tell people that "if it's on my calendar, then it will get done." Over the years I have trained myself to let my calendar help me through the week and it has helped me tremendously to stay organized and on top of things. I actually use Google Calendar to help me with this. I plug in all of the things that I know happen at the same time every week (for example, backing up files at work, weekly tasks that I do the same time every week, or, if you are a student this could be discussion board posts, and, if you have kids, it might be soccer practice), every month (for example, days to sit down and pay bills), and every year (for example, Aunt Matilda's birthday). Using the online tool allows me to have it help "remember" for me and I can quickly create repeating instances of the same thing. I then use this tool to help me plan my week by adding in everything else that I have to do that week. When do I have to get to the grocery store? When is a particular work project due? These are all things that get plugged in, and I can even set a reminder to send me an email or give me a pop-up in my computer screen. When I was a student, I would also add things like assignment due dates and then look over my schedule to see when I needed to plug in time for studying - and then I would put that on the calendar and actually use that time to study. Having a visual calendar like this with time slots for everything really helps me stay organized. And, since we are all juggling many roles these days, the reminder aspect of the tool is a life saver!

You don't have to use an online tool, though, and instead you might want to consider getting a paper yearly calendar book that also has hourly time divisions for each day. I have also used the paper format and it can also be very handy! The bonus here is that you can carry this calendar around with you to meetings and pencil in things as they come up. Or, if you are extremely phone friendly, most of the new smart phones have calendar type options that will allow you to have the best of both online and portable benefits.

Actively keeping on top of tasks during the week and month allows me to stay organized. In addition, having things laid out for me in visual form with due dates lets me prioritize my days, weeks, and months more effectively. The end result of this type of effort is that I am more successful in accomplishing my goals, I feel less worried that I might be forgetting something important, and I am able to enjoy my free time - those spaces on the calendar that are blissfully empty - to the fullest!

For more on time management, check out our previous post: http://twuhealthstudies.blogspot.com/2011/11/time-management-tips.html

The TWU Counseling Center also has a couple of good handouts on Prioritizing - http://www.twu.edu/downloads/counseling/A-11_Prioritizing.pdf - and how to manage Reading and Study Time - http://www.twu.edu/downloads/counseling/A-12_Reading_and_Study_Time.pdf

Do you have some tips to share for how you keep your life organized? We would love to hear your ideas in a comment!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Showcase On...Belize!

Since it is cold and a little dreary this month, let's focus on what's coming up in June of this year! Each year Dr. Jody Terrell teaches a field course at Hugh Parkey's Adventure Lodge in Belize. This year's course will run from June 19th to June 26th and is limited to 25 students. The official Course Description states:
Students participate in hands-on field study. A combination of instruction in both general marine mammal ecology and specifics about bottlenose dolphins and Antillean manager, Loggerhead turtles and the coral reefs in Belize will be discussed. We will also learn field assessment methods for dolphins, manatees, and turtles their habitat, including GPS use and basic GIS location mapping, and talk about conservation issues in an isolated tropical ecosystem. The class goal is to provide participants a focused, comprehensive knowledge of marine mammal ecology along with the environmental health issues facing our oceans and coral reefs today.
The course is actually part of a long term project to relocate Queen Conch to a designated area within the Hugh Parkey premises. Previously participants in the course have located an appropriate new area for a conch "ranch", collected conch from the ocean floor, and relocated them into the new "ranch". In the upcoming course, students will be retagging conch and conducting research on egg sacs.

Detailed information on the upcoming course is available here: http://www.twu.edu/health-studies/ (see the Belize 2012.pdf)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Health Focus for January 2012

Each month there are any number of health observances. This month we've chosen three to bring to your attention.

1) National Glaucoma Awareness Month - For more information on glaucoma contact Prevent Blindness America.

2) Thyroid Awareness Month - Learn more about thyroid awareness or contact Karen Pan at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists for educational materials.

Especially for Women
3) Cervical Health Awareness Month - Sponsored by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition. Encourage the women in your life to get their Pap smear. Women in Texas can contact the Texas Department of State Health Services to find out if they are eligible for free or low-cost exams

Also, be sure to mark February 1st and 3rd on your calendars as TWU will be Going Red to raise awareness about women's heart health!