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Decision-making is difficult, but there are a few strategies you can put into place to help make better choices this holiday season. The holidays are jam-packed with options: what to buy for gifts, who to spend time with, or whether to reach for another cookie. Try these tips to feel good about your decisions and reduce regret:
- Remember the basics. Good health habits lay the foundation for making better decisions. But when you’re busy or stressed, it’s easy to forget the basics. Stay current on dietary guidelines to help make healthy food choices. Build in time for exercise because staying active benefits both body and mind. The mood-enhancing, stress-buffering effects of exercise can boost your confidence and clarity with decision-making as well. And use HPRC’s sleep tips to make sure you start each day with a full tank because sleep lays the foundation for optimal emotional, mental, and ethical functioning.
- Slow down. It’s really easy to go on autopilot and make thoughtless, “emotionally charged” decisions. However, this can lead to outcomes you might regret. So take pause when you can. Try the STOP technique: Take a tactical pause, breathe deeply, and note your thoughts and feelings before you begin to weigh your options.
- Use “if…then” thinking. The holidays are filled with temptations to do and say regrettable things, drink or eat more than you want, or spend more money than you planned. “If...then” thinking can help you proactively head off poor choices by connecting a situation or circumstance to an alternative action or behavior that you planned ahead of time. For example, you might say to yourself, “IF I find myself getting worked up by a political discussion, THEN I will see if cousin Jack wants to go for a walk.”
‘Tis the season for decisions. Make sure you’re making good ones. A little proactive planning can help you make wiser choices and avoid the decision pitfalls that are common this time of year.
As of June 2016, DoD policy states that qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or continuation of service solely for being transgender. Transgender describes someone whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior doesn’t conform to what’s typically associated with the sex he or she was assigned at birth. This policy enables transgender persons to serve the military without fear of dismissal or harassment. It also ensures transgender service members and veterans have access to medical care and a structure is in place for those to transition gender when medically necessary. In addition, DoD has produced the following policy-related guides for military personnel:
- Transgender Service in the U.S. Military: An Implementation Handbook
- Guidance for Treatment of Gender Dysphoria for Active and Reserve Component Service Members
The Services will use these guides and other materials to conduct policy training for commanders, medical personnel, operating forces, and recruiters through June 2017. The handbook reinforces that harassment of any service member is inappropriate and shouldn’t be tolerated. It also states that discrimination based on gender identity is considered sex discrimination, and any concerns should be addressed through DoD’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) program.
In recent years, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) also has updated its approach to working with transgendered veterans. VHA Directive 2013-003 summarizes its healthcare services for transgendered veterans. This shift at the Veterans Administration (VA) helps lessen barriers to care for transgender vets. Transgender males and females can now change their gender identifications and names in the VHA system. In addition, VHA sometimes will provide transgendered veterans with sexualizing hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. However, VHA won’t provide surgeries for those considering sexual reassignment.
Visit the National Center for Transgender Equality website for additional resources for transgender service members and veterans.
Cranberries are especially popular during the holidays but can be a healthy part of your meal plan all year long. They’re good sources of vitamin C and fiber and contain polyphenols, which might lower your risk of heart disease.
There’s some evidence that cranberry juice can help reduce the recurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in those prone to such infections—important because UTIs can be debilitating, and more than 60% of women experience at least one. However, there’s no proof that it has any benefit for an existing UTI. Keep in mind that drinking juice hasn’t been proven to effectively treat infections.
Still, cranberries can be an easy, healthful way to add fruit to your meal plan. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), males (ages 19–50) and females (ages 14–50) consume less than one cup of fruit (including juice) daily—roughly half the recommended amount. So enjoy berries whole, dried, in sauces, and in juices. Tip: Purchase whole berries in the fall when fresh and store them in the freezer for future use.
Cranberries are tart, and some sugar is needed to make them edible, so watch how much sugar and other sweeteners you consume at any meal that includes cranberries.
- Breakfast. Drink 4–8 oz cranberry juice or toss a spoonful of dried cranberries on your cereal or oatmeal. Or add ½ cup raw berries to your favorite quick bread recipe or boxed mix.
- Lunch or dinner. Spread cranberry sauce instead of mayo on your turkey or chicken sandwich. Or sprinkle dried cranberries on your salad. Stir dried cranberries, cooked apple, onion, celery, toasted pecans, and sage into wild rice for a tasty side dish.
- Snacks. Mix ¼ cup dried berries with 1 Tbsp nuts.
- Cranberry relish. Combine 12 oz uncooked cranberries with one unpeeled, chopped orange in a food processor or blender. Pulse to mix, being careful not to over process. Add sugar to taste.
Gift giving is a hallmark of the holiday season, even though it often involves high levels of stress, long lines, and a drain on your wallet. So, make an impact: Instead of focusing on “stuff”—such as the latest video game, gadget, or toy—consider these alternatives and make your gifts more meaningful.
- Buy experiences, not things. Get tickets to a show, museum membership, or weekend adventure and invest in your connections and shared experiences with friends and family. Nothing can replace those special moments.
- Think: Less is more. Materialism is linked to lower well-being. When you try to “keep up with the Joneses,” focus on getting stuff, or compare what you have to what others have, you might experience the very opposite of the joy you expect to feel. Financial responsibility begins at a young age too. Are children on your gift list? Reduce “the gimmes” and increase gratitude by giving them less and teaching them to appreciate what they have more.
- Give where you live. Grab a friend, partner, or your kids and volunteer your time to a shared cause. You might not think of your time and talent as a gift, but volunteering fosters empathy and perspective. And these qualities are needed, especially during these times. Remember that volunteering is a two-way street: It can improve your sense of meaning, purpose, connection to something larger than yourself, and health while you help others in your community and beyond.
Material things can bring brief happiness, but shared experiences bring long-lasting satisfaction that’s more fulfilling. This holiday season, try to give non-traditional gifts that can ease your financial burden while strengthening the well-being of those around you.
Service members returning from deployment often have a difficult time being intimate with their partners. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), amputations, Agent Orange exposure (Vietnam era), and chronic pain all can affect sexual functioning and relationships. Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) veterans and service members with PTSD likely have at least one sexual problem. In addition, changes in sex hormones (such as thyroid-stimulating hormone, testosterone, and estrogen) might appear after a TBI, which can negatively influence sexual functioning. There also is continued encouragement for DoD and VA to communicate about sexual concerns with wounded service members and veterans. Read more...
Over 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and they’re especially at risk of infections due to weakened or damaged immune systems, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tracts. It’s important to exercise extra caution and practice food safety to avoid foodborne illnesses and food poisoning. So, pay attention to how you handle, prepare, and store what you eat.
During the holidays, many share food at office parties, favorite restaurants, or other gatherings with family and friends. You also might receive home-cooked treats as gifts. Remember your overall health and well-being. Here are some ways to maintain it.
- Avoid certain foods. Some holiday foods—such as unpasteurized apple cider and homemade eggnog—can put you at risk of illness. Some raw foods—such as cookie dough, eggs, sprouts, meat, fish, and poultry—can cause food poisoning too. Make sure that uncooked vegetables and fruits are handled carefully as well as seafood, ham, and chicken salads made with mayonnaise. These foods easily spoil or risk contamination. If something doesn’t look or smell right, don’t take a chance.
- Practice safe food handling. If you’re taking food to a holiday dinner or party, make sure to keep cold foods cold. Fill your cooler with ice and keep the temperature below 40°. Transport hot foods in an insulated container, and make sure the temperature is at least 140°. Refrigerate all perishable leftovers within 2 hours of serving, and reheat them to 165° before eating.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page for resources and tips to help raise awareness about National Diabetes Month. And see your healthcare provider if you suspect you have a foodborne illness. In the meantime, read the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services guide, “Food Safety for People with Diabetes,” to learn more about diabetes and your immune system.
If you’ve ever trained for Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness (PRT) tests, a long-distance race, or other exercise routines, you’ve likely experienced pain. It might be a common, chronic overuse injury known as tendonitis. The good news is there are things you can to do to help reduce your risk of tendonitis.
Tendons connect your muscles to your bones and help you move by “pulling” on the bones when your muscles contract. Damage or inflammation can occur from repetitive activities, motions, or sudden movements that put too much stress on your tendons. Knees, elbows, and wrists are all common areas of pain associated with tendonitis because they’re often used in repetitive movements.
Pay attention to your body. Warning signs can include pain, swelling, and loss of range of motion. Here are some tips to help prevent tendonitis.
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight, and check out HPRC’s Nutrition section for helpful nutrition tips.
- Pay attention to your posture and make sure that you use proper form, especially when lifting and moving heavy objects.
- Maintain a well-rounded exercise routine, which includes muscular fitness, flexibility, mobility, and cardiovascular endurance.
- Make sure to incorporate rest and cross-training days to let your body recover.
Already have tendonitis? Here are some tips to help you get back into your workout routine:
- Alternate exercise to rest the affected area. Instead of running, try biking or swimming to rest possible patellar (knee) tendonitis. Visit HPRC’s RX3 Knee Pain section on knee exercises and other rehab resources.
- Ice the affected area to reduce pain and swelling.
- Ask your healthcare provider about physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications, which also can provide some relief.
See your doctor right away if you experience fever, redness or warmth in the affected area, or pain in multiple locations.
Some dietary supplements are marketed as “all natural,” but do you know that this is actually an unregulated marketing term? So just because a product claims to be “all natural” doesn’t automatically make it safe. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that products marketed as “all natural” might contain ingredients that could interact with medications or be harmful to people with certain medical conditions or may even contain hidden drug ingredients. For example, according to FDA, supplements marketed as “all natural” sexual-enhancement products might be tainted with the same active ingredients found in prescription drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction. Not only could you potentially be consuming multiple drug ingredients, you could be consuming them in amounts even greater than prescription doses. Either way, these types of products can put your health and career in danger. For more information, please read FDA’s “Consumer Update on 'All Natural’ Alternatives…”
While the holidays often are times of joy and celebration, it can be especially hard for those serving away from home. And if you’re unable to be with your loved ones during the holidays, this time of year sometimes can leave you with mixed emotions. Still, take time and enjoy the special family members who bring goodness to your life.
HPRC offers these tips to help you take care of your loved ones and yourself this holiday season—whether you’re at home or abroad. Read more...
Some think of quitting smoking as a loss, rather than considering all they have to gain. There are nearly 45 million smokers in the U.S. And even though 70% say they’d like to quit, only 5% are able to stop on their own. Smokers have long been warned about the negative impact of tobacco on the body, including risk of cancer, lung disease, and emphysema. The negative statistics might inspire you to make a change, but have you also considered what you can gain? Maybe you’re driven to avoid negative outcomes, but you also might be motivated by positive incentives. So, what can you gain by quitting smoking?
- Improved well-being. Quitting smoking is associated with fewer bouts of depression and anxiety as well as improved mood and quality of life. While you might not see these benefits immediately—especially during efforts to quit smoking—“losing tobacco” means you have a lot to gain in the way of well-being.
- Less medication. If you’re currently on medications, you might be able to reduce your dosages since nicotine increases the metabolism of certain drugs. If you’re suffering from side effects or paying for costly medicines, quitting smoking also might reduce how much you need.
- More vitality. Perhaps you’re struggling to keep up on the playground with your kids or at the gym. Maybe you’re performing at suboptimal levels during your Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness (PRT) tests, which in turn interferes with your ability to get promoted. Remember: You just don’t reduce the risk of disease or death when you quit smoking. Instead of focusing on adding more years to your life, think about how quitting can add life to your years.
Quitting isn’t easy, and most people need outside help to kick the habit. Visit the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center website to learn more. And check out the Great American Smokeout for more resources. Make sure to visit HPRC’s Tobacco section too. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.