Raise your hand if you feel stressed. Pardon me for using a trendy phrase, but … I know, right?
Honestly, this post is for me as much as it is for you. You know my obsession with health and fitness, obviously. But I, too, have stress. I’m not going to simply tell you to get more sleep, eat right and exercise. Easy, right? Well, no. I’m well aware that there are many things that get in the way of all that.
You have young children who require your supervision 24/7.
You have grown children whom you miss terribly.
You want children, but can’t have them.
Your marriage is unhappy.
You’re in a complicated relationship.
Your life seems like all work and no play.
You are overwhelmed with things you have to do, with no time for things you want to do.
You are experiencing health problems; or maybe it’s someone you love.
You must take care of your aging parents.
You don’t feel like you have any close friends. You’re lonely.
You have teenagers. Enough said.
You’re going through divorce.
You lost your job.
You hate your job, but don’t feel you have any other options.
I could probably add another 20 things to this list and you would all be nodding your head. These struggles affect your physical health as well as your mental health.
There are many ways to deal with it, so you just need to find something that works for you.
What’s been helping me lately is running. Not for speed or distance, but just running comfortably as long as I feel like it in the time that I have. Maybe you have some other form of gentle exercise that does this for you. Walking? Yoga? Tai Chi? Squeezing in just a few minutes of something like this will help ease some of the stress and perhaps divert your thoughts long enough to get through the rough spot.
I often use yoga as a warm-up or cool-down. During a recent strength workout, I couldn’t keep my mind off of something stressful and on my workout. So it was kind of lame. I decided to do some yoga afterward, and the mental clarity I experienced was pronounced. I’m not making this shit up. I honestly felt so much better physically and mentally after doing just 10 minutes of yoga.
I’ve also used meditation and breathing techniques to calm myself down, gain focus and get those stupid thoughts out of my head. Try some of Dr. Andrew Weil’s breathing exercises. I took a meditation course from Deanna Reiter, a trainer and yoga instructor from Minneapolis. There are many different styles – including guided and transcendental – but a good way to start is what she called “3 minutes before 3 o’clock”. Simply start with three minutes a day, sitting peacefully uninterrupted with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath. From there, you just extend the time. Here is a simple guide to meditation.
Herbal tea can also be calming, as can magnesium supplements like Natural Calm.
We all know we need seven or eight hours of sleep each night. But I’m not going to tell you to simply GET MORE SLEEP! Because, well, it’s not always possible. Dr. Weil recently wrote about circadian rhythms here. Ideally, we would all sleep between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. That’s when your body needs to recover. How many of you do that? I can’t go to bed at 10 because I work nights. I’m also a night owl and, even on my nights off, I’m rarely in bed before 1 a.m. Or maybe late night is your “you” time, so you’re going to stay up and listen to your music or watch your shows, dammit. So, go to bed late and sleep in? Maybe, but you have little kids who get up early or older kids you have to get off to school, so that’s not going to happen either. Or you have to get up early to workout before you go to work. Not many of us live in the perfect world where we can get ideal sleep. DO YOUR BEST.
The key with sleep, for me, is to make it good sleep. How do you do that? Get into a ritual before bedtime that doesn’t include running around like a crazy woman or staring at a screen of some sort: no TV, no phone, no computer or tablet. Drink some herbal tea or Natural Calm. Listen to some music. Do some calming yoga moves like these. PREPARE for sleep.
So I know some may say, “I don’t have time for this!” I really hate that excuse. We all have time for things. I have time to read books, but I don’t. I should, but I don’t. I do other things with that time. I actually read a blog post recently that listed reasons why women refuse sex (I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WOULD DO THIS). Soooo many women commented about not having time. But you have time to read that post and comment on it, then read all the other comments and scoff at them? Hell, you could have had a whole crap load of fun in bed in that time, ladies. Plus, STRESS RELIEF! So, seriously, you have time to scour Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and read blogs like this, right? You have time for your TV shows or books. You have time to watch stupid cat videos on YouTube. Your marriage, your kids, your job, your LIFE are all important things that require effort. Spend some time every day on stress relief. Your life with thank you. Again, I’m not perfect and I don’t do these things all the time. But I recognize when I’ve been slacking and I see the negative result. It’s hard work being healthy and happy.
Have other stress-relieving techniques? Share them, please!
I’m one of those people who personally feels meaning in song lyrics. (Warning: if you tell me to listen to a song, I’m going to read something into it based on the words.) Eminem’s ‘Til I Collapse is one of those songs on my running playlist that helps me not only because of the pace, but because of the lyrics, too. Regardless of how you feel about him or his music, Marshall Mathers is a poetic genius. The opening to this song never fails to get my adrenaline flowing and push me through at least four minutes of a run (I should probably put it on repeat, actually):
Cause sometimes you just feel tired
You feel weak and when you feel weak
You feel like you wanna just give up
But you gotta search within you
You gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you
And get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter
No matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse