For a few years now, I have taken on a health challenge over Spring Break that has made the time even more beneficial. I have challenged people I care about to do the same, and those who have done it share that it makes a difference in the quality of time during Spring Break as well as their frame of mind after Spring Break. This year, I thought it would be good to give lots of options so people could choose their own adventure!
Fast for One Day
The research is rampant on the benefits of intermittent fasting, and I know lots of people who practice this regularly, including my son, my husband, and several of our e2L #dreamteam. I also have a friend who fasts 24-40 hours regularly. I try to quit eating by 6:30 pm every evening and take (at least) a full 12 hours off. In fact, Harvard Health Publishing, the official journal of the Harvard Medical School, supports this small step into intermittent fasting, or IF: “Just changing the timing of meals, by eating earlier in the day and extending the overnight fast, significantly benefited metabolism even in people who didn’t lose a single pound.” (source).
Because the research on fasting altogether is so compelling, it makes good sense to give our digestive systems a break to detox. For that reason, I started something on New Year’s Day this year that I really like: fasting the entire first day of the month! I just stop eating the night prior at my usual time, then wait to eat again until the second day of the month. Besides all the health benefits (see below), it is amazing how much time one saves not eating! Spring Break is a good time to try this if you have been wondering about it. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine recently supported my personal findings in their monumental study of intermittent fasting:
Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of disease, including cancer and obesity. (source)
De-Stress With a Good Book
Reading has been scientifically proven to help our bodies (and brains) to de-stress. A recent study conducted by the Yale University of Public Health found that reading can actually increase your lifespan by 23 percent; in fact, reading improves the connectivity between our brain cells, which lowers our risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s (source). Still, need more incentive to dive into a good book during vacation? Reading can decrease stress levels by up to 60 percent (source) and help us to wind down. The Mayo Clinic suggests swapping our smartphones at bedtime for a good book, a simple trick that will “promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness” (source).
8 Hours of Sleep Per Night – REALLY!
As educators, sleep is elusive far too often. A never-ending to-do list or simply the stress that comes from being a public educator can rob us of those seven to nine hours necessary for healthy brain function. Nevertheless, sleep is imperative for both our physical and mental health. I get it…there was a time in my life when I ran on very little sleep, de-prioritizing sleep over just about everything else…trying to fit as much into a day and night as possible. Now, I recognize how wrong I was. Dr. Raymond Jean, the director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in NYC, puts it simply: “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better.” Just reflect upon the benefits of adequate sleep in this quick slide show from Health magazine and challenge yourself to some much-needed zzz’s this Spring Break. I started wearing a Fitbit this past year and watching how my sleep patterns worked and realized that I need more deep sleep, so I am trying to turn off that tech at least one hour before bedtime as well! At engage2learn, we have a few other sleep hacks to help you off to dreamland, which I’ve shared below!
Eating clean is simply consuming foods that you can recognize as real food. Whole foods as close to their natural source as possible are best for our bodies is fairly common knowledge now. I am sure that everyone close to me has already heard my “sugar is poison” mantra and all of my go-to books on clean eating, so since you may be on the road for Spring Break, I thought I would share here my list of clean eating restaurants. You can still eat healthy, even on the go! One of my favorite tricks is to search Google Maps for “healthy food near me,” which will bring up local restaurants like the one I found just north of Fort Worth, called the Healthy Hippie Cafe. Other favorite chains include True Food Kitchen, Piknik, Modern Market, Flower Child, LYFE Kitchen, Mad Greens, and many more! Give it a try this week, and drop your findings in our comments. At engage2learn, we are always looking for clean-eating options in our partner districts!
Guzzle 100 oz of Water Daily
Everyone knows that we need to drink more water. There are so many options now to get suped-up, great-tasting water, like ionized water, water with electrolytes, coconut water, flavored sparkling water, and even spring water. I, personally, love the water in a box! One of my favorite tips ever that has really helped me to drink more water is to guzzle it. Think about it…there are lots of people guzzling down 8-16 oz at a time over spring break and being loudly encouraged by their friends. Why not do the same with your water?! It is hard to get enough water by just sipping on it throughout the day. We forget to drink it, and it takes up more time. But, if I guzzle a whole 16 oz at one time, it works perfectly for me. BTW, this works better if the water is at room temperature, and water at room temp is actually absorbed much more quickly by the body than cold water.
Try a Detox…a Tech Detox
For many of us, technology is as natural a part of our lives as coffee (or in my case, green tea). We are so dependent upon it that we cannot function without it. I won’t bore you with the staggering statistics about how technology impacts our productivity; if you’re interested, however, review How to Add 13 Years to Your Life for tips to better control your technology. In the meantime, take.a.break…from all of it, even if it is brief. Psychology Today notes that a tech detox might be just what the doctor ordered and even lists seven tips for easing into this challenge. I have found that at least 24 hours without tech (get your family involved as well) is a way to detox and discover some amazing quality time without distractions. Or just limit your tech time to certain hours each day during the break. The way to carry this over into your regular life is the same as fasting…just choose one day a week or even 12 hours or literally even just an hour a day to not be on the screen, any screen. By the way, it is pretty interesting to read about how Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids without technology…think they might know something we don’t know? If you want to get serious about limiting technology on a regular basis, the FocusMe app is the best I have found for setting blocks and limits on phone and computer.
Ground Yourself With the Earth
One of my favorite things to do during a vacation is to ground myself…with the earth, that is. Often referred to as “earthing,” I encourage you to seek out a direct connection between your physical body and the sand, the dirt, the grass…whatever! Our ancestors touched the earth daily with their bare feet, yet in 2020, we spend so much of our daily lives cooped up in a classroom, an office, or even our own homes, and when we do go outside, we “stay off the grass” and almost always wear rubber-soled shoes. We are literally never touching the earth. The research on earthing is fascinating! The Journal on Alternative and Complementary Medicine even cites medical benefits as well: “Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events.” It is almost like the earth was designed to absorb our stress…hmmm… So, this Spring Break, I challenge you to ground yourself, wherever you are for at least 20 minutes.
Get 15 Minutes of Direct Sun Without Sunscreen
Yes, you read that right. Due to sunscreen and all the time spent indoors, most Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, which is critical for a healthy immune system– a very important attribute in today’s climate. The National Institute of Health reports in the Nutrition Research journal that more than 40% of our population is Vitamin D deficient, and minorities are especially susceptible (source). Low Vitamin D is a serious matter and can contribute to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, depression, and even cancer (source). However, in just 15 minutes per day, you can soak up this beneficial vitamin, which is quite difficult to get any other way. Don’t go overboard, though! After that 15 minutes, you will need sunscreen; we are all well aware of those risks. See below for recommendations to soak up the “Sunshine Vitamin” safely during Spring Break (source):
- Go outside at midday (briefly!) when the sun is strongest, but avoid late-afternoon sunshine for safety reasons.
- Expose one-third of your body to the sun–the optimal amount for your body to convert cholesterol to Vitamin D.
- Wear a hat or sunglasses to protect your face, but opt for shorts or a tank top when outside.
- Aim for 10-30 minutes of daily sun exposure at least 2-3 times per week; if your skin is darker (and thus has more melanin), consider extending the amount of time you are outside or do it more frequently!