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NUTRITION: 10 foods to help you heal your body

When it comes to healing and injury, your body has amazing systems in place. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give it a helping hand with the proper nutrients. Try including these 10 foods in your diet to help reduce inflammation and help your body heal faster.

Dark, leafy greens

Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale are packed with flavonoids, which may reduce inflammation in the brain. Good sources include spinach, kale, soybeans, berries, and tea.

Pineapple

This tropical fruit contains the enzyme bromelain, which can help treat muscle injuries like sprains and strains. Add pineapple to a smoothie or salad.

Flaxseed

Flaxseed is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation. Grind flaxseed to release the oils, and then add a spoonful of it to your salad, oatmeal, or yogurt.

Carrots

Orange carrots are rich in carotenoids, a group of phytochemicals that help protect cells from free radicals, boost immunity and help regulate inflammation. Other carotenoid-rich foods include apricots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin.

Walnuts

Walnuts are loaded with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Top a salad with a handful of walnuts or eat raw walnuts as a snack.

Cinnamon

Research has shown that cinnamon reduces inflammation, fights bacteria, assists blood sugar control, and enhances brain function. Sprinkle cinnamon over yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal, or add it to a smoothie.

Ginger

Ginger contains several anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which may relieve joint pain, prevent free radical damage, and increase immunity. Steep a couple of slices of ginger in hot water for ginger tea.

Onions

Try using onions as a base for soups, sauces, and stir-fries. Similar foods with anti-inflammatory benefits include garlic, leeks, and chives.

Tart cherries

One of the richest known sources of antioxidants, tart cherries are an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. Research suggests that tart cherries offer pain relief from gout and arthritis, reduce exercise-induced

joint and muscle pain, and improve inflammatory markers. Drink a glass of tart cherry juice or combine dried tart cherries with nuts for a snack.

Tumeric

A mustard-yellow spice from Asia, turmeric gets its coloring from a compound called curcumin. Research shows that curcumin can improve chronic pain by suppressing inflammatory chemicals in the body. Make a homemade curry with turmeric or mix it into other recipes once or twice a week.

MINDSET: Looking for better self-care? Start with your mindset.

Life is stressful, and every action drains some of your energy. That’s why self-care is the best way to offset the cost of high performance and living in general. The better you are at taking time for self-care, the better you’ll feel. And don’t worry, it’s not all about bubble baths.

Think beautiful vistas, not tiny screens

We all spend lots of time looking at screens. And staring at small objects activates something called focal vision. Focal vision is useful if you need a spike of focus for an intricate task, but not so good if you’re doing it all the time. That’s because it causes a low-level stress response — in addition to any other stress you might be experiencing.

The fix: Throughout your work day, shift your gaze to something far away, or even outside. Softening your gaze like this engages your panorama vision (think of looking at the ocean or the Grand Canyon). Relaxing, right?

Set your mood with mindfulness

The best way to care for yourself and enjoy life is to be present at the moment. And the key to being present is mindfulness. Develop a two to 10-minute mindfulness practice in the morning and the evening. There’s no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness, but it helps your body shift from fight or flight, to rest and digest. Want help brainstorming? Ask one of the Exos coaches for some ideas.

Use low-stakes movement to recharge

Those early bird mall walkers are onto something. If you usually feel like any movement exercise needs to be challenging and heart-pounding, you’re missing out. This is a great tactic to try mid-day throughout your work week. Schedule these walks before a big meeting or stressful event to take advantage of this connection between your body and your mind.

How to upgrade your sleep environment

Catching solid Z’s is a critical piece of the puzzle to staying healthy. But sleeping well may be easier said than done. One thing’s for sure: You can’t just expect it to happen. Here’s what the pros say about how to get better sleep.

1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Consistent, regular bedtimes and rise times (even on weekends) make it easier to fall asleep and also help improve the quality of that sleep. Sleeping in when you can might sound fun, but staying on schedule will keep you on track. 

2. Time your blue light carefully. 

Banish blue light from your bedroom with a tech-free routine starting at least two hours before bedtime. But letting in natural blue light by opening your windows in the morning can help you feel alert by calibrating your circadian rhythm. 

3. Keep your bedroom cool in the evening.

Your body initiates sleep by lowering its core temperature. So things like taking a warm bath or keeping your room between 60 and 67 degrees will drop your body’s core temperature, sending the signal that it’s time to sleep. 

4. Do restorative stretching.

Holding deep, restorative stretches like child’s pose and pigeon pose, and controlling your breathing helps activate your parasympathetic nervous system, so your body (and brain) get the message that it’s time to be calm and relax.

5. Time your exercise right.

Overall, fitting regular exercise into your lifestyle is thought to benefit sleep quality. However, exercising too close to bedtime can trigger increased cortisol levels, having the opposite effect.

6. Evaluate your relationship with caffeine and alcohol.

Even if alcohol helps you fall asleep, after a few hours it can disrupt your sleep cycles, cutting into your overall sleep quality. Your morning cup of joe could also also interfere with sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try herbal tea instead.

10 ways to naturally boost energy

When you’re in the throes of an energy slump, it’s easy to grab a coffee, soda, or sugary snack for a quick fix. But to perform at its best, the body requires a consistent energy source, which can’t be obtained from sugar and caffeine. Improve and maintain energy levels and perform at your best with these tips.

1. Improve sleep hygiene. Sleep is a function of quality as well as quantity, which makes a consistent sleep ritual key. 

2. Hydrate early and often. If you’re feeling thirsty you might already be dehydrated, which can lead to fatigue and decreased performance.

3. Move every hour. Sitting for hours tightens hamstrings and glutes, leading to muscle dysfunction, long-term ailments, and injuries. 

4. Take a hint from plants and get some sunlight. Doing an outdoor workout or taking a break outside resets the mind and body and boosts energy levels. 

5. Enjoy a power nap. A nap of even 20 minutes can do wonders to break through that midafternoon malaise, proving more effective than reaching for caffeine or sugar. 

6. Ask a coach for breathing exercises. Deliberate breathing not only reduces stress, but it also boosts energy. 

7. Fuel your brain. Reach for a brain-boosting snack complete with healthy fats, protein, and a bit of color from berries, dark chocolate, or dark, leafy greens.

8. Walk around barefoot outside to try grounding, or earthing. It’s the process of transferring the Earth’s energy from the ground into the body.

9. Train early and often. A consistent training regimen leads to better performance, improved health, and greater energy. 

10. Schedule your next vacation. All work and no play leads to a lack of recovery, both mentally and physically. 

Want to create eating habits you can stick with?

Nutrition isn’t just about what you eat or how much you eat. All too often, we punish ourselves for indulging in so-called bad foods and reward ourselves when we resist them. Find out how you can stick to your healthy eating habits long term and maintain a positive nutrition mindset.

Consider your current attitude toward food.

Work to accept your food-related thoughts and cravings for what they are instead of fighting or ignoring them. It’s a critical step to eating more intuitively and mindfully.

Slow down and listen to your body without judgment.

Practice accepting your cravings without feeling the need to change, avoid, or control them. By letting go of the control you actually gain more of it. 

Don’t punish yourself for imperfection.

Eating healthy requires a flexible, open mind. Try an 80/20 approach. That means you eat balanced, nutrient-dense meals 80% of the time. And the other 20% of the time, live a little.

Take your meal time at the table sans TV.

Ever eaten mindlessly while browsing Netflix? Instead, sit at your table, focus on your dinner, and listen to your body when it says, “I’m full” or “I’m hungry, keep eating.” 

Focus on one change at a time.

Start with just one thing to improve at each meal, like drinking water instead of soda, adjusting the portion size, or adding one vegetable. 

Keep your favorite foods around.

You can keep your favorite foods, but you need to stave off negative thoughts. Thinking “I shouldn’t have this” or “I’m so bad,” makes it a lot easier to think you’ve failed.

Manage your stress.

Stress may cause you to crave high-fat foods or to ignore your hunger cues and eat less. Stress will always exist, but you can combat it with meditation or mindfulness during eating. 

Eat with people you love.

Food brings people together, and that’s healthy. It establishes a feeling of community and connectedness, which research shows is good for your overall well-being.

4 steps to creating a schedule that balances to-do’s with self-care

If you often feel like your day goes by in a blur leaving you with an unfinished to-do list, a schedule can help. On the other hand, a jammed-packed schedule with no room to feel, think, or move isn’t good for your well-being. Use these four steps to set up a schedule that will help you feel accomplished without burning you out.

Step 1: Start with must-do items.

Block time to get your work done to ensure you’re working regular hours and not taking away from pre- and post-work personal time. And remember to leave time for doctor’s appointments and other to-do’s.

Step 2: Set aside time for yourself.

It’s important to schedule your “me time.” This means making time for yourself, your family, or your recovery, in whatever form that might take. Not meeting your basic needs, like pushing back lunch until you’re too hungry to focus, only increases stress. 

Step 3: Customize for your needs.

The best schedule is the one that works for you, and it may take some time to find it. Try different blocks of time to accomplish your tasks between breaks. Then use your breaks to refuel with a snack, stretch, or meditation.

Step 4: Test and adjust as needed.

Once you have your schedule, make adjustments as you see fit if it’s causing you stress. And be sure to leave some wiggle room for anything that might disrupt your schedule, or else you’ll get behind and feel more stressed out when something pops up.

RECOVERY: 6 ways to deal with everyday stress

Living a stress-free life isn’t practical, but it’s not all bad. The right amount of stress can challenge you to tackle your to-do list without burning you out. Your optimal stress zone is all about building resilience, finding ways to minimize the negative effects, and taking full advantage of the positive effects. If your stress level is too high, use these tips to center yourself.

Connect with yourself. 

Work on your self-awareness so you can better recognize times that you’re stressed, and, even more importantly, when you’re not stressed. That way you can maximize the things that reduce your stress. Try this body scan exercise to turn your focus internally.

Connect with others. 

One of the most powerful ways to reduce stress is to reach out to others who provide a positive impact in your life. Send someone a quick text, call a loved one on the phone, or do something for someone to bring a smile to their face (and yours).

Connect with nature. 

It’s been scientifically proven that putting your bare feet on the earth transfers surface electrons from the earth into the body, which helps to settle the nervous system, create better blood flow, and induce a parasympathetic response.

Reframe your thinking. 

Your stress response can be largely based on present context and past experiences. If you’re able to reframe your thinking and change your focus, you can change your stress response, too.

Be creative. 

Our brains are wonderful tools of creation. But that doesn’t mean you need to paint the next Mona Lisa to get the benefit. It can be as simple as taking a new route on your walk or trying a new recipe.

Take care of your body and brain. 

Responding better to stress can also be preventative. Eating right, hydrating often, exercising regularly, and sleeping well provide a healthy foundation for you to be in balance and better equipped to deal with stress.

MOVEMENT: Unlock your potential with performance breathing

How you breathe can be the difference between a mid-workout energy slump or crushing your personal record. If you’re breathing on autopilot during a workout, you’re less likely to get the oxygen you need for optimal results.

Instead try these methods of performance breathing, where you focus on your breathing mechanics and tempo in order to bring about a specific result. 

Start with the basics.

A first step to improving your performance breathing is to work on low, diaphragmatic breathing instead of chest breathing. You’ll get more oxygen and energy this way. Warmup activities are also the perfect place to start with gradual exposure to nasal breathing and controlled breathing. 

Customize your workout breathing.

Once you’re warmed up, it’s time to kick it into high gear. Your breathing can strongly impact your workout, so experiment with forceful exhales during efforts. Try to nasal breathe as long as you can before switching to mouth breathing. 

Perk up your performance.

During strength training, try to get into a rhythm that allows you to exhale when you’re lifting a weight and inhale when you’re lowering a weight. For cardio, try to stay nasal breathing as long as possible, even if you have to slow down your pace. It may feel awkward at first, but your body should quickly adapt to the nasal breathing and you’ll soon notice the benefits.

Take your recovery up a notch.

During cooldown and regeneration, go back to nasal breathing to calm your body. Relaxation breathing at the end of a workout should focus on longer exhales to activate the parasympathetic system. For example, inhaling for four seconds, holding for two seconds, and then exhaling for six seconds.

Go beyond your workout.

Performance breathing doesn’t have to stay in the gym. There are so many times that it can help you in your general life. Try it during a stressful parenting situation, like when your child is throwing a tantrum. Or try it before large presentations at work, after a hard day, right when you wake up, or during any other high-pressure situation. 

NUTRITION: Power up your gut health with omega-3s

Already adding probiotics to your diet? Good! Now it’s time to think about omega-3-rich foods like fish, seeds, and avocados. New evidence from clinical trials shows that combining omega-3 fatty acids with probiotics may be even more beneficial to overall gut health.

How it works

Your gut is filled with billions of bacteria. Controlling the diversity of this bacteria has been linked to minimizing chronic inflammation — a condition that can be the start of various diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and neurodegeneration.

One study published in the journal Nutrients focused on two strains of probiotics, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which are responsible for preventing gut permeability, making it harder for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Researchers found that when omega-3s were combined with these probiotic strains, the omega-3s acted as nutrition, or prebiotics, for the probiotic strains and enhanced their effectiveness. So omega-3s feed the good bacteria that you need to stay healthy and fight bad bacteria.

Because the combination of these three supplements had a positive response in microbiota diversity, it means they most likely can help boost the immune system and reduce low-grade inflammation.

Omega-3 sources

Our bodies don’t produce omega-3 fatty acids, so the only way to get them is from foods or supplements. Generally you should get 2 to 3 grams of essential fatty acids each day.

Good sources of omega-3s include:

  • Salmon – 1.5 grams per 3.5 ounces
  • Fresh tuna – 2.6 grams per 3.5 ounces
  • Mackerel – 2.6 grams per 3.5 ounces
  • Walnuts – 2.5 grams per 1 ounce
  • Flaxseed – 2.4 grams per 1 tablespoon
  • Chia seeds – 5 grams per 1 ounce

If you can’t get the above-mentioned foods for any particular reason, try supplements. 

MINDSET: Recharge your mental health at home

Many people feel drained when working at home, but looking after the fundamentals of mental and physical health can help buffer you against the impact of loneliness and isolation. Here are a few tools you can deploy to recharge your physical and mental health.

1. Meet yourself where you’re at.

Some days are going to be harder than others. So what can you do? Give yourself some grace and adjust your goals when necessary. On days when you don’t feel up to it, figure out what’s the minimum you can do to keep yourself moving in the right direction. 

2. Prep for tough days. 

Make tough days a little easier with some prep work. If you want to get a workout in, set your gear out the night before. Or prep veggies on the weekends, so they’re easy to grab for a quick lunch break. Removing barriers to whatever you want to accomplish paves the way for success. 

3. Tap into your support system.

Teamwork makes the dream work. Sounds cheesy, but it’s so true. Connecting with others right now might require more effort, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Be intentional about connecting with others, whether it’s picking up the phone, writing a letter, or interacting face-to-face. 

4. Move any way you can.

Go outside for a walk, hike, or bike ride. When your brain senses that you’re moving through space because objects are flashing through your visual field, it triggers optic flow — a phenomenon that enhances the relaxation response. 

5. Build breakout sessions into your day.

Trying to grind all day is a quick recipe for burnout. Instead of spending seven hours trying to stay focused, set aside blocks of time throughout your day to take a break. And it doesn’t have to be a huge stretch of time. Even five minutes of breathwork can make a difference.