Coping with Stress

We know that it’s important to exercise and eat nutritious foods in order to stay fit, but did you also know that you should avoid stress in order to be healthy? Studies have shown that people who don’t deal well with stress are more susceptible to illness. I don’t want that to be me, and I’ll bet you don’t either. Let’s look at the ways we can keep stress at bay and stay fit and healthy.

Everyone has stress in their daily lives. The reality is that we live in a fast-paced world, and stress is inevitable. Whenever you feel stressed, your body is to reacting to danger. In the past (prehistoric days), this reaction helped keep us alive. But today, that’s not the case. We might feel stress when we get a bad grade in school, can’t find scholarships to help pay for our education, or miss a deadline at work.

Although stress is everywhere, it’s really important to find ways to deal with it. High stress levels are associated with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, digestive ailments and even obesity. So, having a battle plan for dealing with and relieving stress can help you live a longer, happier and healthier life.

One good way to deal with stress is to exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly have lower levels of stress hormones and are just all around happier. Not only will you like the way you look, but you’ll also be relieving stress hormones that can build up and lead to chronic disease. Pound out your stress by hitting the pavement for a run or lifting weights. Yoga is also great for beating stress because it combines the benefits of physical exercise with the practices of meditation, relaxation and proper breathing.

Even if you exercise, stress still can get to you. When you feel your body’s stress reaction coming on, here’s what to do: Breathe deeply and slowly. Take a few breaths in and out to help ward off that “fight or flight” reaction and calm yourself down.

Later on, after you’ve removed yourself from the stressor, you might still feel a little affected. If so, find a quiet place to sit and clear your mind. Stressing over problems, small or large, is not the way to solve them. It’s a way to find yourself sick and less capable of handling things – so, be sure to deal with stress the right way and you’ll keep yourself in tip-top shape, ready to handle anything!

How Exercise Makes You Energized, Focused and Optimistic

I often write about motivation, not because I think you need the push, but because I know I do. The one thing I’ve noticed about myself (and exercise) throughout the years is that I go through ebbs and flows. Once I actually get into a routine, I’m good. But as soon as I fall off that wagon, I’m in trouble. It’s so much easier to do nothing; isn’t it? So, when I’m lacking in motivation, I like to remind myself how great I feel when I’m exercising regularly. I’m energized, focused and optimistic. When I don’t exercise regularly, I’m the exact opposite of those three things.

Exercise helps you focus by increasing the blood flow within the body, which helps deliver more oxygen to the muscles, tissues and organs – including the brain. Not only does the blood deliver oxygen, but it also delivers vital nutrients that it needs in order to function.

If you look at the most successful people in life, you’ll start to notice a pattern. It doesn’t matter what field they’ve chosen to study. For the most part, they all understand the value of a good workout. Maybe they do it for vain reasons, or maybe for their health, but I do think that the increased flow of oxygen to their brains probably has contributed in some way to their success. How could it not? They’re more focused, energized and optimistic than the rest of us.

When I look at people like this, I think “Why can’t that be me?” But, then I remember: it can. I just need to stay motivated and exercise more often. The energy, focus and optimism that follows will help me start taking the steps I know I need to take in order to be more successful in life. It isn’t all attributed to exercise, of course. But when you exercise, you’re giving yourself a good springboard to use to hoist your ideas into action.

How Food Affects Your Mood

Most of us know that it’s important to eat right so we don’t gain weight and get diabetes, but sadly that’s the extent of most peoples’ knowledge of nutrition. That’s why we end up counting calories and constantly dieting: because no one ever actually taught us how to eat. Ever since I started learning more about nutrition, this is something that has boggled my mind. Whenever I learn something new, I’m always surprised that I had never learned it before: especially since so much of nutrition seems like common sense.

One good example is how food affects your mood. Sure, I get pretty darn grouchy when I haven’t eaten all day, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Not entirely, anyway. I’m really talking about our long-term dietary needs. Yes, we do need vitamins and minerals every single day, but if you’re healthy, you should be able to go a day or two without food and not experience symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I’m not sure why I get grouchy; maybe I just really don’t like the feeling of an empty stomach! 🙂

Anyway, I would like to talk a little more about the vitamin deficiencies that do cause a negative impact on your mood. When you go to the doctor for symptoms of depression, more often than not, she’ll send you to a psychiatrist without ever checking your vitamin levels. That psychiatrist may put you on a prescription medication (if your symptoms are severe enough) with a long list of side effects. But in reality, you didn’t need to see the pharmacy tech at all. All you really needed was a steady supply of magnesium-rich foods.

Our healthcare system is broken. There isn’t much we can do about that, but we can educate ourselves about how nutrition and disease are related. If you’re having any symptoms at all, it certainly won’t hurt to do a quick Google search to find out if your symptoms mimic those of a specific deficiency. Then, all you have to do is ask your doctor for a simple test. Deficiencies aren’t always the cause of our problems, but I really think it should be the first place we look for answers.

Other deficiencies that can cause depression-related symptoms are folate and zinc. Also, if you’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you might become more irritable.

Secret Exposed: Exercise Doesn’t Have to be Torture

In the past, I’ve posted about how to find motivation to exercise. It’s an important topic, especially for those of us who tend to fall into ruts of laziness (my hand is raised right now). But with that in mind, I wanted to point something out that most people don’t think about: Exercise isn’t just what you do at the gym; it’s everything you do to move your body and work your muscles. If you’re not a gym-rat (and I’m definitely not), or even if you are, it can be fun to find creative ways to get exercise without feeling like you’re “working out.”

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Dance! If you like to dance, make this your exercise. You don’t need a routine; you just need to move your body. Whether you’re a good dancer or you have two left feet, you’re getting exercise while your body is moving. You can turn on the music and dance the night away at home, or you can plan a night out with your friends. Just don’t include alcohol in your workout, or you’re kind of defeating the purpose.
  2. Act like a kid again. Whenever I think of this advice, I think of Phoebe from Friends running in Central Park. You’ve heard the expression “Dance like no one’s watching.” In this episode, she runs like no one’s watching. It’s pretty hysterical, but the point is, she’s having fun. You don’t have run like Phoebe, but you can play games that make you feel like a kid again, like H.O.R.S.E and kickball.
  3. Join a team. Just because you’re not in school anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t play on an organized team. Check with your town’s recreation center to see if there are any softball, volleyball or basketball teams you can join.

One of the reasons we stay fit when we’re young is because we do things we enjoy. For some reason, most of us stop that once we reach adulthood. I’m not really sure why. Maybe we’re made to feel guilty for spending time on fun stuff, so exercise must become torture. It’s kind of silly when you think about it.

Another reason we become a little more sloppy when we get older is that our metabolism naturally slows. But the truth is, it doesn’t slow down that much. We’re the ones who really stop ourselves from being fit. Just get out there and have some fun already – your body will thank you for it!