The human body is a peculiar thing.
I was recently asked by fellow YMC blogger, Sharon DeVellis, if I could explain why that annoying eyelid twitchy thing happens. And then I was suddenly flooded by a bunch of people on Twitter enthusiastically reporting : Yes, we get the same thing!...And what the heck is that anyway?
So I figured, this is something I should address.
So, eyelid twitching. You know what we’re talking about, right? When your eyelid does that flutter/tic thing that you can’t control and can’t stop?
The scoop is: it’s usually triggered by one of these underlying causes: stress, fatigue, dehydration, caffeine, or alcohol.
But here, I have to admit...although we know the triggers, scientists haven’t exactly figured out why those triggers bring out eye flutter. Damn scientists. Get back to work, right?
Once eyelid spasms begin, they can continue intermittently for a few days. And then they usually disappear. Fact is, muscle twitches can happen anywhere in your body because of those triggers. The eyelid just happens to be the most common spot. Which is great. It couldn’t strike somewhere a little less visible, perhaps?
When it happens, we feel like it’s super-obvious and ridiculous-looking...but rest assured it’s not nearly as visible to other people as it is to you.
Best thing you can do to avoid eyelid twitching or make it stop once it’s started: correct the underlying factors. Deal with stress. Get more sleep. Drink more water. Cut the caffeine. Go easy on the alcohol.
Now. Thinking about this topic started me pondering other weird things the human body does, other things we don’t have great explanations for.
What is it? An uncontrollable spasm of your diaphragm (that’s the muscle that sits under your lungs and helps you breathe). It can be triggered by eating too fast, too much, swallowing air, or overindulging on alcohol. Just about everybody has their own little remedy for hiccups. Mine? Drinking a glass of water from the wrong side of the glass, upside-down-like.
And then there’s...
This is something done by everyone—animals and humans, alike, and even fetuses! But it’s another curiosity we don’t fully get. Theories abound: is it to increase brain oxygenation? Is it a form of involuntary stretching? We actually don’t know. If it’s all about oxygenation—why do studies show that breathing more deeply doesn’t seem to decrease yawning? And why do we yawn when bored? And then there's that contagious-yawning phenom. Seeing other people yawn—even thinking about yawning—can make you do it. How many times did you yawn while reading this?
Sorry ‘bout that.
It’s cold and flu season. Feeling a little under siege? When everyone around you is coughing and sneezing, do you feel the urge to hide inside with your family and pull up the drawbridge?
Well, there are better ways to stay healthy through the winter and into spring.
Here are my top suggestions:
1. Eat well & exercise regularly. These are good ideas year-round, of course, but especially important when you need your immune system to be operating at top efficiency. Make sure you’re getting lots of fresh fruit and veggies—a challenge if you’ve got picky eaters (and trust me, I feel your pain on that) so here’s some help in that department. As for exercise, a strong, healthy bod is much less likely to go under when it encounters a virus. A combo of cardio, strength training, and stretching is best.
2. Take probiotics. You probably know probiotics are good for your gut, but now research is showing that probiotics may actually protect against coughs and colds. In one study, children in daycare who were given daily probiotic supplements had fewer fevers, coughing episodes, and nasal congestion. I usually recommend yogurt as the best source of probiotics but supplements will do the trick, too.
3. Take Vitamin C. I know this sounds kind of old-school in the face of all the fancy-shmancy new things lining the shelves at vitamin stores, but it just flat works. Most kids aren’t fab in the fruit/veggie department, so a little supplemental Vitamin C is a good idea.
4. Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water. A dehydrated body leads to dried-out mucus membranes in your nose and mouth...and those mucus membranes are a primary defence against all the viruses out there. You want a nice plump, moist barrier in your nose and mouth, the better to stop those germs in their tracks. Also, if the air in your home is dry (as heated homes in winter often are), use a humidifier.
5. Wash your hands. I see a lot of sick people every day. And, yes, I get sick too, but not nearly as often as you might think. People always ask me my secret, and it’s simple: I wash my hands. A LOT. Wash your hands with soap and warm water—or use a hand sanitizer if a sink isn’t available. Get your kids into this habit, too.
6. Don’t touch your face. This is my other secret. It can be a tough habit to break, but be super-careful about touching your face (which introduces germs on your hands into your nose/eyes/mouth). Also? No biting or chewing your nails. Besides wrecking your mani, gnawing on those fingernails is an excellent way of popping viruses into your mouth. And I know you don’t want that.
7. Be wary of public surfaces. I don’t want to make you paranoid, and I don’t mean to trigger anyone’s OCD, but...germs are everywhere. And, depending on the circumstances, some viruses can stay alive for hours, even days. Among the filthiest: ATM buttons, doorknobs, gas-pump handles, and money. In many instances, it will be impossible to avoid these surfaces, so...um, please refer to #5 and #6, above.
8. Get a flu shot. Nobody likes a needle, but the flu shot really does make a difference. Influenza is a much worse virus than a regular cold virus (which the flu shot doesn’t protect against anyway). If you or your kids have suffered through the stuck-in-bed-because-you’re-positively-dying scourge of influenza, you know what I’m talking about. Rolling up your sleeve is a cakewalk compared to that. Of course, the flu shot is not a guarantee, but a big weapon in your defence.
9. Bundle up when you go outside. Personally, I love it when “old wives’ tales” turn out to have a basis of truth to them. Although western medicine has been scoffing at this one for decades, a recent study at the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, Wales showed that, indeed, catching a chill can increase your chances of contracting a cold. Vindicating mothers and grandmothers everywhere. The theory: cold temperatures cause nasal blood vessels to constrict, inhibiting the immune response in your nose, where cold viruses typically first attack.
10. Get lots of sleep. Again, this one is directed toward the idea of having a healthy immune system firing on all pistons. A sleep-deprived body is more vulnerable to infection. Need help improving your sleep? Read this.
11. Don’t share. I know, it’s not very Sesame Street of me. As moms, we’re usually all share your toys, sweetie...but when it comes to drinks, straws, utensils, lip balm? Not a good idea. Even if somebody seems healthy enough, there’s a little thing called: incubation period. Most experts agree that a person starts becoming contagious about one day before their symptoms start. So you do the math on that.
12. Take Zinc. If all else fails and you start developing symptoms of a cold or flu (typically that telltale sore throat) here’s what you need to do: get yourself some zinc lozenges and start sucking. There’s evidence that taken within the first 24 hours of a cold’s onset, zinc can decrease the duration and severity of your illness. And it will help your kids, too—much of the research on zinc and colds has been done on children. Zinc may also be more than a last-ditch effort. In studies, children receiving preventive supplements for at least 5 months had fewer colds and fewer absentee days from school.
Cold and flu season? Bring it on!
Feeling a little sluggish? Thinking: a siesta would really hit the spot right now?
Sorry, Mummy. Not an option.
Having a down day might be possible for some people, but not moms. The needs of our little ones don’t go away just because we’re not feeling up to it. There’s no phoning it in on this job.
So if you need a little more oomph, what can you do? There’s always a double-shot latte, of course, but here are some better, long-term energy boosters:
And, here, I mean water. Mild dehydration can easily creep up on you. Trouble is, even slight dehydration can sap your vigor.
Using thirst to dictate your fluid intake? Not a good idea. Thirst is a poor indicator; by the time you’re craving that cool drink your body is already withering.
And if you're wondering how much water you really need to drink, read this.
With the morning rush it’s all too easy to skip your own breakfast. Which, of course, is a big mistake. Research has shown that eating breakfast improves cognitive function, lowers stress levels, and imparts a greater sense of physical and mental health. Not to mention the numerous studies that demonstrate an association between breakfast and a slimmer waistline.
Start your engine with a hearty breakfast each day. Feast on a combination of complex carbs, protein, and simple carbs. Great choices: oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, fruit.
Beyond breakfast, commit to refilling your tank at regular intervals throughout the day. Eating frequent small meals and snacks (like, every 3 hours or so) will keep your blood sugar regulated and your energy high.
And when you do have your meal/snack, make sure you include some protein: it metabolizes slowly, keeps you feeling fuller longer, gives a more steady release of energy. Research shows it's one of the best ways to head off that dreaded afternoon slump.
Research has repeatedly shown the myriad benefits of regular meditation. But I know what you’re thinking: who’s got the time for that? By the time you’ve found a quiet spot, lit candles, changed into yoga pants, cued up the perfect background whale music...somebody is gonna need a diaper change. Or a sippy cup refill.
In that case, consider mini-meditation. Research shows benefit with even super-short meditation sessions. 10 minutes a day? You can probably lock yourself in the bathroom, or a hall closet, for that length of time. (You know you’ve done it before. We all have.)
Too tired to open a soup can? Why not go for a jog instead?
Sounds illogical, perhaps, but you’ll be surprised at the effect exercise can deliver. Physical activity gets your limbs moving, your blood flowing and your heart pumping. It’s invigorating. And, if you start exercising regularly, you’ll enjoy other energizing benefits. Like stress reduction and better sleep.
What’s more, I can almost guarantee that catching a glimpse in the mirror of a trimmer silhouette will perk up your day.
Stress is the scourge of our modern lives. Truth be told, it’s the reason lurking behind a HUGE proportion of doctor’s visits. And it’s the core factor beneath an awful lot of fatigue. And to be honest, I’ve yet to meet a mom who doesn’t admit to having a pretty high level of stress.
It’s not that you’re merely imagining your dwindling energy. It’s way more than that. A deep mind-body connection exists, and there’s a lot of physiologic change triggered by unrelenting stress: chronic inflammation and hormone imbalance, for starters.
Is your fatigue truly due to deep-down stress? The only person who can answer this is you. You need to take a penetrating look at your life. And be straight with yourself.
And then get to the business of dealing with your stress. How to do that? Start here.
...there’s one more thing to do if your energy level is truly suffering: talk to your doctor. You may need to get a checkup and have blood tests, to rule out common physiologic causes of fatigue like iron-deficiency anemia or thyroid disease.