Over the last few weeks, I have discussed stress, stressors, and some things you can do to alter brain response to stress and conflicts. For the last blog of this series, I wanted to address self-care. This has a positive or negative connotation, depending on who you ask.
Too much self-care borders on being narcissistic. Too little self-care causes people to burn themselves out. The phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” comes to mind. However, as with most things, moderation is what we need.
The two most effective self-care modalities that improve health are mediation and exercise. Meditation is the act of clearing the mind. We do this when we “step away” from a situation, pray, or relax. There are multiple ways to do this, some are complex and can be up to an hour. Others are simple and can be 10-15 min.
Guided imagery exercises are all over YouTube and can be for weight loss, focus, etc. However, I want you to focus on relaxation. To do these you will need a quiet place alone for 10-15 min without interruptions. You will open YouTube and choose a meditation for relaxation. This can be done in your car, bedroom, (to escape kids, I have shut myself in my closet), back yard, etc.
Nothing formal, just stop, clear the mind, and breathe. This has shown in multiple studies to help with anxiety, depression, focus issues, and mindfulness. If you are religious, once you do a couple of the above, you can do it but with prayer. The medical benefit is that it changes the way the neurons in the brain respond to stress and anxiety and this means your stress hormones do not activate to high degrees and burn out the systems of the body. You learn to react differently and are not on constant high alert.
Exercise is another way to deal with stress in a healthy manner.
Years ago, we realized that people who exercised were less responsive to stressors. It was discovered that the brain releases pleasure hormones or endorphins when we exercise. This in turn is a natural mood stabilizer or antidepressant, antianxiety chemical.
It also helps the brain and body respond to stress differently and allows the body to not be burnt out by constant high alert of the nervous system. This does not have to be 1 hour a day 5 days a week. Let’s be honest, who has time for that.
I always suggest starting with 10-15 min brisk walk before or after work. This is as brisk as will make you out of breath. Once that is easy or you find more time you can alter it.
Did you know that if you do 5 min when you get to work, 5 min at lunch, and 5 min before you drive home, that is the same as a 15 min walk? Anything helps.
The key is finding something you enjoy rather it is walking, running, biking, Pilates, yoga, tai chi, martial arts…. anything. Do it 3-4 times a week to start and after about 3 weeks, your body starts to crave it. The health benefits are innumerous. You will have lower heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, digestive issues, constipation, brain fog, insomnia…the list goes on and on.
So do something for yourself to be the best you possible. Meditation or exercise or both, the choice is yours! If you need help figuring out how to lose weight or changing your eating habits, give us a call! Our Wellness Team would be happy to assist.