Yesterday was Memorial Day in the US. Thoughts and prayers for all the families whose sons, daughters, brothers, or fathers, etc., never came home from a war. My prayers are that peace will happen in our lifetime and this loss of life will stop.
Current tensions in world politics are not the only reason that people are feeling stressed these days; consider all the natural disasters, worry about school safety, job insecurity, and too many more reasons to list here. This makes your self-care even more urgent. Those stress hormones wreak havoc in every part of your body. You shallow breathe when stressed and your blood vessels tighten up, making it more difficult for your heart to pump out that freshly oxygenated blood as efficiently as it once did, and cells all over your body deteriorate at a faster rate. Blood pressure goes up, and your immune system is weakened, making it more difficult for you to fight off infections. Whew! That’s a lot of damage. And I didn’t even mention that your brain’s grey matter also deteriorates quicker in a chronic stress environment. Yikes!
So, what is the best way to reduce those stress hormones, stop that damage, and get on a path to better health? Here are my top recommendations for today’s fast paced environment:
- Take ten minutes out of your day to meditate. Meditation doesn’t mean sitting in pretzel pose and shutting off your mind completely for half an hour. There are very few people who can actually turn off the mind completely. When you sit down with the intention of meditating, and you focus on simply breathing in and out for ten minutes, after a few seconds, your mind will wander – THIS IS NORMAL, do not feel bad or kick yourself. Instead, when you notice that your mind has begun to think of what you’re making for dinner, simply stop that thought and go back to focusing entirely on your breath. This is meditation. This is how everyone starts. Gradually, over time, your mind will wander less. Start with the baby steps. If you don’t like focusing on your breathing, then try a mantra. Some people like thinking the word “peace.” That’s a good mantra. Makes us all feel better, when we send “peace” out into the world.
- Exercise for a few minutes several times a day. I hear all the time from clients that they don’t have time to work out. Yes, you do. Again, the best solution is to start small and fit things into your day. It’s much more difficult to go from nothing to 60 minutes of walking. Too difficult for most to keep it up. So, how about walking up the stairs instead of taking an elevator? Even if it’s only for one or two floors, it takes only a minute or two longer, and helps release a ton of stress hormones, so what have you got to lose? Or maybe, when you get home from a long day of working at your computer, take a moment to stretch your neck and shoulders. There’s no need to wear your shoulders as ear muffs and when you don’t stop to take care of this one little thing, it can cause your shoulders to forget how to relax and before you know it, you are tensing them all the time and you don’t even know it. Below is an easy, feel good stretch that helps get those shoulders back on track. Try it every day for seven days and you’ll see for yourself what a difference this few minutes can make.
- Simply being in the present moment helps a lot, but, it’s not easy when you are stressed. Here is a good practice for before bed which – BONUS – can help improve your sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed!
Sit comfortably and inhale deeply; while you exhale, lengthen your spine and relax your shoulders. Now let’s do a “box breath.” This one is more of a rectangle than a square, but these longer, slower exhales help to lower your blood pressure:
Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds.
Exhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds.
Repeat for at least three minutes.
Isn’t a good night’s sleep worth three minutes of your time?
Simply fitting in a minute or two, here and there, is a great way to begin taking better care of yourself. So please add these simple steps to your calendar, set reminders on your smart phone, or do whatever it takes for you to begin to take better care of yourself.
Best of Health,