What to Do (and NOT do) to Help You Sleep Like a Baby

Some of us sleep like babies, but unfortunately, many of us don’t. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of Americans suffer from insomnia, a sleep disorder resulting in wakefulness or restlessness and an overall inability to sleep. Some people can fall asleep fine, but suffer from an inability to stay asleep, which is referred to as sleep-maintenance insomnia.

Dealing with insomnia of any kind is frustrating and the reality is that there is no cure besides medication. What you can do is improve your “sleep hygiene” to get your body and mind in shape for a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips to make that happen.

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. The routine will reinforce the natural sleep-wake cycle of your body.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise during the day (but not in the few hours before bedtime). The physical activity will help tire your body out so you can sleep better.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that involves winding down as you get in bed. For example, take a warm shower, brush your teeth, do some easy stretching or practice yoga before turning off the light.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable. This involves being in a cool, dark, and quiet room with a comfortable mattress.
  • When you find yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night, try to meditate. Practice progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing to force yourself into a more relaxed state. If that doesn’t work, try listening to soft music or reading for 20-30 minutes before you try to go back to sleep.
  • Avoid eating large meals before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) in the afternoon.
  • Avoid alcohol in the few hours before you go to bed. Alcohol may initially seem as though it makes you sleepy, but it may cause you to wake up later as your body metabolizes the alcohol.
  • Avoid using technology right before you go to bed (i.e., watching television, working on your computer or other electronic devices).
  • Avoid naps or limit them to no more than 30 min.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that adults get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. To wake up well rested and refreshed, set yourself up for success by using our tips above to improve the quality of your sleep.

Ten Small Ways to Save Money

Imagine finding a $20 bill in your pocket. Regardless of how it got there, it feels like free money.

Although not as easy as simply finding money in your pocket, the following tips can help you save money in small ways over time. By being mindful about where your money is going and what you really want to spend it on, you’ll be surprised how easy – and painless – it is to save.

  • Pack your lunch. Packing a lunch instead of eating out could save you upwards of $1,800.00 per year. On top of that, packing your lunch can also be a much healthier option.
  • Make your own coffee. Spending just $2 on a cup of coffee each work day adds up to $500 per year, therefore even if it costs you one dollar to make your own coffee, you’ll still save around $250 per year.
  • Give yourself an allowance. This can be difficult, but if you give yourself a limit of what you want to spend in a certain amount of time, it will be a guide when making the tough spending decisions.
  • Buy your groceries in bulk. This isn’t always possible, but can save you money in two ways. First, the unit cost of buying a larger size of something (cereal, peanut butter, toilet paper, etc.) is typically cheaper. Second, if you stock up on essentials, you’ll likely make fewer trips to the store and therefore have fewer chances to be tempted to purchase non-essentials while you are there.
  • Buy generic items. The generic or store brand versions of items are significantly cheaper. Sometimes buying a brand name product is necessary, but when you can, buy the generic store brand and save.
  • Don’t carry excess cash or credit cards. Impulse spending is less of a temptation when you need to go to the bank or ATM to get money.
  • Pay off your credit card Don’t carry a balance. If, for instance, you carry a balance of $5,000.00 on a charge card at 19 percent interest, you’re giving away $1000.00 per year in interest.
  • Take advantage of “end of the season” sales. Holiday decorations are always on sale after the holidays. The price of candy is reduced the morning after Halloween. Cars of a previous model go on sale in September when the new models roll in.
  • Make your own greeting cards. Greeting cards can be expensive, and as beautiful and thoughtful as they are, they are likely to end up in a trash can after they’ve been read. Instead, make your own personalized card for less than $1.
  • Save your change. Put your loose change into a jar at the end of each day. These coins will add up little by little over the course of a year or more.

 

Make Eating Healthy Easy with These 5 Tips

Whether you’re working from home, on the road, or in the office, eating healthy during the work week can be tough. It often seems easier, and cheaper, to grab a bag of chips or order fast food. But with a few small adjustments to your routine eating healthy during the work week will be easier than you think. Here are five simple tips to get you on the right track toward making healthy choices:

Prep your meals at home the night before. Prepping meals allows you to plan and control what you pack. Stock your fridge with individual-serving size yogurts, chopped veggies, or fruit for some simple side dishes. Make extra salad at dinner and throw it in a container with some protein like grilled chicken or tuna. It may take a few extra minutes to prep and pack your food the night before, but it’s worth it.

Keep healthy snacks in the office. Stock your drawers and office fridge with healthy snacks like veggies and hummus, fresh fruit, protein shakes, nuts, or trail mix. If you have easy access to the healthy stuff, you won’t be as inclined to dig into the candy jar sitting on the front office desk.

Pay a little extra for convenience. Our first tip, prepping your meals for the week, can be time consuming. If you don’t have the time to follow that tip, try picking up some prepared salads, wraps, fruits and vegetables, etc. at your favorite grocery store. It costs a little bit more, but it’s your next best option to have the healthy stuff on hand.

Choose healthier options at restaurants. Depending on your job, there may be times when you must eat out. The key to eating healthier when eating out is to stay away from fried foods and steer yourself towards fresh produce and lean protein. Most fast food restaurants these days have at least a few healthy options, such as a salad with grilled chicken. Just be wary of the extra items like nacho strips or loads of dressing that negate the healthy aspect of the salad.

Drink water. Always have a water bottle at your fingertips. Staying hydrated during the day is important for your overall health and keeps hunger cravings at bay.

Ultimately, the secret to eating healthy during the work week is to tweak your thought process by establishing healthy habits, and once you’ve done that, you’re on your way to a healthy life! By making wise choices about what you eat, and planning ahead, you’ll fuel your tank to power through your work day.

Five Things to Consider When Buying a New Vehicle

Whether you’re shopping for a new vehicle because you want to or because you must, shop in a smart and efficient way. You want to feel good about your investment. Feel confident that you got the best deal possible and that your new vehicle will get you safely from point A to point B.

The process of buying a vehicle can be daunting because there are so many things to consider. Sometimes it’s hard enough to decide what you want, let alone the price you want to pay; but the following five important tips will help you feel more confident about the purchase you make.

Shop Around. Take time to shop around at various banks for your loan. In addition to finding the most competitive rates and fees, shopping around will give you a more balanced idea about how much of a loan you qualify for. Understanding what you can afford is a great place to start.

Completing a “prequalification” with a lender is different than a “pre-approval.” Both refer to an assessment that precedes a loan application and neither one guarantees a loan, but prequalification requires less information from you, is a fairly quick and simple process, doesn’t cost anything, and gives you a good idea of how much of a loan you will qualify for.

Research Prices. Once you know your price range, research prices on at least two different vehicles that you are interested in, considering the year and amount of mileage on the vehicle. Knowledge is power and comes in handy when you’re negotiating with the salesperson.

Read Reviews. Take time to read reviews and watch YouTube videos that evaluate the vehicles you’re considering. This will give you a better idea of what to pay attention to during your test drive and what questions to ask the salesperson.

Never Buy on Impulse. Don’t allow your emotions to cloud your decisions, especially when you see something you want. Use the strongest power you have for a great deal: the power to walk away and leave the dealership! You might be surprised at how much they are willing to negotiate when they see a sale slipping away.

Use Car-Buying Services. Take advantage of car-buying services that are offered by companies such as USAA. These can take some of the stress out of buying a car— use their corporate knowledge and experience to steer you in the right direction and give you confidence in the decision you make.

Fitness and Stress Management

Stress and physical activity are things that we deal with daily, but you may be surprised at how related they are. Even a small amount of physical fitness can boost your “feel good” endorphins and act as a distraction from day-to-day worries and stressors. If you find yourself stressed on a regular basis, exercise could be a healthy form of stress management.

Exercise and physical activity increases neurotransmitters called endorphins. If you have ever heard anyone talk about a “runner’s high,” they are actually referring to the increase in endorphins they experience from the act of physical activity. Endorphins trigger positive feelings in the body similar to morphine without the negative effects of drug use/abuse. Endorphins are also known to act as analgesic, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as a sedative and can increase healthy sleep patterns, which are directly related to stress, anxiety, and depression.

While involved in a high paced activity, you will often find yourself concentrating on your bodily movements, rather than concentrating on the day-to-day irritations and stressors. As a result, many find themselves able to focus on tasks better, tackle projects with increased energy and enthusiasm, and have a more optimistic attitude in general.

Even if exercise has not been a word in your vocabulary for quite some time, building up levels of physical activity can have immediate positive effects on your overall wellbeing. If it has been awhile, start slow and increase as you go along. It helps to choose activities that you already find enjoyable.

Also, pencil in some physical activity on your weekly agenda; this will help you stick with goals you set for yourself. Exercise is worth the time slot in your schedule as regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress levels, boost self-esteem, ward off anxiety and depression, and improve sleep.