Sleep Hygiene: Maximizing your zzz’s

I have struggled with poor sleep for a long time. Growing up, it was normal for nearly everyone in our household to have trouble falling asleep, wake up frequently during the night, or feel unrested in the morning. I have always been a morning lark–waking up at 6AM or earlier from a young age (what fun for my parents ;). After starting college, I started to wake up more and more often during the night. While I might have slept for 8+ hours, that sleep was interrupted at least 2-3 times.

After my own issues staying asleep, I began looking into techniques and tools to improve my sleep quality. There are a few common practices suggested by the CDC, National Sleep Foundation, and a number of other reputable sources out there:

1. Consistency is key: Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. It’s tempting to stay up late on weekends and sleep in, it can throw off your body’s rhythm. This is a tough one when you’re in your 20s, but I try to limit to late nights of partying to 1-2 times a month so my body isn’t thrown out of whack as often.

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2. Ambiance: Very little light, a colder temperature, and white noise. These little tweaks go a long way! I always scoffed at white noise machines until I tried one myself six years ago and have been using it ever since. Whether you live in a loud dorm or a bustling city, noise machines (or a white noise song on repeat) can be a real life saver.

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3. Screen Shutdown: This one is tough. I was much better about this during college, but set a time that you shut off your screens every night. I used to turn my phone on “Do Not Disturb” at 10pm and wouldn’t check it again until I woke up the next morning. My life is much less structured now and I definitely don’t follow this rule anymore, although I do try to stay aware. I highly recommend the computer app called f.lux — it’s a free tool that customizes your screen’s blue light to the time of day and when you go to bed. It decreases the blue light as you approach bedtime so you can use your screen a little later with less negative effects.

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4. Caffeine: Stop drinking caffeine early in the afternoon. My cut off time is 3pm; I’ve played around and learned that this is the time that works for me. Drinking caffeinated beverages any later has a noticeable effect, but it’s likely different for everyone! I’ve read that holding off on caffeine starting anytime between 1pm and 5pm is best.

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5. Melatonin: Melatonin is the hormone your body naturally produces when it’s time to go to sleep; it is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles. My dad has been using melatonin for over a decade! I started using it in college when my sleep issues started and I’ve only found a few brands/types that actually work for me. I’ve recently been trying out Quality of Life Supplements Melatonin-SR. The melatonin has micronized, sustained-release, which means that it is made to release over time to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Research suggests that you should take melatonin about two hours before you want to fall asleep. I find that if I take it much later than that, I have trouble getting up in the morning. I’ve been taking QOL Melatonin-SR for the past 2-3 weeks and can really feel it helping–it makes it easier for me to fall asleep and stay asleep longer. I will definitely continue taking it!

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Use code HANNAH10 for 10% off your order at Quality of Life Supplements! Stay tuned for my review of their digestive health products.

Ted Talk Friday: An honest look at the personal finance crisis

I found this talk to be a fascinating look into the challenges of personal finance. This talk shares the new experience of aging, retirement, and financial security–with a dose of humility. I was lucky enough to take a personal finance class in high school, but no amount of education can address the challenges so many individuals face today. I live in the Bay Area, which is one of the most expensive areas in the US, and it is incredibly difficult to save–even as a young, unmarried professional with no dependents. I have actively tried to save for about a decade now, but it’s not easy…and it’s far from linear. Luckily, the younger you are, the more time you have to start saving–even if it’s putting 1% of your paycheck away each month. White breaks down the challenges we all face and provides action steps for those who are closer to retirement.

 

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What do you think of White’s talk? Do you think about personal finance regularly?

Ted Talk Friday: 8 Lessons on Building a Company People Enjoy Working For

I am interested in workplace wellbeing from a number of different perspectives: as a lover of psychology, as an employee, and as an employee of a wellbeing technology company. I love how McCord breaks down her lessons into eight simple ideas. A lot of these ideas echo the lessons I learned in Brené Brown’s most recent book, Dare to Lead. I think lesson #6 is the hardest lesson for most companies…watch the video and let me know if you agree!

 

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Do you agree with these 8 lessons? Are there any other lessons you would add?

The Hard Work of Self-Compassion

If you’re a perfectionist, or recovering perfectionist, like me, you know that self-compassion is far from easy. I still remember reading Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion and feeling complete shock at how unkind I was to myself. I remember reading, “Treat yourself like you would treat a good friend” and I’m sure my mouth dropped. I would never think or say things I say to myself to a friend, or even my worst enemies.

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Self-compassion, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff, is made up of three key elements:

  1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgement: We are all imperfect and self-compassion requires us to both acknowledge and accept those imperfections with kindness and love rather than judgment.
  2. Common humanity vs. Isolation: Imperfection is part of what makes us human–no one is perfect!
  3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification: Be mindful of what you are thinking and feeling, but do not let those thoughts and feelings control you or become part of who you are.

I’ve been working on my self-compassion for the past three years since I read the book–and it’s not a simple change. Yesterday I found myself thinking, “It’s ok, babe. You’ve got this.” I paused and realized that this was my new internal voice; what a beautiful moment that has come after years of putting in work and changing my narrative. That is how I talk to my friends and those I care about, and I’m finally using that confident, compassionate, and loving voice for myself as well. I stopped what I was doing and nearly felt like crying because of how proud I was.

That voice does not come naturally to a lot of us, particularly those of us who have perfectionistic tendencies. I know many in the world of academic research see self-compassion as a bit “fluffy,” which has always bothered me. While it might sound fluffy in that it focuses on self-love and accepting imperfections, the science is loud and clear about the benefits that come with self-compassion. Researchers have found that self-compassion can increase immune function, lower the heart rate, and increases overall wellbeing.

Self-compassion is a skill we can build and it can help buffer us against the kind of self-directed negativity that accompanies depression and anxiety. Research shows that self-compassion can weaken the association between perfectionism and depression.

I’ve always been on the more anxious side; I primarily worry the most about my future and my performance, whether at work or school or in an interview. Building my self-compassion practice hasn’t made these anxious feelings go away, but it certainly helps when things go wrong or I make a mistake. I’ve developed mantras like “You’re ok” and “This is not on you” that help me get through difficult times. These mantras aren’t excuses to avoid taking responsibility for my mistakes, but they are ways I can minimize how my mistakes impact my mindset. You can still own your mistakes and learn from them while practicing self-compassion!

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Curious about how self-compassionate you are? Take the quiz here!

Ted Talk Friday: What I learned from 2,000 obituaries

I was immediately drawn in to this talk during the first minute; my dad actually does the same thing that this speaker, Lux Narayan, and reads through obituaries quite frequently. Narayan’s talk is a beautiful testament to having a life worth living–a life that is focused on what matters and having a positive impact, no matter how small. I also love that someone whose career focuses on data can develop such an interdisciplinary talk that ties in to some many important themes.

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Do you often read obituaries? If not, do you plan to start reading them after hearing this talk?

Ted Talk Friday: Want to be more creative?

I have been facing a lot of creative challenges at work recently. Some of these challenges have pushed me far out of my comfort zone so I’ve been interested in exploring why some of these creative tasks have been so challenging for me. I love creativity and coming up with new ideas, but recently I’ve been forced to get creative with tight deadlines…which means I’m likely not giving myself the time and space to come up with good ideas. I enjoyed the practical tips in this Ted Talk and plan to put them to work in the coming weeks! Plus, there’s the added perk of getting more steps in each day!

 

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What do you do to get creative? Will you try Oppezzo’s tips?

Book Review: The Deepest Well

I bounce back and forth between reading non-fiction related to my academic interests and more fun novels (like Where’d You Go, Bernadette). I’ve been on a non-fiction kick recently so I can keep up with the research I’m most interested in, and I wanted to share one of my recent reads with you.

I am passionate about adverse childhood experiences, particularly experiences of trauma, and The Deepest Well is all about how adverse experiences influences our lives in ways we never could’ve imagined. Not only does it lead to increased risk of a number of different mental illnesses, but it also leads to increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases. It is not an issue that only effects those of low socioeconomic status, but it can effect anyone. If you had a parent with a mental illness or had a family member go to prison, your risk goes up.

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A higher ACE score means higher risk the board; it’s a dose-response effect. ACE scores don’t dictate your health, but those scores provide insight and can indicate you might be at higher risk.

The author, Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, describes her work on ACEs and her creation of a non-profit in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco. I live in San Francisco so Burke-Harris’ descriptions of the wealth disparities, and health disparities that accompany them, hit close to home. Two neighborhoods, defined by zip codes, in San Francisco can have an average life expectancy difference of 22 years. Twenty-two years.

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Facts like this blow me away and strengthen my dedication to research and making positive change. Change does not mean we can eliminate adverse experiences, but we can help build resilience, educate parents, and provide positive interventions to minimize the negative impact of those adverse experiences.

ACE scores do not tell the whole story, but it provides powerful evidence and a simple, tangible metric for us to understand how early experiences influence us for the rest of our lives–both mentally and physically. I highly recommend The Deepest Well if you’re interested in learning more about chronic stress, adverse experiences, and health outcomes.

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Have you heard of ACE scores? Does the correlation between ACE scores and heath outcomes surprise you?

 

 

Plant-Based Tomato Garlic Noodles (+ a secret ingredient)

First off, I have not been posting as much as I would like. I am going through some exciting changes in my life–details to come soon–so I have not devoted as much time to this blog. Luckily, I still make time to cook so today I’m bringing you my newest recipe!

I was so excited when I saw jack fruit on the shelves at Trader Joe’s. I have been dying to try it for a few years. I have seen quite a few fake prepared jack fruit-based BBQ mixes at the grocery store, but I wanted to play with jack fruit from scratch. I decided to experiment with the ingredients I had on hand and ended up making a delicious tomato garlic mix.

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Ingredients:

-3 tbsp tomato paste

-1 tbsp olive oil

-1/2 c marinara sauce

.-1 can jackfruit, drained and chopped

-12 oz zoodles (2-3 medium zucchini)

-12 oz cauliflower rice

-3 tsp minced garlic

-1 bag Miracle Noodle fettuccini

Directions:

  1. Prepare Miracle Noodles according to instructions on the bag.
  2. Combine all ingredients except zoodles in a large pot and let simmer on low-medium heat for at least thirty minutes. This is a very important step to make sure all the flavors blend.
  3. Add in the zoodles and stir the mixture well. Let cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.

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4. Remove from heat and enjoy! This recipe makes 3 large servings and 4 smaller servings.

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Don’t forget to use code HANNAH for a discount when you order from Miracle Noodle!

Ted Talk Friday: You Don’t Need an App for That

I really enjoyed this talk and I think it speaks to so many misconceptions about what innovation looks like and where it comes from. Working in the Bay Area, people assume that it is the hub for change and growth, but Shapshak does a wonderful job of explaining why that is not necessarily the case. I think so many of our assumptions about technology is based on who we see is being advanced and what areas are seen as sources of advancement. As Shapshak describes, these misconceptions showcase our prejudices and clearly show how often we misunderstand how invention comes about.

 

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What do you think of Shapshak’s talk?

Ted Talk Friday: Using happiness to evaluate a company’s success

I work in the workplace wellbeing space so this talk’s title immediately caught my eye. I love her logical reasoning behind why happiness is such a valuable metric of success. I have not heard of the happy planet index, but I am definitely going to read more about it.  I see this play out in many companies I work with; HR often cares so much about employee wellbeing and happiness, but it hard to convey its value since happiness is often seen as a “fluffy” concept. After listening to this talk, it certainly doesn’t sound fluffy at all:

 

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Can you imagine a world where the happiness index is listed by stock prices?