Beyond Bubble Baths: What Self-Care Means When You're Chronically Ill | The Health Sessions

Beyond Bubble Baths: What Self-Care Means When You’re Chronically Ill

It’s the buzz word of the year: self-care.

You’ve probably seen the articles about why self-care isn’t selfish and the lists of activities you can do to look after yourself. The stories invoke images of massages and spa days, sipping vibrant veggie juices in trendy yoga outfits and snugging up with a blanket and a book in front of the fireplace.

But when you’re energy and mobility are limited, self-care becomes a lot less glamorous than the picture painted in magazines and lifestyle blogs. Chronic illness can turn even the most basic forms of self-care, like taking a shower and cooking a meal, into a challenge.

At the same time, our health care systems put a growing emphasis on individuals taking control over their own health and actively managing their illness. We’re expected to eat healthily, exercise, get enough sleep and think positively, or seek professional help whenever we can’t.

Of course that’s a good thing. It’s your body and your life, and ultimately you’re the one who has to take action to make the most of whatever situation you’re given. But how can you do that when you feel sick, exhausted and in pain?

Let’s look into what it really means to practice self-care with chronic illness. 

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Curb Your Cravings: 6 Steps to Resisting Sweet Temptations | The Health Sessions

Curb Your Cravings: 6 Steps to Resisting Sweet Temptations

This past year I’ve been having cravings – strong, insatiable cravings.

During my pregnancy, my stomach became a bottomless pit, constantly demanding energy to grow my baby. It only got worse after our son was born. I was burning so many calories from the nonstop nursing and sleep deprivation. With no time or energy to make a healthy snack, I just grabbed whatever I could get my hands on: cookies, granola bars, even pastry and desserts.

All that sugar only left me wanting more. Because unlike natural sugars in fruit, starchy vegetables and whole grains, refined sugar contains no vitamins, enzymes and fibres that help to release sugars more slowly into the bloodstream. Instead, it’s just ‘empty calories’ – pure energy that cause a spike in your metabolism, followed by a crash. This quick change in blood sugar levels leaves you feeling tired, cranky and craving more sweets to get another sugar ‘high’.

And we all know that too much sugar wreaks havoc on our health.

Of course I’ve been meaning to curb my cravings. But there always seemed to be a plausible reason to treat myself “just this once”, whether it was a birthday, special celebration or a get together with friends. I’ve gotten used to automatically (albeit enjoyably!) eating the temptations right in front of me again and simply ‘forgot’ about healthier options.

But I need every ounce of energy to keep up with my kids, work and home life, so it’s time to get control over my snacking habits again.

Do you want to curb your cravings and cut down on sugar too? Here’s the plan.

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Spice Up You Health: 16 Fragrant Recipes | The Health Sessions

Spice Up Your Health: 16 Fragrant Recipes with Health-Boosting Powers

On crispy days, with the leaves falling from trees, there’s nothing cozier than warming up with fragrant Fall flavours. But seasonal favourites like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger are not just for seasoning, they spice up your health too.

Throughout history, spices have been used for their health-boosting powers. Garlic is known for its antibacterial benefits, while ginger reduces nausea and cinnamon lowers your blood sugar levels. One of the most widely studies spices, turmeric, has strong anti-inflammatory effects, which benefits your health in multiple ways. Other culinary staples with disease-fighting compounds are cayenne pepper, vanilla beans and cumin seeds.

So stock your spice kabinet and get creative! Make your own spice blends so you can easily whip up a warming curry, fajita or Asian flavored stir fry. Get cozy with a homemade pumpkin spice latte or anti-oxidant rich Chai tea. Or take inspiration from these 16 spice-packed recipes with flavours from all around the world. 

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13 Helpful Things to Do When You Can't Sleep at Night | The Health Sessions

13 Helpful Things to Do When You Can’t Sleep at Night

It’s the middle of the night and there you are, staring at the ceiling while the clock’s ticking away. You start getting anxious, because there are only a few hours of potential sleep left until a new day starts again. But as much as you toss and turn, you just can’t fall asleep.

If you suffer from insomnia, always check if you have your bedtime basics covered: a dark, slightly cool bedroom with a comfortable mattress, not too much caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. You could even try some more unconventional tips for getting plenty of shut-eye.

But some nights, even when you’ve done everything right, you find yourself wide awake at 2am.

So what do you do? It’s tempting to grab your phone, check your social media feeds or watch TV until you start getting sleepy. But that’s not a great choice for two reasons. The blue light coming from electronic devices actually inhibits the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it even harder for you to fall asleep. What’s more, by doing something mentally stimulating, not only are you not sleeping, you’re not getting high-quality rest either.

There must be a better way right?

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Digital Diet: The Doable Alternative to a Digital Detox | The Health Sessions

The Digital Diet: A Doable Alternative to a Digital Detox

“You have 263 unread messages.”

Did you come back from your Summer break only to find yourself flooded with work mail?

Smartphone stress is real. Countless of studies have been published about the downsides of the latest technology –  from stress and sleeping problems to anxiety, depression and disturbed body image.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed with email or keeping up with social media, the common advice is to consider a digital detox – taking a (radical) break from checking Instagram, WhatsApp and news feeds. Hey, I dedicated a blog post to it myself.

But recently I read something interesting in the Dutch Psychologie Magazine. Do we really need to force ourselves offline to find peace or is there a way to get the benefits from smartphones whilst avoiding the pitfalls?

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