I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired: Change your life in 30 minutes a day (Proceedings)

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Have you ever had one of "those" days? You know, the kind where things started of slow, your energy seemed low and your enthusiasm even lower.

Have you ever had one of "those" days? You know, the kind where things started of slow, your energy seemed low and your enthusiasm even lower. You snapped at your co-workers and when you returned home you just wanted to be left alone? Are you sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time? If you've ever had one of "those" days, try these simple strategies to make even your dullest days brighter. You can beat the workplace blahs!

1 – Your Night Makes Your Day

The key to starting your day off well begins with a good night's sleep. "Good" is the operative word when it comes to sleep. Most of us need eight to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep – not more – to obtain the restorative power of sleep. Our bodies need to go into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep for about 90 to 120 minutes each night for proper memory, creativity and behavior, immune function and overall health. Most adults will experience about four to five periods of REM sleep during a normal night. If your REM sleep is interrupted, you may feel depressed due to the lack of resetting of the important neurotransmitter, monoamine.

There are several steps you can take to ensure a good night's sleep. First, avoid eating and drinking in your bed. Avoid prolonged television watching. Crawling into your bed should signal your body – and mind – that it's time to sleep. If you develop the habit of using your bed for sleep, you'll find you fall asleep faster. Second, try to go to bed at a consistent time. For most busy veterinarians, going to bed between 10 and 11 pm will allow you to rise between 6 and 7 am. If you need to get up earlier, you'll need to go to bed earlier. Third, try not to eat dinner less than three hours before bedtime, two at the minimum. Also, avoid high-carbohydrates at nighttime. The resulting glucose spike will inhibit sleep. Finally, if you need something to help you sleep, try a natural alternative. Melatonin is one of our body's "darkness neurotransmitter," reaching its highest levels during night. Most people begin secreting melatonin a few hours before their normal bedtime. Try supplementing between 0.3 and 0.5-mg of melatonin a couple of hours before going to sleep. Everyone responds differently to melatonin so experiment with it to achieve best results.

2 – Sunshine makes you Happy

Light affects our mood. For busy veterinarians who rarely "see the light of day," this can be a problem. Our physiology was based on waking with the dawn, living outside in the sunlight and retiring at sunset. This is why we often feel so refreshed on vacation when we go to bed early and rise with the sun. Sunlight also helps our bodies make Vitamin D3, a vitamin now linked with the prevention of several forms of cancer. Most people should strive to get out in the sun for 10 to 30 minutes per day. If you're only able to go outside for a short amount of time, try to make it between 10 am and 2 pm for maximum ultraviolet exposure.

3 – Eat to Feel Good

Our diet affects our health, brain chemistry and mood. There are several foods that can help you feel better by stabilizing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Many of the foods that modulate our mood contain tryptophan, a building block of serotonin.

When you're under stress at work, your body tends to crave carbohydrates. This is typically due to elevated cortisol levels. You need to resist the urge to eat these foods. Initially, after you eat refined-carbohydrates such as white bread and high-sugar snacks, you feel better because of the spike in serotonin and glucose. But, like a sugar-rush, eating refined-carbs depletes serotonin; leaving you feeling depressed and moody. Instead, reach for complex carbohydrates such as barley, oats, brown rice and other whole grains. Pair this with a small amount of lean protein, ideally one containing high levels of tryptophan such as turkey, cheese or eggs. Other serotonin-raising foods include:

4 – Move and Stretch

Exercise improves your mood, outlook and energy. Aerobic exercise has been proven to stabilize all three of the brain's major neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Exercise improves your circulation, lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and leptin levels, and improves memory and learning – there really isn't very much exercise doesn't do. Regular exercise maintains normal glucose and insulin levels; both are directly involved with your energy levels.

Moderate aerobic activity for as little as 30 minutes a day is all most people need to feel better. Walking outside or on a treadmill, stair-climber, elliptical trainer, cycling and swimming are but a few choices for exercise. Vinyasa Yoga (including Bikram or Ashtanga) allows you to get both an aerobic workout while simultaneously relaxing you through stretching. Gentler forms of yoga can also help you feel better and help you beat the blahs. Inversion poses, such as headstands and handstands, seem particularly helpful in fighting depression and moodiness.

Exercise in the morning before work makes you feel energized and pumped for the day's work. People who exercise in the mornings have been shown to exercise more consistently. Combining sunlight and exercise often leaves you sweaty and feeling like you can conquer anything!

5 – Uplifting Supplements

Several dietary supplements have been associated with improving your mood and making your workday easier.

Vitamin D

Many adults, especially women, have found to be deficient in Vitamin D. Ask your doctor to test your Vitamin D levels during your next annual checkup. Exposure to sunlight is the best way to get adequate levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to help regulate your mood. A general recommendation is to take 2000 IU Vitamin D3 daily for people deficient or not receiving adequate sunlight.

B Vitamins

B Vitamins help the brain produce serotonin and norepinephrine. I recommend taking one B-50 supplement daily.

Omega-3's

The omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA have been shown to affect our moods. DHA and EPA can be found in fish or algal sources. Flaxseed sources have very poor bioavailability and should not be used as your primary source of DHA and EPA. You should take between 1 and 3 grams DHA/EPA daily.

Multivitamin

Busy veterinarians should be taking a daily multivitamin. Choose one with B vitamins, selenium (which helps improve mood) and magnesium (which may help reduce anxiety).

6 – Healing Herbs

Certain herbs can help you feel better. Valerian and St. John's Wort have been reported to help reduce moodiness and depression. Ginseng may help you fight fatigue. Holy basil, ashwaganda and gotu kola help ease depression in many people. The smell of citrus also tends to lift your spirits so consider using lemon, lime or orange essential oils to a massage oil or lotion.

A tea made from oatstraw with added chamomile and lemon balm may also boost your mood. De-caffeinated green tea and kombucha may also give you more energy.

7 – Avoid Alcohol and Nicotine

Many times we fool ourselves into thinking that a "stiff drink" or cigarette will make us feel better. Other people think a glass of wine before bed will help them sleep. These assumptions are wrong – and unhealthy. Both alcohol and nicotine will alter your sleep habits and affect your mood. If you're already feeling blah, put down the drink and cigs.

8 – Easy on the Caffeine

Caffeine is a potent stimulant. This is why millions of people rely on their cup of joe to jumpstart their day. Drinking caffeine in the afternoon may make it more difficult for you to sleep well at night, resulting in a worse tomorrow. I recommend limiting your caffeine intake and avoiding any caffeinated products after 3 pm.

9 – Reduce Sugar

Sugary foods are many times called "comfort foods." Cookies, cake and ice cream all have strong emotional links to how we feel. Many people will reach for a tub of ice cream when they're feeling down, stressed or blue. This is related to out-of-control glucose and insulin levels and elevated cortisol. While the "sugar high" you experience immediately after you eat the ice cream makes you feel better, the "sugar crash" steals those good feelings. Try to avoid refined sugars and focus on low-glycemic index foods to stabilize your mood at work and home.

10 – Partner Up

Exercising with others, joining a community or church group, and interacting with others outside your day-to-day routine is an important way to stay energized and optimistic. People who are active members of churches and community organizations have been shown to live longer and have fewer health problems. If you're feeling pressured by your work, often all it takes is a pick-me-up from someone you don't work with.

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