Spring is upon us. It’s time to dust off winter, take a deep breath, and ready ourselves for a new season. It can be a busy time of year, but don’t stress. No, really, don't stress. Stress is a natural negative reaction in your mind and body to challenges. And while it can positively motivate you to get through certain obstacles, it can also wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. You can't escape stress, but you can change how you deal with it. When you're faced with anxiety:
*Take a deep breath and focus on why you're actually feeling this way.
*Take a walk or do any exercise where you can think about the situation and how to handle it without blowing up, figuratively and literally.
*Be proactive and schedule regular massage appointments. Massage has been shown to reduce stress significantly on physical and psychological levels.
Was simplifying your life part of your New Year's resolutions? If so here are some things you can do this week to make life a little easier.
Sitting at a desk for 9 hours or more can wreak havoc on your posture sending your whole body out of whack! Ideally your ears should be in line with your shoulders. If you're leaning too far forward or backward, your posture is off-kilter. Here are some tips that might help,
1. Place a rolled towel between your lower back and your chair. This will help support your lower back and will help bring your shoulders back in line
2. Take frequent movement breaks. Get up, get a drink of water, and stretch your shoulders.
3. While your working be mindful to also lower your shoulders. Are they up around your ears?
4. Look at your desk. Is your body well supported? Is your keyboard too high or your monitor too low? Are you using a chair that is correct for your height?
Use these tips whenever you're sitting at your desk and your neck and shoulders will thank you for it!
Can stretching before going to bed help you sleep better? Many experts agree that it can. Stretching not only makes you more relaxed, but it helps keep your muscles flexible so you're less apt to experience discomfort.
You don't have to devote too much time to stretching. Plan for about 5 minutes of stretching prior to climbing into bed. Many stretches can be performed anywhere. Use these guides to help you establish a regular bedtime stretching routine. https://www.pinterest.com/explore/stretches-before-bed/?lp=true
The importance of sleep and your physical well-being is astronomical. Most of your former bad habits or prolonged issues can be linked to a lack of sleep.
The risk of obesity rises with those with a sleep deficit. A study in teenagers showed with every hour of sleep lost, the risk for obesity rose. But it's not just teenagers, so you can't blame it on the hormones, but wait, yes, you can, sleep affects those too!
A healthy amount of sleep balances the levels of ghrelin, the hormones that make you feel hungry, and leptin, the hormones that make you feel full. If you wake up in the morning starving, blame it on a not so good night sleep. When you're restless the levels of ghrelin increase and the leptin levels decrease. Sleep can also affect insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Higher blood sugar levels can increase the threat of diabetes.
When you sleep your heart and blood vessels are repairing themselves, and sleep releases a hormone to boost muscle mass. Continued unrest increases your risk for a host of issues including, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
The good news is physical activity and your nutrition can aid in a good night's sleep. Activity during the day, not close to bedtime, helps you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Making sure you don't go to sleep hungry or too full and avoiding alcohol and caffeine eases you into a restful slumber.
It’s not hard to think up great ways to treat yourself. We’d all love a spa day topped off with a meal prepared and served by someone else. Maybe get a sitter for the night, so the little angels are asleep when we get home. Or just a morning where the cat doesn't wake you up by sitting on your windpipe.
But for every article about self-care, I roll my eyes at least 12 times and think "Who can afford that?" Yes, it would be great to have an afternoon to myself and a bucket of fried chicken and a cookie dough chaser. But that's not particularly healthy.
I’m all about realistic self-care. That is, activities that aren't expensive, don't involve food, and will make you feel good about how you spent that time. Here's a list of my favorites (bonus: most of these you can do with kids).
Meditate, the easy way
If you're the kind of person who can't sleep during the day, napping can be more like torture. But guided meditation is a whole other story. It gives your mind something (easy) to do so the rest of you can relax a bit. There are plenty of free guided meditations online. Check out the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center website and the free version of the Headspace app, which has plenty of options to get you started.
Read a book
When was the last time you read for pleasure? Even if you can't get to your library, there are plenty of free ebooks on Amazon, and your local library may have a free online borrowing program. Or reread some of your favorite books from childhood if you have them hanging around.
If you choose the topic right, learning is great self-care. Pick a topic for FUN. Don't feel like you need to learn something pertinent to your work or a current hobby. Check out Coursera, MIT or Harvard to start. (But there are PLENTY of sources for free online classes, do your own searching, too!)
Bust out a piece for paper and draw something. Even if you don't have fancy pencils or crayons or markers, you can play with shading and pressure and make something cool. There are plenty of free coloring pages you can download and print out.
For nearly every song out there, there's a karaoke accompaniment channel on YouTube. For reals. Crank it up and let ‘er rip. You’re a stress-free superstar now.
And when all else fails: Nap
Put your jammies on and take a nap. In your bed. Not all jammed up on the couch with the TV on. Close the shades in your bedroom and hunker down for a proper sleep.
There. You don’t have to spend money or fill your belly to feel great and treat yourself well!