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When Healthy Habits Go Wrong

You may be surprised at these 5 common things that we do try to stay healthy, when in fact they can create recipes for disaster!

1. Public toilet squatting

Sometimes there’s simply no getting around it… You are trying to protect yourself from all the nasty germs and bacteria from strangers. But did you know you could actually be setting yourself up for a urinary tract infection? Avoiding the toilet seat in public restrooms is second nature for many people. However, when you are in a squatting position, your pelvic muscles are contracting. This means you can’t fully empty your bladder, giving bacteria the opportunity to grow in your urinary tract.

Time to re-think squatting! Use disinfectant wipes (if possible) and cover the seat with as much toilet paper you need to feel comfortable. Toilet paper is enough to protect your behind from any contact with germs, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before leaving. There are likely more germs that you pick up on your hands without realizing it on the door handles of public restrooms, so you might want to focus on avoided direct contact with those surfaces as well!

2. Early bedtime

The saying “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” might not really be the case. Sleep specialist Dr. Michael Breus, says that most people who suffer from insomnia actually try to go to sleep too early. He suggests that instead of forcing yourself to go stick to an early bedtime, to count back 7.5 hours from when you need to wake up the next day and try to go to sleep then. This will hopefully help your body get back into a natural balance of homeostasis - where you are getting enough quality rest as opposed to struggling to get to sleep.

Everyone has a unique circadian rhythm (including sleep and wake cycles), and when we feel the most need to sleep. According to The National Sleep Foundation, the “strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 pm, although there is some variation depending on whether you are a “morning person” or “evening person.” This definitely explains afternoon tired spells for many of us! The key is getting enough restful sleep, no matter what time you hit the sack.

Regular physical exercise helps you fall asleep more easily, especially for people who have sedentary jobs that don’t allow for much movement or activity during the day. Another key trick is to wind down by reading a book or taking a bath or shower before bed if possible. Scrolling through the internet in bed or watching television right before you try to go to sleep can make it a lot harder to relax and reach a deep, restorative sleep state. Also avoid any caffeinated drinks for at least 3 hours before bed.

3. Too many to-do lists

No matter how much needs to get done, list alone are not going to make it happen. Having a calendar with important meetings or appointments is one thing, but if you find yourself relying on sticky notes or pages of lists - you may be doing yourself a serious disservice!

Your brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised to maintain and improve both long and short term memory. The Mayo Clinic offers several tips on improving your memory - with getting enough good sleep, regular exercise, and a healthy diet at the top of the list. Keeping yourself organized, socializing with friends, and staying active mentally have all been proven to help. Another good trick for exercising your brain is to get away with the lists and use mental imagery to help you remember things.

Shopping lists are a perfect example. Instead of writing down everything you need to pick up at the grocery store, imagine the ingredients you need as if you are making up a story or planning the meal in your mind. Once the imaginary story (as silly as it may be) is stuck in your brain, you will be more likely to remember to grab everything from bread and milk to chicken and asparagus. Try it on your next outing and work that brain for better memory recall!

4. Working out everyday

It’s true that everything works best in moderation - even exercise. Working out every day is a goal that many of us have, and kudos to all who make it happen! But doing the same exercises every single day can put too much strain on certain parts of your body, potentially leading to injury.

Most trainers recommend switching up your workout routine by not repeating the same exercises every day. Add variety to your workout and alternate which gym equipment you use. Go for a run one day and practice strength training or yoga the next time you exercise. This will help protect you from over-working specific muscles and tendons, and also keep you more motivated for new workout routines.

5. Don’t google medical symptoms

Please, for your own sake, do NOT look up symptoms on Wikipedia or WebMD. You may very well have a legitimate health condition, but using the internet as a reference guide for medical issues can be both terrifying and incredibly unreliable! You may have a strained muscle in your arm and step away from the computer thinking you are suffering from a heart attack! If you have a serious injury, or illness with one or many symptoms that are concerning, you need to seek medical care immediately or make an appointment with your doctor.

This is not to say that the internet can’t be helpful in learning more about conditions that you have been diagnosed with, but it’s more important to discuss these issues with a medical professional. By all means, if you think your doctor is missing something, get a second or even third opinion. Use the internet as a tool to help you be a self-advocate for medical treatment and care, but do not rely on it for diagnosing or especially trying to treat yourself for a serious illness!