IN THIS ISSUE OF THE WELLNESS CONNECTION
INSPIRE TO MOVE - Mindfulness and Meditation
NOURISHING YOU - Cheesy Turkey Meatball Skillet
HEALTHY HARMONY - Healthy Sleep Habits
GOOD DECISIONS - The Buzz on Caffeine
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Interview with Joy Brownridge, Administrative Aide for System Human Resource Services
Feedback - SOWellness@uillinois.edu
The System Office Wellness Committee strives to cite relevant information from reputable sources. Employees should always consult with their physician before making any kind of health decision or change.
INSPIRE TO MOVE - Mindfulness and Meditation
By Lydia Schillinger
Mindfulness, meditation, mental focus, yoga. What pops into your mind when you hear these words? I hope they bring a feeling of calm. Everyone craves a certain amount of calm from time to time and wants to have their best mental focus when completing a task at work or at home. To be your best self, try increasing your quality of mindfulness by practicing meditation. Meditation will help give you a sense of calm, peace, and balance that may improve your overall health, emotional well-being, sleep, and mental focus. Studies on meditation have shown to increase self-awareness, alleviate or manage chronic pain, increase patience, reduce negative emotions, manage stress, bring focus to the present, and even spark a physical change in the cortical thickness of the hippocampus in your brain, which governs learning and memory.
Have you ever been in a meeting and your mind started to wander? It happens to the best of us. I find it helpful to practice meditation to improve my focus and concentration, and I can tell you from experience that it works! There are several types of meditation:
- Mindfulness meditation - paying attention to your thoughts
- Spiritual meditation - reflecting in silence to seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe
- Focused meditation - concentrating on one of your five senses
- Movement meditation - practicing a form of motion (e.g. yoga, walking, gardening)
- Mantra meditation - repeating a sound or word to clear the mind
- Transcendental meditation - using a mantra or series of words “I am grateful for ...”
- Progressive relaxation meditation - completing a body scan; relaxing one muscle group at a time throughout your whole body
- Loving-kindness meditation - opening your mind to receive love and sending well wishes to others
- Visualization meditation - picturing positive scenes or images
How do you meditate? What I love about meditation is that you can use mindfulness anywhere. Here is a simple way to start: find a comfortable location at the office, at home, or anywhere. Try sitting or lying in that comfortable place and take five to 20 minutes for yourself. Start with a short amount of time and increase the time you give to yourself each day. Focus your attention on a single object, mantra, a feeling, intention, or your breath, and free your mind of distractions. Relax your breathing. Let the feeling of calm consume you. Be mindful of your breathing and inhale to fill the stomach and next the lungs, then feel your chest and ribs expand, hold your breath for four seconds and then let it out for a count of eight seconds, then repeat. If you are doing yoga, take every movement as an intention and focus on each muscle as it stretches and moves. If you are going for a walk or a run, concentrate on your footsteps and listen to your feet hitting the ground. The repetitive sound can be calming.
There are many helpful apps to use for mindfulness and meditation. Two apps I found to be helpful in my practice are the Calm app and the Hannah Barrett Yoga app. The CALM app has a free trial, offers sleep stories, meditation stories, and music meant to relax you. The Hannah Barrett yoga app has a monthly fee, offers different yoga flows for relaxation, balance, strength, meditation and more. Mindfulness and meditation will be very beneficial if you give it some time.
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” - Dr. Sukhraj Dhillon
Recipe by Leana Coffey
Gluten-free, Kid-friendly | Serves 4
Prep time: 15 min. | Cook time: 30 min. | Total time: 45 min.
I’ll be honest, Italian dishes are not really my thing. That’s why you haven’t seen anything with pasta in these recipes yet. But for some reason, this recipe just spoke to me. Must have been the cheese. :)
This is a very easy dish to make and will be on your dinner table in no time. Ground turkey is a simple, healthy swap, and it is very tasty! Serve this with a side salad and a piece of whole wheat bread and you are good to go. You could also add some whole wheat pasta noodles, spaghetti squash, or zoodles (zucchini noodles) if you want to make it more like spaghetti and meatballs. Enjoy!
- 2 tablespoons skim milk, or water
- 1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 2 small cloves crushed garlic, or 1 large
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ pounds 93 percent lean ground turkey
- cooking spray
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
- 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- parsley or basil for garnish
- In a large bowl combine the milk, breadcrumbs, Romano cheese, garlic, egg, tomato paste, parsley and salt. Mix well to combine.
- Add the turkey and mix using a fork to fully combine together. Be careful not to overwork the meat mixture. Form into 18 meatballs.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, spray with oil and brown the meatballs about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the oil and garlic and cook until golden, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and return the meatballs to the skillet. Partially cover and simmer medium-low until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Top with mozzarella cheese. Cover and cook until melted, about 2 minutes. If your skillet doesn’t have a lid, put the mixture in a casserole dish and broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until melted.
Nutrition Information: (serving size: 3 meatballs and sauce) Calories 356 | Carbs 16g | Fat 18g | Protein 31.5g
HEALTHY HARMONY - Healthy Sleep Habits
By Jackie Billhymer
Ah, sleep. As a mom to an almost 6-year-old child, I still remember the early years when I truly thought a good night’s sleep would never happen for me again. Thankfully, better sleeping patterns did return, although I am still guilty of being a night owl.
March 8-14 hosts Sleep Awareness Week. March 14 also happens to be when Daylight Saving Time returns and we lose an hour of sleep. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a resource called Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. It has an abundance of great information about why sleep is so important and what to do if you suffer from a lack of it.
We know we need sleep, but studies have shown that it is often moved to the backburner in our busy lives. Just like eating the right foods and getting some form of physical activity each day, sleep has an important role in our overall well-being.
So why is it so important? Getting enough sleep not only gives our body and brain down time, but it also helps improve performance, mood, and overall health. When we sleep, our brain and body are still active and carry out a number of important tasks to help us stay healthy and function at our best.
It is recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep has a positive effect on how well we think, react, work, learn, and get along with others. Over time, a lack of quality sleep may mean we are more likely to become depressed. Some tips for a better night’s rest are:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day – even on weekends
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, but not later than 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Get outside! Thirty minutes in natural sunlight helps regulate sleep patterns
- Avoid large meals, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed
- While naps can boost your brainpower, keep them to under an hour and do not take them after 3 p.m.
- Take time to unwind! Take a hot bath or shower, grab a book, and avoid using any electronics (e.g., TV, tablet, computer, cell phone) just before bedtime
If you find yourself struggling with sleep or if you feel constantly tired and drained during the day, it is important that you talk with your doctor about your sleep habits. The NIH also has a downloadable Sleep Diary resource that can help you track the quality and quantity of your sleep. You can share this information with your doctor and get support for better sleep and overall wellbeing.
GOOD DECISIONS - The Buzz on Caffeine
By Christina A. Worthington
March is National Caffeine Awareness Month and if you are like a lot of people, you have already consumed some form of caffeine before reading this article. That is not surprising since caffeine is the most popular stimulant drug in the world and it is consumed daily in some form by 90 percent of people in the United States. While caffeine in moderation has been deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many people do not recognize how it affects their bodies.
How much caffeine is too much? The FDA recommends to keep your intake to under 400 milligrams a day. Here is a list of beverages and how much caffeine they typically contain:
- 12 oz. soft drink: 30-40 mg
- 8 oz. cup of green or black tea: 30-50 mg
- 8 oz. cup of coffee: 80-100 mg
- 8 oz. energy drinks: 40-250 mg
Remember that foods may also contain caffeine if they contain certain ingredients, such as chocolate or guarana. The nutrition label should list the caffeine content of a product.
Caffeine and Metabolism: Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it affects your central nervous system and causes you to feel more awake or give you an increase in energy. This is why those who are sensitive to caffeine or those who overconsume the drug can experience jitters. Caffeine is also known to have diuretic properties, meaning it helps your body get rid of extra salt and water by increasing urination. This can cause dehydration if additional water is not consumed to compensate for the loss of fluids.
Caffeine and Blood Pressure: Caffeine can cause a short but dramatic increase in your blood pressure, even if you do not have high blood pressure. While it is unclear what causes this spike, within one hour of eating or drinking caffeine, it reaches its peak level in your bloodstream. To determine if caffeine might be raising your blood pressure, check your blood pressure before drinking a caffeinated beverage and again between 30 to 120 minutes afterward. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 points, you may be sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
Caffeine and Sleep: Many people know to avoid caffeine before bedtime. However, even caffeine in the afternoon can interfere with your sleep. While caffeine may not prevent you from falling asleep, it can cause you to toss and turn during the night and even shorten the length of time you sleep.
National Caffeine Awareness month is not about cutting out or even cutting back on caffeine! It is simply getting the conversation started on understanding how we can safely consume the stimulant that so many of us enjoy on a daily basis.
EMPLOYEE SPOTLIGHT - Joy Brownridge, Administrative Aide for System Human Resource Services
By Seth Yoder
Q. Joy, can you tell us about your role in the System Office?
A. I am an administrative aide for System Human Resources. I have been with System HR for about two years and, in my role, I manage most of the general office tasks like scheduling meetings, assembling meetings documents, monitoring incoming and outgoing mail, etc. In addition to these office management tasks, I also assist in the planning and prep for the Professional Staff Leadership Academy (PSLA) and supporting some wellness activities. For example, I facilitate a meditation each morning of the PSLA session.
Q. What got you interested in meditation?
A. In 2007, I saw the film “The Secret” and while I did not necessarily agree with every aspect of the film, I found the idea of meditation and calming myself really resonated with me. At the time, I was living in Chicago and I was curious to learn more about some of these principles. I found a church that helped me gain a greater understanding of how I might be able to bring more aspects of meditation into my life. Through these lessons, I began to realize that meditation has a lot of misconceptions and the more time I took to understand meditation and how it could be used, the more I wanted to share this gift with the people I care about.
Q. What type of impact have you seen in your life as a result of incorporating meditation into your daily routine?
A. I think the biggest impact I have seen is more about my overall stress level. I just do not get as stressed about things as I used to. In the past, I was somewhat of a social smoker. What people often don’t realize when they smoke because of stress, it is the act of smoking that causes you to breathe deeply and that has a calming effect. The chemicals and nicotine may be the primary reason why people get addicted to smoking, but the breathing habit is certainly something that will calm your nerves. Having the ability to use meditation instead of smoking to calm myself in stressful situations allowed me to control my anger in a far healthier manner.
I have also become much more honest with myself about who I am, which I was not always able to do before I began a meditation practice. In my previous life as an engineer, I did not allow myself to admit who I truly was. Through meditation, I was able to recognize that I did not want to waste my time doing things I did not love. I have also developed a much deeper empathy and understanding of others because I understand myself better. I can understand when people struggle with controlling their emotions because that used to be me.
Q. What type of advice would you give someone interested in including meditation in their daily routine?
A. I would tell anyone interested in trying meditation to find a playlist of soothing music (preferably with no lyrics) and carve out 5-10 minutes a couple of times a week. Spend that time sitting quietly with no distractions (e.g., TV, smart phones, email). While sitting quietly for 5-10 minutes, pick a phrase or word to repeat in your mind. This will help stop your mind from wandering to the laundry list of things you have going on in the background.
This is a very basic way to get started with meditation. You can also search for different types of meditation – there are walking meditations and even laughing meditations. Like with all new routines, the key to success is repetition. The more you practice meditating, the more you will be able to identify your tastes and preferences.
Another thing to keep in mind is learning to meditate when you need it the most. Tap into how you are feeling. Maybe you’ve had a stressful meeting or you know that you are going to have a difficult conversation later in the day. That is when you can take a few minutes to do some deep breathing with intention or any other kind of meditation that will help bring you back into a better emotional state. It is always important to keep in mind that there is no one right way to meditate, so find what works for you and incorporate it into your life in a way that strengthens YOU.