It’s the time of year again for resolutions and fresh starts. Resolutions and new beginnings are often especially appealing at the end of the holidays, which have both ups and downs with a side of Christmas cookies.
A huge focus is often placed on diet and exercise at this time of year. And while those goals are important, they are more likely to be achieved by also devoting focus to emotional health and stress management. Goals focused on diet and exercise will suffer without taking a deeper look at how you treat yourself all the way around. And if your stress management repertoire is lacking, you’ll struggle when the going gets tough.
To build a strong base of strength and resilience, focus on some life basics: sleep, nutrition, hydration, movement, breath. It’s tough to process thoughts and emotions effectively if the brain and body are not at their best.
Sleep: Get enough sleep – it is the ultimate stress management tool. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the right sleep will build and repair cells after all the wear and tear of each day. Sleep not only helps the body repair itself, but also helps the brain assimilate all the new information we have taken in.
Nutrition: Eat a well-balanced diet. A nutritious, well balanced diet has powerful stress reducing benefits that can improve brain functioning, boost your immune functions, lower blood pressure, improve the circulation, and reduce toxins from your body.
Hydration: Don’t forget to drink a lot of water. A lot. Our bodies and our brains need water to function properly. If you become dehydrated, then your body doesn’t run well, which can lead to or increase stress.
Movement: Exercise is critical to stress management. There is no right or wrong, you can find your own favorite way to move – just move. When we get our bodies moving, we increase endorphins and healthy neurotransmitters while also reducing cortisol (stress hormone) and inflammation.
Breath: Moving also prompts us to breathe. Deep breaths can be a cure-all for so many stressors in life. Delve into the research on anxiety reduction and you will find that hands down, breathing techniques are the way to go for stress reduction. Deep breathing is the most empirically validated solution to anxiety and stress.
Another way to treat yourself right is to actually remember to treat yourself right. Often, we get so inundated with work and family responsibilities that we lose track of our hobbies and interests, and therefore miss out on valuable self-care and me time.
Always remember, self-care is not selfish.
Make time to do activities that make you smile, encourage creativity and bring you peace. Some people prefer laidback and lowkey, some people like to be challenged and invigorated. Whether your passion is reading, photography, hiking, or training for a race, dedicate time daily in service of your hobby or passion.
Even if you dedicate five minutes per day to YOU, the small act of refocusing on self-care goes a long way during a busy day.
Join Dr. Ranttila for a Weekend of Wellbeing Workshops in Arlington Heights, January 26 and 27, 2018. She will guide sessions on Yoga for Stress Relief and Emotional Wellbeing, Yoga Nidra with Mindfulness and Meditation, Benefits and Practice of Yin Yoga, and a Yin Yoga Instructor Add-On.