By Sierra Morris – Fitlife Foods Regional Wellness Coach, Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist and M.S. in Kinesiology
As a wellness coach for Fitlife Foods, I help people reach their goals by creating a personalized plan, including our delicious and healthy, chef-prepared meals. Sometimes having the best plan and the best food isn’t enough to achieve their goals though. If someone is doing everything right – sticking to their plan, moving their body, and eating Fitlife – and still not making progress toward their goal, stress is most likely standing in their way. Stress is something that everyone experiences on a regular basis. It’s probably not difficult for you to recall the last time you were stressed. Did you know that 8 in 10 Americans encounter stress on a DAILY basis?!
If we don’t have practices in place to help relieve that stress, our body and mind will feel the effects. Stress can affect everyone differently, but there are some conditions typically caused or worsened by stress, like neck and back pain, headaches, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, decreased ability to control emotions. Stress can also cause insomnia, diabetes, problems with digestion, and heart disease. 1,2
Now, I know these short-term and long-term effects can be overwhelming and even more stressful. You’ve probably noticed your heart rate elevating a little while reading this. Fear not! You do not have to change your whole routine. There are plenty of small ways to combat stress that aren’t time-consuming or overwhelming.
Find one or two activities/practices that work for you and your schedule and make it a point to practice them at least three times a week.
01 // BREATHING EXERCISES
HOW: Find a quiet space, close your eyes, inhale deeply for 4 seconds and exhale slowly for 4 seconds. Continue this pattern for at least 5 minutes.
WHY: Use meditation for anxiety. Helps get your mind off of the stress and calm down, relieves tension, and decreases heart rate and blood pressure.3
02 // BENEFITS OF CARDIOVASCULAR EXERCISE
HOW: Go to the gym, workout at home, or just go for a walk outside for at least 10 minutes.
WHY: Exercise and Mental Health go hand and hand. Physical activity of any kind releases endorphins which are hormones that relieve stress and pain. Exercise also gives your mind a break and helps you focus on something other than the stressful event.4
03 // GARDENING FOR MENTAL HEALTH
HOW: Get your hands dirty by pulling up weeds, planting or picking flowers, and cleaning your yard.
WHY: Getting away from the TV, news outlets, and social media can help relieve stress and its effects. Being in nature also reduces your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, feelings of anger or fear, and promotes physical and emotional wellbeing.5
04 // DANCE FITNESS
HOW: Put on your favorite songs or playlist, sing as loud as you can, and dance around your house!
WHY: Switch it up and dance for exercise! Dancing is a form of physical activity, which cause our body to release endorphins. Listening to music can also help us concentrate, relieve muscle tension, and promote relaxation.6
05 // JOURNAL DAILY
HOW: Write down your unfiltered thoughts and feelings not just about a stressful event, but about your day too. You’re the only one who will see this so no judgement!
WHY: Writing down your thoughts helps your brain regulate emotions, increases confidence and self-identity, and provides you with a different perspective that could help you work through a challenge.7
06 // INCREASE SOCIAL SUPPORT
HOW: Call a friend or family member, meet for coffee, or go for an adventure together.
WHY: With connection and social support, you are able to talk through the stress you feel. In addition, connecting with people you love and trust promotes a sense of belonging which increases our emotional and physical wellbeing.8
07 // FIND A HOBBY
HOW: Bake, cook, draw, color, create something!
WHY: Popular Hobbies such as painting or pottery are great options. Creating something allows us to work through feelings of stress in a productive and healthy way. Our bodies release dopamine while getting creative, which is a natural anti-depressant.9
08 // THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP
HOW: If you find that your mind is racing at night try to set a bedtime, turn off TV and put your phone away before you fall asleep. Strive for 7-9 hours of quality sleep every day.
WHY: Sleep is where our bodies and brains shut down and restore. A consistent sleep schedule can help us regulate emotions, increase focus and concentration, and improve decision-making, problem solving, and our memory. Quality sleep also helps us decrease our blood pressure and relieve muscle tension.10
09 // BEWARE OF TECHNOLOGY ADDICTION
How: Put your phone on airplane mode, do not disturb, or turn off your notifications, turn the TV off and just give yourself a break from electronics for an hour each day.
Why: Our brains are able to shut off and take a break from the constant flow of information we receive which helps relieve stress and allows us to focus on taking care of our mind and body.11
Visit our ProjectU page today to speak to one of our wellness coaches!
Where to learn more:
- American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body.http://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body
- American Heart Association. (2020, August 10). What stress does to the body and how to beat it. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/08/10/what-stress-does-to-the-body-and-how-to-beat-it
- Mayo Clinic. (2020, April 22). Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, July 7). Exercising to relax. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax
- American Heart Association. (2018, August 1). Spend time in nature to reduce stress and anxiety. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/spend-time-in-nature-to-reduce-stress-and-anxiety
- PsychCentral. (2021, August 17). The power of music to reduce stress. https://psychcentral.com/stress/the-power-of-music-to-reduce-stress
- Tams, L. (2020, November 11). Journaling to reduce COVID-19 stress. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/journaling_to_reduce_stress
- American Psychological Association. (2019, October 8). Manage stress: Strengthen your social network. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/manage-social-support
- Stahl, A. (2018, July 25). Here’s how creativity actually improves your health. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2018/07/25/heres-how-creativity-actually-improves-your-health/?sh=2db3247813a6
- Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and WGBH Educational Foundation. (n.d.). Why do we sleep, anyway? Healthy Sleep. Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/why-do-we-sleep.
Adventist Health. (2019, March 14). The benefits of unplugging from electronics. https://www.adventisthealth.org/blog/2019/march/the-benefits-of-unplugging-from-electronics/