The other day I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I was passing by…and woah. The bags stopped me in my tracks. And I’m not talking Coach here.
I know I’m not alone in this. We’ve all been there, right? So...what causes under-eye bags? And, more importantly, how do we get rid of them?
The tissues around the eyes are tissue-thin and fragile, and sadly, get thinner as you age. Anything that increases fluid around the eyes will cause puffiness. Also, when you retain fluid, in general, the evidence often shows up under your eyes first.
Your first step is to identify the reasons for your bag-lady appearance. Because if you can identify the cause, you can start to work on treatment.
Here are the common culprits for under-eye puffiness, and what to do:
The eyes have mucus membrane that becomes inflamed with allergies like hay fever or dust allergies. All that inflammation (and irritation created by rubbing and scratching) causes—you guessed it—fluid accumulation. If you think you have allergies, get tested, and then start treatment, like antihistamines and eye drops.
Again, it’s all about the local inflammation. A sinus infection is typically one-sided, and comes with a fever and head or facial pressure. Sinus infections can be successfully treated, but you may need some testing or imaging first.
This is a biggie, especially for moms. Not getting enough sleep is hard on many body systems, it just shows up most obviously underneath our eyes. If you have an infant, this one is going to be tough to solve...only time will help with that. If insomnia is a problem for you for other reasons, read this. So what can you do the morning after a rough night of crummy sleep? Try these home remedies: cucumber slices, cooled tea bags, a gel eye mask, cold spoons. And a nap.
Heavy alcohol intake causes dehydration, as I’m sure you know. Dehydrated tissues are weak and flabby tissues, including the skin under the eyes. For some people, that means paradoxical under-eye puffiness. Plus, you probably didn’t have your best night’s sleep after a night of boozing. If you did overindulge, just make sure you rehydrate as much as you can before going to bed.
Here, it’s a matter of gravity. After several hours sleeping face-down (or, half-face down if you’re a side-sleeper) fluid will pool in the easiest place. Which just so happens to be the loosely-connected, thin-fleshed area under your eyes. Try changing your sleeping position. Not easy, but the reward of a brighter-looking you in the mirror each morning might provide some motivation.
It’s all about osmosis—remember that, from high school science? Water will move from an area of low salt concentration to an area of high salt concentration, in effort to create balance. If your tissues are all salty from too much soy sauce with your spicy tuna rolls, your body will try to balance that. To prevent that, cut back on dietary sodium, or make sure to counteract with plenty of clear fluids, like water.
I have to confess, I am guilty of this one from time to time. And it’s a bad, bad habit. Makeup and other grimy particles cause irritation when they sit there all night. Irritation leads to inflammation, and voila...not your best look in the morning.
Next up, that miserable bedfellow of under-eye bags: dark circles.
Now, your turn: what remedies for under-eye bags do you swear by?
Judging from the overwhelming response to a question about flu shots on YMC’s Facebook page recently, I’d say this is a hot-button issue with moms. And pretty polarizing. I’m not entirely surprised; these days vaccines are, shall we say, a tad…controversial. So it can be incredibly confusing to know what to do. Your best bet? To make a decision that works for you and your family, based on solid information. Not dogma, not propaganda, and certainly not fear.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the flu shot, though, I just want to be clear: the flu shot is not your only option when it comes to protecting your family from the flu. There are many other things you can do, of course. And you’re definitely going to want to protect your family in whatever way you can, because the flu has been truly nasty this year.
And it’s not over yet.
Now, on to the flu shot. Here are some commonly asked questions.
At some point, you’ve probably heard someone say: “I got the flu shot this year and I still got the flu. I’m never doing that again.”
And this is true. The protection you get from the flu shot is not 100%. Every year, the World Health Organization (WHO) selects the three most prevalent virus strains to include in the shot. It’s likely, however, that more than just these three strains will go around. You won’t be protected against these. Plus, the flu shot won’t protect you one little bit from all the cold viruses out there. Ditto the “stomach flu”...which isn’t, technically, flu, but what people commonly call viral gastroenteritis. A totally different animal than influenza, gastroenteritis doesn’t give you respiratory symptoms, just a nasty few days of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
There are many reasons why this belief still circulates, in spite of the fact that it is scientifically impossible to get the flu from the flu shot (it’s a killed virus in the vaccine). For one, the side effects that some people get from the flu shot (fatigue, mild fever) can feel like the flu. Also, it takes about two weeks for your body to mount a proper immune response to the flu shot—meaning, if you get exposed to the flu in the days immediately before or after you get the shot, you won’t be immune yet. Boom—flu for you. Not the flu shot’s fault. (If you’re looking for blame...you might try the general direction of your sniffly co-workers?)
Superbugs—bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics—have been getting a lot of press these days. And this is for good reason. It’s a big problem, especially in hospitals. It’s why we try not to overprescribe antibiotics. But, this issue has nothing to do with the flu vaccine. For one, influenza is a virus, not a bacteria. Also, the flu shot is not a treatment for the flu—it works by introducing killed virus into your body, which stimulates your immune system into producing its own antibodies. We’re not talking about multi-drug resistance, because there are no drugs involved.
If you and your kids are healthy, there’s a good chance if you get the flu you’ll recover just fine. But many people make the mistake of dismissing the flu as just a somewhat-worse-version of the common cold. No sweat, right? Wrong. The flu is serious business. It will knock you flat, best case scenario. Worst-case scenario, you may be one of the 20,000 Canadians who become seriously ill with the flu annually, and require hospitalization. Most terrifyingly, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones, reports that every year between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die of the flu and its complications.
The thing is, you may come through the flu unscathed. But what about people around you, and the people you care about? Not everybody you contact will be as healthy as you. By protecting yourself from the flu, you’re protecting them, too. The most vulnerable among us—babies under six months of age, in particular—can’t get the flu shot. They depend on the rest of us to not pass the flu on to them.
This is where things about the flu shot get touchy, emotionally-charged, and very, very confusing. Concern over vaccine safety, in general, has exploded in recent years, and increasing numbers of people are opting out of all vaccines, not just the flu shot. That conversation is way bigger than I can get into here.
However, what I do know is that the flu shot has been researched worldwide—up, down, and sideways. There is a lot of data to support the safety of the flu shot, and only very rare instances of serious complications, like allergic reactions. I also know that the flu is a very unpleasant virus that absolutely does cause serious complications in people. It comes down to weighing the risks and the benefits.
Does this mean we know everything there is to know? Of course not. Scientific research is an on-going thing. But we still need to make decisions about what to do today. And there is a large body of reassuring evidence that the flu shot is safe, and that does include children over the age of six months and pregnant women. There are no conspiracies, here—people who choose to make health care their livelihood have gone into this line of work to improve people’s health, not cause harm.
Let’s say you’ve weighed the info, and you’ve decided you want to get the shot. But—it’s January. Is it too late? Technically, no. We still have several weeks to go in flu season, and it could get worse from here, of course. Some offices may have run out of their supply of vaccine, however, so you should call before heading to the clinic. The best time, generally, to get your flu shot is in the fall when it becomes available, before the viruses start to circulate in significant numbers. Next year, mark your calendar for sometime around October.
Truth be told, there’s much more to this conversation than can be covered in a single blog post. I’m not aiming to coerce anyone into anything—my goal, here, was to provide some basic information and try to clear some of the confusion.
It comes down to personal choice. You have to weigh the costs and benefits, and figure out what you feel most comfortable with. That’s all any of us can do.
If you’re looking for more info, see Health Canada’s website about the flu shot.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you get the flu shot this year? Are you still on the fence? What are your main concerns about the flu shot?
“Me Time” is a very rare commodity for me these days, just like all moms. Stay-at-home moms have plenty of challenges, I know—I was there, once upon a time. (And when you’re done here, see Caroline’s Finding Me Time: SAHM Edition, the sister post to this one.) But now, as a WOHM (work-outside-the-home mom) I have a somewhat different set of challenges.
Working outside the home means spending an awful lot of time away from my family. More than I would like, to be honest. I mean, I enjoy my job. I like going to work. But I do not like leaving my kids. I don’t enjoy the feeling of missing out on so much. Which means, when I’m not at work I want to be doing stuff with them. Building forts. Playing outside.
Also, I’m not prepared to fully relinquish all the family tasks, which means I still do a lot of birthday-party-planning and swim-lesson-chauffering and parent-teacher-conferencing.
You don’t need graduate-level Calculus to do the math on this one. There just isn’t a lot of time leftover for little old me.
Here's what I wrote on Twitter this past December:
I know it’s sad, but I wasn’t even kidding when I tweeted that. After looking at my calendar and noting the upcoming dentist appointment, I thought gleefully about all the things I could do in the waiting room. All by myself. I could read. I could flip through InStyle magazine. I could listen to my iPod. I could, well, I could do just about anything with a little guilt-free chunk of time like that. And while they’re cleaning my teeth, well, by god I could actually watch TV.
The other night, I came home late after a particularly grueling shift at a walk-in clinic and within five minutes of arriving home, I was drawing a nice warm bath.
Not for me, that is.
Nope, it was bath and bedtime for my boys, of course. They’d all eaten dinner without me, and hubs was at the end of his tether (you can see it in the eyes—I recognized the look) so I took over, balancing dinner—a grilled cheese sandwich—on my knees while they splashed about. No, the days of coming home to immediately flop on the couch and decompress with a glass of wine and a good book, well, those days are gone. For now.
And how about mom guilt? Yes, you could say I’m in touch with that emotion.
“You going to work again, mummy?” says my son. (Cue sad face, eyes like Puss-in-Boots from Shrek.)
“Yes, sweetheart, but I’ll be back later today and we’ll have fun then,” I say. (Cue cheerful/upbeat tone and pasted-on-smile.)
And then I walk out of the house and to my car. (Cue sobbing into coffee cup.)
But this isn’t a pity party. Maybe, at this point, I should offer some solutions?
Well...I can’t pretend this is something I’ve figured out. Because I haven’t. But here are some of the things I’m working on. And, if you’re a mom who has a job outside the home, maybe these are some things you should consider, too:
Stop considering your own health to be a luxury item. Eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep—these are not negotiable, and not things that need to get shoehorned in amongst all the other stuff (or, worse, left off the list altogether).
Accept that “me time” is probably going to be brief, for the time being. For me, this means not feeling sorry for myself about this. Instead I need to just deal. Five minutes here, five minutes there, it’s so much better than nothing.
Cultivate the skill of relaxation and brief meditation. It is possible to relax in five minutes. It just takes a little practice.
Try to align tasks. My 7-year-old needs to get more exercise. I need to get more exercise. Solution? I jog while he rides his bike alongside me. We tried this a little while ago, we jog/biked down to the ocean, hung around watching the waves for a little bit, then jog/biked all the way back. It was perfect. Of course, we have yet to repeat it...so I can’t be *all that* smug about it, but we’ve got plans to make this a habit.
Delegate. I recognize that a certain amount of this situation is self-imposed. I have career ambitions, yet I also want to be a fully hands-on and involved mom. I could make life easier on myself if I let a couple of the less-important things go. And, likely, so could you.
Use the time when kids are sleeping efficiently. If you’re a night-owl, that’s after they’ve gone to sleep, of course. If you’re a morning person, it’s early in the morning. Because, as I’m sure you all know, sleep time is guilt-free time. They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, and you’ve got your own time. But be intentional about it. Don’t just mindlessly flip through channels on the TV. Plan these precious blocks of time to their best effect.
If you’re in the market for some belated New Year’s Resolutions, join me on this one: putting yourself on the priority list.
Maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to wait for my next teeth cleaning to carve out a little Me Time.
Now it's your turn. Do YOU have any solutions to finding “me time” as a WOHM? (or any other mom-acronym for that matter.) How do you create a little space for yourself? I’d LOVE to hear your ideas and solutions.