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4 Simple Tips for Taking Advantage of Summer Vacation

4 Simple Tips for Taking Advantage of Summer Vacation


    As the dog days of summer approach, many of you will be fortunate enough to be able to take a vacation. Here are four ways to put that vacation to good use:

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    1. Actually take a break

    After several months of a hectic work schedule, you may have convinced yourself that idleness is a sin. To successfully recover during a vacation, you need to break free of this mindset: it’s perfectly okay to do nothing more than sit on the beach. This might sound obvious, but a 2010 survey by the travel site Expedia found that only 45 percent of Americans say they feel rested when they return to work after a vacation.

    Of course, vacations themselves can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when you bring along the kids. So be sure to schedule “vacations from your vacation”—hire a babysitter to watch your children while you and your spouse enjoy a romantic dinner. Or go for a quick, peaceful walk along the beach after your young children go to bed or before your teenage children wake up.

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    2. Kick your email addiction

    Whether or not you’ve brought along your kids, one surefire way to ruin a vacation is to endlessly check your email. Anytime you check your work email, your mind goes back to “work mode”—it frets about unfinished tasks, and worries about the work that might pile up while you’re away. It’s okay to check your email once or twice a day, but you simply can’t focus on your kids, your spouse, or yourself if you’re thinking about that email you have to send.

    In order to avoid having to check your email, or answer unwanted phone calls, you might need to be assertive with your boss and your peers. Make it clear to them that you are, in fact, on vacation—rather than merely working remotely.

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    3. Keep a healthy sleep schedule

    On the weekends and on vacation, most people shift their sleep schedule: they stay up later, and then sleep in. When they return to work, however, they typically have to shift back to an earlier wake-up time, all at once. This phenomenon has recently been dubbed “social jet lag,” and researchers have linked it to negative health outcomes such as obesity. So, for your health, try to go to sleep at a similar hour on vacation as you do during a workweek.

    Of course, an early bedtime is not conducive to late-night partying. So if you want to dance the night away, do so in the first half of your vacation. Then gradually bring your sleep schedule back in line with what it will have to be when you return to work.

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    4. Make a career check-up

    Many professionals can lose sight of the big picture when they are consumed by the day-to-day assignments of their jobs. A vacation is an opportunity for you to think about these more fundamental questions.

    One important part of your big picture is your career. I personally believe you should reevaluate your career at least once each year, and a vacation an appropriate time to reflect a little.  Why so often? Because a lot can happen in a year. You may learn more about the pros and cons of your current job. You might have sent a child off to college. You may have gotten a new boss or new colleagues.

    Thinking about these changes can help you make better decisions about the next step you should take. However, this career check-up doesn’t need to be a strenuous task where you write down every pro and con about your current job. You just need to step back and reflect—ask yourself whether this particular job is the right one for the stage of your career.

    (Photo credit: Relaxing on the Beach via Shutterstock)

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    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

    Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

    But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

    I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

    Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

    1. Nuts

    The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

    Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

    Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

    Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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    2. Blueberries

    Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

    When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

    3. Tomatoes

    Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

    4. Broccoli

    While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

    Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

    Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

    5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

    Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

    The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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    Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

    6. Soy

    Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

    Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

    Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

    7. Dark chocolate

    When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

    Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

    15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

    8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

    Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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    B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

    Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

    Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

    To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

    9. Foods Rich in Zinc

    Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

    Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

    Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

    10. Gingko biloba

    This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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    It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

    However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

    11. Green and black tea

    Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

    Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

    Find out more about green tea here:

    11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

    12. Sage and Rosemary

    Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

    Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

    When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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