ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

When We Use Stimulants to Keep Up

We live in a fast paced culture where we have to juggle many different balls at once both in our personal and professional lives. Because of our intense work environments, our challenging classes, and our busy social lives, we can end up over working ourselves and compromising our health. When we feel unfocused or exhausted and overexerted, it is easy for us to fall back on stimulants to help us stay on top of our daily tasks. There are a wide variety of stimulants: everything from Adderall and Ritalin to more subtle stimulants, such as coffee and sugar. While many stimulants are capable of improving mood and relieving anxiety, they are only temporary fixes that usually come with a crash and can easily be habit forming.

Take a moment and think: Have you needed to use stimulants on a regular basis? Do you feel dependent on them for your success? We’ve all been off balance before, but sometimes we forget how to get that balance back.

Here are some causes and symptoms of not maintaining a balanced lifestyle:

• Getting tired and groggy from lack of sleep, which can lead top long term exhaustion • Feeling over worked and over committed to too many activities or people at once, therefore developing greater stress and anxiety • Overdosing on caffeine, sugar, and other stimulants so that we have enough energy to get through the day • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sleepiness, and mood swings if we do not get our fix

Unfortunately, when we are tired, we can’t just call our boss up and say, “Sorry, I don’t feel like coming into work today. I’m too tired and my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.” We have to hold ourselves accountable for how we treat ourselves. If we treat ourselves well, we work better, do better, and ultimately live happier lives. Stimulants aren’t all bad, if you know how to use them in moderation. Check out these easy practices you can try that can lead to increased focus, productivity, motivation, and alertness in your everyday life.

1. Yoga- it’s a great stress reliever and can calm the mind by helping you focus on breath. Yoga is a tool that brings awareness to your body and opens the way for improved reaction time, coordination, memory, and focus. Most yoga studios have a one month beginner’s membership which is usually cheap. Sign up for a month trial and see how you feel! 2. Vitamins- Taking vitamins like omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin B-12 can help with your overall brain functioning. Try starting with gummy vitamins if you don’t like swallowing pills. They taste like candy and they keep your immune system happy. 3. Mediation- A great tool that we can use to calm the heart and the mind. Even if you only have 30 seconds, try taking three deep breaths while closing your eyes. During this time, inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. By doing this, our central nervous system immediately calms down. 4. Focus Games- Know how to juggle? During a work break, try juggling or doing a physical activity like throwing around a football because it will help bring all your awareness and attention to one thing. Even doing 10 push-ups when you get tired while writing a paper, will activate the natural stimulants in your body. If you can’t do a physical activity, try playing games on luminosity.com. They have stimulating exercises that are fun and refreshing. 5. Getting Sound Sleep- In order to get a better night’s sleep, try drinking non-caffeinated tea before bed and take a hot bath or shower. Also, try powering down your computer and TV at least an hour before you sleep. Even though you may want to get in your last FB comment or finish that TV show on Hulu, turning off your computer or iPad will let your brain quiet down. If your brain is buzzing like crazy, try writing down your thoughts and a to-do list so it can be on paper and out of your thoughts. 6. Alternative Stimulants- If you need that sugar buzz or caffeine hit, try eating fruit instead of candy and drinking green tea instead of coffee. Green tea lowers blood pressure and the amino acid, Theanine, is a natural relaxer. It will satisfy your craving but not give you a sugar or caffeine crash later. 7. Cardio Workouts- Remember to get in your cardio workouts at the gym! This will not only help you sleep better, but it will give you energy and blood circulation. Cardio improves one’s ability to deal with stress on a chemical level. It has been found to be a powerful anti-depressant. And it actually stimulates growth in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for our ability to focus.

Remember to listen to your body when you are feeling stressed or exhausted. When your body tells you to slow down, it’s probably knows what you need! Even though stimulants may be enticing, don’t forget that they are not a solid long term solutions to an unbalanced lifestyle and only you can decide what feels balanced or unbalanced to you.