As the intensity of 2014 winds down, one cannot but ask the question: How well have I coped with the load that the past year has placed upon me?
A large focus of this page has been dedicated to the thousands of questions I receive weekly. Most issues are dipped in a lack of balanced lifestyle “sauce”. The truth is that we are hard pressed for answers and performance all round. Families are torn apart by the onset of unexpected deaths and freak accidents. Experiences in the emergency room have taught that age is no limiting factor to strokes and heart attacks at young ages. The pace of our lives has become unbearable with burnout syndrome being no stranger in our midst. Time races on, dragging us and there certainly seems to be a lack of control for many people out there – yet we strive for a better quality of life. What exactly is this quality we so freely speak of? Time for yourself and time for the people you care about. Being in a good head space helps with creativity, planning and decision making. Quality of life refers to the balance of mind, body and spirit being enriched which can only lead to growth. Ever thought of what your definition is?
The definition health often includes being physically and mentally prepared to handle the daily activities you perform. Every person has different thresholds for these parameters; the good news is that we can change our abilities.

How do we enhance performance?
In order to optimise our ability we need to know a bit about the essentials of good health and balanced lifestyle – Sleep, diet, exercise and stress reduction. I have decided to summarize a few key issues in our quest to reach excellence.

SLEEP
• Sleep is an essential part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle
• It promotes good brain performance and is vital for the basic survival functions of the human body. Things like blood pressure, heart rate and weight control are all linked to sleep.
• Sleep influences chemical hormone and neurotransmitter levels in the body
• A lack of sleep can lead to poor concentration, weight gain and a decreased ability in dealing with stress.
• Without restful quality sleep we would not be able to store new memories and organize our emotions as well as consolidate knowledge.
• The human brain requires between 7 – 9 hours of quality sleep per night for optimal performance.
• The normal adult sleeping cycle spans about 90 – 120 min; 4 to 5 cycles per night is optimal.
• The most common causes of insomnia are often due to medication side effects.
• Tea also contains caffeine and can influence sleep and so do many sinusitis medications and weight loss formulas.
• There are many disorders of sleep involving either having difficulty ‘falling’ asleep or ‘staying’ asleep.
Obstructive sleep Apnoea is a treatable condition often preceded by severe SNORING – if not dealt with this could lead to hypertension and loss of brain cells

DIET
The true meaning of diet refers to what you eat – not a weight loss program. The role of eating remains a crucial point of debate when asking “why do I eat?”. The fuel you put in determines the mileage you get out of your body. The understanding of our behaviour around food is complex and has many facets buried in our childhood and even self-esteem.
Are you aware that there is a distinct difference between weight management and weight loss?
Many people are emotional eaters and their diet reflects poor discipline due to chronic stress. This is accentuated by fatigue and a lack of planning. Eating disorders are very common and speak of dysfunctional relationship between food and body image. Your reason for following a healthy diet should not only be weight loss. It has more to do with having the right tools to perform the work you need to do.
The truth about food …
• Healthy eating breeds a strong immune system and assists in coping with stress.
• Well controlled blood sugar levels prevent mood slumps and energy dips during the day.
• Your brain requires energy in the form of glucose to function optimally.
• Antioxidants are useful in combatting the toxic effects of metabolic products.
• Did you know that your diet affects the way you age – don’t get old before your time?
• Diet forms part of health prevention and should be viewed as a cheaper way of staying healthy

EXERCISE
Interesting how this is a drug for some and a curse for others – it can certainly become addictive; the rewards are multiple and far reaching in terms of body maintenance.

Exercise is a tool for maintenance of body function – optimising and fine tuning the balance between power and endurance. Increased physical activity enhances the body’s potential to deal with stress and increased workload. The benefits of exercise are multiple: ranging from destressing, improving physical strength and agility as we well as confidence in a healthy identity and body form.
Physical exercise increases blood flow to all vital organs and aids the process of effective oxygenation. During exercise your core body temperature increases, and this promotes the release of the ‘feel good ‘hormones’ called endorphins in the brain. Exercise builds not only muscles, but character through discipline.
We all need exercise to maintain the muscles and joints – sport allows creative ways to do this. There is a sport for every sort of person and you just need to try a few before finding something you really enjoy. Many of us don’t know that exercise is essential in preventing chronic lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes mellitus. The frequency of exercise is often much more important than the high intensity we often fear. Physical training remains one of the best described methods of clearing the mind and reducing daily stressors

SO WHY ALL THE HYPE ABOUT STRESS?
The biggest issue is that stress can be a driving force that pushes us into action – however, too much too soon can harm you in many ways……
STRESS comes in many shapes and sizes – it doesn’t discriminate between race, gender or social standing. Everybody possesses different abilities when it comes to coping with stress. There are several stress coping mechanisms that you can learn and improve in dealing with stress.
Breathing techniques, quality of sleep, exercise and diet are the cornerstones of stress reduction.
Some useful facts to remember:
• Life skills like effective time management, communication and goal centred living remain crucial in overcoming stress.
• Mild stress can be useful to kick-start action and provide the initial energy for tough tasks.
• Chronic stress can have detrimental physical and emotional outcomes – paralyses your ability and leads to underachieving.
• An inability to cope with stress steals potential and robs talented people of amazing capacity.
• Planning ahead and setting boundaries are invaluable keys to becoming a winner.
• STRESS is a treatable condition – not a life sentence
• Cortisol is the stress hormone released by the body – too much can lead to many health issues like obesity and peptic ulcer disease

My sincerest best wishes to you and your loved ones in 2014 – Let’s make great decisions to create memories and preserve the things we love so dearly. Happy Holidays

The clock is ticking – and let’s hopes your heart keeps ticking too……
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