The Zzzz’s Contest


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

As a lifelong New Englander, I tend to pride myself on resiliency like my fellow Yankees. We try to outlast each other with who can hold off turning on the heat or air-conditioning, who does their own yardwork vs. hiring it out and, of course, who slept the least over the past few days, but can still function. Well, I am having a change of heart! I have “hired” a 10 year-old neighborhood kid to help me with my yardwork; I turned on the heat already because being unnecessarily cold is stupidity; and I quit the lack-of-sleep contest because it just feels terrible to lack sleep. But joking aside—it’s a real problem for many of us. I, too, have had some bouts of insomnia over the past few months. When I was younger, I could fall asleep anywhere. Trains, planes and automobiles were naptime for me. Not so much these days. I get jet lag without even flying. So, of course, I have been researching sleep and what it means, and I am here to share some pretty cool stuff I am learning.

First of all, it’s not really all that valiant to be able to function on the least amount of sleep. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. Less than 6 hours of sleep or 19 hours awake on consecutive days makes your cognitive ability equivalent to being legally intoxicated. More car accidents are caused by drowsy driving than texting and OUI combined. And speaking of alcohol…it may help you to initially fall asleep, but it will most likely cause a fitful night sleep. You will wake up feeling tired. If you had a nice big meal with your adult-beverage, then you are really pushing the limits of digestion. If you want to sleep, stop asking your digestive system to keep working when you need to sleep. But if you insist on winning the contest of who slept the least, be sure to add in caffeine! You don’t drink coffee? Well, what about tea or carbonated beverages that may have caffeine? Double check that you are not inadvertently adding caffeinated beverages. A rule of thumb is to avoid alcohol, tobacco, large meals, and caffeine up to 4 hours prior to bed.

So now what? Well, a consistent routine is very helpful in setting up your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s sleep, eat, energy cycle. Research finds that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal functioning during the day. So, if you have to be up at 6 a.m., then 10 p.m. would be an ideal bedtime. The more you commit to that bedtime, the better chance your body and brain will start to wind down at that time. Creating a routine can increase your chances of falling asleep quickly. By the way, electronic devices work against sleep. Blue screens are sleep killers. I am guilty of watching TV until I am tired…raise your hand if you are too. Try to add a buffer between turning off the TV and going to sleep, like reading a book (not a kindle—sorry, but that’s a blue screen device) or listening to sleep meditations/adult bedtime stories, which are easily found on Youtube for free. Or watch TV in one room only, that is not where you sleep. Please don’t kill the messenger! I’m only trying to share what I know.

By now, if you are still reading, things may be popping out that you are doing that affect your quality of sleep and you have to “give them up” if you really want to commit to better rest and restoration of those brain cells. But there are also things we can add to increase our chance of better sleep, such as foods that have natural melatonin benefits. Foods that contain melatonin include: kiwi, milk (yup – that warm milk trick is for real), nuts and tart cherry juice. Melatonin also comes in a supplemental form in most grocery stores and pharmacies. Ask the pharmacist the best dosage because more is not always better!

If you are suffering from chronic insomnia (3x per week sleeplessness for at least 3 months), then seeking a physician’s advice is recommended. If you are like me and just have those nights where a good night’s rest alludes… then the above-mentioned tips may help. You can also download a sleep tracker (I use Sleep Cycle) or I recommend Mathew Walker’s book, “Why we Sleep.” We spend 1/3 of our life sleeping, so why not make it a priority? A good, healthy sleeping pattern boosts the immune system, reduces anxiety and depression, and keeps the brain sharp! It’s easy to win the ridiculous least-amount-of-sleep badge of honor… let’s change the contest. Starting in November… who slept the best?

The Covid Way


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

If Covid has taught me anything it’s this: I get rather stuck in my old ways sometimes. To be clear, my old ways are not necessarily bad. In fact, I had a good healthy balance between work, family, social and self-care before COVID. And I still do. But it’s very different and I find I sometimes have high expectations that my old ways will still work. Most recently, I found a new challenge as I started to teach virtual fitness classes. Since I have been teaching in person for 25+ years, it comes rather natural to me and I need no preparation at all. I just need some great music and some people who like my style and are happy to be a student. It’s like hosting a party. I entertain. It’s my fitness teaching style. I’ve always taught the way I speak which is fairly off the cuff and I’ve enjoyed the banter that follows. My worst fear was getting into the class and the music not working or people not giving me any feedback.

Teaching virtually has brought it all to a screeching halt. The old way just does not translate through a Zoom meeting. First of all, it is super difficult to align the music with the device. I sought help. Spoke with people who have had some success. Learned most do not use music due to the complications that occur trying to stream it. After multiple “promises” that music was coming soon, I’ve had to let go of that expectation and accept what would normally be a huge fear for me with teaching in person—there shall be no music people!  And forget any banter because the only person who has a mic on is me, the teacher, and everyone else is muted. It’s my nightmare coming to life. No feedback? I feel like an actor on stage giving a monologue—terrifying, actually. In fact, it is so very different that I found myself getting “nerved up” before the virtual classes due to all the things that can go wrong when you rely on a device, Wi-Fi, and your students navigating the sign-in process. I held on so tight for the first month trying to re-create what I did “in person” that I felt each week I had failed. This past week I finally made peace with the idea that I can teach a quality class without it being the same as in person. It just sort of washed over me on a walk. I let it sink in that things are different now. Time to see things as they are… the new Sheriff in town is Covid and we have to do things the Covid way.

Does this sound familiar? Are you trying to hold on to the old ways that worked and you’re finding it is causing stress or upset? You know, it’s truly our own expectations that cause us to feel a failure when most of the time, those around us do not see a fail at all. As we try to bring kids back into the schools, the teachers are realizing that the old ways do not translate into this new world. As we bring the adults we support back to day programs, the staff is prepared to let go of the old ways and try a new version of what works based on the guidance we must follow. Hair salons look different. Stores are different. We are all learning a new way to do the “old things.” The Covid way is doing the best we can do with what we have. This philosophy is really no different from pre-Covid and it won’t be too different when we are post-Covid. If we are doing the best we can with what we have, then our expectations are in order. It is not a fail at all to not meet the expectations of the old ways … in fact it is a huge success to find a way to continue on in any way that works! That’s far more than anyone expects and believe me, it is appreciated! Remember to thank those who continue providing a service, even if it’s the Covid way, because it means they did not give up and they found a new way!

 

 

 

 

Tale of Two Donkeys


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

One of the most well-known donkeys in storytelling is good old Eeyore from the Winnie the Pooh series.  Eeyore is pessimistic and gloomy—he just cannot see the “bright side.” We all have our Eeyore days. Over the past few months of challenge and change, we may have found ourselves stuck in an Eeyore state of mind because, let’s face it—misery loves company and you can get a lot of people to join your band wagon if you talk negative. I once did an experiment with a youth group I led. I gave them bundles of newspapers and asked one group to cut out all the negative articles and put them in a box. The Continue reading

Sailing Advice- Are you Pro- or Re- “Active”


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

As we enter the dog days of August, I decided to look back to the last time I felt active and in control of my routine. That day was March 11th for me. It was the day my routine began to change. Many, like myself, rely on a routine for well-being. We like to feel actively involved with our daily life. In the dictionary, active is defined as “engage, participate, do Continue reading

Deadhead


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

Depending upon who you are, the word deadhead will likely conjure up an image of the Grateful Dead, an airplane or a garden. For me, it’s a garden. And if you’re wondering how I am going to intertwine deadhead with wellness, hang tight because that is exactly what I am going to do. Continue reading

Catch a Wave


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

One of my favorite things to do when I visit the west coast is to get up early and watch the surfers off Manhattan Beach Pier. It’s been the same group, more or less, for the past few years and it’s been fascinating to watch their techniques and strategies. Two years ago, in June, I watched a young newbie surfer girl learning the ropes. She would see a potential wave, Continue reading

50/50/50 in Times of Change.


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

As the daughter of a Marine, I have been in training my whole life to be as resilient as possible. I can safely say that the skills I honed through mini drills as a kid are guiding me and I am doing pretty well navigating these uncharted waters as we practice distancing and sheltering-in. I pride myself on resiliency. But like all humans, I crack sometimes. Today I had a mini-break and I let a situation get the best of me. I didn’t follow my own rule! I call it the 50/50/50 rule. There is zero science to my rule and mathematically, it does not add up, but it works for me! To navigate life’s changes, you have to give it your all…it’s 50% eating Continue reading

Humor is Health


By Kim Lowman

Wellness Program Manager

Do you have a “most embarrassing moment?” You know what I mean…a story that wasn’t so funny in the moment, but looking back it is rather comical! Now is a good time to share those funny stories! Laughing at ourselves is key to our health, both physically and mentally. And when we are telling our stories and laughing at ourselves, those around us laugh, too. Jokes are fun. Riddles are fun. But a truly funny embarrassing moment story comes with a visual… a set-up… a moment, and then the end result. Continue reading