Employee Wellness Newsletter

Autumn 2018

In This Issue:

  • MindWell U Pilot
  • Maintain Don't Gain 2018 is Here!
  • Staff Highlight:  Center for Transplantation Wellness Day
  • Ask the Registered Dietitian:  Is it OK to Drink Coffee?
  • Exercise of the Fall:  Bird Dog with Blocks
  • Anti-Inflammatory Holiday Food Swaps
  • Fall Recipe:  Masala Chai Spiced Mousse

MindWell U Pilot:
Do you ever feel stressed or overwhelmed by everyday responsibilities?  Do you ever feel the urge to take a few minutes to calm yourself, but not sure how?  If you said yes to these questions, the MindWell U pilot my be an excellent option for you.
The MindWell U pilot is a project within the Healthy Campus Network MindWell Working Group.  The program centers on a 30-day mindfulness challenge that aims to teach you how to take five minutes of mindfulness each day.  It can be completed from any location and is free for the first 250 UC San Diego (campus, Health and Health Sciences) faculty and staff.  To register or ask questions, please email  Once you are registered, you will complete a pre-program survey and receive a link to begin the program.  Each participant is given a unique ID number to keep all information private.

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Maintain Don't Gain 2018:
The average American gains between 1-5 pounds during the holiday season.  This year, do not join this statistic.  Instead, join Maintain Don't Gain!  In this 8-week program you will receive a weekly email with tips, tricks and encouragement in the areas that will keep you feeling well and maintaining weight:  exercise, nutrition and stress reduction.  You will head into the holidays feeling better equipped and in control.  Register by emailing Brenna Joyce, UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Program Coordinator, at  Program runs November 5 - January 4.  

Spotlight:  Center for Transplantation Wellness Day
The UC San Diego Health Center for Transplantation wellness day took place on August 24th to incorporate wellness activities for their staff throughout the day.  The idea was inspired by Dr. Kristin Mekeel, who sensed a need for a boost in employee morale.  Due to numerous departmental changes, a toll was taken on all members of the department.  At the same time, the Clinic Manager had contacted the UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Coordinator, Brenna Joyce, with the same idea.  And thus, the idea became real!  

The itinerary for the day spanned from 8am until 4pm.  Staff members could take a few minutes throughout the day to take advantage of:  acupuncture, myofascial release therapy, chair massage, myofascial release ball therapy workshops, 30-minute classes including yoga and Move Better and 30-minute discussions including Simple & Tasty Snack Ideas and Mindfulness in the Workplace.  Members of the team brought a healthy dish to share for a potluck.
The event was a huge success and will now be an annual event.  To keep the momentum, staff members are reminded to take time for themselves, including at work, and implementing the on-site movement-based classes, such as Core Strength and Stretch and Mindfulness, that UC San Diego Health departments have access to as part of the Employee Wellness Program.

Interested in doing a Wellness Day for your team?  Please contact Brenna Joyce,, to get assistance in coordinating the event!

Coffee:  To Drink or Not to Drink?
By Erin Kukura, MS, RD and Markayla Stroubakis, UC San Diego Health Dietetic Intern

Coffee is commonly used to help us wake up in the morning or power through the day.  Recent research shows associations between coffee consumption and health benefits.  A 2017 umbrella review concluded that coffee consumption was supported by significant associations with lower risk for all cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, total cancer and found no consistent evidence of harmful associations between coffee consumption and health outcomes when consumed within usual levels of intake (Poole et al., 2017).  Although consuming coffee does not appear to be harmful, that does not mean you must drink it; it is also important to consider how much is too much.  Here is the lowdown on caffeine and a few items to be mindful of when it comes to your intake.
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The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, acknowledge that caffeine can be part of a healthy eating pattern (yay!), but say that 400 mg of caffeine is the upper limit that should be consumed.  That equates to about four cups of brewed coffee per day.
Here is the amount of caffeine in a few common beverages:
  • 8-oz cup of coffee: 95-165 mg
  • 1 shot of espresso:  17-64 mg
  • 8-oz cup of green tea:  25-29 mg
  • 1 energy drink:  27 - 164 mg
As you can see, caffeine amounts vary significantly and are dependent on coffee bean origin, brewing method and serving size.  Caffeine can also be found in sodas, black teas and chocolate.
Although 400 mg is the safe daily upper limit, each person has their own sensitivity to caffeine.  It is important to notice for yourself how much is too much as it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms including:
  • Increased anxiety
  • Digestive upset
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Nausea
Additionally, those with GERD or sleep challenges may also want to avoid caffeine.  Caffeine can worsen sleep because the half-life (amount of time it takes for 1/2 of the caffeine to metabolize in the body) is, on average, five hours in healthy individuals.  That means if coffee is consumed at 3pm, half of it is still in your system at 8pm and could be interfering with your ability to sleep.  I encourage individuals to look not only at how much caffeine they are consuming, but also at what time of day, and to find what works best for you and your body.

Coffee and Added Sweeteners
Many of our favorite caffeinated drinks, such as the infamous pumpkin spice latte or flavored cold brews, contain more sugar than expected.  Here are a few ways to reduce added sugar in coffee drinks:
  • Skip the sugar entirely and drink it black or only add cream
  • Decrease the sugar in drip coffee by half
  • Try a new drink that is unsweetened, such as an Americano or a plain latte
  • Request that the drink is made with one half of the sweetener
Remember, it is okay to have a sugary coffee drink in moderation!
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Erin Kurkura, the UC San Diego Recreation Registered Dietitian, visit: or e-mail

Exercise of the Fall:  Bird Dog with Blocks
Image result for bird dog exercise with yoga blocks under kneesThe Bird Dog is a simple, classic exercise that, when performed correctly, strengthens back extensor muscles including the longissimus, iliocostalis and multifidus.  These muscles work together to tighten and stabilize the spine, assisting it to carry weight.  To properly train these muscles to do their job, the goal in the Bird Dog is to hold the spine in a neutral (natural curve) position while moving the arms and legs.  This version with the blocks forces the body to use additional muscles in the front and sides of the waist (bonus!).  Try one set of 8-10 repetitions.  As the muscles get stronger, perform two to three sets.  See the exercise in action.

Hide Vegetables in this Recipe:  Spiced Chai Mousse
In this versatile dish, which may be eaten as a breakfast, snack or dessert, you can add to your daily dose of veggies without knowing it.  This is a perfect setup for those who do not delight in the thought of eating vegetables...and it's simple, to boot.  In addition to cancer-fighting compounds and fiber in cruciferous cauliflower, you will get good-for-you fats from cashews and coconut (can anyone say medium-chain triglycerides?).  Eat it as-is or top with a little crunchiness like pistachios or almonds or add some sweetness with berries or peaches.  Here we go!
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons (or 3 bags) Masala chai
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut meat, chopped
  • 2 cups (about 6 oz.) cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or less if you want less sweetness)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Bring water to a boil.  Add chai and steep for 5 minutes.  Strain and discard tea leaves.  Let cool.
  • Combine cooled tea with 1 cup cashews and let soak for 4 hours.  Strain cashews and reserve tea concentrate.  Set aside.
  • Combine soaked cashews, coconut, cauliflower, honey, vanilla and sea salt in a blender or food processor with 3 tablespoons of chai concentrate.  Blend on high, slowly adding additional tea, if needed, until mixture is completely smooth.
  • Allow to cool in refrigerator for one hour before serving.  Top with toasted nuts or fruit.
Find the original recipe from Shape Magazine.

Holiday Food Swaps
According to the Harvard Medical School, your immune system goes into overdrive when something foreign is encountered by the body.  This can include microbes, plant pollen and chemicals.  This triggers inflammation in the body in order to protect it from the invader.  We usually know when this occurs.  Yet there is smaller-scale day-to-day inflammation that may persist in our body for a variety of reasons, including components of food.  If we continually bombard our body with these ingredients, over the years we may have a recipe for a disease that is linked to chronic inflammation including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer.  Foods that inflame the body include:
  • Refined carbohydrates (eg., candies and white bread)
  • Fried foods
  • Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Processed meat (eg., hot dogs and sausage)
  • Margarine
Sad news but there is hope!  There are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as:
  • Green leafy vegetables (eg., spinach, kale and Swiss chard)
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish (eg., wild salmon and sardines)
  • Olive oil
  • Fruits, especially berries
How about trying to incorporate some of these during the cookies, cakes and candy season that begins with Halloween and goes through the new year?  Here are a few suggestions:
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  • Cancer-fighting riced cauliflower in any rice-based dish
  • Spiral-cut veggies and bean-based pasta for pasta
  • Almonds for croutons (we just want crunch...why not up the health factor?)
  • Sparkling or infused (berries!) water for soda
  • Decrease salt:  use real garlic or celery seed instead of garlic or celery salt
  • Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise 
  • Endive, chopped carrots, celery and bell pepper for tortilla chips
  • Olive oil and lemon instead of store-bought dressing (take a look at their ingredient lists and you may not be able to identify what they all are because they are chemicals!)
  • Whole grain or bean-based varieties of refined grains
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Why not try one or two of those swaps and see how it goes?  If you make a dish for guests they will likely not even notice some of the switches...or comment that they are  different and better!  Please share with me what you try!

Happy and healthy holidays to you!

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

Autumn 2018

In This Issue:

  • MindWell U Pilot
  • Maintain Don't Gain 2018 is Here!
  • Ask the Registered Dietitian:  Is it OK to Drink Coffee?
  • Exercise of the Fall:  
  • Staff Highlight:  Transplant Department Wellness Day
  • Anti-Inflammatory Holiday Food Swaps
  • Fall Recipe:  Masala Chai Spiced Mousse
MindWell U Pilot:
Do you ever feel stressed or overwhelmed by everyday responsibilities?  Do you ever feel the urge to take a few minutes to calm yourself, but not sure how?  If you said yes to these questions, the MindWell U pilot my be an excellent option for you.
The MindWell U pilot is a project within the Healthy Campus Network MindWell Working Group.  The program centers on a 30-day mindfulness challenge that aims to teach you how to take five minutes of mindfulness each day.  It can be completed from any location as is free for the first 250 UC San Diego (campus, Health and Health Sciences) faculty and staff.  To register or ask questions, please email  Once you are registered, you will complete a pre-program survey and receive a link to begin the program.  Each participant is given a unique ID number to keep all information private.

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UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

Summer 2018

In This Issue:

  • Financial Wellness
  • The UC San Diego WorkStrong Program
  • Seven Ways to Incorporate Movement at Work
  • Benefits of Aquatic Exercise
  • Exercise of the Summer:  Quadruped Oblique Crunch
  • Five Things Learned Without the Cell Phone at Bedtime 
  • Cool Recipe:  Avocado Mint Ice Cream 

UC San Diego Financial Wellness Series:
UC San Diego Health, in collaboration with Fidelity, holds a series of financial and retirement planning workshops.  These are geared to staff members at any stage in their career, not just those nearing retirement.  Classes take place on the Hillcrest and La Jolla medical campuses.  Enrollment through Fidelity is required as space is limited.  
To see workshop descriptions and register, use the following link:  

The UC San DiegoWorkStrong Program:
Have you been injured at work? Do you still have aches and pains? UC San Diego WORKSTRONG offers a comprehensive, individualized health and well-being program. WorkStrong is designed to reduce the risk of further injury through exercise, nutritional analysis and deep tissue massage therapy. For more information email: Alaide Cordon-Mulbry at: to find out if you qualify to participate in this FREE program.

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Exercise of the Summer:  
Quadruped Oblique Crunch
This exercise stretches the torso, front and back.  It works the muscles along the sides of the abdomen, the obliques.  Start with a small range of motion and gradually increase.  
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1. Start on your hands and knees with one hand under your shoulder, one hand behind your head and your knees under your hips.
2. Rotate the elbow of the hand behind your head back and away from your torso, exhaling as you rotate. Hold for two seconds.
3. Reverse directions, inhaling, and bring your elbow under your torso to your opposite knee, exhaling as you finish the rotation. Hold for 2 seconds.
4. Complete a set of 10 repetitions on one side before repeating on the other side.
Be sure to: Keep your torso tight throughout the movement.
Keep Up Fitness in the Heat:  
Aquatic Exercise
Feel too hot to work out in the heat?  Did you know that water fitness caters to all levels and abilities of participants?  An article from the IDEA Fitness Journal sums up the attraction to this interesting and fun form of exercise:

  • Training in the water improves ability to perform activities of daily living.
  • Participants can improve strength, endurance and body composition.
  • Properties of water decrease risk of muscle soreness and damage.
  • Diabetes control:  A 2016 study demonstrated improvements in blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes in the 12-week experiment.
Don't feel adept at your swim stroke?  There are many types water workouts:
  • Shallow- and deep-water training
  • Aquatic boot camp, cycling and boxing
  • Aquatic yoga, Pilates and dance
  • Combination land and water programs
  • Athletic coaching
How can incorporating water workouts help those who are very active?
  • It reduces overuse injuries
  • It adds variety and assists in overcoming plateaus
  • The water can increase muscle strength
  • Aquatic exercise facilitates post-workout recovery
site-logoInterested in swimming more often?  Try the UCSD Master's Swim Program at the Canyonview Pool.  Try the first week for free!

8 Ways to Incorporate Movement at Work
Prolonged sitting can lead to body aches and pains, poor circulation and thus decreased work output, poor posture and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.  The American Council on Exercise suggests these simple tricks to keep moving during your day:
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  • Stand:  Every hour move the body in a standing position for just 2-3 minutes.
  • Have a Ball:  Use a stability ball as your chair 20-30 minutes several times per day to keep core muscles engaged and encourage more upright posture.
  • Hold Walking Meetings:  Get outside for fresh air, increased circulation and an endorphin boost.  The combination might just improve productivity and mood.
  • Take a Fitness Break:  Try 10 minutes of repeated rounds of 10 squats, 10 wall push-ups and 10 heel raises.
  • Eat Lunch AWAY from the Desk:  Get some fresh air, take a walk and feel a new perspective.
  • Commute Differently:  Is it possible to commute by bike or foot?  It makes both an active and less stressful transition to and from work.
  • Practice Office Yoga and Mindfulness:  Decrease stress and increase mindfulness through deep breathing and gentle movement for 5-10 minutes.
  • Register for Get Up Tritons:  Video emails sent twice daily to get you moving during your workday.  Join here.

 Digital Detox Challenge:  Go to Bed Without a Phone
Do you experience sleep difficulties?  Do you keep your cell phone in your room or use it just before turning out the lights?  How about trying just one week without your cell phone in your room.  When you leave your phone in another room at night, the results may be enlightening.  Some key takeaways you may notice include:

  • You are "addicted" to the cell phone:  There may be a tendency to feel anxious, wonder if someone is trying to contact you or uncertain what to do in place of looking at emails, news and websites.  Note how you feel at the beginning of the week versus the end of the week.
  • You Sleep Better:  Reading news or replying to emails can make the brain spin.  Additionally, the blue light emitted from screens will halt melatonin release, which is needed for sleep.  Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep?  Note what happens to your rest during this experience.
  • It is OK to Be Offline:  There is no rule that you must be available 24 hours per day.  Sure, there may be certain circumstances when you do but often times it is ok and, in fact, healthy for us to have true down time without being on call.
  • You Have More Human Contact:  Do you end your day with others in the room as you check your cell phone?  How would that look if you had conversation with family members or your partner, instead?  Or, did a few relaxing stretches and read (gasp!) a real book?
  • Your Morning is More Relaxing:  Wake up to a traditional alarm clock (I know, crazy) and get out of bed without immediately checking your texts, emails and alerts.  Perhaps you drink your morning cup of tea or coffee and wait at least 30 minutes before you look at your phone.  What do you notice?  How do your stress levels feel?
I would love to hear back from anyone who tries this experiment.  Please email me, Brenna Joyce, at (just not before bed!) and tell me about your experience.  To read the full article, click here.

Cool Down Recipe:  Avocado Banana Mint Ice Cream
Healthy, delicious and cooling?  Sound too good to be true?  All you need are a few ingredients and you, too, can enjoy the health benefits of this recipe.  There is fiber from the avocado, banana and cacao nibs.  Avocado also provides quality fats and the cacao adds a dose of antioxidants.  Try this recipe from Healthy Slow Cooking for yourself!


5 frozen bananas, sliced (tip:  slice bananas prior to freezing them)
2 medium-sized ripe avocados
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
stevia or peppermint stevia to taste (optional)
3/4 cup cacao nibs or unsweetened chocolate chips

  • Add banana and avocado to a food processor and process until smooth; stop and scrape the bowl a few times.
  • Add peppermint extract and stevia; process to evenly distribute.
  • Add cacao nibs or chips to mixture and pulse (make sure not to over-process) or stir by hand to mix.
  • Scrape into a bowl and freeze for several hours.
  • Let thaw a few minutes as needed when time to eat.

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter
Spring 2018

In This Issue:
  • UC Walks
  • Bike to Work Day
  • Nutrition and Mental Health
  • Foods to Reduce Stress
  • Five Opportunities to Make Better Health Decisions
  • Steps to Combat Worry
  • Spring Reset for Home, Mind and Body

UC Walks:  
It's the ninth annual event!  Come outside and play in the sun with your colleagues.  Take a short break during your workday to get movement, nutrition and rejuvenation.  Enjoy group-led walks, food samples, chair massage, stretches by the Get Up Tritons coaches and Ask the Registered Dietitian (bring all of your burning nutrition questions!).  You may register for the event but more than welcome to join even if you have not. 
Bike to Work Day May 17, 2018:
In support of the GO by BIKE initiative, UC San Diego will participate in the 2018 Bike to Work Day!  Join colleagues in this national event, also part of National Bike Month.

Over 100 stops are planned throughout San Diego County on Bike to Work Day.  UC San Diego will host two stops:  Hillcrest from 6-9am on Arbor Drive at Front Street (near the hospital entrance) and in Town Square near Student Business Services on the La Jolla campus from 6-10am.  Refreshments are provided by Transportation Services and Housing, Dining and Hospitality.  Raffle prizes, to boot!

By registering your bike for Bike to Work Day 2018 you will be eligible to pick up a free t-shirt at any of the stops throughout the county.

For more information visit:

Diet May Affect Depression:  
Image result for diet and depression imagesIs it possible to lower rates of depression through diet instead of pharmaceutical drugs?  Two recent studies demonstrated that dietary habits may have an effect on depression.  One study found the participants who adhered to the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet were less likely to suffer from depression than those who did not follow the diet.  The diet emphasizes vegetables, fruit, lower-fat dairy products and limits foods high in saturated fats and sugar.  A second study examined the Mediterranean-style diet which included vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts, fish and extra virgin olive oils improved quality of life and decreased depressive symptoms in those suffering from depression.  Look at the IDEA Fitness Journal for the full article.

Stress Busting Foods:  
Next time the pressures of daily life are in your way, try eating one or a combination of the following to help mitigate unwanted stress:

1)  Folic Acid:  low levels are possibly correlated to lower emotional health.  It can be found in asparagus, oranges, avocados, beans and leafy greens.

2)  Vitamin C:  can help to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels which can increase under stress.  Blueberries have high levels; try adding them to a smoothie or yogurt.

3)  Dark Chocolate (70% and above):  the high levels of polyphenols and flavenols can improve mood and lower blood pressure.  Snack on a couple (just a couple!) of squares of dark chocolate or add unsweetened cocoa/cacao powder to a smoothie.

4)  Seeds:  many seeds contain high levels of magnesium which helps stabilize emotions and calm the body.  Magnesium can be found in pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds.  Snack on them by themselves or add to a salad or yogurt.

5)  Chamomile or Lavender Herbal Tea:  these two flowers can calm nerves, reduce anxiety and promote sleep.  Sip on a cup any time you feel stress - neither has caffeine!

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Published by the American Council on Exercise. 

Five Daily Moments to Better Decisions:  
While each health decision during the day may not seem like a deal breaker, those small positive decisions add up over time.  Here are five moments each day when we have an opportunity to make a positive impact on our health:

1)  Breakfast:  First, the decision to actually eat breakfast is important because it will give you energy and keep you from being over-hungry later in the morning or at lunch (leading to overeating).  Still feeling a little tired after breakfast?  Make sure you're not eating too much sugar for for the first meal of the day and before reaching for a cup of coffee, try a short and brisk walk around the block.

2)  Lunch Break at Work:  The goal is twofold:  eat a healthy lunch and fit in a short bout of movement.  Packing a lunch from home increases your odds of lunch being healthy and making you feel better; it will also allow you more time to fit in a short workout or even simply a 10- or 20-minute walk.

3)  Leaving Work:  Before heading home can you make it to the gym or an organized exercise class?  Once we get home, there are often endless opportunities to derail us from any well-intended workout plans.  Plus, it is an excellent transition to calm the body after work and focus on the people and time at home.

4)  The Dinner Hour:  While prepping dinner, do prep work for meals and snacks for the workday - cut extra veggies or hard-boil some eggs to have on hand for the remainder of the week.

5)  Before Bed:  Take time to wind down and allow the body to relax before falling asleep.  You may experience improved sleep quality and decreased time to sleep.  Instead of derailing your healthy eating efforts throughout the day with sugary snacks, brush your teeth immediately after dinner and try a cup of lavender or chamomile tea.  Shutting down electronics along with mindfulness practice or gentle stretches will help to quiet the brain and soften muscles.

Image result for worry free imagesSolutions to Side Effects of Worrying:  Worrying may be helpful if it is motivating to get a task completed.  However, there is a threshold above which it can cause overwhelm, anxiety and physiological symptoms including sleep disruption, headaches, nausea and muscle tension.  While we may not be able to eliminate worry, try one of the following to decrease the negative effects.  If you feel that worry is starting to become unhealthful for your well-being, consider visiting a healthcare professional to discuss the best course of action.  

1)  Be More Mindful:  The first step is to notice when you worry and if there are particular triggers that start the process.  Mindfulness practice can help to recognize thought and behavior patters.  Try:
  • Taking a few moments during the day to focus on your breath
  • Observe your thoughts without judgement or attempting to change them
  • When your mind begins to wander, notice and bring your attention back to breathing
2)  Keep a Notepad:  Instead of keeping worries and thoughts of how to fix them in your head, keep a notepad with you so that you can write down worries as they arrive.  This means if you are doing something else (trying to sleep, for example) it takes the pressure off of trying to solve a problem or remembering you need to think about it tomorrow to tackle it.  If you are in the middle of another activity, writing your thoughts will allow you to get back to them when you are more clearheaded and less stressed.

3)  Note What You Can and Cannot Control:  Control may give us a sense of safety and certainty...but it is not possible to control the outcome of all that comes our way.
  • Go back to your list of worries and note what you can/cannot control
  • Focus on worries that you can control and be specific about actions to handle them
For more details, visit the full article at The Chopra Center.

Spring Reset for Your Home, Body and Mind:
Spring cleaning is usually associated with clearing clutter from the house.  How about clearing the body and mind, as well?  Here are quick tips, as suggested by the Chopra Center, for all three categories:

  • Start Small:  Do small projects when you have time so the tasks of reorganizing the entire house is less overwhelming.  For example, organize items in a couple of cabinets and.  
  • Be Consistent:  This makes small tasks habit-forming as well as leads to less small jobs piling up into huge chaos.
  • Discard:  Clutter can add stress to our daily lives.  Don't use an item?  Create space for yourself and donate or get rid of it.
  • Get Organized:  Invest in storage bins, folders and closet organizers to make your surroundings feel under control.
  • Get Outdoors:  Do any physical activity outside and you will feel better!  Go on a walk at Miramar Lake, jog along Torrey Pines State Beach, garden in your own backyard or take a hike at Mission Trails.  Possibilities endless!
  • Try a New Activity:  Does the classic gym workout sound less than enticing?  Try something new like a dance class, swimming lessons or a hike on a new trail.
  • Add Nutritious Food:  Focus on adding good food to your plate to create less room for unhealthier foods.  
  • Sleep, Sleep, Sleep!:  Make bedtime a priority.  Note how much better your body feels when you get strict about getting to sleep on time.  Even better, shut down electronics at least one hour prior to sleep and note how your sleep feels.  Blue light emitted from electronics decreases melatonin output by our body, which is needed for restful sleep.
  • Clean Out Negative Thoughts:  Negative thought patterns may be habitual.  In order to change the pattern, mindful activities may help to make you more aware and to let them go.
  • Journal:  Stream of conscious thoughts reveal what you may be holding onto.  Regular writing can aid to direct your attention to areas that you may not have been aware of previously.
  • Socialize:  Reconnect with friends and family you many have lost touch with during the winter.
  • Enjoy Yourself:  Activities that we enjoy give us added energy and something positive to anticipate.  Find what that is for you and schedule it into your week.
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UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

Winter 2018
 Image result for healthy winter images
In This Issue:
  • Get Up Tritons!
  • Onsite Fitness for You
  • 3 Reasons to Cook Your Own Meal
  • 8 Habits That May Increase Stress 
  • New Myofascial Release Balls
  • Move 3 for Every 30
  • Winter Recipe:  Warm Quinoa Spinach Salad

Anti-Desk 101 with Get Up Tritons
The news is out, sitting is not good for your health. It's easy to sit at your desk for hours without moving. Don't worry, we have a solution! Subscribe to "Get Up Tritons!" for a reminder to get up and move! Our daily emails, sent at 10am and 2pm, provide instructional exercise videos you can do from the comfort of your desk or office. Our fitness instructors will teach you how to reverse the negative effects of sitting--all for free! Subscribe here.
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More Opportunities to Move:  FREE Onsite Fitness
The winter/spring offerings of FREE fitness classes are in full swing.  Try the new Yoga & Mindfulness class at the Hillcrest Medical Center on Thursdays from 12:10-12:50pm.  For the current schedule and any updates/changes, visit  If you work off of the medical campus, there are options!  One of our certified fitness instructors can come to your department to teach a customized class.  Just get in touch with Brenna Joyce, UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Coordinator, at

Better Nutrition in the New Year:  The Case for Home Cooking
Image result for healthy home cooked meal imageWe often hear the suggestion to bring our lunch to work and to prepare food at home.  Does it really make enough of a difference to make the effort?  Even though it may be tempting to take the easier road and purchase prepared foods, here are three reasons why eating home-cooked food can be a game changer on the road to better health, including increased energy and weight maintenance:

  1. Higher Quality Ingredients:  you have control over what goes into your body, including the quality of ingredients.  For example, many restaurants choose to use lower grade oils which promote inflammation in the body.  You can choose better ingredients to prevent inflammation.  Additionally, you may opt to use real herbs and spices and lessen the amount of salt - and eliminate MSG - added to foods.  These options may provide you with polyphenols that will deliver antioxidants to your body and increase the flavor to your food.
  2. Incorporate Mindfulness into a Habitual Activity:  We may engage in meditation and mindfulness activities but why not use cooking as an opportunity to practice awareness?  Notice the colors, textures, aromas, sounds of chopping, water boiling or searing on a pan.  When eating, taste the types of flavors and where on your tongue those flavors are sensed.
  3. Human Connection:  Food connects people by creating conversation, allows us to show love or support for those in need and adds feelings of comfort and well-being.  Additionally, if you have children, research demonstrates that children who participate in family meals seven times weekly have better grades and lower depressive symptoms.  
To get the full article from The Chopra Center, follow this link.

Relax!  Discover Eight Habits That May Be Stressing You
Image result for relaxation imagesWe can often look at the overall picture of our life and identify habits that are not good for us.  However, daily habits that increase stress are not always so straightforward.  Those, combined with the bigger stressors, can add up.  Each time that stressor arises, the body releases cortisol (a stress hormone that should not be perpetually elevated); it can also lead to headaches, anxiety, digestive problems, fatigue and other symptoms.
If you identify the contributing habits, you can take steps to address them and take control of stress and your general health.  Below are eight habits that could be affecting you.  For more detailed explanations, link to the article from The Chopra Center.

  1. Constantly Running Through To-Do Lists:  They can be a huge help until the list becomes unrealistic.
  2. Binge-Watching TV:  It can be a de-stressor unless it starts to take over the time you actually need for sleep or other commitments.
  3. Procrastinating:  Waiting until the last minute increases stress levels.
  4. Being Late:  If you are consistently running late to work or appointments, it is time to come up with ways to have enough leeway to get from Point A to Point B without stress levels increasing:  this may mean waking up 10 minutes earlier or allowing extra travel time to ensure timely arrival.
  5. Running on Autopilot:  Try practicing mindfulness to be more relaxed and engaged with others.  You might:  interact with someone new or enjoy your cup of tea in a way you previously did not.
  6. Overstimulation:  The brain is not wired to keep up with the amount of external stimuli we encounter each day including technological devices, caffeine and sugar.  Find ways to decrease some of the stimuli throughout the day:  turn off the phone ringer for periods of time or drink herbal tea instead of coffee.
  7. Lack of Routine:  Just as running on autopilot can increase stress so can lack of routine cause anxiety and a sense of feeling directionless.  Have something on which you know you can depend each day - awaking at the same time, a workout or alone time.
  8. Surrounding Company:  Observe those you encounter during the day and who brings or decreases stress.  See if you can react differently to those who bring stress:   practice mindfulness or find ways to limit time with them.
Feel Better During Your Workday:  Myofascial Release Balls
Do you get aches and pains during your workday?  Whether it is from sitting at a desk (don't forget to register for "Get Up Tritons!" and make sure to "Move 3 for Every 30," see below) or being on your feet, the body might let you know it needs some attention.  That is where the myofascial release ball comes to the rescue.  These gentle tools aid in relieving muscle aches in areas such as the upper back/shoulders, hips and lower back.  Here's what employees are saying, "where have these been all my life?  It’s like magic today.  I am so grateful for my ball!  It was sooooo helpful today.  I rolled back, front & my right side was killing me.  So wonderful.  I can’t thank you enough!! It’s becoming my morning routine!" (Karla Nead, UC San Diego Health Administrative Analyst).  
If you are interested in a 10-minute demonstration for your department, including a free myofascial release ball, please get in touch with Brenna Joyce,, today!

Move 3 for Every 30
The ramifications of inactivity are becoming increasingly apparent including data linking sedentary lifestyle to cardiovascular disease (Diaz et al. 2017).  Many adults sit 9-12 hours per day!  The good news is research demonstrates that one can lower risks by taking short breaks after every 30 minutes of work.  Additionally, you might feel more energy and increase work production as a result!  Len Kravitz, PhD, CSCS, reviewed two studies demonstrating that breaking up sitting time with short movement breaks resulted in lower mortality risk, including significantly lowered glucose and insulin levels.  Suggestions for movement include walking intervals, shown below.  For the full article, visit Move 3 for Every 30
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Try one of these walking intervals:
1.  30/30:  Brisk Walk 30 seconds/Recovery Walk 30 seconds for three rounds
2.  15/15:  Brisk Walk 15 seconds/Recovery Walk 15 seconds for six rounds
3.  45/45:  Brisk Walk 45 seconds/Recovery Walk 45 seconds for two rounds
4.  8/12:  Brisk Walk 8 seconds/Recovery Walk 12 seconds for nine rounds

Healthy Winter Recipe:  Warm Quinoa and Spinach Salad
Simple to make, nourishing and interesting flavors and textures.  This is the warm quinoa and spinach salad from The Whole Journey.  Spinach offers a low calorie option yet is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants including beta carotene, vitamin K and fiber.  Quinoa is a pseudo-grain (actually a seed) that has reached "superfood" status in part due to its high content of magnesium, manganese and protein.  Avocado oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and lutein, an antioxidant that benefits eye health.

Warm Quinoa and Spinach Salad

1 T (or to taste) avocado oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 - 2/3 cup cooked quinoa per person
1 generous cup baby spinach leaves per person
1 handful grape tomatoes per person
1 scallion, sliced
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of nutmeg
Sprinkle fresh or dried herbs-parsley, thyme, basil or mint
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice


  • Heat a large pan to medium and add avocado oil
  • Add garlic; stir and warm for one minute
  • Add cooked quinoa; once heated add spinach, tomatoes and scallions
  • Season with sea salt and pepper; sprinkle with nutmeg and herbs
  • Stir to mix
  • As spinach wilts, remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

Autumn 2017

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In This Issue:
  • Maintain Don't Gain Begins November 13
  • Aromatherapy Blends for Fall
  • 10 Morning Habits to Start the Day
  • Master the Side Plank for a Stronger Core
  • Autumn Recipe:  How to Roast Butternut Squash
  • Seven Tips for Healthy Workday Nutrition
The holiday season of 2017 is upon us.  It is time to get geared for seasonal activities and celebrations.  Before all of the festivities begin, now is a perfect time to plan how to stay in the best health possible through good nutrition, exercise and stress reduction.  Perhaps you consider one simple goal in each of those categories to maintain during the season?  This is great time to start a free fitness class in your department, tailored to the needs of your team, in order to ensure you keep up a fitness routine.  Or, maybe it's time to take advantage of the deeply discounted Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course from the Center for Mindfulness?  For more ideas to enhance the season, take advantage of the below articles...and make sure to register for the free Maintain Don't Gain Program with weekly email tips to keep you on track through the end of the year!

Stay Healthy During the Holidays:  
Join Maintain Don't Gain!

The average American gains 1-5 pounds over the holiday season and usually does not lose it. Over time it adds up! To encourage and support weight management and healthy habits over the holiday season, The UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Program offers an 8-week Maintain Don’t Gain Challenge from November 13, 2017 – January 12, 2018. This Challenge is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and provides participants with tools, motivation and education to maintain weight throughout the holiday season. During the first and last weeks of the challenge there are optional weigh-ins and weigh-outs. Weekly emails with tips, resources, and challenges will be sent to all participants. Participants will receive incentives for participating including an opportunity to win a mountain bike!

Join at any time during the program by emailing Brenna Joyce,

Get in the Spirit of Autumn with Aromatherapy Blends!
Creating your own essential oil blends at home is a simple and fun activity that the whole family can enjoy and customize.  Essential oils may help you to gain energy, relax, promote healing and stimulate the senses with interesting scents.  

First, you will need a way to diffuse the scents.  This can be done with a simple essential oil diffuser or one of the following:  
pine cones, pine needles, essential oils

  1. Spray Bottle:  Add 15-20 drops of essential oil to a bottle filled with water.    This can be used for the air, car, clean laundry or while in the shower.  
  2. Stovetop:   Add 15-20 drops essential oil to simmering water, then turn off burner and let the steam diffuse the oils into your home.
  3. Bowl of Rice (less strong than other methods):  Add 15-20 drops of essential oil to a small bowl of uncooked rice and stir. Place bowls in various areas of the home.
Next, you will need one or more essential oils to blend.  Five seasonal scents for diffusing (not for ingesting or applying topically) include the following:
  1. Chai Latte:  5 drops cardamom, 3 drops clove, 1 drop ginger and 3 drops cinnamon
  2. Spiced Citrus:  5 drops tangerine, 3 drops cinnamon and 1 drop clove
  3. Winter Wonderland:  5 drops frankincense, 3 drops cedar wood and 3 drops pine
  4. Mulled Cider:  5 drops sweet orange, 3 drops cinnamon and 1 drop ginger
  5. Wellness Booster:  5 drops sweet orange, 3 drops rosemary, 3 drops eucalyptus and 3 drops cinnamon
In addition to interesting scents, there are healing properties to the essential oils.  For example, cardamom stimulates the senses, boosts mood and tames tension.  Sweet orange uplifts, eases anxiety and induces feelings of happiness.  For a complete list of the healing properties of the above oils, visit The Chopra Center.

Start the Day Right:  10 Morning Habits

Image result for healthy start to the day imagesThanks to The Chopra Center, here are 10 ways to get your day going in a positive manner.  When we start the day at ease, it sets the tone for the rest of the day (and ditto if we start with chaos!).  Below are 10 habits to practice to improve the way your mind and body feel throughout the day.  Try implementing just one - and one that looks the easiest to implement - and note how your body feels throughout the day.  When you are ready, incorporate one more...
  1. Hit the Hold  Button Before You Go Online:  Reading emails and texts first thing in the morning can cause a sense of stress and reactivity.  Try to stay in the present, detached from technology, for the first hour of your day and note how you feel.
  2. Drink Up:  Your body has gone for hours without hydrating.  For a refreshing and healthy start to your day, drink at least one glass of water (try it warm with a twist of lemon for flavor and a hit of Vitamin C) to help flush out toxins accumulated overnight and to set yourself up to continue hydrating throughout the day.
  3. Be  Positive and Thankful:  A simple smile before you jump out of bed can immediately create positivity in the body - which then causes a chain reaction of feel-good dopamine, seratonin and endorphin release to help elevate the mood and lower heart rate.  Go even further into this reaction by thinking about or writing 3-5 things for which you are grateful in this moment, no matter how simple they may be.
  4. Make Your Bed!:  While it may seem like one extra task to complete in a busy morning, this simple act can give you a sense of accomplishment at the start of the day and preps the mind to achieve more as the day continues.  
  5. Practice Mindfulness:  Incorporating any type of mindfulness at the start of the day can help to keep you feeling calm and grounded, ultimately affecting how you react to anything that comes up during the day.  This is also a perfect time to set your intention of thoughts or actions for the day.
  6. Get Moving:  Even a short bout of movement (think 10 minutes of yoga, a quick walk with your dog or five minutes of core exercises) will energize your body and keep your mind sharp. The body will warm up and feel good while mental chatter quiets.
  7. Dress for Success:  Being "put together" builds confidence.  Perhaps spend a few minutes the night before to the plan what you will wear to make morning prep smoother.
  8. Eat a Healthy Breakfast:  You will have more energy for the day ahead and increase your ability to focus and concentrate.
  9. Make a List:  A "To-Do" list will keep your focus on priorities as well as leave you with less items to remember since they are all noted.  Try to keep the list from being overwhelming by making five your maximum number of "to-dos" for the day. 
  10. Get Enough Sleep:  You will be more likely to create healthy morning habits with a good night of rest behind you.  Scroll down to the March 2016 newsletter for healthy sleep habits.
Plank School!  How to Master the Side Plank
The side plank works the core muscles including the obliques, rectus abdominus (long abdominal muscle down the length of the torso), transverse abdominus (deep abdominal muscle that forms a "belt" across the abdomen), obliques (sides of the torso) and quadratus lumborum (housed in the lower back).  Additionally, the gluteus medius and minimus in the hips and adductor muscles in the inner thigh contract during the exercise.  Three versions of this exercise include:

    Side Plank:  Modified by keeping knees on the ground

Side Plank:  Intermediate keeping both legs straight during the exercise

Side Plank:  Advanced by moving bottom leg during exercise

Fall Recipe:  How to Roast Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is naturally flavorful and does not require extensive preparation to make an interesting dish.  Yet prior to preparation, the squash may seem intimidating.  Here is a simple method, provided by Whole Foods, to prepare butternut squash.  For quicker prep time, purchase already peeled and cut butternut squash.
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Peel squash with either a vegetable peeler or cut into big chunks and keep steady on cutting board while removing peel with a knife.
  • Cut into 1-inch cubes.  Transfer to large baking sheet.
  • Toss with oil, salt and pepper and spread out in a single layer.
  • Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Seven Simple Healthy Eating Habits for the Busy Workday
As we gear up for the holiday season we may encounter numerous opportunities to consume (and over-consume) seasonal treats.  The more you can set yourself up to stay on track with nutrition, the better you will feel and maintain body weight (***see Maintain Don't Gain Program, above!) throughout the season.  It doesn't mean you can't experience holiday treats...but if you prioritize healthy eating when you are in control of your choices you might be so glad you did!  Warning...side effects may include more energy, focus and productivity and decreased illness.  Here are seven ideas to get you going.  How about trying just one of these ideas suggested by Amy Krasner at The Chopra Center - especially one that is most effortless for you?  If it is doable and you are eager for more, try another.  Better is better; if it is simple rather than overwhelming, it is a change you can sustain.  Win!

  1. Eat Breakfast Before Work:  Breakfast is critical to have a productive workday.  If we skip breakfast, we are led into low energy, foggy brain and cravings for the most readily available source of energy:  sugar.  Be organized with a prepared-in-advance breakfast such as overnight oatsegg and veggie muffins, or a smoothie.
  2. Keep Healthy Snacks at Your Desk:  If you are overly hungry by lunch or when you leave your desk, chances are higher than you will overeat at lunch or when you get home from work.  It also means you may not have had enough food at breakfast or lunch.  Because many of the vending machine options at work are not the healthiest of foods, arm yourself with snacks such as individual packs of almonds (available at Trader Joe's), bag of apples, Mary's Gone Crackers or a low sugar protein bar (eg., Bhu Bar).
  3. Leave Your Desk at Lunch:  If you are working through your lunch break to get a few more items checked off your list, it's time to try stepping away from your work station!  You will digest your food better and may feel more refreshed when you return to work.  Experiment and see how you feel when you take the time to shut down work while you eat.
  4. Keep a Water Bottle at Your Desk:  When there is a water bottle on your desk you are reminded to continue hydrating throughout your day.  You could even set an appointment on your calendar to drink water to keep yourself on track.
  5. Find Healthy Eating Options When Dining Out:  If you go to a restaurant for a meal, search for healthy eating establishments close to work.  You could also find opportunities to make healthy upgrades at your usual haunts.  For example, if your meal comes with French fries, see if you can replaces the fries with steamed vegetables or a side salad.
  6. Cook Several Times Per Week or Use Meal Delivery:  Likely, the last thing on our mind after a hectic day is to decide what to cook for dinner.  How about using 15-20 minutes on a day off to plan for the week:  plan two or three meals that you will make and write out the ingredients you will need.  When you have a plan you will be more likely to carry out the task.  However, if you know the planning and shopping is not doable - but you would cook if the ingredients were available - looking into a local food delivery service may be a better fit.
  7. Bring Your Dinner Leftovers for Lunch:   If you commit to cooking a few times per week, you can bring leftovers to work for lunch.  Always cook a large portion so that you have leftovers available to bring.  Pack the portion you will not use at dinner so it is already prepped to go for the next day.  Or, mix it up by using the protein portion of your meal (eg., chicken) and putting it on top of a salad with fresh veggies.

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

Summer 2017

Image result for healthy summer fun images

In This Issue:
  • 10 Summer Workout Tips
  • Core Exercise:  The Tension Plank
  • Five Ways to Combat the Impact of Stress on Digestion
  • Cool Off with Five Habits to Decrease Anxiety
  • Recipe of the Summer:  Cucumber-Avocado Gazpacho
  • Three Summer Activities to Keep You Moving 

Summer is officially in full swing and it's time to take advantage of the glorious days, warm evenings and extra daylight.  This issue is dedicated to decreasing stress so that you can savor the positive aspects of the season in addition to feeling better in those moments.  Did you know that stress can change the way your body reacts to food?  Check out the article about how to improve digestion through stress reduction methods.  With decreased stress you might have extra energy to devote to movement...we're keeping you moving safely with summer exercise tips and ideas.  Finish off your day by staying cool as a cucumber in the kitchen with a quick and simple gazpacho recipe. 

10 Summer Workout Tips

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With longer days and beautiful weather, the summer is a perfect time to get outside to move.  However, when temperatures rise, it is important to be informed and smart about outdoor exercise.  Here are tips, suggested by to keep you cool and exercising safely:

Drink Before You are Thirsty:  Once you are thirsty your body is already depleted of hydration.  When temperatures rise, water is needed to help keep the body's core temperature in a safe range.  Additionally, if your body is low on fluids, you may feel tired and not perform as well.  Drink water prior to your workout and keep a bottle in hand during:  aim to drink water at least every 15-20 minutes of an exercise session.

Apply Sunscreen:  Yes, even if there are clouds because it could get sunny later and even the harmful UV rays can cut through the clouds!  Try a sweat-proof 30+ formula, applied every two hours for moderate exercise or every 45-60 minutes for intense.

Check the Weather:  Since summer temperatures may bring about increased humidity check the "feels like" temperature to be sure you know what you will encounter.  While the temperature may not read high the humidity factor increases it greatly.  This will impact your timing and type of exercise you choose to do.

Time it Right:  Since you know the weather report, on those warmer days try to get outside earlier (generally hottest and sunniest from 10am-3pm) or later in the day.

Gradually Work at Altitude:  When heading to the mountains keep in mind that trail is a much different animal than the street or treadmill.  Keep your pace slower due to both uneven terrain and the altitude.  At 5,000 feet and above less oxygen is available creating additional challenge to the cardiovascular system...especially living at sea level!

Pick the Right Sportswear:  Lightweight polyester microfibers with quick-dry, wicking capabilities built in will keep you coolest.  Cotton is breathable if you don't sweat...but once you do it will trap in heat.  

Leave Your Best Friend at Home:  While bringing the dog on a jog or walk can be great company keep in might that higher temperatures and humidity can be harmful for dogs.  Due to their fur and already high body temperature, dogs feel the heat even more and their cooling mechanism - panting - is less effective the higher the humidity.

Consider Using Electrolytes:  When exercising in increased temperatures, sweat loss  - and thus electrolyte loss - will increase.  It may be worthwhile to sip on electrolytes if exercising longer than 45 minutes and at a higher intensity.  Electrolytes can be high in sugar so opt for lower sugar solutions including coconut water, Ultima or Nuun brand options.

Be Gentle on Yourself:  When temps and humidity are higher keep in mind that it might not be the time to set a PR.  

Don't Overdo It:  If you are new do exercise or exercising in conditions to which your body is not yet adjusted, give yourself time to gradually begin a fitness program in order to avoid burnout or injury.  Listen to what your body is saying...if it feels exhausted beyond simply being tired from exercise - for example, nausea, feeling faint or dizzy - stop.

Core Exercise:  The Tension Plank  
Core strength is important because it helps to create optimal posture and decrease the likelihood of injury.  The plank is an effective exercise for the core.  This tension plank, suggested by The American Council on Exercise, is a more focused and advanced variation to the essential exercise.  The tension plank will teach the entire body to use tension to support and stabilize. 
Note: If you can hold the plank for no more than 15-20 seconds when you start, you’re doing it correctly!
  • Begin in an all-fours position (hands and knees) on the floor with shoulders directly over hands
  • Keeping shoulders over hands and feet in place, bring knees off floor into a push-up position
  • From here, create and hold tension from toes to top of head.  Practice performing the following simultaneously:
    • Imagine you are aggressively trying to pull hands to toes and maintain this tension
    • Tense calf and hamstrings (back of thigh) muscles simultaneously
    • Imagine quad (top of thigh) muscles tightening and being pulled toward your waist
    • Tense abdominal muscles as if you are bracing to be punched in the stomach
    • Engage lat muscles (back muscles that begin at underarms) to pull shoulders down away from ears
    • Push palms into floor to separate the shoulder blades as much as possible
    • Create tension through the triceps (back of upper arms) to keep arms straight
    • Actively grip the floor with the hands
    • Create "double chin" by retracting (not bending) the neck
  • Hold for 15-20 seconds while keeping breath controlled through the abdomen

If you are working with a partner, ensure you are performing this correctly and have your partner “poke” the mentioned muscles to make sure they are rigid for the duration of this exercise.

Better Digestion Through Decreased Stress
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Stress has a powerful impact on digestion:  can you remember a time when you were under pressure and had "butterflies" in your stomach?  Or, your stomach felt as if it was tied in knots?  Stress can be real or perceived...either way, true negative symptoms in the digestive system can result.  Stress can be from a variety of causes - family, job, nutrition, lack of sleep or over-exercise.  It can cause symptoms including:  bloating, imbalanced metabolism, gas, nutritional deficiencies and pain.  To help minimize digestive stress, The Chopra Center suggests these five methods:

  1. Move:  Exercise helps to decrease tension, improve blood flow and release endorphins, thus decreasing stress and aiding digestion.  Stress-reducing exercise such as yoga or tai chi can provide both movement and mindfulness in one session.  UCSD Health offers free yoga, meditation and mindfulness classes onsite.
  2. Schedule Relaxation Time:  Discover what helps you to relax each day to help bring down stress levels the body carries.  These methods allow the body to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, putting into action rest, digestion and repair of the body.  These include: 
    • Meditation
    • Yoga
    • Breathing exercises
    • Time in nature
    • A hot bath  
    • Progressive muscle relaxation
  3. Build a Better Microbiome Through Optimal Nutrition:  With the help of your doctor or a registered dietitian, build a nutrition and supplement plan to boost your gut which allows the body to be more resistant to daily stresses.  These nutrients include Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D as well as probiotics.  Combined, these nutrients can assist in healing the gut, reducing inflammation and supplying probiotics.
  4. Be Positive:  Negative thoughts can bring your body into a stress response.  This goes back to Relaxation Time, above, to help the body decrease stress.  Learning to recognize negative thoughts can also be helpful, whether through mindfulness, journaling or other methods, to change how the body reacts.  Finding ways to increase positivity, believe it or not, will help to improve the efficiency of the digestive system!
  5. Pay Attention:  By paying attention to symptoms of your digestive system, you can also analyze the state of your emotional well-being.  Notice what emotions you experience, process them and finally release them to better manage stress.  Honor changes in or abnormal digestive reactions by looking at what stresses you are experiencing.  It might clue you in on how to proceed.  As always, consult with your physician to assist in the best treatment protocol.

Image result for low anxiety imagesReduce Anxiety by Changing Five Habits

One form of stress is anxiety...which, as you know from the previous article, can affect digestion in addition to your daily life.  Anxiety includes nervousness, panic attacks and extreme worry.  Decreased sleep may increase anxiety symptoms.  If you believe you suffer from anxiety, consult your physician, first, for the best course of action.  Additionally, anyone can try the steps below from The Chopra Center for better sleep and anxiety-reducing lifestyle habits:

  1. Limit Caffeine:  Caffeine might get a person through the day with ease but it also increases central nervous system activity (increased heart rate, blood pressure, nervousness and restlessness) which may prevent the body from sleeping soundly.
  2. Decrease Screen Time:  Time in front of screens (computers, phones, tablets, television) can decrease melatonin production due to the emission of blue light.  Melatonin is necessary for sleep and thus too much screen time - especially close to bedtime - can negatively impact your sleep.  Additionally, what is seen on the screens (troubling emails or texts, stressful news or a scary movie) can increase the body's stress response.  Try shutting down at least one hour prior to bedtime and - better yet - fully shut down or put into airplane mode your tech devices so that you are not tempted to check for messages and updates.
  3. Change of Reaction:  It can be easy to get in the habit of jumping to conclusions or believing there is only one answer or way to go about reacting or acting.  These feelings can bring about frustration and despair which creates a stress response in the body.  When these feelings occur, try listing three to five other possibilities (eg., "what would it take for me to feel better about this situation," or "what  can I learn from this") that might allow your body to decrease a stress response in a given situation.
  4. Move:  Some kind of exercise is always the answer to many of our challenges!  Movement can decrease anxiety by releasing feel-good brain chemicals, endorphins and serotonin.  This must occur on a regular basis to experience healing.  If the thought of exercising stresses you out, just consider doing some kind of movement - a gentle stroll outside, some easy stretches - and possibly working with a certified fitness professional to guide you through exercises and help you to keep focused on the sensations in your body.
  5. Schedule Downtime:  Most people have a to-do list that never ends.  Add to it the efficiency of  technology and the feeling of always needing to respond to emails and texts and we are never off the hook!  While it might seem like we are more productive, when the body is constantly in stress mode anxiety creeps up and will not go down until we stop.  How about adding downtime to your to do list and scheduling it on your calendar?  Block off the time and be firm about sticking to it.  Some ways to spend that time include:
    • Walk in nature
    • Simply daydream
    • Color (plenty of adult coloring books are now on the market)
    • Journal
    • Practice mindfulness
    • Eat a meal in silence, including all electronic devices in off/silent mode
    • Book a massage
Cool Recipe:  Cucumber Avocado Gazpacho

Need a simple, refreshing dinner idea that involves minimal preparation?  This nutritious cucumber avocado gazpacho from fits the bill!  You will have a gourmet dish in less than 10 minutes.  To make it a complete meal top the gazpacho with cooked, wild shrimp or chunks of roasted organic chicken.  Here are some facts and benefits about the ingredients:
Avocado:  Actually a fruit, avocados provide a dense source of monounsaturated (heart-healthy) fat and three grams of fiber per serving.
Cucumber:  Also technically a fruit, this gourd family member is low in calories and helps to keep the body hydrated due to it's high level of water.
  • 1 small avocado
  • 1 cucumber, peeled (de-seed, if desired); additional cucumber to garnish
  • 1 tablespoon (T) onion, minced
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon (t) sea salt
  • 1/4 t chili powder
  • Add avocado, cucumber, onion, oil, lemon juice, vinegar and water to a food processor
  • Puree until smooth
  • Add salt and chili powder
  • Serve; add optional protein suggestions and garnish with cucumber cubes/slices 

Get Active:  Three Summer Activities to Keep You Moving
Keep moving this summer!  Use this fun time of year to try one of the following:

Image result for healthy summer fun images1.  Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP):  an offshoot of surfing, SUP'ers stand on their board with a paddle to guide the route.  Variations include SUP yoga and Pilates where the board gets anchored while performing the activity.  Take a look at the Mission Bay Aquatic Center for lessons and outings!

2.  Bike Rides:  short or long, the whole family can enjoy the adventure.  Try one of San Diego's bike trails for the ultimate experience...and don't forget to wear your helmet!

3.  UCSD Health Free Fitness Classes:  The schedule for summer is out!  There are classes at various locations on the Hillcrest and La Jolla Medical Campuses.  Or, gather a group from your department to customize a class for your location!  View the current schedule of classes.

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UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter
March/April 2017

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In This Issue:

  • Spring Cleaning Tips
  • Five Exercises for a Healthy Back
  • Nutrition:  The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
  • Recipe of the Month:  Cauliflower  "Couscous" with Black Lentils and Heirloom Greens
  • Upcoming Event:  UC Walks 2017
  • Out in the Community:  Get Active!

Happy Spring!  It's that time of year to get clean and organized inside and enjoy the weather and get fit outside!  Not only do we have some tips for you to get organized in the house (and reduce stress in the process) you will also learn exercises to strengthen the lower back musculature and find opportunities to get moving outdoors.  Make sure to mark your calendar for UC Walks coming up on May 17.  There are three walk location options this year!  All of this moving merits a bit of energy replenishment from a healthier take on couscous by using cauliflower...recipe below!

Spring Cleaning:  Embrace It!!
Image result for fitness cleaning imagesYes, spring cleaning can be mindful and thus more enjoyable.  Using a few tips from The Chopra Center, you too can have a positive spring cleaning experience!  While the end product of feeling increased space in both the home and the body, allowing for a sense of new beginnings, is positive, the actual process of cleaning can be a favorable experience.  Here's how:
  1. Get Focused:  When a space is de-cluttered the ability to focus increases.  Clutter is a distraction and to open up your environment allows the brain to process information more effectively.
  2. Get Happy:  While the thought of cleaning might not bring happy thoughts to mind, it might help to start the day with one simple and quick act.  For example, make your bed each morning and notice how this small accomplishment (and de-cluttering) makes you feel as you leave the house.
  3. Limit Messes:  We likely all have a little clutter - a to-do pile here, a fix-it pile there...and this is ok.  Sometimes, the pressure to keep areas overly clean can become a source of stress in itself!  Allow a little space to have a little clutter - but make it just that - a little space - and see if you can find a balance.
  4. Set the Stage:  Use cleaning to your advantage.  While cleaning won't fix the chaos of emotions it can help to calm the mind and body when there is a sense of stress.  
  5. Remember the Time...:   When we de-clutter we might come across old photos, journals or items that bring back positive memories and a smile to our face.  This boosts the mood which is a great outcome of cleaning!  Just make sure to set a time limit to experience the memories so the cleaning goal is still reached!
Five Simple Exercises to a Healthy Back
Back pain affects a large majority of the population...chances are, you may have experienced or are currently experiencing back pain.  Following, from the American Council on Exercise, are five body-weight exercises you can do to help prevent back pain (Note:  Please consult your doctor to confirm these exercises are appropriate for your body).  For variations to increase or decrease difficulty follow this link.

The Plank:  enhances core stability.  Keep elbows directly under shoulders and body in straight line.  Tighten the thighs, buttocks and abdominals.  Hold 30-60 seconds, or as long as you can maintain proper form

side-plankSide Plank:  Unlike the plank, the side plank contracts the sides of the waist (internal and external obliques).  These muscles need to be strong to help rotate spinal movements.  Keep elbow under shoulder, legs stacked or staggered and lift hips up by contracting muscles in the waist.  Hold 30-60 seconds, or as long as proper form can be maintained.

back-extensionBack Extension:  The back of the core is often ignored in a core strengthening program.  The back extension can help strengthen the erector spinae which run from the base of the spine and connect at the skull.  Lay on the floor with legs wide and tight, arms overhead.  Keeping legs tight lift upper body only (feet stay on ground) while continuing to focus on the floor.  Complete 10-12 repetitions.


Gluteal Bridge:  Gluteal muslces should be strengthened because if weak, they pass the work to the low back, forcing the lower back to overwork and become sore.  Start in a laying down position with knees bent, arms at sides.  Press firmly into feet and focus on using the gluteal muscles to lift the hips, creating a straight line from heels to shoulders.  Hold 2 seconds and slowly lower.  Perform 10-15 repetitions.

bird-dogBird Dog:  The idea of the bird dog is to keep the pelvis stable while the arms and legs move.  Start on hands and knees, hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart, wrists lined under shoulders; knees lined under hips.  Slowly raise one arm and opposite leg to torso height.  Hips and shoulders continue to face the floor.  Slowly lower and repeat 10-15 times/side.  Or, try holding the lifted position 15-20 seconds and repeat 1-3 times/side.

Organic Guidelines:  The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen
Organic guidelines require growers to adhere to rigorous standards, including no use of pesticides.  Pesticides can include neurotoxic bug killers, DDT, hormone disuruptors and cancer-causing agents.  However, that definitely comes with a cost to the consumer.  Organic produce is more expensive than conventional.  How do we base our decision to spend money on organic versus conventional?  The Environmental Working Group has released the 12 highest pesticide-contaminated produce items along with the 15 least contaminated.  These lists can be helpful in your purchasing decisions:

The Dirty Dozen
    Image result for the dirty dozen images pesticide
  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet Bell Peppers
  12. Potatoes
The Clean Fifteen
    Image result for images the clean 15 produce
  1. Sweet corn (beware, conventional corn may be GMO if that is a concern)
  2. Avocados
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Onions
  6. Frozen Sweet Peas
  7. Papayas (may be GMO)
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangos
  10. Eggplant
  11. Honeydew
  12. Kiwi
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Grapefruit
Spring Recipe:  Cauliflower "Couscous" with Black Lentils and Heirloom Greens
Make a heavier dish a little lighter this spring..and incorporate more vegetables to boot!  This recipe does something a little different and uses cauliflower AS the couscous.  You can use a food processor to create a couscous-like texture from the cauliflower.  Or, head to Trader Joe's and purchase their "Riced Cauliflower" and it's already done for you.  You can equally swap cauliflower with broccoli.  The recipe calls for black lentils but that can be traded for French lentils or canned chickpeas (or any other bean/lentil).


  • 2/3 Cup (C) uncooked (dry) black lentils
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 2 Tablespoons (T) olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (1C)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 T)
  • 3 carrots, diced (1 C)
  • 1 medium golden beet, peeled and shredded (1 C)
  • 2 C chopped arugula or kale
  • 1/2 C shredded fresh basil
  • 1/4 C feta cheese, optional
  • Boil 3 cups water in a medium saucepan.  Add lentils; reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, 20-25 minutes (until tender).
  • In batches, pulse cauliflower in food processor until florets are chopped into small, couscous-sized pieces.
  • Heat oil in large pan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute 3-5 minutes to soften.  
  • Add garlic, cauliflower, carrots and beet; cook 6-8 minutes, until cauliflower is tender.
  • Stir in greens.
  • Drain lentils and stir into cauliflower mixture.
  • Fold in basil and feta
  • Enjoy!

UC Walks 2017
The big event is back on Wednesday, May 17!  This year, you can choose from three locations:  Hillcrest Medical Center, La Jolla Campus Town Square or Jacobs Medical Center.  The Hillcrest and Town Square locations will also include a wellness resource fair.  Follow the logo below for registration information and event details.

Get Active in the Community
Bring the family and friends to participate in the LaDainian Tomlinson 5k this June.  You can walk or run the race which takes place at Liberty Station in Point Loma.  Includes a 1 mile fun run for the kiddos! 

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

January/February 2017

Image result for happy new year images healthy

In This Issue:
  • Five Habits to Adopt in the New Year
  • How to Stick to Your Goals
  • FREE Classes for ALL UCSD Health Employees:  New Schedule!
  • Recipe of the Month:  Buffalo Chili
Happy New Year!  The first 2017 edition of the UCSD Health Employee Wellness Newsletter is dedicated to new starts, goal making and sticking to goals.  Now that we are in February, how are your New Year's resolutions working?  Are you sticking with them or might you need a little push to keep them going or get back on track?  We've got you covered.  Also, our free fitness classes, offered to all UCSD Health employees, are going strong with a new schedule.  Check one out today!  Lastly, take a look at an interesting twist on chili for a fun and different meal this week.  

5 Habits to Adopt in the New Year
Still trying to hone in on what you want your goals to be in the new year?  We likely all have an idea of what we would like to do.  But, sometimes we could use a little inspiration to create healthy and beneficial habits.  Suggested by The Chopra Center, here are five ideas to keep you focused:
    Image result for healthy habits images
  1. Set a Fitness Goal:  The goal to exercise more in the new year is not specific enough to stay on track.  Make it measurable, such as "complete a 30-minute group fitness class three times per week," or "run a 5K race by April."  This will help to keep you focused.  Once that goal is reached, keep the momentum going by setting another goal.
  2. Color Your Plate:  The goal to "eat healthier" might be too general to actually eat better...but a rapid diet overhaul might be hard to continue long-term.  A realistic expectation is to make the small change of adding in nutritious foods.  For example, add colorful vegetables to your plate at mealtime.  When these foods make it onto the plate, there is less space for unhealthier items.  In time, you can then focus on adding clean proteins and quality fats to balance out the meal.
  3. Create Time-Out:  Does down-time seem impossible when there are so many items to check off the list each day?  While relaxation time may seem like a luxury, allowing yourself to have some time each day will reinvigorate your energy and focus...and lead you to be more productive overall.  Start with a small amount of time, such as 10 minutes, and work your way up to 20 or 30!  A few ways to decompress include:  read, soak in a bath, walk in nature or focus on the breath.
  4. Breathe:  Breathing is automatic so why practice it?  Mindful breathing can reduce stress, lower heart rate and decrease blood pressure.  It can be practiced in such exercise methods as yoga and tai chi or guided in a progressive muscle relaxation such as the ones offered free from The UCSD Health Center for Mindfulness.
  5. Say Thank You:  Studies demonstrate that those who practice gratitude generally feel more optimistic about their lives.  This may even lead to better sleep and a stronger immune system.  Start by keeping a journal of three ways in which you are thankful each day.  Or, use your talents to give back to the community, friends or family.
How to Stick to Your Goals
Now that you have selected your goals, here are a few ideas to adhere to them!  Often, setting a goal involves creating a new habit.  Habits can be a challenge to create.  How can you make habits stick?  Thanks to Whole Foods Market and The Chopra Center, there are many tricks to try.  Find out what works for you!
Image result for stick to goals images
  • Write Your Goal...and a Plan:  Not only will writing down your goal leave you more apt to accomplish it but writing a weekly plan will take you one step farther.  For example, if you would like to cook more meals at home, take some time on Sunday to plan your menu.  It can be simple, but putting a goal or plan into writing will help you to stick with it and stay organized.
  • Find an Accountability Partner:  Tell a friend or loved one your goal and give them an update each week.  When you have someone to answer to, other than yourself, you are more likely to stay focused.
  • Recruit:  Perhaps your accountability partner would like to achieve the same goal.  A group dynamic is motivating and keeps you even more accountable because someone else is depending on you to stay on track.  Plus, you can bounce ideas off each other to keep the goal fun.
  • Pairing:  Take an old habit and combine it with a new one.  For example, if you want to floss your teeth every day, you could store the dental floss in such a way that you must pick it up in order to get to your toothbrush.  That way, it's already out when you brush your teeth so you might as well floss!
  • Moderation:  Doing a little is easier than doing a lot.  If you want to exercise five days per week, commit to two.  Get that consistent before doing more.  It might feel too easy but that is the idea!
  • Abstain:  This might be one of the harder ways to go about achieving a goal but it works well for some.  If your goal is to cut out a habit, this involves going all out by completely abstaining from the behavior.  
  • Scheduling:  Set your goal as an appointment in your calendar with a reminder prior to the appointment.  When you have committed officially with your schedule, you are more likely to stick to your goal because nothing else can get in the way.
  •  Make it Easy:  Think about the roadblocks you might have with a goal and brainstorm ways to get around them to make it simpler.  For example, if you would like to start taking an exercise class, where is the easiest place to go?  If you want to go after work, perhaps find a studio or gym that is close to work.
  • Better is Better:  Changing habits is a marathon, not a sprint.  You may have some setbacks but any positive forward movement is positive.  If you back peddle a little, get back on the bike and continue the ride!
Resolve to Exercise This Year?  Try Our FREE Classes!
Speaking of making New Year's resolutions simpler...UCSD Health offers FREE on-site fitness classes at the Hillcrest and La Jolla Medical Centers.  The latest schedule goes through June 30.  Classes are open to ALL UCSD Health employees.  No need to register.  Just bring yourself and a mat/towel and perhaps a colleague!  Enjoy Pilates, CoreFit, Yoga, Meditation and Zumba.
Are there classes that you would like to see on the schedule?  Are you at a location that does not have access to these classes?  Request a class or send your feedback to Brenna Joyce, UCSD Health Employee Wellness Coordinator at

Winter Recipe:  Buffalo Chili
Yes, you read that correctly!  Buffalo (aka bison) meat can be an interesting addition to your protein repertoire.  What makes it so nutritious?  Buffalo :
    Buffalo Chili
  • Contains less saturated fat than other meats
  • Is typically grown free range and is grass-fed (check the label to confirm) and thus contains omega-3 fatty acids
  • Provides more iron than beef
  • Cannot be injected with hormones and therefore contains no bovine growth hormones 
The recipe below, courtesy of Whole Foods Market, can be altered to your protein preference:  you can switch out the buffalo for ground turkey, chunks of chicken or diced tempeh.  Short on time?  Add the ingredients to a crock pot before work and come home to a perfectly cooked meal!


  • 1/2 pound ground buffalo
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, stemmed and cut into small florets
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons no-salt added chili powder
  •  1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Heat large Dutch oven or pot over high heat.
  • When pot is hot, add buffalo and brown, stirring often, for 5 minutes
  • Add onion and carrot; cook until both soften, about 5 minutes
  • Add 1/2 cup water to deglaze pan, scraping brown bits from the bottom of pan
  • Add cauliflower, bell pepper and garlic; cook until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes
  • Add cumin, chili powder vinegar, tomatoes and beans plus 1 cup water; bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover
  • Stir occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes
  • Serve garnished with chopped cilantro

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

November/December 2016
Image result for holiday fitness images
In This Issue:
  • Maintain Don't Gain During the Holidays
  • 7 Habits for a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season
  • Holiday Recipe Makeovers
  • How to Make the Holidays Active
Maintain Don't Gain During the Holidays!
The average American gains 1-5 pounds over the holiday season and usually does not lose it. Over time, it can add up! To encourage and support weight management and healthy habits over the holiday season, UC San Diego Health Employee Benefits offers a 7-week Maintain Don’t Gain Challenge from November 14, 2016 – January 7, 2017. This Challenge is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and provides participants with tools, motivation and education to maintain weight throughout the holiday season. During the first and last weeks of the challenge there are weigh-ins and weigh-outs. Weekly emails with tips, resources, and challenges will be sent to all participants. Participants will receive incentives for participating including a 30-day Build-a-Meal booklet and an opportunity to win a mountain bike!

Join at any time during the program by emailing Brenna Joyce,

7 Habits for a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season
Do thoughts of the holidays bring a sense of stress?  This year, how about trying the following seven suggestions to care for yourself, decrease stress levels and enjoy the holiday season.  Credit to The Chopra Center for their ideas!

  1. Enjoy Sparingly.  While it may be unrealistic to refrain from holiday treats, it is possible to limit them.  Try taking a small portion and immediately follow up with a non-caloric beverage such as water, sparkling water or hot herbal tea.  This will fill the stomach and decrease the urge to go back for seconds.
  2. Fit in Regular Exercise:  It doesn't need to be endless hours at the gym but simply finding time to get in as much movement as possible can keep your body on track over the holiday season.  Try one of the following:     
    1. Schedule a fitness class so that you are committed to a time and specific activity
    2. Set a meeting time with a friend to meet at the gym, go for a walk or jog
    3. Take the family to walk around at December Nights at Balboa Park
  3. Center Yourself:  Try taking 5-30 minutes at the beginning, middle or end of your day to focus on your breath and reconnect with your body.  When the mind gets overwhelmed even a two-minute time out can make a difference.  The UCSD Health Center for Mindfulness offers a variety of free guided mindfulness meditations.
  4. Do Something Special for Yourself:  When you are spread thin giving to others during the holiday season, take some time to recharge with a treat for yourself.  You could...
    1. Take a break in the middle of errands to sit down and enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea
    2. Get a massage or pedicure
    3. Meet up with a friend you haven't seen in a while
    4. Turn off your phone and computer for an entire afternoon
  5. Start a Gift Exchange:  If the thought of purchasing gifts for all of your friends and family is overwhelming and financially straining, try gift exchanges among the groups.  You could even invent themes and monetary caps to keep gift giving fun and lower-stress.  Interesting ideas include:
    1. Museum passes
    2. Fitness classes
    3. Concert tickets
    4. Easy-to-care-for plans such as succulents
    5. Cooking classes
  6. Keep it Light:  Even though holidays are times of celebration, they can become times of disappointment or sadness when expectations aren't met or they are not as perfect as planned.  If you experience such feelings, acknowledge them and see if you can lighten the burden:
    1. Watch a funny movie
    2. Spend time with a positive friend or family member
    3. Go to a comedy show or watch your favorite comedian
    4. Start a chain of joke telling with friends
  7. Time to Reflect:  Take time to reflect about the past year by journaling or with a close friend or family member.  Consider what you have accomplished, interesting experiences, lessons learned, people who have influenced you and how to use all of your experiences to continue to move forward.  
Holiday Recipe Makeover:  Cinnamon-Dusted Cacao Truffles
How about doing #1, above (Enjoy Sparingly) with the following recipe?  While it is a healthier version of truffles, the strong flavor can help to satisfy a sweet tooth.  Enjoy with a cup of hot peppermint tea during a time out from the demands of the holiday season.

Health Benefits:

  • Cacao Powder:  nutrients are preserved better than in cocoa since cacao powder is not manufactured under high heat.  Additionally, cacao provides flavanols which are antioxidants, magnesium and may improve cognitive function.
  • Dates:  Contain vitamins, minerals and fiber
  • Cinnamon:  Stimulates insulin activity (helps to keep blood sugar levels lower)
  • Coconut Oil:  A medium chain fatty acid that digests quickly (to become energy) and may improve cognitive function in neurological diseases.

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup coconut butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grade B organic maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • Line 8x8 inch pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  • Combine pumpkin, coconut butter, coconut oil, vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  • Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with toasted coconut flakes and pecans.  Place pan in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until firm.
  • Slice into squares and serve.  Store in refrigerator for up to 10 days.
Serves 6

This recipe is from The Chopra Center.  Visit The Chopra Center for this recipe and other healthier dessert recipes.
Keep Moving:  Make the Holidays Active
Sneaking in fitness can be challenging in general, let alone during the holiday season when there are parties, travels, baking and shopping.  At the same time, this is when we need fitness the most to maintain weight, boost energy and de-stress.  Even though we might not feel much energy to exercise, it is important to try, even if it's less that you would normally complete.  Often times, if we say we will exercise for just 10 minutes, we end up continuing and surpass expectations.
Here are a few smart ways to fit in fitness. Every step counts on your mission to manage your weight!
Image result for holiday fitness images·         Move more. Use the stairs. Take a stroll at lunch. When you run errands, walk as much as you can. Basically, any time there’s a chance to move, do it because it all adds up.
·         Make it social. Start a walking group at work. Keep your dog happy with a quick run. Catch up with an old friend or family member while you boost the health of your heart.  You could even find a local fitness class or go on a hike as a holiday get-together with friends…or even a holiday office celebration!  Perhaps you can take the family to walk around December Nights at Balboa Park.  Don’t forget UCSD Health Benefits sponsors FREE onsite fitness classes in Hillcrest and La Jolla.  Take a look at the schedule here.  
·         Break it up. If you don’t have time to exercise for 30 minutes, split it up into two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute walks. You will get the same health benefits and it might also feel less stressful than making a longer commitment.

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

October 2016
Image result for october halloween images
In This Issue:
  • UC San Diego Health Five-Week Employee Wellness Course
  • Desk Stretch
  • Eight Ways to Reset Your Mind
  • Recipe of the Month
  • Active Autumn Events
Happy Autumn!  Now that we are getting back into a regular schedule after the summer months it's time to get wellness back on track!  If solid habits are established now in October they are more likely to be maintained as the holidays approach.  This includes consistent movement, solid nutritional habits and dedicated time to stress reduction.  Your UCSD Health benefits provide all of these!  Our FREE on-site fitness classes are going strong.  Take a look at the schedule to find those that fit into your day...many of them will double dip and help to bring down stress levels in addition to incorporating movement.  Jump back into meal preparation with this month's Spooky Salad that combines a bit of crunch, a little salt, a touch of sweet and fun color into one bowl.  Maybe getting outdoors is something you enjoy?  There are countless options in our community and those listed below cover biking, walking, running and dancing throughout San Diego!  

At a Location Near You:  The 5-Week Wellness Course!
Are you ready to make healthy lifestyle changes?  We have just the program and...we come to you!  Five, 45-minute learn-at-lunch weekly meetings are led by a certified health professional to educate participants in wellness topics that facilitate small changes to improve one’s lifestyle.  Topics include workplace movement, stress reduction and nutrition.  Available to all departments upon request to Brenna Joyce, UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Coordinator:
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Desk Stretch:  Lengthen the Calves
The calf is comprised of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus, which merge with connective tissue at the base of the calf.  This tissue connects to the Achilles tendon at the bottom of the leg.  The  calf muscles aid to point the foot and ankle joints as well as flex (bend) the knee joint.  When the calf muscles are chronically tight, the ability to move the ankle decreases.  What makes the calves tight?  Heeled shoes, including running shoes, sitting often and failure to stretch.  In order to preserve range of motion in the ankle and feet (and thus movement efficiency), try the following calf stretch:

    Blog - Standing Calf Stretch
  • Stand at a wall or behind a chair
  • Place hands on wall or chair and step left foot forward
  • Look at both feet to make sure they each face directly forward and heels on ground 
  • Gently bend the left knee (your left knee should be above the left ankle)
  • Keep the right leg straight with the right heel pushing into the ground; make sure the right foot faces forward during the stretch
  • Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side

Eight Ways to Reset Your Mind...Without Meditating
There is no doubt that meditation benefits many.  For some, however, the task may seem daunting or difficult to keep stillness.  With the help of ideas from The Chopra Center in Carlsbad, here are eight ways to de-stress and practice mindfulness that are different from meditating.  Mindfulness is an act of being engaged in the present, in a non-judging manner.
  1. Take a Nature Walk:  Nature helps to get away from technological distractions such as computers, phones and television.  Your attention can focus on surroundings of vibrant colors, different sounds, plants and animal life.  Take note the sensations your body feels before, during and after the hike and if they change along the way.  Find new places to explore in Outdoor Guides.
  2. Gardening:  You can simply go into your backyard or patio to get in touch with nature!  The act of getting your hands in the dirt and touching the plants is an act of mindfulness that will calm the mind.  Take it deeper into the present and note the sensations of touching the dirt, different colors of the plants, how your stress levels feel and the sounds of digging into the dirt or the crunching of leaves.
  3. Get Out Your Coloring Book!  Yes, just like you did when you were a child!  You get to be creative, keep focus (read:  mindful) by staying within the lines and relieve stress.  There are coloring books geared toward adults, too!
  4. Dance:  Try dancing to your favorite music at home or take a class.  Let your body feel the beat and move as it wants.  If you take a class, your mind will need to be completely focused on what you are you little opportunity to think about anything else.
  5. Mindful Exercise:  Any type of exercise can be mindful.  It just requires one to be present and focused on what is happening in the body:  sensations, awareness of movement, the breath and attention to form.  If you take a class such as yoga, tai chi or Pilates, the experience may be enhanced with the instructor guiding you through the movements to keep you in good form and present in the moment so your thoughts have little opportunity to wander.
  6. Yoga:  One form of mindful exercise, yoga uses the body as a focus which enables the mind to be calm.  Try these five poses to do in the morning, from MindBodyGreen.
  7. Play an Instrument:  Instruments are another creative outlet that can bring mindfulness to your day.  You don't need to be experienced and some instruments including the drum, gong and chimes allow you to play away!  Focusing on what you will do and how you will play allows the mind to stay present and focused on the activity.
  8. Watch a Sunset:  Another encounter with nature, just seeing the sunset can make all of one's cares and worries leave the mind.  Look at the colors, where light reflects and the sensations you feel in your body as a result.  

Halloween Recipe:  Spooky Salad
Not only is this salad addictively delicious, it is also full of nutrients.  The cabbage and carrots provide antioxidants and cancer-fighting properties.  The seeds contain beneficial fats.  The ginger in the dressing is an anti-inflammatory and may even boost immunity.  The colors in the salad are reminiscent of Halloween:  purple, orange, green and black!


    Image result for spooky slaw
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, grated or finely chopped
  • 1/3  cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (raw or roasted)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds (raw or roasted)
Toss together salad ingredients then mix in the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger (adjust to your taste; more or less, as needed)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 T honey or 1/4 tsp stevia
Allow the salad to marinate in the dressing at least 15 minutes.  It's a perfect dish for a potluck, an accompaniment at dinner or to bring to work, adding a protein on top to round out the meal!

Get Moving:  Events in Your Community
Keep moving throughout fall as we approach the holidays and you are more likely to maintain (not gain) when the celebration season arrives.  The more we move, the more calories we continue to burn.  Additionally, exercise enables us to keep good nutrition habits since we are more likely to reach for healthier food options when we get consistent, purposeful exercise.  Here are three opportunities to get involved in the community and make exercise fun!

  1. Schedule a Fun Walk/Run on a Holiday:  There are many races taking place on Thanksgiving Day.  They generally start early in the morning making it a perfect opportunity to get some movement before the day gets away!  These races are also a wonderful way to get the family to be active together.  The San Diego Run for The Hungry also includes a day-of food drive for the needy.
  2. Stay Safe on the Bike!  Love to cycle or thinking about taking up the activity you enjoyed as a child?  Oceanside Parks and Rec is offering a Bicycle Traffic Skills Course to keep you safe on the road.
  3. Get Your Dance On:  Combine a fun walk or run with a little choreography!  The 2nd Annual Hip Hop Health and Wellness 5k aims to show neighborhood solidarity, health and innovative thought to encourage creativity and create forward thinking in the community.

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Attention:  Candy corn may be harmful to your health!

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

Summer 2016

In This Issue:

  • New Free On-Site Fitness Classes
  • Desk Stretch
  • Five Ways to Move During Your Workday
  • Recipe of the Month
  • Get Active in San Diego

Summer is Movement Time!
April brought us ideas to clean up our nutrition.  Now it's time to focus on movement!  Do you sit the majority of the day?  Take a look at the article, "Five Ways to Fit Movement Into Your Day," for simple, quick ideas to allow your body to move.  Or, try one of our free on-site Employee Wellness Program fitness classes.  Classes will continue over the summer and we have new additions!  There are also many opportunities to move within San Diego community.  Have a fun, movement-based summer and there will be more to come in the fall!

Move at Work:  FREE On-Site Fitness Classes
The summer schedule of free UCSD Health employee fitness classes begins in July.  We are continuing with Pilates at Hillcrest and Yoga and Meditation & Mindfulness in La Jolla.  We have also added an evening Pilates Barre at Hillcrest and a noon Pilates in La Jolla.  Come check them out...and bring a colleague!  To view the updated schedule, look here:
Are there classes that you would like to see on the schedule?  Are you at a location that does not have access to these classes?  Request a class or send your feedback to Brenna Joyce, UCSD Health Employee Wellness Coordinator at

Desk Stretch:  Open the Hip Flexors!
The hip flexors  are located on the front of the thigh muscles, where the lower body meets the upper body.  They tighten when sitting for long periods of time and, on the opposite end, from over-activity.  These two ends of the spectrum can lead to muscle imbalances and low back pain.  To reverse tightness in the hip flexors, try this "anti-desk" stretch:

  • Place hands of back of chair for support and bring left leg forward, foot flat on ground, and right heel off ground
  • "Tuck" pelvis under so that shoulders are directly over hips to feel a stretch down the front of the right leg
  • Hold 15-30 seconds
  • Repeat on opposite side with right leg forward
  • Perform this stretch 3-5 times during your workday
Check out this video for a demo:

Get Moving During Your Day:  Five Ideas to Anti-Desk
Image result for images hunched back at deskHave you heard about the movement to sit less and move more?  The negative effects of sitting are experienced by many (tight hip flexors, anyone?) and you may be one of them.  Excessive sitting impacts the body's metabolic system and harms circulation.  It also causes decreased breathing efficiency and aches and pains from being in fixed positions that are not natural for the body.  The American Medical Association (AMA) agrees that sitting for extended periods of time can be bad for personal health.  Their policy recommends organizations offer sitting alternatives, including standing desks.  One study demonstrated 45% increased productivity in standing desk users compared to their seated counterparts (Garrett, et al., 2016).  Standing is like walking:  it increases energy, burns extra calories, strengthens muscles and posture, increases blood flow and ramps up metabolism.  Sitting, on the other hand, will tighten hips and limit range of motion.  With lack of use, gluteal muscles can weaken affecting stability and power when walking and jumping.  Jutting the head forward while at a computer leads to cervical vertebrae strains causing neck, shoulder and back pain.  To combat the effects of sitting, try these simple ways to incorporate movement during the workday:

  • Take scheduled breaks AWAY from the desk (and take your breaks!)
  • Stand up and pace while on the phone
  • Walk to a co-worker's desk to ask a question, instead of emailing or calling
  • Use a standing desk for portions of your day
  • Stand up at least once per hour

Summer Recipe:  Keeping it Cool!
Summer heat might decrease the desire to cook - or eat - a hot meal.  To keep it cool but still pack in nutrition, salads can be a perfect solution.  This cucumber, avocado and feta salad takes just a few minutes and has only five ingredients.  It's simplicity in a bowl!  The salad can be a side dish or a meal and provides the following:

  • Cucumbers hydrate, provide skin-friendly minerals and flush out toxins
  • Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber and potassium
  • Dill offers vitamin C and manganese

Find the recipe on Two Peas and Their Pod here:  Bon appetit!

Out and About:  Fitness Fun
Why not get out and enjoy the summer sunshine while getting fit?  Get a group of co-workers, bring the family or participate on your own in a fitness event such as The Color Run at the Waterfront Park.  You can find out details and register for the event here:

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

April 2016

In This Issue:
  • Desk Stretch
  • Five Fixes for Nutrition Challenges
  • UC Walks
  • New FREE Fitness Class
  • Weight Watchers Series 
  • UC Wellness Lecture Series
  • Get Active in San Diego

Spring is Here!
 Hello, UCSD Health!  As we enter the heart of spring, it's a good time to do some cleaning.  Beyond the house, we can also consider it a time to clean up our nutrition, fitness and overall well-being.  This spring, get back to eating clean with some quick fixes to common nutritional challenges, join us in our UC Walks event on May 18, register for the new Weight Watchers series or participate in one of our free on-site fitness  classes.  We are here to help you feel well and have fun along the journey!  Anytime you have questions or feedback, please email to let us know!

Desk Stretch:  Ode to the Hamstrings!
The hamstrings are composed of three large muscles that run along the back of the thigh.  They serve to bend the knees and move the hips backward.  When seated in a chair the hamstrings shorten and become inactive.  This can further lead to lower back pain because tight hamstrings impede proper hip motion.  Knowing this, take one minute out of your day to stretch the hamstrings (and you don't even need to get out of your chair!)

Hamstrings Stretch Video

Solved!  Fixes for Five Common Nutritional Challenges
Many of us promised to eat better in the new year...and it started off well!  But now, perhaps some familiar habits re-established themselves and the consistency of eating well became difficult.  Here are some common nutritional predicaments and ideas to keep you on track.  The original article is credited to the Whole Foods Market blog.

1.  Breakfast...What's That?
     Skipping breakfast may set us up to eat more later in the day.  Sure, it can be an added task to complete in the morning but there are plenty of healthy grab and go options to start your day right (it might even help if #3 is you!).  A few ideas:
  • Apple or banana spread with almond butter (add a sprinkle of cinnamon for extra antioxidants)
  • Cottage cheese with blueberries and pistachios (or other nuts/seeds)
  • Two hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fruit
  • Greek yogurt with strawberries
  • Whole grain bread spread with almond or peanut butter and topped with banana slices

Image result for healthy breakfast images
2.  Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables
     Sneaking vegetables and fruits into your meals throughout the day can help to ensure you get enough (2-1/2 cups of veggies and 2 cups fruit).  Try a piece of fruit at breakfast, adding vegetables to an egg scramble, snacking on fresh vegetables and hummus or adding a variety of colorful vegetables to a salad.

3.  Late Night Snacking
     Exploring the root of late night eating can be a good it boredom or true hunger?  Try keeping a food journal to find out the cause.  If it is boredom, come up with several activities that you enjoy (eg, reading a book, taking a hot bath, calling a friend) to keep on track and brush teeth right after dinner.  If you are truly hungry, revisit what you ate for dinner.  It may be time to make meal changes to keep you feeling full longer with fiber-rich foods and high quality protein.  If you do need a snack be prepared with lower-calorie, minimal sugar options.

4.  Lack of Sleep
     Too little sleep can cause hunger cues despite having had enough calories.  Take a look at our March newsletter for tips on sleep health!

5.  Failure to Plan...
     ...equals plan to fail!  Create a menu at the beginning of the week and shop for necessary ingredients.  Healthful meals don't need to be complicated or take endless amounts of time to prepare.  Eating Well offers quick, five or less ingredient recipes.

UC Walks:  May 18

Image result for uc walks 2016 imageCome out and play!  UC Walks is a UC-wide event on Wednesday, May 18.  No matter where you work you have an option.  You can visit our blog for Hillcrest registration; La Jolla is listed on Blink.  Not only are there two opportunities for a group walk but there is also the full wellness package:  outfit yourself in a free t-shirt, grab a snack from the UCSD Registered Dietitian Interns and UCSD Weight Management Program, get your benefits questions answered from our Benefits office representative, be present with the UCSD Mindfulness Center, find out your body fat percentage and wind down with a chair massage.  Everything at the event is FREE!!!  We hope to meet you there!

New and FREE:  Yoga in Hillcrest!
Image result for yoga poses images male  
Please join us for 5pm Yoga in the Camelot Room in Hillcrest.  This and all of our free class offerings are located here.

Weight Watchers:  New Series Begins in May!!
Are you ready to make nutritional changes in order to lose weight?  Weight Watchers is starting a new 17-week series on May 5.  UCSD Health employees receive 50% off the class fee!  Weekly meetings are on the La Jolla campus in ECOB.  For more details have a look at the Weight Watchers section of our blog.

Image result for weight watchers logo

Interested in starting a Weight Watchers series in Hillcrest?  Please email Brenna Joyce,  If we get enough interest we can start a series at an additional location!

UC Wellness Lecture Series  
The next lecture in the UCSD Wellness Lecture Series is Mindfulness in the Workplace taking place on May 19 on the La Jolla campus.  This is a lunchtime lecture...head back to work with a new frame of mind!

Get Active in San Diego:  Coast to Crest 5K and 5-Miler
Looking to get active in the community?  The inaugural Coast to Crest 5K and 5.3 mile races will take place on Sunday, May 1 at the San Dieguito River Park.  A fast and flat trail course that is sure to be a fun event! 

UC San Diego Health Employee Wellness Newsletter

March 2016

In This Issue:
  • Recipe of the Month
  • Desk Stretch
  • Seven Steps to Better Sleep
  • UC Wellness Lecture Series
  • FREE Fitness Classes

March is National Sleep Month!
Sleep is essential to our health and well-being.  Quality sleep can help to promote positive energy levels, aid in increased productivity and protect us from acute and chronic health problems.  This edition of the UCSD Health Employee Wellness newsletter is dedicated to practices that may help your sleep!  Please try the stretch, recipe or any of the sleep suggestions and post a comment!  We would love to read about your experience!

Desk Stretch:  Figure 4 Gluteal Stretch
Many who experience low back back pain believe it is caused from...well, low back problems.  This may be the case but often tight gluteal muscles are the culprit!  To stretch the gluteals:

  • Sit in chair and cross ankle over opposite knee
  • Gently lean forward from hips, until stretch is felt in buttock of crossed leg
  • Increase stretch by gently pressing down on knee
  • Hold 30 seconds
  • Repeat

Recipe of the Month:  Morning Kale Smoothie
After a night of quality sleep, try this smoothie to start your day!

Packed with nutrients, this smoothie offers a little sweet - and some spice - to get your morning going.  Enjoy these health benefits:

Kale:  offers vitamins C, K and Folate (a B-vitamin) plus the anti-oxidants beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.  It's also a good non-dairy source of calcium.

Cinnamon:  the Ceylon variety has anti-inflammatory properties and may help to lower fasting blood sugar levels.

1/2 bunch kale (or other leafy green such as spinach or Swiss chard)
1 banana
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 dash cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup water (or until desired consistency is reached)

Directions:  Layer ice then kale in blender.  Add remaining ingredients.  Blend.  Voila!

Sleep Awareness:  Seven Steps to Better Sleep!

Try these steps, as suggested by the National Sleep Foundation, to better sleep...

Make the Time:  Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to function properly.  Make appropriate adjustments to get to sleep on time!

Digest:  Leave at least two hours between eating and going to bed.  By allowing time to digest before bed you will get better sleep.

Power Down:  Blue light from screens (TV, phone, computer) can disrupt the circadian rhythm, affecting your ability to sleep; this is due to alerting signals that electronics send to the brain.  Turn off mobile devices before bed and refrain use at least one hour prior to sleep.

Create a Sleep-Promoting Environment:  Find a comfortable mattress, pillow and bedding.  Paint the walls a cool-feeling color.  Keep the room dark and wear an eye mask.  Use a white noise machine if distractions keep you up.

Create a Bedtime Ritual:  Deep breathing, stretches and relaxing music can help your body wind down to prepare for sleep.

Set Troubles Aside:   Keep paper and pen by your  bed to write down stresses and worries prior to sleep.  Get them out of your mind so your brain can focus on sleep!

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol:  Alcohol may help sleep onset but it can negatively affect the body's ability to sleep deeply and continuously.  Caffeine is a stimulant; it's effect on the body can last for hours so best to refrain mid-afternoon onward.

UCSD Health and Wellness Lecture Series
The Health and Wellness Lecture Series offers quarterly events on topics related to personal well-being.  You can even go back to watch previous lectures!  Presented on March 30 is "How to Use Food as Medicine to Support the Immune System, Protect the Body and Fight Disease."  For further details visit the following link:  UCSD Health and Wellness Lecture Series

Sleep Well After One of Our FREE Fitness Classes!
Our free classes, open to ALL UCSD Health employees, are offered weekdays at both Hillcrest and La Jolla medical centers.  To see a current listing of classes check out the Health Fitness calendar on the right side of this very blog!


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