Squirrels and Stress Reduction

Over the past year I have given many presentations on stress to students at UNC. I followed guidelines from the experts on how to teach stress reduction which includes, identifying stressors, organizing one’s self, and for giving one’s self. I have even offered different meditation exercises such as counting breaths.  These are all great strategies and there are many more, but I believe each person ultimately has to find what works best for them. For me, being organized and assessing all the tasks I have to do is a great start, however I recently discovered something that works even better- watching squirrels. That’s right, I have started watching squirrels. It is important to understand what is stressing you out, but it is even more important to step out of your troubles for a minute and think about it in a different way. The best way to do this is to take a few minutes each day to not think about the thousand things you have to do. I challenge you to take 3 minutes each day and do nothing; no phones, no internet, no magazines, nothing. Just sit and take in your surroundings. For me, this means watching squirrels. Fortunately there are plenty on campus. Why squirrels? Why not? They are fascinating animals that do peculiar things and have the ability to make you scratch you head and wonder why they are so strange. This is the essence of their therapeutic power. During this process you stop thinking about your life just long enough to come back to it with an open mind. For you, watching the leaves in the wind, the birds flying, or mediation may be the trick, for me, it’s squirrels.  During this final week, join with me and take 3 minutes and do nothing. Here is a video to get you in the squirrel watching mood, but DO NOT get sucked down the You Tube rabbit hole, that’s NOT what this is about.

Sunscreen (Complete with a Jersey Shore clip)

Yup, it’s that time of year. School is almost out, the weather is turning warmer, and the beaches are sounding oh so nice. The moment is rapidly approaching when I will also receive my first sunburn of the new year. I never expect to get sunburned, but it always happens. I usually receive my first burn from playing sports longer than expected during the middle of the day without applying sunscreen. To be honest, sunscreen is one of the last things on my mind on a beautiful Spring day. I suppose my thinking is that because I am not putting on a skimpy swim suit and lying out on hot sand for hours on end, I do not need to protect myself. Additionally, since I become embarrassingly pale during the winter I don’t want anything to get in the way of my slightly darker summer complexion, even if that means suffering through a few minor burns.

Unfortunately, this darker completion can come at a costly price. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer the US. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer each year. In addition to the possibility of cancer, excessive unprotected sun exposure will age your skin much faster than normal. Don’t believe me? Hear it from the sun tanning pros on the Jersey Shore:

Tips from the CDC and Dave:

Use sunscreen. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15.

“But Dave, SPF 15 doesn’t allow me to get tan enough.”

Dave: “We weren’t made to go 20 shades darker than our normal complexion.”

Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours, and after you swim or do things that make you sweat.

“But Dave, mine says it’s water-proof.”

Dave: “They lie. Also, keep bottles in your car, sports, bag, purse, etc. so you always have it accessible.”

Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

“Sunscreen can expire?!?!”

Dave: “That’s right, but if you are using the recommended 2 tablespoons for your body per application you should never come close to the expiration date.”

Cosmetics. Some make-up and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don’t use them by themselves.

“But, I paid $45 dollars for this base!”

Dave: “Sorry.”

Drink water. That’s right, not only will you reduce the risk of heatstroke, but your skin will stay more hydrated and offer more protection against sun damage.

“Wow, thanks Dave.”

Dave: “No problem.”

Tips were adapted from: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm

Baby Carrots!!

I’m not sure if it is the advertisements or the rediscovery of an old delicious friend, but I am now addicted to baby carrots. I dare you to refrain from eating a single baby carrot after watching the following clips.

A few months ago I began preparing small bags of carrots, celery, and broccoli so that I could easily take them with me for lunch, with a bit of ranch dressing of course. I’m not sure exactly why I decided to do this. It certainly was not some great endeavor to be the proper eater. Was it due to the outrageous videos? Perhaps. But I also think it had to do with the downright great taste of fresh food.  After two weeks of eating a few bags of raw veggies a week I could tell a noticeable difference in my energy level.  I felt less sluggish and began craving these delicacies when I was hungry. Don’t think of this as some crazy lifestyle change, just as adding a tasty treat to your diet.

To do:

1.       Buy a large bag of baby carrots or any other fresh vegetable.

2.       Put baby carrots in smaller bags in your fridge (add other veggies too).

3.       Take a bag with you when you leave your home and snack on them when you feel hungry.

Still not sure how you feel about the carrot revolution? Watch the following video and I guarantee you will be thinking about the carrot highway for the next month.

Check Your Balls!

“What seems to be the problem?” – The question I had feared from the moment I entered the UNC clinic door.  In a low voice I said, “Lower abdominal pain and … (clearing my throat) … testicular pain”.  “Oh… I see.  Take a seat and someone will be with you shortly.”

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