Anyone else feel like you’re going a million miles an hour now? We have lots of end-of-year activities and parties and celebrations as a family, and I’m in the thick of swimming lessons all afternoon during the week. Fortunately I came across a post I wrote for my friend Pam Narvaez’s life-coaching blog a few years ago; these words were just what I needed to remember for how to both survive and thrive in a busy time. I hope these ideas resonate with you, too.
Fortunately, an immediate way to improve your well-being is both easy and free! To quickly and effectively relieve stress, stop what you are doing, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. To facilitate deep breathing, relax your facial muscles by pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth for 5-10 seconds, then release. Next, visualize yourself somewhere that makes you calm and happy—a beach, by a mountain stream, snuggled up in bed, or whatever works for you. Continue to breathe deeply until your mind feels more open.
Gentle stretching is another stress-buster, and when done in concert with the breath, it is a highly effective way of calming and resetting your nervous system. For example, to release tension from the shoulders—from a long day at the computer or driving in traffic–, inhale deeply as you scrunch your shoulders as close to your ears as possible. When your inhale is complete, let out a long, forceful exhale and fully drop the shoulders. Repeat this sequence 3-5 times and enjoy a clearer mind and more relaxed body.
- Gentle stretching, deep breathing, and visualization can help relax the body to relive stress.
Clean your palate
Wait! Don’t take another bite! Do you know where your food came from?
Eating well need not be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. By choosing unprocessed foods, you maximize the nutritional content you consume; by choosing in-season, local, fresh foods make generally the most economical—and environmentally-friendly– choice. Healthy foods like nuts, fruits, and vegetables require little preparation and are easily transportable.
To ensure that your body is best able to process the foods you eat and absorb the appropriate nutrients, keep yourself well hydrated. Drinking water throughout the day not only aids indigestion to keep your body fueled, but it allows muscles to function at their best. Furthermore, you can stave off hunger with a zero calorie glass of water.
- Eat fresh, local foods to maximize nutrition and minimize environmental and financial costs
- Staying well hydrated is key to physical wellness
Break the adrenaline habit
Our society promotes a culture of pressure by reinforcing the idea that we can (and should!) do multiple tasks at once, for as long a duration as possible. Multitasking requires the brain and body to work in overdrive, thereby increasing adrenaline production. In the short term, adrenaline is a useful hormone; however, studies indicate that high adrenaline production and stress are closely linked, and neither is positive for long-term wellness.
Be a rebel and eschew multitasking! Think about it: juggling is much harder than throwing and catching a single ball. By focusing on one task—or person—at a time, you can be focused, present, and genuine. As such, not only will the quality of your work likely rise, but you’ll be lowering your stress at the same time.
Attention to your physical well-being deserves the same kind of focused attention. Schedule workouts into your day—just as you would any other important meeting—and you’ll eliminate the pressure that comes with trying to squeeze everything in as the day progresses. Planning ahead is key to breaking adrenaline’s grip on your daily life.
- Focus on one task at a time to complete it effectively and efficiently, with as little stress as possible
- Incorporate planned workouts into your schedule
Consistent physical activity
If you struggle with exercising consistently, whether due to lack or interest or competing priorities, make a list of types of exercise that you enjoy. These can include walking, gardening, playing soccer with your children, going to the gym, or participating in a group exercise class or on a team. Do you prefer to exercise alone or with a group? Do you like one sport or activity so much you do it exclusively; or do you need the social outlet of a team sport; or is the accountability that a class or personal trainer offers motivating to you? It doesn’t matter what your answer is, but devising a fitness plan that takes your preferences into account will result in better adherence to your program.
Also, many people don’t exercise consistently because they think they need a single, large block of time to reap the benefits of exercise. Scientific studies support breaking exercise into short, manageable bursts throughout the day to achieve the same physiological benefits as one longer session. Furthermore, you receive the added benefit of reinvigorating yourself throughout the day.
- Identify what motivates you, and devise a fitness plan that compliments your interests and fulfills your needs
- Short bursts of activity are physiologically and psychologically beneficial
Good health and great happiness to you!